It has been said of me that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I’ve made a living in a variety of ways in my life from working cattle on a ranch to making lumber in a sawmill. I’ve been an oilfield worker, professional photographer, carpenter, minister (20 years), realtor, developer, writer, speaker, founded an organization that empowered 120,000 volunteers to provide 20 million meals for disaster relief in Haiti and spend a great deal of my effort empowering people to feed the hungry.

I’m exactly what I want to be: curious and flexible. I leave very few stones unturned.

Learn More About Rick


Writer and Speaker

critical thinking word cloud

The 5 Differences Between Critical Thinking and Critical People


Whenever a person tells me they have constructive criticism for me, I feel like an abused animal cowering in the corner of the humane society; I know I’m getting ready to get kicked again.  I just wish that person would be honest and say they have destructive criticism for me.  Beware of the destructive criticism that arrives dressed in the form of constructive criticism.

I’ve learned there are vast differences between critical thinking and critical people. I love critical thinkers but I avoid critical people as if they carried the bubonic plague.

While critical thinking is absolutely necessary to design or analyze an organization, a system, an idea, or a process, critical people are demoralizing and limit productive engagement.  Here are 5 differences between critical thinking and critical people.

1. Critical thinking identifies the problem and immediately searches for the optimal solution; critical people like finding fault for the sake of finding fault.

2. Critical thinking analyzes a process or system for the glitch that inhibits excellence; critical people point out who is to blame.

3. Critical thinking frames the issue based on cause and effect; critical people frame the issue on personal motive and affect.

4.  Critical thinking stays focused on the problem at hand; critical people run off on tangents unrelated to the problem at hand.

5. Critical thinking challenges the best minds to contribute to the solution; critical people alienate others with an attempt to make themselves look good.

Critical thinkers want to provide answers to a problem; critical people just like to complain about anything and anyone they can.

If you’re having problems with a critical person and a whiner, maybe these will help:  7 Types of Critics and How to Respond to Them and The No-Whinin’ Zone: How to Handle a Whiner.

How do you deal with critical people?

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Image purchased from istock.com




Writing Your Way Out of a Difficult Circumstance


No one has the power to take away your ability to interpret your own circumstances.  –  Dr. Vincent Amanor-Bouda, Kansas State University

 If you were not the person neck deep in your difficult circumstance right now, what advice would you give yourself to come out on top? If you could step outside of your body and become one of your friends, colleagues, or family, what kind of game plan would you help yourself put together in order to become a victor and not a victim?

Imagine, then, that you are an author writing a story with the elements of your current circumstance. Remove yourself as best you can from the emotion and confusion and start writing the story.

Begin by doing this:

Write down the names of main characters

  • Give a brief description of them
  • Why are they a part of the story?
  • Are they bringing solutions or more confusion?

Write down the basic plot

  • Origin of the problem
  • Contributing factors
  • Dangers involved
  • Attempted solutions that failed

Write down your part

  • How and where do you fit into this mess?
  • What positive influence can you have to make the story end well?
  • How do you emerge the hero?
  • What about this can you use to make you stronger and wiser?
  • How can you help others do the same?

The more you narrate your life’s story, the more you will enjoy it.



Collective Impact: Collaboration on Steroids


When my siblings and I got in trouble as kids, we were plopped down on a couch and lectured about how why we were headed for a life behind bars if we didn’t change our nefarious ways. Then we were told to kiss, make up and go play together nicely. We’d smile; give fake hugs then resume pummeling each other while Mom wasn’t looking. Some folks view collaboration like this.

Collaboration is a popular buzzword that is often used loosely. While it is the ideal principle of getting great things done, there is a difference between saying that you play together as a team and actually playing together as a team.

Now, there is a new model of collaboration on steroids; Collective Impact. The was created by Stanford University after researchers tried to understand what organizations were actually moving the needle on various social problems. They determined that “large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.” In other words, folks tend to work in silos doing their own thing and not much gets accomplished to move the needle.

