Lessons in Leadership and Life


Overcoming Pride!

I am sure we have all been in a situation where we unintentionally did something to upset someone and couldn’t really understand why they were upset.  This often happens because everyone reacts differently to situations and at the end of the day we all have different feelings.  Have you ever upset someone (husband/wife, friend, boss, client…etc.) and couldn’t understand why they were upset?  What did you do in this situation?  Did you become defensive and tell the other person they were wrong being upset?  Did you give the other person the benefit of the doubt and realize that you may have done something to upset them, even if it was unintentional.  Pride is one of the toughest things to overcome, but when you can overcome PRIDE, it often times results in a positive outcome.

The WRONG Restaurant

I had a major test of my pride a few years ago when I had setup a lunch meeting with a potential client.  I called the client the day before the meeting and we were all set to meet at an Applebee’s restaurant on Dale Mabry road in Tampa.  The day of the lunch meeting, I actually left a little early to make sure I was not going to let my potential client wait.  I arrived at 11:50am and our meeting was for noon.  I decided to grab a table for us as I waited for the gentleman.  I then looked at my watch and noticed that it was 10 past noon and I began wondering what was happening.  I realized I only had his office number, so I called and spoke with the receptionist and asked for his cell number.  When I finally got in touch with him, it was about 12:15pm.

As soon as I said hi to him, I noticed an irritated voice on the other line.  He asked me where I was and then went on to tell me he didn’t have time to waste and it was very unprofessional of me to be late.  I finally had an opportunity to speak and told him that I was at the restaurant waiting for him.   I quickly realized that I was at the wrong restaurant and there was another one down the street about 20 minutes away.  I then went on to explain that we must have had some miscommunication, and then the SHOCKER…. he told me not to waste any more of his time and HUNG UP on me.  I couldn’t believe, he hung up on me.  At this point, I was pretty upset myself.  I was thinking about calling him back and letting him have a piece of my mind, but I called him back to explain the situation and he was still irritated and not being reasonable, so then my “LIGHT SWITCHED FLIPPED.” I told him he was being unfair and that I wouldn’t want someone like him as a client and said bye and hung up.  You would think that I felt great after this, but I was actually furious and also feeling really bad for what I had said to him.  This was not professional and to an extent I could understand his frustration.

PRIDE QUESTION:  Would you have called him back again?

Well, after a full 24 hours of being upset, I decided to suck upmy pride and call him to apologize.  I called the gentleman the next day and told him I was sorry for wasting his valuable time, and that I would still like to have an opportunity for us to meet and speak.  He accepted my apology and agreed to meet again in the future, but that really never panned out.


The worst part of this situation was how difficult it was for me to swallow my pride and call the guy back.  Why is it so hard for us to swallow our pride and accept ownership for miscommunication and move on?  How did I win in this situation?  I felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders by apologizing and clearing things up.  I also did not have to worry about somebody bad mouthing me.  As we all know, this is a small world and you never want to “burn bridges.”
I did learn a lot from that experience and believe it had a “Moment of Impact” on me.  Next time you get upset at someone, or don’t understand why you hurt someone, don’t take it personal.  I believe that is the key to overcoming pride.  We can only control our beliefs and reasoning, not anyone else’s.  If you can overcome pride and not take bad situations personal, you will lead a less stressful and more opportunistic life.


Can you be, TOO Passionate?

Originally posted December 3, 2011

On the wall in my office I have a framed picture of a beautiful golf course situated along a serene stretch of sand.  The title and caption says:  Passion, There are qualities which one must possess to win… definiteness of purpose, knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to posses it.”  I picked out this poster a number of years ago, because I am very passionate about my life and my ambition to continue to learn and be the best person I can be at home and at the office.   With that being said, can your passion sometimes be too much?  Can your passion be overcome by emotion?

Passion vs. Emotion

I remember a time, in one of my previous positions, when I gave a presentation in front of my associates and received very little feedback.  We were having our monthly senior managers meeting and I decided to give a 30 minute presentation titled:  Leadership for Excellence.  Basically, I was presenting a brief discussion on leadership strategies, promoting systems and business development.  I was warned by my supervisor that this group may not have been extremely receptive to the “leadership fluff” from an MBA.

Despite this warning, I whole heatedly believed in what I presented and spent quite a bit of time and passion preparing and presenting this topic.  During the presentation, I noticed a few of my associates doodling or just not paying attention.  I tried very hard not to let my emotional dissatisfaction get in the way of my message.  At the end of the talk, I was emotionally drained and quite frankly “irritated.”  I spent hours of research, preparation, and time putting the presentation together and I felt like it was for nothing.

