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Our Deepest Fear

The lines below written by Marianne Williamson in her book, A Return to Love, published in 1996. The verse has also been incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela, as having been included in his inaugural address. Over the years, these words have inspired millions.

These words have been inspiring me since I first came across them in 1999. They powerfully speak to the fact that many of us live our lives not so much afraid of failure, but afraid of achieving our true potential. We feel comfortable ‘flying below the radar’, so as not to attract attention and possibly criticism, rather than spreading our wings and seeing how far we can fly. I hope they challenge you to always shine at your brightest, and to continue to work toward becoming the best possible version of yourself.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

–from  A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson.

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What Are You Grateful For Today?

Did you take a moment to be grateful today? Gratitude consists of being fully aware of your current circumstances with all its worrying details, both big and small, and being able to recognize the good.

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In our modern daily lives, it is easy to take for granted the gifts we have been given by the many thousands of people who have gone before us. It is mind-boggling to try to fathom the effort that has gone into giving us the lives we enjoy simply by virtue of having been born in the 20th century.

Consider the desktop computer, laptop, handheld tablet or smart phone on which you are reading this post. Only a genius could fully comprehend all the details, the intricate science, engineering and technology used to develop and manufacture it. Try to imagine the time and effort that went into making each item of clothing you are wearing now – how the cotton was grown, and picked and spun and then woven into cloth, and dyed into interesting fabric. Think of the designers who envisioned the cut and style of the garments. Ponder the work of the people involved in creating and sewing the patterns. Contemplate the last meal you ate—even if it was only as modest as a can of beans or a bowl of ramen noodles. What about the  transportation you take each day? Could you reproduce any of these items completely on your own?

Reflect on the brilliant minds over thousands of years that devoted themselves to inventing and perfecting the modern comforts and luxuries we take for granted. Innumerable men and women cared enough to make their lives count for something, so that we can all enjoy better standards of living today. Life has given us so much more than we can ever return to it.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

I encourage you to spend just a few moments now and each day in quiet reflection on the good things in your life.
All day long, make a habit of noticing all the gifts around you, the people, companies and technologies that serve you. Think of your health. It may not be perfect, but focus on the miracle of the things that work – your eyes to see, ears to hear, skin to protect all your internal organs, legs to take you were you need to go. Take responsibility for consciously feeling grateful for all the gifts life has presented to you. Express your appreciation. Say “thank you” as often as possible, to as many people as possible.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” — Meister Eckhart

I spent my time in gratitude this morning with my dog, Frisky, on Ffreyes Beach—just three minutes from my home. I stood in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded me, and felt overwhelmed with appreciation (as I always do), for this little island of Antigua, which I call home. I snapped a few seconds of video. Enjoy!

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How Usain Bolt–the Fastest Man Ever–is Just Like You and Me

 

Jamaican runner Usain “Lightning” Bolt is widely accepted as the fastest person ever. A commanding presence in athletics since he burst onto the world stage in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, he is the first athlete to hold world record for both the men’s 100m and 200m events, as well as the 4 x 100m relay. The first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting, and an eight-time World champion, Usain Bolt has become the most loved, and most marketable track and field star on earth.

Seven years ago, a 19-year-old Usain Bolt stepped out unto the track at the National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica. Four years earlier, in that same stadium before a jubilant crowd, Usain had distinguished himself from his peers by becoming the youngest junior gold medalist ever. In those 2002 World Junior Championships Bolt and his relay team also set national junior relay record and scored two silver medals that year. And here he was again at his towering height of 6’5″, a rising star before his adoring Jamaican fans, about to begin his leg of a 4 x 400m race. And then he pulled his hamstring.

Perhaps as the partial result of occasional lapses in discipline during training, Bolt hobbled off the track injured and in pain, seeking assistance. Disappointed, his eyes searched the crowd for his coach. And then, from the bleachers he heard a boo. And then another, followed by the low rising murmur of what would become a voluble expression of dissatisfaction from his most ardent fans. By the time Usain reached the sidelines, the people in the stadium were shouting, jeering and cursing, even accusing him of copping out of the race because he’d felt he wouldn’t win. “Forgot the pulled hamstring, this was pain on another level… the criticism hit me hard”, remembers Bolt.

 

Just like Usain Bolt, you sometimes question your ability

Even with the hopes of a dazzling career ahead of him, in that moment, Usain Bolt questioned his ability to become a top-level sprinter. With this washout on his home turf, he agonized about whether he had the stuff to compete successfully on an international level. “I’m not good enough for this sport…”, Bolt remembers thinking to himself. We’ve all experienced these moments. We feel the failure and disappointment, and we wonder if we are good enough.

 

Just like Usain Bolt, you doubt whether the pain and effort are worth it

Usain Bolt had trained hard for years, he had moved to Kingston with the promise of becoming Jamaica’s next big hope in track and field. When he failed to meet expectations that day, he wondered if he was headed in the right direction. He wondered if all the pain and sacrifice were worth it. “Is this really working?” he said. “Should I really continue? “Three years ago I started this life. Three years I’ve been injured. This might not be for me.”

 

Just like Usain Bolt, you and I sometimes feel completely alone

“My world crashed in; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing”, Bolt recalls in his new book, ‘Faster than Lightning: My Autobiography‘ [release date: November 5, 2013]. In an exclusive extract serialized in ‘The Times’, he relates how he could never have imagined a time when a Jamaican crowd, his own people would boo him as he came off the Kingston track. “Wow, I got booed in front of my national crowd when I was giving it my best.” “What the hell is this? I thought, feeling sick – seriously sick. Where did this come from?” Usain had to learn the tough lesson that even though the training and preparation happen alone, rising from defeat after giving it your best also takes place alone.

 

Just like Usain Bolt, you have greatness within you

There’s a spark of infinite potential within you. It is the desire to do something extraordinary, something only you can do. Maybe it has been recognized by others, maybe only you can feel this little light burning inside you. What do you do about it? Are you listening to the voices that say “you’re not good enough”? Or are you prepared to bear the embarrassment, disappointment, self-doubt, and move forward toward becoming your dream?

You are Usain Bolt. I am Usain Bolt. But are you the Usain Bolt who chose to walk off the track at age 19, allowing pain and pride stop him from succeeding in athletics? Are you the Usain Bolt who decided that his congenital twisted spine condition, scoliosis, would be enough to stop him from becoming a world-class athlete? Are you the Usain Bolt who decided he’d rather return to Trelawny, chill with the boys, play cricket and PS3, drink Guinness and run a grocery store like his dad, never to win an Olympic medal and never to fulfill his destiny?

Every day, we make important choices. Each little decision we make has an impact on our fate. What were you put on earth to do? Are you making the hard choices that bring you closer to becoming the person you were meant to be? Steven Pressfield poignantly asserts in his book ‘The War of Art‘:

“If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet. You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts.”

Don’t let embarrassment, failure, fear, poverty or sickness keep you from showing the world what you’ve got!

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3 Things To Do Before Picking A Fight

© 3RiiN at deviantART.com

 

Fight or Flight – Silence or Violence

When someone disappoints us, it isn’t always easy to stop and figure out what went wrong. We are far more likely to jump to conclusions, blame the other person, then either silently fume or angrily drag them over the coals. This is the beginning of conflict. To many of us, every possible confrontation has only two options: fight or flight.

Although we know better, many of us are often too afraid to speak up. We choose to sweep the issue under the carpet to avoid the threat of being embarrassed. We may resort to dropping subtle hits, changing the subject or becoming withdrawn. We default to silence rather than broach a topic we know to be of critical importance. We may be aware that if we say nothing the problem will get worse, but instead we agonize in our own private hell.

On the other hand, sometimes we’re amped up for an altercation. Bring on the battle, we say.  Desperate to prevent our thoughts from being overlooked, we attack. We cut others off, employing debate, insults, threats and sometimes even physical violence to get our point across. As a result, our position is resisted all the more vehemently.

People Who Know How to Fight Win

The ability or inability to handle conflict lies at the heart of success or failure in almost every relationship, whether personal or professional. The failure to manage confrontations effectively can lead to disaster. Businesses fail, family members become enemies and marriages end up in shreds because disputes were either conducted poorly or not at all. People who know how to fight, approach confrontations carefully, lead them skillfully and walk away with clear benefits over not having had the fight.  Those who don’t know how to fight bring the drama time and time again. Their actions become the kind of fodder that fuels the ridicule and cheap laughs we love to hate on reality TV.

The most influential, and well-respected people are those who approach conflict as an opportunity to hold others accountable in a respectful and well thought out manner. They skillfully execute confrontations with friends, family, colleagues and bosses knowing which fights to take on, which ones to delay and which ones are better left alone.

Here’s a three step process, to help you bridge the proverbial “fight or flight” impasse, and decide what to do before responding to any potential conflict that arises.

1. Identify the Problem Clearly

When someone disappoints you, emotions may run high. Quite often, allowing situations to fester is a risky proposition. In some circumstances, remaining silent can lead to disaster. If you are truly seeking to achieve a positive outcome and reverse a trend of bad behavior, you must start by clearly identifying what has gone wrong.

The goal of your interaction should never be for you to vent your anger or assert authority over the other person. ‘Crucial Confrontations‘ advises that you should first unbundle the problem, decide what about it is bothering you most, and finally distill it into a single clear sentence. This very simple technique will help you to focus on the real issue and prevent conversations from straying off topic.

If you know exactly what behavior you would like to address, there is little or no risk of taking cheap potshots once the session has started.

2. Decide Whether the Problem Requires A Confrontation

After expressing the issue as one clear thought, ask yourself whether it is really necessary to discuss the matter. Consider the possible consequences of an interaction before bringing it up.

Failure to meet performance indicators, missed deadlines and broken promises are all good opportunities to talk. If you feel inclined to be silent, ask yourself some questions. If you’re feeling inner tension, if your conscience is nagging you, if you are feeling afraid or if you are feeling helpless, then you probably need to speak up.

Downplaying the cost of not taking action, or exaggerating the consequences of broaching the topic are not valid reasons for backing away. One of the biggest considerations in deciding if to speak is evaluating the status quo. What would be the result if the  behavior in question were to continue indefinitely? It is often useful to differentiate yourself by clearly in advance by letting those around you know where you stand with regard to commitments and expectations. This way, your holding them accountable will not come as a surprise.

3. Put Yourself in the Other Person’s Shoes

You’ve zeroed in on the issue, and decided it is worth addressing, here is the last and probably the most important step. Before you broach the subject, put yourself in the others person’s shoes.

Force yourself to go through a detailed process of asking “Why?”. Ask why a reasonable, rational, decent person might do what you’ve just seen. Think about all the possible reasons why the person acted the way they did, or failed to act. Consider the facts and circumstances you know about, and the ones you may be unaware of.

What are all the possible influencing factors? Make a list: work load demands, school assignments, family obligations. Next, think of what might have influenced the person; look at carrot and stick motives within the contexts you’ve identified. Finally, think about limitations that may have been at play and the person’s ability to behave in the way you expected, before opening your mouth.

