Archive for Character
I believe it is a normal human desire to be concerned about how we look on the outside. There’s nothing wrong with that. What can get us in trouble is worrying more about how we look on the outside than about how we really are on the inside. Our reputation comes from what others believe about our outside. Our character represents who we are on the inside. And the good news is that if you focus on being better on the inside than the outside, over time you will also become better on the outside. Why do I say that?
The Inside Influences the Outside
More than twenty-five hundred years ago, the Proverbs writer noted that as we think in our hearts, so we become. That ancient idea has been both echoed by other wisdom writers and confirmed by modern science. Coaches teach the importance of visualization for winning. Psychologists point out the power of self-image on people’s actions. Doctors note the impact of positive attitude and hope on healing.
What we believe really matters. We reap what we sow. What we do or neglect to do in the privacy of our daily lives impacts who we are. If you neglect your heart, mind, and soul, it changes who you are on the outside as well as the inside.
Inside Victories Precede Outside Ones
If you do the things you need to do when you need to do them, then someday you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them. In other words, before you can do, you must be.
I have often observed people who seemed to be doing all the right things on the outside, yet they were not experiencing success. When that happens, I usually conclude that something is wrong on the inside and needs to be changed. The right motions outwardly with wrong motives inwardly will not bring lasting progress. Right outward talking with wrong inward thinking will not bring lasting success. Expressions of care on the outside with a heart of hatred or contempt on the inside will not bring lasting peace. Continual growth and lasting success are the result of aligning the inside and the outside of our lives. And getting the inside right must come first—with solid character traits that provide the foundation for growth.
Our Inside Development Is Totally within Our Control
We often cannot determine what happens to us, but we can always determine what happens within us. Jim Rohn said,
Character is a quality that embodies many important traits such as integrity, courage, perseverance, confidence, and wisdom. Unlike your fingerprints that you were born with and can’t change, character is something that you create within yourself and must take responsibility for changing.
When we fail to make the right character choices within us, we give away ownership of ourselves. We belong to others—to whatever gains control of us. And that puts us in a bad place. How can you ever reach your potential and become the person you can be if others are making your choices for you?
Doug Firebaugh, author and multi-level marketing expert, says, “Winning in life is more than just money…it’s about winning on the inside…and knowing that you have played the game of life with all you had…and then some.” If you want to be successful, you must prioritize building your inside ahead of your outside.
Several years ago, teenage millionaire phenomenon Farrah Gray wrote a book called Reallionaire. He coined the term to describe “someone who has discovered that there is more to money than having money. A person who understands that success is not just about being rich in your pocket; you have to be rich on the inside, too.” At a tender age, he recognized that money without a strong character foundation can lead not to success but to ruin. If you have any doubt, just look at the number of famous child actors and young pop stars who have crashed and burned. Their stories are often sad because they focused on the externals of life instead of building internally to give themselves a strong foundation when fame and fortune came. Theirs is a fate we need to work hard to avoid by focusing on improving on the inside more than the outside.
Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel stated, “He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions—such a man is a mere article of the world’s furniture—a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being—an echo, not a voice.” No one wants to be an echo, to live a shadow of a life. Yet that is often the fate of people without convictions. If you desire for your life to have meaning, then you must choose some principle to live by.
I’d like to make a case for the Golden Rule. I believe that asking the question “How would I like to be treated in this situation?” is an effective integrity guideline for any situation.
The Golden Rule works in the boardroom, on the ball field, in the classroom, and in the living room. It works with employees, employers, family, and peers. It works whether you’re managing a paper route or a Fortune 500 company. As Henry Ford observed, “We have always found that if our principles were right, the area over which they were applied did not matter. Size is only a matter of the multiplication table.”
If you believe the Golden Rule is right and it works, then you need to adopt it as the integrity guideline for your life. Every day, whenever the issue of ethical behavior confronts you, ask this question: “How would I like to be treated in this situation?” Then take the advice of nineteenth-century novelist George Eliot, who said, “Keep true, never be ashamed of doing right, decide on what you think is right and stick to it.”
