The Heart of It All

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

Saying that a certain competitor “has heart” makes one guilty of using a worn-out sports cliché. Yet, what better words are there in the case of someone like Brett Favre? In a different context, people say the same about the late Mother Teresa. With their countless differences, it might seem ridiculous to compare the two. Still, I’m willing to dabble in the ridiculous because they both “have heart.”


Both of these people became renowned for their accomplishments and I’d wager that neither was driven by the desire to achieve fame. They were ordinary individuals each with an extraordinary passion for something much bigger. Notoriety was simply the by-product.

“There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living” — Nelson Mandela

Ordinary people get excited all the time about one thing or another. But, when the novelty wears away or the going gets tough, they’re finished until the next exciting “thing” comes along. The reason for their fickle behavior is often a misplaced passion. An ordinary person becomes extraordinary when he has vision beyond himself.

“Fame is a fickle food – Upon a shifting plate” — Emily Dickinson

Pleasure in wealth is a fickle joy” — Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” — Bible, Matthew 6:21

Whether or not they thought about it, Brett Favre and Mother Teresa are/were in the people-building business. Their success came in direct proportion to their ability to help others reach their potential.  Building up others requires looking beyond outward appearance and reputation to find their heart, to understand what the person is passionate about and the source of that passion.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” — Bible, 1 Samuel 16:7

If a person’s “why” (i.e. purpose) isn’t big enough, chances are high that his passion is temporary. However, if a bond can be identified or established between personal interests and something much bigger, success is a worthy bet.

“The mind is fickle like a fast galloping horse and the only way to control him is by involving him in good actions beneficial for the welfare of all. The person who does so shall achieve success and peace.” — Rig Veda

Love, desperation, fear and similar emotions can cause anyone to develop a mountain-moving heart. When someone taps into the energy source of his passion he needs very little push to get started.

“Throw your heart over the fence and the rest will follow.” — Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993)

“Desire creates the power.” — Raymond Holliwell

Brett Favre produced touchdown highlights with long passes, but most of the scores he led came about a few yards at a time. Mother Teresa also had a “one-small-step-at-a-time” approach.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” — Mother Teresa

“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” -– Mother Teresa

Where there is passion, there is desire. Where there is desire, there is persistence. Where there is persistence, there is success.

“Dwell not upon thy weariness, thy strength shall be according to the measure of thy desire.” — Arab Proverb

“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” — Vince Lombardi (1913-1970)

Except for Brett Favre’s family and possibly his faith, the evidence would seem to indicate that he is driven primarily by an intense passion for football. It’s not money and it’s not fame. Think of how Brett Favre the kid appears after every score and every victory. (I enjoy watching a Favre celebration as much as the touchdown.) If money was the source of his passion he would not have spent most of his career in Green Bay when more bucks were certainly available in bigger markets. Just old-fashioned love of a game. How quaint, how refreshing!

“Well family is obviously the most important. There was a time when I thought football was the most important.” — Brett Favre


If one’s source of passion involves personal sacrifice to help others, the concept of “having heart” has an added dimension. Mother Teresa’s desire to serve sick and starving people originates from the passions she has for God.

“I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn’t touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God.” — Mother Teresa

The “size” of a person’s heart and the direction it points varies from person to person. Yet, I think it’s accurate to say that all professionals have heart. Talent alone does not make a professional.

“…effective leadership starts on the inside; it is a heart issue.” — Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, “Lead Like Jesus”

“In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.” — Antonio Porchia, Voices

To become a professional one must develop and grow his heart for the benefit of other people. This includes the hopes and dreams as well as the pain and struggles.

“A good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help another up.” — Anonymous

“A mature adult realizes that life is about what you give rather than what you get.” — Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, “Lead Like Jesus”

“Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.” — Annie Lennox

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.” — Benjamin Disraeli

Someone with a “small heart” can still achieve success, but he probably won’t excel. Talent alone only goes so far. Getting to the top takes lots of heart. Those who have it leave an indelible mark on the world in part because of what they say, but mostly because of what they do.

“Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions. You may have a heart of gold — but so does a hard-boiled egg.” — Unknown

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright September 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Decisions, Decisions

I have faced some interesting and challenging decisions these past several months and observed others in the same boat. This got me thinking about how people go about making decisions. Is it rational? Is it emotional? Certainly both come into play. Which one should play the dominant role?

Decision making should include at least three perspectives: 1) moral, 2) risk vs. reward, and 3) probability. I believe the first question should always relate to one’s moral standards, that is, whether something is morally right or wrong. This is often all that is needed to make the correct decision.

“In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.” — Thomas Jefferson, Third U.S. president

If a course of action is neither right nor wrong in the moral sense, the next step would be to compare the risks and the rewards. Here’s a method that might help. For each alternative, make a two-column list. Write down rewards in the left column and risks in the right column. Are the potential rewards more valuable than the risks? People play the lottery because they value the remote chance of becoming rich more than they value the money spent on lottery tickets. This is a risk vs. reward decision.

“What you risk reveals what you value.” — Jeanette Winterson

Finally, look at the choices from the probability perspective. From your list, cross off the ridiculously improbable risks. Also eliminate those with consequences you could live with if they did occur. Circle the rewards with the greatest personal value. Compare the remaining risks with the circled rewards. Your best choice should be much easier to discern.

“Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.” — George S. Patton (1885-1945)

I think people usually make bad decisions because they overlook one or two of these dimensions. Here are some reasons people make bad decisions:

  • They don’t know what they want.
  • They value pleasure more than their own integrity.
  • They prefer immediate rewards over long-term rewards.
  • They don’t see the potential rewards.
  • They don’t see the risks.
  • They don’t understand the probability of the risks and rewards.
  • They allow fear to dominate and distort their thinking.
  • They fear making a wrong decision above all else.

Before I wrap-up, reflect on these quotes about decisions.

“The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.” — Ben Stein

“Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.” — H. L. Hunt

“The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.” — George Eliot (1819-1880)

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” — J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, 1999

“The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.” — John Dewey

“An executive is a person who always decides; sometimes he decides correctly, but he always decides.” — John H. Patterson

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.” — Robert Fritz

Even though this decision-making process uses a framework of logic, it reserves plenty of room for emotions. How so? The moral perspective is possible because of emotion, which strengthens a person’s grip on his moral convictions. In the second perspective, reward is a value judgment influenced heavily by emotion. Good or bad, the third perspective will probably be colored by emotions. For example, fear can fool one’s mind into overestimating the probability of certain risks. This process is not perfect. But it can help achieve a healthy balance between logic and emotion.

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: