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2018: Quotes

If you wish to be good, first believe that you are bad. – Epictetus

Examine yourself whether you wish to be rich or to be happy. If you wish to be rich, you should know that it is neither a good thing nor within your power: if you wish to be happy, you should know that is both a good thing and in your power, for the one is a temporary loan of fortune, and happiness comes from the will. – Epictetus

Envy is the antagonist of the fortunate. – Epictetus

He who bears in mind what man is will never be troubled at anything which happens. – Epictetus

I found the road to wealth when I decided that a part of all I earned was mine to keep. – George Clason, The Richest Man in Babylon

Selfishness doesn’t scale. – Eric Barker

A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears towards a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.” – Viktor Frankl

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. – Steve Jobs

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. – Kurt Vonnegut

If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish. – David Foster Wallace

Self-esteem is the greatest sickness known to man or woman because it’s conditional. – Albert Ellis

We were always getting ready to live, but never living. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The President is the best of us. – William Seward, re: Abraham Lincoln

What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing. – Abraham Lincoln

Act well your part. There all the honor lies. He who does something at the head of one regiment will eclipse him who does nothing at the head of a hundred. – Abraham Lincoln

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. – John Quincy Adams

The cost of leadership is self-interest. – Lt. Gen. George Flynn, USMC

Whereas the Greatest Generation was defined by the need to serve others, the Boomer generation started on a path of taking care of themselves. As our wealth and attitudes changed, we started to transform from a country that would fight to protect our way of life into a country that would fight to protect the way we prefer to live. – Simon Sinek

Stock markets are more efficient than you are lucky. – Bill Schultheis

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God. – Aeschylus

Action is the foundational key to all success. – Picasso

Intensity is the price of excellence. – Warren Buffett

The tide continues to be far more important than the swimmers. – Warren Buffett

If a policeman follows you down the road for 500 miles, you’re going to get a ticket. – Charlie Munger

  1. Build and maintain a cohesive leadership team.
  2. Create organizational clarity (identity, values, mission, strategy, major goals, objectives, roles and responsibilities).
  3. Over-communicate organizational clarity.
  4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems.

Be cohesive.

Be clear.



From “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive,” by Patrick Lencioni

Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know. – Ernest Hemingway

The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced both donors without love and recipients without gratitude. – Antonin Scalia

My definition of a film director is the man who presides over accidents. – Orson Welles

My life is my work, and vice versa, and I have always arranged it so as to be deliberately over-stretched. – Christopher Hitchens

Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die. – Horace Mann

The temptation to be ‘in’ ought to be rejected. – Christopher Hitchens

The real struggle for us is for the citizen to cease to be the property of the state. – Adam Michnik

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it. – Salvador Dalí

We have just one idea. We’re born with it. Throughout our lives we develop it and nurture it. – Henri Matisse

What we acquire consciously allows us to express ourselves unconsciously with a certain depth. And the artist’s unconscious is made up of everything he sees and expresses pictorially, without thinking about it. – Henri Matisse

For me, perfection in art and life comes from this Biblical source. Without this spirit, the mechanism of logic and construction in art and life will not bear fruit. – Marc Chagall

2018: What I Read

  1. Enchiridion, Epictetus
  2. The Richest Man in Babylon, George Clason
  3. Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker
  4. Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times, Donald Phillips
  5. How to Run a Country, Marcus Tullius Cicero
  6. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz
  7. Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek
  8. Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life…And Maybe The World, Admiral William H. McRaven
  9. American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, Nick Bilton
  10. The Coffeehouse Investor: How to Build Wealth, Ignore Wall Street, and Get on with Your Life, Bill Schultheis
  11. American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land, Monica Hesse
  12. Fierce Patriot; The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman, Robert L. O’Connell
  13. Ordinary Grace, William Kent Krueger
  14. East of Eden, John Steinbeck
  15. A Dangerous Fortune, Ken Follett
  16. Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal, Jay Parini
  17. The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, Christopher Lasch
  18. The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer, Jeffrey Liker
  19. The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
  20. Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway
  21. Maigret on the Riviera, Georges Simenon
  22. Fortune’s Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt, Arthur T. Vanderbilt, II
  23. The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, Patrick Lencioni
  24. The Garden of Eden, Ernest Hemingway
  25. The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing, Mel Lindauer
  26. Hitch 22: A Memoir, Christopher Hitchens
  27. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, Colin Woodard
  28. Money: A Suicide Note, Martin Amis
  29. Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, Tom Holland

Favorite Quotes: 2017

I read just north of 50 books in 2017 and kept a running list of my favorite quotes from those works. Like my readings, they’re a hodgepodge of philosophy, history, business, self-improvement and the classics. They are below; hope you enjoy. Happy New Year!


I never discuss anything except religion and politics. There is nothing else to discuss. – G.K. Chesterton

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. – Bertrand Russell

How small, of all that human hearts endure/ That part which laws and kings can cause or cure. – Samuel Johnson

Man’s chief merit consists in resisting the impulses of his nature. – Samuel Johnson

If you had to boil down the Wal-Mart system to one single idea, it would probably be communication. The necessity of good communication is so vital it can’t be overstated. – Sam Walton

What we guard against here is people saying ‘Let’s think about it.’ We make a decision. Then we act on it. – David Glass, CEO, Wal-Mart

The mass of people, who are never quite right, are never quite wrong. – C.S. Lewis

We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all lives but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armor. If our hearts need to be broken, and if he chooses this as the way they should break, so be it. – C.S. Lewis

I believe that the most lawless and inordinate love are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protected lovelessness. – C.S. Lewis

The Goal is to reduce operational expense and reduce inventory while increasing throughput – Eliyahu Goldratt, The Goal

Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other. – Edmund Burke

If we take the wisest and widest view of a cause, there is no such thing as a lost cause, because there is no such thing as a gained cause. We fight for lost causes because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory, though that victory itself will be temporary; we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation it will triumph. – T.S. Eliot

Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. – David Hume

The universe is 100% malevolent but only 80% effective. – Sir Martin Rees

There are two things, and two things only, for the human mind: a dogma and a prejudice. – G.K. Chesterton

Most of the Feminists would probably agree with me that womanhood is under shameful tyranny in the shops and mills. But I want to destroy the tyranny. They want to destroy womanhood. That is the only difference. – G.K. Chesterton

An ulcer, the badge of administrative success, may be the only product of pushfulness. – Laurence J. Peter, The Peter Principle

Know, all the good that individuals find/ Or God or Nature meant to mere Mankind/ Reason’s whole pleasure, all the joys of Sense/ Lie in three words, Health, Peace and Competence. – A. Pope

Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed. – Emily Dickinson

It is glorious to drink the wine of the enemy. – Robert Leckie

Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in. – Napoleon

Never stand and take a charge. Charge them too! – Nathan Bedford Forrest

He who defends everything defends nothing. – Frederick the Great

Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. – St. Francis of Assisi

Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true. – Honore de Balzac

The courage of the soldier depends upon the wisdom of the general. – Publius Syrus

Fortune favors the bold. – Latin Proverb

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and notwithstanding, go out to meet it. – Thucydides

Strength of numbers is the delight of the timid. The valiant in spirit glory in fighting alone. – Mahatma Gandhi

What is the nature of the search? The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. – Walker Percy

I have found that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: they have a high degree of emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capacities”; that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader. – Daniel Goleman

Justice consists of loving and hating aright. – Aristotle

Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed. – Abraham Lincoln

The price of good style is eternal vigilance. – Kingsley Amis

No work with interest is ever hard. – Henry Ford

An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility. – Jan Carlzon

People make mistakes, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Mistakes can usually be corrected later; the time lost in not making a decision can never be retrieved. – Jan Carlzon

The new leader is a listener, communicator and educator – an emotionally expressive and inspiring person who can create the right atmosphere rather than make all the decisions himself. – Jan Carlzon

A good leader spends more time communicating than doing anything else. – Jan Carlzon

A man with no enemies is a man with no character. – Paul Newman

Fear is what causes hesitation – and hesitation causes defeat. – Jocko Willink

The poor and middle class work for money. The rich have money work for them. – Robert Kiyosaki

Action always beats inaction. – Robert Kiyosaki

The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget: within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition. – Zen proverb

The things which hurt, instruct. – Benjamin Franklin

Objective judgment, now at this very moment. Unselfish action, now at this very moment. Willing acceptance – now at this very moment – of all external events. That’s all you need. – Marcus Aurelius

Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself. – Publius Syrus

We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out. – Teddy Roosevelt

The best men are not those who have waited for chances but who have taken them; besieged chance, conquered chance, and made chance the servitor. – E.H. Chapin

It’s alright. We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish. – Thomas Edison, watching his famed laboratory burn to the ground in an industrial fire

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will/ To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. – Tennyson

The Fates guide the person who accepts them and hinder the person who resists them. – Cleanthes

The paths of glory lead but to the grave. – Thomas Gray

Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones. – Ray Dalio

This is how I did it: I never saved anything for the swim back. – Gattaca

In time I realized that the satisfaction of success doesn’t come from achieving your goals, but from struggling well. – Ray Dalio

Man needs difficulties. They are necessary for health. – Carl Jung

Go to the pain rather than avoid it. – Ray Dalio

Be an imperfectionist. Perfectionists spend too much time on little differences at the expense of the important things. – Ray Dalio

What I Read in 2017


It comes in at 51 books and was one of the most rewarding experiences of a busy 2017 for me. If you want feedback on any of the below or have suggested reading for 2018 please email or text me. Thanks, RGK

  • The Road to Character, David Brooks (300 pages)
  • The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, Brad Stone (388 pages)
  • The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1788 (320 pages)
  • This Town, Mark Leibovich (386 pages)
  • The Skin Collector, Jeffrey Deaver (430 pages)
  • Sam Walton: Made in America, Sam Walton with John Huey (346 pages)
  • The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis (141 pages)
  • The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, Eliyahu Goldratt (384 pages)
  • The Pastures of Heaven, John Steinbeck (182 pages)
  • The Tyranny of Clichés, Jonah Goldberg (326 pages)
  • Washington, D.C., Gore Vidal (422 pages)
  • O Pioneers!, Willa Cather (180 pages)
  • Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street, John Brooks (459 pages)
  • The Science of Success, Charles Koch (194 pages)
  • 1876, Gore Vidal (364 pages)
  • The North Water, Ian McGuire (255 pages)
  • Win Forever: Live, Work & Play Like a Champion, Pete Carroll (228 pages)
  • Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior, Phil Jackson (224 pages)
  • The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck (276 pages)
  • Burmese Days, George Orwell (287 pages)
  • Why I Write, George Orwell (120 pages)
  • Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People, by Tim Reiterman (688 pages)
  • The Quartermaster: Montgomery C. Meigs, Master Builder of the Union Army, Robert O’Harrow, Jr.  (304 pages)
  • A Walk Across America, Peter Jenkins (290 pages)
  • Everyday Drinking, Kingsley Amis (302 pages)
  • More than You Know: Finding Financial Wisdom in Unconventional Places, Michael Mauboussin (328 pages)
  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance (264 pages)
  • Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars, Paul Fussell (246 pages)
  • Band of Brothers, Stephen E. Ambrose (331 pages)
  • The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, Douglas Murray (343 pages)
  • What’s Wrong with the World, G.K. Chesterton (137 pages)
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson (212 pages)
  • The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong, Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull (161 pages)
  • The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History, Stephan Talty (298 pages)
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, Timothy Egan (340 pages)
  • The Snowman, Jo Nesbø (516 pages)
  • Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific, Robert Leckie (305 pages)
  • Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Samuel Mitchum (352 pages)
  • Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must-Reads On Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman (164 pages)
  • The Anti-Egotist: Kingsley Amis, Man of Letters, Paul Fussell (206 pages)
  • The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting and Winning People Over, Jack Schafer (253 pages)
  • I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford, Richard Snow (400 pages)
  • Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, S.C. Gwynne (371 pages)
  • Moments of Truth: New Strategies for Today’s Customer-Driven Economy, Jan Carlzon (135 pages)
  • Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual, Jocko Willink (198 pages)
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki (352 pages)
  • Nuts! Southwest Airlines’ Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, Kevin & Jackie Freiberg (362 pages)
  • The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, Ryan Holiday (200 pages)
  • The 16% Solution: How to Get High Interest Rates in a Low Interest World with Tax Lien Certificates, Joel Molkowitz (173 pages)
  • Principles, Ray Dalio (567 pages)
  • The Belly of Paris, Émile Zola (275 pages)


Reforming Government Unions Would Provide Greater Worker Choice

Reforming Government Unions Would Provide Greater Worker Choice


Government unions negotiate with taxpayer dollars, yet they are not held accountable to their own members or to Missouri taxpayers.  With the rate of government union membership five times that of union membership in the private sector, now is the time to enact government union reform on behalf of Missouri workers.

The reforms we believe are needed in Missouri would ensure government unions act in the best interest of their members and are held accountable to taxpayers. Senator Bob Onder and Representative John Wiemann have been leading the effort to implement common sense reforms in the Missouri legislature.

First, Missouri workers should have a voice in deciding who best represents their interests.  Most current government union members have never voted to choose their representation and certify their union.  Once a union is certified as the exclusive representative, there are limited options for changing representation.

Meaningful government union reform would require regular recertification elections, giving workers the option to renew current representation, choose new representation or vote to have no exclusive representation.

Wisconsin enacted legislation in 2011 to require annual recertification elections.  Government unions in Wisconsin must receive the support of 51 percent of all eligible voters.  In 2013, the first year the elections were held, 80 percent of unions were able to win recertification.  In 2014, 92 percent recertified.  Government unions in Missouri should not be concerned about decertification as long as they satisfactorily represent their members.  Unions that do a poor job representing their members should be held accountable.

Second, Missouri taxpayers should have the same right to access government union contract negotiations as they have to monitor legislative hearings.  Legal loopholes exempt government union negotiations from the state open records and open meetings laws.  Since government unions negotiate with tax dollars, we support reforms to classify meetings and records concerning government union labor agreements as public meetings and records subject to Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

Third, Missouri workers should know how their government union spends their dues.  Private sector unions are required to file financial disclosures with the Department of Labor for union members and the public to review.  Government unions should be held to at least the same transparency standards.  Government union reform should require annual reporting of financial assets and liabilities; itemized expenditures; union officer and members’ salaries and benefits; lobbying expenditures; and political contributions.

Fourth, our state government should not be bound indefinitely to unsustainable agreements with unions.  Evergreen clauses can bind parties to agreements many years beyond the original term, thereby allowing unions to keep favorable terms in effect even when the government cannot afford it.  Government union reform should prohibit any government union labor agreement from exceeding two years to prevent one party from keeping favorable terms in place beyond the original agreement’s end date.

Government union reform is needed in Missouri and we hope the next General Assembly takes action to make reform a reality.  The reform efforts we have laid out will empower workers over union bosses and will shine much needed light on the activities of government unions.

How the Insurance Market is Responding to Obamacare

How the Insurance Market Is Responding to Obamacare

I split my time pretty evenly between Washington, D.C., and my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. In D.C., if you want to get your fix of crony capitalism or government mandates, they’re only a step away at any time. But if you want to capture a perfect specimen of crony capitalism and government overreach in the wild, it’s a little more difficult out here in “Flyover Country.”

So you can imagine my fascination when an organization called the “Institute for Clinical and Economic Review” announced it was coming to town to give us just such a perfect example. Even the name is perfectly “Kafkaesque.”

In the wake of ridiculous Obamacare mandates, the insurance industry is under tremendous cost pressure to deny its customers access to expensive life-saving drugs. But those insurance companies don’t want to take the public relations hit for denial of these drugs that cost billions in research and development to get to market, hence the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review.

The institute helpfully steps into the breach and, with funding directly from the insurance industry and its allies, produces “research” that even liberals acknowledge vastly limits patients’ access to life-saving drugs.

Essentially, the insurance industry is passing on largely bogus research through a front group, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, that gives insurance companies leverage to deny coverage to expensive cures. It’s a perfect example of Washington, D.C.-style self-dealing and crony capitalism.

What this denial of service leads to is exactly the kind of drug rationing that free market conservatives have been warning about for years, usually to vocal derision from the left.

That’s not the only terrifying thing about the institute’s process, however. At the St. Louis event—which was held to determine if new drugs for a deadly blood cancer are worth their cost (despite their ability to extend life)—one of its paid staff helpfully told us that 70 percent of the organization’s funding came from nonprofits.

As if that kind of opacity is supposed to make us feel any better. Shoot, the Center for American Progress is a nonprofit too, but I wouldn’t let those guys change my tire, let alone decide what lifesaving drugs my child can access. That’s one thing you’ll find about the institute: A consistent lack of transparency. Despite its claims that it’s pristinely funded by nonprofits, if you dig deeper, you’ll find that the institute is actually mostly funded by the insurance industry.

But have no fear, we were told by the organization’s representatives in St. Louis! What could possibly go wrong with the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review’s procedures? Well, for starters, how about the fact that its processes have been likened to the British socialized health care system.

Sure to upset my fellow pro-lifers are the implications of quality-adjusted life years—the key to the institute’s methodology to determine the “value” of drugs. Quality-adjusted life years, which are used in Britain to ration drugs, expressly say that the sick and elderly’s lives are worth less than younger, healthier people’s lives.

Opponents will say that the institute’s reach only impacts the private market. And yet, there are troubling signs that its rationing will soon start to infect the public market as well.

And it’s likely that the institute is coming to a town near you. The group’s regional bodies will hold public meetings, like the one in St. Louis, across the country in the coming months, including Los Angeles this month and Portland, Maine, in July. That’s bad news for patients and good news for the insurance companies that benefit from the institute’s manipulation of the media. The institute has effectively sold the press that it’s a “trusted” and “independent” nonprofit.

Not so. Rather, it means price controls. Drug rationing. The tip of the death panel spear. Crony capitalism. Self-dealing. Lack of transparency. Links to European-style socialized medicine. Ties to the Obama administration. And a direct threat to our pro-life beliefs. There is truly something in the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review for every conservative to hate.

What We Should Learn After Religious Liberty Fight in Missouri

What We Should Learn After Religious Liberty Fight in Missouri

By Gregg Keller

By now you’ve likely read or heard of the knock-down, drag-out fight that we had at the Missouri legislature on Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 39. If passed by simple legislative majorities, SJR 39 would have placed a ballot question on either the August or November ballot pertaining to religious liberty.

Missouri voters would then decide if government should be prevented from punishing (through adverse tax treatment, revocation of licensing, court fines and other means) clergy and small business owners connected to the wedding industry (wedding planners, bakers, etc.) who refused to take part in gay weddings as a result of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

After a 40-hour filibuster by Democrats in the Missouri Senate, the measure moved to the relevant House committee, where it continued to be a source of tremendous attention and controversy.

I was among the most frequent and vociferous supporters of SJR39 on social networks and learned several lessons that might prove useful to fellow conservatives who take up such a fight in the future.

1) Yes, the culture wars have moved this far, this fast. Get over it.

I’m old enough to have worked on George W. Bush’s campaign in Missouri in 2004 when we also had on the ballot a pro-traditional marriage initiative. It passed 71-29. I was as incredulous as most people in Missouri when I realized our House might balk at SJR 39. This fight is coming to a state legislature near you, if it hasn’t already. Get your incredulity out of the way now.

2) Both sides are 100 percent committed to the idea of their own righteousness.

I’ve never worked on a public policy issue where both sides were so entrenched about the righteousness of their position. I’ve always found that liberals take politics far more personally than conservative—they take this issue especially personally. If you engage on this issue and have liberal friends, be prepared to lose some of them.

3) Your friends in business aren’t committed.

Remember those generous business people who fund the Republican campaigns you’ve spent so much time around? Well, they think you’re a troglodyte on this issue and they’d prefer you just go back to the phone bank room now, thank you.

4) The other side’s public officials want this fight more than ours.

Missouri’s elected Democrats were in absolute lockstep in opposing SJR39. A lot of that has to do with the fact that we’ve beat them so badly over the years in House and Senate races that there’s only a handful of them left and they’re confined to the city centers.

Their people not only were in total agreement on the matter but desperately wanted to take this fight on. We had some committed Republicans on our side, particularly in the Senate. But among House Republicans some were for it, some were against it. But the most common refrain among House Republicans was that they’d vote for if they had to but they really didn’t want to have to go against the donor and business communities.

5) We can’t allow our surrogates and supporters to become the story.

I remember well the exact moment that I realized we were going to lose the battle over SJR39. I had been texting with a House Republican who matter-of-factly referred to the head of a statewide conservative organization by a nasty nickname. It was immediately apparent to me that, after attacking him incessantly on social networks for days, our opposition had succeeded in making this leader the issue. They had turned him into the face of our effort, and a caricature at that. Remember that every post you do to social networks could become fodder for the other side; choose your words carefully.

6) Social networks matter. A lot. And the other side is using them much better than we are.

Many of our House and Senate Republicans were glued to #SJR39 on Twitter during the debate and it was a critical platform to changing hearts and minds. I can’t tell you how many people mentioned tweets of mine to me after the fact. So engaging in this way is critical. But generally speaking, pro-SJR39 voices were swamped by the opposition on social networks. Particularly when hearings were being conducted. The population as a whole agrees, but they’re not making it known where and when it matters most.

7) Don’t wait for the cavalry, it isn’t coming.

On the day that SJR was to be decided I spent most of the day driving to and from appointments, listening to Rush Limbaugh on KMOX in St. Louis. If he mentioned a word about this critical cultural vote going on in his home state that very day, I managed to miss it. That was my experience with national conservative and religious leadership as a whole—they just didn’t show up. So when this battle comes to your state, don’t incorporate outside support into your plans – plan for them to be absent.

8) You have to try to find a way to be winsome if you’re going to win hearts and minds.

In the days following this battle I found myself exhausted by it all and not a little bit glad the fight was over for the time being, even if we did lose. As a committed, emotionally involved activist, you must constantly try to keep your cool in this battle when all others around you are losing theirs.

You can’t win hearts and minds with vinegar—only with honey. In the month-long battle I failed myself on this a couple of times and it’s among my greatest regrets about the whole episode.

Gregg Keller is the principal of Atlas Strategy Group and a former National Executive Director of the American Conservative Union and the Faith & Freedom Coalition.

Millennials are risk-averse. And that’s risky.

Millennials are risk-averse. And that’s risky.

When I was 24 years old I was living and working in Boston. I had a great job in finance that paid decently and allowed me to use my then-fluency in Spanish, doing Latin American equity research for a Fortune 500 Company. I loved the city and had a large and growing cohort of friends and colleagues. Shortly thereafter I would leave the city, my job and my friends and move to a city where I had no immediate employment prospects.

Fast forward two-and-a-half years. It’s 2003 and I’m living in St. Louis, Missouri with the good fortune of having just worked as the Travel Assistant (Body Man) in the most highly targeted U.S. Senate campaign in the nation. The campaign helped return the Senate to Republican hands and my candidate, whom I had gone grown close to over the course of the campaign, is now a promising freshman Senator. I’d quickly leave a steady job in that Senator’s office to take a short-term job on another campaign.

Now jump ahead to 2014. I’ve spent the last six years of my life running two of America’s largest center-right public policy organizations. I’ve traveled the country, spoken in front of thousands of people and built tremendous relationships with many of the top professionals in my field. I’m well compensated and have thoroughly enjoyed my work. Clearly, it was time to leave those endeavors and start something completely unproven and risky: my own business.

