Preferred Partners, LLC.

Preferred Partners, LLC is a permanent placement recruiting firm located in Omaha, Nebraska and working nationwide. We have made more than 300 successful placements in 38 states. Preferred Partners, LLC is structured to be an affordable and sensible partner for its clients. As such, return on investment is emphasized in all relationships. We take the time to understand our client's needs and customize solutions around these needs.

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Expect It from Yourself

There’s no question that Bubba Starling heard the doubters who grew louder with each season he spent in the minor leagues. Many openly speculated about how long the Kansas City Royals would hold on to their million-dollar investment before they swallowed their loss and moved on. I’m sure that Bubba himself wondered the same thing as he struggled through eight years of not meeting the expectations of the pundits, let alone the expectations he had of himself.

Those expectations were astronomical when the Royals signed him, straight out of high school, with the fifth overall draft pick. The $7.5 million signing bonus he received guaranteed that he wouldn’t escape the scrutiny that came with those expectations. When he signed, it seemed like a win for all sides. It’s unlikely that anyone saw the eight years of struggle ahead.

It would have been easy for Bubba to quit and fade off into anonymity, effectively quieting the critics, but he didn’t. He expected great things of himself, and persisted until he reached those expectations.

Most of us will never experience the pressure of expectations as high as those placed on professional athletes. Our expectations instead will come from the individual we see in the mirror each morning.

Nate Lashley always believed that he could succeed as a professional golfer, but his results seemed to indicate otherwise. In fact, the professional golf world had virtually written him off, until he won his first PGA event earlier this summer. It was a highly unlikely win for the golfer who had to play his way in and missed qualifying by a couple of strokes. In fact, he didn’t get into the last spot (156th) in the tournament, until a qualified golfer backed out when his clubs didn’t make the flight. When Nate teed off on the first day of the four-day tournament, he was ranked 353rd in the PGA.

A few years back, discouraged by his lack of success, Nate had quit professional golf and started working in real estate. He admitted, in hindsight, that he probably wasn’t ready for professional golf when he began his career. His parents and girlfriend had died in a tragic plane crash just before he turned professional, and he struggled dealing with that loss while trying to compete at a high level.

His hiatus from golf didn’t last long, as he had high expectations for the guy he saw in the mirror each morning. Those expectations took him to PGA tournaments where he was forced to play his way in, like he did the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic. There aren’t a lot of outside expectations when you tee off in the 156th spot. Most of those golfers are hoping that they make the cut at the end of the second day, which qualifies them for prize money.

Nate took the lead on that first day, and never lost it over the four-day event. I imagine that he survived and maintained the lead because of the strong expectations he had for himself. He knew that he could do it, even when there were many others who doubted him. Now, he has a $1.314 million dollar check and a PGA card that will ensure his entry into events until the end of the 2020-21 season. Now, he knows that he belongs.

Bubba too has ascended quickly, after his slow climb into the big leagues. He is now a regular starter, and has even hit a couple of home runs and made some spectacular defensive plays, https://www.mlb.com/video/statcast-starling-s-sick-defense. None of it would have been possible if he didn’t believe in and stay true to the expectations he had for himself.

Expectations come from many sources, but none are more important than those that come from within. By setting high expectations for ourselves, we challenge ourselves to be the best that we can possibly be. Don’t wait for others to do that for you. Set your own expectations, and SET THEM HIGH!

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Don’t Wait, Get What You Deserve

The small community in which I live recently experienced a mind-numbing tragedy. Four teenagers were killed in a wreck, and a fifth was badly injured. They were all only a couple of years younger than my daughter, and because of their young, active lifestyles, it seemed like everyone in the community was affected some way.

As a parent, my initial thoughts were with the parents of these girls. When I first heard of the accident, I remember saying aloud to myself, “they didn’t deserve this. No one deserves this.”

Hardly anyone deserves the bad things that happen to them, but bad things happen to good people all of the time. In addition to the accident, in just the past year, I’ve seen a relative have a freak accident and become even more badly injured in the ensuing operation, to the point that he’ll likely never walk again. A couple of months ago, a good friend – one of the greatest and purest souls I’ve ever met – lost the home in which he spent most of his adult and childhood life to a catastrophic flood. And, I’ve helped a couple of people very close to me deal with heart-breaking ends to their relationships.

