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!

How can you be happy anyway after something like this?

I just read a story in the paper about the suicide of a young man (17 years old). He was a great son and brother and friend who seemed to be lively and full of living. He joked around lots and was a great person to be around. Yet, there were signs that there may have been problems in the background. This young man decided he had had enough and chose to hang himself the day after the wake for a friend who had also committed suicide. The note he left behind was moving and upbeat. He said that he had just had enough!

The suicide and whether it could have been averted are not the issues I want to dwell on right now. This story seriously challenges my premiss that you can be happy anyway! How could you be happy anyway if you were the parent or brother or friend who had to face the reality of this loss? The short answer, of course, is that you could not! Not in the short-term. Time has to be allowed to grieve. Time has to be allowed in order to feel the remorse that you did not personally stop it. Time has to be allowed to think about all the things that will not happen now and to fondly start to remember the wonderful things that were a part of this lost life.

Only then can you start to turn towards happiness again. The plea of the young man was for those he left behind to have only fond memories of him. Good advice. It is what we choose to focus on that will determine how we feel. If we stay lost in the grief, we have only grief in our lives. Start as soon as you can to think of the good memories. Bring them to the front of the mind.

But what if there are no good memories that you can call up? Wow. That is a lesson right there. Focus on what can be learned. In a time-line of eternity, perhaps this life was lived just to teach one lesson. What was it? Do you see the thread here?

Look forward again. Remember the good things but look forward. There simply are not enough tears in the world to bring back the lost. Recall the good. Learn the lessons that may present themselves. Then, look forward to do things that will continue to focus on happiness. It may be to take care of others at risk. It may be to take care of yourself and get help for your depression or what ever may be bothering you right now. It may be to start a new activity. It may be to go for a walk in the park!

Grieve, of course! Remember the good, of course! Look forward and enjoy planning to live well, love always and to laugh out loud every day, of course!

Choose to try

I have written in an earlier post that even making a small difference is good. Yet I still see that many are so overwhelmed by what is going on in the world that they just give up and adopt an attitude of “Well if the world is going to blazes, I might as well at least enjoy myself and take what I can.” Feelings of dispair and uselesnes abound.

Let’s look a bit closer at reality. What is that we all want? I mean really, really, really, REALLY want? Happiness. What helps us with feeling happier? I know for me, I feel happier when I do some little thing that might help another. Even a little gesture like letting someone move into my traffic lane even if there is no room or apparent advantage. There is a neat commercial on TV that shows how infectious it is to see someone do something kind for another. A person sees one person help another. Then in the next scene we see the observer do something kind and so on. Sort of like the old Acts of Random Kindness idea that was in vogue.

But what can I do you might ask. Simply do what you can. Don’t focus on what the rest of the world is doing. Just focus on what you can do where you stand with what you have! Will it make a difference? Sure it will.

Remember the story of the little boy who throws a starfish that was stranded on a beach along with hundreds of other starfish back into the ocean? He could not save them all but he made a difference for that one.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that the climate change is happening and that at least a major contributor to this is human activity. Even if you are a business person with a vested interest in denying this, or a politician who does not want to make the changes required in legislation, we all have to admit that the world is heating up. Who cares why? It is also a given that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere acts as a greenhouse. Further, carbon has been captured in the form of trees, oil, natural gas and so on. Changing it to gaseous state will increase the greenhouse effect, therefore increasing heat, therefore increasing capacity for the atmosphere to hold water, therefore increasing the frequency and intensity of storms around the world.

Wow. What can one person do to have any sort of hope at all and therefore, some degree of happiness? Turn off a light. Turn the air conditioner up one degree. Turn the furnace down one degree. In other words, use just a little bit less energy. Don’t worry about the folks who focus on the one thing you do that you could change to use even less. Do what you can. Only after you have done what you can, then focus on doing a bit more. Just you! You cannot control others. Just take action yourself. Ignore the jibes of others who have given up already.

Apply this same approach to anything at all that you find that needs improvement. Choose one thing to do that you can do – and do it consistently. You will feel better. Even though the world around you is tough, you can be happy anyway. Just do what you can with what you have where you stand – and do it now!

I’m Back!

You won’t know I have been away for some time but I am happy to say that I am back and ready to move ahead with my project. I have a passion for helping people to be happy anyway. I do not mean that there will be no down times or problems or even disasters in our lives that should be ignored. Rather, I want to help develop a world of people who learn from and support others in how to react to events in our lives in a way to help us move forward and find contentment anyway.