Those are just a few examples of the kinds of calculated risks I’ve taken throughout my 15 years in grassroots politics. Some of the risks paid off. And a few didn’t. But today I find myself the owner of a successful small business that makes me feel fulfilled, both personally and professionally. And I’d never be here today if I had stayed on my original career path at that Fortune 500 company.

Recently a political colleague and friend approached me about a Congressional candidate who was looking for a young operative to be his Campaign Manager. My friend wanted to know if I knew anyone aggressive and philosophically conservative who might be a good fit and, if so, would I pass along some resumes. Now this is exactly the kind of opportunity that I would’ve jumped at in my 20s as an aspiring young pol and I immediately reached out to five friends who I thought should be interested. They’re all Millennials with decent jobs and one by one each of them professed no interest. I was disappointed. But I can’t say that I was surprised.

It struck me that this wasn’t the first instance I’d seen of Millennials being overly cautious professionally. So I mentioned it to some friends and looked around online. It turns out that risk aversion is one of the defining characteristics of the Millennial generation. The Congressional Institute wrote about this phenomenon, explaining:

“Millennials were highly protected in childhood by a fortress of youth safety initiatives, which they took as evidence that they were truly valuable. This protection has translated into risk aversion in their young-adult lives.”

The risks of being risk averse are, to my mind, at least threefold for Millennials. On a personal level, we know that entrepreneurs are both more likely to be risk takers and more likely to economically outperform those who have more orthodox forms of employment. Millennials stand the risk of missing out on both the personal and financial benefits that entrepreneurism brings and that risk-taking makes possible.

The larger corporate risk, however, is to the American economy. If Millennials continue their risk-avoiding ways, it’s natural to conclude they’d have a smaller proportion of entrepreneurs among them. That could be disastrous for America if it came true.

So at the operational level, the obvious question that arises is, exactly what risky career propositions should young people be willing to take? How does one differentiate between a calculated risk while avoiding foolhardy ones? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along in my career:

  • Only take career risks that you’re confident will expand your skill set. If you’re disrupting your career without an eye towards making yourself a more valuable employee/team member, you’re already off on the wrong foot.
  • Relationships, relationships, relationships. Many of Washington’s most successful operatives and strategists return to public service taking lower paid government jobs every 5-10 years. Why? Because relationships drive success. Each of us is only as successful as the contacts and friends we have. This is true in every industry, from carpentry to investment banking.
  • Don’t obsess over compensation. Bill Walsh, one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, has a great book called “The Score Takes Care of Itself.” The premise is that, if you take minute care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves. So mind the little things, like the above bullet items. You do those and you’ll end up doing just fine financially.

If all of this talk of risk and reward makes you nervous or congenitally uneasy, there’s a very real chance that career-related risk taking isn’t for you. In fact, you’re probably part of the majority of people who can feel personally and professionally fulfilled without putting yourself through those ups and downs. If so, God bless you. I’m certainly not advocating taking risks for the sake of taking risks. But for those of us who literally can’t sleep at night if we don’t believe we’re attempting to maximize our professional outcomes, I hope my perspective is helpful in some small way.

Professional fulfillment for me has come because I trusted myself to assess my abilities and the professional landscape and take calculated risks based upon those assessments. Taking those risks has enriched my life in ways I never could haveforeseen. And it’s made all the difference in the world. The lesson I’ve taken from my experiences in calculated risk taking and that I’d hope the Millennial generation comes to learn soon is this: the real risk in life lies in taking no risks at all.

St. Louis Character: Gregg Keller

kellergreg0522015Via St. Louis Business Journal

Gregg Keller’s first foray into politics entailed taking out the trash and answering phones for a $19,500 salary. He was hooked.

Fast forward a few years and Keller found himself working on multimillion-dollar presidential campaigns, including for George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Jim Talent and most recently, for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Where you can find Gregg Keller

  • Weightlifting – 32 sets of circuit-style lifting with free weights in 30 minutes – at 6 a.m. at the Center of Clayton
  • Sipping green tea at Starbucks in Ladue
  • Flying out of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to Washington, D.C.
  • Walking along Ladue Road, smoking a cigar, while on a conference call
  • Watching his three kids play soccer on the weekends
  • Enjoying a weekly date night with his wife, Lorie, at Truffles

The public affairs professional said he moved quickly through the political management ranks by virtue of the field itself — each two-year election cycle brought another opportunity to work on a higher profile campaign. But his success also can be attributed to his self-proclaimed Type A personality. “When it comes to a task, I either don’t do anything at all, or I do it in a way that is ruthlessly Type A and efficient,” Keller, 38, said.

After directing a national coalitions program — managing 21 groups in 20 states — for a presidential campaign, managing a U.S. Senate campaign and leading two national public policy organizations, Keller launched his own strategic services firm, putting his expertise in coalition-building, strategic consulting, fundraising and communications to work for Fortune 500 companies and political campaigns. Dubbed Atlas Strategy Group, Keller has run the company out of his home office in Ladue since January of 2014.

Keller has gone from one success to another, said former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent. “He brings something no one else brings to the table – his drive, energy and organizational ability. I don’t think he’s ever had a job where he hasn’t exceeded all expectations.” Though Keller has spent much of his career commuting to Washington, D.C., and Boston — as many as 200 flights a year — St. Louis has remained his home base. “My wife, Lorie, and I are high school sweethearts. We met sophomore year at Clayton High School, and we always knew we wanted to raise our family in St. Louis,” said Keller, who has three kids: Bobby, 10; Eleanor, 8; and Elizabeth, 4.

How did you begin working in politics? My father told me former CongressmanJim Talent was thinking of running for Senate, and said, ‘Why don’t you go see if you can volunteer for him?’ So I started volunteering on Talent’s Senate exploratory committee in September 2001; and within a week, they offered me a position. First, I started taking out the trash and answering phones. Eventually, they put me on the road to travel with Sen. Talent as his body man — the person who travels with the candidate at all times and serves as his personal assistant. I had a fantastic crash course in Missouri politics. Sen. Talent visited all 114 of Missouri’s counties. We did 78 trips to Springfield for campaign appearances alone. We went to every corner of the state, clocking 18-hour days, for what turned out to be a top-targeted, winning U.S. Senate campaign, which, to this day, is one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

What was the next step in your career? I really had the campaign bug in me, and I was asked to join the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004 — back when Missouri was the swing of swing states. I was their coalitions director … and then the communications director. We were able to push the John Kerry campaign out of Missouri by September 2004. Then they sent me to New Hampshire, where I headed up the Election Day operations and oversaw their legal team.

Tell us more about your work with former Missouri Sen. Talent. Sen. Talentasked me to come back to his staff in 2005 as his state director. Then he was up for re-election in 2006, and he asked me to be campaign manager. Sen. Talentran what political analyst Stuart Rothenberg (founding editor and publisher of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report — a non-partisan political newsletter) called the best-run incumbent campaign of the cycle that year. Yet because it was such a horrible year, he lost anyway by a small margin. Although I was the manager of a losing campaign, because it was widely respected, it didn’t hurt my career at all. In some ways, losing was the best thing that ever happened in my career, oddly enough. Even after losing the campaign, I received multiple job offers to run senatorial and presidential campaigns, and decided to accept the offer to be the national coalitions director for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Describe your role with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.(After Sen. Talent’s 2006 campaign,) I ended up getting an offer from Mitt Romney. He asked me to be his national coalitions director in Boston, so I commuted there from St. Louis. I was responsible for his campaign’s outreach to everything from conservatives, social conservatives and free-market conservatives to the Hispanic and small-business communities. We organized 20 coalition groups in 21 states. Next, I was senior adviser on John McCain’s 2008 Missouri campaign. Then, I started getting into this niche where so much of what I did on Gov. Romney’s campaign was outreach to the conservative community. I’ve always been a conservative. I remember being in grade school and always being glad when Newsweek would arrive at our house so I could immediately flip to the back to read George Will’s column. I was 10 years old, and I didn’t even know what a conservative was — I just knew I was one. I did my senior thesis in English on Ayn Rand because by the time I was 15 I had read every book she’d ever written. So I’ve always intellectually been a conservative, but it wasn’t until the Romney campaign that I had a job where I focused primarily on outreach to the conservative community. The majority of what I did for Romney was turn him into what he eventually became in the 2008 cycle — the conservative alternative to John McCain.

Discuss your work leading national conservative organizations. I became recognized as someone who could build a conservative coalition. In 2009, I started getting invited to run these national conservative organizations. Someone who I had gotten to know over the years was Ralph Reed of Christian Coalition fame. He was launching the Faith & Freedom Coalition headquartered in Atlanta and asked me to help. So I commuted to Atlanta and did the 2010 election cycle as its national executive director. We participated in 111 races across the country and made nearly 60 million voter contacts. Then I was asked to be the executive director of the American Conservative Union, the national conservative movement’s umbrella group, which puts on the Conservative Political Action Conference. So I commuted to Washington, D.C., for that job from 2011 to 2013.

