Archive for June, 2009

Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction” [Alice in Wonderland].

The other day my friend and I were assigned with assembling two office desks. In the store showroom, the pieces appeared as an attractive and functional piece of furniture with a return, shelf, and pull-out keyboard drawer. However, the desks arrived disassembled in flat boxes full of laminated particle boards, metal supports and legs, several bags of assorted screws, and an Allen wrench.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve put together enough of this “do-it-yourself” furniture to be sure of one thing — you need to read the directions (the advice provided by the manufacturer) first. Why wouldn’t you read them? The directions save time and frustration and, hopefully, will keep you from having to disassemble to reassemble. It’s a waste of time to rework your work.

So, as soon as I opened the first box, I reached for the instruction book. “Oh, you’re one of those. You read the directions?!” my friend asked. I started laughing. I’m not sure if he was implying I harbored some sort of deficiency that would cause me to start with the directions, or I was an uninspired clod, but I thought it was hysterical that he would consider starting the project somewhere else other than the beginning.

“Well begun is half done” [Aristotle].

I realize that sometimes people eschew directions, preferring the freedom and adventure of “winging it” and seeing where they end up. My husband knew of a woman who never planned her vacations. There was no direction, rhyme, or reason. She would simply start driving on the first day and then arbitrarily select a car to follow. Today: the brown Buick. Tomorrow: the red Impala. Next day: repeat, and so on. The thrill for her was in not knowing where she would end up each day.

But sometimes, arriving at a particular destination is a priority. (See desk example above.)

And there are still other times where you come across an inspired idea that you know is terrific. However, after careful consideration you realize that “no directions came with this idea” [William Maxwell]. So you forge ahead relying on past experiences, or advice from others, or both.

“Learn from the mistakes of others — you can’t live long enough to make them all yourself [Martin Vanbee].

Perhaps Vanbee’s advice is the best advice of all. To learn from others. Oliver Goldsmith said that, “people seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.” When I see people “winging” their lives, and hear them say that life doesn’t come with directions, I’m confused. Do they fail to see the millions of instruction manuals walking around every day — those people who provide instruction, strength, caution, inspiration, and perspective just by living their lives?

“Very few people are wise by their own counsel, or learned by their own teaching.
For he that was only taught by himself had a fool for his master” [Ben Johnson].

Not only is it wise for us to benefit from the example of others, it’s also important to recognize that the way you live your life, and the decisions you make, and the manner in which you respond are providing instruction to others every day. It may be your spouse, your children, your colleagues, or your neighbor, but someone, somewhere is learning something from you. You are a living, breathing instruction manual for others.

“If . . . you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning” [Catherine Aird].

If you have a problem to solve a question to answer, or a challenge to overcome, “it’s never too late to read the directions (or look to the example of others) . . . It may be the last resort. It may spoil the challenge. It may insult your intelligence. But, then again . . . it may solve the problem” [Patrick Lindsay].

If all else fails, read the instructions.

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving” [Oliver Wendell Holmes].

We’ve all heard, and probably have quoted it ourselves: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Doesn’t that sound idealistic? Wouldn’t it be grand if life really worked out that way? The truth is that I’ve never experienced it myself and, in fact, I’ve rarely seen it happen for others.

Regardless if we are striving to climb the next rung on the corporate ladder, embark on a new career, begin a new business, or explore an exciting opportunity, it’s next-to-impossible to continually move in a straight line from here . . . to . . . there.

“Opportunity follows struggle. It follows effort. It follows hard work. It doesn’t come before” [Shelby Steele].

I have overheard people say, “You can’t get there from here.” Which really just means to be prepared to travel somewhere else before you can arrive at your destination. It’s those detours that often throw us for a loop. We are so focused on getting “there,” that we are perplexed when a roadblock and corresponding “Detour” sign appears in our path.

I am familiar with this subject of detours. One year ago, I was eagerly anticipating my future. I had just completed my business degree and was enjoying a fulfilling and profitable career with my employer. Less than four months later I was unemployed; I had become another statistic of a corporate restructure. I had encountered a detour.

“The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour” [Unknown].

