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Becoming Your Best - By Steve Shallenberger

It is a delight to be here, and thank you for that beautiful choir number. We were touring the school a little bit earlier, and we thought we heard angels while they were practicing. So we ducked in, and it was them instead. Beautiful. President and Sister Kusch, the administrators and the staff, faculty, and especially you. We’re grateful to have the ecclesiastical leaders here. What an honor and a treat to be here with you! The best part of this whole thing was having the chance to stand with President Kusch and greet many of you here today. What an enormous spirit we could feel, and your energy.

I feel impressed today to talk about becoming your best. Becoming your best is not somebody else’s best; it’s your best. And it is something that we do throughout our entire life. In the gospel sense, becoming your best—and I’m so glad that you have your books here. President, thank you for holding that up. Nice job. How many of you have had a really good idea, forgot to write it down, and then couldn’t remember what your idea was later? Any of you ever had that experience? That’s why it’s so good to have these books.

In a gospel sense, becoming your best really is defined by Matthew 5:48. That is, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father… in heaven.” Which is perfect.

A friend of mine, John Robertson, is a linguistics professor at Brigham Young University. He said, “The base word for perfect, the translation for perfect really is ‘complete, or full, or whole.’” That gives a whole other meaning to this particular scripture as you think about it—be ye therefore complete, even as your Father in Heaven is complete and full.

This is the message. What a wonderful, glorious, hopeful message that is for each one of us. Because sometimes we can sell ourselves short. But what is our potential? It is “even as our Father.”

As we think about this idea of becoming your best, it is both a mindset, a way of thinking, and it’s also a skill set. It’s how we bring those two together that allows us to achieve that end.

I’d like to give you a quote and have you write it down, because in a few minutes, I’m going to invite you to memorize it—literally—in 30 seconds. It goes like this:  

Good, better, best

Never let it rest.

‘Til the good is better,

And the better is best.


Now if you didn’t get it all down, that’s okay, because I’m going to repeat it again in a moment.

Jim Collins wrote a book entitled Good to Great.  In it, he says, “Good is literally the enemy of great.” Why would he say that? Because, if you are satisfied with good, it’s very difficult to ever get to your better or your best. This is the mindset, the way of thinking, and, as in the LDS Business College, this is everything, because you are thinking about your future and how can I make a difference.

So, as we think about that, how often have we seen a married couple say, “Well, our marriage or partnership is fine the way it is.” Or a student that says, “a ‘B’ or 'C' is good enough.” Or even a leader, a team leader, that says, “Well, we’re doing fine the way we are.” What is wrong with that kind of language? What do you think? If that is the way you think, it actually puts a cap on your capacity to grow. This is the mindset of becoming your best.

I mentioned that I would invite you to memorize this in 30 seconds. So here is how I’d like to recommend that we do it. Just turn to a partner and repeat this three times. I’m going to give it to you one more time so that you have it. And then see if you can have it memorized within 30 seconds. Here you go; I’ll give it to you one more time:

Good, better, best

Never let it rest.

‘Til the good is better,

And the better is best.

All right, go ahead and see if you can get it down in 30 seconds. Turn to a neighbor, repeat it three times each. Okay, now I hope that you’ve got it. I would even invite you to go home and teach this to your roommates or family members and really drive it home. This represents the mindset.

Now, I would like to request that you do one more thing today, and that is just that you stand where you are and raise your hands as high as you can over your head. Everybody up, now raise your hands as high as you can. All right, now let me ask you a question. Who can go higher? Don’t stand on the chairs, we don’t need any…  And who can go a little higher?

Okay, you can sit down. Now here’s the deal. We do this all over the world, and we have yet been able to see somebody who couldn’t go higher than when they started. How many of us are able to actually do better than we do, right out of the gates? If I were to give you a pencil and paper and ask you to write down what you are really capable of doing in each area of your life, my guess is that most of us would sell ourselves a bit short.

This is the whole idea—what are we really capable of doing? Just imagine the impact of thinking like this. How can I take my good and make it better, in every area of my life? This is at the very heart of becoming your best.

People ask all the time, well, how did this come about? I was raised in northern California, as the president said, in a little community by the name of Vallejo, just north of San Francisco. We were raised in modest circumstances. I was fortunate to serve a mission in Uruguay and Paraguay, and came back and went to Brigham Young to study accounting. Some of our missionary friends went the year before I got back, and sold books in the south and east coast. And they said, “Do you want to come sell books with us next summer? We did really great.”

