What makes a great mentor?

In addition to knowledge and experience, here are seven common traits of the mentors in Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky… How to Become the Person You Want to Be:

  1. They had each been on a unique journey of their own and were willing to share their knowledge without asking for anything in return. And they weren’t afraid to give away any of their success “secrets.”
  2. They understood the power of their choices and learned to look into the future to see the consequences of the choices they were making.
  3. They worked hard.  Winning may have seemed easy, but winning only came after hard work.
  4. They loved their work yet maintained balance in their lives. They chose to invest their careers in something that engaged their hearts as well as their minds.
  5. They had a healthy blend of humility and confidence. They were grateful and readily gave credit to those who had helped them along the way.
  6. They projected a positive image, and their appearance reflected their success.
  7. They enjoyed life because they lived with purpose and understood the difference between existing and living.

Learn how to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Order Quit Drifting, Lift the Fog, and Get Lucky from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, CornerStoneLeadership, or through your local bookstore.

Begin Planning Your Retirement Party Now

The retirement party is in full swing. Associates from throughout the organization have gathered to celebrate and extend best wishes to Bob, a great leader who is retiring. The room is packed.

One by one people go to the front of the room, grab the microphone, and begin talking about the impact that Bob made on them. Some of the stories they tell are funny, some are serious, but every one of them is personal. One person talks about how Bob provided compassion and encouragement during a tough time. Another says that she is thankful that Bob demanded her best and would not accept mediocrity. Someone else states that Bob listened to him and changed his stance on an issue. Another person remembers the time Bob sent a personal congratulation note to her son for his graduation. Someone else talks about a time that Bob made a serious mistake but owned up to it, learned from it, and became a better leader because of the experience.

Other team members begin their speeches with: I remember . . . ; You took the time to . . . ; You helped me . . . ; Ill never forget . . . ; You cared enough to . . . ; and so on.

No one spoke about successful or failed strategies. No one mentioned a successful or failed marketing program. There were no toasts to celebrate winning an account. The evening was filled with personal stories of how Bob treated each person individually.

Meanwhile, in the same building, another retirement party is going on. The party is a not a retirement celebration. It is a celebration that a leader has retired. In fact, the leader who is retiring was not even invited to the party. He did the same job and worked just as hard as Bob. But he chose to do it differently. He was a jerk.

Which retirement party do you want?

Bob understood that leadership was not about him. His primary interest was not in the accumulation of power—it was in developing his people to become their very best. The other retiree was more interested in the accumulation of power and wealth than helping those around him become their best. Typically, jerks are greedy and interested in only themselves. They act and react without thinking. Jerks enjoy taking the easy road and are quick to blame others.

That is not you. You are a great person with honorable intentions, but sometimes you may come across differently than what you really are. Unfortunately, everyone occasionally and unintentionally comes across like a jerk. Even Bob appeared to be a jerk at times. The difference in the two retirees was how often they appeared to be jerks and how quickly they recovered when their jerk moment appeared. Bob’s jerk moments were rare, temporary, and he recovered from them quickly. His team knew that regardless of the temporary jerk moment, he had their best interest in mind. The other retiree’s team knew that his jerk moment was just another ordinary day.

You may be thinking that some jerks achieve extraordinary results. After all, you have heard that nice guys finish last. Yes, some jerks have achieved extraordinary results. You may be a marketing genius, fabulous communicator, and incredible visionary. Regardless, people in your organization will probably not stick around for long if you choose the bullying, arrogant, insulting, and uncompromising leadership route.

Excerpted from The First Two Rules of Leadership. Don’t Be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk by David Cottrell Wiley 2016

Thanksgiving Week 2020

Thanksgiving 2019 feels like a few decades ago doesn’t it?  This has been one CRAZY year that has stretched our sanity to the max. Staring into the near future produces quite a bit of angst as well. Regardless of our level of anxiety, one thing is for sure – we still have plenty to be grateful for right now.

Here are three blessings at the top of my list:

  1. I live in the greatest country on earth.  Even with our disagreements and quirks, who would trade the USA for anywhere else?  I wouldn’t. 
  2. I have a wonderful family.  Madeline and my family is quite large – six children, six in-laws, 14 grandchildren plus two on the way. We are richly blessed.
  3. I am thankful for you.  Somewhere along the way our paths have crossed. Maybe we grew up together, schooled together, worked together or perhaps you have read some of my work.  Regardless, thank you for sticking with me!

Who knows what’s ahead?  Hopefully the virus will be long gone by Thanksgiving 2021.  Hopefully the Presidential transition or continuation will be relatively smooth. And, hopefully the gap between ideologically different thoughts with be narrowed with more respectful understandings.

Most of our fears will eventually dissipate. Fear and overreaction is a natural response to the unknown and we have been living in the unknown land for quite a while. Piled onto our fear is fatigue which impacts how clearly we are able to see things. 

