Big A – Aaron Walker Shares about Significance and Living to Make a Difference with Lantz Howard from ChampionHope.com

podcast interview May 08, 2021

Listen Here: https://anchor.fm/champion-hope/episodes/Big-A---Aaron-Walker-Shares-about-Living-a-Significant-Life-and-the-Value-of-a-Deep-Mastermind-evs3s5

Big A:

Lantz, how’s it going buddy?

Lantz Howard:

Good morning Big A.

Big A:

Doing okay?

Lantz Howard:

I’m well. Thank you so much. Thank you. It’s nice and cool here this morning. A little bit of rain in north Texas. What’s going on in the Nashville area?

Big A:

Overcast. It’s not terrible. It’s comfortable. The weather’s comfortable outside, but it’s a little overcast. I like sun. I got a little sinus stuff going on today. So I’m fighting through that. I’ve been in the steam room for about a half hour this morning trying to get all this out of my head. But it’s good. I feel great other than just this little bit of coughing, little bit of head trash. If you can tolerate that I’m fired up and ready to go.

Lantz Howard:

Well I am honored to have you, absolutely. Let’s dive in. Quick introduction for Mr. Big A here. Made millions, lost millions. New connection, new friendship even for myself. He leads A Meaningful Mastermind, Iron Sharpens Iron. He hangs out with difference makers and kingdom leaders. He has previous podcast, he has a book, he has a mastermind playbook, he has a book you can get on Amazon, Leading a View from the Top, Living a Life of Significance. And I would say that you probably consider Dave Ramsey an inner circle friend. But beyond all the accolades, Big A, I am humbled by our time together and I want to honor your time. And I know to start brief interaction, that you take all those things with a grain of salt based on what God is doing in your life. So thank you.

Big A:

I appreciate that man. Lantz, thank you so much. It’s been an interesting journey. This is my 43rd year being an entrepreneur. Not worked for anybody since I was 17 years old. And to think back over the course of what’s taken place has been pretty interesting. I’ve lived a very fulfilling, very gratifying life. It’s had a lot of challenges, don’t get me wrong. Robin and I will celebrate 41 years of marriage in June. I have two beautiful daughters. 1 is 35 and 1 is 37. The older daughter is the Chief Operating Officer of our company, so I get to interact with her on a daily basis. Both of my daughters live within five minutes of me and they’ve given me five gorgeous grandchildren. So I get to live a life of success and significance every single day just considering my relationships matter most and understanding how we can take that to the next level and maybe help some of your audience understand how they can do the same. So thank you for having me today.

Lantz Howard:

Absolutely. A season or two behind you. I’m raising four daughters. What’s one quick “Hey Lantz, remember this. Remember this.”?

Big A:

You know, the thing that’s probably made the biggest impact in my daughters’ life is that I’ve always made myself available. And this is our 14th company that we’ve owned over 4 decades. I’ve always told my girls I’m available. Be respectful when I’m with clients or if I’m out of town or if I’m presenting, but if you need me… Like if they called right now Lantz, you would have to hold on for a second because they’re the most important. Robin is first and then my two daughters. They’ve told me over the years “You were always available and I appreciate that.” So they knew they could always call me.

Lantz Howard:

Good deal. Could I ask you a couple of coaching questions to kind of set up our time?

Big A:

Absolutely.

Lantz Howard:

What are three questions that you’re pondering here recently?

Big A:

Yeah, I think the first and foremost is “Am I doing the thing that moves the needle the most?” There’s busy tasks that we can do each and every day but I want to be sure that I’m moving the needle in a positive way. And then “What’s the next right thing that I can do that’ll make everything else easier?” I’m big in delegation. I don’t have to do everything myself. So you’ve got to ask yourself each and every day “What can I automate? What can maybe I delegate?” And then maybe “What is it that I can eliminate?” And when you ask yourself those questions you know it allows you to be an inch wide and a mile deep. For the most part people are an inch deep and a mile wide and they think they’ve got to do everything and I just don’t think that’s the case.

Big A:

And then finally, “What are your priorities?” Priority was a singular term until the 1950s and now it’s priorities, it’s plural. I think that if we really discover what the one thing it is that we’ve got to do, you don’t have to be successful at everything, but you want to be really good at a couple of things. A friend of mine, Rory Vaden wrote a great book called Procrastinate On Purpose. And I want to be really out of balance in all the right areas. And if you think about what’s priority to you and then focus your energy there. So I think these are the questions that we all need to ask ourselves.

Lantz Howard:

Man, that is incredible wealth of information. I’m just 30 minutes post dropping my girls off for school and we have some low level anxiety going on due to testing season and I share often with my oldest that Daddy has a hard time focusing. She asked me this morning, she’s like “How’s your focusing going?” I was like “Well, I feel pretty good.” And it has to do with what you mentioned, that I feel like there’s just extreme clarity on what is mine to do in this particular season. And trying to keep that monkey mind at bay and saying no to everything else. It’s not easy though. It’s not easy. Would you share from your perspective, I know you went through a recent change and transformation on your health and weight loss and fitness journey. It seems like men that I serve and I know men that you serve were quite resistant to change and transformation and doing meaningful work in our lives. Whether you’re 40 or whether you’re 60, we run up to resistance and obstacles. So I would love to hear from you the catalyst of that event and even where you are today.

Big A:

Yeah. I appreciate that. You mentioned being 60 years old. I’ve been in relatively good health my entire life. I’ve got good genes I guess. So I’ve never had to take any medication. Always tried to kind of watch my weight. Always kind of wrestled with 20 to 40 pounds over the course of my entire life. I would get to a point then I would kind of pull back and then I would get up to that point again and kind of pull back. And I thought as I get older it’s more difficult to keep yourself in really tip top shape. Weight doesn’t come off quite as easy as it used to. I was struggling with sleep and I hired a doctor that said “Hey, we’re going to really take a deep dive and we’re going to look at what you’re doing.” I hired a personal trainer and said “I’m going to be your accountability partner.”

Big A:

January 1 I weighed 238 pounds. I’m a big guy. I’m 6’3 so I can carry that. Nobody really thought I was fat. But here we are, we’re recording this in April and I weighed 188 pounds this morning. So I’ve lost 50 pounds. I’ve done it on the ketogenics program, doing the keto. But it’s really become kind of a lifestyle. It’s not just a fad diet. There’s things that I can eat that are healthy and then there’s things that I just elect not to eat. My mindset is one of when I decide to do something I’m going to do it. Like at the end of the day, these are the rules, this is the goal, and I’m going to accomplish that thing. Some people that’s a little bit more difficult. I’ve been able to do that throughout the course of my entire life.

Big A:

But it’s the same way in business. You’ve got to really determine what’s important to you. I don’t really listen to outside naysayers, the people that say “You can’t do it. It’s not possible.” I want to be like “Well, I’ll just show you. So you just stand in the shadows and hold on, I’m going to show you.” So maybe that’s not a great way to look at it, but I’ve got a lot of grit and perseverance and determination because I didn’t have the college education. I came from a very poor family. My dad was a great guy, he was just a terrible businessperson. I said “I want more. I want to have nicer things and I want to be able to accomplish some of my goals.” So I’ve really focused.

Big A:

Gary Keller did a great job with the book he wrote, The One Thing. When you get singularly focused and you know the task that you need to do each and every day on a consistent basis, you’ll reach the goal. Most people focus on the goal, I focus on the task. And I know that if I do these things every single day, like if I know I eat these things today and I don’t eat these things, over a period of time I’m going to accomplish my goal. So Brian Moran did another good job doing the 12 Week Year. And I use that strategy in everything that I do. I only have three goals at a time and then I establish over a 12 week period benchmarks where I need to go and I say “I’ve got to do these tasks today in order to be better off tomorrow.” And I don’t let the shiny objects get in the way because I’ve got a written strategy and a written plan.

Big A:

And if we determine that it’s important today then I don’t know why it shouldn’t be important tomorrow and then important the next day and the next day and the next day. So I spend a lot of time determining what it is that I want. I even wrote a document called What Do I Want and it really helps you understand how to live a life proactively not reactively. Those that are living reactively and they’re living out of their inbox rather than designing a plan and a strategy for the amount of money you want to make, where you want to live, the bucket list items that you want to accomplish, who you want to impact. When you decide those things intellectually it’s a lot easier to say no to the things that are the shiny objects that really don’t matter. So I’ve just gone through that exercise mentally and I just adhere to the plan.

Big A:

And consistency is probably the best arrow in my quiver. I know that we’ve got to do it every day regardless of the way you feel. It doesn’t matter to me how I feel. What matters to me is getting to the end of the day and I’ve accomplished the tasks that I need to so that I can be successful. So really Lantz, it’s a mindset. You’ve just got to make that determination. And here’s the trick, and this is going to hurt some people’s feelings. But it’s the truth, because I deal with hundreds of people. I coach people all over the world. The truth is, most people are lazy, they want ease. And I’m not interested in ease. I’m interested in accomplishing the tasks. And for me, I just set my focus on the task and then the goal takes care of itself in short order. So yeah, that’s just the way I’ve done the weight and that’s the way I do business, it’s the way I do everything in my life.

Lantz Howard:

It’s systematizing so many [crosstalk 00:12:31].

Big A:

We fail to the level of our system. we don’t fail to the level of our aspirations. Problem is is we have no systems and processes.

Lantz Howard:

What is it though that is unique about men that they can either win at work or win at home, typically not both, but they just seem asleep?

Big A:

Yeah, they are. The problem is what you just said is a fallacy. You can win at home, you can win at work, you can win both. I’ve proven it to be true. Where I’ve failed is early. When I was 18 I wanted to accomplish, I wanted to have bigger and better and shinier and faster and more money and another retail outlet and another $100,000, and a beach house, and then a house in the mountains, and a big house here, and a Mercedes. There’s nothing wrong with those things, don’t hear me wrong. But when you make them God, when you make them the only reason, in short order you’re going to sacrifice relationships, primarily your family, in order to achieve those things.

