Advice To Your Younger Self

What’s the best advice you would give to your younger self? Would you change history by telling him about his future?  I think, most of us know that changing moments in history might have devastating effects on your present and future.  Therefore, I find it a fool’s mission to re-think past decisions.  I don’t mean you shouldn’t analyze mistakes to avoid repeating them in the future.  I mean exploring the “what if” you made an alternate decision based on the known outcome.  At least part of the problem is, you still don’t know everywhere your life is heading and you might just be altering the future by taking that mistake away from your past.  My analyzer hurts just thinking about it.

Knowing the day of your own death would be equally troubling.  Sure, you might live life more intensely and without fear of dying sooner.  But, knowing your final day would weigh on your mind your whole life.  We all know the approximate human life cycle, but we don’t know what future challenges may or may not kill us. Those that don’t kill us make us stronger and wiser.

Hopefully, I’ll live to be a relatively healthy centenarian with a sound mind.  But, chances are I could be killed tomorrow or I could get to 100 and be trapped deep in my mind by dementia.  How would knowing the future change my decision making process?  Isn’t that a scary question to ponder?  So, I won’t tell my younger self WHAT is going to happen.  Instead, I want to give him some general advice:

TRAITS

  • Be kind, fair, loving, forgiving, vulnerable, faithful and adventurous.
  • Be less judgmental – Trust your gut instinct, but give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • KNOW less and BELIEVE more
    • You control very little. Always strive for the next level of improvement mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  But, have faith that things you cannot see or even dream are working in your life.  Try not to mess it up with all that thinking
  • Be more courageous. Be more flexible.
    • Stand up for others more and for yourself a little less. It turns out strength has less to do with muscles and more to do with intestinal fortitude.
  • Finish more projects. Learn to play that guitar instead of letting it collect dust.
  • Stay curious.
    • Read lots of books and articles – seek out modern sages that translate ancient wisdom into a modern world
  • Be a blessing to others.
    • Study the great leaders of spiritual movements that were servant leaders, not the conquerors.
    • The traits of warriors are better than those of conquerors
    • Strive to lead others to serve even in the face of adversity.
  • Don’t fear failure, just try to avoid the same fail twice.
    • Don’t obsess over failures. They are a natural part of life.
    • Successful people openly express the benefits of learning from their failures

Leadership

  • Be a friend and mentor, give more than you take.
  • Be a mentor and a leader not a manager or a boss
    • People follow honest genuine humans that can communicate their vision
  • Own your mistakes.
    • People will be more forgiving of your mistakes if you are honest about the ones you make.
  • Join a team to play or fight for a cause greater than yourself
  • Becoming the best YOU requires constant learning, experimentation and collaboration with others.  YOU CAN’T DO IT ON YOUR OWN!  No one ever succeeded by themselves.  Your individual efforts and dreams matter, but if you want to succeed help others reach their potential, accept help from others and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Know that happiness comes from the inside and while others can impact your happiness, ultimately you control your feelings.  And, YOU are the only one RESPONSIBLE for your happiness
  • Ultimately, remember, the journey matters as much as the destination.  The destination is just the beginning of the next journey.  Embrace pain and embrace imperfection. You won’t find perfect people or situations. It’s best you accept that now.
  • Few men at the end of their lives wish they had worked more and played less. All men wish they could physically and mentally do what they once had the capacity to do and think.
  • Take this opportunity to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Don’t worry too much about what your peers think or say. Chances are in 10 years, you will forget most of them. If it won’t matter in 1, 5 or 10 years, then why should it matter now?

LOVE & RELATIONSHIPS

  • Be more careful with the girls’ hearts (and, your own).
  • Don’t avoid a relationship even if you think it will end in pain.
    • The wounds are temporary. The resulting scars are wisdom.
  • Have fun, but let your brain drive more and your libido drive a little less.
  • Love the children in your life and remember to play with them (I’m not telling you when or if you’ll have your own children).

Financial

  • I might also suggest you take some of that money you plan to spend on fun and invest it in an index fund and an occasional stock or two from high quality companies.
  • Don’t be afraid to speculate on an occasional stock now and then.
  • Don’t laugh at your friends playing on computers. Instead, consider making an investment in that company that built that Apple computer (I couldn’t resist one future tip)

Well, that advice should get you through about 40 something. I’ll talk to you again in about 40 something years.

