“17 Inches” – A GREAT Life Lesson!

Since we have grandsons who play baseball, this story quickly caught my attention. I soon realized it wasn’t really about baseball at all but about life in general and how we choose to live it.
Although I shared this article on our Facebook page earlier this week, I felt it was worthy of posting again. PLEASE  take the time to read it to the end. I promise it will be well worth your time!
Also, please share with your family and friends, children and grandchildren, anyone you know in a leadership position, and any coaches you may know,  regardless of the sport they coach.
No photo description available.

Ken Koenen

Twenty years ago, in Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s (American Baseball Coaches Association) convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter; I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage. Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?” Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”…………“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello !” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause. “Coaches… what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice? or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate? “

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline.

We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We just widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government. Our so-called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable.

From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: “If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools & churches & our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside, “…We have dark days ahead!.”

Note: Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach. His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”

And this my friends is what our country has become and what is wrong with it today, and now go out there and fix it!

“Don’t widen the plate.”

Perfectly stated!

See you next week for more Wisdom Matters!

The 21 Laws of Leadership

Follow These Laws and People Will Follow You

Last week we reviewed The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell. If you didn’t have an opportunity to read that post, I’d highly recommend reading it before diving into this one.

This week we’re going to study more wisdom on leadership from John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership. These laws carry consequences with them. Apply the laws and people will follow you. Violate or ignore them, and you will not be able to lead others. The good news is everyone of the 21 laws of leadership can be learned.”


1. The Law of the Lid: Maxwell believes The Law of the Lid is the most important leadership principle we will ever learn. Maxwell states, “Leadership ability is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. If the leadership is strong, the lid is high. But if it’s not, then the organization is limited. That’s why in times of trouble, organizations naturally look for new leadership.”

2. The Law of Influence: “The true measure of leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that can’t be mandated. It must be earned.”

3. The Law of Process: “Successful leaders are learners. Leadership develops daily, not in a day.”

4. The Law of Navigation: “First-rate navigators always have in mind that other people are depending on them and their ability to chart a good course.”

5. The Law of E.F. Hutton: “When the real leader speaks, people listen.”

6. The Law of Solid Ground: “Trust is the foundation of leadership. People will tolerate honest mistakes, but if you violate their trust you will find it very difficult to ever regain their confidence.”

7. The Law of Respect: “People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves.”

8. The Law of Intuition: “Leaders see everything with a leadership bias, and as a result, they instinctively, almost automatically, know what to do. The great ones can see things others can’t, make changes, and move forward before others know what’s happening.”

9. The Law of Magnetism: “Who you are is who you attract. In most situations, you draw people to you who possess the same qualities as you do.”

10. The Law of Connection: “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. The greatest leaders are able to connect on both levels: with individuals and with an audience.”

11. The Law of the Inner Circle: “A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. If those people are strong, then the leader can make a huge impact. If they are weak, he can’t.”

12. The Law of Empowerment: “Only secure leaders give power to others. The number one enemy of empowerment is the desire for job security.”

13. The Law of Reproduction: “It takes a leader to raise up a leader. People cannot give to others what they themselves do not possess. Followers simply cannot develop leaders.”

14. The Law of Buy-In: “Every message that people receive is filtered through the messenger who delivers it. If you consider the messenger to be credible, then you believe the message has value.”

15. The Law of Victory: “Victory is possible as long as you have three components:

  • Unity of vision
  • Diversity of skills
  • A leader dedicated to victory and raising players to their potential”

16. The Law of the Big Mo: “Strong leaders understand that to change direction, you first have to  create forward progress. When leadership is strong and there is momentum in an organization, people are motivated and inspired to perform at higher levels.”

17. The Law of Priorities: “Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment. To be effective, leaders must order their lives according to these three questions:

  • What is required?
  • What gives the greatest return?
  • What brings the greatest reward?”

18. The Law of Sacrifice: “Usually, the higher that the leader has climbed, the greater the sacrifice he has made. Effective leaders sacrifice much that is good in order to dedicate themselves to what is best.” Just a caveat on this quote; knowing John Maxwell as I do, he would not advocate sacrificing your health, your marriage or family relationships for the sake of climbing the corporate ladder!

