Character Creates Opportunity® – What to Believe? July 16, 2015

Whether it is assessing students in the classroom, employees at work, or relationships at home, there is a consistent and important debate that happens around what it takes to reach one’s full potential.

A great deal of the debate revolves around the idea of nature or nurture.  Basically, is my potential governed by some hard-wiring at birth or is my collective life experience the major driver of my potential.

This debate, in some form or fashion, has been around for thousands of years and will continue to be carried out by wise and well-intentioned people throughout our lives.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, in our daily lives we come to realize that our potential is neither about our nature or the nurturing we did or did not receive.  Our potential is a product of the choices we make today.

The choices we make on what we believe about ourselves and how we respond to various situations are the major drivers of reaching our full potential.

However……It is incredibly important that we gain understanding about some of the deep seated beliefs we have about ourselves that may be concealed from the busy day to day reality of our lives.

The enclosed video link is one of the most viewed videos on YouTube having been viewed over 65 million times.  It touches on the very foundation of what we believe about ourselves.  Even though it is delivered from a female perspective, the essence of the message covers both genders.

Whether it is the reality that we are more beautiful than we think, stronger than we think, more capable than we think, or more helpful than we think, what we believe about ourselves matters in our desire to reach our full potential.

There are two helpful action steps in addressing the reality that we all have some deep seated beliefs that over the years may go unnoticed.

  • Tell someone they are more beautiful than they think, stronger than they think, more capable than they think, or more helpful than they think. The reality is that we all could use the encouragement and we are just the right person to step up and fulfill the need.
  • On a personal level, our unique life situation will at some points on our journey face the reality than no one may be around to remind us that we are better than we think. In those times, we need to rally hope from a source like our memory of someone who believed in us, our faith, a reminder of our past ability to overcome, in order to muster the strength to keep moving forward.

As we make the choice to believe we are more than we think and encourage others that they are more than they believe, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential help others do the same.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Small Acts Matter: July 9, 2015

In our consumer driven marketplace, it is sometimes difficult to avoid the big sales pitch being made by products or services that promise to change us for the better.  Whether it is the latest diet plan bringing meals to our front door, a fitness craze that seems to work for everyone, a proven business building program or perhaps that relationship improvement program that can solve our most struggling personal relationships.

We all, at some level, desire to make forward progress in the important areas of our lives.  Discontent with our present situation is always the first step in bringing about positive change.  Psychologists will often say that we really only work effectively to bring about change when our level of frustration and pain with our present situation reaches a level that makes the thought of trying something new seem not so bad.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is a reality check around bringing about significant positive change in our lives that we all could use an occasional reminder of every now and then.

The reality is that both academic research and our own personal experience would remind us that bringing about significant positive change in our lives is not about the next biggest, greatest idea, it is about small, consistent acts over time that lead to significant milestones being accomplished.

Small acts matter in bringing about major change in our lives.Father-Instructing-Son

The biggest thing we can do to bring about positive and meaningful change in the important areas of life is to take small steps in the right direction.

As the well-known USC professor and psychologist (more affectionately known as the Italian Love Doctor), Leo Buscaglia (1924-1998) once said, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

The same principle that Buscaglia described in his research that was the cornerstone to improving relationships, mainly that small acts matter, is the same principle that applies to other important areas of our lives and personal development.

As we all have the desire to bring about positive change in important areas of our lives, while we wait and hope for the next great idea to energize our efforts, we should begin to take the initiative to start small and take a few steps in the right direction.  In the end, regardless of the next big idea, it will always be the small acts that matter in sustaining positive change in our lives.

Here are a few ideas on small acts that matter in some important areas:

Money and savings:  Put aside a small amount each paycheck for that rainy day fund.  It does not matter the amount, it is the small act of saving consistently that matters.  The old penny jar we had as kids can always be a good place to start.

Relationship struggles:  Perhaps it is time to simply shut up and listen with the intent to understand the other person.  We see the world as we are, not as it is.  The small act that matters in relationships is to focus more on understanding than on being understood.

Diet and exercise: While we continue to buy the next great diet and exercise plan (the consumer does drive most of our economy so at least we are supporting a good cause with these purchases) we should start with a small step in the right direction.  Perhaps we can start by brushing our teeth after dinner as opposed to just before bed as that has been shown to reduce the mid-evening munchies which are so problematic to our waistlines.  Small acts matter in bringing about big results.

Pursuing a really big dream beyond our present circumstance:  Spend 15 uninterrupted minutes in the quiet of the morning or late evening thinking, dreaming, and planning.  We become what we think about, so the small act of clearly “seeing” that really big dream is an important one.  Taking action should always follow at least a little bit of thinking and planning to be most productive.

Moving forward in bringing about positive change in our lives will always be grounded on the small acts that matter.  As we decide to implement a few small acts that matter, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to overcome resistance to change and reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Forgotten Freedom: July 2, 2015

The upcoming 4th of July holiday weekend celebrating the birth of the United States and the freedom we enjoy is a great time for our nation, our families and our local communities.  Taking the time to reflect on the blessings of freedom and the sacrifices made on the altar of freedom to keep us free is an important part of our national holiday.

Our nation has a great history.  Relative to many other nations in the world, we have a relatively young history.  In full transparency, we can openly discuss the ups and downs and the pains and gains of freedom in our nation and our impact around the world.Flag

Just as our nation has its own history, each one of us has our own history and story behind our lives.  Our own personal history very much shapes who we are and our view of the world.  We may not be as open and transparent with our full life’s history like our nation’s history is on display, but just like our nation, some of our history is painful and some of it is cause for great celebration.

As we continue on the journey to build and strengthen our character, we all need an important reminder about the most forgotten freedom.  This forgotten freedom is the essence of the foundation of life itself.  This forgotten freedom transcends a nation’s borders, encompasses all people of all faiths and all walks of life.

The forgotten freedom is the freedom we all possess to choose our response in any given situation.

The freedom to choose our response is the initial gateway to reach our full potential.

The forgotten freedom is not listed on a formal declaration of independence, declared on some approved political document, or sanctioned by some governing body.  The freedom to choose our response in any given situation is provided to all people regardless of place of birth, economic status, race, or religion.

Many times in life, we will use our personal history as a reason for our response, whether effective or ineffective.  We often times will blame our past as a rationale for poor choices and outcomes that fell short of expectations.

The timeless, universal, and self-evident truth found in the forgotten freedom reminds us that we are responsible for the choices we make today, regardless of our history.

When we see ourselves as free to choose our response in any situation, there are several positive outcomes that result from our choice:

  • Restrictions are minimized: We are no longer bound to the negative side of our personal history that may hinder our growth. The painful comments of others in our past, the expectations of others that may box us into a certain way of life, or the negative voice inside our head that creates a huge barrier to our future growth become less restrictive.
  • A new source of energy is unleashed: There is energy contained in the freedom to choose. When we see ourselves as unshackled from a painful past, the limitations based on the expectations of others, we experience the full energy of freedom. As Moshe Dayan, the military and political leader of Israel during some difficult times in the 20th Century said, “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.”
  • A positive example is set for others: When we live a life that demonstrates to others the freedom to choose a more effective response even in the most difficult situations, we will have a positive impact on others.  The example we set will impact those around us, especially those closest to home.

It is not easy breaking free of the confines of our past, but as we continue to exercise this most forgotten freedom, the freedom to choose our response regardless of our situation, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and be a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – A More Effective Question: June 25, 2015

“Did you close the sale?”  “Did you pass the test?”  “Did you win the game?” “Did you complete the project?” “Did you make any money on this idea?”

These are all practical and meaningful questions commonly asked in the home, business, and community.

When our children were younger we would at some point over dinner or before bedtime ask them, “What did you learn today?” When they were young, the answers were filled with new observations of the world, facts from school, and insights from friends.  For some reason, asking that to our now teenagers and college students gets a glare like we have two heads or something.

However, one of the more thoughtful, caring, and effective questions we can ask ourselves and others is, “What did you learn?”

As we look to continue to build and strengthen our character, reinforcing the importance of individual and shared learning will enable all of us to continue along a path to reach our full potential.

There is no doubt that the task needs to be completed, money needs to be made, the student needs to pass the test, and winning leads to championships.

By reprioritizing our discussion to first ask about learning and second ask about the specific result, we accomplish several critical elements to ensure we remain on a productive path to reach our full potential.  Emphasizing learning before accomplishment helps to:Points of View

  • Reinforce personal growth and continual, personal growth is the foundation for building a brighter future for us as individuals and for our family, business, and community.
  • Lessen the risk of getting arrogant with great accomplishments while bolstering our ability to remain humble…we always have more to learn, no matter how accomplished we have become.
  • Demonstrate to others we care more about them than the awards on their wall. Ensuring others know that we care far more about them than what they have accomplished, we will keep the door open to genuine, healthy, and meaningful relationships.
  • Encourage others to pursue their dreams rather than live in a box defined by the expectations of others. Moving out from under the expectations of others will enable all of us to take greater responsibility for our choices, more fully realize our strengths and weaknesses, develop clarity around our true purpose, and live a life with fewer regrets in the end.

As we continue to place an emphasis on learning, we will build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to continue to grow and reach our full potential and be an encouraging voice to those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Prevention: June 18, 2015

We have all heard of the guidance provided by Ben Franklin with the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The clarity and truth brought forth in that simple statement can be applied to various areas of our lives such as our health, relationships, work, and community.

As we look to continue to build and strengthen our character, an important area to consider is not only that we understand the concept of prevention, but that we have very practical steps to take to ensure we are dedicating a significant amount of effort on the side of prevention.

The relatively easy approach to prevention can most certainly be found in regards to our health:  Eat a well-balanced diet, get regular exercise, sleep 7-8 hours a day, schedule annual wellness check-ups with a physician, and proceed with the rule of thumb around moderation in all areas.  The basic tenets of maintaining physical health have been relatively unchanged over the years.  Actually executing on a preventative health program is another story, but the basic plan is straight-forward.

The more challenging area in prevention is taking the practical steps necessary to maintain health in our relationships.Graduation Photo

Life, despite its complexity, is still predominately about relationship to others.  Whether those relationships are with family, friends, community, or the workplace, we are in relationship with others.

What does an “ounce of prevention” look like in maintaining health in relationship?

Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Keep Commitments: Actually doing what we say we are going to do, is a simple, but massive step forward in maintaining health in relationships. “I will be there on time” “I will clean up this mess” “I will support you no matter what.” When we fall short too many times on our promises, we will need more than a pound of cure to re-establish health again.
  • Focus on Serving: Serving the needs of others on a consistent basis has been shown throughout recorded history as being one of the most critical elements to maintaining health in relationships.  Our personal intent to serve others rather than waiting to be served will keep us on the most effective path toward healthy relationships.
  • Sacrifice: Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.  Sacrificing our selfish instincts in favor of supporting others, demonstrates to others that we recognize life is not all about us.  Setting a personal example of sacrifice is contagious and helps to form a strong foundation of health in relationships.
  • Physical Connection – Touch: There has been a significant amount of research done on the positive impact that a simple physical touch can have on maintaining health in a relationship. The physical connection made with the touch on a shoulder, the holding of a hand, or a genuine hug builds health into relationships.

Life is continuing to grow in complexity and intensity.  In order to be able to sustain our efforts for the long haul, using “ounces of prevention” instead of “pounds of cure” will help us stretch our limited resources to ensure we have optimal impact.

As we make choices to focus daily effort on prevention to maintain health, we will build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to sustain optimal physical health, to build healthy relationships, and to head down a path to build a legacy with few, if any, regrets.

 

 

Character Creates Opportunity® – Baby Steps: June 11, 2015

We have all experienced that feeling of being overwhelmed when we see a huge task in front of us like an unexpected termination of employment, a deep break in a once trusting relationship, a financial shortfall that came on quickly, a sudden change in health, or probably the most challenging, when we sense that still small voice that says, “This is your purpose and passion, now change direction and go for it.”

Psychologists would tell us that most of us, at that initial point in time of feeling overwhelmed, take a quick turn toward the negative with thoughts like: “This is going to hurt.” “Why does this always happen to me?” “I am a little too old for another change.”  “I am not sure I can handle this.”

First stepsMany of us have had the thrill of watching a baby walk for the first time. It is a time of massive change for the child from crawling to now walking.  There is excitement, cheering from a crowd of onlookers, and that sparkle of accomplishment in the eyes of a child when they stumble through those first few steps.  Very little fear, there is mostly wonder and excitement of the new found mobility.

As we look to continue to build and strengthen our character, an important area to consider is how we deal with that seemingly overwhelming task we now face.  When fear and self-doubt creep in, what do we do?

It would not be a gross overstatement to say there is never an immediate removal of self-doubt or worry from any difficult situation.  However, it has been proven that starting small habits, baby steps if you will, are more powerful than any fear we have in dealing with change. Moving consistently, in some small way, toward our desired direction is an incredibly powerful tool to overcome.

If we have a struggling personal conflict that is building a wall between us and another person, start with a smile (or at least remove the frown)…every day, little by little, and then bring forth the courage to break the silence.

If we are afraid of a career change to finally do something we are passionate about, start with quietly building a small plan, take baby steps with the plan, every day, little by little to build confidence that our dream can come true.

If we are afraid to take a stand on an important issue and speak up, start with writing a small “note to self,” and then speak up a little to someone we trust, little by little to then speak each and every time the opportunity arises.

Our baby steps are powerful enough to overcome any fear.

As we choose to take some baby steps in the right direction, we will build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to overcome our fears and reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Are We There Yet? June 4, 2015

Are we there yet?  We are all very familiar with the question that comes at some point during a long drive.  Depending on how long the drive or how much stress has been injected into the preparations for the drive, there will be a wide array of follow-on responses to that simple question.

So often we attribute that question to a young child on a road trip.  However, many of us as adults may find ourselves asking a similar question on our journey of life.

When will we be happily married?

When will our children be able to stand on their own?

When will I be in a stable and fruitful career?

When will we finally have peace in our home and community?

When will I finally be done with getting an education?

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, how we cope with the adult version of the question “are we there yet?” will help us grow our joy and peace as we journey along to reach our full potential.

We all celebrate the accomplishment of significant milestones.  The awarding of a graduation diploma, the winning of a championship, the anniversary of a relationship milestone like 25 years of marriage, 30 years of dedicated employment, and the list could go on.  At the time of crossing the threshold of accomplishment, there is joy, celebration, and some peaceful relief in knowing we finally made it.

As time inevitably marches quickly through the threshold of any specific accomplishment, many times we forget the graduation speech, we misplace the thoughtful anniversary card, and we forget the leftover cake in the company lunchroom.

The reality about what remains with us after the accomplishment and brief celebration pass, is not the celebration, it is the memories and lessons learned along the journey that remain.

We remember the courage and strength it took to study all night for numerous exams to ensure we passed that tough course.  Those memories act as a rallying cry to strengthen our character to ensure we can rise above again when we are faced with another challenge down the road.

We remember the pain and the joy of years spent in a close relationship like marriage and those reminders help give us perspective when the next jolt to the foundation of a close relationship comes in the future…and it will come in the future.  It is that perspective which will help to carry us through the inevitable dark time in our committed relationships.

We remember the business lessons learned from good and bad decisions we made in the marketplace.  It is the memory of these lessons that gives us confidence to re-enter the marketplace and attempt to grow a business again.

Setting clear goals to be accomplished is a critical part of reaching our full potential.  However, we need to ensure we maintain the perspective that goals are simply milestones to gauge our progress on the long journey.  We will inevitably pass through those goals and will need to continue to set further milestones down the road.Driving on an empty road towards the setting sun

The energy needed to reach our full potential in a long and fruitful life does not simply come from accomplishing goals.  The renewable energy for life is in leveraging the memories and lessons learned along the journey.  This renewable energy will ensure we consistently raise the bar on our ability to positively impact those around us.

As we continue to maintain our perspective when answering the adult version of “are we there yet?” and we focus on learning along our journey, we will build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® to accomplish the next big goal or milestone.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Silent Temptation: May 28, 2015

Our world is full of temptations.  The temptations of fame, fortune, and friends with benefits are all around us.  In addition, there is a world of temptations to relieve the pain of physical ailments, the emotional trauma of relationship struggles, and the anxiety developed out of today’s hyper-stressed environment to have it all.

Many of these temptations and the individuals who get overwhelmed by them are well documented in the media or in kitchen table conversations in our homes.

However, the most damaging temptation is the one we keep to ourselves.  The silent temptation that is the genesis of so much heartache, pain, and personal struggle is the temptation to compare ourselves to others.  In our own silent world of comparing ourselves to others, we lose our own identity.  Over time, we struggle to find direction and we often miss our true purpose and passion to reach our full potential.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we address what can be called the greatest temptation we will face, the silent temptation to compare ourselves to others.

Despite how many billions of people inhabit the earth, there is none like you or me.  Whether we believe in the scientific rationale, a faith in an all-mighty God, or both, there is no denying the fact that we are uniquely created.  There are no two people in this world that are the same.

It is not just physical differences, but our experiences and how we see the world as a result of those experiences, which makes us unique as individuals.  A practical example is to look at individuals growing up in the same household who experienced many of the same things.  There is often some major differences in the points of view between the first born, a middle child, and the youngest.

There is no value in making a judgment of better or worse about these experiences and points of view.  There is tremendous value in acknowledging and valuing our own individual differences and the differences of those around us.

When we give in to the silent temptation of comparing ourselves to others, we begin to diminish the strength of our uniqueness.

  • When we silently judge our self-worth based on a relative scale of those around us, we diminish the strength of our uniqueness.
  • When we silently rate our home-life based on what we see in the homes of others, we diminish the strength our unique family environment.
  • When we silently assess our career based on others, we diminish the strength our unique learning journey.

Our greatest risk in this world is that we fall short of our potential.  Becoming overwhelmed with the temptation to compare ourselves to others is the gateway to a life that falls short of our potential.Jon walking off football field

When we give in to the silent temptation to compare ourselves to others, we chase a moving target as opposed to remaining fixed on reaching our own unique potential.  We would be much more effective in setting a bar high based on our own individual goals and then working hard to achieve our full potential.

As we continue to exercise the discipline to “be me and not you,” we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Fortune: May 21, 2015

There is truth in the old adage, “the fortune is in the follow up.”

It does not matter whether we are talking about closing a sale, strengthening an important relationship, sticking with an exercise routine, or building a strong community, it is in the follow up where we find the fortune.

We have probably all had the experience of a rush of motivation and positive energy after a great initial encounter:

  • A great first meeting with a potential new client
  • A motivating speech by a political figure or business leader
  • A weekend retreat focused on strengthening a close relationship
  • An “altar call” moment in our faith journey
  • An infomercial product we purchased for healthy eating and exercise

The reality is that when that initial motivation fades, instead of reaping a fortune in the follow up, we go bankrupt due to lack of follow up.

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, the principle of remaining committed in the follow up will create opportunity for us to reach our full potential.character-creates-opportunity-2014-250-by-250px

If we all do an honest self-assessment across important endeavors in our lives, I am sure we can find a few teachable moments where we failed to build a fortune due to lack of follow-up.  I can recall failing to follow up on a few specific customer commitments and areas of service outside the home.  In addition, the real painful shortfalls are those that have occurred closer to home.  Perhaps some of you can also relate to a few times where you missed the fortune because of a lack of follow up.

Here are just a few thoughts on building a fortune:

  1. Accept the reality that having a meaningful impact on any endeavor in life is contained in the follow up, not in the start.
  2. Any follow up is better than no follow up. Taking smaller steps at a slower pace will still produce a meaningful impact.
  3. Unfortunately, we will all still have a few experiences in the future where we will miss out on a fortune due to lack of follow up. We should not be dismayed.  We should acknowledge the shortfall and just keep climbing back in the ring to try again.
  4. Given the reality of #3 above, we should demonstrate some mercy on those closest to us when they fail to follow up as I am sure we would appreciate the same treatment when we inevitably fall short sometime down the road.

When we consistently follow up after a motivating initial encounter, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to build a fortune in our relationships, our businesses, and our communities.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Three Elements: May 14, 2015

Our world continues to grow in complexity, intensity and uncertainty.  Often times, the challenges before us seem increasingly more difficult to address whether it is building a competitive edge in a global marketplace, maintaining peace and security in our communities, or getting the time and attention to guide and support those individuals we care about most.

Despite the growing complexity in our world, there have been three elements to building a strong foundation that have endured the test of time to help us more effectively address the challenges we face in our world.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we can have a positive impact on all three elements.

The three elements to build a strong foundation to more effectively address the challenges in our world are the following:

Family

There has been a tremendous amount of research done on the perils that result with the break-up of the family unit.  ThankfulnessFamilies may come in a few different flavors in our world today, but the basic principles of having a “home” where people feel love, support, safety, and commitment is an incredibly solid foundation of which positive impact can occur in our world, no matter what the challenges we face.

As we continue to guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions in the “home” by principles like commitment, loyalty, and grace, we build and strengthen our character and our character creates opportunity to strengthen our family to more effectively address the challenges we face in our world.

Education

Applying effort to continue to learn and grow in school, the workplace, the home, and our community is critical to effectively addressing the growing complexity in our world.  Education does not end with graduation day.  In many times, our real education is just beginning.  When we refuse to learn and grow with comments like, “that is just the way I am,” we set ourselves up to have limited positive impact on those around us.

As we continue to guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles like understanding, humility, and respect, we build and strengthen our character and our character creates opportunity to stay educated and more effectively address the challenges we face in our world.

Economic Opportunity

There is tremendous honor by fulfilling our duty to get out of bed and go to work.  That “work” may have us remain in the home, travel to an office, defend our freedom, dig a ditch, or aid the hurting.  Regardless of the type of work, work builds and strengthens our character.

There are times in the economic cycle of free markets and in certain communities, where there seems to be limited economic opportunity.  However, even in the darkest times, we should be reminded of the reality that Thomas Edison shared a long time ago, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

As we continue to guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles like perseverance, sacrifice, and hope, we build and strengthen our character and our character creates opportunity for us to work to the best of our abilities and more effectively address the challenges we face in our world.

There is limited value in hoping for a more simple and predictable world.  A more productive use of our time and effort should be towards building a solid foundation to address the realities of our world today.

As we focus effort on the three elements of family, education, and economic opportunity, we will help to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to build a strong foundation to more effectively address the complexity of our world today.