LifeRevelation

Life is a Revelation…be encouraged

Archive for the category “childhood”

All the Same

While you, dear reader, may not be able to tell, I usually spend considerable time thinking, researching, and sharing my ideas with Susie, before I sit down to write. I’ve found, for the most part, this keeps me from running off on some half-wit tangent. Susie says this also makes it easier for her to converse with her friends, because she doesn’t have to spend hours defending my posts.

I think she means it as a compliment.

This post is somewhat different, because while I have given it a lot of thought, I haven’t done much research and I’ve kept my comments to Susie to a minimum. So I hope this post doesn’t cause much distress the next time her friends and her get together. This one comes more from the gut.

Let me start with a story.

Several years ago I was asked by a friend’s wife if I would be interested in mentoring at risk and behaviorally challenged children in the public school system. Although they were wanting to reach children of all ages, I would be working specifically with elementary students. After she answered several questions for me I thought the idea had merit and agreed to become a mentor to twins of a single mother. The twins had a slew of issues and while I am no trained child psychologist my biggest contribution would be as an in-room monitor who would work with each of them to keep them focused during the school day.

I enjoyed the work and kept meticulous notes as to what worked and what didn’t during various situations. I shared these notes with others who were involved in the program. The program became a company and the company started to grow. New mentors where hired. Programming directors, financial analysts, therapists, and others were added to the payroll. Strict rules were put into place. The roll with what is happening and go with the flow was eliminated. Structure and order became the only way. Owners and management began to dream about earning substantial money. They began to curry political and corporate favor. The ideas others and I had become part of a program that was touted as having an incredible success rate. Metrics were put in place. We were all coached on how to write our reports so Medicare would pay. Students graduated from the program reportedly cured of their issues.

Except there was only one problem.

The kids weren’t healed. They were better. They were making progress. They could function for longer periods of time without having a physical outburst, but they were a long way from being what anyone would call healed. It wasn’t that they were bad kids. Or even that they were mentally deficient. They simply had been born into horrible situations. Their only guidance in life had been through the TV they were set in front of from birth, because the changing patterns on the screen kept them from crying or they imitated what they saw when they left the living room for the streets. They yelled, screamed, cussed, and fought just like they saw the gangs do, except they were in the third grade.

But it didn’t matter. In order to keep the money flowing in they were diagnosed with a DSM Code by a staff child psychologist, then pronounced healed when they got near the end of time that federal funding would pay for their care.  One size fit all, except we weren’t talking about clothing, we were talking about children with feelings, emotions, and in need of real, true, honest love.

I bent and broke all the rules. I went home with the kids I worked with and talked to their parents, when I could find them, and whoever else I could find when the parents weren’t anywhere around. I prayed with my kids. I took them places like museums, libraries, art galleries, backstage at theaters, and anywhere else I could think of, to expose them to a bigger world. I paid for everything out of my own pocket.

Then I got caught. I was warned. I didn’t change I kept on doing everything. I got caught again. I was told to change. I said no. They said my services were no longer warranted. They sent two large men to escort me out of the school. They told the principal I was under investigation for wrong doing.

When we find something that works, people want to turn it into a program. They want to monetize it. They want to streamline it. They want one size to fit all. They want to make it all the same.

Well I don’t want to. My experiences with the children is only one example. In my life, and in yours, there are hundreds of examples. This is one of the reasons why I love the blog world. Each blog is different. The content is our own. We aren’t constrained in what we say and how we say it. I’m not given to using lots of provocative or foul language, but I’ll always defend your right to, even if I am hoping you won’t.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, it isn’t well researched, nor have the words been carefully chosen, they just rolled out of my heart, and hopefully into yours.

Be encouraged!

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Good Advice

I discovered this website while I was cruising around the internet. I hope you take a few minutes to contemplate it’s message. Again it is something simple, yet I thought it says a Truth worth hearing…and acting on.

Be encouraged!

words to live by

http://spirituallythinking.blogspot.com/2012/04/listen-to-little-stuff.html?m=1

** This quote is taken from Catherine M. Wallace’s book:

Motherhood in the Balance: Children, Career, Me, and God, and can be purchased from Amazon – If this quote is anything to go by I’m sure it’s well worth the read!!

