How Am I Sabotaging My Future? (Part 10)

Take your eye off the ball” is bad advice in sports, but a great metaphor for the biggest barrier to success.  When a football player is seeing his endzone celebration before seeing the ball safely in his hands he is likely to see the ball on the ground.  “Hearing footsteps” refers to a situation where a player anticipates getting hit by the opponent, loses focus and makes an error.  We might say the player “takes his ears off the ball.”

A tactic in basketball is to do something like a head fake or a look-away pass to cause the opposition to focus on the wrong thing.  A player with the ball can cause a momentary distraction with a simple turn of the head.  In the diagram below, Ronnie (44) had the ball in the corner.  Before passing it to Zach (20), who was headed for the basket, he turned his head left toward the stands and fired the ball to Zach on his right, who caught the perfect pass and made the easy basket. Here’s the interesting part of this particular play.  Who or what was on Ronnie’s left to look at?  He’s in the corner, where there is no basket and no other players to pass to.  Still, the defender froze, lost focus for a fraction of a second, and allowed the ball to get by him.  Loss of focus, even briefly, can be a game changer.

Ronnie to Zach for 2 Points

These examples illustrate the importance of short-term focus.  Now, let’s consider focus from a long-term perspective.  Do you know where you are going?  What is your purpose for being here in this world?  How does your vision of your future align with your sense of purpose?  As purpose and vision take form, perhaps you can “see” an image of your preferred future.  If so, put it into written form or draw a picture.  This is much more than an academic exercise.  Taking time to visualize your purpose-driven future and create a visual representation of it helps you stay focused on what matters most.

“I dream my painting and paint my dream.” — Vincent Van Gogh

“The Three Armies can be deprived of their commanding officer,
but even a common man cannot be deprived of his purpose.”
— Confucius

With a vision, you can plan.  With a plan you can take action.  Action creates momentum, which gets results.  But, always remember to keep your eye on the ball or you might get the wrong results and that would sabotage your future.

“You cannot change your destination overnight,
but you can change your direction overnight.”
— Jim Rohn

Have a Wonderful Life

Only about half of all Americans today say “they are satisfied with their jobs, down from nearly 60 percent in 1995.” (Source: The Conference Board, 2/28/2005 (  So, for about half of working Americans 40% of their waking hours are spent doing something they are NOT excited about. The next time you are at work, pay attention when you casually ask, “How’s it going?” You are likely to hear comments that put the exclamation point to the statistics.

  • “Okay for a Monday.”
  • “The boss is on my case; my coworkers get on my nerves!”
  • “It’s only Tuesday and I’m already stressed out!”
  • “I’m so burned out! I need a vacation.”
  • “Thank goodness it’s Friday!”

It would seem that many people have allowed themselves to be “imprisoned” by distasteful, uninspiring jobs and willingly accept a jail term as the price for subsistence, safety, and periods of recreation.

“Before you can break out of prison, you must first realize you’re locked up.” — Unknown

Comparing job dissatisfaction to incarceration might seem a bit extreme, but it does raise some questions. If so many people are unhappy in their work, why don’t they change companies or careers? Why do they continue this schizophrenic lifestyle of slavery and freedom when there is a better way?

“Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.” — Wayne Dyer

“Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” — Confucius, Philosopher

It’s fair to conclude that many people would benefit from a career change or some other corrective action. But, change is harder for some than for others. Whether voluntary or imposed, it ranges anywhere from a minor inconvenience to a chain reaction of agonizing disruptions with appropriate emotional swings. The same brain that has the power to cause change also has the power to conjure up petrifying fear.

“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let’s take a look at three keys to an abundant life: Curiosity, Courage and Conscience.


Finding a better way requires options – finding options requires curiosity. Many folks have put on blinders, limiting their curiosity to what is straight ahead. An abundant life requires 360-degree curiosity, like a child. Children are acutely aware of the sights, sounds, and smells coming from every direction. Not satisfied with just noticing, they also take an interest and seek answers. “Mommy, why is the grass green?” “Daddy, how does the clock know what time it is?”

“The man who has no imagination has no wings.” — Muhammad Ali

My grandparents were proficient at focusing on the business portion of life AND enjoying its amenities. To them, a bird singing, a flower blooming, an interesting viewpoint, and a new idea were not to be missed. They would frequently pause from an important task to enjoy what others would consider distracting. By their example, I learned NOT to differentiate between the “distractions” and the “business of life.”   These are merely different aspects of one abundant life.

