Where You Go: Life Lessons from VP Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence and his family commonly quote a Bible verse that comes from Ruth 1:16. They use this verse as a compass to navigate through their lives, “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

“From an outside perspective, another vantage point than ours, it may seem as though everything fell together seamlessly or our movements were perfectly placed, as is the inevitable result of my retelling what we’ve already lived. But I would ask you, the reader, to remember this: The end result of anything is simply a combination of small decisions made along the way that are often overlooked or forgotten. The times in our lives when we can either remain where we’re comfortable or step out in faith toward the unknown, while difficult, can often be the most powerful and rewarding.”

“[This Bible verse] is what Mom says to Dad with every knowing glance.

It is what he says back when he reaches out his hand.

It is what we say despite the arguments, the disagreements, the debates, and the struggles we have, along with every other family in the world. 

It is what we do.

Where you go, I will go, too.”

What habits, rituals, routines, maxims, and traditions are important in your family? 

What stories do you tell over and over? What will your great grand children remember about you? Do you think they will know what was important to you and why? Will the values and morals you hold today pass down through multiples generations?

I have no doubt after reading the book Where You Go: Life Lessons from My Father, written by Vice President Mike Pence’s daughter, Charlotte Pence, that there is countless valuable wisdom being passed on within the Pence family. I loved reading their captivating family stories and highlighting line after line of wisdom.

Traditions, rituals, and values are important and I want to pass on what I think is important throughout multiple generations of my family. This book gave me additional ideas of how to do that.

Climb your own mountain and compete with yourself

As an author, budding podcaster, executive coach, and entrepreneur I have plenty of people to compare myself with. 

I feel imposter syndrome daily and ask myself what I’m doing. I can’t ask thought provoking questions on my podcast like my friends James Altucher and Ben Greenfield. I don’t coach as well as my friend Tim Schmidt. I’ll never write as compelling and interesting stories as my favorite authors Amor Towles, Robert B. Parker, or J. K. Rowling. And there’s no way I’ll ever obtain the entrepreneurship ability and confidence of Jesse Itzler, Sir Richard Branson, or Robert Herjavec. 

But wait… Why does this matter? My writing, podcasting, coaching, and business have nothing to do with these other successful people. I’m doing my own thing, in my own way, and for my own reasons.

Do you ever struggle with this? Who do you compare yourself with and why? I’m not in a position to give advice on this subject, so learn from this anecdote often shared in the Pence family, which encourages us to stop comparing ourselves with others and to just take action. 

“A tried-and-true phrase in the Pence family household is “Climb your own mountain.” This was originally used by my paternal grandfather and was passed on to us. I have turned to this advice many times in my life. It is not always the easiest path to follow— to forge your own way— but I have found it to be the most rewarding. My parents instilled this value in us at a young age by encouraging us to do our own thing— to find what we were good at, and what made us happy. I think this made my siblings and me even closer than we already were.” 

“On the campaign trail, I remember Dad talking to a young boy in Ohio who was participating in a golf championship that weekend. He seemed nervous and Dad told him ‘Just beat yourself. That’s what my dad always told me.’ This standard may seem easy to people who live trying to bet others, but the reality is that it is much more difficult and all the more rewarding. When you only compete against yourself, you are happy with the end result as long as you did your best. It doesn’t matter if you get the approval of others in the process.”

James Altucher, Ben Greenfield, Tim Schmidt, Amor Towles, Robert B. Parker, J.K. Rowling, Jesse Itzler, Sir Richard Branson, and Robert Herjavec all started out just like you and I. They just took one step, then another, and then one more. Over and over again. Until seemingly overnight they became household names. 

Slowing down to make small talk

I’ve written before about the importance of slowing down and spending time with neighbors, friends, and family. And in our current environment, with each of us getting less and less face-to-face interaction with living, breathing people, I think it is more important now than ever. 

Do you get the same nourishment from having a conversation with a friend on Zoom as you did when they were sitting right next to you with their feet up on your coffee table?

Oftentimes, I’m so distracted while in the grocery store thinking about my to-do list that I barely even look up at the cashier. Sometimes I don’t even notice if my cashier is a man or a woman. Or if they are young or old. 

But what am I so busy doing anyway? Am I in a hurry to get all my errands done so I can lay down on the couch and watch Friends, The West Wing, or Burn Notice for the second or third time? Why can’t I take my own advice and slow down to spend time with the people that are put in my path each day?

I need to remember this story and make the time for eye contact with my cashier at the grocery store and ask the waiter at my favorite restaurant whom has been serving me once per month for the last two years for his name. 

“[Mike Pence] loved stopping in to talk with the cashier, a kind, older woman who would tell it to him straight. He always calls clerks and cashiers by the names on their badges. When I was a teenager, it used to bug me that he was making such a point to do it. I gave him a hard time about it once, teasing him to stop acting all buddy-buddy with random strangers, and he looked at me with a serious face and said, “Why do you think they wear name tags, Charlotte?” He was right, and I was wrong— not for the first time, or the last.”

Faith, studies, and health

We often talk about spiritual life, career, intellect, and family on this blog… But we neglect three other important buckets for a well balanced life: finance, social/community, and physical.

It’s important to find balance within all seven of these buckets: spiritual, physical, intellectual, family, social/community, finance, and career. 

Where do you have opportunities? 

Charlotte Pence shares in this book, “Where are the pushpins in my map? Where are the empty spaces that need tending? Have I been neglecting any spot in particular lately, whether it be health, relationships, writing, or reading?”

My family holds a Family Board Meeting once per quarter and we go through each of the seven buckets and evaluate how we are doing. 

We’ve found that this process works best when we are away from our home. So we take a weekend every 3-months and go off the grid somewhere to rest, recharge, and to build our plan for the next quarter.

We start by rating on a scale from one to five how we are feeling about each bucket. I don’t allow us to pick the number three though because I feel that it is a cop-out. We have to pick a one, two, four, or five.

Once my wife and I separately scored our buckets we come back together and synchronize on what our wins and strengths are right now. We stress the importance of continuing to win in these buckets because we don’t want to only make goals for our opportunities and then end up needing to rebuild our strengths again in 3-months. 

We do this by looking at a list of goals we set at the beginning of the year and our list of big picture goals we plan to achieve over the next 20 years. With these two lists in hand we come up with bite sized goals we can achieve over the next 3-months and continue our success in our high scoring buckets. 

If you’re enjoying learning how our board meetings work please let me know in the comments below. I can expand on this in detail, as I’ve not shared much about this in the past, but it is a big part of what allows me to grow year after year.

Next up during our board meeting we discuss our low scoring buckets and why they’re opportunities. Usually it’s because of a lack of focus or we had previously set unclear or unrealistic goals. 

With more clarity we create one or two simple and achievable goals for the next 90 days in our opportunistic buckets and put them together with the rest of our goals.

After our getaway we return home with 7-10 small goals for the next 90 days and we immediately open our shared family calendar and schedule time to achieve each individual goal. 

Stephen Covey says, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” And I can’t agree more. When we don’t take this final step in our Family Board Meeting we’ll fail to accomplish our goals. Plain and simple, adding our priorities to our calendar has made all the difference. 

“Dad gave me the advice he always gave us: his “rule of three things.” He listed them off on his fingers: faith, studies, and health. His unchanging philosophy behind this advice is pretty simple. He contends that if you make a point every day to spend time focused on those three things, everything else will fall into place. 

If you take time for your faith, whether it is through devotions, prayer, or fellowship with other people, and keep up with your education and stay healthy, then the rest of the stressful factors of [life] will come together. As an adolescent and young adult (and, frankly, as an adult, too), it is easy to get distracted by the need to socialize or find a career path or enter into a relationship. We can let these things detract from the everyday importance of making time for God and making time for ourselves. My siblings could recite this advice back to you, since we have all been given it time and time again.”

Tell the important people in your life they are doing a great job and that you love them

When was the last time you told your spouse and kids that you love them? Are you still on your honeymoon or have you fallen into a relationship rut? 

I’m guilty of thinking that my actions reflect how I feel. But not everyone picks up our actions. Many of us need to hear how our friends, family, and bosses are feeling. Therefore, it’s important to tell everyone how you feel, tell them they are doing a great job, and that you love and appreciate them.

“Along the campaign, I heard Dad make remarks and give pieces of advice. One of them was, “Everyone is under-encouraged.” Meanwhile, in his own job, he took ever opportunity to tell people they were doing well at their jobs. He did so with his own staff, with me, and with workers and business owners we met in the states we visited. Of course, he suffers from the typical Midwestern style of being overly humble when it comes to himself, but when talking about others, he never shied away from saying how well they do what they do— even when they have recently messed up.”

It’s also important to always share with others what you love about your partner.

You should always build up your spouse to everyone around you. Make a commitment today to never say anything negative about your spouse again. Instead, think of all their great attributes and share those with everyone you meet. You will be shocked at what this does to your relationship at home.

Charlotte Pence says, “I can’t count the amount of times Dad tells me something amazing Mom did. It’s almost as if he is a friend of mine who met this girl that I just have to meet, and I’m like, ‘Dad, yeah, I know her. She’s great. We’re all on board. Mom is the best.’But he just can’t bragging about her, and truthfully, I don’t want him to.”

Reading this next quote from a career politician like Vice President Mike Pence would have surprised me before reading the book, but it doesn’t anymore, “I’d rather lose an election than lose my family.”

When you’re feeling stuck

How do you respond when you’re stuck on a project, having a difficult time in your relationships, or when you are just feeling like you’re in a funk? It’s inevitable that you will have seasons of your life where you feel like this. But how you respond can make all the difference. 

If you use this season as a time for self reflection, rest, rejuvenation, and restoration you can come out on the other end much stronger. But be patient. 

When I quit my job in 2016 and started my business I expected immediate results. I was disappointed I wasn’t achieving the same level of success in entrepreneurship as I had in my retail career. It wasn’t until I slowed down, started learning new skills, meeting new people, and trying new things that I started to find success. I’ve been writing on this blog now for one and a half years and I’m just now starting to get traction with it (thanks to you sharing these posts with your friends and family), and if I had given up all the times that I wanted to I’d never be sharing this article with you now.

Mike Pence encourages us to reach out to new people and try new things whenever we are feeling stuck, “You make room for God to come in and lead you in the direction He may want for you.”

Did you enjoy these anecdotes, maxims, and wisdom from the Pence family? Please let me know in the comments below and share if there are any you wish to adopt. And, let me know if there are any routines, rituals, or rhythms you’d like to add. And in the wise words of Vice President Mike Pence, “Do the right thing, then go home for dinner.”

Feature image courtesy of Hannah Busing.

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