Excerpt from edapt – Corey Consulting

SEO, PPC, and Other Buzzwords That Distract You from Your Goals

SEO-search engine optimization, trying to rank higher in search engines

PPC-Pay Per Click, the amount spent to get an advertisement clicked

optimize-to make something as close to the ideal as possible

on-site optimization-tasks carried out on the website being optimized to ensure that it can be readily indexed by search engines

platform-a room of one’s own on the internet

Not everything is rosy on the World Wide Web. Every industry has its downside.  Unfortunately, when there is money to be made, there are hacks out there trying to prey on the unknowing business owner.  I cannot say it enough: there is no ‘magic feather’ that one digital marketing company has over another. When companies promise to get you to the top of the Google ranking, they may have no idea what they are promising.  Great marketing online is in-depth research, professional planning, implementation and reporting.  Other people can do it for you, but you should know your company best. Here is a great example from what I hear clients relate all the time:

Cold Caller: Ring, Ring, Ring

Business Owner: Hello?

Cold Caller: Hello, my name is Joe Smith from Miraculous Marketing.  I noticed that your plumbing business website is not on the 1st page of Google for the keyword ‘plumbing Miami’.  You know that being ‘found’ on Google through SEO will be the foundation of your business moving forward.  

Business Owner: Okay.

Cold Caller: My company, Miraculous Marketing, can get your website on the 1st page of Google within 4 months for a fee of $399/mo with a startup fee of $500.  


  • How many accounts do you think an SEO company like Miraculous Marketing needs to make a profit at $399/month?  Most likely 200!


Business Owner: What sort of work will you do to my website to get me on the first page of Google for ‘plumbing Miami’?

Cold Caller: First, we will optimize your website through a process called on-site optimization, and then we will send out links to your site to push you up to the first page.  

Business Owner: Umm… okay.  I don’t really know what that means.  

Cold Caller: Our business is technical.  We will send reports explaining our work. No need to worry, we’ll handle everything. 


Right here is the gap between what business owners know about search engines and what the cold callers and vultures in digital marketing are hoping you don’t know.  SEO, PPC, and On-site Optimization are all technical sounding terms.  They tend to scare business owners into not inquiring what they actually entail.  

Here is the ugly truth: successfully creating a platform online that will generate revenue for your business takes time invested in driving organic traffic, a sound strategy for paid advertising and research for targeting your website to the proper search market related to your business.  Do not be fooled by instant gratifiers online!

What Do You Need?

This is a great question, one that we do not get enough! Necessity should be the primary goal of any marketing effort.  Some of the best marketing initiatives come from a need to survive, expand or nudge out the competition.  

The answer is never simple because it is different for every business.  Too many times, we have clients who say, “I just want you to handle this-here is the money.”  While that is our job, the best insight into an industry or business comes from the people who eat, sleep and breathe it.  No matter how good your marketing team is, they will never have the day-to-day experience that you have.  A business owner is keen on his customers or clients and it is exactly that knowledge which can be the tipping point for a marketing push.  

Thinking out a marketing campaign should take some time.  Make sure that your ads will not offend anyone. Take into consideration the context and tone of your market. Take for example The Economist and its marketing disaster of 2011. Only 13% of its readership was female. The magazine wanted to up this number and set about doing so in the worst way possible. 

“Why should women read The Economist? They shouldn’t. Accomplished, influential people should read us. People like you.”

The implication was, for all intents and purposes, that the magazine was geared towards people, not genders. With a low female staff, this certainly rankled quite a few feminists and when the press got a hold of it, it was a field day. On its best day the magazine was an all-boys club that probably would not have added female staff members save to be secretaries a la Sterling Cooper. Smacking of blatant sexism and the notion that women were not people, the ad campaign was just an unmitigated disaster. 

To make matters much worse than they already were, the Economist ad was split into two parts: one on the front cover and the other on the back page. It appeared as if they were really making a point of being anti-women. Every company wants to have a unique campaign, but only in a positive way. Ad men may like to take risks to get people talking, but remember, the conversation must be positive. 

            The ad came across as stating the masculine perspective was the only human one and women did not matter. First World men telling women they were pointless was just as bad as women disregarded in Third World countries. Stay away from gender, race, religion and politics. People absolutely love the opportunity to be offended, but do not give them an opening. Choose your words and images carefully. 

Many great ideas come from silly or outright bad ideas. You have to give them their due.  By ideas, I am not talking about how to market the next pet rock—rather how to position a strategy to gain the most from each dollar spent.  The following is an example from a client of ours who builds metal and steel buildings:   

Allied Buildings noticed that many of their buildings sold for different purposes.  Some were horse barns, airplane hangars or even just backyard sheds.  Considering this observation, a strategy was devised to increase exposure in these niche areas.  Allied built websites specifically for horse barns, airplane hangars and backyard sheds.  The outcome was substantial.  Consumers now saw Allied as an expert in each of these subcategories, increasing web-based sales of metal and steel buildings.  This is a perfect example of thinking before acting in marketing and using your knowledge to outsmart the competition.  

A website is a necessity for marketing online.  Without a website or even with a site built from a free site builder, you are guaranteed to be invisible on the web.  What do you need to know about building a website?  The best option is to find a professional with experience in site building and web development.  Ask for references from that web developer and, more importantly, make sure their design style matches your taste.  

These two ‘needs’ are the backbone of marketing on the web. Throughout this book, you will read about complaints from clients regarding marketing on the web.  This classic is probably the most painful to hear: “I built this site and I have not seen one stitch of business from it.”  They have a website, but do not develop a strategy for marketing the site.  Therefore, the site sits there looking pretty and doing absolutely nothing for the business owner.  A site without a strategy is a useless.  Everything you do in business must have a goal. 

Turnaround: 12 Lessons in Servant Leadership from Father to Sons

By Tony Wedo 


Dear Austin and Michael:

I decided to write this guide to life because of my love for each of you. One never knows God’s plan and if I would suddenly be gone one day my sincere hope is that both of you will use this advice and counsel to overcome some of life’s bumps and bruises, to avoid the mistakes that I have made and to be all that you can be in life, fully utilizing all the gifts God has given both of you.  Please be sure to take educated risks and make your own mistakes along the way…just not the same ones twice!  Fail fast and move on to the next thing. Always be optimistic about life!

By nature, I’m a very optimistic person. In my profession as a turnaround CEO, my glass is always half full; however, based on what is transpiring in our country today, I have never been more concerned for your futures and the future of our great country. 

I predict that America will return to smaller government and free market principles and enjoy a period of explosive economic growth, and opportunity will abound for your generation.  We must reinvigorate the middle class and bring back the manufacturing sector of our economy that has served millions of families and this country so well since WWII.  My view, based on my experience with my students and my audiences, is this is mainly due to a lack of understanding of how the magic of the free enterprise system works and how it lifts ALL boats.  See, civics is no longer really taught in school, a real travesty for our children.

The catalyst for me to write this book now was that I woke up at 3:00 morning not that long ago with the following thought.  If I were to die tomorrow, you and your brother would be well taken care of financially, but you would never know what was truly most important to memy beliefs and values.  I really began to struggle with the reality that people don’t live forever and wealth, though helpful in life, isn’t what is most important.  Who you are, not what you possess, is what you truly leave behind!

In addition to unconditional love, there are three things I want to pass on to both of you.  First, there is financial security. Hopefully, my efforts in life will accomplish this goal.  Next, a top-notch education is truly powerful. You are both attending really great schools and receiving an outstanding education.  You are blessed.  No one can ever take your education away from you, and it will be a dramatic factor in your future success. Finally, my personal beliefs and values framed in a historical perspective as they relate to my life and the foundation of our great country.

 I have a strong belief that learning must be a lifetime proposition.  That said, NEVER become intellectually arrogant or snobbish no matter how many degrees you earn. There are many people you will meet in life with less formal education than you, and if you’re a good listener, (active listening – one of the most important skills in life), I guarantee you will learn something from each and every one of them. Always respect your fellow man and woman, as we are all equal under God.

