Encouragement As a Tipping Point

16 08 2017

How many times have you heard the sentence “it was the straw that broke the camel’s back?”  We use these words when someone has reached an emotional breaking point.  Usually some relatively little thing pushes a person under duress to the brink.  They snap, blow up, break down.  It’s left to others to pick up the wreckage.

Such a moment may be called a tipping point.  Someone holds up against relentless pressure and circumstances until some minor thing causes them to collapse.  A straw.

A tipping point is an event in a defining moment that changes things in a big way.  In a life.  Sometimes in an entire culture.  The end of the Roman gladiatorial games in the Colosseum as a result of Telemachus’s protest comes to mind.   Or the  public 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City in which her neighborhood witnesses did nothing to intervene and protect her.  This tragedy highlighted a culture of indifference and non-involvement.

I’d like to suggest that there are also such tipping points that result from continual encouragement.

There is always room in our world for another voice saying things like “you’re the man”; “you are beautiful”; “you have what it takes”; “you can do this.”  It often takes repeated positive affirmations to reach a tipping point in a life.   The point at which the recipient of the encouragement begins to believe it and act.

There are many broken homes in our land.  Families fractured and alienated.  Usually, the most potent fallout from a disintegrated family lands on the children.  This is not to say that fathers and mothers who’ve divorced one another do not encourage their kids.  Far from it.  But the absence of one of the parents and an intact family certainly has a devastating effect.

Young men need to be told they have what it takes to compete and win in the marketplace and in life.  Young women need to know they are protected, valuable and beautiful.

Continually encouraging human beings, especially the young, will no doubt cause such marvelous tipping points.  The point at which a person begins to see within themselves what God and others have known all along.  But it takes positive affirmation, repeated over time, to crest that watershed.

I challenge you to make it your goal to bring as many people, through your words, to a making point (as opposed to a breaking point).  Use your tongue as the creative instrument God intended it to be.  And watch as the light dawns in someone’s eyes as they realize that they are valuable, loved and eternally matter.

Suggested Resources:

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Malcolm Gladwell)

The Unlimited Self: Destroy Limiting Beliefs, Uncover Inner Greatness, and Live the Good Life (Jonathan Heston)

 

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Remembering Who You Are

14 08 2017

This world has always needed leaders.  Men and women aware of both the time and need into which they were born and live.  The grace to lead well is given to some more than others.  Today, in ways like no other time that has preceded it, the world is looking for leaders.  Individuals who will show the way, who will stand up, even while feeling afraid, and give direction, security, competence and solace.

As I have grown older, I find that I am given strength and grace to lead.  What I don’t have is grace or good reason to cower, shrink away, idle away the hours and live for me.  My agenda.  My plans for a content life without taking those who know me into account.  “My World and Welcome to It” is a fine motto for a ‘60’s TV sitcom.  But it ill becomes a leader, who is supposed to embody–to one degree or another–selflessness.  Sacrifice.  It’s not about me.  Nor about you.

I’ve been struck over and over again by the children’s movie “The Lion King”, one scene in particular.  Simba, heir to Mufasa as king of the Pride Lands, has run away from his home and sphere of influence after the death of his father.  Afraid.  He takes up a worry-less, footloose-and-fancy-free existence.  Hakuna Matata.  No worries.

But the call of leadership will not let him rest.  His father appears to him in a dream and says, “Simba, remember who you are!”  Simba is afraid.  His dad is dead.  His uncle Scar, who killed Mufasa and is now ruling the deteriorating Pride Lands, intimidates him.

With the help of Rafiki, the sage mandrill, Simba gets his courage, his call, his appointed place, back.  He is a leader and has royal blood in him.  He cannot escape the role of destiny except at the peril of those counting on him.

So, he returns to the Pride Lands.  There he overthrows the illegitimate ruler, corrupt Uncle Scar.  And assumes his rightful throne upon Pride Rock.

People are counting on you.  You have what it takes to bring order, peace, direction and security to those who are watching and looking to you.  Remember who you are….

 

Suggested Resources:

Lead . . . for God’s Sake!: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership (Todd Gongwer)

Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times (Donald T. Phillips)

 

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Act As If You Already Are

4 08 2017

We’ve all heard these phrases.  “Fake it ‘til you make it.”  “Show love and then feelings of love will follow.”  The big thing in all of this is that action, a result of the choice of one’s will, results in desired emotions.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  You feel ready to burst with love towards someone and then act this out.  But, time and distance taken as variables, it’s more often the opposite. Feelings follow upon definitive actions.

Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, says this:

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyre players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

Writers learn to write not by reading about how to write but by actually writing.  Musicians learn their instruments with their instruments in their hands, not sitting only behind music theory books and instrument manuals. We learn by doing.

Challenge:  Find some skill—art, music, technology, relationships—and try this.  Act as if you were already the expert you both admire and aspire to be.  Do your homework, to be sure.  Then do the thing you want to be good at.  Then do it some more.

 

Suggested Resources:

The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (Jack Canfield & Janet Switzer)

Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)

 

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Worry, Hardwiring, and Useful Anxiety Hacks

28 07 2017

Worry.  We all wrestle with this, some with success, others not.  The lyric “and every morning I wake up and worry What’s gonna happen today?” comes to mind.  But you don’t have to be an Eagle to understand this.

There’s a reason we worry.  And no, you’re not weird.  You’re wired—note the rearranging of three letters.  Yes, you and I are wired for anxiety.  It’s in our brains.  It’s a matter of anatomy and physiology.  Some worry and anxiety in our lives do not make us neurotics.

There is a small part of our brains called the amygdala.  Some thinkers, like Seth Godin, call the amygdala the “lizard brain.”  The amygdala is what keeps us alert to danger.  It generates the “fight or flight” impulse in the face of real or imagined threats.  That is the hardwiring.  We have an amygdala for a reason.

But what do we do?  Anxiety is not particularly pleasant.  How do we manage this in a world that is changing and unpredictable?

I’ve learned a few things.  Still learning others.  Here’s some things that I’ve found helpful.

  • Most of what we worry about simply never happens. One study puts the number of things that never happen at 85%.  Think about that.  If you have like twenty negative anxieties you’re brooding over, on average only three of them happen.
  • Human beings are made remarkably resilient. People survive job loss, friend rejection, illness, financial calamity, relationship adversity—including breakup and divorce, every day.
  • People generally think about themselves. They’re usually not thinking about you.  Therefore, it is fruitless to imagine all sorts of awful mental scenarios.
  • Worry and anxiety about what may happen is quite often worse than actually experiencing the thing you fear.

What helps you get the upper hand on worry?

 

Suggested Resources:

Why We Are Wired To Worry And How Neuroscience Will Help You Fix it: Stop Stressing, Reduce Anxiety, Feel Happy, Finally! (Sharie Spironhi)

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life (Richard Carlson)

 

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The Necessity of No

25 07 2017

“The most basic boundary-setting word is no.”  So wrote Henry Cloud and John Townsend in their bestselling book, Boundaries.   Some people excel at saying “no.”  My wife is quite proficient at it.  Me?  Not so much.  But I’m learning.

I know a minister who requires those he’s going to marry to read Boundaries.  He said this book is the most important book to him outside the Bible.  And to prove it, he asked a prospective groom—to whom he’d assigned the book quite some time before—if he’d read the book.  This was Wednesday.  The wedding was on Saturday.  “Uh, no.  I haven’t gotten to it.”  “Well, you better get reading or I won’t marry you guys on Saturday.”

He read the book.  It’s a big deal.

One of the go-to sentences we use a lot these days, especially with those close to us when we cannot say yes is “they’ll just have to figure it out.”  We are defaulting to this more and more, with good reason.

If you don’t know how to say no to people, you are like a painted target.  Those who have a poor sense of boundary and propriety hone in on “really nice people” like an F-15 locking on to a target in war.

If you don’t learn how to say no, you will have a life of varied chaos.  You will allow yourself to be taken advantage of.  You will enable irresponsible behavior.  And with such enabling behavior comes burnout and a loss of self-respect.  I know.  I’ve been there more than I’d like to admit.

People say yes to all sorts of requests for lots of reasons, some good, others not.  Sometimes we say yes because we are generous people who want to help.  But if one’s tendency is to always say yes to some appeal, it’s unlikely that the motives are pure and good.

We often say yes because we feel guilty saying no.  We say yes because we want approval.  We say yes because we’re afraid our egos will suffer if we do otherwise.  We say yes because we are anxious.  Most of all, we default to yes because we lack a clear sense of self.  Edwin Friedman calls this self-differentiation.

