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Thomas Edison Quotes To Celebrate His Birthday 167 Years Ago Today

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

 Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

 I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

 Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.

 “Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.”

Be courageous. I have seen many depressions in business. Always America has emerged from these stronger and more prosperous. Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith! Go forward!

 What you are will show in what you do.

 Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have.

 

Leadership Thought #462 – The Need To Step Back and Reflect

In our society that rewards constant action, it is often hard to step back and reflect about where you have been, what you have learned, and where you should be going.  However, leadership requires thinking and reflection as much as it is supposed to stimulate action.  Many people I know are busy at doing the wrong things.  They are working hard but not smart.  Every day is just one more attempt to push the boulder up the hill and hope that at some point positive sustained momentum will push them over the top.   Unfortunately as the slope of their climb increases the weight of their responsibilities also increases and the path they are treading becomes less predictable and stable.  You can’t push forward into unchartered territory and not expect to learn some tough lessons along the way.  If you are not careful, you may slip or fall and the boulder will roll right back over you.

We’ve all heard the saying many times that “what got you here, won’t get you where you are going.”  I agree to an extent, but also believe that self-reflection is healthy and some patterns are worth reproducing while others are not.  There are situations where each of us thrive and struggle and the interesting thing in life is that this varies by individual.  Your first responsibility as a leader is to set yourself up for success.  Don’t try to morph into what the current popular leadership text books tell you to be, instead be the best YOU that you can be.  To accomplish this you need to fully understand your own strengths and limitations; you need to be honest about where you add value and where you create unnecessary difficulty.  Sometimes we get in over our heads and the last thing we want to do is flail about embracing change for the sake of change when this happens.  Slow down and be more deliberative in your decisions and actions as the risks go up. 

The leadership journey requires you to constantly reflect on the role you and others should be playing.  As you achieve some level of success, your business may challenge your capabilities to lead it.   This is okay as long as you do something positive about it.  You will need to challenge your own preconceptions about what’s possible and why.  Chances are you will outgrow some of your people, which is sometimes sad but should be expected.  You will need to recruit new talent with new skills to manage the additional complexity.  You will need to delegate more and tolerate less.  You will need to say “no” to things you are accustomed to saying “yes” to.  You will need to remove the organizational dependence upon you and create a business model that fosters functional interdependence and process driven self-correction.  All of this requires both personal and professional growth.  You will need to THINK and act differently.  There are no shortcuts to success, but there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be either…

Leadership Thought #461 – Success Must Be Earned

I’ve witnessed a disturbing trend lately amongst many entrepreneurs.  They want to work the hours of a successful person without yet attaining actual business success.  I think all this talk of work-life balance has people a bit confused.  It you want to run a business that supports a flexible lifestyle, you can certainly choose working for yourself as an option, but financial success usually requires very hard work especially at the beginning.  You can’t enjoy the experience of having climbed the mountain without having done the hard work to climb it in the first place. You can’t be all things to all people including yourself; you must make some tough choices about how you spend your time.

You can’t have a business fraught with cash flow and sales problems and leave work early to coach soccer practice. You can’t volunteer for multiple boards if your own company is lacking direction itself.  You can’t give yourself a raise or distribution to cover increased living expenses if you can already barely make payroll.  You can’t have a policy of not working weekends or being home for dinner every night when you can barely keep the doors open.  You can’t regularly show up to work late when your customers typically arrive early.   You can’t limit your client geography because of commuting headaches if your clients exist beyond your travel comfort boundaries. You can’t take long vacations if your business requires you to have an active daily presence.  You have to be honest with your spouse about networking responsibilities and pressing deadlines rather than attempting to meet unrealistic family expectations during the work week.

There is a big difference between starting a lifestyle business and running real business.  The former is more of a personal job program where you prioritize quality of life over economic benefits.   Many people do this and are happy, but they know their economic limitations and do their best to live with in them.    Most of these businesses at best only employ a handful of people.  The latter has the potential for great economic benefit but more often than not requires significant personal sacrifice, significant risk taking and delayed gratification.  You are building something over time and as with most construction projects there is a lot of design and build work at the front end.  Delays and problems will inevitably happen, but if you stay focused, follow the plan and work hard, the rewards can be great at the back-end.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but they are few are far between, this is why we call them exceptions. I am very worried that our society is becoming addicted to short cuts, personal convenience and unrealistic expectations. We want what we want and we want it now with minimal sacrifice on our end.  America was not built on this mindset. We got to where we are by hard work and personal sacrifice.  We outworked our competition and did our best to consistently grow our capabilities and network of contacts.  We pushed economic boundaries and raised the bar on what was possible through sheer determination and effort.  We prioritized progress and success over personal self-exploration and leisure time.  We did what was necessary to get the job done and didn’t complain about how hard this was to accomplish.  You can’t have it all despite what some supposed experts try to tell you – no one can, but you can always prioritize what’s most important at a given point and time and then live with the consequences.  Success must be earned and you can never take for granted what it takes to get there.