19. The Law of Timing: “When to lead is just as important as what to do and where to go. Only the right action at the right time will bring success. Anything else exacts a high price.”

20. The Law of Explosive Growth: “To add growth, lead followers—to multiply, lead leaders.”

21. The Law of Legacy: “A leaders lasting value is measured by succession. A legacy is created only when a person puts his organization into the position to do great things without him.”


I hope you’ve enjoyed soaking in this very brief wisdom-filled overview of John Maxwell’s laws of leadership. Just like last week, it’s just the very tip of the iceberg relative to the wealth of knowledge and wisdom you’ll find in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

You can download a free copy of John Maxwell’s 21 laws of leadership that I’ve outlined above at my website Wisdom-Matters by clicking on the “Free Resources” tab.

Also, if anyone has read this book, or any other book written by Maxwell, I’d love to read your comments.

NOTE: Please see my full disclosure policy on my usage of Hyper-Links for additional information.

See you next Sunday for more Wisdom-Matters!

The 21 Qualities of a Leader

Becoming the Person Others Will Follow

From last week’s post, Andy Stanley’s 20th building block for a vision was “MAINTAINING A VISION REQUIRES BOLD LEADERSHIP”. Someone once said, if you think you’re a leader and turn around to find no one is following you, then you are really just out for a long walk!

man alone

In this post, I’m going to introduce you to John Maxwell. Known as America’s expert on leadership, Maxwell is the founder of the INJOY Group, an organization dedicated to helping people maximize their personal and leadership potential.

I had the privilege of meeting John years ago, I’ve attended a number of his leadership and stewardship seminars, and I’ve read just about every book he has written, more than once! He is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of leadership, and it will be well worth your time devouring his wisdom on the topic of leadership.


This week we’ll glean leadership wisdom from John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.

1. CHARACTER: First, the best definition of character I’ve ever heard comes from Andy Stanley: “Character is the will to do what is right, as God defines right, regardless of personal cost.”

John Maxwell states, “The key to transforming yourself from someone who understands leadership to a person who successfully leads in the real world is character. Your character qualities activate and empower your leadership ability—or stand in the way of your success.” A few points from Maxwell include:

  • “Character is more than talk
  • Talent is a gift, but character is a choice
  • Character brings lasting success with people
  • Leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character
  • As you lead others at home, at work, and in the community, recognize that your character is your most important asset.”

2. CHARISMA: “Charisma, plainly stated, is the ability to draw people to you. To make yourself the kind of person who attracts others, you need to personify these pointers:

  • Love life
  • Put a ’10’ on every person’s head
  • Give people hope
  •  Share yourself”

3. COMMITMENT: “True commitment attracts and inspires people. It shows them that you have conviction. They will believe you only if you believe in your cause. People buy into the leader, then the vision.”

4. COMMUNICATION: “You can be more effective as a communicator if you follow four basic truths:

  • Simplify your message
  • See the person
  • Show the truth
  • Seek a response”

5. COMPETENCE: If you want to cultivate the quality of competence, here’s what you have to do:

  • “Show up every day
  • Keep improving
  • Follow through with excellence
  • Accomplish more than expected
  • Inspire others”

6. COURAGE: “As you approach the tough decisions that challenge you, recognize these truths about courage:

  • Courage begins with an inward battle
  • Courage is making things right, not just smoothing them over
  • Courage in a leader inspires commitment from followers
  • Your life expands in proportion to your courage”

7. DISCERNMENT: “Discernment is an indispensable quality for any leader who desires to maximize effectiveness. It helps to do several important things:

  • Discover the root issue
  • Enhance your problem solving
  • Evaluate your opinions for maximum impact
  • Multiply your opportunities”

8. FOCUS: The keys to having “the focus required to be a truly effective leader are priorities and concentration. To improve your focus, do the following:

  • Shift to strengths. Make a list of three or four things you do well in your job.
  • Staff your weaknesses. Identify three or four activities necessary for your job that you don’t do well.
  • Create an edge. Time and money spent to take you to the next level are the best investment you can make.”

9. GENEROSITY: “Nothing speaks to others more loudly or serves them better than generosity from a leader. Cultivate the quality of generosity in your life. Here’s how:

  • Be grateful for whatever you have
  • Put people first
  • Don’t allow the desire for possessions to control you
  • Regard money as a resource
  • Develop the habit of giving”

10. INITIATIVE: Maxwell says there are at least four qualities “leaders possess that enable them to make things happen:

  • They know what they want
  • They push themselves to act
  • They take more risks
  • They make more mistakes”

11. LISTENING: “A good leader encourages followers to tell him what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear…keep in mind that you have two purposes for listening: to connect with people and to learn. For that reason, you should keep your ear open to these people:

  • Your followers—your customers—your competitors—your mentors”

12. PASSION: Maxwell says there are “four truths about passion and what it can do for you as a leader:

  • Passion is the first step to achievement
  • Passion increases your willpower
  • Passion changes you
  • Passion makes the impossible possible”

13. POSITIVE ATTITUDE: “A positive attitude not only determines your level of contentment as a person, but it also has an impact on how others interact with you.

  • Your attitude is a choice
  • Your attitude determines your actions
  • Your people are a mirror of your attitude
  • Maintaining a good attitude is easier than regaining one”

14. PROBLEM SOLVING: “Leaders with good problem-solving ability demonstrate five qualities:

  • They anticipate problems
  • They accept the truth
  • They see the big picture
  • They handle one thing at a time
  • They don’t give up a major goal when they’re down”

15. RELATIONSHIPS: “It requires three things to manage and cultivate good relationships as a leader:

  • Have a leader’s head—Understand people
  • Have a leader’s heart—Love people
  • Extend a leader’s hand—Help people”

16. RESPONSIBILITY: “Good leaders never embrace a victim mentality. They recognize that who and where they are remain their responsibility…characteristics of people who embrace responsibility:

  • They get the job done
  • They are willing to go the extra mile
  • They are driven by excellence
  • They produce regardless of the situation”

17. SECURITY:

  • “Secure leaders are able to believe in others because they believe in themselves
  • They aren’t arrogant; they know their own strengths and weaknesses and respect themselves
  • When their people perform well, they don’t feel threatened
  • They go out of their way to bring the best people together and then build them up so that they will perform at the highest level
  • When a secure leader’s team succeeds, it brings him great joy. He sees that as the highest compliment he can receive  for his leadership ability.”

18. SELF-DISCIPLINE: “If you want to become a leader for whom self-discipline is an asset, follow these action points:

  • Develop and follow your priorities
  • Make a disciplined lifestyle your goal
  • Challenge your excuses
  • Remove rewards until the job is done
  • Stay focused on results”

19. SERVANTHOOD: “A true servant leader:

  • Puts others ahead of his own agenda
  • Possesses the confidence to serve
  • Initiates service to others
  • Is not position-conscious
  • Serves out of love”

20. TEACHABILITY: “If you want to grow your organization, you have to remain teachable…five guidelines to help you cultivate and maintain a teachable attitude:

  • Cure your destination disease
  • Overcome your success
  • Swear off shortcuts
  • Trade in your pride
  • Never pay twice for the same mistake”

21. VISION: “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position. To get a handle on vision and how it comes to be part of a good leader’s life, understand these things:

  • Vision starts within
  • Vision draws on your history
  • Vision meets other’s needs
  • Vision helps you gather resources”

I hope you’ve enjoyed soaking in this very brief wisdom-filled overview of John Maxwell’s qualities of a leader. Unfortunately, it is just the very tip of the iceberg relative to the wealth of knowledge and wisdom you’ll find in his book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.

You can download a free copy of John Maxwell’s 21 qualities of a leader that I’ve outlined above at my website Wisdom-Matters by clicking on the “Free Resources” tab.

Also, if anyone has read this book, or any other book written by Maxwell, I’d love to read your comments.

NOTE: Please see my full disclosure policy on my usage of Hyper-Links for additional information.

See you next Sunday for more Wisdom on leadership!