Big A:

In 2001 I ran over and killed a pedestrian on my way to work. It was August 1, 2001, which is 20 years ago now. What my legacy would have been had that been me killed that day was poor kid from Nashville, Tennessee makes enough money to retire at age 27 and nobody cares. See, that’s not what I want my legacy to be. I want Lantz Howard’s life to be better as a result of having known me. So what have I got to do in order to accomplish that? I’ve got to reorient my focus. I’ve got to think about how I can be the giver and not the taker, how I can really have and achieve a lot of success but all the while have a lot of significance. See, what I had had was a lot of success, had money, tangible possession, but I didn’t have any significance. Like you wouldn’t have liked me. You may not like me now, but you really wouldn’t have liked me then because it was all about what I could achieve and accomplish for myself.

Big A:

Here’s the irony of this. Today we are really outwardly focused. Like I hate it when people with money go “Money’s not important.” I want to go “You’re a liar.” Yes it’s important. We need money. We’ve got to pay our mortgage, we’ve got to feed the kids, we’ve got to send them to college, we’ve got to save money for retirement. Money is really freaking important. But when you make it your sole objective, when you make it your God, you make it the only reason that you’re doing what you’re doing, you’re not going to sustain longterm. And what I’ve been able to do is to help people put those things in proper perspective. See, money is a tool. We don’t live to work, we work to live. And we’ve got to use the money as a tool to accomplish the things that we want. And in short order, if you’ll prioritize your priorities you’ll know how much money you need to make in order to live the life that you want. But what we do is we go out there and we just gravel for more and “I’ve just got to have another house and a bigger house and a shinier car.”

Big A:

It’s like okay, that’s good, but why? What is the purpose? “Well, I just want it.” Well, do you think it’s going to scratch that itch? Because it’s not. In order to accomplish a very successful… Listen, I’ve got a nice house, I’ve got a 2001 Toyota Tundra, 2020 Highlander for my wife, we take nice trips. I’m not saying that those things are not important, so don’t hear me wrong. But how much time do you spend being significant? Like how much time do you spend connecting other people? How much time do you spend helping other people accomplish their goals? How much time do you spend teaching your children the basic fundamentals of life and how they can be successful and significant in life? How much time do you spend showing that relationships matter most? How much time do you spend in the lives of your children and your peers saying “Hey, let’s make it amazing. Let’s have no excuses. Everything is figureoutable.”?

Big A:

What is the truth before opinion in your world? And we’ve got to really dive deep and ask ourselves these questions, and then you live a fulfilled life and a gratifying life, and then your life makes sense. So it’s a mind game. You’ve really got to dive deep into yourself and not lie to yourself. You’ve got to ask yourself very pointed questions because we’re all running around here going “Hey, I just need to get that bigger house and more money and a bigger car and I need to impress the people at our country club and people at my church need to think more highly of me.” And we don’t take time to think through the things that are really important.

Lantz Howard:

The great mystery of life. I mean, to die to yourself, to live for something greater. A sense of what you’re saying is how do we love out of just extreme abundance. That’s one reason that we’re connected. I was on a simple webinar with you and you offered an invitation and here I am because of your extreme generosity. I mean, there’s a million other things that you could do today, except you decided that this was worth your while. You can’t see my notes so it’s interesting that we’re talking about this and headed in this direction. There’s this theory about thirds of life. The first third, second third, and the last third. Serving a lot of guys in the second third of life I hear it and I’ve seen it in myself as well. There’s this Christian guilt complex about when you start to have money and things.

Lantz Howard:

I’m sure you can tell countless stories. I’m serving a guy right now who’s like “I just can’t believe how good God is.” And he’s navigating this season well. He’s 37. But how do you speak into that scenario of the Christian mindset that seems like it’s prevalent of scarcity, it’s wrong versus he is coming out of the throes of growing up in a trailer home, working hard, but his heart and mind are still focused on the Kingdom. But in order for him to go to the next level, he’s going to kind of have to overcome this guilt barrier.

Big A:

Yeah, here’s the thing, and I may take this in a place that your audience is going to go “Wow, man I didn’t expect that.” So I’ve been a believer since I was nine years old. And I grew up in a house of believers. They’re again, working class people. We lived in a 600 square foot house. There were four children. My dad never made over $15,000 a year in his life. He paid $6500 for the house I grew up in. And then we lost it in bankruptcy. So I know about being broke and poor. We moved in with my cousin. That’s pretty humiliating and embarrassing. And then we moved into a house… Now, I’m not throwing my parents under the bus. My mom’s still amazing. She’s 86 years old today. My dad we lost in 2006. But we paid $60 a month for rent in the house we lived in when I was a kid. So you can only imagine what that looked like.