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

http://edwardrecommends.com/people

What if getting everything we want…right now…isn’t a good thing? Is there a possibility that, at least for some things, waiting a while might be a good thing? Say for instance, being promoted. Could it be beneficial to stay in your current position for a while, get really good at it, study where you want to go, devise a plan as to what you will do when you get there, then get promoted?

Does waiting for something add value to us? Does it cultivate certain talents that are useful? Is there something in the process of waiting that is a positive life lesson?

At some point I will be writing a post regarding patience as a virtue. Does the delay in gratifying our wants help strengthen patience?

http://cheezburger.com/3057568512

There is a famous study done in 1972 by Dr. Michael Mischel at Stanford University involving marshmallows. The study used a group of kids from the age of four to six. They were given a marshmallow, but told if they did not eat it until the researcher returned (fifteen minutes later), then they would get another one. They could however, eat the one they were given at any time, but then that is all they would get. The idea being instant gratification with the one in hand or delayed gratification with two. Six hundred children participated and one-third were able to hold out for the entire fifteen minutes and received an additional marshmallow.

In 1988 a follow-up study learned that among those who had been able to delay gratification were described by their parents as being highly competent. In 1990 they discovered the delay gratifiers had significantly higher SAT  scores. I’ll write more about this study in a later post, but isn’t it interesting this simple test was able to predict with amazing clarity the life difference between the early gratifiers and the delayed gratifiers.

So might we best served to slow down or even delay, the gratification of our wants. I am sure there are a multitude of life analogies to be drawn. I’m going to start with holding off preparing myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich…but not for long.

Be encouraged!

Like

http://rwconnect.esomar.org/2012/01/17/why-i-hate-like/

Like is a concept I have wrestled with for the greater part of my life. Not that I don’t understand the meaning of the word, I do. It is trying to get a grasp on the whole concept that keeps me somewhat mystified.

I once watched an eight year old boy walk into a room with other boys and girls, all around his age. A total of maybe nine or ten were gathered in the room. The gender split was roughly equal. Some were no doubt a little younger and others were older, but there was no huge age discrepancy. Before this young man entered,  a couple were off playing by themselves, but most were gathered around two or three boys. They were laughing and talking and all seem to be at ease with one another.

Maybe at this point I should interject that these were not ordinary kids, they were all models and each one of them had been modeling for several years. They were out-going and completely comfortable making new acquaintances. When the eight year old boy I mentioned earlier entered the room the entire dynamics changed. Within a few short minutes every child was grouped around the eight year old and he was laughing and talking to them. He had established total control over the room. Even the couple of strays were brought into his sway.

As I witnessed this transformation I was dumb struck. He wasn’t dressed any differently. He did not possess a commanding voice, he was only eight. He didn’t say, “Hey you all, come over here.” Actually his demeanor was kind of shy. Yet every child gravitated to him. CEOs would pay dearly for his ability to command the room. What made this child so immediately likable?

This happened over thirty years ago and at times I still ponder what transpired in the room. What hidden talent, or mojo, or vibe did that eight year old boy possess that drew every one of those children to him like a magnet draws iron filings?

There is a new book published earlier this year by John Wiley & Sons, Inc entitled Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action. The author is Rohit Bhargava. His writings have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Fast Company, NPR, and MarketingChina.  His first book was Personality Not Included and has been translated into nine languages. For kicks and giggles he is Adjunct Professor of Marketing at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. So apparently the brother is extremely gifted in time management.

I haven’t completely finished the book yet, nor has he provided me with a complete understanding of the episode I witnessed thirty years ago, but I have read enough to realize he and I share many of the same convictions…only he writes much better than I do.

One of the first concepts he establishes is there is a real ROI on likeability He goes on to establish five key principles:

Truth

Relevance

Unselfishness

Simplicity

Timing

Yea, if you take each of the first letters it spells TRUST. At first I thought it bordered on hokie, and kind of still do, but it makes it easy to remember and drives home a very excellent point. His argument being if you are likeable then people will trust you. Being trust-worthy is the real key to standing out from the competing hoards.

