Good Leadership

We are all leaders. I am not talking about being a lead hand, supervisor, manager, executive or c-suite level person at work.  I mean that we all set the agenda for others around us in absolutely everything that we do. In doing what we do, we are “directing “ others to do what we want them to do.

Please give yourself a short break today to think a little bit about what you are about to read. Schedule it. Ten minutes – no distractions.

What is it that sets our approach to any situation? In work settings we tend to focus our approach to match the outcome that we want. Even if we are having a bad day or are annoyed at the cafeteria for getting our order wrong a short while ago, we adjust our mood and approach in order to have an interaction that has a better chance to get us to the result we want. Usually that mood and approach will be calm, pleasant and co-operative. If we “loose it” the outcome won’t be good.

Any time we are interacting with others our mood and approach will hugely affect the outcome. If I rant at a driver who does something that I think is stupid, the outcome is a feeling of rage that is just internal to me! The idiot does not correct his/her stupid move. But when I get to my destination and park, I may take out a bit of my “rage” on some innocent person I come in contact with. That is not good leadership. It is the same in any situation that sets me on a path of anger. Similarly, if something has disappointed me or made me feel despondent I will probably “act out” in some way. 

Conscious Control

Good leaders learn fairly early on to control their own emotions and interact with others with the end in mind. Sort of sounds manipulative but it isn’t really. It puts the interaction first. What about our personal interactions? Do we do the same? Can we? Will we feel better?

Notice the key is keeping the end in mind. It’s like we have been told many times – count to ten! Think before you leap. What is the outcome you want? Will what I am just about to do lead to that outcome? Of course, we need to immediately adjust our mood and approach. Lashing out gets only negatives. Contempt gets only negatives. Anger only begets anger.

Naturally we all feel the whole range of emotions in our everyday lives. Think for just a minute about what happens when you see someone doing something amazingly helpful. When you see something crazy funny. When something just works out in your favour through no actions on your part. Your mood and feelings immediately switch, even just for a moment. We can achieve this change of mood and approach at will. Just choose. Just for the interaction with that person, choose. And then, when you walk away from that interaction, you will feel good because it was positive.

As I said earlier, set aside a few minutes to give this some thought on a very personal level. What sort of “leader” do you want to be? Keep in mind that we are all leaders all the time. Our actions impact absolutely everyone we come in contact with. And, finally, keep in mind that how we act and interact has a huge impact on how we feel. Act good, calm, reasonable, interactive, pleasant, and happy. That will then be how you feel.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day.

Learning Life’s Lessons

“Life’s really important lessons are learned only one way – alone and with personal suffering. They are never easy, but, once learned, they are yours forever.”

That is a quote from a book I was reading this past week: Sherlock Holmes, The Hidden Years edited by Michael Kurland. It might seem a strange source for inspiration but after all, inspiration strikes when you are ready. My inspiration here is quite straight forward. This is how we see most of our life’s lessons learned. Through the school of hard knocks. That leads me to wonder what the role is of these sorts of blogs and the whole “self-help” industry.

I was talking to a good friend and lamenting that I could not write a book I had in mind because I could not answer the question: Who will read it? In other words, who would I be writing it for? What audience? She made a few suggestions after asking what the subject was that interested me and I came to a realization that there were two things to keep in mind. First, I had something to say to an audience. Second, I could not control whether the audience I had in mind would ever read it or not. My friend’s admonition was to write it anyway! If the intended audience did not read it now, it may later, or another unintended audience may read it and take inspiration.

Now I come to the opening quote. I think that there are indeed other ways to learn lesson of life. However, the best learned lessons when they are internalized and we apply the lesson to ourselves (and our experiences or beliefs). We learn early not to touch a hot stove element, usually not by direct experience but by someone telling us the danger and we see something burn and apply that to ourselves in our imagination. Don’t touch! However, some lessons are a bit esoteric and the effects are more distant. In those cases, if we can find no way to internalize the ideas, we are condemned to not learn and it is only when we suffer the downside that we “learn” the lesson we heard earlier.

I write these entries even if there is no learning taking place all the time. I know from my own experience, that someone may well be inspired in some way to a positive outcome. That turns my crank. I write them to have as a resource for others in times of need. The lesson appears when the student is ready. However, that lesson can only appear if it is “out there” somewhere to be able to appear.

To be sure, we all learn academically from lessons we read and study. That is how we get on in life. We learn stuff and “believe it  in theory”. When we can actually experience it, we then develop a fundamental knowing!! It is in this knowing that the lesson is yours forever. Read widely, learn lots and find ways to try to apply them to your own life whenever you can. Increase your “knowing”.

A basic knowing is that everything is a transition. No matter how bad, it is a transition. Placed in the perspective of time and the role it plays in our lives, you can be happy anyway. More to come.

What to Believe?

The internet is a great place to learn and research ideas. But, what should you believe out there? There is so much information and much of it is just plain crazy! Some is just wrong and some is dangerous. So what should you do in your “due diligence”?

To my way of thinking it comes down to your thinking skills. How do you take information in and how do you determine the veracity of the ideas that are presented to you? I don’t mean on the internet, but in everyday life. Do you accept it as true if it fits with your preconceptions and prejudicial beliefs? Or, do you test the ideas against your own experience or knowledge or observations?

The latter is the way to test all information that is presented to you. I have had teachers say to me: “don’t believe me just because I tell you, see for yourself! Then believe it.” These lessons formed the basis of questioning authority in all areas of life. Not in a confrontational and negative way but in a way designed to gain understanding of the information or point of view. Then, I apply that to my experience, my knowledge and the logic that I can see. Only if I see for myself will I believe! If it sounds ok but I can’t see it for myself, I take it as a good idea or theory until it is proven to me.

Logic has to play a great role. We need to think analytically. These days there are lots of theories about why we are getting fatter and our kids are getting fatter. If we look logically at our species, we can understand that when we evolved thousands of years ago, the ones that survived were the ones who were quick,  and very fit. They were able to store energy in the form of fat to get them to the next “kill” or meal. So we are predisposed to be active and to store fat because we don’t know when we will eat again. The theories really don’t amount to much except babble. We simply need to train ourselves and our kids that we have food and we do not need to eat as though there is no more. Then, we need to be more active. Don’t just sit or lay and watch TV or your computer screen, get up and do something!

I know there is more to it than that but you get the idea. Analyze, decide what makes sense given your experience, knowledge and observations. Keep you mind open to understand other points of view and then you will really know what you believe! As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. A good thing to keep in mind with online offers and opportunities. Look and understand, then act if it makes sense to you.

Let me know what you think!

Are You Filling Up Your Life?

I have heard the expression: “It is not the years in your life that are most important to your happiness, it is the life in your years that make you happy.” We should probably change our self-definition from human beings to human doings. That way the emphasis might shift from just being and to more doing.

I read in the papers about the lives of high achievers and am always amazed at the breadth of things they do and get done during their time here on earth. I find it hard to imagine how one has time to do all that they get done. I think about great inventor and wonder at the ability to stick to it or the variety of things they come up with. I see writers who write such a huge number of books and wonder how they do it along with the living of a regular life and promoting the books. These days I see folks on the internet doing such a variety of things and making money at the same time. How do they find the time to keep it all staight?

Then I sit back a moment and think about it. The people I admire for the fullness of their lives are also very happy. They are active! I don’t think there is any secret way to find more time. It is just choices. They choose to live a full life of learning and teaching.

When you see something new, do you think “Well that is interesting.”? It is much better to apply it right away to your own life as a learning moment. Always be on the watch for new stuff that applies to you or that you can apply to yourself. Next, what would you like to know or be able to do that you cannot do or know right now? Look for a way to fit the learning into your daily life. Just do it!!! (Thanks to the shoe company for the saying.)

Where to find the time? It is different for everyone but it can be done. It is just choices. I heard once that the daily commute to work provides enough time to learn pretty much anything over time via audio books and the like. So, are you listening to talk radio or rock music? There is about an hour to an hour and a half each day for learning. Is there a TV show or two that you could really do without? That can be fitness time, or piano time, or writing time. (I am assuming that you already have good family and spouse and friends time built into your life)

One final note. What you think about is what grows. In other words, what you put your focus on is what will show up in your life. Garbage in – garbage out! Fill your mind and life with good stuff. It really is better to look for the lessons in bad situations than lament “poor me”. Figure out what you can learn form the situation and then move on. Let’s talk about grief and that sort of thing another time.

Live well, love always and laugh out loud every day.

The Nature of Happiness

I have been pondering the nature of happiness for years. What can be defined as happiness? How does one know if one is happy or not? Can one be happier? Is there a limit? Is happiness fickle? Can you lose happiness once you tell yourself that you are happy? Lots of this sort of thought.

Do any of these sorts of questions really matter? Isn’t happiness an individual and internal thing? How I might define happiness is very different from how a person living on the streets might define it. Different from how a person living in the jungles of the Amazon might define it. Different from how a teenager might define it. Different from how a person who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease and has months to live might define it. Happiness is a very subjective thing indeed.

BUT! There are certainly some basic similarities in all cases. People generally want to feel like their existence makes a difference. That there is some purpose to life in general and in their life in particular. What many of us do during our lives is motivated at least in part by this generality. What is missing is an idea of what you want the picture to turn out like. I will address this again a bit later.

Remember Maslow? His depiction of the hierarchy of needs? People strive to fulfil needs in a hierarchy that he described in his works. The most basic needs are food, water and shelter. Then social needs and so on. I think that when one feels one has met the absolute basic needs, only then can happiness be considered. In other words, even homeless folks living on the streets can, and do, enjoy periods of happiness. It may be a brief period of time but they experience it and aim for it when the absolute basic needs are met. A good argument for addressing basic needs for everyone. We all want to live in a state of general happiness.

So, what can we do to live in a state of general happiness? It has been a secret that has been revealed once again. The Law of Attraction! Not a secret at all. It has been studied and written about lots in the past hundred years or so. Before that it was written about and shared amongst the leaders of the world (political, business and religious). Now it is widely disseminated. Do we get it yet? Napoleon Hill wrote about people becoming what they tink about. Earl Nightingale popularise that in his ground-breaking recording “The Strangest Secret”. Even the Bible says that “as you sow, so shall you reap”. What you think about expands and grows. Focus on what you want – not what you do not want.

I said I would come back to the idea of how you want things to turn out. Happiness becomes a state of living if you are living a life congruent with your view of living a worthwhile life. How can you feel secure in that unless you know the end from the beginning? If you know how things will turn out, you make choices along the way that lead to happiness during the voyage and certainly near the end when you look back. Let there be no regrets. Think about what you would like people to say about you at your funeral. What would you like friends, family, business associates, employees and so on, say? What do you think they would say if you were to die today? See a gap? Make the changes you need to make so they can say what you would like to be remembered for and be happy anyway. Live a worthwhile life incrementally achieving worthwhile goals.

Symbiotic or Parasite?

What an intriguing concept. I had a thought that I wanted to share. I would love to hear what you think.

Can you imagine the world as being a living organism? Our globe is an ecosystem that has lots of activity on it. There is life galore! It is exactly like life forms here on the globe. Some life forms have other life forms on or in it that are dependent on the host.

I think about those antelopes in Africa that have little birds always on them, pecking at insects. I think about the small fish that latch onto larger fish and eat the parasites that gather around the eyes and body of the host. I think of the bacteria that live in our gut that we have to have active in order to process food and survive. All of these are examples of symbiotic relationships that depend upon each other for survival. The host needs the other organism and the other organism needs the host.

Then I think about parasites that invade a host and suck the life out of it. When the host dies, so does the invading organism. What a strange life form It only lives to destroy and then dies when it successfully destroys its host! The Ash Borer is the latest in the news these days. Cancer could be considered another example in a way. Cancer cells split and reproduce at the expense of the host organism. When the host dies, so does the cancer!

I think it is safe to say that man is a huge presence on the globe (and growing). The question is, are we a parasite or do we live in a symbiotic relationship with the globe? I think we used to live symbiotically until recently. Now, I think we are actually a destructive parasitical infestation that is destroying its host. We need to stop our tendencies to live as parasites (taking away from the host and not replenishing or allowing for the replenishing of resources) and return to living symbiotically.

Some think that symbiotic living includes making changes to “enhance” natural phenomena. There is danger in that. It can be a slippery slope. We need to exercise caution and review carefully what actions we take and consider what will be the impact on future generations and on nature in general. It is a good guideline to look at least seven generation ahead as some aboriginal peoples did in the past.

Let us be symbiotic, and not parasites.

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