Hear counsel and receive instruction; that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. Proverbs 19:20

A flattering mouth worketh ruin. Proverbs 26:28

The above passages from the Bible shed light on my experience with Sam on a hot August day.

Sam is a criminal defense lawyer from Alabama. He grew up learning from the best lawyers in north Alabama and is serious about the work he does for people.

I met Sam at Valley Hill Country Club in Huntsville over a decade ago. He was alone that morning, so I asked him to join our golf group for 18 holes. As we rode together in the cart, the saying, “a person’s true character is often revealed on the golf course” came to mind.

Golfers are competitive. Bad shots and losing holes can affect confidence level and sometimes generate anger. A person’s self-control, or lack thereof, can best be revealed on a golf course.

While Sam was not a scratch golfer, he carried a 10 handicap. But, he played terrible that day. So, with my 16 handicap (or maybe higher), we were in a one on one battle. Sam remained calm and pleasant throughout the day.

At some point between #7 and #9, I felt the need to seek his advice. As a young inexperienced lawyer, I was struggling with a strategic decision in a case that was surrounded by risk and uncertainty. So, I told him about my challenge and welcomed his thoughts.

His response surprised me. He said, “I don’t practice in Georgia, don’t want to practice in Georgia, don’t know any of your judges, prosecutors, or the ‘lay of the land.’ I also don’t know the people in your community. My advice is worthless.”

Great, I just wasted my time even asking the question. But, he was not finished. “Jason, your Informal Board of Directors should be consulted here.”

What? I asked him what he was talking about. Little did I know that Sam would give me some of the best advice I would ever receive. Sam, who is a little older than me, created a group of close advisors years ago to consult when challenging decisions arose. In turn, each of them would consult Sam and the others when they faced challenges. This, he said, was his Informal Board of Directors (BOD). He told me there are four cornerstones that must be in place:

1. Complete Trust and Loyalty – These two attributes are the foundation for a BOD. They are also rare character traits. But, Sam said that the BOD must consist of these type of people. There are no exceptions;

2. Find the Best in Their Respective Areas of Expertise – This is where ego can get in the way. He said to toss ego out of the door. Find the men and women who shine. Find people who are smarter, more talented, and more experienced than you. Humble yourself.

3. Weed Out the “Yes Men and Women.” – “Yes Men” are some of the most polite and giving people you will ever meet. But, they have no business being on the BOD. The BOD should be filled with “No Men and Women.” These folks will get in your face and tell you that your idea will not work. Its not always pleasant, but exactly what is needed.

4. Decide – “Paralysis by Analysis” destroys good ideas that could have been put into action. The BOD will not always agree. You may be torn regarding which way to go. Sam stressed the importance of praying for God’s guidance above all. Then use His guidance, coupled with intuition, to make the decision. Once a decision is made, stand by it.

So, as Sam’s short game suffered on the back nine, I lead by one point as we stood on #18 green. Before he made a long putt to even our score, he said, “Jason, I enjoyed playing with you today. Oftentimes, our own stubbornness prevents us from learning the first time. Based on our discussion today, you seem strong and steadfast; like one of my Daddy’s mules. But, I am afraid you are also twice as stubborn as all the mules on our farm.”

We smiled as we left the green and parted ways. I thought about the mules on the farm. Sam’s intuition about my level of stubbornness was correct. I would make decisions on my own for the next two years. Finally, I decided to take Sam’s advice.

Interestingly, Sam was the first member of my BOD. The BOD has had a huge impact on my life and the decisions I have made. Actually, I am engaging the BOD this Memorial Day weekend on a time sensitive challenge.

Sam, thanks for sharing your experience and advice about the art of decision making. It has made a huge difference in my life.