Character Creates Opportunity® – Laughter: Thursday, December 29, 2016

Our world continues to grow in complexity and intensity.  As we sort through the events of the past year and we are reminded of the best and worst that occurred across the globe, in our communities and in our own homes, one item that is routinely missed in these year-end summaries is remembering when we laughed the most.

Laughter is the universal symbol for moments of happiness, peace, and human connection.  These moments don’t last forever, but laughter remains an essential ingredient for our emotional health and well-being.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we all need to ensure we keep an adult-size dose of laughter as part of our daily habits to maintain our perspective in a world that continues to try and focus exclusively on the serious and concerning issues of the day.

Modern science has continually proven the old proverb that laughter really is the best medicine. Recent studies completed at several academic medical centers show a good laugh can lower our blood pressure, protect our heart, improve brain functioning, elevate our mood and reduce stress.  Laughter is a solid workout for our diaphragm, lungs, and even our facial muscles. Laughter is the original “core” workout as it tones intestinal functioning and strengthens the muscles of the abdominal wall.

Even though the worries of this world will not go away, as we look into the new year, let’s all remember to lighten up a bit and fill the prescription for a little laughter as we look forward to doing great things in the year ahead.  Here are a few suggestions to help get the required dose of laughter to strengthen our connections with others, especially those closest to us in our homes.

  1. Our own uniquely created family humor is most often the best. There is usually one self-depreciating soul in the family that is comfortable reminding others at the holiday gathering about one of his/her stupid and funny mistakes that still unites the family in laughter.  The stories may involve throwing up at the dinner table, someone peeing in their pants after “the driver” refused to stop at the last exit, ripping their pants at the start of the wedding, or old Uncle Harry belching during a quiet moment at church.  Laughter strengthens families.laughter
  2. If we run short of family humor, there is always a classic comedy movie to get us laughing. A good scene from the Blue Brothers (“Hey you fat penguin!”), Tommy Boy (“Richard, is there a mark on my face?”), and Tin Men (“Ok Mr. Merengue, let’s dance!”) can always generate a good laugh.
  3. When old movies fail to get us laughing, there are usually a few good examples in history when “the experts” got it all wrong and we can smile knowing that even the smart folks make mistakes:
    • “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the Office of Patents in 1899.
    • “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM in 1943.
    • “You haven’t got through college yet.” An Atari executive as he turned down Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who were pitching the idea of developing a personal computer.
  4. And last, but certainly not least and if all of the above fail to get us laughing, watch a few episodes of Saturday Night Light Live on YouTube…anyone “need more cow-bell?”

Laughter helps to lower stress, put our problems in perspective, and build connections with others.  As we remind each other to consistently get a good dose of laughter each and every day, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to have a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Meetings That Matter: Thursday, December 22, 2016

On a daily and weekly basis, most of our lives are scheduled out.  Many us move from scheduled meeting to scheduled meeting throughout our days.  It is not just work related meetings jamming our schedule, but meetings with friends, time to explore new opportunities, and other social activities that need to somehow get wedged into an already packed schedule. Our calendars, whether electronic or old school paper, are well structured to support coordinating our lives.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we all need the occasional reminder of the meetings that matter.  Many times, these meetings are unscheduled and have an opportunity to occur almost daily in our homes.

We should all come to appreciate and respect that our homes come in all sorts and flavors, but the principles of the home remain intact as they are universal and timeless.  Home is a place where we should feel safe, loved, and encouraged.  In addition, we should be given the chance to take off the mask and be real while we learn and grow without shame or judgment.

The meetings that occur in the home are the meetings that matter.  They occur in the kitchen, the garage, in the yard, in a messy bedroom, on the way out the door and in the early morning hours with someone struggling to sleep.  For the most part, the meetings that matter never get on our calendar.

Day after day and year after year, it is the connections in the home that have the biggest impact on who we become.  The positive impact from a solid home life is next to impossible to outsource.

As many of us try to get a little more time with family over the holidays, here are a few thoughts on making the most of the meetings that matter:

  • Be intentional about treasuring the time together. Realize, in the moment, how special it is just to be together.  Life, as “they” say, is short, but the reality is that face to face time with those we care about most is less than we can ever imagine when stacked up to the busy, “purposeful” lives we are all trying to lead.
  • Reinforce to others about how special this time is so it can potentially “sink in” to those who may not be aware and may not care at this particular moment in time. It will be contagious for some now and maybe others later, but it is helpful to remind those we care about most how special time is together. It helps to remind others that they matter.
  • When struggling to find time together, be kind and gentle, but determined, and force it on the schedule. Imagine the impact if we figured out how to spend some time each day, without electronic distractions, looking each other in the eye, being present, listening, learning, challenging, questioning, being questioned, and not judging?

As we become intentional about creating more meetings that matter in our homes, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to live a purposeful life and reach our full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – On Auto-Pilot: Thursday, December 15, 2016

The pace of innovation in our world continues to accelerate.  Innovation is the gateway to improving our lives in some very practical and meaningful ways.  The technology enabling a plane to be flown on auto-pilot across the globe, a self-driving taxi and drones that are programed to arrive at our doorstep with a package delivery is changing so many roles in our day to day lives.

Automation brings the luxury of just going through the motions without much risk.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, there is a very real risk of apathy and detachment if we consistently just go through the motions on auto-pilot in the important areas of our lives.

Sure, we all get stuck in a rut once in a while. That rut can become a coffin with the ends kicked out if we remain there too long, so the real question we have to ask ourselves is, “Are we just showing up and going through the motions in some important areas of our life?”

  • Is the meeting at work just another meeting in a succession of meetings?
  • Is the jam packed, hectic schedule in our homes just a big mind-numbing drill?
  • Is the sunrise, in all its glory, just another time check for the start of a new day?

Are we just going through the motions on auto-pilot?

Here are a few risks if we are just going through the motions in the important areas of life:

  1. We are not fooling anybody. If we continually just show up on auto-pilot, eventually our teammates, spouse, kids, and boss figure it out and we get dismissed rapidly and without warning.  We miss the opportunity available in the moment right in front of us and the moment is all we really have to count on.
  2. We set an example that is contagious like a bad virus and then our home, workplace and community begin to display the tell-tale signs of a life on auto-pilot, apathy and detachment. It sets a bad trend in motion.

On the contrary, what if each day we reacted with the energy as if “the President is calling.”  We hear a lot these days about people being called to meet with the President-elect.  I am sure those people are bringing their “A game” to that meeting. I doubt anyone is just showing up on auto-pilot and just going through the motions.

Well, the truth is, the president has called and continues to call us.  It just so happens that for the 99.9% of us, the president is in our homes, our workplace, and our community.  Are we on auto-pilot and going through the motions in these daily opportunities, or are we bringing our A game?Thankfulness

As we shutoff the auto-pilot and get engaged to make a positive difference in the important areas of our lives, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to have an amazing journey and an unlimited positive impact on world.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Quick Fix: Thursday, December 8, 2016

If we are honest with ourselves, we all desire a quick fix to what ails us.  There must be a simple pill, an “easy” button, or a conference we can attend to pump us up enough to address our greatest challenges immediately with a few tricks. If that does not work, lottery winnings can ensure that plenty of money will take care of everything.

We all know the odds of winning the lottery are very slim, but the potential for a massive quick fix always taps into a deep yearning within all of us.  With regards to money and the quick fix, I think Sigmund Freud said it best when he said given a choice between treating rich or poor patients, he would always choose rich because they no longer think that their problems will be solved with money.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we need to genuinely and honestly confront the areas in our lives where we are waiting for the lottery winnings to give us a quick fix to our challenges.  Just like winning the lottery, the odds are stacked against us, so the principled choice is to plan around the reality that there will never be a quick fix to our struggles.

If I were to ask you, “What are the most difficult problems you face today?”

What would you say?

Once we move beyond the myth of the quick fix, we can begin to make steady progress in addressing our most difficult problems.  The consistent, daily implementation of habits, not an intervention of the next great idea, is the only proven effective method for addressing our greatest struggles in life.Mountain landscape. Caucasus. Georgia

Here are a few thoughts on the habits we can make part of our routine:

  1. Do we care enough to solve this one? This is a helpful question to ask as solving our most difficult problems will take effort and focus every single day.  We can’t do everything, so answering this question will help narrow our efforts to what matters most in life.
  2. Do we know what it looks like in the end? Clearly being able to see what the goal is will help keep us on a consistent path.  The clearer we have the goal defined, the better our chances of achievement.
  3. Do we believe we can achieve it? It will be incredibly difficult to effectively address our struggles if we don’t genuinely believe they can be solved.  Start to believe now.
  4. Principle-based habits. We should guide our thoughts, decisions and actions based on principles like honesty, commitment, compassion and hope as we go about our daily activities to address our most difficult problems.
  5. Reality Check: The journey on addressing our greatest struggles is a life-long pursuit.  Enjoy the journey as we will learn, we will be better for having tried rather than if we quit, and we will set an example for others to follow which will have an impact even when we are not around.

As we walk away from the myth of the quick fix and become intentional about delivering on the habits that will lead to addressing our most difficult problems, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential.

PS: Miracles do happen.  However, they are so rare and so unpredictable that it is most effective to believe in miracles, but keep working our habits like they are our only option.  When the miracle does show-up, we can be amazed and overjoyed just like young children on Christmas morning.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Understanding: Thursday, December 1, 2016

As our world continues to grow more complex and intense, there continues to be plenty of fertile ground for conflict.

Global conflict is one thing, but we also see it in the workplace as competition and disruption seems to increase all around our once isolated business creating tension in the workplace.  We see it in our communities as random acts of violence have seemed to replace the random acts of kindness we use to hear so much about.  All of these factors inevitably impact families, which already have their own unique set of potential flash points, creating a genuine opportunity for increased conflict in the home.

Although life has plenty of areas for conflict, the timeless truth is that family conflict is one of the most heart-breaking of all of life’s struggles.

With the holiday season upon us, there is usually an opportunity to be a bit reflective on the hope for greater peace and less conflict in our everyday lives and especially in families gathering for the holidays.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, understanding is the critical element to preventing and resolving most interpersonal conflict.  Understanding should be at the forefront of our decisions before we decide to break things and walk away.

To the family member we don’t see, hear, or care much about anymore, is it possible we misunderstood her or she misunderstood us?  Did we just let other’s opinions form our own view of why tension and isolation remain?

To the friction in the office, where we all have learned to play the game and suppress the tension, is it possible that the rationale behind the tension is based on a misunderstanding? Did we simply lack all the information?

Before these wounds continue to break up relationships, burn bridges, ruin the productivity of the team, or create massive indigestion at the next family gathering, here are a few ways to improve health while addressing the disease of misunderstanding that plagues so much of interpersonal conflict.Shaking hand on the green background

  1. Ask ourselves, “What if I misunderstood something?” Simply asking ourselves this question will bring about a pause before we act.
  2. Work to gain some perspective. We see the world as we are, not as the world is.  It is important to ensure our limited, prior experiences and biases don’t cloud the reality that is in front of us.
  3. Be proactive in asking for help. “Help me understand a little better what just happened…or Help me understand what happened 20 years ago to create such a rift.”

Understanding is the gateway to peace in our relationships.

As we become intentional about first understanding before we break things or shut down relationships, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to bring health into our most important relationships.