Seek Understanding

The ABC’s of Professionalism

“There is none who cannot teach somebody something, and there is none so excellent but he is excelled.” — Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658), Spanish Writer.

A professional’s teaching duties, the subject discussed in a previous post, is the perfect lead-in to the professional’s learning responsibilities. Teachers are also learners – could anything be more obvious? Yet, it is all too common for someone with very little knowledge about a certain subject, to expose their ignorance with great bravado. It’s cute when it’s a child bursting at the seams from excitement over some new discovery. It’s embarrassing when a supposedly mature adult jumps on a soapbox, only to find out in mid-sentence he isn’t quite sure how or what to say.

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” — Attributed to Mark Twain and others

The first principle of teaching is having something of intellectual, emotional or spiritual value worth sharing. Being an expert is not a prerequisite. But developing a desire to grow in expertise is. Becoming an effective teacher means learning all you can. Be forever committed to your own personal development.

“Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.” — John Cotton Dana (1856-1929), American librarian, museum director.

“Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience.” — Denis Waitley (1933- )

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” — Eartha Kitt (1927-2008), American actress, singer.

Whether or not a professional takes seriously his responsibility to teach, he still must take charge of what goes into his mind if he expects some level of control over his destiny. It is just as unhealthy to starve one’s mind or feed it garbage as it is to starve one’s body or feed it junk food.

“From the neck down, very few people are worth more than $100.00 a week. From the neck up, there is no limit to what an individual is worth. So what do we do? We feed our stomachs, the $100.00 part below our necks, every day. How often do we feed our minds, the part that has no limit to its value, earning and happiness potential? … Most of us feed it accidentally and occasionally, if it’s convenient or we don’t have anything else to do.” — Zig Ziglar (1926- ), See You At the Top, 1978, p. 245.

“A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” — Benjamin Franklin

“Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;” — Bible, Proverbs 3:13

A professional, knowing that life is much bigger than pleasures and comfort of the present, takes charge of his future with a personal and professional development program that includes: reading, watching/listening to recordings, performing research, taking courses, attending seminars, visiting parks and museums, and engaging in a variety of activities that provide unique mind-enhancing experiences.

“You learn something every day if you pay attention.” — Ray LeBlond

“Observe, record, tabulate, communicate. Use your five senses. . . . Learn to see, learn to hear, learn to feel, learn to smell, and know that by practice alone you can become expert.” — William Osler

What kind of understanding should a professional seek? Perhaps the most familiar is intellectual understanding, especially as it pertains to the industry of one’s career. Rapid change occurs in every industry – there are always new things to learn, sort and mentally file away for immediate use or future reference. Intellectual development also means exercising one’s reasoning and problem-solving skills. For this, puzzles and games are useful, but so are everyday life experiences.

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.” — A.A. Milne

“If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time, insight into and understanding of many things.” — Vincent Van Gogh

“The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” — Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773), Letters to His Son, 1746, published 1774

A Professional Seeks Emotional Understanding

To say someone is an “understanding person” is to say they have compassion and empathy. This type of understanding allows people to direct emotions in positive ways toward others. Not to be confused with fake compassion, which will always be exposed for what it is, true compassion is unselfish. This special type of understanding causes love to show itself.

“You can’t find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.” — Carrie Fisher (1956- )

“To fake it is to stand guard over emptiness” — Arthur Herzog

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.” — Dale Carnegie

A Professional Seeks Spiritual Understanding

Knowing one’s life purpose and the source of that purpose requires spiritual understanding. Purpose is the purifier of our emotions and the fire to apply our knowledge.

“Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” — Helen Keller

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” — Bible, Romans 8:28

Imagine two people. The first believes his purpose begins and ends with himself. Consequently he favors personal pleasure, comfort and safety over other things. His job/career is little more than the means to produce the resources necessary to acquire the next toy, comfort or adventure. Tempering this selfishness is something he learned — the practicality of the Golden Rule. So, his philosophy becomes “Enjoy life — do no harm.” The second person believes purpose comes from outside himself from a higher authority. He accepts that his purpose centers not on what he can do for himself, but what he can do for others. Sometimes this means reaching outside his comfort zone and taking risks to share his time, abilities and resources. When practiced with cheer and without reservation, he receives a spiritual joy that is much deeper and far-reaching than physical pleasure.

“Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt.” — Paul Tillich (1886-1965), German-American theologian. Saturday Evening Post, June 14, 1958

“Never forget that the purpose for which a man lives is the improvement of the man himself, so that he may go out of this world having, in his great sphere or his small one, done some little good for his fellow creatures and labored a little to diminish the sin and sorrow that are in the world.” — William E. Gladstone (1809-1898), British Prime Minister.

A professional knows that spiritual understanding cannot be faked.

“You can’t fake it when you’re alone with God, you know.” — Jim Bakker

“Be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” — Judy Garland

While defining understanding in its various forms, it should be intuitive how it relates to professionalism. Having a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for wisdom, like King Solomon, is the mark of a professional.

What a Professional Does to Understand

While defining understanding in its various forms, it should be intuitive how it relates to professionalism. Having a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for wisdom, like King Solomon, is the mark of a professional.

“At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask! What shall I give you?’ And Solomon said: ‘You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?’

“The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: ‘Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.’”

Bible, 1 Kings 3:5-14

Solomon, by not asking for outcomes, like fame or wealth, received something more valuable. In fact, having the sense to request wisdom showed maturity beyond his years. Among all of the ancient kings, Solomon modeled professionalism perhaps better than any other.

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” — Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

A professional is intentional about continuously developing his understanding. His education goes way beyond institutional schooling. He reads, watches educational television, and listens to educational recordings while on the road. A professional keeps a journal, takes copious notes and logs ideas. He engages in thoughtful discussions and debates. A professional tastes life not just for the pleasure it affords, but for the wisdom it contains. A professional probes life experiences to discover deeper meaning. Finally, he teaches others both as a way to give back and to enhance his own understanding.

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” — John Dewey

“A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,” — Bible, Proverbs 1:5

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.” — Bible, Psalm 111:10

God bless,

— CC

[ T=Teaching | Index | V=Vision ]

© Copyright January 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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The Last Domino

This post was inspired by something I saw on the back of my niece’s soccer practice jersey.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”

This simple, yet thought-provoking definition led me to see a chain reaction using dominos. I saw “Dream” as the first domino, “Deadline” in the middle and “Goal” at the end of the chain. Three dominos makes a lousy image. So, I imagined inserting a few more and came up with the following chain:

Dream → Passion → Action → Progress → Urgency → Deadline → Goal Achieved

However, with long-term goals, the dominos are normally spaced too far apart to generate enough momentum to reach the goal. Something more is needed. The gaps must be filled with lots of “character” dominos to maintain momentum in the chain. The following quotes identify some of these momentum dominos:

Every Day Get Started: “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” — Amelia Earhart

Determination: “Persist and persevere, and you will find most things that are attainable, possible.” — Lord Chesterfield

Courage: “The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.” — John C. Maxwell

Selflessness: “You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.” — Zig Ziglar

Faith/Purpose: “It is not such a fiercesome thing to lead once you see your leadership as part of God’s overall plan for his world.” — Calvin Miller

Service: “From now on, any definition of a successful life must include serving others.” — President George Bush

Imagine how much character goes into falling domino displays like these:

How many dominos does it take to become a world class swimmer like Michael Phelps, who is dominating U.S. media coverage of the 2008 Olympic Games? He is now the most decorated American Olympic athlete of all time. His goal to win 8 gold medals with world record times is just 3 events away. Phelps’ unprecedented dominance has already produced millions of dollars worth of endorsements. Can a book and a movie be far behind?

During the endless coverage, one item jumped out at me. In an interview, the young “Phenom Phelps” acknowledged that he keeps a typewritten list of his goals beside his bed and reads it every day. Sounds like a good idea and one that is very easy. Yet, how many people do it? Thanks to Mr. Phelps’ inspiration, my list will be in its appointed place starting tonight!

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Parable of the Jar

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. Some make every minute count, while others fritter it away. The finiteness of our personal time creates a unique type of claustrophobia where time, rather than space, closes in. Job pressures, the expectations of others, and our own time mismanagement all contribute to “time anxiety.” How one views time and uses time determines his destination in life.

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” — Leonard Bernstein

“The longer you wait to decide what you want to do, the more time you’re wasting. It’s up to you to want something so badly that your passion shows through in your actions. Your actions, not your words, will do the shouting for you.” — Derek Jeter

“The less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in.” — Lord Chesterfield

“If you don’t choose to do it in leadership time up front, you do it in crisis management time down the road.” — Stephen Covey

Well, when life presents exciting new choices to consider or when life is hectic and seems almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two cups of coffee.

“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

“The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

“The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

“The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions – and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. ‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.’

“‘Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’

“One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. ‘I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.'”

— Source: Internet

Have some great time this week!

— CC

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