Friday, December 21, 2012

What Would Jacob Marley Say To Us?

"We forge the chains we wear in life." ~ Charles Dickens

I love this time of year. Back-to-back episodes of "A Christmas Carol" in every format and version. Do you have a favorite? I have to say that I am partial to the 1951 Alastair Sim version. Although I've watched the visit of Jacob Marley's Ghost many times, it really caught my attention this time around. I couldn't help but wonder what Marley might say to us about the chains that we have forged.

I'm not necessarily talking about the same chains Ebenezer Scrooge "labored on". Yet, isn't it true that each of us have thoughts and actions -- or lack of -- that are holding us back? Remember that old Ebenezer couldn't see his chains either. But, it doesn't mean they weren't there. So, what are the chains that we've labored on these many years? An honest self-evaluation might reveal a few surprises.

The truth is, all of us have limiting beliefs. In my business, we often refer to these as FUDS -- Fears, Uncertainties, Doubts, and Suspicions. And, while it is quite natural to have them, very few of us really ever find the courage to test their validity. Don't get me wrong, some of our fears and beliefs are real and we need to give heed. But, if we're honest with ourselves -- a trait we highly prize in others -- we'll find that some of what we believe just isn't true. Experience and the thoughts and encounters of our past often have a way of robbing us of future happiness, joy, and success.

We've felt the sting of failure or rejection. Somebody laughed at our dream and we somehow decided they knew more about us than we did and we laid it aside. We may have been told that we'll never amount to anything and then we promptly went about proving it. Truth is, words have power; but fortunately it is a two-way street. I recently heard leadership guru Orrin Woodward talk about this very subject. He basically said that it is not necessarily what happens to us that determines the outcome, but rather the story that we keep telling ourselves. Think about that for a moment. Can you relate? I sure could.

The reality is, the event happened once -- but we've replayed it over and over so many times in our mind that we've accepted it as truth. We've let the negative words sink in and take hold. If there were no words, we found our own -- and we continued to chew on them until they took root in our mind. But again, there is a two-way street and we can change our direction. How? By changing the story we tell ourselves. By facing the brutal reality of any situation and taking personal responsibility for the outcome, we can change the story. When we are no longer shackled by playing the blame game or weighed down by our pity parties, we really can take positive steps toward our own reformation.

Marley came to speak truth to a friend and it started a process of positive change. Fortunately, there are people who are still with us who can fill the role. There are others who can then come and help us come to grips with our past, present and future. People, who like Marley have found that mankind is our business. These people come in the form of pastors, mentors, coaches, teachers, and our dearest friends. Don't make them come looking for you. Seek them out while there is still time. I feel blessed to be in the LIFE community with people who are committed to making just such a difference.

What would Jacob Marley say to you? What painful truth would be revealed? Others may choose to continue to wear their chains. They will most likely continue to labor on them, increasing the weight until they cannot move any further. But, what about you? What decision will you make in regard to the past and its FUDS? What is the story that you will tell yourself? Today is the day to write a new script for your life.

As Tiny Tim would say: "God bless us, every one!"


Monday, December 17, 2012

Change -- An Inside Job

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will - his personal responsibility in the realm of faith and morals.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
If the tragic events of this past Friday teach us anything at all, it may very well be a clear call for change. Not external change or the "somebody oughta do something" change, but the most difficult change of all -- personal change.

Several years ago, I attended a Men's Retreat at which Kerry L. Skinner previewed and taught from his great workbook; The Heart of the Problem. In the introduction to that weekend, Kerry said something that has stuck with me all these years. He said: "The heart of the problem is the heart is the problem." A simple, yet profound statement that came to my mind as I watched the news coverage of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

I realize much has been said, and it is likely there will be much more said in the days and weeks ahead. It is not my intent to try to explain or even make a slight degree of sense as to what happened. The truth is, I have no answers -- I don't believe anyone has any real answers. Any attempts to explain or affix blame really don't seem to make a lot of sense.

However, what is clear to me is the need for a very real discussion about personal responsibility and standards of conduct that are not only self-imposed, but carefully cultivated through intentional study and modeled behavior. We talk so much about creating a world that is better for our children and grandchildren. Today, our discussion must center on how we can keep them safe in places where there should be no hint of threat to their safety. Our schools and homes should be such a place. Yet, recent history reveals that nothing may be further from the truth. Why?

Again, I don't have the one true answer. But is it possible for us to turn off the influences of violence that have overtaken the culture? I fear that today's very realistic video games, movies and television shows are glorifying such violence and by constant exposure anesthetizing our repulsion of it -- an maybe finding a place in our heart. We may not intend to carry out such acts ourselves, and clearly know the difference between fantasy and reality -- but is this true universally? 

Permanent change does not come overnight, nor will it be easy. But I believe if we will each be a party of one, we can collectively make a difference. First, by turning off the violent and negative influences in our own lives. Second, by replacing these influences with uplifting and life-changing information that can challenge our thinking and alter our behavior and habits. Third, by making a commitment to surround ourselves with like-minded people who are equally committed to making a difference. Fourth, by modeling the behavior and mentoring others who will inevitably be drawn by the influence we've placed on our own lives.

It does no good to blame others if we are not willing to take personal responsibility. I trust that we will do so -- and do so soon. Your comments are always welcome.

p.s. As I finished this missive, I saw a great post by my dear friend, mentor, and LIFE business partner; Marc Militello. Take a moment and read it. Just click on his name.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Are You Mining For Gold?

"The desire of gold is not for gold. It is for the means of freedom and benefit." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not long ago, I ran across one of the countless reality series that now seem to define entertainment television -- Gold Rush. I can see where the attraction to such a program may develop. Basically, a couple groups of regular-guys are up in Alaska mining for gold and hoping to hit the pay-dirt that will change their lives forever. Certainly, it is a fantasy or desire that, if we're honest with ourselves, most of us share. But how many of us are willing to actually risk everything we have and head to the wilderness to find that elusive gold?

It isn't a matter of whether the gold is actually there. History, along with scientific and physical testing proves it is there. It may take a little work and effort to find it, but every reasonable indication says that it's there and waiting to be found. Perhaps the real issue is that we really don't know how to do it, or what to look for -- and we may not recognize the gold even if we found it. Why? Because it may not look like what we expect it to look like.

I must admit that I thought gold was found only in the form of nuggets and large rocks. I was under the impression that as the miners dug it up; this totally recognizable and gleaming gold nugget would appear. As I watched the show, I learned the reality was far different -- at least in this type of mining. In truth, the crew works together as a team --some more knowledgeable and experienced than others -- to move and wash thousands of yards of dirt and rocks to find what is really, in proportion, just a few specks of gold.

The investment in time, equipment and fuel is staggering. Yet success is measured in finding ounces or fractions of ounces of tiny gold flakes. In fact, an entire week's work resulted in harvesting a gold product that could fit in a small jar and be held in the palm of your hand. However, that seemingly insignificant jar of flecks and flakes represented more than $100,000 in cash -- and it was just a fraction of what was possible going forward.

So are the miners looking for gold to put in jars and be admired by all who see it? Absolutely not! As Emerson indicates in the above quote, it is not the gold, but what the gold can do for us that makes the difference. The gold is exchanged for financial freedom and the choices that freedom brings.

But, the truth is, we don't have to go to Alaska to find literal gold. The means to our freedom, financially and otherwise, is right in front of us. However, like the gold flakes, we have to know what we're looking for and then move and wash a whole lot of dirt and rocks to find it. I believe that useful, life-changing information is the gold we seek. But, I also believe it is hidden in the mountains and landslides of mostly useless information that bombards us daily.

Our job is to dig through the pile and with the help of someone who has more knowledge, experience, and results, find the treasure that is there. We need to find the discipline to read and think for ourselves. We need to turn off other influences and allow useful information, in the form of CDs, seminars, and carefully selected mentors and role-models an opportunity to change our thinking and change our lives. I am so proud to be associated with so many people who are dedicated to these principles and are committed to changing lives and seeking the true gold that brings true freedom. What is the LIFE you'd like to live?

Drop me a note. I'd love to chat with you and hear your thoughts about what freedom means to you.

Friday, November 30, 2012

For Your Information

"Modern society is information rich and wisdom poor." -- Orrin Woodward

It is absolutely fascinating to consider the sheer volume of available information and the incredible speed in which it is now possible to consume. The Internet has made our desktops, laptops, tablets, cell phones, and even our iPods instant messengers and information retrieval systems. Anything you want to know, just type it in the search box. So, shouldn't we be just a little smarter? A little wiser? Are we?

If the above quote, by Orrin Woodward, is to be believed -- and I believe it is -- then we're really not any wiser at all. In fact, I would go as far to say we've lost a little ground here. Why? Because to some degree, it appears we have lost our desire to be critical thinkers.

Wikipedia says: "Critical thinking is a type of reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what we believe or what we are to do. It is a way of deciding whether a claim is always true, sometimes true, partly true, or false." By its definition, it requires "reasonable" and "reflective" thinking to process the vast onslaught of information and then arrive at a reasonable conclusion as to the validity and value of that information. In other words, is it true or false? Is it relevant or irrelevant? Will you learn something -- or just be entertained?

Our desire to be entertained may be at the root of the current critical thinking shortage. It seems we're more interested in somebody's 15 minutes of fame, than we are in somebody's 15 years of dedicated research, knowledge and practical wisdom. How can that be? We often know the names and lifestyles of all the current reality TV shows, but have no clue who represents us is local and national public office or what the most pressing and important issues really are.

Worse yet, we often cannot clearly articulate what we believe and why. Does it really make sense to simply listen to someone else's often uninformed opinion and adopt it as our own? Then when challenged give that deer-in-the-headlights stare? Knowing what we believe and why we believe it requires a healthy dose of critical thinking and the fortitude to do our own leg work on any particular subject. It never hurts to go offline. We need to read books, listen to CDs, and attend seminars and workshops in which knowledge and wisdom is shared.

I love the current commercial in which a young lady says she heard it on the Internet and if it is on the Internet it has to be true. When asked who told her that, her predictable answer is -- the Internet. Now I'm not picking on the Internet. It is a neutral channel for the most part, made up of good and bad. The Wikipedia definition I gave earlier comes from the Internet and it is helpful and truthful.

Perhaps the time has come to ask ourselves: "Where am I getting my information and how do I know it is true?" Perhaps more importantly we need to ask: "What good will it do and who can be helped by it?" After all, isn't it the responsibility of a true leader to be informed -- and to have well-thought out platforms from which to lead? Real leaders will never seek to minimize critical thinking, but rather will always demand it of themselves and embrace it in others. They know their real purpose is to serve through leading.

So next time someone says; "I heard it on the Internet", you'll know it's time to do a little research and a whole lot of thinking. You never know, you might just be able to say: "Well, for your information ..."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Think Thankful Second Thoughts

"When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself." ~ Tecumseh

What were your first thoughts this morning? What immediately came to mind when your feet hit the floor? By the way, "where's the coffee" doesn't count as a legitimate first thought. Our first thoughts hold a big clue to what we deem to be the most important or pressing issues of our lives. So, the question is, do we think more about what we have or what we don't have? If like so many people, your first thought is about money, then I'm fairly confident it is in relation to its scarcity rather than its abundance -- correct? In today's uncertain times, this is somewhat understandable and again, predictable.

Then, what about our second thought? After the mental calculation on the state of today's solvency, we may be tempted to dwell on what we don't have, what we might have missed, or if we're totally honest, what went to someone else -- who by the way really isn't as deserving as we are. Don't look so shocked -- the word is out so let's deal with it. The truth is, we all have wants, dreams, desires, and yes -- legitimate needs. These thoughts drive us and provide motivation for getting up and going to work. Not a bad thing.

But to seek only what we want, with no regard for the many blessings we have already received, is selfish and dare I say, childish behavior. More specifically, we may be committing malpractice against our own incredible mind. Now I won't go into the power of our subconscious thoughts and how they guide and direct us. That's the subject of another talk. But, I hope we can agree that our thoughts determine our actions. Selfish thoughts -- selfish actions. Thankful thoughts -- thankful actions.

Obviously, the celebration of Thanksgiving Day is not meant to be a once-a-year-hurry-up-and-say-something-nice-about-our-cozy-life-event. Rather it is a mile marker and a time of reflection to truly celebrate what we should be practicing on a year-round basis. The above quote, by Tecumseh, speaks of the most basic elements that we often take for granted but that would be sorely and immediately missed if they were withdrawn. No light. No strength. No food. Wouldn't take long for our joy cup to be emptied.

So tomorrow, and every day thereafter, let's let our second thought be one of true and heart-felt thanksgiving for what we have, who we have, and the time that we have them.

But, you may be saying to yourself: "Shouldn't this be my first thought each day?" The answer is yes. As a matter of fact, it should be the goal -- thankful thoughts first. However, since meaningful change comes over time, let's work on getting it up to the second position and go from there.

Have a Very Happy and Safe and Thoughtful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Are You Aware of Your Surroundings?

I asked this question in two different workshops today and basically received the same overall answer. The question was: How can we continue to keep a productive and success-driven mindset on a daily basis? The answer that was given? Control the way we think. In taking it a step further I asked: What are some of the ways in which we can control the way we think? The most popular answer? Surround ourselves with other people who know the value of "right thinking".

There is an old saying that came to mind. "You can't expect to fly with the eagles if you continue to hang out with the turkeys!" As funny as it sounds, there is a huge element of truth here. The people and places that we allow to surround us can have a profound effect on the way we think. Notice the operative words are "that we allow". We may not have been able to control when and where we were born, who our parents are, or even where we lived. But, we can control the way we react and how we can think about it all going forward. That includes the influences that we allow to take root in our lives.

To put it very simply, we need to find those people who have demonstrated the right thinking -- usually evident in the fruits of the success they've achieved -- and spend time talking with them and most importantly, learning from them.

Over the next few days, make a simple two-column list. In the first column write down the names of people who you believe have demonstrated positive and successful thinking. These are the people who energize you and make you feel better about yourself whenever they happen to be around. In the second column write down the names of the people who are perpetually negative or seem to bring a dark cloud with them wherever they go. Now honestly ask yourself; "where am I spending the majority of my time." Is it time to make some adjustments in your surroundings?

It has been said that everyone has the ability to light up a room -- some when they enter, and some when they leave. Which one are you? Which one do want to be?

If you intentionally work to change your surroundings, you may just change your future. I wish you great success -- and maybe we can hang out sometime.