If this made you consider what advice you might share with your younger self about money, relationships, and spirituality (or, anything else)?  Leave a comment.  I would love to read it.  Maybe my next post will be the collective wisdom of the crowd that shares the wisdom of their lives (you don’t have to be 40 something or a man, either).

Your Greatest Achievement – Past, Present or Future?

Their Greatest Achievement? Alexander Remnev's selfie on the 414-metre-high Princess Tower in Dubai

Their Greatest Achievement? Alexander Remnev’s selfie on the 414-metre-high Princess Tower in Dubai

 

Ever been asked about your greatest achievement?  How do you think your age impacted your answer?  Is it behind you or before you?

Documenting and cataloging our achievements helps us keep score. Likely helping us measure against another human’s achievements.  The achievements of mankind are epic and frankly hard to live up to.  I remember thinking about Alexander the Great conquering the known world in his 30’s while I was still in my 20’s.  I guess, that represents the greatest achievement of a modern man.  Hard for every man after him to compare to that achievement.  What would I conquer?  Now, I know the biggest thing my twenty-something self needed to conquer was youthful fears.

I know now, that I’ve already achieved more than Alexander. I made it to my forties.  HA!! It turns out, most of our greatest achievements are personal victories that likely mean very little to the outside world.  Perhaps, with a few more decades worth of birthdays I’ll conquer the remaining fears and cross a few more things off of my bucket list.  Will I look back with envy or continue to look forward?

I hope to achieve a lot more things, but my some of my goals seem more modest.  No less easy for me, but more simple.  What energy can I put forth that will positively impact my little corner of the world every day?  And, if God sees fit to let me walk this earth another 40+ years I’m sure I’ll continue to ponder this question of past, present and future achievements.  I faithfully believe in an after-life.  No, I won’t be back to relive my life as a bug, tree or eagle (though, wings would be cool).  Hopefully, on my 90th birthday, I’ll still see the potential for greatness ahead.

Amazon

Do Leaders Need Followers? Maybe!

So, what does it take to be a leader? Can you count the number of times that question has been asked and answered? While many answers exist, this short TED video by Derek Sivers (@sivers) from 2010, offers compelling evidence of leadership.

Dynamite Entertainment's The Lone Ranger #4 co...

Dynamite Entertainment’s The Lone Ranger #4 cover. Art by John Cassaday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leaders need followers.  Sure, you can be a lone wolf – a la The Lone Ranger. However, The Lone Ranger’s impact was limited because he lacked followers to carry his vision far and wide. Contrast that with the young man in Derek’s TED presentation.

The first guy to dance inspired another, which then inspired another and the flood gates opened wide from there.  Now, one could argue that getting people to dance at an outdoor concert is like shooting fish in a barrel.  But, what compelled them to run over and dance with this guy and his followers? Dancing in place would have allowed them quicker access to their stuff. Obviously, people like to contribute to something bigger than themselves.

I don’t intend to diminish the ability of any one individual to impact the world. Sometimes, the sacrifice of a single individual will inspire a movement.  But, unless someone communicates that sacrifice the purpose may be lost. Inspiring others to act will exponentially impact the world with every new follower. The Lone Ranger’s mission could not be fulfilled with followers (aside from his side-kick Tonto). His vigilante approach demanded that he live outside societal norms.  Therefore, followers may have meant that he was less capable of fulfilling his mission.

The point I’m trying to make is that you need to determine the type of leader you want to become.  Do you have a single mission that will be accomplished within your lifetime? Or, will you start something bigger by attracting followers to carry on your vision.

I thought my single mission was to simply raise my children to be good productive citizens. While that satisfies the basic needs, my mission is more complicated than that. I know I cannot guarantee any specific outcomes, but I feel compelled to continue the progress of past generations.  Perhaps, I can inspire my kids to leadership by emulating those traits and helping them find their passion and their followers.

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Leadership – The Big Lie

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, I don’t think that the “idea” of leadership is a lie.  However, what passes for leadership is a lie.  As a matter of fact, I think many organizations or institutions don’t truly want leaders in their organization.  They want followers and doers.

Gifted leaders possess vision, tenacity, humility, honesty and flexibility.  Yes, historical examples of “leaders” that lacked these traits exist, but they merely support my thesis above.  Often, these “leaders” were in title only or brought out the worst in their followers.  Great historical leaders, while flawed, were far and few in between.  Historical leaders include George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, and Mohandas Gandhi.  These people and their contributions will endure through the ages.