I experienced this earlier this today. Susie and I are launching a new company. We are developing the content for a supremely radically different Women’s Professional Development Conference. We are incorporating acrobats, fire eaters, sword swallowers, magicians, shadow puppeteers, drama, contortionists, unicyclists, laundry dryers, and Barbie dolls into a power packed day long seminar that will leave women feeling Stronger, Better, & Ready For Whatever in their professional and private lives.  Remember, I told you it was supremely radically  different. 

This afternoon I received a phone call from an international motivational speaker who (somehow) had heard about what we are doing. He was extremely impressed as I discussed our concepts and business plan with him. So much, that by the end of the conversation he said he wanted to mentor us and help take our message to the international market.

Our team is floored…to say the least. We never expected anything like this. We were thinking about how to take our message state-wide. He expanded our entire vision with just one phone call.

Now segue to later this evening. I RSVP’ed for a meeting of life coaches. This will be their first time meeting so everyone was encouraged to give a brief bio of themselves and their company. I wrote almost verbatim (plus some extra for more detail) what I wrote above. I described how our content empowered women to truly make changes in their lives. To be more successful and stretch their ideas of what was possible.

The response I received was this:

Is this a joke or what?

I guess I need to cultivate my believability more.

I’m going to go read another chapter.

Be encouraged!

Virtue #7–Bravery

http://inkandstardust.deviantart.com/art/Bravery-288324911

Bravery is an odd thing. It has several different qualities. There is the bravery that results in one of these:

 

http://www.history.army.mil/moh.html

This is the Congressional Medal of Honor and you don’t get these by taking the easy way out. The medal comes at a cost. A cost many of us would find to high to personally pay, but not all do. Those who have been awarded this medal all have one thing in common; none of them set out to get it, it was never a goal.  To be a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor you need to be a member of the United States Armed Forces. Right there I am ruled out, but it gets much tougher from there.

An individual must partake in “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity, at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in an action against the enemy of the United States.” That pretty much eliminates the rest of us.

Since its inception by Congress on July 12, 1862, 3,462 individuals have been recipients. Since we are zeroing in on nearly 50 million having served our nation since 1776 that means that less than .0007% of those who have been in the military have received this award.

Of course, there are many other types of bravery. I found this poem at http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100403132515AAPqb7J

It Takes Courage

by Anonymous

It takes Courage

To refrain from gossip

When others delight in it,

To stand up for the absent person

Who is being abused.

It takes Courage

To live honestly

Within your means,

And not dishonestly

On the means of others

It takes Courage

To be a REAL man or a TRUE woman,

To hold fast to your ideals

When it causes you

To be looked upon

As strange and peculiar

It takes Courage

To be talked about

And remain silent,

When a word would justify you

In the eyes of others,

But which you dare not speak

Because it would injure another.

It takes Courage

To refuse to do something

That is wrong,

Although everyone else

May be doing it,

With attitudes as carefree

As a summer song.

It takes Courage

To live according

To your own convictions,

To deny yourself

What you cannot afford

To love your neighbor

As yourself.

I am not going to write anything about this poem, because I believe it stands alone. I wish the individual who wrote it would have attached their name…but after reading it, it doesn’t surprise me they chose not to.

One last thing I want to say about bravery. There are men and women, who through no fault of their own, are raising their children in single parent homes. If you are one of these individuals I commend you. Personally I don’t how you do it, but I am extraordinarily proud of you. To me you are as brave as the ones facing enemy fire. Not because of the element of danger involved, but due to the inward strength it requires each and every day to get up and do all the those things that need to be done. You your children ready for school, their hands and faces are washed, their hair brushed, you get something resembling breakfast into them, somehow during the midst of all of this you have gotten yourself ready for work. Then either off to the bus stop or you drive them to school. Next is getting yourself through  morning rush hour traffic to work on time, where you are expected to perform at a high or higher level than others. No bringing home issues to work, this is business. You already have arranged for day-care after work. So you pick up your little one(s) and then home to cook dinner, do homework, play with toys, get bathes, read a book, put to bed (whole books could/have been written about that one), get their clothes ready for tomorrow, and now it is finally your time, except it is late, you are bone tired, and tomorrow you get to do it all over again. Somehow you do all of this and still try to instill virtues into your children. You teach them right from wrong. You want them to be creative. You want a better life for life for them.

You are the brave ones. I see you in the parking lot at the grocery store. I see you at little league games. I see you at school functions. You are everywhere. I want you to know I am proud of you.

Be encouraged!

Motivation?

Motivation?

The relationship between visits to seek.com.au and Web conferences

http://www.themaninblue.com/writing/perspective/2006/10/11/

Does this look familiar? I think we can all see ourselves in this graph. We are running low on motivation, then we go to a conference/seminar/retreat  and suddenly we are on inspiration steroids, without the nasty side effects, unless you count being slightly over-the-top annoying to your co-workers. Then the reality of the job/family/personal relationships start to encroach on our stimulating high and we begin a downward trend. At first, we tell ourselves it is alright. There is a reason nothing grows a mountain tops, it is unreasonable to believe we could be highly motivated all the time.

We slip a little more, but we are busy and it is difficult to keep track of this all the time.  We’ve got commitments, there are reports, job issues, kid’s soccer and dance, significant others who aren’t quite as supporting as we would like, and before long our motivation has sunk back to where it was before our big event.

This is one remedy:

Trying to maintain innovation motivation using constant Web conferences

http://www.themaninblue.com/writing/perspective/2006/10/11/

The trouble with this concept is you end up going to every type of motivational seminar you hear about, you read the top motivational books, you subscribe to the motivational emails, and you end up driving yourself batty trying to stay on top of your game.

We need to stop the merry-go-round and get off. I believe there is a way to avoid the roller-coaster and still keep our drive and passion running high. I know there is a way to enjoy the benefits of inspiration and enthusiasm without it becoming another burden in life to deal with. The reason I am convinced of this is because I have utilized it in my own life. I have been able to eliminate the erratic up and down flow of emotions. I have discovered a method of smoothing out the rough patches and maintaining the energy and excitement.

I was asked one time by a slightly skeptical individual if I was a motivational speaker. When I replied I was he had a look on his face like I had fallen directly into his trap. With as much disdain as he could muster he said, “So motivate me?” I looked directly into his stare and said, “I can’t.” He looked like the cat when the mouse gets a way. He stammered back, “Whaddya mean?”

I ran through much the same scenario as I have outlined above and then said, “Only you can motivate you.” At that point he was intrigued enough to forsake the testosterone fueled attitude and we began to talk.

I told him how all the words and encouragement in the world don’t mean anything until the individual begins to act. There must be a decision. There must be action. There must be follow through. Only when we make a choice to change our ways can our circumstances change. Thinking all the right thoughts will help and reading the books by the most influential motivational speakers will assist, but nothing will happen until you make a decision.

I have gone from deceiver to achiever, dope to hope, and mess to success. I did not do it by reading or hearing or thinking, I did it by getting up off my sofa and acting on what I knew to be true. I added fuel to the fire and turned up the flame. Turning the criminal life I was leading into a life of benefit to others was no overnight sensation. It was hard, continual work. There was a lot of sweat and tears, and then more sweat and even more tears. When the going got tough (and it always will, at some point) I lowered my head and kept going. I was not about to give up no matter what. I knew what was behind me. I had no desire for my past to dictate my future. It was full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes. There was no exit ramp. There was no time out area. There was no alternative, except to move forward. The options list had been added to the fire. Now maybe you don’t have the drama I had or maybe you have more, it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except getting up and doing something. There are no excuses. There are no reasons. The only thing left to do, is do.

Is changing your thought pattern beneficial? Absolutely! Is reading inspiring books good? You bet it is, I’m reading inspirational material all the time. Is associating with others who share my desire alright? Yes it is, I have surrounded myself with people of integrity, who share my vision for changing the world. Isn’t all of that enough? No it isn’t. You’ve got to take action. All of those ideas will help, but until you take matters into your own hands and implement everything into your actions, your emotional state will remain flat, or worse, continue in a downward descent.

