“There’s nothing noble in being superior to other men. True nobility is being superior to your former self.”
I’ve noticed this about people I admire. They usually are working on something.
It might be developing a new skill.
It might be achieving a new level of fitness.
It might be improving their pursuit of faith.
It might be stepping up the effort on being a better parent or spouse.
It might be studying a new topic.
It might be researching a new destination they plan to visit.
It might be stepping out into a new volunteer effort.
It might be cooking a new dish.
It might be improving a process or product at work.
Sometime we take up things because it will make us look good. We do it, because someone else is doing it.
But, Hemingway notes that if our goal is to be better than others, satisfaction may be shallow when completed.
You will be satisfied with your endeavors when you can say to yourself : “I’ve given my best effort. I’ve pressed and stretched. “
Keith Olbermann is a television journalist. He is a brilliant writer and broadcaster who works at ESPN, but you may have seen him on other networks like CNN or MSNBC.
I heard him interviewed recently. He was asked about his reputation as “being difficult to work with”. He responded to the question by acknowledging that in his early days that he was hyper-critical of others, letting them know of his disdain and it frequently made it difficult for him to stay on a team. But, he said that he was changed.
The interviewer, Charlie Rose, asked what made the difference.
Olbermann said that things changed when he got a dog. He recounted that he would take his dog on a walk every day and was impressed with the dog’s joy. “Every person, every dog and every plastic wrapper on the street offered him a new chance for exploration. There was nothing he didn’t look forward to. We walked the same way every day. Seemed like thousands of times. The dog was always happy.”
Olbermann said it caused him to think about the way he approached things. For instance, rather than criticize the lighting in a studio I could start with: “This is a really great studio. Do you think it would be better if we added a little more light?”
Criticism is necessary to lean operations. Candor is important when identifying shortcomings and initiating change efforts. The question is always whether you leave scars as you criticize or state the opportunities for change.
Olbermann’s advice is to act more like a dog. Be joyful as you go.
A business partner sent me this story today:
Two frogs fell into a deep cream bowl.
One was an optimistic soul.
The other took the gloomy view:
“We’ll drown,” he cried, without more ado;
So, with a last despairing cry
He flung up his legs and said “Good-by.”
Said the other frog with a plucky grin,
“I can’t get out, but I won’t give in;
I’ll just swim around till my strength is spent,
Then I can die with more content.”
Bravely he swam till it would seem
His struggles began to churn the cream.
At last on top of the butter he stopped
And out of the bowl he gladly hopped.
What of the moral? ‘Tis easily found—
When you can’t get out keep swimming around.
My friend knew it, knew I would as well. That’s because he’s had the experience of feeling up to his neck and having to paddle like crazy to survive. He also has seen that not giving up and continuing to paddle will frequently create “butter. ” The story instructs, but it also encourages. Hope and effort is a winning combination.
“My story is the average story. It’s just filled with special people. What am I without them?”
Williams is a singer, writer and producer who had a big year. His song “Happy” was no. 1 in 24 countries.
He attributes his success to be a result of the “alignment of stars”.
That being successful is a result of many factors of which he is “thankful”.
His testimony reminds me how much we depend on each other. We are helped by special people. But better still, we have the opportunity to be the special people who help others.
I recommend you watch this segment on CBS Sunday Morning. Here’s the link:
I hear there are other segments involving Williams. Google him and see what you find.
His interview reminds me to stay humble and to be grateful for the special people who have crossed my path. I’m grateful.
“The ambition of being a star can NEVER be greater than your aspiration of playing on a great team.”– Tom Crean, head coach basketball at Indiana University.
Nothing takes the joy from an endeavor like being on a team that is underperforming.
What happens when a team doesn’t perform well?
There’s “finger pointing”. Teammates start the blame game and energy moves away from improving.
There ‘s resignation. Effort wanes because individuals begin to think their efforts won’t change things.
There’s selfishness. Teammates focus on personal goals and comforts as compared to team results. Since we aren’t winning anyway, why make a sacrifice for the team.
The real “star” understands that most satisfaction comes from being on a team that improves.
She understands the joy of making the effort to achieve good results yields meaningful relationships.
He understands there is great education and life lessons in working together to achieve team success. Being a good team player always makes us better for the challenges ahead.
So, don’t point fingers and blame. Ask questions instead. Why are we not getting the results we want? What can we do different?
Don’t be resigned. We can always make things better. We have to focus our attention and effort. It starts with a personal resolve.
Put aside selfishness. Model the teamwork we know is necessary to win.
A popular quote these days comes from Maya Angelou. She said: “People may remember what you say. They may remember what you do. They will always remember how you made them feel.”
