Your core values are the deeply held beliefs that authentically describe your soul. – John C. Maxwell

During a 2006 vacation to Argentina, entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie met a woman who worked with a volunteer organization that gave shoes to kids in need.  Mycoskie joined in the cause and visited village after village and saw first hand the sores, blisters, and infections not having shoes caused.  He was deeply effected.  He came back to American inspired with a vision.  Shortly thereafter the vision for Toms was created…The One For One business model was the core mission of his shoe company.  For every shoe they sell, Toms will give a shoe to someone in need.  This core value of service has made Mycoskie and Toms very successful and set the path for how he would operate his then small company, which has grown to millions and millions of dollars in sales.

Toms founder Blake Mycoskie

Toms founder Blake Mycoskie

Core values are enduring beliefs or ideals that drive one’s behavior.  It tells us “what is and what is not good” in our actions.  These guiding principles influence how we make our choices, what choices we do make, and often times how we are judged in our actions by these choices.  Like Katy Perry says in the song Roar, “I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.”  Don’t be that Katy.

What happens when an individual or company does not have sound core values?  Well, ask Lance Armstrong and former members of the leadership team at Enron how that went.  Without core values, clear ideals and guiding principles that aid us in our decision making, we are playing with fire.  Tiger Woods’ domination of the golf world came crashing down when it was reported that he had been living a double life filled with lies, cover-ups, and extra marital affairs.


Core values help us make the tough decisions.  I love the concept that with clear values, decisions are easy.  I wish it was that simple, but if we haven’t examined what we stand for, the type of person we want to be, and what is important to us, sometimes decisions are not easy.  By taking ownership of your values and defining your beliefs – what’s important to you – you are setting up a system that will guide you through the challenges life throws us.  

Think about people that you respect and have learned from…maybe they are your parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, family members, your pastor, or close friends.  What have you learned from them?  How do you want them to see you?  How do you want your children to see you?  Remember, most children do what you do, not what you say.  If you haven’t yet, it’s time to think about your core values and write them down.  Here are two articles to help you drill down your core values:

7 Steps to Discovering Your Core Values

Define Your Personal Core Values in 5 Steps

While speaking to a leadership class at Sumner High School, I shared my core values.  I came up with an acronym: GEARS.  In order to achieve our goals and final destination in this journey of life, its important – just like a car – to have the transmission (your belief system) in the right gear. 



Gratitude: in all things be grateful.

Effort &

Attitude: no matter what is happening around me, I can always control my effort and attitude

Right Thing: “R” stand for “Do the RIGHT thing.”  The definition of integrity is doing the right thing when no one is looking.

Service: My goal is to leave a legacy of service…loving and helping others.


Carroll’s book:  Win Forever  is a must read

Carroll’s book: Win Forever is a must read

Pete Carroll’s first two stints as a head coach in the NFL didn’t go as well as he had hoped.  First with the New York Jets and later with the New England Patriots, both ending in him being fired.  After being let go from the Patriots organization, Pete went through something he had not experienced in his career…he had no job, but time, a lot of time.  This time away from the game forced him to re-evaluate his coaching philosophies.  While as a head coach in NY and NE, Pete felt he was not letting his true core beliefs and values shine through.  He conformed his approach to meet the old school expectations of leading the way NFL teams have always been lead: having no fun and coaching players out of fear, instead of uplifting them.


Inspired by legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, Carroll wrote down his core values and coaching philosophy.  He promised himself, the next time he had the opportunity to be a head coach, he would run his program lead by these guiding principles.  The rest is history…he dominated the Pac-12 at USC and when no believed his style would work in the NFL, his approach has proven very successful and copied by many other coaches in the league and by coaches from other sports, including Steve Kerr from the record setting Golden State Warriors.

Take time, just like Carroll…dig deep and discover your core values.  Once you have come up with these pillars of believe that drive your behavior, write them down and tell someone and remember:

You can’t follow your dreams if you only follow others. 


My next topic in my series “Building Your Brand” will focus on identifying your strengths.  Enjoy the holiday weekend!!!


PS: Interested in getting inspired about discovering your core values?  Read this book…its a game changer!