I said, “I’m in! Let’s do it!” So, we went to Tennessee and then up to Baltimore. I came back and at 26 started my first company, which was a marketing company. At 27, I purchased a publishing company and a printing company, and within a couple of years we had 700 employees. Those employees came to me and said, “How can I be a top sales person?” or “How can I be a top manager?”

This inspired me. I thought I knew some parts of the answer, but it really inspired within me the desire to see if I could find the answer to that question. So I began a research that I thought would take a few years, but it ended up taking 40 years. In the process, my hair went from brown to white.

Here’s what I did. During that time, I interviewed over 150 CEOs all over the world. I also studied the lives of historical figures—hundreds of them—who have touched our lives. What I was looking for was what set apart the high performers from all the rest. And here is what we discovered: none of these individuals were really perfect. However, they all did twelve things. And these twelve things that they aligned with, these principles, created the excellence that they experienced, that they got. This is what we put in the book, Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders.

Today, we’re going to talk about three of those principles that create transformational leadership within your life. I’d like to see how many of you consider yourself a leader. If you’re a leader, raise your hand. I hope every single hand went up.  Let me ask again—if you’re a leader, raise your hand. The reason I ask that is because every single one of us are leaders. If nothing else, we’re leading our own life. You exercise leadership in relationships. Here at school you exercise that. In your wards, you exercise leadership. So as we think about that, what are the things that allow us to become our best?

Here is a statement that I would like to give to you that I think is worth writing down. It goes like this: “You will either lead a life by design, or you will live a life by default.” That is a very significant statement.  “You will either lead a life by design, or you will live a life by default.” In other words, by chance. The first one, design, is being thoughtful, deliberate, inspired about your future. You direct your life from within, not from without.

So the real question is, how do you do that? How do we become able to lead by design? These three things, these three principles, will help us do that. As a preface to talking about these three principles, I would like to suggest there is a headwater that goes into the three principles. Some of you may have seen headwaters before. They precede what typically can become a great river or body of water.

Two years ago, Sister Shallenberger and I had the opportunity to visit Israel, and we were able to go to the headwaters of the river Jordan. That was pretty amazing, because there is not very much water there. What you see is just water percolating out of the ground. It goes across for about a mile, but it starts collecting, and pretty soon a river starts forming. Then we have this famous historical River Jordan.

The headwaters to these three principles that we’ll talk about today are your roles in life. Regardless of your age, they really create a whole new perspective, a whole new set of lenses to look at your life that’s deeper and richer and brings balance to your life as you move through life, especially in this thought of “be ye therefore complete,” of becoming your best.

So think, what are your roles? What are the major roles—the six or seven roles that you have in your life? One that we all share in common is the personal aspect. If we are not strong individually—if we’re not well-rested and feel good about ourselves and have a positive aspect about the future, it’s really very difficult to be successful in other areas. So we start with ourselves.

You may have [a role] of being a partner or a spouse, husband or wife. Maybe you are a son or a daughter. Certainly, you are a student or a professor or a bishop or a president. What are your seven? In your notebook, I’d like to have you write down some of those roles right now, because in a few minutes we are going to use those. I’m going to invite you to think about these three principles in the terms of these roles.

Here is the first one. These are among the twelve [things] that highly successful leaders do, anywhere, over any period of time. Number one is they lead with a vision. This is act number one of leadership: where are we going? What’s the purpose? What’s the cause that we have?

Remember, leadership is applied personally in our own lives, but it is in relationships [as well]—it is in a family. So President Kusch becomes the president of LDS Business College. I know about President Kusch; one of the very first things he’s thinking about is, “What’s the vision? How can I set an inspiring vision and build upon the previous generations?” This is what we do.

Heavenly Father has set a divine model of setting a vision. It’s found in Moses 1:39. What does that say? “This is my work and my glory,”—to do what? — “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Heavenly Father set this model, this vision. This is what all of His actions are for. All of the gospel plan is to help contribute to that.

Think of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Did He have a vision? I’ve thought about this. You may see it differently, but I think His vision was to do His Father’s will. He said that time and time again—my Father and I are one; I want to do my Father’s will. What did He say in the Garden of Gethsemane? And what was His Father’s will? To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. So this is a great model.

How do you do it? How do you write and start with a personal vision? It’s quite simple. You simply take a clean sheet of paper, and down the left-had side write your roles—your major roles in life. And then in a present tense—I notice that you have a writing program here, and that’s so important in our lives—but when you do your vision, write it in present tense: “I am” versus “I hope to be” or “I plan to be” or “I seek to be.” This is action-oriented and opens the forces of nature, literally, that allows you to arrive to that point.

