Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lesson 29: Put your shoulder into it.


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.



If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.
—Unknown

Effort is essential to success, but it never ceases to amaze me how few people seem to understand that simple fact.
I have hired quite a few employees in my time; I have also fired a few. The old saying is true: it’s hard to find good help. A good, hard-working employee is hard to come by. All it takes is a little honest effort and a good attitude to stand out.
Most employers have an awful time finding and keeping good employees. It seems that many people work harder at avoiding effort than they would at just doing a good job. They’re determined not to do any more than the bare minimum. What’s more, they think they are owed a living.
What these poor souls don’t realize is that the world doesn’t owe them anything at all. They seem to think that they can—and should—get something for nothing, or get more out of something than they put in. But that’s not the way life works. Nothing worthwhile is accomplished without sacrifice.
Everything in nature operates in this way. Just spend a little time watching common tree squirrels on a fall day, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. A squirrel must store sufficient food in order to survive through the winter. Have you ever seen a squirrel sitting, resting, and watching other squirrels gather nuts for him? Of course not. Every one of them works incessantly, collecting and storing his or her own food supply.
The same applies to people. It’s natural for each of us to do our fair share, and a person who does less is bound to have a negative self-image. That person is like a leech, sucking from the efforts of others.
You would do well to let that sink in: the world owes you nothing. You must earn your keep, pull your own weight. One of the simple secrets to success is that if you pull more than your own weight—if you do more than you’re paid for—you will stand out from the crowd. You’ll automatically make yourself indispensable. And you’ll almost certainly be rewarded for it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lesson 28: Loyalty, properly placed, will take you far.

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Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.



I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.
—Samuel Goldwyn

Milton Hershey’s rags-to-riches saga is more than the story of just one man. Throughout his difficult journey to success, the milk chocolate mogul had the undying support of three people: his mother, his Aunt Mattie, and his friend William Lebkicher. They provided Milton encouragement and financial support. Had it not been for them, Hershey would not have been able to succeed. And when Milton succeeded, his supporters shared in the success.
That’s loyalty. Loyalty has been defined as devotion to a cause; we can also view it as devotion to a person. Sometimes, the cause and the person are one and the same.
Loyalty is an important trait to possess, but you must place it properly. Be sure that the person or cause to whom you are loyal deserves your loyalty.
The Jonestown tragedy is a classic case of misplaced loyalty. Jim Jones was the charismatic leader of a religious sect. In 1978, he led his followers in a mass suicide ritual where they drank Kool-Aid laced with poison. Over 900 people died, including 276 children. Jones certainly was unworthy of loyalty, and yet hundreds were willing to go to their deaths for him—and take their innocent children with them.
By contrast, Milton Hershey used his wealth to build an entire town, complete with schools, housing for employees, public transit, and 150 acres of parklands. He also established a residential school for orphaned boys, to which he gave the vast majority of his wealth. The school is still in operation today, serving nearly 1,400 underprivileged boys and girls from across the nation. Clearly, Hershey was a man deserving of loyalty.
Employers prize loyalty in their employees. Loyal workers are partners in success: everyone is pulling for the enterprise to succeed. It’s as if everyone were in the same boat, rowing together to get to the destination. A few people pulling in the wrong direction can wreak havoc.
When you find someone who truly deserves your loyalty, give it to them. If they’re really worthy, they’ll be loyal to you as well, and you’ll both benefit.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lesson 27: Make your own luck.



Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.




