Morning Coffee Archives
Morning Coffee Archives
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With the start of the major league baseball season, a simple success formula recently heard comes to mind. It uses baseball words, but contains plenty of success wisdom.
Which do you think is more important, a home run or a single base hit? Most of us would choose a home run - even a "grand slam" home run. Most of us were also brought up to believe that someday our "ship would come in" - that all of our success or wealth or whatever would arrive at once, in one grand port call.
Funny thing is - more ball games are won with base hits than with home runs. Most ships arrive slowly in port - guided by tiny tugboats - and only after having navigated the wide oceans through a series of thousands of minor navigational corrections.
Yes! Big wins and successful journeys occur most often as the result of daily decisions - not life-altering, once-a-year, mega-decisions. Want to lose weight? It won't happen because you vow on January 1 to do it. It will be the result of your daily decision to walk, run, or work out. Want excellent health? Your daily, even moment-by-moment, decisions to ingest only healthy foods and avoid junk are the ones that will win the day.
The same holds true for your success in business. While a master plan at the beginning of the year is important, it's really the steps taken each day that produce the results. As you face each of the very small daily decisions, be careful to make only the right choices. By day's end they'll add up to valuable progress both on and off the field.
NOT BED-TIME READING!
There’s been a lot of heated discussion regarding the embellishment of facts in order to make an otherwise “true story” more interesting. You may recall that a "memoir" published within the last few years was scrutinized like a journalistic piece, and its author publicly shamed for previously claiming as fact many of the now acknowledged fabricated details in the book.
So why would someone feel compelled to make up details about their life? If you began writing your autobiography today, would it consist of bestseller material, or do you think your life might not be exciting enough to inspire others? Jot down a possible Table of Contents. Look boring? What’s the solution? Live a more exciting life!
Begin to imagine and act every day as though you knew you would be recounting the details and events later on. If you keep a journal or a diary, you’re already familiar with the idea, although you might not expect others to read it. A journal helps you to identify and solidify ideas for success, while a memoir puts your actions in front of the world to see.
Boring job? Find the beauty in it, revel in the good you really do for others, or begin planning today your climb up the ladder or up an entirely different ladder. Boring relationships? Find new things to do, visit new places to do them, or start nurturing new associations with those whom you most admire. Boring personality? Expand your horizons with travel, exercise your mind with reading, and make a commitment to caring for and helping others.
Start living the life you would be confident to share, and before you know it, your autobiography will go from “bargain bin” to “best seller”!
A well-known motivational speaker once said, "No one knows enough to be a pessimist." He also quoted statistics showing that a very high percentage of the things we worry about are either A) things that never happen, or B) things over which we have no control anyway. His point? Not only do we not have enough information to justify our worries, we also are virtually unable to alter the outcome of most situations.
Our worst fears are generally of the unknown (not enough information). Our imagination runs wild, conjuring up worst-case scenarios. We become fearful, anxious, and even overwhelmed - yet the source of our fear is non-existent (except in our minds). Consider these oft-quoted phrases:
"Think you can - think you can't - either way you're right." "As a man thinketh, so is he." "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours."
In other words, by your thoughts alone, you control the outcome. Although there exist many risks to our peace-of-mind during uncertain times, we still have the ability to pursue our very best hopes and dreams. We may find that their achievement requires more effort than usual. Doubt may creep in. Nevertheless, as you have heard many times, "It's all in your head."
LIKE RATS IN A MAZE!
Today's quote is funny, but also sobering in light of recent studies of hard-working Americans. You see, as it turns out, hard work could actually kill you. Well, it's not actually the work that does it, but the amount of work and the time spent at it.
Most of us consider a full time job to involve forty hours per week. Obviously, for those in the real estate industry, emergency services, and any other number of professions, that number can range much higher. Now a University of California (Irvine) study of nearly 25,000 people reveals that workers who clocked more than 51 hours at the office each week were 29% more likely to have high blood pressure than those who worked 39 hours or less. The likelihood of elevated blood pressure increases tandem to the number of hours worked.
Maybe that figure doesn't surprise you, and maybe high blood pressure doesn't worry you as much as it should. This whole work-stress study was inspired by an interesting phenomenon in Japan. They have a word for it - "Karoshi" - and it means "sudden death from overwork." (!)
As highly charged as the work ethic is in Japan, Americans today actually clock more hours than the Japanese. Then consider that most of the developed world legislates laws to limit work hours - except the United States. What we have so endearingly termed the "rat race" seems to hold no great prize on the other side of the finish line. Like Lily Tomlin once observed, "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win you're still a rat."
There is a positive note here, and that is that the highest hypertension was more common among clerical and unskilled workers than among professionals. That figure, too, might not surprise you, but it's comforting to know that more mentally challenging work seems to protect us from other potentially negative effects. Just remember that your body and your mind work their best when you rest your best!
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT?
The next time your hope or ambition is thwarted, and you believe that you didn't get what you wanted, think about the quote above. The problem so many of us have is that we're not happy with what we've already got. We believe that there is something or someone else out there, outside of ourselves, that will make us happier than we are now.
It's really so much easier to simply find a way to appreciate what we've got. That's not to say that we should all become complacent. Doing things to make other people happy is a wonderful diversion from trying to do so for ourselves. Just remember that you are the one who is ultimately responsible for your happiness, not the "something or someone" that is outside of you.
While trying to make others happy, also remember that they are ultimately responsible for their happiness as well. Don't blame yourself if you don't think you did enough to cheer up a friend, or you weren't able to give them that gift they really wanted. The greatest gift you can give is to help someone realize that they already have everything they really need. Sometimes this is the gift you need to give yourself.
Sit down today and try counting your blessings - list things like family, friends, pets, mobility, a satisfying job, shelter, financial independence, food in the fridge - any and all things great and small. Stand back and take a look at the "Big Picture." No matter what you think you want, you'll realize that you've got it pretty darn good right here, right now. Anything else is just icing on the cake! Enjoy the sweetness!
KEEPING (ON) TRACK!
You've heard it a million times, "Less is more!" If less really is better, then maybe it's time to start giving yourself, and even your family, an "allowance." This isn't about money, per se, but more about the other things that either drain our resources or over-complicate our lives.
This “allowance” idea got rolling in light of rising fuel prices. Instead of a monetary gas allowance for the family vehicle(s), consider enforcing a weekly "mileage" allowance. By combining trips and walking or biking whenever possible, there could be enough miles "left over" for the extra trip to the mall or concert hall.
This works with a host of activities, and improves life by simplifying it. How about a television budget? Are there really three hours of television worth viewing every night? One hour a night during the week would leave oodles of time to watch a favorite movie or sports event on the weekend. Or just hit the "Record" button, and watch when there's a better time.
The same could go for time spent surfing the net or sending funny emails. It's easy to convince ourselves that we're "working" when we're on the computer, but often we're just passing time that could be spent more industriously. Leave as much "real" computer work as possible at the office, and try to limit the time spent in front of the screen at home. There is such a thing as becoming too wired!
Likewise, if you're trying to lose weight, you've probably encountered the concept of the "food allowance," or calorie budget. Like everything else, you have to keep track of how much you're consuming, how much is left, and when to stop. Many of us are moving so fast these days that we neglect to tally our activities against our need for "down time." We don't realize that we've maxed out our time and need to stop.
Whether it's driving, watching tv, or net surfing, we could likely benefit from a reduction in any or all. We forget to put "Relax!" on our list of things to do. Work it into your "budget" by using less of your time "allowance" on other things. You don't have to stop completely; you just need to come into balance.
Enlighten yourself this week by keeping a journal of how much time you spend on all your various activities, and look for somewhere to make a cut. By next Monday, you'll be glad you did!
KEEP THE BALL ROLLING!
Most of us can probably look back over our lives and careers and recall people who have either helped or hindered us along the way. Which group do you think is more worthy of your consideration?
Unfortunately, many people spend too much time worrying about how they’ve been wronged. The bad stuff tends to stick in our minds, and we’re less inclined to recall the positive deeds and actions. While we may LEARN from our negative experiences, we can actually TEACH by demonstrating our positive attitude.
Instead of focusing on those around you who make decisions that set you back, or whose incompetence is driving you nuts, try to take some inspiration and guidance from those who have mentored you or shown an exceptional level of performance. Fight back against those negative influences by raising yourself to the next level.
The most successful and inspirational people around us generally achieve their accomplishments for a greater good. They’re unselfish in their success. They work hard to promote the strength of their company, not just themselves. They volunteer by helping to feed the hungry, visit the lonely, and support those in need. One is not selfish for pursuing one’s own good – selfishness comes from neglecting the good of others.
John Andrew Holmes said, "The entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others." No matter how much you focus on your own goals and achievements, you’re not a fully developed individual until concern for others starts to become more important than concern for yourself.
So don’t worry about “getting even” when you’ve been wronged – it’s a waste of your time, and can’t produce any positive results. Think more about getting even when you’ve been done right! Then you’ll find more and more good things coming your way!
JUST ASK DOROTHY!
You've probably seen it a dozen times - "The Wizard of Oz." It's a delightful tale of fantasy, complete with munchkins, a scarecrow in need of a brain, a yellow brick road, a wicked witch and a mythical wizard with the imagined power to send Dorothy back to Kansas.
Regardless of the fantasy, the beautiful color, the unusual characters, and the whimsical plot, there is a powerful message that comes as one of Dorothy's last lines as she prepares to leave Oz. She says, "If ever again I go looking for my heart's desire, I won't look any further than my own backyard." It's such a simple statement, yet it carries a lesson for all of us.
How often do we look outside our own world of home and family for "our heart's desire?" There are so many distractions that lure us out of our own backyard: careers, shopping, powerful people, sports, clubs, TV, committees, the Internet, and the list goes on. There's so much to do and so little time. Then one day we look and our own backyard no longer seems to exist.
