Character Creates Opportunity® – Making Progress: Thursday, December 31, 2015

We are all familiar with New Year’s resolutions.  As we prepare for a new year, there is a general trend of many of us to set new goals or make resolutions to achieve in the coming year.  The concept of setting goals, building a plan to achieve those goals and using the new year to help jump start the process is a healthy and often convenient one to initiate needed change in our lives.

Based on our personal experience and the data from some academics who study this kind of information, the data would reveal that the vast majority of us will abandon, or just plain forget, our goals quickly as we move into a new year.  Today’s writing is not about rallying around some collective motivation or new process to more effectively achieve our goals.  There is already plenty of information out there to help us all get a little more motivated to achieve our goals.

Today’s writing is about the importance of recognizing progress along the way in order to keep the momentum going.  The “world” (feel free to insert your own relevant term) judges or highlights the finish line.  Most often it will be us alone in the quiet of the journey that will be in a position to celebrate making progress in the right direction.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, a helpful discipline we alone can exercise is the personal “high five” we can give ourselves for making progress on the journey to reach our goals. Making Progress on the Journey

There will be a great deal written about the steps to achieving the common goals of losing weight, exercising, reading more or some professional career milestone.

However, the real need to celebrate making progress towards often our most challenging goals, which is rarely written or talked about, is in having a positive impact on those closet to us in our homes and families.  Acknowledging the small steps of progress we make in:

  1. Breaking the cycle of a painful past to bring healing to an important relationship
  2. Judging less and encouraging more
  3. Experiencing the lasting joy of serving and giving instead of the short term pleasure of getting our way
  4. Effectively confronting an important issue rather than avoiding it
  5. Courageously acknowledging our fears and insecurities while minimizing our concern of judgement or shame

The “world” will celebrate the big achievements in business, politics, entertainment, etc.  As we choose to celebrate making progress in the home and with the ones closest to us, we will build the foundation to achieve great things in the marketplace, the community, and our world.

As we make the choice to personally celebrate the small steps of progress we make in close relationships, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to bring health into critical relationships in our home and with those closet to us.

As we continue to set goals for ourselves, do not forget that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Lao Tzu).  Congratulations, in advance, for the steps of progress you will make.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Step Towards Growth: Thursday, December 24, 2015

As our world continues to grow in complexity, uncertainty, and intensity we are often challenged with the reality that it is hard to keep pace with the changes and still make a positive impact.

One of the more efficient tools we employ to manage the complexity around us is by putting up a few filters on the things we see, read, and experience.  A current and practical example of using filters on how we deal with complexity is how we all navigate the internet.  Our smart phones, tablets, and computers are all preset to our favorite websites, we follow the people we like or agree with on social media, and we watch videos based on our own preferences.

Filtering certainly makes us more efficient.  With a world that is continually evolving, we risk taking a step back in our growth when we use too many convenient filters.  Over time, filters may become blinders as we are most often exposed to ideas and points of view that we already understand and agree with and we remove the real challenge of trying to fully understand another perspective.

Systematically and continually restricting ourselves with filters is certainly not a path to sustainable personal growth nor is it a path to understanding differences.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, expanding our perspective to see beyond our narrow filters will better equip all of us to make a positive impact in an ever-changing world around us.

Beyond the filters on our electronic devices, most likely, we hang out with people like us, we remain in our part of town, we consume points of view from the same sources on television, and we often miss the start of change around us because of our filters.

Complete unfiltered activity is not a healthy path either, so here are a few considerations to enhance our growth and expand our ability to understand:Crowed of Diversity People Friendship Happiness Concept

  1. Make an effort to listen to another generation. Listen with a genuine intent to understand, not change a person’s thinking.  Generational experience is foundational to our personal point of view.  Just take a quick review of someone who was a teenager and young adult in the 60s versus the 80s versus the 2000s to see some drastically different perspectives.
  2. Occasionally gather information on current events from a different website or channel on television. This step does not mean we have to agree, it just means we are putting forth our own personal effort to understand. In a world that has become so polarized and filtered to the extremes, we risk expanding the wedge of difference rather than strengthening our efforts around things we hold in common.
  3. Visit a different place beyond our routine. Whether it is a different coffee shop, restaurant, place of worship, part of town, or a different shopping mall. The experience will help us expand our perspective and understanding of our world that is not “just like us.”
  4. During this holiday season, many of us will be visiting with family. As we enjoy the interactions, the food, and some good sporting events, intentionally reach out and listen to a family member that we may have previously “tuned out” because of a past difference. Our families will grow stronger with more understanding rather than more judgment.

We take a step towards personal growth when we intentionally remove a few filters in our life.  As we continue to grow our understanding instead of judgment, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to have a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Looking Back: Thursday, December 17, 2015

We all have a past.  We may not speak much about it.  Many of those close to us in our lives may know us well, but they probably don’t know all of our past.  Especially some of the deep valleys of our journey and more importantly, how those experiences have shaped our mindset and our perception of reality today.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we can generate energy from looking back on our past as an opportunity to learn and grow as we move forward, or we can create burdens from looking back that limit our potential.  The choice is ours to make.Looking Back

We have all made mistakes throughout many phases of our lives.  Even though we may grow in wisdom to handle things more effectively in the coming years, life brings new experiences regardless of our age.  With new experiences, we will inevitably stumble from time to time as we navigate the journey of life.

We build and strengthen our character when we view our past as an opportunity to learn and grow instead of carrying the burden of regret and shame.

Looking back and labeling experiences as regrets creates a huge burden on our future growth. Regrets often keep us from taking chances in the future and paralyzes us in the face of new opportunities.  We often choose not to do things if, in some small way, it reminds us of the pain of the past.

Looking back and viewing our experiences as an opportunity to learn and grow creates an energy source to reach our full potential.  We have renewed self-confidence that we have survived past challenges with a little bit more “street smarts” to apply to the challenges of the future and we move about getting after our full potential.  “I will do better next time” is a helpful reminder to all of us that life’s experiences can be applied to improve our impact tomorrow.

In addition to viewing our own experiences as opportunities to grow instead of regrets and feelings of shame, we can use that same mindset to have a positive impact on others close to us.  Instead of being quick to pass judgment on someone close to us who obviously made a poor choice, we can speak to them in terms of learning and growing through the experience instead of adding to their burden of regret and shame.  We could all help one another to stand a little taller in this life by encouraging growth through mistakes as opposed to adding a burden or regret or shame…especially to those closest to us.

As we turn the page on another year, looking back on our experiences as opportunities to learn and grow instead of burdens of regret and shame will help us continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Most Needed Gift: Thursday, December 10, 2015

The hustle of the holiday season is in full swing along with the stress of finding the right gift for friends and family. The barrage of special deals, discounts, free shipping, and “gotta have it” gift items is at a mind numbing pace.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is a principle that is at the heart of one of the most needed gifts we can provide those around us.  The principle of encouragement can help to bolster the positive impact we desire to have on others.  Encouragement is a most needed gift that we can readily give to those around us.

There has been a great deal of research done on the importance of the principle of encouragement.  We can probably all remember a time when someone, a close family member, friend, teacher, coach, or boss shared a word of encouragement when “quit” looked good and we were in a dark valley wondering how things were going to turn out.  Encouragement is a most needed gift.

As today’s world continues to grow in complexity and uncertainty, the principle of encouragement can go a long way to assist those around us to keep moving forward in pursuit of their hopes and dreams despite the challenges they face.

A word of encouragement provides several benefits to an individual:Teenage Sister Helping Stressed Younger Brother With Studies At Desk In Bedroom In Evening

  • Encouragement helps to meet an important need in all of us; the need to know we belong. It reminds us that someone is interested in us and our present situation.
  • Encouragement demonstrates that someone believes in our potential. In a world with a natural bent toward the negative, encouragement helps all of us refocus on a positive point of view which consistently proves to be the differentiator between people achieving goals and those that fall short….a positive mindset.
  • Encouragement reminds us that we should have high expectations. Many times we can let self-doubt and fear steal our potential to do great things.  Encouragement helps us fix our eyes on the unlimited potential we have to make a difference in this world.

An important role we can all play is in helping others reach their full potential.  As we become more intentional about using the principle of encouragement, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to help others more effectively face the inevitable challenges in life and keep them moving forward along the path to reach their hopes and dreams.


Character Creates Opportunity® – Focus on the Moment: Thursday, November 26, 2015

As our world continues to grow in complexity and intensity, there is a great deal of time and effort spent on the journey through a number of additional steps along the path to reach our goals.

Raising a strong family in today’s world has become more complicated.

Maintaining a safe and stable community has become more complicated.

Securing meaningful employment has become more complicated.

Building a successful business has become more complicated.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, ensuring we can sustain our effort over the long term to reach our goals is critically important.  As we navigate the complexity of life in reaching our goals, one often forgot aspect of ensuring we have the strength to continue is our ability to focus on the moment.

Exercising the discipline to focus on the moment at hand, while our mind wants to think about next steps or treasure thoughts of the past, will build our strength and help us stay on the journey to reach our goals.

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States of America.  Enjoy the moment of time we have today. Thankfulness

Life will continue.

Tomorrow’s journey will soon enough be upon us.

Yesterday’s journey is already a memory.

Do not miss today.

As we build and strengthen our character, make the choice to focus on the moment we have today.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, our time is probably filled with a bit of traveling, cooking, crowds, and maybe a good football game.

Sometime during today, look around, and in the gap between yesterday and tomorrow, quietly enjoy the moment we have today…and be thankful.

When we exercise the discipline to postpone the concerns of tomorrow, minimize the thoughts of yesterday, and focus on the moment we have today, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to be thankful.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Initiative: Thursday, November 19, 2015

The world and our communities move forward because someone steps up and takes the initiative.

Social change and charitable causes move forward because someone steps up and takes the initiative.

Innovation and value creation in the marketplace move forward because someone steps up and takes the initiative.

Family relationships in the home move forward because someone steps up and takes the initiative.

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, the ability to see the need for change and then take action is an important opportunity for all of us to set an example for others to follow.take the initiative

There are a few common traits around those who take the initiative:

  • They have a high level of awareness and empathy to see and feel a problem to be solved or a need to be met.
  • They genuinely care and emotionally ache for the struggle of others or the difficulty of a situation.
  • They have the courage to step forward and take action.

For those who have ever felt like you were just out there on your own, seeing something that no one else could see, and you wanted to take action…take the action.  Thank you for taking the initiative.  Our world, our communities, and especially our homes need you.

Just remember,

For each one of us who cares enough to take the initiative, there will be a handful of people around who will say, “You should have done it this way” (a.k.a. “I could have done it better”).

There will be others who will think and maybe say, “Who do you think you are doing something like this?”

And then there will certainly be the countless masses who may just not see it, may not care, or just don’t want to turn off the TV and get off the couch.

Our world, our communities, and especially our homes need someone to take the initiative and act.  Thank you for taking action.

When we take the initiative to drive productive change in our home, our workplace, or our community, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to have a positive impact in our world and especially those closest to us in our homes.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A Commitment to Serve: Thursday, November 12, 2015

There seems to be a growing level of support and gratefulness around the world for those men and women who have and are continuing to serve their country in the armed forces.  It is a fitting tribute for the service of so many.  As a veteran myself, I can say it is really great to see the intentional effort of so many to acknowledge the sacrifice.

Today’s message is not about the traditional view of service in the form of armed forces in defense of a nation.  The message is about the often underappreciated role that most of us play…The role of serving others based on a firm foundation of commitment.  Mostly out of the spotlight, behind the scenes, and without the public acknowledgement of “thank you.”

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, there is the important need to acknowledge the service to others we make each and every day that has lasting impact.

Although many times underappreciated, there is something extremely honorable about the commitment of those who serve tirelessly to get the job done in our homes, our workplace, and our communities.

A tremendous example is quietly set by those getting up on a cold, dark morning and getting the job done on a consistent basis that is worthy of appreciation, but so often goes without it.  It does not matter what role we play; whether we get up and load boxes into a truck, pack a lunch for children, wash a seemingly endless load of laundry, sit and hold grandchildren, or plan the strategy of an organization.  The day in day out choice we make to get up and get going despite being underappreciated for not just days, but perhaps years, is a worthy example of service and commitment.

Truth be told, our most underappreciated examples of honorable service most often occur with those closest to us in our homes and extended family.

We may not realize it, but those around us, whether they are our children, our coworkers, or our neighbors are all impacted by our example to get up and get going.  The spotlight is most often on those in public service or in high-level positions in organizations.  However, the day to day example of those in quiet service to a cause beyond themselves and honorably fulfilling their commitments are deserving of high praise for their impact is positive and lasting on those around them.

All of us, at certain points in our journey and across the various roles we play, will feel underappreciated for our efforts.  Whether it is an insensitive spouse, a teenager going through that “know it all” phase, a preoccupied boss, or selfish coworkers, we all will go through times of service where we just feel underappreciated.

