Invest In Others and Win In Life!

Several years ago, I began following and reading famed author and leadership guru, Dr. John C. Maxwell.  I’ve learned a lot from his books, classes, and lectures.  He teaches the laws and principles on human dynamics and influence.  This topic always fascinates me, because I discovered early in my life that relationships matter and that if I wanted to become successful, then I would need the help of others.

Nios cogidos por los hombros mirando el mar

In his book, Winning with People, Dr. Maxwell outlines several principles in managing and growing healthy relationships that matter.  One such principle is the “Boomerang Principle”.

The principle states, “When we help others, we help ourselves.”  Or, as Andrew Carnegie put it, “No man becomes rich unless he enriches others.”  It’s almost counter-intuitive to our survival instincts, that we must first help others in order to help ourselves; however, that’s the power of the boomerang principle.  Like laws of physics demands that a boomerang returns to us after we toss it, human dynamics demands that the investment we make in people must return to us as well.

Everything Has A Cost

It makes sense to set a budget for your finances, right?  It’s simple really, reconcile what you earn with what you spend.  If you spend too much, then adjustments are necessary.  If you want to spend more money than is budgeted in one area, then you must decide to take money from another area.

Scales on white background. Isolated 3D image

Shopping is easy as well.  All the products sit nicely on the shelves and have price tags displayed so you know what it will take to purchase them.  You know exactly the cost to own an item.  That’s simple and straightforward.

It’s too bad life is not like that.  Money is a valuable resource; however, it’s only a small part of the equation.  It takes a myriad of resources to successfully navigate life such as time, energy, and integrity.  Every choice has a cost associated with it, we’re just generally horrible at assessing those costs.

Why don’t we budget our energy or time like we do our money?  Wouldn’t it be nice to see the cost of our decisions neatly displayed in all facets of life, like the price tag on a new shirt at the store?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could see how much energy it would take to pursue an activity and how much energy that would leave in our budgets for the rest of the day or week?  How about knowing exactly how much time a task will take and how it might deplete our time budget?  Alas, we are horrible at managing our energy and time and all the other costs associated with life, but why?

Master Timing and Master Success

My mother, a wildly successful business woman, had a saying that stuck with me, “Always leave someone’s home, before they’re ready for you to leave and they will always ask you back.”

Hourglass, concept of time

It’s a very simple phrase, but unbelievably powerful.  We are fickle in our relationships and can become bored and tired of each other quickly.  I once had a mentor state, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  The more we learn about each other and our flaws, the less respect we have for each other.  It’s easy to admire someone from afar, until you see them up-close and discover they’re riddled with flaws and faults, just like you and me.

For my mother to be successful in business, she had to spend countless hours in other’s homes.  She mastered the art of timing and knowing when it was time to part ways.  She learned to focus on a need and serve others enough so they would welcome her back into their lives.

Sometimes All You Need Is A Semicolon

I recently had great conversation with a colleague, Denise.  She’s in the process of earning her degree in Computer Science.  She works full time and is forced to complete her homework for three classes late into the night, often sacrificing sleep as she finishes up her studies at 2:00 am.

nervous and sad young business woman at the desk with a laptop

I asked her if she liked coding and programming, at which she quickly replied, “I hate it!” I was taken aback by her response, since she was majoring in Computer Science, I assumed she would love to work with code.

“I will sit and stare at the endless lines of code and try and figure out what I’m doing wrong.” She continued.  “My brain feels like mush and I get so frustrated when I can’t figure out what I’m missing.”  She shook her head and crossed her arms and frowned as she recalled many frustrating nights being stuck on a particular software code that wasn’t working out for her.

“Finally, I would contact my instructor and he would advise me to shut off my computer, walk away and allow my brain to slow down.   I would take a break and then get back to the project.  My instructor would then ask me, ‘Denise, do you see it?’”  She dramatically slapped her hand on her forehead, her eyes widened as she recalled her memory of the interaction with your instructor.

“Damn!  I forgot a semicolon!”  Her eyes narrowed and she smiled at me. “Once I put in that stupid semicolon, that stupid program would work.  It was that simple!”

