A Universal & Lasting Currency – Character Creates Opportunity®: August 30, 2018

In a world that continues to increase in complexity and change, a perpetual challenge we all face is how to remain relevant or at least not be a hindrance to growth in our close relationships, workplace, and community.

History would teach us that some of the traditional currencies like money and skills don’t last forever. In a world where financial markets can see money change hands between winners and losers quickly, job skills become outdated at an alarming rate, and even the next big idea gets old faster than ever, what is the currency that endures and creates incredible value over time?

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, being intentional on building wealth with a currency that endures over time is a most effective choice for us to have a lasting positive impact on those around us.

The global, universally accepted currency that lasts throughout financial market swings, technology revolutions, and political strife is the currency generated from a willingness to help those in need, providing comfort to the brokenhearted, seeing the best in others, and maintaining a positive, hopeful mindset even when others see doom and gloom.

When we build wealth based on the currency of character, we will see results that have been proven over time to last. Wealth built on the currency of character has no limits and is available to all people, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or upbringing.

Here are a few of the outcomes that endure with wealth built on the currency of character:

  • We build strong relationships that have a better chance of lasting the inevitable painful events that we will experience, and life is measured by the relationships we build.
  • We are viewed as open and welcoming to others because we meet a very basic need of all of us, to know that we matter.
  • We create a ripple effect of good will that sets an example for others to follow in our home, place of work, and community.
  • We dramatically improve our ability to build the traditional currencies of money, skills, and ideas that can make a measurable impact in this world.

As we focus on building wealth based on the currency of helping others, teamwork, compassion and understanding, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity to have a positive, enduring impact on those we care about most…and they deserve it.

A Chance to Connect – Character Creates Opportunity®: August 23, 2018

Chances are good that during this time of year, you or someone close to you is stepping into a new school year and the challenges of making another transition. Transitions are tough.

There is a great deal written and discussed about the opportunities for personal growth that come when we walk through a major transition in life. What is often left without comment is the opportunity for those who are alongside someone going through a transition to connect deeper and in a more meaningful way.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, being intentional with support for those who are experiencing change will open a door to a healthier and more resilient relationship with those we care about most.

Transitions are a regular part of life…there is no avoiding change in our lives and those around us. These experiences bring about a wide spectrum of emotions from excitement to worry, hope to fear, and energized to exhausted.

Here are three specific steps we can take to effectively support those going through a transition that can strengthen our relationship and prevent the stress of transition from creating a fracture in relationships we care most about:

  1. Listen: Listening is a simple and powerful way to demonstrate to someone that they matter. Listening does not require an advanced degree or special training. All it takes is a simple decision to be silent and give someone our attention. Being a good listener will encourage others to share more of their lives with us.  We typically keep hidden our painful experiences. Being a good listener can help build a trusting, non-judgmental, and shame-free atmosphere, which can help open a door to sharing some of the pain experienced during a transition.
  2. Presence: Our presence is often more powerful than our words in comforting someone going through a transition. Academic research and our practical experience would remind us that just being there is a source of comfort. Not spouting some philosophical wisdom or relating our own experience, but just our presence can aid the afflicted more than our “brilliant” speech. For those of us who often feel anxious about what to say or what to do, it is important to be reminded that there is greater value and impact in just being present when aiding and comforting those closest to us.
  3. Touch: We are all well aware of the physical bonding that happens between a loving parent and a young child. There is a strong body of evidence to suggest that loving, physical contact at any stage of life is critical to our physical, mental, and emotional health. During times of transition, the opportunity to touch with a hug or a pat of the back can be our primary means of communicating compassion.

As we become intentional on being more effective in supporting others going through a major transition, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity to improve the health of our relationships and encourage those we care about most.

When the Clouds Roll In – Character Creates Opportunity®: August 16, 2018

If you are old enough to read this blog, you have seen your fair share of times when the clouds roll in:

  • When the struggle in a close relationship seemed to reach a point of despair
  • When the strain of financial pressures in the home seemed overwhelming
  • When our emotional or physical health seemed to be at a breaking point
  • When our professional journey seemed unsatisfying after so many years

Just like in a bad storm, when the clouds roll in on our personal situation, the light of day is dimmed, and we struggle to find a clear path through the storm and become unsure if or how we are going to make it through.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, being most effective in handling our thoughts, decisions, and actions during times when the clouds roll in will be an important life skill to help us reach our full potential.

It should be no surprise that we all still can get caught off guard and sometimes shocked when the clouds roll in. The main reasons are two-fold; First, we tend to not proactively address an issue, or we dismiss it when it seems small and just routine.  We typically only get serious when we hit the wall at a breaking point. Secondly, we have all been somewhat trained as young kids on the fairy tales of happily ever after and as adults with TV shows or movies where the problem gets solved and peace is brought back into the world.  However, we all know that the reality we experience when the clouds roll in can stick around for a while and maybe does not ever get fully resolved.

Regardless of our present life situation, we can confidently state that we will continue to experience times when the clouds roll in.  Here are few thoughts to help us be most effective in handling these difficult moments:

  1. We are not alone in experiencing some cloudy and dark situations. Despite the exterior of those around us, everyone has some dark moments. Take comfort in the fact that we are not an outlier with this present challenge.
  2. We have been here before and, in many cases, effectively handled the last time the clouds rolled in. Open the door to hope based on our past strength to overcome.
  3. Take one day at a time. There are no quick fixes to the major challenges in life.  Taking very, very small steps in an effective direction is within our control.
  4. Reach out for a connection to someone. Perhaps a friend or family member or a professional trained to help. We run into greater trouble when we stay alone and isolated. Talking face to face and a comforting touch on the shoulder or the holding of someone’s hand can have dramatic effects on our mindset.

Once last thing, it is always best to try and address an issue sooner rather than later. Avoiding a seemingly small issue now may manifest itself in bigger and uglier ways in the future.  In a genuine and caring manner, try and start the conversation today with those you care about most.

When the clouds roll in, if we can anchor our small day to day actions based on principles like courage and commitment, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to be most effective in addressing the situation and keep us on the pathway to reach our full potential.

Culture & Community – Character Creates Opportunity®: August 9, 2018

We hear a great deal today about the culture in our communities, the workplace, our schools, and our connections with social media.  The culture, whether spoken or unspoken, is that shared set of values, attitudes, and social practices that set the tone for how we interact.

We all want a culture and a community where we can be free and safe to reach our full potential, hurting people can get the help they need, there is a willingness to listen and learn from different points of view, and there is steady progress in making the future better for the next few generations.

Creating the culture we desire starts with each one of us, not with someone else.  As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, we need to not wait for the new boss, the new mayor, the new president, or the new leader to show up and declare a new culture, we need to leverage the connections we have around us to build the culture we desire.

Psychologists and social observers would say we all tend to look towards a leader, a king, a president or someone with social status to drive the agenda on culture and community.  This behavior helps us avoid the burden of responsibility when things go wrong. However, the truth is that culture and community emerge from the behaviors we exhibit in the connections we make day by day regardless of what we see and hear from those in traditional seats of power and influence. The entertainment industry, business, politics, and our communities have their own culture, not because of one person, but because of the shared behaviors of individuals over time.

As we look to build the culture and community we desire, here are few practical realities to help us stay on an effective path:

  1. Culture is the most powerful force we have to create the kind of community we wish to live in.
  2. Culture moves at glacial speed. It slowly grinds along and takes enormous effort to change direction, but where and when it moves, it changes things fundamentally for a very, very long time. Glaciers have enormous power, just like culture, but they don’t change course because of the occasional severe storm or heat wave.  They move and change with purposeful, long-term intention and decision.
  3. Culture is not created by a new boss, king or president. It is created by each one of us. Leadership can certainly help or hurt the culture, but how we behave with those around us directs the path of the glacier of culture in our communities.
  4. Culture starts within our homes. The initial behavior patterns of how we treat others with respect, how we show compassion, how we help others, how we deal with differences is all learned in the home.  The glacier of culture in our communities, workplace and world has its genesis in the home.

Regardless of our past experiences or current situation, we can start today to shift the direction of the glacier.

As we commit to daily actions anchored on principles like loyalty, teamwork, and understanding, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to shape the culture and the community in which we wish to live and direct the glacier to positively impact the next few generations.

Open to Learn – Character Creates Opportunity®: August 2, 2018

Our world continues to grow in complexity…and opportunity for those who are open to learn.

Most of us would not prefer to live back in the stone age or even early American life where things seemed to be less complicated.  However, the challenge for all of us who desire to be best we can be at home, at work and in our communities, is are we open to learn?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler

As we continue our journey to build and strengthen our character, maintaining a mindset that is open to learn will be a great asset as we work to reach our full potential and be a positive example to those around us.

The facts are clear that if we don’t remain open to learn, we will fall behind in our relationships, our careers, and our ability to impact this world. However, we all face a few common obstacles in remaining open to learn: (1) It is simply much more comfortable to just stick with what we know as it takes extra effort to learn new things (2) When we try to learn new things, we often reveal a few of our weaknesses which can be emotionally tough for us to endure (3) Learning new things may show us that we were not effective (or just plain wrong) with our prior choices which can be a difficult truth to admit.

We live in the most exciting of times as the pace of change and transformation is almost unimaginable and as we remain open to learn, we will discover opportunities to be the best we can be for those we care about most.  Here are a few thoughts to encourage all of us to remain open to learn:

  • We remain youthful. It is quite often the youth of a generation that drives new thinking and progress.  As we remain open to learn, we regain a bit of youthful excitement for the opportunity of life even if our muscles and bones don’t feel too youthful.
  • We gain wisdom. As we remain open to learn, we should not dismiss the fact that prior experiences are still valuable in order to minimize the risk of re-learning mistakes from the past as we journey into new areas. Wisdom, gained from the past, is still extremely relevant in times of great change.
  • We remain relevant. We run the risk of being marginalized and left behind in a rapidly changing world if we don’t remain open to learn. We remain relevant to those around us as we participate and learn in our ever-changing world.
  • We become rich. “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Ben Franklin. As we learn new things, we will live a rich life in which money is not the currency and it can’t be taken away without our permission.

As we remain open to learn with the support of principles like courage, commitment and sacrifice, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity for us to be our best for those around us.