The stats of being a star won’t mean much if you aren’t on a winning team.
I love affirmation. Words of praise. Acknowledgement of accomplishments. Encouragement. They give me a boost.
At the same time, I’ve learned to appreciate critics. Don’t always like what is said. Don’t always agree. But, when criticism comes, it’s worth taking time to consider its content.
The truth is, nobody gets it right all the time. To pretend you do or to act like you do leads to a fall.
A key element to courageous communication is the willingness to bring to a discussion shortfalls, mistakes and shortcomings.
When someone suggests ways you can perform better, it’s worth jumping past the tendency to be defensive and concentrate on the content of the feedback.
That’s where growth and development occur.
I had a teacher say once if you had a colleague who only says what you want to hear as compared to one who is constantly critical, you’re better off listening to the critical one. Because criticism will offer occasionally an opportunity to get better while constant affirmation will fail to evoke or to provoke change.
I find myself starting a sentence at times with this qualifier: “If I’m being honest with you…”
One time someone stopped and asked me: “Are you sometimes not honest with me?”
That stopped me. It occurred to me that I meant something different. I didn’t mean I was about to be “honest,” I meant I was about to be more “candid.”
There’s a difference. If I don’t tell you what is on my mind, if I hold back, if I stay private – those can all be done without being dishonest. But, sometimes we know we should speak our mind, we shouldn’t hold back, we should be more public. And, we choose not to do so for a million different reasons. And, when we know we should and we don’t, we feel a bit dissatisfied. Like we haven’t been honest.
So, I find myself responding to folks these days when they lead with “If I’m being honest…” by saying: “I don’t think you’re dishonest. You may not have been candid, but you aren’t dishonest.”
Candor makes for stronger relationships, better solutions, higher functioning families and teams. It’s best served with respect and regard for others. It’s best served with planning and thought.
It takes courage to be candid. But, when that courage is mustered, there is a strange freedom that comes along. A freedom that feels peaceful. It takes the edge off things. We always feel better when we found a way to say what needed to be said, what should have been said. Even when it took guts to say it.
Here is something you may not know about me. From time to time, I officiate weddings. I perform the service. I marry people.
One of the staples of the weddings I participate in is reading a Bible passage (1 Corinthians, Chapter 13) which begins love is patient, love is kind.
The point I like to underscore is that when it comes to relationship love is action rather than feeling.
How do you act patient? I ran across this quote describing patience.
“Patience is not passive resignation nor is it failing to act because of our fear. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all I can: working, hoping and exercising faith; bearing hardships with fortitude even when it means delaying the desires of your heart. Patience is not simply enduring. It’s enduring well.” Dieter Uchtdorf.
To be patient is brave work. It’s toughing out situations. It’s trying again. It’s biting your tongue. It’s holding back criticism. It’s choosing words carefully. It’s getting up from being knocked down. It’s putting pain and disappointment aside. It’s choosing a positive approach.
Teamwork is important.
I read articles about how to make teams better all the time. As I read them, I go through a mental “true or false” test. The more I find myself saying “true,” the more I validate the article.
My appreciation grows for the article when it gives me a new angle on things I believe to be true. For one, it expands my ability to evaluate teams. For two, it gives me fresh ways to explain the complex dynamic that teamwork is. It’s been my experience that everyone knows teamwork when they see it or experience it, but not everyone knows how to create a team environment.
So, I read a teamwork analysis the other day. It describes the things effective teams do. I liked them because it gives you a chance to do a gut check on how your team performs and how you contribute.
Interestingly, one of the primary ways teams flourish is when members express appreciation for each other. Sincere appreciation.
What do you think about the level of appreciation on your team?
Is there appreciation expressed often? Who does it? What circumstances cause it to happen? Who does it most effectively? What makes them effective?
Turn the test inward. Each of us is on a number of teams or functions in different groups. Sit and think about those groups a bit. See the picture in your head of each one. Think about what you appreciate about them.
This idea can stretch pretty far. To customers: those who communicate, express their loyalty through long-term relationships, give us a second look in competitive markets, and work with us when we fall short. To family members, neighbors, suppliers, good waitresses, teachers who made a difference awhile back, those that make a difference right now. You get the point?
For me, a good old dose of appreciation will make my day. Don’t need too much – it can go to my head.
So, my challenge to you is to become a skilled appreciator. Practice it at work, every day. Send an email or a text. Stop a supervisor as they pass. Tell your forklift driver or the payroll person you appreciate their accuracy. There is virtue in consistency, professionalism, meeting and exceeding expectations. Acknowledge it. Express it. The article says our teams will improve if you do.