MVP Seminars Blogs

I love flying jets. I'm so grateful to have the privilege of connecting my passengers with their moments that matter most. But that's not all I do. In another life I am a musical conductor. And in that arena several years ago I had the great privilege of working with Maestro Travis Branam on a project he called "The 303 Choir." (I wrote about that here.)

The choir was made up of enthusiastic middle and high school kids who have had very little choral training, but who love to sing. As part of that experience we organized an opportunity for them to "meet" internationally acclaimed composer and conductor, Randall Stroope, via Skype. We encouraged the kids to show up with questions, and right out of the chute one of the kids asked, “Why do you write music the way you do?” Not bad. Not bad at all.

Dr. Stroope didn’t miss a beat. He explained that it’s always about enhancing the text. The text always dictates how the music is written. Every aspect of the music – notes, rhythm, meter, harmonies – should be about bringing out the message that the poet is trying to convey. The music should always bring the words to life.

Which brings me to the question of the day: Why do you do what you do?

The art of writing music can certainly stand on its own. Choral music on the other hand, at least as imagined by Randall Stroope, is an endeavor that exists to support others. For example, one of Stroope's pieces that 303 was learning was his setting of Robert Frost's poem, "The Pasture." And the second question they asked that day was, "What inspired you to set that piece to music?

Randall said, "I wanted the music to convey the reality that Frost wasn’t talking literally about cleaning out a pasture spring. He was talking about building a relationship. So I built the notes around that idea.”

As Randall worked to bring that piece to life, his efforts were in complete service to the prior efforts of Robert Frost. He was determined to bring additional clarity and deeper meaning to the poem. In being "of service" over time, Stroope was able to create an entire catalogue of music that would be heard and loved by millions and would become a remarkable legacy in its own right.

Can you do that?

Everyone around us is writing a text, a story - the story of his or her life. What are we, you and I, doing about it? How are we supporting those around us? How are we "enhancing the text" of their stories? Are we working to help them bring their words to life? Are we being "of service?"

Or are you so busy writing your own story that you don't see those around you writing theirs? Yes, creating our own legacy is a worthy objective. We should all be about it. But should it be all about us? Or could you weave their stories into yours? What might that look like?

How about this: Is there something you can do today, tomorrow, next week, next month to enhance the self-esteem of a colleague? Can you add tangible value to a friend's life? Is there a way for you to ease someone else's burden? What notes, rhythm, meter and harmonies can you bring to their stories?

Think of someone on your team who is facing a challenge right now. Is there a level of mentorship you can offer from your own life experience that would make it easier for him or her to win that hard battle?

Randall Stroope is able to make powerful poems even more impactful by adding a musical dimension to the text. You, as a composer of life can do it, too. Let's pick a text today and write a composition that will magnify the writer's meaning for the world.

Thanks for reading!

The  Symphony of Your Life


#stayintheprocess #symphonyofyourlife

The Symphony’s YouTube Channel

Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact Mark today at 720.840.8361 to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization! email: for information.
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Some time back at a Toastmasters Club meeting a speaker had just finished his presentation and round robin critiques were underway. Another attendee, Toastmasters World Championship Finalist Rich Hopkins rose to offer his critique: "The audience won't care about you until they know how much you care about them." Brilliant!

That wasn't the first time I'd heard that sentiment. As a novice speaker several of my coaches had emphasized that every presentation is always about the audience members - not the speakers. I'd heard it over and over again in different forms and different forums, but never quite so succinctly. Bravo, Rich!

These years later I make it a point to pass that idea along when it's appropriate. That's not always in a training setting for speakers.

Some weeks ago I attended a training event for new captains. One module was dedicated to team building. The idea was to give each new captain tools she could use to build the team, i.e., her flight attendants, gate agents, baggage loaders, and mechanics, who could in turn help her realize her vision on every flight.

Rich's wisdom came to mind during that conversation, so I piped up. "Folks, your support team won't care about you and your vision until they know how much you care about theirs." As far as I knew it was one nugget among many during the course. I had no expectation that it might be remembered over any other of the great ideas we gleaned that week.

Yesterday I learned just how much impact Rich's idea had on at least one other attendee. I walked into the operations office at Newark airport and immediately ran into one of my fellow new captains from that course.

"Hey Captain!"

"Well hi Captain! How's it going out there?"

We visited for a few minutes, then he told a story that bowled me over. He said that he remembered what I had shared with the class about his team members not caring about his vision for every flight until they know how much he cares about theirs. And how much effect that approach was having with bringing the flight attendants and others on board. Which was in turn having impact on his passengers. And how grateful he was to have received that one little nugget he could immediately apply to his new captainship and come out of the gate as an effective leader at least in part because of that one idea.

Rich doesn't know I've been sharing it. He has no idea I'm writing it here. Maybe I'll call him. I'd bet he would appreciate knowing how far his 10 second offering at that Toastmasters meeting has gone. First to me. Then to a room full of new captains. On to dozens of flight attendants working for this one new captain in the months since. From there to thousands of his passengers.

And  there were 17 new captains in that class. If you take a minute to do the math the numbers get pretty big pretty quickly.

You just never know how far what you say or do is going to go.

Have you thought about that? Are you conscious of what you are saying and doing with those within your sphere of influence? All the time? Are you being deliberate with how you are living day-to-day?

Something else I learned at that captain development course is that "everything speaks." Your influence is being created with every aspect of how you are living: how you present yourself to the world all the time every day. What are you saying to the world by how you show up?

Are you good with that? Give it some thought. That would be a great way to let everyone in your world know how much you care about theirs.

Thanks, Rich!

The Symphony of Your Life
#stayintheprocess #stepoverthebar #leadership #teambuilding #employeedevelopment


Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-777s around the world, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact MVP today to schedule a free personal consultation. Mark can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization!
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A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Captain Mark Hardcastle

Captain's Log Photo


“Right is right, even if none be for it, and wrong is wrong, even if all be for it.” – William Penn

But how do you know what’s right?

I’ve been reading, enjoying, and learning from Gus Lee’s memoir, With Schwarzkopf: Life Lessons of the Bear, perhaps the best book on leadership I’ve ever read. One of Lee’s stories took me back to early 2005. In the summer of that year I was a brand new real estate agent with a rental property of my own I was ready to flip. The work on the house was done. It was time to get it on the market.

And sure enough an offer came in. But as I read the offer I realized that something was very wrong. It was as if the buyer’s agent had written it on my behalf. Almost every negotiable item was written to my benefit.

Think back with me to the summer of 2005. The Denver market in which I practiced had not yet started the spectacular decline that was already on the horizon. The economics were still fairly well-balanced, unlike today as I write in 2018 with the market heavily tilted in favor of sellers. So back then there was no reason for a buyer to make a particularly generous offer. I was puzzled.

As I looked more closely it became clear that this agent was new. Not only were the terms poorly-written, but there were technical errors, lots of them, in the way the contract had been prepared.

This was my very first transaction as a licensed agent – I had no idea what to expect from other real estate professionals. But it wasn’t my first deal. Over the years I had acquired and sold multiple properties as an investor. So despite my “greenness” in the agency world, I was able to recognize that this agent was exposed. Were I of such a mind, this would have been an opportunity to take advantage of her inexperience. I could just see some of my fellow investors licking their chops.

But it didn’t feel right. I was after a fair deal, sure. Maybe even a “good” deal. This, though, had the potential to cause harm to the buyer. And that reality hung me up. Because this was my own property, I could do whatever I wanted. Ultimately I would completely re-write the contract.

But what if I were negotiating on behalf of a client? Having just graduated from real estate school I was powerfully aware that my fiduciary responsibility would have “required” me to negotiate the absolute best possible deal for my client regardless of what I might do on my own.

I didn’t want to be that agent. You know the one I’m talking about. The hard-nosed, hard-driving stereotype of an agent who takes advantage of every unintentional slip without any regard for good faith.

I needed guidance. Newly minted, I didn’t have the tools. And having recently hung my shingle with the largest real estate company in Colorado, I feared that they would expect me to be… aggressive. Still, I went looking for advice.

Unfortunately it was a Saturday. The broker wasn’t in. The agency trainer was enjoying his weekend as well. So I went to the front desk receptionist to ask who was taking agent questions. She pointed me down the hall to a senior agent whose name I didn’t yet know.

His door was closed, but the light was on. I knocked. When the door opened I was looking up at a mountain of flesh with a face of thunder who was clearly wondering why I’d interrupted his desk work. My palms started to sweat. Quaking, I stammered out my dilemma.

I’ll never forget his answer. He didn’t roar at me. He was actually rather gentle. In the voice of a father, he said, “you know, Mark, it’s simple. Just do the right thing.”

Do the right thing. He didn’t ask for numbers. In fact, he didn’t ask for any details at all. He didn’t care about the commission split to the company. He only had one concern: do the right thing. Not necessarily easy. But simple.

If up to that point I’d had any reservation about whether I’d made the right choice of agency to join, those doubts evaporated in an instant and I knew I was home. And as ethical questions came up during my years as an agent I found great comfort as well as utility in his advice.

In his book, Gus Lee reminisces about Schwarzkopf telling him, “every real question in life comes off as a tough ethics question. And the answer’s always the same to tough questions: do the right thing.”

Of course, the point here is that those “real” questions are called “tough” for a reason. The right thing sometimes requires personal sacrifice. And The Bear had plenty to say about army “careerists” protecting their own interests at the expense of the “harder right.”

Still, as humans living in the real world we naturally want to avoid that. And our own interests can be legitimate. It’s ok to be as fair to ourselves as to others. In the case of my first real estate transaction, it wasn’t really all that hard, partly because I was a principal to the deal, partly because I knew that even if this particular deal failed another buyer would come along.

Which takes us back to the “tough” part. Sometimes, the right thing has nothing to do with us. Had I been working for a client it wouldn’t have been so easy. The client’s interests would have been at play. And the agency under whose license I toiled always had a say. Multiple interests, sometimes in conflict, make it harder to discern “right.”

So here you are, facing a tough question. Maybe you’re involved in the problem, maybe you’re not. Regardless, you’re the decision maker. How can you know what to do?

Again from Schwarzkopf: “Character means you have to do the right thing all of the time. Character guarantees competence because to do the right thing you must acquire and develop your competence.” In other words, the better you get at what you do, the easier it becomes to know what’s right.

Finally in this regard, The Bear referenced the cadet prayer from West Point. Part of it implores, “…strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.” He then taught that “you need fine judgment to know the harder right. You get that judgment by practicing and by learning from errors.”

I imagine that General Schwarzkopf might suggest you face today’s difficult decision by sifting through the issues in search of the harder right. And then move forward with admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking. Not without fear of making the wrong decision, but with the courage of knowing that if you make a mistake you will learn.

Doing that will lead to your best decision today and will make hard decisions easier tomorrow. Learning begets competence; competence begets judgment. The more you practice the better you will become. And in time you will become the one to whom the new folks turn, because you will know where to find the harder right.

And you’ll hear yourself saying, “It’s simple. Just do the right thing.” And then you’ll lead the way.

Thanks for reading!

The Symphony of Your Life



Mark graduated from the USAF Academy in 1982. After nine years as a pilot on active duty, he left the military to join a commercial airline. In addition to flying B-737s around the country, Hardcastle spends time in the Rocky Mountains and serves on the artistic staff of the Colorado Children’s Chorale. He lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his wife and four children. Need some help figuring out why you’re on this planet? Want to talk about discovering your mission and purpose? Contact MVP today to schedule a free personal consultation. He can also deliver an inspirational keynote or workshop for your organization!
Read More →



New Directions Leader As Mentor

“When the night has come

And the land is dark

And the moon is the only light we'll see

No I won't be afraid

Oh, I won't be afraid

Just as long as you stand, stand by me.”

– Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller, Ben E. King, Stand By Me

“Thanks for standing by me, Robert,” James told me at the end of a New Directions in Leadership program. “No one has ever done that for me before.”

