Wagon Wheel

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Wagon Wheel is a song that I really got turned onto a little over a year ago at a wedding reception.  I had heard the song before, but for whatever reason, when I heard it played that night, it really struck me.  I immediately dug a bit deeper into the song and discovered all the information you can read about later in this blog.

wagon wheel 2The song originated from Bob Dylan, which did not surprise me too much since Bob has written so many songs over the years.  He is like the “godfather of songwriting” in my opinion.  This was not even a song Bob wrote it was just some mumblings and picking Bob did in between songs in the studio.  If a song like this one can come out of that, it really demonstrates his true genius.

I love the southern feel that Old Crow Medicine Show gives to the song.  They have just right twang in their voice to just blow the song up.  They took what Bob had started and took it to a whole other planet.  They took the song to a place that Bob never would have.  I just love their version.

My favorite version though has to be the Darius Rucker version.wagon wheel 6  Rucker, being from South Carolina, just brings a personality to the song that is very unique.  His voice was made to do this song and it really shows in his recording and live versions.

This is a song that I learned to play on guitar and I just love doing it.  I’m no Darius Rucker, but I still think I can hold my own.

This song is the perfect melding of blues, bluegrass, gospel, country, and rock n roll in my opinion.  It is an anthem to Americana going to our deepest roots.  It is a song that it seems that people have been singling along to since the very founding of our country.  It is American as apple pie and corn on the cob.  It is just a great song and one of my favorites.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Here is the original bootleg of the recording by Bob Dylan.  You can’t really hear the lines at all.  I guess all songs have to start somewhere.

Official music video of the song performed by Old Crow Medicine Show.  I really love this bluegrass video.  I especially love the old school hand-held mike.

This is a live version of the song performed by Old Crow Medicine Show at the Cambridge Folk Festival in 2005 in the park.  This is an absolutely amazing version.

Live version of the song performed by Old Crow Medicine Show at the Grand Old Opry.

Official music video of the song performed by Darius Rucker with Lady Antebellum doing backing vocals.  I love the appearance of some of the Duck Dynasty gang in the video.

Darius Rucker playing the song live at the Bing Lounge.  Very cool!

Mumford and Sons doing a live onstage version of the song in Bristol.  Great crowd participation.

A much clearer version of the song performed by Mumford and Sons.

Really good cover version of the song by Matt Andersen.


wagon wheel 3Wagon Wheel” is a song originally sketched by Bob Dylan and later completed by Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show.  Old Crow Medicine Show’s version was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 2013.  The song has also been covered by blues artist Matt Andersen and Against Me! in 2005, Jeremy McComb in 2007, Chris Pureka in 2008, Northern Irish singer Nathan Carter in 2012, and by Darius Rucker and Mumford & Sons in 2013.

The song describes a hitchhiking journey south along the eastern coast of the United States, from New England in the northeast, through Roanoke, Virginia with the intended destination of Raleigh, North Carolina, where the protagonist hopes to see his lover.  Along the way, he shares a smoke with a trucker who is traveling from Philadelphia through Virginia westward toward the Cumberland Gap and Johnson City, Tennessee.  It is not clear from the lyrics whether the protagonist traveled with the trucker from Philly to Roanoke before parting ways to head south into North Carolina, or whether he simply crossed paths with the trucker outside of Roanoke.

Old Crow Medicine Show’s version of the song is in 2/2 time signature, with an approximate tempo of 76 half notes per minute. It uses the I-V-VI-IV pattern in the key of A major, with the main chord pattern of A-E-F♯m-D.

“Wagon Wheel” is composed of two different parts.  The chorus and melody for the song comes from a demo recorded by Bob Dylan during the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid sessions.  Although never officially released, the Dylan song was released on a bootleg and is usually named after the chorus and its refrain, “Rock Me Mama”. Although Dylan left the song an unfinished sketch, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show wrote verses for the song around Dylan’s original chorus.  Secor’s additional lyrics transformed “Rock Me Mama” into “Wagon Wheel”. Secor has stated the song is partially autobiographical.  The song has become extremely popular since its inclusion on Old Crow Medicine Show’s major label debut, O.C.M.S. in 2004, although the song appeared in an earlier form on the now out-of-print “Troubles Up and Down the Road” EP in 2001.  Dylan’s song is often credited to “A. Crudup.”, and the official publishing information is Dylan/Secor.

As Chris ‘Critter’ Fuqua of Old Crow describes it:

‘ I’d gotten a (Bob) Dylan bootleg in like ninth grade and I let wagon wheel 4(band co-founder) Ketch (Secor) listen to it, and he wrote the verses because Bob kind of mumbles them and that was it.  We’ve been playing that song since we were like 17, and it’s funny because we’ve never met Dylan, but the song is technically co-written by Bob Dylan.  What’s great about “Wagon Wheel” is that it has grown organically.  The popularity of it was all based on word of mouth. There was no radio airplay for it.  We made a music video for it, but it wasn’t “November Rain” or anything.  No one was like, “Oh my God, what’s this video about?”  And 16 years later, it went gold, then Darius Rucker cut it.’

Never officially released, besides the melody, only the chorus (or refrain) comes from the Dylan outtake:

So rock me mama like a wagon wheel

Rock me mama anyway you feel

Hey mama rock me

Rock me mama like the wind and the rain

Rock me mama like a south-bound train

Hey mama rock me

Secor’s verses tell “the story of a man who travels from New England, through Philadelphia, down the eastern coast of the United States, ending up in Raleigh, North Carolina where he hopes to see his lover.”  They contain a geographic impossibility: heading “west from the Cumberland Gap” to Johnson City, Tennessee . . “you’d have to go east.”Secor explains: “I got some geography wrong, but I still sing it that way.  I just wanted the word ‘west’ in there.  ‘West’ has got more power than ‘east.'”

The group reportedly performed the song at the Station Inn in Nashville in 2001, as part of a series of songs commemorating Bob Dylan’s 60th birthday.  The group’s version of the song was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in April 2013.  To celebrate they released a limited edition 7” vinyl record of the song with “‘All Night Long’ Live At The Station Inn” (2003) on the B-side.  Asked mid-2008 if he gets “sick of playing it every night?” Secor responded: “I don’t mind playing it every night.  I like to see what it does to people, and it’s nice to have something that’s guaranteed, especially when you’re shuffling through new material.”

Called a “catchy country-infused sing-along that has taken on the status of ‘Free Bird‘”—has become the group’s signature song, in some ways bigger than the group itself, even though the song’s origins predate Old Crow’s formation.

wagon wheel 5Darius Rucker joined Old Crow Medicine Show at the Grand Ole Opry July 6, 2012, “for a special rendition of ‘Wagon Wheel.’” The fans “went crazy over Rucker’s cover of the Old Crow Medicine Show hit,” setting the stage for his tweeted announcement: “Secret out after @opry perf. I recorded a version of ‘Wagon Wheel’ for my new record & @ladyantebellum sings on track.”  The new album, True Believers, is his third solo project on Capitol Records. Rucker’s cover is the album’s second single.

The song did not at first appeal to Rucker.  “Somebody had played ‘Wagon Wheel’ for me years ago,” he says.  “It was one of those things that I didn’t really get.”  The faculty band at his daughter’s high school performing had a different effect, as he relates . .

“So, I’m at my daughter’s high school talent show, and I’m sittingwagon wheel 7 in the audience with my family.  We were watching my daughter, and the faculty band gets up.  It’s just the faculty from her school, and they play ‘Wagon Wheel.’  I’m sitting in the audience, and they get to the middle of the chorus, and I turned to my wife, and I go, ‘I’ve got to cut this song.’  I’m serious.  This all happened in three-and-a-half minutes, four minutes, while they’re playing the song.”

