The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Monday, September 19, 2016

PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS AND AXIOMS ABOUT LEADERSHIP (AND LIFE)…


…from my recognition that life is not a spectator sport that can be lived from the sidelines.  I hope you can find validation and confirmation from these observations – and are empowered to add your personal axioms as comments after you have read mine.

There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we seek results and conclusions rather than recognition and credit. 

We gain much from life when each step is celebrated as an accomplishment rather than celebrating only upon reaching the goal at the end of our journey.

You cannot fulfill another’s dream nor find peace in reaching another’s expectations.  Far too many limit themselves to “what must be done” without seeking “what might be possible” – accepting “what is” as a destination rather than a temporary resting place upon the never-ending road to an ever-changing reality. You will never rise higher than you expect yourself to rise nor fall lower than you allow yourself to fall.

When we imagine that which is incomprehensible, seeing it as not only achievable but viewing it as a foregone conclusion, we can accomplish those things once believed to be impossible.

Dreams are thoughts not yet realized – aspirations not yet brought to fruition.  We can live life without dreams but cannot embrace its full potential without first visualizing what we want to become then dreaming about what we wish to accomplish.  Rather than living the life that others might establish for you, live your dreams – risking more than other might think wise so that you can accomplish more than others might believe possible.

When seeking change it is important that we run towards opportunity rather than away from failure.

When initiating change it is your responsibility to SELL an idea, not someone else’s responsibility to 
BUY the concept.

When seeking to initiate change we must recognize and accept that the long-term gain our short-term pain might produce is more desirable than the ramifications (and comfort) of our complacency.

We must recognize that before we can move from “what we have” to “what we hope for,” one journey must end before another can begin.  We must acknowledge that before we can take a new path towards a yet-to-be determined destination we must abandon the old and familiar roads that have taken us safely to places in which we have found comfort.  All change begins with the deliberate consideration of an intentional action that, if acted upon, will forever alter where we are as it redefines where we are going.

In order to accomplish anything of significance in life we must establish goals and expectations – for unless we determine where we wish to “end” our journey it is difficult to know how far we have come or how much longer we must travel.

Words describe what one wishes to accomplish – actions (and results) define success.

Our emphasis should always be upon recognizing and rewarding accomplishment rather than rewarding recognized effort.

Gaining respect and credibility in the eyes of those one leads is far more important than trying to befriend them.

Saying what you mean – then doing what you say – are two of the greatest attributes a leader can possess.

Imagine living in a glass house – where everything we say or do is open for critique and criticism.  Nothing is “secret” or “private” when it comes to the choices we make or the actions we take.  Such is the reality of leadership – and the tremendous weight of responsibility placed upon a leader’s shoulders by those looking up to him or her for guidance.

Leaders must recognize that their actions speak far more loudly than do their words.  As a child I was taught that “seeing is believing.”  Never was I told that “hearing makes things right.”  Those around you form their perception of who you are by what you do and how you act NOT by the things you say about yourself.  We cannot expect loyalty, efficiency and productivity from employees if we do not demonstrate it through our own actions.  Leaders would never ask others to do what they would not (and have not) done themselves.

In order to make a difference in life you must be willing to be different.  You cannot remain “one of the crowd” doing things the same way they have always been done if you expect to accomplish great things.

It has been said we should lead, follow or get out of the way in life.  Perhaps the most critical of these is the last – for if you are not an active part of the solution through your leading the charge or participating in the process, you become a significant part of the problem by obstructing the progress of others.


Leadership is much like life – fulfillment comes to those that recognize opportunity, identify alternative courses of action that will alter or modify unacceptable results then intentionally take action to initiate change.  May the pathways you choose lead you to safe passage as you seek to make a difference in your own life (as well as in the lives you have been empowered to lead).  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

THE CONVERGING PATHS OF CREDIBILITY AND INTEGRITY



Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience, and truth over popularity are seemingly difficult benchmarks to achieve in life.  Business leaders must continually use consistency, fairness and equity as the litmus test for decisions they make in regards to product offerings, finances and employee-related issues.  Employees (or those seeking work) must identify and present truth over fiction, reality over desires and an honest appraisal of what they can do over what they feel they could be capable of doing when seeking advancement or fulfillment.  Individuals within successful relationships must remain open and honest with communications, fair and reasonable in expectations and willing to both express “wished for” outcomes and accept compromise to achieve mutually beneficial results.  Far too many of the ethical shortcomings in today’s world have their roots in a lack of transparency – people or business seeing what they can get away with rather than doing what they know is right or speaking in one manner while acting in another – as they seek the fulfillment of self-serving values.

Supervisors (or individuals within their personal relationships) often find themselves in trouble when they communicate a partial truth, remain silent on an important aspect or condition, or fail to tell the “why” when issuing instruction or correction.  Communicating partial truths to different people – even if what is being said is not a lie but rather just part of the story – can compound itself by allowing stories to become mixed during ongoing communication or to fully materialize when people talk to each other about what you have said.  If an individual is being criticized or verbally attacked and you are in a position to intercede with “the rest of the story” that might make the berating stop but you choose to say nothing, silence can broadcast a lack of integrity more loudly than words could ever manage.  Directing rather than explaining – particularly if there appears to be inconsistency or a lack of consideration for others in the orders – can reduce credibility and integrity within a leader, partner or friend.  Honesty and integrity must be the benchmark of all communication – fairness and equity the litmus – for an individual to earn and maintain respect in their personal OR professional life.

Our environment and those we are with change frequently but our value system – our ethics – cannot drift upon the winds if we are to remain an anchor to those around us.  In order to be a contributing part of the solution rather than a significant part of the problem, our values must serve as a rock-solid set of principles to establish and guide proper conduct. This set of principles should ALWAYS influence our decisions and choices, outwardly determining our actions, if we are to express integrity and establish credibility.  Unless our exhibited actions are natural expressions gained through training, experience, and an application of closely held principles, those depending upon us for guidance will lose confidence in our choices and become fearful of our leadership decisions.  When faced with difficult decisions, we all must make choices that are well thought-out and that lead to a planned “end point.”  When given a choice, far too many individuals take the path of least resistance rather than taking “the high road” wherever it may lead.  “Integrity” is not an object we can seek nor a destination we can find, it is the glue that holds successful human interaction together – a path to follow as we seek to find meaning and fulfillment in our everyday actions.  Integrity is the “high road” upon which we should travel as we build meaningful, trust-filled relationships.

In order to avoid being more “stubborn” than “purposeful” we should be prepared to change our mind (and potentially our choice or direction) should the situation around us OR the facts upon which our initial decision was based be significantly altered.  The only thing that is certain in life is change – not the direction of change nor the likelihood of controlling change, only the knowledge that change will happen – so we must be prepared to manage it.  Leaders often find themselves in a position to make or break relationships, ensure the success of a venture or institution, or cause the realization or the destruction of dreams with every decision they make.  Good leaders typically thrive on “making a difference,” quietly accepting praise for a job done well (often spreading it graciously over the efforts of a team) while assuming blame for things that went wrong (often sheltering “the team” from outside criticism).  Great leaders build credibility through the transparency, consistency, predictability and integrity of their words and actions.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

BE A PATH MAKER RATHER THAN A PATH TAKER

Have you ever met someone who sets a course in life based on how many others are doing the same thing?  Rather than identifying problems, investigating root causes and intentionally setting into motion the actions that would resolve issues in an individual and/or unique way, the path of least resistance is chosen as these individuals travel upon roads that others take and make “safe” (commonly acceptable) rather than “right” (based on fact rather than the opinion of others) decisions.  Perhaps it might be better (though possibly more difficult) to seek individuals who seems to consistently and continuously “take the high road” in the way things are done and choose the path less traveled (rather than the path of least resistance) when making decisions – for knowing (and associating with) such a person will invariably lead to success.

Far too many people diminish their potential by following the crowd (doing what is “right and prudent”) rather than following their own beliefs.  They seek popularity (or at least acceptance) rather than standing strong on their own values, judgments and decisions.  They choose to blend into the majority rather than the criticism that standing alone often brings.  They accept that things are as they should be rather than seeking what could be possible if established systems and familiar processes were to be challenged.  The “throng” tends to validate itself by thinking, “We are no different than anyone else – the same as all others with whom we associate” rather than believing, “We are all unique individuals whose potential is limited only by our individual actions and behaviors.”  The attacks our society mounts against individuals seeking to make a difference through non-conventional methods or untested thoughts and processes are often enough to discourage all but the brave to forge their own path.  By homogenizing our unique characteristics into a single melting pot that can be universally accepted by all, “the many” seek to stifle the ability of all but a rare and outspoken few to make a difference in the world.  Allowing this to happen – either explicitly through participation or implicitly through acceptance – diminishes one’s ability to think, act and contribute in a meaningful way.
  