I grew up on a Pennsylvania farm and my parents always struggled to make ends meet.  They were always positive, even when things were most difficult. They were authentic, kind, smart and humble people who each had an enormous work ethic. I believe so much in the fundamental power of America, the free enterprise system and the people of this great land because I have seen the magic that perseverance, determination and true grit can produce. Never lose respect for what can be learned from Americans of all sizes, shapes, colors and backgrounds. 

As you both know, I completed dual MBAs from Cornell University and Queens University in Canada.  I accomplished this later in life than most people, and it truly was an awesome learning experience and a test of my determination.  I know you both remember me kissing you goodnight from my office chair as I was writing papers or doing homework late into the night or the wee hours of the morning.  The academic rigor and the workload were incredibly intense and, frankly, there were times that I wanted to give up (it’s my belief that 90 percent of success in life is due to simply not giving up, something I’ll speak more about later in the book).  I would think to myself, “I’m a successful guy; I’ve made some money in life, why am I putting myself through this pain?”  Many of my friends would frequently ask me the same thing.  It took two years out of my life and permanently changed my approach to the 24-hour day!  That said, when I reflect on my efforts in comparison to my father’s toughness, they pale in comparison.  I will tell you that the sense of accomplishment I feel as a result is incredible and unexpected.  Though most of what I was exposed to were things I already knew, the process as a whole helped to create a new way of thinking about concepts and defining problems.  I only had one class on leadership taught by a great professor who I still work with on projects today.  He cared very deeply about the subject matter and spurred me on to develop my own philosophy on leadership. 

Learning and enlightenment can lead to wisdom, which in the end, should be your life’s goal.  Financial success alone will not lead to personal happiness, fulfillment or real confidence; some with money can act overly confident, but that’s actually arrogance based on insecurity or, in other words, faux confidence not to be confused with real confidence that is typically gentle, unassuming and does not seek credit.   

It’s deeply important to me for both of you to have an intimate understanding of my beliefs and values. I’m not requiring you to necessarily embrace these beliefs but to open your heart and mind to these ideals and use them to realize your full potentials. I am, however, requiring both of you to take all the gifts and blessings God has given you and never stop driving to become ALL that you can become.  Potential and talent wasted due to inaction or laziness is a shameful way of life. To that end, I believe you will both have the honor of leading others someday and want to prepare you by providing a deep understanding of what REAL leadership requires.

You also know I’ve had the honor of leading many great teams in my life, as well.  I believe deeply in principled servant leadership and, to that end, I have developed 12 core behaviors I believe are required of a real leader.  I call them my 12 Commandments of Leadership that you will read about in detail in the coming chapters. In each chapter, I will discuss an area of life framed in one of these 12 commandments while telling you what I believe to be true in life based on all that I have done and experienced.  

Below are some of my beliefs and the key themes I discuss throughout this book:

Freedom, responsibility and accountability

Sacrifice, hard work, character and common sense

The privilege of work and the honor of serving others 

The magic of the American free enterprise system

Honor and patriotism

Hard work and persistence trump intellect and talent

The importance of family

Service toward humanity

Equal opportunity does not mean equal outcome

Earned outcomes

The role of hand ups and second chances in our culture

Frankly, you may not agree with everything you read and that’s okay.  I just want you to understand that it comes from my heart and years of life experiences, some positive and some not.  My objective is to give both of you a leg up on the competition and help you make better and more educated decisions in whatever you choose to pursue in your lives.  However, if you choose to pursue a life of leading others, please make the 12 Commandments of Leadership a part of your everyday life.

Hopefully, I will be around for many years to come and get the chance to celebrate your successes, as well as be there to help you when you’re down.   However, just in case God’s plan is different, I hope you find the information helpful and know that it is given with the greatest love and affection.



The author’s father, Pat Wedo, passed away at the age of 88 during the preparation of this book.