Other names will too, but they are far more complicated and not beloved by all.  For example, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolph Hitler, J Edgar Hoover, George Custer, …..  While they all had vision, tenacity and flexibility they lacked honesty and humility.  They often boldly charged into battle, but often for personal glory missing the greater opportunity because of concern for their own legacy.

Too many contemporary “leaders” seek to build their legacy versus building lasting institutions.  They seek to secure their spot in recorded history, but lack the humility and honesty to contribute to enduring institutions.  Few will rise to the historical success of Alexander the Great.  There just isn’t enough of the known world left to conquer.  However, it is totally within our grasp to contribute to something greater than ourselves.  True leadership does not always involve creating lasting institutions, monuments or even a side note in the historical record.  Striving to exemplify leadership traits to your children and those that admire you may be the lasting legacy you seek.  Legacies might be akin to karma.  You may not always have the satisfaction of witnessing karma in action, but be assured that like karma, your legacy will live on in the people you impact and engage along the way.

Strive to emulate the leadership traits of those that did not seek immortality, but instead sought out the opportunities to contribute to institutions greater than themselves.

 

 

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The Purpose of Santa

January 3, 1863 cover of Harper's Weekly, one ...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking about this Santa subject a lot.  I wrote this about the Psychology Today post (The Case for Keeping Santa) and also commented on this post by  Ted Torreson’s (@ted_torreson) via his blog Faith in Motion.  Bottom-line, like most issues, there are shades of interpretation.

One of the greatest gifts (and burdens) from our Creator is free will.  A burden because the choice is left to each of us whether to follow the teachings of Jesus or not.  It seems the purpose for this gift may have been to ensure that humans came to God out of choice.  Choosing freely makes the choice more genuine.  Have you ever felt pressured to say something nice when someone is fishing for compliments?  “Don’t I look great in this outfit?”

I believe this also encourages us to think (a lot) about everything from what apple color is best for maximum taste satisfaction to the purpose for human existence.  Over the last 200,000 years we learned, shared and collaborated with humans across the globe, which brings us to this unique place in time.  While we are no smarter than the first humans, we are more knowledgeable.  In order for us to go beyond survival we learned to thrive by finding ways to simplify our needs so we can concentrate on higher function desires, which led us from tribes to civilizations.

The basis for our western society stem from some shared beliefs.  Whether Believer or not, Judeo-Christian moral and spiritual beliefs form the basis of our society, just as do Roman and English Common Laws.  But, that is written history.  Before humans began to write and before they painted on rocks, they shared around camp fires.  We tell stories about historical and fictional people to help us make sense of the world, as well as to pass on critical information to our descendants.  From myths, to parables to oral and written histories; humans tell stories through word or image that they hope will be the glue that binds a community together.

The Christmas stories we love to hear, tell, watch and sing ensure that our progeny cherish our values.  Humans seek out ever more creative stories to spark curiosity about the morals being conveyed.  Did you ever have an uncle that told the same story every Thanksgiving?  Did you start tuning out after awhile or begin to mock him?  However, if that uncle was instead telling new stories each year that while different involved the same characters you might be more prone to listen…especially, if he had some oratory skill.   This creative license allows humans to continue refining our stories while sharing the same values each time.

I think the stories about Santa Claus fulfill that same purpose.  While the story shouldn’t be a substitute for the Christmas story of an immaculate birth, it can nevertheless provide a vehicle to share important facets of the Good News.  The life of Jesus provides a model life for Christians to follow.  While no one is praying at the altar of Santa (well, besides Macy’s), the story gives us a shared cultural reference to promote giving, joy, family and faith.  The farther we travel down the evolutionary road the farther from fact stories becomes until they are almost all fictional.  However, hopefully we retain the morals and values that we cherished.

Humans evolved into great story tellers.  Think about those Lascaux cave paintings in France compared to National Geographic TV.  Same fascination with wildlife, but richer image.  I think while the Santa stories moved away from the historical basis the best parts remained.  Merry Christmas!