Following the crowd is easy.  Anyone can do what others accept, go where others are going, act as others act and find a sense of community by blending in. Travelling familiar roads and doing things the way they have always been done can take the bumps and turns out of our journey BUT when we do things as they have always been done we can expect nothing more than has already been accomplished.  When we move forward by focusing upon where we have been and what we have done we cannot truly see where we are going or what might be accomplished.  While teaching our granddaughter to ride a bicycle I found myself telling her to “look where she is going rather than watching where she has been” if she seeks to achieve success without falling – an axiom that should apply to all we say and do in life but is often abandoned as we seek acceptance and validation by others.   Only when we accept that much can come from seeking a different reality than that chosen by the crowd will we realize that loss can become gain, failure can breed success, and the decision to stop can be either a conclusion (accepting that what is will always be) OR a new beginning (failure is a detour rather than a dead end on the road to success).  Followers of a crowd tend to accept the group’s destination as a place to land while those seeking to make an individual difference often build their future from the stopping point accepted by others as being “good enough.”

Too many supervisors seek acceptance from those they lead rather than striving to earn their respect.  Too many parents seek to be friends with their children (and their acquaintances) rather than role models.  Too many teachers want to be “liked” by their students rather than viewed as being “tough but fair.”  Too many of our political leaders make decisions based on polls that measure what the majority think they should do rather than doing what might negatively impact the majority IF a decision or course of action might be best for the values (and sustainability) of our nation.  When forging a path using our personal strengths, values and character we tend to lean towards greatness in all that we say, do and accomplish.  Alternatively, when we try to make ourselves look better by pulling others down – making ourselves look good by tarnishing another’s reputation or diminishing their abilities – we often find ourselves travelling upon roads fraught with hazards, pot holes, barricades and dead ends. 

What kind of transformations might take place in our nation (and in YOUR life) if more decisions were made (and courses of action taken) driven by “rather than…” thinking?  What might YOU be able to accomplish – what potential might you be able to realize – were you to “march to your own drummer” and forge your own path rather than listening to (and following) the music made by others?  You will know (and be able to realize) your true potential ONLY should you choose to accept the risk and opportunity that individuality brings – leaving behind the comfort, support and (often) false security that being “one of the crowd” provides. Only those choosing to be path makers rather than path takers can truly rise to the top.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

ACHIEVEMENT


Individuals often succeed by “being in the right place at the right time,” making a mistake that turns out to be revolutionary (post-it notes, as an example) or “carrying on” a legacy handed down by someone else.  More often, however, much planning, analyzing, forecasting, modeling, and “sweat equity” go into bringing dreams to fruition.  We must selflessly invest our time, money and effort to realize the returns that inevitably come when sacrificing short-term leisure time for long-term opportunity.  While the creation of jobs and the return of wealth to a community may be offshoots of successful business, they are simply the byproducts of dreams, the results of hope and the culmination of focused (and intentional) effort.  In order to realize great accomplishment, individuals AND organizations must imagine the future, consider alternative options as to how it might be realized, then steadfastly advancing towards its ultimate accomplishment – recognizing that effort without goals are often fruitless and actions without intent regularly fall short of hoped for results. 

Once set, one must closely monitor progress and constantly identify obstacles that could hinder the accomplishment of goals – minimizing disruptions to the successful actualization of intended consequences – to help ensure success.  Changes to established plans and procedures should be considered carefully before initiating new processes or practices because intentional actions that foster anticipated results are more predictable and prone to replication than are reactive responses that resolve temporary conditions or situations.  A business will never reach its full potential should a leader focus too intently upon the path (particularly if the path is well traveled by others or often frequented by its competition) rather than the prize at its conclusion (recognizing that even “the prize” is but a resting point upon the continuum of time) NOR will an individual reach his or her full potential until the “ends” become the intended reason for the “means” (rather than a functional by-product of effort put forth to accomplish the assigned dreams of another).

