Interrupting Impulses

Your impulses are either working for you or against you.  When you’re feeling generous, your action benefits others.  When you’re angry, your tendency is to lash out.  When someone hurts you, you want revenge.  Self-control is learning how to interrupt your impulses by connecting with your goals during those crucial moments.  Create rules for how you want to behave.  The desired behavior will get you one little step closer to your goal, rather than have you take a giant step back.

This is what productive members of society do.  And when they’re able to methodically transform all their responses to impulses to good habits, they are optimally productive.

One rule that I have to interrupt my impulses is to plant whatever I need more of to connect me with my goal of having harmonious relationships in life.  If I need more patience, then I extend patience to others.  If I need more time, then I invest more quality time in loved ones.  If I need more money, then I thoughtfully give more money to worthy people and causes.

One glorious thing about this rule is that the outcome is always positive, no matter the impulse, good or bad.  If someone gossips about me and it really hurts my feelings or reputation, then I do not gossip in return.  Rather, I say good, encouraging things about them.  Or, I may just bite my tongue and extend grace.

Garbage in.  Gorgeous out.  I am a happier and more likable person.  Consistently.

Another wonderful thing about this rule is that I’m going to reap more than I sowed.  I will always get more out than what I put in.  That is the law of the harvest.  It won’t happen fast, but the results will come slowly and as part of a process.  Eventually, I will have harmonious relationships with everyone in my life.  And because I know it will take time, I am patient.  I will not get tired of doing good, because if I persist, the time will come when I’ll reap my harvest.

Psalm 126.5-6

Redefine “normal” for yourself.  Set the bar for what’s good and healthy behavior.  Rise above what is common or acceptable in society.  Be a contrarian.  Ask the questions:

  1. How do I want to live and feel?
  2. Who do I want to be?

Let the answers to these questions define the rules for your vital behaviors in response to your impulses at crucial moments.  Connect with your goals by interrupting those impulses so that you can become the person you want to be and live the life you were meant to live.

Myth Buster: People Are Basically Good

Do you believe people are basically good?  I must admit, I used to hold this belief.  You might be thinking … Marc, what a “glass as half empty” view of humanity.  Please hear me out.

First, let’s examine us in our natural state as small children.  We want to be feed.  We want to be cared for.  We want attention.  We are born with a selfish nature.  We are given freewill and our initial choices are all about me, me, me.  We have to be taught humility, patience, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness.  We have to learn self-control.

Second, human unfairness throughout the world, including in our own local communities, shatters the myth that we humans are all basically good.  Left to our own devices, we tend to …

  • Oppress,
  • Hoard,
  • Hurt,

… and generally think about ourselves much more than anyone else.  Just pick up a newspaper.  Unfairness is ubiquitous.

Fact:  You and I are treated unfairly all the time.

Fact:  You and I treat others unfairly more often than we’d like to admit.

In other words, we have a propensity to treat one another unfairly.  We are all victims and perpetrators of unfairness.  The reality is people are inhumane to each other.

How do we overcome this propensity in ourselves?  And how do we deal with the onslaught of unfairness in our lives?

First, learn to forgive others.  This simply means to let go of the unfairness, injustice or pain.  It does not mean to forget it.  It does not mean you have to trust the offender again.  It does mean you won’t let it consume you.

Second, forgive yourself.  You’ll never be perfect, even as you strive for perfection.  You’ll make mistakes.  You’ll hurt others.  You’ll treat others unfairly.  Commit to learning from those mistakes and not repeating them.  Minimize selfishness.  Maximize self-control.

Lastly, you have to maintain a front-sight focus on developing your character to be like Jesus.  You don’t have to be a Christian to do this.  Even if you don’t believe in him, you can still hold up his example as the standard to live by.  The Bible is filled with stories about how he treated people in different situations.  He is arguably the best role model of all time.

That’s what it means to live a Fordriven™ Life.  We are not born inherently good, but we can become good by transforming our minds, hearts and characters using the Fordriven framework:

  • Forgive others.  Let it go.  Don’t let the offense control you.  Rather, let it refine you.
  • Forgive yourself.  Learn from your mistakes.
  • Drive forward.  The past is in the rear view mirror.  It can not be altered.  The future is a blank canvas.  Study Jesus and set his character as the bar for your life’s masterpiece.