We should take time to smell the roses in our own garden, rather than looking over the fence and down the yellow brick road to see the roses of others. We need to let go of the imagined - the tin man, lion, and scarecrow of our own making - and appreciate the real Auntie Em's in our lives. If we don't, we may wake up one day to realize we're "not in Kansas anymore."
IT'S MORE THAN A JOB . . .
There’s a suggestion that’s commonly offered to people who have suffered some degree of trauma or tragedy. You’ve probably heard or even said it yourself: “You’ll begin to return to normal once you get back to work.”
But why is that, exactly? Why would working make us feel better? Researchers in Sweden have been studying what makes us happy, and they’ve discovered an interesting twist. Working to achieve a goal, even more than attaining that aim, is what makes people most satisfied.
Of course, there is a caveat. Hard work is satisfying, but only if it suits you, by using your particular strengths and skills. Otherwise, it can be downright demoralizing if you’re working at something you don’t enjoy.
A small business magazine recently interviewed Jim Koch, founder and chairman of Boston Beer Company, which produces the very popular Samuel Adams (brewer and patriot) beers. Koch’s choice of career dismayed his father, and others thought he was crazy for trying to craft and market a great American beer.
However, his pursuit of what he loved ended up paying big dividends. While his success story might not be typical, he offers this advice: “I always tell people that if you are going to start a business, the chances that it is going to make you rich are actually very small, almost infinitesimal. But if you pursue something that you really love, the odds that you make yourself happy are really pretty good, and that’s the real prize.”
Hopefully, you love (or at least enjoy) your work, whether it’s writing, managing the household, real estate transactions, or any variety of activity or employment. If not, you might need to reassess, and finally discover and pursue what it is that will make you happy. Don't wait - start now!
A cartoon recently ran on the editorial page: A very large sport-utility vehicle was releasing a large belch while someone's hand desperately reached out from inside the fuel door, a gas pump lying on the ground beneath. This humorous observation on rising gas prices immediately brought to mind the question, "Are we the consumers, or the consumed?"
As the rising cost of fuel forces prices for everything else to rise in tandem, we are likewise forced to consider just how much we're willing to consume and at what cost. As you plan for your future and retirement, forget about all the hoopla surrounding the privatization of Social Security and consider another strategy: Don't spend your money (or at least not as much of it as you have been)!
Think what you might get for $1,000: a new sleeper couch, 2 Super Bowl tickets, a riding lawnmower, a three-day weekend getaway? Regardless of how useful or entertaining any of these options might be, imagine how much $1,000 could really cost you.
Let's say you're thirty years from retirement and are lucky enough to be managing a mutual fund with a steady return of 10%. (That's really not unreasonable if you are highly pro-active and educated in your investments.) If you spend that $1,000, instead of contributing it to your investment fund, you'll have reduced your future savings by at least $17,400!
Do you want that $1,000 now or do you want that $17,400 in the future? Play around with the figures all you want, but the truth will remain constant: wealthy people get that way and stay that way by pinching pennies. Keep your goals well in sight, and avoid the temptation to be consumed by consumerism!
HOW DO YOU SEE IT?
Have you ever wondered why some people never seem to be satisfied? Or why others always have a smile on their face? In both cases, it often has absolutely nothing to do with external factors, but rather how people internalize what they perceive.
A perfect case in point is the story about a gentleman who just moved to a small town where he had recently accepted a job. Pulling into a gas station, he casually asked the attendant, “I’ve never lived in this part of the country - what are the people like here?”
The attendant in return asked, “What are the people like where you came from?” To which the man replied, “Not very friendly. They can be quite rude.” The dismayed attendant commented, “I’m afraid that you’ll find the folks around here to be the same.”
While this little conversation was going on, another car pulled up and the driver called out, “I’m moving to this area soon for a new job. Is it nice here?” The attendant turned to the driver and again asked, “Is it nice where you come from?”
“Well, yeah, it’s great there. The people are nice, and I hated to leave,” the gentleman explained. To which the attendant answered, “Well, you’ll find the same to be true here!”
What the attendant knew - that the first driver didn’t - is that we all see things as we expect to see them. Act positively and expect positive reactions. Act negatively, and . . . well, you get the picture.
If you’re feeling disappointed or unsatisfied, it may not be the result of external forces. It may be time to take a look at your own role in the dynamics of your life. Even if your vision is fine, you might need to correct your lenses!
GREAT AND SMALL!
We see Big Things and Little Things, using a filter called Perspective. While our personal Perspective is useful in analyzing situations and actions in a meaningful way, it has the potential to be a detriment, denying us alternative and refreshing outlooks and solutions.
Sometimes we get confused about What Is Important. All our lives we are programmed with a Perspective that tells us what we believe is the best course of action. We’re told that we should focus on achieving Big Things, especially in highly competitive professions and fields. But how exactly are we supposed to reach the Top Of The Mountain if we cannot even clear the pebbles along the way? And what happens if you reach the mountaintop and you find that it’s lonely and that there’s nowhere else to go?
We either pay too much attention to the little things and get tripped up along the way, OR we don’t pay enough attention to the little things and get tripped up along the way! We focus so hard on reaching the mountain top that we forget how important it is to do the Small Stuff well.
Becoming accomplished at the Small Stuff will eventually change your perspective so you’ll appreciate how truly important your achievements are. Suddenly, there are no more mountains and no more pebbles. You assail each problem and task with the same enthusiasm, effort, and success. Your perspective has changed, and you realize that you better pay attention to the Small Stuff, because really, it’s ALL Small Stuff.
Charles Simmons summarized it perfectly: "Life is made up of little things. It is very rarely that an occasion is offered for doing a great deal at once. True greatness consists in being great in little things." Here’s to a job well done!
FICTION OR NON-FICTION?
Fast-forward your life 20, 30, even 40 years. Now . . . imagine someone writing a book of your life story. Think of the possibilities. Would it be motivational, a mystery perhaps, or even science fiction? What about reference, a novel, true crime, short story, or an expose? Would it be found in the children's section of the library, the reference section, or under biographies?
Wow - the possibilities are endless. The good news is - YOU are the lead character, and get to make all the choices! Close your eyes and visualize how it would read. Assume that the author is an unrelated third-party who knows every detail. That's a scary thought, isn't it?
If the chapters were written in chronological order, which ones would make the best reading? Undoubtedly, the ones from age 12-20 would provide some interesting material. From 20 to 40 would be excellent transitional chapters with lots of "Ah-ha!"s and course changes. The final chapter may be the most revealing, however. Think how many readers like to skip to the end to see how the book ends.
If you could skip to the end of your own book, how would it read? Summarizing the entire book, would you say it was a thriller, a shocker, a spell-binder, a tragedy, a romance, or an inspiration?
Your life is a book waiting to be written - write it well!
THE DOG DAYS!
The quote for today seems appropriate during these hazy summer days of sweltering heat and high grass. It's so easy to picture the perfect summer day and how we might just lie back in the hammock, or take the family to the park. Unfortunately, it's just about as easy for us to picture all the responsibilities we would be ignoring to take just such advantage of the day.
However, don't forget that your physical and mental well-being are also your responsibility, and if you ignore those, you simply won't be able to successfully fulfill your other obligations. Corita Kent said, "Love the moment and the energy of the moment will spread beyond all boundaries."
Take time out to do something really important - taking time out - even if it means "pretending" the lawn mower (computer, mobile device) is broken. Step back, reevaluate your priorities, and let things fall back in line. "I could have had my presentation done ahead of schedule if we hadn't taken that Sunday drive," becomes "I gave the best presentation of my life because I really cleared my head on that Sunday drive."
There's room for everything you love in your life - your work, your family, your interests. An imbalance in any of these can have a negative impact on the others, so beware and be aware of your priorities. If it's time to devote attention to the (seemingly) "little things," so be it. Don't miss your golden opportunity for a beautiful moment because it seems so small you don't even perceive it.
Wonder at the sun shine, feel the breeze blow, listen to the birds sing, because "life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by day, in all the thousand small, uncaring ways." (Stephen Saint Vincent Benet)
THE BLAME GAME!
Ever made a mistake, or failed at what you set out to do? Here’s some big news that you should already know: You’re not alone!
How many times have you kicked yourself in the pants for screwing up? Fessing up to your mistakes is a mark of maturity, self-confidence, and even progress. Whether admitting it to yourself or acknowledging your fault to others, you know that you simply must pick up from that point, regroup your efforts, and with any luck, not make the same mistake twice.
Cicero wrote, "Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error." We could add that only an idiot persists in his blame. Acknowledge your fault, but once is enough. How will you ever feel competent if you can’t manage occasional mistakes? You’re human, right? So is everybody else, and they will understand.
Don’t dwell on your mistakes, or you’re just making another mistake! You’ll garner more respect if you fail, admit your failure and then avoid another error. Anyone engaging in constant self-blame or over-willingness to accept blame is perceived as weak and ineffectual.
Remember that the winner is the one who made the next-to-last mistake! You and your competition will continually experience challenges that will be managed skillfully or be mishandled. Make sure that your last effort is carried out capably!
Think of your life as a series of games or matches in a long sports career, and consider Bill Vaughan’s words: "In the game of life, it's a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season." Nobody wants to lose, but nobody wants to be expected to win every time, either! Be realistic in your expectations, modest in your failures and gracious in your victories!
TEACH VALUES 101!
What do children and government have in common? That depends on which classroom you visit. If you have children and are actively involved in their lives, you are likely to encounter a classroom filled with intelligent, interested, involved and respectful children.
Unfortunately, many teachers today will tell you that's not what they are seeing. In some 1st & 2nd grade settings, children fall asleep because they spent the night in the family car while mom or dad sold drugs. Others are antagonistic and disrespectful, traits also learned from other family members. Still others are raised in a "no rules" family, where parents simply abdicate their parental responsibilities.
Many parents still take their responsibilities seriously. In fact, there appears to be a resurgence of young parents who teach their children the values of honesty, integrity, and service to others. It's about time. If you're one of them, I applaud your commitment to making the world a better place.
There has also been a dearth of honesty, respect and morality over the past 30 years or so. Children brought up during that time often experienced the negative effects of a no rules society. Today those same individuals are beginning to lead companies and be elected to office, yet we are surprised that company CEO's and elected officials could ever lie and mislead as they have been exposed to do recently.
As the children of today's classrooms are disposed to believe and behave, so will they as the adults of tomorrow's generation. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, you can make a difference for the next generation of leaders. Take time to encourage, nurture, and teach the children in your family. Sometimes, a single comment or gesture can give a child the impetus to become great.
TALK IS CHEAP!
How ironic that today’s “inspiration” comes from a marketing campaign for a communications company. It’s touted that technology saves you time and helps you to communicate better. But isn’t it more apparent that technology now leaves us with so little time that we barely have occasion to properly interact with others?
Anything that “saves time” is simply making more time that you can then devote to some other pursuit. Dishwashers and clothes dryers were supposed to be modern time- and effort-reducing marvels, but did people just sit around and relax after the cleaning was done? No, because all the “extra time” created by technology has only served to increase the hectic pace of our lives, allowing us to do more and more in less and less time.
What about cell phones and email? Promoted as easy and inexpensive ways to communicate, they have ultimately diminished the personal aspect of communication. Ever gotten a phone call from someone who was killing time in line at the grocery store, or even worse, in traffic? Critical for emergencies and conducting business, cell phones otherwise give us an excuse for quick calls on the run, before the battery dies or the signal drops out (or another calls beeps in).
Email is another beast altogether, having reduced our language skills to nothing more than “emoticons” and run-on sentences without capitalization. Email has replaced the answering machine as the new way to ignore communication. The sender feels good because at least they made an effort to get in touch, but the recipient is in the privileged position of responding whenever they wish.
Ideally, we would all be able to sit down at home with undivided attention and give someone an hour of quality time on the phone. Or perhaps sit down with pen and paper and actually handwrite a personal letter to a friend or relative who lives at some distance. But really, who has the time?
At a fundraising dinner for a school serving learning-disabled children, the father of one of the students stood up to speak. He began by saying, “I believe that when a child like my Shay comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself.” He went on to tell the following story.
Shay and his dad were walking past a park where some other boys were playing a game of baseball. Shay excitedly asked, “Do you think they’ll let me play?” Reluctantly, but hopefully, Shay’s father approached the boys. The captain looked at the others for some guidance, but finding none, said, “We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning, but I guess he can play. We’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth.”
Still down in the ninth, Shay put on a glove and headed to the outfield. No hits came to him, but he was ecstatic. Then “Shay’s team” came to bat, scored, and got the winning run on base. Now Shay was next at bat.
Shay’s obvious inexperience inspired the pitcher to move closer and lob the ball in softly enough for Shay to try to make contact. He missed the first toss, but the pitcher moved in even more before his next toss, which Shay ground balled right back to him.
The pitcher picked up the grounder and threw the ball in a high arc toward right field, over the first baseman. Now the crowd started yelling and cheering for Shay to run, run, run to first base! Understanding his pitcher’s intentions, the right fielder threw the ball high over the third baseman’s head, and Shay made it to second while the winning runs headed home.
The opposing shortstop directed Shay to third, while the crowd and all the players on the field went nuts. You might guess that Shay eventually made it around to home base, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam.
“That day,” the father finished, “the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.” A lovely illustration of the virtue of compassion, and how we all have myriad opportunities to make a huge difference in the lives of those around us. Pay it forward!
Much has already been written here about the modern notion of doing more and more in less and less time. This is somehow supposed to improve our lives, when we often simply end up fragmented and shell-shocked.
Hand-in-hand with the idea of doing more is communicating more. But because of email, cell phones and the like, we are expected to communicate more in less time, and in less space, and ultimately, in less words. Cell phone "texting" is surely the beginning of the end of written language as we know and understand it.
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that "communication" is not so much about the number of things we say, but how much is actually understood. Think back on instructors and speakers from whom you've enjoyed learning. There is probably at least one thing they all had in common: they spoke slowly, deliberately, and with focus.
Of course, successfully communicating a single thought can actually be quite a challenge. Often, it's just easier to spit out whatever comes into our heads and quickly hit the "send" button before we have to put any more thought into it. Oscar Wilde once slyly wrote to a friend, "I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time." Think about it!
Like trying to write a haiku verse, it can be difficult to distill our thoughts and ideas into a few carefully selected words that truly convey our meaning. But once we abandon such an effort, our communication just becomes so much "static." Be warned, there's a scientific definition coming: "Signal-to-noise ratio" - the power ratio between a signal (meaningful information) and the background noise. Ideally, our signals stand way out from our noise!
So the next time you are preparing to write or speak about a topic, take the time to choose your words carefully and judiciously, and deliver them in a deliberate manner. Remember that, regardless of what you are conveying, people perceive speakers who talk more slowly as actually being more knowledgeable than those who speak more quickly. And on that note, this column has gone on long enough!
Been chasing success? Have you caught it yet? Maybe you finally landed a big contract, got that promotion, or reached bonus level at work. Setting a goal and achieving it is gratifying, but it's not usually the end of the journey. Most of us tend to set yet another goal, and take off running again.
There's no such thing as taking one grand step and reaching the summit, even when that one step is the last of many already taken on the journey. If you are not satisfied with every small success, and are always looking towards the next achievement for your ultimate gratification, the likelihood is that you will never reach it.
What drives your need for the big listing or promotion or bonus will not leave you once you've gotten what you thought you wanted. You must take great care not to let your drive for more and more success belittle what you have accomplished so far. Ultimate success does not come with this or any future achievement. It's about the "whole package" or the "big picture."
Do you love what you do for a living? If you say yes, but find yourself constantly pushing for more fulfillment, you might need to reconsider that question. Loving what you do creates a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, regardless of your position on the ladder. If you're happy not to "keep up with the Joneses," or build mountains of wealth, you are to be congratulated on reaching your own form of nirvana.
Your sense of self-worth is not (nor should be) tied to any one positive or negative event. A happy and successful self is a combination of feelings and beliefs, based on experiences at home and at work. Remember that you are greater than the sum of your parts!
DOES IT STILL FIT?
Last year, scientists reported creating an “invisibility cloak.” The device bends electromagnetic radiation around itself, making what ever it covers appear invisible. So far they have only tested the device with microwaves, but the theory may work with visible light, too. In the world of fantasy, young wizard Harry Potter already often benefits from a magic invisibility cloak.
How many of us have wondered what it would be like to be invisible? As children, we marveled at the power of anonymity to create havoc, and imagined listening undetected to forbidden conversations. As teenagers, perhaps we longed for invisibility from the difficulties posed during that stage of life. Then, the fantasy of invisibility was a good and fun one, in the spirit of escapism.
But as adults, does the desire for invisibility leave us? By and large, “grown-ups” view invisibility in a negative light. To be invisible is to be overlooked, unimportant, or even sinister. To be invisible is to be an outsider.
However, from time to time, we all could use a little invisibility - invisibility from the cell phone, from the kids, from being "on call," or just from the chaos of modern life. Sure, the fantasy has changed from when we were children. Now we may just long for an hour during the day that is all ours, with no interruptions.
So, go find your old invisibility cloak and dust it off. Try it on for an hour - and remember just how much fun it is to be invisible!
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?
Waiting for your ship to come in? Think you need to win the lottery to become a millionaire? Waiting for your inheritance to come through? Dream on - but don't hold your breath. The truth is that "steady as she goes" is the watchword for accumulating real wealth. In baseball terms, the method would be to hit plenty of "singles" and "doubles" and forget about the "home runs."
Consider this method for becoming a millionaire: At age 25, begin setting aside just $100 each month. Invest the money at 12% - yes that is do-able! At age 65, you would have accumulated $1,176,477. In other words, if you never increased the $100 per month, regardless of all the raises and increases in income you experienced over your lifetime, you would have over $1,000,000 in your investment account.
Now let's say you received a very modest $1,000 per year increase in pay over your 40 year working life. By putting aside an additional $250 each year (just 25% of your yearly raise), an additional $191,772 would be added to your million-plus nest egg.
Better yet, here's the easiest method. Beginning at age 20, put $2,000 per year into an IRA for just three years. Never add another nickel to the account. At age 65, the account would be worth $1,153,180.
What if you're already 45 years old (the average age at which Americans begin saving)? You would need to put aside $1,100 each month for 20 years at 12% - giving you $1,187,106 at age 65.
Financial security requires patience, persistence, and self-discipline (sort of like real-life). Spend less than you earn, and put the rest to work for you. It's a simple formula that few ever attempt, yet it yields unfailing results!
THE ART OF APOLOGY!
“To forgive is divine.” That’s wonderful for the one who forgives, but what about the one who is apologizing? How do you say you’re sorry without making things worse? What’s the best way to make reparation and regain your integrity?
None of us are saints. For any number of reasons, we’ve committed any variety of offenses. Maybe we did or said something unkind, or made a mistake that cost someone time or money. The question isn’t about making mistakes, because we all do that. The question is how to apologize after the fact. It has become a lost art.
First and foremost in regard to saying “I’m sorry” is to do it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more it sounds like “I’m sorry . . . I got caught.” Next comes the explanation of what you did wrong and why it happened. Just be careful not to put more emphasis on the “why” than the “what,” because apologizing is not the same as justifying.
You don’t necessarily have to go whole hog, either. “I regret what happened” sounds a little weak, but “Everything was my fault” can be downright dangerous! Hopefully there is a middle ground where you can simply express how badly you feel about what you did or said.
Now that you’ve shown your repentance, your “victim” can relax, you can relax, and now you can take the opportunity to do something especially nice for the wronged party. Just be sure to say you’re sorry and THEN do something nice – otherwise, you might just arouse suspicion! Oh, and don’t forget – don’t make the same mistake twice!
WHY ARE YOU WORKING?
When is the last time you sat down and analyzed your goals and dreams? At least once a year, you should review your financial situation to try to determine how much closer you are to achieving your goals from the same time last year. Every step you take should bring you nearer to your dream.
Of course, you need to evaluate your dreams every year, too. Sometimes you imagine something that you want when it is simply the "heat of the moment," before you've thought it through to its logical conclusion. When you look back a few months later, you say to yourself, "What was I thinking?" Sometimes it's only someone else's ideas that affect or determine our own desires.
Your dreams don't have to be of "castles in the clouds," but also avoid setting your goals too low! While respectable, if all you're working for is to make sure you don't miss a mortgage payment and you can cover your credit card bill, you definitely need to take the time to determine what would make you happy beyond just making sure the bills are paid.
You shouldn't have to feel that you're working simply because you have to. If your work itself doesn't make you happy, at least try to see that your work can help you to achieve those goals that you dream of. When you feel you are wholeheartedly pursuing your happiness, then you can put yourself wholeheartedly into your work.
When you make your happiness and the happiness of others your purpose, you'll find the journey to that destination all the more enjoyable. Seeking joy and peace is not selfish - it is as Aristotle said, "the whole aim and end of human existence." Take a good look at where you are now and where you want to be one year from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now. Apply your heart, body and mind to shaping your future - take whatever you have today and run with it!
THE SUN ALSO RISES!
Have you lost sight of The Big Picture? Has every little detail, every little brush stroke, taken on such importance and worry that you no longer remember what it was that you set out to create?
Here's some news for you - it's going to be okay, even if today's troubles seem overwhelming and insurmountable. Even if you feel that it will be the end of the world if your project goes beyond deadline, if your daughter's costume isn't ready for the school play, if you forgot to call your mother on her birthday. More news for you - the sun will still rise tomorrow.
And you'll still be here to try to fix anything that seems irreparable today. Everything that life pitches at you is only meant to improve your hitting skills. Three strikes and you're out, but remember that you'll be up to bat again. And your team mates are there to take their best swings, too. Together you may find victory. And if you lose the game today, you're still together to take on the next challenge tomorrow.
Don't ever lose sight of tomorrow - today and its cares will be over soon enough. No matter how it feels sometimes, there really are only twenty four hours in any given day and they always pass sixty minutes at a time. Time and fear are easily overcome by your faith in the ultimate outcome.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave these words of inspiration - try to follow them: "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."
WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING!
Good old Vince Lombardi - always a great source for motivating words! Success on the football field was the result of the spirit he had and developed within himself, not the other way around! Sometimes we have a tendency to put the cart before the horse, thinking that we become better people through achieving success. What an egocentric and near-sighted notion! We really achieve success by becoming better people!
Achieving your goals is like finally arriving at your destination after a long journey. How many times have you heard that it's not the destination that's so important - it's the steps that you take along the path? It's not so much what you do, but how you do it. Regardless of success or failure, it's your efforts that are remembered and define who you are.
Even the most menial jobs and tasks can be elevated simply by caring enough about doing them well. You can learn to respect any job when it is performed by someone who respects himself. Again, it is not the "events that occur" so much as it is the "will to excel" that impresses us. We shouldn't worry so much about getting a better job so much as simply doing our job better!
It's also that "will to win" that drives us to keep trying, even when we do not achieve our goals. As long as you have that drive and ambition, you WILL succeed! As a matter of fact, you've already succeeded right there. Big or small, you have dreams, you have goals, and you have the spirit and confidence to carry you. Along the way, chances are that you'll also inspire others with the will to succeed. That's what gains the respect of your colleagues. It's not what rung of the ladder you're on, it's that you simply have the will to climb.
Successes can be fleeting, but the will to succeed is timeless. What will you be remembered for?
SPIN THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE!
When Captain Meriwether Lewis & William Clark led the Corps of Discovery in 1804, what were the risks? Grizzlies? Attack by unfriendly natives? The unknown? In the masterpiece book, "Undaunted Courage," it is clear that Lewis & Clark faced those and many other unexpected challenges to their expedition into the great Northwest via the Missouri River. Without their courage, their tenacity, and their curiosity, much of the northwest corner of our country would likely not be part of the United States.
On a different level, a five-year-old mounts her bicycle and pushes off from the curb. Fear grips her tender heart, yet she makes the effort. Her reward? She has learned to succeed by trying - by taking measure of the risk of a bruised knee vs. the thrill of achievement.
So what risks have you taken lately? Have you dared take a new direction in anticipation of some hitherto unknown fortune? Have you dreamed "outside the box" and then taken steps to bring your dream to fruition? If not - why not?
Perhaps you want to expand your career objectives. You may need to risk capital, effort, and even ridicule from your business associates. When you succeed, you risk standing out from the crowd - an uncomfortable position to some.
Maybe you want to communicate more fully with your children, but dread the risk of alienating them through frank discussions of sensitive issues.
Common expressions like "Nothing ventured - nothing gained" are not words from some Casper Milquetoast. They are sound advice from someone who has taken the risk and gained the fortune. No matter what fortune you desire, it is available to you only when you are willing to take that all-important "first step." Not a single good in life comes by staying in bed with the covers pulled over your head. Go ahead, seek your fortune and step out from the crowd.
It's been observed that although experience can be the best teacher, you get it by taking the exam before you've actually taken the course!
Quite expectedly, many of us don't perform well initially when attempting something new. While there is such a thing as a "natural talent" in just about any field of endeavor, it's probably safe to assume that most people working (or playing) at anything, from the practice of law to the game of tennis, have a long road behind them paved with what they considered (at the time) to be failures.
Every experience we have, however, should be a learning process. And our so-called "failures" are in fact the “experiences” from which we learn the most. Early on in life, the way we gain our sense of balance is from falling down when we first attempt to walk. Every fall, every "failure," eventually led to success.
It's a rare individual who does well in his or her first attempt at anything. Despite Yoda's philosophy in the Star Wars saga that "there is no try; there is only do," most of us ending up "doing" after repeated attempts at "trying." Eventually, we “do” manage to succeed.
So perhaps what Yoda was saying, after all, is that when we finally achieve our goals, it's only the end result that matters - because of everything we previously considered, failure simply becomes part of the process of success. Then we have indeed "failed forward!"
With the arrival of the fall season, life’s pace picks up a bit. With the dog days of summer behind us, we look toward the seasonal shifts in business and the approaching holidays. Our “To Do” lists start to get longer, and our enthusiasm sometimes wanes.
So as the days get shorter, how do we increase our productivity? The short answer is “a little bit at a time.” Specifically, just fifteen minutes at a time, according to REALTOR Magazine “Sales Coach” John D. Mayfield.
The argument is simple: you get more done by organizing your day into small chunks of time, instead of devoting three hour blocks to a project. It’s only when we’ve fallen too far behind that we force ourselves to spend so much time and effort on an unfinished task. Then we burn out and can’t seem to get anything done at all.
Take something as routine and unexciting as catching up on phone calls or email messages. Put it off all week, and suddenly you’ve got thirty calls to return and ninety messages in your Inbox. But just fifteen minutes a day spent on each of these two tasks adds up to two and half hours of quality work during the week. Extend that concept to other things like exercise and reading, both of which improve the rest of your day and your labor.
Devoting fifteen minutes isn’t difficult, and once you’ve begun, you might find yourself working even longer. Maybe you’ll feel that the project at hand isn’t so overwhelming after all, and once it’s behind you, you’ll feel renewed enthusiasm for the next item on the “To Do” list.
Ultimately, just remember that fifteen minutes a day is better than nothing at all, and in one hour you can begin to attack up to four different responsibilities. John Mayfield reminds us of the old Chinese proverb: “A minute of time is an inch of gold.” Invest just a few minutes and discover your reward!
Aristotle’s quote seems pretty straightforward: If you like what you're doing, chances are you'll do it pretty well, and will find your work satisfying.
But what about the dozens of smaller jobs that we do on a regular basis and do not particularly enjoy - chores we consider robberies of time, but necessary? You know, housecleaning or mowing the lawn or grocery shopping or washing the car.
The fact is that most of us have too much on our "To Do" lists, and much of our “free time” is spent on what we consider menial work that we often begin to actually resent. Viewed objectively, however, how many of the items on your list of chores have self-imposed deadlines and subjective requirements?
Are you setting standards that are unnecessarily high or that are interfering with your enjoyment of time with your family and friends? When you lament "having no time," stop and consider to what extent that is due to your own personal sense of priorities.
You might re-evaluate what is truly essential. Chances are that duties to which you're giving up your entire Saturday are not as important to others as having time to spend with you. After all, how many of us are introduced, "This is Joe - he really keeps his lawn looking great...” or, “This is Mary - she's a wonderful housekeeper…"? How many of our children tell their friends, "You'll really like my mom and dad. They keep all the windows in our house clean…"?
Put down the car wax and the mop and get out and enjoy some time with friends or family, or - here’s a novelty - just yourself. It’s quite likely that the sun will still rise the next day, and your To Do list will wait for you!
GIVE YOURSELF A LIFT!
Have you ever aspired to be deeply depressed? On your list of major life's achievements, have you included becoming an itinerant ne'er-do-well? Does your daily task list include hanging out at the local pub, gossiping over the back fence with nosy neighbors, or spending time with a loser who does nothing but grouse about how the world has dealt him a lousy hand?