Fueling even more fear is our reaction to information that is not entirely accurate.  We choose our sources and listen to what we want to hear, socialize with people similar to us, and worship with those who agree on the same social issues.  That is not necessarily bad, but it creates an insulated personal world where reality is not as bad… or as good… as it is portrayed on whichever side you believe.

Some things are worthy of fear and anxiety.  However, I believe that most fear is based more on predictions, assumptions, rumors, gossip, and opinions than facts. Conspiracy theories are intriguing and generate ratings, comments, likes, and shares.  However, when you look backwards and see how have they lined up with the facts of what actually happened, the conspiracy record is not so great.

Together we can make America even greater.  We can be greater at valuing lives of all colors and ages – including the lives of unborn babies.  We can do better by adhering to law and order. We can make our cities safer.  We can work together to defend our constitutional rights. We can work harder to live peacefully together.  We can be nicer and more compassionate to each other.

Don’t you think we can all do a little better?

Our lives will continue to move on.  We have work to do, issues to solve, and wounds to heal. We will have plenty of other work, issues, and wounds after the next election or crisis and the next and the next.

I hope during this Thanksgiving week you will take a few minutes to quiet the fears of your future and dwell on your blessings of today. Take a minute to call someone who you may have disagreed with and provide them a little nudge of encouragement.  You may be surprised to discover a smile and fist bump of encouragement coming right back at you.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Destination: Success … chart your course to achieve your best

Destination: Success is a fable based on an accumulation of my lifetime of experiences. It is the story of Jack Davis, a person like most of us who had to learn how to blast through tough, hug change, salute the truth, become great in small things, and many other lessons on his journey toward success.

I believe that everyone will be able to relate to the lessons taught in Destination: Success.  I hope you enjoy the book!

It is available on Amazon, CornerStoneLeadership, or at your local bookstore.

Write your story


A little over a week ago Grace Upon Grace … My Story was released.  The most consistent feedback that I have received has been  “I need to write my story, too.”

I agree. You have a story!  Everyone needs to write their story.  It would help you and those around you.

In Grace Upon Grace there are experiences described that you may be living today. There are chapters in my story that may become chapters in your story in the future. Grace Upon Grace exposes my life experiences so you can laugh and cry with me. More importantly, my life story is for you to draw strength and inspiration when you are in the midst of a personal storm in your life. And, I hope it will be a reminder for you to celebrate grace during your time of peace and joy.

My greatest desire is that you will become more acutely aware of your own story and all of your gracious blessings, regardless of your current circumstances.

Write your story. You can start with writing five or ten minutes a day.  Just get started. You may be surprised to discover how the events of your life were woven together to help you become the person you are.  You lasting legacy will be the experiences that you document and share.

When you write your story, you may discover with astonishment, amazement, and humbleness – as I did – God’s amazing grace upon amazing grace throughout your life. I hope you do.

Medicare, Social Security and Pickelball

Well, I have reached the age where my conversations tend to mysteriously evolve to medicare, social security and pickelball. (If you don’t know what pickelball is, google it. It is probably not what you are thinking).

I can’t be 65, can I? Almost. I will be 65 years old in two days. How could that be?

I have a theory about aging. My theory is that everyone thinks that they are 30% younger than the number of birthdays they have celebrated. So, in my mind I will be about 45 years old in a couple of days. I believe my theory until I try to do some things that I did when I was 45 and quickly discover that the 65 candles on the cake may be correct.

65 years tends to be a landmark age. A lot of people retire at 65. Medicare kicks in. You are a veteran AARP member. Some 65ers begin traveling. Some try to figure out their next chapter in life. Many people after they adjust to their new reality enter into their best years. For all of us, turning 65 is a natural time for reflection and anticipation for the fourth quarter of our life.

Several months ago I began reflecting and documenting my life. I think that everyone should take the time to review and share with others the events that shaped our lives. You have a unique story that only you can write. I hope you will consider doing that!

I invite you to connect with me and my reflections. Grace Upon Grace … My Story reveals the lessons that I learned and provides some insight on how those experiences may help you become the person you want to be.

Many of you have been with me on my journey. You may have been beside me in school, Xerox, FedEx, CornerStone or with me on my personal journey. You witnessed my successes and failures, breakthroughs and heartbreaks, joys and suffering.

You may get a chuckle or two when you read about some of our memories.

If you are interested in reading my story, check out Grace Upon Grace … My Story from CornerStoneLeadership.com or Amazon.com.

Cheers to many years of Medicare, Social Security and Pickelball.

Resolutions to Habits


Do you want 2017 to be your best year? Of course.  But, what can you do differently? Begin by answering the following questions:

How do you feel about yourself? If you don’t feel good about yourself, figure out why. What is missing? Take responsibility – nobody can make you happy, it is futile to look elsewhere to find happiness. There is something that can be done and there is something that you can do to address your emptiness. Take charge.