With guidance from Frank Liddell, Rucker cut the song with Lady Antebellum on backing vocals.  He told Taste of Country:

wagon wheel 8“I called up Charles [Kelley] and he said ‘yes’, and then a couple day(s) later I ran into Dave (Haywood) and Hillary (Scott) at a concert and mentioned it to them and they said sure.  Two days later they were in the studio doing it . . Lady Antebellum took the song to a new level.  Up until they added their vocals, I thought it was another song on the record.”

Interestingly, Rucker had been introduced to Fuqua’s source for Dylan’s outtake years prior:

“I got turned onto the Pat Garrett soundtrack when I worked retail back in the day.  It’s so different from a lot of his other stuff.  It’s such a cool record.”

And Rucker’s had some experience with crediting Dylan on a song he’d performed.  Hootie and the Blowfish’s third single, released in 1995, “Only Wanna Be With You,” quotes a few lines from the Dylan song “Idiot Wind” (1975). Says Rucker today:

“That was a straight tribute to him.  I wrote it around the time I was listening to Blood on the Tracks every day.  The line ‘They say I shot a man named Grey and took his wife to Italy/She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me/I can’t help it if I’m lucky’ was just so vivid.  That was a straight tribute to my love of Dylan.”

When the record began selling big, the “Dylan camp” took issue.  As Rucker remembers:

“It never got to the point where we were sued.  We played it for years and had a really big hit with it.  Then they wanted some money, and they got it.  We weren’t trying to rip anybody off.  It was like, ‘If you think that’s the case, sure.”

Rucker discovered the popularity of the song only after recording it himself.  As he describes it:

‘I didn’t know how big it was until after I cut it, until after it was a single.  I didn’t know that every college student south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the last eight years knows this song.  I had no idea.  I thought it was just another Old Crow song until I recorded it and realized it wasn’t just another Old Crow song.’

For Rucker it was largely an issue of musical genre and the high school group changing his thinking on it . .

“I knew the song, and to me it was such a perfect bluegrass tune that I didn’t think I could do it.  But they did a country version of it, with drums and pedal steel.  I was like, ‘Wait a minute.  That would be a great country song.'”

On deciding to go country with it, Rucker says . .

‘It’s such the perfect country song.  When we were cutting it, all we had (to model it on) was this perfect bluegrass song.  I couldn’t do it as a bluegrass song.  It’s just not me.  So if we were going to do it, we had to make it a 1950s country song.  I’m not shocked at how successful it’s been, but I didn’t expect it.’

“It’s another interesting chapter in the history of a song that’s slowly working its way toward American classic status.  Like ‘House of the Rising Sun‘ or ‘Good Night, Irene,’ it’s now a pop song with a long back story that tantalizingly trickles out before you reach the wellspring.”

Chris Talbott (on Rucker version)

Matt Bjorke of Roughstock gave Rucker’s version a five-star rating.  Billy Dukes of Taste of Country gave Rucker’s version four and a half stars out of five.  As to the reaction of the originating group, Rucker says . .

“I’m obviously a risk taker.  I left Hootie & The Blowfish to come and play country music, so I’m ok with risks.  But, I just loved the song.  I just thought it would be a great song to cut.  I think the Old Crow Medicine Show guys are very happy about it, and that’s all that matters to me.”

When asked what he thought of this version of the song, Chris ‘Critter’ Fuqua of Old Crow Medicine Show replied:

‘I love it.  He actually played with us at (The Grand Ole) Opry, and it was great.  I think he sees something special in that song and understands it.  He’s a country music fan and, more than that, he just loves music and loves playing. I’m really glad he cut the track.  It’s been good for him and good for us, but I’m just waiting for the time when people come up to me and say, “I love when you guys played that Darius Rucker cover.”‘

Rucker’s version of the song has yielded two CMA Award nominations for the 47th Country Music Association Awards ceremony for Single and Song of the Year.

