Posts filed under ‘greatness’

Character Matters Most

James Thurber wrote, “There are two kinds of light – the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.” As a leader it’s important to know the difference and to be able to help others understand as well.

To me, the “glow” that illuminates represents those things that are sure, timeless, and everlasting. Things like truth, trust, and integrity. They are real; they are dependable, breeding confidence, peace and calm. They light the way and warm the soul. They are “the glow that illuminates”.

The “glare”, on the other hand are those things that are temporary, superficial, or meant to deflect, cover up or distract. Things like perfume, styling, presentation, even clothing can be helpful in covering or “prettying up” what otherwise may not, on its own merits, be attractive. The “glare” obscures what we’d rather others not notice.

Both glow and glare have their place and their utility. Interestingly, one can draw the same distinction between character and personality.

Character relates to deeply held values, principles and beliefs, such as integrity, humility, courage, fidelity…and to one’s performance relative to those values and beliefs. Like the “glow that illuminates”, character comes from deep within and is enduring and guiding to the extent one acts in alignment with one’s defining values. They are the “glow that illuminates”.

Personality on the other hand is more external, superficial, and relates to the way one presents himself to the world. The way he dresses, communicates, negotiates, and moves within social and business circles. Much of today’s self-improvement literature focuses on these temporary strategies, skills, and quick fixes aimed at advancing one’s success in any number of settings…by putting on a “better” face. These are “the glare that obscures”.

Again, like the “glow” and the “glare”, character and personality both have their place and value. However, if one compares the resources (time, effort, and money) spent on the one versus the other, there is, it seems, a significant imbalance today. Prior to the twentieth century most literature focused on character development. Since then, the emphasis has tilted heavily toward personality, with nearly all of today’s career development and “self improvement” books, seminars, and programs focusing on behaviors related to personality. Selling more, winning friends and influencing people, getting rich, deal making…

While there’s nothing wrong with improving skills and looking the best we can, there is danger in doing so at the expense of one’s character and those things (values and principles) that are of highest priority. One of the great challenges in life is finding the right balance of character and personality. The secret in successfully doing so lies in [always] putting character first and never compromising one’s character on the altar of personality.

Great leaders encourage others to put character first, even ahead of things that might bring tempting short-term gains. But that’s part of true leadership. In fact the act of encouraging character development over selfish interests itself takes on a glow that illuminates the path for others rather than a glare that may cause them to lose their way.

Lead on!

Cliff

April 3, 2016 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

I Have To!

When coordinating plans with others I’ve been known to say things like “I have to run 15 miles tomorrow”, “I have to get to bed early tonight”, or “I have to finish this project this weekend”. When I do, I’m often challenged by a friend who likes to say “You don’t HAVE to……you CHOOSE to!” and technically speaking, he’s right. But I keep saying it anyway… You see, I learned a long time ago that you can either decide how to respond to challenges or opportunities over and over again, depending on present circumstances, or you can make the decision just once, allowing that decision to become your personal standard – your “have to“!

If you take the flexible approach (“we’ll see how things are going” or “it depends”) there are too many variables and too many opportunities to derail you from doing the thing you once committed to doing. It takes discipline to make the hard but right choice, especially when the decision is to ALWAYS make the same choice. But when you do and the issue comes up again, there’s no hesitation or debate. You’re resolute – You “have to”!

Once you’ve decided, then your “have to‘s” take over, relieving you of the recurring decision cycle. And here’s the interesting thing – it’s not restrictive…it’s freeing! Once you’ve decided once and for all, when the alarm clock rings, you’re up – no debate. When someone offers you something you’ve sworn off, you decline – no debate. When being dishonest is tempting or seemingly profitable, you tell the truth – no debate! And when you do, you enjoy a feeling of freedom and empowerment.

Our choices determine our habits and our habits form our character. And as author and lecturer Hyrum Smith put it, “Character is the ability to carry out a worthy decision once the emotion of making that decision has passed.” It’s character-forming habits that help us overcome adversity, accomplish goals, and ultimately approach our individual potential.

When our choices reflect our deeply held values and they are made with sincere resolution, from that point on we simply “have to“. And as we do, we grow in character.
Lead on…

Cliff

July 6, 2015 at 11:52 am 6 comments

Build a Life with Goals

“I think I’ll build a house next year. I’ll do it when I have time…and can find some materials. No need to plan it or schedule it as that would take the creativity out of the process. But it’s going to be an awesome house! No…really!”