What are you giving? Think of those people whom you love to be around. What do they do to make you feel that way? Chances are they are enthusiastic, happy, encouragers who take the time to demonstrate that they care about you. You can do the same for someone else. You can be an enthusiastic encourager. It is almost impossible to feel bad about yourself when you are helping others feel good about themselves.

Who are you hanging out with? You respond to life similar to those you spend the most time with. That could be a blessing or a curse. If you want to be negative and cynical, hang with negative and cynical people. If you want to be a positive problem solver, hang with positive problem solving people. It is pretty simple. You will be a reflection of those you chose to be around.

How do you handle conflict? Conflicts happen in every relationship – can you ask for forgiveness? Can you forgive and let it go? Forgiveness is the “oil” of relationships … don’t let a disagreement destroy your life.

Don’t brood over mistakes, carry grudges or harbor hate. Take charge of how you feel about yourself. Encourage others. Hang with positive people. Settle conflicts quickly. You can make 2017 the best year of your life!

Recommended reading Monday Morning Choices. Available at CornerStoneLeadership.com or everywhere books are sold.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/

Hate Mondays? Some tips on beating the blues…

Become a Monday lover. Yep, you. “If you’re an energetic and ready-to-go Monday person,” David Cottrell said, “the people around you will become one, too.”

This is just one of the tips you can find in Gail Rosenblum’s recent article in the Star Tribune regarding Monday Morning Blues. I enjoyed the interview and wanted to share the full article with you:


Don’t Be Stupid. Hire Smart and Pay Attention.

“Our budget is tight. Let’s change the team-building exercise we have planned into a self-help study course.”    —Action item from a leadership strategy session

Every leader gets caught up in the pressure of the moment and does things that—upon reflection—were pretty stupid. Dumb things like: hiring in haste, rewarding actions that work against what you are really trying to accomplish, not paying attention to the needs of your team. Or, piling on more work and sending your superstars directly into the burnout and checkout line.

You will only be a great leader if you have great people. Hire smart – don’t “stretch” a candidate into being the person that you want them to be. If the job you are seeking to fill has been open for a while, it is natural for you to hear what you want to hear, see what you want to see, and convince yourself that you will coach the candidate to become the perfect employee. Be careful; when a position has been open for an extended period of time, you are vulnerable. Your stress builds and you pressure yourself. My experience has been that the longer a position is open, the better the next candidate looks. Before long, anyone who can fog a mirror is the perfect, obvious choice for your opening. Smart hiring does not work that way. If you hire candidates that are “on the fence” simply to get the job filled, you will pay the consequences later.

After you bring the right person on board, pay attention.  Everyone on your team asks some basic questions – even if you never hear them being asked: What is really important?  How am I doing?  Does anyone care?  How is our team doing?  Where do we fit into a bigger picture?  Are you worth following?

How are you answering those questions?  Don’t you want the same questions answered from your leader?

Don’t be stupid. Hire smart and pay attention.TwoRuleOfLeadership

If you want to achieve extraordinary results with class, read and apply The First Two Rules of Leadership: Don’t be Stupid. Don’t Be a Jerk.  It will help improve morale, decrease turnover, increase everyone’s job satisfaction, and you will have a whole lot more fun leading.

Subscribe to David’s blog here: https://davidcottrellblog.wordpress.com/


Are You Successful?

What do you need to do to be successful right now?

If you asked people in a typical organization that question, many would say success is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Some would say successful people were just lucky – good fortune fell into their laps. Some may even attribute success to their ancestors – they inherited success.

Has anyone ever been successful entirely because of good luck? Maybe, but not likely! Luck, happenstance, being in the right place at the right time, and family inheritance all may help, of course, but the reality is that many people have been in the right place at the right time, had good fortune come their way, and were born into a wealthy family … yet they never experience success.

So what do you need to do to be successful right now?

Success is ultimately realized by people who make more right choices … and recover quickly from their bad choices. Choices are directional … they lead us toward or away from the success that we are trying to achieve. Our personal and professional success depends on repeating good choices day in and day out … and avoid repeating bad choices.

Take a look at the successful people you know … in your office, your neighborhood, your city or your family. Without exception, their success has been created by their choices. It’s not about luck, the conditions or even the guardian angels guiding their lives.

The task of making good choices is a never-ending challenge … requiring plain hard work and diligence. We also get a lot of practice, because life requires that we choose between alternatives every hour of the day, every day of our lives. Whether it’s selecting one political candidate over another, filling an important position on the team, deciding how to deal with a difficult situation at work, or simply choosing a habit, such as pouring a bowl of Cheerios rather than Grape-Nuts for breakfast or ordering a latte over frappuccino, we are constantly making choices.

Making choices is a privilege that gives us freedom to mold our lives, a freedom we should never take for granted. Life is filled with pressures that force us to make constant and immediate choices. A life without choices would not be much fun.

Think it’s too late to embrace a new philosophy? Or maybe you’re worried that you can’t make the right choices. It is never too late!

According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, “The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” Don’t sell yourself short. You can make better choices beginning today to achieve what you want in life tomorrow.