Commandment 1:

Salt for the Melting Pot

Earned – A leader is never entitled

This world will be yours very soon, my sons. My generation will pass away as surely as my father’s did and his father’s did. You are already in the great adventure of learning a set of skills and will soon be called on to use them. I don’t just mean the skills of a profession or a job, I mean negotiating the challenges of finding a place in the world, finding what you’re passionate about, finding someone you can devote your home life to and, if you choose, bringing new life into existence with all the commitment and devotion of time and energy implied in that adventure – and doing it all with a feeling of personal satisfaction and loyalty to your own sense of right and wrong. 

Shannon Adler writes, “There comes a time in your life when you can no longer put off choosing. You have to choose one path or the other. You can live safe and be protected by people just like you or you can stand up and be a leader for what is right.” That time will come for both of you soon.  I frequently tell my teams and students that you get an A+ for making the right decision, an A- for the wrong decision and an F for no decision.  One must have a point of view to lead.

Before I tell you what I’ve learned about success, you know my love for you is unconditional. It doesn’t depend even a little bit on your achievements or financial successes. Already, both of you are young men I’m proud to be raising and glad to know. I also feel you owe it to all the blood, sweat and tears shed by those that have come before you, the families you may build in the future, your communities and country to use your gifts and your work ethic for the greater good in the way best suited to you. My goal in these pages is to help you, other young people and all hopeful leaders figure out the best way to do that – and to help you find contentment and avoid or be able to quickly bounce back from life’s bumps and bruises…because I love you.

You are both attending fine schools, and I’m sure you will continue to get solid training in the fields you choose. Even with a good education, finding your way isn’t always easy. Each generation has a unique set of challenges, and you have more distractions in an hour than your grandparents had in a lifetime. You are taking educated risks and making unique mistakes. Look forward to them. That’s how you learn. Fear of failure is a dreadful problem and will inhibit your ability to reach your full potential.  I suffered from this somewhat in my youth.  Bear hug change and fear!  It sounds counterintuitive; it is one of the secrets to success.

“You cannot achieve new goals or move beyond your current circumstances unless you change.” – Les Brown

By nature, I’m a very optimistic person. In my profession as a turnaround CEO, I see the glass as at least half full; but I’m concerned for our country and the future you share with young people like yourselves. Some of the best lessons I can hope to impart to you about the future require a look back to your grandfather’s generation. 

What I’m striving to give you in this book is something more, a perspective on his life, and my life, and the people who helped shape me, and a perspective on the generations that helped build this amazing country. However, many things may change externally, whether in business or your personal life or the world in general, as it shrinks to the size of a cell phone. There are certain principles I’ve learned and have condensed into the 12 Commandments of Leadership I present to young and old business men and women striving to be leaders. The commandments themselves are simple, but perhaps that’s why they resonate very deeply; they are universal and don’t change with the years. It’s an honor for me to put them in the context of our family background.

As I said, no one is entitled; life is a series of earned outcomes for all of us, which strengthens the character of an individual and nation alike. That is, regardless of how powerful people are or how much education they have, or how rich they are, everyone finds their natural place in the service of something larger than themselves, be it their family, their business or their country. Their status as a leader doesn’t put them above everyone else; it makes them a catalyst and an essential driving wheel for the whole entity to succeed.  Recognizing that we are all links in the chain of life and, therefore, bonded together in one mission is essential to understand the role of a true leader.

Let me tell you a little about the family you come from, some of which you already know. America literally took your ancestors in and gave them a chance at a new life. You have Italian, Irish, Native American and a little German in your roots. America is a melting pot of all races and nationalities that have chosen to come together to pursue happiness, success and personal freedom. I think that’s why Americans are a determined, independent bunch that rise to every challenge, help their fellow men and take great pride in their accomplishments. 