Did that first paragraph seem to pull you down? Did you say, "Ridiculous! Who would want to do those things?" If so, congratulations, you've already received this week's message.
Now, let's give this message a lift. Have you ever met someone with a bright inspiring spirit about them, and thought to yourself, "Wow, I'd like to know them better!" Have you noticed that when you attend a community education course, you leave with many fresh new ideas and a powerful boost in your attitude?
A well-known quote says, "You are what you think about all day long." If you hang out with the losers, your thoughts are likely to be dark and depressing. Spend time with those who possess magic in their attitude and enthusiastic vitality in their work ethic, and your thoughts are likely to soar.
Take a close look at your list of goals for this year. Have you included the addition of positive new personal relationships in your work and play environment? Remember that "to have a friend, you must first be a friend." Consider expanding your sphere of contacts to include those who would inspire you to greatness!
GO RETRO - SIMPLIFY!
You've heard that it's good to "take time to smell the roses." You may have also read how Steven Covey encourages you in "Seven Habits" to take time to "sharpen the saw." You no doubt have also experienced the frustration of trying to find even a spare moment for yourself.
Why do so many sources advise taking time off for yourself for thoughtful introspection? Don't they know it's impossible in today's fast-paced world of money, soccer games, career challenges, family responsibilities, church & school activities, and so much more?
In fact, our society is totally preoccupied with all of the above. For those living in a big city, or even the suburbs, the pressure is even greater. Those who live in the country at least enjoy a little peace and serenity at the end of the day.
How did this happen? It's simple - or at least it was in the 1950's. Back then there were two kinds of soap - Lifebouy and Ivory. There were four automakers - GM, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors. There were no computers or Internet, and long-distance was used only to inform relatives of illness or death. A schoolteacher's most serious behavior challenge was passing notes in class. Families watched "I Love Lucy!" together. There was no MTV. Divorces were rare.
Today the choices that face us each day are awesome. Which of many Internet providers or long-distance services should you use? Which cell phone or notebook computer should you have? Where will you find the money for the special dress, chauffeur, and professional photograph required for your daughter's fifth-grade "Prom"?
The world is spinning so fast, and isn't likely to slow down soon. As usual, relief must come from within. While you can't change the world's pace, you are free to change and simplify your own life. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Most importantly, take time to create those special moments that "take your breath away."
ELIMINATE THE BOX!
It was refreshing to read the article entitled "Thirty Under Thirty" in the REALTOR(r) magazine. Thirty agents under the age of thirty talked about their approach to real estate, and most seemed to "think outside the box." They didn't appear to be bound by conventional rules of marketing conduct.
Think back to when you were a young child. You were totally uninhibited by rules, so you weren't afraid to try new things. Back then, there wasn't even a "box" to confine your thinking or actions. You did whatever worked for you.
Then, you began to grow up and your parents, then your teachers, began building a box for you. "Stay in line, be quiet, don't touch this or that," they admonished. "Good little girls and boys don't talk back, eat snacks between meals, or chew with their mouths open."
The rules got more sophisticated as you got older, and you began to conform. Now you're all grown up, comfortable in the box the world built for you, and it's not so easy anymore to "think outside the box".
Not so for the newcomers - the youth of the real estate industry. They are enthusiastic, energetic, and with their "no rules" thinking, they're going to mop up on those competitors who are too comfortable in their box.
If you've been in the business for more than ten years, you have one powerful advantage over the newbies - real estate wisdom. You're a survivor and know your way around the business. Now it's just a question of combining that base of knowledge with some of the unfettered new thinking of the under 30 crowd. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks, after all!
Do you find yourself drifting on an ocean of indecision, misdirection, unfulfilled aspirations? Feel like you're not getting as far along as your colleagues, or as far along as they say you should? It's probably time to throw out your compass!
While it can be helpful to look to others for inspiration, don't make the mistake of believing that you can or even should try to achieve the same accomplishments. Using a map of your own making, set your individual course according to where you want to go and how quickly you want to get there.
Indeed, you can set your sights much higher than the "landmarks" or "passing ships" of those people around you who tell you what you should do or what you shouldn't do. You'll lose your valuable perspective of the Big Picture if you pay too much attention to the advice or achievements of others.
Whether you are passing them or they are passing you, don't lose sight of what is guiding you and where. Your dreams and ambitions are the unmoving and constant "North Star" in your life. While everything else around you can change so quickly from day to day, it's your own beliefs and convictions that give you the steady course you need to successfully navigate those changes.
You'll never get anywhere by trying to determine the success or even the path of your journey by the "passing ships" around you. Stay focused solely on what you believe and know to be true, and ignore the nay-sayers! They may be gone tomorrow, but your dreams will be the stars in your sky forever.
So, when was the last test or exam that you took? Or have you experienced a recent evaluation of your work? Many of us, even if we're "the boss," have to go through a periodic appraisal of how well we carry out our jobs. Often, this assessment comes from outside - a supervisor "objectively" examines our performance. But what if you yourself could take the responsibility for your own evaluation?
The trouble with some people is that they give themselves poor grades, sometimes in spite of the fact that others may highly regard their work. Those who lack confidence in their own ability to lead and to succeed often dismiss evidence that clearly illustrates their potential. If you're not happy with your own work, it simply won't matter how others feel about it.
Remember that feelings don't depend on the facts. Feelings actually create the truth. Think of it this way: your feeling of confidence begins with the feeling, and it's that feeling that then creates the confidence! You become self-assured by first believing in yourself. You don't break out of the starting gate, dash first across the finish line, and then begin to believe you're a winner. That's putting the cart before the horse!
Beginning with the belief that you will succeed is the first and necessary step toward achieving your goal. Sometimes you will win and sometimes you will not, that's a fact of life. But as long as you carry your faith in yourself, you'll always possess that potential to win that some people simply lack. They haven't yet realized that improving their performance begins with improving their feelings about themselves.
Roy L. Smith said, "The man who cannot believe in himself cannot believe in anything else." So choose whatever goal your heart desires, but first choose to believe in your ability to reach it!
EASY AS 1-2-3!
Remember the old "Dirty Harry" movies? Clint Eastwood delivered the scowling expression and threatening phrase "Go ahead, make my day." The implication was that Harry's day would be complete if only the criminal facing the end of his gun barrel would just flinch and give Harry the excuse he needed to blow him away.
Okay, that doesn't sound like good fodder for an inspiring Coffee column, but it is a good pop culture reference to beg the question "What does it take to make YOUR day?" Or, even better, "What does it take to make someone else's day?"
You might think it challenging to find a way to really pick someone up, but remember that you don't necessarily have to be "down" to be lifted up. The truth is that we have absolutely no idea when we could be making a life-altering impact on somebody, with just a simple word or act of kindness.
Let someone you work with, out of the clear blue, how much you appreciate their contributions. Or tell them how much confidence you have in their work or their ability to complete an upcoming project with flying colors. You'll be amazed how their expression brightens, their pace suddenly picks up, and everything about them says, "You just made my day!"
We live in an increasingly fast-paced society, where more and better work - completed in less time - is simply expected. Make it clear at work and at home that while performance is expected, it is also nurtured and rewarded, if only with kind words and fair treatment. Soon you'll find everyone around you meeting and exceeding those expectations.
We know the old real estate adage: the three most important features of a property are "location, location, and location." In light of this week's topic, consider that Henry James said, "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."
CAST OFF YOUR SAFETY NET!
Taken any chances lately? Have you a had a strong desire or some sense of wanderlust, but feared the consequences, or simply thought better of it? Just remember the old adage, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Of course we all desire a sense of security, and we don't relish the idea of courting danger. But look back on some of your most satisfying accomplishments - didn't they result from taking action that you or others first thought might be risky?
If we always stick to the path most travelled, we'll never discover anything new about our world or ourselves. Fearing the unknown will never allow us to understand it. Only by coming to understand the risks we might take can we develop the confidence and the courage necessary to overcome the dangers associated with trying to achieve our imaginative goals.
Don't allow yourself to be numbered among those who look back and wonder, "What if . . ." A well developed plan of action and some caution in its execution are advisable, but by all means move forward! Staying where you are and following the status quo is easy and safe, but it's likely that your dreams go way beyond where you are now. Don't let those dreams remain unrealized because you're afraid of the hazards involved in making them come true.
Like the ship in the harbor, you were built for greater things. It is the very meaning of life to struggle for what we most want and push the boundaries of our understanding, thereby improving the quality of our life and even of those around us.
Finally, consider the words of Brooks Atkinson, who said, "This nation was built by men who took risks - pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action."
BACK TO SCHOOL!
Turns out the children are listening, too. The question is, what are they learning and what are we teaching?
No matter whom we interact with, we should all take some time to reflect upon how our practices are matching up to our ethics and beliefs. We all have the potential to produce a profound effect on the people in our lives, both directly and indirectly. How we choose to act in our encounters helps define who we are: are we good stewards, good managers, good parents?
Consider the language we use when we deal with other people. Those who value power over action will use the language of judgment and superiority: “That idea is doomed..." or "You will never succeed..." or "That project is a waste of time.” Such language only serves to predict its own end and unfortunately, that end is often failure.
Now consider language that recognizes individuality while setting us up as collaborators: “I understand what you want..." or "I can only imagine how hard this is for you..." or "I'd like to help.” As we acknowledge the needs and feelings of others, we have better opportunities to show the same respect we’d expect in return. The encounter becomes a win-win situation.
As we interact with others, a good yardstick by which to measure our actions is to imagine how children would perceive them. Do we play by the rules? Are we being fair? Do we share? Are we doing unto others as we would have done to ourselves? During your next meeting, imagine a seven year old is watching the proceedings. Would you conduct yourself any differently?
