Character Creates Opportunity® – A More Productive Comparison: Thursday, July 28, 2016

We will continue to hear a great deal about comparisons throughout this election year in the United States.  Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?  Is your job more secure now than it was 4 years ago?  Are your opportunities to reach your hopes and dreams more plentiful?

The political season brings out a great number of comparisons.  Most, if not all, are not too helpful as they point the finger of blame at someone else or some other political party and do not account for our own individual responsibility.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, a more productive set of comparisons are the ones we can do on ourselves.  As we take an honest personal assessment of ourselves, we can begin taking responsibility for the progress (or lack of progress) and working towards improvement and reaching our full potential.

If we asked ourselves the questions below, what would we say?

  • Am I a better listener now than I was 4 years ago or am I still more concerned about getting across my point of view?
  • Am I more negative than I was 4 years ago or am I more hopeful?
  • Am I more set in my ways or have I become more open and curious?
  • Am I better at keeping my commitments now than I was 4 years ago?
  • Am I quicker to forgive or am I still struggling with some bitterness?
  • Am I learning and growing more now than I was 4 years ago or am I still just stumbling along?
  • Are some close relationships that went cold 4 years ago getting any better?

Or am I still as perfect as I was 4 years ago?

We can either keep losing ground or we can keep making progress towards reaching our full potential.

The choice is ours.Self-Reflection

Or as Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) said in the film Shawshank Redemption, “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

When it comes to building and strengthening our character and reaching our full potential, when we look back over 4 years, 8 years or 36 years, we will not be able to blame a government program, school initiative, company training program, or a difficult close relationship…it will just be us looking in the mirror.

One nice thing about another election season is that we have one more chance for a fresh and hopeful start…for us personally, we have the blessing of a fresh and hopeful start every day.  Let’s not waste it.

As we become more intentional about reaching our full potential by taking small steps to make small improvements that will add up over time, we build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® for us to reach our full potential and set an example for others to follow.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Unspoken Request: Thursday, July 21, 2016

Over the last 15+ years, our collective sense of security has continued to erode in our communities and the world.  The tragedies that we have witnessed continue to get more shocking as we all journey through uncharted waters and find it difficult to make some sense of our new reality.

Today’s topic is not going to solve the world’s security challenge, but will rather focus on something closer to home.  As we work to positively impact those closest to us, the hope is that the ripple effect of that collective impact can help to counteract the trends of our day.  There is an unspoken request within each one of us, that when acted upon, can strengthen the foundation of our well-being and best position us to reach our full potential.

When you look back into the history of your life, did you ever have someone who believed in you even when everyone else seemed to bail on you, including yourself? Someone who stayed with you regardless of the situation?  Did you ever have someone who did not give in to you while also not giving up on you?  If so, who is that person?  Just for a moment, can you recall those experiences that impacted you so deeply?

For each one of us, there is an unspoken request for a person like that in our lives.  Academic psychologists and our own life experience would say that having a person in our life who believes in us, through the good times and most importantly the bad times, is a critical element to our own well-being and will help enable us to raise the bar on our own potential.Melancholic Love

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, the challenge for each one of us is not to search for someone like that, but to strive to be “that person” to those we care about most.  We build and strengthen our character in the service of others when we meet this unspoken request in those around us.

I wish it were not the case, but I am sure there are a few who in your present situation or in your life’s history, could not see an individual who stood with you regardless of the situation.  This won’t be a pump-up speech from some high priced motivational speaker, but have a genuine moment of sadness and then prepare to get back in the ring as we all have a duty to those closest to us to bring about a better tomorrow.

As we look to meet that unspoken request in others and be “that person” who keeps the hope of potential alive in good times and in bad, here are a few simple and practical ideas to help:

  1. Listen…really listen for the content being described and the emotion being felt. Listen with the intent to stand in their shoes and know what it feels like.  Without getting too scientific, the most practical way for us to start is to just shut up for a moment.  Our chatter does not help us understand.  We already know what we think.  Turn our attention toward others.
  2. Be thoughtful and resolute in the consistent reinforcement of timeless and universal principles…there is still truth and relevance to principles like honesty, commitment, loyalty, and duty. These principles are a helpful way to remind others about an effective path forward when behavior has gone astray without letting “our opinion” be an obstacle to shining light along the path of a very dark journey.
  3. Provide a clear, unmistakable sense that “I am with you.” Those closest to us need to feel it and see it that we are not going to bail when the going gets tough…and it will get tough.  We are not perfect and in tough situations our imperfections often get magnified, but we should always come back to reinforcing the point that “I am with you.”

Our challenge today is to resist the temptation to wish for and search for “that person” for ourselves, but instead proactively be “that person” for those close to us.  The practical reality we all know to be true is that what comes around, goes around, and we will attract others who learn to share in our mutual effort to meet the most important unspoken request within all of us.

As we make the decision to be “that person” who believes in someone, even when they do not believe in themselves, we will build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® for us to have a lasting positive impact on others and reach our full potential in our journey of life.


Character Creates Opportunity® – Personal Skills (Part II): Thursday, July 7, 2016

Following last’s week blog on the important personal skill of delayed gratification as defined as the ability to resist temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later, often greater and more enduring award, Part II of this message will focus on another important personal skill.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, this second skill has also been shown to be critical to ensuring lasting success in building healthy relationships and having a positive impact in our life’s effort.  This skill is not as well studied in academia as the “marshmallow test” demonstrating delayed gratification, but this second skill is documented throughout history as being an important personal skill.

Part II of this message addresses the critical skill of proactive service – The ability to identify a need and make the choice to take action to meet the need.  This skill goes sharply against the “what’s in it for me crowd,” the “I just want to be happy crowd” and the “I am just in it for the money crowd.”

Proactive service is embodied in the quote from President John F. Kennedy at his inaugural address in 1961 when he said, “ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”  For those searching for purpose, proactive service is captured in the words of Mahatma Gandhi who said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Proactive service is as much as a choice as it is a skill.  It is a choice to run towards problems instead of away from them.  It is a choice to persevere when our selfish needs of recognition and reward make quitting seem like a really good option because we are not getting what we want from the experience.

Proactively looking for ways to serve has been and will continue to be the hallmark of individuals who leave a legacy that endures by leaving the world a better place than they found it. They are most often not characterized by those who made a great financial reward for their skill of serving others or developing a product that meets a huge market need.  Proactive service is most commonly seen in:

  1. The home by those who continue to serve others in daily tasks that often go unnoticed and underappreciated for years.
  2. The workplace by individuals who raise their hand to help when a young supervisor has been given a big task and by those who stay a little later to ensure the job gets done even when it goes past the time to clock out.
  3. The community by individuals who choose to serve in capacities of real need even when they could apply those skills and energy to earn a greater financial reward in some other endeavor.

The examples we see all around us of proactive service are worthy of remembering and teaching to others.take the initiative

Building a strong foundation of proactive service does not start with questions like “what makes me happy” or “what do I do best.”  Living a life of proactive service begins with the question, “What needs to be done?”  Individuals find purpose and passion in identifying needs and getting busy meeting the needs of others in our homes, our workplace and our community.

As we make the choice to proactively serve in areas of need, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and our Character Creates Opportunity® for us to reach our full potential and leave a legacy that sets an example for others to follow.