Leaving Them Better Than You Found Them

When it comes to leadership, one of my favorite people to read about is legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.  Aside from his prowess at building championship caliber basketball teams, he seemed to be even more skilled at building championship caliber people.

If you want a great read on Coach Wooden’s teaching, check out his book, “The Essential Wooden”.  My favorite parts in this book are the recollections from his players about what they learned from Coach or how he impacted their lives.  The common thread that runs through most recollections I hear of Coach Wooden is how he left people better than he found them.

Coach Wooden inspires me, because I think that most people would like to have a similar impact in the lives of others.  I know I would.  And although most of us may never coach a Division I basketball program to multiple championships, we all have the capacity to be a positive influence to those around us.

Begin the habit of looking for opportunities to leave the people around you better than you found them.  This could be as simple as offering a smile or kind word to someone, or more involved like mentoring, advising, or providing a listening ear.

Whatever you have to offer, the opportunities to do so are abundant.  We only have to be willing to engage.

What You’re Allowing In

I recently re-read the book “Where Will You Be 5 Years From Today”.  It’s an encouraging book that makes you think of the trajectory you are setting for your life that will lead you to where you want to be in 5 years.  This is one of those books that should be required reading every couple of years.

As I read, I was reminded how much my attitude and outlook is impacted when I actively fill my mind with positive, though-provoking content.  My mind feels sharper, opportunities seem more abundant, and good ideas and positive thoughts are in no short supply.  I just feel better when I’m feeding my mind with good content.

The thoughts we have are a function of what we’ve already allowed into our mind.  Therefore, it seems reasonable that if we want to have good thoughts, we should be sure our minds are filled with good content.  Think of it like priming a pump or fertilizing the “soil of our mind” that produces our thoughts.

Good thoughts don’t happen by accident.  It’s the intentional behavior of not only allowing good content in, but also guarding our minds against the avalanche of negative content that is so pervasive.  While guarding our minds requires work on our end, it is work that will enrich our lives in the form of better thinking.

Guard your mind, for it will produce and abundant return of whatever you allow in.  Make sure that what you’re allowing in is what you’d like to get out later.

Not To Be Wasted

Earlier this week I was on a flight from Portland Oregon on a cloudy February morning.  Shortly after takeoff we entered the gray clouds above, losing visual contact with the ground below.  As we were enveloped by the clouds, a much anticipated change stated to occur.

The clouds surrounding the aircraft transitioned from dark gray to white with ever increasing brightness.  Then, in a moment of face-warming, eye-squinting brilliance, we emerged atop the cloud layer and into the bright blue sun-filled sky.  I smiled.

There’s something about a sunny blue skin in the morning that charges me up and gets me excited for the day ahead.  This particular morning it was especially enjoyable, due to the lack of sunny mornings in western Oregon this winter.

I’m eagerly anticipating the sunny mornings of late spring, summer and early fall.  The fact that they are not the norm around here for a significant part of the year makes them unique.  Add to that the positive impact they have on me and they suddenly become something of great value.  For this reason I feel they should be taken advantage of and not taken for granted.  For me, sunny mornings should not be wasted.

What are some positive things you enjoy that you may not get to experience as often as you might like?  Whether it’s fresh seasonal fruit, time with certain people, time away from life’s normal routine, or engaging in a seasonal activity, be on the lookout for their occurrence and plan to take advantage of them when they present themselves.

They are precious and not to be wasted.

Words

Would you ever walk around deliberately throwing pointed darts at people, hitting them with a club, or punching them in the gut? Of course not!  In fact, if we did, we’d likely get arrested!  Yet everyday people are equally, if not more, careless with the words they choose to launch at others.

Words are interesting because they don’t have any preference on how or for what purpose they are used.  They are amoral and only become positive or negative based solely on how we choose to wield them.

Look at the contrast between the attributes of positive and negative words:

Positive Words Negative Words
Encouraging Discouraging
Affirming Tearing down
Loving Hateful
Caring Hurtful
Compassionate Condemning
Healing Crushing
Life saving Hopeless
Enduring Enduring

 

Our words have an impact on people, especially on those closest to us.  And though they can be positive or negative, they are often not soon forgotten.

This underscores the importance of the awareness we should possess regarding the words we use and how we’re treating others with them.  Are we being careless with our words or are we using them to encourage and edify others?  If we could see a visual representation of the words we’re delivering to others would they resemble sticks, darts, clubs, and stones, or would they look more like a smile, a pat on the back, a high-five, and a hug?

We do have a choice regarding the words we use.  They leave our lips wrapped in our intentions.  Let’s intention to deliver positive words that bless others versus cursing them.  When we do, we’ll likely notice that the words we receive from others are kind and positive as well.

Five Questions to Help Maintain a Positive Attitude

Let’s face it, sometimes unpleasant unexpected things just happen through no fault of our own.  This could be anything from a job loss, to a bad diagnosis from a doctor, to the unexpected death of a loved one.  As challenging as these things may be, we still have the luxury to choose our attitude as we navigate scenarios like these.  Here are 5 questions we can ask to help maintain a positive attitude through a difficult situation:

  1. What were the positive aspects of this scenario before I received the bad news?

It is so easy to let your mind think of all the negative aspects when we receive bad news.  In fact, our minds seem to go there automatically, unless we decide to focus them elsewhere.  With this in mind, choose to look back with an eye on the positive.  Think about experiences gained or relationships formed.  The positives are there, we just have to look for them.

  1. What can I learn from this?

This may sound cliché, but there is something to be learned from every situation.  Think about what you have learned or what you can learn from this situation.  At first, it may seem like there isn’t anything, but if we’re paying attention, we can learn some valuable lessons we might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn.

  1. What does this make possible?

This is my favorite question!  There is something about an unexpected situation that alters what has been normal for us, be it temporary or permanent.  In that alteration, that “new normal”, there are opportunities for us that didn’t exist before.  Identify what they are and how you can take advantage of them to improve your future and your definition of “normal” moving forward.

  1. What am I thankful for?

Even in light of a bad situation, we have much to be thankful for.  Don’t lose focus on what those things are.

  1. How can I use this experience to help others?

Life is more fun when we share the journey with others.  No matter what you’re going through, someone else has gone through it before, or will be going through it after you.  That’s cool on 2 different levels!  First you can find others who have gone through a similar circumstance and seek guidance from them.  Second, after you’ve gone through it, you will be poised to help someone else in the future who is going through a situation you’ve already been through.  What a blessing to be a source of encouragement to someone during what is a dark hour for them.

 

Yes, unexpected and unpleasant situations really stink.  We could go as far to say they really suck.  But how we come through them, and how our future is impacted by them, is largely due to the attitude we have while were in them.

 

Let’s be mindful of this powerful choice we have and decide today, and every day, to keep an attitude that is positive instead of letting a negative attitude take root.  The choice is ours.  Let’s choose wisely.

Cultivating Good Ideas

I started this blog 153 weeks ago with the goal of consistently posting one entry per week.  So far, I haven’t missed a week yet!  What’s amazed me most about this journey is how every week I find a new idea to write about.

I like to post my entries on Saturday, but on Sunday, 6 days prior to posting, I usually have no idea what I’m going to write about.  It isn’t until I start going through my weekly routines of reading, having conversations with people, and listening to positive content that an idea for a topic pops into my mind.  These ideas burst onto the stage of my mind without any warning.  It’s an amazing process that I’ve really enjoyed over the past 153 weeks.

Ideas don’t just happen.  Whether it’s ideas for writing, planning, or myriad other forms of creation, I think there are certain disciplines we can practice to greatly increase our likelihood of coming up with good ideas.  Those disciplines include the following:

Expect that you can and will come up with good ideas

Henry Ford stated it well when he said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Pay attention how you talk to yourself regarding your ability to come up with ideas.  Instead of telling yourself you’re not good at coming up with ideas, change the internal dialog and state how capable you are of coming up with not just one, but several good ideas.