“It sort of exists separately from the world of things that are on the radio.  ‘Wagon Wheel’ has made it around the camp fires and the jam sessions and the parking lot scenes, in a way that songs of this decade or the last decade tend not to.  When you go to a drum circle at a camp fire, you’ll hear songs that are 40 years old that a kid with a hemp leash just learned, like ‘The Weight‘ by The Band, and then you’re going to hear ‘Wagon Wheel.’

Rucker released a music video of the song on March 21, 2013,wagon wheel 9 which features several members of the television show Duck Dynasty, along with Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum.

Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” debuted at number 51 on the U.S. BillboardCountry Airplay chart for the week of January 19, 2013.  It also debuted at number 32 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for the week of January 26, 2013.  It debuted at 96 on the U.S. Billboard Billboard Hot 100 chart for the week of February 6, 2013; it debuted at 72 on the Canadian Hot 100 chart for the week of February 13, 2013.  In its 10th chart week, March 20, 2013, Rucker’s version made “a strong move” on Hot Country Songs, going from 11 to 5, and to 18 on Country Airplay (to 14.7 million, up 20%).  Old Crow’s original (from 2004) sold 15,000 and ranked 28 on Country Digital Songs the same week.  The song reached number one on Hot Country Songs in its 12th week.  It is his most successful song as a solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 15.  As of October 2013, the song has sold 2,317,000 copies in the United States.


Wagon Wheel

By Old Crow Medicine Show and Bob Dylan

Heading down south to the land of the pines
I’m thumbing my way into North Caroline
Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights

I made it down the coast in sixteen hours
Picking me a bouquet of pretty blue flowers
And I’m a hopin’ for Raleigh, I can see my baby tonight ohhhhhhh yaaaa

So rock me mama like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama any way you feel
Hey mama rock me

Rock me mama like the wind and the rain
Rock me mama like a southbound train
Hey mama rock me

Running from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old-time string band
My baby plays a guitar, I pick a banjo now

Oh, north country winters keep a getting me
Now I lost my money playing poker so I had to up and leave
But I ain’t turning back to living that old life no more

So rock me mama like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama any way you feel
Hey mama rock me

Rock me mama like the wind and the rain
Rock me mama like a southbound train
Hey mama rock me

Walkin’ to the south out of Roanoke
I caught a trucker out of Philly, had a nice long toke
But he’s a heading west from the Cumberland Gap
To Johnson City, Tennessee

And I gotta get a move on before the sun
I hear my baby calling my name and I know that she’s the only one
And if I died in Raleigh, at least I will die free

So rock me mama like a wagon wheel
Rock me mama any way you feel
Hey mama rock me

Rock me mama like the wind and the rain
Rock me mama like a southbound train
Hey mama rock me

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God’s Plans, Not Mine

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Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

God is strategic.  He has laid out an exact plan for our lives right down to the very smallest details.  He knows the people we need to meet in order to fulfill our destinies.  He knows who is going to give us a good break in our lives and who is going to put in a good word for us on our behalf.  He knows when someone is going to be there to help us through difficult times.  God has it all figured out.  He is not vague or approximate.  He is orchestrating our lives right down to the very second, causing us to be at the right place at the right time so we can meet the right people who He has ordained before this world was even created.

We can look over our lives and see how, time after time, God directed our steps to the exact moment.  If we had been 10 seconds earlier or 10 seconds later, things would have played out differently.  That’s God orchestrating His plan.  That’s God ordering our steps.

As I look back on my life I can think of things that I wish I could have done or handled differently.  At the same time I realize that I had to go through those things to get to the person I am today.  I am not yet the person God wants me to be, but thank God I am not the person I used to be.  I have come a long way, but I still have many more miles to go.  To be honest, I am glad that I have God guiding me along the way because if I was truly deciding my own path, I’m not very sure that I would get even close to the place that God is taking me.  I am so thankful to God for guiding me along on my journey and I am just trying my best to enjoy every step of the journey.

All we have to do is stay faithful to Him and follow His leading because in the end, it is God’s plans, not mine that will prevail.

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Did the Wrong People Die?

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In today’s blog, I want to take a look at a story found in 1 Chronicles.

1 Chronicles 21:1-17 (NLT)

21 Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the people of Israel—from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north—and bring me a report so I may know how many there are.”

But Joab replied, “May the Lord increase the number of his people a hundred times over! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this? Are they not all your servants? Why must you cause Israel to sin?”

But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab traveled throughout all Israel to count the people. Then he returned to Jerusalem and reported the number of people to David. There were 1,100,000 warriors in all Israel who could handle a sword, and 470,000 in Judah. But Joab did not include the tribes of Levi and Benjamin in the census because he was so distressed at what the king had made him do.

Judgment for David’s Sin

God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.”

Then the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer. This was the message: 10 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’”

11 So Gad came to David and said, “These are the choices the Lord has given you. 12 You may choose three years of famine, three months of destruction by the sword of your enemies, or three days of severe plague as the angel of the Lord brings devastation throughout the land of Israel. Decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.”

13 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”

14 So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and 70,000 people died as a result. 15 And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But just as the angel was preparing to destroy it, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

16 David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth with his sword drawn, reaching out over Jerusalem. So David and the leaders of Israel put on burlap to show their deep distress and fell face down on the ground. 17 And David said to God, “I am the one who called for the census! I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? O Lord my God, let your anger fall against me and my family, but do not destroy your people.”

In this story from the Bible, the sin of one man (David) led to a plague that caused the death of 70,000.  We see this highlighted in verse 14.  It doesn’t seem fair does it?  Even David was distressed by the consequences that his sin had on innocent people.  We see this from David’s response to God in verse 17.

Because of our culture of individualism in the Western hemisphere, we struggle to understand the Eastern tradition in which the head of a family, tribe or nation represented the people under them.  The members were treated as a whole, sharing in the blessings or punishments resulting from the actions of their leaders.  This is very different from our culture where each person is treated as an individual and are responsible for their own actions and not the actions of others.

We see many examples of this Eastern philosophy of the team throughout the Bible.

Adam’s sin had consequences for all of humanity.  We see this in the book of Romans.

Romans 5:12 (NLT)

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

When Achan sinned, God said Israel has sinned.  Joshua had to identify the tribe, clan and family to which the sinner belonged.  We see this story in the book of Joshua.

Joshua 7:1-11 (NLT)

But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord. A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites. Achan was the son of Carmi, a descendant of Zimri son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah.

Joshua sent some of his men from Jericho to spy out the town of Ai, east of Bethel, near Beth-aven. When they returned, they told Joshua, “There’s no need for all of us to go up there; it won’t take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai. Since there are so few of them, don’t make all our people struggle to go up there.”

So approximately 3,000 warriors were sent, but they were soundly defeated. The men of Ai chased the Israelites from the town gate as far as the quarries, and they killed about thirty-six who were retreating down the slope. The Israelites were paralyzed with fear at this turn of events, and their courage melted away.

Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing in dismay, threw dust on their heads, and bowed face down to the ground before the Ark of the Lord until evening. Then Joshua cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side! Lord, what can I say now that Israel has fled from its enemies? For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe our name off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?”

10 But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11 Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings.


Getting back to our original story about David and the Israelites from 1 Chronicles; it would seem that in this case, it may have been Israel’s sin as a nation that led to David’s sin.  The Lord was angry with Israel before David was incited enough to take a census.  This is made clear in 2 Samuel.

2 Samuel 24:1 (NLT)

24 Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him.

For this reason, some see this as a plague upon a nation of people who had themselves sinned.

David’s sin deserved personal punishment, but David’s death might have been worse for the nation than the plague.  Political turmoil in Israel could have brought invading armies that would have killed even more people.  David suffered remorse and grief.  Along with the leaders who may have supported his call for a census, David mourned and repented.  God graciously forgave him and intervened to spare Jerusalem from impending destruction.  Later, the temple was built on the site where David offered his sacrifice that saw the plague halted.

When you look at the big picture of this story, we need to understand that God knows what is best for His people and He always has their best interests in mind.  We can look at the 70,000 people who died because of the sin of one man, but that is just a snapshot of the whole story.  We don’t see how many more might have died if those 70,000 hadn’t died.  We have a limited scope and vision of the whole story so it is hard for us to see.  If we did see the whole picture, we might think very differently about the situation.

The bottom line is that we need to learn to trust God, know that He knows best and stop questioning everything that happens.  I promise that the end of the story will be much better than the beginning or even the here and now.

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Growing Through Difficulties

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1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV)

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

One thing that we have to realize is that God is not going to deliver us from every difficulty.  He is not going to keep us from every challenge we might face in life.  If He did, we would never grow.  Not allowing us to grow is far more cruel of a thing than any difficulty that might pass our way.  In this Bible verse from 1 Peter, Paul is telling us that our “faith is refined by fire.”  That means that when we are in the middle of a tough time, that’s an opportunity for our faith to shine.

Anytime we face difficulties in our lives, we have one of two choices.  We can 1) resent it, which leads to bitterness and a hardened heart.  This will cause us to move further away from God.  Our other choice is to 2) embrace it as a growing opportunity.  It does not mean that we have to enjoy going through the difficulty, but we see it as an opportunity to gain wisdom and life experience.  Through the process, we will find that we grow closer to God.

Anybody can get negative and bitter, blame God, or lose their passion for life.  That’s easy, but if we want to pass the test, if we want God to take us to a new level, we can’t be weaklings.  We’ve got to be warriors.  We need to dig in our heels and adopt the mentality that Paul had.  Paul said, “I can handle it.  I’m ready for it.  I’m equal to it.  I know God is still on the throne.  He is fighting my battles and on the other side of this difficulty is a new level of my destiny.”

I like to compare human growth to the growth of plants.  If a plant is growing and always has an ample amount of water available to it right near the surface, the roots will never grow that deep because all the water it needs is readily available.  If however, the plant has periods of time when water is not always readily available to it, the roots will grow down to try to reach moisture found at the deeper levels of the soil so it can sustain growth and survive.  If storms or strong winds come along, the plant with very shallow roots is much more likely to be exposed and even killed.  The plant that has much deeper roots has a much better chance of surviving the storm.

We are the same way.  People who have gone through difficulties in their lives and learn and grow from them are much less likely to crumble when other difficulties come along.  Going through and surviving difficult times builds up a person’s ability to deal with future difficulties.

It is through the difficult times in our lives that we experience the greatest amount of growth.  Instead of running from difficulties and avoiding them at all costs, we should adopt the mindset of making the most of them and achieving every possible amount of growth from them.  We will end up being much more beautiful and strong in the end.

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Building Sustainable Success

sustainable success

A few weeks ago, as I was flying across the country for work, I was looking through one of the airline magazines and I came across a story that caught my attention.  The article was highlighting places to visit and the article was highlighting taking a tour of the 116-year-old Biltmore Estate located in Asheville, North Carolina.  The 175,000-square-foot home sits on 8,000 acres still emanates its founder’s (George Washington Vanderbilt’s) illustrious grandeur.  The pictures of the home were absolutely beautiful and just jumped off the pages of the magazine.  Remarkably, this home still remains privately owned, even to this day.

So how in the world could such a beautiful home stay so beautiful and well maintained for such a long period of time?  My mind kept going back to this question running through my head.

