Author: Erick Rheam

14 Aug 2017

Success Is Not Hard, When You Check Your Emotions

I help coach my daughter’s travel softball team.  I wouldn’t consider myself a softball savant.  In fact, if you put me in a room with bunch of softball dads, I would bet that almost all of them know the game more than me.  I don’t know every rule of the game, I don’t know the “right call” to make in every situation, I don’t care.  Instead, I study success and human dynamics and try to discern what it takes to place an organization or person in a position to succeed.

I got involved in softball because I wanted to strengthen my relationship with my daughter and spend time with her as she navigated her way through the sport.  Eventually, I found myself in the dugout and able to influence the decisions of the team and the game.  I observed other coaches, parents, and the players.  I reflected on the nuances of the game and pondered the keys of softball and why our team would win or lose.  I concluded that logic wins and emotions lose.

It’s my belief that success comes when you focus on a few key measures, and when applied on a consistent basis, will lead to winning.  I observed overzealous coaches and parents arguing with umpires over obscure calls or stressing over odd plays that were outliers and not the norm.  When emotions ruled the game, teams lost.  Instead, I began to approach the game logically and searched for key measures that helped us win.  I discovered one measure that made sense to me.  On offense, we won when ten girls could get on base over the course the game.  When I checked the numbers, we never lost when we hit that mark.

It made sense to me that we should set a goal to get ten girls on base, because historical statistics showed we always won.  In softball, a player can get on base in many ways.  She can get walked, she can hit the ball, or she can get hit by the pitch.  From a logical standpoint, it doesn’t matter how a player gets on base, just that she gets on base.  From an emotional standpoint, it makes a huge difference.

It’s much more satisfying for a player to hit a beautiful long shot over the head of the outfield defense and hit the ball to the fence or over the fence, then to lay down a meager bunt that plops two feet in front of home plate.  Emotionally, a parent wants to see his or her daughter swing the bat and knock the cover off the ball.  This may validate all the batting practices and money spent on hitting coaches, but it may not win the game.

For me, as a parent, I would much rather see my daughter make a hard hit to the outfield to get on base then to get four pitched balls that walks her to first base.  That’s anticlimactic and not nearly as fun or exciting, but it still achieves the same goal of getting on base.

So, after a few years experiencing softball, I’ve learned that most teams lose because they allow emotions to run the organization and forget to pursue what truly leads to success, which in most cases is mundane, boring, and less satisfying.

Success is simple, but most often, it’s a grind and not glorifying.  If I reflect on my life and when I achieved great success, it often came because of a few things that I did on a consistent basis that received no fanfare.  Softball, like life, comes down to base hits.  Home runs are cool and that’s what we remember and celebrate, but base hits win games.

When it comes to success, emotion must be stripped from the equation, because our emotions will cloud our judgement and lead to failure.  It’s not fun to get walked to a base, or hit by a pitch, or hit a soft ground ball to third base that allows the player to sprint successfully to first base, but it’s the essences of success.  Those that are willing to grind and to do what it takes to “get on base” will ultimately win, as long as they do it ethically.  It takes discipline, perspective, and a willingness to approach life in a logical way that will take you to the next level.

So, what does this mean for you?  It’s simple really, what are two or three things, that if you pursued them consistently, would increase your chances of success?  For me, as a public speaker, it means getting in front of people and speaking.  I may speak to two people, which I have, or hundreds of people.  Most of the time, I’m only in front of 75-100 people and it’s not with a lot of fanfare, but I do it often and I’m experiencing success that’s led to bigger speaking gigs and book deals.  I spend hours preparing for a talk, traveling, and on the phone with event planners so that I may talk for 45 minutes on stage.  Most of the time, my life is a grind, but I continue to “get on base” so that I may ultimately win the game.  What about you? Do you continue to swing for the fences so that you may get the glory, but continue to strike out? Or, are you willing to lay down a bunt and get on base?

07 Aug 2017

Your Opinions Are Irrelevant, Your Actions Matter More

What do you believe?  What is your value system?  What drives your daily decisions and what are you most passionate about in your life?  Well, according to the Bible, when it comes to human interactions, as long as we approach one another with love and respect, it doesn’t matter what we believe.

My favorite disciple, from the Bible, is Paul.  He came late to the scene and was a harsh critic and persecutor of early Christians.  He converted after a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ and became the catalyst for spreading the gospel beyond the Jewish people.  He was the “union representative” of the gentiles.

I love Paul’s insights and writings, especially in his letter to the Romans, about 30 years after Christ’s death.  In Romans 14:13-14, Paul writes, “Forget about deciding what’s right for each other.  Here’s what you need to be concerned about:  that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.”

