A Winner Is Selected

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my blog or Facebook sharing with me your favorite things about the Jazz. I was blown away by the immense positive outpouring. And it was a lot of fun to reminisce– many of the memories were highlights that I enjoyed growing up with the Jazz.

I put the nearly 200 comments into an Excel spreadsheet, than headed over to random.org to select a number randomly.

I then got on a google hangout call with David Locke to share the good news with the lucky winner, Jessie. If you’re interested you can watch a recording of the call here as we shared the good news with Jessie.

Oh, and the game she’ll be attending? The Miami Heat.

Go Jazz!

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A Learning Nerd Reveals His Secrets

When I was a kid I would take the pillows from all the beds in the house and put them in the bathtub. Instead of turning the water on, I would climb into the cushy tub with an armful of books and read them, one after another, until I fell asleep.

Sometimes I would take all my books and lay them out on my bedroom floor, side by side, until they completely covered the carpet. Then, rather than step on or over the books, I started in the far corner of the room and read a path to the door, lifting each book when I was done with it, walking only where the carpet was exposed.

I naturally loved reading and would have done it even if I hadn’t negotiated with my mom to get paid a penny for each page I read. Of course, I just used the money to buy more books.

My love of reading was still strong by the time I entered college, and my choice to become an English major was the sort of decision that just kind of makes itself.

Now I wish I’d kept track of how many pages I read in college, just to satisfy my own curiosity. I’m certain that if I stacked all those pages it would have made a pile taller than any Christmas tree I’ve ever seen. If I’d negotiated a deal with someone to get paid a penny for each of those pages, I’m pretty sure I could have funded a small militia.

In all my college reading, whenever I came across a word I didn’t know I would write it inside the back cover of the book I was reading and highlight that word in the dictionary I kept nearby. By the time I graduated there were highlights on almost every page of that dictionary, and many pages had two or three. These were words that make you popular at parties, words like “sedulous,” “sebaceous,” and “coruscate.”

When I attempted to use words like that in conversation it quickly became clear that using such highfalutin words can be as much of an impediment to being understood as using words that are too elementary. After all, research shows that the average adult reads at a 9th-grade level, and that for recreation people tend to read books that are two grades below their reading level.

If you want to be understood, sometimes you really do have to dumb it down. And apparently if your goal is to entertain, you have to dumb it way down.  

As one who derives enjoyment from challenges, I tend to go the other way. In fact, I made a game in order to challenge myself to really learn these words. I took 1,000 of my favorite words that I collected during my undergraduate studies, assigned them a number one through 1,000, and put them in a book.

I then took three ten-sided dice, which I would roll three times. Each roll yielded a three digit number that corresponded with one of the words. I would then construct sentences using those three words in the order they were rolled. The result was such ridiculousness as, “The ascetic withdrew to a bucolic estate in order to avoid idiots’ badinage.”

Is that the work of a learning nerd or what?

The learning nerd in me rages even now. In fact, just today I ordered 27 different DVD courses from The Great Courses on a huge range of topics such as Physics and Our Universe, Fundamentals of Photography, The Foundations of Western Civilization and The Everyday Gourmet.

If you’re not familiar with The Great Courses, it’s is a series of college-level audio and video courses taught by top professors and experts. If you enjoy learning— and especially if you have a lengthy commute or spend a lot of time in airports— you should check out the amazing sale The Great Courses is offering now (I receive no commission or incentive for this).

Maybe when my DVD’s arrive I’ll gather all the pillows in the house, grab a portable DVD player, head to the bathtub and watch lecture after lecture until I fall asleep. If you want to wake me, just be sure to take the DVD player before you turn the water on.

Rock on, nerds.

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What I Learned from Larry about How to Win at Life

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”      –Steve Prefontaine

My dad, Larry H. Miller, was a world-class fast pitch softball pitcher. In this sport, pitchers throw the ball with an underhanded motion at speeds of up to 85 mph from a distance of 40 feet.  

In baseball, the distance from the pitcher to the batter is 60 feet.

Softball’s reduced pitching distance means that batters experience softballs pitched at 85 mph as equivalent to baseballs pitched at 125 mph.

In other words, there’s a good reason it’s called “fast pitch.”

In case you were wondering, there is such thing as a Softball Hall of Fame, and yes, my dad’s in it.  

But he had to learn a few lessons before he got there.

He used to talk about one lesson he learned on the pitcher’s mound early in his softball career. Pitching is strenuous, he would explain, physically demanding. Especially in tournament play, where it was sometimes required to play multiple games per day, it was important to conserve energy.

One way he attempted to save his strength was to estimate the ability of each batter he faced, and then to pitch only as hard as necessary to strike each batter out. So he used this strategy, and for a while it worked okay.

Then one night in an important game, my dad underestimated a batter. He threw a pitch that was less than his best, and this batter got on base. I don’t know the ultimate result of that game, but I do know that my dad was so upset with himself that he committed from that moment to throw every pitch as hard and as well as he possibly could.

Besides, he reasoned, every batter you face deserves the very best pitch you can give him. If you’ve thrown your best pitch and a batter manages to hit it, more power to him.

My dad carried his best-pitch determination into everything he did, both on the softball diamond and off it. Every transaction. Every meeting. Every negotiation. Every lesson. Every act of service. 

This explains the thinking behind something he said in his autobiography about the Jazz: “I’ve always said to our guys, ‘I’ll never ask you to win, but I will ask you to give us everything you’ve got.’” This quote now hangs inside the entrance to the locker room.

Sometimes we need to be reminded.

Life is our softball diamond, and our days are our batters. Each one deserves our very best pitch.

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The Truth about Who We Are and Where We Go

The first girl that broke my heart was a barista at Starbucks. She worked at the café inside a Barnes & Noble where I was a bookseller. The Barnes & Noble was next door to a Super Target that also had a Starbucks, which I thought was crazy, but that’s not the point of this story.

That my heart was broken is not actually the point of this story either, even though that’s a good story. I mean, the breakup precipitated a mental breakdown and I ended up spending a few weeks in a psychiatric ward, but I’ll save that for another day.

This post is about the places we go emotionally.

We accept it as a matter of fact that we are physical beings who live in a physical world and travel through time and space. It’s somewhat less obvious that we are also spiritual beings who exist and travel through emotional and spiritual space.   

The words we use sometimes point to the reality of our emotional journeys, however. We see it when we say things like, “I know where you’re coming from,” “Don’t go there,” or “I don’t like where this relationship is going.”

Sometimes things “Bring us down” or “Lift our spirits.” 

I read something beautiful recently about the way the very wise view death— as a changing of garments or as a transition from one room to another.  

But in life sometimes we have a hard time making transitions. Sometimes we get stuck in emotional locations, and some of them can be very difficult to get out of. Being stuck often comes in the form of a relationship, a career or a depression.

But there’s always a way out. And that way always involves honesty with ourselves about who we are and what we want, and acceptance of those same things with absolutely zero judgment.     

Author Pema Chodron tells us, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” A similar logic reveals that we can’t escape an emotional location until we learn whatever it is we need to learn from it. We wouldn’t be there if we didn’t have something to learn.    

Navigating to where we want to be in life is often a challenge because for many of those journeys we don’t use our eyes— we use our hearts. The good news is that our inner voice will always help us navigate to exactly where we ought to be. All we have to do is listen and trust.

Moving in the direction of our dreams and deepest desires isn’t always easy, but it’s always possible. Sometimes growth is painful.

We’ve all been there.

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You Are Here. Now.

One of life’s great paradoxes is that as we get busier it becomes harder to make time to for prayer, meditation or quiet reflection, yet that’s exactly when we need and stand to benefit from those things the most. 

Each morning I like to follow a simple meditative routine in which I visualize how tiny I am on the face of the Earth. It helps me to keep my feelings and interactions with others that day in perspective.  

Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot does an amazing job of capturing this. You can read the text here.

In my morning routine I also like to remember how fleeting and precious this day is. Here is Today is a simple yet brilliant website that conveys this well.

I have learned that even five minutes spent in quiet reflection in the morning can have a profoundly calming and beneficial impact on the quality of my day.  

Yogananda encourages us, “Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself.”

Each day provides an opportunity to practice perfecting this effort. May your efforts be rewarded richly.

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Humility, Astonishment and an Invitation to Grow

I am humbled and astonished at the overwhelmingly positive response to my last post, Be My Guest to Experience 14 Things I Love about Utah Jazz Games.

I must admit, the idea to include a contest where the winner will be my guest at an upcoming game was my wife’s idea, so if it happens to be you, be sure to thank her.

In an earlier post I shared that publicly sharing my thoughts and feelings online is new and somewhat uncomfortable for me. But many of the comments readers of my last post made helped me to remember just how special the Jazz is, what a unifying force the team is for Utah, and how blessed I am.

I was particularly pleased to read about how many family relationships have been strengthened by watching the Jazz play— grandmothers and grandchildren, parents and children, and brothers and sisters. My favorite stories are those of couples who found romantic love grow out of a shared love of the Jazz. It’s great to hear from people who got engaged at a game or whose game-night dates blossomed into happy marriages.

My dad had incredible vision. I think that before he bought the Jazz he could see all this good that would come from keeping the team in Utah. He must have seen something, because in the eleven seasons before he bought the team the Jazz had never made a profit. And this was before the era of global superstars, when the NBA Finals were still broadcast on tape delay. It was a very different world.

I have a theory that he did know all the good that would come by keeping the team in Utah, and I think that’s what motivated him to take the risks that made it possible. And not just one risk, or even two, but three of them.

The first risk was buying the first half of the team, the second one was buying the second half, and the third risk was building the arena. Any one of these risks could have had a tremendously different outcome and jeopardized his other businesses. If you’ve read his autobiography, Driven, you’ve heard all this before.

I myself learned a lot about my dad’s life by reading Driven. I had no idea that prior to buying the second half of the Jazz, my dad had the opportunity to sell the first, and that if he had, he would have walked away with $6M profit in just fourteen months. And that was in 1986— adjusted for inflation that’s like nearly $13M today. Was he crazy? Who wouldn’t do that?

I’ll tell you: Someone who had a sincere desire to serve the community. Someone who saw money simply as “Numbers on paper and a tool for doing good.” Someone who understood that the things he had been blessed with were gifts from God, and that he did not own them but was merely a steward over them. Someone who had the words, “Go about doing good until there’s too much good in the world” inscribed on his headstone.

One of the ways my dad went about doing good was by teaching. In fact, he believed in the power of teaching so strongly that he established as the second responsibility for every employee of the Larry H. Miller Group: “Be a Teacher.” (The first responsibility is to “Protect the legal, financial and moral well-being of the company.”)

I have taken my dad’s instruction literally. After spending nearly eight years working to make one of his most ambitious dreams— Miller Motorsports Park— a reality, I have started a company within the LHM Group called Miller Inspiration.

Miller Inspiration is dedicated to collecting and sharing the principles, philosophies and practices that Larry and Gail used to grow the Group into what it is today— a company that produces billions of dollars of revenue annually, employs more than 10,000 people, does business in nearly all 50 states and which is committed to enriching the lives of its employees and giving back to the communities where it does business.

Miller Inspiration incorporated on the LHM Group’s 34th anniversary, and it just so happens that I’m the same age now that my dad was when he started his own company. In addition to providing inspiration to the employees of the LHM Group, Miller Inspiration will serve business leaders and entrepreneurs outside the Group through speeches, seminars, coaching, consulting and a book.

I invite you to grow with me as Miller Inspiration grows. One of the best ways to do this is to sign up to receive my blog via email. I also invite you to connect with me on Facebook.

Most of my blog posts won’t be about the Jazz, and they won’t include cool contests or giveaways (though the response to this last one was so awesome that I’ll almost certainly do it again next year).

But I will write about some of the things I’ve learned as part of a phenomenally successful family business— insights gleaned from Larry and Gail, my brothers who also work in the business, and from the many other great mentors and teachers that I’ve been fortunate to have had. I will write about my experience and the wonderful privilege that being alive is.

I’ll share things that I’ve learned in my global travels— I’ve been to 52 countries including North Korea, I’ve slept on a banana leaf under a full moon in the Amazon rainforest and I’ve soared over the Serengeti in a hot air balloon. Like so many of us, I’ve searched for meaning and purpose in scriptures, textbooks, classrooms, conferences and countless conversations. And I’ve devoted my life to learning, teaching, connecting, and sharing my experiences, and as fully as I can, my blessings.

I hope you’ll accept my invitation to grow with me and Miller Inspiration as it grows. I truly appreciate you reading, and your friendship.

Much love,

-b

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Be My Guest to Experience 14 Things I Love about Utah Jazz Games

I have a confession: I’m not actually much of a sports fan. I don’t follow college sports, I couldn’t tell you who won last year’s World Series, and if it the Internet wasn’t abuzz with the fact that the two teams going to the Superbowl are from cities where marijuana’s legal, I probably wouldn’t know who they were. But when your parents own a professional basketball team, it’s impossible not to be a fan.

Sometimes, and especially after a particularly close loss, I’ll wake up the next morning and my first thought is, “Dang! I can’t believe the Jazz lost last night.”

But win or lose, there are many things I love about Jazz games at the EnergySolutions Arena. Like and comment on this post on Facebook by sharing your favorite thing about the Jazz and I’ll enter your name into a drawing to attend a game as my guest. If we’re not already Facebook friends, you can find me here. The winner will receive two courtside tickets to a game this season, dinner in the Lexus Club and VIP parking. In other words, you’ll experience the game as I do.

