Archive of ‘Life Lessons’ category
While most of us don’t like to admit it, we all prefer stasis (even those of us who are change agents). It’s comfortable to remain as we are—especially since over 90% of what we do is done on auto-pilot. In other words, we all establish habit patterns and routines that, we believe, serve us well, which is why we do them.
For example, you both have daily routines—from the moment you get up until the moment you go to sleep. You generally get up around the same time. You eat the same kinds of foods. You interact with the same kinds of people. You carry on the same kinds of conversations. You do your work the same way. Etc. Every day, it’s basically the same (even your variations are similar).
However, if you want to create any significant change in your life, you’ll have to learn how to fight that natural pull of inertia that wants to keep you and your life the same. Why? Because if you don’t, you’ll never achieve anything significant. You’ll be forever captive to the gravitational pull of comfort and conformity. In other words, you’ll remain stuck.
But to get to anything better in your life, you’ll have to learn how to consistently break free from your own self-imposed comfort zones. For example,
1. If you want a better job, you’ll have to choose to be willing to leave the comfortable job you’re in right now (or, if you remain with the same company, the comfortable job you’re in now to move to a new position with that company).
2. If you want a raise, you’ll have to be willing to leave the comfortable place of letting your boss decide on your raise, and instead, ask him/her for a bigger raise. (more…)
Relationships are difficult. The potential for conflict is always present. But relationships are made all the more difficult whenever one party asks the other a question and the only answer that person wants to hear is, “Yes!” In this case, the person asking the question isn’t really asking a question, are they?
No, they’re actually making a demand, disguised as a question.
Whenever you’re asking a question of someone (not a content question like “What do you know about XYZ” but a request question like, “Can I borrow your car tomorrow?”), the other party always has four options at their disposal.
1. “Yes” – the affirmative answer you’re seeking.
2. “No” – the negative answer you don’t want to hear.
3. “Maybe” – the optional answer that could turn into either option one or two above.
4. “Later” – the postponement answer that again, could result in either option one or two above.
The key is that when you ask a question, you need to be willing to accept any one of the four options.
If you remember our conversation about goals and desires, you should remember that any action or decision that another individual has some say or control over is at best a desire, not a goal. Why? Because you and I can’t control other people. We can only control ourselves. (more…)
Whenever someone accuses you of something, confronts you about an issue, says something mean that’s meant to hurt you, or makes an unflattering comment about you, the natural instinct both of you will have in this life will be to retaliate and be defensive—which is exactly why you have to fight those urges and do the opposite.
Very few people ever learn this lesson, but it’s invaluable. In fact, let me suggest a number of reasons why you’ll want to make the non-defensive choice.
1. You don’t want to let anyone control you. Whenever you get defensive, you’re allowing the other person to control you and your emotions. You’re allowing them to get “under your skin.” You’re allowing them to control the conversation. And you’re allowing them to control how you feel. Why would you ever want to do that?
2. There may be some truth in what they’re saying. Whenever you get defensive, you immediately stop listening and start defending yourself and your actions—and that’s a problem. Even if someone has a bad motive for saying what they’re saying, that doesn’t mean there might not be something truthful in their comments. Of course, if you’re too busy defending yourself, you’ll never hear what they’re saying—which means you’ll have missed a great opportunity for growth.
3.You never want to appear as a fool. Solomon got it right when he said, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Proverbs 29:11. Whenever you get defensive, you allow your anger to blind you—which then usually leads to conflict and words poorly spoken (because they haven’t been thought through), which then makes you the person in the wrong. (more…)
Invariably, the two of you are going to run into conflict virtually every day for the rest of your lives (between roommates, bosses, fellow employees, teachers, family members, neighbors, etc.). But don’t worry, it’s not personal–it’s just part of the human condition. Everyone (including the two of you) is hardwired for self-interest–which means that, at a minimum, you will experience some level of conflict everyday because at some point of everyday your self-interest and someone else’s self-interest will be (or at least appear to be) at odds.
Now, most people think they can avoid the reality of self-interest by simply wishing it away (shouldn’t we all just get along), but they’re wrong. We’re hardwired for it. We can’t just wish it away. It is what it is. So, the better question that the two of you need to ask yourselves is, “How can I work with other people’s inherent self-interest?” That’s a good question.
And the answer to that question can be found in a wonderful “old” bookentitled, “Getting to Yes,” by Ury and Fischer, which is a lay version of the Harvard Negotiation Process which was used in creating the Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt.
The basic premise of Ury and Fischer’s book (that changed how I think about and deal with conflict) is that the reason most conflict doesn’t get resolved is because people continually fight about their positions. (more…)
As you both know, I’m a huge fan of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory® (MBTI®), but what you may not know is why. Back in the early years of my former career, I was getting tired/exhausted from all the conflict. No matter what the subject, it seemed like someone always disagreed–which often lead to letters (this was pre-email), meetings, messy relationships and sometimes people leaving. I tried to calm and reassure your mother that this was true of every church (it is). And I even took out five year’s editions of a pastoral leadership journal to show her that virtually every edition had at least one article on church conflict.
However, after two or three years of this, I was getting tired of it. Then I read a book by David Kiersey and Marilyn Bates entitled, “Please Understand Me: Character and Personality Types,” and everything changed. Using the major Myers-Briggs types they helped me to understand that most of the conflict that people have in relationships isn’t over what most people think it is–the issue. Instead, most conflict is over how they see the world differently. Once I understood that, the world changed. And the more I’ve read and studied the Myers-Briggs types, the more I’m convinced that anyone who wants to succeed (at home, at work, or at play) really ought to own some kind of personality inventory (of which I think the Myers-Briggs typology is the best option).
What amazes me is that the whole of life (yours/mine/everyone’s) is made up of relationships, yet very few people take the time to really study them and, more importantly, to understand how to work with people who are fundamentally different than them. The person you will marry someday. The kids you’ll have. The bosses you’ll work for. The employees you’ll lead/manage. The neighbors you’ll live next to. As well as the friends/colleagues/clients/classmates/acquaintances/etc. that you’ll meet along the way—all of them will be different than you.
So how can you short cut the learning process in order to quickly figure out how to work with people who are different than you? Exactly! By finding and mastering an inventory like the Myers-Briggs types to give you a head start. Now, as you’ve repeatedly heard me say, “A typology is not meant to be prescriptive, but descriptive (i.e. just because someone has a natural tendency to do something doesn’t mean they have to act that way. The most obvious example of that is me. Even though, as you know, I’m an introvert by nature, most people who interact with me think I’m an extrovert. Why? Because I choose to act in a way contrary to my nature in order to be what people need me to be. After all, this life isn’t about us, is it?). In other words, you don’t want to put people in a box. However, the MBTI® will give you a short cut for understanding the myriad of relationships you’ll encounter between now and the time you die.
That said, here are some of the things you can short circuit and get to know quickly about the people you encounter–if you master the MBTI.
- What they’re probably good at doing
- What they’re probably weak at doing
- What probably drives them
- What they probably like
- What they probably don’t like
- What they probably need
- What kinds of environments they’ll probably flourish best in
- What probably stresses them out (and how they’ll probably respond)
- What they probably value
- What probably motivates them
- What probably de-motivates them
- How to improve communicating with them
- How they’ll probably act in meetings
- What kinds of projects to assign or not assign to them
- What kinds of activities that they’ll probably enjoy or engage in
- What kinds of work they’ll probably find most fulfilling
- How they’ll probably get re-energized
- How they’ll probably process information
- How they’ll probably make decisions
- How they’ll probably like to order their life
That’s a pretty impressive list, isn’t it? Now, if you could know all that information about virtually anyone one you meet (in a short span of time), don’t you think that would be valuable? And if you not only knew their personality type, but your Myers-Briggs type as well, don’t you think that would help you know how to resolve conflict better? Or lead/manage them better? Or communicate with them more effectively? Or work with them? Or find common ground more quickly? Absolutely!
So my recommendation to the two of you is to pick up a book on the Myers-Briggs types (or some other personality inventory) and begin to own them. While I started with ”Please Understand Me,“ there are plenty of good books (and websites) on personality types. In fact, ”Do What You Are,“ ”Type Talk at Work,“ and ”The Art of Speed-Reading People,“ are a few of my other favorites. Make your own ”cheat sheets.“ Test your ideas. And then use the Myers-Briggs typology as a framework to help you build better relationships–as well as to figure out how to untangle those relationships when conflict does occur (because it will).
