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Children Are Our Future

kid-driving-subaru-2014

As my 10-year old daughter sat behind the wheel of our modern-day family wagon, she approached the intersection, indicated her intent with a left turn signal, slowed to execute a safe change of direction, then proceeded onto the street, merged into the correct lane, and headed down the road. Excellent maneuver–great job!

There’s a planned, but unfinished residential neighborhood close to our house that has a completed street grid, but no houses. It’s a quiet piece of property. No traffic, extremely safe, and a perfect training ground for my future automobile driver. She’s not quite tall enough to reach the pedals, so she sits on my lap, steers the car, uses the turn signals, calls out street signs and waits patiently to pull out and merge with the imaginary traffic. We have a lot of fun. She does very well and I believe she will be an excellent driver one day.

Subaru has a cute commercial promoting one of their new vehicles (Gratuitous Subaru plug: We became new Subie owners this year and absolutely love our Outback!). The commercial has dad asking his toddler son if he wants the keys to the family car. We then zoom into the thoughts of the young lad as he envisions himself dropping dad off at work, running to the grocery store, haggling with a police officer over a parking ticket, pulling up not-quite-close-enough to the ATM, then finally sitting in a traffic jam blurting out in utter frustration, “C’mon, move it! You’re killing me!”

It’s a cute commercial. I smile every time I see it–because I’ve been in all of those situations and I feel his pain. But there’s also a scary side to this commercial that, because I’ve experienced all of those frustrations, hits a little too close to home. The scary thing is this: He knows how to react in those situations because he’s likely watched his parents time and again react the exact same way.

Think about your own experiences in the car, around the house, on the job, at the grocery store. What about the music you play or movies you watch? How about the people you hang around or your speech or mannerism? Do you act in a way you would want mimicked by your children? If you’re like me, the appropriate response is “Ouch!”

I’ve heard the phrase, “children are our future” for years, usually tossed about as a regretful admonishment. What kind of planet will we leave them? How big of a national debt will they face? It always points to a way off future when we’re no longer around. Though this line of thinking forces us to focus on a future that will be theirs to deal with, the reality is children are OUR future ; meaning, they can be the driving force behind creating a better life of our own…right here, right now.

Children look to their parents as the most trusted source of information–whether that source is good or bad; positive or negative. In their growing years, they don’t have the reasoning capacity to truly discern good outcomes from bad outcomes, so they follow the example of the people closest to them. They develop survival habits that are imprinted early on and carry those into their school years, to their soccer teams and Girl Scouts, through their college years and careers, and into their marriages and families.

Knowing then that our children are extremely likely to replicate in their own lives the behavior they see in ours, what habits in your life would you like to get rid of? What habits would you like to create? What kind of example do you want to be?

Do you want you daughter to be a great driver? Then you must start driving well. Do you want your son to be a man of upstanding character? Then you must live a life of integrity and honor. Do you want your children to be faithful to their spouse and have a fruitful marriage? Then you must do the same in your own. Whatever life you desire for your children, you must first live that life for yourself, otherwise it’s merely wishful thinking. Our children will face tremendous struggles in their lives–regardless of how they grow up. How much better then to be equipped to face and overcome those struggles because a proven model was lived out for them by their parents.

So what if your life doesn’t look like that proven model just yet? What if you didn’t grow up with a great example of excellent parenting? What if your role model was not the one you want to mimic? Then make the change now; the choice belongs to you. Eventually, as you begin to change your life to be the example and role model for your children, your life will begin to change and take on that greatness, fruitfulness, and vibrancy you so desire in your own children and you will be shaping not only their future, but your own.

Photo credit: Subaru Automotive Division/FHI

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Intentions vs. Efforts

Intentions and Results

Originally Posted on  Creating Success! Blog.

Plan Ahead

Counting Days on a Calendar

It is virtually impossible for you to outwardly reflect today the person you desire to be tomorrow, yet your internal reflection today determines who you will be tomorrow.     –mwgrigs

Not many years ago, the ubiquity of small, silicone wristbands and their WWJD mnemonic, encouraged all who read it to contemplate, “What Would Jesus Do?” The premise being to consider your actions in comparison with how he might have acted. Taking nothing away from the Man from Nazareth, sometimes the distance and differences of culture and religion, as well as the pressures of perfection, obscure simpler, more tangible principles. In this case, understanding the power of your choices and actions today for how they influence and shape your life tomorrow.

Do you know who you want to be 5 years from now? How about 10 years? What about 20 years from now? With any hope, everyone reading this post will have envisioned a “better version” of themselves in a future that is, in all reality, just around the corner. My question for you is this: What are you choosing and doing today that will be the raw materials out of which you will fashion that “better version” of yourself? Maybe WWJD is too fanatical. Maybe it’s not the religion you ascribe to. Regardless, ask yourself, “What would my ‘better self’ do in this situation?” Then act at once and be your better self!

We have little difficulty planning ahead for the purchase of a home, charting a vacation, or anticipating the newest iPhone release. However, when it comes to planning our life we grossly underestimate the power of cause and effect and subsequently have to play catch-up, all the while lamenting, “If I had only known.” Our chief error in this line of thinking is that we believe we can cheat time, forgetting that every oak tree is a testament of the acorn “acting like the mighty oak” all of its many, many, many days.

Plan ahead. Begin to think and act today as if you were already your “better self,” and lo, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now, you will be that person. If you knew twenty years ago where you’d be today, how different would your decisions have been?

Believe When No One Else Will

The greatest motivational tool anyone needs is a mirror! Encourage yourself, believe your own dream, and the world will clear the way for you to do what you set out to do!  –mwgrigs

Everyday Power Blog

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I love this quote because it reminds us that our dream, is OUR DREAM. We can’t expect anybody else to be as excited in our dream, as we are. We can’t expect anybody to believe in our dream, as much as we do. It’s not their dream, IT’S OURS! Most people wait on others to believe in them before they get started; for validation, confidence and motivation. Something that has worked for me and I always ask  my clients is, “What is something that you’ve always needed to hear to make yourself more confident about getting started?” Good! Now, tell it to yourself! Again and again and again! Realizing, that the only person we need to hear it from, is ourselves!
Own your dream!
Don’t wait for your family to see it.
Don’t wait for your friends to see it.
Don’t wait for anybody else to see it.
All that…

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Love Thy Staff

Group of diverse office employees

Several years ago I attended a seminar hosted by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin called, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement. As you can imagine, several of my law enforcement peers opted not to attend because they got hung up on the word “emotional.” For them, it was too mushy and gooey a word to provide any real substance. Turns out, it was one of the most informative seminars I’ve ever attended; I truly believe everyone, not just law enforcement, can benefit from his teaching.

The English language has trigger words, like emotional, that get hijacked by our pop-culture filter, leaving us with a very narrow understanding of their meaning. The word love is another such word. We steer away from its use because of its mushy, ushy, gooeyness and end up with only a cursory understanding of its meaning and, more importantly, its power.

If you’ve read my blog posts for any length of time, you’ll know that I strongly believe leaders can be found at every level within an organization, not just within positions of authority and title. While I believe this message is beneficial for every leader in every circumstance, for the moment, allow me to direct my thoughts to those leaders who are actually in positions of authority and title, having subordinates or employees, and say: You must love your staff!

All too often we think of love in terms of emotional endearment and affection (mushy, ushy, gooeyness); a liking if you will. Therefore the statement, “Love your staff,” runs contrary to our contextual comprehension of the business environment. This is especially true when we realize that we don’t necessarily like all of our employees; and we certainly don’t like all of them all of the time. So what does it mean?

I define love, in this context, as the ability to deliberately choose right and positive actions toward a person or thing. It is a word of action, not feeling. Choosing to love, then, gives one the opportunity to supersede personal feelings and agendas and rightly relate themselves to any circumstance.

Let me explain by way of example. You have an employee who is habitually tardy. You give them a pass the first two or even three times, then they stop even attempting to get to work on time and certainly show no remorse for their tardiness. This brings their reliability into question, is unfair to their coworkers, and compromises the organizational mission—to say nothing of taking advantage of your benevolence!

There are generally two reactions to this type of behavior. The first is one of heavy-handedness, which seeks to punish the employee for flagrant policy violations—an example must be made! That reaction likely comes from bravado or false courage and does not reflect authentic leadership. The second is one of continued permissiveness, never addressing the matter directly. That reaction likely stems from fear or uncertainty and again, does not reflect authentic leadership. There is a third option, motivated by love, which is one of right action. This response points to authentic leadership, whose genesis flows from a desire to see the employee’s behavior modified in such a manner that they rightly relate themselves to policy, coworkers, and mission. In other words, it comes from a desire to see the employee do right.

Loving our employees—rightly relating to them—is easy when things are going well. When things are “broken,” however, there’s a tremendous temptation to react negatively and inject our own feelings and agendas. Authentic leaders are those who seek always to encourage others to strive to attain higher and better ways of being and doing.

Loving your staff is not about emotional feelings; rather, it is about desiring their greatest good.

Winning the Battle Between the Ears

Battle Between the Ears

4:30 a.m. comes very early in the morning! The alarm sounds off breaking the warm, cozy silence and dares me to hit the snooze button. Time to get up! What follows is an amazing volley of justifications and excuses for why I should stay in bed. You don’t really need to go to the gym. Who are you trying to impress anyway? It’s not like you’re training for the Olympics!

Raise your hand if you’ve had that conversation with yourself…okay, put your hands down. This is an all too common dialogue we have with ourselves, whether trying to quit smoking, learn to play the ukulele, or implementing any program aimed at tighter abdominal muscles.

One of my oldest friends is a volunteer strength and conditioning coach for a high school football team on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While the players may think that he’s there to help them get stronger, run faster, and play harder, the real conditioning those kids are getting is one of leadership and success.

He tells his players that before they can win the battle on the field, they must win the battle between their ears—not just today, but every day. He knows that late in the fourth quarter, the mind will fabricate all kinds of reasoning and justification for quitting. Too tired. Not strong enough. They’re a better team. You can’t win. He knows the mind will spew vile thoughts of defeat, just to test your resolve and see how determined you are in achieving your goals. A few will overcome; most will succumb.

The reality of life is that the biggest challenges we face are not external, but internal. It’s overcoming the obstacles of our own thoughts. Most people’s financial problems have nothing to do with math. The majority of relationship challenges are not about Mr. or Mrs. Right. And nearly every leadership problem has the mind at its root, not lack of skill.

Winning the battle between the ears is what Steven Pressfield calls “doing the work,” in his book The War of Art. It is settling the argument in your mind and doing what needs to be done. Not just today, but every day.

“Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habit.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
― Lao Tse

Leadership is an Attitude

eagle-in-flight

After a long and relatively successful career in the marketing and design industries, I stepped away and took a gamble on something I had always wanted to do and became a police officer!

I faired well in the academy, excelling in the mechanics of being a police officer, but once I hit the streets I quickly realized that I knew very little about actually being a good cop. It took a great deal of time and patience with myself to learn the ways of being a good cop. I gained all the tools I needed in the six-month academy course, but learning the why’s, when’s, and how’s of using those tools was something the academy couldn’t teach me; I had to develop it in myself.

That’s the real essence of being a leader: learning the why’s, when’s, and how’s of using all of the tools on your belt. Having advanced skills in team dynamics or conflict resolution means little unless you can rightly recognize when those skills are needed and appropriately apply them. Using the wrong skill at the wrong time can be as devastating, even more so, as having no skill at all.

The chief discipline I employed to help me become a good cop, is the same discipline anyone can use to become a great leader, namely developing a positive mental attitude that accepts nothing less than excellence. Developing that attitude helped me move past all of my cadet failures—and achievements—and strive to be the best I could be. That same attitude can transform anyone—regardless of position or title—into a formidable leader capable of accomplishing whatever they set their mind to do.

Cultivating an attitude of leadership is necessary for accomplishing any good and positive endeavor in life. What type of attitude are you cultivating?

Etymology Word of the Day: Change

Etymology Word of the Day Banner

Change (cheynj) v. – early 13c., “to substitute one for another; to make (something) other than what it was” (transitive); from late 13c. as “to become different” (intransitive), from Old French changier “to change, alter; exchange, switch,” from Late Latin cambiare “to barter, exchange,” from Latin cambire “to exchange, barter,” of Celtic origin, from PIE root *kemb- “to bend, crook” (with a sense evolution perhaps from “to turn” to “to change,” to “to barter”);

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ―Leo Tolstoy

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ―Albert Einstein

Today’s etymology word of the day deserves two quotes (actually, I just couldn’t bring myself to choose one over the other).

Last week, I was given the wonderful opportunity to speak to the attendees of the 2013 KMWorld Conference and the topic I selected centered around facilitating change. Last week’s blog posts describe the four stages of change in detail, but I’ll focus this post on the origin of change.

There are so many cliché thoughts surrounding the topic of change, from it being the only constant in the universe, to becoming the change you wish to see, that it’s plausible any further commentary might be just a rehash of all of those other powerful sayings, which I will here try to avoid.

What I want share today is a truth so simple, its power can only be realized in practice: Change begins from within, never from without.

Change, or better yet the decision to change, belongs to each one of us and is perhaps the only thing over which we have true control. We cannot change for another we can only change for ourselves.

Change is made internally and manifested externally. Tired of being overweight? Change yourself internally first. Don’t like your dead-end job? The change begins with an internal decision.

As the two quotes above suggest, change you and your thinking first and you will begin to realize that change in the world around you.

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