Leadership Thought #460 – As A Leader, You Set The Tone in Your Organization

The leader of an organization always sets the tone.  Never forget this fact.  I am often slightly bemused when I hear a leader complain about the state of things in their organization.  It’s almost as if they remove themselves from the equation.  They wonder how things have devolved to this point as if it is some deep mystery when all they have to do is look in the mirror.  Your people are a reflection of your hiring decisions; the quality of your meetings is directly related to how you lead them and model this behavior for others;  missing deadlines is a reflection of what you are willing to tolerate in others and yourself; a lack of focus almost always starts at the top; teamwork only ever happens when the coach sets the expectations and creates the conditions for this to happen; optimistic or pessimistic cultures are usually a reflection of leader’s point of view; etc.

When confronting difficult situations or problems that you are unhappy with in your business or nonprofit, look inside yourself first, before passing the blame to others.  If you are willing to take FULL responsibility for what’s taking place in the environment that YOU have created, then you have a fighting chance of making positive changes.  The bottom line is that organizational culture is a direct reflection of the characteristics and behaviors of the leader.  Dysfunctional work environments are the product of dysfunctional leadership performance.  Cultural change requires leadership behavioral change.  You can complain all you want, but the truth is that it all starts and ends with you.

I encourage you to think about how you are showing up each day.  Are you a motivating force or de-motivating force? Do you smile and create positive energy or walk around with the weight of the world on your shoulders?  Do you successfully engage in honest difficult conversations or are you a master at passive aggressive behavior?  Do you visibly enjoy the people you work with or is it clear to those around you that you merely tolerate them?  Are you excited about customer service and doing good work or are you simply in it for the money?  Are you staying focused on what’s most important or constantly being distracted and diverted by things of lesser importance?  Have your surrounded yourself with sycophants who regurgitate what you want to hear or are you open to alternative points of view and new thinking?

Leadership is first and foremost about personal responsibility.  Your organization is only ever a reflection your behaviors and decision-making.  You get to set the tone: good, bad or otherwise. Then you have to live with the consequences.

Leadership Thought #459 – 7 Tips You Ensure You Hit Your Goals/Resolutions for 2014

goal

goal (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Most of us will start the New Year with a list of goals we would like to achieve over the course of the next year.  Making New Years‘ Resolutions has become an American pastime.  Unfortunately, a majority of us will end up falling far below our initial expectations.  For some reason we either lose interest, become distracted by other things, or find the goals end up requiring more than we are willing to give to get there.   Over the years I’ve observed a much smaller number of people who actually achieve what they set out to do each and every year.  From this experience, I’ve developed the following tips to help you become one of these lucky few:

1) First and foremost, pick a goal you genuinely want to achieve not something you think you should be focused on or feel pressured by others to get done.  When our will is tested our real level of commitment typically becomes apparent.  People who aren’t committed to stopping smoking won’t do it; however, they may start eating healthier and/or start doing exercises that increase their lung capacity;

2) Be very specific about what you want to achieve.  Saying I want to lose weight or save more money is too vague.  Making it something more concrete like I want to lose 15 pounds by Memorial Day Weekend or have my resting heartbeat drop to 60 beats per minute by softball season or I will finish the first draft of my book by Halloween;

3) Push yourself but be somewhat realistic.  If you make $75K a year, saving $25K probably isn’t doable, but $7,500 may be.  If you want to still aim high, create a stretch goal above and beyond your desired outcome, but make sure there is some level of success that is initially achievable and worth celebrating;

4) Be transparent about your goals with close friends/and or loved ones and make your progress highly visible.  Put this information on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, as your screen saver, tape it to your desk, etc. – the more places the better. In addition, start and end each day by reading them out loud;

5) Break your goal down into smaller increments so that you build up positive momentum throughout the course of the year.  Reducing personal debt by 25% sounds great, but how will this happen, e.g., increasing monthly payments by 5% each successive month, paying off highest interest credit cards  first (1 at a time), etc.;

6) Have a goal buddy who has a similar mindset that you check in with on a regular basis, at least once per quarter, but preferably every month. You’d be surprised how just talking with someone regularly increases individual accountability.  You’ll also both get goal fatigue at some point in the year and the other person will help you stay focused;

7) Establish an additional attractive payoff once you have achieved the goal like buying new summer clothes if you lose weight, or going on a more active fun vacation if you get more fit, or starting a regular fun/entertainment budget once you are out of debt.  We tend to stay focused on not just what we measure but also what we reward.

