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, January 30, 2023

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP...

Most leaders are effective in their own way – typically accomplishing their defined objectives – yet their tactics are very different as they lead, manage or direct others. Some lead from behind, pushing others to where they wish them to be while seemingly hiding behind the throng as if seeking protection from the resistance that typically comes when new initiatives are advanced against a traditional, “set in its ways” establishment. Other leaders interact with their team but fail to provide direction or initiate meaningful change as they feel successes must be shared by a team that is totally in agreement and blame must be spread across the group equally to avoid hurting any individual’s feelings - often driving decisions down to the lowest common denominator so that no one person will be held responsible for failure (inadvertently ensuring that no one individual will receive recognition for success, either). A third kind of leader tends to cast a vision as to where the team should go, move ahead to clear the path of potential hazards, then wait for the group to catch up before proceeding forward – pulling the team forward by encouraging them to join him or her on a shared adventure – by living the example that those being led can follow. Visionary leaders share successes (be they within a work or a personal setting), assume responsibility for shortcomings (by questioning what he or she could have done differently), and allow others to learn from their failures (without fear of unwarranted repercussions). 

Leading from behind is like trying to push a string uphill. It is almost impossible to keep a string straight and moving in one direction when applying pressure from behind (unless one adds a wire or some other outside strength to keep the string from bending). Try dumping a glass of water on a marble counter and pushing the puddle towards a sink…the water spreads out uncontrollably in all directions, eventually making it to a final destination only after it has moved far outside of its initial path and spread far afield from its intended (and inevitable) end. Leading from behind is like trying to herd cats – you may move a group forward but it will be from a point of chaos rather than in a structured order – from uncontrolled havoc rather than anticipated and planned intentional actions – often resulting in unexpected consequences that provide results that could be bad (because of what was done) or good (in spite of what was done).

 

Geese lead through a group mentality or process…the lead of a migrating flock changes like the wind – but such interchangeable leadership is rarely synonymous with greatness within our “human” society. In order advance as a unit, someone must step away from the pack – must be willing to step forward so that others might follow – or the things that have always been done will continue to be accomplished (though, perhaps, more efficiently due to repetition) and the roads that have always been travelled will continue to be taken (though, perhaps, with less risk as all the twists and turns are anticipated). Packs (or teams left to their own devices) tend to recognize individual positional authority but rarely realize innovation – and often experience challenges to leadership when one member feels that “their way is better” than others. Teams without direction or “reality checks” tend to find comfort within their temporary “known” but are often reluctant to step towards a yet to be defined “unknown.” Without a leader to monitor progress and define/redefine goals, teams may share a common objective but often find their successes are acceptable but not outstanding – are as expected but not innovative – because they seek to avoid failure (rather than reaching for unrealized potential).

Groups that move forward as a singular unit due to the intentional actions of a leader who identifies goals, sounds the charge, then pulls the troops forward as they follow his or her lead find greatness. When objectives are clearly defined and communicated - with responsibility and accountability assigned to individuals willing to embrace failure (and learn from it) while unselfishly sharing the praise (and rewards) that come from success, no objective is impossible – no mountain too high to climb nor valley too deep from which to rise. A group can model and assimilate the successful behavior of a leader (following his or her example) much more easily than it can take ownership of success resulting from the imposition of directives from the rear of OR from “within” the team. Rather than leading by edict, proclamation, or fear, such an individual leads by example – and those being led are ready and willing to follow (sharing either recognition for success OR corrective discussions for failure).


We must “lead, follow or get out of the way” as we move through life. Following rarely makes waves and does not produce new or innovative results but can fulfill the basic needs in society by providing security, consistency and (sometimes) rewards for those setting the goals and initiating action. Getting out of the way simply removes a barrier to success – it rarely allows one to enjoy individual rewards or accomplishments as stepping aside simply allows another to face delays or handle the disruption that obstacles placed in front of us that keep us from those things we wish to achieve (unless, of course, we were to live like geese by choreographing our decisions to  accomplish great things without giving individual credit or assigning singular blame). Leading by example allows us to determine our own path – to find our own way (be it good or bad, positive or negative) as we seek to accomplish great things (either by ourselves OR with other people). One can manage from a distance, direct from within a team, OR Lead by example but can rarely do or be all three at the same time.