Detours can appear as many different things: budget cuts, layoffs, relocations, illness, realignments, accidents. It doesn’t matter how or when a detour arrives in your life, the result is the same: it’s time to consult the map, your route has changed.

“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune” [William James].

How we view and respond to unexpected circumstances determine what happens next. If we wallow around in self-pity, blaming the detour on God, or the government, or our parents, or our [former] employer, or whatever, we waste valuable time and undermine our own self-worth. Progress is crippled and valuable opportunities are often missed because of fear, inaction, and poor attitudes.

“The longer we dwell on our misfortune, the greater is their power to harm us” [Voltaire].

On the other hand, if we view the detour as an opportunity to experience new adventures, meet new people, travel to exciting destinations, and learn new information then, perhaps, it’s not a useless detour after all. Maybe, if we embrace the the change and look for the benefit in it, we can turn the unexpected into the unbelievable. If we view the detour as an opportunity for growth, we can turn a routine commute into the trip of a lifetime!

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we are not really living. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security” [Gail Sheehy].

If we will commit to turning the detours into the dynamic, and learn to turn disappointments into stepping stones, we may just discover that the new road is much more exciting and fulfilling than the original trip we had planned.

Max De Pree said, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Sometimes, it takes an unexpected detour to shake us out of the ordinary and send us down the road to extraordinary.

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas” [Shirley Hufstedler].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable” [Sydney Smith].

Ed McMahon. Farrah Fawcett. Michael Jackson. In less than three days, three big stars have been extinguished. The door has been closed. The finish line crossed.

There is an end of the road for each of us regardless of title, accomplishment, income level, or profession. As Jim Morrison said, “No one here gets out alive.”

So, I have to ask, what are you doing with yourself? Have you been filling your time with those things that make you feel gloriously alive, inspired, and energized? Or, are you so busy climbing the ladder, closing the deals, and barreling toward your future at sixty miles an hour [C.S. Lewis], that you barely have time to give your life a brief greeting before racing on to the “next big thing”?

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory” [Susan B. Anthony].

Are you living life or marking time? Are you fully enjoying today or just standing around, waiting for your time to come? Regardless of your perspective, the truth is, you’re on the clock. Now is the time to make the most of it. Take advantage of the opportunity. Jump in and live the dream.

They say time is relative. It is. It’s relative to the way you treat it.

As an enemy it’s a negative. A deadly countdown.

As a friend, it’s all positive. A chance for exploration.
For growth, for love, for enjoyment.
Drink of it greedily.

~ Patrick Lindsay

Today is the day to bulk up your “To Do List.” Move those things that you wish you could, someday will, and one day might, to today . . . right now . . . this week!

Before you know it, and often before you’re ready, the finish line will be looming in the distance. Don’t approach it full of dread and regret and “if onlys. If only must be the two saddest words in the world” [Mercedes Lackey]. If you’re sitting on the side of your life, wallowing in disappointment, and waiting for the “if onlys” to uncoil themselves, you’ll regret it.

Live your life in such a way that there is no room for regrets. Take advice from Mary Anne Radmacher: “Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.”

“Life is not a journey to the grave with intentions of arriving safely in a pretty well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming . . . WOW! What a ride!” [unknown].

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” [Mark Twain].

Whatever you are, be a good one,


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You don’t have to be a “person of influence” to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they’ve taught me” [Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert].

The clerk at the drive-thru window who offers a cheerful greeting influences. So does the rude driver who cuts you off in traffic. Movie stars influence through their wardrobe choices, and film makers by their subject matter. Politicians influence with hopeful promises, while traffic cops influence by parking on the side of the road.

We’re influenced by the weather forecast, the headlines, Sunday’s sermon, a careless comment by an acquaintance, an encouraging word from a friend. The number of messages in our In-box, a call from an angry client, terrific customer service, attention to detail, an unexpected delivery, and the mood of our colleagues influence us in one way or another.

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere” [unknown].

Every day you influence others through your actions and reactions.
Every . . . single . . . day.

And I’m not just talking about the email you send to your congressmen, or raising funds to combat a deadly disease. Although these are great opportunities to influence, there is so much more to it than the “big ticket items.”

