Thomas takes the audience on an exciting adventure with a 16 year old boy that discovers a lost 17th century tomb in Scotland. The story ends, revealing it was Thomas himself that made the discovery. Learn about the powerful principles of being a people builder, the power of our words and the power of our thoughts.
Hold on to your gut with this side-splitting hilarious story! Thomas reenacts the time he was able to enter a Professional Bareback Rodeo Competition. Having never ridden a horse before, he is nearly killed when he rides the distance on the horse’s belly. Success is always “past the splat.” Learn how to “hang on” to your goals and dreams.
This hilarious but poignant story is one you will never forget! While taking the SAT, Thomas wrongly flips back to a previous section and is “caught cheating” on the SAT. Do to a bazaar turn of events, he accidentally blew up the family’s favorite cat and nearly kills his neighbor. This story is one not to miss. It’s a constant reminder to not dwell on the previous sections of life and the most powerful thing we possess is the power to choose.
In his attempt to save a beaver that is sentenced to death, Thomas finds himself lassoed to one and needs to be saved himself. In this unbelievable story Thomas pierces your heart and guides you how to “let go."
When I was a teenager, my dad directed a team of HAZMAT specialists that control and contain hazardous and toxic spills. He had all kinds of neat safety equipment like foam, ropes, respirators, and suits. Due to safety regulations, Dad would often have to retire old or used equipment. It was one of those retirement occasions that I borrowed one of what I called his “space suits.” The suit was perfect! It was light blue with a large hump on the back for an air tank, shoes and gloves attached to the body, and a head with a large plastic face shield for easy viewing. Anyone who put it on looked like the robot in the old TV series Lost in Space. In order to wear it—and live—you had to have some sort of breathing apparatus, because once you were zipped in, it was airtight. When I first got the suit, I wasn’t fully aware of this minor yet significant detail, but I can now confirm this with full authority and experience. (Children, do not try this at home.)
Later on, when I was in college, I tanned animal hides to use as a teaching tool for children. I didn’t want to kill the animals, so I used my most bountiful resource, Interstate 85 and Highway 123 in Clemson, South Carolina. The highways and back roads were my canvas, and fresh roadkill was my palette. I collected just about every known animal that was stupid enough to walk in front of a car: beavers, woodchucks, deer, opossum, foxes, and rabbits. If you could kill it at 60 miles an hour without it exploding, I got it. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a skunk in my repertoire. So when the door of opportunity opened, I pulled over.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon as I was traveling down I-85 to York Place Children’s Home when I discovered my first skunk roadkill. Being the “always-on-the-lookout-for-roadkill” kind of guy, I was prepared with three large plastic bags. I discovered the freshly killed skunk on the edge of the road and quickly pulled over to wrap my treasure in the bags. It’s actually a skillful art, to not draw attention to yourself as you pick up a dead skunk off the side of a major interstate. Proud of myself, I tossed my prize in the backseat of the rental car and continued down the road. It was precisely 4.3 miles before I became respectfully amazed at the absolute potency of a dead skunk in a confined space. My drive from Clemson to York took about two hours. The skunk enjoyed about six minutes of it.
Not only was I was frustrated and angry with myself that I had to toss out my prize at 75 miles an hour, but I had also ruined the fresh “like-new” smell of the rental car. (“It was horrible! I almost died!” I told the rental store. “I’ve read there was a rabid skunk in the area. Just my luck to have a crazy skunk jump in my backseat.”) I guess I should consider it a blessing I made it out alive.
The smell that permeated out of my skin for days only strengthened my resolve to find another skunk. I vowed next time to be prepared. In a stroke of pure genius, I remembered my dad’s space suit. Being the intellectual college student, I logically deduced, if nothing can go out, then nothing can come in ... thus making the space suit the perfect skunk suit! I excitedly drove to Spartanburg that weekend, grabbed my dad’s suit, drove back to Clemson, and awaited the scent.
It wasn’t long before the intoxicating aroma of a freshly killed skunk was in the air. I found my long-awaited prize, and, now wise to plastic bags, tossed the carcass in the back of Ole Bessie, my prize-winning-roadkill pickup truck. I pulled up behind my apartment at the pig farm and found a cozy little place in the woods. I had already anticipated all the complexities and scenarios of skinning a skunk, but I had not entertained the thought of explaining to someone why I was hiding in the woods, on a pig farm, wearing an E.T.-looking space suit, while skinning a skunk. I doubted anyone would find me, but I thought the camouflage face paint wouldn’t hurt.
Between my held breaths of air, I quickly prepared the final touches of my makeshift skinning table. Once all was in place, I rushed inside to the smell-safe haven of my room. I zipped myself securely in the suit, making sure all openings were totally closed to prevent the smell from coming in and interrupting the processes. I then waddled my way to the skinning table and began the procedure.
Finally, after all this time, I was about to have a skunk in my repertoire. Life was good and I cherished the moment. I felt pretty good knowing that as I stood there in the space suit breathing my fresh air, there, just millimeters away was a smell that could gag a sewer rat.
Everything started off fine, but the suit was beginning to get a little hot. About five minutes into the procedure, flies and bees were everywhere, and condensation began to form on the inside of the face shield. Ten minutes passed and I began to get lightheaded. I thought it was odd that I was having a very difficult time concentrating on what I was doing. I tried to work faster, but it was hard to see through the water droplets that now totally covered the shield. The only way I could see through it was by pressing my face against it and using my nose as a human windshield wiper. I felt very sleepy, but at the same time, I couldn’t stop laughing at the hissing and wheezing sounds my breath made as I tried to inhale. I had the oddest sensation that I couldn’t breathe.
I’m not sure where the voice came from. I don’t know if it was God—maybe it came when I started answering questions the skunk was asking me, or maybe it was the rock I hit when I lost consciousness—but all I know is that I heard a still small voice say, “Uhhh, uhhh, Thomas? Just want you to know, you’re, uhhh, suffocating.” In my half-comatose state, I was able to get up off the ground, stumble to my feet and reach the zipper by my head. In a desperate act of survival I quickly yanked the zipper down. I turned my face toward the opening and with all my might, I sucked in what I thought would be a rush of sweet spring breeze. For one glorious tenth of a second, it was the richest, freshest air my lungs have ever enjoyed. And then it hit me like a Mack truck. The liquefied putrid skunk smell began to flood into my gasping lungs. The potency of the odor was so strong it burnt my eyes like a cut onion, my nose like a whiff of ammonia, and my throat like a shot of Rock and Rye. Then everything went black.
When I came to, I found that my body had fallen on top of the skinning table and my face had landed neatly on top of the skunk. I felt skunk, I saw skunk, I smelled skunk, and I tasted skunk. I do not like skunks; as a matter of fact, I nearly vomit now when I do smell one. In the end I just wrapped everything up and put it in the freezer. There it remains to this very day.
It is that still small voice that we choose to listen to or not in times of decision. Your character is created and shaped by what you’ve done or haven’t done when you think no one is watching. We must choose to do right with the little or “hidden” things in life so as to prepare ourselves for the large and public decisions.
A leader’s focus is grounded on a foundation of character and moral integrity. If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters. The more integrity you have, the less paperwork you need. Character is not formed in times of adversity, but it is revealed. In fact, Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
If you hold a full glass of water and you get bumped, what comes out? The water, of course! Likewise, what’s inside of you is what comes out when you get “bumped.” For example, if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember what you’ve said. Without a well-grounded character, life gets out of balance, and it doesn’t take long for things to fall apart. Remember, character is a lot easier kept than it is retrieved. Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author, and speaker, states it well: “Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change. It’s something you weren’t born with and must take responsibility for forming.”
