On a glorious day in May in Dallas, Texas, the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the birds were chirping. People filed into the church. About a third of the crowd was dressed in their best military dress uniforms. My sister and I stood in the back of the church in our wedding gowns, getting ready to begin our double wedding ceremony. Our plan was to walk down the aisle together with Dad between us. If he got too nervous, we joked, we’d put him on roller skates and just wheel him up the aisle.
As we put the final touches on our make-up and hair, giggling all the while, Dad remained in the parking lot with the two grooms, dispensing a little bit more than fatherly advice. With the trunk popped open and the Igloo cooler inside, the guys were enjoying a pre-nuptial beer. I became aware of this when my groom slid in beside me at the altar. I sniffed his breath. He laughed.
“Sweetheart?” I smiled.
“Yeah?” he replied.
“Why didn’t you bring me one?”
Thus began our marital bliss.
I come from the kind of Irish Catholic family that believes one’s sole purpose on this planet is to provide parents with perfect, beautiful, talented, and way-above-average grandchildren. My parents were gracious. They waited a full ten months after our wedding before starting the inquiring phone calls.
“Where’s the baby?”
“B-baby?” I stammered.
We had no baby.
A year passed. Another year passed. Another year passed, and still no baby. So my husband and I did what couples of the 1990s did. We consulted experts. We read books and articles. We talked to people. We interviewed, and in turn, were interviewed. We spoke to numerous doctors. We were put on a waiting list. After two long, arduous years of waiting, we finally got her. Bright blue eyes, a big smile shining up at us beneath a shock of black curly hair…and a wagging tail. A puppy.
The puppy’s breeder and first trainer, Trudi, told us, “You’re allowed to have this puppy under one condition—you must train her well.” My response came across a bit defensively. “Trudi, I train people in the military all the time. I’m well equipped to handle a puppy.”
Or so I thought. Training this puppy—we named her Rudder Nohea, meaning beautiful new direction—gave me the motivation and inspiration to teach through this book, Master Your World. From the day we first saw her, Rudder Nohea taught me about enthusiasm, focusing on the task at hand, guidance for success, the importance of proper training, and much more. Thanks to Rudder and her littermates, it is my hope that others can benefit from these experiences and techniques. They have been tested and proven effective through the filters of experience working with employees, managers, and aspiring leaders.
I have been teaching at the university level since 1993. I adore my older students and I admire them for returning to school. But I also love young people. I especially enjoy working with teenagers. I’ve learned to love everything that goes with being a nineteen-year-old—the Mohawks, the piercings, the tattoos, the drama—because they became our new recruits in the military. I’ve loved working with them every bit as much as I’ve loved working with my new puppy.
A lot of people dismiss these raw, untrained, and undisciplined teenagers who join the military. They roll their eyes and think, “Ugh. It’s going to take two years of training before these recruits are as productive as we’d like.” But I find training them fascinating, and here’s why.
Think back to your years of going to school. How many teachers did you have who truly reached out and touched your life? How many? Historically, the average number of teachers who strongly influenced your life is only two. Only two teachers influence a student’s life in a positive, long-lasting, meaningful way. Every semester I teach, and every time I get to train, it’s a great privilege. Because if I’m good enough, I might be one of those two influential teachers. As Henry Adam’s autobiography states, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” That’s how I feel about it too.
Sharing lessons learned through this book is another way to pass on what I’ve learned, and it is my sincere honor to do so.
I would also be especially honored if you shared your leadership experiences with me and other readers.
It is easy to do so by leaving your comments on my blog at ProductiveLeaders.com/blog. I would love your feedback on this course, and I personally respond to every email at: