Character Creates Opportunity® – The Gift of Connection Part II: Thursday, December 25, 2014

In part I of this blog, we highlighted that beyond the basics for survival, we all have a strong need to belong and be accepted.  We discussed the reality of how today’s “connected world” can foster isolation instead of genuine connection in the home, the workplace, and the community.  In addition, we provided a few thoughts to help make the gift of connection this holiday season be more meaningful and engaging.

As we continue on this journey to build and strengthen our character, in Part II of this blog, we will touch on two essential steps we can take to further strengthen the gift of connection and be more effective in trying to meet the need of others to feel they belong and are accepted into something bigger than themselves.

In most relationships there is usually healthy tension (at least we all hope it remains healthy) in discussions about important decisions that need to be made.  It is quite rare for complex, important decisions to be so clear cut that we can stand firmly in the “yes” or “no” camp.  The real important decisions are usually complex and have a number of factors that need to be addressed.

Below are just a few examples of important decisions that need to be made:

  • Money decisions: How much to spend now versus saving for later.  Buy cheap now and replace or buy quality now and keep for longer.
  • Career decisions: Deciding to take a risk on a new job versus the risk of staying with something you know well that provides for your needs today, but may become obsolete in a few years.
  • Parenting decisions:  Deciding when to transition from protection to preparation and then preparation into freedom and full release into the world.  Deciding if that timeline changes based on the uniqueness of each child.
  • Lifestyle: Decisions to move away for new experiences and opportunities or remain close to the familiar community of friends and family.

Complex decisions are not easy to make.

There are few more effective ways we can cement an individual’s sense of belonging and feeling accepted than when we trust him/her to make a decision.  After all the debate and discussion has been conducted and the decision is still daunting, we say, “I trust you to make the decision.” As a spouse, when we come to appreciate each other’s strengths and we communicate (with words, tone, and body language) that we trust him/her with a decision, we communicate belonging and acceptance.  As a parent, when we communicate to a child that we trust him/her with a decision, we communicate belonging and acceptance.  As a leader, when we communicate to an individual that we trust him/her with making the decision on a new product line, a change in strategy, or a hiring decision, we communicate belonging and acceptance.

Communicating trust to an individual through empowering him/her to make a decision is an essential step toward meeting his/her need to feel belonging and acceptance.

We have probably all had the experience of trusting and then disaster struck.  MistakesWe trusted our spouse and he/she made a mess of things.  I wish the “mess” was just some spilled paint on the carpet, but the reality is that the “mess” many times is much worse and much more painful.  We trusted an adult child for the weekend and then came home to find Animal House – Part II just became a reality show at our home while we were gone.  We trusted a business associate and they destroyed the reputation and finances of the business we poured our heart and soul into.

The reality is that trust can sometimes bring about a great deal of pain.  We can remain bitter.  Unfortunately, bitterness has been proven to result in greater pain and problems for all involved.  In addition, the one who holds onto bitterness usually suffers the most compared to the one who first stumbled and fell short.

On the back side of that painful experience, there is one of the most effective ways that we can rise above and many times, permanently solidify someone’s sense of belonging and acceptance.   We can take an action they may never forget.  The additional way to ensure an individual feels a sense of belonging and acceptance is to show redemption towards the individual who squandered our trust.  We build and strengthen our character in a major way when we demonstrate grace through communicating redemption towards the individual and open the door to trust him/her again.

The act of “clearing” one’s debt or “saving” someone from the continual pain of a poor choice and communicating our willingness to trust again is probably the greatest challenge we will face in terms of building strong and healthy relationships over the long-term.

How do we respond when those closest to us fall short and break the bond of trust?

Providing redemption from past mistakes, as opposed to remaining bitter, has been shown time and again to build a sense of belonging, connection, and community with those around us.

As we become more intentional on providing the gift of connection during this holiday season, today’s blog was meant as a reminder of the two essential steps we can take through trust and redemption to ensure we meet a clear need of those closest to us.

