His 'Rules for Life' offer a road map for all to follow


Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

A longtime friend, who enjoyed a successful career of presenting leadership programs for executives of Fortune 500 companies before retiring, celebrated a milestone birthday earlier this year.

The occasion for Ron Potter was marked by the publication of his “12 Rules of Life as Identified by His Daughters.” The list, of course, was meant for internal consumption, but it has appeal far beyond familial borders.

(1) Laugh often. Loudly, if possible. In addition to the obvious mental health benefits, a loud laugh can serve as a homing device for your children to find you in crowded auditoriums or church basements.

(2) Show others respect and they will generally do the same for you. 

(3) Believe you have a place at the table.

(4) Read for your life.

(5) There is a right way to vacuum and a philosophy behind it.

(6) Have reverence for forces greater than yourself. This includes God, nature, power plants, electrical grids, and other engineering wonders of the world.

(7) It's only money.

(8) If it’s going to be funny later, it’s funny now.

(9) People understand through your consistent actions, not your good intentions.

(10) You haven’t failed if you learn from your failures.

(11) Be the person in your family who takes the first step toward something new. Take the risk.

(12) Through personality, talents, and gifting, God has given everyone a unique potential to make an impact with those they influence.

The list is the handiwork of Potter’s daughters, Amy and Lindsay, and dovetails nicely with the overall philosophy of their father, who nearly two decades ago co-authored a book with Wayne Hastings titled, “Trust Me: Developing a Leadership Style People Will Follow.”

The appeal of the book, which was an outgrowth of Potter’s management consulting work, hinges on that five-letter word in the title that has an uncanny habit of tripping up people in their personal and professional lives.


Easy to define, by Webster standards, but increasingly difficult these days to live by if you’re a partisan politician or charged with running a company that marches to a profit beat.

The message in the book is “both timely and timeless,” according to the authors.

“Americans are looking for leaders they can trust,” said Potter. “This is true if you are a CEO or anyone in a leadership position. People want to know they can trust you.

“A ‘Trust Me’ leader focuses outside themselves to other people around them. They hold firm under pressure and have a focus, bordered by passion and achievement. They also have integrity. Integrity is one of eight attributes found in a ‘Trust Me’ leader and the concept is so compelling people naturally want to follow leaders who have it. It seems to make perfect sense. People are most willing to follow someone they can trust. They want to know the person will be straight with them, be consistent, follow through with what they say, and be true to a set of values,” said Potter.

Over the years of our friendship, I have valued every opportunity to soak up the wisdom that Potter exudes, whether in a professional or social setting. In short, he is smart, savvy, kind, compassionate – and tough.

His strength was put to the test in 1994, just a few years after he began his consulting career following a successful run in the corporate world. Potter and his wife Jill were returning to Ann Arbor along I-94 near Jackson after dropping off their daughter Lindsay at Western Michigan University. It was then that a semi-truck ahead, carrying too high of a load, slammed into a bridge spanning the busy interstate, causing a chain collision that trapped the Potters in their van for hours with serious injuries.

“It was months before we were back on our feet, and the physical and mental toll the accident took on us still impacts us today,” said Potter. “Something of that nature really tests your faith and forces you to muster up all your inner strength to return to a normal personal and professional life.”

Several years ago, he dodged death again, this time while we were on a golf weekend up north.

By the time we arrived at the 17th tee of a particularly diabolical course, Potter started to look a bit worse for wear. He said he felt “tired” and “flushed,” but expected to feel better after a brief one-hole break.

Come No. 18, he was back in business, recording a par on the demanding final hole, apparently showing no ill effects from his earlier troubles. 

Or so we thought.

Within an hour we were high-tailing it to the nearest hospital, ferrying our friend to the E.R. for life-saving cardiac treatment. A week or so later he would undergo quintuple bypass surgery, nearly scaring the life out of his legion of admirers after he developed a potentially fatal infection.

Now, some 7 years removed from the double whammy, Potter figures to gather another full head of steam, embodying a widely held belief that a certain someone has rightfully earned his “place at the table.”

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