 

While it may “take a village to raise a child,” perhaps we would all be better leaders (and ultimately lead stronger teams and live better lives) if we realized it takes more than a village – it takes the cumulative efforts of many focused upon a common objective if great things are to be accomplished. A team can taste success ONLY if someone steps forward and is willing to lead (AND members of the team are willing to learn as they follow an individual they can respect). Relationships follow a similar pattern – those that are partnerships of equals that work together to accomplish shared needs (following a recognized path that takes them to a discussed and mutually beneficial destination) strengthen and grow while those that are led without sharing tend to satisfy one while frustrating the other. Effective leaders lead so that things once thought to be impossible can become everyday reality – and everyday reality will NEVER stand in the way of bringing to fruition the dreams shared by a team or within a relationship.

Monday, January 23, 2023

ONE MUST DREAM BEFORE ONE CAN DO…

Why do so many people try to be someone they are not? Many individuals start a new year with fresh “resolutions” to do something (or be something) different. Unless there is more gain from the change, however, than pain from NOT changing, such mid-stream corrections rarely prove effective. People change very little once they have established their basic values, patterns and thought processes. It is often easier (and more effective) to leverage an individual’s strengths than it is to try to change their shortcomings. As a “well known philosopher” (Dr. Suess) once so aptly proclaimed, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

People tend to think MUCH about what they have (or do not have), who they are (or who they might wish to be), and what they would like to happen in their lives (rather than what is inevitable should nothing change) so they can achieve, experience, or live an altered result. Stephen Leacock stated, "It may be that those who do most, dream most." One must first imagine something as being a possibility before it can become a probability – yet "Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to be anything more than dreams." (Bryan Linkoski). We can identify, hope, and imagine all that we want but unless we take intentional action that is different from what we might typically do we will experience what we always have and find ourselves disappointed with our lack of progress.

While “failure” is not necessarily a desired outcome of change, dreamers often focus their DESIRE to change around the real possibility that they may not (at first) taste success.  Robert F. Kennedy said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."  Individuals who have truly made a difference in this world understand that "Failure is not the worst thing in the world. The very worst thing is not to try."  While much intentional thought and deliberate action is required to succeed, those that ultimately do recognize that "Failure is the path of least persistence."  If one is to transition their thoughts, hopes and dreams to reality, the word “impossible” must not be a part of his or her vocabulary. While facts, information and well-considered alternatives are often the building blocks of change, "If the dream is big enough, the facts don't count." (Dexter Yeger)

Life is a series of starts and stops – of closed chapters and of new beginnings.  Insanity has been defined as doing things the way they have always been done while expecting the results to change. If we are to see change as we move forward in life – whether it be at work, in our personal relationships, or in our own thoughts and attitudes – it is important that we not only recognize the need for altered behavior but that we also intentionally ACT to make change happen. Knowing the facts and understanding how to make change happen does not necessarily ensure transformation, however. Will Rogers appropriately stated, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." As our lives change – initiated by our actions and our attitudes – we should embrace the thoughts expressed by William Osler when he stated, "We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from life."

Sadly, many seem to seek equality rather than equity in the world. They (unintentionally?) pull down those who are successful, taking from them the fruits of their labor in an effort to narrow the gap between “those who have and those who have not.” Perhaps it might be better to provide “those without” the tools necessary to narrow the gap through their own productivity. While good, hard-working individuals seeking work often find they do not have the requisite skills to perform available jobs, many jobs remain unfilled because the “sting” of not working is more than sufficiently salved by an ever-expanding unemployment compensation system and an increasingly acceptable trend to “Take from each according to his ability while giving to each according to his needs.” (Karl Marx) College loan forgiveness…COVID compensation to employers…Increased Unemployment Compensation…mandatory paid sick leave…forced employer match to retirement programs…what else needs to happen before we understand the reality of our current world and how it fosters our dependency upon others to hand us comfort and success?

