Dr. Ponder, The Legend

Dr. Harry Ponder, current Shumack Endowed Professor of Horticulture at Auburn University, is retiring this week.  He has been without a doubt the most influential person in the history of the green industry.  For over 40 years he has taught students and maintained a 100% placement record after graduation.  Then after initial placement he stays in touch with all of his students helping them navigate their careers.  Like every great teacher, he can tell you where almost every one of his students of 40 years are today.  When I was with Dr. Ponder earlier this week, he shared a lesson that I will never forget.  Here it is:

One of the first things that he does with a new class is ask them, "What is your favorite restaurant?"  Everyone goes around the room and shares a different restaurant.  Then he asks, "Why is it your favorite restaurant?"  Each student goes around and describes something uniquely different about their favorite restaurant.  Usually there is something unique about a particularly meal or experience that makes them love it.  After everyone takes a turn, Dr. Ponder says, "In 40 years of doing this excercise, no one has ever mentioned price.  When you enter the green industry, create a value and experience that people will remember, and don't worry about trying to be the cheapest price."

Thank you Dr. Ponder for what you have done for the Green Industry and for all of the people you have helped along the way.  You will remain an inspiration to us all.  Enjoy those grandkids!

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Knowledge Plus Scars

Jeff Foxworthy spoke at a recent Purpose on Tap event.  He said one thing that really resonated with me.   

“Wisdom equals knowledge plus scars.”

I encourage you to think about your willingness to grow and embrace the associated scars.  Your willingness to move towards what you want, not away from what you don’t want.  Feel the fear, and do it anyway.   

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Sunday Blog: Enjoy the Adventure

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  -Psalm 23:4

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My father will honor the one who served me.  -John 12:26

In order to follow the Lord wholeheartedly we must relinquish our tendency to play it safe.  If we stay focused on him we can walk perilous paths without being afraid.  Help me Lord to relax and enjoy the adventure of our journey together, Amen.  

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Be a Builder

One day Thomas Edison came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her, “Mom, my teacher gave this paper to me and told me only you are to read it. What does it say?” Her eyes welled with tears as she read the letter out loud to her child. 

“Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him, and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.”  

His mother did just that until she fell ill and passed away. Many years after his mother died he became one of the greatest inventors of the century. One day he was going through some of her things and found the folded letter that his old teacher wrote his Mother that day. He opened it, and the letter said:

“Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.”

Edison became emotional reading it and then wrote in his diary, “Thomas A. Edison was a mentally deficient child whose mother turned him into the genius of the Century.”

Napoleon Hill, author of the “Law of Success,” attributes his mindset and much of his success to a single word of encouragement that he received at a young age from a man that he barely knew. That one statement of belief in him change his life forever. A positive word of encouragement can help change someone's entire life. As you go through life, you can either build people up or you can tear them down. You can be a builder, or a junk man. I challenge you to always build, because you never know when that one word of encouragement could change someone life forever.

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Outsmart Mother Nature

Understanding what makes quality pine straw is critical for ensuring that your yard or landscape looks its best.  Although there are a number of factors that determine the quality of pine straw, the most important factor is when the pine straw is harvested from the forest floor.

The pine trees are shedding their needles right now coinciding with the leaf fall.  When it initially falls it is that beautiful amber color that gives any landscape its optimal look.  Once it falls to the forest floor, its slowly begins the decomposition process which is driven by natural sunlight and rain.  With the natural decomposition process, the farther you get from December the more brown the product becomes.

The secret to having great looking pine straw is to outsmart mother nature and delay the natural decomposition process for just a few months for the benefit of your landscape.  Harvest the pine straw from the forest floor in the winter while it is fresh and move it to a controlled environment that is fully protected from the sunlight and rain.  Swift Straw has discovered that if removed from the elements, the pine straw will keep its beautiful color for months as long as it is safe and dry.  The good news is that you don’t have to dust off your rake and head to the woods, we’ve got you covered. 

Here is a quick video that shows a sneak peek at some of the pine straw that we are bagging right now that will be in over 350 Wal-Mart locations next spring.  Since we are being proactive and bagging it now, it will keep that beautiful color throughout the spring and beyond.  So remember that not all pine straw is created equal.  Work with Swift Straw this year to outsmart mother nature and have the best looking landscape in the neighborhood.

