Character Creates Opportunity® – Making Progress: Thursday, September 28, 2017

Our world continues to grow in complexity and intensity.  Although we may talk about big goals like improving education, addressing poverty, and eliminating the oppression of certain groups, it is often very difficult to genuinely see and “feel” progress being made in our day to day lives.  

The purpose of today’s writing is to bring a progress check much closer to home, where the potential for global change actually begins and where it matters most.

We are all familiar with the importance of setting goals, building a plan to achieve those goals and using some date on a calendar like a birthday, the new year, or the start of school to help jump start the process in a healthy and often convenient way to initiate needed change in our lives.  Unfortunately, we are probably also familiar with the reality that the vast majority of us will abandon, or just plain forget, our goals almost as quickly as we set them.

Today’s writing is not about rallying around some collective motivation or new process to more effectively achieve our goals.  There is already plenty of information out there to help us all get a little more motivated to achieve our goals.

Today’s writing is about the importance of recognizing small steps of progress along the way in order to keep the momentum going.  The “world” (feel free to insert your own relevant term) judges or highlights the finish line.  However, most often it will be us alone, in the quiet of the journey, that will be in a position to celebrate making progress in the right direction on the things that matter most.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, a helpful discipline we alone can exercise is the personal “high five” we can give ourselves for making progress on the journey to reach our hopes and dreams in matters close to home.

There will be a great deal written about the steps to achieving the common goals of losing weight, exercising or some professional career milestone.  However, the real need to celebrate making progress towards often our most challenging goals, which is rarely written or talked about, is in having a positive impact on those closest to us in our homes and families.  A helpful discipline is to acknowledge the small steps of progress we make in:

  1. Judging less and encouraging more
  2. Breaking the cycle of a painful past to bring healing to an important relationship
  3. Experiencing the lasting joy of serving and giving instead of the short-term pleasure of getting our way
  4. Opening dialogue on an important issue rather than avoiding it
  5. Courageously acknowledging our fears and insecurities while minimizing our concern of judgement or shame

The “world” will celebrate the big achievements in business, politics, entertainment, etc.  As we choose to celebrate making progress in the home and with the ones closest to us, we will build the foundation to achieve great things in the marketplace, the community, and our world.

As we make the choice to personally celebrate the small steps of progress we make in our close relationships, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to bring health into relationships closest to us.

As we continue to clearly define our hopes and dreams in the home, let us not forget that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Lao Tzu).  Congratulations, in advance, for the steps of progress you will make with the ones closest to you.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Bouncing Back: Thursday, September 21, 2017

Well, I guess we did not win the Powerball 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 rowdy grandson inherited 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.  To 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…and a set-back will come 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 exampleResilience may be the most important life-skill we can teach those we care about most.

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 Other Side of Freedom: Thursday, September 14, 2017

We all appreciate freedom.

The freedom to come and go as we please.  The freedom to live according to a set of beliefs.  The freedom to pursue our hopes and dreams. The list could go on and on.

One person who understood freedom very well was the late Nelson Mandela (1918-2013, former President of South Africa).

On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela, after 27 years in prison, walked out of a South African prison into freedom, but he was not totally free.  It was not until he made one more decision that truly set him free.  “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Nelson Mandela

If we all reflected on the following questions, how would we respond?

  1. Have we ever been misguided by a friend or family member?
  2. Have we ever been treated unfairly in the workplace?
  3. Have we ever put our heart and soul into a relationship that subsequently fell apart?
  4. Have we ever had someone we trusted take advantage of that trust?

Chances are pretty good that we all would answer “yes” on many, if not all, of the questions above.

Given the affirmative response to many of these questions, an important reality we need to face is the level of bitterness and anger we still hold around those events and those individuals. To use Mandela’s concept, are we still in prison because of those feelings?

As we continue to build and strengthen our character, we need to ask ourselves an important question, “If I am holding on to bitterness and anger from the past, am I really free?”

This other side of freedom is different than the 4th of July kind of freedom we experience.  This other side of freedom is a result of the individual choice we make to leave bitterness behind and move on.

If we let bitterness and anger from the past define our future, we will not reach our full potential.

Here are just a few ideas to help us move towards the personal freedom we need to reach our full potential:

  • We all make mistakes. We have probably caused some pain on others we wish we had not. Extend the same forgiveness and understanding we wish others would do for us.
  • It will happen again. Life is complicated and people react in different ways. We need to be careful that we don’t become disillusioned with expectations that life will be clean and nice and our closest relationships will be like the fairy tales we read as a kid. Life is messy and complicated.  There will be misunderstandings and pain along the journey.
  • Bitterness and anger hold us back. Once we learn to forgive and move on, we will experience the benefits of being free from the anger of the past. We will develop the “muscle memory” to forgive quickly, remove negative emotions, and apply ourselves fully to achieve our hopes and dreams.
  • We set an example for others to follow. The more we can demonstrate the ability to remove bitterness over past events, the more others will see our actions and follow…especially those closest to home that we hope can have the best foundation to reach their full potential.

As we make the choice to leave behind bitterness and anger from the unfortunate events of our past, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity to reach our full potential and have a great impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Are We There Yet? Thursday, September 7, 2017

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.

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.