Issue 63/64

THE ACHIEVEMENT DIGEST   “TAD” Holiday Combined Issues No. 63 and 64
A Unique Publication for Leaders     Gene Griessman, Ph.D. Editor
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***Moments of Truth
“You only learn who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out—and what we are witnessing at some of our largest financial institutions is an ugly sight.” —  Warren Buffett

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own, but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance” —famed American philosopher, essayist, public speaker, 1803 –1882

“One way for people to recognize that an idea is bad is to try the idea.  That produces a lasting impression, but learning a lesson that way can be painful and costly. Far better to recognize a bad idea without trying it.”  –Gene Griessman

Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.”  –Benedict Spinoza (famed Dutch philosopher,  1632-1677)

“Will power begins with a thought that is believed intensely enough to produce the behavior that you desire.  Resolution is will power that you sustain long enough to produce the habit that you desire. How important is this?  Here’s Lincoln’s answer: ‘Your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.’”—Gene Griessman

According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of BLINK and THE TIPPING POINT—both highly recommended reads—an unbreakable rule of those who become highly successful is practice, lots and lots and lots of practice.  According to Gladwell in a new book entitled OUTLIERS, the requirement is 10,000 hours of practice—20 hours a week for 10 years.

Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule closely parallels what I learned while doing research for THE ACHIEVEMENT FACTORS. In that book I quoted Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon and his colleague John R. Hayes:  “Nobody reaches world class in less than 10 years of diligent application.”  Evidence came from world-class pianists, sculptors, research mathematicians, research neurologists, Olympic swimmers, tennis champions, chess grand masters, and my own interviews with scientist Francis Crick, cartoonist Charles Schulz, and golfer Jack Nicklaus.

Jack Nicklaus, from the time he played his first game, practiced every day, hitting literally thousands of buckets of balls.  Late in his career, Nicklaus told me:  “I’m learning new shots every day. I worked on a couple on new shots yesterday–ones that I didn’t have in my game.  I spent about two hours working on a specific shot yesterday that I didn’t have.  I got it today.”  Nicklaus didn’t just play the game, he played AND practiced the game.

I should add, however, that it’s not practice alone that makes perfect.  You could be practicing mistakes.  It’s perfect practice that makes perfect.


Here’s FORTUNE’S take on whether Tim Cook–Apple’s COO and Steve Job’s Number-Two–would be able to replace Jobs.  This commentary contains a message for all Number-One’s:

“’I’m not sure he’d be able to replace Steven’s design creativity,’ says Michel Mayer (former CEO of Freescale Semi-conductor).  ‘Then again, I could argue that it’s not the role of the next CEO to do that.
“’What CEO doesn’t have a gap or at least a soft spot in the résumé?  ‘If Tim were to be CEO of Apple, he’d need to have different people around him to make up for his weaknesses, just as Steve has Tim around to make up for his.’”  (FORTUNE, November 24, 2008: p. 78)

Last summer my grandson Dylan, who played on a little league team, went into a hitting slump.  He was swinging vigorously, trying to look like a big-leaguer.  But he was missing as many as nine out of ten pitches.  I know that Dylan has excellent eye-hand coordination, so I told him to quit swinging the bat and start hitting the ball.  He objected:  “How can I hit the ball if I don’t swing the bat?”  The difference, I explained, is what you think about when you swing.

“You have a great eye,” I told him.   “Just say to yourself, I’m going to hit the ball.”   The result?   He hit 27 of the next 30 pitches.

What is the lesson for leaders?   You may be vigorously going through the motions, even necessary motions, but you’re not focusing on what the purpose of the motion is.

To do this, you may need to say a mantra to yourself, or use a prop.  Helen Gurley Brown, long-time editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, made it a practice to keep a copy of the magazine on her desk at all times.  She said she used the magazine on her desk to keep her thoughts focused on producing a product—the magazine—and not decorating the office or engaging in pleasant conversations.

Let’s say you’re a VP of sales, so you require your sales people to make, say, 5 contacts per day, per week.  You certainly want to emphasize how important it is to make those 5 contacts, because nobody sells unless they make contacts.

