Character Creates Opportunity® – An Effective Pace: January 29, 2015

We rarely ever get the full story.  In our world of sound bites, summaries, and brief encounters, it is tough to fully grasp and appreciate the entire scope of someone’s experience.  As we navigate our way through life, this repeated exposure to the short story, often simplifying an experience as a success or failure, paints an unrealistic view of life’s journey.  The short story also creates a strong temptation to guide our thoughts by comparing ourselves to others. The result of this comparison mindset is that we encounter a series of emotional ups and downs as we compare ourselves to others and we risk falling short of our full potential.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we need to set a more effective pace to reach our full potential.

Steve “Pre” Prefontaine was one of the greatest middle and long-distance runners in history.  “Pre” once held the American record in seven different events from the 2,000 meters to the 10,000 meters.  Running for the University of Oregon in the early 1970s, he set numerous national records.  He had some great quotes about life and running.  One of his most memorable was describing his strategy to run a sub-4 minute mile.  He simply said, “You need to run the 1st lap under 1 minute, the 2nd lap under 1 minute, the 3rd lap under 1 minute, and the 4th lap under 1 minute.”

Steve Prefontaine set his own pace.

“Pre” was focused on giving his very best.  “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” He was not focused on comparisons to others.  He set his own goals and set his own pace.  Steve Prefontaine’s life ended tragically in a car accident at 24 years old, but his legacy lives on in so many aspiring runners around the world.

Our world continues to move at an accelerated pace of change and challenge.  David Borgess Run 2012  FINALAs we set out to build and strengthen our character in order to reach our full potential, there is tremendous value in setting our own pace through life’s journey and avoiding the comparison mindset.  Below are just a few thoughts on the benefits of setting our own pace:

  • Responsibility: Setting our own pace best positions us to take responsibility for our own decisions.  It is an effective way to avoid playing the blame game and minimizes the chance we may say, “Well, everyone else was doing it” or “Everyone else seems to give up when times get tough, so I thought it was ok.” Setting our own pace helps us to accept responsibility for our choices.
  • Intention: Life is too complicated for us to naively think we can reach our full potential by just “winging it.” Acting with intention to set our own pace, minimizes the potential disaster associated with just “winging it.”
  • Focus: Setting our own pace maintains the power and promise of focus. Just like the ox pulling a plow, we continue to plod along toward our goals.  We become less distracted by the changing scenes and opinions around us and we channel our strength around making progress down our path.
  • Embracing the Gift.  We are all unique.  Whether it is our DNA signature, the way we were raised, or the life we are experiencing today, we are unique.  Our uniqueness enhances our ability to have a real impact.  Setting our own pace enables us to embrace the gift of our own uniqueness.

Setting our own pace by principles like courage, vision, perseverance, and sacrifice will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to set our own pace and have a unique, positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Most Important Base of Operations: January 22, 2015

When I was a young infantry officer with the 101st Airborne Division, we always started a mission from a base of operations.  When we were on a small patrol, we would establish a patrol base to secure and then send small teams out for various missions.  On a much grander scale, we established and occupied Forward Operating Base Cobra, 90 kilometers inside Iraq during the First Gulf War.  As a young leader, it was very effective to have a home base.  The home base was secure (for the most part), it was where key updates on the enemy situation were provided, a new mission was disseminated, weapons and food were replenished.

Recent events across the globe and in our own country, consistently remind us of the challenging times we live in today.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important for us to maintain a base of operations to effectively deal with uncertainty and change.

During challenging times, we have a tendency to look to large groups or organizations for the “great ideas” or the foundation to deal with the challenges we face today.  Political leaders, leaders in education, business, churches, and community groups play an important part in supporting our ability, as individuals and as a society, to effectively deal with change and challenge.  However, the base of operations with the greatest potential to deal with change and challenge is the family.

The foundation of the family has the potential to be the most effective base of operations for support in dealing with a challenging world.  Family is where many first learn:

(1)    The value of education from a parent reading to a young child

(2)    The value of sacrifice by seeing a parent work in and/or outside the home to provide

(3)    The value of service by seeing a family member serve our nation, our community, or others in need

(4)    The value of compassion by seeing family gather around a sick loved one

(5)    The value of living an intentional life as we remember the legacy of grandparents and parents

Most teachers would agree that the critical factor in the growth and development of a student is not some new curriculum or assessment tool, it is family involvement.  When families care about the education of their children, they learn and grow at a much greater rate.

The same can be said about so many other aspects of society.  It is the foundation of family that helps minimize crime, poverty, and many of the ills of society.  It is the foundation of family that also ignites that first spark of innovation, dreams, and passion that set about a course for positive change in our world.

For all of us, it does not matter what kind of home base of operations we came from or what condition our family is in today.  We cannot rewrite the past.

What matters most is what we do going forward to build a strong base of operations to help our family deal with change and challenge.

We will always remain a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a parent or grandparent, a spouse or ex-spouse.  The foundation of family will always be with us.

As we build and strengthen our character, an important question we need to continually ask ourselves is, “What are we doing to establish an effective base of our operations within our family?”

Here are a few ideas:

(1)    Be Intentional.  If we “wing it,” we will fall short of our potential.  The risks are too great. We need to be intentional about our thoughts, decisions, and actions within the home.

(2)    Find Time.  Time is a great asset to the family.  For many families, evenings provide an opportunity for greater connection or greater disconnection.  We need to be careful in this day of personal electronics that we all don’t “go to our separate corners” and miss an important chance to connect in the evenings.

(3)    Create Conversation.  Just talking is a great start for many of us.  Taking it to the next level would be having a conversation to truly understand the concerns of the day and be a listening ear to a voice that needs to be heard.  We need to create to a forum for conversation and be prepared to listen.

(4)    Build Hope.  Our world is full of challenges and not enough encouragement.  The base of operations for a family should be the source of hope for a better tomorrow and a bright light on the path to reach our dreams.  The family should be that one point we can all count on to ensure hope is alive as we continue our journey.Multl Generation Family Walking Along Autumn Path With Dog

As we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions based on principles, like understanding, patience, and perseverance we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for our family to be a strong base of operations for us to deal with change and challenge in our lives.

Character Creates Opportunity® – What Do You See? January 15, 2015

There is little doubt that our world continues to grow in complexity, intensity, and uncertainty.  Occasionally, we may hear someone say, “Oh how I wish for the good old days.”

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character in order to reach our full potential, there are always points in time when we just need a good reminder of truth.  As our world deals with continued extremist activity, our global financial markets continue to be tested, and the complexity of day to day challenges in our homes and communities continue to grow, this is one of those times for a good reminder of truth.

The truth to be reminded about is that we become what we think about…we become what we “see” in our mind’s eye.  Whether we subscribe to the teachings of some famous personal development guru, some enlightened individual, or we believe in the Book of Proverbs that says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” our take-away is the same.  Regardless of our reference point, the truth remains, we become what we “see” in our mind’s eye.

We don’t need a PhD in psychology from a prestigious university, be a member of the 1% or the 99% in terms of financial wealth, or sit in a corner office to understand the simple, timeless, and universal truth that we become what we see in our mind’s eye.  We could reference numerous academic studies, cite quotes from individuals who have had real impact in our world, or think back along our own experience, and the conclusion would be the same…what I dwell on in my mind, so much so that it becomes as clear as day, I become.

As we build and strengthen our character, an important question we need to ask ourselves is, “What do I ‘see’ today?”

In our own mind’s eye, not in the view of a spouse, a parent, a boss, a teacher, a TV broadcaster, a mentor, but what do we “see” in our own view?

Do we see adversity that we cannot overcome?  Do we see relationships that are best to be broken instead of repaired and strengthened?


Do we see an opportunity to rise above?  Do we see challenge and a view of overcoming?  Do we see the reality of close relationships struggling in the near term, but in the long view, see love, affection, and togetherness?

Do we see a business with present-day challenges, but opportunity on the horizon?  Do we see communities divided, but a pathway to cooperation and support?

Or…Do we just see dark clouds all around us?

Each one of us has the freedom to choose what we see in our own mind’s eye.  What do you ‘see’ today? Viewpoint

In this present time of challenge in our world and in our homes, it would be helpful to remember the simple truth that we become what we see in our mind’s eye and ensure our lens is adjusted to see our present challenges as an opportunity to overcome and reach our full potential as individuals, families, and communities across the globe.

As we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions based on principles, like patience, perseverance, hope, and faith, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to create the future we desire and rise up to reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Ask the Question: January 8, 2015

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, today’s topic is on the importance of asking questions that can help us learn, grow, and reach our full potential.

Have you even been in a situation where you had no clue about what someone was talking about or no understanding about a concept that a close group of friends or colleagues were discussing?  Most of us have had an experience or two like that and we will most likely have more as we continue along in our lives.

We have all heard the old saying, “there are no stupid questions.” However, we have all experienced a few times when that has not always been the case and so our tendency is to keep quiet, muddle through, and hope we won’t look like a complete fool in the discussion.

The problem with keeping quiet and muddling through is that without asking questions to gain understanding, we don’t add “new tools to our toolbox,” our growth is hindered, and we fall short of reaching our full potential.

We learn and grow when we move beyond our current borders. One very simple and effective way to grow is to have the courage to ask a question when we don’t understand.

Recently, there has been a great deal of published research on the benefits of asking questions that I hope will encourage all of us to ask when we don’t understand.

One conclusion from the research is that when we ask questions to better understand a topic, we learn (not too surprising).  However, there were two additional conclusions that I hope will encourage all of us to overcome the fear of asking questions: (1) When we ask people a question about a topic or idea they are discussing, we are actually providing them with some encouragement and a boost of confidence.  People feel better about themselves when they are genuinely asked a question from someone who wants to learn.  Encouragement and confidence…what a nice gift we can give someone just by asking a question.  (2) In turn, because that person feels affirmed and a little more confident about themselves, they actual think more highly of the person who asked them the question.Ask a Question

In essence, when we genuinely ask questions to learn; (1) We learn (2) We encourage others and (3) People end up thinking more highly of us, which could open doors for future opportunities for growth and raise the bar on our potential.

So the next time we are involved in a discussion around an idea or a concept we don’t understand, stop and ask a question…every time.  We will be headed in the right direction.

When we develop the courage to ask a question, we build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to learn, grow, and reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Learn & Grow: Thursday, January 1, 2015

The year-end holiday season is traditionally a wonderful time to connect with friends and family and temporarily “unplug” from some of the rigors of earning a living in today’s competitive marketplace. In addition, despite the wonderful time of connection with those closest to us, there usually is a degree of stress with trying to finish year end projects, searching for that perfect gift, or preparing for the holiday parties for family and friends.

As we continue on this journey to build and strengthen our character, the purpose of today’s blog is to encourage each of us at some point during the holiday season to spend some time reflecting on the past year and identifying some areas to grow in the New Year.

It is in the reflection on past events that we find a sharp contrast between two very distinct patterns of thinking that have a significant impact on our efforts to reach our full potential.

The two distinct patterns of thinking can be summarized with the following: (1) Individuals that view experiences as an opportunity to grow and learn versus (2) Individuals that view the outcome of experiences as defining moments on who they are and what they can or cannot become.

These two patterns of thinking play out in school through (1) The student who works hard and receives a “C” in science class and concludes, “I am no good in science and I better figure out something non-science related to do in life.” Compared to (2) The student who also receives a “C” in science class, but responds by speaking with the teacher to learn from the mistakes and grow his/her understanding of the material. One student viewed themselves based on the grade they received versus one student who viewed the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.

These two patterns of thinking play out in the workforce when (1) A sales representative misses a monthly or yearly sales quota and doubts his/her ability, perhaps blames the shortfall on customer buying patterns, the marketplace, etc. Compared to (2) A sales representative who misses quota and is seeking to better understand where they may not have targeted the right customers, may not have developed an effective sales message, or failed to follow-up on some lead.  One viewed themselves as a failure and the other viewed the situation as an opportunity to get better.

These two patterns of thinking play out in the home when the challenges of maintaining a marriage come into play (and the challenges of marriage will always come into play).  (1) A spouse who is quick to blame the other for shortcomings, the mistakes of the past, and use those highly flammable terms like “never” and “always.”  Compared to (2) A spouse who is quick to identify where they may have failed to listen, understand, and act more appropriately.  One view sees the struggle as an opportunity to grow the relationship and the other view sees the struggle as another reason to reject the marriage and walk away.

Life is full of challenges, successes, and failures. Driving on an empty road towards the setting sun There is no “Easy Street.”  Throughout our journey of life, if we can focus on growth and learning versus letting our successes and failures define us, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and have a positive impact on those around us.

Happy New Year!