Walk a mile in someone’s shoes instead of criticizing the way they limp.
Think about it…
As you are reading this, I am on one! Vacations don’t have to be in the summer, but many are, and summer is here! What a great idea, vacations, time to get away, relax, visit family, friends and new places. Given the pandemic and shutdowns of the last 15 months, we all need a vacation. They provide us an opportunity to see and do things we don’t get to do every day. We feel revitalized and rested after some time off. Vacations do not have to be far away, exotic or elaborate, however, they should include family time, a good book, unplugged time, a great meal, time outdoors, relaxation and maybe an unplanned adventure. We live in a big, beautiful state in a large and diverse country on an incredible planet. There is a lot to see both near and far. Make it point to take a break from your daily grind and take in some of this great world with your loved ones.
We are truly blessed in this country with incredible freedoms. Unfortunately, we often take those freedoms or granted. We should not. These freedoms are not found in many countries. What we do with these freedoms make us who we are…
· The freedom to live, love and laugh.
· The freedom to work hard and succeed.
· The freedom to challenge ourselves mentally and physically.
· The freedom to fail, and to recover.
· The freedom to approach each day with a smile.
· The freedom to make choices, some wise, some not.
· The freedom to educate ourselves.
· The freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.
· The freedom to honor and support those who protect these freedoms
…and those who lost their lives doing so.
· The freedom to positively impact the lives of others.
· The freedom to tell those that we love that we do!
What are you doing with your freedoms?
An athletic department staff member at The University of Texas tells a story about his son sharing his fears with Darrell Royal some years ago. Apparently, the young man told Royal he was afraid of graduating and finding a job in the “real” world. Royal apparently replied, “Never be afraid. Be concerned. There is a difference.” He went on to explain, “The difference is that fear is paralyzing. Concern brings awareness.”
I have always thought that fear was a normal and even important part of life and in fact I still believe that. However, Royal’s perspective is good one. When facing challenges, we do not want to be paralyzed but concerned. We want to be cautious and aware and responsive but not frozen in fear. There is a place for fear. Certainly, we should fear consequences of our actions and ramifications of our decisions. Our laws and authorities relay to some degree on fear and that is appropriate, but when facing change or obstacles in life fear should not dictate our lives. Caution yes, fear no.
I lost my dad way too early,
Who am I to doubt it was part of God’s plan?
His mother lived to age 98, why couldn’t he?
Who am I to question God’s timing?
He loved my mom and all of us so dearly,
Who am I to ask God why we don’t have him anymore?
He was married for 50 years, had nine grandchildren and a great grandchild,
Who am I to not thank God for the time we did have?
He had wood to carve, golf to play and trips to take,
Who am I to ask God why not?
He was kind, loved and respected,
Who am I to ask God why him?
For his disease there were no more options,
Who am I to ask God why no cure?
There were things I had not done or said,
Who am I to ask God for more time with him?
I never heard a bad word spoken towards him,
Who am I to ask God why not someone else?
He deserved so much more,
Who am I to question that God knows what he truly deserved?
I lost my dad far too soon,
Who am I to question God’s plan?
Barry D. Blanton
In loving memory of Don Blanton
January 6, 1935 – June 23, 2007
This MMM was originally issued 07.02.07. I will repeat it as long as I write MMM’s on a Monday near the anniversary of the passing of my father.
Many of you know that leadership is one of my favorite discussion topics. Here is another interesting quote regarding the challenge of leadership.
He who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk.
That statement places leadership in a little different perspective to me. Leadership is not leadership without followers. What is a leader without followers? Well, they likely are not a leader at all. In our different leadership roles, we should think about “Being a person that others will want to follow.” We are not leaders in all the roles in our lives, we are followers in some and leaders in others. The key is that when we are in our leadership roles to not forget the viewpoint of the follower. I don’t know about you, but I would like to think that I am here for more than just a walk!
How powerful is the tone and delivery of your words when you speak? You probably don’t realize the impact your expression has on others. It is not what you say, but how you say it that counts. Have you ever met someone that can deliver the worst possible news, but does it in a way that you feel okay about it? On the other hand, what about someone who communicates great news, but does so in a way that seems to ruin the good news itself. Those are the extreme examples of the impact of how you say something. Be mindful of the impact of tone and delivery on your message.
I hesitate to use the word “normal”, but this weekend feels good! It is our first real holiday since New Year’s Day of 2020.