 

Summary

When someone acts badly or fails to live up to a commitment, your response options are not limited to silence or violence. You can choose whether to address the situation from the point of view of exploring expectations and clarifying accountability in three steps. First, pinpoint the core issue and express it in one sentence. Next, assess whether it is important enough to call for a discussion. Finally, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and explore all the possible motives and limitations that may have influenced their decision or behavior.

 

I’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts

In the coming months, I will continue to discuss how to handle conflict in a meaningful way. In the comments section below, let me know if you have any questions, and if this post has been helpful. Do you feel you can practically apply these suggestions in your life? Do you have any other tips to offer?

 

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10 Great Ways to Rise Above Office Politics and Be a Winner in the Workplace

“Mondays aren’t so bad, it’s your job that sucks.” -Anonymous graffiti artist

It’s Monday again, groan… This is the exasperated refrain that can be heard around the world, in every language at the start of each new work week. In the photo of street graffiti above, we are cheekily chided: “Mondays aren’t so bad, it’s your job that sucks.” In a typical case of “it’s funny because it’s true”, the accusing words resonate with us. But are those irreverent words really true? Do the millions of people around the world who dread each Monday’s arrival really have jobs that suck? With all the drama, frenemies, nonsensical rules and un-stimulating environments many of us experience at work, maybe do have horrible jobs. Or maybe not.

Maya Angelou wrote “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” I’m with Maya. I can’t promise you that after reading this you’ll be bounding out of bed gushing with anticipation for the work week ahead, but here are ten tips to help you get out of your own way, and become a winner at work.

1. Be Strategic

Focus on what you are longing to achieve. When you go to work each day, you should have your life goals in mind. Do you want a raise or a promotion? Are you working at accumulating the downpayment for a house? Are you planning on starting a family? Concentrate on the future, and you will find yourself less concerned with gossip and petty complaints.

2. Take the High Road

When you’re stuck in close quarters with the same people for eight hours day after day, sooner or later someone is going to do something that will make you really angry. You’re only human, and tempers will flare. The key is to not let it get the best of you. As a person with big goals in mind, don’t ruin your reputation just to get a few moments of gratification by publicly venting your anger. In explosive situations, walk away, have a drink of water, take a break, but by all means do not blow your top. In the same vein, don’t resort to becoming passive aggressive and taking things out slowly on the person who upset you with sarcasm or political maneuvering.

3. Craft a Personal Vision

What do you want to be known for at work? How will accomplishments in this job affect future career aspirations? When I was fresh out of university as an audit assistant with Ernst & Young, I made a list of qualities I wanted to strive for in my work. “My Commitment to Excellence” was my professional manifesto, printed on an 11′ x 4′ card and posted on my cubicle wall. It listed a handful of values and practices I wanted to be held accountable for by myself, my colleagues and my bosses. This was probably taking it a bit far, and it makes me laugh to think of it now, but it helped me to go from being an unmotivated, mediocre student to a top performer at work.

4. Choose to be a Victor, not a Victim

Every situation in life comes with its own set of limitations; work is no different. There are inevitably going to be circumstances which occur at work which will be both unpleasant and outside your control: the sick day policy might change, you may have to suddenly start working shifts, there may be a wage freeze imposed. Only losers waste time pining over things they cannot control. Be a winner; decide today not to waste your time and energy complaining about things you can’t control. Get over it and move on.

5. Set Growth Goals

We all have things we can do better in life. You will not become a winner by basking in mediocrity. Commit to being much better than average. Set a goal to become one of the top 10% of performers at your workplace. Pay close attention to performance reviews, and create your own personal self-improvement plan. Get ongoing feedback from your colleagues and supervisors, and set yourself daily goals and measurable targets.

6. Become an Effective Communicator

It has often been said those who are able to communicate effectively have an advantage at work and in life. Make a decision to become one of the best communicators among your colleagues. Good communicators know how to effectively employ eye contact, body language, tone of voice, and they are adept at choosing the right words. Challenge yourself to speaking up, and to being courteous and friendly in every interaction. Most conflicts arise or are fueled by ineffective communication, so your new skills will go a long way toward helping you avoid workplace misunderstandings.

7. Embrace the Big Picture

If you’re going to be a winner in the work place, you’re going to have to trade in your myopic mindset for one that embraces the big picture. If you had your supervisor’s job, would you be spending time grumbling in the lunch room about the new policy on tardiness? Probably not. Make an effort to learn more about how the organization functions, why certain decisions are made, and what makes it tick. Finding out the reasons behind unpleasant mandates can give you a different perspective, and will neutralize the powerlessness that comes with not knowing why.

8. Stay Organized. Stay Busy.

My grandfather used to say “the devil finds work for idle hands to do”. Many people develop the habit of lack-luster performance out of sheer boredom. If you go to work every day waiting to be told what to do, watching the clock and longing for home time, you are bound to hate your job. You’re bored. It is no wonder you’ve become embroiled in office gossip and politics just to liven things up. Instead, make a commitment to go to work each day with a purpose. Have a list of the things you would like to accomplish, and volunteer to help out if you run out of things to do. In this way, you will no longer have time to wonder who is talking about you behind your back.

9. Think Win-Win

To truly be a winner in the workplace, you must learn to think win-win. This will require you choose to compromise, not to give in, but to evaluate all the options and choose a path that will not only benefit you, but all concerned. It’s a give and take. If you make a decision to work on this every day, you will develop the reputation of being a fair-minded person, and a good negotiator. You will find yourself gaining a lot more than you would have by selfishly fighting for your own gain.

