Archive | Stelos RSS feed for this section

Roots

22 Sep

“The roots of my raising run deep.” – Merle Haggard

I confess that I am a middle-class white kid from a small town with two parents that are still married and love me very much. This isn’t a great start for an “up by your own bootstraps” kind of life story. I am not my own sculptor. There were – and are – many people heavily invested in shaping the person that I am.

All of this was brought into focus yesterday as we kicked off the fall edition of the Housley Principled Leadership Program. I learn so much from teaching. The first class attempts to increase self-awareness by exploring the familial sources of the most marked characteristics of our personalities. Here are mine.

Extreme Work Ethic – My paternal grandfather was a welder that built many of the buildings that make up the Houston skyline and later in life ran his own shop until he was physically unable. My other grandfather ran the dairy farm where I grew up. Up at 4:00am seven days a week, he set a very visible example of what it means to truly toil. From drilling rigs in high school and full-time graveyard work in college to managing hotels and management consulting, 70 to 80 hour, six-day work weeks have been normal for me for thirty years. A 60-hour week feels like a vacation. If you are not comfortable with that pace, you can thank my grandfathers.

Academic Excellence – At report card time, a “B” has always been completely unacceptable. I received the gift of high academic expectations from my grandmothers. In a highly unusual coincidence for young women in the 1920s and 1930s, both of them went to college and one of them went on to teach alongside my mother for close to thirty years. I know that the fact that I did not follow her to the Rice Institute broke her heart. This probably compels me to study even more. So when my kids accuse me of going all “crazy Asian mom” on them about their grades, they can blame my grandmothers.

Responsibility & Reliability – My father has three boys. As the oldest, I watched him work to provide for us kids very early in his career. He taught me that any job worth doing is worth doing well. He is a stickler and a perfectionist when it comes to follow through. He used the word “half-assed” to describe the results of most of my chores and then invited me to do them over and over until his standards were met. I soon learned to do it right the first time. Accepting responsibility and then reliably delivering on commitments with excellence is a lesson I learned from my dad.

Fun & Adventurous Spirit – With fifteen or so siblings in my grandparent’s generation all centered in the same small town, the family tree had exploded by the time my many cousins and I were coming of age. Family get-togethers often had over 100 people. My mother was a force of love and fun in these events. As a teacher she also had the habit of throwing us all in the station wagon and traveling across the country every summer. The explorer and adventurer in me comes from my mother. The desire to have fun and create meaningful relationships while working hard is the result of the “work hard, play hard” ethos that permeated my early life. Thanks Mom!

We are all products of our raising. Mine included tremendous advantages. There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” The roots of my raising run deep. These examples give me the strength that I need.

Aloha Summer

24 Aug

This is one of my favorite weekends of the year.

After graduating college during Texas’ last major economic crisis in the mid-1980s, I did my best Magnum P.I. impersonation and escaped to Hawaii to work in the hospitality industry. After four years of surfing, scuba diving, and living the laid back life, I moved home to Texas with an island girl that was in for a bit of a culture shock.

My soon-to-be wife quickly realized that Texas and Hawaii are a little different so we started looking for a way to bring some of the culture of the islands to the Lone Star State. In 2002, we moved to the Hill Country and started the annual “Aloha Summer” Luau in our backyard. We hoped to make new friends in our new home by sharing the special spirit of aloha.

My favorite part of the luau is cooking the kalua pig in my prized imu, which is just beyond the edge of the yard. The whole hog is wrapped in banana leaves, stuffed with hot lava rocks, and smoked and steamed underground for sixteen hours. Richele rounds out the rest of the menu with island recipes and specialty items shipped from Hawaii by family members. There has always been a costume contest, games for kids, and tropical concoctions (some more potent than others). I am always happy to eat the leftover poi.

Three years ago, we had a couple of hundred people in the backyard when it started pouring down rain. After cleaning up hundreds of footprints from drenched partygoers seeking shelter in the house, Richele subtly suggested that we find another venue.

The following year we turned the luau into a composite community fundraiser. The idea was simple. Put on a traditional Hawaiian luau and invite non-profit community organizations that are doing good work for local families to participate and tell their stories. This way, they have a large crowd and a fun environment to build support, raise awareness for their cause and make new friends.

In 2010, we were able to donate $5,000 to participating organizations and increased that amount last year to over $9,000. Every organization receives a donation and in return, they are asked to provide an activity for kids and to invite all of their supporters to show up for the event. This year’s luau is poised to be bigger and better than ever.

When I moved to Hawaii at the young age of 21, I didn’t know a soul, but the “aloha spirit” of the people made me feel welcomed and at home. The “Aloha Summer” Luau aims to recreate the same openness, warmth, friendliness and sense of belonging that was shown to me years ago while we shine a light on the great organizations that work hard all year to bring that same spirit of aloha to our wonderful little community of Boerne.

The Debt

4 Jul

I was in debt the day I was born.