Tell us about your firm, Atlas Strategy Group. I had been commuting almost non-stop since 2007, and wanted to spend more time with my family at home in St. Louis. So I started my firm, Atlas Strategy Group. And I’ve really continued doing what I had done for about 10 years at the highest levels of American politics, which is what’s called center-right coalition-building. For example, let’s say you are AT&T, and there’s a bill moving through the U.S. Senate judiciary committee that you believe is bad public policy and that is going to adversely affect your company. Traditionally, what companies and trade associations have done in the past to affect the kind of legislative end that they want to reach is three things: hire lobbyists, join a trade association, and form a political action committee to support the candidates who believe what they believe. These days, doing those three things is really only enough to keep even with the herd. What I do at Atlas is additive to that. I get hired by trade associations and Fortune 500 companies to convince the third-party center-right public policy organizations in Washington, D.C., that this bill moving through the U.S. Senate judiciary committee is antithetical with free-market ideology. This is a growing part of American public policy relations. What I’ve built my business around is strategic partnerships, so I have a strategic partnership with a firm that works exclusively with social conservative organizations, a partner in Washington, D.C., that focuses on fiscally free-marketing conservative organizations, and even a partner out of Texas that does center-left outreach. I’m keeping my firm small and working through strategic partnerships with other small firms so that I don’t have to charge my clients the big-firm rates. The other part of my business is political, so I have worked on four presidential campaigns in the center-right conservative space: Bush-Cheney, 2004; Romney, 2007; McCain, 2008; and I was senior adviser to Scott Walker’s presidential campaign that recently wrapped up.

What is your most memorable career experience? There are so many pinch-me moments — standing in the same room as the president of the United States, talking to the president, the president asking you a question. I’ve met presidentsGeorge W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. With the exception of the entertainment industry, politics allows you to accumulate these pinch-me moments much faster than other professions. They say politics is Hollywood for ugly people. Just today, a governor called me to ask for advice. No matter how long you do this — or at how high a level — it’s still a thrill.

Keller chairing new anti-“Obamacare” group

Keller chairing new anti-“Obamacare” group

The Missouri Times

January 22, 2015 / by Rachael Herndon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Century Foundation’s creation was announced this week by Gregg Keller, principal at Atlas Strategies. The group is a Missouri-based 501c4 public policy organization — political nonprofit group — that will be dedicated to advancing free-market initiatives in state government to help ensure the health of our state’s economy throughout the 21st century.

“I was having dinner with two of my great friends and two of Missouri and the country’s top free market political professionals: Rich Chrismer and Jim Gwinner,” Keller said. “We were commenting, specifically, on how it’s simply beyond belief that a state as conservative as Missouri would even consider expanding a program like Obamacare in our state. It’s a horrible program that’s kicked millions of Americans off their health care and the financial implications of expanding Obamacare have been dire in other states. Yet Obamacare expansion came dangerously close to becoming a reality last cycle and now our opponents are taking another run at it. We thought that we could add a common sense, free market voice to the conversation and that’s what we’re doing.”

Mike Hafner and Holly Gogel will be joining Keller at the Missouri Century Foundation.
“One of our team members who we’re most excited about is our head of Government Relations, Mike Hafner, who’s been a fixture in Missouri public policy for years,” Keller said. “Mike will be at the Capitol advocating with policy makers and their staff on the issues we care most about in 2015: stopping Obamacare expansion, protecting Missourians’ rights to assemble and associate and reforming public sector unions.”

“In addition to Board members Rich Chrismer and Jim Gwinner and head of GR Mike Hafner, we’re joined at MCF by our Policy Analyst, Holly Gogel,” Keller continued. “Holly is a former legislative director in the Capitol and a Mizzou law grad. Holly will be working with our team to ensure that our research materials and background papers are an accurate reflection of how dangerous, for example, expanding Obamacare will be to our state. She’s a rising star and one of the sharpest young lawyers conservatives have in this state and we’re lucky to have her.”

Keller told The Missouri Times that MCF is already fielding requests from groups in other states and nationally to weigh in on various issues.

“We’re telling those folks that we are focused like a laser in 2015 on advocating on issues in the Missouri legislature like Obamacare expansion,” Keller said. “While it’s flattering that our opinions are being sought on other issues, we’re going to be very disciplined about what we decide to engage on.”

Keller’s background is in campaigns and political consulting, and he says the organization will not allow him to lose focus at Atlas Strategies.

“The level of staff talent at MCF is as high as any statewide campaign, and I’ve worked on a few of those,” Keller said. “So I’ll spend a lot of time on MCF but still have time to work on other projects, political and corporate. Atlas Strategy’s first year was extremely successful, crafting winning strategies for our corporate and political clients. I’m looking forward to the company continuing to grow.”

The announcement comes on the heels of Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, announcing that he will file a bill to expand healthcare for veterans in Missouri. Silvey is the most outspoken Republican proponent of expanding Medicaid in the Senate.

Keller has formerly served as the Executive Director of the American Conservative Union, National Executive Director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, National Coalitions Director on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, campaign manager on the U.S. Senate campaign of Sen. Jim Talent.