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The Wizard of Oz: Pay No Attention to the Man behind the Curtain
Lance Marshall slammed his hand down on his desk. "Is he serious with these numbers?" He scattered the papers in front of him and glared at the pages. "No wonder he didn't have the guts to email them!"
Standing before him, Terri winced but stood her ground. "If you keep shooting the messenger, she may stop showing up."
Lance's gaze snapped up at her. "This isn't about you! It's about us. All of us. This company. He can't even pretend that these represent acceptable growth. Get Bryan in here. Now!"
Terri hesitated and didn't move. "Lance, he's gone for the day."
"So he just dumped these on you and left? Coward."
"He thought it might be better to discuss them tomorrow. After you'd ... considered them thoroughly."
"You mean after I cool off."
Terri pursed her lips and remained silent.
"I want him in here first thing. No excuses."
"Yes, sir." Terri turned to go, then paused. "Lance?"
"What? Another disaster needing to be discussed?"
She took a deep breath. "Perhaps. You did promise your wife you'd be home by seven. Something about Tony's birthday ..."
He scowled and stared at the clock on the wall. Sleek and avant-garde, its burnished steel frame and abstract numbers reflected the rest of his office decor. Amanda had given it to him for Christmas, in hopes that he wouldn't always be late getting home. It usually failed at that task, as it had today.
Something deep in his gut tightened, hard and painful, as he thought of Amanda's face, clouded with disappointment. Again. And Tony's.
"Go home, Terri. You've got a family too."
"Yes, sir. See you in the morning."
"I'll be here."
I'm always here.
Lance gathered the sheets of the report and stuck them into his briefcase. He'd read them tonight after everyone had gone to bed. He sent one last email, then shut down the computer. He left, his stride purposeful. He really did need to get home to Amanda and the kids, especially Tony.
Sometimes he couldn't believe a dozen years had passed since they'd rushed to the hospital, more than two months before Amanda's due date, totally unprepared for how their lives were about to change.
Lance tripped over a trash can sitting next to a desk, disrupting his thoughts and his mood. He kicked it angrily. It toppled, flinging the trash all over the floor, and hit the closest desk with a solid thud.
Lance mumbled under his breath and started to leave, then remembered that the cleaning crew came in only two days a week now, a cost-cutting measure. Snarling at himself, he squatted to pick up the litter.
Cost-cutting measures. He felt swamped by them. As a company, they were doing okay, but the pressures from the board to improve the profits dramatically, not just keep a track of steady growth, pulled at him like dogs over a carcass. After all, the profits last year had been truly spectacular. They'd moved into this new space, improved equipment, took on new clients ...
Lance paused, looking at the cubicles around him, silent here at the end of the day. A far cry from the rented, open warehouse space that had housed the original company he'd started with three friends. That company had launched like a bottle rocket, in part because they'd laughed a lot and worked even more.
His mouth twisted in a half smile as he thought of those guys, teammates from his high school football team. They'd been raw, naive, and enthusiastic. He'd been their quarterback, always the quarterback, calling the plays.
C'mon, guys, just one more hour. We can get this shipment out and sleep in late tomorrow.
Right, Lance, like you ever sleep in. We're starved!
I'll go get takeout.
Chinese. Extra eggrolls.
And he'd do it. He would bring over the food on the old bicycle, passing out bags as he rode by. They'd finish the order, then run a couple of the Coach's old plays to let go of the day and laugh. The guys were gone now, moved on to new companies of their own.
They'd made a dream fly. Now all he had was the bottom line.
Lance's phone buzzed in his pocket, and he took it out.
He silenced it. "Why does everyone want something from me!"
* * *
As the garage door slid shut behind his car, Lance let himself in through the kitchen. He braced for a fight but met only silence. The kitchen and dining room lay buried beneath the remnants of a joyous celebration. Streamers hung from the chandelier over the dining table, and balloons bounced merrily around on the ceiling, lifted by helium and tossed about by the air from the floor vents. The cake sat in front of the only place at the table that didn't have a straight-back chair near it, and the chocolate delight looked as if it had been shredded instead of cut. Tony's name had been smeared, and Lance guessed that Amanda had let him play in the cake once pieces had been distributed to Connie and Robert.
Where are they?
Lance listened. The house, an open construction plan laid out with Tony's wheelchair in mind, conducted sound like an echo chamber. After a moment, he heard muted voices, which told him they were on the patio. He left his briefcase on the couch and paused at the door, watching his family having fun without him.
They clustered around a fire pit, roasting marshmallows in the glowing embers of the wood fire. Robert, his lanky frame bulked up from last year's football season, perched on a bench next to his mom. He'd received early admission to Stanford. Lance had beamed with pride when he'd heard, until he realized what it would cost.
Coach could have gotten him a scholarship. Maybe we never should have left Minnesota.