Life is difficult.  It’s hard and we struggle daily to balance our actions and beliefs.  We’re insecure, we’re fearful, and we’re hurting.  We develop our beliefs based on our experiences and relationships.  We struggle to understand one another as we view each other through a biased lens that is extremely narrow in scope and perspective.  I’ve dedicated my adult life trying to master human dynamics and to understand why people do and say the things they do.  So far, I’ve concluded that the common basic need for all humans is to be encouraged and loved.

Paul goes on to say in Romans 14:19-21, “So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other.  Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault.” It’s easy to find fault and criticize, but there is no power in it.  When we come together and relate with one another, why is it our focus to find fault in one another and to challenge another’s beliefs before we fully understanding the person’s journey?

What if we altered our approach and challenged less and accepted more?  What if we led our days with encouragement and ultimately love?  God commands it, Jesus Christ validated it, and Paul reminds us in his letter.

When you find yourself at odds with someone, is it important to be right or is it more important to build and strengthen the relationship?  Nobody wins when in perpetual conflict with others and no one has an endless supply of energy.  Why not focus your energy on building others up, instead of tearing others down?  Your opinion matters, but not as much as the relationship, for the strength of your relationships will determine your ultimate success.

If you want to be successful, then stop finding fault in others and encourage them instead.  With that said, I will be the first to say that I’m guilty of this.  It’s easy to find fault, especially when it justifies my own failures.  Blaming others is the easy road, but taking ownership is much harder.  I have strong opinions and I disagree with others on many occasions and it feels good to prove others wrong, but when I go that route, I ultimately lose and I damage the relationship.  I make conscious decisions to check myself every day and consider the relationship first, before I consider the argument.  It’s hard, but necessary if I want to ultimately achieve my goals and honor God along the way.

The next time you find yourself in conflict, consider the other person, consider the relationship, and consider keeping your opinions to yourself and you will find a greater joy and a stronger purpose along the way.  Who will you encourage today?

31 Jul 2017

Only Teams Win

I’m humbled to write this post for I don’t feel I truly deserve the blessings I’ve received the past few weeks.  I write this blog while cruising over 30,000 feet on a return flight home.  Today I spoke to a wonderful group of utility professionals in San Antonio, Texas.  I pursued my passion and purpose today, because of dozens of unbelievable people that continue to support and uplift me every day.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I laid incapacitated by a gasoline fire that left me burned and in pain.  Today, I fly home after a successful business trip and completely pain free, because dozens of people in my life cared enough to come to my aid and helped me recover so that I could continue to work and support my family.  Yes, I’m truly humbled.

I often speak from stage that no one can achieve significance without the help of others.  There is no such thing as a self-made man or self-made woman.  Individuals may achieve short term success, but in the end, only teams ultimately win.  I’m proud to say that I have an unbelievable team and I’m grateful for all the wonderful men and women in my life that care enough to support my efforts.  I feel underserving of their support and worry that I will fall short and disappoint my friends, family, colleagues, and team members.  I strive every day to meet the expectations of those that sacrifice their time, energy, money, and ego to support me.  I hope I make them proud.

I’m convinced now more than ever that there is power in “we” and no room in life for a “me” attitude.  Strength truly comes with numbers, and the more quality people you have on your team, the greater chance of success.  That’s why I encourage you to recruit as many good people to join your cause.  Attract good people, flush the ones that drag you down, and continue to encourage and uplift those that are in your inner circle, because when you need support, a strong team is your only hope for survival.

Be grateful for those that are willing to stand by you and honor them.  Be a good team player and be willing to submit your ego for the greater good of the team and be ready to support a team member in times of need.

When conflict and pain enters your life, your team will uplift and encourage you.  When you strive to reach a new level, your team will support you.  When you fail, your team will pick you back up.  Teams, not individuals, truly win, so it’s paramount that you develop a strong and viable team that will help you grow and will challenge you to greater success and significance.  Do you have a winning team?

25 Jul 2017

Don’t Worry About God Showing Up, He’s Already There!

One of my first thoughts as I lie on a sterile bed in the cold and well-lit hospital room was a keynote presentation I was scheduled to give down in Memphis, Tennessee in five days.  I was determined to give this presentation and I mentioned it to my wife, Alia, several times.  I also mentioned it to the burn specialist that evaluated me later that night, after I was transferred to the burn unit up in Indianapolis.  She simply looked up at me and smiled, but never responded.  Neither did my wife.

It wasn’t until several hours later that the seriousness of my situation began to settle into my consciousness.  I was badly injured, and at this point I was lucky it wasn’t worse.  Instead of worrying about a keynote presentation, I should’ve worried about containing the damage of the burn I received after a small gasoline fire explosion that left me with 2nd degree burns on 7% of my body.