A strong work ethic was simply expected in both my mother and father’s families. It wasn’t just that they would work; it was how consistently hard they would work. Day in and day out, work was celebrated in their families. Your grandfather Pat was one of five siblings. He grew up in Windber, Pennsylvania, the son of a coal miner. I’m named for his father, Anthony or Tony; no one is really sure what his formal name was as he went by both. Our side of the family is Italian. Pat’s mother Mary was from Southern Italy, we believe the Calabria region, and my grandfather, your great grandfather, was from the northern part of Italy. That’s why my side of the family has a lot of blue-eyed people. As a little boy, my father had blond hair. It got darker as he got older, which was very similar to my son Austin. When people remember Pat, they often first mention his blue eyes that sparkled with good humor and a comforting optimism. The second thing they often mention is that he and his wife, your grandmother Joan, laughed together often as they worked. 

I knew both my grandparents on my father’s side, Tony and Mary Del Voglio Wedo, for only a short time.  Wedo is derived from the Italian surname Veda, meaning “I see.”  This name would have been given to someone with exceptional foresight.  Unfortunately, I was very young when they passed away and have many unanswered questions today about their lives, experiences and struggles in America. Note to all readers of this book…visit and talk to your elderly relatives and WRITE DOWN the stories and the experiences that they share.  Handing this down to your children is as important as passing on any material wealth.  

I remember those cold fall and winter Sunday visits to Windber, Pennsylvania, where my cousins and I would play on the mountainous slag pile located only a few hundred yards up the hill from the house. It was dangerous and would be totally frowned on in today’s society, provoking claims of child endangerment and worse. Of course, a slag pile is the unsightly remnants of the coal mining industry, which was the lifeblood of this community and so many others in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.  These areas have all suffered severe economic hardship as the coal industry has been under attack in America for many years, thrusting entire communities and thousands of families into poverty, something that must be addressed under the current administration.  But it was what we had and honestly, for a bunch of nine- and ten-year-olds, it was a lot of fun and, in retrospect, many lessons were learned.  The coal mining industry provided my grandfather the means to support his family and, tragically, was the vehicle of his death from black lung disease in the early 1970s.

The day would always end with a big family meal, including a giant steaming pot of homemade pasta (macaroni) topped with the most delicious spaghetti sauce (gravy) that you can imagine.  The homemade meatballs and sausage melted in your mouth, and the adults always had plenty from my grandfather Tony’s wine cellar.  

My paternal grandfather came from Italy around the turn of the century and served in World War I, where he was wounded in action fighting bravely for his new country. Shortly thereafter, he wrote a letter back home asking for a wife; his family chose my grandmother for him and sent her to America. The first time they met was the day she arrived; she knew no one in America and spoke only Italian. I have a photograph of them (INSERT WEDDING PIC) on their wedding day. We all chuckle at the picture today as it appears to be quite a somber occasion! I always wished I would have been able to talk to them about that experience. Children wouldn’t dare to ask about such things in those days.

My father Pat’s family was very poor but no more so than their neighbors, so it wasn’t like he really knew that they were. Communities were tight-knit back then and truly looked out for each other.  All of life’s big events, births, weddings, funerals and the like, were treated as community events, so no one ever went without.  Nearly everything they ate came from their huge and carefully tended garden, except when my father was given a few quarters once a week to go to the local butcher for a small portion of meat. Otherwise, they were self-sufficient. My father had one pair of shoes, one pair of school pants and one white shirt for church. Money was scarce, but the community at large acted as one big family. Everyone in the community would barter what little they had to get what they needed. 

My dad actually lied about his age to join the Navy during World War II. He had graduated from high school but was only 17.  He was extremely athletic and visited the local recruiting office and, as the story goes, impressed everyone there by doing a series of one-arm push-ups in front of the recruiters to distract from his lack of proof of age.  He was only 5’6”, on a good day, but by far the most athletic person of any size I have ever met.  I will share some more stories about him later in the book.  