None of them did anything to deserve the anguish they experienced, and I was baffled by the injustice of it all – until I considered the futility of fretting about what we deserve.

We don’t get to decide what we deserve. We can live perfect lives, follow all of the rules and check off all of the virtue boxes, and bad things can still happen.

What we do get to decide is how we approach each day and every relationship, including the one we have with ourselves. Seeing tragedy should shine a spotlight on these things.

Because tomorrow’s happiness isn’t guaranteed, we need to see each day as a gift that shouldn’t be wasted. That’s easy on days filled with family, friends and laughter, but what about those days that, on the surface, seem full of drudgery and frustration? Those are the days that we need to look a little deeper for beauty.

I try to look for something positive every day, and it doesn’t have to be extravagant. Many times, it’s as simple as making someone smile or encouraging someone in need. I don’t wait for these things to happen. If they don’t spontaneously happen, I make them happen. I’ll look for someone who seems down, and try to engage them in an uplifting conversation. Some of these people might think that I’m crazy, but I care less about that each year. I aim for a smile, and I almost always get that.

I also try really hard not to complain. There is enough complaining in this world, and I have yet to find a meaningful purpose for it. If someone asks me how I’m doing, I respond positively and enthusiastically, even if things aren’t going my way. Most times, that positivity and enthusiasm bounce back to me, and lift my spirit.

It’s also important to pay attention to our attitude toward life. When someone has an accident or gets some bad medical news, their chances of recovery greatly increase if they have taken care of their bodies and are otherwise healthy. The same thing is true with our minds. If our minds are in a good place, we’re better positioned to withstand and recover from a downturn. If you’re not feeling particularly happy and fulfilled, do something about it, so you’re optimally positioned to handle whatever life throws at you.

While we might not always get what we deserve, we can always seek out the happiness we deserve. Embrace what you have today, because life can change in an instant, leaving us with regrets for the days and opportunities we wasted.

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Reap Rewards Shamelessly

My wife and daughter recently returned from a two-week European vacation, which my daughter earned by achieving a goal we had set together. If you followed her or me on social media, you saw some amazing photos. It was an extravagant, but well-deserved reward that initially made me a little uncomfortable.

It’s not in my nature to concern myself too much about what other people think, but that’s what I did. If I saw the extravagance and indulgence, so did other people. Were we being insensitive to those facing financial and other struggles? Should we have used those resources in other ways? Those worries were fleeting though, as I considered the importance of rewards and what she did to earn the trip.

When my son was being recruited for football, to add extra motivation, my wife and I promised him an African safari, if he landed a full-ride Division One football scholarship. Our theory was that we could fund the trip with the money we planned to spend on his education. Once the first scholarship was offered, talk of Africa began.

My daughter isn’t an athlete, but she is a remarkably driven and focused teenager. Two years behind her brother, she watched how the work he put in earned him a scholarship and a trip, and she vowed to match his success and earn a trip for herself. Lynda and I never doubted her determination, but we knew how difficult it was to earn a full scholarship (one that includes room, board and expenses, in addition to tuition), especially a non-athletic scholarship, so we were skeptical.

We were even more skeptical when her first ACT score came in much lower than it needed to be to qualify for a prestigious scholarship. She, however, was undeterred, and resolved to get a score that better fit her expectations of herself. She studied for the next test religiously, while maintaining a straight-A average in advanced classes. On her second attempt, she cut the gap between her last score and her desired scored in half. In her third attempt, she achieved the same score as the second test. Finally, on the fourth test, after incredible dedication and work, she achieved a qualifying score.

The score qualified her for admission into the Scott Scholars Program – an extremely prestigious program and scholarship – the one she targeted when she set her goal two years earlier. Still, even with a qualifying test score, admission in the Scott Scholars Program is far from guaranteed. Admission also requires an exemplary high school record, including extracurricular activities, and a successful, in-person interview. Just like the test score, Kelly achieved her goals in those areas too, and was admitted into the program just before Christmas.

Rewards can be tremendous motivators, and it’s important that we allow ourselves to enjoy them, especially if we made tremendous sacrifices and exerted uncommon effort to earn them. My wife and I believe that sacrifice and effort are crucial for success. We taught both kids that, in order to live an exceptional life, they needed to perform at an exceptional level and exert exceptional effort. I suspect that both kids would have achieved their goals without the promise of a trip, but the trips reinforced the lesson of exceptional living.

It’s important to reward the effort and achievement for those under our influence and as well as for ourselves. Seeing the smile on my daughter’s face as she experienced an incredible part of the world for the first time drove that point home, and it eased any concerns I might have had about how the trip might be perceived.

Set lofty goals for yourself and attach lofty rewards for their achievement. Doing that will help you live the exceptional life that’s within your grasp.

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Ask, When You Need Help

Last month, I watched a Virginia basketball player step to the foul line with less than a second on the clock and his team down by two points in a national championship semi-final game. I was astonished to watch him coolly sink all three free throws to put his team permanently in the lead. That astonishment became complete amazement when I learned about the battle that the young man was fighting.

In the previous year, Kyle Guy played a key role in a season that culminated with his team in the NCAA tournament with a #1 seed. In the history of the tournament, no #1 seed had ever lost to a #16 seed, but that’s exactly what happened to Virginia. Fan outrage was intense, and Guy took the loss especially hard. Though he had battled anxiety privately for years, the loss and his ensuing emotions prompted him to take action. He met with a psychologist and began taking anti-anxiety medication.

The pressure on Division 1 athletes is intense. Not only do they face the academic challenges of a typical student, their athletic talents put them in the spotlight, where their performances are highly scrutinized. The more success that they and their teams experience, the higher the pressure. This is especially hard on male athletes who are expected to be “tough.” Unfortunately, struggling with anxiety and asking for help are not considered tough by some fans.

Not only did Guy admit that he needed help, he did so in a very public way on social media. Furthermore, he made public appearances in order to encourage others who might privately be waging similar battles. He didn’t need to expose himself to further scrutiny, but he did, and was better for the experience.

It’s not easy to ask for help or to expose your weaknesses. It’s even more difficult when you are battling anxiety. I might argue that what he did a year ago, when he sought help, was braver and more impressive than sinking those free throws as the world watched.

Many of us ask for help only as a last resort. While personal accountability is certainly laudable, most of us take it overboard, and we let pride keep us from getting the assistance we need to live life to its fullest.

Readers of this blog know that I’m one of those stubborn people who didn’t want to acknowledge my weaknesses, let alone ask others for help. Even as my physical abilities waned, I resisted opportunities to make life easier for myself. Instead of applying for a handicapped parking placard, I quit going to events that required a lot of walking. Instead of asking for an easier route into an unfamiliar building, I would send my family to celebrations and other occasions without me.

When long walks became virtually impossible, instead of taking a ride in a wheelchair. I simply stayed home. Only when my wife insisted that I quit letting pride limit my life did I finally break down and get the parking permit and then the wheelchair. I don’t have to imagine what I would have missed had I let my world continue to shrink. Because I admitted that I needed help, I was able to enjoy life in the way that it was meant to be enjoyed.

I have to wonder if Kyle Guy would have made those free throws if he still bore the weight of his anxiety without help. I suspect that he wouldn’t. Fortunately, he took action at a crucial juncture in his life, and now he is a national champion.

If you are struggling with something, whether it’s mental or physical, take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself if your stubbornness is part of the problem. Then, take a good look around you and notice those who would eagerly help. You might be surprised at how much your world can open.

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Finding the Positive in Taxes and Flooding

My late grandfather once told me that paying taxes is a good thing. It means that you’re making money. I understand the logic behind that statement, and appreciate the optimistic perspective, even if my instinct is to argue against it.

Despite my conservative leanings, every April, I try to convince myself to think like Grandpa. On this tax day, I challenged myself to write about taxes from a positive perspective, while maintaining my boycott of social media politics.