Will you have fears? Yes you will. Will you get scared? Yes you will. It will be so bad at times that your insides liquefy. You will get headaches. You will sweat profusely at times. You will think you can’t go on. You will want to quit. You will want to give up. You will cry. You will yell. You will curse. You will hate it at times with every ounce of your being. You will imagine death to be easier (it is not). It will be both mental and physical. But keep moving forward.

Does this sound like the old coach revving up the players for the big game. Yes it does! Why? Because it works, pure and simple. Actions change our lives. It isn’t rocket science, thank God or I would never have gotten it. What it is, is plain old fashion hard work. I know that isn’t popular, there is a reason why there is a glut of “labor saving devices” in the market. But it can’t be avoided. An alcoholic must go through withdrawals. The same is true for any type of drug addiction.  The withdrawals are painful, uncomfortable, and sometimes feel like hell itself, but they work…and they are unavoidable.

Forging the life we want isn’t always sweet chimes, white fluffy clouds, and incense. More often it resembles a hard day of baling hay. The sweat stings your eyes. Your nostrils are clogged with the thick dust of hay. Your arms feel like they will fall off. Your mind goes into tunnel thought. Your back is made aware of a whole new level of searing pain, but at the end of the day, when you look up in the loft and see it full of stacked bales, the pride you feel is overwhelming. A sense of job well done. Nothing automatic about it. You worked for it and have the proof of your labors.

Forge a new life. Set yourself free. Work for it. Feel the sting, the ache, the desire. Know in your mind it is more important than your next breath. Feel it in everything within you. Unleash yourself. Cut the chain and run. Run until your lungs burn like hot fiery pokers have been shoved down your throat. Feel the exhaustion. Feel the power. Feel the freedom.

Live the life you want. Whatever that is. Is it being in the center of the road? Is it the road less traveled? Is it the road traveled by your friends, family, and loved ones? Is it not even a road? Is it a path? Is it just two points strung out on a distant map in your mind? Is it uncharted territory? Is it a deep and rolling sea? Is it a small babbling brook? Is it hunkered down in a home you love as much as anything else on earth? It doesn’t matter what it is…live the life you want.

Whatever it is, live it to the raw fullest. Be inflamed with your life. Let it consume your being and ooze from your pores. Don’t hold back and never give up. Have it stamped on your forehead. Burn it into your consciousness. Put it out front. Wear it on your sleeve. Brandish it like a double edge sword. Hold your banner high. Keep it up. Don’t give up. Keep adding fuel to the fire.

Action is the key…now get up and go for it!

BE ALIVE!
BE ALIVE!

BE ALIVE!

BE ALIVE!

BE ALIVE!

BE ALIVE!

Be encouraged! 

Be encouraged!

The Brain: As I Know It

http://www.willamette.edu/~gorr/classes/cs449/brain.html

I do a lot of thinking throughout the day.

Some of it is non-productive like; “When are the Cubs ever going to be real baseball team?” or “What if I won the lottery?” or “How happy I would be if Jake the Wonder Dog would stop licking his privates when people are visiting.”

Some of my thinking is very non-productive such as;  “I wish I was smarter”. or “Hey idiot, why don’t you learn how to drive!” or  “Wow are those ever big?”

Every once in a while I veer over to productive thinking usually along these lines: “I think the world needs to hear about virtues.” or “I believe we can create a company around that idea.” or I should get up and go tell Susie I love her.”

Over the years my brain has truly amazed me. Let me show why I believe that.

Once there was a man who was a successful drug dealer. He was making a seven-figure a year income. He had all the man toys that a seven-figure a year income can provide. He had nice homes, several luxury sports cars, bespoke suits, over 200 pairs of shoes, dined in all the right restaurants, attended (backstage) all the big rock n’ roll shows, dated models, and never wanted for a single physical thing in life.