Since the rest of your lives will be filled with relationships, I cannot overstate the importance of this practice. Avoid it at your peril!
Note: Myers-Briggs®, Myers-Briggs Type Inventory® and MBTI® are all registered trademarks of CPP, Inc.
I know that the two of you have a personality preference for spontaneity over planning, for acting by the “seat of your pants” vs. taking intentional and deliberate pre-thought steps, but if you want to get where you want to go faster or accomplish something faster, then you’ll want to add planning and project management to your list of core competencies. Note: In Myers-Briggs language, this is not a “J” vs. “P” issue, this is a life and career management issue (i.e. don’t pass by this lesson).
So, why is this a life and career management issue? Simply put, planners get more done-–and they get it done faster. In the world of time management, the generally accepted time difference is that ONE hour in planning saves THREE to FOUR in execution. Now, think about that statement for a moment. By simply taking the time to plan what needs to be done, you can literally save yourself hours of time that you would have spent just doing/executing (which, over the course of a lifetime, is equivalent to YEARS of time savings)
For example, let’s say you’re working on a project for work. If you don’t take the time to plan, you’ll come up with some general ideas (in your head), make assumptions about what should be done and when (in your head), and then dig in to whatever part seems most interesting to you—which may not be the right place to start or the best way to accomplish your objective.
If, on the other hand, you take the time to plan, you’ll get more clarity on the result you want to accomplish (which may actually change the project). Once you have complete clarity on what the actual result is that you want to achieve, you’ll then figure out what’s the best way to get there, you’ll figure out how to coordinate the different parts of the project so that they work best together in the best sequence, you’ll have a better timeline of what needs to be completed by when (and then work backwards to be assured that everything that needs to be accomplished is accomplished by the right dates), you may find some parts you can delegate out, and finally, if you need to go out and purchase a number of different items, you’ll be able to coordinate the purchase of those items and make one trip vs. multiple ones. At every level, planning achieves a better result—and faster!
Now, I know the two of you tend to think that this is just a dad/INTJ kind of thing—but it’s not. Planning is nothing more than taking the time to get clarity on where you are and where you want to go, and then figuring out the best way to get there. Even though the word, plan, is technically a four letter word, it is NOT a cuss word. Remember, personality preferences aren’t meant to be prescriptive, they’re meant to be descriptive. So, in general, the two of you prefer to be spontaneous. That’s wonderful!
However, your personality preferences aren’t meant to be determinative of your behavior. Just as I have to move outside of my “introversion” preference to interact with people, the two of you have to move outside of your “P” preference to do what is best for you. Even though you may not like lists, don’t fight something that can help you get where you want to go. I guarantee you that you’ll get more done, faster and better, with a list/plan, than you will without one.
Hopefully, I’ve modeled that for the two of you over the years. And while you may feel that planning “isn’t you,” I seriously want to encourage both of you to add more planning into your lives. Trust me on this—it’ll have a positive affect on your relationships, your work, your career, your interests/hobbies, your finances, your dreams, your health, etc. Everything gets better the more intentional you are.
So, please, don’t push this lesson aside. Your life, your career, your time—they’re all dependent upon you adding this core skill of planning and project management to your list of core competencies. You’ll get more done. You’ll get it done faster. You’ll get it done better. You’ll create more time and space for other things. You’ll avoid making a lot of mistakes. You’ll avoid wasting a lot of time. You’ll avoid massive amounts of conflict and miscommunication. And you’ll succeed at a higher level.
With all that at stake, hopefully, you’ll want to add this core skill to your core competencies (and not just think this is a dad thing—because it’s not).
If there’s ever anything that you’re not happy with or want to change on the outside of your life, then the place where you need to begin the process of changing it is on the inside—not the outside. Why? Because of the Law of Correspondence.
What is the Law of Correspondence? It’s an essential life principle that states that what takes place on the outside of your life, corresponds to what’s taking place on the inside of your life. For example, you’ve probably observed over the years that when you’re feeling a little blue, you probably tend to wear sweats and “baggier“ clothes. Why? Because what happens on the outside corresponds to what happens on the inside.
