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There Is Much To Learn From Saint Patrick

Statue of St. Patrick in Aughagower, County Mayo

Statue of St. Patrick in Aughagower, County Mayo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You don’t have to be Catholic to admire and appreciate the life of St. Patrick – the Patron Saint of Ireland.  He was born more than 1,600 years ago but his memory still lives on.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that his holiday is often a day of much fanfare and celebration for people of Irish background.  Saint Patrick himself was known to enjoy a drink or two.  However the celebratory aspect of the day should not overshadow the remarkable life and good works of the man.

As a teenager of wealth and privilege he was kidnapped and taken from his adopted home of Scotland (his parents were originally from Rome) bought to Ireland and sold into slavery.  At the age of 20 he escaped his bondage and found his way back home only to volunteer to return again to Ireland in his 30s as an ordained priest on a missionary quest. He spent the remainder of his life spreading his beliefs throughout the country and converting people from all walks of life.  It’s worth noting that his journey was not an easy one and he was often imprisoned and beaten because of the courage of his convictions and success of his work.

There is much to learn from the life of Saint Patrick including the following:

  • No matter what happens to you don’t forsake hope or allow yourself to be fully defined by your adverse circumstances;
  • A life of privilege is meaningless unless you can anchor it to something more profound and “bigger” than yourself;
  • Committing yourself to a cause you believe in is not for the feint of heart and requires courage and persistence;
  • You can accomplish great things in life if you truly believe in what you are doing and your values align with your work;
  • Confront your fears head on and grow because of (not in spite of)  your bad experiences;
  • Speak out when you see and injustice and help others whenever you can (even if there is a price to pay for this behavior);
  • A life of significance is the result of diligent daily effort.

To my knowledge Saint Patrick was never officially canonized by the Vatican but he is still on the list of saints.  Sometimes a life’s work stands on its own.  If and when you raise a glass in toast this weekend, I encourage to consider toasting Saint Patrick.  He was a special man who accomplished great things despite many difficulties and hardships.  He put the welfare of others ahead of his own and literally was the spark that transformed the religious faith of a nation.

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Leadership Thought #436 – Are You Aligned With Your Values And Priorities?

I’ve often heard it said that if you want to know what a person truly values, pay attention to what they do, not what they say.  Actions do speak louder than words.  Many of us are hypocrites and don’t even realize it.  I have a professional belief that a considerable amount of unhappiness in leadership (and life) is due to individuals living in conflict with their true values and focusing on the wrong priorities.   We are either moving closer to or further away from from the person we’d like to be.  There is no standing still.  The person we become is a direct result of the outcomes we create and how we get there. 

How you define success in your life is crucial! All of us need to get clear on our true values and priorities instead of making it up as we go along.  Sadly, far too few of us spend enough time in self-reflection figuring this out.  In the stress and busy-ness of everyday life we get distracted and often follow the path of lease resistance or do what we feel is expected of us by others.  There are many traps out there and we need to be careful where we tread (and why) including the importance we place on material things and who we use as our role models/influencers and let into our inner circle. 

Values are the guide rails we create in our life and our priorities chart our course forward.  Our life path ends up defining us whether we like it or not.  The good news is that you can always change direction and get re-centered if you get off track.  However, you must follow your heart, head and soul.  All three must be in synch with one another.  Otherwise you are beholden to luck and happenstance.  You still may end up winning the race but is it the race YOU should be in to begin with. Success is often empty if it is devoid of meaning. 

I encourage you to step back and reflect on where you are at this point in your life.  Are you aligned with your values and priorities?  Are you moving towards or away from the person you truly want to be? It’s never too late to make positive changes.