Before children start to learn the later lessons of failure and success associated with competition, they first learn to “play well with others.” The politics of the playground still hold some powerful lessons for us, too!
There seems to be a lot of anger in the world today. Forget the national and global squabbles, and just take a look closer to home - on your TV, in the schools, among fellow employees - right in your own backyard
There's another attitude issue that could stand some help - disrespect. It seems like the days are gone when youngsters (even 20-somethings) value their elders, social customs, even the laws of the land. Common courtesy and politeness, even among adults, seems non-existent at times.
Want to be a changing force in your personal world? It's easy, costs nothing, and goes a long way towards making a meaningful contribution for the better. It's accomplished with an electrical impulse. Really. Consider your brain. Everything you think of, each idea you have, each action you take begins with an electrical impulse - a single thought. The thought required to cause change is called an "expectation."
Teachers use this thought daily in their classrooms. They EXPECT students to listen, to observe silence, to walk single-file, to not cut in line, and to learn. They EXPECT not to be challenged, disrespected, or ignored when they speak. The best among them EXPECT nothing less than excellence. Know what? Their students respond positively to those expectations.
The electrical impulse called "expectation" is simple to enact, yet more difficult to enforce. You have to really mean it. As a country, a people, even families, we've grown soft on expectations - and it shows. Fear of offending someone seems the rule. Why not be "impulsive" for the next 30 days with those you love by setting a new, higher standard of expectations. The results will both amaze and delight!
In Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits," he talks about focusing on the important to the exclusion of the unimportant. In his own words, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
See if you recognize which motivational trainer espoused this similar philosophy:
"There are things within your power, and there are things beyond your power. Within your power are opinion, aim, desire, aversion; in a word, whatever affairs are your own. Beyond your power are body, property, reputation, office; in a word, affairs not properly your own. Concern yourself only with what is within your power.
The essence of good consists of things within your own power; with them there is no room for envy or emulation. For your part, do not desire to be a general, or a senator, or a consul, but to be free; and the only way to do this is a disregard of things which do not lie within your own power."
If you guessed Zig Ziglar, Howard Brinton, or Anthony Robbins, guess again. Its author referred to it as a "field manual for soldiers." It was carried by Frederick the Great on all his campaigns. It was written by the Stoic philosopher Epictetus.
Stephen Covey conveys a similar message when he suggests drawing two concentric circles with a dot in the middle. He equates the dot in the middle to you, the first circle as your area of influence, and the outside circle as your area of concern. He suggests that you concentrate only on the circle of influence, things which you have the power to influence or change. He advises that you disregard those in the area of concern over which you have no influence or power.
YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK:
How much time and energy are you wasting through worry and concern over things you cannot control? Focus your energy and your life on the "main thing" beginning now - then watch your circle of influence begin to grow. Do it now!
BE A HERO!
Are you one of those people that other people always come to with their problems? It’s easy to become frustrated when your day is interrupted by a crisis you didn’t know existed until now. There are a couple of "attitude adjustments" that might help you cope when you don’t feel like rescuing someone again.
First, be aware of why you are the one being approached for help. In all likelihood, you’re a savior because you’re good at it! People don’t ask for help from those in whom they have no trust. So start out by realizing that you have a talent, one that others recognize, appreciate, and want to exploit!
Second, be aware that solving dilemmas is what makes you valuable and gives you a sense of worth. There’s nothing better than being necessary to give your ego a little boost! When someone approaches you with the crisis-du-jour, don’t shoot the messenger. This is your opportunity to shine up your armor!
Done properly, you shouldn’t have to drop everything to solve the problem immediately. You can gently accept the challenge by saying, “I’ll be able to devote time to this problem and focus on a solution once I’ve given this current project a little more treatment.” That should make a reasonable person quite happy, without your having to resent a lack of time to perform. Establishing some ground rules right away will prevent others from taking advantage of you and your capabilities.
Above all, patience and cooperation are virtues, on both sides of the table. Ben Ames Williams observed that “life is the acceptance of responsibilities or their evasion; it is a business of meeting obligations or avoiding them. To every man the choice is continually being offered, and by the manner of his choosing you may fairly measure him.” Choose to help, on your terms and in your own time.
It's exciting to attend a baseball game in any league and see the batter swing into a major home run. It really ramps up the fans, and pumps up the score. Hoorah for the home team! What batter wouldn't be excited running around the bases?
In most baseball seasons, however, there are many more base hits, more runs batted in, and more games won on singles and doubles. Oh sure, the crowd is more subdued, the accolades lower key, and the base-hit batters not as widely recognized. Nevertheless, at the end of the season it's the base hits that win the pennant.
Yet, as youngsters, we've all heard our parents and relatives talk about the day "their ship will come in." This is the mythical tale, beloved by grown-ups, that attributes wealth and financial independence to a single event - the sudden and unexpected arrival of a ship laden with gold and silver.
While awaiting the ship, many others are quietly hitting singles and doubles - getting an excellent education, saving and investing modest sums, quietly improving their service to employers and customers. They understand that each step forward, no matter the size of the step, will pay larger and larger dividends in the form of promotions, added income, and independence later on.
Solid growth in all areas of life is most often the result of carefully laid foundations on solid bedrock, rather than sudden, whimsical actions carried out without consistency, careful forethought, or vision. Before any ship can come in, it must first leave the harbor. It must have a destination, enough fuel, an excellent navigator, food and water, a map and compass, and a captain passionate about reaching the destination.
If you want to leave the harbor, repeat to yourself the words of William Earnest Henley from "Invictus" - "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul." Land ahoy!
A WEALTH OF CHARACTER!
A couple of years back, there was a terrific "rags to riches" story that ran on the newscasts, and it still remains in memory. A gentleman won a $220 million jackpot in Idaho, although that fact is not what is so extraordinary. It’s what he planned to do with his winnings – invest for the future.
Most folks would allow themselves to go a little crazy if they became instant millionaires. After all, you could spend - say, oh two million bucks - and still have plenty left over for the future, right?
Well, this fellow’s plans were to “build a billion-dollar empire to take care of my family and to give opportunities to the people who have given me opportunities.” Taking his one-time lump payment of $125 million ($85 million after taxes), he wanted to amass a one billion dollar portfolio within fifteen years. Immediately, a team of attorneys, public relations gurus and financial advisers began working to help him achieve his goals of investing in business and donating to charitable organizations.
Not wishing to bask in the limelight or expose his family to the compulsory media frenzy, he tried to remain anonymous, but discovered that was in violation of the lottery’s regulations. Telling two family members when he won, he broke the news to the rest of the family during a special meeting where they expected to hear of a terminal illness, wedding engagement, or marketing scheme.
The sports enthusiast’s “big splurge” was a professional racing bicycle – no yachts, luxury cars, or vacation homes. He simply wanted to continue enjoying the things he always had, and to remain the person he always has been.
It’s clear that regardless of winning the lottery, he is the type of person who would still have done everything in his power to improve his life, the lives of those around him, and the lives of those in need. He shows that character is not measured by one’s success, but by one’s value. One wonders how he's faring today, and how we increase the net worth of our own “character portfolios.”
A SLICE OF LIFE!
We all understand that to achieve a goal, there is a progression of steps to take. Want a sandwich? Well, first you place a slice of bread on the plate, then you pile on the filling, then you dress it, and then you top it with the remaining slice of bread. Simple, right? But frustration results if you change the order. Even if you really love mustard, you wouldn’t ever start out by smearing mustard on the plate first!
However, when we visualize our own goals, we may see all the actions we need to take, but sometimes we want to try to skip some of those less exciting steps. But just like constructing the sandwich, futility results from rearranging the order of things.
You’ve got to take your goals, and your steps, one at a time, and you need to enjoy and appreciate your progress along the way. It’s been said that the first step of the journey is the most difficult, so it might help to imagine things in reverse order. First, visualize the end result, then trace backwards to eventually see how it all begins.
Don’t worry that parts of the journey don’t seem as thrilling as the destination. The poet Gamaliel Bradford once wrote, “In great matters men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small matters, as they are.” Your dreams may reveal your ambitions, but it is your smaller actions every day that define who you really are.
Assigning order, importance and appreciation to the progressive stages of your life will carry you swiftly and triumphantly toward your dreams. Satisfying, any way you slice it!
A FEW "NO" MEN!
It’s safe to say that the best results are produced when people work together. Solo projects often suffer from a one-sided perspective and lack of meaningful input. This isn’t to say that you can’t accomplish a lot when working on your own – it takes time and concentration to make progress. Just make sure that you involve other people in your work.
It’s especially helpful when those “team mates” aren’t just “yes men” who always agree with you or fear to offer a different point of view. It’s really essential that the problem is analyzed from at least two sides, and that everyone applies their particular strengths where they’re most needed.
Think about it – there are those who are great at organizing and beginning projects, and there are those who are great finishers. Sometimes we describe folks as “big picture” people, while others are really “good at the details.” Some very creative people easily lose interest once a project is begun, while those who display tenacity might not be so talented at dreaming up the next big thing.
You’ve figured out by now that the point is that it takes both types (or even three or four types) of people to create and complete a project successfully. By involving others whose traits and perspectives are opposite from your own, you’re guaranteeing a better chance of wider acceptance of the results.
While it’s great to have confidence in your work, you shouldn’t be so egocentric that you don’t believe anyone else can offer valuable input or find a better way by looking at things from a fresh perspective. You’ll garner respect and find success when you invite criticism and disagreement. Care to debate it?
BACK TO THE FUTURE!
Sometimes we look back on past events and wish that we had a "do over." While we should try to avoid regrets, it's still a good idea to analyze what we've done and try to understand how we might have done things better. Of course, there's no changing the past, but that doesn't mean that the past can't or won't change our future.