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7 Fundamental Truths For Kids

Though not a comprehensive list, these 7 truths represent the foundation of my Leadership-dad philosophy.  I strive to model these behaviors, as well as reinforce them through stories and lessons.

curiousCURIOSITY

Curiosity fuels an interesting life.  The day you stop being curious, you simply stop being useful.  Don’t just ask why, figure out how.  As Dr. Bruce Perry, MD, PhD (@bdperry) posits, curiosity leads to experimentation, which leads to mastery and finally confidence.

 

 

 

Problem Solvers = Entrepreneurs.

Image via Indrasis Blog

OPTIMISM

You are going to fail.  Seek out new experiences like they are gifts on Christmas morning.  In time you will fail less and win more, but without the failures you won’t know how to appreciate the wins.

 

 

 

Positive Attitude = Positive Influence

thrive

thriving lone tree in the rocks

Resilience

Life is hard.  The older you get the harder it gets.  When you are a kid, you can’t wait to be an adult so no one tells you what to do.  Unfortunately, those rule making teachers and parents don’t go away, they just turn into police, politicians and spouses.

As Catherine McCarthy, PhD. posits in her blog post How Can You Thrive? The difference between success and failure is attitude.

Attitude = Prosperity

Courageous

Courageously Tackle the Lego Fire Walk?

BE COURAGEOUS

Don’t be stubborn or fool hardy, but never compromise your core values.  Few things in life warrant risking your life, everything else is negotiable.  That doesn’t mean you just roll over either.  The art of negotiation is that the other person walks away feeling they won, too.  Don’t fight to win, fight for what’s right.

 


Courage = Strength

Fairness

Fairness

FAIRNESS

Life may seem unfair at times, but focus on those things within your immediate control (e.g. your treatment of others). Follow a higher sense of fairness.  Treat others with equal or greater respect than you treat yourself.  And, remember that all people are created equal.  Never treat another less than you and never allow others to treat you less than them.

 

Fairness = Equality

Image via faithforsinners.com

FAITH

Faith in God, faith in yourself, and faith in love.  These three things pulled me through most of my life.  Many would ask me about my confident positive attitude and this would be my answer.  I know that God has my back, that I can do anything and that I my loved ones are my safety net. These beliefs never let me down.  My biggest failures occurred when I didn’t trust in all three.

Faith = Confidence

wealth

wealth

WEALTH

You may not ever discover your purpose.  You will not know all the people you influence.  If you seek meaningful work that allows you to contribute to something noble, then you will fulfill my dreams for you.  More importantly count your blessings because faith in God will take care of your needs.  You can concentrate on creating abundance within your family and others.  Wealth does not mean financial gain, as much as it means financial well-being providing you the means to follow your passions.

Wealth = Quality of Life

These guiding principles helped to shape me and I believe they will help to positively shape my kids, too.

Please tell me what you think.  What did I forget?  Do you disagree? Agree? What are the most important things you teach your kids?

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Kick Santa To The Curb?

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

Image via Wikipedia

I just read The Case for Keeping Santa by Lynne Griffin (@Lynne_Griffin).  She discusses the positive values promoted by the stories surrounding Santa Claus.  For example:

Joy

Create some joyful childhood memories.

Generosity

“Santa’s biggest legacy is his desire to give without receiving.”

Wonder

“How does he get around the world in one night? Do reindeer really fly? Learning to question and make sense of the unbelievable is an important skill for a child. Just thinking about this Christmas tale encourages critical thinking and reasoning skills. Join your child on the quest to understand.”

Faith

“Santa is your child’s first experience believing in something he cannot see. Believing in Santa is a beginning step toward teaching your child about faith. Spirituality is based on learning to trust in a higher power, in God.”

Hope

This lesson keeps us all going.  Utilizing this story bolsters a child’s desire for better days to come.  Of course, as Lynne points out, it can be equally dangerous if not tempered.

She also gives some tips for answering the inevitable questions that will come as children mature.  “Don’t lie just to keep the myth alive.”

I recently participated in a discussion with others about what and when to tell a child about Santa and the Christian position on Christmas.  Ted Torreson authored the post Why I Won’t Be Teaching My Children About Santa Claus.  As a pastor, he makes the case that perhaps we do our children a disservice by not telling them about the reason for the season and the real story of St. Nicolas.

As parents, we want to teach our kids about faith, love and life.  But, we also want them to maintain vivid imaginations and grow up with the values we cherish.  The many positive characteristics of Santa seem worth perpetuating.  Especially, that of the cheerful giver!

