Archive for November, 2011

“Stuff” Happens!

Life’s not easy!   Just when things seem to be going along just fine, “stuff” happens, throwing us off course.  Weather, traffic, illness, other people’s decisions or actions, the economy, accidents…  What’s a person to do?  There’s really only one good choice…

The real challenge in life isn’t the “stuff” of life, but how we deal with the “stuff”.   The key is to let principles, the things we believe in…down deep, not our conditions or circumstances dictate our responses.  The good news is that we do have a choice.  In fact, next to life itself, the greatest gift any of us enjoy in this life is the freedom to choose.  Unfortunately, many people give up this gift, placing it in the hands of their circumstances, surroundings, or other people to decide how they’ll respond.

Habits 2 and 3 of Stephen R. Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” are: (2) Begin With the End in Mind, and (3) Put First Things First.  Effective people live with a clear vision of who they are and what is most important.  They are principle-centered.  They carry their mission in their hearts, and make decisions based on the mission or vision of who they are and who they strive to be.  They respond to  “stuff” based on this vision…placing even conflicting decisions (and principles) in proper order (putting first things first).

Great leaders are great because of their ability to live habits 2 and 3.  Those who depend on great leaders do so out of trust and confidence in their leaders’ vision and dedication to keeping it all in proper order…unfailingly.  Unfortunately, for every principle-centered person there are many more whose decisions are short-sited – based on immediate return or satisfaction – without regard for the long-term consequences.

During the the 9/11 crisis, many companies’ computer systems were disrupted.  One bank in particular lost partial control over its ATM machines.  The problem was that the machines couldn’t monitor the account balances, leaving open the possibility that account holders could withdraw far more than they had in their accounts.  The bank had a choice – shut down the system completely, or take the risk and continue to provide service at at that difficult time.  They took the risk, and sadly, there were many – the short-sited and un-principled – who cashed in on the circumstance, withdrawing many thousands more than they owned.

After all was said and done, over 4,000 people were under investigation in the “theft” of over $15 million.  Contrast the above example of the un-principled, with that of the true-to-life, principle-centered hero…Ascension Franco Gonzales, an unassuming immigrant dishwasher in Los Angeles.  The L.A. Times reported:

 “On a lonely evening beneath the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles, Ascension Franco Gonzales had the kind of moment Mexican songwriters put to music and transform into myth.  The ballad, or corrido, would tell the now familiar tale: how on August 27th an armored truck lurched, its back doors flipped open, and out tumbled a bag containing $203,000.  And how Franco…picked it up.  And how he gave it back the next morning.  Franco, a boyish 23-year-old with a self-deprecating sense of humor, was waiting for a bus when the $203,000 fell to the street.  “There wasn’t another soul around”.”  The next morning, Franco stuffed all the money into a laundry bag and met police officers at a local park where he promptly turned the fortune over to them.  He asked only one thing: “can I have my laundry bag back?”

Now the cynics of the world wouldn’t be surprised to hear Franco comment, “Everybody says I’m an idiot…”  Everyone that is, but his proud mother who still lives in Mexico, and thinks he is wonderful.  You see, Franco is the “vision” of a “good son”…he knows who he is, remaining true to his principles, and keeping all things in proper order and perspective regardless of circumstances.  Good sons make good people…good citizens…good leaders. They are “highly effective” people.

You’ll be happy to know that Franco was rewarded, although no reward was expected, for his honesty.  However, I’d be willing to bet, based on what we know about Franco, that the gleam of the $25,000 reward will have faded long before the glow of self-respect and inner peace from living his principles.  Principle-centered people believe in the “always” principles of consistency and integrity.  They understand that principles are not subject to ircumstances, but rather that circumstances must be subject to principles.

Yes, “stuff” happens.  But the “stuff” that happens to us isn’t really all that important…it’s what happens within us that really matters.  As leaders (of both yourself and others) you are many many times more effective when those you serve observe your unwavering commitment to principles and priorities…always – never depending on the circumstances.  Such consistency breeds immeasurable trust and confidence, and ensures cooperation and team spirit.

So the next time “stuff” happens…

Lead on…

Cliff

November 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment


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