“Because everything we say and do is the length and shadow of our own souls, our influence is determined by the quality of our being” [Dale E. Turner]

The way you live your life, conduct your affairs, celebrate the joys, confront the challenges, and communicate with others, is a compelling force on the actions, behaviors, and opinions of those around you [dictionary.com]. And not only those around you. With information circling your community, state, nation, and globe in a matter of seconds, your scope of influence extends to people you have never even met. (Think about that for a minute!)

Your ability to influence is a powerful force. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Who shall set a limit to the influence of a human being?”

So, I encourage you to use your powers for good, not for evil. When you stand up straight, do the right thing, offer a positive greeting, keep your word, act respectfully, take the high road, put in the extra effort, complain less, and make people feel good about themselves, you are influencing.

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means” [Albert Einstein].

I really like what Roy Croft said, “I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.” Shouldn’t this be our ultimate goal? That our lives create an environment that cultivates a sense of confidence , empowerment, and purpose in others?

Not only should we be mindful of the influence we have, it is also important to be cautious about who and what we are allowing to influence us. “Be around the people you want to be like, because you will be like the people you are around” [Sean Reichle].

No matter who you are or what you do, you’ll never learn a more valuable or important set of principles or skills. Once you tap into the power of influence, you can reach out and help others work smarter, grow faster, live, look, and feel better, even save lives. The sky is the limit . . . for an Influencer” [Influencer: The Power to Change Anything].

Booker T. Washington said, “There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, simple and useful life”

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in or out. There’s no such thing as a life in-between” [Pat Riley].

It seems like there is one in every crowd, group, team, or committee: the person who just isn’t committed.

  • He’ll try. (However, if the project turns out to be challenging or boring, or something else shiny catches his attention, he won’t finish.)
  • He’ll show up when it’s convenient. (Translation: no one has made a better offer.)
  • He will enthusiastically accept assignments. (But too often fails to follow-through.)
  • He supports the plan. (Unfortunately, due to circumstances way beyond his control, he is just never able to deliver.)

The excuses are as numerous as the stars in the sky: “I’m too busy. I forgot. I didn’t understand. The dog ate my paper. I don’t feel well. My metabolism is slow. The kids needed a nap. It wasn’t my turn. It was on sale. I didn’t have time.”

This is the true joy of life — being used for a purpose that is recognized by yourself as a mighty one . . . instead of being a feverish, selfish, little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy” [George Bernard Shaw].

The honest answer of the uncommitted is simply, “I didn’t want to.” I didn’t want to save the money, skip the dessert, call my mother, attend the function, support the cause, confront the problem, or face the facts.

Or, perhaps, more accurately, “I didn’t want to honor my commitment more than I wanted to do something else.” But instead of being honest with themselves and others, they prefer to live behind the gauzy wall of excuses, doing whatever feels good, or convenient, or easy.

If you don’t make a total commitment to whatever you’re doing, then you start looking to bail out the first time the boat starts leaking. It’s tough enough getting that boat to shore with everybody rowing, let alone when a guy stands up and starts putting his life jacket on” [Lou Holtz].

In the Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda, the Jedi teacher, tries to implant into Luke Skywalker the means of engaging the “force” that is the greatest power in the universe. He says to his pupil, “Luke, there is no try, there is either do or not do” [Van Ekeren].

There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results” [Unknown].

Think of it like being pregnant — there is no such thing as being a little pregnant. You either are or you are not.

So, I have to ask, “Are you committed?” There’s no half-way with this. You’re either in — or you’re out. The only way to achieve results is to be in. All the way in. Wholeheartedly committed. “Nothing of worthy or weight can be achieved with half a mind,with a faint heart, and with a lame endeavor” [Isaac Barrow].

James Womack said, “Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the “right stuff” to turn our dreams into reality.”

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever” [Chinese Proverb].

I have questions. Lots of questions. Just ask my husband or my friends or my family. I want to know how things work, why things are, and what would happen if we made a change or thought about things differently.

Imagine my delight when an unexpected package from Amazon.com showed up on my doorstep the other day. My friend, who celebrates my crazy need for information, had sent me the book, The Whatchamacallit: Those everyday objects you just can’t name (and things you think you know about but don’t).

So incredibly cool, all this brand new information to devour. The fun was that the authors had provided me with tons of answers for questions I hadn’t even thought to ask. I now know:

  • Philtrum is the groove that runs between your nose and your mouth.
  • Aglet is that little piece of plastic closing the end of a shoelace.
  • Contrail is that long thin trail left behind by a jet airliner.
  • Phloem bundles are those stringy bits on a banana.

Sometimes my curiosity can get me in trouble; I’m well aware of the implications associated with the proverb, Curiosity killed the cat. While my questions spring from a desire to learn more and an attempt to understand, at times they are perceived as some sort of challenge or indication that I am attempting to uncover a problem. Sadly, self-preservation causes me to temper my curiosity at times.

“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions” [Sam Keen].

To me, questions aren’t something to slow down the journey, rather they are there to keep things moving along, prompting us to find the answers which propel us to the next level. (Just so you know, the next level brings even more questions. Life is a never-ending treasure hunt for answers.)

Unfortunately, there are people who refuse to take the first step because their mind is cluttered with unanswered questions. To me, that’s as crazy as a student choosing not to enroll in a statistics class, because she doesn’t know how to use a Z table. The purpose of the class is to provide a forum to learn, ask questions, get answers, use the Z Table, and move on. If she allowed the fear of unanswered questions to keep her from enrolling, she would never obtain the information she needed.

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer” [Rainer Maria Rilke].

Don’t allow the fear of not knowing how or why keep you from moving toward your destiny. No one has all the answers. “Life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on” [Samuel Butler]. It’s the same for everyone.

Ask for help. Raise your hand. Say you don’t know. Do the research. Talk to people. Find out.

“Curiosity opens possibilities.

It keeps you fresh. And young at heart.

It acknowledges mysteries. And challenges them.

It’s grounded in hope. It validates our existence.

And fans the inner fire.

To be curious is to be optimistic” [Patrick Lindsay].

George Bernard Shaw said,”Some men see things as they are and say, “Why?” I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not?”

So, I have to ask, “Why not? Why not you? Why not now?”

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place” [Nora Roberts].

Passwords. The magical combination of letters and symbols and numbers that unlock important doors. How many passwords do you have? If you’re like me, too many! There are so many passwords floating around in cyberspace that some of us have resorted to utilizing a “password vault” to help manage access to our on-line resources.

A password is a secret word or expression used by authorized persons to prove their right to access information or resources. A word to be given before a person is allowed to pass through [dictionary.com].

So, in effect, when I provide the password to success, you will then have been granted access to become successful. I have to say, I am very excited and pleased to be able to provide this to you. Are you ready?

The pasword is . . . action! I realize it’s not super exciting, but sometimes passwords are like that. The “secret” is that it takes action to reach your goals and achieve success! Good intentions, great ideas, and a gigantic dream are all wonderful, but if you don’t throw some action into the mix, you’ll remain stuck right where you are, with exactly what you have.

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action” [Frank Tibolt].

How many times have I heard (and, have I said), “I’m just not inspired to get started on that project.”? No energy. No interest. No compelling reason. No action.

You shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for inspiration to arrive. You should begin — even if the exciting I-can-take-on-the-world-feeling is missing. Before you know it, inspiration will flood the scene.

Ernest Hemingway said it this way, “As long as you can start, you are all right. The juice will come.”

Have you ever had a project you delayed starting? Maybe it was something small, like weeding the flower bed or, perhaps it was something large, like filing your taxes or taking the next step toward your dream. Either way, the longer you put it off, the more difficult the task appears.

“In putting off what one has to do, one runs the risk of never being able to do it” [Charles Baudelaire].

You know how it goes. The project is unpleasant or scary or you have something else to do, so you put it off until tomorrow or next week or next year. And well, the next time you think about it, the task has grown larger because you neglected it, or become more stressful because there is less time to finish it. UGH! Sometimes we are our own worst enemy!

All of us should take Nike’s advice and “Just Do It.”

“Action is indeed therapy.

It erases doubts and fears, anxieties, and worries.

It capitalizes on failures and mistakes and turns them into positive influences.

It exercises the mind for problem solving and creativity.

It develops poise under pressure and uses wisdom and experience to consider alternatives and to provide a back-up plan.

