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What do you do? A follow-up.

Special Notice: Be sure to check back next Tuesday, June 28 for a special blog post. I will describe the experience I had this past weekend when my blog site was featured on WordPress.com. For those of you who found this blog last weekend and stick around until next Tuesday, I think you will especially appreciate it.

In early May, I published a blog about preparing an elevator speech. I was unprepared when people asked me so, what do you do?. It is a good idea to be prepared for this question. It is you golden opportunity to discover if you can make a connection with someone new.

I got a lot of help from an accountability group I meet with each week. We all worked on our elevator speech and are ready for someone to ask us what we do.

The next time you ask me what I do, I should respond with something like this:

I love inspiring people to make good choices. I am an experienced speaker and writer. My focus is on personal accountability and effectiveness that leads to productive leadership. I am writing a book, I blog at least twice a week, and I speak to groups of all sizes. I am publishing my first book by the end of the year.For example . . .

Why did I craft my elevator speech this way?

  • Make the other person ask a follow-up question. Kandis Boyd offered a great suggestion to start of with something that makes the other person ask another question. I really do love inspiring people to make good choices. Dont you want to know how I do that?
  • How do you do that? I continue with saying that I do that through speaking and writing.
  • What is it? I explain that I focus on personal accountability and effectiveness that leads to productive leadership.
  • What do I produce? I describe what I am working on right now (writing a book, blogging twice a week, and speaking).
  • What one goal am I working on? Telling the other person that I expect to write a book by the end of the year shows them that I have a specific objective I am working toward.
  • For example. . . I can tell a story about a recent success like being a featured blogger on WordPress.com freshly pressed.
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I wont forgive you

Special Notice: Be sure to check back next Tuesday, June 28 for a special blog post. I will describe the experience I had this past weekend when my blog site was featured on WordPress.com. For those of you who found this blog last weekend and stick around until next Tuesday, I think you will especially appreciate it.

Why is it so hard to forgive somebody? When someone has hurt you, its natural to want to withhold forgiveness. What are you really doing when you withhold forgiveness.

I find that I dont forgive because I have lost trust in the person who hurt me. I simply dont trust that they wont hurt me again. Sometimes I think about how they dont deserve to be forgiven. How could someone who treated me so badly deserve to be forgiven. Not forgiving others is a way for me to punish their misbehavior.

When I dont forgive, I am actually punishing myself more than the person I am trying to punish. I need to forgive so that I can move on with my life. Holding to my forgiveness places a burden on me.

A favorite quote I found in my great grandfathers bible said, He who forgives ends the quarrel.

Forgiveness is necessary when a situation is unacceptable or offends you. It is not the same as excusing, pardoning, accepting, or understanding.

Ive been hurt by friends, family, and the people I work with. I worked for a guy once who enjoyed lead by intimidation. He really seemed to enjoy keeping his people who worked for him unsure of how he would react to decisions we made. In time I grew angry at him for keeping me so unsure of myself. What it really came down to is that I didnt trust him.

To forgive someone:

  • Identify why it is that you cant forgive? Are you punishing the other person, do you not trust them?
  • Acknowledge that you are withholding forgiveness. You are the only person who can decide to grant forgiveness. The person who you need to forgive probably doesnt know that you need to forgive them.
  • Tell someone about it. Until you talk it through with someone, you will have a difficult time forgiving them. How is withholding  forgiveness holding you back. The simple act of the conversation can help you forgive.
  • Forgive them. When you forgive someone, it is a gift to yourself, not a gift for them. The person may never acknowledge that you have forgiven them. Expect that and move on with your life without the burden of forgiveness on you.

I learned to forgive my old boss. He taught me a great lesson in being true to myself and not allowing anyone to intimidate me. After I left that company, I vowed never to be intimidated again. After more than 10 years, I can say that I am rarely intimidated by someone. I am able to live this way now because of the forgiveness I was able to give.

Who do you need to forgive right now? What is keeping you from forgiving them? When have you forgiven someone who didnt deserve your forgiveness?

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Disagreements that turn to an argument. Dont get stung.

We have all experienced a disagreement with someone. Sometimes the disagreement is mild. Other times it is a full fledged argument. What causes a disagreement to escalate to something more emotional like an argument?

When the disagreement escalates, a natural tendency during the escalation is to polarize against each other. The longer the disagreement the more polar it becomes. I find myself doing this with my family more than I want to admit. It’s as if I believe that the more I dig in my heals the closer I will get to winning the argument. In fact, I am not getting closer I am getting further from winning.

Trying to make my case by going the opposite direction usually works against my position and for my opponent. I start grasping for straws and those straws get thinner and thinner. Many times this causes the other person to get angry and go radical toward their position. The argument gets heated.

One of the best public examples of this is in politics. If one party proposes a plan, the opposing party will counter the plan with something completely different. I’ve seen this happen not because the other plan is better but simply because it is different. The more one party argues their plan the more the other party argues theirs. Neither party considers how the two plans can come together.

Sometimes I (well . . . hardly ever, well . . . almost never, well . . . I hear this happens to other people) will realize after digging in my heals that I am wrong. This happens to me when I am being selfish or get emotionally attached to the argument.

What can you do during an emotionally charged disagreement (aka argument)?

  • Don’t beat yourself up. Recognize that it is a natural tendency for humans to disagree. We all have individual thoughts and want other people to think like us. Sometimes other people have good ideas too. When you realize that you are arguing, decide how you are going to handle it.
  • Take a minute and breath. Take a mental time-out. If possible ask if you can have a minute. Collect your thoughts and prepare to bring this argument to a resolution.
  • Grow up. Look at the other person’s opinion objectively. Except for politicians, people don’t generally argue just for the sake of the fight. Your opposition probably has at least a component to their argument that is valid (probably more).
  • Work together.Find how the two opinions are similar and work toward coming to the middle.
    • Your opponent is not going to jump to this as quickly as you are. First genuinely recognize the good points your opponent has. Reiterate to your opponent their good points until they feel that you understand their position. Only then should you try to explain your position.
    • Recognize that some of your argument will need to be thrown out so that you can find common ground together. Are you trying to win the argument or are you trying to find a way to agree?
  • Develop a win-win attitude. Invite your opponent to come to the middle of the argument with you. Take a little of their idea and a little of your idea (you will probably take more of theirs so that you can both win). Think about what is similar rather than focusing on the differences.

The right frame of mind comes in a quote from Abraham Lincoln when he said, If you want to destroy your enemy, make a friend of him.

Another great quote comes from William Hazlitt when he said, Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves.

Finding how you can agree will maintain and even grow your relationships.  Isn’t that what it is all about?

Have you had an argument that you couldn’t resolve? What techniques have you used to dismantle an argument?

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Overcoming a major personal blow

Our culture may define our status in it, but it doesnt have to define you. Keeping up with the Jones isnt really that hard to do (just look at my family). You and I know plenty of people working hard to impress their friends, family, and neighbors. I have found that these same people care more about their status than they do your status.

Middle School is some of the most difficult years in a kids life. I remember the transition being significant for me. For the most part no one cared about impressing each other in elementary school. You could just be yourself. From the first day in Middle School, forming clicks and labeling people was the common sport.

A pivotal event happened to me in the first few weeks of my 6th grade year. With a group of guys I said something that left me wide open to be made fun of. They verbally attacked me with a vengeance. They not only saw the opportunity to knock me down in the pecking order but also raise their status with their peers. From that day forward, I was labeled with a nickname I didn’t shed until after high school. My confidence was knocked down.

It took me years to find a way to persevere. I came to realize that I need to be comfortable in my own skin. I had to overcome my need to be accepted by other people and chart my own course. There are times when I still find myself worrying what other people think of me. When I worry about what other people think, is when I make bad decisions. I catch myself trying to meet their expectations and not mine.

Meeting someone else’s expectations will rarely make you happy and not help you achieve what you were meant to do.

The most superb quote about this is from Eleanor Roosevelt when she said, No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Do you worry about what other people think of you? How do you or have you overcome meeting someone else’s expectations of you?

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People are watching you.

You may not think what you do matters but everything you do matters. People are watching everything you say and do. People are making judgments about you including what you wear and how you act.

It may be politically incorrect to judge someone but it is human nature. Think of two people who you look up to and admire. Now, think of two people that you do not admire. Now ask yourself, what’s the difference? What about the people you admire makes you admire them? What about the people you don’t admire makes you not admire them? You are probably judging them for what they have said, or done, or how they present themselves and how they treat people. Everyone you know is making the same judgment about you. It may not seem fair but it is reality.

I have seen this countless times. A guy I used to work with would gossip about other people. When he was with the people he gossiped about, he would act like their friend. He thought that talking about other people would forge a bond with the people he gossiped to. He struggled creating any real friendships because everyone knew that he was probably talking about them behind their back too.

We have all had that “sixth sense” when we know friendship isn’t genuine. So how do we become someone that people look up to?

You should always focus on being an example to others. Even when you think other people aren’t around. How you conduct yourself when you don’t have to be on your best behavior transcends subconsciously to other parts of your life.

I determined three areas that I am trying to be an example to others this year:

  • Always be honest. Sometimes honesty comes at a price. I don’t have to be brutal with my honesty and hurt a valuable relationship. Part of my honesty has been a focus on not bending the truth just to avoid conflict. I try to be honest in a beneficial way. I spend much of my honesty focus on being honest with myself which is sometimes even more difficult.
  • Be a leader in everything. John Maxwell says that “leadership is a verb, not a noun”. Being a leader is being an example to others. I try to think like a leader and make decisions (even the hard ones) by asking myself, What would a leader do?
  • Be productive in everything. I am constantly asking if what I am doing right now is productive or is it giving in to a distraction. This is a constant struggle for me. I will write in a future blog about using your mission statement to keep you focused on productivity. This doesn’t mean that I always have to be productive. I value time to rest and just have fun sometimes.

Thomas Jefferson said an incredible quote that I have used for years, “act as if the entire world is watching then act accordingly”. Anything you do should be something you would be proud if anyone was watching.

What do other people do that causes you to lose respect for them? What do you do that people look up to? Write a comment here.

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The real miracle childbirth: the birth of a mother

When my wife and I were dating, she was a girl I knew. When she agreed to marry me, she had become a woman. But the minute she gave birth, she became a mother instantly.

I am not talking about technically being a mother. She morphed and somehow knew how to be a mother. I knew that when we had kids she would probably be a good mother, but she turned in to an entirely new person the minute she held our first daughter in her arms.

Nothing happened to me except for realizing the terror of having the dad label and dad responsibility. When the nurse at the hospital told us we could go home with our new baby, I felt totally unqualified. I remember thinking, “what makes you think I am qualified to take this baby home?”. At this time, I didn’t know about my wife’s metamorphosis. She knew immediately when to feed, when and how to bathe, and when an how to change diapers. She knew what every cry meant.

Over the years, she continues to impress me with knowing just the right words to give encouragement to our children, what the right decisions were when disciplining, and knowing when to leave our kids alone.

I am sure my mother had a similar morphing. Motherhood is an amazing transformation. I have been truly blessed to be able to observe her transformation from my seat. Happy Mother’s Day to the mother of my children, my mom, my mother in-law, both of my sister-in-laws, both of my grandmothers, my aunts, and all our friends and neighbors who are mothers today.

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Check your attitude: Its your responsibility

Check your attitude: Its your responsibility

Stephen Covey describes this as “responsibility” or “response-ability”. You have the ability (or responsibility) to choose how you respond. If you have a bad attitude, it is because you have chosen it. Likewise, if you have a good attitude, it is because you have chosen it.

I choose to have a good attitude in most everything that I do. I am not any better than anyone else. I am sure that most of my friends and family will tell you that I generally have a good attitude. It has taken me years of practice and decisions to have a good attitude when I didn’t want to.

I have found that having a good attitude makes life easier. In the heat of the moment I admit that it seems to feel good to lash out at people and have a bad attitude. From time to time I still do that. In reality when I have a good attitude, more will work out for me and more will work out for for you too.

A bad attitude invites things to go wrong in your life. Bad events compound on each other. As soon as one thing goes wrong, another just as bad or worse happens. Both a good and bad attitude creates a cycle which is a part of how life works. Both will have a direct effect on your success.