Once you begin to understand this principle, it’ll change how you go about creating any kind of change in your life. For example, if you notice that you’re not utilizing your time well (e.g. choosing to watch a lot of TV rather than doing something you know you should do or doing meaningless activities just to use up time) then you know that something is amiss internally. If you try to move from poor use of time to good use of time, it probably won’t work. Why? Because there’s something going on internally (in your beliefs or attitudes or self-esteem etc.) that is causing you to make poor choices about your time.
Or back to the dress illustration. If you notice that you’re consistently choosing to wear sweats (note: forget about work because work requires you to wear nice clothes, I’m talking about when you’re in complete control of your wardrobe choices), then you know there’s something going on inside. Just to go from sweats to nice casual isn’t the answer—there’s something going on inside that’s causing the behavior. If you change the belief, then you can change the behavior.
This is why it’s so incredibly important to continually work on developing high self-esteem. How you feel about yourself (from your character to your physique to your intelligence to your work to your relational abilities etc.) drives just about everything in your life. The better you feel about yourself, the better you’ll do in just about everything. Why? Because of the Law of Correspondence. If you feel good on the inside, you’ll perform well on the outside.
In addition, whenever you want to change something in your life, you always want to dig down deep and discover what beliefs you have about that area. Why? Because beliefs (internal) determine behaviors (external)—what happens on the inside will work itself out to the outside.
For example, right now I need to lose a few pounds. Using the Law of Correspondence, what’s on the outside is driven by what’s on the inside. Just trying to change the outside by going to the gym and eating healthier is a strategy doomed to fail. Why? Because I have a set of beliefs and emotions that have gotten me to this point. Just trying to change the outside, without working on changing the inside is pure foolishness.
This is why you’ll often hear people say, ”You need to change the picture you have of yourself!“ Why? Because if you change the picture (for ex. from ”I’m not successful“ to ”I am successful“), then you can change the behaviors (from self-sabotage to self-enhancement).
So never forget the Law of Correspondence. If you want to change anything on the outside of your life (i.e. a behavior you don’t like), then make sure you start by looking inside (your beliefs, emotions, self-esteem, etc.) … because ”As within, so without!“
The two of you are both so incredibly talented. There’s virtually nothing that you can’t do. But to get there, you’ll both need to do some head work because the Law of Correspondence is inviolate-able. “As within, so without,” is a rock solid principle you need to own and use to your advantage.
As I’ve mentioned before, most people like the idea of being better or being more successful or being fit or being happy or being in a great relationship—but yet they don’t really want those things—despite what they might say. Why do I say that? Because they’re not willing to do what’s necessary to obtain the very thing they say they want.
I’m sure you’ve observed this phenomenon among your peers. You probably have friends who’ve told you that they’d like to get good grades, yet they’re not willing to do the hard work necessary to get good grades. Instead they continue to play and party all day and night with their friends. Or you probably have friends who say they’d like to get healthy and in shape, yet they aren’t willing to change their eating habits or get up early to go to the gym. So do they really want to be healthy and fit? I don’t think so.
If you really want something—and it’s more than just a “like to have” or “sounds like a good idea” kind of thing—then you’re going to have to avoid doing what most people choose to do—and instead make some sacrifices. Why? Because there is no success without sacrifice.
The American ideal of, “You can have it all!” is a flat out lie. No one can have it all. In order to obtain anything worthwhile in life, you have to make sacrifices. You have to give up something NOW in order to obtain something that you perceive to be better LATER. It’s always been that way and it always will be. Remember, first you make your choices, then your choices make you.
1. If you’d like to be healthy and fit, then you have to be willing to say, “No!” to most of the food choices put in front of you. And you’re going to have to give up some other activities (which could include some sleep) in order to get some exercise in. No one gets healthy and fit by eating whatever they want and not exercising. Sacrifices have to be made. Why? Because there is no success without sacrifice.