After my father’s discharge, he worked his way through two years of college on the GI Bill and worked several jobs to support his growing family – usually two jobs at once, sometimes three. I’m told by my peers, wife and kids that I work a lot, but I’ve never seen anyone in my life with more capacity for work or a better work ethic than him.  I’m clearly not in his league!  He coined the phrase work is weightlifting for the character, something that I live by today. He held a wide variety of jobs, including night watchman and bread delivery truck driver, before finally became general manager of a factory. He was also the manager of a restaurant and lounge where your grandmother Joan and your uncle Jeff also worked, and eventually served as the general manager.  In its day, the University Lodge Hotel Restaurant and Lounge was the center of activity in the small town of Shippensburg where I grew up. Unfortunately, it’s no longer there. In 1963, my father bought a 100-acre farm on Baltimore Road, fulfilling a lifelong dream. He was a gentleman farmer, caring for the land and 60 head of beef cattle and horses as well as for the horses others stabled there, but he was still working other jobs as well to support his family, including as production manager for a novelty paper goods manufacturer.  He invented the concept of multi-tasking way before it was popular and didn’t let the fact that are only 24 hours in the day stand in the way of his and his family’s success.  He only ever wanted ONE THING…for his children to be more successful than he was.  A prayer I have for the two of you today!  

It would have been easy for him to treat all that work as drudgery, but he didn’t. Of course, he had setbacks. I’m sure there were times he felt tired, even times he wanted to give up; he never, ever showed the strain of pulling that huge load each and every day, always had a smile on his face and frequently was heard actually whistling as he worked.  He never engaged in self-pity, looked for someone to bail him out or looked to the government for answers.  He was never visibly demoralized or really down. His friends described him as the most optimistic person they knew with his cheerful tuneless whistling and his can-do approach to everything.  His glass was always half-full, something that I try to practice every day as a turnaround CEO. His energy level was incredible, as he would often be up at 4:00 a.m. to do chores on the farm, followed by a long eight-hour day at the factory and the night shift at the restaurant. I wish you boys could have really known your grandfather when he was in good physical and mental health. He could have done things with you and been able to clearly speak to you. Strokes are diabolical things. You both would have truly benefited from that interaction.  

I remember being amazed as a young boy just how strong and vital my father really was. He could leap over thirty inches from a standing start, and he tamed horses with amazing athletic skill, often jumping from their backs as they were in full gallop. One day he jumped off of a wagon load of falling hay some 15-plus feet without injury. I was standing nearby and witnessed the entire scary event.  There was one incident where we were trying to start a tractor that wasn’t cooperating. He put me in the driver’s seat (I think I was about 10 or 11 years old) and told me to try and start the motor while he worked on the engine directly in front of the machine. Unknown to either of us, when I climbed onto the tractor, I accidently engaged the transmission and, when the engine finally started in a flash, the tractor lurched forward without warning, slamming into the tree some four feet in front of it.  In a split second, he was able to leap out of the way and avoid being pinned between the tractor and the tree.  It actually happened so fast that I didn’t even see him move, he just was in one spot one second and several feet away the next!  This really shook me up for several weeks as I could have easily killed him instantly. That said, his first thought was for my safety and he immediately came to comfort me. He was truly a selfless man who indirectly taught me the reward of servant leadership and, without me knowing it at the time, developed the 12 Commandments of Leadership.

The farm I grew up on with my brother, Jerry, and sister, Cathy, was about halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, just outside Shippensburg, PA. The farm, which my father bought in 1963, was over 200 years old and a real fixer-upper! The property at one time was an original land grant from William Penn and was owned by former Pennsylvania Governor Mifflin.  In the past, it was called Burlington Farm.  Though it wasn’t an easy life and even scary at times, and filled with a tremendous amount of work, it was by far the biggest influence in my life and truly the single biggest factor in all that I have become today.   

That small town was the source of many truly powerful learning experiences. When I reflect on my life growing up there, it makes me smile, even though most all these experiences were centered on hard work, discipline and self-sacrifice. My father would start his day doing chores at 4:00 a.m., go to his day job, go to our restaurant for the dinner rush and then come home to the farm to tend the animals and be in bed around 11:00 p.m.  I challenge any reader of this book to try this for a week or so and let me know how exhausted you are, let alone doing it for a lifetime.