10. Nurture Your Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm can be an elusive quality. Many of us only show it in response to exciting events, others hardly ever, and yet there are those who appear to exude it from within. An enthusiastic person has a winning attitude. They choose to see the opportunities in every challenge they face. They know how to generate energy and positive vibes even in the worst of circumstances. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, wrote a groundbreaking book called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘. In it, he celebrates the kind of attitude it took to make it through a Nazi death camp alive. The person who is able to think positively in sticky situations, and devise a desirable conclusion, is the person who will win. Commit today to becoming an enthusiastic person.

 

Being a winner in the work place starts with a decision, it starts with you. Here’s to happier Mondays in the future!

Let me know what you thought of this post in the comments section, and if there’s anything else you would add to the list. If you liked it, be sure to share it with someone you care about.

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11 Tips for Brand New Senior Managers

You’ve finally gotten the promotion you’ve dreamed of. You’re finally in charge. Being the new corporate head, division chief or general manager will be harder than you could have imagined. Here are ten tips to help you negotiate this unknown territory and remain grounded, while achieving the results you can be proud of.

1. Check Your Ego at the Door

You’ve gotten to where you are because you’re a superstar. You are brilliant. You worked harder than your colleagues and got promoted faster, too. Maybe you had passable technical skills, but excellent networking and people skills and brown-nosed your way to the top. None of that will help you now. It’s not about you any more. It’s no longer just your career. Your performance will now be dependent on the results you achieve through your team.

2. Listen

Companies usually appoint new leaders out of need. Perhaps the old CEO retired, or the previous division head was fired. Now it’s on you to achieve those unrealistic results. Even if you have been with the company for years, you must go in with a clear mind and survey the territory with fresh eyes. You may be tempted to believe you already have all the answers. Resist that temptation. Pretend you know nothing, and listen. Listen to your managers and direct reports. Listen to your line staff. Listen to your suppliers. Listen to your customers. Listen. Create forums where people will be frank with you. Take it all in, and fill a brand new slate.

3. Craft A Vision

After taking the helm, you will be expected to chart the course for the organization. You need to decide where you want to go, and the strategies you will use to get there. Your people need something to believe in, but you have to believe it first. Craft an inspirational and aspirational vision that will serve as your company’s proverbial ‘pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night’.

4. Create Buy-In

Regardless of how much talent and previous success, industry expertise and respect you’ve gained before taking up your new job, the troops will not automatically become loyal followers of you or your vision. You will have to earn it. You will have to win them over little by little and day by day by being consistent, passionate and respectful. Tell them the “why” behind the vision, and they will hear their own concerns reflected. Start with your leaders first, then communicate and over-communicate the vision company wide to make sure that the message does not become distorted.

5. Be Knowledgeable

To be successful, you will need to have a thorough understanding of all direct and indirect financial drivers: revenue streams, the cash and inventory cycle, direct costs and administrative expenses and operating and customer service key performance indicators (KPIs). You need to gain a thorough knowledge of these indicators to set the right goals and targets for your department heads. Creating a culture of reporting will be key. Your team should know what their KPIs are and how they are doing compared to target on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis, and so should you.

6. Be Independent

It’s lonely at the top. Certain members of your team will try to ingratiate themselves to become favorites or be granted special privileges. Resist it at all costs. Have zero tolerance for this type of suck up behavior. Do not compromise your independence. Failing to do so will have you paying favors indefinitely. It will also create and over-politicized culture, and will earn you the mistrust of the less-favored and potentially more principled and hard-working team members.

7. Nurture Your People

You won’t be a leader if no one is following you. While fostering cronies and gofers is not acceptable, you still need to nurture your team. It is important to develop a mentoring relationship with each of your key players so that you can help them be their best. Theodore Roosevelt once penned the wise words: “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

8. Foster Accountability

Being a nurturing leader does not mean you will stand for substandard performance. Your aim should be to continually get better results as they perfect their skills. You should have zero tolerance policy for excuses and finger-pointing. When someone comes to you with a problem, require that they also come armed with a suggested solution. When one of your direct reports makes a mistake, he or she should quickly accept responsibility, suggest a possible way out, and move on.

9. Celebrate Wins, Even Small Ones

While driving hard for improvement, innovation and accountability, it is important to take note of the successes. Failing to notice even small improvements will leave your team feeling unappreciated and will lead to frustration and burn out. Find ways to systematically celebrate wins and ensure that you apply it consistently. Your team will thank you for it.

10. Focus on Continuous Communication

Constant effective communication will be key to ensuring quality and consistent growth. Listening should be something the entire organization internalizes. Everyone’s voice is important. Create open and honest lines of communication at all levels of the organization. Make communication systemic by setting up weekly pow-wows and department meetings, regular staff polls and annual leaders’ retreats.

11. Never Stop Learning

No matter how much you know already, as a new leader, it will never be enough. Read as much as you can and keep reading. Seek out other business leaders who can mentor you and challenge you to become a better leader. Keep an open mind in all situations. Be humble. You are the boss, but develop the mindset that every single person in your organization has something they can teach you.

 

Are there any other important tips you would share to new business leaders? Feel free to share your experiences, and feedback in the comments section below. Good luck on your leadership journey!

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Anna Karenina: The Beauty and Tragedy of Life

Anna Karenina by Lucio Palmeri for Dolce & Gabbana

Anna Karenina has been on my must read list for many years. I have been keeping lists – and book lists in particular – since my first summer journal at eight years old. The epic Russian novel appears at the top of many top ten novels lists and has been referred to as “flawless” and “the greatest novel ever written” by two of the most celebrated novelists of our time.