By pure luck, that happy event occurred in the United States. My parents, who are still married after 49 years, were free to have me. That was 1966 and my freedom was more or less secure. I was free to grow up to be whatever I wanted to be. According to my mother that even included becoming President of this great country. As there always have been, there were external threats to our way of life, but I certainly felt safe in my Mayberry-like hometown. This freedom was bought at a dear price by multiple generations before me and secured by a military comprised of people from all walks of life. I owed them something for our shared heritage.

I was well educated by wonderfully committed teachers – including my mother and grandmother – in public schools where US history and civics were still an important part of the curriculum. The prevailing culture valued hard work and moral behavior. Volunteers throughout the community played a role in my upbringing. There were little league coaches, scout masters, Sunday school teachers, and occasionally law enforcement officers involved in my raising. When I was ten, we celebrated our country’s bicentennial and we were reminded of our patrimony. The recognition of my debt was reinforced.

Compulsory military service in the United States ended in my teens, so after high school the people of the great State of Texas paid for me to go to college and then heavily subsidized my graduate education at a world-class university. From there, I went on to live the American Dream of raising a family, doing a job that I love, starting a business, enjoying financial security, and loving the freedoms of life in United States. It has been a good life that was only possible because of the liberties we enjoy in this exceptional country.

What has been asked of me in return for the gift of my heritage? Not much. Society asks that I obey the few laws we have that seek to restrain our more destructive behaviors and that I pay my share of the operations of our collective efforts through taxation. I do not believe that this is sufficient to discharge the debt I owe to my country for the opportunities I have enjoyed. This is why I am committed to service.

I reject the notion of the “self-made” man in the United States and the idea that if you “didn’t ask for anything from society” then you owe nothing in return. By luck of birth you were granted an enormous advantage. If you knowingly acknowledge that, then you can’t in good conscience ignore the debt you owe your patrimony. We receive tremendous benefits from our collective history. We have a civic obligation to recognize these benefits and to make an extraordinary effort to ensure our future success.

I remain in debt, and on this Fourth of July, I suspect that you do too.

Stelos Alliance Awards

29 Apr

We are wrapping up another great academic year tonight with the Stelos Alliance Awards banquet. We have the incredible honor to reward fourteen extraordinary student leaders for their service with scholarships and fellowships. They are the “stars” and it is our mission to make them shine brighter.

Tonight we will also honor four professionals for creating opportunities for these super stars. The inaugural Stelos Alliance Awards celebrate individuals and their organizations that support our mission by providing post-graduate opportunities for dynamic young people who assume the responsibilities of leadership while in college. The recipients cultivate a workplace that empowers young leaders and nurtures them through those first crucial years of their careers. The first award recipients are:

Each of these deserving award winners will have someone that they have mentored speak on their behalf at the banquet. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. Thank you from all of us and those stars that you have made shine brighter.

I would also like to express my gratitude for Kim Brewskie Booker and Sandler Training for sponsoring this evening’s event. When we half-heartedly put out a general request for an underwriter, Kim said yes within fifteen minutes. Her faith in the mission of the Stelos Alliance is appreciated by us all. Thank you.

This is the fun stuff. Honoring, recognizing, awarding, and shining a light on the great work that these students and professionals do every single day. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday night.

Shine Bright!

Gratitude

21 Apr

We wrapped up the Stelos Alliance’s spring session of the Housley Principled Leadership Program yesterday on the fourth anniversary of Kevin’s death. This scheduling coincidence made the gratitude offered by the students a perfect tribute to our departed friend. The lessons learned in “Housley” memorialize a great man and set extraordinary young leaders on a learning path that will last a lifetime.

The topic of the final session is, “Service: Choice or Obligation?” This is a conversation about what we as citizens owe to our country. Is there something required beyond lawful behavior and paying taxes? Since it has now been two generations since we last had conscripted military service in the United States, even defense feels like a remote responsibility. How then do young citizens acknowledge the advantages bestowed upon them by their heritage? Is there a debt that is due to our patrimony and, if so, how and to whom should it be repaid? These are questions for us all to consider.

While we talked about the changing national ethos regarding service to country we concluded that the benefits that accrue to the giver are substantial and that systematically uniting the privilege of citizenship with responsibility is essential to preserving the long-term health of the republic. The students in the Housley program can articulate the benefits of being raised in the best country on earth. Far from being needy and narcissistic, these student leaders are prepared to dedicate themselves to serving their country and setting an example for their peers.

This is something that would make our friend, Kevin Housley, very proud. He offered himself to the community in numerous official roles and to the country in countless other capacities. He lived by the principles that we teach in the program. As the HPLP instructor and giver in this instance, I can positively proclaim that I benefit at least as much as the students. This goes well beyond the satisfaction of hearing their voiced appreciation. I learn from teaching, and it is making me a better leader. The program is both a gift from and a tribute to my good friend. It seems like yesterday that we gathered in the church to say goodbye. After four years I still miss him very much. I offer my gratitude.

%d bloggers like this: