What I Live For

We are always getting ready to live but never living.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

With this blog post I invite you into my inner life. I share this partly to get many of my ideas and plans “out there”— to usher them more fully from the realm of thought into the realm of reality— to make them more real by sharing, and also to open up the possibility of connecting with others who are interested or who might want to more actively journey life’s path with me. Putting my thoughts into writing and also helps me to clarify my own thinking.

I know it’s true that “life is what happens while we’re busy making plans,” but this post represents my life’s path, at least as far as I can see it.

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein tells us, “I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.” Joseph Smith offers the perspective that, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.” At first glance these thoughts might seem incompatible, but I happen to think that Wittgenstein and Smith are both right.

Life is not about indulging in base self-gratification. It is about discovering the true and lasting happiness that comes from tuning into the deep joy and satisfaction of discovering and living our life’s purpose, in harmony with natural rhythms and God’s will for our lives.

(Whenever I talk about God I realize that I’m far from an authority on the subject, and that I can’t say that I know much more about Him than that He exists. I know that He exists simply because I exist. The way I see it, SOMETHING created me, and that something, by definition is God. Beyond that, I don’t know much. In fact, whenever the subject of God comes up, I’m reminded of a piece of advice commonly attributed to André Gide, “Love those who seek the truth; beware of those who find it.”)

As I’ve thought about why I’m here and how I want to spend my life, the fact doesn’t escape me that I’m extraordinarily blessed. I sincerely desire to share my blessings with others. We all want to make a difference.

In a speech I heard earlier this year, author Arthur C. Brooks shared a story about Johann Sebastian Bach, the great Baroque composer, in which Bach was asked, “Why do you compose music?” Bach responded unhesitatingly, “For the glory of God and the enjoyment of man.”

That answer resonates powerfully with me. It’s a great and noble thought to labor in service to God and to use the strengths, gifts and talents we’ve been blessed with uplift and enrich our own lives and the lives of others.

I think often about my dad’s remarkable career and all the good that came of it. But I have an ongoing debate with myself as to whether or not his success was worth the price he paid for it. His success came at the cost of his health, his relationships, and his spirituality (at least in the middle part of his life, when he was so focused on building and running his business). I find this question impossible to answer and endlessly debatable.

Also, I often wonder if it’s possible to achieve a level of success comparable to my dad’s while balancing health, relationships, spirituality and personal pursuits. My intuition tells me that it is, but that’s the same part of me that says that it’s possible to hit 100 out of 100 three-pointers. Sure, it’s possible, but it’s not going to happen. And anyway, it’s impossible to know for sure, and it’s a trap to compare ourselves and our accomplishments to others.

Observing my dad’s life has led me to create daily and weekly routines that help me to ensure that I give proper attention to my health, relationships and spirituality.

I walk at least three miles every day. (The 1000 Mile Challenge makes this as fun as possible.) I eat more vegetables than apple fritters. I’m home in time to eat dinner with my family every night. I practice being present when I’m with my wife or kids. My wife and I have a weekly date night. I meditate every morning and every night before bed. I usually read something of a spiritual or devotional nature a few times a week.

I practice a half dozen other minor routines in the morning or at night that help me to stay focused and balanced. I suspect that my routines border on OCD, and I know that they’re not for everyone, but I’ll keep doing them as long as they keep working for me.

In addition to my daily and weekly routines, I have identified a number of things that I want to become or accomplish before I die. I’m aware of the risk pointed to in the Japanese proverb: “Chase two hares, catch neither.” But I ignore that, opting instead to follow Peter Diamandis’ notion that, “Multiple projects lead to multiple successes” and the advice to “Start many fires.”

I have a strong commitment to all of the following objectives, though I’m pursuing some of them with a lot more energy than others.

Miller Inspiration

It’s been a little over a year since I launched Miller Inspiration, a company that serves business leaders, entrepreneurs and the 10,000+ employees of the Larry H. Miller Group by providing lessons and services related to professional training and personal development. Miller Inspiration uses the lives and lessons of my parents, Larry H. and Gail Miller, as the starting point for its curriculum.

The company is still very much in the startup and development phase, but we’ve got a great team and we’re having fun and making progress.

Miller Inspiration’s four big initiatives are:

  • Beyond Driven, a book of 99 inspirational stories about Larry H. Miller. You can learn about this project here.
  • The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Archive. The Archive is a formal effort to collect and organize my mom and dad’s photographs, correspondence and other personal papers and to preserve them for future generations. We are currently talking with BYU about housing the Archive.
  • Workshops. We are working to create workshops for business leaders and their employees based on some of the sports and entertainment properties within the Larry H. Miller Group— the Utah Jazz, the Salt Lake Bees, Miller Motorsports Park and Megaplex Theatres.

These workshops are still in the customer discovery and content development phase, but I intend them to combine stories, learning activities, practical wisdom and humor in a way that makes them both fun and valuable.

  • Universal Message. This is a presentation intended to create cultural cohesion among the employees of the LHM Group. This is no small feat given that the Group now does business in 46 states in a wide variety of industries. This presentation is intended to convey the Group’s history, mission, vision and values, along with powerful vision for its future in an emotionally engaging way.

It’s also designed to convey who the Miller family is, and what our family and company’s commitment is to continuing the service and philanthropy we provide in the communities where we conduct business.

Family Office

John D. Rockefeller established America’s first family office in 1882. The point of a family office is to help a family to preserve its financial, intellectual and human capital.

Only 30% of family businesses successfully transfer to the third generation or beyond. As a second-generation family member I feel a great responsibility to ensure that the lessons and sacrifices that my mom and dad made to establish our family business are preserved so that the business can continue in the future. James Hughes wrote a great book on family offices called Family Wealth.

I’ve devoted significant time over the last two years to learning about family offices and how one might benefit our family. I continue to help provide direction and definition to this effort.

Professional Coaching

My wife Dawn and I are working to become professional coaches. This entails more than 300 hours of study over a seven-month period. We are nearly a third of the way through the program and we’re enjoying it immensely. We both have a few clients already. You can learn about our course of study here.

Charitable Foundation

Dawn and I recently established our own charitable foundation. We’re still a ways from putting specific plans or substantial effort into this, but we know that we want to help address some of the world’s major concerns in the areas of environmental sustainability, education, health and sanitation, nutrition, clean water, human rights and the cause of freedom.

One of my dreams for this is to create “learning journeys” where we organize trips to places we’ve been able to visit such as the rain forest or villages in Africa. Seeing the needs and opportunities up close and first-hand can have a powerful impact on people.

Zero Emissions Driverless Car

I dream of a world where cars are emissions-free and drive themselves. The potential benefits of this technology for humanity are massive (as are the challenges to making it a reality). In the future, I want to dedicate more of my time and resources to making this technology a reality.

Screenplay

I’m writing a screenplay. This creative endeavor is a welcome contrast to the non-fiction, pragmatic writing and thinking that makes up much of my workdays. I’ve devoted roughly half of my evening writing sessions to this project, which explains why I’m no longer blogging every night.

It’s a Romeo and Juliet story set in a future where the world is on the edge of ecological collapse and the brink of war. I’ve received positive feedback on a synopsis I wrote for this story that I shared with an Academy Award-nominated producer. My writing partner and I continue to plug away at this project.

Book

I want to write a book for my kids and posterity that will help them to understand who I was and what my life was like. This book will include a story I’ve been meaning to write for more than a decade about a mental breakdown / spiritual awakening I had while studying in Japan when I was 18.

During this episode I heard myself say— in Japanese— “From now on, I only want to hear God’s music.” I knew that came from somewhere deep inside of me, but I didn’t know what that meant for how to live. Here I am, eighteen years later, still trying to figure it out.

50 Mile Walk

I’m organizing a 50 mile walk from Provo to Salt Lake September 13th. It’s the kind of event where you learn a lot about yourself. This will be the seventh time I’ve walked 50 miles in 20 hours or less.

Every time I do this I ask just about everyone I know if they want to participate. Only a handful of people take me up on it, and even fewer people finish. If you have interest to give this a go let me know and I’ll be sure to add your name to my invite list.

Adventures

I will climb Kilimanjaro. I will ride a motorcycle through the streets of Tokyo at three am.

I think often about Werner Erhard’s advice: “Decide on a project for which you are willing to take complete responsibility. Complete the project successfully. Relate this achievement to others as an inspiration for them. Your willingness to express yourself may be just the trigger needed by someone else to do something for themselves. From now on, don’t wait for something to happen to you. Actually take responsibility for making something happen. Keep at it until you make it a successful experience for everyone. You can make the difference.”

Every morning I endeavor to hold onto the mindfulness I achieve in my mediation, and to carry it with me through all of my day’s activities— the little actions I take in order to achieve the big objectives I just described. I get frustrated with myself when I catch myself hurrying, trying to do too many things at once, or not being loving, patient and considerate with someone. I wish to have the patience and grace of a holy man, but I haven’t achieved that yet. But I keep trying.

I remind myself of Yogananda’s words: “Live each present moment completely, and the future will take care of itself. Fully enjoy the wonder and beauty of each instant. Practice the presence of peace. The more you do that, the more you will the presence of that power in your life.” And, “Everything you do should be done with peace. That is the best medicine for your body, mind, and soul. It is the most wonderful way to live.”

I’ve written versions of this blog post many times over the last few months, but I haven’t shared any of those due to one fear or another. I’ve thought, “People will think I’m silly for having such [big] or [nebulous] or [whatever] dreams and goals,” or “I might not succeed in achieving one (or more) of those objectives and then I’ll look stupid” or something like that.