Business success can be directly linked to Management’s ability to motivate and encourage employees to freely and creatively contribute to organizational growth (without fear of failure).  In order to leverage the power of people, an organization must foster and encourage personal development equipping individuals to contribute (rather than simply trained to listen and do what they are told).  An organization should continually challenge and encourage employees to imagine the future and consider where he or she may wish to fit.  Questions that should be asked should include what does one WANT to be, WANT to accomplish, or can realistically EXPECT to achieve (with AND without additional training)?  To taste success one must start with a conclusion - a goal or set of expectations – before starting down the path towards accomplishment.  Without an end point, one will never know when one chapter has concluded so that another can begin.  Life without purpose can be eventful but is rarely satisfying.  It may be full of new beginnings but is strangely at a loss for “ends.”  Taking stock of what has been done, what is in progress and what is but a thought should become a part of everyone’s daily routine IF he or she truly wishes to achieve success – for without a roadmap, how can we hope to move from where we are to where we wish to be?

After establishing a goal – organizationally or individually – we must determine how it can be best accomplished.  Must additional knowledge be attained or abilities be enhanced to achieve the goal?  Who must be brought into the solution to make it happen (and who should be excluded from its execution to minimize disruption)?  Must the power of a team be brought into play or is the goal more individualistic?  Too often, training is an afterthought to the accomplishment of a dream – our hopes taking us places where our abilities fear to tread.  When we start “doing” without thinking we may taste limited success but it will be realized in spite of ourselves rather than because of anything that was intentionally done or could be repeated.  Organizations can play an active role in this process by providing the time for employees to think, the environment in which they can experiment, the tools they may need to become accomplished, and the climate in which they can succeed.

To achieve greatness, people MUST steadfastly advance towards the realization of their dreams – recognizing that detours will arise (but are simply temporary disruptions rather than insurmountable obstacles) and that reaching a destination may require one to occasionally step back in order to move forward.  In order to enact meaningful change, however, with any degree of efficiency and urgency we must develop and utilize systems that allow us to anticipate and avoid obstacles that could hinder progress whenever possible while justifying the initiation of warranted changes when necessary (EVEN IF the change forces us to abandon tried and true activities that provide trusted and consistent results).  An individual will never reach their full potential should he or she focus too intently upon the path rather than the potential at the path’s conclusion.  An organization will NEVER leverage the power of its people if they are kept in the dark (expected to “do” rather than to question “why”), stifled through fear of reprisal (rather than being allowed to grow through healthy experimentation) and rewarded for doing things as they have always been done (rather than for challenging the status quo and being recognized for creating new alternative processes that produce better results).


Potential achievement is not measured by what someone has done or an accounting of where they have been but rather by what they are capable of doing and an anticipation of where they are going.  While some may hold onto the dreams of their past, reveling in the memories of what was or has been accomplished, if we are to achieve our full potential we must transform our thinking to consider things that never were (or have yet to be realized) – asking “Why not?” rather than questioning “Why?”

Monday, August 8, 2016

ESTABLISHING AND MAINTAINING A HIGHLY EFFECTIVE TEAM

When people perform individually, it is relatively easy to identify and measure the effort expended and the results achieved. It is human nature, however, that people prefer to accept credit without blame, exhibit authority without wanting accountability, and make decisions without assuming responsibility for potential negative consequences (but are more than willing to accept accolades for positive outcomes). Organizations embracing the formation of teams before recognizing these human characteristics may never fully achieve their anticipated results – often thinking that great things happen when all contribute equally without considering that every team needs focus, direction and a driving force. When building teams, we should ALWAYS consider the following:

Management should provide the “content” to be considered (overall direction that defines authority, scope of activity and any boundaries that may exist) without controlling the “context” of a team’s considerations (allowing it to operate independently within established parameters).  
An effective team must provide workable solutions that receive the group’s endorsement and “buy-in” if it seeks to make significant contributions yet it must also be empowered to move forward towards a solution (without necessarily needing to see a destination prior to beginning the journey) and be allowed to learn from failure (without fear of immediate negative repercussions).

