Character Creates Opportunity® – Points of View: Thursday, December 11, 2014

There is an interesting trend in our world that is being played out in a number of areas of our lives.  We have developed a seemingly insatiable need to have different points of view of the same situation.  We have come to the realization that there is advantage is having a variety of points of view of the same situation.

For example, over the last 10+ years we have seen an explosion of the number of camera angles and well positioned coaches throughout a stadium to gain a certain vantage point of the field of play.  As we watch any football game at the collegiate or professional level, we quickly realize the enormous amount of points of view to observe the game.  In addition, as coaches and fans, we understand the more points of view we have, the more effective we can be in determining the right decision by a referee, the right play to call to exploit a weakness in the opposition’s defenses, or the best defense to address a consistent trend on an offense.  Multiple vantage points helps us to be a more effective on a sports field.

We see a similar trend in business today.  Enormous planning, effort, and expense is allocated towards trying to understand different points of view of customers.  We generate enormous amounts of data as we electronically monitor behaviors and seek out attitudes at different points in the customer’s experience.  There is incredible advantage in building a brand or growing a business when we better understand the different points of view of our customers.  In addition, leaders of business see significant value in gaining different points of view of employees.  Understanding what a team is seeing in the warehouse, compared to a sales team, compared to customer service is extremely beneficial to leaders running a business.  These various points of view are the life-blood of building a sustainable and successful business.

We could go on and on about this same trend seen across the wide spectrum of life from the tactics of modern warfare to the advances in education.  Gaining different points of view enables us to develop a better understanding and a more effective plan to accomplish our objectives.

The irony found in this insatiable trend to gain greater understanding in areas such as business, athletics, modern warfare, and education, is that on a more personal, social level, the results would show that we are still reluctant to do the hard work of understanding different points of view of those closest to us in our homes and in our community.

Social observers, licensed psychologists, and religious leaders would say that on our day to day personal interactions, the vast majority of our energy is spent communicating our point of view with little effort spent on understanding the point of view of another.

An important aspect in building and strengthening our character is when we expend greater effort trying to gain the perspective and understanding of others as opposed to getting them to understand us.  Relationships are strengthened when we genuinely understand the different points of view of others.

Here are just a few practical steps that I hope you find helpful in seeing things from the point of view of others as we continue to build and strengthen our character:Points of View

(1)    Our first step in an apparent disagreement should be to gain understanding, not in firming up our defenses.

(2)    Focus on listening by removing the egotistical expectation of delivering a “brilliant” response.

(3)    Genuinely try to walk in the other person’s experience and empathize with their point of view.

(4)    Begin to communicate our point of view only when we gain a sense that the other person acknowledges our effort to understand them.

Those same social observers, licensed psychologists, and religious leaders would say that their collective experience in studying relationships would prove that most disagreements and conflicts on a personal level are due to misunderstanding and a lack of empathy.  Both of which are choices we can make to be more effective in building stronger, healthier relationships.

As we translate the trends we see in sports and business to our own life by working hard to gather the different points of view of those around us, we will build and strengthen our character, and Character Creates Opportunity® to have a greater impact on the people in our home and our community.

Character Creates Opportunity® – An Important Question: Thursday, December 4, 2014

Throughout our journey to build and strengthen our character, we have continually focused on the important principle of accepting responsibility for our own thoughts, decisions, and actions as a core component to character building.  Accepting responsibility is the first step in rising above our situation and escaping the trap of blaming others or our surroundings for the choices we make.

Accepting personal responsibility is important.  It does not mean we always make great choices.  The reality is that we will fall short in some of the decisions we make and actions we take. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes.  Our character is strengthened when we fully accept the effective and the ineffective choices we make and the positive and negative outcomes that they may bring about.

An additional and important dimension to accepting responsibility is acknowledging our influence on others.  Yes, each one of us owns our decisions, but we all play a role of influence on others.

Students make the decision to learn in the classroom, but a great teacher can raise the level of engagement and interest to make the classroom a more conducive environment to learn.

A great coach can inspire teamwork and commitment, but ultimately it is the decision of individual players to work together as a team.

A strong leader in the workplace can build energy, excitement, and efficient systems to keep the team heading in the right direction to accomplish goals, but it is the decisions of individual team members day to day that sustains top performance in the marketplace.

The examples we all set in the home have influence on those closest to us.

So what happens when those in our circle of influence stumble and fall through poor choices and bring about a difficult outcome?

One truth we should not back away from is that they must own it and make more effective choices moving forward to get back on track and head in a better direction.

There is an important element that often gets overlooked in the heat of the moment as we are sorting through the damage of a poor decision by someone close to us; The role we played around influence.  An important question we need to ask ourselves is, “What could I have done differently?”  We all have the ability to influence others.  Could the decisions I made and actions I took influenced a more effective choice that would have yielded a better outcome?

“What could I have done differently?”

A genuine self-assessment around this important question and a commitment to improve will help each one of us be more effective in our ability to influence others and help them make more effective decisions.

In terms of moving forward after someone close to us stumbles, there is one additional step that can influence a better tomorrow. Compassion Extend a helping hand to get back on track as opposed to leaving someone alone in the struggle.  This is especially important in the home.  Extending a helping hand, again, and again, and again, and again to those closest to us will help to build and strengthen our home and set an example of understanding and compassion that is missing many times in sustained family conflict.

As we acknowledge our role as influencers and guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles like encouragement, loyalty, and commitment, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to influence others in a positive way and help those around us reach their full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Home for the Holidays: Thursday, November 27, 2014

Throughout this week, many cars on the highway look like a tryout for the next “mayhem” insurance commercial with suitcases strapped to the roof, bags jammed up against back windows, and pillows propped up against seats as families travel to see relatives and make the long trek back home.

Whether we are returning to the home where we were raised, having others come back home, or visiting the home of close family or friends, there is something special about coming home.

Home represents a permanent mark on our identity.  In addition, as we grow older and hopefully wiser, home brings about the reminder of our most critical responsibility to society; to build and sustain a strong and stable family. Success in the workplace will come and go, our “15 minutes of fame” will come and go, and for most of us, an enduring impact on the global stage of history will be unattainable, but the effort we put forth in the home will always be a part of our legacy.

Home is also the place where we live through the full spectrum of our emotional experience from our greatest highs to our greatest lows. In between those extremes, we can dwell in that most unfortunate place called apathy, where we just “check-out” as the furnace of conflict and disappointment presents an appealing choice to just quietly endure while we emotionally move on to some other source of comfort and acceptance.

Throughout our lives, there will always be moments in time when we return home in some physical or emotional sense.  As an adult, we remember our childhood experiences in the home of our upbringing. As an “empty nester” parent, we remember what the home was like when it was filled with kids.  As a frazzled parent with growing children in the home, we have little time for reflection as we continue to be pounded on the anvil of schedules, to do lists, and the expectations of others. In addition, as a family struggles with the loss of a loved one, we remember the times of togetherness we shared before tragedy struck.

As we continue on our important journey to build and strengthen our character, there are moments like the holiday season where it is helpful to return home with a sense of thankfulness.Thankfulness

Making the choice to be thankful when we return home, physically and/or emotionally, for the holidays is an important step to build and strengthen our character for a few simple reasons:

(1)    Thankfulness consistently returns numerous positive benefits.  Volumes of research in academia and real-life experience demonstrate that people who are thankful are healthier, both physically and emotionally, have stronger relationships, and inoculate themselves from the negative effects of thinking about what we don’t have or harboring resentment or envy tied to what others possess.   Thankfulness keeps us grounded.

(2)    Thankfulness helps overcome the struggles of life.  There is no “perfect” home.  We all have and we all will continue to experience significant family conflict in our homes.  Just like the pain and discomfort associated with a new workout routine will eventually make our bodies stronger, with a sense of thankfulness, we will build our emotional strength to overcome the inevitable next family conflict.  Thankfulness softens the heart and opens a desire to understand instead of judge during conflict in the home.

(3)    Thankfulness helps us reach our full potential and helps those around us reach their full potential.  Do you enjoy hanging around people who gripe and complain?  Being thankful builds encouragement for ourselves and others.  It builds the foundation for all of us to reach our full potential.  Rather than getting sucked into the dark sea of negativity and complaint, being thankful puts our footing on solid ground to build a positive legacy in our home.

We are consistently drawn to come back home not because of where it is, but because of what it represents.  As we remain thankful in our home, not just during the holidays, but throughout the year, we will continue to build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and help those around us reach their full potential.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Heading in the Right Direction: Thursday, November 20, 2014

We have all heard the expression “life is a journey, not a destination.”  Many times we forget that truth in the chaos of real life with necessary tasks, budgets, work projects, “Black Friday” sales, holiday events with families, and a host of other deadline driven items.  We have a tendency to forget that for all practical purposes, there is no finish line in our lives.  We continue to journey-on despite how many tasks we complete, goals we accomplish, or “bucket list” items we check-off.  We seem to find new, important items on the back page of our once completed check-list.

In addition to the realization that we will always be on a journey despite how many tasks we complete, at certain points in our lives, we realize that life is not a smooth ride:

  • As a young student, when school days move from recess and story time to homework, grades and standardized assessments that place us in the “average” bucket.
  • As a young athlete, when the tryouts and cuts come as participation moves from “everyone who signs up” to only those who can help the team win.
  • As a college student, when an education begins to cost real money and the once theoretical calculation of “return on investment” becomes a meaningful and relevant discussion.
  • In the workplace, when a steady job is not as predictable as we had hoped for and all the effort to do our best and perform well is met with “downsizing objectives” because of global competition and changing consumer trends.
  • On the home front, when the reality hits that “family” can bring about extremes of tremendous togetherness and joy to absolute loneliness and heart-breaking struggle.

In facing the reality of a steady flow of new items on our check-list and the “bumpy” ride we call life, how can we be most effective in dealing with the fact that life is a journey and not a destination?  Amongst the chaos of real life, we need to ensure our efforts are heading in the right directionfranklin_trees_01

Here are two practical steps to ensure we are heading in the right direction:

(1)    Determine the “right direction” for us personally.

A very simple exercise is to ask ourselves the question, “How would we want others to describe us if we were not sitting around with them?”

    • As a student, how would I want a group of teachers and students to describe me?
    • As a family, how would I want my spouse or children to describe me to their close friends?
    • In the workplace, how would I want my coworkers and customers to describe me?

The answer to those questions will help set our compass to the “right direction.”

(2)    Focus on taking small steps, anchored on principles, in the right direction.

No matter what direction we declare for ourselves, ensuring our day to day behaviors (small steps) are consistent with principles like honesty, understanding, perseverance, loyalty, will be our most effective means to deal with the “bumpy” ride of life and still keep heading in the right direction.

    • As a student, taking small steps like participating in class, asking questions, taking time to complete assignments vs. cramming.
    • As a family member, taking small steps to listen before passing judgment, encourage instead of belittle, serve instead of take, let forgiveness replace bitterness, ensure thankfulness trumps taking for granted.
    • In the workplace, taking small steps like looking out for the team’s best interest vs. our own, being proactive on getting additional training instead of remaining anchored in outdated skills, speaking up on issues of integrity and respect vs remaining silent.

In a world that continues to grow more complex, ensuring we consistently take small steps in the right direction will help us remain highly effective along our journey of life.  As we guide our small steps by principles like honesty, loyalty, and courage, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to set a strong example for others to follow and help us all to keep heading in the right direction.

Character Creates Opportunity® – The Cost: Thursday, November 13, 2014

We all have a few areas in our lives where we wish things were “a little better.”

Perhaps it is the sales of a certain product line at work, a tough relationship with a disappointed customer, the grade in a difficult subject in school, the strained relationship in our home, or the social trends in our community.  Toss in our own personal financial situation or our growing waistline and I am sure we can all find an area or two where we wish things were “a little better.”

Reaching a sense of fulfillment and emotional health in knowing that we actually made progress in doing “a little better” is going to take some effort.  That effort usually involves a change in behavior. We are all familiar with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Nothing happens without change.

As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, the question that needs to be addressed is, “what is it going to take” to get “a little better” in that important area of our life?

Many times we know, or someone tells us, what that small incremental change in behavior needs to be.  In places like work and school, there is usually a consistent roadmap to follow and we just need to step-up the effort and deliver.  There is a cost of time and effort, but it is pretty predictable and the choice to follow the roadmap is ours to make.

The more difficult decisions are in the areas that really matter in the long haul of life, like our close relationships and the legacy of our efforts and accomplishments.  This is where there may not be a clear roadmap and the near term costs may seem quite high:

To mend a strained relationship, many times we need a desire to be reconciled rather than to be proven right, we need to shut-up and seek to understand as oppose to giving our opinion, and/or we need to extend favor when the natural tendency would be to fight back.

To impact our legacy, many times we need to sacrifice in the near term to ensure a brighter tomorrow.  Whether that is saving today vs spending to have some money for the rainy day that will come, grinding it out in a job so that those closest to our care can have opportunities we did not, or taking a risk and following a different path than we were “supposed to follow.”

As we all consider the costs in these big and important areas of life, we need to be reminded that there is a relatively small cost of trying and failing when compared to the significant cost of regret that comes with not trying at all. Multl Generation Family Walking Along Autumn Path With Dog

We will build and strengthen our character as we keep “trying” and our Character Creates Opportunity® to do “a little better” in the big and small areas of life.  Based on my experience and the experience of so many around me, I want to extend a word of encouragement to those who continue to try; Keep getting after it, it is worth the cost.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Year #1: Thursday, November 6, 2014

Key dates in our lives such as anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and other personal dates of meaningful accomplishment or quiet bereavement are helpful to support a deeper reflection on the important things in life.  They also provide an opportunity to reassess our progress on our journey towards reaching our full potential.

The purpose of today’s blog is to reflect back on just over a year of writing to support the importance of building and strengthening our character as the critical catalyst to reach our full potential.

At Harvest Time Partners, we believe that Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our hopes and dreams and this weekly blog is one of our platforms to provide support and encouragement to others striving to reach their full potential.

Why is character so important? 

In order to answer that question, it is important to reflect back on some universal truths in our world.

(1)    In life, we will experience both ups and downs, great highs and great lows. Whether it is in school, work, our community, and certainly in our homes, we will encounter situations that provide us with an opportunity to grow.

(2)    In life, there are always 3 aspects to our experience:

a SITUATION: There is our present situation.  Many times, our situation is beyond our immediate, personal control like the weather, an emergency customer call on a Sunday morning, a reckless driver, an outburst from an individual in an overwhelming situation, etc.

a GAP: There is a gap, a moment in our consciousness that forms our response to the situation.  The gap could be a split second or a long period of time.

a RESPONSE: There is our response to the situation.

(3)    How we fill the GAP will determine our potential and our overall emotional health.  In the GAP, lies our character.  We are not confined to a stimulus-response type paradigm like animals.  Our unique human qualities provide us with what Viktor Frankl described as “the last of the human freedoms,” the freedom to choose our response to our situation.  We possess the potential to rise above our situation by using the GAP between our situation and our response.

At Harvest Time Partners, we believe our character is Standing in the Gap® between a situation and our response.  Our character is our inner voice (our internal compass) that guides our thoughts, decisions, and actions.  When we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles like courage, loyalty, honesty, teamwork, and commitment, we build and strengthen our character.  As our character is strengthened, we widen the gap to develop our most effective response.  Our most effective response will eventually lead to an improved situation, a pathway to reach our full potential, and our emotional health…and the cycle continues with every situation.

As we consistently build and strengthen our character through thoughts, decisions, and actions based on principles, we develop the habits to fill and widen the gap in order to consistently deliver an effective response, regardless of our situation.  Our principle-based response will eventually produce an improved situation which has a positive impact on ourselves and those around us.

It is in the gap between a situation and our response where we have the opportunity to reach our full potential.  Our character is Standing in the Gap® and this is why we believe that character is the critical catalyst to reaching our full potential.

How does this play out in the real world?

As an employee sitting down with a boss and receiving a difficult performance review.  We can blame the boss, the company’s product line, global competition, or we can rise above and fill the gap with thoughts, decisions, and actions to understand where we fell short, perhaps work smarter and/or harder, and increase teamwork, in order to prepare to improve performance in the next cycle.  In doing so, we position ourselves to reach our full potential.

As a student, we all have received a poor grade every now and then.  We can blame the teacher, say the curriculum is irrelevant, the “system” stinks, or we can rise above and fill the gap with thoughts, decisions, and actions that identify our mistakes, commit to receive help earlier, study more, and persevere towards our goal of graduation.  In doing so, we position ourselves to reach our full potential.

As a struggling family (all families go through difficult times), we can blame a sibling, our spouse, parents, or we can rise above and fill the gap with thoughts, decisions, and actions based on loyalty, commitment, and understanding in order to deliver an effective response to repair the damage and rebuild the bond of family and close relationships.

As we face situations in life, there is a gap between that situation and our response.  character-creates-opportunity-2014-250-by-250pxHow we fill that gap will determine our potential and our overall emotional health.  Our character stands in the gap and our Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential.

I look forward to providing these weekly updates in the months and years to come.  Please feel free to reply to this post or send me an email at with any thoughts or comments to help improve the impact of this project.  Thank you for your help.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Transitions Part II: Thursday, October 23, 2014

Last week’s blog focused on how the typical transitions in life can be great opportunities for personal growth.  When we are intentional about learning and growing instead of resisting change through these often difficult transitions, we find ourselves on an effective path to reach our full potential.

For most of us, the typical transitions in life come about by just following the crowd in the routine choices of life.  Most of us simply follow the crowd.  The student transitions through school years and then into the workforce.  The transitions into marriage, children, and caring for aging parents all somewhat follow the flow of the typical journey of our modern life.  As we discussed last week, these transitions can be difficult, but they also afford us a tremendous opportunity for personal growth.

Since there is such a great opportunity for growth in these typical transitions, the challenge for us is to identify ways we can ignite change in our lives during the somewhat steady, routine seasons of life in order to continue to grow or at least not get stuck in a rut.

The focus of this week’s blog is on how we can identify and create transition moments in life in order to ‘raise the bar’ in our personal growth and to provide a helping hand in getting out of a rut we have created during times we have become comfortable, settled, and perhaps a bit complacent.

We have all heard the expression of the simple truth that “life is a journey, not a destination.”  However, for most of us, it is those destination points in life (graduation, a good job, a family, money in the bank) that pose our greatest risk of becoming complacent and settled.  Our mindset becomes “I have worked hard, persevered through challenges, learned, and ‘arrived.’ Now I can take my foot off the gas and coast for a bit.”  We all know that mindset is a recipe for disaster in the workplace, in maintaining a marriage, raising children, and in any other meaningful role we may play in life.

Instead of getting stuck in a rut or risk a disaster in an area of life that we genuinely care about, how can we maintain a desire for personal growth during the routine seasons of life and mimic the opportunity to grow that we find during major transition points in life?

Here are a few suggestions:

(1)    Accept the Reality that our current status (a good job, a committed marriage, emotionally healthy children) is at risk if we are not intentional about our own growth.  Will Rogers said it best, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  We are at risk the moment we feel we “arrived” on the fresh side of a typical transition point in life.

(2)    Clarify Intentions.  It is important that we clearly decide what we want to become and how we want to act in the many roles we play. “Winging it” sounds cool on the dance floor, but in the really important things in life, we will fall way short of our potential without being intentional with our efforts.

(3)    Leverage the Natural Rhythms of Life as fresh starts to make incremental changes to improve.  Routine points in the year like the start of summer break, going back to school, the New Year, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, even “Mondays” can be extremely practical and relevant times to declare a fresh start on making a small, incremental change to reach a new goal.

(4)    Sustainability.  For many of these typical transition points in life, we are in it for the long haul.  We don’t start and then stop being a parent, or being a son or daughter, and most of us will be “working” at something throughout our lives.  Marriages, well sometimes that may be a different story, but our original intention is to be in it for the long haul. We have all probably experienced times when we tried to make massive changes in some area of our lives after attending a “pump-up” motivational event, “re-dedicated” our efforts to something, or a genuinely significant life event (sickness, family break-up, job loss etc.) caused us to “wake up” and try to get on the right track.  The data would demonstrate that massive life changing plans usually are not sustainable for any of us over the long haul.  What seems to work best is making small, incremental changes over time that builds momentum for us to sustain heading in the right direction over the long haul.  Decide on small changes and start making progress.Pic#5 Father Instructing Son

(5)    The Crowd We Keep.  We often tell our kids how important it is that they hang out with the “right” crowd, not the “wrong” crowd, because for most of us, we follow the crowd.  As adults, we don’t always take our own advice.  We should seek to connect with those who are encouraging and supportive of heading down an effective path vs. those who bring negativity and apathy on any path.  Find the “right” crowd and stick with them, just like we tell our kids.

Like most things in life, the choice is ours.  We can become set in our ways and find we have created a rut or worse a coffin that limits our potential.  Or we can ignite a spark of change during the routine seasons of life so we can continue to grow and reach our full potential.  As we decide to continue to move forward in growth, we build and strengthen our character and realize the truth that Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential and make a positive impact on those around us.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Direction: Thursday, October, 9, 2014

In many areas of life, we witness a clear “rallying cry” which serves to energize an individual or group to give their very best and to sustain them when times get really tough.

In sports, we find a rallying cry in playing our role and contributing to the team’s effort to win a championship.  In the military, we have the mission to accomplish and to “have the back” of the individuals in the unit we serve. In the history of nations, we often hear a rallying cry of some incredible goal like President Kennedy’s declaration in 1961 to send an American safely to the moon before the end of the decade.  It is as a result of these types of rallying cries that we often see incredible acts of perseverance and service that we admire and draw some personal motivation to keep moving forward.

Not all rallying cries are made of good and just causes for humanity or for things closer to home.  Unfortunately, throughout our history, there have been and continue to be rallying cries of evil that carry the same passion, energy, and never-quit mindset that positive, uplifting rallying cries can generate.

I am sure we can all relate to times in our lives when we were energized and filled with passion as we followed a certain rallying cry.  It may have been playing on that high school sports team striving for a championship.  Perhaps it was some activity in school or service project that gave us energy and focus.  As working adults, maybe it was the product launch that galvanized the efforts of everyone in the company to give their very best.  The rallying cry of parenthood often gives parents incredible energy to stay up for nights on end with a young child who is not feeling well.  The fitness goal of running a 5K or even a marathon can be just the rallying cry we need to get back into shape.

A rallying cry provides direction for the very essence of our being.

When we align ourselves with that direction we find ourselves giving our very best, never quitting, and in most cases, we find the peace of purpose and belonging that is so crucial to our emotional health and stability.

As adults, many times we become unmoored and adrift because we have lost connection to a rallying cry perhaps because we (a) let the busyness of life create a fog that conceals our desired direction (b) we gave in to the general flow of adulthood and buried our passion or (c) we never were awakened or reinforced enough to the importance of direction in our life to our overall health and potential.  The result is that we often lose energy quickly, fail to give our best, and most definitely fall short of our potential.

As we fail to contemplate, articulate, and move toward our own rallying cry, we often hear things like “I am just not happy” or “I just don’t have the energy that I use to”…and the list of phrases goes on and on.

As we build and strengthen our character, an important element is for us to define our rallying cry in order to focus our effort and sustain our engagement for the long haul.  Some people may describe terms like “mission” or “purpose” in defining our direction.  It is not about the terminology or the process, it is simply about connecting and continually reconnecting with the direction we are headed, with what truly moves us into action, and what cause will sustain us through the unavoidable challenges we will face.

Here are just a few thoughts from others to help remind us of some simple truths in reconnecting with our own rallying cry:

The risk of not defining a direction: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland

The direction of service: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Gandhi

I think we can all agree that individuals closest to us would be strengthened and encouraged if we reconnected with a rallying cry of service to others, especially in the home.

As we reconnect with or perhaps redefine our own personal rallying cry, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to reach our full potential.character-creates-opportunity-2014-250-by-250px

Character Creates Opportunity® – Mistakes: Thursday, October, 2, 2014

Mistakes…We have all made them.

As kids, we make mistakes in the classroom and get red ink all over our assignments.  We make a mistake on the field and our opponent scores.  We certainly make mistakes with friends and family as we grow during those difficult adolescent years.

As adults, we continue to make mistakes.  We make mistakes at work and the business may lose money, make a defective product, or lose a customer.  In relationships, we make mistakes around promises made and not kept.  We speak-up when we should shut-up, and shut-up when we should speak-up.  We make mistakes with our use of time and money.Mistakes

Whether we are a child or an adult, mistakes hurt.

For most of us, our mindset is to view mistakes as bad and something to avoid.  Mistakes and failures are an inevitable part of life. Mistakes and failures are a necessary part of learning and personal growth. Psychologists and researchers would tell us that almost all learning comes from mistakes.

If we are honest with ourselves, the majority of us gravitate towards ease and comfort when things are going well.  We only learn and grow through struggles and the tough times brought on by mistakes.  On the athletic field, we learn a great deal more when we lose, than when we win.  In school, we learn and grow more when we see red ink on our papers.  In business, we learn and grow a great deal more when we miss our objectives, than when we hit our numbers.  In relationships, we have a tendency to take things for granted when there is perceived harmony, and we are only open to learning and growth when doors get slammed, tempers flare, and we reach a breaking point.

When we view mistakes only as bad and something to avoid, we inhibit learning, experimentation, and new ideas that could trigger breakthroughs in the home, the workplace, and our communities.

Here are just a few thoughts on how we can build and strengthen our character through the unavoidable encounter with mistakes throughout our journey of life:

(1)    When we make mistakes, take on the mindset of learning and growth vs. anger and regret.  We will make mistakes.  As long as we live, we will keep making mistakes.  Commit to learn something and keep moving forward.

(2)    When others close to us make mistakes, act to encourage learning and growth vs bringing additional pain.  They will most likely experience plenty of personal “pain and suffering” without us adding more salt to the wound.  Offering a word of encouragement to learn and grow through a mistake will build trust and dismantle fear which will help to strengthen the relationship.

As we begin to view mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to improve relationships and achieve great results.

Character Creates Opportunity® – Behaviors: Thursday, September 25, 2014

There is no doubt we are living in a time of increasing complexity and intensity.  Whether it is the current tensions in “hotspots” around the globe, struggles in communities close to home, or businesses trying to navigate not just marketplace competition and economic trends, but the significant social and political changes within their areas of operation.  Even though they don’t make the front page news, we also know there are underlying tensions in the home that then manifest themselves in actions we do see in our schools, communities, and workplaces.

With the increasingly complex problems around us we have a tendency to become overwhelmed and sometimes paralyzed with the sense that the challenges are insurmountable.

In a real and practical sense, the complexities we see are not the result of some “community” behavior, “society” behavior, “organizational” behavior, or even “family” behavior.  They are the result of individual choice and the behaviors that stem from those choices.  A community’s culture, an organization’s culture, a family’s culture simply and practically flow from individual behavior.

The only real individual behavior we have control over is our very own.  We are free and accountable to behave in response to the situation around us.  Our individual behavior is where change begins.  When we look across the history of time, we see individuals that are the catalysts for change.  Not technologies or mass moments, but individuals are the genesis of driving change.

There are the great examples we read about like Gandhi leading change in India without ever holding public office. Churchill galvanizing the British people during time of war.  Ronald Reagan as the catalyst for driving change to end the cold war.  On the business front, we read about Lou Gerstner turning around IBM in the 1990s, Steve Jobs coming back to Apple and driving the next great wave of innovation, and Elon Musk spearheading great technical advances with Tesla’s electric cars and space travel.

However, the most important actions of people becoming the catalyst for change are those we don’t read about in the papers or on the internet.  They are the actions of individuals in the home. The individual behaviors of parents, grandparents, and children within the home has always been the greatest catalyst for change over time.

It is the behaviors within the home that day in and day out set the tone for the next 8 hours in the classroom, the workplace, the community.  Those behaviors in the home, collectively over time, form the foundation for individuals to step up and meet the opportunity on a much larger scale and become the catalyst for the really big changes we will eventually read about in newspapers and in history books.

Driving major change around the world and around our community is about individuals being the catalyst and those individuals are first and foremost impacted by behaviors in the home.

We all have our roles to play.  Some of us are playing direct, major roles right now in dealing with the complexities we see all around us.  However, for the vast majority of us, our best effort to impact these large complexities can be brought down to clear and simple steps we can start in our homes and with our families. character-creates-opportunity-2014-250-by-250px

Our character, the internal compass that drives our thoughts, decisions, and actions, is the starting point for those important behaviors in the home.  As we build and strengthen our character with behaviors based on honesty, respect, understanding, courage, compassion, and discipline, we will create the foundation to encourage others in the home to act based on those principles in school, the workplace, and the community.  Eventually some of them will drive positive impact on the world’s stage.

When the complexity of this world begins to feel overwhelming, we should all remember the role we can play to drive change begins simply and clearly in the home.  As we guide our thoughts, decisions, and actions by principles, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to improve the world around us.