In the end, our thoughts control our decisions, our decisions control our character, and our character controls our actions. Ultimately, our life is defined by the actions we take or do not take. People want to be led, not managed, and you lead them first with your character.
Many companies try to find customers first and then hope to build a relationship. A more viable way of business, however, is building a relationship first then hoping they become a customer. Any lasting relationship is built on service and character. If you are selling a product, people will always remember the quality and service long after they forget the price. If you can provide a high-quality product with great service built on indelible character, there is no limit to its success.
The lessons Thomas learned in s space suit with a dead skunk!
With only minutes to spare, I ran to my flight. I had a speaking engagement in Florida and could not miss this connection. When I approached my gate, I was able to slow my stride and in doing that, I began noticing strange expressions on people’s faces. A young couple passed and I heard one say, “Wow, did you see that guy? He looked terrible!” Another man passed grimacing. As I turned into the waiting area, I heard someone whisper, “I'm glad my kids aren't here. He would have given them nightmares!”
I didn’t understand what the commotion was about until I looked up. To my horror, I saw a man so severely burned, I nearly gasped out loud. He had no hair on his head or eyebrows. His ears had been melted off, revealing only holes. You could barely distinguish his eyes. His nose was an open cavity. He stretched his lower lip over the area his upper lip would have covered, if he had had one. Because his skin was a patchwork of stretched skin grafts, you couldn’t tell whether he was 80 or 18. His left arm stopped at his elbow and his right arm had four little digits that were actually toe grafts. Honestly, he looked like a monster from a horror movie, and I was hardly prepared.
Though his looks were shocking, it was the reaction of the crowd that shocked me more. My heart broke for this man. He stood isolated and completely alone against the wall. More than 100 people stood 20 feet away, unsuccessfully trying to hide their stares. I was there for only a second when the attendant started the boarding process, but I can remember sincerely praying, “God, if I had only been here a few minutes earlier, I could have talked to the man or at least stood beside him.” However, the opportunity was lost as the man joined the boarding line and soon after made his way to the plane.
Watch out what you pray for, because you might just get it! When it was my turn to enter the plane, I found my seat, and to my surprise, the man was sitting beside me. I was not given a few minutes to stand beside him but two hours to sit and hear his story. His name was Paul, and he was 36 years old. At the age of two, he was in a car accident that burned more than 90 percent of his body. It was a miracle that he even survived. During our time together, we laughed and had one of the deepest, heartfelt conversations I had ever had with anyone in my life. As we began our descent, I mentioned I was going to speak at a convention of about 8,000 students. I asked him if he could give me one piece of wisdom that he wished people knew or would do. In almost a whisper, Paul said to me, “Every day of my life I hear that I am a monster. Every time I look in the mirror I see the image that horrifies children. But what I’ve discovered is, if you look past our ‘earth suits,’ we’re all the same. Everyone wants the very thing I crave so badly. I want people to look at me ... not what they see. Look me in the eye and smile at me. If people only knew how powerful a simple smile was ... I wish people could look each other in the eye and see each other for who they really are.”
Never underestimate the power of a heartfelt smile. Give every living soul you meet the best smile you’ve ever smiled in your life. Smile to strangers, coworkers, your spouse, and your children. Smile while you’re on the phone, because it shines through in your voice. Smile and see how much better you feel and look. Watch how quickly relationships are built or mended and barriers are broken. I have instantly bonded with people because of their contagious smiles. Yes, you will find those who absolutely refuse to smile, but smile at them anyway. You never know what people are going through.
Smiling makes you more approachable, accepted, and real! Our world has gone through the industrial age and technological age and is now in the information age. Though we have an instant and infinite amount of information at our fingertips, we seem to be losing the art of starting, building, and maintaining relationships. Remember, the essence of any successful business, organization, church, or family is successful relationships. One of the simplest ways to start that all-too-important relationship is through a simple, genuine smile! Smiling is therefore a key component of a leader’s focus.