I have been fortunate to have a pretty good track record of achieving my own goals on an annual basis although I do plan on pushing myself a bit more this year.  I honestly believe that most of our limitations in life are self-imposed and we are all capable of achieving whatever we want when we put our minds to it.   I sincerely hope that 2014 is a banner year for you and that you use the following seven tips to help get you there.  Happy New Year!

Excerpts From The Road Less Traveled

Cover of "The Road Less Traveled"

Cover of The Road Less Traveled

A while back a colleague’s comments encouraged me to revisit the book, The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck.  I am very glad this happened because it resonated much differently with me twenty years later.  I’ve decided to end the year sharing some excerpts from the book which I have found especially enlightening and helpful:

“Life is difficult…This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see the truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

“What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one…Yet it is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning…It is through the pain of confronting and resolving our problems that we learn.”

“…when children know they are valued, when they truly feel valued in the deepest parts of themselves, then they feel valuable…the feeling of being valuable is essential to mental health and is the cornerstone of self-discipline…when one considers oneself valuable one will take care of oneself in all ways that are necessary. Self discipline is self-caring.”

“We must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it. We cannot solve a problem by saying, “It is not my problem.” We cannot solve a problem by hoping that someone else will solve it for us. I can solve a problem only when I say “This is my problem and it’s up to me to solve it.  But many, so many, seek to avoid the pain of their problems by saying to themselves: “This problem was caused me by other people, or by social circumstances beyond my control, and therefore it is up to other people or society to solve the problems for me.”

“…the problem of distinguishing what we are and what we are not responsible for in this life is one of the greatest problems of human existence; for the entirety of our lives we must continually assess and reassess where our responsibilities lie in the ever-changing course of events.”

“Frequently our choices lie between the lesser of two evils, but it is still within our power to make these choices…there are indeed oppressive forces at work within the world.  We have, however, the freedom to choose every step of the manner in which we are going to respond to and deal with these forces.”

“What happens when one has striven long and hard to develop a working view of the world, a seemingly useful workable map, and then is confronted with new information suggesting that view is wrong and the map needs to be largely redrawn?  The painful effort required seems frightening almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is to ignore new information…Rather than try and change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality.  Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.”

“The life of wisdom must be a life of contemplation combined with action.”

“The only way that we can be certain that our map of reality is valid is to expose it to the criticism and challenge of other map makers.”

“The more honest one is, the easier it is to continue being honest, just as the more lies one had told, the more necessary it is to lie again. By their openness, people dedicated to the truth live in the open, and through the exercise of their courage to live in the open, they become free from fear.”

“Mature mental health demands, an extraordinary capacity to flexibly strike and continually restrike a delicate balance between conflicting needs, goals, duties, responsibilities, directions, etc.  The essence of this discipline of balancing is giving up… the giving up of personality traits, well established patterns of behavior, ideologies, and even whole life systems.”

“It is in the giving up of self that human beings can find the most ecstatic and lasting, solid, durable joy of life.  And it is death that provides life with all of its meaning.  This is the “secret” wisdom of all religion.”

“It is also clear that the farther one travels on the journey of life, the more births and deaths one will experience, and therefore the more deaths – the more joy and more pain.”

“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”

“…we are incapable of loving another unless we love ourselves, just as we are incapable of teaching our children self-discipline unless we ourselves are self-disciplined. It is actually impossible to forsake our own spiritual development in favor of someone else’s.”

“Love is not effortless.  To the contrary, love is effortful.”

“Ego boundaries must be hardened before they can be softened. An identity must be established before it can be transcended. One must find one’s self before one can lose it…”

“Whenever we think of ourselves as doing something for someone else, we are in some way denying our own responsibility.  Whatever we do is done because we choose to do it, and we make that choice because it is the one that satisfies us the most.  Whatever we do for someone else we do because it fulfills a need we have.” 

“The principal form that the work of love takes is attention. When we love another we give him or her our attention; we attend to that person’s growth…By far the most common and important way in which we can exercise our attention is by listening.”

Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future.  On some level spiritual growth, and therefore love, always requires courage and involves risk.”

“Commitment is inherent in any genuinely loving relationship.  Anyone who is truly concerned for the spiritual growth of another knows, consciously or instinctively, that he or she can significantly foster that growth only through relationship of constancy.”

“Genuine love is self-replenishing.  The more I nurture the spiritual growth of others, the more my own spiritual growth is nurtured.”

“Great marriages cannot be constructed by individuals who are terrified by their basic aloneness, as so commonly is the case, and seek a merging in marriage.  Genuine love not only respects the individuality of the other  but actually seeks to cultivate it, even at the risk of separation or loss…”sacrifices” on behalf of the other result in equal or greater growth of the self.”

“.. all human interactions are opportunities either to learn or to teach (to give or receive therapy), and when they neither learn nor teach in an interaction they are passing up an opportunity.”