When I was old enough, I worked alongside him. I remember the bitter cold nights in the barn, the frozen pipes and the old coal-fired furnace continually breaking down. I washed dishes at our restaurant beginning at age 10, and when I got older, I baled hay in the middle of July under a punishing sun, once passing out from heat exhaustion. The primary lesson I learned from all my jobs was that everything on the farm and in the restaurant required constant attention. We consistently had to put the needs of the greater good ahead of our own needs, day in and day out. The animals had to be fed. The restaurant customers had to be fed. The leaky barn roof had to be patched. The bills had to be paid. There was simply no time for my parents to consider themselves.  This is clearly reflected in my 12 Commandments of Leadership.

Never once did I hear a complaint from my father or my mother about the cards life had dealt them, even when things were tough. My mother, in particular, had a tough hand to play during her early years. Her mother, my grandmother Erma Bender, a woman of Irish/German heritage, had married a Native American man, a stonemason who died of pneumonia only a few years into their marriage.  My grandmother Bender was left with your grandmother Joan and her sister, your great aunt Nancy, two little girls both under five years old, and had to find a way to survive. Remember, it was the 1930s; there wasn’t any benevolent hand of government to help people when they were down.  By the way, your great grandmother Bender was a very smart and tough woman.  She grew up on the family farm and was one of the few women at the time to actually have attended college. That said, society was very judgmental then.  She married someone from another race who wasn’t “approved of” by the family or community and was shunned by her own family. She and her two little girls were literally kicked to the street and told to find their own way.  If it wouldn’t have been for the charity of others in the community, particularly a gentleman named Wayne Craig, a local cattle rancher who took them into his house, there’s no telling what would have happened to them.  There are many stories of homeless families dying in the streets during this period in America. 

There were no government programs or welfare back then. Luckily, the community stepped up and helped care for all three of them, literally bringing them in from the cold. Still, Joan’s struggles were far from over. She was widowed in 1946 at the age of 19 when her husband was killed in a plane crash, leaving her with an 18-month-old child, your uncle Jerry. She had to move back in with her mother and live there with her newborn son. They toughed it out. This is a theme of both your grandfather and grandmother’s lives. This is NOT something to feel bad about but rather to be proud of, as this type of true grit and determination is what gave us this great country we call America. She was one of those women – not unique to our family, we had/have plenty of them – who worked constantly. Strong women are a hallmark of our family of today and yesterday.  Your great grandmother Bender, your grandmother Joan Wedo, your grandmother Evelyn Smith and your mother, Carrie Smith Wedo, are all great examples of extremely hardworking women who were and are the backbone of their families. Celebrating strong women is a hallmark of our family and America. 

Your grandmother, Joan, passed away in 1992. I wish you could have known her; I adored her, and you would have too. She was an amazing woman. She did all the housework and much of the childcare but also worked outside the home at various jobs, including at the restaurant she and my father managed together. She had a gentle toughness about her that was comforting and motivating at the same time, fixing breakfast for us while silently counting our small income to find a way to make it through next week or next month. 

My mother loved cooking for her family. I would be welcomed into the house on Sunday by the smell of hand-battered chicken cooking and I’d hear its sizzle. Standing at the stove in her apron, she would say, “Honey, what do you want with your fried chicken?” She took a great deal of pride in seeing her family gathered around the table and feeding them well. Later in life, when I learned more about her family history, I realized how rewarding it must have been for her finally to have a large family of her own and a means to feed them after such a difficult early childhood. That’s something I didn’t really appreciate until recently. 

On Sunday, we normally attended church and ate a big meal around one o’clock in the afternoon. In the late morning, extended family would begin to show up, with everyone talking about a lot of different things. I loved those Sunday dinners. Besides the extended family, we often had guests; as one family friend put it, our family “opened its arms to pull you in as one of their own.” Our Sunday afternoon was the internet of its day, as we heard about everything that had happened, was going to happen or might happen. You’d talk about the previous week and the coming week, about your life and their lives. My brother-in-law would teach me a new wrestling move (he was a state champion wrestler in his day) or go out and throw a football with me. In later years, my brother would talk about my future career and how to break free from the gravity of our small town.