When we say no.  When we are not quick to step in when someone has gotten into a jam, with all the attendant drama, we not only hurt ourselves, we hurt them.  There is something healthy and ennobling about letting someone “figure it out.”  It is in solving the problems of life, especially the kind we’ve brought on ourselves, that we grow.

So here’s a challenge.  Starting with small steps, begin to know when to say no.  And then say no.  One of our favorite forms of no is “I’m sorry, that just doesn’t work for me.” If your default setting is to say yes, you probably need to work on changing it to no.  Take a step back and be brutally honest with yourself.  “Will this really help them or is it just sparing me pain in the shortfall?”

 

Suggested Resources:

Friedman’s Fables (Edwin H. Friedman)

The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth (M. Scott Peck)

 

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Get In. Get to the Point. Get Out.

21 07 2017

The title of this post is tacked on the wall above my desk.  It’s a reminder to not waste time and multiply words needlessly.  “No one owes you a reading” (Ralph McInerny, author of the Father Dowling mysteries and late philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame) is on the same page as well as famous Rule No. 17 from Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style, “omit needless words.”

We tend to multiply words in print or conversation for a variety of reasons.  Anxiety is a big one; an inflated sense of our own brilliance is another; and some of us simply like to hear ourselves talk and see our words in print.  None of these are good excuses for monopolizing someone else’s time and processing capacity.  Get in, get to the point, and get out.

I spent a good chunk of my time today listening to the wise words of Wall Street legend and Columbia University Adjunct Professor, Joel Greenblatt.  Here, watch this.  Joel was recommended by a cousin who attended Columbia Business School and, I suspect, studied under Greenblatt.

I know very little about the market and investing.  This post is not about that. What struck me as I listened to Joel was his ability to get to the point quickly, to use effective and homey metaphors to make arcane concepts accessible, and to avoid wasting the time of his moderator and audience, Google in this instance.  He isn’t in love with his own voice.  He’d rather get returns for his investors and himself and use his time doing so.

If you drone on and on.  If you “have to express yourself completely” in a torrent of words, either in conversation or in print–author Thomas Wolfe was famous for this, you need to be prepared for the following realities.  One, the attention spans of human beings are shorter than ever in 2017, about seven to eight seconds.  Two, time is money.  When you don’t distill and sum up, you will find out sooner or later that the “cost of doing business” with you—i.e. talking with you—is too expensive.  To be blunt, if you prattle on, people may avoid you because their time, like yours, is limited and valuable.

This has been a besetting sin of mine.  Family have said, “Okay Chris—get to the point.”  Now I’m taking stock and inventory with the help of people like Joel Greenblatt.

So, know what you want to say, say it quickly—think Hemingway and his sparse prose—then send people on their way.

You may find they come back more often.

 

Suggested Resources:

The Little Book That Still Beats the Market (Joel Greenblatt)

Get to the Point: How to Say What You Mean and Get What You Want (Andrew D. Gilman & Karen E. Berg)

Ernest Hemingway on Writing (Larry W. Phillips)

 

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Ask the Right Questions

13 07 2017

“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” (Anthony Robbins)

I once asked one of the pupils of the late Dr. Edwin Friedman why his teacher was so effective as a Family Therapist.  His answer was telling.

“Ed Friedman was a rabbi.  And rabbis tend to deal in questions rather than answers.  I like to ask questions because they lead to better questions.”

One of the secrets of life is to ask the right questions of life, of people, of literature.  It’s known that one secret to successful comprehension of a book is that one must ask the right questions of the book.  You don’t ask of a science text, say A Brief History of Time (Stephen Hawking), what you would of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Here are some helpful questions you should be asking yourself:

  • What do I really want from my life? Corollary is do I know what it is to want versus having a passing interest in a thing?
  • Who do I spend the most time with? And is this helping me or hurting me? “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (Jim Rohn)
  • Am I simply going with the flow of interest and information that floods the news and social media? Or do I take the time to get to the truth and separate as much fact, fiction and bias as I can?

There are other questions.  These will get us started.  More in the coming blogs.

 

Suggested Resources:

Friedman’s Fables (Edwin H. Friedman)

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren)

http://sourcesofinsight.com/day-20-ask-better-questions-get-better-results/

 

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