I have owned a copy of Anna Karenina for about ten years. If I have made any attempt at all to read it, I have never gotten much past the first sentence, which is one of the most iconic quotes from the book “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Last Sunday, realizing for the first time that there has been yet another movie remake – this one starring Kiera Knightly and Jude Law – I decided I’d better read the book before “accidentally” catching it on television.

Tolstoy’s world is mid-to-late nineteenth century Imperial Russia. The primary characters live lavish and eminently superficial lifestyles. Their daily existence is a whirlwind of sparkling balls featuring hair-pieced chignons piled high, and decadently luxurious boudoirs where the aristocratic Russian society of Moscow and St. Petersburg affectedly pepper their speech with French. In stark contrast to the elaborate, but constricted life of the city is pastoral Russia. The agrarian countryside has expansive landscapes, rich soil and an unending sky.

Tolstoy’s romantic masterpiece is as vivid as it is relatable. The book captures the imagination with its straightforward and exact language. Tolstoy stops time as he bores into his characters’ every thought, motive, and facial twitch, even as dialogue is being exchanged. It is a romance – admittedly not my favorite genre – but juicy from the get-go with marital infidelity, unrequited love and a tragic love affair.

The novel is sweeping, with at least two dozen named characters whose lives spiral around the two central protagonists – Anna Karenina and Tolstoy’s alter ego, Konstantin Levin. Tolstoy peers not only into the lives of a few rich 19th century Russians, but into the whole of humanity. The novel has stood the test of time because it reminds us that even the most desirable of circumstances may be unbearable, that bumps in the road may still lead to happy endings, that glamor and frivolity are but fleeting joys, and that family and real love are worth crying for, fighting for, striving for, waiting for.

Anna Karenina is a celebration of human frailty and redemption. Tolstoy says its okay to be flawed, its okay to make mistakes, just keep trying. We see that there are infinite possibilities in life, but we indeed choose our own path. Without seeking to reduce a 150-year old, 900-page classic tome to a few epithets, Anna Karenina is a celebration of life – its beauty and its tragedy – and all the meaning there is to be found, if only we will choose to see it.

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49 Great Quotes from Zig Ziglar

The Human Exclamation Point

“Today is a brand-new day. And it’s yours.” These are the words of the late Zig Ziglar, the American motivational speaker who died in late 2012, at the age of 86. Zig Ziglar was sometimes called “the human exclamation point”. He was always brimming with enthusiasm and positive energy as he led his revival-like “success conventions” until his retirement at age 84. Zig’s pithy maxims were delivered with a characteristic upbeat demeanor and Southern drawl which to some may seem over-simplified and perhaps even shallow. But there is a tremendous depth to his “can do” philosophy of positivity that continues to out -live the man himself.

Zig Ziglar’s Life and Career

Zig Ziglar was born in Alabama the tenth of twelve children and grew up in Mississippi. Zig’s father died when he was only five years old and so he learned to work at an early age, selling vegetables and delivering newspapers to help keep the family fed. A World War II veteran, he served in the United States Navy Training Program while attending the University of South Carolina. In 1944, he met his life-long love, Jean. They married just two years later and remained happily married for sixty-six years. He celebrated his last wedding anniversary just the day before his death. Zig is also survived by two of his three daughters and his son, Tom.

Zig Ziglar’s motivational career began by accident in 1965 when he filled in at a motivational seminar for a speaker who did not turn up. By then, he had established himself in a successful career in sales. After years of constantly changing locations, Zig was soon to be appointed as Vice President and Training Director of an automotive company and settled in Texas permanently. In 1974, after becoming a born again Christian, he wrote his first book ‘See You at the Top‘. The book was originally rejected by over 30 publishers but went on to become his most successful work. He went on to write over two dozen more books with titles such as ‘Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World‘, ‘Staying Up, Up, Up in a Down, Down World‘ and ‘Born to Win‘.

A Lasting Legacy of Positivity

Zig Ziglar books, speeches and even his very life extolled the virtues of not just positive thinking, but the importance of positive action as a key to success and the advantages of living a balanced life. Zig Ziglar’s life was a living testimony of the wisdom of his words. He practiced what he preached; he was a loving husband and father, church and community leader and a successful business person. Zig Ziglar was an inspiration to many thousands and perhaps millions of people. I hope that you find the quotes I have selected don’t just make you feel good for the moment, but inspire you to working harder and living a happier, more purposeful and productive life.

 

Zig Ziglar on success:

“Success is not a destination, it’s a journey.” — Zig Ziglar

“It’s not what happens to you that determines how far you will go in life; it is how you handle what happens to you.” — Zig Ziglar

“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” — Zig Ziglar

“Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have.” — Zig Ziglar

“Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the “gotta have it” scale.” — Zig Ziglar

“Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be. If we do our best, we are a success.” — Zig Ziglar

 

Zig Ziglar on working hard:

“There is little you can learn from doing nothing.” — Zig Ziglar

“Motivation gets you going and habit gets you there.”

“The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you think you can only do a little.” — Zig Ziglar

“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.” — Zig Ziglar

“When you are tough on yourself, life is going to be infinitely easier on you.” — Zig Ziglar

“Every success is built on the ability to do better than good enough.” — Zig Ziglar

“Everybody says they want to be free. Take the train off the tracks and it’s free-but it can’t go anywhere.” — Zig Ziglar

 

Zig Ziglar on kindness and friendship:

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” — Zig Ziglar

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar

“Be helpful. When you see a person without a smile, give them yours.” — Zig Ziglar

“Among the things you can give and still keep are your word, a smile, and a grateful heart.” — Zig Ziglar

“You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.”