Do not expect team members to take untested ideas through a non-monitored process OR make decisions based on a “risk vs. reward” litmus until they have been equipped with the appropriate team-building tools to maximize their chances of success.
Teams must receive training to understand how each member fits into the process – leveraging every member’s unique abilities to make the “sum of all parts” a greater contributor to the Organization’s bottom line than would have been their potentially conflicting individual efforts.  A single focus must also be identified prior to “releasing” the power of a team with someone (formally or informally) designated to keep all efforts directed appropriately – tolerating detours but keeping them from distracting or delaying progress.  A formal (or informal) leader will serve to keep teams “on task” and focused - to push through individual preferences and outspoken contributors as solutions are developed. While teams are great “action units,” they often need to rally behind a champion to accomplish their collective goals.

Work teams should enhance individual contributions and refine singular efforts by stretching the limitations of each person’s knowledge, experiences and abilities through the power of group thought and interaction.  
When properly leveraged, the power of diverse thoughts and an inclusive culture can create new solutions not previously considered by applying different ideas and perspectives to tried and true processes.

Think of an emerging team as a young bird having the ability to fly but not yet knowing how to accomplish that objective.  If raised within a cage, a bird can learn to fly but will do so ONLY to fulfill its natural purpose of flight but without reason or purposeful destination.  If allowed to fly freely, however, a bird will grow, strengthen and explore previously uncharted regions but may wander to new territories that seem more inviting than “home.”  If trained and nurtured properly before being allowed to leave the nest, the bird will soar to the heavens, explore and accomplish much then return home to celebrate what was done before embarking anew the next day. 

When properly assembled, trained, and allowed to function without disruptive outside interference (from management, policy, practice or established procedures), teams pay dividends to those investing in their development and success.  Allowing a team to run free without parameters, training or oversight control provides complete flexibility but often inhibits its ability to produce desired results UNLESS the collective spirit of individual entities can be leveraged towards a single objective by an internal filter (leader) who makes sure all interests are served.  An overly controlling or inadvertently disruptive leader, however, can hinder the growth of teams AND their ability to contribute.

As with a young bird, when the team is trained, developed and allowed to explore within an area having defined parameters – knowing its potential AND its limitations – it will grow, contribute and find comfort “at home.”  If allowed to seek its own rewards for non-monitored activities that enter uncharted areas without at least passive oversight and control, a team MAY become successful but will often be without loyalty to its originator, accountability to organizational expectations or responsibility for the intended (or unintended) consequences of its actions – flying freely upon the wings you intended it to utilize for the accomplishment of a common good and a corporate objective.  Take time to nurture and build your team BEFORE setting it free IF you seek to harvest the fruits of your labor and share the resultant rewards with an empowered and effective team.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS...


When opportunity knocks, some refuse to open the door, excusing themselves from any responsibility for the challenges that life might place before them. They prefer living within the status quo – taking the familiar “easy path” to any the destination that might appear beyond the horizon – implicitly declaring that change and opportunity may be great for others but should be avoided at all costs when personally confronted.  Rarely will you find an individual wishing to initiate change – to face opportunity head on so they might reap the potential rewards their risk might provide – travelling only upon the straight and narrow road.  Conversely, one seeking the comfort of “what is” rather than the opportunities that “what could be” might present will avoid the twists and turns that an unimproved path presents as they will spend so much of their time blaming each bump on the inadequacy of another and perceiving every detour as a dead end rather than unrealized possibility – that little forward progress will be accomplished.  People refusing to put forth more than minimal effort while expecting exceptional results are unrealistic in their beliefs.
 
Far too many individuals seek to rise to the top upon the backs of others, expecting to receive the same rewards simply because they share the same space and breathe the same air, rather than opening the door when opportunity knocks.  Those seeking to leverage their individual abilities, attitudes and desires eagerly open the door to new opportunities.  They immerse themselves in the identification of “root causes” that may have initiated the disruptive events in their lives, seeking to become an indispensable part of innovative solutions rather than an ongoing contributor to seemingly unresolvable issues and unreasonable expectations. They move forward upon paths defined by the conditions – considering not only the situation as it is but also what it might project to become – before beginning their journey, ALWAYS willing to adjust their travels should any motivating or influencing factors change. Individuals answering the knock of opportunity typically identify paths not yet imagined as they take roads not yet improved while seeking destinations not previously explored or defined. Those willing to take risks in life visualize where they might go once they step through the door of opportunity. They do not hide behind the safety of a closed existence, they absolutely refuse to accept the loss of “what might be possible.”

Sharing our workload and the results of our efforts has become an expectation as we seek to magnify and enhance our individual contributions by blending them with the unique gifts others have been given to accomplish collectively more than could have been completed on our own.  Might our emphasis on sharing and “teamwork”, however, be inadvertently discouraging individuals from “answering the knock of opportunity” by dissuading them from expressing their personal thoughts, feelings and expectations – encouraging them to find comfort and security in “group think,” fearing failure rather than embracing the learning that it can bring? Within a world that rewards results rather than encouraging discovery, do we allow people to bring their dreams to fruition or do we contain their imaginations within well-defined parameters and highly structured “acceptable” processes?  Do we actually keep the door closed by convincing people it is alright to find comfort in the way things are (and that they will never change) rather than encouraging them to take intentional risks that MIGHT produce exceptional rewards?  Perhaps the opportunity that knocks in life should be welcomed as a dream that has yet to become reality rather than a reality that has established itself as a dream.

Dreams are thoughts not yet realized – aspirations not yet brought to fruition. Dreams are the basis of our goals and the foundation of our good intentions. We can LIVE life without dreams BUT cannot EMBRACE life’s full potential (or become all we hope to be or realize all we might wish to accomplish) without first visualizing what we want to become or what we desire to do BEFORE we begin to travel through life.  Those that perform to the standards and expectations of others may be great contributors (as they add value to society) but until they identify their individual aspirations and work towards accomplishing them, people rarely discover new horizons or identify unknown paths that would allow them to travel beyond the door of opportunity once it has been opened – to cross the threshold from “what is” to “what has yet been imagined.”  To accomplish our dreams we must be willing to open the door that holds us captive within the safety and security of our “present” so we can embrace the unknown opportunities of a “future” yet to be fully identified, realized or finalized. When opportunity knocks, you can ignore it, consciously turn it away or embrace it as you move towards its unrealized potential. You can answer its call or hide within the safety and security of what you know to be real – leaving the opportunity for someone else to invest the time and energy you are unable (or unwilling) to expend – but must then accept the results they accomplish rather than the possibilities you could have attained.

Should you seek to make a difference in the world – to expand your horizons beyond “here and now” towards dreams not yet realized (or, in some cases, not yet imagined), open YOUR door when you hear someone knocking.  When opportunity knocks, some accomplish much because they sacrifice all, holding back nothing as they seek “the prize” rather than worrying about “the cost.”  They picture life as a series of surmountable hills rather than a single insurmountable mountain.  They see obstacles in life being temporary detours rather than permanent closures, finding “the good” in every situation they encounter rather than dwelling upon “the bad” in what might come their way.  People answering the knock of opportunity see where they wish to be and envision what they wish to become the intentionally acting to make those things reality rather than holding back or maintaining the status quo. While accomplishing much for themselves, they allow others to taste success by paving the way for them to follow once they the door has been opened (understanding and knowing that leaving the door closed would prohibit new discoveries and eliminate new accomplishments – sentencing the world to stagnation and decline rather than hope and prosperity). 

Friday, July 22, 2016

EXPANDING YOUR ISLAND TO INCLUDE OTHERS HELPS ENSURE SUCCESS


Many people feel they can “go it alone” rather than needing to prove themselves to others (or convincing others their way is wrong).  In order to establish and maintain accountability for our thoughts and actions, however, we need others in our lives (to challenge, validate and support our direction, decisions and aspirations).  While most of us are able to move forward through much of life on our own, we can find encouragement to keep moving when we might prefer to rest if others are walking beside us along the way.  Before we can expect others to accept us, however – to care enough about us to invest their time in making us better – we must first accept ourselves (though accepting is never easy as we can ALWAYS second guess our initial reactions, thoughts or decisions).

The first step in this acceptance is to discover our own potential – fully assimilating the beauty of what is possible into the reality of our lives – before we could hope to have another see value or worth in us.  We must identify our individual strengths and weaknesses, realizing the role that each plays both in our development AND to our detriment.  We must recognize and accept what is possible (or not realistic), what is highly probable (or unlikely) and what is fiscally irresponsible (or within our means to create a way).  When one looks for weaknesses, assigns fault, or emphasizes failure they tend to focus more on what “was not done” than on celebrating success.  They often attempt to change behavior by identifying deficiencies that need altering (thereby becoming important as the identifier of another’s problems) rather than by encouraging the “cloning” of healthy behaviors.  Far too often we ensure our own success by pointing out and/or guaranteeing another to fail rather than by elevating our own “game” to bring others along with us.