As I read on, I learned that although much of the robber-baron wealth of his grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt (earned though shipping and railroads in the early 1800s) has dissipated through his heirs, the Biltmore Estate continues to thrive because it was founded on a vision of sustainability.  While many of the Gilded Age estates have been reduced to rubble, taken over by the state or sold to nonprofit entities, Biltmore remains a privately owned, for-profit working estate.

George Vanderbilt’s vision wasn’t only to build the largest private home in America (which it still is today 100+ years later) but to also have it be self-supporting.

In addition to the grand estate, George also had built the Biltmore School, scientific forestry programs, poultry farms, cattle farms, hog farms and a dairy.  He also built the Biltmore Village for all those who would work on the estate, complete with a church.

Today the enterprise is not only a profitable historical tourist attraction, but also a worldwide brand that includes a furniture line, house wares and it’s own winery, which today is the most visited winery in North America.  The visits to the winery each year even exceeds the number of visits to any one winery in the Napa Valley in California, which is considered the winery capital of the United States.  This winery located in North Carolina ships more than 120,000 cases of wine each year.

It would seem that George Vanderbilt had the corner market on being successful.  That would seem true, but even more impressive than the success he achieved, was the fact that this success could be maintained for such a long period of time.  Any one of us can achieve success, but the ability to have sustainable success seems to be a whole other level.

So how do you sustain the success you achieve in life?

Let’s start by looking at what sustainability is.

Sustainability is the capacity to endure; to be diverse and productive over time; exhibiting the potential for long-term maintenance and well-being.

There is the area of personal success that you want to be sustainable, but what I want to focus on today is having sustainable success when it comes to your business.  Even if you are not the owner of your own business, there are still questions you should consider, as an employee, to understand and help built the sustained success of the company you work for.

If you are going to have the ability to sustain your success in business for the long-term, here are the three areas you need to consider and the questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Resource Sustainability

If you evaluate the resources critical to the operation of your business, are they sustainable?  Have you considered several contingency plans?  Do you have enough diverse relationships (vendors, bankers, partners, suppliers, internal operational processes, etc.) for long-tem maintenance and well-being under the pressure of any market, economic and brand crisis that might come?


  1. Marketplace Sustainability

If your market significantly shifted or evolved past your current  market advantage or the market need for you product or service went into a recession, would the totality of your success go along with it?  Are you, or is your business, in enough diverse markets or with enough different customers to allow you to endure and be productive under almost any circumstance?


  1. Financial Sustainability

If your income comes from a single dominant product, service, or customer, your sustainability is in serious jeopardy.  Even dominant products like railroads, oil and banking reclaim the wealth of giants.  A diversity of income streams from a multitude of products, service offerings and customers are critical to your long-term sustainability.

There are many people and businesses that achieve various levels of success throughout their lives, but the ability to sustain that success is what separates the successful people form the really successful people.  I would encourage each of you to consider the position you are currently in.  Go through the questions above and see if you are positioning yourself to be successful for the long-haul.  Sustainable success is not achieved by all, but for those who do, they will be remembered for a very long time, even after your time on earth is over.

Posted in Accountability, Attitude, Change, Communication, Decisions, Dreams/Goals, Leaving a Legacy, Money, Motivational, Opportunity, Performance, Prioritize, Purpose, Reinventing Yourself, Thoughts/Mindset, Vision | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Were Not an Accident


Jeremiah 1:4-5 (NIV)

The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

God knew us before we were even born.  What an amazing thought that is!  He saw our unformed substance and said, “I have a purpose for this life.  I have good plans for them.”  Then He breathed His life into us and sent us through our mothers and fathers.  We have been handpicked by the Almighty God to be here at this time in this place in history.  There is nothing but ourselves that can stop us from being all that God intended for us to be.

Sometimes we hear parents say, “We weren’t expecting this child.  They were a surprise.  They were an accident.”  That is not true.  While that child may have been a surprise to the parents, they were not a surprise to God.  No child can be born without God breathing His life into them.  You may think, “I was unwanted.  I was an unplanned pregnancy.”  No, you would not be here if God didn’t want you here.

In God’s eyes, there is no such thing as a mistake.  God does not make mistakes.  God never says, “Oops.”  Remember that God knew each one of us before we were even born.  We need to be confident in His love knowing that we are each a person of destiny and we are each a part of His mighty plan.

Let’s take time today to thank God for the life He has given us and for putting us here in our earthly families.  If we have the approval of God, the approval of others should not matter that much.

Posted in Attitude, Decisions, God, Hope, Inspirational, Leaving a Legacy, Motivational, Opportunity, Reinventing Yourself, Relationships, Thoughts/Mindset | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Are My Hero

star trek

Our culture seems to be fascinated by superheroes.  From The Avengers to Man of Steel, there have been more movies featuring superheroes in the past few years than ever before.  Our society seems to be absolutely obsessed with heroes, both fictional and real.  People want someone who they can look to that displays all the traits that they want for themselves, but are not able to achieve.

I grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s and I loved watching my favorite superheroes on TV and can remember wanting to have some of their same traits.  Here is a list of my Top 10 fiction heroes.  I would love for you to share with me who some of your favorite fictional heroes were when you grew up.

Top 10 Fiction Heroes

Captain Kirk

I was a bit of a “trekie” growing up.  I loved watching the original series and the early motion pictures of Star Trek in the early and mid-80’s.  I loved how James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, would always fight the bad guy and win.  He would usually get the girl too, which was an added bonus.

George Bailey

We usually only think about George Bailey once a year at Christmas time, but he exemplifies what it means to be knocked down and get back up again, even if it takes a little help from up above.


When you can fly and your only weakness is located on another planet millions of light years away, you’re pretty much set to make any superhero list.  There have been many different people who have played Superman through the years, but for me, it will always be Christopher Reeves.

James Bond

The gadgets, the guns, the lifestyle.  Everyone has wanted to add 007 to their title at some point.  There have been so many amazing James Bond movies through the years, but my favorite Bond would have to be Roger Moore.  Sean Connery would be a close second for me.

Luke Skywalker

“May the force be with you.”  Luke’s story is one I could relate with, as it speaks to generations of young people just coming into their own and finding their way in the world.  Besides, anyone with enough courage to face Darth Vader is pretty courageous in my book.

GI Joe

I loved playing with my GI Joe action figures.  I also loved watching the GI Joe cartoon that was on our 4 channel TV growing up.  There were several characters on the good side and I loved them all.  I loved watching them battle Cobra Commander and all his evil forces.

Incredible Hulk

I loved watching the old TV series.  The one where the hulk was played by Lou Ferrigno.  The green body paint was classic.  To look back on an episode of the show now makes it seem pretty old, but at the time, it was so cool to me.

Six Million Dollar Man

This was the hero on the TV show in early 70’s.  By the time I watched the show, the series was already over and it was in reruns.  I just loved watching Lee Majors as the Bionic ex- astronaut as he would fight the bad guys.  The great thing about these old shows is that the line between the good guys and the bad guys was so clearly drawn.  That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

Indiana Jones

As a college professor who moonlighted as a whip-wielding archaeologist, Indy was the perfect blend of intelligence combined with action, making him an iconic and unforgettable adventurer.

Atticus Finch

While he isn’t famous for fighting villains or saving the world, Atticus Finch is a hero who definitely deserves to be on the list by teaching us all what it means to live with integrity and to stand up for what’s right.  He is the everyday man’s hero.


It is fun for me to think back on these fictional heroes from my childhood.  As I have grown up, I have learned that there is only one superhero in which I want to emulate.  That person is Jesus.  He is the only man who ever lived who lived a sinless life.  His kindness and compassion towards people is something I find myself trying to emulate.  As I try to become more like Jesus each day of my life, I find that it has heavenly importance and that is what really counts.  We should all try to live each of our days with Him as the One we model our lives after.

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