Growth That Matters!

Here’s a simple model for understanding personal and professional growth: 1) Feed Your Mind;  2) Engage Your Thoughts; 3) Establish Your Purpose.  Here’s a short description of each part.

What We Know

Intentional or not, our minds constantly take in new information and increase what we know.  So, people everywhere should be asking: “Am I living a low-information or a high information life?”  This is not a question about quantity.  It’s about quality.  Maybe a better question would be: “Do I stuff my mind with the junk food of pop culture, gossip, salacious novels, and the babbling of talking heads OR do I strategically feed my mind with high-nutrition information from sources that matter?” If you want to grow, don’t just feed your mind.  Nourish it!

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

Some information scratches an itch or tickles a funny bone.  Some plays around with our moral compasses and plants seeds of negativity that influence the stories we tell our selves about who we are or should become. Even if we believe we can manage the negative impact, we reduce the available time and energy we have to take in beneficial information that prepares us for growth.

“You can make positive deposits in your own economy every day
by reading and listening to positive, life-changing content, and
by associating with encouraging and hope-building people.”

-Zig Ziglar

The first part of the growth equation is this: “Growth begins with better management of your mental diet.”

What We Do With What We Know

“Information’s pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience.”
Clarence Day

The value a person gains from collecting and sorting information is barely a scratch on the crystal of potential.  Why?  Because gathering and organizing information is done faster and more efficiently by computers.  Information is what it is and nothing more until people get involved.  It’s real value is released when a person, not a machine, connects with its innate qualities, conceives a use for it, and creates context that places the information and its users into a leveraged position.  Whenever this occurs a person grows professionally and in market value.

Growth is the understanding that comes from engaging in real-life activities.  The potential value of what we know becomes more real as we put it to use. Everything we do to understand more broadly and more deeply paves the way to wisdom.Prepare to Win !

“There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot
 be realized until personal experience has brought it home.”
John Stuart Mill

Action has a way of forcing us to think, evaluate, rethink, and try again. When the brain is fully engaged, more than simply gathering and sorting, new wisdom is born.   This uniquely human phenomenon cannot be automated.

A one-and-done experience has some value, albeit limited. The greater value is released when we add two more elements to the experience: Commitment and Repetition. Commitment is the attitude of integrity. It says, “I insist on doing this right and I will do whatever to takes.” Repetition is the consistent practice that honors the promise you made to yourself.  “Committed, repeated action” is what we mean when we say, “Prepare to Win!”

“I’m not gonna give up, shut up, or let up…
 as a matter of fact, I’m just getting warmed up.”
-Zig Ziglar

The second part of the growth equation is this: “If you want to grow, do something useful with what you know.”

Why? The Question That Seeks Purpose

Many coaches and mentors teach the importance of identifying the why in life when choosing a career or making some other major life decision. This advice is invaluable. It’s equally important to periodically ask, “Why?” as a gut check and motivator. Why am I doing this?  Why is this task or rehearsal important?  A periodic revisiting of your purpose is every bit as important as discovering it on the front end of forming your mission.  Most why’s in life center around people.  Therefore, we must remember that people need us and we need to reconnect with our purpose if we are to remember them.

The third part of this basic growth equation is this: “Growth is sustained by serving a purpose bigger than you.”

Personal Vs. Private

Myths, Misconceptions, Misnomers and Mistakes

There are people who have mastered the art of using the wrong word. To some, this may be a mute point. (How’s that for an example?) While a wrong word here and there may seem harmless and unimportant, it has consequences. The words “personal” and “private” come to mind.

“I don’t like to share my personal life… it wouldn’t be personal if I shared it.” — George Clooney

Sorry George. One’s thoughts, words, and actions are always personal, whether or not they remain private. The concept of “personal” denotes the characteristic of ownership. People may feel violated when their privacy is breached, but they have not forfeited their lives regardless of whether or not they remain private.

“If there’s anything unsettling to the stomach, it’s watching actors on television talk about their personal lives.” — Marlon Brando

Again, we see confusion. Is Brando implying that everything personal should be private? Certainly not his career, which is personal and necessarily very public.