Yes, it is about the start of the summer, with beer, BBQ and upcoming coming trips to the beach. There is baseball, watermelon and the kids being out of school. Many of these things are happening live and in person this year. But, please do not forget the true meaning of the holiday. People have died serving our country and defending the freedoms we enjoy. This day is set aside to remember and honor those sacrifices. Take a minute to think about that. Make sure your children or grandchildren understand the price of freedom and the reason for the holiday. It is great to see things normalizing. Just make sure that acknowledging the meaning of the holiday is part of your “normal”.
Have a blessed and happy Memorial Day!
Have you ever heard of something called an energy leak? It is a feeling, behavior or attitude that drains you of energy. Energy leaks are wasteful, they drain people of positive energy for no good reason. Some examples of potential energy leaks...
- Judging others
- Holding grudges
- Petty bickering
- The blame game
There are many, maybe hundreds more. Everybody has these, they may be different from those listed, but we all have them. The interesting thing is, we know it. For some reason we think these thoughts and feelings might make us feel better. The truth is, that energy spent on these feelings and behaviors is a waste. It produces no positive outcome and sucks the energy right out of you. Use your energy on positive thoughts, feeling and behaviors and stop wasting time on energy leaks! Enjoy the quote below..
- Warren Buffett
Stagnation should not be an option in life, but it is. As humans we must change, grow, develop, and mature. Failure to do so leads to stagnation, which in turn leads to boredom, failure, and frustration. The world constantly changes around us. The last fifteen months of the pandemic has led to even more change than normal, drastic, and unprecedented change. If we do not adapt to change, we will be left behind. That is true as much in our work world as it is in our home life. The business world of instant communications, corporate transparency and the world-wide economy is drastically different than it was just a few short years ago. In the same way, raising kids is not what it was just 5 years ago, never mind 25 years ago.
It is important that we embrace change in order to keep up with the ever-changing world, but more importantly to grow personally. We cannot control the change that takes place around us but changing ourselves is a choice. We can choose to change for the good. Below is a great quote on the topic of change and why it is so important in our lives.
"Change is the Law of Life. Those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
- John F. Kennedy
I do not consider myself to be much of a risk taker. Maybe that is not totally true since I am a small business owner. Unfortunately, not much in life can be accomplished without risk. A risk-free life might feel safe and comfortable, but it may also feel empty and lacking purpose or direction. I cannot think of anybody that I consider successful who has not taken risks. In fact, most have failed multiple times on their path to success. Risk taking is even more important to leaders. As leaders, we must often take the risks that others are not willing to take. We take the risk for the team. Consider these quotes…
"Progress involves risk. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first."
- Frederick Wilcox
"Leaders take risks. That's not to say that they are reckless, because good leaders aren't. But they don't always take the safest route. Rarely can a person break ground and play it safe at the same time."
- John C. Maxwell - The Right to Lead
Humans are meant to live in community. We are not built to tackle life alone. Our lives are a series of unique relationships with those around us. Unfortunately, in this social media driven world, those relationships can be shallow and meaningless as they are measured in likes, follows and heart emojis. There are a lot of different types of relationships, they all play different roles in our lives, but we need at least a few truly meaningful people in our lives. Those are the people you can sit in silence with, not feeling the need to speak. You can call on them any time of the day or night. They are more than friends.
Here is the key to great relationships. You have to understand that they are never fifty-fifty. True relationships are often sixty-forty, sometimes eighty-twenty. Sometimes, you will be the twenty and at other times you will be the eighty! The key is to accept and be okay with that. If you expect a relationship to be fifty-fifty all the time, you will be greatly disappointed. If you try to keep score for when you are the sixty verses when you are the forty, you will be frustrated. Relationships are as much about giving as they are receiving. They require hard work.
Life is all about relationships. Understand that they are not fifty-fifty and make sure you are investing in the relationships that are important to you.
Numbers impact our lives in so many ways every day, especially us accounting types. Where would we be without numbers, math, and the ability to calculate? Numbers track prices, times, markets, returns, currencies, blood pressure, dates, profits, the temperature and so much more.
…then there are age numbers. We use numbers to track the years we have spent on this earth. For some reason, the numbers associated with our age seem to stir our emotions. They also draw varying reactions from those around us. We tend to make a big deal out of birthday numbers. The type of big deal varies with age and personal preference, but birthdays seldom pass without some comments and cards, if not a full-blown celebration. Even a bigger deal is made of certain milestones, often those numbers ending in zeros. What is it with numbers that end in zero? After all, they are just numbers like all the other numbers we encounter every day. They just represent another year like the other nine in a decade. Why do we let age numbers, especially the milestone ones bother us? Sure, the larger ones indicate that we are getting older. They also mean that we have more experiences, more good times, more challenges we have overcome. We have had more tears but more smiles as well. They mean we have more to be thankful for. We have had more years to make us who we are. Hopefully, that means we are wiser possibly more seasoned. It is not that I am suggesting that we stop counting, although some might prefer that. I just think we need to step back and think about the numbers associated with age. They are just numbers and larger ones are not necessarily a bad thing!