From Ethics 101
If you’ve ever led people, you’ve come across followers who would rather act the part than do their part. Those people are pretenders, and while they can sometimes masquerade as players, there are ways to tell the two apart. It’s important to find all the pretenders within an organization, because otherwise, they will steal momentum and damage relationships.
Here is my guiding principle: Pretenders look the part, talk the part, and claim the part, but fall short of fulfilling the part.
Here are some other specific differences:
1. Players have a servant’s mindset; pretenders have a selfish mindset.
Players do things for the benefit of others and the organization, while pretenders think only of benefitting themselves. A pretender is narrowly focused only on outcomes that are in his or her best interest.
2. Players are mission-conscious; pretenders are position-conscious.
Players will give up a position to achieve a mission. Pretenders will give up a mission to achieve a position. For players, the progress of the mission is much more important than their own place within it. But a pretender will value his or her position more highly than just about anything else.
3. Players can deliver the goods; pretenders only promise the goods.
A player is a team member who can be counted on to finish a task every time. The pretender will claim the ability to do so; but in the end, he or she does not consistently execute.
4. Players are job-happy: they love what they do and do it well. Pretenders are job-hunters: they can’t do what they do where they are but think they could do it better somewhere else.
For a player, the work is fulfilling and meaningful, and he or she is devoted to doing it well. The pretender is so focused on appearing competent that he or she cannot always BE competent. And again because of the focus on appearance, the pretender won’t admit fault when mistakes are made. Thus, he or she believes that problems are a part of the workplace, not him- or herself.
5. Players love to see others succeed; pretenders are only interested in their own success.
Rabbi Harold Kushner had a player’s mindset when he said, “The purpose of life is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and to share. When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people’s lives than you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them.”
I think we all start out as competitors, but the goal is to grow past that. In my adult life, I have evolved from competitor, to personal achiever, to team player, and on to team builder. A player is happy when another member of the team succeeds because it benefits all. The pretender sees success as a win-lose proposition, and resents it when another person “wins.”
6. Players value integrity; pretenders value image.
In navigation, the rule is that what’s under the surface should be heavier than what’s above the surface. Otherwise, ship will capsize in a storm. Integrity is like this; what’s under the surface had better be greater than that which is in plain sight. A player can be counted on to do the right thing, even if nobody is looking. Pretenders may only do the right thing when others are looking, and whatever is expedient when others are not.
7. Players make the hard choices; pretenders make the easy choices.
We all have the power of choice, but once used, our choice has power over us. What is a hard choice? With a hard choice, the price is paid on the front end; the payoff only comes later. Few people gather to affirm the hard choice, and it almost always includes risk. And the hard choice usually places others and the organization above self. Peter Drucker once said, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.” Players aren’t afraid to make those decisions.
8. Players finish well; pretenders fade out.
Some people start as players, but at some point they turn into pretenders. Why? I believe it’s because they overestimate the event and underestimate the process. They make the choice to begin, but they get tired of the work it takes to continue. Or they begin and proceed until they are confronted with the need to change. Unwilling to do that, they begin pretending in order to get by. A player takes all tasks to completion.
Do you have a better idea of who the players and pretenders are within your team or organization? Remember that players will always ADD to the team’s efforts. But pretenders, at least in the long run, will COST the team. Knowing the difference between the two means that you’ll count on the right person to get the job done.
As winter arrives here in the US, I find that it’s the perfect time of year to stay indoors and read a good book. And since I’m always reading books to continue to grow personally, this seemed like the perfect time of year to share with you WHAT I’m reading. The following are books I’ve read recently and recommend:
The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, by Harold Myra
The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World, by Harvey Mackay
How to Run Your Business by The Book:
A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business,
By Dave Anderson
The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How We Lead by Who We Are
By Robert Fryling & Eugene H. Peterson