“The way you see people is the way you treat them.” — Zig Ziglar

“Every obnoxious act is a cry for help.” — Zig Ziglar

 

Zig Ziglar on motivation:

“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily.” — Zig Ziglar

“Do it, and then you will feel motivated to do it.” — Zig Ziglar

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” — Zig Ziglar

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember ~ the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” — Zig Ziglar

“Outstanding people have one thing in common: an absolute sense of mission” — Zig Ziglar

“If you can dream it, then you can achieve it.” — Zig Ziglar

 

Zig Ziglar on attitude:

“You can succeed at almost anything for which you have unbridled enthusiasm.” — Zig Ziglar

“Ask yourself a question: Is my attitude worth catching?” — Zig Ziglar

“Life is too short to spend your precious time trying to convince a person who wants to live in gloom and doom otherwise. Give lifting that person your best shot, but don’t hang around long enough for his or her bad attitude to pull you down. Instead, surround yourself with optimistic people.” — Zig Ziglar

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.” — Zig Ziglar

“Rich people have small TVs and big libraries, and poor people have small libraries and big TVs.” — Zig Ziglar

“You are what you are and you are where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You change what you are and you change where you are by changing what goes into your mind.” — Zig Ziglar

 

Zig Ziglar on character:

“If you’re sincere, praise is effective. If you’re insincere, it’s manipulative.” — Zig Ziglar

“You cannot perform in a manner inconsistent with the way you see yourself.” — Zig Ziglar

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” — Zig Ziglar

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” — Zig Ziglar

“Make today worth remembering.”

“Every choice you make has an end result.” — Zig Ziglar

 

Zig Ziglar on happiness:

“Happiness is not pleasure, it is victory.” — Zig Ziglar

“If standard of living is your major objective, quality of life almost never improves, but if quality of life is your number one objective, your standard of living almost always improves.” — Zig Ziglar

“Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.” — Zig Ziglar

“The more you are grateful for what you have the more you will have to be grateful for” — Zig Ziglar

 

Zig Ziglar on failure:

“If you don’t see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner.” — Zig Ziglar

“Failure is an event not a person” — Zig Ziglar

“The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now” — Zig Ziglar

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” — Zig Ziglar

“If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.” — Zig Ziglar

“Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.” — Zig Ziglar

 

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Love Hurts?

Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars. Ooh ooh. Love hurts. ~Beverley Ross and Neil Fredericks, performed by ‘Nazareth’

Rejected by Cyberspace

Many years ago, newly single, I tried to sign up for an online dating service. The television commercial boasted the site’s ability to find “soul mates” for its members based on “29 dimensions of compatibility”. So, I slogged through the 436-question Compatibility Profile. Apparently, now it has been shortened to 250 questions. To the faceless evaluator, I shared self-descriptions, personal characteristics, important qualities, personal beliefs, living skills, communication style, relationship style and my family background. I answered scores of multiple choice questions such as “If you decided to stay at home for the evening would you tend to: A: watch TV B: clean C: talk on the phone D: read”. At the end of the questionnaire, eHarmony.com informed me that the calculator had concluded that based on my unique combination of preferences and traits, I could be matched to only about 3 – 5% of men in the general population and vice versa. To add insult to injury, the site further informed me that it could not find even a single potential match for me at that time, and summarily turned down my business, curtly suggesting that I return at a later date to try again.

I could have taken that experience as the ultimate rejection. If cyberspace turned me down, what could I expect to find in the real world? Today, it still makes me chuckle. Ironically, the Internet-calculator must have been on to something; I have spent about 75% of my adult life unattached. I’ve endured the “why have you never been married?” questions, as well as the unsolicited explanations for my predicament: “you are too picky”, “you intimidate men.” Those people may have been concerned that during the periods when I have been single, I would be sad, lonely and unfulfilled. A person can never be sad, lonely or unfulfilled when they accept themselves. Whether I am in a relationship or not, I strive to love and respect myself every day.

Silent Agreements. Unspoken Expectations.

Men and women go into relationships searching for love. They feel empty inside and go begging for someone to fill the void. They find themselves moving hungrily from lover to lover, or smothering their partners with a ravenous neediness — “make me feel loved”. They become obsessed about never being alone, willing to give up their very sense of self in exchange for enjoying the company another person. These people are as much controllers, as they are the controlled. Women change the way they speak, act and dress to please their husbands. Men give up their hobbies, change their jobs, and even their friends to fit into their partner’s mold of an ideal husband. Some people leave their countries, their families and even abandon their religions, just to hear three little words.

When we enter into a relationship with another person, we have expectations that are never communicated. Our partners also load upon us unspoken obligations. When they say the words, “I love you”, what they might be saying is “I love you if” — if you behave a certain way, if you are good to me, if you fit my mold, if you fulfill my dreams, if you let me control your life. When we say “I love you, I want to be with you forever”, what we might really mean is: “I have finally found the right person. Now I am going to place all my hopes and dreams in you. Promise to be perfect and to never disappoint me. I am giving you responsibility for my happiness, so you must never hurt me or leave me. If you do, my world will fall apart.”

A promise to make another person happy is a promise no one can ever hope to fulfill. We will never experience our partner’s thoughts or their feelings, so why should we try to control them? Who can fulfill obligations they are not aware of? Selfish expectations will eventually destroy almost any relationship. When we give love because we feel we have to, then our generosity will soon turn to selfishness. When fun and freedom turn into obligation, then respect turns to hatred. There is no more spontaneity and romance, just a burden and the growing desire to escape. If you do something just because you feel you have to, it is not really love.  Love only thrives when it is given unconditionally. Love should always be an expression that is motivated by desire and free will.

Mastery of Love

True happiness can never come solely from receiving another person’s love. Happiness is your own responsibility. Happiness comes from the love inside of you, that you freely give without conditions. You already have all the love you need. The love you have inside is infinite. Don Miguel Ruiz in his book ‘The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship‘, writes “Love is not about concepts; love is about action. Love in action can only produce happiness… The only way to master love is to practice love.”

You can love someone else when you have learned to love yourself. When you have accepted yourself the way you are, then you don’t go into relationships trying to find the love you’re missing. This is why needy relationships always fail. You have a right to be free, and so does everyone else. When you try to control someone else by depending on them for love, all you really do is become dependent on them and give up your own personal freedom. When you truly love yourself, you will never trade in your freedom.

Being Together. Staying Together.

We can only ever be responsible for ourselves and our half of any relationship. Two people can be happy together in a relationship by entering into a new kind of agreement. This kind of agreement requires you to take responsibility for your own happiness and to love the other person unconditionally, finding a balance that works just for the two of you. There are infinite possibilities for relationships based on respect.

You must know exactly what you want. What are your likes and dislikes? Who are you compatible with? What brings you joy? What are your needs? Feel free to be yourself. Anything less, will leave you feeling disappointed, used and abused. You have to love yourself, and you have to trust your partner. You don’t need to be afraid to be taken advantage of because you guard your own happiness. There must also be compatibility. Both of your needs must coincide in a way that works for the two of you. You both agree that being together simply means that you are both going in the same direction and decided you can be happy together.

When you know that you love this person unconditionally, without any ifs and expectations, exactly the way they are without wanting to change a thing, then you know that they are right for you. If that person feels the same way about you, then there will be no need for false pretenses. Neither of you is trying to fulfill the other’s unspoken expectations. You don’t want to change them, and they don’t want to change you. You can be finally just be yourself, and you are happy taking a risk.

What if you start going in different directions? What if the situation no longer works for you and no longer brings you both joy? You can simply walk away without being selfish. You wish your partner well, because you accept that you cannot control him, you cannot change her. You give yourself a chance to be happy and you give your partner the chance to be happy.

Love Hurts?

Anger hurts. Betrayal hurts. Blame hurts. Conflict hurts. Disappointment hurts. Drama hurts. Fear hurts. Guilt hurts. Gossip hurts. Jealousy hurts.  Judgement hurts. Selfishness hurts. Love does not hurt.

 

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Considering the Balanced Scorecard Approach

“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind…” William Thompson

As the leader of a relatively young organizational unit, I am always looking for innovative ways to measure and improve overall performance and achieve strategic goals. A few months ago, I stumbled upon the Balanced Scorecard approach.

The Balanced Scorecard Approach in a Nutshell

The Balanced Scorecard approach was developed around 1990 and a result of the extensive research of Robert Kaplan and David Norton. They developed a methodology of translating organizational strategy into a balanced framework which guides organizational energies toward achieving long-term goals. Kaplan and Norton’s framework transforms the company’s vision and strategy into a coherent set of performance measures and objectives. The system is designed to balance both short and long term desired outcomes, and hard financial measures against more intangible deliverables. In their book ‘The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy into Action‘, they arrange performance measures into the following distinct perspectives:

  • Financial perspective
  • Customer perspective
  • Internal business process perspective
  • Learning and growth perspective

The idea of a balanced approach to developing performance strategies and achieving business goals resonates strongly with me. I am from a hard-numbers, public accounting background, and so making a profit is essential. On the other hand, I have a strong long-term vision for the company I serve. I want to make a difference in the lives of the people who use our products and services, and I want our organization not just to be a place to work, but a place that shapes the lives of its employees in a positive way.

Why Financial Measures Alone Don’t Work

More and more organizations are realizing that achieving profitability or even product and service quality is not enough to shore up the probability of long-term business success. In his book ‘Balanced Scorecard Step-by-Step: Maximizing Performance and Maintaining Results‘, Paul R. Niven gives five reasons why focusing on financial measures alone does not work:

  1. Overabundant use of financial measures is not consistent with today’s business realities. Since value resides in the ideas, relationships and cultures of people scattered throughout the firm, financial metrics alone will provide  little value in identifying opportunities with customers or employees.
  2. Financial KPIs only measure past performance, but have no predictive power for the future. Scores of great companies with excellent financial metrics virtually vanished from glory without warning.
  3. Financial statements are prepared by functional area. This approach is inconsistent with an organization’s cross-functional nature; teams come together to deliver value that is impossible to track via financial measures alone.
  4. Financial measures often sacrifice long-term success. Downsizing, for example, may provide the required short-term goals required, but may also have a hugely destructive impact on morale and the firm’s overall long-term value and future prospects.
  5. Financial measures are irrelevant to day-to-day tasks of employees at many levels of the organization. The measurement of strategic performance be interpretable in a meaningful way at every level of the organization.

Balanced Scorecard for the Win

While most companies have mission statements and vision statements, these are often no more than well-worded inspirational statements, equally as grand and unused as the foyers they are displayed in. Employees don’t understand them, managers don’t implement them, resources are not invested in achieving them; they are, in essence, devoid of meaning and impact. Rare leaders, such as Steve Jobs, do a remarkable job of keeping their companies focused on the overarching vision. In stark contrast, many companies are led astray, distracted by the alluring siren-song of ‘profit maximization’ to the detriment of their identity and purpose, and ultimately their survival.