Making the contacts is like swinging the bat. Selling is hitting the ball when you swing.  What’s important is what you’re thinking about when you make the contact.

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, LINCOLN SPEAKS TO LEADERS: 20 POWERFUL LESSONS FOR TODAY’S LEADERS FROM AMERICA’S 16TH PRESIDENT, co-authored by Pat Williams with Peggy Matthews Rose  (Now at the publisher; scheduled release date: February 12, 2009, Lincoln’s birthday.)

“What did Jefferson mean when he wrote, ‘All men are created equal’?

It was a political statement. He meant that all are born with the right to an equal chance. You see, America is more than geography. America is more than majestic mountain peaks, endless rolling plains, wide beaches, and thundering seas.

America is a great experiment—an experiment in democratizing opportunity. America is the biggest experiment in the history of the world at giving all sorts of people a chance—a chance for this poor, awkward, semi-literate boy growing up on the frontier—a chance for me to become President. That couldn’t have happened anywhere in the world at that time, except in America.”


Often I hear comments by people who should know better that the President is the commander in chief of all Americans.

That claim is simply not true.  A one-minute reading of the Constitution would quickly debunk the idea.  Here’s what the Constitution says: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.”   That’s it.  Period.

Why is this distinction important?   Because of the nature of a democracy.  In a democracy, civilians are not commanded by their leaders.

By contrast, military relationships are command-and-control relationships in all societies.  In the military there’s a clearly defined chain of command.  Soldiers and sailors and marines can be executed for not obeying, and as a matter of fact, that has often happened.

American civilians do not obey the President unless they are on the President’s staff or unless they are in the military.   In a collective sense, American citizens command the President.  Not the other way around.

Those who wrote the Constitution chose their words carefully because they were clear about the kind of society they were establishing—a democracy in which citizens are free.  Further, they wanted a society in which the President tells the military what to do.  Not the other way around.


I’ve heard this a thousand times.  Keep the politicians out of the war and let military leaders do their job.  Americans have said this about every war the nation has ever fought.

Unfortunately it’s a wrong-headed idea, ranking near the top of a long list of America’s most loved foolish beliefs.

It’s wrong-headed and foolish because politics is the only reason to wage war.

In Carl von Causewitz’s classic treatise On War (which has been required reading at military academies for decades) he wrote:   “The political objective is the goal; war is the means of reaching it….Therefore it is clear that war should never be thought of as something autonomous but always as the instrument of policy.”

We have never had a President who understood this better than Lincoln.  Lincoln understood that politics should not be left to generals.  Again and again Lincoln overruled his generals–for political reasons.

For example, Lincoln respected General U.S. Grant, but when Grant wanted to move east from New Orleans and attack Mobile Bay immediately after taking Vicksburg, Lincoln told him instead to go west.  Why? Because France had installed a puppet government in Mexico, and Lincoln wanted to establish a strong presence in Texas to resist French incursions.  Moving east made military sense.  Moving west made political sense.

On another occasion Lincoln wrote General Grant:  “You are not to decide, discuss, or confer upon any political question.  Such questions the President holds in his own hands and will submit them to no military conferences or conventions.”

Is there a lesson for you, Mr. Leader or Ms. Leader?  Absolutely.   There are some questions that only you should deal with, and you delegate them only at your own peril.

For more on this important topic, see James M. McPherson’s great new book TRIED BY WAR:  ABRAHAM LINCOLN AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF.  McPherson is the George Henry Davis ’80 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University and author of BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM, which won the Pulitzer Prize.

For these troubled economic times, here’s a valuable resource you can use for your important presentations.  For example, you can say, “Here’s what Lincoln had to say about this….” And up on the screen comes Lincoln, who led the nation through some of the most troubled times in history. “Lincoln on Communication” is time-coded so that you can use segments that you choose for illustrative purposes, and then segue back to your own material.

If you’ve ever purchased a training film, you already know that they can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.   Often even the rental cost can be $100 or more.