Perhaps we could gain from both the “wisdom” of Dr. Suess AND the reality of Mark Twain who said "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." We are not “owed” success – we must first seek it then ACT INTENTIONALLY to make it become a reality.  Think big and act audaciously without fear of failure…without concern about temporary loss or momentary setbacks…looking forward to making dreams come true rather than holding on to the past so tightly that it could never change…if you seek to live differently than you do as you realize opportunities that you never thought possible.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

THE CRITICAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONVERSATION AND COMMUNICATION

Far too many people believe having the ability to CONVERSE is the same as being able to COMMUNICATE. They believe that telling is equivalent to talking – that sending an e-mail or leaving a voicemail message is better than spending time in two-way discussion. They believe that if one can speak effectively, they will be able to influence the behavior of others – that “give and take” conversation only delay their decision-making process.  They are firm believers in the principle that “he/she who speaks last is right” so will talk an issue to death (or send a declaratory note or leave a one-sided voicemail) rather than allowing someone else to have the “final say” (or sometimes any “say: at all).  Rather than recognizing that individuals have two ears and one mouth (which should be an indicator of importance – redundancy is necessary and critical part of our lives) they think since the SIZE of a mouth is larger than the size of two ear canals it MUST add more value to exercise the vocal cords than the ear drums. A recent television show demonstrated this particularly well…a husband and wife both had events happen in their day that were critical and important to each other. The wife tried to talk about her day and was ignored as the husband talked about his. When challenged on his lack of attention he stated that her issues were not as important as his and that he was sure she would get over whatever happened to her – causing her to leave the room saying that “you do not even see me, do you?” While an extreme example, far too often our conversations can become proclamations rather than discussions…position statements rather than a sharing of experiences…eliminating any possibility of critical communications through interactive conversation. 

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION is a sum of several important parts – not simply words spoken or sounds heard. Talking is saying words in a logical sequence – often (but not always) prefaced by thought and an understanding of what should be said. Communication is the art of organizing our thoughts to reflect the message we wish others to hear so that a two-way dialog can result in an appropriate action. Conversation is an exchange of words – hopefully (but not always) between two individuals that exchange thoughts and ideas while communication is the transformation of thoughts and words into meaningful action. Conversation typically involves what you wish to share with another – communication focuses more on what you wish to accomplish together.  In order to communicate effectively we must: 

·         Listen actively

·         Speak ONLY after considering the ramifications of our words

·         Establish and assign ownership to a shared vision or idea while transferring responsibility with accountability to the individual(s) assuming ownership of each task

·         Intentionally follow-through to make sure expectations are met and objectives are accomplished on a timely basis (while avoiding our natural tendency to “rescue” or “save” another from mistakes or failures)

·         Allow mistakes (our own and those of others) to become learning experiences rather than death sentences

·         Praise openly and honestly – criticize privately and quietly 

To communicate well we must identify what we wish to accomplish – figure out what we want our words to change, alter or enhance – before we begin to talk, write or “tweet.” Politicians often seem to say whatever they think you want to hear – in a manner convincing enough to make us forget what they may have said yesterday or what they will be saying tomorrow. They are typically highly effective conversationalists but may be lacking as communicators (where listening and speaking must closely align). Politicians (and other effective public speakers) deliver what their audience wants to “take away” from a speech – often abandoning their principles or core values in order to appease the masses. A conversationalist enters a debate with his or her ears (and mouth) wide open, clearly identifying and discussing multiple “means” but often failing to bring to fruition an “end.”  An effective communicator plans his or her outcome before speaking, listens (and considers) reactions, responds meaningfully, then works towards a mutually satisfactory actionable result. Ineffective communication is often “telling” while effective communication becomes active, participative “selling.”

