Mary Kay Ash (1918-2001), founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, the largest direct-sales cosmetic company in the world, built her business empire on a very uncomplicated formula for success. Here it is: Put God first, family second and career third.

In a little Mexican village by the sea there once lived a local fisherman. Every day he would go out in his little boat to catch fish and one morning, as he returned to dock with three very large fish, a tourist approached to marvel and congratulate him on the size of his catch.

The tourist just happened to be an MBA graduate from Harvard Business School. He asked the fisherman if he had been out fishing for a long time to haul such magnificent fish. “Oh, no senor!” said the friendly local, “just a couple of hours.”

The trained Harvard MBA immediately saw the commercial potential and he just couldn’t resist but share his business acumen. “Well, my friend, if that’s what you can do in a couple of hours just imagine what you could achieve if you fished all day.”

The fisherman shook his head and then replied, “Si senor, but I only ever catch enough fish each day to supply my family’s needs.”

The businessman continued the exchange. “That must be gratifying but tell me, it’s still early in the morning; how do spend the rest of your day?”

The simple fisherman smiled warmly and replied, “Well, I go home and take it easy with my wife who takes care of our little hacienda. We tend to our garden and have some lunch together and then, my wife and me, we always have our siesta in the afternoon. Then, we meet our friends and family in the square and we talk together. We drink some wine, sing a few songs, and I play the guitar.”

The businessman just couldn’t contain himself. With a wise and knowledgeable look he said, “Look, my friend, you’ve got it all wrong. I’m an MBA graduate from Harvard. Let me to tell you what you should be doing.” The Mexican shrugged his shoulders and so the businessman continued. “If you take your boat out and fish all day you will bring home a bigger catch. You can then sell the extra fish at the market for a tidy profit and soon you will be able to get a bigger boat. Then, in a year or two, you will be able to buy another boat, and another, and you can employ people to work them for you.”

“But then what would I do, senor?” asked the fisherman.

“Well, after a few more years you would then invest in a cannery and start to handle everything yourself. Production, packaging, marketing, sales and distribution; the whole shebang!”

The fisherman was intrigued, “And then, what next, senor?” he asked.

“Then you expand the business. You move to New York and establish yourself in America. And after that, you begin exporting to the international markets.”

“But then, what would I do, senor?” came the reply.

By now the Harvard graduate was really excited and with a hushed voice he said, “Then you move to up-town Los Angeles. Twenty years from now, you float the company on the stock-market, become a multi-millionaire and retire a rich man!”

“Si, but then what would I do, senor?” the fisherman asked politely.

The businessman was incredulous: “Why… why then you buy yourself a nice little place down here in Mexico. You do a little fishing, spend some time in your garden, have siestas in the afternoons, spend time with your family and friends, drink a little wine, sing a few songs together and play your guitar!”

The local fisherman was silent for a moment and then he said, “Tell me, senor, just how difficult is it to get an MBA anyhow?”

Rob Parsons

“O God, be Thou exalted over my possessions. Nothing of earth’s treasures shall seem dear unto me if only Thou art glorified in my life. Be Thou exalted over my friendships. I am determined that Thou shalt be above all, though I must stand deserted and alone in the midst of the earth. Be Thou exalted over my comforts. Though it may mean the loss of bodily comforts and the carrying of heavy crosses, I shall keep my vow made this day before Thee. Be Thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee even if as a result I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honour, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase; let me sink that Thou mayest rise above.”

A. W. Tozer

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Carlisle Cumbria: OM Publishing (2011 edition), p.98-99

“The most important thing is to make the most important thing the most important thing!”

Stephen R. Covey

(Shorter version): A wealthy businessman was upset to find a fisherman sitting beside his boat. ‘Why aren’t you out fishing?’ he asked. ‘Because I’ve caught enough for today,’ replied the fisherman. ‘Why don’t you catch more fish than you need?’ the businessman asked. ‘What would I do with them?’ replied the fisherman. The businessman said, ‘You could earn more money, buy a bigger boat, catch even bigger fish and make more money. Soon you’d have a whole fleet of boats and be rich like me.’ The fisherman said, Then what would I do?’ The businessman replied, ‘You could sit back and enjoy life.’ The fisherman said, ‘What do you think I am doing right now?’

One day an old Cherokee Indian left his home on the reservation to make a trip to visit his nephew in the big city. The massive skyscrapers, the noise of the traffic and the sheer volume of people coming and going overwhelmed the old Indian. And yet, as he walked down the street he suddenly stopped in his tracks, turned to his nephew, smiled and said, “Shush, listen! I can hear a cricket.”

His nephew shook his head at the old man and said, “You must be crazy! How on earth could anyone possibly hear a cricket among all this hustle and bustle and noise?”

The old Indian said nothing but walked over to a nearby grass verge. Slowly, he pulled back the low branches of a shrub and then, quick as a flash, he reached into the undergrowth and pulled out a cricket.

The nephew stood back in amazement and stuttered, “How on earth…?”

“It all depends on what you focus your attention on and what you listen out for,” said the Indian. “Let me show you… watch this.” – With that, the old Cherokee put his hand into his pocket, pulled out a handful of loose change and threw the coins in the air. Up and down the busy street, hundreds of heads instantly turned to look for the source of the jingling sound!

“See what I mean?” said the Indian.

Too many priorities paralyse us: Do you know why animal trainers carry a stool when they go into a cage of lions? They have their whips, of course, and their pistols at their sides. But invariable they also carry a stool. The trainer holds the stool by the back and thrusts the legs towards the face of the wild animal. The animal tries to focus on all four legs at once, and in an attempt to focus on all four, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal, and it becomes tame, weak, and disabled because its attention is fragmented. Same with us: divided attention paralyses.

John Maxwell

Source: John C. Maxwell, Developing The Leader Within You, 1993, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, p.31

The most important things in life aren’t things!

Organise or agonise.

Where there’s a mess there’s always a message. What does it say?

“He is a wise man who wastes no energy on pursuits for which he is not fitted; and he is wiser still who from among the things he can do well, chooses and resolutely follows the best.”

William Gladstone (1809-1898), four-times British prime minister

Prioritise: There is no place like

British people are a funny lot. We leave our cars, worth thousands of pounds, on the drive, and fill our garages full of worthless junk!

The hardest thing in the world for some people to say is the word, “No” – but, when it comes to managing ones time effectively that is, unfortunately, a word that often must be said.

A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two is never quite sure.

“So little done, so much to do.”

Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), British colonial financier and statesman of South Africa.

“Most people have priorities; the problem is they don’t keep them.”

Paul J. Meyer

It is easy to get our priorities wrong. An advertisement appeared in a newspaper: ‘Farmer seeks lady with tractor with a view to companionship and possible marriage. Please send picture – of tractor.’