I want this to be a discussion site so feel free to weigh in. The only thing I ask is that you keep comments positive and helpful. Debate is great but please, no flaming!

Look around. Check out the past entries in the Blog. There are going to be lots of changes in the next little while as I restart and modify the site a bit. Grow with me. As I have said before, all we can really control is our own attitude and how we react to events. Let us learn together how to react with love and learning.

No Happiness in Haiti – Let’s Help!

There has been a devastating earthquake in Haiti. Likely the number of dead is unknown but will surpass 100,000 easily. There is such widespread destruction, it will be years before people have any semblance of normal life. This was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. That makes the effects of this devastation even more unimaginable! When you have nothing and even that is taken away, what do you do?

As I said, I cannot imagine what those folks are dealing with. The idea that you can be happy anyway seems so far off the mark that we have to look at the whole concept. Can the survivors be happy anyway? Certainly not right now!

Maslov, as I have reminded in an earlier post, pointed out that we move through levels into our human development during our life time. The very base level is survival. Food, clothing and shelter. Without that, we cannot consider anything else at all. We remain focused solely upon securing what is missing from the very basic needs we all have. Right now, the people affected by the earthquake in Haiti are dealing ith the very basics of life. Shelter, food, and water. Many are dealing with injuries too hard to imagine! There is absolutely no room fro happiness. And yet, some will be putting a “happy face” on in order to help others.

I think that it is only when we get to the second level of Maslov’s hierarchy of needs that we can be happy anyway. We see and hear of stories from the quake zone that show us that people are resilient and are just looking to find peace and happiness. First they need to secure their shelter, food and water supplies.

I want to encourage each and every person to look into their hearts and consider what we can do to help put these folks on a road that will eventually let them look around to see what road they want to take to reach where we all want to be, and that is a state of being happy anyway. In this first week, give money to reliable agencies that already have a presence in Haiti. In the coming weeks, clothing and the like will be needed, but wait until the agencies say they can handle the shipping and distribution logistics. There really is no infrastructure right now in the stricken zones.

We can be happy anyway, but first we need to meet our basic needs. Let’s help Haiti. It will help to make you feel better.

Yin-Yang. Up-Down. Happy-Sad.

Many say that it is not possible to be happy all the time. Of course we cannot be happy all the time. That is not what I am saying at all. Rather, when we feel badly, when we feel pained, when we feel sad, when we feel angry or dissapointed – we can be happy anyway! Happiness is just around the corner.

Many say to me that it is not possible to be happy all the time. What I am trying to say and do is wrong and impossible. This actually heartens me greatly because we are getting somewhere. Of course we cannot be happy all the time. That is not what I am saying at all. Rather, when we feel badly, when we feel pained, when we feel sad, when we feel angry or disappointed – we can be happy anyway!

Think about it. We could not really understand the idea of light if there were no darkness. If it were always the same level of light, we could not wonder at the brilliance of a clear day with bright sunshine glinting off the water. It wouldn’t mean anything of interest to us. It is only because we have darkness or storms that darken the skies that we understand that we enjoy light.

Can you imagine living in a world with no gravity? How about living in weightless space a few light years from earth? Because we are weightless, we have no reference points that indicate up from down. Down is generally where gravity attempts to pull us. Up is the other way. Because we are in a weighted environment, we enjoy the feelings of being “up”. Whether that is flying or just jumping in the air, it feels good. We are happy usually when we are “up”.

Similarly, we can not really experience happiness if we do not know what unhappiness is. We cannot know real joy if we have not experienced real and deep sadness. Do you see the pattern? There can be no ups without downs. There can be no light without darkness.

When you are feeling sad, angry, upset or any of the unhappy emotions, feel them and learn to feel relief also. Soon you will feel the opposite. Look for the lesson of the experience or loss. Remember the good. Focus on the good memories and/or the opportunities that can be before you. Change your focus to the “up”. Take the next step that will be the first on the journey of being happy. That is what it means to “be happy anyway”. Embrace the bad stuff as a sign that the good stuff is just around the corner. You just have to get up and go around the corner to meet it. Act! You can be happy anyway!

DO Stuff!!

I just heard about the findings of a study done by a Dr. Diamon(d?) and it struck me that it has lots to say about being happy. She put some rats into a sterile and separate environment; some in an environment where they could watch the next batch of rats; and finally some rats in an environment where they had lots of toys to play with and the toys were changed rather regularly. The idea was to see what the difference would be to the development of the brain. It turned out to also indicate something about longevity as well.