I know that talk is cheap and that ideas are a dime a dozen. I understand that when all is said and done, more is said than done. I get that. But I also know that our own fears— our own inner critic— kills a lot of dreams and ideas before they ever have a chance to take root in the physical world. And that’s a shame because Earl Nightingale was right, “Everything begins with an idea.”

So, now that I’ve let you inside my inner life, you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like. Just please try not to step on the dreams.

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I’m Writing a Book about Larry H. Miller Called “Beyond Driven”

It’s impossible to know how many lives my dad, Larry H. Miller, positively impacted, but one thing’s for sure— it’s a big number. I recall that more than five thousand people attended his funeral or attended his viewing, and in the five years since he’s been gone I’ve had so many people share with me incredible stories of how he touched their lives.

I want to capture those stories in writing before they disappear forever. That’s why I’m inviting people who knew or interacted with my dad to share their stories in a new book I’m writing that I’m calling Beyond Driven.

The idea for the book is to collect ninety-nine brief stories about my dad that are inspirational, motivational or uplifting in nature. (Nine was his softball number and it’s always been special to our family. 99 felt like a good number of stories to shoot for.)

Tomorrow I’ll send an email announcing this project to employees of the Larry H. Miller Group inviting them to contribute their stories. This email will link to a video I will post on MillerInspiration.com explaining the project.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks compiling a master list of my dad’s friends from childhood to adulthood, softball teammates, Jazz players, business associates, long-term employees, close neighbors and church members, government officials and others who had significant relationships with him.

I have enjoyed reaching out to a number of these people with phone calls and letters, and it’s been great to receive hugely positive responses from people who are willing and eager to share their stories.

I’m proud of my team at Miller Inspiration for having created a simple website that allows contributors to learn about the project and to submit their stories online. (You can find the page here.) I’m also very excited to have already received our first two stories.

I’m working to attach a charity partner to the project. I have already received a positive response from one that would be very appropriate. I hope to be able to announce it soon.

My dad hated certain words. These include “boss,” “empire,” (when referring to the LHM Group) and “legacy.” The reality is, though, that my dad did establish a legacy. It’s my hope that this book will help to build on and preserve that legacy for future generations.

If you have questions about Beyond Driven or you’d like to contribute a story please let me know. I’d love to include your story in the book!

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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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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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Success: Is It Worth It? (Part 3)

I had always kind of figured that my dad would die of a heart attack at his desk.

It seemed logical given his incredibly long hours, heavy workload, high stress, poor diet, minimal exercise and little sleep. It’s an understatement to say that he pushed himself hard. His autobiography was appropriately named— he was driven. 

Eventually he did have a heart attack. He wasn’t at work, as it turns out, but it was only one of a host of significant health issues that eventually caught up to him.

Our family was fortunate to spend my dad’s last couple of weeks by his side. One of my life’s greatest blessings is to have seen that at the end of his life he was at peace with himself and the life he’d lived.

I knew absolutely that I wanted that same peace when my time on Earth was up. I also knew that Euripides was right— No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow. I felt an urgency to start living the life I wanted, in a way that made me feel peace, now.

Observing my dad’s life and death caused me to think that one of life’s major aims must surely be to learn to die well.

In the final analysis, I don’t think there’s much my dad would have changed about his life even if he could have. I think of Patton’s words, “If a man has done his best, what else is there?” 

When I debate with myself whether or not the high cost he paid for his success was worth it, I reflect on the jobs he created, which today number about 10,500. I think about the families supported by the income from those jobs, and the healthcare benefits provided.

I think about the scholarships awarded, and the innumerable opportunities for personal and professional growth. I think about the existence of a company that employees can be proud to work for— a company that does meaningful work that enriches lives.

I think about all the taxes collected that help keep the government running strong and ultimately enhance the quality of life for so many.   

I think about the speeches my dad gave, the mentorship he provided and the lessons he taught formally in classrooms and informally everywhere. 

I think about all the customers served, and all the goods, services and experiences transacted in safe and clean facilities by excellent employees.  

I think about the philanthropy that he and my mom provided so quietly that I often didn’t know about it.

I reflect on Albert Schweitzer’s words, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

When we serve others we are happy. My dad found many ways to use his time, talents and energies to serve others. He served until he was literally unable to do so any longer. 

It is impossible to say whether or not the price my dad paid for his success was worth it. I often think that he could have achieved 90% of the success he did by putting in only 60% of the time and effort.

But he was at peace at the end of his life. He genuinely enjoyed the work he did and he loved serving others. He wouldn’t have changed much about his life.

For all these reasons I tend to think that the price my dad paid was worth the results he produced. Ultimately, I know, whatever results we achieve come at a cost— we’re always trading our time and energy for something.

Whether that something is worth the price we pay for it is a question we should ask ourselves from time to time.

 

 

 

 

 

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