Silly? Yes…but isn’t that just what we do each year? We say we’re going to do any number of things – major things – in the new year…but in the end too often they just don’t happen! We don’t make them happen!

Building a house is a beautiful illustration of setting and accomplishing goals. Building a home requires a mental vision first, a paper version (blueprint) second, a list of materials and skilled labor, a detailed timeline, and the financial resources to pull it off…to name a few basic requirements.

Building a successful life requires the same. A vision, a written plan, and the resources – carefully accumulated and arranged, and ultimately the discipline to stick to the plan.

Think about the big things you REALLY want to accomplish next year. If you REALLY want to do them they’re most likely linked to your values or one of your roles (leader, spouse, parent, etc.) that you value. If not, stop right there. No need to proceed.

If the things you really do want to accomplish ARE things you really care about, then set a goal – a real goal – a written, detailed goal. Remember, a goal without a [detailed] plan is just a wish!

Take them one at a time. Ask yourself, with pen in hand, “what do I want to accomplish AND by when?” “What materials and resources will I need…and by when?” “What do I need to do NOW to begin and continue the process?” “What are [all] the milestones, approvals, research, and activities required…and by when?” Only with this kind of thinking and then doing, are we assured of accomplishing our most significant goals. But even the most challenging goals are no match for the power of an effectively planned and followed goal.

Last week during our annual business planning meetings I remember a few moments where presenters shared some REALLY big stretch goals. These were received by some in the audience with chuckles and I presume some skepticism. In some instances, where important pieces of their plans were shared I was quite confident that these individuals would pull it off, remembering an old quote, hope in the future gives power in the present! While hope alone won’t produce results, hope and faith in the possibilities and in our own potential, combined with well planned goals ARE powerful! Overwhelmingly powerful!

Whatever your goals, whatever you really want to and earnestly believe you can achieve, is within your grasp…IF you follow the goal-setting process and stick to the plan! It takes character (“the ability to carry out a worthy decision once the emotion of making the decision has passed”), but character is the stuff good lives are built of.

Make 2015 YOUR best year yet!
Lead on!
Cliff

December 17, 2014 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Leading [others] to Greatness

William Shakespeare wrote “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”  While I don’t know about the “born great” or “thrust upon them” parts, we have all seen people who achieve greatness by sheer determination and effort.  But even for them, greatness didn’t have a chance without one fundamental ingredient even more important than the others.  Faith – a belief that it can be done, that it can be reached, that it can be achieved…is the FIRST ingredient of greatness.

Without faith, nothing happens. Without faith that the light will come on, no one would flip the switch. Without faith that there’s promise in the day, who’d get out of bed? Without faith that obstacles can be overcome, no one would make the effort. Without faith that one can achieve great things, who would even try?

Faith in oneself and confidence in one’s abilities are prerequisites for striving for greatness in anything. So where does that faith and confidence come from?  Some would argue that there are those who are born with the drive, but certainly they are the minority.  But for most, and behind every champion, there is a special spark – a friend, a parent, an example, an idea, a feeling that somewhere in the champion’s life helped them to see their potential and gather the faith necessary to carry them to success.

And THAT is where you as a leader come in. Leadership is about helping others discover their potential. As Bo Bennett put it, “A good leader is one who can tell another how to reach his or her potential; a great leader is one who can help another discover this potential for him or herself.” THAT is your opportunity…as a leader, a parent, a friend – to help others see…and believe in their potential! Here’s how…

FIRST, You must believe in their potential. The good news is that all human potential far exceeds our wildest imaginations. We were all designed to reach heights higher than we can envision. The human body, mind, and spirit are limitless when the blinders of life’s experiences and the opinions of critics are ignored. Those you lead are better than they know!  SECOND, help them catch the vision – to “see” their own success and potential in their mind’s eye. Paint the picture. All things are created twice – once in the mind and then in reality.  THIRD, encourage them, support them, and expect them to succeed.  FOURTH, while you can’t remove all obstacles from their path (and shouldn’t), you can make sure you aren’t one of them. Your pure desire for their success will be an unseen strength along their journey.  And FINALLY, always be the example you would hope they’d have. You may not be expert in the thing they are striving to become great at, but your example of being true to the things you do believe and strive for makes all the difference to those, seen and unseen, that are following you…and yes, they are watching!

Leading isn’t always easy, but few things are as rewarding as making a real difference in someone else’s success!  Doing the hard thing is what makes life great. Doing the hard thing is what makes you (and others) great!

Lead on…

Cliff

May 28, 2014 at 11:17 am Leave a comment


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