With this new perspective in mind, read and enjoy the following quotes.  Then reread them replacing the word “personal” with “private” and see if the meaning of the following quotations is changed, masked or distorted.

“A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.” — Winston Churchill

“All personal achievement starts in the mind of the individual. Your personal achievement starts in your mind. The first step is to know exactly what your problem, goal or desire is.” — W. Clement Stone

“Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask why me? Then a voice answers nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.” — Charles M. Schulz

“Success is the progressive realization of predetermined, worthwhile, personal goals.” — Paul J. Meyer

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility in the realm of faith and morals.” — Albert Schweitzer

“I dare not exercise personal liberty if it infringes on the liberty of others.” — Billy Sunday

“And obviously, from our own personal point of view, the principal challenge is a personal challenge.” — Richard Branson

“There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home.” — John Stuart Mill

The following quotation would seem to indicate that the late Jim Morrison recognized the difference between the two words:

“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.” — Jim Morrison

“Personal” and “private” have been used interchangeably for so long that we can usually understand the intended meaning from the context. However, the larger point is that “words mean things.” Using the right words is foundational to effective communication. Improving communication skills begins by adopting a belief that this is important. So, let’s explore the consequences of confusing a set of words? In most cases, it might be a minor and forgivable error. In others, it has noteworthy consequences.

Imprecise communication is a distraction. While someone is sorting through sloppy words and phrases, he can miss the important points or important ideas of a conversation.

Imprecise communication projects an image of ignorance. We judge people’s character by their words. Since we can’t get inside their minds to assess their thoughts and intentions, we are left with their words and deeds. When their words are confused and imprecise, we have even less to go on.

Imprecise communication can cause conflict. Using the wrong word can escalate the emotions present during a conversation and cause communication to break down.  Radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh claims he was misquoted when he said, “I am an expert on my own opinion.” Well, isn’t everyone an expert about their own opinions?  The conflict occurred when the reporter allegedly replaced the word “on” with “in” and changed the entire meaning of the quotation.

Imprecise communication distorts the language. One of the challenges we face is recognizing and applying context. Many, if not most English words have multiple meanings which we interpret from the context of the conversation. This can be challenging enough without unnecessarily adding to the confusion of poor word choices.

Just within my lifetime, I have seen a change in what is private. Consider how the WWI generation talked about pregnancy. “In a family way” and “with child” were common expressions describing pregnancy. Compare that with the language of today’s women, who frequently share in a very graphic way, in mixed company, the intimate details of their labor and delivery. Childbirth is always personal.  But to some, it’s not very private.

Religious beliefs fall into the category of personal. But, are they private? Some would say, “yes” and others “no.” In the case of Christianity, what does the Bible say?

“Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.” — Bible, Psalm 96:2

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” — Bible, Matthew 28:19

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” — Bible, Mark 8:38

Apparently, Christian beliefs are not intended to remain private.

Some may consider these thoughts about personal and private as a peevish, nit-picking rant and an utter waste of time. I accept and acknowledge that personal opinion, while suggesting that it also remain private.


“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This expression can be a good reason to keep on doing what has proven to work effectively. Makes sense, right? But, this good advice misapplied can also create problems. Consider someone using this cliché as an excuse to avoid necessary change. A threadbare tire that still holds its air comes to mind. Technically, it is still working. But disaster lurks. Consider also something that works, but is about to fail due to a change in external conditions. This happens in business all the time. Products, services, and business models are constantly being made obsolete by something new and better. In business, continuous change is required to survive.

“Change before you have to.” — Jack Welch

Now, to my main point. Some people will do almost anything to avoid change. Certain kinds of change make people uncomfortable, even fearful. Instead of change being an opportunity for improvement or to experience something new, they gravitate toward the familiar, which they acknowledge could be inferior. Funny thing, this tendency seems to increase as we age.