Every Successful Person Has This One Thing

Have you ever met someone really sharp and wondered why they weren’t more successful?  They’re intelligent, articulate, organized, maybe even attractive, but for some reason they can’t seem to get ahead.  I’ve discovered that most of the time it comes down to something very simple, personality.

golden retriever puppy dog and british cat together. isolated on

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life studying and appreciating the art of human dynamics.  I’m fascinated by human interaction and why people do what they do.  I discern why people make decisions that defy logic and why some are wildly successful, why others fail.

I’ve interacted with dozens of failures that had everything going for them and I’ve met dozens of highly successful people that faced a litany of obstacles they had to overcome in order to achieve success.  The common factor that separated all of them was undoubtedly their personality.

The Beauty in Stillness

I recently attended a church service at my home church, Genesis, in Bloomington, Indiana.  The Senior Pastor, Tim Woodcock, discussed the importance of silence and how it can be used to connect with God.  His sermon inspired me to think about my own life and to reflect on the busyness of my days.  I fill my days with purpose and work tirelessly towards my goals, but do I attempt too much?  Yes, we all do.

entspannte frau lehnt mit geschlossenen augen an einem baumstamm

I find it nearly impossible to sit still, let alone in silence. There is too much to do and too many distractions.  Checking my phone is an impulse built so deep into my muscle memory that it’s become an extension of my brain.  I find comfort in the distractions.  Sometimes it’s scary to think and ponder life.  The future can be daunting and the past can be emotional.  It’s easier to remain distracted and avoid the inner voices that emerge from the cloud of silence.

I’m afraid to stop moving, because I don’t want to lose my momentum, or lose my edge.  But, am I losing much more by not allowing myself the benefits of stilling my soul and welcoming the silence as it creeps into my heart?  What will my inner voices say?  Which voice will emerge as the dominant voice and am I willing to listen?

Do You Have Light to Combat Your Darkness?

One morning, I wake early for a run before a full day I had planned with my family.  It’s important for me to exercise so that I can remain healthy and strong.  On this particular day, I lace up my shoes and venture out with a headlamp, because it’s still dark and foggy outside.

spooky dark forest

I start my run and I turn on my headlamp.   The light from it cuts through the darkness like a sharp knife through a heavy blanket.  I can only see a few feet in front of me and keep the light focused towards the ground so that I avoid obstacles such as rocks, walnuts, or ruts on the trail.  Eventually, I decide to turn off my headlamp and experience the darkness while I run.  I slow down and focus my steps and navigate blindly into the unknown with heightened senses.

Why Do We Love Our Dogs So Much?

I adore my yellow Labrador retriever, Stella.  Her companionship means a lot to me.  She lays at my feet while I relax and watch TV.  She wakes up early with me and is eager to run a few miles on the trails.  She curls up next to me by the fire.  She rarely leaves my side and adds so much value to my life.  Why do I love her so much?

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One evening, before I went to bed I stared at my faithful pet, Stella.  She was curled up in her kennel and looked over at me once she sensed I was staring at her.  She didn’t move a muscle and simply gazed at me in silence.  In that moment, I realized why I cherish her companionship, she doesn’t talk.  More importantly, she doesn’t complain or put me down.  She’s not critical or says things to me that she apologizes for later.  She’s just present.  I’m always aware of her loving presence, and her constant silence is my gift.  I don’t need her opinions or advice, I value her faithful companionship without her judgement-filled words.

Stella is with my family during every milestone.  She’s around during birthdays, she helps my kids unwrap Christmas gifts.  Her fur soaks up our tears during times of sadness and she jumps for joy when she senses our happiness.  She’s always there, but never interrupting or arguing, she’s just present and happy to be a part of the family.

It’s in that moment, late that night, as I stare at my dog that I realize I could learn a lot from her.  Mainly, to shut my mouth and be content to be present for those that I love and care about the most.  I don’t always need to express my opinions, or make myself known through words and comments.  I just need to be present and to love those around me.  I might not always agree, but who cares?  Stella doesn’t seem to care and she lives a pretty stress-free life.

