Monday, May 12, 2008

NIGHT by Elie Weisel

Elie Weisel has written one of the most powerful books I have ever read in “Night”. In fact, the New York Times calls it “A slim volume of terrifying power”. The book consists of only 120 pages, but these pages are packed with human drama. This book explores the depth of human emotion and takes the reader on a journey to the very foundation of the human psyche. Wiesel uses horrifying honesty of the brutality of the Nazi regime and explores the human mind in a way that most people cannot imagine. His contrast of the idyllic life he lived as a pre war Jewish boy growing up in Sighet, Transylvania to the horror of the Nazi concentration camps is sobering to say the least.

In pre war Transylvania, Weisel dreamed of studying the Jewish religion and Kabbalah. He had a very nice and peaceful upbringing and enjoyed a very loving family. His family ran a small store and lived happily until the Nazi’s invaded his town. Shortly after the Nazi’s invaded they turned the town into a “Ghetto” and moved everyone from their homes. In time all were loaded onto cattle cars and sent to concentration camps. Weisel describes this in this most compelling verse from the book:

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, they turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things; even were I condemned to live as long as God himself.


Weisel makes the pain ever so clear. Throughout the book he describes in chilling detail the insanity of the concentration camps. He makes the brutality real, he makes you feel the gut wrenching anguish and takes you inside the desperate mind of a Jewish prisoner of war. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish and desperation that sets in. His touching stories of the love he felt for his family, the total helplessness he felt when watching his father suffer, and ultimately his fathers agonizing death. Weisel points out the minds desire to survive and how desperation will force a person to turn against their most beloved. His desperation even led him to doubt the existence of the God he once sought to dedicate his life to.

I found Weisel’s brutal honesty made “night” one of the most heroic pieces of literature I have read. I cannot imagine the ability to write with such candor about our very darkest emotions. His brutal honesty was refreshing. He could have chosen to write the book in a much simpler and watered down truth. However, he depicted events as they truly were. Or maybe the book was written in a watered down approach. With all his candor and courage Weisel may not have been able to fully depict the sheer evil of the Nazi’s.The evil of the Nazi’s may very well be beyond truth. However, this book shines light on the dark side of human nature. It is well worth the emotional read.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The talent of giving

All people have talent. Some people have artistic ability, others have leadership qualities, and others may have athletic ability. Some people are talented cooks and others have strong business minds. Some peoples talent may be that they are very strong willed and persistent. The fact is, all people have some talent. Some people struggle to realize their talents and abilities, but they do have them. A trait of successful people is that they are able to recognize their talents. Once they recognize their talents they take an inventory of their talents and weaknesses. Successful people are then able to play to their strengths. They leverage the talents and strengths of other people to overcome their weaknesses. That seems like a pretty simple formula. However, there is a whole lot more to it than that.

Some people really struggle to find their true talent. There are numerous reasons for this. Some people struggle with confidence and self esteem. Others have battles with their ego. Many people get caught up in life and circumstances become a real hindrance. They get caught up in the day to day struggle to make a living and life becomes too hectic to pursue their talents and passion. Whatever the reason may be, some people have a very difficult time realizing their true talents and abilities.

The successful people I have met seem to have a very good understanding of their talents. They pursue their talents and seem to really enjoy life and work. I once heard that if you do what love you will not have to work a day in your life. That makes a lot of sense. If you pursue your dreams and play to your talents, then you are likely to do what you love doing. It is not work if you are truly enjoying what you do. It becomes work when the joy leaves. So, what is it that allows you to continue to play to your talents and enjoy what you are doing? The answer is really quite simple. To keep the joy in your career and to keep your talents growing and improving you have to use your talents to serve others.

That’s right, you have to give to get. I am sure that there are many people that have a lot of money that are just not nice people, but the truly happy people that I know are the ones who use their talents in a way that benefits others. There is a lot of talk about abundance and the secret and various ways to become successful. They are all based on the premise of giving to get. That is how nature operates. You plant a seed and in time you reap a harvest. The harvest yields an abundance of crops for the seeds that are planted. You have to put in the work of planting and cultivating before nature will do her part, but by giving up front, you gain multitudes in the end. It is the same way with our talents. We have to use them to serve others. When we do serve others we reap the rewards of satisfaction for doing good for others and we reap the rewards of doing satisfying work. In addition, we often receive financial rewards as well.

So, how do you use your talents?

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak. Thomas Carlyle

Encarta defines persistence as the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties. It is a fact that we all face difficulties in our lives. As we face these difficulties we all have different ways of viewing and responding to our circumstances. Some people really struggle to deal with problems that arise in their lives while others seem to have an uncommon strength when it comes to handling adversity. I can’t help but wonder why it is that some people seem to have that uncommon ability to adapt to and overcome their problems. What makes the difference? Is it education, gender, age, qualifications, or some secret that some are privileged to learn?

It is not always the most educated person that is the most successful. It is quite often the person that has the ability to be persistent regardless of their circumstances. Most of the successful people that I have encountered are not necessarily the most educated. They have certain qualifications, but they are not necessarily the qualifications one receives from an academic environment. I do believe that academics can play a very important role. If nothing else, academics can prove ones ability to make and sustain a commitment. This sustaining a commitment is the the very essence of persistence. However, the people that seem to be most successful in life have an even higher sense of commitment. They have an uncanny ability to stick to their mission. They do not let anything deter them from doing or becoming what they desire. They set a goal and they stick to it.

