Character Creates Opportunity® – An Effective Combination: Thursday, January 28, 2016

This seems to be the season of bold, confident plans and predictions.  In the current political campaigns, we certainly see confidence displayed in plans and the direction of a particular candidate.  In the global economy, we see a series of confident predictions of innovations that will change our lives and also the dire predictions of the burden of debt that will drag the economy into a recession.  We seem to be in a public environment that thrives on boldness and confidence. 

These demonstrations of bravado may work well on the TV screen to drive top ratings. However, there is a missing ingredient to this public posturing.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we don’t want to miss an important element that is absent in these public forums.  The missing ingredient is authenticity:  The courage to display a real and genuine sense to admit that things rarely turn out according to our well thought out plans.  There are always unexpected variables to encounter, bigger than planned obstacles, and changes in conditions we never thought would have happened.  

Living an authentic life, combined with a commitment to stay the course in pursuit of our goals, is an effective combination as we continue on our journey to reach our full potential.   

Authentic personalities are hard to find on the TV screen, in the newspapers, or on the internet.  However, authenticity is a critical element to provide the foundation for long term health in our most important personal relationships.

Here are a few suggestions on building authenticity in our relationships that matter most:

  • Share not just victories, but also defeats. There is a natural bias for people to tune-out the conversation when it revolves around how great we are, but there is a natural interest to listen when we open up about times we fell short. There is a great deal of learning that can be shared when we describe the tough times of life.
  • Face the reality that we are not perfect. Hint:  Others know that truth, so we should be ok with admitting it ourselves.  Perfection is an unattainable goal. 
  • Demonstrate an unwavering commitment to stay the course in the direction of our purpose. This demonstrated commitment despite the ups and downs and our imperfections will be an example for others to follow. Authenticity combined with commitment is an effective combination for life.

We all play a series of roles in life.  Whether those roles are in the workplace, the home front, the community, or other areas of service, being real and genuine will help us reach our potential in the important relationships connected to these roles.Authentic      

Striving to live the authentic life with those closest to us is worth the effort and brings about a number of positive outcomes:

  1. We prepare others for the reality of life. There are ups and downs and many failures along the way to reaching out goals.  Preparation for that reality helps minimize the time people may stay “down” when the tough times hit, and the tough times will hit.
  2. Authenticity is contagious with those closest to us. When we display the courage to “be real” in our close relationships, we encourage others to take the same step.  Our efforts will help to minimize the amount of “masking” of pain and anxiety that is so prevalent in our world today.  The US Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended that every adult should be screened for depression as part of an annual check-up with their physician.  They did not come to this recommendation lightly, but there was an overwhelming amount of evidence that people are hurting and working hard to conceal the pain.  Being authentic with those we care about most may encourage them to open up and seek help rather than facing a struggle alone.
  3. In times of trouble, people return to those they believe can relate to their situation. Being willing to share openly the pain and the joys of a full life with our relationships that matter most will help to remind others that our door is always open to help with an ear to listen and experience to relate to the struggles of life.

As we become intentional about living an authentic life combined with a steadfast commitment to keep moving forward in our journey, we will 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 Real Concern: Thursday, January 21, 2016

The statisticians would tell us that after three weeks into the New Year, most of us begin to see those New Year’s resolution fade away and become lost and forgotten.  It is not so much that we already reached success or failure, but we basically just stopped caring and moved on.

Measuring success or failure in any endeavor is important.  However, as we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, a real concern is to address apathy when it creeps into our family, our personal and professional growth and our community…when we just don’t care anymore and don’t get engaged, set goals or get after achieving them. 

The real concern in life is not that we fell short of our goals or faced repeated failure in our attempts to achieve.  The real concern is that we just “checked out” in the major areas of life and just stopped caring.

Apathy rears its ugly head in a number of ways and in a variety of dimensions in our lives:Thoughtful female

  • “I am just burned out” maybe the way apathy appears from a career perspective. We get tired of the bureaucracy and red tape of an organization and we just grin and bear it until retirement or something better comes along.  It can also appear in the entrepreneur world when we just grow numb to the concerns of cash flow and bankruptcy risk.
  • “I am just tired of being miserable and unhappy” maybe the way apathy appears in our closest relationships. “You are now on your own to learn the hard way” maybe the way apathy appears in dealing with a rebellious child.
  • “It is beyond repair” maybe the way apathy appears in the challenges we face in our communities. When the challenges become so daunting because of the complexity created by the break-down of the family, generational poverty, lack of positive role models, ineffective public and private interventions, that we just check out with the general loss of hope because of the enormity of the problem.

Throughout our journey of life, we will all face moments when apathy enters our mindset.  Here are a few considerations to address the challenge:

  1. Recognize it. Be attune to our own thoughts and perceptions to when we sense ourselves slipping into “I just don’t care anymore.”
  2. Place a reality check on hopes and dreams. Being on the brink of “I just don’t care anymore” forces us to ask the big questions in life like purpose, goals, and what really matters. It gives us a chance to gain perspective on our own desires, clarifies needs vs. wants, and helps prioritize what is really important that we need to commit to doing.   
  3. Take small steps in the direction we need to go with the perspective that the real meaningful and important things in life are achieved on a long, slow journey. Close relationships and service to a cause greater than our own is never captured in a get rich quick scheme.  

Our character, that internal voice that guides our thoughts, decisions, and actions can be a strong defense against apathy.  As we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles like perseverance, compassion, understanding, and commitment, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to continue on the journey to reach our full potential.


Character Creates Opportunity® – Bouncing Back: Thursday, January 14, 2016

Well, I guess we did not win the lottery last night.  Now what do we do?

Well, I guess our plans did not come together like we had hoped.  Now what do we do?

Well, I guess our plans to retire after 30 years with the company ended at year 15 with a downsizing exercise.  Now what do we do?

Well, I guess our dream of a quiet neighborhood ended when the neighbor’s grandson got the house.  Now what do we do?

Well, I guess our plan for “happily ever after” is not looking so good.  Now what do we do?

Well, I guess our plans for a care-free retirement ended when the kids moved back in.  Now what do we do?

Well, I guess our plans to hand down a great family business ended when the “supercenter” came to town.  Now what do we do?

The reality of our day to day lives is that many things don’t come together according to plan.  Set backTo pull from the wisdom of Ben Franklin, it is really only death and taxes that we can count on.

Resilience is a character trait defined as the ability to bounce back after a set-back.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, building resilience into our personal skill-set would be a most valuable endeavor to reach our full potential.

How do we handle a set-back?  Do we take our ball and go home, fold up our tents and walk away, or do we pick ourselves up, adjust our plans with the new set of information and get back after the goal?

Here are a few things to consider in helping to build and strengthen our resilience:

  1. We are not the only one whose plans fell off the rails and we encountered a near term failure. Even the sharped dressed man or woman who sounds so smart, hits rock bottom every once in a while.
  2. Work hard to remain humble when things seem to be going great. Humility will help soften the blow when a set-back comes our way.
  3. It is ok to acknowledge the pain. We should all work to build our tolerance for pain and discomfort, but it is ok to admit a major set-back in an important area of life really hurts.
  4. We set a helpful example to those we care about most when we demonstrate the ability to bounce back after a set-back. Set the example…It may be the most important life-skill we can teach those closest to us.

Our world continues to grow in complexity and uncertainty and as we continue to develop our resilience in dealing with the inevitable set-backs, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to reach our full potential and have a positive impact on those around us.



Character Creates Opportunity® – The Finish Line? Thursday, January 7, 2016

We all like a good race.  Whether it is the 100 meter dash, the NYC Marathon, the Kentucky Derby, or a NASCAR race.  It is exciting to see the race and how participants crossed the finish line.  There is a clear start and a clear finish.finish line

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we acknowledge the truth that there is no finish line concerning the important things in life like family, work, finances, and areas of service.  Even in death, our legacy carries on to impact those left behind.  We have to be careful to avoid the illusion of a finish line to our efforts.

There is the risk that we allow ourselves to establish some phantom finish lines that will determine our mindset and our effort.  We have probably all found ourselves at one time or another saying something like:

  • When I reach a certain income level, then I can get ahead of the bills and things will be ok
  • When the kids get out of diapers, then we will have some time and energy and things we be ok
  • When I get through this busy season, then I will have some time to re-connect with my spouse and our relationship will be ok
  • When I lose these 10 pounds, then I will feel better and things will be ok
  • When I reach a career milestone, then there won’t be as much stress and things will be ok
  • When I get this degree completed, then I can get my life in order and things will be ok

It is healthy to establish goals/milestones along the way to assess our progress, but there is a clear difference between a milestone achievement and a finish line ending the race.

The reality is our journey through life is a lot like the business model of the software industry.  We launch with the 1.0 version.  We get out there in life, learn some things, see some new opportunities, and realize we didn’t plan for everything, so we make a few improvements and then launch the 2.0 version…then 3.0 and we know how the story continues.

The illusion is that the next version will be the lasting version and all we will need.  Life continues to present us with new opportunities to learn and grow.  On the journey to reach our full potential, there is no final version.  We will continue to build skills and grow in wisdom and perspective.

If we don’t learn and grow, we miss our opportunity to maximize our impact on those things we care about most.

As we make the choice to live fully in the moment with the humility to know we are never done learning and growing, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to have a positive impact on those closest to us and in service to causes bigger than ourselves.