Big A:

I was like no, I really want better than this. I know there’s got to be a different way because I see other houses and different kind of cars and people going on vacation. I know there’s a different way. I have zero sense of guilt for making money today. And here’s the thing that I’m going to take it in an area where… We think that we portray being broke is more honoring and it’s more noble than having money. But isn’t it the irony of many pastors teach today, we can’t place our confidence and trust in things that moth and rust is going to destroy. That’s true, that’s true. Don’t put your confidence and faith in money because money is not important. Well, it seems awful important when we’re wanting to build a new building, because I always get one of those little special invitations and a commitment letter and post me to a free dinner at church, and now the money seems awfully important.

Big A:

Oh Big A, you’ve done well. Surely you can contribute X thousand dollars. I’m like man, it wasn’t important three Sundays ago, but today it’s really important. And I’ve even challenged our leadership on this. I’m in leadership. I’m one of the deacons of our church and I’ve been in the four people that help navigate running our church. So I’ve talked about these things with our pastor. David Green owns Hobby Lobby, 50,000 employees, thousands of stores. He gives millions, multi-millions of dollars to the kingdom. Dave Ramsey, personal friend of mine for over 25 years. I was his second sponsor when he started his show, The Money Game back in the early 1990s and I sponsored his show for 21 consecutive years. So we’re very close, been in the Mastermind together. I’m not telling you this to name drop or for people to think I’m anything. But I’m very close to these people and I’m close up, I see it. Dave will do $300 million or $400 million this year. He’s got over 1000 employees, does really good. You can’t even imagine how much he gives away for the benefit of the kingdom and growing it. Millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars. People have no idea how much money he gives away.

Big A:

If he was broke he couldn’t do that. David Green couldn’t do that. We couldn’t have a church today with 7000 members and a campus that’s worth $40 million if people like me and you and Dave Ramsey and David Green, I really shouldn’t put myself in that category because I’m not in that category, but if people with a little bit of money didn’t have money and you’re like, are you kidding me, if we were all broke and nobody had any money, who would support these ministries? Who would give clean water to the people in Uganda? Who would drill those wells in Africa? Who would help those people in Haiti if people like me and you and others didn’t give money? Listen, it’s the talents, and the Lord gives us the ability to make money. No question about God gave me the ability and the skill to make money. And He doles out a little bit to see who He can trust. And if He can trust you with a little, He probably can trust you with a lot.

Big A:

A lot of people listening to me right now are thinking “Well yeah Big A, if I had your money I would be giving money away too.” No you wouldn’t. Let me tell you why. Money magnifies what’s in the heart, it doesn’t change it. And if you’re not giving away money today percentage-wise based on what you currently have, you wouldn’t give away money if you had millions of dollars. See, it’s all a matter of the heart. And we’ve got to be sure that our heart is in the right place. And when God sees our heart is in the right place, He blesses those accordingly. I can trust you with a little, I know I can trust you with a lot. How could He ever trust us with a lot if He can’t trust us with a little? So it’s, there again, the position of the heart. So I just want to encourage your listeners today, think where your heart is at and could God trust you with a lot.

Lantz Howard:

Man, so so good. I remember last year just recently, for myself, writing a pretty significant check to an organization we deeply care about and getting the thank you letter back. I was just overwhelmed with the emotion of yes, this is the Kingdom. This is good. But it takes that sense of going back to dying to yourself that you want something more and bigger on behalf of other people. You mentioned last week this book and I got it, I’ve already started to read it. Thou Shall Prosper. I mean, it’s a very thick book first of all. But can you give us just a quick nugget of the value of ordering that book if you’re hearing this conversation?

Big A:

Yeah. Years ago Rabbi Daniel Lapin wrote that book. I didn’t know him, I’d never heard of him. In our Mastermind group Dave Ramsey read that book and he reached out to Rabbi Daniel Lapin and he said “Man, this is an unbelievable book. Gives a really different slant and perspective on finances.” He said “Would you come to our Mastermind group?” So Dave brought him in. He brought him in to our group. And I got an opportunity to hang out with him and meet him. The guy’s incredible. He is hilarious too. He is so funny. But he’s a Jewish Rabbi. He wrote this book and there’s so many takeaways, I won’t spoil the book for you. But the book just simply says that money is certificates of appreciation showing others a job well done. And I didn’t really understand that concept and that principle but he said “We do ourselves an injustice by not charging enough for quality services and products. Because we deserve it and people should pay for it. And when they do do that, it makes everything, the economic environment and the systems that we have today, flourish.”

Big A:

So I would suggest highly reading that book. Dave brought him in a number of other times and we got to have dinner together. He just really poured into us. So if you really want a different perspective, from a Jewish perspective of what the value of money is and the reason that we should charge and the reason that we shouldn’t have a sense of guilt related to money, it teaches you principles and concepts of how to use it effectively. Because money is only worth the value that we place on it. And oftentimes we place a much higher value on it than we should because we don’t treat it as a tool, we treat it as an idol. And he really helps us unpack that.