When you have a bad attitude:

  • Identify that you have a bad attitude. Like they say, the first step to fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem. Be honest with yourself, acknowledge it, and label it.
  • Determine why you have a bad attitude. Some event has happened to you that you are using for an excuse to be have a bad attitude. Determine what that is.
  • Admit that you have chosen to have a bad attitude. It is all up to you. Even if someone did something bad to you and now you are mad, only you can chose your reaction. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” It is up to you to choose your attitude.
  • Decide to change your attitude. Decide that you are going to have a good attitude and then do it. It won’t be easy at first but eventually, with practice you will get better at determining your attitude.

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln. Make up your mind to have a good attitude. Start tomorrow morning. No . . . start right now. Check your attitude. If it isn’t good, decide to make it good right now. If it isn’t easy or you don’t feel like it, it is an indication that that muscle isn’t developed as much as it needs to be. You need to exercise that muscle more to make it more developed.

Who wants to be around someone who has a bad attitude? You keep people from wanting to be around you. And, keeping people away from you isnt helping anyone.

What do you do when you recognize you have a bad attitude? Read comments below or write your own here.

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Come clean: Turning a wrong in to a right and coming out ahead

A really hard part about being human is that we will make mistakes. Making mistakes are unavoidable. When someone truly acknowledges that they have made a mistake, you should always immediately accept it and then forget it

As soon as you have made a mistake or you realize that you have done something that you shouldn’t have, come clean. Acknowledging your wrongdoing soon after it happens greatly reduces the impact of whatever you have done.

I have made so many mistakes and said so many things I wished I hadnt. Just recently I was invited to lunch with a vendor that I work with often. At the end of a meeting with this person, they invited one of my colleagues to join us the next day for lunch. My colleague didnt seem sure if they should accept the invitation, I said “Come on, join us. It’s a free lunch”. Almost immediately I recognized that it was wrong for me to say that. First of all, it simply was not my place to offer that the lunch would be free. Yes, lunch would be paid for but that should not have been the persuasive factor to join us for lunch. It also could have been interpreted by the person who invited me to lunch that my reason for accepting the invitation was a free lunch not the relationship building. I had trouble sleeping the next night just thinking about what I said earlier in the day.

So what do you do when you discover that you have made a mistake?

  • Apologize as soon as possible. Do not wait. The longer you wait, the more impact the mistake will have on your life and the other person. Apologies are like putting out a fire. When the fire first starts, it is easy to extinguish, but the longer you wait the fire spreads and you will need more water.
  • Let the person know that you made a mistake. Let them know what you did and let them know that you owe them an apology.
  • Do not make any excuses. Any hint at an excuse will dilute the apology. Even if there is a good reason, just plainly stating the mistake puts full responsibly on you. If there is a good reason for your mistake, the other person will recognize it. Not you.
  • Ask for their forgiveness. If this is a valuable relationship to you, your honesty will only make the relationship stronger. If somehow they don’t forgive you, then you know you have other issues with your relationship.
  • Forget it. There is no need to continue to beat yourself up over your mistake. If you genuinely apologize and the apology is genuinely accepted, then there is no need to keep it alive.

My great grandfather was born in 1900. Throughout his life he would write quotes in his bible. One of my favorites is “When a feller makes a mistake and doesnt admit it, hes made two mistakes, and if he doesnt fix it up, his is three”.

What mistake have you made that you wish you could apologize for now? What have you apologized for and been forgiven for? Read comments here or leave your own comment.

How to tell a lie and other untruths

The best way to tell a lie is to make up a story based on truth. Liars add some truth in an attempt to convince that it is the truth. A lie is not 100% truthful.

Have you ever felt like someone was dishonest with you? You know when someone isn’t being honest. When someone isn’t honest, you can pick-up that something isn’t right. Its kind of a sixth sense to know when someone isn’t telling the truth. Mark Twain may have said it best when he said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” It is a lot of work being a liar because you have to remember the truth and the lie.

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People can appreciate your honesty even if they don’t like your answer. My wife, is possibly the most honest person I know. She is also one of the best lie detectors I know. When you ask her something she will give you a direct, honest, and truthful answer every time. If you lie to her and she picks up on it, she will never forget it.

Recently, my wife was asked to go shopping with a friend. Without hesitation she thanked her friend and then explained that she was tired and just didn’t feel like shopping. I thought, how can anyone argue with that? Even if her friend didn’t like her answer, my wifes honesty has earned her a reputation as someone who is always truthful.

Honesty doesn’t only apply to other people, but also to you.

If you think you are protecting a relationship by not being honest, you are actually causing damage. When you arent truthful:

  • You extend the decision unnecessarily. Why not decide now and be done with the conversation. Postponing a decision because you don’t want to be honest, keeps the decision in limbo unnecessarily. This is wasted energy.
  • You put an additional burden on you. When you are dishonest, you have to come up with a plausible reply. It is a reply that you will now have to remember. This also is wasted energy.
  • The other person isn’t living with reality. If they believe your story, the other person now believes your reply. Eventually they will either learn the truth or you will need to tell them the truth. Hearing the truth later is much more difficult than telling the truth in the first place. More wasted energy.
  • The relationship slowly deteriorates. Being dishonest just one time, takes a toll on the relationship. Relationships are built on trust. When you are dishonest, a chunk of your relationship is taken away. If you are compulsively dishonest, the relationship slowly deteriorates to nothing.

When someone asks you something, tell them now. Don’t wait.

  • Go with your gut. Usually your first thought is the answer you should give. Stick with it. Don’t spend time worrying how the other person will feel when you are honest.
  • Say it nicely. Just because you think the other person may not like your answer is not a reason to lie to them. Appreciate the offer and just explain your answer.
  • Be responsible for your honesty. You can only be responsible for you. If the other person decides to be offended by your honesty or get mad, then that is for them to decide.

People appreciate honesty even if they don’t like it. You will build your credibility and respect with the other person, especially when honesty is difficult. The silver lining is that the other person knows you can be trusted. And, that is a most attractive quality.

What have you recently been honest about? What did your honesty do for your relationship with the other person? Read other people’s comments or write your own here.

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Everything deteriorates

To prevent or even control deterioration, you must take action to maintain it. It takes effort to prevent deterioration. If you leave a car alone, without changing the oil, the belts, the air filter, etc. it deteriorates. In time the engine will lock up and stop running. Great effort is taken to prevent deterioration of famous artifacts like the Declaration of Independence, the Star Spangled Banner, the Egyptian pyramids. Without efforts to prevent deterioration these artifacts would be in much worse shape or lost forever.

I learned this lesson the hard way with my first car. I didnt pay attention to changing the oil and it eventually locked up, threw a rod through a piston and destroyed the engine. It was a mess. With my dad’s help and two long weeks in our garage, we replaced the parts that I ruined. It would have been much easier and cheaper to regularly change the oil in my car.

Relationships are the same way. Relationships must be maintained or eventually they will fall apart. Sure, we all have relationships that can go months or years without contact. When we get back in touch again, it feels like we picked up where we left off. These relationships have all reached a threshold at some point because of the attention we gave it early on.

Relationships that have not yet reached that threshold must be maintained to prevent deterioration.

To maintain a relationship:

  • Evaluate your relationships. Identify your most important relationships and determine how healthy they are.
  • For the relationships that need attention check in with them. Take the initiative to check in. Do not wait on the other person. If the relationship is important to you, you take the action. If the relationship is important to the other person, they will eventually reciprocate.
  • Expect to check in regularly. Checking in to your relationship will ensure the other person knows how much you care about the relationship. You know that your car is getting low on gas by checking the fuel gauge.
  • Apply deterioration prevention to the relationship. A flower will wither and die if you don’t water it from time to time. When checking in with your relationship, add value to the conversation. Learn what is important to the other person. Ask about something you talked about last time. The focus is on the other person. They need to feel that you value the relationship which means that you provide more value than you take. We will talk more about this in a later post.

In most cases it doesnt take much time to maintain good relationships, but it does take the effort of regular attention to keep the relationship strong.

What relationships in your life have deteriorated and need some attention? What are some methods you have used to keep a relationship strong? Add a comment here.