No, Thank YOU.

Today’s Lesson: Practice what you preach, and keep practicing.

*****

One of my lessons from last week (and one of the most clicked on) was my post called, “Just Say Thank You.”

Since writing it, I have been caught violating my principle on an almost daily basis! It probably should be no surprise when I post advice publicly, the public also expects me to follow my advice…

Nicole praised me for being patient with her one day and, instead of responding properly, I debated whether the duties of a good boyfriend include being patient (I dismissed her compliment by saying I was just doing what anyone would do). I should have said, “Thank you.”

At work, my boss let me know he was going to pay mileage for me to travel to another site. Instead of being grateful for the reimbursement, I pointed out the mileage and time were the same I would have driven to work anyway, just in another direction. He said, “That’s not the point.” What I meant to say, of course, was “Thank you.”

My trainees offered to pay for my lunch to show appreciation for training them. I declined the offer twice before accepting. Rather than turn them into bullies about giving me food, I should have just said, “Thank you!”

 

I can go on but you get the idea. When you set the standard for something, be sure to hold yourself accountable first. Otherwise, get used to the taste of crow.

 

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Curse You, Styrofoam Packaging!

There are probably bigger things to worry about than packing peanuts… but I still hate them.

*****

I was putting together an office desk today, that I bought from Amazon.com. It came packed in white styrofoam molds. I passionately dislike styrofoam. It breaks up and static clings to everything, it is environmentally unfriendly, it squeaks, and even after vacuuming I know I will find bits of it for weeks.

The desk was packed in so much styrofoam it took me nearly an hour to unpack all the parts and remove them from their white particle jails. By the time I was ready to assemble the desk, I was furious about the stupid styrofoam snow covering my carpet.

So I paused.

I looked at it all for a minute, the styrofoam, the desk parts, outside the windows at the world going by… I thought, “Really? There are people dying of hunger or torture right now, there are fellow animals being slaughtered by factory farms, families struggling through poverty, fanatics holding human progress hostage (and holding humans hostage, too), ecological disasters looming, even just people losing loved ones to old age at this very moment… But I want to hang my hat on the styrofoam thing now? That’s the biggest problem I want to be angry about at this moment? THAT’S the thing that is truly setting me off… really?”

I shook my head, sighed, put on some music and got to work assembling the desk, sad about the other stuff but appreciative that my biggest problem today was invasive packaging, which suddenly did not seem like a big deal.

 

Today’s Lesson: Your problems are probably not the biggest problems in the world. Appreciate your life. Move forward.

 

 

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How To Be Happy

A friend, who has fought depression for a long time, asked me if I am really happy and how do I stay happy? 

 

Something to consider:

Happiness does not come from the desires you have met, the position you have attained, or the social graces others believe about you. There are people who follow every whim or desire but never seem happy. There are people who are in positions of power or authority, or have great wealth, but never seem happy. There are people who attend lots of social gatherings and seem to have lots of friends, but never feel happy.

Desires, Position, and Social Grace are not required for happiness. What is required is the willingness to be happy.

Happiness (or contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction, etc.) comes first from the choice to be willing to be happy. This is different from the choice to be happy. I have seen the phrase, “Choose Happiness” in many places but for some people, the basic choice is not happiness itself; it is simply being open to the idea that happiness exists and is attainable in a given moment.

I have found this to be most true in relationships. I have been in relationships where I have held to the past for too long, unwilling to let go of old hopes and desires or even old problems. The result was an inability to give my best to the relationship at hand. Suddenly, I would find issues from past relationships made their way into my current relationship. If not that, then I would simply not be able to be happy with the person I was with, even if she was a great person. She might have been everything I was looking for in a mate at the time, but still… I was not happy.

I did not know it at those times but it had nothing to do with the person I was with. I was simply not happy because I was not willing to be happy. Once I realized that, I made a choice. I chose to be willing to be happy. It was a conscious effort and I had to remind myself for months to keep being open to being happy. Eventually, I realized I was there. I was content. I was happy and had been for a while but I could not have told you where the turning point was. It was gradual, often deliberate, but it became easier until it became natural.

I am content now and have been for a long time. Beyond being willing to be happy, I have learned 3 other keys to happiness:

Gratitude. When I am not happy, it is usually because I am not grateful for what I have. I am stuck in a state of wanting something (usually something more, better, or different). If I pause and reflect on things I am grateful for (even simple things like the smell of autumn, or being able to see, or listening to my cat purr), then I will usually find something to smile about. Having a flashier car is not so big a desire when I realize many people would be happy to have a pair of warm socks and a meal today.

Humor. Life is crazy, right? Being able to roll with the ups and downs by appreciating the bizarre unpredictability of life and laughing with it makes the tough times easier to bear. Knowing I will eventually be able to look back and laugh when facing a difficult situation…sometimes that is enough to provide the strength to make it through. Laughing at myself is probably some of the best medicine I have taken. I have a lot of confidence and I can be arrogant sometimes but when I make an embarrassing mistake, rather than beat myself up I laugh with myself for not having the hubris to have seen the mistake coming in the first place. Laughing with myself also takes the tension off others who are not sure if they should laugh at a situation. Finally, being able to laugh (especially with myself) allows me to enjoy my company and appreciate both the good and rocky times of my life.

Self-Esteem. Without a high level of self-regard, both gratitude and humor become tools for self-loathing instead. Having a lot of self-esteem removes the cynicism that would otherwise befall laughing at oneself and it makes gratitude generous instead of suspicious. I think people with low self-esteem who demonstrate gratitude only share half of the sentences they are thinking. Someone with high self-esteem might say and think, “I am grateful to have a friend like you.” Someone with very low self-esteem might say, “I am grateful to have a friend like you,” but finish the thought in her mind, “…but what do you really want?”

 

Choose happiness, but first choose to be willing to be happy. Remember to have gratitude for your life, laugh with yourself during both the good and tough times, and hold yourself in high-regard by acknowledging your own greatness and the greatness of others. Perhaps most importantly, be deliberate about your happiness. As with anything, to be really good at it requires regular practice and a lot of patience. With happiness, though, half the fun is getting there!

 

 

 

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Today’s Lesson: Staying Up Late [140924]

Time spent with friends is sometimes more valuable than sleep. I enjoyed a rare moment with my peers, discussing work, strategies for success, and general life drama (with a bunch of District Sales Managers, there is plenty of life drama!).

We had to be up early for a meeting but we had so much fun enjoying each other’s company we reluctantly went to bed with only a few hours left to rest.

You should always try to have enough rest but, once in a while, the information or pleasure of an opportunity to share with others in a meaningful way is more valuable than fleeting dreams.

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Today’s Lesson: Is It Time For a Nap Yet? [140831]


There was a lazy moment this weekend where Nicole and I were killing time while visiting family.

My mom and dad were napping, mom sleeping in dad’s arms on the couch.

Nicole remarked how cute it was that they napped curled up in each other’s arms. That’s common for my parents; I had not given it a thought but I have definitely seen couples married more than 30 years that rarely sit on the same couch together, let alone nap like young lovers still discovering each other.

I think the lesson here is to hold onto that thing that made you fall in love in the first place. Our actions develop into habits which become expectations. A kiss goodnight, for example, starts as an expression of love, then develops into a good habit, and then only becomes noticed when it is missing because it is expected… but we are, at that point, as appreciative and mindful of the kiss as we are of brushing our teeth. It’s just something we do before we go to bed.

Of course, the answer, isn’t simply “nap together”–the point is to remember to be in love.

 

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The Lesson I Learned Today… 140630

A team member gave me a great compliment today, after a very trying week for the team. She said, “You put together a great team, sir, and you always find a way to keep us on the right track to move forward when things get tough. Thank you.”

As a leader, you are in a constant struggle because at some point you fall in love with your team, in a way. They become more than workers or helpers. You can miss the results they deliver because you start seeing the potential they can live up to and you coach to that instead.

I don’t know if it is right or wrong to expect your team to do what they think is impossible (but you know is achievable), but I do know that if you do, then when the chips are down, they will pull together and do extraordinary things.

A team of soccer moms and college dropouts become super-heroes of a sort, whose accomplishments go largely unnoticed by their families and friends. Only their coach/ manager/ mentor sees the emotional struggle and personal challenges they overcome to achieve things bigger than themselves, bigger than almost anyone in their life knows they are capable of.

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