One of the more critical aspects of communication is silence – that space where listening becomes active and saying nothing helps to formulate direction. When one is speaking, he or she is not actively listening. When planting your thoughts and concepts it is hard to harvest the bounty that another’s ideas might contribute. When we try to be heard above the noise around us, we often lose sight of the fact that a whisper can be much more effective in a quiet, listening room than can be a shout in a crowded building. Silence often creates discomfort – but it is not YOUR responsibility to fill every void with the sound of your own voice. In order to communicate effectively we must allow silence to be deafening at times – echoing within the conversational void as if it were an angry sea pounding upon a rocky and unforgiving shore. Allow your thoughts and ideas to fill the moments of silence that listening (rather than talking) can create, then EXPRESS those thoughts into encouraging words that identify issues, welcome contribution, communicate direction and motivate change. 

Effective Communication is more than talking – it is transforming words into actions through carefully directed compromise that produces “win-win” situations rather than creating and fostering “win-lose” relationships. When wishing to share experiences, thoughts, feelings or dreams – converse. While one needs to converse in order to communicate, not all conversation becomes effective communication. Communication is an active two-way exchange of thoughts and ideas that results in the investment of time and resources focused on the accomplishment of an intended consequence. Talk is cheap as it tends to fill time and space with words that do not necessarily require an investment of resources to create an intended (or intentional) consequence. While conversation is a necessary part of living within a community, communication is the key to change. When you need to accomplish something – when an action must result in an equal and opposite reaction that alters or modifies a condition or behavior – communicate your thoughts, your intents, and your expectations clearly by stating the facts then listening for (and encouraging) buy-in from all involved. We should all strive to be better conversationalists BUT making a conscious effort to communicate more effectively can help to change the world (or at least our role within it both at work AND within our personal relationships).

Friday, January 13, 2023

INEFFECTIVE PRIVATE RESOLUTION OR LIFE-CHANGING PUBLIC REVOLUTION…YOU BE THE JUDGE

It seems that people can make the worst out of even the best situation. Many see the new beginnings ushered in by January 1st each year as a justification to leave what they have in search of something different (without identifying why they want to leave nor what must be done to change). Whether they find a new job within their organization or seek a new job elsewhere…whether they find new friends or simply isolate themselves from the friends that no longer fill their needs…whether they truly commit to “hit the gym” or they decide to just “give it a try,” or whether they seek to renew a relationship that has been failing or find a new one (that will probably fail without systemic change)…far too often people “run from” a situation rather than “running towards” a better opportunity. We cannot expect anything other than what we have always had unless we decide to do something different than we have always done. Unless (and until) we intentionally choose to do things in a way that has never been tried will we be able to “foster revolution” that can change the world (rather than maintaining the status quo which will keep it from ever changing).  Whenever you seek change, consider the following:

1)      INDIVIDUALS SEEKING CHANGE ARE OFTEN MORE DRIVEN BY WHAT THEY WISH TO LEAVE BEHIND THAN BY WHAT THEY WISH TO BUILD UPON ONCE.  Many seek new jobs because they think the boss is intolerable, the environment oppressive or the work is not what they thought. Their once “ideal opportunity” has become meaningless – offering no growth or potential. Their relationship has become cold (and they typically refuse to accept any responsibility in its cooling). Unless one seeks to identify (and accept) his or her role in the negative, however, leaving “the wrong job or running from a struggling relationship for anything other than the “right reasons” will only delay the inevitable decline or loss of “what is.”  Before looking outside for the solution or running to someone else (inevitably destined to repeat the catastrophic failure that initiated the transition), examine what changed, why it changed AND what you might be able to do to restore the luster (rather than blaming others and excusing yourself).2)     

IDENTIFY YOUR PERSONAL STRENGTHS WHEN CONSIDERING CHANGE.  It is surprising how few people can answer the question, “What do you like most about what you do, who you are, or with whom you choose to spend your time?” If seeking a change, people typically seek as little PERSONAL disruption as possible (while wanting as large a difference as imaginable)…as similar a situation as they were used to (but wanting no difference in effort or actions elsewhere to result in significantly increased results)…as much acceptance and influence within their relationships (giving more than expecting to receive). Those that successfully change often leverage their gifts, talents, and abilities to help them transition from one place to the next – from one relationship to another – but will RARELY find satisfaction without building upon what they “like” as they leave the “identified dislikes” behind.