Leadership Thought #409 – Behavior Reflects Character

Anyone can manipulate words and stretch the facts to suit their short term objective.  However, it is difficult long-term to fake behavior and eventually your words will catch up with you.   Here are just a few examples of what I am talking about:

  • No one likes a bully.
  • Aggressive people tend to trigger a defensive response.
  • Everyone recognizes and dislikes rude and disrespectful behavior when they see it.
  • Who likes to be in a room for any extended period of time with a know-it-all who always has to be right?
  • If we catch people in a lie or think they are lying we tend not to trust them.
  • Cracks in someone’s voice or an unusual change of verbal pitch grab our attention.
  • Consistent low energy becomes a red flag in our perception of someone.
  • Hyper activity is off-putting.
  • We are all ultimately troubled by someone unwilling to make eye contact.
  • If we perceive someone wants something too badly they come across as desperate.
  • Warm and kind people tend to trigger a similar response in return.
  • Thoughtful people encourage us to be more thoughtful ourselves.
  • People who obviously think about what they say before they say it cause us to listen more carefully to what they have to say.
  • Charitable people encourage those around them to be more charitable.

Despite what George Burns says you can’t fake sincerity.   People see through it.  It is the biggest problem we have with our politicians.  We even have one presidential candidate who says he isn’t going to have “fact checkers” take him off message or influence his campaign.   Strong opinions shouldn’t trump fact based decision making.  If you want to get the measure of a man or woman, just look at what they say not what they do.   You can choose to speak out of both sides of your mouth, but you can’t run from your record or lack thereof.  It is also disingenuous to take credit for things you had little do with especially when you are unwilling to shoulder blame in a similar way.  I believe we all know in our gut that people who regularly contradict themselves or say anything to get what they want are potentially troublesome or even worse dangerous.

Style should never trump substance.  A leader should mean what he/she says and say what he/she means.   Most people know when they are being patronized or pandered to.  I am much more interested in what someone believes themselves than being told what I want to hear.  I’m also always open to hearing an alternative point of view as long as I feel the other person truly believes what they are saying.  And, on fundamental important issues, your opinions shouldn’t shift like the wind to suit your audience.  You should also never play to the lowest common denominator to score cheap points.  It should never be just about winning but winning for the right reasons.

An actor’s job is make what is unreal seem real.  A leader’s job is to bring reality to the surface.   He/she should lead by example, bring people together, foster productive dialogue, and chart a positive path forward whatever the circumstances.  If you choose to play the role, then at least do in an authentic manner.

Leadership Thought #359 – Believe In Yourself

You have to believe in yourself if you want others to follow you.  I don’t mean a hollow, braggadocios type of belief, but something with more substance.  It’s not enough to have strong opinions and a high degree of self-confidence.  This may make you just a blowhard.  Sadly, our society is never short on these types of individuals and they can be dangerous.  Just because you think you are right doesn’t mean you are.  The facts still matter and you must do the hard work required to achieve any level of real excellence.

What’s ultimately required is that your ground yourself in something more important than yourself.  You have to believe in what it is you are doing before you can fully believe in yourself.   Life is a constant search for meaning and understanding.  The tragedy of many people’s lives is that they are unwilling to put themselves out there because they won’t put forth the required effort, are afraid of public scrutiny and lack the courage of their convictions.  Being the hero of your own life isn’t easy.

My experience in working with many people over the years is that self-belief requires the following behaviors:

  • You genuinely care about what it is you are doing – it’s not just work;
  • You feel aligned with your  natural talents and abilities;
  • You keep your ego in check and regularly monitor your personal motivations;
  • You walk the talk when it comes to ethical and moral behavior;
  • You continually work hard at growing your own knowledgebase and take nothing for granted;
  • You don’t mind having your answers questioned – you are open to feedback;
  • When you don’t know all  the answers you ask for help;
  • You surround yourself with good people who boost your confidence and tell you the truth;
  • You care less about who gets the credit and more about achieving the right outcome;
  • You accept the fact that failure is part of life and learn from your mistakes (just don’t repeat them);
  • You don’t give up at the first sign of adversity and actually become more resilient as time goes on;
  • You stand up for what you believe in and are willing to question authority.

Many leaders I deal with have some level of a self-confidence problem.  They often struggle with the “Imposter Syndrome” and wonder when someone will figure out they are undeserving of their role and/or ill equipped to handle the challenges of leadership.  This humility can serve them well but also can be a heavy burden (and crutch) if they are not careful.  At some point, you have to stare reality in the face and move forward anyway even when it is difficult.  There are no guarantees in life.  There are also no perfect leaders.  Leadership is about showing up every day and doing your best regardless of the situation.  Life is about personal growth and continually striving to get better.  If not you, then who will take control of your destiny?  Believe in yourself and good things will happen!

 

Leadership Thought #270 – Belief In Something Bigger

I don’t often write about spiritual or faith issues in my blog because for the most part I believe these are personal decisions.  There are also many other people more capable and better equipped than me to address the issue.  I’m comfortable in my own beliefs and hope you are in your own as well.   However, I do feel strongly that there is a direct correlation between an individual’s belief structure and their level of happiness and capacity for resilience.  Life is much more meaningful if you believe you are part of something bigger than yourself and there is a reason for being here beyond survival and personal comfort.

I’m less concerned when I meet someone what particular theology they follow than with whether or not they are true to these beliefs.   I have met wonderful Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and Christians in my life (and I’m certain people of other faiths).  Good people typically have values that guide them and inspire them to care about more than just themselves.  People of faith should use that faith to make the world a better place through leading by example.  They should also be generous with their compassion for their fellow human beings and avoid forcing their beliefs on others.  It’s easy to become judgmental when you think you are right, but no one has the market cornered on the truth despite what they would like to believe.  And, no one has the right to persecute another individual based on what they believe or don’t believe.

If you don’t already, I encourage to believe in something bigger than yourself and more vast that your current comprehension of reality.  Much of our universe still remains unexplained and it helps to have moral guideposts to aid in navigating the wonder and mystery of it all.  I’ve often noticed that people regularly get fixated on the “how” of doing something as opposed to spending enough time on the “why.”  Of course, we are what we repeatedly do, but our legacy is ultimately defined based on the impetus and rationale for why we do it.

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukah!  Happy Holidays!

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Song of the Day: “Maybe There’s A World” by Yusuf Islam

Yusuf Islam formerly Cat Stevens has written some powerful songs through the years.  There has been alot of unfair criticism of his religious beliefs.  Anyone who has listened to his music knows that he is a thoughtful and peace loving man.  In addition at the peak of his fame in the mid 1970s, he left popular music and dedicated himself to building schools for underprivileged youth.  It was only within the last decade that he recommenced his music career.  His songwriting talent was missed and it’s nice to have him back.

This particular song, “Maybe There’s A World,” is off the excellent album Another Cup. It is a beautiful song and the lyrics speak for themselves.  The video intro is in German but it is quite brief.  Like all great songs they connect personally but also resonate at a higher level.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with his later work I highly encourage you to check it out.

Song of the Day: “I Take My Chances” by Mary Chapin Carpenter

From the first time I heard Mary Chapin Carpenter I was hooked. What a great songwriter and singer!  She deals with the whole range of human emotions and trials and tribulations of relationships.  It also feels like we have a front row seat to her life watching her pass through the various milestones of adulthood.  Even when the topic is sad, I somehow leave her songs feeling consoled and somewhat uplifted.  She also has the uncanny ability to transport you to place and time that ends up making her experiences feel like your own.  I imagine she must be a very empathetic person.

I felt this song. “I Take My Chances,” would be a good way to start the week.  Its message is clear.  There are very rarely any shortcuts to success or happiness.  Life is about taking chances and not being afraid to pursue your dreams.  Sooner or later you need to bet on yourself and not just rely of the good intentions of others.  You may not always succeed but you’re more likely to enjoy the ride.  “Don’t cling to remorse and regret.”  All of us need regular healthy doses of self-esteem and self -confidence.  Make sure you are surrounded by people who create this type of an environment for you.  Happy Monday!

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