James was a supervisor at a manufacturing plant who, when I first met him, had a penchant for pouring glue on his subordinates. Then he would laugh at them and follow that up with, “You suck!” A week into the program, I walked into the meeting room and wrote on the white board in large letters: “YOU SUCK.” I heard gasps in the room. Then I drew a circle around “You suck” and a diagonal line across what I had written. Facing my audience, I told them, “If I hear of any of you in this room saying ‘You suck’ to another participant or to anyone else in this facility, you will no longer be welcome to attend this leadership program.” With the eyes of his fellow supervisors upon him, James merely grunted.

Part of the program involved working with the supervisors individually. In his first session, James showed no genuine interest in talking with me. He did everything he could to distract the process. He wasn’t about to take responsibility for his actions unless there was something truly at stake for him. What would motivate him to change?  

     “Tell me about your professional goals,” I asked James at our next session.

     “I want to be vice-president,” he said.

     “What do you think it’s going to take for you to become vice-president?”

     “I don’t know.”

     “Do you want to hear my opinion?”

     “All right.”

     “If you really want to be vice-president, you’re going to have to change your behavior.”

     And so he did.


At our following session, James sat down opposite me and asked if I would help him become a better leader. He had decided, it seemed, to take a risk and be vulnerable with me, to trust me as someone who could help him achieve his goals. This was a good first step.

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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels What are you doing that confirms your role and effectiveness as a leader? I recently had the opportunity to teach stewardship in a leadership workshop for pastors in San Marcos, Nicaragua. It was a privilege to help others grow in their understanding of leadership. I was encouraged as I what I saw confirmed the truth and power of the universal and timeless principles of leadership that I live and teach. The principles are simple, but when they become part of who you are as a leader, they confirm that your leadership is going in the proper direction with the power and influence to empower those you lead to move forward.  The confirming statements are: 1) People will follow when the leader builds relationships of trust. 2) People will follow when the leader lives an exemplary life. 3) People will follow when the leader casts a clear vision of the future. It is encouraging to receive confirmation that your leadership is effective. Be encouraged; when you implement these timeless and universal principles of leadership, chances are that soon, you will receive the confirmation that will inspire you to continue moving forward.    
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There are two significant advantages to empowering employees.  They include:
  1. The growth and development of the employee, and
  2. The ability of the leader to accomplish so much more.
5 of the Top 10 Ways to Empower Your Staff
  1. Set the example; in every area. Your team will follow if you lead.
  2. Delegate and empower others. Everyone learns best by doing.
  3. Create enough space for individuals to make mistakes and grow. Step in only when safety is a concern or a potential gross misuse of resources.
  4. Teach others to accept responsibility, but develop trust by maintaining overall responsibility.
  5. Focus on developing your team; individually and collectively.
Read  the full articleTom Crea is a Leadership Speaker and Performance Coach who works with groups of managers who want to build teams and lead.  He served a career in the U.S. Army where he specialized in developing leaders, improving communication, and building teams. 
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© 2015 Mark T. Sorrels Lawn mower leadership! What in the world could that be? The idea of lawn mower leadership comes from my days as sales manager at a John Deere store. At that time John Deere manufactured a series of commercial front mowers call the “F” series. There was the F525, F725, F735, F935 and the larger F1145 and F1445. Some were available with gasoline engines only. Some were available with gasoline or diesel engines and some where available with diesel only. The unique feature of these mowers was the rear wheels were designed to swivel in such a way that they followed the exact track as the front wheels. Therefore, when turning, the rear end of the unit never swung beyond the width of the front wheels. The benefit for the purchaser was the back of the unit never rammed into buildings, fences or flower beds. This design gave birth to the sales and marketing phrase, “The tail follows the trail.” Now that you know about the F Series commercial mowers, what is the connection between them and leadership? Good leadership makes a path so clear that followers have no trouble when turns or curves must be navigated. Good leadership lays down such a definitive trail that followers never swerve off the path because like the rear wheels of the F Series, they are following the exact trail of the leader.  Lawn mower leadership calls you and me to provide the type of inspirational leadership that without question allows the tail to follow the trail. I would count it an honor to help you and your people. Please let me know how I may be of assistance.
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