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.” — Samuel Johnson

What is there to be curious about? Nature, relationships, music, technology, concepts, philosophies, and ideas! Where can one’s curiosity be aroused? Museums, zoos, aquariums, parks, carnivals, sporting events, and the theater all come to mind. How about church and mission activities, travel, hobbies, clubs & crafts, part-time jobs, books, and the backyard? With a little practice, it is possible to be curious anywhere at any time.

“Welcome all life experiences … let life touch you. Don’t let it kill you, but at least let it touch you. The next touch could open up the well springs. [Then] you’ll never lack for desire the rest of your life.” — Jim Rohn, “Challenge to Succeed” (audio recording)

“Always think outside the box and embrace opportunities that appear, wherever they might be.” — Lakshmi Mittal

There is a human tendency we attribute to adolescence, but one that really has no generational limits. It is, allowing our curiosity and interests to be influenced by what the popular culture and our peers define as “cool” or “hip” – call it “curiosity by majority rule.”

“Only dead fish swim with the stream.” — Malcolm Muggeridge

“If you don’t control your mind, someone else will.” — John Allston

Conclusion #1: Curiosity is an opportunity multiplier.


Common sense, observation, and experience provide evidence that there is a relationship between fear and courage and that courage has a role in dealing with fear, especially the fear of change in its many forms:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of hard work
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of criticism

It’s true that people sometimes set aside their fear of change when overcome by curiosity or when enticed by the possibility of benefits that change will bring. It’s also true that in different situations the most powerful benefits are no match for seemingly trivial fears. In such cases, people will opt for change only when they hold greater fear for the status quo.

We’ve been conditioned to think of courage and fear as mutually exclusive. That is, there are situations where one is either courageous or afraid. While there is a relationship between these two emotions, they are not necessarily in opposition.

“Fear and courage are brothers.” -– Proverb

“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” — Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

In some cases it is more precise to say that fear is the source of courage. Consider the story of Roger Olian. On a snowy January day in 1982, a passenger jet crashed into the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Before emergency response professionals could mobilize a rescue effort, Olian jumped into the icy waters to try and save the survivors. Not able to reach them, he remained in the river for 20 minutes, encouraging them to hang on.

To believe Olian wasn’t afraid of the bitter cold and strong current defies credibility. Hypothermia and drowning were real dangers he had to understand. It is only remotely possible that he took action as a means to achieve personal fame, fortune, or other benefit. More likely, his bravery was inspired by something bigger than concern for his personal safety. It is reasonable to guess that the fear of seeing others die while he was in a position to help caused him to act in a way that made him appear unafraid. If so, one fear caused the courage to overcome another fear.

Conclusion #2 — Courage is the catalyst for change.


There is another type of courage, one that is inspired by personal values. Real courage has its roots in knowing one’s purpose in the world and the source of that purpose.

“Conscience is the root of all true courage; if a man would be brave let him obey his conscience.” — James Freeman Clarke

Heroes like Roger Olian often say they were compelled to act, that it was the only right choice to make. Their action was caused by something inside tugging at their hearts.

“I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don’t know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.” — Christopher Reeve

Heroes frequently point to the Bible as their source of purpose leading to courage and strength.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” — Bible, John 15:13

“Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” — Bible, Matthew 20:26-28

Whether or not Olian was motivated by these or any other Bible verses is not the point. The point is, he was nudged into action by a purpose larger than himself despite danger, fear, and great personal risk.  This purpose, which some call “conscience,” is the most powerful and dependable form of courage. Conscience causes action and ensures the right kind of action.

“Courage without conscience is a wild beast.” — Robert G. Ingersoll

“Conscience is our magnetic compass; reason our chart.” — Joseph Cook

Being aware of one’s conscience and following its guidance without perverting it for one’s own selfish desires is the root of all morality and the basis of all positive change.

“While conscience is our friend, all is at peace; however once it is offended, farewell to a tranquil mind.” — Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

“The person that loses their conscience has nothing left worth keeping.” — Izaak Walton

“Abraham Lincoln did not go to Gettysburg having commissioned a poll to find out what would sell in Gettysburg. There were no people with percentages for him, cautioning him about this group or that group or what they found in exit polls a year earlier. When will we have the courage of Lincoln?” — Robert Coles

“The inability of those in power to still the voices of their own consciences is the great force leading to change.” — Kenneth Kaunda

Conclusion #3: Conscience inspires courage and filters opportunities.

Summarizing the 3 C’s of Abundance

Living an abundant life is a continuous process of transforming opportunities into good results. The concept is simple. Curiosity increases awareness of opportunities, which generates desire. As desire increases, it becomes necessary to listen to and respect one’s conscience. Courage reaches its peak when desire and conscience are in harmony, making ready new thought and behavior patterns. In a nutshell, this is what personal growth is all about.

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” — W. Edwards Deming

“Life is something like this trumpet. If you don’t put anything in it, you don’t get anything out.” — W.C. Handy

“Every man dies. Not every man lives. The only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the ‘buts’ you use today.” — Les Brown

“Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” — Leo Buscaglia

As you embark on a life of new abundance, it’s helpful to know you are not alone in your quest. There’s a greater power you can lean on for courage, strength, and guidance.

“They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” — Bible, Isaiah 40:29,31

Change, inspired by curiosity, turned to action by courage and filtered by conscience, leads to a meaningful life. Be curious, pray for courage, and obey your conscience.

God bless,

— CC

Mind Your P’s and Q’s

The ABC’s of Professionalism

There are several stories about how the English expression, “mind your P’s and Q’s” came to be. One such theory says that 17th Century barkeepers kept track of their patrons’ consumption and would instruct them to “mind their pints and quarts.” Centuries later my Grandma used the same expression with her young grandchildren. It never dawned on me that she was concerned about my drinking habits. From the perspective of a six-year old, I assumed she was talking about my manners.

It’s a curious thing that we have so many words for this antiquated expression.  Thankfully we’re still concerned about subject, whatever one chooses to call it.

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.” — Emily Post (1872-1960)

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.” — Emily Post (1872-1960)

“Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Civility costs nothing and buys everything.” — Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762)

“Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.” — Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), The Confucian Analects

“Observe decorum, and it will open a path to morality.” — Mason Cooley (1927-2002)

The fact that mankind has adopted codes of behavior has been constant throughout recorded history. What have changed are the specific rules and their relative importance. The character of George Washington was strongly influenced by “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Here are a few samples:

#15 — Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean yet without showing any great concern for them.

#19 — Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

#22 — Shew not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

#108 — When you speak of God, or His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence. Honor and obey your natural parents although they be poor.

#110 — Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

— Catherine Millard, “Rewriting of America’s History” pp.59-60

Those with adult children know first-hand how technology and generational attitudes affect changes in the current code. Certain “P’s and Q’s” of one generation might be “don’t know and don’t care” to a younger demographic. They are busy with other priorities. I don’t have access to President Washington’s entire list, but it’s a certain bet that it does not include the proper way to “de-friend” someone from one’s cellular favorites.

Cell phones and email are among the top disruptive technologies of the last 15 years. Appropriate behaviors are still being defined and learned.  For fun, I visited some Web sites that addressed cell phone etiquette of which I chose five for comparison. The authors agreed that ringers should be off in places like theaters, cell phones and driving don’t mix, and talking louder on a cell phone is unnecessary and rude. Four of the five complained about personalized ring tones. After that, they were all over the map, indicating we don’t yet have a common baseline for cell phone etiquette.

One way to learn about manners is to Google “pet peeves”. There are pet peeve lists about cell phone usage, driving, recruiting, baseball, the workplace, the bathroom, and even pet pet peeves. Those gripes which enough people share will eventually spawn new or revised rules of etiquette.  However, these lists also contain some pretty petty pet peeves. (Maybe alliteration is on yours.)

Bad manners (good manners, too) affect everyone.

“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.” — Maurice Baring (1874–1945)

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” — Author Unknown

There’s an interesting three-way relationship among respect, manners, and morals in the following quotation:

“To have respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference for others governs our manners.” — Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768)

The subtle but important meaning is an inferred relationship between morals and manners. Without this connection, manners would merely be arbitrary conventions. Good manners come in two forms: acts of kindness and omissions of kindness (things one refrains from doing or saying.) In most cases these are small, simple matters requiring little knowledge and effort.

“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

“Good manners: The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.” — Bennett Cerf (1898-1971)

Like all character issues, minding one’s P’s and Q’s produces tangible social and professional benefits.  In fact, the return often far exceeds the investment.

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.” — Thomas Sowell (1930- ), Creators Syndicate

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” — Clarence Thomas (1948- )

“Outcomes rarely turn on grand gestures or the art of the deal, but on whether you’ve sent someone a thank-you note.” — Bernie Brillstein (1931-2008), “The Little Stuff Matters Most”

P’s and Q’s can help produce “peace and quiet” in a fast-paced, stressful world for you and those whom you meet.

“Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass.” — Sir John Vanbrugh (1664?-1726)

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright November 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Make More Mistakes

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Precedent. Lincoln’s mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. When Lincoln was President, he wore only a tall silk hat. He said, ‘In onion there is strength.’ Abraham Lincoln write the Gettysburg address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope. He also signed the Emasculation Proclamation, and the Fourteenth Amendment gave the ex-Negroes citizenship. But the Clue Clux Clan would torcher and lynch the ex-Negroes and other innocent victims. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor. This ruined Booth’s career.”

— From a compilation of student bloopers and mistakes, attributed to Richard Lederer. (Source:

Now that you’ve hopefully had a good laugh, let’s get serious about “mistakes.” Human beings are deeply flawed in two respects. First, we make countless mistakes every day. No surprise, right? The curious part is why we harbor fears about making more. Fear of imperfection is the second and far greater flaw.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” — Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

“To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.” — Peter McWilliams, Life 101


“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.” — Frank Wilczek (1951- )

We fear mistakes because it reveals that we are imperfect.  But, everyone already knows that. So why do we think that makes us look bad?

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” — Henry C. Link

“I have learned the novice can often see things that the expert overlooks. All that is necessary is not to be afraid of making mistakes, or of appearing naive.” — Abraham Maslow, Psychologist

“Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can’t accept your imperfections, that’s their fault.” — Dr. David M. Burns

Mistakes should be welcomed and valued because they are opportunities to learn and improve.

“Mistakes, obviously, show us what needs improving. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?” — Peter McWilliams, Life 101

“An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats failures simply as practice shots.” — Charles Franklin Kettering, inventor

What we learn from our mistakes they will guide us and nudge us along the path toward success.

“If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” — Tallulah Bankhead (1903-1968 )

“If I had my life to live over… I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.” — Nadine Stair

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t as all. You can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember, that’s where you will find success.” — Thomas J. Watson

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

“It’s a sad day when you find out that it’s not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself that kept things from you.” — Lillian Hellman (1905-1984)

If we are wise and able to suppress our arrogance, it is also possible to learn from the mistakes of others.

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” — Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes, the wise and the good learn wisdom for the future.” — Plutarch, Historian

Still, one’s own mistakes handled professionally are the best-learned lessons.

Don’t argue for other people’s weaknesses. Don’t argue for your own. When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and learn from it immediately.” — Stephen R. Covey, Author and Speaker

“It’s always helpful to learn from your mistakes because then your mistakes seem worthwhile.” — Garry Marshall, ‘Wake Me When It’s Funny’

There are proper and improper responses to mistakes.

“Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else’s can shorten it.” — Cullen Hightower

“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.” — Paul “Bear” Bryant, “I Ain’t Never Been Nothing but a Winner”

History has proven there’s an undeniable connection between mistakes and innovation.

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” — James Joyce (1882-1941)

“He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” — Samuel Smiles

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” — Steve Jobs

Here’s the lesson. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, then commit to improvement. As long as your intentions were moral and ethical and your efforts were careful and thorough, there is no valid reason to feel guilty about a mistake, even if it caused harm. Of course when harm has occurred the whole matter of forgiveness and reparations must take place. After that, there’s not much else you can do but move on and do better.

“How unhappy is he who cannot forgive himself.” — Publilius Syrus (~100 BC)

“Life is an adventure in forgiveness.” — Norman Cousins (1915-1990)

“Forgiveness does not always lead to a healed relationship. Some people are not capable of love, and it might be wise to let them go along with your anger. Wish them well, and let them go their way.” — Real Live Preacher, Weblog, July 7, 2003

The worst thing is to allow one mistake to turn into more.

“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.” — Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC)

“If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.” — Mary Pickford (1893-1979)

Accepting our limits and imperfections as humans is not the same as being cavalier about mistakes. Errors are inevitable and they are serious business. Learning to deal properly with mistakes is the mark of a professional.

“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life” — Sophia Loren

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright October 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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