Lantz Howard:

Man that has a grip on us, the whole idol reality is really true in our North American comfort that we are surrounded by. Going back to the talents. I can hear people now saying “Well Big A, you’re probably a high D and you’ve had 14 businesses. Good for you. Applaud you. Or possibly your Enneagram number’s a three or an eight and you can get out there and just charge the world.”

Big A:

You nailed me on both. I’m a eight, I’m a charger. I’m a high D off the chart. You’ve got to turn it over to see the other side to the top. You nailed it.

Lantz Howard:

I’m a nine and 50% on the D. Personalities are one thing and they’re helpful for our own self-awareness. But how do people overcome the objections, well I’m not that, and focus on cultivating their gifts and their talents?

Big A:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). We’re all different. And God said He put us all here to serve a different purpose. And I’m going to say something that some of your audience is not going to like. But the truth is is that we all have different skills and we all have different objectives in life. God uses all of us for different things. Maybe I’m the high D, the eight, the charger to go get it and give the money to the church and to other organizations to help. So maybe my role and responsibility is to fund some things. Other people are servants at heart. They want to work in the nursery and be the greeter and they want to show a lot of empathy and compassion and concern and consulting and coaching and things like that. It’s like dude, I want to just say “Get off your butt and let’s go. It’s time to get it done.” Other people are like coddle you and help you.

Big A:

We all have different skills. What you’ve really got to determine is is what is your skill. I do public speaking and I do podcast interviews and I do coaching. I’m an in your face kind of guy, I am. I think God’s given me the skill to be able to get all up in your face, but then you still hug me and love me at the end of it because I want best for you. Other people don’t have that skill. They’re very timid, they’re shy, they’re very compassionate, they’re very tender hearted. You just got to find your lane. And we deal with this, Gay Hendricks wrote The Big Leap, and in The Big Leap he talks about there’s things in our zone of confidence that we can do. And I get that. But is it your zone of genius? I want to stay in my zone of genius and let the other people do what they do.

Big A:

I have a small team. We have 10 people on our team. I’m not a real detailed person. I’m a visionary. I go out and cast the vision. I can see it clear as day. And I go out, I’m an encourager. That’s my spiritual gift. God’s given me the ability to be an encourager. But the level of details, I’ll go into our COO’s office, which is my oldest daughter, and I’ll say “Hey Brooke, this is what I want done.” “Well, how are we going to do that?” “I don’t care how you do it. That’s not my job. You figure out how to do it. This is what I want to happen. I want you to make it happen.” Kevin Wallenback is our integrator. He’s very good at scaling businesses. He knows the systems, the processes. He knows that we’ve got to do this first and this first and he’ll say ‘Hey Big A, what do you think?” I don’t even think about that. I don’t even care. That’s your job. You go make that happen. This is what I want to happen and y’all figure out how to make it happen.

Big A:

Recently I was in a team meeting and they were talking about a lot of details and I started to pipe up and my daughter goes “Hey Dad, by the way, we really do better when you’re not here. And if you want to leave, feel free to leave.” I’m like dang, I got kicked out of my own meeting. But I know that’s not my zone of genius. So I stay in my lane. So I would just say to your audience “Hey bro, stay in your lane.” And if you do that and you delegate and you get the people around you that really are good at that particular task you’re going to have a lot more success.

Lantz Howard:

So good. Let’s talk about the tension that exists between Masterminds and the common church. Meaning that-

Big A:

You may not want to go there Lantz. You may not want to go there, but let’s do it.

Lantz Howard:

In both of our experiences our modern North American church is comfortable. Right? And I think that’s to a large degree why I’m sitting in a coaching role and a pastoral role because I see a lot of growth in the coaching dynamic. However, when you try to bring that same level of challenge and growth and accountability into the common church it’s met with resistance. It’s met with lackadaisical, I’ll show up once a month. Whether it’s a group, whether it’s Sunday morning, you just see it across the board. Speak into this both from why one is successful, your perception of why the other one is possibly more successful, but also of an approach that could be helpful for the church to consider as well.

Big A:

Yeah. Okay, here we go. So I don’t know what you’re going to do with this interview and I may get nailed to the threshing post at our church, but I’m very open about this, I talk about this a lot. I love going to church and I’m a believer in forsaking not the assembling of the saints. I want to get together, I want to have corporate worship. But man are we missing it on really taking it to the next level from an accountability standpoint. We go to church and we have a veil. We have this façade that we put up in front of us. “How are you doing? Everything’s good. Praise God.” And I’m like, everything is not good. Everything is not praise God. Everything is like I’m struggling. My marriage is struggling. Some of these people are addicted to pornography. Some people are drinking way too much. Some people are just an argument away from divorce. Some of these men’s 16 year old daughters are promiscuous, they’re having pre-marital sex. Their son is smoking pot and taking quaaludes. And they’re like “Everything’s good. Praise God.”

Big A:

Well no it’s not. But hey, if we share that at church they’re going to think less of us. That’s what we think. The truth is that I think it should be a very safe place for us to let that veil down and share candidly and openly, I’m struggling. Like here’s the areas that I’m really doing good, these are my superpowers. This is the kryptonite that I’m dealing with. But here’s my blind spots. Here’s the things I know is going to kill me. And there’s condemnation and there’s people that are being judgemental sitting in the pew at church and their sin is just as bad or worse than the guy that they’re condemning. And I think that we’re living in an environment to where we’re afraid to be truthful because we’ll be outcast rather than embraced.

Big A:

I taught recently, it’s been a little while, but I taught on finances at our church to a men’s group. There was a time in my life when I was in retail that I was taking cash under the table, and it was wrong. I was a deacon in my church. I was teaching Sunday School. And I rationalized it with how much money I was paying in taxes. Because we had a cash business. A lot of cash went through this business. And I’d take out about $600 a week for spending money. I’d go to dinner, we’d take trips, whatever. And I rationalized that with how much money I was paying in taxes. I was really convicted. I said “You’re a thief. You’re not tithing on that first of all. Second of all, you’re stealing from the government. You’re just a liar.” So I was convicted and I went to our bookkeeper and I said “Hey, no more cash. Every dollar we get from here on out…” This is decades ago. I was a young guy. I was in my 20s. I said “From now forward every dollar we get, I don’t care, I could skim off the top but it’s not worth it. I’m lying. I need to be a man of character. I need to have integrity. And this is the right thing. It sucks and I hate paying taxes, but the truth is that’s the environment that we live in.”

Big A:

So I stood up in front of I don’t know how many people in the room and I told that story and I said “I’m going to see in here who’s got courage.” I said “Who in here is doing that?” Man, the room was dead silent. You could have heard a pin drop. Men started standing up everywhere in this room, all across, very successful entrepreneurs standing up and tears running down their face saying “You’re right. I’m a liar. I’m a cheat. How can I tell my little girl not to cheat on her spelling test and I’m stealing money and selling stuff for cash and not paying my taxes?” You’re just a hypocrite. You’re just a liar. And these men were weeping in this room. I said “We need to come clean with this.” Church is a place we should be doing that kind of stuff.

Big A:

Same thing with lustful thoughts in a men’s environment. Who’s checking out his secretary? Who’s seeing this girl and positioned himself in an environment to where you’re having really bad thoughts about that girl because the scripture says you may as well do the act as to be having these lustful thoughts ongoing. Who’s doing that? Hands going up everywhere. People are not used to that at church. Nobody calls me out in Sunday School and says “Hey Big A, are you looking at pornography? Are you stopping work at 5:00 in the afternoon or are you at your little boy’s baseball practice and your little girl’s piano recital? Are you doing those things?” Nobody’s asking me that at church. In the Mastermind we ask all these questions.

Big A:

See here’s the other thing is that we go and we think it’s the right thing and we go and check it off the box. Now it makes ourselves feel better. Really, we’re not trying to build a relationship with Christ, we’re trying to make ourselves and our conscience feel better by going and we’re saying “Hey, I’m doing the Christian thing and I’m going to church.” That’s not the right reason. The right reason is to build a relationship with Christ. The right reason is to have forsaking not the assembling of the saints and praise and worship. But we’re going primarily because it’s the right thing, you should go. Well I tell people don’t should on me. It’s not about that. It’s about I want to be equipped with the right tools to do the right thing. Here’s the thing Lantz and I’m just going to say it, the truth is we have cowards for leaders. That’s the truth.

Big A:

You know what? They’re scared if they preach the gospel, what God really says, that people will get mad and they’ll quit coming, the church’s budget won’t be met, and they’ll lose their job. I’m going to say something else. I think that all pastors should be bi-vocational. I don’t think they’re solely dependent on the church so they can get up and tell the truth. And I think that when we start sharing God’s word, what it really says, regardless of what the congregants think, I think you’re going to see a transformational experience that happens that is second to none. See, that’s what we do in the Mastermind groups. And I’m begging our churches, this is what you need to be doing. So I will just say to the leaders, “Hey, man up. Why don’t you get up and lead and not be afraid and trust God that’s going to take care of you and teach what’s in the word.” And if you do that you’re going to see a whole nother level of men in leadership in our church.

Lantz Howard:

Man Big A, you have unpacked about 12 more meaningful podcast episodes I don’t even know what to do with. Thank you. I’m reminded of King Asa. He loved God, he was doing the right thing. But he was just going at it half-hearted. And it just seems like that’s the culture that we’ve bred. But speaking truth and grace over men’s life and finding the company of safe men that will do that on behalf of other men, there’s something that rises up when you speak those affirmations and those accountabilities over other people. So thank you for sharing that. I know we’re closing on time so I want to honor your space. What would you say to the male who is living in isolation? I know your quote that you’re probably going to use, but it’s the enemy right? So what would you say to that male?