Action calls forth the best in us all, and it becomes the password to success” [George Shinn].

Glenn Van Ekeren asks, “Suppose you had five birds sitting on a wire and three of them decided to fly. How many birds would you have left on the wire?

“Five birds remain. Making a decision to fly without acting on the decision is a waste of energy. The momentum to do something about our decisions is energized by action.”

Now that you know the password to success, what’s holding you back from opening the door?

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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A winner will find a way to win. Winners take bad breaks and use them to drive themselves to be that much better.

Quitters take bad breaks and use them as a reason to give up.

It’s all a matter of pride” [Nancy Lopez].

Bad break, trouble, bump in the road, adversity, it doesn’t really matter what you call it. Circumstances have conspired against you. Your progress has been slowed or, maybe, even stalled. Energy and effort that had been propelling you toward your dream are now diverted to addressing the problem and rectifying the situation.

So, how do you react when adversity crashes your party? Do you play the sorrowful “Why me?” card, or do you recognize it as an opportunity for growth?

“Adversity causes some men to break, others to break records [William A. Ward].

In the story, I Had Trouble in getting to Solla Sollew, Dr. Seuss relates the tale of an individual who is enjoying a trouble-free life until — one day , out of the blue — everything changes.

“And I learned there are troubles of more than one kind.

Some come from ahead and some come from behind.

From above! And below!

And now I was really in trouble, you know.

The rocks! And the Quail! And the Skritz! And the Skrink!

I had so many troubles, I just couldn’t think.”

Ever been there? Circumstances so dire, you just can’t think? Your stomach is upset, your mind won’t slow down, you are unable to sleep. After all the gallant effort you have put forth, how could it be that you are now facing menacing giants who are lurking, waiting, planning your demise?

“Watch out for emergencies. They are your big chance!” [Fritz Reiner].

In Spring 2008 I completed my business degree and anticipated a bright future filled with golden opportunities. Unfortunately, six months later I was displaced by my employer as the economy began running toward recession.

I couldn’t catch a break. The giants came knocking at my door — loudly. As the pressure mounted, I could not imagine the opportunities that would later present themselves as a result of the “unfortunate circumstances” that had settled over my life.

Horace once said, “adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant” [Quintus Horatius Flaccus].

The past eight months have proven that statement to be absolutely true. Among other adventures, I have used the “opportunity of unemployment” to further develop my writing skills. The additional time and attention to writing has resulted in, among other things, one of my essays being published in Columbus Monthly. I have grown in ways that would have been unimaginable if I had been working 40 hours a week.

“I have learned that adversity is an experience, not a final act” [Michael LeBoeuf], and that sometimes the only response to life is “to accept whatever comes, . . . meet it with courage and with the best you have to give” [Eleanor Roosevelt].

The fellow who kept running away from his problems and toward utopia in the Dr. Seuss’ story, continued to encounter ongoing adversity until he realized that running from trouble is not a solution and, searching for a trouble-free existence is a waste of time:

Then I started back home to the Valley of Vung.

I know I’ll have troubles. I’ll maybe get stung.

I’ll always have troubles. I’ll, maybe get bit,

by that Green-Headed Quail on the place where I sit.

But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see.

Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me.”

When adversity visits your life, don’t sit around with your head in the sand. It’s your big chance! Adversity is the green light. It is the signal to take action — run toward the conflict — face the giants.

After all, “problems are only opportunities in work clothes” [Henry Kaiser].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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“Nobody is so miserable as he who longs to be somebody other than the person who he is” [Angelo Patri].

Although we’re loathe to admit it, too often we keep an eye on the Jonses while mortgaging our future to satisfy today’s wants. We waste our time building a life based on what we think others may be thinking about us.

Our insecurities demand we prop up our fragile self-worth with expensive purchases from high-end retailers; we line our shelves with names of designers from far away places in hopes of finding fulfillment.

So many of us define ourselves by what we have, what we wear, what kind of house we live in, and what kind of car we drive . . .

If you think of yourself as the woman in the Cartier watch and the Hermes scarf, a house fire will destroy not only your possessions, but yourself [Linda Henley].