People acknowledging only their strengths often enter relationships to “fix” those around them – never fully exposing themselves to the scrutiny that true friendship (or “community” brings).  Those that limit themselves by accepting their shortcomings and deficiencies as ceilings rather than floors often sell themselves short when it comes to achieving success.  These individuals often avoid their own emptiness or darkness by reflecting another’s light or fullness through the pronouncement of a relationship. They seek to find personal success through the accomplishments of others – or to elevate their own minor successes by minimizing another.  They tend to deflect attention from themselves by directing it to another - often negatively influencing the way others are perceived while appearing to be “above it all” in their personal interrelationships.   

No relationship – whether it be in business or in your personal life – will grow unless we establish an expectation of what we hope it might become then work hard to bring the dream to fruition.  Some say that setting low expectations will keep them from ever being disappointed.  What kind of a meaningful relationship could develop from the premise that what “is” will never change – that wherever a relationship began is where it will eventually end – exhibiting no growth.  A relationship serves no valuable purpose if the melding of beliefs, values, ideals and accomplishments are intended to advance each individual more that it enhances the group.  If one benefits from the input of another, think how much could be accomplished should several come together, openly sharing thoughts and ideas without fearing loss, reprisal or repercussion.  

Dreams are the “pots of gold” found at the end of the rainbows we choose to follow.  Choice is the key here – unless and until we CHOOSE to move forward, to leave behind or to seek new pastures, we live our lives more by fearing the pain of failure than by truly expecting and anticipating the rewards of success – we may survive but will rarely thrive.  Relationships focusing on why things did not work or how they could have been done differently are destined to fail.  Those using (accepting and learning from) failure as a springboard towards implementing new and different solutions are more likely to succeed.  Believing that the “light at the end of a tunnel” is an opportunity yet to be realized rather than a train heading towards you on a collision course reflects the assimilation of dreams into your daily relationships – the acceptance of “what has yet to become” a precursor of reality rather than a harbinger of never-ending turmoil.

Building relationships and accomplishing dreams are not easy (nor straightforward) tasks.  We often discover alternative paths leading to destinations that are more desirable (AND that we may never have considered) when we include the ideas of others as part of our decision-making process.  We miss much along the way when we build straight and narrow paths upon which to travel – leaving no room for exploration, discovery or wandering – when we focus only upon where we wish to go and how we envision getting there without allowing ourselves the time (or giving ourselves the permission) to take detours along the way.  Avoid the interstate highways of life (paths that provide only limited access or entrance), choosing instead to travel the “country roads” (trails that allow unrestricted ingress and egress of ideas, thoughts and methodologies) if you wish to achieve all that you believe possible (rather than accepting only what you could reasonably and responsibly identify as having a high likelihood of succeeding).

When people lose sight of their goals, coming to rest upon the side of the road before accomplishing their dreams, they cannot find fulfillment and often fail to persevere.  When we travel alone we are more likely to lose our way – why should it be any different as we live life?  The realization of dreams is linked to how effectively our strengths can be focused as we travel unfamiliar paths that encourage new ideas – and unless our thoughts are challenged by others holding us accountable for the results promised, how can we ever achieve anything beyond what we already know and accept as being possible?  Accepting that our own (or another individual’s) weaknesses are insurmountable often results in our believing that failure is not just a possibility but rather a foregone conclusion.  When we truly believe that the accomplishment of anything is possible – and that nothing can diminish or replace the unwavering power borne through a strong and trusting relationship – only then will we be able to experience the presence of others on our island – of others working together to achieve more than any one individual might accomplish. 


Relationships are the foundation upon which life’s accomplishments are constructed.  A relationship becomes successful when “we” becomes a given rather than “me” being the rule.  While one man (or woman) may think he (or she) is an island, they will not experience all life has to offer until accepting that to live we must share life – and that we are only as strong individually as is the group of close friends we have around us.