Collective Impact differs because of these five things: (you can see more detail here)

Common Agenda

Shared Measurements

Mutually reinforcing activity

Continuous communication

Backbone organization

While collaboration is one of those loosely defined terms that are as hard to nail down as trying to eat peas with a butter-knife, Collective Impact sharpens the focus. The idea of Collective Impact was originally focused on nonprofits, but corporations are adapting the model to fit their needs.


Collective Impact is best illustrated in one of my favorite African proverbs; If you want to run fast, run by yourself; if you want to run far, run with others.


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Does Your Organization Have a Good Utility Player?


Watching the World Series with my wife is like having my own private commentator about the nuances of the game. We mute the blather of the on-air commentators as she explains the chess match on grass and dirt. My wife not only knows more about baseball than I do, she’s better at it.

In a recent game, she explained the value of the utility player. While most of the players specialize in their position – ergo the term position players- they often are only good at one position. However, a utility player is good at all the positions.

Zack Meisel writes, “Utility players don’t pack the powerful punch of a Home Run Derby participant, tote the always-reliable bat of a middle-of-the-order hitter or possess the swiftness on the basepaths of a basestealing bandit. But in a pinch, a manager can breathe easy knowing that his last guy on the bench can adapt to just about any situation he’s thrown into.”

The Value of a Utility Player

Understand how all the pieces fit

Like a good baseball team, a healthy organization needs a good utility player who is good at all the positions- they are the ones that understand better the intricacies involved in all facets. Often, specialists or position players have a pretty myopic view of the organization and believe the world revolves around them. However, a utility player sees the interconnectedness of each position and the value that each one brings.

Can play any role for a period of time

Utility players not only see how it all fits together, they can jump into any role and do it well. This is handy when the specialist is out for a game or two.

Can help coach the position players

Because they know the roles and responsibilities of each position, they can assist the position players with well-timed coaching.

Provide balance to the organization

Position players and specialists can be prima donnas, but a good utility player – also known as a versatility player-  gives the organization an overall sense of balance.

 A well-rounded utility player helps the General Manager and the coaches sleep better at night. They make the organization more cohesive and less vulnerable.

And on occasions, they hit a homer, steal a base, and strike out the opposing team to retire the side.

 Photo: mine




Shining Your Light in the Darkness


The light on the end table in our bedroom turned on at 2:00 in the morning. It was six feet from our bed. We do not have a clapper.

I asked my wife if she turned it on. Nope. I asked the dog. Nope.

My wife told me it was a sign. I had to wake up at 4:00 AM to catch a flight to Haiti to meet desperately hungry school kids in a village called Balan. She reminded me of this verse:

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10)

 We’ve lived in that same house with that same lamp for ten years. That lamp never turned on by itself before; it hasn’t since. That was five years ago the light turned on by itself.

 Several years earlier, I met a starving girl in Nicaragua who prompted me to make a vow; I would spend the rest of my life getting as many people as I could to feed as many hungry people as I could.

I’ve been in the hunger-space for quite some time now and think the people who work on these issues are some of the greatest people I’ve met. Oh, sure, I’ve met a couple of jerks, but by-and-large the people who work in this space are delightful. When compassion is the thread that unites people, goodness is the result of their activity.

Hunger is a bi-partisan issue. All religions believe feeding hungry people is a good thing. Scientists, politicians, bureaucrats, business people, factory workers, educators, and people from all walks of life- especially the poor- try to figure out how to feed hungry people.

If you’re looking for a purpose in life, may I suggest feeding the hungry? You don’t have to go all-out like I do; that’s just my nature. But you can do a lot of little things. Volunteer at the food bank; serve at a soup kitchen; have a meal-packaging event; make a donation to someone who feeds the hungry; pay your workers enough to live on; help a poor family get their kids educated; Plant a Row for the Hungry. If these ideas aren’t enough, email me, there’s more where those came from.

Any effort- no matter how small- matters to you and to the person you’re trying to help.

Your bedroom lamp might not turn on in the middle of the night, but I bet you find the sun shining in your life is brighter than before.

I used to want my epitaph to read: See, I told you I was sick.

Now I want it to read: He loved well and fed a lot of hungry people.

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Photo: mine









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