As we make the effort to build stronger connections with those closest to us, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity® to contribute to the emotional health and well-bring of those we care about most.

One additional note:  Given the pressures and challenges in our world, we all struggle with extending trust and redemption from time to time.  When I have found myself in that spot, it has been helpful to reflect back on the individuals and experiences who have extended trust to me and demonstrated a redemptive spirit when I certainly did not deserve it.  This reflection often helps motivate me to move towards trust and redemption to others.  I am pretty confident that if each of us inventoried our lives, we would find others who trusted us and then redeemed us after we fell short.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Gift of Connection Part I: Thursday, December 18, 2014

Psychologists would tell us that our greatest need beyond the basics for survival is our need to belong and be accepted.

We can all relate to the positive emotional sense we feel when we know we are part of a team on the athletic field, the workplace, the community, and certainly the home.  When we join efforts with others to support a cause bigger than ourselves, we feel most alive.  Whether that cause is building a strong family, a winning basketball team, a competitive business, a community project, or the defense of a nation, the sense of belonging meets a real personal need. Knowing we are an accepted part of something bigger than ourselves is critical to our emotional health and stability.

When we become disconnected or feel rejected from a group, we struggle.  In the absence of a sense of connection to others and a cause greater than our own, we all can become susceptible to loneliness, anxiety, and depression.  Even those so-called “tough guys” or “tough gals” among us, will eventually reach a breaking point without a connection to something bigger than themselves.

As our world gets more connected with technology like the internet, smart phones, and social media, research would show that we are at risk for minimizing the benefits of genuine connection.Family is disconnected image  In addition, today’s technology enables the instant personalization of getting what we want, when we want it, and many times that fosters isolation instead of connection during our “free time” beyond school, work, and the essentials of running a home.  We don’t need a PhD in psychology to see the reality around us.  All we need to do is look around a lunchroom at work, an evening at home, or the ‘waiting period’ for a practice to end, a bus to arrive, or a meal to be served.

Social scientists would say that our technology dependent connections impact the depth of our relationships mostly because we lose empathy.  Sure, “emojis” help with emotional connection, but it is not optimal.  I am sure we have all seen a picture of a beautiful sandy beach and I hope most of us have felt the warm touch of beach sand between our toes.  There is a difference in the connection.

As important as feeling a sense of belonging and being connected are to our health, I would recommend that we add a few last minute gifts to our list this holiday season.  We should all add the gift of connection to those closest to us.  An important challenge for all of us would be to not just think about the seemingly peaceful relationships in our lives, but we should act with courage and add those to the list where perhaps the stresses and strains of this year has put the relationship in a difficult spot.

Here are a few thoughts to help make the gift of connection this holiday season be more meaningful and engaging:

(1)    Acknowledge the reality that there is pain, discomfort, and challenge in any relationship.  The ups and downs in relationships are a sign of LIFE, not death.  “Flat-lining” by way of not caring is a sign of death in relationships.

(2)    Admit that “I am not perfect.”  Hopefully, they will acknowledge their own “non-perfect” reality, but don’t sweat it if they don’t.

(3)    Act with the desire to grow and reach the full potential of the relationship versus being anchored to past mistakes.

(4)    Accept them.  When possible, tell them face to face that they belong to the family, the team, or the project.  Tell them that they are a needed part of the group and the group would not be the same without their contribution.

It takes an intentional effort to give the gift of connection to those around us.  Especially those where we know there is a struggle in the relationship.  The gift of connection will take more than the swipe of a credit card.  However, as we make the effort to build stronger connections with those closest to us, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity® to contribute to the emotional health and well-bring of those we care about most.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Points of View: Thursday, December 11, 2014

There is an interesting trend in our world that is being played out in a number of areas of our lives.  We have developed a seemingly insatiable need to have different points of view of the same situation.  We have come to the realization that there is advantage is having a variety of points of view of the same situation.

For example, over the last 10+ years we have seen an explosion of the number of camera angles and well positioned coaches throughout a stadium to gain a certain vantage point of the field of play.  As we watch any football game at the collegiate or professional level, we quickly realize the enormous amount of points of view to observe the game.  In addition, as coaches and fans, we understand the more points of view we have, the more effective we can be in determining the right decision by a referee, the right play to call to exploit a weakness in the opposition’s defenses, or the best defense to address a consistent trend on an offense.  Multiple vantage points helps us to be a more effective on a sports field.

We see a similar trend in business today.  Enormous planning, effort, and expense is allocated towards trying to understand different points of view of customers.  We generate enormous amounts of data as we electronically monitor behaviors and seek out attitudes at different points in the customer’s experience.  There is incredible advantage in building a brand or growing a business when we better understand the different points of view of our customers.  In addition, leaders of business see significant value in gaining different points of view of employees.  Understanding what a team is seeing in the warehouse, compared to a sales team, compared to customer service is extremely beneficial to leaders running a business.  These various points of view are the life-blood of building a sustainable and successful business.

We could go on and on about this same trend seen across the wide spectrum of life from the tactics of modern warfare to the advances in education.  Gaining different points of view enables us to develop a better understanding and a more effective plan to accomplish our objectives.

The irony found in this insatiable trend to gain greater understanding in areas such as business, athletics, modern warfare, and education, is that on a more personal, social level, the results would show that we are still reluctant to do the hard work of understanding different points of view of those closest to us in our homes and in our community.

Social observers, licensed psychologists, and religious leaders would say that on our day to day personal interactions, the vast majority of our energy is spent communicating our point of view with little effort spent on understanding the point of view of another.

An important aspect in building and strengthening our character is when we expend greater effort trying to gain the perspective and understanding of others as opposed to getting them to understand us.  Relationships are strengthened when we genuinely understand the different points of view of others.

Here are just a few practical steps that I hope you find helpful in seeing things from the point of view of others as we continue to build and strengthen our character:Points of View

(1)    Our first step in an apparent disagreement should be to gain understanding, not in firming up our defenses.

(2)    Focus on listening by removing the egotistical expectation of delivering a “brilliant” response.

(3)    Genuinely try to walk in the other person’s experience and empathize with their point of view.

(4)    Begin to communicate our point of view only when we gain a sense that the other person acknowledges our effort to understand them.

Those same social observers, licensed psychologists, and religious leaders would say that their collective experience in studying relationships would prove that most disagreements and conflicts on a personal level are due to misunderstanding and a lack of empathy.  Both of which are choices we can make to be more effective in building stronger, healthier relationships.

As we translate the trends we see in sports and business to our own life by working hard to gather the different points of view of those around us, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity® to have a greater impact on the people in our home and our community.

Character Creates Opportunity® – An Important Question: Thursday, December 4, 2014

Throughout our journey to build and strengthen our character, we have continually focused on the important principle of accepting responsibility for our own thoughts, decisions, and actions as a core component to character building.  Accepting responsibility is the first step in rising above our situation and escaping the trap of blaming others or our surroundings for the choices we make.

Accepting personal responsibility is important.  It does not mean we always make great choices.  The reality is that we will fall short in some of the decisions we make and actions we take. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes.  Our character is strengthened when we fully accept the effective and the ineffective choices we make and the positive and negative outcomes that they may bring about.

An additional and important dimension to accepting responsibility is acknowledging our influence on others.  Yes, each one of us owns our decisions, but we all play a role of influence on others.

Students make the decision to learn in the classroom, but a great teacher can raise the level of engagement and interest to make the classroom a more conducive environment to learn.

A great coach can inspire teamwork and commitment, but ultimately it is the decision of individual players to work together as a team.

A strong leader in the workplace can build energy, excitement, and efficient systems to keep the team heading in the right direction to accomplish goals, but it is the decisions of individual team members day to day that sustains top performance in the marketplace.

The examples we all set in the home have influence on those closest to us.

So what happens when those in our circle of influence stumble and fall through poor choices and bring about a difficult outcome?

One truth we should not back away from is that they must own it and make more effective choices moving forward to get back on track and head in a better direction.

There is an important element that often gets overlooked in the heat of the moment as we are sorting through the damage of a poor decision by someone close to us; The role we played around influence.  An important question we need to ask ourselves is, “What could I have done differently?”  We all have the ability to influence others.  Could the decisions I made and actions I took influenced a more effective choice that would have yielded a better outcome?

“What could I have done differently?”

A genuine self-assessment around this important question and a commitment to improve will help each one of us be more effective in our ability to influence others and help them make more effective decisions.

In terms of moving forward after someone close to us stumbles, there is one additional step that can influence a better tomorrow. Compassion Extend a helping hand to get back on track as opposed to leaving someone alone in the struggle.  This is especially important in the home.  Extending a helping hand, again, and again, and again, and again to those closest to us will help to build and strengthen our home and set an example of understanding and compassion that is missing many times in sustained family conflict.

As we acknowledge our role as influencers and guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles like encouragement, loyalty, and commitment, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to influence others in a positive way and help those around us reach their full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Home for the Holidays: Thursday, November 27, 2014

Throughout this week, many cars on the highway look like a tryout for the next “mayhem” insurance commercial with suitcases strapped to the roof, bags jammed up against back windows, and pillows propped up against seats as families travel to see relatives and make the long trek back home.

Whether we are returning to the home where we were raised, having others come back home, or visiting the home of close family or friends, there is something special about coming home.

Home represents a permanent mark on our identity.  In addition, as we grow older and hopefully wiser, home brings about the reminder of our most critical responsibility to society; to build and sustain a strong and stable family. Success in the workplace will come and go, our “15 minutes of fame” will come and go, and for most of us, an enduring impact on the global stage of history will be unattainable, but the effort we put forth in the home will always be a part of our legacy.

Home is also the place where we live through the full spectrum of our emotional experience from our greatest highs to our greatest lows. In between those extremes, we can dwell in that most unfortunate place called apathy, where we just “check-out” as the furnace of conflict and disappointment presents an appealing choice to just quietly endure while we emotionally move on to some other source of comfort and acceptance.

Throughout our lives, there will always be moments in time when we return home in some physical or emotional sense.  As an adult, we remember our childhood experiences in the home of our upbringing. As an “empty nester” parent, we remember what the home was like when it was filled with kids.  As a frazzled parent with growing children in the home, we have little time for reflection as we continue to be pounded on the anvil of schedules, to do lists, and the expectations of others. In addition, as a family struggles with the loss of a loved one, we remember the times of togetherness we shared before tragedy struck.

As we continue on our important journey to build and strengthen our character, there are moments like the holiday season where it is helpful to return home with a sense of thankfulness.Thankfulness

Making the choice to be thankful when we return home, physically and/or emotionally, for the holidays is an important step to build and strengthen our character for a few simple reasons:

(1)    Thankfulness consistently returns numerous positive benefits.  Volumes of research in academia and real-life experience demonstrate that people who are thankful are healthier, both physically and emotionally, have stronger relationships, and inoculate themselves from the negative effects of thinking about what we don’t have or harboring resentment or envy tied to what others possess.   Thankfulness keeps us grounded.

(2)    Thankfulness helps overcome the struggles of life.  There is no “perfect” home.  We all have and we all will continue to experience significant family conflict in our homes.  Just like the pain and discomfort associated with a new workout routine will eventually make our bodies stronger, with a sense of thankfulness, we will build our emotional strength to overcome the inevitable next family conflict.  Thankfulness softens the heart and opens a desire to understand instead of judge during conflict in the home.

(3)    Thankfulness helps us reach our full potential and helps those around us reach their full potential.  Do you enjoy hanging around people who gripe and complain?  Being thankful builds encouragement for ourselves and others.  It builds the foundation for all of us to reach our full potential.  Rather than getting sucked into the dark sea of negativity and complaint, being thankful puts our footing on solid ground to build a positive legacy in our home.

We are consistently drawn to come back home not because of where it is, but because of what it represents.  As we remain thankful in our home, not just during the holidays, but throughout the year, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and help those around us reach their full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Heading in the Right Direction: Thursday, November 20, 2014

We have all heard the expression “life is a journey, not a destination.”  Many times we forget that truth in the chaos of real life with necessary tasks, budgets, work projects, “Black Friday” sales, holiday events with families, and a host of other deadline driven items.  We have a tendency to forget that for all practical purposes, there is no finish line in our lives.  We continue to journey-on despite how many tasks we complete, goals we accomplish, or “bucket list” items we check-off.  We seem to find new, important items on the back page of our once completed check-list.

In addition to the realization that we will always be on a journey despite how many tasks we complete, at certain points in our lives, we realize that life is not a smooth ride:

  • As a young student, when school days move from recess and story time to homework, grades and standardized assessments that place us in the “average” bucket.
  • As a young athlete, when the tryouts and cuts come as participation moves from “everyone who signs up” to only those who can help the team win.
  • As a college student, when an education begins to cost real money and the once theoretical calculation of “return on investment” becomes a meaningful and relevant discussion.
  • In the workplace, when a steady job is not as predictable as we had hoped for and all the effort to do our best and perform well is met with “downsizing objectives” because of global competition and changing consumer trends.
  • On the home front, when the reality hits that “family” can bring about extremes of tremendous togetherness and joy to absolute loneliness and heart-breaking struggle.

In facing the reality of a steady flow of new items on our check-list and the “bumpy” ride we call life, how can we be most effective in dealing with the fact that life is a journey and not a destination?  Amongst the chaos of real life, we need to ensure our efforts are heading in the right directionfranklin_trees_01

Here are two practical steps to ensure we are heading in the right direction:

(1)    Determine the “right direction” for us personally.

A very simple exercise is to ask ourselves the question, “How would we want others to describe us if we were not sitting around with them?”

    • As a student, how would I want a group of teachers and students to describe me?
    • As a family, how would I want my spouse or children to describe me to their close friends?
    • In the workplace, how would I want my coworkers and customers to describe me?

The answer to those questions will help set our compass to the “right direction.”

(2)    Focus on taking small steps, anchored on principles, in the right direction.

No matter what direction we declare for ourselves, ensuring our day to day behaviors (small steps) are consistent with principles like honesty, understanding, perseverance, loyalty, will be our most effective means to deal with the “bumpy” ride of life and still keep heading in the right direction.

    • As a student, taking small steps like participating in class, asking questions, taking time to complete assignments vs. cramming.
    • As a family member, taking small steps to listen before passing judgment, encourage instead of belittle, serve instead of take, let forgiveness replace bitterness, ensure thankfulness trumps taking for granted.
    • In the workplace, taking small steps like looking out for the team’s best interest vs. our own, being proactive on getting additional training instead of remaining anchored in outdated skills, speaking up on issues of integrity and respect vs remaining silent.

In a world that continues to grow more complex, ensuring we consistently take small steps in the right direction will help us remain highly effective along our journey of life.  As we guide our small steps by principles like honesty, loyalty, and courage, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to set a strong example for others to follow and help us all to keep heading in the right direction.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Cost: Thursday, November 13, 2014

We all have a few areas in our lives where we wish things were “a little better.”

Perhaps it is the sales of a certain product line at work, a tough relationship with a disappointed customer, the grade in a difficult subject in school, the strained relationship in our home, or the social trends in our community.  Toss in our own personal financial situation or our growing waistline and I am sure we can all find an area or two where we wish things were “a little better.”

Reaching a sense of fulfillment and emotional health in knowing that we actually made progress in doing “a little better” is going to take some effort.  That effort usually involves a change in behavior. We are all familiar with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Nothing happens without change.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, the question that needs to be addressed is, “what is it going to take” to get “a little better” in that important area of our life?

Many times we know, or someone tells us, what that small incremental change in behavior needs to be.  In places like work and school, there is usually a consistent roadmap to follow and we just need to step-up the effort and deliver.  There is a cost of time and effort, but it is pretty predictable and the choice to follow the roadmap is ours to make.

The more difficult decisions are in the areas that really matter in the long haul of life, like our close relationships and the legacy of our efforts and accomplishments.  This is where there may not be a clear roadmap and the near term costs may seem quite high:

To mend a strained relationship, many times we need a desire to be reconciled rather than to be proven right, we need to shut-up and seek to understand as oppose to giving our opinion, and/or we need to extend favor when the natural tendency would be to fight back.

To impact our legacy, many times we need to sacrifice in the near term to ensure a brighter tomorrow.  Whether that is saving today vs spending to have some money for the rainy day that will come, grinding it out in a job so that those closest to our care can have opportunities we did not, or taking a risk and following a different path than we were “supposed to follow.”

As we all consider the costs in these big and important areas of life, we need to be reminded that there is a relatively small cost of trying and failing when compared to the significant cost of regret that comes with not trying at all. Multl Generation Family Walking Along Autumn Path With Dog

We will build and strengthen our character as we keep “trying” and our Character Creates Opportunity® to do “a little better” in the big and small areas of life.  Based on my experience and the experience of so many around me, I want to extend a word of encouragement to those who continue to try; Keep getting after it, it is worth the cost.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Year #1: Thursday, November 6, 2014

Key dates in our lives such as anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and other personal dates of meaningful accomplishment or quiet bereavement are helpful to support a deeper reflection on the important things in life.  They also provide an opportunity to reassess our progress on our journey towards reaching our full potential.

The purpose of today’s blog is to reflect back on just over a year of writing to support the importance of building and strengthening our character as the critical catalyst to reach our full potential.

At Harvest Time Partners, we believe that Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our hopes and dreams and this weekly blog is one of our platforms to provide support and encouragement to others striving to reach their full potential.

Why is character so important? 

In order to answer that question, it is important to reflect back on some universal truths in our world.

(1)    In life, we will experience both ups and downs, great highs and great lows. Whether it is in school, work, our community, and certainly in our homes, we will encounter situations that provide us with an opportunity to grow.

(2)    In life, there are always 3 aspects to our experience:

a SITUATION: There is our present situation.  Many times, our situation is beyond our immediate, personal control like the weather, an emergency customer call on a Sunday morning, a reckless driver, an outburst from an individual in an overwhelming situation, etc.

a GAP: There is a gap, a moment in our consciousness that forms our response to the situation.  The gap could be a split second or a long period of time.

a RESPONSE: There is our response to the situation.

(3)    How we fill the GAP will determine our potential and our overall emotional health.  In the GAP, lies our character.  We are not confined to a stimulus-response type paradigm like animals.  Our unique human qualities provide us with what Viktor Frankl described as “the last of the human freedoms,” the freedom to choose our response to our situation.  We possess the potential to rise above our situation by using the GAP between our situation and our response.

At Harvest Time Partners, we believe our character is Standing in the Gap® between a situation and our response.  Our character is our inner voice (our internal compass) that guides our thoughts, decisions, and actions.  When we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles like courage, loyalty, honesty, teamwork, and commitment, we build and strengthen our character.  As our character is strengthened, we widen the gap to develop our most effective response.  Our most effective response will eventually lead to an improved situation, a pathway to reach our full potential, and our emotional health…and the cycle continues with every situation.