You may not be that way today. So let’s just think about some of the language, and the huge impact that it has on all of us. But it’s what’s going on in here that determines your actions. Let’s say that under personal—and under personal would be things like physical, spiritual, mental, emotional. Right? So let’s find some language for your vision. How would you describe what you are like personally under your physical part? How about this: “I am fit and healthy.”

How about under the spiritual part, something like this: “I am in tune with the Spirit. I live by the Spirit every single day. I am obedient, and this brings me happiness and joy. I realize that through obedience I receive temporal and spiritual blessings. I love to follow the Honor Code, whether it is here or any other place, because it brings me joy. This is the way I do it.”

And see, this is what sets you apart from everybody else in the world. This is deliberate. This is leading a life by design, by your choice.

Here is one of mine, in my personal vision: “I will be among the most faithful Saints wherever I go in the world.” I decided this when I came home from my mission and was a student at BYU. I would go to the meetings a little early. I’d pay my tithing. I’d do my ministering. Whatever it was, nobody really had to tell me to do it. And I would do it until my last breath.

I would submit to you—and think about this—that if this is in your vision, it has a huge impact on everything else that you do.

How about if you have a vision for being a spouse—a husband or wife? What does that look like? I know with Sister Shallenberger, mine is to treat my wife like a “ten.” I want her to feel like a “ten.” Now, if that is the way I think, what does my behavior do?

Looking at Sister Shallenberger, Brother Shallenberger asked: "How are you doing? Are you feeling like a “ten” today? Sister Shallenberger responded, "Pretty much."

Good thing. That was a risky question right there.

So, I have an invitation for you today. I invite each one of you to complete your first draft of your vision, your personal vision, within the next week. How often do you do a vision in life? Once you have a vision, from then on, you have it. You make a few edits and modifications as you feel inspired. Everybody raise your right hand. I’m looking; I’m checking. That’s the left hand. The right hand. Say, “I’m in.” So do your personal vision within a week.

Here’s the second one: Manage with a plan. Again, this is another thing that I’ve seen all over the world, that highly successful leaders do. They have a vision, but they also have a plan of how to get there. What does that mean? This is essentially setting goals.

I’m going to give you a couple of statistics that are really significant here. You are 90% more likely to accomplish something with clearly written goals. That is a fact. That’s what the research shows. Ninety percent more likely to accomplish something with a clearly written goal. However, only ten percent of us have clearly written goals.

If you are a leader, that’s really spooky. Because if you are trying to help those people that you work with reach their fullest potential, they should have what? Clearly written goals, because they are 90% more likely to have it happen.

So how do you write goals that are actionable? Have you ever set a New Year’s resolution before? Do you know what January 15th is? January 15th is when 85% of people quit working on their New Year’s resolutions. So, we’re going to throw those out forever and, in their place, put clearly written, actionable goals.

So how do you do it? It’s actually quite simple. We recommend that you take a clean sheet of paper. Down the left-hand side, put your roles. This is a smart group. I knew that; I could feel that when you came in. And at the top, you put your name and 2019, and ask yourself, “What are the most important things I could do in 2019?”

This too has a spiritual pattern, and it’s found in Moses 3:5-6: “I, the Lord God, created all things…spiritually, before they were” created physically. In other words, this is the spiritual creation. And it is inspiring.

By the way, another thing to remember is to have SMART goals. Some of you may have used SMART goals before. SMART stands for:

  • Specific. The more specific your goal is, the more likely you are to achieve it.

  • Measurable. In other words, I either did or I didn’t.

  • Achievable. It should be achievable.

  • Inspiring.  It should be relevant to your vision. A vision determines the direction; the goals are what you are going to do this year to make it happen.

  • Time-related.  The last is time-related. We’re going to come back, and I will show you an example in just a minute.

Here’s the second invitation. The second invitation is that you would complete your goals for 2019, as I’ve talked about, just try it, within two weeks. Everybody raise your right hand and say, “I’m in!”

Okay, I want you to do this. This will make a difference. Here is one last tip: share your goals, once they are written, with three to five people that inspire you, that you love, or that you trust. That will be a game-changer.

I shared my goals with my advisors or mentors for 35 years. My mission president was willing to take them. Gardiner Russell. President Monson was on one of the boards of one of my companies, and he let me share my goals with him for 35 years. And at the end of the year I would send the goals with a report, and then the goals for the next year. That creates accountability, but it also creates a special relationship.

Stephen R. Covey was one of my college professors, and he was on our board for 17 years. I sent them to him. I would submit to you that if you do this, you will not be flaky about your goals. You are going to be serious about those goals.

Here’s the last one, number three, of things that you can do to create a total transformation in your life that helps you get closer to becoming your best. That is, prioritize your time. This is another of those biggies.