What if I lived more like Stella, talked less, became more present and just absorb and experience life’s little moments? Would I argue less with my loved ones?  Would I develop deeper, richer, and more satisfying relationships?  Would I learn more about my friends and family if I just kept my mouth shut?  I believe if Stella could speak she might reveal things about my family that would be huge revelations to us, because she spends hours simply observing us.  What advice would she give me on how I treat others, my nervous ticks, and the way I live my life?

I think I will learn from my pet and force myself to speak less and observe and listen more.  How about you?  Do you think you could be a better companion if you simply closed your mouth and became more content to be present with your loved ones?  Try it, I plan on it!

Are You Prepared to Navigate Your Storms?

When I was sixteen years old I flew a single engine prop plane, a Cessna 152, over my hometown in Anderson, Indiana.  I’ll always remember the exhilarating feeling of taking off, by myself, and climbing high into the air and leaving everything on the ground behind me.

Small single engine airplane flying in the gorgeous sunset sky

Sometimes I would fly through the clouds and would get disoriented with my direction and would have to take a deep breath and find the horizon in order to get my bearings and adjust the aircraft back on track.

On several occasions during my training flights, my flight instructor would put a “hood” over my head, a contraption that would block my view of the horizon and only allow me to view the instruments.  He would maneuver the plane into several hard banks enough times that I would lose my sense of direction.  He would continue the maneuvers until he was satisfied that I had no idea which way was up.  He made me keep the hood on as he gave the control of the aircraft back to me.  He denied my view the horizon and forced me to trust the aircraft’s instruments to stabilize it.  It was an unnerving exercise, because I would have to trust the instruments over my instincts.  My gut would tell me one thing, while the instruments were telling me something totally different.  The point of the exercise was to train me to trust the plane’s instruments when the view of the horizon was not available, a hard thing to accept, but achievable with discipline and coaching from my instructor.

You start your days with a clear view of the horizon.  There are times when you start the New Year with a clear plan and confidence that life will be great, but then a storm overwhelms you and you lose sight of the horizon.  You lose your way and spiral into despair and even depression when life doesn’t seem to be working out the way you expected.

Life Comes Down to Self-Awareness

Over the years I’ve witnessed people struggle.  I’ve struggled in several areas of my own life.  When I reflect on my struggles and the struggles of others, I’ve realized that it comes down to one simple concept, self-awareness.

Thrown Out Old Mirror Standing Against Wall

When I began my transition from the military, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life.  I lived in Colorado Springs, the home of the US Olympic committee.  I’ve been involved in competitive sports my entire life to include the collegiate level.  I’ve always been enamored with the Olympic movement and respected any athlete or coach that found themselves participating at the Olympic level.

One afternoon, I learned of a job opening at the US Olympic Headquarters.  It involved drug testing and participating in the drug testing policy of our Olympic athletes.  I thought this might be a perfect opportunity for me to insert myself into the Olympic process.  I submitted an application and even secured an interview with the hiring committee.  I was excited to get on the phone with four other US Olympic Committee executives and was confident I could win them over; however, the interview only lasted five minutes, once the committee realized I never competed at the Olympic level.  It was embarrassing as they politely thanked me for my time and notified me that I was not qualified for the position since I never competed in the Olympics.  In my excitement to be a part of something I respected, I failed to even realize the basic requirement of being a former Olympian to even hold the position.  I lacked self-awareness.

I’ve worked with people who lacked self-awareness.  They thought they knew more than they did, they felt they were qualified to offer an opinion when they weren’t and they embarrassed themselves by pushing their opinions into a situation that didn’t belong. Unfortunately, I’ve done this on several occasions, especially when I was younger and trying to make my mark.  I’ve applied for job positions that I wasn’t qualified for, because I was confident I could do the job anyway.  I’ve said things in meetings that I had no right saying, because I thought I had the experience and credentials to back it up, when I didn’t.  I’ve been arrogant and foolish at different points in my life and I’ve paid the price.