Tender Heart, Tough Hide

I’ve recently learned something from Joseph Grenny, a leading social scientist for business performance:

  • There are six sources of influence that are either working for you or against you,
  • You can profoundly change the way you feel about any choice by changing the frame of the decision, and
  • Change requires both motivation and skill.

For example, we all know that saving money is a good behavior, however it does not always feel good.  Why?  Because saving money because our parents told us to save doesn’t anchor the behavior to an aspiration.  In this frame, saving money is painful because we see it as delaying our immediate gratification.  We can’t buy what we want today.

However, what if we change the frame?  What if we save money for a down payment on a house so that we can provide a dignified home to our family.  Now the behavior is anchored to a noble goal.  Now the good behavior feels good.

That’s only half the battle.  We have the motivation, but do we know how to save?  What is the best way to engage in the deliberate practice of saving?  We may have to learn a new skill, i.e. set up automatic monthly transfers from your checking to your savings account.  Pay yourself before you spend.

This example address two of the six sources of influence:  Personal Motivation and Personal Ability.  See the table below for the other four.

Six Sources of Influence (with Change Tactics)
Six Sources of Influence (with Change Tactics)

I’m not going to address the other dimensions in this blog, however I do recommend Joseph Grenny’s book, Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.

Now, if you find this area of social science fascinating, as I do, then I’d like to address the posture you must have to seek the change this rubric addresses.  In my opinion, you must have a tender heart and tough hide.  Be kind and compassionate to others, forgiving as needed and being secure in the fact that you are forgiven.  Only then can you maintain a “front sight focus” on the task at hand.

Here’s how that is accomplished:

  • Recognize no one is perfect
  • Relinquish the right to get even
  • Respond to evil with good
  • Repent your transgressions
  • Receive forgiveness
  • Request help, strength and clarity daily from God
  • Refocus your mind by replacing negative sources with positive sources of influence

We don’t have time to harbor resentment, guilt or envy.  It’s foolish, senseless and illogical.  If you think back over the experiences in your own life, you’ll probably agree.  We can do silly things when we’re caught up in them.  When we cave, we act in self-destructive ways.  We do really dumb things, and it makes us miserable in the process.

We can spend all our time “keeping up with the Joneses”, or we can forget them and reduce our stress level.  We can’t have both.

The best way forward is to acquire a tender heart and tough hide.  Master the six sources of influence to help good behaviors feel good and bad feel bad.  Then you’ll be on the path to a meaningful life, the one God intended for you.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Eric Hoffer QuoteEvery person is worthy of respect.  Stable families and societies are built on respect.  Husbands are called to respect wives.  Wives are called to respect husbands.  We are commanded to honor our parents and respect civil authority.  No one is exempt.  We are asked to show proper respect to everyone regardless of their beliefs or behaviors.

Easier said than done, right?

Admittedly, I’ve had many failed attempts.  In my experience, there’s only one strategy that consistently works.  When I hold up Jesus Christ as my mentor and teacher and focus on developing my relationship with him, I notice that I am able to deliver respect to anyone.  Even if you’re not a Christian, you could try this strategy by studying how Jesus handled people and situations.  Arguably, he’s the greatest role model of all time.

By doing this, here’s what I’ve noticed:

  • I can disagree without being rude and judgmental.  The people with whom I disagree aren’t accountable to me.  It’s not my job to be a moral policeman.
  • I’d rather be happy than right.  I think before I speak.  If I don’t speak the truth to people in love, then I’m wrong.
  • I do to others as I would have them do to me.  I want to be treated with patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and faithfulness.  Therefore, I must exhibit those qualities.

Galatians 6.7Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion holds that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  In layman terms, whatever goes around comes around.  You’ll get back whatever you give out.  This is the law of the harvest.  If you want to be respected, then you must treat other people with respect.

Every person you meet today is worth of your respect.  How will that change your behavior?

People Don’t Care What You Know Until They Know That You Care

As I get older and more empathetic, my sensors for detecting insincerity are maturing.  And the second I detect it, my guard goes up.  I immediately become skeptical about anything that is said after that moment.  Even with the benefit of the doubt, I question their motive.  To the extreme, I completely distrust everything they say.

I’m continually amazed by the number of people who lack awareness of their falsity.  It’s a real turnoff.  They go on to spew volumes of facts, figures and other things they know.  They talk and talk and talk without listening.  They don’t read body language.  They lack the minimum emotional intelligence to understand the following basic fact of life:

People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

I’ve challenged myself to embrace this kernel of truth and be genuine with everything I say, write and do.  Before I can accomplish anything with others, they need to know I genuinely care about them.  My credibility hinges on it.

