John Drescher

Drescher: Former bank CEO urges readers to get done what’s important to them

Kel Landis III
Kel Landis III

Kel Landis III likes to get things done.

He earned his Eagle Scout rank at age 15. He was CEO of RBC Centura Bank before helping to start Plexus Capital, which invests in small businesses.

He’s volunteered on all kinds of civic, professional and university boards, including those at Elizabeth City State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, the N.C. Bankers Association, the N.C. Community Foundation and the Rocky Mount YMCA.

About 10 years ago, he started thinking about writing a book on how business people could contribute to their communities. About a year ago he re-read a quote often attributed to the theologian John Wesley: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

Landis thought: It’s time to write that book. So he did. The title – “The Little Book of Do!” – echoes the Wesley quote. Landis will speak about the book Friday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.

“Living a life of do is in all of us,” he told me this week. “It’s our choice whether we do or don’t.”

Landis shifted a bit from his original idea and wrote a book that serves as a personal guide on how to achieve what’s important to the reader. On the cover, Landis urges the reader to “act on your passions and goals for a life of success and purpose.”

Landis gives guidance practical and inspirational. His “Do Wedge” helps a reader assess how a task under consideration measures in regards to importance, passion and urgency. Deciding not to do something can be just as important as deciding to do something, Landis writes.

He tells stories of people and actions that have inspired him. Landis visited the Rev. Robert Seymour to hear him recount how he worked with Dean Smith more than 50 years ago to integrate restaurants in Chapel Hill. That was years before Smith became a championship coach and national figure.

Smith was just an assistant coach then. But he believed strongly in equal opportunity and acted on his beliefs. He didn’t just talk about the pernicious norms of that day – he did something to change them.

Landis, who grew up in Rocky Mount and used to live and work there, now resides in Raleigh. At 57, he increasingly is aware of the passage of time. He’s an avid walker and in good shape but still needed heart surgery a year ago. His children are 28 and 26 years old; he thinks of the book as advice for them.

Early in the book, Landis writes that a 30-year-old on average has 18,927 “days to make something of his or life.” A 45-year-old probably has about 14,000 days and a 60-year-old about 9,000.

At the end, Landis writes of what he calls a “nursing home reflection”: How will you look back on the things you did or didn’t do?

He wrote the book, he said, to help people get unstuck so they can do the things they always wanted to do. Proceeds from the book will go to the new Foundation for DO, which will recognize people who have done extraordinary things for their communities.

“We do have a finite amount of time,” he said. “You want to make the most of it.”

Evening with Barry

Barry Saunders, our columnist, makes the most of every day – in his own special way. Saunders has strong opinions, and he enjoys sharing them, in writing and in person.

He will speak Monday at 7 p.m. at Irregardless Cafe, 901 W. Morgan St., in Raleigh. Admission is $25. Tickets are at