The rats were all treated exactly the same except for the specific differences in their environments. Same food, same temperatures and that sort of thing. When the rats died, they had their brains examined to see what areas developed and the relative size of their brains as well. No-one was particularly surprised to see that the rats that had the toys had larger brains and they were more advanced in the “intellect” areas of the brain. It was no surprise to find out that the rats in the sterile environment were much less developed. There were two surprises however.

It was a bit of a surprise to find out that the rats that could just watch the rats that had the toys did not show much difference in their brains and “intellect” areas from the rats in the sterile environment. In other words, just watching does nothing to develop brain function. You have to do stuff and learn from actual experience and interaction.

The other surprise was that the rats that were in the highly stimulating environment that had the toys lived considerably longer than the other two sets of rats. That has an interest for us because it indicates that those that are doing interesting things live healthier and longer.

Therefor, I come to the conclusion that we must be human doings, not just human beings. We need to get out and interact with others. We need to try stuff out for ourselves and learn from our own mistakes. We can learn from the mistakes of others but then move on and advance the ball more by allowing ourselves to try different things and if mistakes occur, at least they will be new ones and we can learn more from them and move on yet again.

Don’t just watch others (TV and the like), don’t stay inside away from all contact, get out into the world and “play with the toys”. Experience and enjoy. DO stuff!!!

Succes Can Be Happiness

We are often caught up in wondering what happiness is. I have written a little about that elsewhere but I have been thinking just lately that it is pretty hard to feel happy if you do not feel successful as well. So, what is success?

One of the finest definitions that I have come across was espoused by Earl Nightingale in the 60’s. He said; “Success is the incremental achievement of worthwhile goals.” That is a fairly simple and straightforward concept. When you consider it closely, it applies to all facets of our lives. “Worthwhile goals” is the central core. So, what would be considered worthwhile goals?

We have all had drummed into our heads that we have to have goals so that we can achieve something. Most us think of goals as related to work stuff only. Some of us might have vague ideas of what we want to achieve outside of work but rarely does this translate into goals. We almost never consider whether the goals are “worthwhile”. If it is a goal we have set, we consider it worthwhile by definition. So, what would be worthwhile?

Worthwhile things are those that resonate with your core values and your life’s mission. They are happenings or achievements that are in keeping with your view of why you are here on this earth at this time. Your reason to get up in the morning. There will be a congruence between your goals and your values and your life’s mission. So, what are your values and life’s mission?

This is a really important and large area that deserves special attention. For now I will just touch lightly on a way to look at what you think your values are right now. What are your guiding principles? To think about that a bit, consider what people might say about you. Would they say that you are an expert in your field? Helpful? Caring? Fearless? Aggressive? … and so on. That is what you feel your friends, colleagues bosses and family would say. What would you like them to say about you? Be honest with yourself here. What would you really like them to say about you? Bingo! You are now a bit more aware of your values. So, now that you have an idea of your values, how do you work towards the achievement of worthwhile goals?

Obviously, you need to have goals. They should be written down clearly in a way that it is easy to measure when you have achieved the goal. It should also have a time frame to indicate by when you will have the goal achieved. You should have goals in each area of your life. Work, relationships, family, finances, social, recreation and so on. Now, look at each goal carefully. Is it in step with your values? The values that you want to live by? If not, alter the goal or change the priority. The higher priority goals will be the ones that are in the most important part of your life right now. So, now that you have worthwhile goals, how do you achieve them incrementally?

This, it seems to me, is the key. It is not the actual achievement that is happiness. It is the journey. The journey to the achievement of the goal is where the happiness resides. It is a way of life that leaves you feeling worthwhile and contented. Happy. For each of the goals, you must write out a full plan of action steps that you will need to take to arrive at your destination. Assess the actions each time to be sure they are congruent with your values. So, you have your action steps all written down, now what?

ACT! Do something right away. Don’t wait until you feel like it or the time is right, take action of some sort right away. Right now. Then, as a matter of course, fit the action steps that you must take into your schedule. Put a date or time that you will perform each action step. Then, at the end of each day, look at what you have done, consider what you have not done that you were supposed to have done, and consider the results so far. Is the plan working out OK? Do you need to make any adjustments? Make the adjustments that you need to make and decide what you will do the next day towards your goals.

As you keep moving along this path, you will feel better and better. You will end each day considering the neat stuff you did. You will be looking forward to the next day and the neat stuff you will be doing then. You are working incrementally towards the achievement of worthwhile goals. You are living on purpose!

I’d love to hear your successes. Good luck. Always remember, knowledge of how to do something means nothing at all if you do not apply it and actually do what you have learned. ACT!