The Balanced Scorecard approach has gained an impressive following in its twenty year history; it is estimated that up to 60 percent of the Fortune 1000 has a Balanced Scorecard in place. Indeed, the greatest argument for the Balanced Scorecard approach is its ability to bring organizational strategy to life, by interweaving a company’s definitive vision and strategy so that it is felt, understood and executed at every level of the organization.

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Antigua and Barbuda, Have You Made A Pledge?

Antigua and Barbuda Independence Flag

Antigua and Barbuda Independence Flag

Memories of My First November First

Antigua and Barbuda celebrated its 31st anniversary of independence on Thursday, November 1st. As an Antiguan national recently transplanted to St. Lucia, I indulged in a proud display of nationalism. Photos of what I consider to be the most beautiful flag in the world adorned my facebook page, and I tweeted YouTube links to the patriotic son-of-the-soil calypso renditions of yesteryear.

In 1981, I was six years old — old enough to appreciate that something of great significance was occurring. I remember standing uniformed in the dusty schoolyard of the local Maria Montessori school singing our national anthem, ‘Fair Antigua and Barbuda’, and waving mini flags as a tribute to our newly independent nation. Later, there would be impressive fireworks and copious celebratory rum-drinking.

Has Our Nation Gone Astray?

Perusing cyberspace from abroad, I noted this year that along with the swelling comments of pride were the usual copious helpings of negative feedback about our progress as a nation. Some cried foul about allegations of corruption, others criticized the state of the national debt, inability to reliably generate enough electricity and still others denounced perceived failures in education. At 31, we are still but a fledgling nation, and like many young adults we have had our share of blunders. I suspect that most of our errors have been of the character-building variety, with fewer tending toward the reputation-obliterating.

Nation Building is Everyone’s Business

By gaining independence, Antigua and Barbuda shed the heavy burden of colonialism. Our nation-building forefathers took risky leaps of faith; they looked beyond their own shortcomings and personal inadequacies to heavily invest in a dream yet unfulfilled. We are that dream. We are here because of those who have gone before us, clearing the path we speed on today. We enjoy the fruit of struggles long past.

Our forebears fought for the right to shape their own destiny. They made the changes that helped to shape our present, but our nation’s future depends upon our own actions. Breaking the yoke of colonialism meant accepting the heavy burden of personal responsibility. Our forefathers, nation-builders believed in us. They entrusted the future to us. That future will not be bright unless we, like them, turn disappointment into activism and criticism into commitment.

I believe Antigua and Barbuda will move on, continue to grow and be strong, because I believe that its people will continue to grow and be strong. And here is the challenge for us all: instead of continually pointing out the shortcomings of the land we love and *smh* ‘shaking my head’, why not consider the bolder alternative of suggesting solutions and *rmh* ‘raising my hand’ to take responsibility for making difference? I believe a personal pledge is what King Short Shirt had in mind when he sang his first tribute to our independence so many years ago:

Our Pledge

We pledge to be good citizens from now on
Casting away victimization
Corruption will cease
Nepotism decrease
Throughout the whole nation
Our country then will be
Not just a society
But a just society
Let this be our pledge
~King Short Shirt, Our Pledge

Happy birthday, Antigua and Barbuda.

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Choose Your Fate

This week, I took advantage of Audible.com‘s promotion for the new Whispersync for Voice feature. The new technology allows readers to listen and read simultaneously or switch seamlessly from audiobook to e-book and vice versa. Up to 22 free Kindle ebooks are available here for a limited time. I shamelessly downloaded 19 of the available 22 titles, even though I’d already read some of them.

Ethan Frome: The Story of a Loser

The first title I read is one of Edith Warton’s best known works. ‘Ethan Frome’ is the story of a poor, downtrodden New England farmer trapped in a loveless relationship with a conniving, invalid wife. The book’s protagonist can’t seem to catch a break. As one bad thing after another comes his way, his story inevitably ends in tragedy. Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed this dark book;  it served as a poignant reminder that each of us shapes his or her own destiny.

The Choices We Make Seal Our Fate

We seal our own fates every day by the choices we make, the friends we choose, the opportunities we don’t pursue. All around us are people brimming with ambition, ideas, talent and promise. So many of these lives end up as sad reflections of what might have been. Within them lie the untold stories of dreams deferred.

How to Lose

When you choose to accept the poor odds and negative labels cast upon you by circumstances, you lose. When you sink under the burden of a few bad grades, a lost job, ill-health or a bad economy, you lose. When listen to the inner voice that whispers for you to go so far and no further, you lose. Losers unwittingly self-sabotage their careers and personal lives. Set-back after set-back, losers trudge inexorably through an increasingly barren wasteland of their own shattered dreams.

How to Win

On the other hand, in business, entertainment, science and sports, winners refuse to live in the land of “almost”. Winners rise above personal setbacks and see failures as temporary. “So close, what a pity” is not an ending winners will accept. Winners recognize that their most formidable opponent is the nearly imperceptible voice of self-defeat. They train themselves to detect and defeat that enemy every day.  Winners refuse to lose sight of their dreams.

Make the Choice to be a Winner

None of us have to be losers. Instead, we can choose to allow ourselves to dream and never stop dreaming. We can choose to laugh in the face of every voice that says “you can’t have that”. Choose to be a winner. Never accept the lie of personal limitation. Never accept from yourself less than you know you are capable of. Never be satisfied with living below the threshold of your own limitless potential. Never settle for less than you know you deserve.