Are You Ready For Heroism?

John F Kennedy, former President of the United States, was asked how he became a war hero. “That’s easy,” he said. “They sank my boat.”

In World War II in the Pacific, Kennedy’s patrol boat PT 109 was sunk. It was run over by a Japanese destroyer. Two of his crew were killed. The balance drifted and swam to a small island. They dodged observation from the Japanese for days and got by on water and coconuts until they were saved.

But, Kennedy’s explanation reminds us that you can be called to heroism at any time. His opportunity for heroism came because his boat got in the way of a destroyer on a dark night. And, then he did what he had to do to help his team survive.

No doubt, the experience became a defining moment. I suspect after leading his team to survival, the future problems he encountered, though very large, didn’t seem as daunting.

Kennedy would have preferred that his boat had been spared the sinking. But, his humble response to how he became a hero reminds us that our opportunities for heroism might be right around the corner. When they come, may you have the “stuff” to respond with courage, resilience and persistence.

The Golden Rule: Why It Works

In my Bible reading this morning: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It’s famously known as the Golden Rule. I bet if I asked you to recite it, you could.

As I read and meditated on that familiar passage, it occurred to me that the Golden Rule is like so many truths. We know them, but we don’t necessarily do them.

The Golden Rule works. It calls us to humility, because it teaches that our own ideas and thoughts aren’t superior to others.

It calls us to generosity, because it says we should share resources rather than horde them.

It causes us to service, because in order to treat our neighbors as ourselves, we have to take time to walk in their shoes. We have to try to see it their way. We have to try to feel as they feel.

Once we are filled with that knowledge, we are compelled to help in a different way.

We all navigate life inside our heads and behind our eyeballs. We are driven by our appetites.

The Golden Rule calls us to add the perspective of our neighbors, colleagues and friends to our own. To do it on purpose.

It broadens our thoughts. Causes better decisions. Improves the world where we travel.

The Importance of ‘Walking Straight’

My music genre of choice is Country. Lyrics are frequently “laugh out loud funny”, but sometimes poignant.

I heard performer and writer Billy Currington sing a song yesterday. The refrain went like this:

“Walk a little straighter Daddy

You’re swaying side to side.

Your footsteps make me dizzy and no matter how much I try, I keep tripping and stumbling.

If you’d just look down here you’d see.

Walk a little straighter Daddy

You’re leading me.”

We have many daddies at PalletOne. Some raise their families at home.

Circumstances have caused others to raise them part-time.

Currington’s lyrics remind us how important the role of “Daddy” is. Little ones pay attention. They watch and copy. And, if the path we lead them upon is crooked and swaying, we shouldn’t be surprised if they have a tough time succeeding in life.

Many of us didn’t have ideal leadership from the men in our life. We know the impact that created.

So, how are you leading? It’s not something you do later. It’s something you do now.

If your path isn’t something that makes you proud, there is good news. You can begin today.

Opting out as a leader of your children isn’t an option. You will be an influence whatever your choice. I hope you aren’t swaying, but walking straight.

Be Flexible To Change

“People learn something every day, and a lot of times it’s that what they learned the day before was wrong.”

-Bill Vaughan

Have you ever had the experience of finding out what you were certain was so wasn’t necessarily so?  As Vaughan’s quote suggests, it happens.

We work hard to arrive at solutions to problems. On any given day, we come up with the best solution we can and implement it.

But, we have to remember a couple of things.

1. Try as we might, our information will never be perfect. We can know some of what we need or most of what we need, but never all of what we need.

There’s always a chance we can learn something more that would cause us to arrive at a new conclusion.

2. The world is broken and full of change because of it. Economies change. Bad weather arises. Factories shut down. People leave. Nothing stays the same. Therefore, the calculation of what is the right decision can change with the circumstances.

So, we have to remain agile and flexible. We have confidence in our team. We are decisive about planning and strategy. We work to implement with a forward lean.

But, we remain humble. We remain alert to all opportunities to learn. We scan the horizons for change and the potential of change. We are flexible to move in a different direction when new knowledge compels us.

Our tendency is to want to arrive at a decision and stay the course. In most cases that works. But, it is essential we remain open to the fact that a good idea today can be obsolete tomorrow.


Losses Make Us Stronger

I listened to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s interview with Charlie Rose last week. He is ending his first term as governor and running for reelection. He is also promoting a new autobiography in which he highlights both his successes and disappointments.

Here’s a statement that caught my attention:

“There are very few success stories that don’t have losses in the early chapters.”

As we have slogged through this recession, I’ve marveled a number of times at how much I’ve learned as well as how much our company has learned. I don’t ever wish for losses and setbacks, but there is no question that they can makes us better.

Here are some of the ways:

Losses can cause a stark, candid reflection of yourself or your organization. A significant setback can cause you to stop and consider where you are and what you need to change to improve things.

Losses cause a return to accountability. When you suffer a setback, it’s important to accept accountability. You won’t come back from it if you don’t make a decision to be accountable for improving matters and moving ahead.

Losses create an education about grief. Losses cause you to grieve. There’s a process of sorting through frustration, anger and shock to get to the new reality. Those who have experienced grief understand it better when it comes along again.

Losses cause a re-prioritization. Priorities can be skewed. You can put the wrong things first. Losses help you set things in the right order.

Losses provide motivation. No one likes losing. Setbacks provide powerful juice for bouncing back.

Losses broaden your perspective. They make you wiser. You get a greater sense of timing and cycles. You learn failure doesn’t have to be fatal. You learn that setbacks aren’t permanent nor are they pervasive.

Losses give you an appreciation for the present time.  Losses are inevitable. Thus, today is what is important. No matter where you find yourself, what is important is what you can do to make it better now.

Work With The Customer In Mind

“Work is simply taking the raw material of creation and developing it for the sake of others.” Tim Keller

As a “lean” company, we strive to add value. The goal is to perform tasks and to produce products for which someone is willing to pay. The “lean” theory says if we are doing something or charging for something a customer wouldn’t want to pay money, it is waste.

Keller’s quote reminds me. The work we do, each of us, is intended to add value for someone. So often, we go about our work in a routine fashion without any regard to the customer we serve.

If we keep in mind who we are creating our product or service for, it can be an inspiration. It can cause us to be more accountable. It can add pep to our step because of the pride we take in our work. It can sharpen our eye to enhance the quality of our work.

If you feel “blah” about your work, stop and reflect upon who it is you serve.

Risks Reap Rewards

“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable.”

Ernest Hemingway, great American novelist

Hemingway’s quote points out a tension that each one of us face. In order to achieve things, you have to be willing to be vulnerable.

Having “a feeling for beauty” means to me that you have a tender heart. Beautiful music, sights and interactions make your heart sing. On the other hand, corruption, deceit, disunity and cruelty can cause deep sadness.

Being a risk taker brings rewards greater than those attained by the safe, stay out of the fray folks. You may fall down. You may fail. But, risk takers know the taste of a risk rewarded is well worth the mediocre outcomes of never talking them.

Speaking the truth is the outcome sought by “courageous communicators”. Occasionally the truth spoken strains relationships and causes disappointment. But, truth sets us free. It clears the way. The best people know to champion the truth is worth the short term pain it can cause.

The best people sacrifice. They put others before them. They delay gratification. They do the nitty gritty work of doing the weeding and fertilizing, because they know it bears the best fruit.

Vulnerable? Yes. But the virtues that Hemingway describes creates a rich life.


Competitive Spirit Delivers Satisfaction

As a big college football fan, I’m noticing more parity among football teams.

Teams like Ohio State and Alabama are still notable, but other teams are beginning to hire the same kind of conditioning coaches and running the same kind of offenses and defenses. The “have nots” are catching up to the “haves”.

The pundits will speak of one coach or the other losing an edge. While I certainly think that success can breed complacency that dulls an edge, it’s also a truth that the competition responds to the successful players in their market.

Hall of Fame basketball coach Pat Summitt says: “You can’t always be the strongest or most talented or most gifted person in the room, but you can be the most competitive.”

Strength, talents and gifts provide an edge, but that edge can be wiped out by a team that works hard, perseveres and competes fiercely.

I think a good strategy is to stay humble about strength, talent and gifts and be hungry when it comes to work, perseverance and competition.

Satisfaction will follow.

Build On Success

“Take your victories, whatever they may be, cherish them, use them, but don’t settle for them. ” Mia Hamm, USA soccer great.

Hamm’s quote reminds us you build on success. You can have a great day, a great month, a great year, but life doesn’t stop. It’s difficult to maintain, because every great success is a combination of circumstances.

We control some of them. Our effort. Our preparation. Our knowledge. Our skill.

But, there are other factors. The weather. The economy. Our competitor’s complacency, poor preparation or bad luck.

We can learn from every victory. We also can learn from  every setback

Hamm’s quote reminds us that most people obtain a victory and lose an edge. The great one’s get the most out of every win and use it to win again tomorrow.

Be Calm And…

A colleague sent me this quote:

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.”

– James Allen,
British philosophical writer

Tranquility describes a calm nature. I value it in others especially during tense times. I try to model it as well.

If I remain calm, I’m less likely to say things or do things I will regret later.

If I remain calm, I think better. I consider a broader range of alternatives. I anticipate consequences better.

If I remain calm, I find relief faster. Whatever has caused my tension has happened. Regretting, chastising, criticizing, cussing, busting stuff up is all wasted energy. If I remain calm, I can move ahead.

If I remain calm, my teammates will follow my lead.  They will join me as we make a plan to move ahead.

Calm is contagious. It inspires trust and confidence.

There are times for impassioned reactions. They have their places. But, calm has a power all its own.


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