How many of you feel like a firefighter sometimes during the day, just going around and putting out fires all day? Have you ever felt that way? Sixty-eight percent of all leaders in the world feel that way. This is the number one problem that they have. Here is a way that you can handle that. We call it “pre-week planning.”

Let me just describe what it is. It is taking a few minutes during the weekend, like thirty minutes—sometime from Friday afternoon to definitely before Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. And here is what is involved. You sit down and you simply think about your roles, your seven roles. Underneath, write what are the most important actions I can take this week with each role. And then the last question is, when will you do it?

We have two sons that have been F-16 pilots—fighter pilots in the United States Air Force. They have served our country for over 25 years, defending liberty. When they prepare for a mission, they would spend four to six hours preparing for a flight. Let me ask you a question: what do you think would happen if those fighter pilots just went out and jumped into the cockpit and took off and flew by the seat of their pants. What would happen? What do you think? Well, there would be chaos, risk of death, probably they are not going to accomplish the mission that they had in mind, and it would be very dangerous.

How many of you would like to jump into a commercial liner when you knew that the pilot did not prepare, but he or she just went and jumped into the cockpit and just decided to fly by the seat of their pants. You wouldn’t do it. And yet, so many of us go from week to week without careful planning and expect a different result. This pre-week planning is so powerful.

I’d like to give a quick example of this. We were working with a client in Alabama, the third largest Pepsi distributor in the world. They’ve been in business for 125 years. We were teaching this particular concept, and I was noticing what people were putting down. One fellow, an executive, put down “Call my son” under his role as father. I said, “That’s interesting. When will you do it?” He put down, “Thursday.”

I asked him, “Why is that so significant?”

He said, “Because I have not talked with my son in seven years.”

I said, “What in the world happened?”

He said, “We were in an argument, and just haven’t talked since.”

I said, “Well, this is a great goal.”

We were going to go back in six months and work with this executive team again, and the first thing I wanted to do was go talk to this fellow and see how it went. I went up to him and said, “How did it go?”

He said, “I called my son. I had it in the planner. I did it.”

I said, “So?”

He said, “We couldn’t even remember what the argument was about. We talk every single week now. We are good friends. It has changed my life.”

Here is what really happened. His son also has three children, and they now know their grandpa, and the grandpa knows his grandchildren.  I would suggest that these three things we are talking about today are intergenerational, and they will impact generations to come.

I’d like to just give you a third invitation. It’s the last one today. And that is to invite you to do pre-week planning for the next four weeks. Sometime this Saturday, or Friday evening, or Sunday, plan out your week by your roles and the actions that make the most difference. And then plan them in. Everybody in? Raise your hand and say, “I’m in on this one!” Okay, good job.

I’d just like to give you an example of this. Our granddaughter Bella two or three years ago was 11 years old. Her vision was to be a poetess and an author. So at the beginning of the year, our son Rob, who is CEO of our firm, said, “Well, Bella, that’s a great vision, but what are you going to do in 2017 to make it happen?”

She said, “Dad, I want to write a book.”

He said, “What kind of book?”

“A children’s book.”

“Okay, what are you going to call it?”

“I’m going to call it A to Z: The Best in You and Me.” Grandpa loved that title. That was a good one. So they went to work. They said, “We’ll have it done by December 15th.” Rob said, “I’ll take care of the logistics; you write the book.” So they went to work. Vision. Goals. Pre-week planning. Made it happen.

Here’s pre-week planning—Bella said, “This week I’ll work on A and B.” Rob contacted an illustrator in India; that’s who ended up doing it. On December 13th, Rob took the book to the printer and had it printed. On December 15th, he delivered it, and there it is. It’s a full-color book. Now this is significant, for this reason. You can see how it looks. If she had not done that, it never would have happened. They printed a thousand books the next week.

Bella is now an eighth-grader, and she is making between $100 and $250 a month. If an 11-year-old can do it, who else can do it? You can do it. There’s the model. This is what Heavenly Father expects us to do, to be an agent. This is deeply powerful.

I’d like to finish with my testimony today. I know that God lives. He is our Father. He has given us every model possible of what we should become like. Think what happens when we keep those thoughts in our minds. He has also given us the divine model of “Organize … every needful thing,” that we might have a house unto Him.

I’m grateful for the Savior. I know that He lives. I’m grateful for President Nelson, who has set this vision, hasn’t he? Think what has happened since he has become the prophet. Or if you look at every other one, they have followed this inspirational model. We love you. We’re grateful for you, inspired by you. We have prayed for your best. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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