2. If you want to be a successful employee, then you have to be willing to do some of the things most employees won’t. You’ll have to sacrifice some of “your time” so you can do work before or after the hours you’re required to work. You’ll have to read more or take more courses. You’ll have to say, “No!” to getting together with friends from time to time in order to get a project done or to volunteer for an extra assignment or to make sure you get to bed on time so you can be fully engaged at work the next day. Why? Because there is no success without sacrifice
3. If you’d like to be in a great relationship with a guy (yeah, I know, I can’t believe I just wrote that either :-), then you have to be willing to make some sacrifices. One of the things we clearly learn from Jesus’ example is that love is all about sacrifice. Love is not about convenience (a mistake too many people make). Love is about putting someone else’s needs above your own. Note: don’t read anything more into that statement than is intended. Your needs still matter and you shouldn’t be in a relationship with a guy who doesn’t get this principle. Love is a two-way street full of mutual love and sacrifice. And hopefully, your mother and I have modeled that well for the two of you.
4. Finally, if you’d like to change anything in your life that you don’t like, then just realize that you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. The bottom line is this—if you could be different just by wishing you were different, then you’d already be different. But you’re not, because you can’t just wish to be different. If you want to be different, you have to give up some of the things you’re currently doing, in order to get something better in the future. It’s always been that way, and always will be.
If you want to succeed at anything in life–and I don’t care if it’s playing the piano or starting a business or getting straight A’s or winning a tennis tournament or being a great parent someday–never forget the title of this post. Make it one of your mantras. Write it on a bunch of stickies and place them around your home and workplace. Why? Because there is no success without sacrifice! Period.
P.S. And as Zig Ziglar likes to say, “You don’t really pay the price, you get to enjoy the price.”
At this stage of the dance, for the two of you, dating is about two primary things.
1. Determining if this is the right person for you, and
2. Preparing each other for your future spouse (whether it’s you or not).
Since the mate question is always front and center at this stage of your lives, you need to make sure you’re clear about what kind of person you’d want to spend the rest of your life with.
Though neither of you are list people, I’m guessing that you have some general ideas in your heads of the kind of person you’d like to marry someday (good looking/attractive, funny/sense of humor, likeable/easy to get along with, good conversationalist, intelligent/smart, will listen to everything your father has to say and think it’s brilliant, etc. :-).
But my counsel would be to make values congruence the primary thing you’re looking for. Why? Because values reveal the deepest part of someone. And if the two of you have different core values—or different hierarchies of core values, you’ll have massive conflicts that will ultimately separate you.
For example, if you value frugality and your spouse values consumption, you’ll have battles about money every week … for the rest of your lives. Or if you value responsibility and your spouse values self-preservation/ego, you’ll be constantly arguing about their excuse-making as to why things never get done. Or if you value excellence and they value relaxation/time off you’ll have conflicts all the time about why things aren’t done well.
But the conflicts aren’t always caused by having different values, sometimes it may be that you have the same or similar values, but the conflict is caused because your core values aren’t on the same priority scale. For example, we have a family friend who had been dating a guy on and off for a number of years, but kept putting off getting engaged. When I talked with this person, I asked her a number of questions which led us to the conclusion that the major reason why she didn’t want to marry him was because her highest value was learning/education. It wasn’t that he didn’t value learning, it was just way down the scale for him (like maybe 10 or 15).
So my counsel to her was, “Never compromise on your top couple of core values.” Learning/education was her highest value. It’s what drove her. And it’s what drove her crazy in her relationship with this guy. Shortly after that conversation she ended their several year old relationship—and not long after that, she met a guy who had a similar top core value of learning/education—and as of this writing, she and her husband have been happily married for over a decade and have three wonderful kids.
So, even though the two of you aren’t big on lists, I’d encourage both of you to do some soul searching and wrestle with the question, “What are my core values?” And then, once you make a list, I’d encourage you to wrestle with, and then whittle that list down to your top five. Once you’re clear on that, then when you meet someone you feel attracted to, you’ll have a better idea of what you’re looking for, “Do we have similar values?”
Most of the things on most people’s lists of what they’re looking for are obvious (like good looking. Duh! If you weren’t attracted to them in the first place, you wouldn’t even be asking the question, “Is this the right person for me?”). If you want to be wise, you want to have a better list and ask better questions. In this case, you want to ask the values congruence question—and, if you do, you’ll be well ahead of the rest of the class—and on your way to finding someone with whom you can build a marriage with that will not only last, but be a joy!