I went to bed Sunday evening, a day after my accident, exhausted, hurting, and depressed as I realized that I might not have ability to meet my speaking commitment down in Memphis.  I was scheduled to fly in three days and I was in no shape to travel.  My mind raced to figure out a way.  Do I fly and risk it?  Do I take my wife with me, so she can take care of me during the trip?  Do I find someone to speak in my place?  Or, do I simply notify the event planner, explain what happened and cancel the trip.  Everyone counseled me to cancel the trip.  They noted that I had a valid excuse, and that accidents happened, and the event planner would understand.  That didn’t sit well with me.  I gave the event planner my word and I wanted to keep my word.  I desired to speak at this event.

I woke up the next morning with a solution settled in my heart.  I would cancel my flight and drive to Memphis, or to be me more specific, Alia would drive me to Memphis.  I asked Alia if she would be willing to drive the 6 hours down to Memphis, with me laying in the back of the van.  It was a big ask, and Alia was understandably reluctant.  I couldn’t walk, and my wounds needed cleaned and redressed twice a day.  Alia was already stressed out from the entire ordeal and I wanted to add to her stress by asking her to drive down to Memphis, dressing me in nice clothes and standing me in front of a group of professional men and women and deliver a speech while still recovering on my charred feet and leg, only a few days removed from my accident.  It didn’t make sense, but I had faith.

What is faith?  Is it something you believe without seeing?  Is it something you feel?  I’m not sure if I can define it, I can simply say that I felt a strong desire to head to Memphis, and I just knew that God would take care of the rest.

Purpose is a funny thing.  I believe that with life, comes purpose.  I was still alive; therefore, I still had purpose.  God gave me the ability, the desire, and the talent to communicate.  I was meant to communicate and I was scheduled to communicate in Memphis on Thursday and it was now Monday.  I would honor God with my actions, and I knew He would honor me with His blessing.

I laid helplessly in the back of that van, while Alia white knuckled her way down the road and fought exhaustion while traversing the backroads and highways to beautiful Tennessee.  My son, Adrian, came along to help.  I dreaded every stop, because the pain was unbearable when I forced myself to stand up and allow my badly injured right leg to lower below my heart.  I could feel the blood rush to my leg with an incredible pain that felt like a cross between hot lava coursing my veins and a million sharp knives cutting through my flesh.  Sweat would drip down my back as I struggled to work my crutches and make my way to the bathroom.

“How are you going to do this? How are you going to get up and speak tomorrow?” Alia glared at me at one point during one of our stops.

“I don’t know, let’s just keep going.” I huffed back at her.

Once we finally arrived at the hotel and struggled up to our room, Alia bathed me and tended to my wounds.  I collapsed on the bed and stared at the ceiling while Alia applied medicated gel to my raw and open wounds.  I could feel the sterile gauze as she carefully placed them on my feet and leg and I could sense the security of the bandages as she meticulously wrapped them around my extremities.  The pain pulsated through my body, and my pain medication didn’t seem to help.  Alia laid her hands over my wounds and begin to cry out to God.  It was the most beautiful prayer, because I could hear her heart and soul through her words.  I joined her in prayer and I continued to pray as my eyelids became heavy and my world became dark as I slipped into a heavy sleep.

It’s hard to believe something, until you experience it yourself.  I’ve heard stories of supernatural healing and even experienced healing myself, but nothing compared to what I experienced later that night.  I woke to a dark hotel room and lying in a bed by myself, with Alia and Adrian quietly sleeping in the other bed a few feet away from me.  I felt a touch on my forehead and a rush of energy pulsate from my head to my toes.  I didn’t think much of it as it felt like a dream.  In that moment, my body felt strong and I fell back into a deep sleep.

I woke to the sound of my alarm a few hours later and found myself sliding out of bed and putting the full weight of my body onto my damaged limbs.  No pain.  Nothing.  I felt completely normal.  One would think that I would be filled with joy, but I wasn’t.  I had a job to do, and had to speak at the conference in about 90 minutes.  I just kept waiting for the pain to remerge at any moment, it didn’t.  I cleaned myself, brushed my teeth, dressed myself and went back into the room where Alia and Adrian starred at me.  “How are you feeling?”  Alia asked surprised at the turn of events.

“Fine, God healed me, let’s go.” I responded

“Oh?” Alia whispered with amazement in her voice as I plopped in the wheel chair that the hotel provided us the night before.

Alia pushed me down to the conference center where I linked up with the event planner.  By now I e-mailed ahead and explained my situation.  He arranged to have a chair situated up front so I could sit during my presentation.

I was introduced to a healthy applause.  I stood up from my wheel chair and paused.  I waited for the rush of pain that never came.  I could feel the heat around my wounds, but I felt no pain.  I walked gingerly to the chair and faced the crowd as I sat down.  I delivered the best presentation of my life over the next hour.  When I was done, I stood up to the loud and roaring applause from the audience and paused and waited for the pain.  Again, it never came.  I could feel the sweat collect around my lips and at several points on my body as I could sense my body was working overtime to maintain itself and heal at the same time.  I sat in the wheel chair and Alia proceeded to push me out the back of the room.  The event planner and several others followed and told me how appreciative they were of my presentation.  I shook their hands, thanked them for the opportunity, and then Alia took me back to the room.  As soon as we entered the room and I stood up from the chair, the pain came screaming back into my leg and I hobbled over to the bed for relief.  The pain was just as bad, if not worse, than the day before.

It was a long trip home that day as I laid in the back of the van and winced every time the van hit a bump and jostled my leg.  I could feel the pain, ever present, and taunting me the entire six-hour drive back home.  I again dreaded every pit stop and at one point screamed in pain so loud, in the McDonald’s parking lot, that Adrian walked away in embarrassment and my wife chastised me, “Are you done with your meltdown?  Because, I’m hungry.”

It wasn’t until later that I received the revelation to what God did for me and the miracle that occurred that morning.  God heard our prayers and shielded my pain so I could live in purpose and honor Him.  He also gave me a revelation that exploded in my heart a few days later.  God doesn’t show up in our lives, He’s already there.  Where ever you’re supposed to be, He’s there waiting for you.  He doesn’t show up, He waits for YOU to show up and when you do, he gladly pours his blessings all over you.

God blessed me in Memphis that day, I’m convinced of it.  There’s no other explanation.  I learned a powerful lesson, which forced me to reflect on my life.  How many blessings have I missed, because I failed to show up?  A voice spoke in my heart that told me to go to Memphis, and even though it didn’t make sense, I followed that voice.  I went to Memphis on faith and God was there waiting for me, in fact, He never left me.

I will continue to walk in faith, because I’m convinced wherever this path leads me, God is already waiting, and not only is He waiting, but He’s waiting with anticipation because of the abundance of blessings that comes with a simple act of faith.  What can you do today to step out in faith?  Don’t worry, God is already there.

18 Jul 2017

Pain = Life

The nurse probes my wound as I lie on the table wincing with pain every time she presses down on my raw and exposed flesh.  I become annoyed as she continues to press around the edges of the wound on my right foot and then again in the center of it.  “You know that hurts, right?”

“Yes, I know, and that’s a good thing.” The nurse turns and smiles at me, “When you feel pain, that means the skin on your foot is alive, that means you’re alive.”

A few days earlier, I was involved in a gasoline fire that sent me to the emergency room and then ultimately to the burn clinic, where burn specialists took every measure to contain the burns on my right arm, my right leg, and both of my feet.  They removed the dead skin, cleaned and dressed my wounds.  Over a period of several days, I experienced several occasions where my bandages were removed and my wounds exposed.  I closed my eyes and clinched my teeth as a nurse scrubbed my wounds and cleaned them repeatedly.  The common theme throughout my treatments was that pain was good.  Pain meant I was alive and that my limbs were functionally properly.  They wanted me to experience pain.

It’s counterintuitive to want to experience pain.  I’ve lived my whole life avoiding pain.  Pain is bad and I try to escape its clutches whenever possible.  I avoid doing things, because they might cause pain.  Sometimes I live conservatively and try not to push the limits, because to do so, might cause pain.  Pain; however, is inevitable and very much a part of life as breathing, sleeping, eating, and love.

Pain comes in many forms, whether it’s the heartache of a lost love, or the embarrassment of failing publicly, or the sharp fire that resonates through your body when you slip and fall on hard concrete.  Pain is always present and threatens to rear its ugly head at any moment.

It wasn’t until I spent several days in that burn clinic that I realized the significance of pain and the important role it plays in our lives.  Everything in that clinic revolves around pain.  Are you feeling pain?  How significant is the pain?  The most important part of my experience is that my doctors, nurses, and physical therapists expected me to push through the pain.  They wanted me to acknowledge the pain, embrace the pain, and push myself past the pain.  Ultimately, they wanted me to live and to live is to experience the pain and its bittersweet beauty.

I’m expected to move my ankles, even though it hurts me to do so.  They want me to put my bodyweight on my feet, even though the rush of pain is almost intolerable as the blood rushes to my toes like hot lava.  I sweat and curse as I work through the pain, but I’m beginning to realize that the pain is good, because with each surge of pain is a signal to my soul that my body is very much alive and that God blessed me with an opportunity to continue to have an impact on the world.

I will never look at pain the same as I slowly recover from my burns.  Yes, pain hurts, but with pain comes life and I want to live life to the fullest.  I realize that to live my life on purpose, I must live with the pain that comes with every act of living.  This morning I woke to the throbbing pain in my right foot where my burn continues to heal, but instead of cursing the pain, I smile and thank the Lord that I’m alive.