Connie laughed, jerking Lance to the present again. His only daughter was barely three when Tony was born, so she took having a disabled brother as a natural thing, as if every family had one. She helped Tony thread the marshmallow onto the straightened hanger, both of them wrestling with the effort. She positioned it in the embers, since Tony couldn't see the fire.
Amanda's hand rested on Robert's shoulder, although she watched Connie and Tony, her eyes caring and cautious.
High school sweethearts. That's how everyone introduced Amanda and Lance. True, and he'd been amazed as he'd watched her grow and mature. Working with Tony had kept her active, and he was awed by her strength, courage, and intelligence in raising all their children.
Lance slid open the glass door and put on his best Robert DeNiro imitation. "Toh-NY! Happy, happy birthday, Toh-NY!"
Tony burst into laughter and jerked spastically, sending the hanger and marshmallow soaring.
Connie lunged and caught it, glaring at her father.
"Little late for the party, Dad."
Amanda stood, admonishing Connie. "Show some respect, young lady."
"But he missed—"
"He's well aware of what he missed."
Robert watched his marshmallow burst into flames and melt off the hanger, dropping into the smoldering embers.
"Sorry I'm late," Lance said evenly as he bent and whispered again to Tony, "Happy birthday, Tony."
Tony jumped and grinned, and his hand searched across the soundboard on his wheelchair until he found what he sought, a button that spoke the word Yes! in a mechanical tone.
"Did you have a good time at the party?" Lance asked.
"As a matter of fact, we all did." Connie grabbed Tony's chair and pulled it away from Lance. "Now it's Tony's bedtime. Too bad you couldn't have stopped by earlier."
"Connie." Amanda's tone sounded the warning.
"Don't worry, Mom. I'll get him started," she said. "You can finish up whenever you get done here."
With that, she turned the chair and headed both of them back into the house.
Lance watched them go for a moment, then turned to Robert, only to find that his older son had disappeared. Puzzled, Lance looked around the yard but saw no movement among the shadows.
"He does that sometimes." Amanda sighed. "He's gotten very good at just disappearing. Kinda like his father."
She turned and started gathering up the bags of marshmallows. That tight, hard pain in Lance's gut deepened.
"What was it this time? Vendor reports? New client proposals?"
A bitter taste formed in the back of Lance's mouth.
"End-of-the-month reviews," he said.
"Oh, and those are always such a surprise! Since they only occur, oh, let's see ... twelve times a year, they really can't be planned for, can they? Sort of like an annual event like a birthday. Just sneaks up on you, doesn't it?"
"So is this family!" Amanda replied.
Lance exploded. "You have no idea how hard I work for this family!"
Amanda stood her ground. "In fact, I do know how hard you work! I see it every day! You've always worked hard for this family. You've always worked for your dream and made our life great. But when did it change, Lance? When did it stop being the dream? When did enough stop being enough for you?"
Lance felt as if he'd been slapped. "What did you say?"
Amanda let out a long, deep breath and picked up the remaining hangers; two still had burnt marshmallows dangling from them.
"You heard me. And you may not like it, but you need to think long and hard about what happens next. Because while I still love the man I married, the one I live with now is coming apart at the seams."
Then Amanda walked away too, her words echoing in his head:
When did it stop being the dream?
When did enough stop being enough?CHAPTER 2
The Decision: Going Back to Move Forward
Lance spent more time twisting around in the sheets than sleeping that night. His mind, captured by Amanda's words and the unending cycle of work, kept buzzing. But, more importantly, Amanda never came to bed.
He missed her, missed feeling her presence beside him. Lance didn't travel much these days, and it had been a long time since they'd last slept apart. Just another sign of how far his life had spun out of orbit.
Finally, he got up around 2:00 a.m. and found Amanda asleep on the sofa in their office. The tear streaks in her makeup made his chest ache, but she looked so peaceful, he didn't want to wake her. Instead, he covered her with a throw and turned out all the lights.
Back in bed, Lance vowed he'd fix this. He might not be able to do anything about work, but this he could fix. Any promises he made today, he would keep.
He awoke to the smell of bacon and the sound of silence. As he got up, Lance realized he'd missed the kids; they had already left for school. He could catch them later. First, he knew he needed to set things right with Amanda.
Standing in the door of the kitchen, Lance paused, watching his wife work her magic with an omelet. Too often he'd taken for granted how easy she made his life. Not only did she make running the house look effortless, but she also oversaw all of Tony's therapy and doctors, as well as operating a small business out of their home.
"Have I mentioned how remarkable I think you are?"
Amanda's eyebrows arched as she slid the omelet onto a plate. "Is that the beginning of an apology?"
"As a matter of fact, it is."
She set the plate in front of him. "Please don't."
"Not yet." She handed him a fork ... then slid a manila folder over to him. "Wait until you see this. Do you remember how you always said that you could always talk to Coach, any time and any place? No matter what the problem is, no matter how hard?"
Lance nodded. "I was just thinking about Coach last night."
Amanda nudged the folder. Curious, Lance opened it ... and stared. "What is this?"
"It's a round-trip ticket to Minneapolis. Then there's a car rental so you can head west out on Highway 12. I reserved a room at a new inn just around the corner from the old high school, and I called Coach last night. He's expecting you, said he'd meet with you the minute you got in."
She held up a finger. "Last night, I kinda told you I wanted you to be the man I married. That's not entirely true, and I'm sorry for yelling it at you. The man I married was loving, kind, dedicated, and full of dreams. The foundation was there, and I think Coach had a lot to do with that.
"But you were also immature, naive, and lacking wisdom in a lot of ways. You've gained all that and more. I love that about you and wouldn't go back for the world. But I watch you struggling, and it hurts. Hurts in part because I'm not the one who can help you. You have not been happy, or even content, with anything in a long time. Not with work. Not with us." She paused. "And not with me. I think you've lost your foundation. I think Coach can help you rebuild it. Please try. For us. For yourself."
Lance stared at the ticket, a glimmer of hope starting to flicker in his mind. "Let me think about it."
This time he held up a finger. "I really do have to handle the month-end today, but I'll think about this. I promise."
* * *
Lance felt more relaxed on the drive to his office than he had in a long time. The idea of going to see Coach lingered in his mind, growing in strength, and the fact that Amanda would take the steps to call Coach and make the reservations emphasized how much she still cared for her husband. It relieved one fear that had nagged at him over the past few weeks as she'd grown more distant.
Lance rolled his shoulders, then reached for the coffee cup on the console. Weariness still consumed him, and he still had the month-end to complete. He tried to put Coach and Amanda out of his mind. It was time for him to kick into work mode.
Lance strode into the office, back straight and shoulders set. He nodded a good morning at Terri, set his briefcase on the desk, and booted up the computer. As he waited for the computer, he opened the briefcase and pulled out Bryan's report and the folder with the ticket. He spread his palm over the folder, the idea of the trip truly taking hold in his mind.
Pushing the thought of seeing Coach aside for the moment, he turned to Bryan's report, glancing through it again. It annoyed him just as much today as it had the evening before. Lance flipped through the pages, mumbling, "Weak, weak, weaker." He dropped it as a sound from the computer told him he had mail waiting. He opened the latest email, which was from the chairman of his board. As he read through the demands and the veiled threats, his face grew hot, and he clenched his fist on the desk.
She appeared in the door frame, waiting.
"Get Bryan in here. We have to take care of this now."
She hesitated, her lips pursing as she fought back what she needed to say. She crossed her arms across her chest.
Lance stared, impatient.
She took a deep breath. "He called in sick. He sounded horrible."
A growl of rage exploded from Lance as he slammed one fist on the desk. Terri jumped, wincing, and took a step back, glancing over her shoulder as if she were about to bolt.
Lance pointed at her.
"Call him. Tell him if he's not in here by noon, he needn't bother coming back. At all. Ever."
Her eyes widened. "He's your best rep! You can't fire him for being sick!"
He grabbed the papers and flung them around the office.
"I can fire him for being incompetent!"
Terri backed away, then disappeared.
"Unbelievable!" Lance turned to his window and placed his palms against the glass, leaning heavily against it. His shoulders tightened, and he closed his eyes, wishing he could push away the pressure that had settled across his neck.
Lance let out a long breath, took another in, and opened his eyes, looking out across the parking lot. His entire world felt as if it had been jarred off its axis.
You have not been happy, or even content, with anything in a long time. Amanda's words.
He's your best rep. Terri's words.
Lance turned back to his desk, his gaze falling on the folder. He stared at it a few moments, then bellowed, "Terri!"
She appeared instantly in the doorway. "Yes, sir?"
"Don't call Bryan."
Her face brightened. "I was hoping—"
"Call all my appointments for the next week and cancel them."
"I'm going out of town for a few days."
"But the month-end—"
Terri stared at him, then her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Are you okay?"
Lance looked at his watch. Amanda would be at a school meeting with Tony, but that was fine. He'd leave her a note.
"No," he said. "But I will be."
He slipped the trip folder back in his briefcase. "There's a note from the chairman in my inbox. Would you please respond that I've been called out of town? Then shut everything down and lock my door."
"You will ... you will be back?"
He picked up the case. "Yes." He headed for the door, pausing to touch her arm. "Promise."
Excerpted from the Legacy Builder by ROD OLSON. Copyright © 2013 Rod Olson. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted January 31, 2014
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Posted July 25, 2013
Picked up this book at the local Christian Book store. I'm always looking for new leadership books and since I know Andy Andrews and he endorsed it I purchased it. We are now purchasing 25 copies for our team!!! Great, easy and impactful read!!! If you are looking for something that will inspire you, give you direction and has a great story line this is YOUR book!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 11, 2013
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