For me, this required a change of mind and heart.  It did not happen overnight, but I was committed to it.  Now, I don’t even remember what the old me was like.  All I know is that I love the new me.

I authentically care about my family, friends and colleagues with whom I work and volunteer.  And as new acquaintances enter my life, I have a genuine interest in their well-being.  I fundamentally understand they do not care what I know until they know that I care.

My Pap, Happy and Likable

That’s my grandfather and my son, 94 and 14 years of age, respectively.  Yes, that’s a delta of 80.  On this Father’s Day, I’m going to have the pleasure of eating dinner with both of them.  I am thankful to have that opportunity.1d80db80-51f9-4f04-ae38-85bba949e44e

My pap is veteran of the Second World War.  He was in the US Navy and was wounded in battle when his ship was sunk by the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean theater.  Knocked unconscious and thrown in to the water, he was near death until his buddy put a life-preserver around him.  My family is grateful for that heroic act, as my son would not be here because neither I nor my father would have been born.  One day, my son will inherit his Purple Heart.

I’m going to celebrate my pap again today because it may be the last chance I get to do that.  I treat every visit with him as though it will be my last.

The first thing I’ll do when I see him is tell him I love him.  Then, I’ll give him his tomato soup and turkey sandwich from Panera, for which he specifically asked.  Then I’ll ask how he’s feeling, what he’s doing at the nursing home, and how many new friends he’s made.  He lost the love of his life, my gram, 7 weeks ago.  They were married for 72 years.

As I reflect on my pap’s life, there’s a quality that stands out.  He is likable.  You just love being with him.  He possesses a quiet strength.  Everything he says is genuine.  He does not judge you.  He has a calmness about him.  He’s funny.  I’ve never heard him say anything mean to or about someone else.  He’s there when you need him, always willing to serve.  You can count on him.  We need more men like him.

And boy does he take care of his stuff.  He’s the best steward.  He is grateful to just have what he has.  He does not have a lot, but he is happy with what he has.  He doesn’t envy or covet.  He worked hard as a welder for nearly 40 years, made a good living and raised a blessed family.  He has been a great role-model.

My pap’s likability is a function of his constant state of being happy.  He believes happiness is a choice.  Happiness has nothing to do with your circumstances.  It has everything to do with your attitude.  He once told me, “If you’re not happy living on what you’re living on right now, I can guarantee you that you’re not going to be happy with any more because you’re always going to want a little bit more.”  Well said pap.

When I leave my pap today after we break bread together, I’ll tell him how much I love him one more time, give him a kiss on the cheek and thank him for just being him.  My pap, happy and likable.

Happy Father’s Day.

Bootstrapping

boot·strap·ping.

1.    to help oneself without the aid of others; using one’s own resources.

She spent years bootstrapping herself through college.

2.    to succeed only by one’s own efforts or abilities.

I admire him for pulling himself up by his own bootstraps.

In today’s team-based cultures, we can’t lose sight of the need for bootstrapping.  Those who have built something from scratch know what I’m talking about.  Those who have done much with very little understand.

As much as I enjoy working in teams and committees, as much as I value the contribution of teammates, as much as I appreciate the concept of synergy, i.e. the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, there are times when I realize I have to “get it done” with just me.  I have to “will my way” through it for the greater good.

  • No one is going to help me.
  • There is no place to hide.
  • Success or failure depends solely on my performance.
  • I have to stretch my comfort zone.
  • I have to do the work someone else should be doing.
  • I have to keep a calm, clear mind and steady, positive attitude.
  • I have to carry the ball across the goal line with defenders on my back.

Sometimes it’s not pretty, but I can’t be concerned about style-points.  The outcome is binary, success or failure, and failure is not an option.

I’m not sure if I have the bootstrapping gene in my DNA, but I’ve certainly witnessed and admired the behavior in others my whole life.  I’ve been practicing it so long that it’s second nature to me now.  However, events of this week were a reminder that not everyone has an appreciation of or tendency for it.

That said, I believe bootstrapping can become part of the fabric of an organization by developing people to embrace it.  I’m committed to doing my part by leading by example.

 

Prune Yourself into a Genius

Contrary to popular belief, I subscribe to the notion that geniuses are made not born.  Becoming a genius is within your reach, no matter your race, gender, color, creed or social status.