3)      ISOLATE AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE NEGATIVES WITHIN YOUR CURRENT SITUATION WHEN CONSIDERING CHANGE.  Individuals often dwell so much on the negatives of where they have been that they inadvertently become the sum and substance of who they are. Many find that the thing they dislike most about their current situation actually has nothing to do with their duties, responsibilities, or actual day-to-day interactions. Rather, the “things” we dislike the most are often part of the environment in which we work, the people we work with, the level of responsibility we are given (or we assume), the LACK of responsibility we perceive we have (or have accepted), the boss – or even our dissatisfaction we have with the face we see in the mirror were we to compile a list of “dislikes.” Before taking action to disrupt your existence, make sure that it needs disrupting. A relatively minor issue should not force you into giving up something you might otherwise enjoy…an irritating idiosyncrasy should not force one away from an otherwise happy relationship…a bump in the road should initiate conversation rather than trigger the immediate abandonment of what were once hopes and dreams. Unless we acknowledge our own negatives (and how they might contribute to our personal dissatisfaction), we will probably NEVER escape from what we perceive to be imperfection as we will more often than not carry that “baggage” with us to the next event, environment or relationship.

Change often requires us to take a “road less travelled” if we wish to arrive at a location where we can complete something not yet accomplished by doing things never before done. People are often more comfortable doing what they have always done – and blaming others for what is not to their liking. If you seek “differences” in your life…want to make resolutions that can be maintained OR revolutions that will shake the world…intentionally act and “do” things differently while expecting alternative result. Why focus on the things you DO NOT LIKE when seeking a new opportunity that might provide the things you WOULD PREFER to accomplish?  Seek change ONLY if you are willing to walk away from the world you know to enter one you can only imagine. Leverage the strengths you possess – building upon them to accomplish great things – rather than wishing and hoping for the ones you wish you had. The difference between a resolution and a revolution is simple…a private resolution lacks public accountability while a public revolution refuses to allow us to hide behind good intentions or mis-appropriated efforts while seeking meaningful change.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

ARE SELF-IMPOSED BOUNDARIES BECOMING INSURMOUNTABLE BARRIERS THAT PREVENT YOU FROM REALIZING YOUR POTENTIAL?

What forms a boundary for you – a wall or obstacle that keeps you from doing what might be possible for fear of leaving what is currently acceptable or probable? Are your boundaries formed from your life experiences – from the things you did (or did not do) as a child? Perhaps you limit yourself  out of respect for the past (the way things always were or have always been), relying upon the “tried and true” to rule the day rather than seeking a brave new world for which there is no “owner’s manual.” Some disregard historical limits out of their desire to run from the past – but do so without thought or consideration of what might be better (rather than simply different). Is our hesitancy to abandon the comfort we feel within a practiced, predictable, and pragmatic world nurtured by our reluctance to enter situations where we have no experience or exacerbated by our fear of failure should we try to step forward with no guarantee of success? Whatever the reasons, many individuals limit their potential by building boundaries that contain them within their present (which was formed by their past) keeping them from ever entering a future that could be different in so many ways. 

Perhaps the time has come to identify our limitations and cast off the ties that bind us to them. We need not mount a charge up a mountainside or completely and utterly destroy the walls we have so carefully constructed around us in order to initiate change. We must, however, identify our boundaries, understand why they exist and take intentional action to overcome the limitations they place upon our advancement and growth if we wish to make a difference – to make positive change – within this world. The critical components in initiating change are identifying what keeps us from doing what we know we should (or want to) do then acting to minimize (or eliminate) the barrier that prevents us from moving forward. We need not “open doors and blow roofs off” to initiate change…to completely leave our roots in order to identify new trails upon which we might wander…be we DO need to at least open a window of possibility if we wish to let something different into (or accomplish something not yet considered possible within) our lives. 

We are provided much by society without even trying to accomplish anything on our own…things that ensure a comfortable lifestyle built upon the accomplishments of those coming before us and the dreams of those living beside us. Many find so much comfort in what has been they refuse to seek what might be…to initiate a journey that might lead them to things not yet considered and places not yet travelled. Stability and consistency can be good and meaningful, yet they can inhibit our growth and throttle our progress if we allow the past to envelope our lives. We should cherish our experiences, build upon our abilities, and learn from our mistakes as we continually seek new and better ways to accomplish things…as we venture forward into the unknown looking for a place not realized. One may need to risk much in order to initiate minimal change but can mitigate the risk and likelihood of failure by planning, considering alternatives and anticipating what might happen (being ready to react to it) by equipping ourselves to act with the training, peer or outside support or the knowledge needed to transform “what is” into “what could be.”  If we recognize and acknowledge several “truths” about our past (which often serve as boundaries), we may be “released” to move forward in a new direction more freely. 

  1. Who you are is often a result of where you came from and the experiences you were provided. This past should never become the destination you seek but rather a firm foundation from which you begin your journey. Far too many individuals mask their fear of advancing beyond their present reality – and some even to face the reality of their present situation – by hiding themselves within the richness of their traditions and the heritage of their past. Holding on to the past is not a bad thing. When holding on causes us to hold back, however – when retaining traditions and deep cultural heritage becomes a destination in which we find comfort rather than the historical foundation from which we find our strength and launch our endeavors – we discourage growth, encourage stagnation, and set ourselves up to MAINTAIN (rather than to change) the world in which we live.
  2. When one thinks of who they are and where they come from, expecting more to be given them than they hope to contribute – asking for more than they are willing to share – they often find themselves settling for “what is” within their world of tradition and pride, potentially building a barrier that will keep them from changing focus from a world of entitlement to one offering an unlimited future that has yet to be realized within our world.  One must continually give of oneself in order to gain – knowing and expecting another to refill them through reciprocal sharing – in order to expand their sense of past into a hope for tomorrow. 
  3. Should a society (an organization or an individual) find contentment in what is, seeking no more nor accepting less – refusing to acknowledge or recognize that growth and advancement comes only through change – innovation will be lost and mediocrity will thrive. A society (or individual) without dreams is but a hollow shell of what could potentially be. Unless (and until) we seek the tools that will enable us to initiate change effectively (Training, Coaching, Mentoring, Diversification of Experience), we may find pride and accomplishment in what we have been given but will rarely build a new hope for ourselves (or those who come after us). 

Traditions, experiences and our pasts – relationships and acquaintances, knowledge and how it is applied – are the “glue” that holds us together on the framework upon which we build our lives. They can also, however, serve as boundaries that keep us from new discoveries, different experiences, and unprecedented actions. Striking a balance between where we came from, who we are, and what we wish to become will help us move from what once was through what now is to what might possibly be. Remember and celebrate your past, your traditions and your heritage but DO NOT allow them to prevent you from looking ahead to what could be and moving forward to reach lofty goals – to fulfill high expectations. Learn from your experiences, seek life-long learning opportunities (formally or informally), and build upon what you have accomplished to make a difference BUT be careful that your boundaries do not become barriers that prevent growth, change and relationships.

 

Monday, December 19, 2022

RECOGNIZING AND REALIZING REALITY DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON

The Holiday Season at the end of each year is usually seen as a time to enjoy family, friends, all that the year provided and the new and not-yet experienced adventures that a new year will bring. It is not, however, a universally joyful time as many within our society are suffering financially, may be unsure of their future plans or have experienced a loss this past year that has put them at an emotional low from which they can see no possibility of recovery. People need and thrive on relationships of all kinds but we all have deep and personal connections to individuals – whether they be family or friends that have come to mean much to us – that would rock us to our souls should something happen to disrupt this portion of our lives. To some it may seem necessary to do things differently this year – not so much out of a need to try things not yet experienced but rather to simply avoid the things that were once a part of their lives but will no longer be due to a loss of someone close to them. To others there may be a need to lock themselves behind closed doors, using that isolation as an excuse to avoid others, to buffer their relationships and generally escape a painful reality. Therein lies the problem that can adversely impact one’s Holiday cheer – recognizing and realizing reality can be (and often are) two vastly different points upon the continuum of life.