“To develop a religion or world view that is realistic – that is, conforms to the reality of the cosmos and our role in it, as best we can know that reality – we must constantly revise and extend our understanding to include new knowledge of the larger world.  We must constantly enlarge our frame of reference…”

“The path to holiness lies through questioning everything…”

“Many scientists simply do not look at the evidence of the reality of God.  They suffer from a kind of tunnel vision, a psychologically self-imposed psychological set of blinders which prevents them from turning their attention to the realm of the spirit.”

“A major and essential task in the process of one’s spiritual development is the continuous work of bringing one’s conscious self-concept into progressively greater congruence with reality…”

“…one of the reasons we fail to take full advantage of grace is that we are not fully aware of its presence – that is, we don’t find valuable things not sought for, because we fail to appreciate the value of the gift when it is given us…we consider such events unremarkable, and consequently we fail to take full advantage of them.”

“An individual’s body may undergo changes of the life cycle, but it does not evolve.  New physical patterns are not forged.  Decline of physical competence in old age is an inevitability.  Within an individual lifetime, however, the human spirit may evolve dramatically.  New patterns may be forged. Spiritual competence may increase (although it usually does not) until the moment of death in advanced old age.  Our lifetime offers unlimited opportunities for spiritual growth until the end.”

“When we grow, it is because we are working at it, and we are working at it because we love ourselves.  And it is through love that we elevate ourselves.  And it is through our love for others that we assist others to elevate themselves.  Love, the extension of the self, is the very rare act of evolution.  It is an evolution in progress.  The evolutionary force, present in all life, manifests itself in humankind as human love.  Among humanity love is the miraculous force that defies the natural law of entropy.”

“If we overcome laziness, all other impediments will be overcome.  If we don’t overcome laziness, none of the others will be hurdled.”

“A major form of laziness is fear…Much of our fear is fear of change in the status quo, a fear that we might lose what we have if we venture forth from where we are now.”

“Evil people hate the light because it reveals themselves to themselves.  They hate goodness because it reveals their badness; they hate love because it reveals their laziness.  They will destroy the light, the goodness, the love in order to avoid the pain of such self-awareness…evil is laziness carried to its ultimate, extraordinary extreme.”

“Most people most of the time make decisions with little awareness of what they are doing.  They take action with little understanding of their own motives and without beginning to know the ramifications of their choices…”

“Is it any better to do the right thing for the wrong reasons than the wrong thing for the right reasons?  We are often most in the dark when we are the most certain, and the most enlightened when we are the most confused.”

“We attempt to defend our consciousness, our awareness, against reality.  We do this by a variety of means which psychiatrists call defense mechanisms.  All of us employ such defenses, thereby limiting our awareness.  If in our laziness and fear of suffering we massively defend our awareness, then it will come to pass that our understanding of the world will bear little or no relation to reality.”

“The call to grace is a call to a life of effortful caring, to a life of service and whatever sacrifice seems required.  It is a call out of spiritual childhood into adulthood, a call to be a parent to mankind…”

“…the human race is in the midst of making an evolutionary leap. Whether or not we succeed in that leap is your personal responsibility.  And mine.  The universe, this stepping stone, has been laid down to prepare the way for us.  But we ourselves must step across it, one by one.  Through grace we are helped not to stumble and through grace we know that we are being welcomed.  What more can we ask?”

Happy Holidays 2013!

Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio is the site of t...

Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio is the site of this Christmas display with over 3.5 million lights. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year I have fun reading through holiday books looking for excerpts from writings that reflect my feelings about the season.  This is an especially poignant year for me given my father’s recent passing.  His birthday was actually Christmas day and it will be the first time we haven’t spoken on this day in my lifetime.  He always loved Christmastime and it has definitely worn off on me.  

My house has and always will always be decorated with lights in honor of my dad. It may be my imagination, but I feel that this has been the best year yet for decorations as I drive around and appreciate the individual creativity of so many homeowners.  It appears that people are in an especially festive mood this year and I know that dad is looking down and smiling on all of it.

Since 1944, “Ideals Christmas” has been a tradition in thousands of homes across the USA.  The book contains traditional poems that explore the meaning of the holiday and recall special times with family and friends.  I came across the following poem which resonated with me (Thanks Mable!):

The Message of Christmas Bells
By Mable Clare Thomas

Once more the bells of Christmas
Are ringing sweet and clear;
Once more our hearts are lifted up
And filled with hope and cheer,
For friendship knows no barriers
Of distance, time or space,
And loving thoughts can wing their way
To any clime or place.

Each year the message of the bells,
Over mountain, plain, or sea,
Reminds us love is born anew,
Steadfast, tender, strong, and true,
Wherever we may be.

I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones have a great week of celebration and friendship this year.  And, may the New Year bring you many blessings and much happiness!

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