Geniuses learn their actions open up opportunity.  They understand their job is to solve interesting problems and to lead.  They are generously persistent, showing up day-in, day-out because they care.  Because they have something to share.  Because they want to make things better.

They become more important to more people by helping them.  Yet, they are not consumed by being all things to all people.  Rather, they find and focus on the smallest number of people for which they can be generous, i.e. their smallest viable audience.

I can be a genius.  You can be a genius.

On our quest to become a genius, we need to learn the art of pruning, the act of ridding or clearing unnecessary or undesirable things.  I personally did not appreciate the benefits of pruning until I owned a parcel of land with lots of vegetation.  When I trimmed dead branches from a vine, it’s overall health improved.  When I pruned parts of a rose bush that weren’t bearing roses, parts that we’re producing roses produced even more.  When I cut segments from a tree that were growing out of control, the tree grew into a more beautiful shape.

With my life, as with my land, pruning has become an invaluable tool and one of my most enjoyable habits.  I consider it an art because I’ve learned what works and does work.  I’ve learned where to prune, what to prune, how to prune and when to prune.  I’m pruning myself into a genius.

I was not born resilient, but I have learned resiliency.  I’ve pruned away the youthful brainwashing that taught me to conform.  I now have a curious, contrarian outlook.  Today, I have an energy and positivity about me.  I crave meaningful connection with others.  I give and receive dignity and respect.  I’m not afraid to fail and have a willingness to do it again.

Geniuses are made not born.  Prune yourself into a genius.

Just Say No

Natural does not mean good.  We have many desires that feel natural, however if we act on those desires, the end result could hurt ourselves or others.  Call them what you want … compulsions, habits, lusts, drives, desires, or attractions … they make you feel like you have no choice but to do them.  You just can’t help yourself.  You just can’t say “no”.

At the root of this matter is the following question, “What controls you?”  The answer is simple.  The spirit that is inside you controls you.  Your spirit, which is the sum total of your thoughts, controls you.  The battle ground for your thoughts is your mind.  Equip your mind to fight those battles, and your spirit will have the power to say no to unhealthy natural desires.

Unfortunately, awareness and yielding to this fact requires unbearable difficulties and hardship.  In my experience, pain is the great equalizer.  Pain does not discriminate.  Rich or poor, young or old.  Nobody is exempt.

The irony of life is if we never say no to unhealthy natural desires, then we will never make bad decisions that hurt ourselves or others, and therefore we will never experience pain, which is a prerequisite to acquiring the proper spirit that gives us the power to say no.  How we deal with our pain determines our lot in life.

This is why I am grateful for the excruciating pain that changed my spirit for the better.  I’m now able to say “no”!  Nothing external to me controls me, and I can get on with my life’s work.

The Other AI

AI is all the buzz today.  My guess is that many people use the term without truly understanding what it means.  AI is nebulous, mystical, sexy.  Much sexier than the phrases Big Data or Big Data 2.0.

AI stands for artificial intelligence.  It is simply a different way to look at data using very fast, powerful computers.  They are programmed to sift through tons of data and look for correlations.  Businesses use those correlations to make money by serving consumers.

By definition, artificial means made by human skill; produced by humans, as opposed to by nature.  Intelligence means having the aptitude to grasp truths, relationships, facts and meanings.  In other words, AI is made by humans to serve humans.  Yet, AI lacks something innately human:  awareness.

The antonym of intelligence is ignorance.  Ignorance is the lack of knowledge.  The opposite of lacking knowledge is having knowledge, which is defined as awareness.  Yet, intelligence does not mean awareness.  Having an aptitude for something means you can perform it.  It does not mean you are aware of what you’re doing.  Awareness is a profoundly human gift.

AI is here to stay.  It will continue to evolve and improve our quality of life.  Embrace it.  However, “quality of life” is not “meaning of life”.

The other AI, awareness intelligence, will give us meaning, a sense of purpose.  Without it, you will feel constantly stressed.  Your “other AI” can be increased changing how you think for the better.

To drive positive mind change, you need to understand where you are today.  You need to take an inventory of your current character qualities, relationships, emotional states, habits and principles.  You need to examine with whom and where you spend your time.  The exercise will reveal both good and bad, but it will help you take a stand for the future you want to have.

If you’d like a guide for this exercise, then click here to consider taking the MindWolves Awareness Assessment.

If not, then at a minimum, perhaps you can think about the “other AI” when you’re speaking to Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or Google’s Home?

%d bloggers like this: