Character Creates Opportunity® – A Real Concern: Thursday, August 31, 2017

As Labor Day approaches and the end of summer is upon us, we have another seasonal time point that can be helpful to set some goals and build momentum towards reaching our full potential.  Unfortunately, just like setting some goals for the New Year, the cold hard statistics would remind us that after just a few short weeks, most of us begin to see those goals 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:

“I am just burned out” may be 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” may be the way apathy appears in dealing with a rebellious child.

“It is beyond repair” may be 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 truth that the meaningful and important things in life are achieved on a long, slow journey. Close relationships and service to a cause greater than our own are 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® – Just Keep Moving Forward: Thursday, August 24, 2017

“Experience is the mother of all learning,” so the saying goes.  We all have some defining experiences in our lives. 

If we look back, there are probably a few events in our school years that we can still recall having a major impact on our lives.  Whether it was a big championship game, an interaction with a great teacher, or some unfortunate painful experience, we still carry those experiences throughout our adult years.  There are definitely some experiences from our close relationships, probably some positive and some negative, which remain with us as we continue our journey.  Likewise, there are experiences in our chosen career that became teachable moments for us and we have carried those lessons with us to this day.

During my time in the Army, I certainly had some experiences that stay with me to this day. I learned a great deal about myself and a great deal about leadership, courage, strategy, and tactics.  When I reflect back on the most significant learning, it was quite simple; the importance of just keeping moving forward.  Whether tired, scared, or confused, just keep moving forward toward your objective.  As an infantryman, with a heavy pack, leading a platoon of soldiers, the pressing call was always to keep moving forward toward the objective.  Whether it was to complete a long, difficult road march, a specific tactical scenario that needed to be mastered in total darkness, or whether it was securing an objective on the battlefield in Iraq.  No matter the ups and downs in that pursuit, there was a clear calling to just keep moving forward no matter what came our way.

Applying the principle to keep moving forward to our general journey of life would remind us that we know what the objectives are in serving a cause greater than our own, building a strong family, and a purposeful career.  We know there will be unavoidable difficulties and very painful experiences that we will encounter.  There will definitely be things we said or did that we genuinely wish we could take back and ‘do over.’  However, there are no ‘do overs’ in the life we are living.  There is a need to be intentional about what we learn from those experiences and we just need to keep moving forward in the direction of our objective.

It is important that we accept the reality that ‘do overs’ don’t happen in this life.  Many times, the damage is done and perhaps only time can bring about some healing.  We cannot ‘re-raise’ our children, ‘re-live’ some difficult moments in relationships, or ‘re-live’ that career choice of 10 years ago.  First impressions cannot be remade.  Mean spirited comments cannot be restated.  Scars, many times, cannot be completely removed.

Life can only be lived in the present moment.  What we have today is a great opportunity to keep moving forward regardless of the pain from the past.  We will build and strengthen our character as we continue to move forward towards our objective and our Character Creates Opportunity® to build healthy relationships and puts us on the most effective path to accomplish our hopes and dreams.

Character Creates Opportunity® – On the Edge of Despair: Thursday, August 17, 2017

Let’s face it.  There are times in our lives when we face the toughest of circumstances and we stand on the edge of losing hope.

Whether it is a close relationship that has unraveled and the reality of “happily ever after” seems unreachable.  Or maybe it is the teenage or adult child who has lost their way.  Or maybe it is the hopes and dreams of a business that has just run out of cash and its demise is imminent.  Or maybe it is the sense that the safety and comfort of the “good old days” are never coming back in our communities.

These are the times when all the money in the world could not buy a quick fix out of the situation and all the pump-up, positive thinking, motivation speeches sound like nails on a chalk board.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is on the edge of despair where we can find opportunity to learn and grow through difficulty.

On the edge of despair, is where our masks come off and the costume party we have been attending comes to a close.  In the very raw, unguarded, and openness of pain, when we have no strength to hold up the mask of “everything is fine,” we now can begin to move forward on the path to learning and growth.

On the edge of despair, there are several things to consider as we look to build and strengthen our character through these moments of opportunity:

  • The most effective direction to move is forward towards the hurt and embrace the unguarded, authentic moment of pain. Take the mask off to begin to grow.
  • Be intentional about avoiding the routine addictions we have learned to cover the pain. We all have our own ways of coping to keep the costume party going. Growth comes when we realize the party cannot go on forever.
  • Communication in times of pain is real, genuine and priceless for our growth. We should find someone we can trust and open up. If we do not have someone in our close circle to confide in, then we need to seek out a pastor or counselor as the pathway to health is accelerated with open communication of our pain.
  • Our very best will emerge from the pain. Psychologists and our own experience would demonstrate that we only grow in struggles. “No pain, no gain” is not just a slogan for coaches during practice.  We have a massive human weakness to get soft, complacent, and lazy during moments of calm and order.  We should use the times of pain to grow…it is our only chance.
  • No matter what the outcome of our present struggle, there is one positive step that can come out of any difficult situation. We can, and should, use our feelings of raw hurt to grow in empathy for others. Our pain can be a catalyst for our growth in compassion for the struggles of others.  Another incredible accelerant on our pathway to health is when we turn to help others through their struggles.

When we stand on the edge of despair and we focus on growing through the struggle, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to remain on the path to our own emotional health and well positions us to be a helping hand to others.

One last point:  When we turn the corner on this present struggle, we should remember that life will always have another interesting event awaiting around the next corner.  If we can address our present struggle in a healthy way, we will be in a better to position to address the inevitable next bump in the road.  Enjoy the journey!

Character Creates Opportunity® – Prevention: Thursday, August 10, 2017

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 some 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.  Consistently executing on a preventative health program is another story, but the basic plan is straight-forward.

The more challenging area of prevention is taking the practical steps necessary to maintain health in our most important relationships.

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 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® – Three Important Elements: Thursday, August 3, 2017

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:


There has been a tremendous amount of research done on the perils that result with the break-up of the family unit.  Families 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.


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.