That wasn’t easy. In the past week, I sent the government enough money to buy a new car, but that’s far from the end of my contributions. As a small business owner, I send checks every month, as well as pay quarterly estimates every three months. Also, as a business owner, I must match my Social Security and Medicare contributions. I’m very well aware of how much I am taxed.

For these reasons, it’s difficult to stay positive about taxes, especially at this time of year. I want to think about how I might have spent the money that I sent to the government. I want to complain about how the government spends my money. I want to whine about all of the time I spend preparing and planning for taxes. Those are my instincts, and they are difficult to suppress.

To maintain a positive attitude, we often have to suppress our instincts, especially when we know that those instincts lead us in a negative direction. This is especially true in challenging times. Complaining only makes a challenging situation that much more difficult.

The positive, can-do attitude I saw in response to the recent tragic flooding in my area was a powerful reminder of the importance of staying positive in trying times. It seemed that everywhere I looked during the flooding I saw examples of the strength of the human spirit, in spite of unfathomable challenges.

I saw great people, including some of my friends, helplessly watch the water rise around their homes and businesses. There was nothing that they could do but pray that the waters would subside, and I know that some of those people are very prayerful, yet their prayers were not answered, and the floods destroyed their homes and businesses.

The injustice of it all had to be overwhelming, I thought to myself. How do they not lash out at the devastation that seemed tremendously unfair? Could I be as strong?

Instead of complaining, I saw compassion and resolve. Friends, family and strangers alike united to help where and how they could. Instead of looking around with self-pity, flood victims rolled up their sleeves and salvaged what they could. They didn’t waste time complaining and looking for places to place their blame. They got to work and moved on.

In no way do I want to minimize the devastation caused by flooding. My tax challenges pale in comparison with those losses. I merely drew inspiration from their ability to preserve and thrive in an extremely difficult situation. Plus, my grandfather was right. I did have a good year, and that is a reason to be thankful.

So this year, instead of annual April 15th tradition of looking for fairness and grumbling about how I think that things should be different, I am at peace and have accepted things as they are.

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OK, Can I Complain Now?

February 2019 brought record snow to the area where I live. Snow piled on snow, as every few days seemed to bring a new storm. Record low temperatures accompanied the snow, keeping it from melting as it normally would at this time of year. Even people who profess their love of snow were getting tired of the white stuff.

I don’t love snow. In fact, I intensely dislike snow. When I see flakes falling, frustration and anxiety creep in, since even a dusting of snow on a sidewalk renders me almost completely immobile. When frustration and anxiety creep in, it’s hard to keep a positive attitude. Without a positive attitude, it’s hard to resist complaining.

It’s tempting to justify complaining, especially when you are pushed to your limits. I’m not sure that this winter pushed me to my limits, but it got awfully close. It certainly made me think about complaining.

I’ve thought about complaining before. When he was coaching me before one of my first professional speaking engagements, a really good friend told me: you have every right to be a bitter, angry person, but you’re not. People expect that from people like you who have obvious physical challenges, and they’re disarmed when they meet you and find out that you’re not.

At the time, his words shocked and saddened me. People expected me to be bitter and angry? Why would I be bitter and angry? I know that he was talking about my disability and how I went from a child with no limitations to an adult with some significant physical limitations, but that’s not something that I dwell on.

Mostly, I was baffled that complaining could be justified. If I am justified in complaining, who isn’t? My cousin who suffered a spinal cord injury about a year ago and hasn’t walked unassisted since? My friend who is battling cancer and struggling with a failing heart? Another friend taking care of her Alzheimer’s stricken husband who no longer recognizes her? Friends with relationship challenges whose life trajectories hang in the balance?

Almost everyone I know can justify complaining, but I hear surprisingly little complaining. I’m not complaining that I don’t hear a lot of complaining, but the absence of complaining in my life is remarkable. I suspect that I don’t hear a lot of complaining, because of the way I approach life. I believe that staying positive and not complaining about your circumstances will subject you to fewer complaints from others.

Conversely, when we complain, we open the door for others to do the same, and everyone suffers. Shared misery is a weak foundation for relationships, because complaining erodes happiness.