Big A:

Yeah. God didn’t create us to be alone. He gave Adam a helpmate. He thought everything’s good, and he thought uh oh, you know it’s not really. He needs a companion. It’s the same way today. And this pandemic has really sent us in a tailspin. The quote you’re referring to is isolation is the enemy to excellence. I wasn’t really the founder of that quote or the originator of it. I stole it years ago. But it’s so true. A guy named Greg is the guy that really quoted that and I read it and it so resonated with me I started just saying it all the time. And it’s true that isolation is the enemy to excellence. God created us to be in community. There’s no way that we can excel alone. We have to have people around us to cheer us on, to talk us off the ledge, to talk us out of the ditch, to give us insight, to give us perspective, to hold us accountable, to walk with us, to celebrate our wins. And if you don’t have that on a regular basis you’re not excelling. There’s so much more that you could be doing if you would surround yourself with trusted, unbiased advisors that help you really see areas in your life that you can improve on.

Big A:

My life has just exploded over the past 20 years by being in a Mastermind group every single week over 2 decades. I don’t even know where I would be today if I didn’t have those people, because during that pandemic I needed suggestions and insight hourly, not weekly, not monthly. “Man, what am I going to do? We’ve never been here.” Well here’s the irony of our lives. Today we’ve never been in this spot. And when you have people that are ahead of you that you trust, I’d rather learn on your dime than mine. I’d rather have people walking ahead of me than me walking in the dark. And they can shine the light. They can be the mentor. And then you can reach back to mentees and you can pave the way for them as well. So when you surround yourself with these people you can really keep from going down dark paths alone. So I would just say to the person today, evaluate who those people are.

Big A:

Jim Rohn says we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. I want to up-level. I want to be around people that are killing it. I don’t want to be around the naysayers. I don’t want to be around the people that don’t have a clue of how to live an adventuresome life. Listen, this is all we have on this side of heaven. Today is the day and it’s what we make of it. I just want to live it to its fullest. And the only way I can do that is to have people around me.

Lantz Howard:

Couple of rapid fire questions. What are you currently reading in terms of from the word and why?

Big A:

Yeah, well I read each and every day. It’s been a part of my morning routine for decades. Now I would be lying if I said I hit it every single day. It’s 95% of the time. Things happen. Life happens. I don’t do it just to check off the list. I do it to get to know the Lord. I’m an early riser so I’ve got to have 15, 20 minutes in solitude when I get up just to kind of listen. God said He speaks to us in a small, still voice. And if we get up and hit the ground running we may miss that small, still voice. So meditation, not weird kind of chanting with incense. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about just listening. Not praying, which is hard to do. Not asking for something, but just listening. Some of the best times with the Lord for me is that first cup of coffee, 20 minutes just listening.

Big A:

Second goes into reading the word because if we’re not reading the word, that’s one of the primary ways He speaks to us. So I’m reading right now in Numbers. I started in Genesis and I go through. I also read in Proverbs. I also read in Psalms. Depending on what it is that I’m interested in at that time, I’ll read there. Oftentimes I’ll listen to praise and worship music because music really does something for me. It gives me a sense of gratitude. There’s other books that I read. I’m constantly reading personal and professional and spiritual development books. I don’t read much fiction. I’m not a fiction kind of guy. I will read some. But that’s the first hour to hour and a half and sometimes longer part of my day. But I’m up between 4:00 and 5:00 in the mornings.

Big A:

It’s just a way for me to really position myself and get in a really good place before I start my day. And really what I’m looking for is kind of my marching orders. People say “What is your goal? What is your vision?” I have those, but really what I want to do is be obedient to today. I want to enjoy this conversation with Lantz right now. I don’t want to be thinking about an hour from now or two hours from now because I may miss something that he’s really got for me right now. So I would just say that we’ve really got to be focused in the moment.

Lantz Howard:

Thank you. These next two questions are kind of white paper research, just something I’m intrigued in and it’s also just kind of what I’ve founded myself on in terms of personal brand. But what is a champion and what are the characteristics of that person?

Big A:

You know, this is all pointing back to spirituality. I mean, you could define champion in terminology that the world would accept. But I think it really goes back to me, to being a servant leader. And people say “That’s a pansy.” No, it’s really a strong man. When you become a servant leader to the people that God entrusted. And that’s the people that, first and foremost your spouse, second your children, and then the people that you have relationships with personally, and then I would suggest that it’s your spear of influence in the community that you serve. So I think it needs to be in that order. And as I said earlier in the interview, when you really focus… I hope. Maybe I’m priding myself where I shouldn’t. But I think if you go to my family and you ask them is that an accurate statement, I think they would say yes. I think they would say over and above everything outside of my relationship with Christ, they would say they feel most important. And I think that I’ve demonstrated that for decades.