Why do we think it is acceptable to stash our real hopes and dreams in a box on the the highest shelf in the closet (behind the latest fashions)? Yet we don’t think twice about risking our financial future for the must-have, can’t live without name-brand handbag or granite counters or country club membership or season tickets or home theater?

Why do we think it is acceptable to determine our self-worth based on the reflection we receive from others?

Why does the idea of exchanging our ordinary, comfortable, acceptable life for one that impacts others and accomplishes the extraordinary seem too risky?

Who are the Joneses, anyway, and why do we always feel the need to compete with them?

Oprah Winfrey said, “There is no paycheck that can equal the feeling of contentment that comes from being the person you are meant to be.”

So, I have to ask, “Are you being the person you were meant to be?” Are you living the life you have imagined, or are you so busy comparing your purchases, and accomplishments, and “things” with your neighbors, that precious little time remains to live fulfill your true calling in life?

“You really have to look inside yourself and find your own inner strength, and say, “I’m proud of what I am and who I am, and I’m just going to be myself” [Mariah Carey].

Perhaps it all comes down to the manner in which we value ourselves. What is important to you? In the end, how will you be remembered: for the good you did for others, or how good you were to yourself?

“I’ve never valued my worth in terms of how big my kingdom is.

I’ve valued it based on the impact I’m having” [Janiece Webb].

If our lives are to have a purpose, we simply cannot allow the opinion of Madison Avenue (or the Jonses) to influence our actions or be the standard by which we measure ourselves.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it by living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary” [Steve Jobs].

Don’t live someone else’s life today. Follow your heart. Be happy from the inside out.

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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You have to make taking care of yourself a priority” [Christina Maslach].

If you have flown on a commercial airplane, you’re familiar with the pre-flight safety speech indicating that if the cabin should lose pressure, oxygen masks will descend from overhead. You are instructed to put on your mask first, before attempting to help those around you.

At first thought, the action seems a bit selfish — this idea of taking care of yourself first when others require your assistance. The truth, both in airplane safety and in life, is this:

“You can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself” [Mary Mazzer].

Investing in your mental well-being, creativity, and personal development by reading books, attending thought-provoking seminars, enjoying an afternoon away, listening to inspirational CDs, and associating with others who are like-minded, is every bit as important to your emotional health as drinking adequate amounts of water, eating a balanced diet, getting sufficient rest, and engaging in regular exercise is to your physical well-being.

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self” [Aldous Huxley].

It is irrational to think that you can operate your car on a long-term basis without proper maintenance: air pressure in the tires, gasoline in the tank, and oil in the engine. Yet we live our lives at maximum output for extended periods of time without a thought of our own maintenance schedule.

We work relentlessly, day after day, helping others, saving the environment, taking the call, attending the meeting, offering advice, rushing to assist, and providing support — while watching our energy, enthusiasm, and cheerfulness dissipate into exhaustion, frustration, and anger, as our “fuel” light indicates we are dangerously close to empty.

We regularly convince ourselves we are too important, or too busy, or the situation is too critical for us to step away and spend time replenishing the resources. The problem is that if we don’t take time to invest in ourselves, we will have precious little to draw from tomorrow, and even less the day after. Ineffectiveness becomes the norm as diminishing resources results in our working harder and harder with less and less.

Stephen R. Covey refers to self-renewal as the “Sharpen the Saw” principle, and relates the following story in his book, The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People.

Suppose you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.

“What are you doing?” you ask.

“Can’t you see?” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”

“You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”

“Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”

“Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”

“I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the mans says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”

Sometimes we become so blinded by our own activity, that we fail to see how ineffective we have become. Gene Mauch said, “You can’t lead anyone else further than you have gone yourself.” And, truth be told, you can’t get very far on an empty tank. The investment you make in yourself today, will produce profitable returns in the lives of others tomorrow.

I hope that my achievements in life shall be these — that I will have fought for what was right and fair,

that I will have risked for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those who were in need,

that I will have left the earth a better place for what I’ve done and who I’ve been” [C. Hoppe].

Desiring to accomplish great things is noble; however, it is important to remember that water does not come from an empty well. The very best thing you can do for those you care about, is to take the very best care of yourself.

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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