I can’t help but think of people that have achieved their goals while enduring incredible obstacles. I think of Abraham Lincoln overcoming the lack of formal education, suffering from severe bouts of depression, facing numerous tragedies in life, failing in almost every endeavor he took up, and still becoming one of the greatest leaders of all time. Consider Gandhi and Martin Luther King. They both overcame hatred and prejudice. They did this with non violent opposition and changed whole governments, societies and the world’s view of oppressed people. James Stockdale endured horrendous treatment while spending over 7 years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. Not only was he able to endure and survive incredibly harsh conditions and brutal treatment, but he was able to change his captors view of him and eventually won better treatment for him and nearly 400 other captives. Viktor Frankl was able to survive the brutality of Nazi concentration camps and the loss of all that was dear to him. Art Berg became a quadriplegic at a very young age and was able to be a father, business owner, hall of fame professional speaker and even was awarded his very own super bowl championship ring. The list can go on and on of incredible achievements of valor, glory, and fame. That is not the real goal of what I am trying to convey. The point is not the achievement and becoming famous. The point is not that only famous people posses the ability to overcome great odds. The point that I really want to make is that it is not some magical quality that can only be obtained by the rich and famous. It is not necessarily taught in schools or universities. No this quality can be the possession of anyone.

The quality that I am talking about is persistence. Everybody has the ability to be persistent. The common man has just as much ability to persist as the rich and famous. It really depends on how much we choose to cultivate this ability. It is not as though it is some mysterious quality or something that has to be searched for. It is something that has to be cultivated. I mentioned James Stockdale earlier. He was an avid reader of ancient philosophers and gave a great deal of credit for his inner strength to his studies of Epictetus. Stockdale believed “that each individual brings about his own good and his own evil, his good fortune, his ill fortune, his happiness, and his wretchedness” How? By following the line of thought that all persistent people follow. It is not your circumstances that determine the outcome; it is your response to your circumstances that determine the outcome. Viktor Frankl stated that if you have a big enough why you can overcome any how. In other words, if you have a purpose strong enough to make you persist towards your goal, you can succeed. The real trick is in being persistent. Refusing to give up on your intended goal.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Action is the antidote to despair. Joan Baez

I have just returned from a wonderful vacation in the Bahamas. I went on a cruise with my family on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. We sailed on the Sovereign of the Seas. It is a very nice ship with lots of activities. The crew was really pleasant, the food was excellent, the entertainment was well organized and of high quality. I think most on the cruise had a great time. Best of all the weather was beautiful. It was in the mid 80's F with a light breeze and plenty of sunshine. The only problem I can think of is that it did not last long enough.

While on the cruise I noticed that allot of things were going really well. The thing I noticed about whatever was going well is that it was caused by people taking action. When a crew member seemed overly charming, it was because that person took action to be charming. If a person on the islands was successful at selling their product, it was because they took action to make that happen. I know this sounds simplistic and many people are saying, well duh,how else are you going to get things done. Yes, being successful at anything has to start with taking action. But, those that are the most successful do not sit and wait for the circumstance to be right to take action. The boldly do. They take action when others hesitate or when others take a break.

Action oriented people create their circumstances. If they have a desire to be the most hospitable person on the ship, they go around greeting people and being hospitable. They do not wait to find the perfect time or the perfect situation. They make it the time and the situation by choosing to act. I noticed some people on the other side of the issue. Some people waited for something to happen. For circumstances to be a little bit different or a little bit better before they would take some action. Those that waited seemed to be the passengers or workers that were the least happy. They expected someone else to be responsible for their success or their happiness. Those that took bold action always seemed to be happy. If it was having fun or providing a service those that were action oriented had the best time. The bolder the action the more the success. Some passengers took it to the extreme and maybe were a little aggressive in some endeavors, but in the final outcome they had a lot of fun.

If you take action you can be sure that things will happen for you. If you fail to act then things are likely to happen to you. Be a person of action and remember this quote, "Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone." Thomas Carlyle

Saturday, April 05, 2008


It has been said that man can live 40 days without food, 3 days without water, 8 minutes without air, but not 1 minute without hope. Rick Warren in God's power to change your life.

I recently wrote an article on the 5 qualities of a leader. I stated that in my studies of successful people I noticed that these people embodied 5 qualities. These qualities are as follows:

1. Successful people never let circumstances dictate the outcome. Successful people learn to respond to their circumstances. They know that they cannot always control what happens, but they can control how they respond to what happens.
2. Successful people are persistent. They have their big idea and they stick with it.
3. Successful people take a realistic inventory of their talents and abilities. They recognize their personal strengths and weaknesses. They play to their own strengths and overcome their weaknesses by capitalizing on the strengths of others.
4. Successful people are resilient. They recognize that failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. They do not fear failure they embrace it. They see every failure as a step closer to the realization of their dreams. They become masters of overcoming obstacles and staying focused on a positive outcome.
5. Successful people have passion. They are faithful and they pursue their dreams with a constant vigor and they love deeply. They do not fear rejection and loss as much as they fear living without a purpose.

As I study people that have the ability to capitalize on these 5 qualities I recognize that HOPE is the binding factor. It is hope that allows people to overcome their circumstances. Without hope Circumstance dominates. It was hope that allowed the great achievements. It is hope that keeps us hanging on in the face of great adversity. It is hope that gives perseverance it power. I was recently made aware of a little girls struggles to survive after going through a very serious surgery, a double lung transplant. The little girl is 8 month old Lucy Johnson. You can see Little Lucy's full story at care pages. You can find her story by registering on the site and typing LucyGwendolynJohnson in the search engine. It is a beautiful, yet heart wrenching story of people coming together to join in hope.

This is what the people at Care Pages do. They join people together in Hope. You can read many inspirational stories of people joining together in hope to overcome many life threatening illnesses. Please take the time to at least look through the site. You will be inspired by the quality of the people highlighted on the site. You will see people that absolutely embody the qualities that I speak of. 1. They never let their Circumstances dictate the outcome, they fight. 2. They are persistent in their will to overcome. 3. They capitalize on their talents to endure and use the talents of others to help. 4. They are the epitome of resilience. 5. They are passionate about life.

Go to care pages and join in with the network of people that are combining their voices and strengths in HOPE. Hope for themselves and for so many others.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

You are your own boss

The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, or rely on, or blame. The gift is yours - it is an amazing journey - and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins. Bob Moawad

This is a great quote to remind us that we alone are responsible for our lives. It is not circumstances or destiny that determines our fate. It is our actions and our responses to circumstances. Yes, circumstances are often difficult and no, I do not always make the right response. However, that does not mean that I cannot learn from my mistakes and setbacks. I always have the chance to respond in a better way. If I miss the opportunity to respond in a great way in one situation I can make the choice to respond in a better fashion at any time. I can turn my mistakes around when I choose to do so. If I fail at something and have a resulting poor response I can still choose to respond differently and turn my fortunes around. Life is not a pass/fail course. We are constantly learning and improving. Each setback or failure can be an opportunity to get better. No apologies or excuses are necessary. Remember, your life is your own. You are not graded by anyone but you. Look for your own way. Do not rely on others for your success and do not allow others to predict your failure. You alone are responsible for you.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


The last of human freedoms - the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances. Viktor E. Frankle

It is true that we cannot control what happens to us. We cannot control what other people think say or do. We cannot always control if some bad situation occurs. We can be stricken with ill health, our financial situations can change very quickly, our jobs can be changed or lost, long time friends or even loved ones can change their feelings for us. We cannot always control what happens, but, as Dr.Frankle states, we can control how we respond to what happens.

Bad things happen all the time. However, some people seem to be able to handle bad situations better than other people. Why is this? The only logical answer is the ability to choose a response. We all have this ability to choose. I am not the greatest at this. I often fail to choose the best response, but as I am learning that I can choose how I respond, I am learning to control the after effects of a situation. More importantly, I am learning that I can control my attitude well before an events happens. I can actually choose to control my response by controlling my attitude.

People can allow themselves to fall into a negative pattern of thinking that can generate a negative response to just about any situation or circumstance. They can just as easily develop a positive outlook. I guess it comes down to the old saying of seeing the glass as half full or half empty. The fascinating thing is that it is all a war of the mind. We have the ability to choose our thoughts and ultimately how we respond to any given circumstance. The more I learn this the more I realize that this is a major success principle.

It is so simple and yet so hard. We can often be hard wired to have negative thoughts. Changing our way of thinking can be difficult. However, the payoff can be well worth it. It can take courage and hard work to change the way we think. Maya Angelou says that "Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage." If we have the courage to change the way we think about our circumstances we can have the courage to change our lives. We often use the example of famous people and use quotes from the famous. But we can find inspiration to change or to develop our courage by watching those close to us. We all know people who seem to handle bad things with great courage and conviction.

We can all change our outlook and attitude. we can learn to control our response to our circumstances. It comes from controlling the way we allow ourselves to think. We can learn from the examples of others. We can learn from our associations. The important thing is that we learn to control the way we view our circumstances. We can learn that failure is not an event or a set of circumstances. Failure is not determined by what other people think, say, or do. The only failure is in our thinking and in our response. In other words, only we can determine if we have failed in a given situation and Only we can determine how we will respond.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions, just read the list straight through. You'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are not second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

The people that have the biggest impact on our lives do not necessarily have a lot of credentials, have not always won a lot of awards, or been heralded by the rest of the world. The people that usually have the biggest impact on our lives are the everyday heroes that are present and take a meaningful and active role in our life. Why not take a little time to give them an award for their actions. You may not be able to give them a prestigious award like those mentioned above, but you can give them your appreciation. Please take time to show someone important in your life some appreciation today. It will be well worth you time and effort.

Friday, March 21, 2008


"Discover your passion and decide to follow it no matter what" Bobbi DePorter in Quantum Business: Achieving Success Through Quantum Learning.
I have often wondered what makes people successful. I have studied at length the elements of success. I wanted to know what made people or organizations the best.
Being good is not enough. I wanted to know what it is that people and organizations possess that make them the leaders in their chosen endeavors. I am not interested in getting to the top. I want to do things that make a difference. I don’t want it to be a one time thing or a sometimes thing. I want to make a difference all the time and want to be the best at making a difference. I learned allot of things in my pursuit of being the best. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned:
FAILURE is inevitable. People spend a great deal of time and energy trying to avoid the inevitable. Everyone fails. The difference is that the truly great ones not only learn from failure they embrace it. In reality it is only a word, but it carries with it a great deal of pain, frustration and anxiety. The fear of failure has paralyzed so many dreams and so much potential through the years that it has become one of the most dreaded forces on earth. Only those that learn to harness failure and make it work for them can truly achieve great things. I have learned “Failure is not negative. It is a teacher. It molds, refines, and polishes you so that one day your light will shine for all to see. It isn't the failure you experience that will determine your destiny, but your next step and then the next that will tell the story of your life.” Tim Connor

SELFISHNESS is the root of all failure. I have never met a selfish person that is truly successful. Sure enough, I have met selfish people that have money and material possessions. I have not met a selfish person that has contentment and allot of friends. I have met many very talented people that could not reach their potential due to selfishness. I have seen very promising businesses fail due to greed. I have seen families broken and seen children suffer due to the effects of selfishness. I have seen people with a great deal of intelligence squander their talents and dreams for selfish interest and instant pleasures. I have seen parents reject their children for instant gratification. I have seen athletes ruin careers for the pursuit selfish gains. I have seen children turn against their parents for the lure of selfish pleasures. I have come to believe that there is no good in selfish desires. However, I have learned that we all have them and we all fall victim to these desires many times.