Big A:

Now it’s difficult because the world is screaming for your attention. But I think that when we build those boundaries and we have the accountability and we have the trusted advisors, we’re in God’s word, we’re listening to the counsel of the multitudes. I think he gives us the desires of our heart. But I think he changes the desires of our heart in order to better align with the tactics that he would have us to do each and every day. I think when we align ourselves in that manner and then we follow that protocol, I think that he puts us in a position to better minister to other people. I think that’s a champion.

Lantz Howard:

Yeah. What is hope? And I know it’s kind of a dual word. And I ask because to a large degree I’m on a mission to reframe hope, especially for men. And I say that because oftentimes we don’t believe we have agency within ourselves to be the champion. So how would you personally define hope?

Big A:

I think an important comment based on your last statement would be in our own strength we can’t manifest those things. That’s why God wants our utter dependence on Him. So for me, I live kind of in a very hopeful state each and every day based on my utter dependence on Christ. Now here’s the difficult place to get. This is my favorite Bible story of all and it’s probably nothing what you thought it was going to be. But my favorite Bible study is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And the reason it is is because they were asked to bow down to a false god and they said “We’re not going to do that.” So you can fill in the blank whatever false god it is for you. I don’t know what that is. But let’s just insert whatever it is. They said “We’re not going to do that.” And they said “Well, we’re going to throw your butt in the fire if you don’t.” And he simply said “Go ahead and throw me in there because God’ll save me.” But here’s my favorite part. He said “Even if He doesn’t, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Big A:

So for me, that’s hope. For me, it’s total surrender and saying “God, I want to build my business. I want to make the money to pay that obligation. I want to enlist more Mastermind members. I want this relationship to work out.” Whatever it is. But even if it doesn’t, blessed be the name of the Lord because He’s working behind the scenes and we can always connect the dots looking back. We can never connect the dots looking forward. And when you live in total surrender regardless of the outcome, blessed be the name of the Lord. It gives you a sense of hope that is absolutely indescribable and we can’t comprehend the amount of peace that God gives us as a result of that.

Lantz Howard:

That is invaluable. I’m just indebted to you for your time today. If people want to find you clearly they can do the whole Google thing. I know that you run a successful Mastermind, Iron Sharpens Iron for Kingdom leaders, entrepreneurs, business leaders, fathers, men that are trying to level up in life. How do they find you and more about the work you do?

Big A:

Yeah. Well first of all Lantz, I want to tell you thank you for having me. This has been a very enjoyable interview for me. You’ve made me feel very welcome and inviting, very sincere, and I’ve enjoyed the interview because you weren’t just interested in the next question, but you’re very present and you’re really interested in the answer. So the dialogue that we’ve had today I think has been very cohesive in nature and it’s been very impactful to me personally. So thank you for that. If you’re interested in reaching out to find out more about us, that would be awesome. The easiest way is to go to viewfromthetop.com. All of our social media platforms are there, my personal cell number is there. And people ask me “Why do you do that?” Well, how are people going to call me if I don’t put my cell number there. And I want to help you. I want to help the people that are in your audience take their life to the next level. So just go to viewfromthetop.com and we’re pretty easy to find.

Lantz Howard:

Thank you. Would you do me a favor and everybody listening? Would you, on behalf of being in that final third of life and most everybody that’s going to listen to this is in their 30s or 40s, could I invite you to just offer a prayer for everybody that’s listening today?

Big A:

Yeah, let me close us out.

Lantz Howard:

Thank you.

Big A:

That would be great and I would be honored. Father thank you for today. First of all, thank you that I even got an opportunity to get up today. You’ve blessed me immeasurably just with that ability. But Lord I think about these people that are listening to this interview today and man I so wish that I had had other mentors earlier in my life like David Landrith and Robby Gallaty and Bob Warren and all of the people in my life that really poured into me these last two, two and a half, three decades. I just encourage the members of this podcast to go out and diligently seek after mentors, people that are Godly in nature, that have a heart to serve and to give, that they could learn from. I ask you to allow them to let down their defense, to allow them to drop the façade and the veil that they’ve put up in order to be transparent and vulnerable and authentic. Lord, the Earth is starving today for men that are authentic. Just give them the ability to do that. Let them be real men. Let them serve their families well.

Big A:

And the women that are listening to this, let them be a real woman. Let them be able to go to their spouse and serve them well and to walk with them in unison and walk in tandem. God, I just give you them today and ask you that they check their egos and their pride at the door. I ask you to give them the ability to search out your heart that they can be the persons that they were created to be so that they can serve well. So just ask you to bless them immeasurably, give them the strength and the courage to walk in faith, to walk in this level of hope that Lantz has so beautifully depicted today. Lord, we all have hope and the only way that we can have it is if we place our confidence and trust in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lantz Howard:

Amen. Thank you so much Big A.

Big A:

I’ve enjoyed it buddy. Let’s do it again and dive deeper into some of these other topics that we’ve talked about.

Lantz Howard:

Absolutely. Peace and courage. Have a good one.

Big A:

See you buddy.

Lantz Howard:

Bye bye.

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