Maybe there's a relationship that has deteriorated over the years. Perhaps by now you've forgotten who was right or who was wrong, or maybe it's just a question of having lost touch. This is not a case of needing a brand new start, but of reworking the ending.
Since you can't "edit" the past, start writing a new chapter right now! While you have no control over what you have done, you do have complete control over what you are going to do. It can be very empowering when you realize that you actually have it in your command to create the future and the relationships that you want.
And it's not just about relationships - it can be about building wealth if you've squandered opportunities in the past. You simply have to make a commitment and forgive yourself for actions you cannot change. If your dream is to retire in comfort in ten, twenty, or thirty years, analyze your past spending and saving, educate yourself or consult a professional, and take steps now to create the results you want.
Whatever your goals for the future, your real power comes from letting go of the past. Stop worrying about what you have said and done (or haven't said or done) and start focusing on what you will say and do. Turn your negative energies toward positive actions and you'll amaze yourself!
Popular writer and adventurer Louis L'Amour said it well, "Everyone has it within his power to say, this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow." Here's to the future!
A NEW DIRECTION!
So . . . you've done all those things the greatest minds have suggested - you've planned your life's objectives and created a career/life/family path, and have no doubt where it will lead you. You're on your own "Yellow Brick Road" to happiness and prosperity until . . . ZAP! . . . there appears a sign on the path that reads, "Road Closed."
You peer past the sign to determine the road condition. It looks OK, so you veer around the sign and continue. The road turns to gravel, then dirt, then narrows to a walking path. You leave the car, and continue on foot. Soon your arms are scratched by briars, you begin to tire, and the path abruptly ends at a sheer 200' cliff. Your trip is over. There are no more "yellow bricks" to follow. What now?
If you've ever come to the end of such a road in your life, you well know the sinking feeling that came over you. No matter how much you felt like giving up, the situation was no doubt resolved by creating a new road, a new path leading in an entirely different direction.
You may have had to hack at the briars, trim back the trees, and even bulldoze your way in a new direction. It may have taken time, with compass and hiking shoes, to blaze that new trail. It may have been exhausting work, but in the end you reached your destination.
You have two choices when faced with a roadblock. You can quit, or you can put your imagination to work finding an alternate route. In the words of Sir Winston Churchill "Never give up. Never give up."
GIVE SUCCESS A CHANCE!
Have you ever tried to accomplish something, but given up before your plan or actions have come to fruition? Maybe you're just trying to organize a huge stack of paperwork, or perhaps you're trying to build up your database of leads or increase your sales by a certain percentage within a certain amount of time.
Of course, you feel a degree of frustration if you don't achieve the results you were hoping for. Frustration points you in one of two directions: either you'll be defeated, or you'll be pushed to try even harder to succeed. The surest way to guarantee failure is to quit before you've given enough time or effort to get the job done.
Also consider by whose standards you are measuring your success. Are you trying to live up to someone else's unreasonable expectations or goals? Then it might be time to approach that boss or spouse or instructor and let them know that your progress is guaranteed, but perhaps not on the established schedule. Bill Cosby once said, "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."
Chances are that whatever goals you've set for yourself, you can achieve them, but setting reasonable goals in the first place will go a long way toward success. Maybe you should "pull in your horse" BEFORE he leaps if you feel he's not going to make it over the hurdle. Also remember that it's your effort to achieve that is ultimately the most important part of that success (kind of like the old adage about the journey vs. the destination). Don't forget the words of Lloyd Jones, who said, "The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed."
Success can be a relative term and depends upon the perspective of yourself and others. Do whatever you can to accomplish your goals or the goals that others set before you, but regardless of the outcome, you should ultimately be satisfied with the work you've done.
JOIN THE VOLUNTEER BRIGADE!
Back in the '70s, CB radios became popular, especially among the nation's truckers. You could tune in Channel 19 and listen to a constant chatter among truckers and others with radios. If you were traveling on an interstate highway, you could get info on traffic, weather, wreck scenes to avoid, radar traps, and other useful tidbits. It was like there was a whole other world of activity going on around you IF you had a CB radio. Those who didn't were oblivious to the activity - yet it was still there.
The same is true of the volunteer brigade - those who offer their time and talents to worthy causes without reward. In any given community, there is a work force that operates 24/7 without any expectation of reward. If you're not one of them, you are probably oblivious to their daily actions to serve the community - but they are out there working whether or not you know it.
One example that comes to mind is a recent wreck scene. At 1:00 AM a vehicle traveling at over 90 mph left the road, went over an embankment, and hit the bottom upside down. A witness to the crash was amazed to see about 15 firefighters, EMTs, and rescue squad volunteers on the scene within 5 minutes after the wreck was reported. The witness asked in surprise, "Where did you guys come from?" One minute traffic was normal, and those 15 volunteers were in their warm beds. Five minutes later they were saving a life.
There are many ways to make a life-altering contribution to others as a volunteer. Most are not as glamorous as saving a life, yet all contribute to the many unmet needs of community members. Each of us has talents that can be put to use for those in need. A little self-examination will help identify your potential contribution. With all the blessings we enjoy in this country, each of us should make an effort to reach out to others. Why not join the volunteer brigade today?
A LEAGUE OF YOUR OWN!
Have you sometimes felt like you were “out of your league” when reaching toward a lofty goal or competing against others for the “brass ring”? Imagine being a 5-foot-5-inch tall player in the National Basketball Association! Every time Earl Boykins of the Denver Nuggets walks onto the court, he hears jeers like, “Look at the little guy!” and, “Who decided to let the ball boy play?"
Although diminutive in size, Boykins always dreamed of playing in the NBA. Obviously, it took heaps of courage, determination and hard work to make that dream come true. In a year when many college players now recognized as “underachievers” were selected in the first and second rounds, Earl Boykins went undrafted.
But if you do not doubt yourself, you can either ignore the doubts of others or use their disbelief as a tool to motivate your achievement. When you set your goals a little bit higher than what you can reasonably accomplish, it’s surprising how far you can go.
Boykins started his professional career in Canada, and then began a series of short-term contracts with several NBA teams. While no one offered to keep him, he did not give up. In and out of season, he worked out, ran drills, and played every day. He explains, “There are no days off for me. I have to work longer and harder than everyone else to be successful.”
Then he set another goal and refused to waiver from it: He would only join a team that offered him a position as the top backup – setting a reasonable goal, but “kicking it up one notch.”
Now he plays for Denver, with his statistics and playing time on the rise. Another lesson from this? Be aware of the promise in others, recognize greatness in unexpected places, and seize the opportunity to nurture the success lying just below the surface.
A BLUE RIBBON EFFORT!
Have you ever surprised yourself with a moment of creativity or lucidity, just when you were sure you didn’t have it in you? Last fall there was a garden club show, and one of the members who always performed well was considering not entering. She had just returned from vacation the day before to discover that unwelcome pests had ravished most everything in her garden.
Trying to back out, she explained that there was nothing in her yard but weeds, but a friend insisted, “I’m sure you’ll find something.” Lacking inspiration, she headed out to the yard with her tools and bucket anyway. She worked, recalling the words of her mother. “You will not always have the things you would like, but you can always make do with what you have.”
She discovered a vine with little blue flowers crawling up the trellis. She realized how pretty the bright yellow dandelions were. Wild daisies and pansies appeared in unexpected places, “sown” by bird droppings.
She headed back to the house and began her arrangement, hiding a coffee can pot inside a sewing basket. She then rushed over to meet the submission deadline. Glad that everyone else had already deposited their entries, she sneaked in her less-than-blue-ribbon quality candidate. She didn’t even stick around for the judging.
When she returned to pick up her contestant, she was shocked to discover a blue ribbon pinned to it, with a note that read, “This entry gets the blue ribbon because it meets all the test requirements for proportion, suitability of container to the contents and beauty, and also is very original.”
So she did “make do” with what she had, although she thought she didn’t have a chance. So remember that your own strength and creativity are always there, you just never know just how much you’ve got until you are called upon to put it to use!
YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!
Walk into a totally dark room. What do you see? "Absolutely nothing," you say. Now, turn on the light. Where did the darkness go? Really - where is it now? Hopefully you will agree that darkness cannot exist in the face of light.
During a lifetime, we experience many types of "darkness." It may appear in the form of discouragement, fear, hopelessness, grief, ignorance, or poverty. Yet, in every case, there is a "light" in which such darkness cannot exist.
Fear, for example, cannot exist in the face of courage. Education denies ignorance any chance of survival. Grief disappears in the presence of peace-of-mind. Discouragement ceases when hope prevails. Wealth denies poverty its chance.
No matter what form darkness takes, it cannot exist when faced with its opposite. That also means we have the ability to send darkness on its way at any point in time. No matter how overwhelming the darkness appears, it is our thoughts and our minds that ultimately control the outcome. How powerful is that?
In the words of several favorite authors: "Think you can, think you can't, either way you're right." "Your life is what your thoughts make of it." "We are what we think about all day long." Finally, in the words of Tom Bodett, from one of his Motel 6 commercials: "We'll leave the light on for you!"
Let's hope today's "inspiration" isn't actually true, although we've all probably felt that way at one time or another. Regardless of the percentage, however, it cannot be denied that incompetence really does exist in every profession, even those like physicians, attorneys, school bus drivers and stock brokers.
Some people do a great job no matter what it is they do, while others can't seem to succeed even after trying several careers. Sometimes it's not really a matter of competence so much as matching a job to specific abilities, interests and personality. An introvert who enjoys working alone probably shouldn't pursue a career in communications, while a creative person who enjoys the outdoors likely wouldn't be happy in accounting. No matter how hard you try, you just can't force yourself to love brussels sprouts!