Then there was another man who was quite different from the first. This man pushed his body to the limit. He was an ultra-distance runner. He started by running 5Ks, then quickly went through 10Ks, half-marathons, marathons, and ultra marathons. Then he started running even longer distances. He ran 335 miles from Houston to Dallas, Texas. He ran 665 miles from Copper Harbor, Michigan to Pontiac Stadium outside of Detroit. Eventually, he ran 3,160 miles across the United States.

Now let me introduce you to a third man. This man climbed the corporate ladder quickly and became a member of the management team for a Global 100 manufacturing firm. While with this company he developed the metrics for identifying high-potential and high-performing associates. He then developed a program to ensure these associates continued to grow within the organization.

Finally, let me present to you a man who very few know. He is quiet and studious. He takes his role in life quite serious and seeks to share what little wisdom God has graced him with. Several years ago he was baptized into the ancient Christian Church known as the Eastern Orthodox Church. Officially it is the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church, but he doesn’t mention that often. It just makes people wonder if he is Bulgarian (he is not) and it takes a long time to explain why he belongs to a Bulgarian Church when he isn’t Bulgarian, so he skips over that part. He prays frequently for his family, those he knows, and the world around him. He sincerely believes in his heart that prayer changes things, especially when nothing else seems to. He is much quieter than the other men and is happiest when it is simply his wife, his pets, his grandson (whom he adores more than life itself) and himself.

All four of these men know each other. In fact, you might say they know each other intimately, although not in a sexual way. They recognize a little bit of themselves in each other. They have a special feel for what the other might be thinking. They sense the emotions and thoughts of each other.

All four of these men are me. 

Now back to the thinking I do. How is it that these four men can exist within one human being? If we rule out schizophrenia (which we can), how can this happen? I believe I know the answer.

The brain is capable of far more than we think. It is capable of rewiring itself. We know, from what scientists have seen with those who have had brain damage, the neurons will begin to seek alternate routes of connection. I am no scientists and I’m certainly not a brain specialists or psychologist of any kind, but I know what I have lived through. I know how I have taken the grey matter I have been bequeathed and changed how I think. I know it wasn’t easy. Plain and simple, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. In some ways it took years to make the transition. I am the living, breathing proof lives can and do change for the better.

The reason I am telling this story again, I have told it a different way before, is I hope to spread hope to anyone who is struggling, either with changing or one who isn’t changing. There is always hope. Hope never weakens. It is always there.

Be encouraged!

Virtue #4–Assertiveness

http://emotionpotions.com/emotions/12-assertiveness.html

The University of Illinois’ Counseling Center has an excellent paper on being assertive, it is entitled “Being Assertive in a Diverse World.” Excellent title and insightful content, weighing the difference between being able to express your opinions (e.g., hold your own) and going too far into aggressive behavior. Their definition of assertiveness, I believe, strikes the right balance:

“Assertiveness is the ability to express yourself openly and honestly while also reflecting a genuine concern for others. It is about having the confidence to speak your values and beliefs, and to be courageous enough to speak up when needed.”

I like that. It is succinct and to the point. Ambiguity is left for those who like to split hairs; attorneys and those elected officials who suddenly find they wished they had voted a different way on a contentious bill.

My wife, Susie, and I are polar opposites. I tend to be too far into the aggressor mode and she hates to walk on grass because she is breaking their little stems as they stretch out to the sun. She comes from a home life where the father was a raging alcoholic and a single peep could be reason enough to go in and destroy all the furniture in your bedroom. In my house, you won the argument by screaming longer and louder than everyone else. I found these debating techniques to be especially beneficial in my early days as drug dealer and as a result honed them to a fine edge.

We have learned after nearly eighteen year of marriage there is wisdom in compromise. The trick is to strike the right balance. We have found this balance originates in the heart. What are your motives? Is compassion driving your words or just the desire to be proven right? What is it you are trying to accomplish?

There is an unbelievable need in our culture for compassionate assertive behavior. Assertiveness falls in between the proverbial rock and a hard place.  Be too passive and you feel inhibited and anxious, unable to convey how you truly feel. Going too far the other way can cause a lack of respect from those you are communicating with.  The compassionate assertive person will take into account the feelings and beliefs of those they are interacting with, carefully choosing the correct words so as not to offend. They will know what to say and how to say it.