Personal growth occurs only when we are challenged. It is in those moments that we have the best opportunity to grow. We don’t grow when our lives are trouble free, and things are taken care of for us. We likely won’t grow when all is well at work and home. Difficult times give us the life experiences from which we cultivate change. If we take those opportunities and use those situations to learn, we become better people. We must choose to tackle the challenge and grow from it. The pandemic has been challenging, but it has also provided us with an opportunity to grow in how we lead at work and at home. We can choose to grow in how we positively influence others. We can choose to grow in our faith and trust in God. We can choose to mature in our leadership roles. We can choose to grow our life’s perspective.
Now as much as ever, we can choose to grow. Enjoy the quote below…
- Morgan Freeman
Misunderstandings in communication take place when intent differs from interpretation. Good communicators strive to clarify their point to avoid misunderstandings. It is easy to assume that our intended message was understood. Since we understand what we are saying, we believe that others will understand as well. That is just not the case. Our individual minds work differently, and we all listen and interpret differently. Never assume that your message has been properly understood. The first step in resolving any misunderstanding should be to clarify the message. To avoid misunderstandings all together, strive for clear communications without room for misinterpretation.
As leaders and managers, as well as parents and spouses, it is critical that we communicate clearly. Doing so can eliminate conflict before it ever gets started. Just put yourself in the shoes of your intended listener, who does not have the benefit of knowing how you are thinking. Would you understand the message being delivered? Avoid misunderstandings by clarifying your message. Consider the quote below.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw
What does it mean to have integrity? How would you describe people that you believe have integrity? The first thought that comes to my mind about integrity is... Do the right thing even when nobody is looking. Integrity is not about doing the right thing for someone else. It is about doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do!
What is the right thing? Two things to consider when making decision about the right thing to do...
- What would your mother think if you told her your decision?
- Make your decision as if it will be on the front-page news tomorrow.
Keep those thoughts in mind and you will know the right thing to do. Strive to do the right thing all the time, especially when nobody is looking.
My wife and I have a variety of home improvement projects going on at home. This process has reminded me of how differently we go about making decisions. As a part of this process, I recently asked if she wanted to go to the store with me to make a certain selection. Her response was telling, saying “No, I do not have the time it will take for you to stand there and stare at the options and over think your choice”. She might have a point, and this was just for some picture frames! I am proud to say, that on several of the decisions on these projects I have been able to make some speedy selections and keep the project moving. Nonetheless, definitive and fast decision making is not my strong suit. A good friend, and longtime MMM reader, shared the below thought with me recently…
“Remember, the road of life is littered with squirrels that could not make a decision.”
For many of you this is not a problem. For those like me, for whom it is, we need to work on it, lest we get run over!
There is a nifty feature on automobiles and trucks that allows one to indicate, by a flashing light, their intention to turn or switch lanes. These turn signals were invented in the early 1900’s and patented in 1938. By the 1960’s they were pretty much standard on all cars produced in the US. There is one in your car, I am sure of it. Yes, I said 1960, which is over 50 years ago. I find it interesting, okay frustrating, that this device has been in place for this long and it still has not gained total acceptance within our society. It is so simple to indicate to those of us around you, your directional intentions while driving. In my experience the act of turning and switching lanes without the use of a “blinker” happens all too often. Do we think that some people do not understand how to use the device? Or are they simply too inconvenienced to flip their wrist or just a finger? (Maybe they are on just their phone!) I am thinking there may even be a law requiring the use of this device…
The use of the blinker, a lost art indeed…
Not your typical leadership challenging MMM, and it is a repeat of a previous publication. I know that the MMM cannot change the world, but I was hoping for some local improvement on this topic. Recent drives through The Woodlands and into Houston would indicate there has been no change in behavior.
Last Thursday, March 11th, marked the one-year anniversary of our lives changing in this country. Here in Houston our beloved Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was canceled. It seemed unfathomable at the time. Latter that day the NBA season was suspended. The pandemic was in full gear. Kids were on spring break and they never returned to the classroom. Within two weeks the entire country was virtually shut down. We learned how to Zoom and discovered a new meaning for the word pivot. Bicycles and home gym equipment sold out within days. We became closer to our family we live with, but farther from those we could not visit.
We have faced and survived a huge challenge. Our country will not be the same. There is good to come from this and hopefully we have learned some lessons. Lessons learned are the fruit of challenging times.
How has the last year changed you as a leader? How have you and your teams adapted? Are you stronger, more flexible? Are you more understanding and patient? Has your business model changed for the better? Do you operate more efficiently?
Seek positive change. Come out of this in a better place and prepared to move forward.
Knowledge of the past can be useful. We can learn from it, be proud of it, and reminisce about it. But it is the past, and it cannot be changed. Often, we spend too much time in the past. We cannot re-write the past; we can only author our future. Each and every day is a blank page, an opportunity to write the future, a chance to impact what happens next. Those opportunities do not exist regarding past events. They do exist for today and tomorrow. The days, minutes and hours which are yet to happen, are blank pages in your book of life. Enjoy the quote below…
- Abraham Lincoln
We have become a very impatient people. I should know because patience is a serious weakness of mine. We are impatient in lines at the grocery store and when stuck in traffic. We are impatient with doctors healing our illnesses and lawyers solving our problems. We are impatient with our family and friends. Most importantly, we are impatient to achieve success. Consider this quote…
“Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” - Robert H. Schuller
We do not want to spend the time it takes in preparation to achieve. It does not matter what you want to achieve, it will require preparation. Whether it is financial success, good grades, or athletic prowess, you must be willing to devote hours and hours of not so glamorous preparation. It may not be fun, and it will be hard work, but the rewards of achievement can be spectacular! Therefore, we cannot be impatient about it.
I have had my fill of being part of “Events of a lifetime”. The latest being the winter storm here in Texas last week. As I write this on Friday afternoon, most power has been restored, but millions in the state are still without water. The plumbers are crazy busy with busted pipes and businesses are just trying to reopen. Even schools were closed all week.
For you out of state MMM readers, you have to understand, it was 10° here in The Woodlands on Tuesday morning. Many parts of Houston were well below freezing for over 48 hours, other parts of the state much longer. Our infrastructure is not built for this. Our homes cannot handle this. The snow was pretty, but the extreme cold is not something we know how to prepare for or deal with.
What’s the MMM message here? I am not real sure. I do know this, next time you find yourself saying, “Now I’ve seen it all”, don’t be so sure…
Great leaders recognize the efforts and successes of those that work with them. Sincere recognition and appreciation develops deep loyalty and spurs motivation. But, when it comes to our own motives, we need not be concerned about recognition. Great leaders do not worry about accolades coming their way. They are focused on the direction, goals, and accomplishments of their team. Recognition comes naturally to quality leaders; they need not worry. The satisfaction of leadership comes in recognizing others and developing them as people and as leaders. Consider this quote from a somewhat well know President. Happy Presidents’ Day!
“Don't worry when you are not recognized,
but strive to be worthy of recognition.”
The Big game played yesterday is a big deal in the football world and certainly entertaining to watch. Granted, this year was a little different, as our lives have been for the last eleven months. If we are not actually part of an NFL team, we cannot aspire to make it to that game. However, there are Super Bowls of life that we can aspire to, even hope to be named MVP. There are others that we should try to avoid. Consider…
· There is the Super Bowl of a meaningful life
…or the one for materialistic success
· What about the Super Bowl of positive impact
… as opposed to the one of self focus
· There is a Super Bowl for giving back
…but also, one of selfishness
· A Super Bowl of Faith
…or the one of stubborn independence
· The Super Bowl for being a positive spouse, parent, or friend
…but also one for never developing meaning relationships
If you have been around the MMM for very long, you know my passion for listening. It is likely the most discussed topic in this blog. Stephen Covey talks about how we only listen for the sake of being heard. We really don’t listen at all, because we are too busy planning what we are going to say next. Listening is a lost art. It requires effort. Unfortunately, we do not have the time or temperament to put in the effort these days.
Addressing the political and racial divides facing this country requires work. We must take the time to understand one another, to listen to varying viewpoints and different opinions. Listening requires understanding, it does not mean we have to change our opinion. It feels like we are afraid that if we take the time to listen, and truly understand, that we will be forced to change our mind about something. Understanding does not require agreement, but it does require listening.
It is too easy to hide behind the keyboard on social media or hop on the latest wave of hysteria without taking the time to listen and learn. Listening is a powerful tool. It makes you a better person, it helps you broaden your perspective. More importantly is the feeling it gives to the one speaking. There is nothing more powerful you can do than to listen genuinely and intently to another human. We all want to be heard. Take some time to be the one doing the listening, not just the one talking.
God gave us two ears and one mouth. We should use them in that ratio. Listen….
A lot has happened over the last four years, especially in just the last 12 months, but what has really changed? In some regards what is really important has not changed much at all. The below MMM could have been written today. It was actually published four years ago on February 6, 2017. The ingredients for great leadership have not changed and are even more important today.