ANGER is an emotion that destroys more people, relationships and businesses than all the illness in the world. People seem to be so angry all the time. It seems as if people walk around with a chip on their shoulders all the time. This is probably a by-product of selfishness. Someone once told me that the emotions of fear, shame, and anger are the driving forces of human behavior. The more I think and study on that, the more I believe it. I think the ones that learn how to make these emotions work for them are the ones that are successful. Unfortunately, most of us struggle through life falling victim to these emotions and never truly learn how to make them work for us.

BELONGING, ACHIEVEMENT AND RECOGNITION are vital to people. When I look at successful people and organizations I find they have an uncanny ability to make people feel as though they are special. Every successful aspect of society does this on some level. It may sound strange to say that gangs are successful. However, in my work with juvenile delinquents, I find that this is the biggest draw that gangs have. They can make what the rest of society deems as misfits and failures feel a very strong sense of belonging, achievement and recognition. They do it so well that the rest of society cannot stop the enterprise of gangs. Indeed they have affected our society in many ways.

Successful ball teams and businesses do the same. They have a great talent for making people feel as though they belong and have achieved. They are recognized for being someone special. I have found these things to be true. I thought that maybe these things mixed in with some education and some hard work would equal the success I yearned for. I found out that this is not enough. I learned this lesson from a man that I looked to as a mentor. My mentors name is BOOKER NOE (no relation) Booker was a good friend of mine. He recently passed away. Booker was the Master Distiller for Jim Beam for 50 years. During his tenure with the business he built it into the most successful bourbon distillery in the world. I was fascinated with Booker the very first time I met him. He seemed to have a special quality about him. I found out as time went by that everyone that ever met him felt the same way. I had the privilege of sitting with Booker and his wife Annis in their kitchen on several occasions. During these visits Booker and his wife would share drinks of his signature bourbon with me. I always thought that to be a special event. I compared that to being able to sing a song with Elvis. I thought it was great. However, this was never the real treat. The real treat for me was the lessons Booker taught me. He taught many lessons in business. I was a sponge for the stories he would tell of how he ran the distillery and the different trials he faced in his career. I loved to hear him talk about making his bourbon, Bookers True Barrel Bourbon. He told stories of how he learned the business from his grandfather, Jim Beam. He told me tidbits of how bourbon is made and aged and all sorts of things about the industry. I would always ask questions.
Quite frankly, I think I annoyed him and his wife a great deal. I would ask them over and over what is the most important thing in business. He told me allot of things. I hung on every word. It turned out to be more of what he showed me than what he told me.

PASSION is defined as having a great deal of emotion or feeling. That is the one thing he always had. He was not the most educated distiller in the business. What he did have more than any others was passion. He had a passion for people and passion for his product. Those two things alone I think made him who he was and allowed him to achieve the great things he did. He was very generous and genuine. He had a very big heart and helped innumerable people that were less fortunate. He loved his vocation and wanted to give people the very best. He was thankful for those that helped and mentored him. He always treated others with respect, regardless of their social standing. He did everything with great feeling and passion.

I have learned that passion for people and for your product is the most important ingredient for success. I don’t think it can be a passion for success, money or material gain. I believe it has to be a passion for people and your product. I believe that what the heart desires it finds. If it desires selfish gains, it will find selfish rewards. If it seeks anger, it will find angry rewards. If it seeks to help others and provide the best for them, it will find success.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Art of Listening

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Karl A. Menninger

As this quote brings out there is a magic in listening. Just think about the times that you have been in the presence of a powerful listener. How did it make you feel? Validated, powerful, understood, recognized, important, worthy? Not a bad list. That is because one of the greatest human needs is to be understood. We want people to listen us. We want to be heard. We all have a desire to feel important and to feel as though we are contributing. The one sure way to get this feelimg is to be listened to.

People do not always have to get exactly what they want. People will often compromise once they feel that they have been listened to. In most situations that is truly what people are looking for to begin with. They simply want their point of view to be considered. Most arguments are the result of two people thinking about what they are going to say and not considering what is being said by the other person.

Trevor Gay , author and successful business coach, says "if you truly want power then you have to give it away." The best way to give power to someone is to listen to them and to genuinely make them feel as though they have been heard. The best tools that a leader has is attached to both sides of their head. Use the tool of listening frequently and you can become more powerful in all your interactions. Listening is an art form and a skill. Like any other skill it takes practice. The more you practice, the better you get. I think the better you get at listening the better you become as a manager, leader, and all around person. I have a lot practice ahead of me, but the end result will be well worth the effort.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out. Anton Chekhov

I think this is a neat quote. The reason I like it is because I believe that great things are accomplished with persistence. It is the little things that make the difference in life. It is rarely one big event in life that makes us or breaks us. It is our daily habits that make the difference. The philosopher Plutarch said it well when he stated "Character is simply habit long continued." It is what we do everyday that defines who we are.

I like to study successful people. I am interested in knowing what it is that separates the successful from the crowd. I have found that it is rarely one big event. It is most often persistence and a dedication to doing little things consistently and doing them well that makes the difference. Consider Thomas Edison for example. He is widely regarded as a genius and a great inventor. Both of these are correct, but more importantly, he had the ability to do tedious work over and over. He did this tedious work until he achieved the outcome he was seeking. He had a unique ability to see failure in a different light. He viewed failure as an opportunity and as experience gained. He patiently conducted thousands of experiments until he finally found his ultimate success. That is how he invented the incandescent light bulb. He used this same system of patience and persistence to help invent hundreds of other useful products. Most importantly, when he faced difficult times, such as when his laboratory went up in flames and he lost everything, he viewed it as an opportunity rather than a career ending tragedy. It was his ability to recognize that one big event does not make you or break you that made the difference. He continued to be persistent and rebuilt his laboratory and made numerous contributions to science, even though, he was getting advanced in age. He continued on when most people would have given up.

