Skips to main content
Devotionals

Duane Millard

A Few Secrets to a Successful and Fulfilling Life

I understand the atmosphere today is that of a forum, so after a few moments we will turn it into a less formal setting and perhaps you will want to respond to a handout I will have. First of all, I’m reminded of something I have chuckled about since I’ve heard it. A fellow stood up at the speaker’s platform, like the one I am standing at, in a sacrament meeting and he turned around to the bishop and said, “Bishop, the congregation is so small; where is everybody? Did you tell them in advance that I was speaking?” The Bishop was a very wise man, and here is how he responded: “No, but I’ll find out who did.”
 
There is another story that particularly tickled me about the budget director at the White House. I was watching this on C-span one night. This fellow said, “I was speaking recently before the New York press club, and at the end of my speech a woman rushed up to me and said, ‘Mr. Director, that speech you gave is absolutely superfluous.’ He was taken back and he wasn’t sure how to respond so he thought of the King, and he said, ‘Thank You Very Much,’ and he was amazed at what she said next. ‘Sir I would like to know when that speech will be published?’ He said, ‘That particular speech will probably be published posthumously,’ to which she responded, ‘Well I hope that is very soon.’” So in other words, your speech was worthless and I hope you die quickly.
 
I’d like to do slightly better than that in your estimation if I can today. I was born on April Fools Day. I’m left handed, I’m the youngest of seven, and I guess in the old country I’m sort of the designated vampire. So I’m sort of a pain in the neck in October. If I get my merds wixed, forgive me. That’s one of the characteristics of a person like me.
 
What I will try to do is present to you a few thoughts, maybe from a different angle with a little different twist. I’ve got some advantages over most of you in that I have been around a lot longer, and you know how old I am because you know how old President Woodhouse is. He and I spent some interesting times together in Germany. When he heard I was speaking today, I notice he left town, which seems appropriate.
 
I’m going to talk to you for a few minutes from my point of view about a few secrets, things that I wish I had known when I was your age. I’m going to try to mix a few stories in, get you a handout, and get a little give and take going and see if we can have a fun and enjoyable, and hopefully an informative time.
 
The first thing I have here is entitled “A Few Secrets to a Successful and Fulfilling Life.”  I’m going to hand it out perhaps after I start with it and I’m doing that for a particular reason. Listed in priority at the top is education. It has been my observation that you will benefit enormously if you will get all the education you can, as fast as you can, and if you seek out mentors and get internships between your classes. I strongly recommend it.
The second thing I would say to you is invest in things that appreciate in value. I am a money-oriented guy and this being a business college, I thought it would be okay to focus somewhat on money, your careers, and earnings and so on. Your spiritual development would be something that would appreciate in value, so invest in your spiritual development.  Your education is also something that would appreciate in value along with your family, your upcoming spouse, and your children.
 
The third item I listed for the moment is learn to forgive. It is an interesting thing that as you go through life, certain things can certainly constrict your performance and can inhibit you from greater achievement. There was an article in “USA Today” some months ago on the front page entitled, “Forgive; It’s Good for Your Mental Health.”  I thought that was interesting. Forgiving people clears your mind and eliminates baggage in life along the way. As one person said, hating somebody is like letting someone live in your brain rent free. Develop a forgiving nature and then take it one step further. Learn to not be offended in the first place.
 
Item four recognizes something that I believe to be a truism and that is that there are no lazy people. This may sound like a pretty stunning statement because we use that statement and description regarding people all the time, and it’s an easy way to write somebody off, isn’t it? My observation has been, however, that this is not necessarily true.
 
Let us look at a teenager in high school. He might be characterized as lazy by his teacher. Follow him around with me mentally for a moment and see what happens when he gets out of the classroom where he is characterized as “lazy.” He goes home, he dolls himself all up and dresses himself all spiffy. He’s obviously motivated; he wants to see his girlfriend. Then he goes into the garage and starts working on his car and he will work on it for hours. He will polish it, he will fix it up, he will do all kinds of things with it. Is this guy not motivated? In the evening he will go on his computer and he will get on the internet or he will work on his computer and he will work for hours on that. What’s going on here? Is this guy really lazy? He’s not really lazy at all. The question is, what is motivating him?
 
If you look at him closely you’ll find out, not only is he not lazy, he is motivated all of the time and he is going to do whatever he believes will get him the results in life he wants. Right now what he wants is a good relationship with his girlfriend, a good relationship with his computer, and a good relationship with his car because they represent knowledge and freedom and his future. Don’t take the easy way out with people and write them off as lazy. That is too easy of a way out. Put a bigger burden on yourself and those you rely on and interact with. Assume in fact that they are always motivated for the things they think will get them what they want in life.  What you need to do so that you don’t have to characterize them as lazy is find what their hot buttons are and introduce the kinds of things that will motivate them.
 
The next item, (this one may be stunning,): in life I have found that it is fundamentally vital to learn to be extraordinarily generous. It is my personal belief that stingy people and self-centered people are not going to pass go and they’re not going to collect their $200, which is a pretty tough statement to make isn’t it?  I was told years ago that most of the money I would earn in my life would never be spent on me. It would be spent on someone else, and I should get use to the notion that the most important thing I would ever learn about money is how to give it away.
 
When I was six, seven or eight years old, I had a favorite hiding place over on 919 Logan  Avenue, where I was raised. It was my father’s clothes closet. I loved going in his closet because the chimney went through his closet up to the roof, and in the winter his closet was so warm. His closet smelled of cologne and aftershave and it was just a generally warm, comfortable, sweet smelling, nice place to hide. One time I was sitting in the closet and I noticed a shoe box in the corner in the dim light. I opened it and much to my shock and amazement it was full, almost to the very top, with tithing and fast offerings. There were receipts from donations he had made worth thousands and thousands of dollars. That made an indelible impression on me. My dad didn’t need to tell me that I should pay tithing and offerings or that I should help missionaries and be generous, because that is what he lived.
 
C.S. Lewis made a very, very powerful statement when he said, “A person should live and be so charitable that his standard of living is below others of the same income.” Does that make sense to you? Pretty powerful isn’t it? You should be so generous that you ’re doing without a few things. Then you will have more of the essence of the gospel of our Savior.
 
On item number six I put that in life I have discovered it is a really good idea to stick your neck out just a little bit, risk making a fool out of yourself, like I’m doing here today. Take a gamble, take a risk. Some people say we just don’t have the chances or the opportunities. There is an old statement that goes like this, “The reason why opportunities seem to knock so seldom is they tend to go around disguised as hard work.”
 
Here is one that fascinates me; this is on the subject of prayer. This is one of my really hot buttons lately: Don’t pray for everything in the world to be right and in fact don’t pray for anything you are not willing to work on. It is hypocritical to pray for everything to become perfect and then do nothing about it. How do you think the Lord accomplishes His purposes in this life?
 
A poem I enjoy that was written by Sterling W. Sill, says,
 
I knelt to pray as day began
And prayed, “Oh God, bless every man
Lift from each weary heart some pain
And let the sick be well again.”
And then I rose to meet the day
And thoughtlessly went on my way.
I took no steps to ease the load
Of hard-pressed travelers on the road.
I didn’t even go to see
The sick friend who lives next door to me.
But then again when day was done
I prayed, “Oh God, bless every one.”
But as I prayed a voice rang clear
Instructing me to think and hear.
“Consult your own heart ere you pray:
What good have you performed today?
God’s choicest blessings are bestowed
On those who help him bear the load.
And then I hid my face and cried
“Forgive me Lord for I have lied;
 Let me live another day.
 And I will live it as I pray.”
 
 Put meaning into your prayers, and as Abraham Lincoln said, “I pray as though everything depends on the Lord, but then I get up and I work as though everything depends on me.”
 
Some of the recent talks I’ve written have been on the subject of things that hold us back. Not forgiving is one that we talked about a few moments ago; there are many others. Watch for those opportunities and what I refer to as turning points in life. Look for them, watch for them. What has fascinated me about the idea of watching for turning points is the cumulative effect over time of grasping one new principle today and then living it day after day, week after week, year after year and watching the difference that it makes.
 
At age eight President Hinckley was very much like a lot of eight year olds, wasn’t he? A bright young fellow with a great future. Now there are others his age who, if they are lucky enough to live to be 93 or 94, are out on a park bench without much to show for their life. President Hinckley at age 9 and at age 18 and at age 20 and at age 30 and 40 found turning points, points of inspiration and opportunity that he chose to grasp and build on. Did it make a difference over time in him? That is the cumulative effect of a principle grasped today and lived into tomorrow. Remember that your todays are simply a product of your decisions made yesterday, and you are creating tomorrow by the decisions you are making now.
 
My final point in this part of the presentation is to plead with you not to be spectators. There is an old saying, “There are three kinds of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.” The final analyses is this: life is not fulfilling if you are not the one making things happen.
 
I have a hand out for you which will discuss a little about your careers. The first point of the handout says that if you want to have a successful career you need to show respect for authority. Many people these days say, “Oh, he puts his pants on one leg at a time the same way I do and gets out of bed the same way I do, so why should I show respect for him?”
 
Let me tell you two stories. Under number one on the sheet it says “Gerold Screaming in GSL’s Hallway.” When I was still a pretty young fellow, an engineer from Austria by the name of Gerald was heard screaming at the top of his lungs in Great Salt Lake Minerals and Chemicals Corporations hallways. I was about thirty-three at the time, vice president of this company and life was very good for me. He was being overheard by about a hundred people within ear shot, and this is what he said: “Duane you’re a bad guy, you’re a brown noser, you suck up to the boss, you open doors for him, you play all these roles and when I want money for a project I don’t get it but when you want a project built and funded you always get it. I’m sick and tired of seeing this,” and he went on and on.
 
On the left of your sheet you will see, “Peter—Cashless Trip to Houston.” Somewhere around that time someone walked into my office and said, “I just overheard something interesting out in the hall. Peter said that he went to Houston with you a few days ago to give a formal presentation. He said he went on this trip with you and when he came back to Salt Lake City, he opened his wallet and realized that on that entire trip he didn’t spend one penny.” I thought about it for a second and wondered should I be offended or flattered by this statement. In order for that to have been true I would have had to have met my boss at the airport, bought him his morning newspaper, and paid his cab fair in Houston. I would have gone to his room with him at the hotel and waited till the bellman unloaded his luggage and paid the tip. I would have paid for his dinner at the Window Box Restaurant, and then I would have paid for the taxi fare back to the airport, etc.
 
The reason why I tell you this story is, assuming that it was true, it meant that I simply respected him as my boss, as the president of the corporation so much that I was going to be attentive to him and his every need.
 
Number two:  Question almost everything in your organization but in a positive way. Ask, Why do we do this? What is the company’s policy on this and on and on.
 
Number three: Take criticism willingly. One of the things that I remember in my career is coming home to my wife and saying, Boy did I get nailed today. One day Peter called me into his office and said, “You are out signing contracts for the corporation and you are out doing this and you are out doing that. I guess we are going to have to make you a vice president because you have to be a vice president in order to sign all these contracts.” Was I being complimented or criticized? He also said, “You already usurp so much of my authority that I don’t want you to take any more authority now that you are being promoted to vice president. First he nails me and then he promotes me and gives me a huge raise. I remember going home to my wife that night and saying, “Sweetheart, he really beat up on me today and what really ticks me off is that he is right.” Learn to take criticism.
 
Number four: this came to me from a specialist who helps people that are in financial trouble. He advises people about their jobs with very simple things like, “Show up. Show up every day.” That is the second secret to success.
 
Number five: Loyalty, in order to come down from the top, needs to first come up from the bottom. It works both ways.
 
Number six: Volunteer ideas frequently, but don’t shoot from the hip. Test them a little bit first. Here’s another one: If you’re on a clock when you punch out, take an extra thirty or sixty seconds before you get out the door just to do some extra thing. You might do this at home too with your spouse when you get married, just some little extra thing, something that your boss can do for himself or your spouse can do for himself or herself, just that little fraction of a minute. Its amazing over time what difference that can make.
 
Accept responsibility is number eight. Ask for more responsibility. This may surprise you but chances are your boss is looking for somebody to promote. I know I am in our organization and I’ve got dozens of people that I really would like to promote to higher responsibility if they would just show interest. Executives are usually looking somebody to promote in every organization.
 
Number nine: Use some sort of a planner. What is it that Hyrum Smith preached? “The most faded ink is better than the best memory.” Keep yourself organized. If I don’t have my planner, I am a lost soul.
 
Number ten: Listen closely to those who have done what you are trying to do. For each company that I took over to turn around or to build, I found experts in the area who knew what they were doing because I obviously didn’t know what I was doing and I asked them for key indicators. What is the old saying? “A fool learns by experience, but a wise man learns by the experiences of others.” You’re simply not going to live long enough to make all those mistakes.
 
Here’s one that is going to upset some folks. Number eleven: Once you are out of school, never have more than one job. Having multiple jobs is a good way to guarantee you will never have any money. You will be so busy making a living that you will never make money. I believe that is a true statement. My experience has been that the successful people take one job, one career, one opportunity and they perfect it and specialize at it. They become very good at it. They do one thing and one thing only for money. Everything else is for fun, for education, for entertainment, for hobby, whatever you want to call it, but you become very good, better than the next guy, at the thing you choose to make your living.
 
Number twelve: If your boss hints at something, consider it a command. One of the things that fascinates me at my own company is when I might see a garbage pail loaded up somewhere at the plant or office building, I might pick up the garbage can and start walking out to the dumpster and it amazes me the number of people that will watch me do this and watch me walk all the way to the dumpster and back. I don’t mind doing it at all, but my problem is, do they get it? I would never let my boss in my career do something that I can do for him, never ever.
 
Number thirteen: You may have heard a version of this in the past—try to never surprise your boss in the negative. When you see gathering clouds on the horizon, stop, assess, think of possible solutions, and then inform him or her and ask for additional intelligence on the situation. This is a professional environment; you want to all move into environments like that. First of all, you don’t walk into your boss’s office unless you want a decision made, and second you don’t go in and say, “Boy we’ve got a big problem.” Go in and say, “I’ve discovered we have a potential problem.”
 
Let me give you an example of that. We have a huge account, very well known, that has taken thirty percent of our total volume of our company right now nationally. That is a problem of over-concentration. I walked into my daughter’s office—she’s our executive vice-president—and I said, “Monica, we have a potential problem on our hands in 2005. Here’s what I recommend we do.” Then we devised a strategy to move into a couple of other areas of focus, market segmentation, and spread ourselves out, because we didn’t want to reduce the volume of that customer. We want to grow the other segments so that we aren’t over-concentrated. The problem with being over-concentrated should be obvious. If you have a customer that takes too much of your volume and you try to have a price increase, they will tell you to jump in the lake and there is nothing you can do about it.
 
Number fourteen: I call it a balance of terror. A healthy balance of terror should exist between employer and employee. You should always be afraid he will fire you and he should always be afraid you will quit. That means he’s going to give you raises to keep you around and that means you are going to please him so he will want to give you raises.
 
What expenditures are worthy of sacrifice? We’ve already touched on that adequately, and we already touched on the specialization concept. Every time an employer hires somebody, they’re taking a substantial risk. Recognize that you are a risk. You are costing the company money. You might get sick, you might have accidents, you might do something to damage or destroy the organization. You are a risk. You need to recognize that right from the very start and make absolutely certain the organization makes a return on their investment in you.
 
Make that commitment right from the start that you are going to give them a multiple of their cost of employing you. We already handled some of these other ideas. Number nineteen: It’s is not about intelligence. Many of the most successful and wealthy people in the country are absolutely of average IQ. The axiom is still true: 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration.
 
Number twenty: To get what you want in life, help others get what they want in life, and it is amazing how it will come back to you and how people will cooperate with you.
 
The next one relates with the “minus touch.” You’ve all heard of the King Midas touch, that everything you touch turns to gold. There are others who I refer to as having the minus touch, where everything they touch seems to turn to garbage. Get the idea in your head that everything you touch will be better for you having touched it. If it is my home, I am going to fix up my home and my yard. If it is my child, I am going to teach her. If it is my body, I am going to discipline it. If it is my mind, I am going to educate it. If it is my job, I’m going to enhance it. Whatever you touch, you want it to be worth more than when you started. If you fundamentally internalize that concept and live that way, your life becomes more exciting.
 
The rest of the list is self explanatory. I appreciate this opportunity to be here with you. I don’t profess to be an expert. My career has been a lot like my golf games—there have been moments of brilliance but no full games of brilliance. I’m as human as they come.
 
If you have any comments I will take the time to listen to them.
 
Student question: “How did you buy a company when you were eighteen?”
 
When I was sixteen, a fellow called me and asked me if I would pack salt and deliver it after school. In the old days you went to East High for an education, West High for a vocation and South High for a vacation, so I went to South High. And after school and on Saturdays I packed salt and delivered it. When I turned eighteen, this fellow developed a hernia and I took over and drove the trucks and did the packing. I started at the university so I decided I either needed to buy the company or I needed to get out and move on with my career. Maybe I had him in an awkward spot but he said okay, he would sell it to me. I had my older brother to co-sign with me. We went to Valley Bank and took out a loan and I bought the company January 1 st, 1961.
 
I still had it during my mission, when I was out with President Woodhouse and thirty-one other companions. (I couldn’t get along with anybody so I had a lot of companions.) When I came back I built it into a much larger company, bought another company and so on. And then Great Salt Lake Minerals came when I was twenty-eight years old and gave me what I refer to as a godfather offer, so I left and joined the chemical works that was being built on the Great Salt Lake.
 
You’ve been great. Thanks for your time.

BACK TO DEVOTIONALS