Somebody was Actually Listening

The interesting thing is that a couple of months later one of the other managers told me he implemented the KPI (Key Performance Indicators) that I discussed in my presentation and he was very happy with the results.  Surprisingly, he thanked me for the information and we went on to have a great discussion about our teams and ways we were working to improve overall performance.

Stay Passionate, but control your Emotions

I have been fortunate to have a great group of people in my life and they keep me grounded.  Whenever I feel emotions kicking into something I am doing, I try to consult with them first about what to do.  For example, my wife always puts things in perspective for me and keeps me grounded and focused on the big picture.  She recognizes when emotions are taking over my passion for something, points it out and offers me a solid support structure.  I am very grateful to all of my friends and family who have provided me with “vital” support over my lifetime.

If you are a very passionate person, it’s important to realize that sometimes your passion can turn into emotion.  If it does, my suggestion is to find a friend to talk it over with and realize that passion is typically a long term focus.

As the poster states…. definiteness of purpose, knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to posses it.


Coaching Kids and Adults, is there a difference?

Originally posted on August 12 2010

As some of you know, I am coaching my daughter’s 5 and 6 year old soccer team.  I along with Coach Micheal decided to coach our girl’s soccer team this season.  As the season is coming to an end, I can honestly say I have truly enjoyed every minute with our kids and believe whole heartedly that being a coach or mentor is one of the most rewarding feelings in life.  The interesting thing is, that while I was coaching our kids, I reflected on my years of coaching business owners and found some interesting observations.

Here are some of the similar observations I have about coaching kids and adults.

1.  Those who want to learn……DO!

Every adult and kid who wants to master business or soccer respectively, will listen more attentively and learn quicker.  Some of the business owners I coached were anxious to listen andlearn and implement our plans and discussions into practice.  Similarly, several of our kids listened attentively to our discussions about the basics of soccer, retained the information and applied it at our game or the next practice.  Conversely, the business owners who did not take our meetings seriously, struggled and did not seem interested in what we were doing.  They were hoping I would come in and do all of the work and they didn’t really care to improve themselves.  I noticed this with our soccer team as well.  For example, a few of the kids have learned that when a ball goes out on the sideline, it means a throw in and they anxiously run to the ball to throw it in.  Others, I notice are looking around to see what everyone else is doing or not even paying attention.

2.  Those who work or play because they have to, don’t have FUN!

The business owners I worked with that enjoyed our time together, liked what they did, the projects we were working on, and had big goals, also had a lot of FUN.  I remember one of my clients who had an IT business, would always come to our meetings with great ideas and enthusiasm about his business and the potential.  He enjoyed learning and had FUN doing it.  The rewards were equally enjoyable and he saw increases in his revenue and the quality of his clients.

I know these kids are 5 and 6 and just out to have FUN, but it is easy to envision some of the more attentive and enthusiastic players in years to come.  I believe we may have a few great future soccer players. I believe there is a transistion point when a kid decides what they enjoy doing and don’t and then switch.  Is it possible when you become an adult?  Absolutely, I call this the SWITCH.


I always found it difficult to understand why business owners continue to do work they do not enjoy.  What struck me as even more strange was that they were making less money than someone in a corporate environment selling their service or product.  I understand sometimes life puts you in certain circumstances and you think you don’t have a choice, but that is absolutely FALSE!  Loans can be repaid, bankruptcies happen, and as long as you have the necessities you will survive.  You may not be able to flip a switch and sell yourbusiness and get a job, but you can plan to make a change.  On average we live 85+ years, which we all agree flies by, so why be miserable?


I once consulted with an Architect who had his own business and was struggling to find his niche and make money.  We met a few times and through those meetings, we decided that we would try a few different strategies to see if we could increase his revenue and if he could find his niche.  Over a 2 month period we tried numerous strategies and realized that he really didn’t want to own a business.  After he made this decision, he asked me to meet with him at Starbucks.  Surprisingly, he poured out his thanks to me for listening to him and helping him realize he didn’t enjoy having a business and would look into other options and make a SWITCH.

COACH RUSTAM’s Playbook:

Here are some of my SWITCHES:

1.       I was once a Pre-Med student at UF and switched to Engineering.

2.      After 8 monthsquit my first nice salary job to get my MBA.

3.      I quit a great position with an Engineering firm to start a consulting business.

4.      I quit consulting to join a promising business.


I am truly blessed with all of my opportunities and challenges and love coaching.  The interesting thing I realized after coaching my daughter’s team, is that we have the ability from a very early age to realize weather or not we will really enjoy something or if we will be good at it.  This ability is carried with us throughout our whole life, but it becomes more difficult (not impossible) to act on it.  I truly believe it is important in our lives, to have mentors, wives, husbands, parents, and friends to coach us to have a healthy, happy and fun life!


Moments of Impact!