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Leading the Pack

I was recently learning from Cesar Millan, AKA the Dog Whisperer.  He has learned a tremendous amount about leadership through the animal world.  Here are a few of his thoughts:

Leadership is about being, not thinking.  You must calm your emotions and focus on what you want to accomplish with absolute certainty.  It’s impossible for animals (or humans) to follow uncertainty or instability.

Before you lead your awareness needs to rise.  You can’t teach a mind that thinks it knows everything.  You must fully surrender to the truth that you don’t know everything, then your mind opens up and you are willing to learn.  

Thinking you are a leader does not make you a leader.  Leadership has nothing to do with your age, gender, some fancy title or a managerial position.  Being a leader makes you a leader.  People will always follow those that humbly serve as well as provide protection and direction.  


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Live Full and Die Empty

Les Brown was born a twin and given up for adoption by his biological mother.  He and his brother were raised by a single mom with seven children.  In middle school, he was declared “Educable Mentally Retarded.” Despite all of the odds, Les has become one of the World’s most renowned motivational speakers.  Here are a few excerpts from a recent interview with Les:

  • Don’t try to change others, it’s a full time job trying to change yourself.
  • Never be afraid to lose money, you can always make more.  Be afraid to lose time, you can’t get that back.  I wasted 14 years of my life not pursuing my dreams because I was scared of failure.
  • If you died today, what dreams, ideas and gifts will die with you?  Live full and die empty.
  • Judge a person not by what they accomplish, but rather by the challenges that they had to overcome along the way.
  • There’s never a shortage of opportunity, there’s only a shortage of thinking.
  • Someone’s opinion of you doesn’t have to become your reality.  Just because I was labeled mentally retarded in school doesn’t mean that was my reality.
  • If you give enough people what they want, you will get what you want.
  • We should be ashamed to die without making a substantial impact in someone’s life.
  • Once a person’s mind has expanded, it can never go back.
  • Ask for help, not because you are weak, but because you want to stay strong.
  • Remember OQP.  Surround yourself with Only Quality People
  • Read 30-40 pages per day of something positive.
  • Beware of WMD.  Weapons of Mass Distraction.

Les’s message to the world is that you have greatness in you.  Anything is possible for your life if you believe it.  You are made wonderfully in the image of God.  Always pray that God will make you more of “The” and less of “Me.”

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Sunday Blog: Coming Glory

There was a group of blind women that would go together and visit a children’s nursery. After spending time with the children, they would always ask someone to take a picture. Since they were blind, this was confusing for the teachers. One day when they finally asked, one of the women replied:

“We take the pictures to someone that can describe them in great detail. They tell us what the children look like, what they are wearing and the expression on their faces.”

Until we meet our Heavenly Father, we will never be able to fully understand or see this life from a heavenly perspective. Similar to the blind women, we can only use our imagination to comprehend the glory that is to come. I am comforted in knowing that my loved ones that have gone before me are no longer blind, but now can see.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is in your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” -Colossians 3:1-4

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Thank You “Mr. Washingtons”

Les Brown was an adopted twin by a single mother with 7 kids.  In middle school Les Brown was known as DT (dumb twin). He was determined Educable Mentally Retarded by his teachers.  At that point Les believed that he was dumb.  

All of that changed when he had a teacher named Mr. Washington.  Mr. Washington told him that he better never refer to himself as dumb ever again.   He taught him the power of mindset, and taught him to believe in himself.  He taught him that there are no limits in life other than those that we impose on ourselves.  

Les Brown is now one of the most successful motivational speakers in the world.  Les proves that your mindset determines where you go in life, not your race, gender, or level of affluence.  The right mindset is a direct result of the people in your life that have influenced you.  Your parents, grand parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, friends etc.  One “Mr. Washington” can shape someone’s mindset, and change the direction of their life forever.  

This Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for all of the “Mr. Washingtons” that have helped shape who I am.  Thank you to my wonderful parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, mentors, partners and friends.  I encourage you to reflect on all of the people in your life that have invested in you, and I challenge you to be someone else’s “Mr. Washington.”  You never know who’s life could be changed forever.  


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Brain Health

Dr. Daniel Amen has dedicated his life to educating people about brain health.  Alzheimer’s has been steadily on the rise and there is no apparent cure on the horizon.  After conducting over 70,000 brain scans on a wide variety of people, he has discovered that the best way to prevent brain disease is to decreases illnesses such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and sleep apnea.  Here are a few specific items he uses to guide his patients and students:

Here are 10 specific things that increase the likelihood of brain disease:

  1. Brain injury
  2. Drugs & alcohol
  3. Obesity/diabetes
  4. Sleep Apnea
  5. Smoking/Caffeine
  6. Toxins
  7. Poor diet
  8. Stress/depression
  9. Lack of exercise
  10. Bad decisions and unhealthy peer groups

Here are 10 specific things that lead to brain health:

  1. Protecting the brain from injury
  2. Conscientiousness (doing what you say you are going to do)
  3. Healthy weight
  4. 8 hours of sleep
  5. New learning
  6. Great diet (natural, organic and unprocessed foods)
  7. Omega 3’s and green tea
  8. Exercise
  9. Gratitude
  10. Stress management

There would be no way to incorporate all of these at once, so I challenge you to pick one or two to focus on.  My personal pick to focus on will be centered around consistently getting 7-8 hours of sleep and slowly replacing coffee with green tea.  Of all the things that we invest in, I can’t think of a better investment than our brain.

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Sunday Blog: Wait and Be Strong

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.  Psalm 27:13-14

There are so many times that things have not gone my way, and ended up with a much better outcome.  This has taught me that it’s better to focus on the path just before me so I can be patient and leave the outcomes to the Lord. 

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Regret Minimization


Jeff Bezos says that he lives in a regret minimization framework.  This means that he always asks himself “Will I regret not doing this?” This question is how he became comfortable with many of the risks that he has taken since he started Amazon.  The fear of regret overcame the fear of failure.  

“Success is when you look back at your life and the memories make you smile.”

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What Matters Most

I was with a group of friends the other day sharing experiences about different challenges that we are currently facing.  In each case there was a unique relational challenge that was thrown into the mix.  As we discussed possible solutions, communication seemed to keep resurfacing over and over again.  Here are a few thoughts about effective communication:

  1. When something is bothering you, it is always best to bring it up.  The other person has plenty of problems of their own, which means there is a good chance they are not aware of what specifically is bothering you.  Never assume someone else is a mind reader.
  2. When communicating an issue, always be respectful.  You want to avoid a “Defensive” response.  Once defense mode kicks in the conversation is over.
  3. Make sure you actually listen to what the other person is saying, rather than just repeating yourself.  If you become aware, you will notice that most arguments consist of each side repeating their point over and over, getting louder with each round.
  4. Be solution oriented, searching for a true win/win.  Any real solution will require a little give from both sides.

“When you are in the final days of your life, what will you want?  Will you hug that college degree in the walnut frame?  Will you ask to be carried to the garage so you can sit in your car?  Will you find comfort in rereading your financial statement?  What will matter then will be people.  If relationships will matter most then, shouldn’t they matter most now?"  Max Lucado

The only thing that separates us from others is our unique set of experiences and the relationships that we share those experiences with.  I encourage you to think about effective communication to make the most out of each relationship that you have.

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Sunday Blog: Three Part Knowledge

As we journey through rough terrain, we can gain confidence from our knowledge that we can handle anything with God.  This knowledge is comprised of three parts: our relationship with God, promises in the Bible, and past experiences of coping successfully during hard times.  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.  Isaiah 41:10

Help me Lord to always find confidence in my relationship with you, the promises in the Bible and the past experiences that you have guided me through.  Amen

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The B's

This past Monday I had the extreme fortune of attending another successful Purpose on Tap event.  Part of Glen Jackson’s message included his list of “Be’s”.

1) Be humble

2) Be curious: Be more interested than interacting.  

3) Be a servant leader: No task is too small or too big.  

4) Be a relationship builder: Networking is a task, relationship building is a commitment.   Relationship building is about investing in people.   

5) Be a team player 

6) Be driven: We hire for 3 things, intelligence integrity and drive. 

7) Be a person of integrity: Put character first

8) Be generous (time, talent and financial resources)

9) Be an encourager.  

10) Be consistent with your emotions, your actions and your decisions

11) Be resilient 

12) Be there: when someone has a loss, it’s not about the right words, just be there.  

If you haven’t heard about Purpose on Tap, I encourage you to check it out.


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Step Up to the Plate

This past weekend I was able to share an outdoor experience with a few of the Swift Straw team members along with a few of our good friends from Providence Landscape Group based in Charlotte NC. On the first afternoon hunt I had the extreme fortune of harvesting my biggest buck ever. It is a 12 pointer that scores 165 inches B&C. Here are a few thoughts after reflecting on this awesome experience:

The journey of life is not about what you experience, it’s about who you share those experiences with. I will never forget last weekend because I was able to share it with great folks. 

Anything great in life takes a team effort. The only reason I had the opportunity to harvest such a magnificent animal is because of the years of strict management practices shared by all of those that hunt with us. Great hunting is the direct result of everyone working together towards a common goal.

Even if the conditions don’t seem right, you still have to step up to the plate. The conditions last weekend were far from prime with hot weather and a full moon. I never would have guessed in a million years what those conditions would produce. It just goes to show that if you don’t step up to the plate there is no chance of getting a hit. 

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the incredible hunting program that we have built and I look forward to the many more memories to come. 

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Sunday Blog: Momentary Troubles

Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  --2 Corinthians 4:17

We all experience suffering that can be in the form of pressure, stress, hurt or heartache.  This could seem meaningless without thinking about it from a Godly perspective.  As the potter molds the clay, our Heavenly Father uses suffering to teach us, strengthen our faith or to display his glory.  He uses events in life to shape us and help us grow closer to him.  

Whatever suffering you may be experiencing, I encourage you to explore it from a Godly perspective and consider how it could be helping you achieve eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  

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Be Nice

The best marriage advice I have ever received came from a man named Greg Shephard.  He said there are two things you need to do in order to have a successful marriage.  Keep Christ at the head of your household and simply “Be Nice.” 

The best parenting advice I have ever received came from Dr. Michael Youssef who said, “Don’t tell your kids how to live, just show them.”  If you want them to be respectful then be respectful.  If you want them to be a jerk then be a jerk.

I always find it interesting how some people will be the nicest person in the world to a stranger on the street but then act like a jerk when they get home to their families.  As the leaders of your family, I challenge you to consider the advice of Greg and Dr. Youseff.  Work with your spouse to set an example for what a successful marriage should look like.  Always keep Christ at your head of your home and simply “Be nice.”  If you show your kids how a family should respectfully interact, then you won’t have to tell them because they will already know.

“Love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.  To love someone isn’t just a strong feeling.  It is a decision, a judgement, a promise.”

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Find a Mentor

I had the privilege last week of speaking to one of Clint Waltz’s classes at The University of Georgia.  Clint is a great friend and green industry leader in the turf grass arena.  One of the main things I shared with them was the importance of finding a mentor as soon as possible.  Here a few thoughts on finding a mentor:

1) It’s never too early to find a mentor, or mentors, and establish a relationship.  Target someone that has already done what you are trying to do. 

2) Find someone that is solving big problems and making a massive impact.  This is exactly the kind of person that you want to learn from.  

3) Do not get discouraged if someone turns you down.  The timing may not be right for them.  I recently had a potential mentor reject my offer to send him periodic email updates.  Thankfully I have plenty of others that were more than willing to help.  

4) Once you find that person, make them an offer that they can’t refuse.  Put yourself in their shoes and do everything possible to make it worth their while.  When in doubt, simply ask them what you can do to return the favor.  

I am so thankful for all of the people that have helped me and I will always do my best to return the favor to the next generation.  

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Sunday Blog: Ashes of Adversity

Below is a brief clip from Jesus Calling:

When suffering strikes, remember that I am sovereign and that I can bring good out of everything.  Do not try to run from pain or hide from problems.  Instead accept adversity in My name, offering it up to Me for My purposes.  Thus, suffering gains meaning and draws you closer to me.  Joy emerges from the ashes of adversity through your trust and thankfulness.   

“Consider it pure joy, My brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4

Help me Lord to trust in you always so that joy can emerge from the ashes of adversity.  Amen

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