This is Randal Burton. He owns Gracie Cincinnati, a Jiu Jitsu Academy in Blue Ash.

I caught him doing this and got so excited, I just had to take a photo.

Excited? Over someone mopping a floor? Seriously?


Actually, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

You see, this isn’t the first time I’ve caught Professor Burton cleaning the floors. Or collecting trash. Or organizing chairs. It’s actually quite normal.

But no one will ever hear about it. There won’t be any headlines. There won’t be an award given.

So, why would the owner of the school, regularly do this type of work? Surely there are others who can do these tasks?

I submit to you that he does it because he cares. Because he wants his students to have a clean surface for their training. That he respects the employees and teachers who dedicate their time enough to give back. That he likes to see things done right. That details matter.

All of these things are important, but it’s not what gets me most excited.

What gets me excited is that he is setting the tone for his business. He’s setting standards for behavior without saying a word. He’s teaching fundamentals by his actions.

This is true leadership. A blackbelt in Jiu Jitsu, demonstrating blackbelt level leadership. All the while his students catch his lessons.

It seems that important lessons in life are not taught, instead–they are caught.

It’s how I learn.

My primary instructor at Gracie is Professor Steve Wong.

Steve is a long time blackbelt who has trained with some of the greatest martial artists in the world, including Rickson Gracie, who personally awarded Steve’s blue belt. Who is Rickson Gracie? He’s the son of Helio Gracie, the founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and whom some consider the best fighter to ever live.

One day in class, Steve “caught” me making the biggest mistake a fighter can make while defending. As my training partner took a dominate position I reached up with my hands to defend myself. Steve, in his no-nonsense style screamed at the top of his lungs “what the f&*$! are you doing!?”

The entire gym got totally silent and all eyes were on me.

Caught! Forever burned in my memory.

This moment has stayed with me because Professor Steve made a big deal out of my mistake.

Why would he scold me in such an aggressive and public way?

Surely he could have waited until after class to gently explain to me that extending my arms while defending from the bottom will get my arm broken.

No, gentle is not the way to react when the subject is a broken arm or God forbid, a life or death situation.

Professor Steve’s reaction was the PERFECT reaction to a very serious mistake. (One that I rarely make now.)

As I think about this incredibly important lesson, I think about how I raised my kids and how I reacted very aggressively when they needed correction.

My son Scott received only a few spankings as a child, but when he ran out into the street as a toddler, I had to get his attention. It was an important, possibly life-saving lesson.

The other time he was severely punished was when he argued with a referee during one of his basketball games.

You see, I picked my spots to punish him and only when it really mattered. Like Professor Steve did with me.

My son is now the father of his own child.

Precious Amelia will one day catch her dad doing something right, and one day her dad will catch her doing something dangerous. In both cases she will learn valuable lessons.

As shown by Professor Randal and Professor Steve, the greatest lessons in life are caught, not taught.

Begin—The Work Will Reveal Itself

Begin—The Work Will Reveal Itself

Recently, I decided to tackle the remodel of my master bath—by myself!

Not that unusual for some folks, but for me this was a bit of a departure as I’m a big believer in paying professionals to do what they do well.

It’s not that I think it’s wrong for people to do work on their own homes, but as an advisor, I regularly advise against it.


As I show houses to a buyer client, I will inevitably spot the work done by the homeowner versus the work done by a professional.

“Looks like the homeowner did this work”, I’d say. Immediately the buyer would be uneasy with the home, thinking to themselves, “ I wonder where else they’ve cut corners?”

The most important component with whether a buyer writes a contract for a house is “confidence”. Without confidence that your house is solid, the sale doesn’t happen.

With all of that in mind, I’d like to share my story and some of the lessons learned by “doing it yourself”.

Ignoring my own advice I tackled this fairly significant project. One that would require removing a light fixture, medicine cabinet, six foot vanity and marble top, a six foot wide by 4 foot tall mirror and replacing them with 3 new lights, two mirrors, and higher quality vanity and top. Of course I’d have to run new electrical wiring which meant cutting out drywall, re-patching, sanding and painting. Not to mention replacing some baseboard and casement trim.

Once you decide to tackle a project like this, the first step is demolition.

One of the big lessons I’ve learned on working on my investment properties is when demolition begins, don’t make a mess. The shows on HGTV like to show people with sledge hammers and safety glasses as they destroy cabinets, and interior walls. Pretty dramatic for television, but a horrible practice as the mess you make can become added work, or worse, a safety hazard.

As I carefully and thoughtfully disassembled the current fixtures, I realized something profound—the work was telling me what to do next.

Not doing this type of work everyday, I realized that in order to remove the mirror and the light fixtures more efficiently I would first need to remove the vanity and marble top underneath.

In order to remove the vanity and marble top, I needed to disconnect the plumbing. Then I needed to use a razor knife to cut away the caulk that was holding the marble top in place.

Each step revealed itself, I really didn’t need to overthink this project.

Maybe this is a metaphor for life.

Maybe I don’t need to map out every detail

Maybe I don’t need to worry about how it will all come together.

Maybe I just need to begin.

Maybe the work reveals itself.

As the project continued another important lesson was revealed—most of life cannot be accomplished alone.

I needed three strong humans to help me. One person to help me get the vanity and top off of my pickup truck. (Thank you Scott Adams) One more to help me get the vanity from my garage to the upstairs bath. (Thank you Michael Adams) And one more to get the top upstairs and into place. (Thank you Jamison Doyal)

Moral of the story: Get started, let the work lead you, but projects, like life, are not meant to do alone.