Consume positive content

Positive content, in the form of conversations, reading, podcasts, or any other method, is the fertilizer that helps grow new thoughts and ideas.  Your ideas will come out of whatever you have been putting into your mind, so be mindful of what you’re allowing in.

Set a deadline to come up with good ideas

For me, I imposed an artificial deadline of generating a blog post every week.  This created a sense of urgency that forced me to generate an idea.  So far it’s worked out well.

Practice cultivating good ideas

Every day, write down 10 good ideas on any topic.  It can be anything from ideas for generating extra money to titles for a make-believe TV show.  The objet here is to just get in the practice of generating ideas.  The more we do it, the better we can become at coming up with ideas.  James Altucher says that this is how you stretch your “idea muscle” and become and “idea machine”.

Set yourself up to be a generator of good ideas by following the steps above, or share some of your own ideas for generating ideas in the comments below.

Ideas are the starting point of all new adventures.  If you want to have a more adventurous life, you only need to start having more ideas.

Compounding a Compliment

If you want to make someone’s day, share with them how much you genuinely appreciate something they’ve done for you.  If you want to make their week, share it with someone they work for, or someone close to them.

This week I received a nice email from a department leader that my team and I support.  In the email the department leader shared about a recent meeting one of our business units had with a vendor I support.  Even though I was not present, at the end of the meeting, this vendor made a point to mention to everyone how much he appreciates the support I’ve been providing him.

When I read the email, I felt great!  Not only did I appreciate hearing the comments the vendor made, I thought it was extremely cool that the vendor let others know what a great job he thought I was doing.  It really did make my week.

We also have the same capacity to makes someone else’s week by sharing their accomplishments and our appreciation for them with people they know.  For example, you can:

  • Tell a parent about something their child did that was unique, helpful, or showing of good character.
  • Let the owner or manager of a restaurant know what a great job your waiter or waitress did for you.
  • Tell the spouse of someone you know how much you appreciate something their spouse has done or a character trait of theirs that you admire.

What’s cool about doing this is that not only will the person you’re speaking positively about feel good, so will the person you told.  People like to deliver good news, so you’re also giving the person you told the opportunity to pass along a kind word.  It’s a 3-way-win:

  1. You’ll feel good for passing along a kind word.
  2. The person you told will feel good about passing it along to the person you were speaking well of.
  3. The recipient will feel good hearing your compliment AND knowing that you spoke well about them to other people.

Who has done something good for you recently, or over an extended period of time?  Who has some positive character traits that you admire?  Once you determine who that is, tell someone close to them about it.  The opportunities are endless.  Don’t wait, start today.

What Can I Bring?

It’s a common question to ask when you’re invited over to someone’s house for dinner, a barbecue, or any other get –together, “What can I bring?”  When we ask this question, we’re stating that we want to contribute something to the event that will hopefully make it better and enhance the experience for everyone in attendance.

Have you ever thought of asking that same question of yourself in the context of:

  • Your work
  • Your marriage or relationship with your significant other
  • Your family
  • Your closest friendships
  • Your community
  • Your life

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about what you can bring in the form of snacks or something to eat.  I’m talking about what you can bring of yourself to your life, and the lives of others, that will cause them to be better because you showed up and brought something.

Take your work, school, or community; can you bring leadership, perspective, or vision?

What about your family, friends, or significant other?  How would your relationships change if you brought love, encouragement, compassion, grace, or maybe forgiveness?

And how would your life change if every day you decided to bring to it a positive attitude, a sense of humor and adventure, and an eagerness to learn,  grow, and apply what you’ve learned to positively impact the lives of those around you?

For me personally, I’m eager to find out!

We all have something good we can bring to our life and the lives of others.  Be aware of what you have to offer the world and constantly ask yourself, “What can I bring?”  Then once you have determined what you can bring…BRING IT!

There are untold lives waiting to be positively impacted by what you bring; most importantly, yours.