Peaceful Surroundings

For 15 years, I traveled to Houston to produce games at the Astrodome, Rice Stadium and other venues. My journeys consisted of landing at Hobby Airport, renting a car and driving toward the Medical Center. To me, Houston was a lot of concrete, traffic and tall buildings. So when I received a call in 1998 to come to Houston to meet a man who wrote a book about his business, I recall thinking, “Great, another trip to the asphalt jungle.”

Little did I know there is a hidden gem within Houston’s 600 spacious square miles – 30 minutes from the better known Bush Intercontinental Airport – that has pine trees and not a high-rise in sight. That author, Bud Hadfield, discovered this special place off Hwy. 290 on Telge Road about three decades ago. Enthralled with its beauty, Bud moved the franchising company he started to a scenic 100-acre creekside tract and started converting low-lying woods into a secluded campus for housing and training franchisees. Eventually, he came up with the idea for a resort on the property to host business meetings, weddings and all sorts of gatherings.

Northwest Forest Conference Center is a peaceful oasis within the hectic pace of the nation’s fourth largest city. With meeting facilities – including a ‘can’t tell it from the original’ replica of the Alamo – and comfortable sleeping rooms where the only noise you’ll hear is the sound of nature in its nocturnal splendor, Northwest Forest is serenity defined.

I arrived for that meeting with Bud not fully aware of why he invited me to spend a day with him. Seems he wanted to offer me a job. I said yes… and we relocated. For more than six years, I had an office that looked out over the expanse of Northwest Forest. Suffice it to say, I didn’t need any extra motivation to get up in the morning. Whenever my extended family and friends would see it for the first time, they were struck by its uniqueness.

I still hold meetings at Northwest Forest Conference Center – and turning into the long driveway and seeing the gorgeous trees always fills me with energy. I know there isn’t a more serene setting in Houston… and you have to drive many miles to try and find another place like it in Texas.


Lessons Learned – #10

You acquire wisdom one enlightened moment at a time. For me, 2011 marks 30 years since I began working. That’s a lot of opportunities for learning. Each December, our e-newsletter focuses on the Top 10 lessons I learned during the year. Here is #10 for 2010:

Innovative Idea – Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” coined a term this year: creatonomy. He defines it as leaders encouraging employees “to do their jobs and satisfy customers in the most effective and charismatic way possible.” Think: Southwest Airlines, Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out Burger. In Lencioni’s view, “Their employees are passionate and committed and take complete responsibility for their work, consistently turning customers into loyal fans.” How does the time you spend defining your products and services compare to the coaching you provide the people who deliver them?


Money Isn’t the Answer

Continuing counting down the Top 10 things I learned in 2009:


Hold That Tiger – Dan Jenkins, the legendary former SI writer and author of many humorous sports novels, once described the “10 Stages of Drunkenness.” Number one is ‘Witty and Charming.’ Four is ‘Clairvoyant.’ Six is ‘Patriotic.’ Nine and Ten: ‘Invisible’ and ‘Bulletproof.’ In the last three weeks, we learned the invincible Tiger Woods was drunk on power and wealth. The meteoric fall from grace of another high-profile celebrity is a reminder that happiness does not come from money and fame. If it did, then so many blessed with so much wouldn’t act so little.