Some (particularly those afraid or unwilling to acknowledge and/or accept changes in life) seek environments that will shelter them from ever feeling pain…that will provide security (no matter how false it may be) and predictability (no matter how mundane or mediocre that might become). They live life wandering aimlessly upon roads paved by the memories of their past – within the walls they have constructed around themselves (having no windows from which to see nor doors from which to enter or leave). They avoid unexpected detours or excursions while finding comfort and security in the things they know (and have seen) in the past. Living within the comfort of their isolation, they fear the pain of failure more than they could ever anticipate the rewards of success. These sheltered people may ultimately survive in life but will have difficulty ever experiencing the “thrill of victory” (as they are often resigned to live within the “agony of defeat”). In seeking refuge from the pain that life might present, they accomplish only what is expected and predictable but may never achieve their full potential…living to avoid the pain that reality might bring rather than celebrating the joy they may never have felt had it not been for the moments shared with someone no longer here. 

Far too often isolated individuals begin to canonize themselves – putting themselves first and everyone else a distant second. They de-energize relationships by focusing upon the shortcomings of others (often to make up for a lack of confidence or low self-esteem in themselves). When we pull others down – highlighting their deficiencies in an effort to elevate ourselves (surrounding ourselves with individuals who will not or cannot challenge us) – we may rise to the top of a pool of mediocrity but will rarely reach the pinnacle of individual success or accomplishment. How can we expect our efforts to be maximized if we focus upon what could go wrong or what must be avoided rather than identifying alternative paths or actively seeking a direction that might provide better results as we initiate activity that will pull others with us to a different place?  Rather than seeing failure or loss as a destination that should be avoided at all costs (or exploiting the shortcomings of others for personal gain), much could be gained by viewing unwanted or unanticipated situations as springboards to success – flexible bases that bring us back from the depths of loss to a previously unknown (and unexpected) reality. If we seek to thrive (and live OUTSIDE of isolation) we must recognize that “getting up” is more significant (and critical) than “falling down.”  Believing that the “light at the end of a tunnel” is an opportunity not yet realized rather than a train heading towards us on a collision course reflects the assimilation of dreams into daily reality – but unless we venture out from our isolated privacy we will never recognize NOR experience the full potential awaiting us…a reality that those we believe cause our pain due to their absence would have wanted us to experience had they been here to share it with us.

Accepting that our own (or another individual’s) weaknesses are insurmountable results in our believing failure is final. If, however, we acknowledge deficiencies, unexpected situations OR seemingly immeasurable loss as but bumps in the road as we relentlessly move forward seeking to bring to fruition the dreams that may be as hard to imagine as they are to realize…as we refuse to accept the disruption of our expectations as an “end game” to our efforts…we will find new ways to make things happen within a world that may look drastically different from any we had ever imagined. Destiny can only be obscured when we allow ourselves to be restrained by a lack of expectations and held back by a fear of failure, seeking and finding comfort within that emptiness and succumbing to the outward pressures of loss and isolation. We will lose in life only if we accept what we have and who we are as being all there is or ever could be RATHER THAN seeing our present as but a temporary resting point on our journey through today as we seek a different (and better) tomorrow. All individuals have a past built upon actions taken, relationships made, and things accomplished AS WELL AS a present comprised of the things we choose to hold dear and the relationships we wish to maintain (the loss of these expectations or relationships being what can cause turmoil within our minds, hearts, and souls). Holding on to losses too tightly can keep us from realizing our potential…from imagining what might be possible…but will never be seen as probable if we allow ourselves to be constrained by our losses or guided by things outside of our control. 

During this Holiday Season, allow yourself to celebrate the best of times rather than to suffer the loss caused by their ending. Find joy in what you have – and what you may have had in the past – rather than being controlled by what you know may not be present in the near future. Share and build upon the relationships you have rather than mourning those that may be lost. Take (or make) the time to look beyond the memories of what we once had because unless (and until) we accept how what has passed helped to build who we are growing to be we limit ourselves to things already experienced rather than immersing ourselves within the things yet to come. If we choose to bury ourselves within the comfort of what we have achieved, we limit ourselves to those things already accomplished. If, however, our future is defined by the dreams and expectations expressed within pages of a book not yet fully written, our possibilities will remain pathways to a reality limited only by our acceptance of those things we accept as unalterable or undeniable truths. 

Have a Happy Holiday…a Merry Christmas…a blessed and wonderful New Year during the coming weeks. Take time to enjoy your friends, your family and your many blessings but never forget to build upon the memories those who may have left us too early – that passed before we felt ready to let them go – poured into us while they were here (for we are who we have become ONLY BECAUSE they meant what they did to us).

Friday, December 9, 2022

WE CANNOT ACHIEVE IF WE DO NOT BELIEVE

There are many reasons we fail to live up to our full potential but the most common are often tied to inappropriate (or unexpressed) goals, inadequate (or unstated) expectations, a lack of responsibility (or possibly too much irresponsibility) or denied accountability (often to the point of deferring or transferring accountability). 

If you never set goals, you will not be able to fail (for anything you do can be construed a success) BUT nothing you do will ever produce anticipated objectives (though sometimes accidental meaningful results might be achieved). Anyone can shoot at an unidentified target and claim that they accomplished their intentions when something (anything) is hit. If we were to shoot an arrow towards an open field – hitting nothing but air – would we succeed because we hit the “nothing” we were aiming at, or would we “fail” because we did not intentionally hit anything (until our arrow landed somewhere we could not have imagined)? Shooting an arrow at a target establishes an expectation that the bulls-eye is our objective (which, if missed, would represent failure). Unless (and until) a goal or objective is established, no measure of success can be identified. Far too many people try to lead by projecting another’s current abilities forward without clearly establishing how their abilities contribute to success – any accomplishment coming as an unintended consequence rather than a planned outcome that resulted from deliberate actions.  

If you wander aimlessly about without having a destination in mind you may never be lost BUT you will not know when to abandon one path in favor of another. Effective leaders recognize the need to tell others how their individual efforts fit into the “big picture.”  Unless one knows where they are going they will not know when they arrive. Without knowing how their individual contribution completes the whole, one will focus more on the “means” than the “end.” Strong leaders encourage people to stretch their capabilities in an effort to bridge any gap that lie before them while ensuring they arrive at a pre-determined (and communicated) destination. Making sure that others know what is expected of them and what will result from their meeting expectations (OR what might befall them should they fail to meet their goals) – and following through on your promises – establishes both self-confidence and accountability. Say what you mean and do what you say WITHOUT EXCEPTION to establish the ends you need and the means you are willing to invest to get there.

If one is not held accountable for the results of their actions – if neither punishment nor reward result from a conscious action taken in response to a situation or set of circumstances – how can we expect an individual to perform effectively OR independently? When we allow someone to act in a given manner – whether it is appropriate and good or inappropriate and destructive – we effectively set the “bar” and cannot expect any more (or less) from the individual. We cannot change behavior without first drawing a line in the sand by saying what was once good enough will no longer be acceptable. Declaring the need for change, however, is not enough – we must set acceptable targets (for which to aim) and establish meaningful goals (that can be reached) THEN must then COMMUNICATE them to all impacted, holding them accountable for the actions necessary to implement the change.

Whether people are working, vacationing, in a relationship, trying to help others, OR looking to engage in any of these things, one can only achieve what they truly believe can be accomplished. Going into a project, beginning a trip or entering a relationship with an attitude of “if it does not work, I can always start over,” creates an instant escape path that will most likely be taken should “the going get tough.” In order to make a difference in this world – in the things we do and the people we touch – we must (to a degree) plan, anticipate, expect, act and take accountability for what we have done. We must plan what we want to achieve and “pre-identify” the outcomes we wish to accomplish or we will be content to accept whatever results come from the efforts we exhibit and settle for what we have (are and might ever hope to become) rather than realizing what COULD BE if only we had looked beyond our reality to make real our beliefs, hopes and dreams.