The official weather station in my neighborhood tells me that 60.9 inches of snow, 37.8 inches over average, have fallen around the house in which I’ve been confined for many days this winter. The forecast for the next few weeks shows little change in the weather pattern with few melting opportunities. Every day, I resist the urge to complain about how the weather limits my life.

Instead, I tell myself that winter won’t last forever. The days are getting longer. The sun is getting brighter, and I’m gaining a stronger appreciation for warm weather. Furthermore, there are far worse places to hunker down than the house I share with my wife and daughter. Most importantly, these weather-related challenges pale when compared to all of the other blessings in my life.

So, no. I can’t complain. Not now. Not ever.

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Hmm . . . That’s How I Look

I recently had the good fortune to go on a guided pheasant hunt with my dad, a life-long friend and a bunch of other really good guys. One of those guys documented the three-day trip with his camera. Everywhere we went, into the field and back in the lodge, he took candid shots. I noticed the camera pointed at me several times, and was anxious to see the results, until I did.

Self-perception is an odd thing, and it’s difficult to do correctly. Most of us are far too critical about how we appear. Others, like me, are somewhat delusional about how we appear. A rare few are actually accurate in their perception of how others see them.

Walking around with a severe limp and a droopy right eye for most of my life, I have learned not to worry about how others see me. Though I’m somewhat aware of them, I choose not to acknowledge negative perceptions. That’s relatively easy to do when you are away from the camera and surrounded by familiar people. Even the mirror, though it does not lie, can be fooled with a careful pose. The candid camera cannot.

So, there I was, crooked leg, bald head and droopy eye, with my dad helping me carry my plate from the buffet line. I remember the moment and the camera to my side. I wasn’t bothered by it then, but I was when I first saw the picture. The insecurities that I had carefully tucked out of sight escaped and bopped me in the back of the head.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Insecurities haunt all of us, at least occasionally – even powerful and famous people. President Franklin Roosevelt consciously hid his disability from the American public throughout his twelve years as President of the United States. He wasn’t ashamed of his disability; he just didn’t want to be judged by it or to have critics see it as a weakness, so when cameras were present, he was careful to keep his wheelchair out of the photo.

It’s OK to minimize your vulnerabilities in order to craft the image you want to project. We should try to look and act our best. Like it or not, friends and strangers alike respond to our image. What’s not OK is to let the things you can’t control about your image bring you down, and that’s what I did.

I focused on my weaknesses while completely ignoring my strengths. I prioritized what I’d like to change over what I value. I held myself to an ideal that is beyond my reach. What’s more, I did all of this without any outside prompting. No one on the trip treated me any differently.

Who isn’t guilty of this, at least occasionally? Maybe it’s not our physical appearance, but a perceived shortcoming of intelligence or achievement that makes us feel inferior. Maybe we don’t invite friends to our homes, because we feel that our homes don’t compare to theirs.

None of that matters. What matters is how we see ourselves. My parents taught me that lesson in my pre-teen years, when it became obvious that my disability was going to affect my future. They encouraged me to value and capitalize on my blessings, and they wouldn’t let me feel sorry for myself. My friends, teachers and others around me reinforced that credo, which allowed me to create a cocoon around myself in my teenage years.

I’ve been able to move that cocoon with me through the different phases of my 48 years: college, young career, fatherhood and to where I am now. Very rarely does something penetrate the cocoon, but that picture did.

Fortunately, I was able to quickly recover by stepping back and taking a larger view – a view in which my gratitude squashed my insecurities. That was easy to do as I looked through the other pictures.

We had been blessed with great weather, which isn’t a given in late December in South Dakota. If the weather had been different, I likely wouldn’t have been able to participate in the hunt. Furthermore, our outfitter was extremely accommodating of my limited mobility, letting me use a UTV to get around. Last, but certainly not least, I was able to have a great time with a great group of new friends. It would have been really difficult to improve the experience.

It’s amazing how blinded we can become by our insecurities. Most of the time, when they obscure our  blessings, we need only take a short step to the side and look more closely. Those blessings are usually right there in front of us.

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