In most cases, especially in the home, the tide does eventually turn.  The insensitive spouse or the “know it all” young adult eventually has that “light-bulb” moment when they realize the quiet service that has been delivered faithfully over the years.  However, if they do not, it is important that we do not lose our drive to deliver on our commitments to do our job and fulfill our obligations.  Continuing to move forward in quiet service is the most effective choice we can make.

If you have felt underappreciated for a while, take this writing as a little “pat on the back” of encouragement for a job and an example set that is well done.  In addition, we all should do some self-reflection and see if we are that insensitive spouse, “know it all” young adult, preoccupied boss, or selfish co-worker and start today to put forth some encouragement and recognition to those who are in honorable, quiet service around us.

Here are just a few key points on maintaining a commitment to serve others: (1) Continue to move forward in quiet service no matter how seemingly underappreciated or unrecognized our efforts become.  Our day in and day out example to maintain our commitments will have a positive impact on those around us, even if we do not see it today.  (2) It is well worth the effort to avoid allowing the negative energy of bitterness to set in when our service goes unnoticed or the praise and recognition for the task goes to someone else.  Continue to transfer energy into serving and minimize the negative energy that can creep in when recognition or appreciation is non-existent.

When we maintain our commitment to serve those around us, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to have a positive impact in our world and especially those closest to us in our homes.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Upside in Uncertainty: Thursday, November 5, 2015

100% Certainty.  We all like a sense of stability and comfort in the very binary “yes or no” that comes with certainty.

If I work hard and build trust, I will succeed in building this business.

If I listen well and work hard on my marriage, my marriage will last.

If I study hard and listen well in class, I will get good grades in school.

If I save and invest wisely, I will have some money when I get too old to work productively.

If I eat well and exercise, I will avoid heart disease and diabetes.

The truth is that there are few things in life that happen with 100% certainty.  “Death and taxes” were the only ones that Ben Franklin could come up and I don’t think much has changed since wise old Ben wrote that truth.

With all this uncertainty, it turns out that we have a significant opportunity to build and strengthen our character as we effectively deal with the upside in uncertainty.character-creates-opportunity-2014-250-by-250px

Psychologists would tell us that the idea of uncertainty brings about a mix of fear, anxiety, and worry.  They would also tell us that 100% certainty in our expectations brings about a degree of comfort, but also opens a wide door towards complacency and taken things for granted.

Customers will always come back just like they did for the last two generations that ran this business

My spouse will always remain committed to our marriage

The company will always take care of its people

The greatest risk we have around things that we see as 100% certain is that we take them for granted and then wake up one day and customers are not coming back, our spouse’s bags are pack, and we are let go with a few week’s pay after giving years of service to a company.

The upside in uncertainty is that with a little anxiousness and concern about the future, we stand guard, we are honest about our weaknesses, we stay aware of our surroundings and we work on continual improvement…we take nothing for granted.

Life is full of change and uncertainty.  At each stage of life, whether school age years, early adulthood, young families, empty nesters, there is a fair amount of change and uncertainty.

When we begin to embrace the upside in uncertainty by trying to continually improve and taking few things for granted, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our hopes and dreams.


Character Creates Opportunity® – When We Were Children: Thursday, October 22, 2015

No, this is not an “old school” story about walking up hill in the snow both ways to school and how tough it was compared to today’s children.  Rather, it is a story about what we believe.

When we were children, we were “believers.”  We believed in the impossible and we believed it when others said we had great potential and could accomplish great things.  Sure, we also may have believed in the boogeyman and monsters under our bed, but we believed in our potential to do great things.

It may have been a parent teaching us how to ride a bike, shoot a basket, or finish a difficult math problem.  It may have been a coach preparing us for the big game or just a tough practice.  It may have been a friend who was the “adventurer” and helped us believe.  When we were children, someone helped us to believe we had unlimited potential.

There was a time when we believed it.  When we believed in ourselves to achieve great things.

Then something happened.

Someone told us we couldn’t do it and we believed their limitations.  We may have fallen short one too many times.  We may have grown callous to hope through time and experience.

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, we need to face the reality of what has impacted our ability to believe in ourselves and take the necessary steps to believe again.