Growing up, my brother, sister, parents and I always had food on the table and a roof over our heads, but never any real extra money. Thus, I never knew any excess or frivolous spending – this was a great lesson in itself. We grew up very modestly; you would call us the middle class but most of the time we had just enough to pay the bills. Obviously, my parents must have worried about money; they never made it apparent to me, another great lesson of making kids feel secure no matter what the circumstance. Although my father was always looking for a way to make more money, to find some business he could make a go of, our home was not about money but love. 

I watched my father and mother closely. It was rare that they bought some luxury for themselves or wasted their money or effort on anything not directly related to making a success of themselves and their family. The animals ate first, the customers in the restaurant got served first, the leak in the barn roof got fixed first, the furnace in the house got repaired first, the bills got paid first, and most of all their children were cared for first, all before they thought of themselves. 

Pat was determined to give all of his children a better existence than he had had as a child. He lived the dream of the “Greatest Generation” to make a better world for his children. My circumstance haven’t been nearly as challenging as theirs, but my goal is the same: to improve your opportunities, Michael and Austin, which I hope I have done and can continue to do.

Looking back on how my parents must have seen themselves, I realize that how they felt about themselves and their circumstances just wasn’t very important to them. They didn’t suffer from the dreadful virus of narcissism that we see in America today.  They were and remain the humblest people I have ever known.  From that realization, I draw one leadership commandment: Self-importance is truly the enemy of leadership. There’s no way they could have held all those jobs and led our family had they been thinking chiefly of themselves. A real leader knows that his or her value to the larger enterprise is what’s truly important. 

Two common threads were woven through the lives of many of our ancestors. One is that in this country and the small towns and communities that make it up, there is shelter, physically and spiritually, for those who need it; the other is that the cost of that shelter is your work to contribute to the greater good. Our town was quite typical of most back then. Work was honored. Laziness and disrespectful behavior were not tolerated. That may sound harsh, but there was always ample support for the elderly and children and for those who honestly couldn’t get by in life for reasons they couldn’t control, like disability or injury. Small-town America perfected the concept of a hand up as opposed to a handout.

This process of mutual support, when handled locally by friends and family, was and remains very effective and efficient. Those who knew the individuals in need best would be the advocates to see that the help reached those in need. This local familiarity provided a natural barometer of the community’s health as well as a built-in government for those who would take advantage of it; fraud was rare, as someone had to stand up and put their credibility on the line to organize the help for someone else. You didn’t just fill out a piece of paper and get a check in the mail, as so many do today. 

Everyone I knew growing up had a strong sense of right and wrong and a deep concern for the aged and the needy. They would be ashamed of taking assistance they didn’t need. People generally settled their disputes face to face and didn’t hide behind the law or other third parties. There was certainly bad behavior. Generally, there was a prevailing logic and common sense to the rhythm of life and recognition that hard work, discipline and personal sacrifice benefited all. They would have been bewildered back then by the idea that those who can work but do not are entitled to the same standard of living as those who do.

My parents demonstrated leadership by example, through their hard work. They did it with no sense that America owed them anything more than a chance. 

In the words of Albert Schweitzer, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” 

Workbook Questions 

Commandment 1 Questions: 

  1. Create a Venn diagram representing sacrifice, hard work and value. 
  2. List at least three items you can sacrifice or reprioritize to focus on your top three goals. 
  3. What are some ways you can lead through the example of sacrifice and hard work?  
  4. What is something you have failed at in order to succeed in another area of your life? 
  5. How has your internal compass served you in the past? And how do you predict it will help you in the future? 
  6. “If we took baby steps to cross the highway, we may not fall and skin our knees; however, we’d surely be hit by a car.” What does this mean to you? How can you apply this to your personal and professional life? 
  7. Research your favorite CEO and write three sentences on how he/she set the tone for the whole enterprise.   
  8. Which words would others use to describe you as a leader and a person? 
  9. Defend the statement that life is a series of earned outcomes for all of us, which strengthens the character of an individual and nation alike.
  10. What are the greatest lessons your parents/family have taught you?