I recognize that I’m extraordinarily blessed. It’s my privilege to share this experience with you in writing, and I look forward to sharing it with the winning reader in person.

Here are 14 things I love about Jazz games, in no particular order:

  • The Food

The team behind the foodservice at the Arena is incredible, which explains why the food is amazing. I eat in a dining room reserved exclusively for Lexus Courtside Club members that has its own chef, bartenders and wait staff. The food is healthy, delicious and presented beautifully. I don’t eat many meals outside of the Arena that I enjoy as much. There’s even a sundae bar at halftime.

  • The Bear

Furry, fearless, daring, and eminently entertaining, the Bear’s a true superhero. I could watch 48 minutes of his antics. I love his dramatic entrance on a Harley and watching him barrel down the entire length of the lower bowl’s stairs on a plastic sled. But most of all, I appreciate the pre-game hug he makes a point to give me.

  • Sitting Courtside

I feel a breeze when the players run by. I’m close enough to read their tattoos, hear them call plays and talk to each other, and see their sweat fall when they inbound the ball. Players and referees occasionally respond to my questions or comments. I often think of Jay-Z’s line in Empire State of Mind, “I could trip a referee,” but of course I’m always on good behavior. I want to like to keep my seats.

  • The Fans

I love to see so many people at the games having a great time, and my experience is enhanced by knowing that my mom and dad took a huge risk to keep the team in Utah to make this possible. I particularly enjoy seeing and interacting with many of the fans who have been attending as long as I can remember.

  • The Staff

There are a number of employees who have been with us for more than twenty years. They feel like family, and I’m always glad to see them. I have known many of them since I was eight years old, which was when my parents bought the team.

  • The Promotions

The Jazz promotions team dreams up a ton of fun, creative and entertaining ways to help promote marketing partners during timeouts and quarter breaks. I never tire of watching the Bear-as-bowling ball slingshot across the floor to slam into oversized Coke Zero bottles in an insane version of bowling.

  • The Parking

I’m fortunate to park in the back lot where the players park. My spot is twelve steps from the door to the building. It’s especially nice when it snows. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a big difference.

  • Ticket Back Offers

A few Jazz marketing partners place promotional offers on the backs of tickets. My favorite is the Scheels offer for a quarter pound of fudge for each ticket stub. I’ll sometimes walk around after games to pick up tickets that have been left on the ground. The fans who leave those obviously don’t know what they’re missing. Their loss is my (weight) gain.

  • The National Anthem

A branch of the US armed forces presents a color guard at center court before tipoff. It’s accompanied by an artist performing the Star Spangled Banner. I appreciate the beautiful ceremony and the opportunity it provides to pause and reflect on our blessings and freedoms as Americans.

  • The Energy

When you think about it, it really is amazing to be in an arena— a building built for the purpose of competition. Under the bright lights and up close the players seem like giants. There aren’t many opportunities in most of our lives to experience this sort of intensity. And it’s one of life’s great joys to experience the electricity of playoff energy, and especially the Finals. There’s nothing like it.

  • The Players

It’s always a privilege to watch those who are the best in the world perform whatever it is they do. NBA players are some of the best athletes in the world. They are so quick and so strong. I also appreciate the opportunity to see them up close and as “real human beings.”

  • Player Introduction

I love when the lights go down and the Jazz are introduced. A dynamic, dramatic video showcases each player, and I enjoy it every time I watch it. I also love seeing the players bounce up and down in anticipation of the start of the game. They have the exuberance of children, and I know exactly how they feel.

  • Close Games

I love the thrill of close games. I enjoy knowing that the outcome could be decided by a random bounce, a last-minute drive or a lucky tip. In those moments I always wish I was playing instead of merely spectating.

  • Winning

It’s true that “you can’t win ‘em all,” but I just love the confetti and streamers that shoot from the rafters when the Jazz win. I’m particularly glad for the players after each win, and I imagine each victory as a bit of payoff for countless hours spent in the gym or at practice.

I’m also happy for the coaching staff, because I have some idea of the endless hours of video they watch and the stats and games they analyze. I know it matters to the trainers, doctors, chiropractors, equipment people and ballboys. And to all the front office staff, and of course, the fans. And I know that everybody on the team spends a lot of time on airplanes, motorcoaches and in hotel rooms.

I’m very grateful to be in a position close to the Jazz that allows me to experience all of these things on a regular basis. I also appreciate you reading my blog, and I look forward to reading your comments regarding what you love about the Jazz. I will select and notify the winner by Friday, January 31st at 5pm MST.

May every ball bounce your way.

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