7 Surprising Reasons The West Won

Niall Ferguson lists 6 reasons western societies with 19% of global population controlled 75% of the world’s resources.  I think he missed one.

  1. Competition – Many corporations, similar to the City of London Corporation in the 12th Century, along other governments were competing with one another.  Think about the number of western European languages spoken around the world today due to colonization.
  2. The Scientific Revolution – while we all know gun powder came to Europe from China, it was the Europeans that continued to experiment with it and mash together multiple scientific disciplines in order to improve it.  Niall’s example is a German using Newtonian physics to improve the accuracy of bombs.
  3. Property Rights – I think this is probably one of the most fundamental rights in American history that contributed to stability and growth of the middle class.  Even the poorest could own property which might remain for generations.  Though, many injustices occurred over property disputes, those legal protections help the poorest prevail against the richest.
  4. Modern Medicine – ensuring people lived longer, healthier, and productive lives.  Imagine the additional productivity of one person by nearly doubling their life expectancy.  Just the simple act of surgeons washing their hands before getting elbow deep into another person’s abdomen probably saved a few million lives.
  5. The Consumer Society – Henry Ford paid much higher wages than other manufacturers at the time.  He wanted Ford employees to afford Model Ts which in turn kept demand high for his product.  For all the benefits of consumerism, there lurk many dangers as 2008 proved.  The rising middle class in China and India creates demand for high-end western luxuries, but desires in the west for those goods at ever cheaper prices led to the decline of manufacturing in the west.
  6. Work Ethic – Western society’s work ethic turned virgin soil into vast acres of corn, cotton, tobacco and grazing land.  Now the Native Americans that provided the seeds for tobacco and corn to the newcomers were equally (if not more) successful than Europeans at growing these crops.  The difference was profit versus subsistence.  It was the European demand for tobacco that encouraged a strong work ethic.  Niall uses the examples of North and South Korea along with East and West Germany.  The communist state produces markedly less quantity and quality than do non-communist states.
  7. Why? – I suppose you could lump this into the scientific revolution above, but really this is the ability to question authority, as well as, the desire to understand the reason an apple feels compelled to hurl itself toward earth.  The inalienable rights of mankind to desire freedom and reject tyranny led to asking why.  I think some of the basic tenets of Christianity contributed to this enlightened thought.  Even though Catholicism suppressed western society for centuries, once peasants demanded the right to read and interpret the bible for themselves, The Church’s strangle hold loosened forever.

Niall fears (as do I) that the rest of the world will quickly catch up and overtake western society, but it is not too late.  While governments are slow to react and bogged down in squabbles over Keynesian economics, we must act now to prepare our kids for challenges of the 21st century.  Mark Twain said, he never let his education get in the way of his learning.  Join me in teaching our children to be creative problem solvers that bravely seek answers to WHY.

Zen of Fatherhood

Aside

Me holding Jake and Colin when Jake was littleHelen Keller said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” As I sit waiting to meet my third child, I reflect on  the beauty of unseen things. The Zen of Fatherhood.

Enlightenment through deep thought.  Reaching higher levels of understanding through a natural progression of experience.  Fatherhood allows me to reach higher levels of understanding about things I thought I already knew.

 

LEARNING – My first son changed my life forever. Not that I wasn’t prepared for that, but I did not know to what extent. I learned to love their learning process.  Watching the wonderment in their faces when they discover something new is priceless. If only I could remember to learn with such enthusiasm.

PATIENCE – God knows, one of my greatest flaws remains impatience.  I often forget how unimportant spilled milk really is in the grand scheme of things. Usually, the dog will lick it up anyway. I think being a father has made me a more empathetic person and leader.

LOVE – Experiencing the love a parent feels for a child is like nothing I have ever experienced. Sure, I love my spouse, parents, siblings, friends, etc, but nothing compares. I know there is very little I wouldn’t sacrifice to ensure they are safe and successful.

WEALTH  – I suppose I’m less motivated by money than some and more so than others. However, fatherhood has brought more wealth into my life in the last 5 years than the previous 30 combined.  While I won’t stop developing myself and looking for ways to build financial stability for my family, I have nonetheless discovered the wealth of blessings I already possess.

Yes, fatherhood brings a form of zen into one’s life.  Multiple paths exist toward enlightenment for all, but my path led me to this higher level of understanding.  I look forward to reaching ever higher levels in the future and passing as much as possible down to my descendants.