True compassionate assertiveness takes time and practice. I’ve had to radically alter my methods of communication when expressing my beliefs on a subject, more so when those I am in discussion with may not share the same feelings and thoughts. I have also failed more times than is comfortable for me to admit. Susie, as well, has learned to give voice to her feelings and emotions. She has mastered the ability to discuss nearly any situation with others and remain firm, yet gentle, in expressing her ideas. This combination has gone a long way in bring peace and harmony into our marriage.

Learning we have the right to be assertive is difficult. Developing the concept that you have the right to be heard can be extremely troublesome for some. Of course, there are varying reasons for these issues. Some may feel they cannot be themselves because of a lack of self-esteem. Others may not feel safe to “rock the boat,” so to speak, in a corporate setting. Then there is always the societal misperception that men, who are assertive, are take charge leaders, while women who exhibit similar qualities are…ahem, bitches.

As I have studied and written about virtues I continue to be struck by the tension and balance which exists in each aspect. Too little and the virtue is literally of no effect, too much and you border on being perceived as a demigod. Striking that balance is not easy. It requires continual attention to the details, as well as the big picture.

These articles have generated several comments and I hope they continue to do so. All of you have had interesting and insightful thoughts about each virtue and I have enjoyed reading them. More importantly your comments have opened ideas in my mind that I’m sure I would have never discovered on my own. So please, continue to share your thoughts, ideas, theories, recipes, money…whatever. As always I wish you the best.

Be encouraged!

The Wall Street Journal & Me

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-astonished-businesswoman-reading-newspaper-image13499072

I knew there would be a day when it would finally happen. In my mind I had thought/seen/dreamt about it many times. Usually when I was in that half awake/half asleep semi conscious state in the morning before I roll out of bed to take our rescue Husky Callie out for her 2.6 mile morning walk/trot/run when she sees wildlife adventure.

In my mind’s eye I could see myself picking up the Wall Street Journal at the local gas station/snack shop, like I do every morning, and casually turning to the Review section where I would unfold the newspaper and gaze with misty eyes, and a burgeoning sense of pride, at the one inch headline with a sharp clear black/white photo. The photo would perfectly encapsulate the intellectual weight of the article, accompanied with the byline Stephen Edwards…always in bold.

Well it didn’t turn out exactly that way. In fact, it wasn’t even close. But they did have an article about the same subject I’ve written about, which is probably as close to getting a piece in the Wall Street Journal as I will ever get.

The article is entitled, “Why We Lie”, (Saturday/Sunday, May 26-27, 2012) and it is written, not by me, but by Dan Ariely. I have no idea where they found Mr. Ariely at (according to the WSJ he is the James B. Duke Professor of Behavior Economics at Duke University. Tell me there isn’t more than one way to skin the cat.). I figure he was Plan B.  My post Lying-Maybe…Maybe Not was published on April 14th. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m thinking that is about the time my cell phone battery went dead. I’m surmising they (WSJ) read my post, were blown away by my depth and insight into the human psychic, tried to call, couldn’t reach me, then in a moment of panic (which I am sure they now regret) got hold of this southern yahoo from Duke.

I do have to give Mr. Ariely his props though, although he was obviously Plan B, he did do a fairly decent job of throwing together some interesting facts and supporting data. For instance, his overall nutshell conclusion is, “Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats–just by a little.” Which is kind of the problem. Because when you have nearly everybody cheating a little, that adds up to a lot.

He did all kinds of fancy studies and found out that people will increase their cheating/lying when; others around them cheat/lie, thinking others benefit from your cheating/lying, and (this one put a smirk on my face)…knowingly wearing knock-off fashions. The last one seems to kind of open the door a crack to cheating/lying. The idea being, “What the hell, it is such a small thing.”

Now on the positive side Mr. Ariely did discover one thing that seems to cause folks to curb their larcenous tendencies one hundred percent of the time; when participants were told to think about the Ten Commandments or swear on the Bible with their right hand, they completely ceased from cheating/lying. Interestingly even when the participants identified themselves as self-declared atheists, when asked to swear on the Bible, their cheating/lying dropped to zero. Seems like being reminded of a moral code had a significant effect on their behavior.