“The devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know.” — Cliché

“Middle age is when your broad mind and narrow waist begin to change places.” — E. Joseph Cossman

Change should not be something to automatically fear. After all, changing socks is a fantastic idea. Changing lanes is often necessary. Changing keys makes music interesting. Changing colors makes autumn beautiful. People enjoy watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Finally, this post is the result of many changes. (You should have seen the first 59 drafts.)

Change is more acceptable when seen as a remedy for suffering. Like most elections, the buzzword in the last presidential election cycle was “change.” Most of the candidates have used it or similar words such as reform. For example, Huckabee proposed to “reform” the tax system. Obama’s overall theme was “stand for change.” (This was later changed to “Unite for Change.”)   In these and most other cases, the same game plan is in force. Step 1: Convince the people something is terribly wrong or headed in that direction. Step 2: Offer to come and save the day through “change.” (I think I hear the Lone Ranger theme song.) Before taking sides in these matters, some questions we must ask are, “Will the proposed changes really save the day?”, “Which person or group is most qualified to save the day?” and “Does the day even need to be saved?”

Here are some thoughts to help change our attitude toward change.

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.” — Professor Irwin Corey

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.” — Eric Hoffer

“No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.” — John Stuart Mill

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” — Carol Burnett

“The most effective way to manage change is to create it.” — Peter Drucker

“Lord, where we are wrong, make us willing to change; where we are right, make us easy to live with.” — Peter Marshall, US Senate chaplain

“If the rate of change on the outside (of the firm) exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” — Jack Welch

“I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.” — Jim Rohn

“We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.” — Harrison Ford

“The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything – or nothing.” — Nancy Astor (1879 – 1964)

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” — William James (1842 – 1910)

“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” — Warren Buffet

“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.” — James Gordon, Medical Doctor

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright June 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Practice Life

“repetitio mater studiorum est”
(Latin proverb: “repetition is the mother of learning”)

Practice is important for strengthening, conditioning and skill development. Often overlooked is another purpose — development of “muscle memory.” Through a practice session of diligent replication, a conscious movement transcends into a subconscious one. Without this type of special learning, good rhythm and timing that consistently hold up under pressure become impossible. This is why skilled soldiers drill, veteran baseball players take batting practice and professional golfers hit thousands of practice balls. Once the necessary skills have been developed or refined, practice has just begun. Repetition is necessary to build and maintain muscle memory.

“Practice is the best of all instructors.” — Publilius Syrus (~100 BC)

“The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” — Thomas Moore (1779 – 1852)

Another form of practice is visualization. Serious golfers learn to visualize the excellent shot they intend to hit. Unfortunately the opposite works, too. Think of how many times a bad shot has been followed with, “I knew I was gonna do that!”

“Losers visualize the penalties of failure. Winners visualize the rewards of success.” — Unknown

In the musical “The Music Man” a traveling salesman, posing as a music teacher, attempts to buy time for his crooked scheme to sell musical instruments and band uniforms by instructing the would-be students to “think” the Minuet in G. It worked! No, the kids didn’t learn to play anything. But, he got the extra time he needed.

The “think system” really can work as a practice technique. Professionals in various disciplines include it as part of their practice regimen. Note that it is not intended to replace the hard work of repetition. It is an enhancement that separates champions from the rest.

“I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.” — Jim Carrey

“I visualize things in my mind before I have to do them. It is like having a mental workshop.” — Jack Youngblood

“I’ve discovered that numerous peak performers use the skill of mental rehearsal of visualization. They mentally run through important events before they happen.” — Charles A. Garfield

It seems unnecessary to elaborate on the importance of committing to regular practice (i.e. repetition). What is needed and may not be obvious, is a reminder about the importance of good judgment regarding what and how to practice.

“The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.” — Ernest Dimnet

“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” — Bible, Galatians 6:7

“Make sure you visualize what you really want, not what someone else wants for you.” — Jerry Gillies

“No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.” — John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873)

Finally, practice is not just for athletic and entertaining endeavors. It is a necessary discipline for all of life.

“Practice, the master of all things.” — Augustus Octavius

“What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill

God bless,

— CC

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