You can obtain “Lincoln on Communication” for just a fraction of these costs.  Our $120 package includes a soundtrack, a time-coded video, and a teacher/trainer’s guide plus a complimentary set of MemCards.  It’s designed so that you can show it as a stand-alone presentation or an excerpt as a part of your own presentation.

Order your copy with absolutely no risk.  Your satisfaction is guaranteed.  And we pay the shipping.


“Thank you for another wonderful performance!  You are a master speaker and I learn so much from watching you work.” –Hope Stockton, Executive Director, 89th Annual Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership

“My thanks for your insightful newsletter, as always.  I was intrigued by the note about Sicily (In TAD Issue No. 62).  Makes me glad I’m an Italian-American and only reading about it.”   –Gene Siciliano.   (Gene Siciliano is a much-sought-after consultant, author, and speaker on finance.  His website is )

From the Evaluations
“I’ve always admired Lincoln and found him revelatory.  Facts tell.  Stories sell.  Thanks for your joy!”  –unsigned

“I don’t know if I have ever heard anything as inspiring.”  Bill Crook, teacher and coach, Chatham Central High School (N.C.)

Advance praise for LINCOLN SPEAKS TO LEADERS, by Gene Griessman and Pat Williams, with Peggy Matthews Rose
“What a novel concept!  A top Lincoln presenter teaches us valuable leadership principles, and a top sports executive offers his advice on applying them in our daily lives.   This book will have a major impact for a long time.”  –David Pietresza, author of 1960—LBJ. vs JFK. vs NIXON


Choose luggage in colors other than black for checked bags.  Consider pastel blues, greens, etc.  Most checked bags are black, so it’s easy for someone innocently or un-innocently to go off with your bag.  Also off-beat colors make it easier for the skycap to locate your bag on the conveyor.  Save your expensive bags for car trips, carry-on luggage, etc.

Wait until you are quoted a price at a hotel before asking for a discount with AAA, AARP, Entertainment Club, etc.  It’s the same principle that you follow if you’re purchasing a new car and want to trade in your old car.  Ask for the price of the new car before mentioning that you have a car that you want to trade in.  The difference in the price is often significant.

Another recommendation.  Purchase the Entertainment book every year to get terrific discounts on travel.  Using just one rental car coupon will more than pay for the book.  The Entertainment 800 number on the car rental coupons often takes you to a dedicated line that automatically discounts the quote.

If this advice sounds like Clark Howard’s, perhaps it’s because I’m a Clark Howard fan.   If you don’t know about Clark Howard, here’s his website:

There are two well-known eating establishments within a few feet of one another in downtown Savannah, just a couple of blocks from the Hyatt on the Savannah River.

One is Lady and Sons, a creation of celebrity chef Paula Deen.  Lady and Sons is popular with locals and tourists.  It’s an outgrowth of Paula Deen’s venture into business as The Bag Lady, a lunch-delivery service she started years ago with her sons.  I’m not a fan of the buffet, which I thought was pretty ordinary, and recommend that you order off the menu.  The cornbread, crab cakes, chicken pot pie, and peach cobbler are quite good.   But don’t expect haut cuisine.  It’s hearty, reasonably priced Southern fare in a cheerful atmosphere, served by a friendly waitstaff.  102 W Congress St  (912) 233-2600

If you want fine food, walk about 100 feet down the street to The Sapphire Grill. “Scads of media and cinematic personalities will have preceded you,” reports Frommer’s review. “Collectively, they add an urban gloss of the type you might expect to see in Los Angeles. Christopher Nason is the owner and the most talked-about chef of the moment in Savannah, preparing what he defines as a ‘coastal cuisine’ based on seafood from nearby waters…”   You might want to consider the barbecue wild halibut with sweet corn broth, or the duck, which is reported to be sensational.  I chose the tasting menu, which was a lovely experience.  Not cheap, though. Every day’s tasting menu is different, and is based on what is nicest in the market that particular day. Even my waitress didn’t know what was coming until it was prepared.  110 W Congress St Savannah, GA 31401  912-443-9962