How much of the "incompetence" that we encounter is simply the result of a person who is mismatched for their job? We all have certain skills and personality traits that better suit certain types of careers, but we often start down that path before we've ever gotten to really develop and know ourselves. We believe our parents, guidance counselors, and spouses more than we do ourselves sometimes.
Realizing your true personality is challenging. Applying that knowledge to your choice of career is even more difficult, but absolutely necessary if you want to be happy in your choice. If you're feeling dissatisfied, try to find at least some small aspect of your job that you find enjoyable, and aggressively apply your personality to it to produce more satisfying results.
If that's not working for you, perhaps it's time to take a long hard look at where you've been and where you are and why you don't like it there. Matthew Arnold said, "Resolve to be thyself; and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery." You've probably learned a lot about other people in your lifetime. Aren't you ready to know yourself?
FILL IN THE BLANK!
From "Wellsprings of Wisdom" by Ralph Woods comes this story:
A successful businessman was invited to address a group of young executives on the subject of opportunities. He began his talk by tacking to the wall a big sheet of white paper and placing a black dot in the middle of the sheet. "What do you see?" he asked, pointing to the paper on the wall. "A black spot," called out everyone in the audience. "Yes, I see a black dot too," replied the speaker, "but none of you saw the much greater expanse of white. This is the point of my talk on opportunities."
While it is so easy to focus on the "black dots" - the immediate tasks that face us each day - how often do you grasp the opportunities that no one else notices in the white space? Don't answer that you haven't the time to notice the white space. Do you ever find yourself daydreaming? When you do, you're visiting that white space. The question is: Do you recognize your ability to bring those daydreams to fruition?
Look around you. Do you find yourself envying what others accomplish? Perhaps you can learn from their example. All they have done is to act on their dreams - to recognize the value of their white space and put it into motion.
So - what's missing in your life? Why not try filling in the blanks - the white spaces - with the achievement of your dreams? Maybe a legal pad and pencil can help. Try making a list of every dream you've ever had. Write them all down, all of them. When you finish, place an asterisk next to the five you would most like to accomplish or experience.
Finally, make those five items the "black dots" upon which you will focus until completed. Once identified, it becomes much easier to concentrate your attention on them. Opportunity knocks!
THE WAITING GAME!
The well-known Nike commercials have hammered into our heads the phrase "Just do it!" Regardless of how you view their advertising, there is magic in the words "just do it." The real key to the message is "doing it," a.k.a. taking action. Anything you have ever desired is available to you if you will it.
Now, consider those who are constantly washed over by the "tide." Note that the lyrics in Jim Croce's song say, "I'm WAITING for my ship to come in . . ." and then, "but all that comes in is the tide." That sounds like a victim's lament, as in, "Oh poor me, here I am ready and excited, waiting for my ship to come in, and I get dumped on by the sorry tide. Bummer. How unfair." Duhh! Helloooo!
It's easy to see that "action" is the opposite of "waiting." Yet, it's so easy to do nothing - waiting passively. Action requires energy, enthusiasm, movement, and objectives, while waiting requires not even a thought.
Whether your desire (your "ship") is a relationship, wealth, a healthy body, or a new car, you must be the captain, not the port - the "master of your fate," not a tide-washed, sand-covered beach ball. Life is great! On your next trip to the beach, buy a boat, a map, and a compass, and then choose your own port of call. You'll dine at the Captain's Table every day.
You know the type - there's a gossip in everyone's life. It may be a friend, an acquaintance, or a total stranger. Regardless, it is the person who shares with you any amount of information about another, either about what they have accomplished, or more often, what they have not.
Why does a gossip perform his or her service so readily? Self-aggrandizement is often the culprit. Knowing such valuable information about another as to be able to share it, reasons the gossip, reflects favorably on the provider of such knowledge. In fact, however, gossiping is nothing more than the act of judging others.
When a friend passes judgment on another, might it be that, in your absence, they also pass judgment on you? In most cases that is true. Thus, one measure of another's character might be the presence or absence of such a tendency.
Steven Covey (of "Seven Habits..." fame) offers a solution when he says, "If you do not judge others, they will not judge you." In other words, if you are of such character as to never discuss the merits or actions of others, unless they are favorable, it is highly likely that others will reciprocate in kind. If someone makes a negative comment about another, Covey suggests that your reply might be, "That's interesting. He has always spoken very highly of YOU."
Many wise men, in many languages, over many centuries, have repeated and paraphrased the maxim "Judge not, that ye be not judged." It's easy to neutralize the gossip's sting by practicing such clear advice!
PLAY THE FAMILY GAME!
Feel like you're losing touch with your children? Wish you understood your spouse better? Want to enjoy closer family ties without the background noise of X-Box games or loud music? Does everyone seem to scatter the moment their last bite of food is swallowed? Introduce them to "the family game!"
It's a fun way to bring your family together at the dinner table and keep them there - without complaints. Furthermore, you'll soon have them willingly sharing their dreams, disappointments, likes & dislikes, interests, successes, and innermost thoughts. Finally, you will have created a new family tradition your children will delight in passing on to their own families.
Introduce your version of the family game at the end of a dinnertime meal when everyone is present. Don't make a big production of it, just ask everyone to remain at the table. Tell them you've heard of a fun game and would like to play it with them. Explain that each person at the table gets one turn (and only one turn). You begin by asking a question that everyone, including yourself, has to answer. For instance, your question might be, "What's the most embarrassing moment you've ever had?" Go around the table and let each family member contribute.
Once everyone answers, let the person at your left ask the next question. It might be, "What's the worst birthday present you've ever received?" or maybe, "If you could go back in the past and live in a different time, when would it be and why?" You'll be amazed at the sharing your family will suddenly experience.
Once the "family game" becomes a regular part of meals, add this twist: Before being seated, tell family members that they may sit in any seat at the table except their normal seat. The catch is that they must also "act" like the person normally seated in the chair they choose. This can produce hilarious results.
If your family seems fragmented and scattered, play "the family game." It's a natural for bringing joy, depth, communication and understanding back to your loved ones.
THINK YOU CAN?
Regardless of your age, you were probably introduced as a child to a wonderful book entitled "The Little Engine That Could." If you will recall, it was the story of a small red locomotive personality who believed it was possible to pull a very heavy load uphill - a task that was shunned by other larger locomotives. The little engine huffed and puffed up the hill, all the while repeating the mantra, "I think I can! I think I can! I think I can!"
It was a cute story that contained a very powerful message about persistence and the ability to overcome adversity. Now there's a sequel entitled "I Knew I Could!" A quick ten-minute read, it clearly outlines our ability to make our own choices in life. Using illustrations of train tracks and those cute little locomotives, you are easily led to the understanding that we choose the life "tracks" upon which we travel.
The book suggests that before picking one of those tracks, we should determine the direction it might take us, and the destination we might reach by so choosing. Sounds like real life, doesn't it? How many times, and in how many ways, must we be taught this lesson? If we fail to make our choices wisely, we have consciously made the choice to live at the mercy of happenstance - as did Alice in the following excerpt from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland":
"Cheshire-Puss...," said Alice, "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat. "I don't much care where -" said Alice. "Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat. "... so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation. "Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
Life - it's your choice. Toot! Toot!
HOW MANY TREES IN '12?
OK, OK, - you've heard all the New Year Resolution stuff before. I'll try to steer clear of that topic today.
Going back to "Honest Abe's" quote, how many trees do you plan to chop down in 2012? 24? 48? 96? 300? The higher you plan to go, the sharper your axe had better be. What's more, most axe blades lose their edge after only a few trees. That means it will be necessary to step back from the hard work of chopping, and hone the blade numerous times throughout the year. Here are a few suggestions to keep your "edge" in 2012:
Planning is a necessary first step. If you don't know how many trees you want to chop, how will you know when you're finished? Will you be chopping small, medium or large trees? Apple, maple or pine? Will you take long powerful swings, or just hack away 'till they fall? Make some important chopping decisions before you begin.
Education is the next step. It comes in many forms, like books, recordings, videos, seminars, professional courses, and so on. Vary your approach to education to avoid boredom. Seminars and courses are an excellent way to boost your attitude by sharing ideas and strategies with colleagues and associates.
A positive attitude is critical too. It is the magnet that brings trees to your doorstep. Recreation is vital to maintaining that attitude. When you find yourself working 60 and 70-hour weeks, you'll also notice your energy level and attitude begin to dull very quickly. Learn to schedule time off for yourself and family members. Choose activities that leave no room for thoughts about work. You'll notice an immediate improvement in your tree chopping. Soon you'll be off to a flying start with a very sharp axe! Best wishes for the New Year!
YOU'RE NOT DONE YET!
Ever noticed how great leaders often come from humble beginnings? From the devastating depths of silence and inability to speak, Helen Keller inspired the world once she had overcome great adversity.
Diagnosed with amyontrophic lateral sclerosis and standing before a full-house crowd in Yankee Stadium on July 4th 1939, Lou Gehrig proclaimed, "I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth! I might have been given a bad break, but I 've got an awful lot to live for." He spent the last two years of his life as Parole Commissioner for New York City, hoping to make a difference in the lives of young people in trouble.
Today, we use more contemporary quotes to explain the same concept. We say, "No pain - no gain!" or, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." No matter how we verbalize it, it is true that through adversity comes strength.
Think back to the toughest times you've faced during your life. Chances are you'll have to agree that you grew and became a better person for the experience. As for temptations, they are more easily given in to than conquered. Nevertheless, the value system to which you subscribe today probably evolved from temptations overcome.
As Richard Bach put it in his wonderful book "Illusions," "There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts." Whether it be a physical or moral challenge you face, suffer if you must, but look also for its gift. And remember another Richard Bach quote, "Here is a test to find out whether your mission here on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't."