When I was a young man I wanted a Rolex watch. I’m not sure why I liked them, but they looked nice and I knew they were a high-quality products. So I worked hard, saved my money, and had enough to one day buy a Rolex watch. Years later, I was standing on the sidewalk of Times Square in New York City, when a man wearing a long bulky jacket approached me. He stood fairly close, leaned in, and whispered, “Hey, you want to buy a watch?” Slightly interested, I said, “Sure. Whacha got?” With a quick survey of the scene, the man grabbed the edges of his jacket and flashed it open to reveal an assortment of hanging watches. He saw what caught my eye and pulled off a beautiful silver Rolex watch. “Listen, man, this watch normally cost about $35,000,” he confided. “But! ... You look like a nice guy ... so for today, and today only ... I’ll sell it to you”—shifting his eyes— “for 20 bucks.” I couldn’t believe it! A Rolex watch for $20! This was a dream come true! Now, listen, I maybe a Southern redneck, but I’m no dummy! I knew this was a good deal! When it was all said and done, I had even haggled the man down for less. Can you believe I bought a $35,000 watch for $15! A Rolex watch for 15 dollars! I must have broken the poor man’s spirit because he quickly zipped up shop and hurried away.
I finally had myself a Rolex watch! It looked like a Rolex, sounded like a Rolex, kept time like a Rolex, it even said it was a Rolex. But in truth, was it a Rolex? Of course not, it was so fake I called it a Folex! I didn’t even take it off going through a metal detector. It looked like the real deal but inside, it was cheap, plastic junk.
I still wear the “Rolex” watch occasionally. It’s a poignant reminder of what not to be. It’s sad that it shares very similar characteristics with many people walking around. They look good, talk the talk, and “have everything,” but on the inside they are falling apart. People want to be around people who are the real deal, so just be yourself. As my Grandma would often say, “Be who you is, and not who you ain’t, cause if you is who you ain’t, you ain’t who you is.”
How exhausting and futile it is to alter your life and behavior based on the comparison and opinion of others. We are so concerned by what others may think, we change who we are. How many people come to mind matching that description? Do people put you in that category? If you want a leader’s focus, remember, it doesn’t matter what other people think about you. What’s important is what you truly think about yourself. You can never accept others until you have accepted yourself. The reality ... You’ll stop worrying about what other people think about you when you realize how much they don’t.
In order to be productive, you have to focus on your specific talents and abilities. Focus on what you can do. Don’t compare what you’re doing to what others are doing or what you can’t do. If you spent your time focused on and developing the things you can do, you’ll be far too busy to worry about the things you can’t do. Comparing yourself to others is a bottomless pit. Please don’t misunderstand me—there are people we should learn from, model after, and even emulate at times. But you must be conscious of the balance between comparing yourself to others and being yourself. Improve who you are rather than try to be someone you’re not.
He was the meanest kid I ever worked with. By the end of the first day, I wanted him gone. No way both of us would survive six days of camp. He was intentionally mean to other campers. He was a destructive disturbance and had to go back home, now!!
During college, I worked for the Clemson University Outdoor Laboratory, a camp and conference center. During the summer months it supported a number of “special population” camps that focused on specific needs such as children with cancer, visual impairments, muscular dystrophy, or mental handicaps. Camp Sertoma, one of the summer camps, was designed for children who are either underprivileged or have a speech or hearing impairment. Sertoma campers were great kids with a vast majority growing up in tough environments. With most campers, you could crack their hard outer shell within a few hours and consequently have a joyful and memorable week. Matthew, on the other hand, was not like any camper I had ever had. Within an hour of his arrival he had intentionally started four fights, intentionally broke toys and seemed to intentionally tick me off. I wanted him sent back home, which rarely happened at camp! But we rarely had campers this mean!