When we strip away all the fluff, there is the reality of a few key areas that are at the foundation of how we became a non-believer:

  • Fear. We all carry with us some fear.  Fear of failure, humiliation, going hungry, of being alone, etc.  Fear unchecked can cause us to be unbelievers.  Fear as adults, most often resembles the monster under our bed.  Our fear of whatever, many times does not come about and if it does, it is rarely as worse as it seems…just like the monster under our bed.
  • Negativity. We finally gave in to the negative view that most often surrounds us.  Psychologists say it takes most of us about 5 positive, affirmations to overcome one negative opinion.  Often times, we have become overwhelmed by the negativity and slowly we moved down the path of no longer believing in our potential.  Like the character in The Sun Also Rises when asked how did you go bankrupt? “Gradually and then suddenly.”  Our emotional bank account just got too far in the negative that we have felt bankruptcy is our only option.
  • Choice. We make the choice to believe or not to believe.  We can pass the buck if want to, but the truth is, we own the choice and at some point, we chose not to believe.

Here are a few ideas to reconnect with our childhood and become believers again in order to reach our full potential:Possible

  • Faith. We all have faith.  Whether it is faith in God, ourselves, our family, the truth contained in the natural law of the harvest (we reap what we sow), we all have faith that the sun will come up this morning and we face a new day.  Don’t lose faith.
  • Positive reinforcement. Whether we describe it as counting our blessings, stopping to smell the roses, or taking some inventory of our past accomplishments, we need reminders of the positives in our life.  These small, consistent steps are our most effective way to pay off a huge deficit of negativity in our own emotional bank account.
  • The company we keep. Often times, we become like those around us.  Seek out the relationships that combine a view the world that is realistic and favors the side of positive and full of opportunity vs. negative and full of doom and gloom.  When our closest, committed relationships have a negative bent, maintain the effort to stay on the positive and our influence will be felt over time.

When we were children, we were believers.  It may be time for each of us to relearn the importance of believing in our potential to achieve the healthy goals we desire like strong, loving relationships, productive employment to make a positive difference in the marketplace and the home front, and those really big dreams that many times we have kept to ourselves.

As Teddy Roosevelt believed, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

It is time to become believers again and step back into the ring.

As we make the choice as adults to believe again, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a great impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Personal Side of Freedom: Thursday, October 15, 2015

We all appreciate freedom.

The freedom to come and go as we please.  The freedom to live according to a set of beliefs.  The freedom to pursue our hopes and dreams. The list could go on and on.

One person who understood freedom very well was the late Nelson Mandela (1918-2013, former President of South Africa).

On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela, after 27 years in prison, walked out of a South African prison into freedom, but he was not totally free.  It was not until he made one more decision that truly set him free.  “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Nelson Mandela

If we all reflected on the following questions, how would we respond?

  • Have we ever been misguided by a friend or family member?
  • Have we ever been treated unfairly in the workplace?
  • Have we ever put our heart and soul into a relationship that subsequently fell apart?
  • Have we ever had someone we trusted take advantage of that trust?

Chances are pretty good that we all would answer “yes” on many, if not all, of the questions above.

Given the affirmative response to many of these questions, an important reality we need to face is the level of bitterness and anger we still hold around those events and those individuals. To use Mandela’s concept, are we still in prison because of those feelings?

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, we need to ask ourselves an important question, “If I am holding on to bitterness and anger from the past, am I really free?”

This personal side of freedom is different than the 4th of July kind of freedom we experience.  This personal side of freedom is a result of the individual choice we make to leave bitterness behind and move on.

If we let bitterness and anger from the past define our future, we will not reach our full potential. Sunset moment

Here are just a few ideas to help us move towards the personal freedom we need to reach our full potential:

  • We all make mistakes. We have probably caused some pain on others we wish we had not.  Extend the same forgiveness and understanding we wish others would do for us.
  • It will happen again. Life is complicated and people react in different ways. We need to be careful that we don’t become disillusioned with expectations that life will be clean and nice.  Life is messy and complicated.  There will be misunderstandings and pain along the journey.
  • Bitterness and anger hold us back. Once we learn to forgive and move on, we will experience the benefits of being free from the anger of the past.  We will develop the “muscle memory” to forgive quickly, remove negative emotions, and apply ourselves fully to achieve our hopes and dreams.
  • We set an example for others to follow. The more we can demonstrate the ability to remove bitterness over past events, the more others we see our actions and follow…especially those closest to home that we hope can have the best foundation to reach their full potential.

As we make the choice to leave behind bitterness and anger from the unfortunate events of our past, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a great impact on those around us.