Great strength and accomplishment is rarely born of genius. It does not hurt to be well above the curve in some sort of talent or intellect. However, genius is most often created by mastering the little things. This mastery is accomplished by our habits. I found this saying on habits that I really like. I don't know who wrote it, but it really tells the story.

"I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half the things you do, you might just as well turn over to me, and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great men. And, alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great.Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine. Plus, the intelligence of a man. You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin; it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet. Be easy with me, and I will destroy you. Who am I? I am HABIT!"

Our destiny is not determined by fate. It is determined by our habits. We will do well to take inventory of our habits. What are we doing on a daily basis that is leading us towards our goals. More importantly, what are we doing that may be counter to our goals. It is the little adjustments that can make the most difference.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

5 Qualities of a Leader

I have been studying leadership for quite some time now. I have been fortunate enough to meet some very good leaders. I have listened and learned from them and learned their theories and styles. I have been fortunate enough to become acquainted with experienced industry leaders and with new and upcoming leaders. Through the course of all this I have been able to distill down the many lessons I have learned and I have come up with what I believe is a formula for success. I see certain qualities in experienced leaders and I see ideas in the new and upcoming leaders that seem to be constant. These qualities are evident in historical leaders as well. Leaders such as Lincoln, Wilberforce, Gandhi, Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, and others. I also see these qualities in modern day achievers and most importantly I see these qualities in the everyday achievers. I have narrowed it down to 5 common qualities and they are as follows
  1. Successful people never let circumstances dictate the outcome. Successful people learn to respond to their circumstances. They know that they cannot always control what happens, but they can control how they respond to what happens.
  2. Successful people are persistent. They have their big idea and they stick with it.
  3. Successful people take a realistic inventory of their talents and abilities. They recognize their personal strengths and weaknesses. They play to their own strengths and overcome their weaknesses by capitalizing on the strengths of others.
  4. Successful people are resilient. They recognize that failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. They do not fear failure they embrace it. They see every failure as a step closer to the realization of their dreams. They become masters of overcoming obstacles and staying focused on a positive outcome.
  5. Successful people have passion. They are faithful and they pursue their dreams with a constant vigor and they love deeply. They do not fear rejection and loss as much as they fear living without a purpose.

I know that there is much more to being a leader, but I have found these 5 qualities to be constant in the successful people that I have met and studied. I will be writing a lot on these 5 qualities over the coming months. I look forward to creating dialogue and getting some feedback. until then take care and keep learning and growing.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Rulers of Destiny

The following is some text taken from An Iron Will by Orison Swett Marden.

There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, Can circumvent, or hinder, or control the firm resolve of a determined soul. Gifts count for nothing; will alone is great; all things give way before it soon or late. What obstacle can stay the mighty force Of the sea-seeking river in its course, or cause the ascending orb of day to wait? Each well-born soul must win what it deserves. Let the fool prate of luck. The fortunate is he whose earnest purpose never swerves, whose slightest action or inaction serves the one great aim.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Strength of Willpower

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. Winston Churchill.

My Friend Mike Gardner recently sent me a copy of "Courage Under Fire" This is the story of James Bond Stockdale's experience in a prisoner of war camp in Viet Nam. The story chronicles the extreme conditions that the prisoners had to endure while held in captivity. The story talks about how the prisoners were able to establish a bond with one another and develop a code of unity and strength that allowed them to overcome very harsh conditions and often brutal treatment. More importantly, it is a story of the human spirit and the strength of human willpower. Willpower is the ability to exert one's will, or thoughts, over one's actions. "Courage Under Fire" showed me that man has the ability to tap into this willpower and overcome some incredible obstacles.

I don't think that I will ever be able to truly understand how Jim Stockdale and his fellow prisoners were able to endure their circumstances. What they were able to think about to give them the courage and strength to overcome their circumstances had to be very powerful. I cannot even begin to imagine their predicament and their sheer resolve to survive. The conditions were so deplorable that Jim Stockdale goes on to explain that it was impossible to explain the ordeal to people because they could not even ask questions that were pertinent.

They faced failure on countless occasions. Failure meant far more to them than it does for us. It meant their very lives. The worst part for them was it meant being made to feel like a traitor and experiencing shame. These men fought a war of the mind and they had to revisit their resolve countless times. Over and over they were beaten and tortured to the point of breaking this resolve. On several occasions they became depressed, despondent, felt irrelevant, suffered from extreme feelings of shame, loneliness, and emotions that I am sure most of us never encounter. Still yet, they survived. I am not sure how, but much of it goes back to the willpower of the men that shared that horrendous experience.

Most of us will never be exposed to that kind of trial. However, we will face times in our lives when we have to overcome obstacles. Some more severe than others. When those times come we can draw strength and inspiration from stories such as "Courage under Fire". Knowing that most of the trials I will face in life pale in comparison to Mr. Stockdales strengthens me. It allows me to know that I can face the failures I have experienced with renewed enthusiasm. I can go from failure to failure and realize that I have abilities far greater than I know. It is a matter of how I allow myself to think. Courage under Fire does not make me think that I can control my environment or my circumstances. It does make me realize that I can control my response to those circumstances.

I will never have the kind of strength that Jim Stockdale had, but I can have the strength to face my problems. If you get a chance to read Courage Under Fire I think you will come to the same conclusion. Even though his triumph over his captors is an incredible feat, I don't think it is Jim Stockdale's greatest accomplishment. I think Jim Stockdale's greatest accomplishment is in the message his victory presents. That message is one of hope.The hope that we can prevail in our darkest of times. The hope that we can choose our response in a given situation. The hope that we can endure difficult times and endure those times with a sense of renewed enthusiasm.

