Category: Life Lessons (page 1 of 2)

17 Inches… One of My All-Time Favorite Life Lessons!

This was sent my direction by my friend John Santi, Wealth & Investment Advisor. John is always passing along some interesting items, but this one really caught my attention and I wanted to share it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have…

Over twenty one years ago, in Nashville , Tennessee , during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA’s convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend.
One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh, man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter; I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage. Then, finally

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?”, more of a question than answer.
“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”…………“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major Leagues?
“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter. “What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. If you can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Pause. “Coaches… what do we do when your best player shows up late to practice? or when our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him? Do we widen home plate?”

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline.

We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We just widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag. “This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross. “And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss while we just watch.”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curve balls and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable.

From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today.

It is this: “If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools & churches & our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside, “…We have dark days ahead!.”

Note: Coach Scolinos died in Nov 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach. His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players—no matter how good they are—your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”

And this my friends is what our country has become and what is wrong with it today, and now go out there and fix it… “Don’t widen the plate!”

This is just a small excerpt of the full Van Trump Report that I send out every day. To find out what you’re missing, sign up for a FREE 30-day trial.

If You Were To Die In One Hour, What Would You Regret?

I ran this story a few years ago and it recently came back across my e-mail. Life at times can get difficult and pull us off course, I like to use inspirational videos like this to help me refocus and stay inline with my core set of values and beliefs. I watch this video at least once a year. Each time I seem to find new meaning and a reason to be more thankful than ever. I hope it has the same impact on you as it does me. Ric Elias was a father, husband, and business man in South Carolina… In January of 2009 he sat in the first row of the flight 1549––the infamous Hudson River crash. As he braced for impact and what those on board thought would be their final seconds of life, several life changing thoughts swirled through his head. As you watch this short moving video, keep in mind Ric Elias is very much just like you or I. He has been an extremely hard worker his entire life. He graduated from Harvard Business School and became very successful. Just like other business owners, starters, and entrepreneurs one can often lose track of what truly matters in life. As fierce competitors we tend to focus on the game and the strategy to win. At times we mistakenly take ourselves out of the “REAL” game, in return our priorities often drift and can quickly end up in disarray. Bottom-line, we need to listen carefully to the message presented by Ric Elias, and NOT rely on moments of trauma to recognize what truly matters. Let’s open our eyes now before it’s too late… To live a life of REAL purpose. CLICK HERE

This is just a small excerpt of the full Van Trump Report that I send out every day. To find out what you’re missing, sign up for a FREE 30-day trial.

A Letter I Recently Wrote To My Nephew

My sister asked me to write a letter to my nephew to be read while he was out on a retreat. I showed what I had penned to my wife Michelle and she thought it would be good to pass long and share as it provides a lot about the life lessons we’ve collected through the years. I just think any time you can pass along life lessons or words of encouragement to others you should take the opportunity and a moment to do your part. I’m a firm believer in paying it forward! I also included a few pics of my sister and her family along with my nephew and his long-time girl friend as they take pics before a high school dance. Many of you have meet my sister as she always helps with our annual event in Kansas City. The family she has built is amazing. Love them all…

Dear Conner,

I am extremely happy to see you’ve taken the time to go on a “retreat.” Though I was never personally given the opportunity to attend a ‘real retreat,’ I have embarked on several personal journeys that have forever changed my life.

I can speak from experience when I tell you that I have faced many ups and downs. I know it’s tough to think about the ‘downside’ when you are just turning 17 years old, have your entire life in front of you and parents that provide you with most all the necessary tools for survival. But having been a professional trader I learned the ‘downside’ can be an incredibly slippery slope and something we most often never see coming our direction. In fact, like I’ve told both Jordan and Kennedy on many occasion, it wasn’t until I found more faith in God that my life began to take a more positive turn. I never shied away from a good party, believed nothing bad could ever happen and never considered the downside risk that could be in the road ahead.

You may not know it or have seen it in your lifetime, but I have been broke on more than one occasion, it hasn’t always been life in a big house behind a big gate. In fact your mother and father have helped us out in the past when we didn’t have the money to pay my own bills. Luckily I have had a great family like yours and Michelle’s parents surrounding me and have been smart enough to learn form my mistakes. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen again, because anything is possible. But I have recognized most of my mistakes have been made when I did not take into account the ramifications of my own choices and how they would impact those who love me most. In simple terms, I never chose to consider the downside risk for others that were associated with my decisions. Like I mentioned above, it was not until I found a deeper appreciation for God and strength in my faith that I started to become more humble and approach life with much greater gratitude. It’s this “gratitude” that now makes me pause a bit more often before I make a decision that could adversely impact not only myself, but those I love in my life. Hence the reason I choose to never drink and drive. The reason I chose to never invest or give money to anyone who is not doing good for society. The reason I always donate and try to help those in need. To say it has been a game changer would be an understatement!

Moral of the story, by having a deeper relationship with God, I clearly have a much different perspective in life. Below is a short poem that I have given to both my children. I encourage them to read it each morning, just as I do myself. I hope you find it to have similar importance and use for when times are tough…I promise there will be those times. Lou Holtz would pass it out to the Notre Dame football players. Similar to Coach Holtz, I believe it’s definitely worth sharing and referring to often.

Today is the beginning of a new day.

God has given me this day to use as I will.

I can waste it or use it for good.

What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.

When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it.

I want it to be gain, not loss.

Good, not evil.

Success, not failure… in order that I shall not regret the price I have paid for it.

You are about to embark on a new chapter in your life. Just remember it will be written with whatever pen you choose. The teachers like to say that your reputation follows you, but I believe it actually precedes you in life. These days people will more than likely judge you by what they hear or read online before they ever actually meet you in person. With this in mind I often look back on my own life and wish I would have done a few things a bit differently, especially with my Mom passing at such a young age. Unfortunately in life, unlike video games, there are no do-overs or re-set buttons, remember this as you move forward and are faced with many tough decisions. I repeat again… there are no do-overs, you can not hit the re-set button and you get no additional lives by reaching the next level.

As you contemplate your future, I hope you approach it with bold confidence, but also understand life is extremely fragile. Give your Mom that extra hug for no reason and let your Dad know you appreciate all the hard work he does for you and the family. As I mentioned earlier, ‘gratitude’ is an extremely important tool that is often overlooked in life. I encourage you to taste it, chew it and swallow it daily.

Another important life lesson is to be extremely cautious of the ‘unknown’. It’s not the gasoline or the matches, but rather the ‘fumes’ we do not see that most often cause the explosion and pain. We never fully appreciate or expect the unexpected and we never know exactly how the game will end. Two important items that at times can make understanding our life somewhat difficult and certainly unpredictable. Be respectful to both, trust in your heart and follow Gods lead.

No one ever said this journey would be easy, but I promise if you listen to the “music” that God has placed in your heart rather than the noise of the world, you will more than likely enjoy tremendous happiness. Keep in mind I didn’t promise you would be rich or famous, but rather happy. I suspect if you’re like me, how you define ‘happy’ will eventually become of great importance, and I’m certain it will evolve often as you mature in life. Therefore feel free to refer back occasionally as I believe this message will change and hold deeper meaning as life deals you more wild-cards.

Always keep your strong will and determination. I love you and wish you the best in all you seek to achieve! Only you will set the limits from here on out!

Make your life spectacular… with much love,
Uncle Kevin

Clint Harp’s Big Gamble On Himself Paid Off Handsomely!

Clint Harp has been a staple on HGTV’s hit show “Fixer Upper” since the beginning. His part in the show has turned him into a celebrity and even lead to a deal for his very own television series. His seeming ‘luck’ at having his wildest dreams come true all stemmed from a huge leap of faith in himself. Just six years ago, Harp was in medical sales, but his real passion was building furniture. In the beginning of 2011, his desire to pursue that passion led to him quitting his six-figure job in Houston and dive in feet first. As he explains, “The only way it was going to happen is if I completely went for it.” He had two kids at the time and his wife, Kelly Harp, was a stay-at-home mom. He recalls conversations the two had where they were discussing things like bankruptcy and trying to figure out how to stretch their savings. The summer of that same year, the family moved to a small apartment in Waco so Kelly could pursue her graduate degree. Clint continued with his efforts to launch his furniture business, which was tough in an apartment. The Harps also added a third child, which added to the financial pangs they were really starting to feel. One night over dinner, friends mentioned Chip Gaines, a builder from Waco who owned Magnolia Homes. As Harp was was looking to start picking up work building furniture, he thought ​of ​a connection Gaines might know where he could rent a woodworking shop. He gave Gaines a call in December, but never heard back. A few months later, the family pulled into a gas station following an afternoon at the park. Harp recalls that he was unsure if they could even afford to fill up the tank and thinking to himself, “What did I do?” It was then that he saw a Magnolia Homes truck pull in. He approached the driver and asked if he knew owner Chip Gaines. Turns out, the driver was Gaines, and when Harp explained what he wanted to do, Gaines invited him to hang out that afternoon. The two drove around discussing Harp’s idea, and a few nights later the Harps went to the Gaines’ house for dinner. There, the Harps met Chip Gaines’ wife, Joanna, who was selling some home-decor pieces out of her home and looking to add more, including furniture. Harp ended up renting shop space on the cheap from Habitat for Humanity, a charity he’s been involved with for many years. Finally, he had someone to build furniture for, and he was feeling positive about the future of his enterprise. The good fortune was just beginning though. Within a few months, the Gaines​es​​ were approached by High Noon Entertainment about developing a television show. Harp says the whole thing seemed insane. “I met Chip at a gas station in February or March of 2012 and by October or November, we’re filming a pilot for HGTV,” he says. His regular gig as Joanna Gaines’s go-to furniture maker on the show has allowed him and Kelly to open up their own store, buy the shop building and commercial-grade tools and even add some employees. What’s more, the couple’s own series, “Wood Work,” aired on the DIY Network earlier this month. Clint typically uses recycled and reclaimed wood from old structures, fallen trees, and scrap piles to build his pieces. “There is the beauty of this idea, of something being left for dead and brought back to life,” Clint told the Austin American-Statesman. “I felt that way about myself. For me, I’m kind of reclaimed as well.” (Sources: Austin American-Statesman, Country Living)

This is just a small excerpt of the full Van Trump Report that I send out every day. To find out what you’re missing, sign up for a FREE 30-day trial.

Duck Dynasty’s Missy Robertson to Son: “You Can’t Come Home”

This article was sent my direction the other day and it made me stop and think about “relationships”. For Michelle and I, we left home immediately after getting married and moved to Chicago. We quickly realized we had no one but each other and it truly helped us build and develop an incredibly strong relationship and deep form of communication. This made me think twice about the advise being offered up by the this Duck Dynasty mom, who has some serious words for her son Reed and his fiancée… The article below was written by Jenny Rapson, who is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and the editor of For Every Mom.

Duck Dynasty’s Missy Robertson has been married to her husband Jase for over 25 years—and in that time, she says, she’s learned a LOT about marriage. The mom of three recently posted to her blog,, reflecting on when she was a new bride. Now that her son Reed is engaged to be married, she shared with him a conversation her loving father had with her the week of her own wedding, back in 1990. She says:

…he [my dad] stopped me in the hallway of our house one day during that festive week, took me by the shoulders, faced me head on and stated, “Missy, I need to tell you something very important”, it definitely got my attention. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “When you get married on Friday, you can’t come home.”

What? Where in the world did this come from? Maybe I didn’t hear him correctly. So, I asked him to clarify.

Again, he said, “You are not welcome to come back to this house to live after Friday night.”

At first Missy thought that seemed awfully harsh, but as she and Jase worked through the predictable problems and adjustments of early married life, she became thankful for her dad’s words. She says as a newlywed there were times that she laid in bed crying, wishing she could run back to her parents’ home and away from the responsibilities and struggles of married life, but then: “I would remember what my dad told me, and I knew I had to go talk to Jase about it.”

She says her dad’s words helped solidify her commitment to her marriage as a young bride, and that’s why she recently shared them with her son Reed and his fiancée, Brighton.

She says she told them this story of her dad’s pre-marital verbal smackdown because she wants them to understand, too, that God’s design for marriage means sticking together and working out problems with God’s help, not running home to mom and dad to fix things or escape. She cites Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

Learning from her own loving father, this loving mom says of her son and his bride-to-be:

So, not only did I tell them my memory of that awkward conversation I had with my dad all those years ago, I also took the opportunity to pass down the same information to Reed. I left them with these endearing words:

“Reed, I love you with all my heart, but once you say ‘I do’ this fall, you can’t come home. And Brighton, you’re stuck with him.”

This is just a small excerpt of the full Van Trump Report that I send out every day. To find out what you’re missing, sign up for a FREE 30-day trial.

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