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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My mid-life crisis included the purchase of a black Ferrari with yellow calipers and stitching, and it happened in my early thirties. I hope that doesn’t mean that I’ll only live to be sixty-four, the age my dad died, because that’s just way too young.

The first thought in my head the morning I woke up after bringing the Ferrari home was not, ‘Awesome! There’s a Ferrari in my garage.’ It was, ‘Oh no. There’s a Ferrari in my garage.’

… …

When I was eighteen I thought thirty sounded old. Back then I had both ears pierced, along with my tragus and my tongue. I swore that when I turned thirty I’d remove all my piercings and never wear one again. I thought that being over thirty and wearing piercings was just trying way too hard to hold on to being cool.

Then, before I knew it, I was thirty. I didn’t feel any different than I did when I was eighteen. Honestly, I didn’t feel much different than I did when I was eight. I did remove all my piercings, but all of the sudden fifty didn’t sound so old. I knew I wanted to be running marathons, motorcycling, skiing, traveling and spending active, meaningful time with my wife and kids into my eighties and beyond.

I decided to die broke and never retire.

… …

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to go broke by spending all my money. If the Ferrari definitively taught me anything it’s that money really can’t buy happiness.

Instead, I’m inspired by my dad’s thought that “Money’s just numbers on paper and a tool for doing good,” his direction to “Go about doing good until there’s too much good in the world,” and Andrew Carnegie’s perspective that “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” “Besides,” Carnegie wrote, giving his fortune away “provides a refuge from self-questioning.”

I was also impressed by something Arthur C. Brooks said when I heard him speak this week. He said that people who retire away from something (like a job) almost always experience decreased happiness, where people who retire toward something (such as engaging in philanthropy or other passion-driven work) usually experience increased happiness.

I determined to find a career that allows me to do work that I’m good at, that I enjoy, and that serves other people. I resolved to create, at least in concept, the future I that want now and to live into it a little bit more each day. I have learned to responsibly manage money, and this year I’ll establish a foundation in order to further the cause of freedom and to assist individuals in developing countries.

… …

It’s been three and a half years, there’s snow outside, and I’m still paying for the Ferrari.

‘Oh no. It’s still there.’

How Buying a Ferrari Heralded My Mid-life Crisis

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Does Your Life Have a Unique and Specific Purpose?

I have this theory that the most powerful, accomplished and happiest people are those that have the greatest clarity. Clarity about who they are, what they want, and what they believe. Clarity about what’s important to them and the reasons behind the things they do. Clarity about the purpose of their lives.   

For the first 35 years of my life, I didn’t believe that life had meaning. Unsurprisingly, I spent a good portion of those years in a pretty dark place. For a long time I didn’t understand my own emotions of loneliness and despair as signals that something in my life needed to change- and even once I grasped this, it took a while longer for me to understand that for something in my life to change, I had to be the one to change it. 

The pain of emptiness spurred me to search for meaning. In a conversation with a Rabbi, I came to believe that I have a unique and specific life purpose- that each of us does. I also came to believe that our purpose always involves serving others, and that our degree of happiness is in direct proportion to our ability to express our purpose. 

But I still didn’t have any idea what my purpose was, or even how to find it. I thought of words I’d heard attributed to Buddha, “Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” 

And I thought about George Bernard Shaw’s words, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 

Which left me to wonder, if our lives do have purpose, do we discover it or do we create it?

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