What we call luck is the inner man externalized. We make things happen to us.
—Roberston Davies

Luck is real. But hoping for good luck to come to you is a poor strategy. And using bad luck as an excuse to underachieve is just as weak.
Yes, you could win the lottery. People do all the time. Somebody has to win, as they say, so it might as well be you, right? All true—you certainly could win—but you won’t. It’s been said that the government-sponsored lottery is a tax on fools, and that’s not far wrong.
Bad luck exists as well, but it doesn’t have to rule your life. In 1876, a candy maker with a fourth-grade education opened a business in Philadelphia; it failed miserably. He moved to Denver, where he failed again. This was followed by more failed ventures in Chicago, New Orleans, and New York. Talk about bad luck.
Finally, after ten years and repeated failures, he returned to his family home in rural Pennsylvania, disgraced and broke. With one more loan, he started yet another candy company. Using everything he had learned from his string of bad luck, he was at last able to pull off a success—a big success.
The candy maker’s name was Milton Hershey, and the successful company he started was the Hershey Chocolate Corporation. As of this writing, the Hershey Company has annual sales of almost $5 billion and the company itself is valued at nearly $12 billion.
It’s been said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. That was certainly the case with Milton Hershey. At each of his “bad-luck” stops, he learned something that that would become useful one day. All of his experience and hard-earned knowledge contributed to his development of the formula for Hershey’s Milk Chocolate.
If there is a secret to having good luck, it can probably be summed up in this famous quote from Samuel Goldwyn: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
You can make your own luck as well. Step one is to take responsibility for your own success or failure. Do what you love, and stick with it. When you suffer a setback, take away useful knowledge from the experience. Have faith, and keep at it. You’ll get lucky soon enough. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lesson 26: Live a life of integrity.

 

Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.
 
It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself.
—Thomas Paine

As we have said, personal happiness involves a decision, but along with the decision must come action—action that aligns your behavior with your values and beliefs. That’s integrity.
In constructing a building, all the structural components must fit together perfectly for the structure to hold up against the forces of nature. When the pieces are all properly connected to one another, from the bottom of the foundation to the top of the roof, the building is said to have structural integrity.
The same holds true for people. Earlier, we talked about your values as well as your priorities. Your values and your priorities must be in agreement with each other, and your actions must be consistent with both. If you value honesty, you must tell the truth—all the time. If your family is important to you, you must spend time with them. If you prize friendship, you must be a good friend to others.
Every time your actions conflict with your beliefs, your own structural integrity is weakened. You’ll have a problem any time that happens, and if the disconnect is major, you’ll have a major problem.
A good example would be a public figure, such as a government official or prominent minister who rails against child abuse or pornography. If the official or minister gets caught doing the very thing he condemns, the result is justifiable public outrage. But even if the person doesn’t get caught, he still has a huge problem. Imagine the self-inflicted torture of such a person. It would literally be a personal hell.
Obviously, this would be an extreme case and—one would hope—extremely rare. But none of us is perfect. To expect perfection from yourself is unrealistic, although it is a worthy goal. Everyone falls short of being their ideal person at some point and to some extent. The point is to make an honest effort to be your best self by consciously aligning your actions with your values and priorities. When you get off track, get back on.
Integrity is a crucial ingredient of a happy existence. As you strive to live each day with integrity, you’ll view yourself as someone deserving of your own respect. You’ll almost certainly like yourself.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lesson 25: Commit to excellence.

Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

 Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.
—George Halas

My first job out of college was with a consumer finance company. This company loaned small sums to people so they could buy things like appliances, TVs, and stereo systems. Most of our customers didn’t have much money—that was why they needed a loan to buy a television set—and many of them frequently fell behind in their payments.
My job was to phone customers who fell behind and badger them to send in a check. If they fell too far behind, I would have to go to their home—often with a U-Haul truck and police officer in tow—and repossess their furniture.
Not surprisingly, I hated that job. The hours were long and the work disagreeable. I spent my days phoning people who didn’t want to talk to me—I had to use an assumed name just to prevent them from hanging up on me. When I finally did get someone on the phone, the resulting conversation was usually depressing. My success rate in collecting back payments was abysmal. Most of my coworkers were grouchy because none of them wanted to be there either.
Fed up, one day I called my father to share my misery and tell him that I was planning to quit. His response surprised me. He discouraged me from quitting. In fact, he suggested that the problem was not with the job but with me. “If you leave now, you will have been defeated by the job,” Dad said. “Stick with it a while longer. Learn to like it—get good at it. Then, if you want to quit, you’ll walk out with your head high.”
Properly chastened, I went in to the office the next day with a whole new approach. I said to myself, “I have to be here all day, so I might as well do the very best I can.” I worked harder and came up with new ways to reach my customers. And it worked. Before long, my success rate was up, people took my calls, and many of my customers started paying their bills on time. I found myself actually enjoying my job. When I finally quit a few months later, I left feeling good about myself and confident about the challenges ahead.
Whatever you find yourself doing, resolve to give it your very best. You’ll find that you’re more effective, the work will seem easier, and people will recognize you as a cut above the ordinary. Before you know it, you’ll be leaving the complainers and slackers behind—and you’ll be on your way to bigger and better things.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lesson 24: Make a decision.


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.
 

It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.
—Anthony Robbins

Want to know a secret? The very act of deciding is often more important than the decision you make. Here’s what I mean:
In your life, you’ll be faced with many decisions. Some will be important, weighty choices; some will be small and relatively inconsequential. In some cases, the right answer will present itself, so the decision will be easy. At other times, there will be no clear-cut “right” answer. You’ll struggle. Which should you choose: door number one or door number two?
Here’s my advice: decide. Pick one—either one. Make a decision—and then make the decision work.
Remember, this is a case where there’s no clear-cut answer. Unless you’re expecting additional information that will help you make a more informed choice, you’ll just have to choose. So choose. Then, make a commitment to the decision you have just made, and make it work.
If there’s no obviously right way to go, then there’s probably no wrong answer either. In that case, either decision can work for you if you make up your mind to make it work. What you do after the decision is very important—probably more important than the decision itself.
Decision-making is an important skill for everybody, but those who are especially good at it are likely to go far in life. Here’s another secret: the real skill here is decisiveness, which is the ability to make a decision—any decision—and follow through with it. Nobody can read the future. Just make that decision and start moving. Others will follow.
Now, of course once you start going down the road, if you find that you’re clearly headed for disaster, then you may need to change direction. But even in that case, you have to start down the road before you can learn that it’s the wrong road.
In Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, the poet finds himself in the woods, facing a choice of two divergent roads. He must choose. Which road should he take? He writes, “[I] looked down one as far as I could/ To where it bent in the undergrowth.” At crunch time, you can only see so far. The important thing is to choose a path and start walking.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lesson 23: Helping others is the only true wealth.


 
Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

 
What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.
—Pericles

The world should be a better place for your having been here. That’s the real point of life. And where better to serve others than in your chosen profession?
The pursuit of money is all well and good. But if it only served to enrich you personally, what good would it be? More to the point, what good would you be?
I once met a very wealthy elderly lady who gave me a tour of her palatial home. It was filled with many exquisite objects, including original pieces by famous artists. As I complimented her on all the beautiful things, she replied sincerely, “They are lovely, aren’t they? After all, I think the only real point of life is to collect as many beautiful things as possible.”
What a tragedy. Here was a woman with the means to do a great deal of good with her wealth, yet she didn’t even realize it. Ebenezer Scrooge had nothing on her.
Contrast that conversation with the story of Mother Teresa. Born in Macedonia, a small country in southeastern Europe, she became a nun at the age of eighteen. For over 61 years, she worked in the slums of Calcutta, India, caring for some of the poorest, most neglected people on the planet. In 1950 she started the Missionaries of Charity, an order that serves the poorest of the poor throughout the world. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Today, her order and its supporting groups—over one million coworkers worldwide— serve poor and outcast people across the globe.
When she died, penniless, in 1997 at the age of eighty-seven, Mother Teresa was in many ways the richest person on Earth.
Sure, it’s great to have money. As Sophie Tucker said, “I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor. Believe me, honey, rich is better.” Just remember that there is more than one kind of wealth. If you ever have to choose—and you might—I highly recommend the non-money kind.