The article is adapted from Mr Ariely’s forthcoming book, “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves” to published by HarperCollins on June 5. He goes on to demonstrate the devastating effects of the everybody-cheats/lies-a-little syndrome has on our society. He closes with a paragraph I am reproducing here in full, because I believe it is an excellent summation of what I have been trying to talk about for some time:

“We want to install locks to stop the next Bernie Madoff, the next Enron, the next steroid-enhanced all-star, the next serial plagiarist, the next self-dealing political miscreant. But locking our doors against the dishonest monsters will not keep them out; they will always cheat their way in. It is the woman down the hallway–the sweet one who could not carry away your flat-screen TV if she wanted to–who needs to be reminded constantly that, even if the door is open, she cannot just walk in and “borrow” a cup of sugar without asking.”

Lying and cheating have become so commonplace, it is difficult not to encounter it everywhere; the doctor who pads with extra treatments, the bank that takes an extra day to process your check, the mispriced items at Wal-Mart (always in their favor), the inability to return an item without a receipt (even when they can look up the transaction on their computers), the “I’ll be there in a minute” reply”…it just goes on and on.

I still wonder what would happen if we had a Occupy Truth Movement. Susie and I are starting a new business and we are using the tagline “Do It Right” as our vision statement…maybe it should be “Do It Right, No Matter What.” We interested to see what will happen as we decide to not fudge anything. Everything will be transparent…from our salaries, to the amount of money the company generates, to what the money gets spent on, to how we conduct the day-in-day-out business operations. It will be an adventure…and of course, I promise to document it here.

Be encouraged!

Virtue #3 – Ambition

http://www.tiptopsigns.com/Kanji-Symbol-for-Ambition-Decal-Sticker-p-2621.html

AMBITION

Well here is one virtue I think at first glance we all go, “Hmm, are you sure about this?”

Everyone of us knows someone who has taken ambition, cut the chain, and ran with it. They have run so far with it that ambition no longer looks like ambition. It looks more like greed and walking all over people to get what you want (e.g., Michael Douglas in Wall Street).

Yet let’s back up and look at ambition in its true sense. Dictionary.com defines the word as:

Noun

  1. an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.
  2. the object, state, or result desired or sought after
  3. desire for work or activity; energy

I will admit the first definition about desiring to achieve power and/or fame makes me a slight bit uneasy, but only because of their abuse. The word earnest thrown in their before the word desire creates for me a better feeling. Mainly because when I think of earnest, I think sincere and honest.

I don’t believe we have to make a choice between being ambitious and having principles. I would like to think I have ambition. Actually, I believe I have above average ambition. I know as I made the effort to turn my life around I was very ambitious. I was not going to fail. My entire focus was in breaking the bonds that I had created in my old life and establishing new positive valuable ones.

When I ran the 3,160 miles across the United States I definitely had the desire. As I have created this blog, worked on my book, and sought speaking engagements to spread hope, motivation, and success I have had ambition.

In our marriage, Susie and I have exercised ambition to be happy and content. Growing up our children understood that ambition is a necessary quality to live life to its fullest. We have already discussed with our six-year-old grandson what ambition is and how it is correctly used.

Ambition has an old fashion feel; like somehow we are now beyond the concept. Yet pure ambition can be used to propel you beyond the roadblocks and obstacles of life. It can be used to harness your positive energies and open a world of possibilities.

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As I’ve written this I have struggled with exactly how to portray this virtue. On the one hand, I want to caution against the run away freight train that turns ambition into nothing more than clawing one’s way up the ladder of life.  While on the other, I want you to understand I believe ambition is an essential feature to be successful; whether we are talking about careers, marriages, friendships, or companies.

Like most elements of life I think there is a tension that exists between good and evil. Lack too little ambition and you end up sitting in the basement of your parent’s house playing video games every day for the rest of your life. At the opposite end of the spectrum, you will ruthlessly walk over people and principles to attain power/fame/wealth.

Ambition is good, too much and you have a problem. Be ambitious, but be cautious.

Be encouraged!

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