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Let’s get things straight.  No matter what people say, there IS a shortcut to success.  I’m not kidding.  The shortcut is real and its available to everyone.  The problem is that most people don’t see it or don’t want it.  Instead, they choose to invent their own shortcut plan: faking, lying, pretending, cheating and/or waiting with hope for good luck.  These wrong turns don’t shorten the journey.  Rather, they make success harder, slower and farther away.  Always remember this:

“When you work hard, continue learning and play it straight you have the
shortest way to success that there is.  The right way IS the shortcut.”
— CC

Growing Up

At the end of a very long, hectic autumn day, Tracy skipped dinner and went straight to bed.  What happened later that night was strange.  Imagine a dream with no people and no signs of activity.  Instead the entire dream is two bright yellow words on a dark background. Period!  That’s exactly what happened in Tracy’s dream. The words were, “BE READY”.  Kind of eerie wouldn’t you agree?  Tracy sat up in bed, puzzled and somewhat scared, but after a few minutes of pondering this strange dream, Tracy succumbed to fatigue and fell asleep.

There are people like Tracy who make up their minds to live lives and have careers that can leave the world in a better place.  That’s why Tracy awakened the next morning more curious about than afraid of the strange dream.  As a result, the day went fast and nighttime came soon enough only to be interrupted sometime around midnight.  When Tracy awakened prematurely from a sequel to yesterday’s dream of green words on a dark background there was an expanded message – “BE READY OR ELSE” That would get anyone’s attention!  Shocked by this more threatening message it took almost two hours for Tracy to return to a state of sleep.

Compared to the previous days, the next day was light, giving Tracy the freedom to ponder the meaning of these dreams, where they might be coming from and whether or not there would be another one tonight.  The answer came at 2:15 am.  “BE READY OR ELSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES WILL DISAPPEAR.”  This message was equally strange, but the previous fear had morphed into the “fear of loss.”

While the presence of fear lingered, it was tempered by curiosity and the hint of hope.  Would the dream continue?  Sure enough!  Tracy arose with the sun, inspired by the following expanded message: “BE READY OR ELSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES WILL DISAPPEAR.  PREPARE DILIGENTLY.”  As simple as this dream sounded, Tracy’s curiosity and frustration returned, wondering, “How can anyone prepare for opportunities that come and go like lightning.”

Days 5, 6 and 7 came and went without any strange dreams.  Was the sequence finished or had Tracy’s exhaustion wiped out any new dreams?  Either way, it turned out to be a blessing.  The gap made room for some heavy reflection that would make room for more wisdom.  On the eighth night, Tracy was ready and so the dream continued with new advice.  “BE READY OR ELSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES WILL DISAPPEAR.  PREPARE DILIGENTLY.  FOCUS ON YOUR FOUNDATION”

It’s Day 9. For three days Tracy wondered what goes into a person’s foundation. Realizing that a strong foundation is essential for any successful endeavor, Tracy is eager to discover the remaining pieces in the puzzle.  Like the first 4 days, the dream maker delivered an expanded message of wisdom along with a recommended set of tools.  That message is simply this:

“BE READY OR ELSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES WILL DISAPPEAR.
PREPARE DILIGENTLY.  FOCUS ON YOUR FOUNDATION OF
LEADERSHIP, EXCELLENCE, ASSOCIATIONS AND PROFESSIONALISM.”

At the end of a very long, hectic autumn day, Tracy skipped dinner and went straight to bed. What happened later that night was strange. Imagine a dream with no people and no signs of activity. Instead the entire dream is two bright yellow words on a dark background. Period! That’s exactly what happened in Tracy’s dream. The words were, “BE READY”. Kind of eerie wouldn’t you agree? Tracy sat up in bed, puzzled and somewhat scared, but after a few minutes of pondering this strange dream, Tracy succumbed to fatigue and fell asleep.

There are people like Tracy who make up their minds to live lives and have careers that can leave the world in a better place. That’s why Tracy awakened the next morning more curious about than afraid of the strange dream. As a result, the day went fast and nighttime came soon enough only to be interrupted sometime around midnight. When Tracy awakened prematurely from a sequel to yesterday’s dream of green words on a dark background there was an expanded message – “BE READY OR ELSE” That would get anyone’s attention! Shocked by this more threatening message it took almost two hours for Tracy to return to a state of sleep.

Compared to the previous days, the next day was light, giving Tracy the freedom to ponder the meaning of these dreams, where they might be coming from and whether or not there would be another one tonight. The answer came at 2:15 am. “BE READY OR ELSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES WILL DISAPPEAR.” This message was equally strange, but the previous fear had morphed into the “fear of loss.”

While the presence of fear lingered, it was tempered by curiosity and the hint of hope. Would the dream continue? Sure enough! Tracy arose with the sun, inspired by the following expanded message: “BE READY OR ELSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES WILL DISAPPEAR. PREPARE DILIGENTLY.” As simple as this dream sounded, Tracy’s curiosity and frustration returned, wondering, “How can anyone prepare for opportunities that come and go like lightning.”

Days 5, 6 and 7 came and went without any strange dreams. Was the sequence finished or had Tracy’s exhaustion wiped out any new dreams? Either way, it turned out to be a blessing. The gap made room for some heavy reflection that would make room for more wisdom. On the eighth night, Tracy was ready and so the dream continued with new advice. “BE READY OR ELSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES WILL DISAPPEAR. PREPARE DILIGENTLY. FOCUS ON YOUR FOUNDATION”

Day 9. For three days Tracy wondered what goes into a person’s foundation. Realizing that a strong foundation is essential for any successful endeavor, Tracy is eager to discover the remaining pieces in the puzzle. Like the first 4 days, the dream maker delivered an expanded message of wisdom along with a recommended set of tools. That message is simply this: “BE READY OR ELSE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES WILL DISAPPEAR. PREPARE DILIGENTLY. FOCUS ON YOUR FOUNDATION OF LEADERSHIP, EXCELLENCE, ASSOCIATIONS AND PROFESSIONALISM.”

It’s Day 10, or so I thought. The phone had awakened me from my unplanned nap. I was groggy, but happy to see my friend had not left my home. Tracy was pumped up and dying to share so-called “life-changing, foundational information” contained within an online professional development program named “L.E.A.P. OF FAITH.”  Strange as it seems, Tracy was just beginning Lesson 10!

P.S.  Thanks for reading what is perhaps the shortest novel of 2016!

July 4, 1776, the date that marks the historic event when 56 men officially put their necks on the line, declaring American sovereignty and freedom from English rule.

The summer of 1980 I declared my own independence and self-sovereignty. I just claimed it, moved out of the house, and went about my life as an adult.  Mom and Dad let me go without a fight.  America had to work much harder for her independence.

England wasn’t happy nor was she cooperative when the American colonies rebelled.  America had to fight a war to prove its declaration was more than a bluff.  Had we lost, the men who signed the Declaration would have been executed for treason and stripped of their assets as the spoils of war.

America was the underdog with limited resources to fight the Revolutionary War against mighty England.  However, the colonies were well prepared emotionally and strategically.  They believed in a purpose that was just and backed up by Almighty God.  The rest is history!

Even so, America had to fight yet again to prove the first American victory was more than a fluke.  In fact, to this day we have fought many battles to protect our freedom and prove our strength to do so.  The war of 1812 was an attempt by England to take back America.  It was that war’s decisive battle at Fort Henry that inspired an attorney, Francis Scott Key, to write a poem that eventually became our National Anthem.  If England had won that battle, we would not be singing The Star Spangled Banner at events we cherish.

Since then, we have gone to war to protect our vulnerable freedom from external and internal enemies.  Two special American symbols – our National Anthem and our Pledge of Allegiance symbolize freedom and the price we pay to protect it.

I challenge you to fetch a box of tissues and watch these two powerful,  patriotic videos.

The Birth of Our National Anthem  -by Robert Surgenor

The Meaning of Our Pledge of Allegiance – by Comedian Red Skelton

 

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People of all ages mess up their futures in countless ways either knowingly or by willful ignorance.  The old adage, “What we don’t know won’t hurt us.” comes to mind. In any case, the outcome is a tragic waste through missed opportunities and falling short of one’s potential.

#1:  Missed Opportunities to Meet People and Build Relationships

The book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi reminds me of the countless lunches I had alone in my office sorting through email, listening to the radio, and playing video games. Sometimes I worked out at the gym, which is a good thing.  But, for 26 years few of those lunches were spent meeting new people and making professional connections.

“A recent IBM study found that each contact in a person’s network was worth $948.  In other words, that person you know with 100 more LinkedIn contacts than you could, on average, be worth $100,000 more per year! …  In an age when professional success belongs to the highly networked, a new blueprint is needed.” — Brian Tracy

What if I had practiced the art of making connections and building relationships. Then what if I had understood, appreciated and practiced the art of making good professional connections?  Would this have helped my career AND provided more opportunities to serve others?  Eventually it did.  I learned that relationships are everything!

#2: Too Much Talking, Not Enough Listening

At a business networking event in Cincinnati, a gathering of about 150 people was engaged in discussion framed by three questions posed by host, facilitator, and teacher Steve Browne.

  1. “What is networking?”
  2. “Why do so many people not participate?”
  3. “How can I become a networking savant?”

As we settled in on Steve’s third question, some of the responses were negatively phrased as if they were responding to a different question, “How do people sabotage their networking efforts?”  One participant suggested that the agenda many people have is based on trying to make a good impression.  Instead, people need to concentrate more on being interested and less on being interesting. One is a form of caring, the second is annoying.

Too much talking results in collateral damage to relationship building, problem solving, and growth opportunities.  Sounds a little bit like a war zone.  If so, that would make disciplined and intentional listening a form of détente.

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything.
So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”
— Larry King

#3: We Stymie Our Curiosity and Kill Our Creativity

Curious George was always getting into trouble.  I guess the little monkey didn’t know or didn’t care that “curiosity killed the cat.” Comedian Steven Wright once said, “Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.” These perspectives suggest that curiosity is risky business. Maybe it’s true but, without a healthy measure of curiosity, where would creativity come from? Curiosity is the seed of creativity.

Stimulating creativity is not difficult.  Just break a few patterns.  Take a different way to work and listen to a different radio station.  Eat dinner at a different time and order something different from the menu.  Talk to someone on an elevator.  Get up 30 minutes earlier and read a book. Learn a new word and use it in conversation. Attend a workshop.  Call a friend you haven’t recently seen.  Add something to this list that your friends would think is strange.  Then do it!

When people are intentional about breaking patterns, curiosity returns and creativity grows again.  When curiosity and creativity replace lazy habits and fear, people are able to see new opportunities and new solutions.

 

Finger PointingTIME OUT:  It’s common for human beings to blame their situations on external causes.  The truth is, whether or not we caused our circumstances, we bear responsibility.  So, here are my questions for you to ponder: “When and how have I accidentally or otherwise sabotaged my career?  How will I make the correction?”

#4: We’re Sloppy About Our Integrity

“Integrity is the integration of inner virtuous values with outward virtuous behaviors.”

How significant is integrity?  Pick up any study or survey about the most important qualities of a leader and you’re sure to find integrity at or near the top.  Ask any person what qualities they value most in others and integrity is likely to be high on that list, too.  People value integrity in others even when they don’t live up to it themselves.

Human frailty makes it challenging to act in accordance with one’s complex and sometimes conflicting beliefs.  The tendency is to look for an escape with phrases like, “just this once” or “it’s such a small thing” or “I’ll just apologize when it’s over.”  But, true integrity is a strong personal obedience to one’s conscience (internal) and one’s accountability partners (external).

#5: Seeing Ourselves From a Devalued Perspective

If you have “assistant” in your job title, forget it.  There’s nothing wrong or inaccurate about the word.  It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that assistant means a second-class position.

NBA Hall of Fame basketball player John Havlicek established himself as a superstar long before he was awarded a spot in the 5-man starting line-up with the Boston Celtics.  He was so good at coming off the bench, that he proudly kept that role, wearing the title of “Sixth Man” for about seven years even after he had earned the right to be a starter.  Havlicek was the all-time best assistant in professional basketball.

Celtics’ Coach Red Auerbach described Havlicek as the “guts of the team.”  How could this be?  He wasn’t even a starter for 40% of his career.  Because great coaches understand the importance and value of a great cast of assistants.

Havlicek quietly led by example, always ready to enter the game.  He had a tireless work ethic with tremendous endurance.  His passion for the game and the team never wavered.  Havlicek was versatile, able to play more than one position.  The Sixth Man seemed to be everywhere on the court!  He demonstrated his loyalty by playing his entire pro career with one team.  In 1996, John J. Havlicek was named to the top 50 NBA players of all time.  Not bad for an “assistant!”

“It is your attitude, not your aptitude, that determines your altitude.” — Zig Ziglar

If you are an assistant and see your role as anything less than crucial to the success of your organization, you have a perception problem not a position problem.  When your perception devalues the true importance of your role, you have the wrong attitude and are responsible for sabotaging your career.  Instead, ignore your title.  Focus on the true meaning and significance of the word “assistant”.  Until you become a starter, find ways to become the best you can be by assisting others to be the best they can be.  That’s the true attitude of a “Sixth Man.”

#6: Preparation Precedes Prime Performance

It’s life’s unsuccessful people that learn and grow only when they have to and often when it’s too late.  A professional baseball player doesn’t just submit a resume for the World Series.  He is constantly learning the game, working out, practicing the fundamentals and gaining new experience at every level.  People in all walks of life earn the privilege of playing in their industry’s “World Series” only when they pay their dues with real preparation.

  • Prepare before you see an opportunity.
  • Prepare before you face a problem.
  • Prepare before you are recruited or challenged.
  • Prepare before you are forced by a changing world.

While most folks are willing to prepare as a response, it’s successful people who consistently, intentionally, strategically and proactively prepare.  Is that kind of preparation your approach?

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

Preparation is a simple process: enlightenment, engagement, empowerment, go again. It’s part intellectual, part experience, part emotional, part belief, part conditioning, and part repetition.  Here are the three stages of growth.

Enlightenment—We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s the discipline of passing from ignorance to awareness and from awareness to understanding.

Engagement—You can reject the knowledge or you can file it away for the future.  The habit of successful people is to apply it!

 “You don’t know how much artists go through to make it look so easy.
It’s all in the practice.” 
— Lauryn Hill

Empowerment—The greatest value is not gaining knowledge and experience.  It’s the conviction of an empowered person that emerges during the process.  Each cycle increases growth and empowerment!

In a rapidly-changing world, success comes to those who have a hunger to grow even when there is no apparent urgency.  People who learn only when they have to are sabotaging their futures.  Don’t let that be YOU!

.  .  .  .  .

P.S.  Our mission is to help today’s youth and young adults prepare for a future of excellence and honor by way of a development program that prepares them in five areas: Performance, Professionalism, Relationships, Leadership and Faith.  To learn how you can have a role, visit:  MoEaH.org

Clancy Cross
Founder of CrossAbilities!
www.CrossAbilities.com