As we consistently build and strengthen our character through thoughts, decisions, and actions based on principles, we develop the habits to fill and widen the gap in order to consistently deliver an effective response, regardless of our situation.  Our principle-based response will eventually produce an improved situation which has a positive impact on ourselves and those around us.

It is in the gap between a situation and our response where we have the opportunity to reach our full potential.  Our character is Standing in the Gap® and this is why we believe that character is the critical catalyst to reaching our full potential.

How does this play out in the real world?

As an employee sitting down with a boss and receiving a difficult performance review.  We can blame the boss, the company’s product line, global competition, or we can rise above and fill the gap with thoughts, decisions, and actions to understand where we fell short, perhaps work smarter and/or harder, and increase teamwork, in order to prepare to improve performance in the next cycle.  In doing so, we position ourselves to reach our full potential.

As a student, we all have received a poor grade every now and then.  We can blame the teacher, say the curriculum is irrelevant, the “system” stinks, or we can rise above and fill the gap with thoughts, decisions, and actions that identify our mistakes, commit to receive help earlier, study more, and persevere towards our goal of graduation.  In doing so, we position ourselves to reach our full potential.

As a struggling family (all families go through difficult times), we can blame a sibling, our spouse, parents, or we can rise above and fill the gap with thoughts, decisions, and actions based on loyalty, commitment, and understanding in order to deliver an effective response to repair the damage and rebuild the bond of family and close relationships.

As we face situations in life, there is a gap between that situation and our response.  character-creates-opportunity-2014-250-by-250pxHow we fill that gap will determine our potential and our overall emotional health.  Our character stands in the gap and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential.

I look forward to providing these weekly updates in the months and years to come.  Please feel free to reply to this post or send me an email at with any thoughts or comments to help improve the impact of this project.  Thank you for your help.

The Principles of Our World Children’s Book Series Wins a 2014 Tillywig Brain Child Award — November 2014

Children's Books from Harvest Time PartnersPortage, MI (November 5, 2014)Harvest Time Partners, Inc., is pleased to announce that its children’s book series, The Principles of Our World, has been honored by The Tillywig Toy & Media Awards with a 2014 Tillywig Brain Child Award, a prestigious recognition that is only associated with products of “high educational value.”

The Principles of Our World book series is designed to introduce children to the importance of principles like honesty, teamwork, and courage. Each book’s main character, like The Principle of Sacrifice, Hope, and Compassion, is illustrated specifically to visually interest children in the book’s content and to assist parents and educators in sparking conversations about real-life issues. All of the books support and encourage children to make more effective decisions in their everyday lives. The Principles of Our World book series helps to build and strengthen character—and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our hopes and dreams.

Tillywig’s mission is to provide retail buyers, news media, parents, and consumers with product information and reviews of superior children’s products available in today’s marketplace. The Tillywig Brain Child Award is given to exciting products that energize the mind while seamlessly blending fun and learning—an endorsement of excellence that is recognized by both consumers and retailers of children’s products.

David Esposito, author and managing partner of Harvest Time Partners said, “We are honored that our children’s book series, The Principles of Our World, was selected to receive a 2014 Tillywig Brain Child Award. Our products have been developed to help parents and educators guide children in the importance of principles like honesty and teamwork as they navigate the complexity of life today. We are grateful for the recognition of the prestigious Brain Child Award.” 

The Principles of Our World book series is perfect for parents and educators wishing to introduce young children (age 4+) to the importance of character and principle-based decision making. The books are also ideal for young independent readers (age 7+). The books are available online at and through a growing number of retail stores.

About Harvest Time Partners, Inc.

Harvest Time Partners, Inc., a rapidly growing personal- and professional-development company, was created almost 20 years ago to provide support to individuals, families and organizations on a variety of topics and subjects encompassing personal and executive development, team building, leadership training, and building a strong marriage and family. Harvest Time Partners provides character-building seminars, workshops, and custom programs designed to increase personal effectiveness, enhance character development and strengthen the bonds of marriage and family. For more information, visit

About Tillywig Awards

Tillywig Awards provide retail buyers, news media, parents, and consumers with product information and reviews of superior children’s products available in today’s marketplace. Tillywig supports a rigorous evaluation process where products are used by a number of testers in an observed focus group format. Product testers and observers come from all walks of life and a broad range of ages.

The full list of winners is posted online at

Character Creates Opportunity® – Preparations: Thursday, October 30, 2014

By the time this blog is distributed and the close of October is upon us, we are all moving quickly into the November and December holiday season.  Downtowns across this country are filled with trucks, cherry pickers, and workers hanging lights on “Main Street” preparing for the holiday season.

The holiday season brings a great deal of activity to most homes, businesses, and communities.   There are the finishing touches placed on projects to be completed before year end and the fine tuning of plans and budgets for the next year.

Most importantly, this time of year brings people together.  Whether it is events in the office, the community, or parties in the home, large groups of family and friends gather together.

As we continue on our personal journey to build and strengthen our character, the holiday season presents a great opportunity for each one of us to have a positive impact on others.

We all know there are plenty of struggles and challenges in our world today.  We can debate whether things are more challenging now than in past, but one thing is for sure, our world has become more complex and more intense over the years.  Looking more specifically in our homes, family conflict continues to be the most heart-breaking of all of life’s struggles.  Given the central role that families continue to play in our world, it is a place that should consistently garner our attention and effort.

I wanted to raise two ideas that I hope will be helpful and encouraging to have a positive impact in the home this holiday season.  Like most things that matter, we can’t just “wing it.”  We need to be intentional and prepare.  Consider this message part of the preparation phase for the holidays.  These two ideas can help to build and strengthen our character and have a positive impact on others.

(1)    A Word of Encouragement.  Research on relationships would show we all need about 4 or 5 positive comments to overcome one negative comment in supporting our emotional health.  We all seem to be bent on listening more to the negative and tuning out the positive. I am sure if we all conducted an inventory on comments we give or comments we receive, there probably is a deficit on the positives.  As we gather together this holiday season, we should focus on speaking encouragement into those around us.  Chances are good that those closest to us have been internalizing a little more of the negative than the positive throughout the year.

If some poor choices have resulted in this being a very difficult year, there is always the opportunity to speak hope and encouragement into someone for a fresh start into the New Year.  If relationships have become so strained because of some poor choices and gathering together is not even a possibility, I would recommend taking a small step and write a letter (a real letter, not an email) and see if the written word of encouragement can be a helpful first step in restoring the relationship.

We all could use some encouragement, especially in the home.Rear View Of Family Walking Through Autumn Woodland

(2)    Tactile Connection.  In our digital world, we so often hear that we are “connected” with so many people.  “It was great to connect with you” is a common phrase on social media platforms.  We have significantly expanded how we describe getting connected as our lives have gone digital in so many areas.  Relationship research would show that without physical connection, relationships grow weaker.  Without tactile connection, we physically get weaker and our immune system is more susceptible to disease.

The reality is that as our world has become more connected with things like the internet, smart phones, and social media, families are actually becoming more disconnected primarily from a physical, tactile standpoint.  As we gather together during these last few months of the year, be intentional about making a “connection” with those in the home through a warm embrace and a consistent touch.

In addition, where there is a strained relationship, a genuine hug has been proven to be more effective than words as a first step to mend a broken and troubled relationship.  Be courageous and take the first step to attempt a genuine, warm embrace.

We all could benefit from a warm embrace to strengthen and secure relationships in the home.

As we begin planning and preparing for the holiday season, we will build and strengthen our character when we speak encouragement into others and make a physical connection with others in the home.  Our Character Creates Opportunity® to build strong, secure relationships with those closest to us.