Originally posted on July 2010

Have you ever experienced a moment when you were surprised by a person being extra kind, someone going out of there way, or making an opportunity out of a nothing?  I am sure we all have experienced moments when we are surprised by a person’s enthusiasm, dedication, or love for what he or she does.  I like to call these “Moments of Impact.”  A “Moment of Impact” can come in many forms but all have a lasting impact on the person and usually a lesson attached.  I have had many moments of impact over the years and always look for opportunities to create them for myself, our company and others.

Around 8 years ago, a receptionist had a huge “Moment of Impact” on me.  I was working at an engineering firm and was calling another engineering firm about a project we were going to bid on as a joint venture.  It’s amazing how clearly I remember my surroundings at the time of the call.  I called the Kimley-Horn ( a 1000+ employee) engineering office to speak with a project manager.  The receptionist picked up the phone and very enthusiastically said hi and asked who I was and how I was doing.  She went on to make a little small talk about the weather and then asked me if I enjoyed my job.  That was the “Moment of Impact.”  Why would she ask me if I enjoyed my job?  Why did she care?  I told her I enjoyed it very much and that we had a great team.  She was pleased to hear that and then went on for another few minutes talking about how great her company was and if I was ever unhappy to call her and she would get me in touch with the HR department.  WOW, I was completely shocked, but I also knew that the company had won numerous awards for being a great place to work and consistent growth.  Isn’t that interesting?

The WRONG #:
One story I love telling, is about one of my largest and best clients when I was consulting.   I was making follow up calls to contacts who were interested in coming to one of my seminars.  I remember the phone call vividly.  I was sitting at my desk looking at a follow up call list and dialed one of the numbers.  A gentleman answered the phone and I asked to speak with Rob Swindle.  I waited as there was a pause on the phone and then he said you must have the wrong number.  This is when I had a “Moment of Impact.”  I had two choices of what I could do:

  1. Say sorry and hang up the phone.
  2. Find out about the person on the other side.

Instead of hanging up the phone, I kindly asked the gentleman if he owned a business.  He surprisingly said yes.  I went on for a few minutes about what I did and then I started asking him questions and then just listened about his business. (Check out my post on the importance of listening).  This wrong number phone call turned into a face to face meeting and eventually a great client for me.

Take time to recognize these times in your life when someone does something unexpected, goes out of there way, or surprises the heck out of you.  Then try to create these for yourself and others and see the floodgates of opportunities open up for you, the people around you, and your business.


Listen to me, I know what I am talking about!

Originally posted on August 1, 2010

In a sales training course I took, the instructor mentioned that one of the essential steps to being successful at selling is listening.  She went on to tell us that in most conversations you have, you should try to speak 20% of the time and listen the other 80%.  She bluntly said, ask an open ended question then shut up and listen.  Over the years I have experienced the power of listening and the fact that people like to be heard.  Solomon covers this one in the Book of Proverbs by stating, “He who answers a matter before he hears it is not wise”  (see Proverbs 18:13)  This skill has proved a great deal of worth to me in business and in life.

In Business…

A couple of years ago I had a meeting with one of my clients who owned a commercial landscaping business.  As soon as we sat down, I asked him how his week was going and then just LISTENED.  Our conversation lasted nearly an hour and half.  During this time, I spoke for a total of probably 10 minutes and mainly just asked questions.  I was shocked when my client stood up thanked me for my excellent advice and said he was excited about our discussion and all of the things he was going to work on to improve his business.  The greatest part was when he called me a couple of days later to tell me all of things he worked on and did to improve his business.

In Life….

In my final years in college and soon after, I started to catch myself not listening, focusing or even paying attention to people when they were talking to me.  In addition, I often times found myself finishing sentences for people and then changing the subject.  I realized this when it happened at work once and my co-worker was not too happy about it.  From that day forward I have made a conscious effort to listen more and talk less. This is not an easy skill to master, but it is a very important one.  Make a conscious effort to listen to your friends, colleagues, wife/husband, and most importantly your kids.


Below are some reasons to improve your listening skills:


1.     To avoid saying wrong things, being thoughtless

2.     To generate a feeling that you care

3.     To process the conversation and understand the persons thoughts

4.     To make the other person feel important and recognize them

5.     To get the person to listen to you.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with some great leaders, authors and educators.  One of my more memorable meetings was when I met John Maxwell.  John Maxwell has written a number of books including: The 21 irrefutable laws of Leadership, Leadership Gold, The 360° Leader to name a few.  He has trained over 2 million business leaders and sold over 13 million books.  After a seminar I attended, I waited in line to get his autograph which took forever.  When I finally met him, his first words were:  Hello, it’s nice to meet you, now tell me a little about you.  I couldn’t believe that he cared to listen to me talk about myself.  Find any GREAT leader, mentor, husband, or dad, and I guarantee you they listen more than they talk.