Three days into camp, our cabin of 10-year old boys was in total chaos due entirely to Matthew. To make matters worse, we were scheduled to campout that night. No one wanted to be around him much less be stuck in the woods with him. When we arrived at our campsite we set up our shelter, made dinner over the fire and once it was dark, we told a few stories to encourage the kids. We then rolled out our sleeping bags and called it a day. Everyone was ready for a nice, quiet sleep, under the stars but apparently, Matthew had a bit more meanness he wanted to dish out.
It was the strangest thing. Everyone had found their places on the ground and was settling into their sleeping bags when Matthew would walk up and intentionally kick another camper. If he didn’t kick them, he would punch them in the chest or head. Oddly enough, that was the norm for the week. It was what he did immediately afterward that was strange. Matthew would walk up, punch or kick, and with a sincere and tender voice ask his victim, “Hey, can I sleep beside you?” It was bizarre! He would hurt a kid and then in the same breath ask if he could lie beside them. Of course, no one wanted him anywhere near them! In the darkness all you could hear was, “Ouch!”… “Can I sleep beside you?” … “NO!” … (Whack!)… “Can I sleep beside you?”… “GET AWAY!” We were all so exhausted I had to make this madness end, so I said, “Ok… Come HERE, Matthew. Lay beside me!” In the blink of an eye he was next to me in his sleeping bag and silent.
For the first time in days, everything was at peace. It was just after midnight when Matthew, the meanest kid I had ever known, taught me a lesson I have never forgotten. Everything and everyone was quite and I was just falling asleep when I heard Matthew unzip his sleeping bag and slowly extend his hand in my direction. At that moment, I truly thought he must have smuggled a knife out of the cafeteria and was now about to stab me in the heart. However, all he did was bring out his little hand and gently placed it on my chest. I laid there wide awake, my heart racing, waiting to defend a death blow. He kept his arm there for only a few seconds and then returned it to his sleeping bag.
I laid there for several minutes trying to process what had happened. Then again, he stretched out his arm and placed it on my chest. This time he moved his hand up to my face and touched each side. As quickly as it happened, he withdrew his hand. I lay there stunned and confused. Why was he doing this?
He performed the same little ritual several times over the course of an hour, until finally I had to know. In a voice more annoyed than concerned, I asked, “Matthew, what are you doing?! Why do you keep touching me?” The stab in the heart was a premonition. In just above a whisper, this mean little kid that I wanted to send back home, simply said, “I wanted to make sure you were still there. Every time I fell asleep, I had a nightmare that I was home. So I woke up and touched you, to make sure you were real.” I laid there as tears poured down my face. How bad is life when “home” is a nightmare?
The next morning, we broke camp and headed back to our cabin. While our cabin learned about archery and nature, I absorbed Matthew’s case history. I had never read of such abuse and neglect. Matthew had been physically and sexually abused. He had been taken out of his home to foster care, then a delinquency center and then sent back to the home where the abuse all started. For 10 years people had intentionally hurt Matthew. In turn, the only love language he knew was a punch in the face and intentional neglect. Matthew was simply replaying the messages that were recorded into him.
From that point forward I too would be intentional with Matthew, only I would intentionally love, praise, listen, encourage, teach and spend time with him. The “Be Intentional” principle rolled over to life outside of camp. I learned to be intentional with my friends and family, co-workers and customers. I would not wait for other people to fix the problems. I found a need and filled it. I learned to lead by example. If you want to be the greatest in the world, serve others! If you want to be first, put yourself last! If you want to get even with those that harm you, forgive them. I decided to live intentionally. Rather than have life just happen… I decided to be the cause.
I cannot lie and say everything was a bed of roses that week of camp, but things were considerably better. Matthew’s hard shell began to fall away and an amazing young man began to emerge. My time with Matthew ended years ago but I still find those same needs in others today. I see issues that need to be addressed and problems that need to be resolved. I have decided to be intentional, and that has made all the difference. I know this principle works, because by the end of the week, the one kid that originally fought to leave… cried to stay.