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Get back in the game

Life can often hand us some pretty serious setbacks. These setbacks can come in many different forms. Maybe it is the ending of a cherished relationship. The people that we love can sometimes decide that they do not feel the same about us. I have seen many people go through this kind of anguish. It can often be the worst kind of hurt. Or maybe we lose our job. This form of anguish can be equally severe, but it is different than not being loved in return. Life may hand us a setback in the form of physical problems or sickness. It could be financial problems, problems with our kids or family members. Setbacks can come in the form of depression or other mental and emotional problems. It can come in the form of the death of a loved one. Regardless of how the setbacks come we can only be sure of one thing, they will come.

So what do we do when the setbacks come. I think that is as different as the people facing the problems. However, I found that the best way to handle setbacks is to make sure we get back in the game as soon as possible. By this I mean we have to keep moving forward. I am not suggesting developing a cold heart or a distant uncaring nature. I am suggesting that we do all we can to keep the positive things in our lives going. I see so many people give up on life when they face a major setback. They become so overwhelmed with grief that they lose track of the many positives in life. People often get stuck in feelings of remorse, guilt, fear, vengence, retribution, melancholy, anger, sadness, and host of others, that they have a hard time getting re engaged in life.

I have suffered from this many times in my life. I have been through things and just did not know any other way to handle them. I would see other people go through things and seem to have such a strength about them. They seemed to hurt but they had a knack for going on. I don't know if they ever got over what they were facing but they seemed to get through it. As I studied these people the magic that they seemed to possess was that they made themselves get on with life. This helped me to come to a realization for myself. These people didn't necessarily get over it, but they do get through it. They were able to get through it by getting back in the game. The game of life. They did things to bring meaning and purpose to life. That may have been through their vocation, their religion, their family, or by starting something new. They sometimes took on challenges that they wish they had taken on before. The big thing is they got back in the game.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not saying that grief and sorrow are wrong and I am not suggesting that I have some ability to be stronger than anyone else. I am just saying that I have noticed how others appear to be able to overcome major life problems. The trick seems to be having the ability and strength to hurt, and yet, get back in the game. To constantly move forward. Check out the following quote. I think it sums up the point hat I am trying to make.

Many of us unconciously create drama in our minds, expecting the worst from a situation only to have our expectations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Inadvertantly we become authors of our own misfortune. And so we struggle from day to day, from crisis to crisis, bruised and battered by circumstances without realizing that we always have a choice...What if you began to expect the best from any situation? Isn't it possible that you could write new chapters in your life with happy endings?...Suspend your disbelief. Take a leap of faith. After all, what have you got to lose but misery and lack?
Sarah Ban Breathnach

Sunday, February 24, 2008


As I was searching the blogosphere today I noticed an uncanny theme in numerous post. The theme seemed to center around believing in oneself and in your own abilities. Many of the post talked about recognizing your own strengths or having the values of an innocent child. Both of these are great ideas, but I could not help wondering why is there so much to say on believing in oneself and returning to childhod values. As I thought on this I came to the realization that it seems as we grow older the complexity of life seems to weigh us down.

I commented on a post at Trevor Gay's Simplicity site where he has a lively debate going on in regards to Complexity vs. Simplicity. Some people feel that they must be challenged by complex arrangements in life. Without this complexity they feel as though they are not challenged and feel bored. Others feel that they must have simplicity in their life or they become over burdened. I suppose when you think about it both are right. I need both in my life. I need the challenge that the complex presents. However, the challenge to me is to be able to break it down to simpler steps that I can master and gain control over. I am often guilty of taking on to much and becoming over burdened. When I become over burdened that is when I begin to struggle and wonder about my abilities. The struggle often comes from comparing myself with others who have been successful in similar sitations and marveling at their accomplishments.

I think it is like that with a lot of people. Life is often so fast paced that many times people can't keep up with everything going on in their lives. They view others that seem to achieve in similar situations and compare themselves in unfavorable ways. When the challenges become to great we often long for simpler times when we did not compare ourselves to the accomplishments of others. Back to the time when we met challenges for what they were, something to be learned from and built upon. When we were children we did not always know to compare ourselves to the rest of the world. We had our own little protected view of things and that was just fine. Failure was not defeat.Failure was met with the encouragement of those around us to keep trying. Every little accomplishment was applauded by those around us. We were encouraged to do more and try harder. Somewhere along the line as we grow older that level of support wanes and we become responsible to ourselves for our own encouragement. We can become critical of ourselves and others. The competition of life is on.

When you feel that the competition of life is bearing down on you try to remember to celebrate your accomplishments. Try to keep things complex enough to challenge your sense of adventure, but at the same time, keep life simple enough to enjoy it. Keep encouraging yourself and others to try a little harder and make a big deal over small accomplishments. And remember, "Until we take how we see ourselves (and how we see others) into account, we will be unable to understand how others see and feel about themselves and their world. Unaware, we will project our intentions on their behavior and call ourselves objective" Stephen Covey . Try to see yourself in view of your strengths. Never mind the comparisons with other people. There is always going to be those who do certain things a little better. You are that person in many instances. Each of us have our talents and strengths. That is what makes the world a beautiful place. Concentrate on what you do well. Celebrate all your strengths and be happy for your weaknesses. This is where true growth lives.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What is success?

What is success? According to the dictionary, success is a state of prosperity or fame. Success is very relative. Consider the homeless person.Certainly attaining a one-room suite with an efficiency kitchen and money to buy food would make this person feel very successful. Success is alsodefined as the favorable outcome of an attempt or endeavor.Should we be able to attain a status such as Bill Gates, that would certainly define success wouldn't it? You may feel that it would, but notnecessarily to everyone. Every rose has its thorn. Bill Gates is wildly successful in his endeavors; however, a status of that nature certainlywould require a lot of upkeep. He must stay on top of his game to stay there. Even Donald Trump can end up in bankruptcy. Do you really need toreach a Donald Trump or Bill Gates status to be successful and happy?Success means different things to different people. There are persons that would only consider themselves successful if they were to attain amulti-millionaire status. However, I don't believe that this is the case with the average person.I believe that success to the average person has another definition. The definition of success to the average person is FREEDOM. Freedom from being a slave to the 9 to 5 doldrums in a job they hate....Freedom from worry over bills......Freedom to spend quality time with their families andloved ones. One would not have to be a multi-millionaire to achieve this level of success. It depends on what makes YOU happy. Would you behappy in a two bedroom home that is paid for, driving a car that is dependable and paid for, while having the cash to meet expenses and have thetime to do the things you and your family enjoy, whether it be golfing, sporting events, travel to the beach, or entertaining your friends at home? Or could you only feel succesful with a ten bedroom home, a new car every year, the newest fashions to wear, dining at the finest restaurants?Both are levels of success to someone. Which is it for you? Obviously the first level of success can be fairly easily obtained, and woulddefinitely be less stressful allowing more time to be spent enjoying your success. Although the second is a very lavish lifestyle, it certainlywould require more effort to get there, and more effort to maintain it. We've all heard about the lottery winners who become bankrupt in afew short years because they didn't attend to their finances.Success is usually thought to be referring to a financial situation. As you can ascertain from the above examples, that is not alwaysnecessarily true. Success is very personal. What would it take to make you truly happy? It depends on your priorities. Is time with familyand friends without stress most important to you? Or is an outward show of wealth more important to you, even if it means less freedom?We have all seen the cartoons of the "successful" businessman living on the antiacids to try and control his ulcers. Is he truly successful?Maybe yes, but at a price. Consider this situation: the businessman (or breadearner) of the family is very successful in a financial sense.He has a fine home, is transported to his destinations by his personal driver, a loving wife, two beautiful children. The American Dream, right?Then look deeper. He spends everyday from 7am until 9pm at the office, or with clients. The wife has to have a life too, so she lives herown separate life attending luncheons, shopping, etc. while the nanny raises the children and the housekeeper feeds them. The nanny teaches the baby to walk, to say its first word.Really think about success. Success equals happiness right? Is this family successful? Anyone with children knows the joy of a toddlertaking its first step or saying its first word. I do understand that not all persons are interested in raising a family. They claim to be perfectly happyremaing single and childless. That is why I say success if relative to the individual.Think about your own personal situation. We instantly think that success means the mansion on the hill with a limo driver and a housekeeper.However, I don't believe that it takes that much to make the average person happy and successful.

Take Bold Action

Having the willingness to take action is one of the most powerful leadership tools I know of. Every great leader that I have ever studied or known had the ability to take action and to be decisive. By taking action leaders often make mistakes. However, it is this ability to take action and work through mistakes that sets them apart. Mistakes, setbacks, and failures are not viewed as things to avoid. Great leaders see these as opportunities to learn, grow, and get better.
The only true failure is the failure to act on an opportunity. I like the following quote by William Hutchinson Murray. I think it sums up the point very well.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
~ William Hutchinson Murray

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Whom Will You Love Today

Love always begins with the person closest to you. It does not begin with nameless and faceless people. It begins with those you sweat and struggle with--those who frequently disagree with you and put you down. That is why it is so hard. It is easier to love the world than your closest relative. The world is general. Your relative is specific. The world is vague. Your relative has character...Whom will you love today? ... It won't be easy. Love is never an option.
Jim Smoke

I really liked this quote. It goes along with a post from Liz Straus over at successful blog. She discussed the idea of being friends and sometimes not noticing little things from day to day and changes over time. She wondered that if you fail to notice these things can you call yourself a friend. I believe that not only can you call yourself a friend I think it somewhat natural that we do these things.

Those we are closest to are the ones we tend to hurt the most and the ones we take most for granted. They are the ones we let down the most. They are the ones we show our worst and often give them our worst. But, on the flip side, they also get our best. The nameless and faceless people will almost always get our courtesy and a kind word, but then we are off. We are off to share the rest of our lives, both the good and the bad, with those that we love the most.

At the end of the day I'll take those that love me. I'll trade all the kind gestures and sentiments to be with the ones whose character I know and trust. I'll take their company even if it is not warm and fuzzy or even if they are not on their best behavior. I'll take them with all their warts and wrinkles because they have taken me with mine. I am not saying that it is ok to behave in this fashion. I just know that it is a strange part of human nature.

Maybe the thing to do is to take some time to reflect on this matter. Maybe each of can learn to spread extra courtesy to those closest to us. Maybe we can take time to pay attention to specifics and learn more about our loved ones our friends and their character. Maybe we can take time to notice little things and changes in those close to us. If we do, then maybe our relationships can be a little richer as a reward.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Where Are You Going?

The world stands aside to let anyone pass who knows where he is going. David Star Gordon

Successful people do not always have the most education or even the most business sense. They very often have one dominant quality. They know what they want and they believe that they deserve to have it. With this attitude in tow they tend to set about achieving what they want. I don't know if things just seem to work out for them as much as they just seem to have the perseverence to stand the test of time and trials. They don't easily give up or change their goals. They know what they want and are willing to do what it takes to get it. That may well be the greatest success secret that there is. You must first of all know what it is you want and truly believe that you deserve to have it. So, let me ask you the question, where are you going? Victor Frankl said that if you have a big enough why you can overcome any how. In other words, if you have a strong enough purpose you will be able to overcome all obstacles. If you know what you truly want the how to accomplish it will eventually come.

Do you know what you really want and can you make the world stand aside while you go after it?

Thursday, January 31, 2008


I read a really good book about a year ago titled the Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer. The Book was written by Art Berg and it served as the story of his triumphant life after a very tragic accident that rendered him a quadriplegic. Art uses the book to tell how the human spirit can conquer almost any obstacle. Art went on to live a very productive life after his accident. He states that his life was more rewarding after the accident than before. He accomplished incredible things in life. He became a world class wheelchair athlete, a very inspiring motivational speaker, A husband and father, and was even awarded his very own SuperBowl championship Ring by the Baltimore Ravens. Art drew alot of his motivation from a poem written by William Ernest Henley titled "Invictus". This became Art's battle cry "INVICTUS" I got the story of the poem from wikipedia to share with you. However, to get a real good understanding of the power of this poem you may want to get a copy of Art Bergs "The Impossible Just Takes a Little Longer"

Here is the wikipedia story on "Invictus"

Invictus is a short poem by the British poet William Ernest Henley. The title is Latin for "unconquered". It was first published in 1875.

At the age of 12 Henley became a victim of tuberculosis of the bone. In spite of this, in 1867 he successfully passed the Oxford local examination as a senior student. His diseased foot had to be amputated directly below the knee; physicians announced the only way to save his life was to amputate the other. Henley persevered and survived with one foot intact. He was discharged in 1875, and was able to lead an active life for nearly 30 years despite his disability. With an artificial foot, he lived until the age of 54. "Invictus" was written from a hospital bed.

The Poem

Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of Circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud.Under the bludgeonings of Chance my head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the Horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years finds, and shall find me, unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

Art Berg's life was a testament to the message he tried to get all to understand. It is not the circumstances of our life that determine our destiny, it is our response to our circumstances that determine our fate.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Employee engagement

I was talking with a co worker today on the subject of employee engagement. We were discussing strategies for getting workers to feel more connected to their jobs and thus increasing employee satisfaction in the workplace. We discussed giving various employees responsibility for implementing new initiatives. This idea came from Trevor Gay an author from England and a good friend of mine. Trevor has written 4 books on leadership and management practices. One of his main tenets comes from his book Simplicity is the Key. Trevor makes the point to let the front line staff solve the problems because they know all the answers. As I think about this I realize that it has a lot of truth to it. When I read studies on job satisfaction and employee engagement I find that pay and work schedule are down the list of priorities on what makes employees happy. Near the top of the list is feeling valued and having the ability to feel as though one is making a difference. So, it makes perfect sense to give front line staff the opportunity to be in charge of new initiatives. As we begin to turn over these initiatives to the frontline staff the initial responses are favorable. I will have to keep a track of how they progress and what effect it has on productivity and morale.

Check out Trevor's Simplicity blog at and check out the article that was recently published about his simplicity is the key theme in the New York Times and his his recent appearance on Fox Business Network TV

Monday, January 28, 2008

How to be successful in two sentences.

Construct your determination with sustained effort, controlled attention, and concentrated energy. Opportunities never come to those who wait, they are captured by those who dare to attack.- Paul J. Meyer

I found this great quote via Cynthia Kerseys Unstoppable insights. I really like the statement it makes. Opportunity is not passive. Success is not passive. It is a verb. It requires concentrated effort and action. Success requires perseverence and drive. I like the wording of the quote. It uses so many elements necessary for success in just about any endeavor.Determination, sustained effort, controlled attention and concentrated energy. The one big missing element is passion.But maybe the quote is the very definition of passion. It is destined to be office posting material for me.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stick to Your Roots

I recently took some time to reflect on my professional life. I thought back on my successes and my many failures through the years. As I reflected I wondered what really shaped me a s a professional. Was it my education? Was it my years of experience? Certainly both education and experience played huge roles in my development. However, I realized it was the more than just education and experience. It was all the many people that I have met along my professional journey. Some of the people I met were a great influence in a positive way and there were some that I would rather forget. Now that I am looking back I realize that I myself have often been both of those kind of people. I have influenced some people in positive ways and others would just as soon see me on the side of the road with my car broken down. What causes us to be so different and what will determine our eventual legacy? At the end of my career will I have become someone that has benefitted my fieldof work and those that I have worked with and for.Or will I be added to the long list of bad bosses?

As I reflected on these questions I realized that my education is less of a factor than my experiences. It is my experiences that will benefit me more than most anything else. Those experinces are both personal and professional. My professional experiences are summed up in my interactions with good and bad bosses, employees, customers, meetings, business events, trips, and day to day grinding it out. My personal interactions have been far more frequent and varied. Certainly I have had the same good and bad interactions and experiences. I realized that personal lessons often came much mre mundane and routine interactions than in the professional arena.

Many of the personal lessons came when I was not expecting them. The times when I was young and I helped my father assemble some toy or help out in some household activity. They came by watching my parents work hard every day and come home play tag with us in the yard. It came when I watched my siblings get their first jobs, lose their first jobs, go on their first dates, graduate school, get married have their children. It came when my father gave me the speech about giving more service than you are paid for and then seeing him live up to it. The lessons multiplied when I started to have those sameexperiences for myself. They came when I saw my parents lose their jobs and not know where to turn, but they always knew what to do next, and that was to keep working at raising your family and finding a way to pay the bills. This was always by working. I learned that when times are hard you will put your life back together by working and rendering more service than you are paid to do. I learned that when I did things that were stupid and hurtful to others that I would eventually pay the price for those things. I learned that all things are created that way. You get back what you put in. Do good and you eventually get good in return. Do bad and you will eventually get the bad in return. Even when it doesn't always seem as though that is how it will work out.

I could go on for a long time talking of the different lessons. The real point is that I learned my most valuable lessons right at home. Not in school, college, or graduate school. Not at work, meetings, retreats, or business trips. My greatest lessons come from my roots. Maybe this is the greatest lesson of all, the realizing the importance of my roots. I only hope that I can live up to the lessons and pass them on to my kids. I do hope that they decide to pursue education, but I believe that it would be worthless if they failed to take their roots with them.