After just one month of 2017 and two weeks into the term of a new President, we find our country to be in interesting and challenging times. Our political and social landscape is changing, seems incredibly delicate, and is actually very contentious. The world of social media has forever changed how information is disseminated and opinions are formed. That is not necessarily a change for the better. We are quick to make judgments; we fail to research facts; we condemn too quickly. It is way too easy to be extremist and hateful from the safety of an iPhone or keyboard. We also think it takes too much time to truly listen, educate ourselves and fully understand issues. The issues are passionate, significant ones. The extremely divided opinions on many of these topics is both surprising and totally understandable. But remember, varying viewpoints, backgrounds and beliefs are what makes this country great.
· Be bold but thoughtful
· Ensure that passions and convictions are well supported by facts
· Drawing lines in the sand and jumping to conclusions are short sighted behaviors
· There is power in being positive even in debate
· Every thought or opinion, political or otherwise, that crosses one’s mind does not have to be posted to social media
· Don’t believe, nor become enraged by, everything you read on the internet or social media
· Be careful of the momentum of the bandwagon; groups with common beliefs often feed off themselves without considering differing viewpoints
· Most importantly… Listen, truly listen with the intent to understand.
Momentum Breaker – Dishonesty / Momentum Maker – Character
Character is the sum of a lifetime of everyday choices. It cannot be built overnight. Years of proper choices create character. However, it can be destroyed in a minute, by dishonesty. We make choices every day which either build or destroy our character. Many of you have heard me say before… “Do the right thing, even when nobody is looking!” It is a matter of integrity and it builds character. A trustworthy leader has a much easier time generating momentum than a leader with a reputation of being manipulative and deceitful. Great leaders know how to build positive momentum.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today, give some thought to Dr. King’s quote:
What happened last week at the capital of the United States of America was appalling and disheartening. The violent and lawless acts that took place there do not represent the values on which this country was built. I felt like I was watching news coverage of a foreign country, much like I felt during the violent riots last summer. We are all are entitled to our own opinion about the causes and political aspects of this incident. We are also entitled to voice those opinions and peacefully demonstrate in support of them.
As leaders, how do we respond to this? It is critical that we lead against the divisions that are being perpetrated in this country. The national media feeds upon us being a divided people. It makes great news to depict drastically different viewpoints, develop momentum behind both sides, and exaggerate our divisions. It is too easy to get caught up in the spin! This just results in people jumping on one side of a polarizing topic and spewing hatred and accusations. It is so easy to hide behind the keyboard and ride a wave created by media. Social media content that serves no purpose other than expanding the divide is all too common. We can control the breadth and depth of our divisions.
As a people we are reluctant to take the time necessary to learn all sides of an issue, much less the facts. I know that facts can be hard to find and I am not suggesting that we all sing Kumbaya together anytime soon. I am merely suggesting that we need to be careful of letting the media drive the narrative. It is possible to maintain your own viewpoint while still respecting another’s opinion. It is also possible to formulate an opinion without referring to, or posting on, social media. Disagreement does not have to lead to expansive divides, accusations, or hateful behavior. As leaders we must encourage education, objectivity, and the understanding of all sides of issues.
I have a great friend whose beliefs about national politics vary greatly from my own. We respect each other’s opinions, listen to one another’s thoughts, and take the time to learn why we feel differently about political topics. Our first response is not hatred. It is not a verbal attack via social media, and it is not a line in the sand that defines our relationship. Our friendship has grown because of our ability to respectfully discuss our viewpoints without divisiveness, even though neither of us has changed our position. Differing opinions do not have to lead to hatred. Listening to others’ beliefs does not have to result in name calling, accusations, and ridicule.
Leaders are purveyors of hope. I have said it before, a responsibility of leaders is to provide hope. That could not be truer than it is today. Those we work with, those we lead and those we love, all need to be hopeful. There are plenty of reasons for hope, but that hope must look past our media driven divisions. That hope requires objectivity and open mindedness. It needs great leaders. America is still the greatest country in the world.
Wherever you are today and wherever you lead tomorrow, lead with hope, lead with objectivity, lead against divisiveness, and lead with love.
What a year was that? Unfortunately, January 1st was not like a like switch on 2020. We are still in the midst of a pandemic, but there is hope on the horizon. The vaccine distribution is well underway, and I feel like we can see a light at the end of the tunnel (You know what they say about that).
What does the new year have in store for you? What have you learned from the craziness of 2020? How will you and your business emerge stronger?
Happy New Year! Bring it on…