Today’s Lesson: Who Loves You? [141010]

Sometimes you do not hear the news you are hoping to hear.

You did not get the promotion you were hoping for, your manuscript was rejected, or it turns out that lump was not just a lump. Whatever it is, life sometimes throws you a curveball.

Some days are really challenging but I try to be detached from both success and failure. I do not let my successes become my reason for living and I try to never let my failures become my reason for not living. I choose instead to be defined on my merits and values as a whole person, not my hits and misses as seen by others.

No one likes bad news but we should not let a challenge bother us too long. We can not control the choices of those around us but we can always control our choices.

In other words, I think you define your successes (which also means you define your failures, so be careful which you choose and when). If you are not your biggest supporter, then you might be your biggest detractor and how do you suppose that will work out?

Today’s lesson is: Leadership and Courage are not defined by our available options but rather by choosing yourself when the world chooses someone else and ignoring the “no’s” you encounter.

Probably, the more times you hear “no,” the more likely you are actually saying “yes” to yourself.





Today’s Lesson: The Zen of Success [140829]

I am proud to have a team that regularly outperforms teams double its size in arguably better markets with more tenured staff. My team performs at a high level regardless of moving targets, staffing adjustments, market changes, or customer traffic patterns. I attribute much of our success to two things, and I was reminded of these today while speaking to a peer: Patience and Persistence. Here is how it works:

Patience: I distill information. It is rare for me to make a decision without analyzing available data and asking for input from my team leaders. Even when I am not directing a team, this is true. For example, I read lots of books on leadership but I throw most of the information out. It is not all relevant to my style of leadership and some of it is plain bad (one popular example is the idea of “servant leadership“–an oxymoron that makes great copy but is meritless as an actual principle). When a directive is delivered to me, I do not necessarily pass it on to my team untarnished. I examine the core value of the message, decide if it is right for us and how the team can best ingest it, and then act in alignment with our team values.

An easy way to kill team effectiveness is by delivering conflicting messages. That is why it is important to be a filter for the information coming in. I once worked for a company that had, as one of its core values, “Empower employees” yet required employees to complete a requisition form for the most basic office supplies, even Paper Mate cheap ball point pens–if you wanted one, you were “empowered” to fill out a form. Of course, the irony of that was lost on no one… except the head of HR.

Persistence: I take the long view. I have learned that everybody wants something and they want it now but that is almost never a path to sustainable success. In personal affairs or in business, we deal with agendas. Family, friends, coworkers, bosses, vendors, television news anchors, brands, even our pets have an agenda and they all want you to follow theirs.

Instead, I stick to my team’s agenda, deliver the results we are focused on despite distractions and requests coming at us (distill the information), and ensure we are operating within our team values and principles. If we understand the overall mission we have been charged with (which is usually closer to “grow the business” than it is to “we need to sell more widgets now, now, now!”), then it is easier to quiet the noise, take the long view, and follow our agenda.

In a more than 20-year old company, my team has quietly become the fifth most consistent performing team in only 3 years and we continue a quiet but steady rise. Sometimes we are recognized but usually we don’t make big splashes; we just continue to do well and try to improve day by day. We never seek magic bullets and we do not compromise our team values of Integrity, Honesty, and Trust.

If there is a secret Leadership club where all the popular leadership skills are passed out to every author basically re-writing the same book, I was not invited. I have figured out a few things, though, by simply being persistent and patient. It takes persistence to seek information, edit what does not fit and find those little nuggets that change everything. It takes patience to walk, not run, when others are screaming “fire!” and you know that keeping your team on task sometimes is the task.

Whether in business or personal success, I can tell you patience and persistence always pay off.



The Lesson I Learned Today… 140625

My mom works hard. Like, really hard, pretty much from sun up to sun down. She has a full time job, helps with our family businesses, cooks, cleans, and runs a house with 3 men in it at any given time.

I pointed out how hard she works every day and asked her why she puts up with our laziness (when she’s around) and doesn’t demand more help. She told me about the lesson she learned from her mom, which she did not understand until she was filling the same shoes.

She said, “You know, I do work very hard and sometimes it can be frustrating but let me tell you… after all the work I put in to make dinner and pick up the dishes and things like that… when I turn around and see you and your father and your brothers gathered around the table laughing, it makes every bit of it worth it. Nothing makes me happier and the work just disappears.”

The lesson there, I think, is to know why you are doing the work, know what you value, and take a moment now and then to enjoy what you have accomplished.

Thanks mom. Love you.


“Love Me For… Me?”

I have seen this meme a few times on Facebook. I am saddened and angered by what the originator is promoting here, and it is ironic the iconic Betty Boop is used to depict everything opposite of what the character stood for.


Betty Boop Doesn't Get It.


The last line is a prompt to be proud of who you are, which is fine, except the line comes after describing an obese, lazy, unattractive lady with an unapologetically difficult personality. Really? Do you want to herald that? Do you want to post that on your Facebook wall to celebrate your own mediocrity?

“You should just love me for who I am”; “This is just who I am–take it or leave it…”

Any variation of “be proud to be below average” is a moral cop-out. Before subscribing to popular sentiment, be careful of what you are supporting. Think first and think a lot. The sentiment on that post is that you should be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished in life without comparing yourself to others–that you are perfect just how you are.

Truly? Is there no reason to grow or further who you are as a human being? If you do not compare yourself to others, particularly to others who are more successful than you, then how will you measure your success? Imagine if no basketball player ever compared themselves to Michael Jordan, what would the median success of all basketball players be? In such a world, the greatness of being human would only be in reaching the average and then celebrating the mediocre.

You do not have to accept that you are lazy and unattractive by default, and that is the best you can do, therefore people must lower their standards to love YOU. I hope you think you are better than that or at least recognize you have the potential to be better.

Perhaps the most depressing part of this Betty Boop meme, to me, is the vague proposition from this Zero of a person that IF she loves you back, she will do it with all her (mediocre) heart.

Consider this instead (and it is too bad it will never be popular enough to become a meme):

Be proud of yourself and what you have accomplished, but do not celebrate the parts of you that are average at best. Work to improve them. If you want love, then know who the hero of your love will be.

And know a hero will never want to love you for who you are… he will love you for who you strive to be.

Rather than settle for average, strive to be the person YOU want to fall in love with.


Patience And Vision – 2

Is there a time when having Vision and Patience is not appropriate or useful? Sure.

If your house is burning down (figuratively or literally), it is not the best time to map out and reassess a strategic goal and reflect on the nuances of your path and potential obstacles between your destination and you. You want to either grab a fire extinguisher or get out of there!

In other words, do not chase so single-mindedly your overall vision that you dismiss what is in front of you right now. Focus on both, and practice becoming better at weighing the benefits of each.

My family thinks I am too quick to fall in love, for example. When I meet someone compatible with my needs, I am not afraid to commit and try to enjoy every moment together, even if I think the predictable future is not likely to be success. Though I might know where I want my future to ultimately lead, there is always a chance I may not reach the goal I desire. I would be a fool, then, to pass an opportunity for joy only because there is the potential for sorrow.

I must choose intelligently, of course. I must have the Vision and Patience to continue working toward my overall goals, but I also must live in reality and acknowledge that I can lose everything at any moment. The trick is to be content in every moment I can.

To follow suit with my examples from Part One of this post, in martial arts if I am fighting someone else, I must have the vision of my goal and patience to make the right decision at the right time, but I must also be clever enough to spot an open opportunity if my opponent drops his guard for a moment or loses his balance.

In business, I need the patience and vision to master my career and follow my goals, but I also must be cautious not to foolishly turn down a promotion or opportunity that presents itself now, as long as it is still aligned with my overall vision.

Live for the future but live in the present. Exercise Patience, follow your Vision, but don’t lose sight of the fleetingness of life. Everything changes, all the time. Allow yourself to be content in every moment.

Sometimes you just have to wait… but sometimes you only have to wait a moment.



Vision And Patience – 1

I have never won anything in life by simply racing to the finish (not even a race). Whether business success, relationship needs, or material wants, any victory of significance for me has come from having patience and vision.

I am certain the goals I reach in life happen because I am able to see, where others do not, the long road to the future I wish to make reality. I can not express the value of waiting for the right time to make the right decision. In the interim, though it can be extraordinarily difficult, sometimes all there is to do is wait. Patience, then, is an action. Patience is the act of finding inner peace when your mind is racing, of answering to your calmness and self-control, which in turn allows you to think clearly and move swiftly when the very decision itself runs out of patience.

Patience without vision, though, is boredom, is death. If it is time to wait, then be sure you know clearly what you are waiting for. Vision is an action, too. Vision is the act of looking into possible futures and choosing the one you will make reality, and then seeing the road to travel from where you are to where you want to be. Further, you must keep looking and checking the state of the road, over and over–obstacles can change–indeed, will change, causing you to re-assess both the goal and the direction to reach it. The trick is never losing sight of the goal or the future you are choosing.

This applies in relationships, of course. What is sweeter than the wait for the first kiss with a new love? But without patience, you might jump the gun and find yourself rejected. Without vision, the first kiss may never happen and you may find yourself watching the woman of your dreams meet someone else because she simply was not sure if you wanted her.

Another example is in martial arts. When you are fighting, you must start with the vision of your victory over your opponent and then see the path to reach it. You must be patient when he strikes to avoid traps, feigns, or mistakes in your own balance and emotion that he might turn into his victory (naturally, his success depends on his patience and vision, too).

This applies in business as well. To reach number one in any field, you must know what the metrics are to surpass them (Vision) and you must build yourself or your team by learning and applying and gaining experience (Patience) to overtake one-by-one the opponents or obstacles in your way.

Sometimes the hardest part is waiting, but knowing what you are waiting for and why can make it infinitely easier to bear. I suppose the secret here is to know when the waiting is no longer worth the reward, but to understand that you must know your own values and how well those values are aligned with your vision.

It should go without saying, but Vision and Patience are only values if  they stay true to your other moral and ethical values. Taking that kiss the wrong way could be rape. Getting ahead in business by being unscrupulous could be stealing or cheating. Not having patience and vision in a competitive fight could lead to serious injury or worse, death.


Anything worth winning is worth waiting for, to what extent it is worth waiting is up to you, but the best things (or goals, or people), I can tell you, are often the ones that require the most patience and surest vision.  Sometimes you just have to wait.



What Would You Give Up To Have It All? (Part Two)

In Part One of this post, I spoke of sacrifices, but I am not aligned with the concept of “sacrifice”. Giving up cable television and video games, for example, is not a sacrifice if I am trading them for something greater, such as more ownership over time in MY Life to spend on people and things that matter more than channel-flipping and playing Xbox. I am really just editing my world to wean out the unimportant bloat, the parts that do not give meaning to the overall vision I am creating.

As I said in part one, when I give up something, I create   s  p  a c  e   in my life. Space to fill with greater things, greater values, or greater experiences. Giving up alcohol, for example, creates space to exercise control over my judgment and emotions and become better at self-discipline. Giving up my daily latte at Starbucks creates space for me to spend time and money traveling or exercising or  finding and enjoying different types of teas (and still leaving a little money for the other stuff!).

For anything you are willing to give up, you gain freedom.

For anything you are not willing to give up, by default, you accept consequences for your choice. For example, someone who gives up smoking gains freedom over smoking. He or she is no longer a slave to their addiction and they have gained control of their life and future. Someone who chooses NOT to give up smoking, by default accepts the consequences of holding onto it: cancer, loss of hard-earned money, poor health, loss of time with loved ones because of an early death, etc.

This is not to say holding onto something is bad; it is acknowledging that you accept consequences when making a choice. For example, you might cling to being single and unfettered by a monogamous relationship. Perhaps that is a fine option for you. The consequences accepted, though, might be never having the intimacy of spending a life with someone, learning and growing at great lengths together, building trust over many years, and showing how much you value each other by pledging yourselves to one another. By choosing polyamory or promiscuity, you perhaps the consequences you accept are being wary of diseases, dangerous encounters, superficial partnerships, etc.

A monogamous person, by giving up being single, gains freedom over being alone. Someone with many partners must go through the process of finding many partners while the monogamous person continues growing and building a single relationship. The monogamous person accepts consequences, too. By clinging to being in a single intimate relationship, he gives up the experience and potential pleasures of sharing many partners instead of being devoted to one. He also gives up having many experiences and encounters with people who will be transient in his life (if he values a transient life without specific commitments to anyone). Instead, he chooses the stability and predictability of having someone with him to share and remember experiences and people. He chooses a partner over partnership.

Each choice is valid and yours to make (in relationships or otherwise); it is up to you, however, to understand the stakes.

Choose your life. Every second of it. Know your values and whether you are living up to them. What things are bringing little or no value to you right now?

What are you willing to give up so you can clear space in your life for what (or who) you value most?



What Would You Give Up To Have It All? (Part One)

When you have specific goals, you must make specific sacrifices. There is no way around it. Reality dictates that life is not infinite (for now) and there are far more things to learn and do than there is time to learn and do them all.

You must choose your priorities.

I gave up Cable TV and video games more than 10 years ago. I love television shows and video games, but Angela Salamey helped me see these were things designed to rob me of my time in life. Watching TV is what I would find myself doing to turn my brain off instead of helping focus my mind, energy, and time on people and things that are really important.

When I am near the end of my life, I do not want to look back and say, “Boy, I sure did watch a lot of shows and I bought a bunch of stuff!” I want to look back and say, “Wow, I have been to many places, shared great times with amazing people, created some ideas that will live on and transform others, and I’m pretty sure I’ll leave this world a little better than the way it was when I found it.”

I’m giving up Netflix next. I love movies, too, but there is no end to the amount of movies I will want to see. If I REALLY want to see a movie, then I will go to the theater. If I miss it at the theater, then it must not have been important enough for me to make it a priority.

I have other things to fill my time with–passions I wish to pursue: mental and physical health, writing, helping people understand the benefits of being vegan, and the work I am normally paid money for as well as the work I do for other types of payment (experience, gratitude, knowledge, etc.).

I am really just editing my world to wean out the unimportant stuff, the bloat, the parts that do not give meaning to the overall vision I am trying to create.

When I give up something, I create   s  p  a c  e   in my life. Space to fill with greater things, greater values, or greater experiences. Giving up alcohol, for example, creates space to exercise control over my judgment and emotions and become better at self-discipline. Giving up my daily latte at Starbucks creates space for me to spend time and money traveling or exercising or  finding and enjoying different types of teas (and still leaving a little money for the other stuff!).

Consider this:

For anything you are willing to give up, you gain freedom.

For anything you are unwilling to give up, by default, you accept consequences for your choice. Every choice is valid and yours to make; just understand what is at stake.

Choose your life. Every second of it. Know your values and whether you are living up to them. What things are bringing little or no value to you right now?

What are you willing to give up so you can clear space in your life for what (or who) you value most?



I Love You, Whatever THAT Means…

“I love you” is a phrase often heard, but what does it really mean? Most everyone is quick to unleash the most powerful phrase in the universe, but almost no one thinks twice about what “love” is. We generally agree it is an expression of some sort of affection. Romantic love, obviously, expresses your desire to be with someone, but that does not fit with a child’s love for a parent or the love between two close friends.

I am someone who chooses not to use words casually (except when I do).

When I say, “I love you”, I want it to have profound impact. The fullness of the statement should be understood–few people in my life will hear it from me. For me to place an especially high reserve on a word or phrase, I must be sure I am crystal clear on my own meaning and the person receiving the words understands fully what I am saying.

My definition of love is this:

Love is the recognition and acknowledgment of your highest values in another.

Love, at its core, is a selfish act. To love someone, you must first know–that is, recognize (even if unconsciously)–what you love about yourself; otherwise, how can you recognize it in another? When you love another, a part of you is reaching to possess them, to claim a stake in some part of their life (even if only in your daydreams), longing to share their world or pull them into part of yours. Once you recognize the best of you in someone else, to fall in love, you must also acknowledge that you see it. I think this is why sometimes friends of many years do not realize they are compatible lovers. They both may recognize it, but one of them refuses to acknowledge it.

What about unconditional love? The Christian altruist idea that you should love someone no matter what, that all people are worthy of your love for no reason other than they exist, like molecules. I say it is a most foolish and selfless concept. Those who know me, know never to speak to me of unconditional love, unless it is for the joy of hearing me rant.

To love someone without any condition is not noble; it subjugates your life to a meaningless, worthless commodity that can be attained and disposed of at the will or whimsy of anyone who catches your fancy. Unconditional love is beneath even slavery. Indeed, slavery at the very least, allows the captive to retain an inner moral dignity and sense of self. A slave understands he is captive; someone who loves with no conditions gives up the effort of understanding or valuing their own life. It is tantamount to suicide.

I think people who speak of unconditional love probably do not understand the words drooling from their lips. Most people have conditions for their love. If you kill one of my family members, for example, I will not love you. It is a condition of my love. If you cheat on me, I will withdraw my love. I might still have feelings about you in both cases but my love is very conditional. It is an act of volition–an act of grace, honor, trust, and loyalty should I offer my love to you. It is because I have recognized and acknowledged, in you, the highest values I see in myself.

If I value integrity very highly, then I will never love someone who demonstrates time and again they are without integrity by lying, never showing up on time, stealing, cheating, etc. If loyalty is one of my prime values, then I know I could not be happy with someone who keeps many lovers or does not wish to be loyal to anyone; it would violate the sanctity of what I hold most dear. For the person who holds, as one of their highest values, being whimsical and able to follow their desire for anyone at any time regardless of consequences, they will not hold love for someone who is strictly monogamous or has opposing values.

Keep in mind I am only speaking of your highest values. We each have many, many things we value, but there are only a few things (maybe 10 but probably less than 5) we value above everything else. Many of us do not know what those values are; it seems like we are attracted to people who act opposite of us. It is not that opposites attract. It is that the other person is holding your own values better than you. For example, when a husband says, “She saved me from drinking and ruining my life”, it is because drinking was never one of his values. He may have thought it was until he recognized, by seeing it in someone else, that sobriety was his actual value–the thing he longed for most but was unable to achieve alone, and then acknowledged that she was confidently sober and powerful in her convictions (perhaps something else he valued highly). His love is expressed as a debt of gratitude, but the gratitude is not for making him sober; it is for showing him that it could be done by living his values and offering him a way to reach them.

Again, love is the physical action of you first recognizing the highest values in your self and then acknowledging the existence of those values in someone else. You love what you admire, and if you have any self-worth, your love is very conditional. The price to achieve it, and draw those words from your lips, should be set no lower than the level of your own self-esteem.

Fall in love, but not with just anyone for any reason. Make your love worth as much as your life. After all, one is not worth having without the other.