One last note: In case you’re curious, your core values don’t have to be in the same order, they just need to be in the same general vicinity.
To get you started, here’s a sample list of core values you can use to stimulate your thinking (and begin the debating :-).
Authenticity, Affordability, Change, Cleanliness, Collaboration, Commitment, Competency, Consistency, Continuous Improvement, Creativity, Curiosity, Dependability, Diversity, Education, Efficiency, Excellence, Fairness, Frugality, Fun, Generosity, Growth, Hard Work, Health, Honesty, Humility, Imagination, Influence, Initiative, Integrity, Intelligence, Justice, Knowledge, Laughter, Lifelong Learning, Loyalty, Objectivity, Openness, Optimism/Positive Thinking, Passion, Perseverance, Play, Productivity, Professionalism, Promptness, Quality, Reliability, Respect, Responsibility, Responsiveness, Results, Safety, Security, Service, Simplicity, Speed, Teachability, Teamwork, Trust/trustworthiness, Value, Wisdom
As you’ve probably already noticed, most people are content with doing less than a 100%. They’ll do “just enough” and be happy with that—but “just enough” is not enough if you want to be at a top performer (whether that’s at work or at home or at church or for a non-profit).
In fact, let me give you a home life example of this. Several years ago, when your mother and I were first married, if I’d do the dishes, I’d often do the 95% and be content with that. The majority of the dishes were done, the majority of the counters had been wiped clean, the food that needed to be refrigerated had been put away etc.—and I was okay with that. But not your mother.
She was annoyed that there was always something that wasn’t completely done. The dishes that had to be hand washed were drying on the counter top. The counter tops may have been wiped clean, but not the stove top. Or the food may have been put away, but one or two spice jars were still on the countertop. In other words, there was always something left that she had to finish. Finally fed up with this, one day she simply said, “Bruce, if the kitchen isn’t completely done, it’s not done!” (or in my language, “95% is 5% too short!” You either complete the task or you don’t. 95% is not done!
This principle holds true across the board. For example, in school, most of your peers are okay with not doing the last 5%. They won’t do the extra work, they won’t do that last search to find that perfect illustration/quote/fact. They won’t do that extra edit to clean up their grammar. They won’t take the time to say something different, etc. But if you want to be great, you’ve got to do all those things. You’ve got to go the last 5% for a number of reasons—for yourself, because that’s where all the rewards are, and because you rarely know ahead of time where the line is between just okay and great performance.
For example, I remember when I was at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and in my first accounting class (which was the weed class for business majors with several hundred students in each section). To get prepared for the exams, the professors gave us access to all their past exams. The idea was that we were supposed to study the exams to learn how to think about problems so that when they threw something at us on the exams that we hadn’t seen before, we’d understand the thinking behind how to solve those problems.
During that semester, there were a couple of us who got straight A’s on every exam. But what we discovered when we talked about this was that all of us had studied an average of 40 hours per exam. We couldn’t find one person who had studied less than 40 hours who got straight A’s. We also knew plenty of people who had studied 30 to 39 hours who all got B’s. Think about that. At 39 hours, they were just 5% too short. An extra hour. An extra problem or two. Etc. and they probably would have had an A. Life is like that. It’s often that, “little bit extra,” that makes all the difference.
This is clearly true at work. Again, most people will be content with doing just what’s required or what the minimum is. But not you! If you want to succeed, you have to keep thinking, “95% is 5% too short!” Do the extra work. Put in the, “little bit extra.” Do the extra edit. Stay late to complete the project as an “A”. Why? Because, 95% is 5% too short!
If you’re going to do something, do it fully. If you’re going to clean your room/apartment, do it fully. If you’re going to write a paper/report, put in the “little bit extra” to make it great. If you’re going to create a presentation, add a few extra touches to make it sing. If you’re going to use an illustration, do the extra work to find the perfect illustration, not just one that’s “okay.” If you’re going to orchestrate a date, take the time to add your own touches of creativity so that it’s memorable. And if you’re going to volunteer to do a project at work, make sure you do the “little bit extra” so that it stands out.
Any way you add it up, 95% is always 5% too short. So cultivate the habit of doing, “the last 5%,” and you’ll begin to realize that all the rewards go to those who do “the last 5%.”