Monthly Archives: April 2010

Examine Everything

This is part 1 of a 12 part series that I call the 12 X’s of Leadership.

My father is a collector of quotes and over the years he has shared many of his favorites with me. There is one, however, that I have heard more than all the others combined. If I had to pick a quote that represented how my dad has lived his life it would be this one:

“Examine everything carefully and hold onto that which is good.”

Since I was a boy, he has said those words to me and it represents his “life theme.”

It is a simple and yet profound quote that has a very ongoing nature to it. It means that we are to be constantly examining everything in our lives and only holding on to those things that are good, true, enduring.

It is a call to honesty.

You see, we humans are the only critters God created which can deceive themselves. Oh yes, we can BS ourselves into oblivion and come out smelling like a rose. In fact, just to show you how good we are at self-deceit and self-deception; and how capable we are in believing what we want to believe without close examination, let me share a story with you.

Several decades ago, a passenger train was pulling out of the station in a small eastern European town. Four travelers shared a cozy compartment: an American grandmother, her beautiful 24 year old granddaughter, a Nazi officer in uniform, and a Romanian officer also in uniform.

Each of the passengers knew a smattering of language so the conversation was light and shallow, but everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

All of a sudden the train entered a long, dark tunnel and the compartment was instantly thrown into pitch-black darkness. The car went silent. Then out of the quiet there was the distinct sound of a loud kiss followed closely by a vigorous slap and then the train exited the tunnel.

No one said a word…but everyone knew what had happened.

The American grandmother was so proud as she sat there thinking about what a fine young woman she had raised. “She will be able to take care of herself in this cruel world” she thought. “I am so proud of her!” You see grandmom knew what had happened.

Next to her sat her stunned granddaughter who in shocked disbelief mused, “WOW! That sounded like grandmom packed quite a wallop! I am surprised that she would get so upset that one of these fellas tried to steal a kiss. They seem like nice guys and they certainly are handsome in their uniforms…go grandmom…you still got it!” You see, she knew exactly what happened.

Across from the granddaughter steamed the Nazi who was angrily thinking, “Oh how clever those Romanians are…they steal a kiss and get the other guy slapped. I will have my revenge when we exit this train.” Surely he knew what had happened.

Finally, the Romanian was quietly chuckling to himself, “That was sooo good—kiss the back of my own hand and slap the Nazi!”

All four people believed they knew what had happened and 75% were wrong.

Don’t we all do that? Don’t we believe what we want to believe without close examination?

Here are two principles I think we need to be aware of:

  1. We see what we expect to see.
  2. We hear what we expect to hear.

We need to learn to really listen and really see what is going on around us in our homes, our offices, and our relationships. We need to Examine Everything.

The Great Thief

I am convinced that there are many people in the world with great lives and they don’t realize it. From pop stars to politicians to presidents – they have it “all” and yet they can’t fully enjoy it.

Why? Because there is a thief running loose in their life and they don’t even realize they are being robbed.

You‘ve seen these people…

The athlete with the seven-figure income and countless endorsements isn’t happy because he hasn’t won the “ultimate” championship game.

The CEO whose company is in the Fortune 500, who owns a Mercedes 500, and box seats at the Daytona 500, but market share isn’t at 85% yet.

The actress with the best leading men and a long list of hit movies or plays but doesn’t have “the” award.

The thief is stealing their joy. Their satisfaction. Their contentment.

This thief, however, is not one that is limited just to the celebrities or corporate heroes of our time. Oh no. It can invade the lives of everyday people like you and me too.

The stay at home mom with three great kids who can’t see beyond the stained carpet and where the dog chewed the couch.

The supervisor with the wonderful team at the office, a nice home, and a good marriage but struggles everyday with anger or envy at the sight of the other supervisor pulling into the company parking lot in that new BMW.

The thief? Believe it or not, is what we choose to focus on.

When we focus on what we don’t have, or what we lack, or on situations that displease us, our thoughts get cloudy, our minds get murky and we fixate on what is “wrong” refusing to enjoy life until that is “fixed”. As a result we miss out on so many blessings because we are not really “seeing” them. We are looking at what we lack or focusing on what is “not right”.

The defense for this thief? Take nothing for granted and be thankful for everything. Learn to go through life with an attitude of gratitude and you have a security system that this thief cannot penetrate. You deserve to enjoy your great life!

Sticks & Stones

“Sticks and stones may break your bones,

But words will never hurt you.”

I still remember very clearly the first time I heard those words. I had come running in from the bus stop where the bigger kids had been teasing me and calling me names. With tears streaming down my face, my dad had stooped down, pulled me into his arms, and shared that little poem with me.

But he was wrong.

Those words did hurt.

“Sticks and stones” is a mantra handed down from generation to generation, helping children deal with the sting of the big, cruel world and the nasty people they’ll inevitably encounter in it. Our hearts are in the right place in trying to help kids rationalize their hurt feelings, but the logic isn’t.

Words do hurt.

In fact, according to some research; emotional pain is processed in the same part of the brain as physical pain.  And that emotional pain can result in something much worse than a broken bone.

You see, broken bones mend themselves, sometimes growing stronger than they were before the break, but harmful words can result in lifelong injury. They break our hearts, scratch our spirits, and dent our self-esteem, all of which is damage that may never fully heal.

Clearly, words matter.

They’re powerful.

And what matters most is how we use them. Do we use them like sticks and stones, to tear down, to destruct, and destroy? Or, do we use them to build up, encourage, and affirm?

Remember, what you say could make all the difference.

Check out more on “Sticks & Stones Exposed: The Power of Our Words” by Dave Weber.