Dave Ramsey at Catalyst West 2011

imageMy brother is a bit of a Dave Ramsey fanboy so I took great pleasure in gloating to him via text that I was close to his hero.  Ramsey has built a very successful organization meant to help people be smart with their money and avoid debt at all costs.  There’s probably a pun in there somewhere.

One thing that stuck with me from Ramsey’s talk was a story he shared about a company picnic.  He employs around 300 people and holds a big family picnic every year with inflatable jump houses, barbecue, and whatever else he can do to show his appreciation for the employees.  As he arrived at the picnic he looked at this field full of kids running everywhere playing and he asked his teenage son what he saw. 

“Lots of kids,” was his son’s predictable reply.  Ramsey saw more than that, of course.  If he didn’t it would be a pretty dumb story.

Ramsey said that if he, as the leader of his organization and the employer of the parents of these children, makes a really stupid decision – it would affect all of them.  With all the blessings he enjoys as the leader of a successful organization, he also has the great responsibility of knowing that his actions impact a lot of people in significant ways.  I thought this was a novel way to communicate the principle anybody in leadership has heard a million times: leadership is service.

Through his talk Ramsey shared five principles that guide him as he leads his organization.  They were pretty standard – People Matter, Incredible Team and Culture Matter, Slow and Steady Matters, Financial Principles Matter, and A Higher Calling Matters.  He had good things to say about all of those principles.  A few notes I took that stuck with me most:

“When you get on fire about taking care of the needs of others, courage comes over you.”

“A great team gives you courage.”

"The tortoise wins every time; you don’t finish if you don’t do the little things right.”

“Practice excellence in the ordinary.”  These last two in particular got me thinking about the day-in-day-out practice in my classroom.  I want every day, every lesson plan to be excellent, not just so-so. 

“When you have a pile of money and no debt, you have more courage.”  Ramsey is rabidly opposed to debt, even to the point of discouraging student loans.  While I’m not quite on the same page with him there, I do think this statement is true and helps demonstrate that the way you manage your money is more than just a money thing.  When you’re stressed out about whether or not you can pay the bills, you are less likely to take some risks that you might otherwise take.  When you have some savings and you don’t have some debt, some things you just assume you couldn’t do become possible. 

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