Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Commitment, Consistency, and Competency

“Practice isn't the thing you do once you're good. It's the thing you do that makes you good.” -- Malcolm Gladwell

Have you ever made a decision to learn to do something new? Maybe you wanted to learn to play the piano, or the guitar, or the drums, or one of the many instruments available to all of us who were destined to be the "Fifth Beatle". By the way, my sincere appreciation goes out to all those parents who raised aspiring musicians. If it wasn't the constant boom of the drums, it was the ear-splitting squeals that every would-be Jimi Hendrix just had to produce. In my case, it was the rearranged dishes and cabinets full of knick-knacks that came alive to the heavy vibrations of a bass guitar and amp combo -- that strangely had only one volume setting -- 10! So, maybe this wasn't the best example -- but it sure was fun!

The point is, that at some point, all of us have resolved to learn something new -- and most likely totally underestimated the time and practice it would take to become as proficient as we visualized ourselves to be. Now, I'm not here to dredge up painful memories of an ill-fated venture, because I also know we've all found at least some degree of success in several areas. I'm just trying to shed a little truth on the principles of commitment, consistency and competency.

If we think about it, these three principles are at work in every worthwhile endeavor we ever dare to attempt. Without them, in part or as a whole, all of our best intentions to do something, know something, or be something fall miserably short. In other words, we eventually and often bitterly, quit. A few weeks ago I heard Chris Brady say something to the effect of, "you will be tempted to quit every good thing you ever do." This really stuck with me. We think our quitting is the result of discovering that something isn't good or worth pursuing -- at least I thought that way. That is, until I did an honest appraisal of just a few of the good things I flat-out quit. Why did I do it?

As I look back, it is clear that I lacked a firm commitment that was tied to a bigger dream or want. Without it, my commitment had no root. From this point it is really the domino-effect that takes over. Lack of commitment crushes any hope of consistency, which in turn squeezes out even the smallest bit of competency. So what is left over? Nothing has really changed, other than gathering up a little fresh regret -- at least for a while. Sound familiar?

Thomas Jefferson said: "If you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done.” Perhaps the thing we've never really done is honestly walk the commitment-consistency-competency path. It stands to reason that consistent practice produces a good result. Ideally, that result is competency or mastery in a particular area or discipline. But again, without commitment the foundation collapses. How do we gain commitment? By changing the way we think about ourselves, what we know, what we don't know, and more importantly, what we're capable of doing. We may also need to change our surroundings, including what and who we allow to influence us.

Find the dream that will help you make the commitment -- to consistently practice whatever needs to be mastered -- to gain the true level of competence -- that will change your life and rock your world.

Your comments are always welcome.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Go Ahead -- Do It Anyway!

There are times when nothing more really needs to be said. This is one of those times. The following poem was written by Kent Keith in 1968. It is said that it was for a booklet that went to student leaders. I am thinking that he would know the resistance and the disappointment that every leader will eventually encounter. In fact, I believe such things define our ability as leaders. So, we must prepare for it.
I've been told that another version of this poem was written on the wall of a children's home in Calcutta, India -- a home in which Mother Teresa had a ministry.
Our job as leaders is to prepare and be prepared for the inevitable storms that come any time we're dealing with people. And, since it is impossible to be a leader without dealing with people, it will do us good to read and reread these words of wisdom.
  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
Leading people may be the hardest job you've ever taken on and your efforts may sometimes seem small. Lead them anyway.

Friday, February 1, 2013

What's In Your Tank?

“What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.” ~ Aristotle

As I meet and continue to work with people on a daily basis, I always ask about their dreams and deepest desires. Ultimately I will hear something like; "I just want to help people" or "I want to make a difference in the lives of others". It seems to be a common theme within the human spirit. But often, when I ask them how they would do it, a look of surprise or concern comes over their face -- followed by something like; "I'm not really sure".

In most cases, I truly believe that people want to help others or make a difference in the world -- but I'm also convinced that they really don't know how because there is not a fresh and streaming source of helpful information coming into their lives. It's kind of like going all day without eating. As much as you want to be helpful and attentive to what people around you are saying; your mind is only on the empty stomach and the weakened feeling you're experiencing. In short, your tank is empty -- and truth be told, your disposition may not be the best for the task at hand. You may even reach for some junk food to bridge the gap. Often, you'll feel even worse from the effect of the empty calories.

So, wouldn't it be just as true for our minds and hearts? Without a daily intake of positive and life-changing information, how can we expect to help others be more, have more, or reframe their thinking? What about the "junk food" of the mind? When our only daily intake is coming from the news media, social media, and negative co-workers or relatives, what is our mind and what is our heart going to produce? Junk! The Bible says: "For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh" (Luke 6:45).

If our true motivation or desire is to help others, then we cannot do so from an empty or polluted tank. We need to resolve to fill our reservoir with good, useful, positive, uplifting information that is grounded in truth. We need to be filled first so that out of our abundance our mind and heart overflow with helpful conversation, information, and encouragement. Simply put; you can't give what you don't have.

Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.