Christmas Thoughts

Christmas is a celebration, a date on the calendar, an ideal, a belief, a holiday, a birthday, and a sacred event. Say the word “Christmas” to 100 people and you’ll stir up in them a variety of images and feelings including: joy, love, peace, hope, music, family, gifts, food, snow, candy canes, decorate, preparation, lights, music, Santa Claus, bells, star, candles, vacation, caroling, sleigh, and the Christ child. Before reading the quotes containing these words, Google “Christmas” in your own mind and see what hits you get.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”
— Bible, Mark 1:3

“You can give without loving, but you can not love without giving.”
— John MacArthur

“Next to a circus there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.”
— Kin Hubbard (1868-1930)

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace!
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
— Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), “Prayer of St Francis”

O, star of wonder, star of might,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.

— Chorus: “We Three Kings”

O candy cane, O candy cane, You’re minty and delightful!
O candy cane, O candy cane, I love you, every biteful.
Your tasty flavor is so sweet.
Your handle makes you fun to eat.
O candy cane, O candy cane, I love your stripes and flavor!
— Sung to the tune of “O Christmas Tree”

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”
— Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

“The act of nutrition is not a purely physiological event… The family meal is a formality that cultivates in us… a capacity for sharing, generosity, thoughtfulness, a talent for civilized conversation.”
— Francine Du Plessix Gray

“A good example is like a bell that calls many to church.”
— Danish Proverb

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.”
— Shirley Temple (1928- )

“If Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at the age of 22, it would have changed the history of music… and of aviation.”
— Tom Stoppard (1937- )

“Next to theology I give to music the highest place and honor. And we see how David and all the saints have wrought their godly thoughts into verse, rhyme, and song.”
— Martin Luther

Amidst the many sights, sounds, smells and feelings of Christmas, I’m thankful that many people all over the world still make room for Jesus.

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’

“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”

— Bible, Luke 2:1-20

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright December 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Assume Responsibility

The ABC’s of Professionalism

Every now and again, the subject of rights takes center stage in the public arena.  Human rights, personal rights, maternal rights, rights of the unborn, the right to bear arms, and the right to health care are just a few of the more common topics.  This column deals with the forgotten part of the rights discussion -– responsibility.

“We’ve gotten to the point where everybody’s got a right and nobody’s got a responsibility.” — Newton N. Minow (1926- ), Attorney, former FCC Chair

Perhaps the most famous expression of personal responsibility is President Harry S. Truman’s motto, “The buck stops here!” The record does not say whether this was Truman’s private joke toward political rivals or simply his retort to the very human practice of “passing the buck.”  It was undeniably part of his public persona.  He even had a sign with these words on his White House desk.

buck-stops-here
Image Courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

This may be the most powerful and concise statement of personal responsibility of all time.  Here’s another strong, Trumanesque statement:

“If you mess up, ‘fess up.” — Author Unknown

Today, people like to say, “It happened on my watch.” as if to imply, “Please note that I didn’t directly cause the problem, but I’m in charge so I’ll deal with the mess.”  While perhaps true, it seems to contain just a hint of figuratively “passing the buck.”

Discussions about responsibility tend to gravitate toward unfavorable outcomes and the folks stuck with cleaning up the mess.  This is reactive responsibility.   There is another dimension.  One is engaging in proactive responsibility when he acquires sufficient wisdom in advance regarding the probability of certain causes and effects, courageously commits to be personally accountable for all outcomes (good or bad), and moves forward optimistically and prepared with his action plan.  In other words, responsibility includes preparation, commitment, and “pre-action,” not just reaction.  Sounds a lot like the other aspects of professionalism, eh?

Preparation: “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” — G. M. Trevelyan (1876-1962), English historian

Courage: “Responsibility is the thing people dread most of all. Yet it is the one thing in the world that develops us, gives us manhood or womanhood fiber.” — Frank Crane (1861–1928), Minister, columnist

Action: “Actions have consequences…first rule of life. And the second rule is this – you are the only one responsible for your own actions.” — Holly Lisle (1960- ), American novelist, “Fire In The Mist”, 1992

There’s wisdom in the coaching cliche, “There is no ‘I’ in team.”  However, it is also true that there is a lot of “I” in responsibility.  In fact, responsibility exists only at the personal level.  As people band together to form companies, institutions, governments, teams and other organizations, personal responsibility either gets foggy or it completely evaporates, producing unintended negative outcomes and outright corruption.

“Power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages” — Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), English author, poet

“When government accepts responsibility for people, then people no longer take responsibility for themselves.” — George Pataki (1945- ), Former governor of New York

“The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use – of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.” — Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968), U.S. Senator, ‘I Remember, I Believe,’ The Pursuit of Justice, 1964

To prevent or eliminate this sort of chaos, each person needs to act like a professional by first remembering that responsibility always remains in the hands of individuals, then willingly claiming responsibility wherever and whenever it is appropriate.

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” — George Burns (1896-1996), American comedian, actor, writer

“You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.” — Stephen W. Comiskey

“‘I must do something’ always solves more problems than ‘Something must be done.'” — Author Unknown

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say” — Martin Luther (1483-1546), German monk, theologian, church reformer, writer, composer

A professional makes promises and keeps them.  A professional accepts a position of authority and performs to the best of his ability.  A professional speaks inspiring words, then leads by example.  Responsibility begins with words and is fulfilled with deeds.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), Political and spiritual leader of India

“Life is a promise; fulfill it.” — Mother Teresa (1910-1997), Albanian Roman Catholic nun, missionary, humanitarian

Deeds produce outcomes.  Positive outcomes are often called results — negative outcomes are euphemistically known as consequences.  When outcomes are good, the responsible professional is humble, shares the credit and moves forward to build on those results.  When outcomes are less favorable, he accepts the blame, makes amends, seeks forgiveness and continues moving forward, but a little bit wiser.

“Failure is nature’s plan to prepare you for great responsibilities.” — Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), American author

“Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.” — Alfred A. Montapert, American Author

“It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously.” — Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)

Personal responsibility is each person’s first prerequisite, especially before attempting to instruct others on this aspect of professionalism.  No irresponsible person can be effective or credible when it comes to promoting responsibility in others.

“If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, change your mind. If you don’t, you’re simply ducking your responsibilities.” — Ann Richards (1933-2006), former Texas Governor

“Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self respect springs.” — Joan Didion (1934- ), “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” — Jim Rohn (1930- ), American author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker

Your personal responsibility path leads to opportunities to leave a legacy of responsibility for your children and others within your circle of influence.  This includes becoming the best person you can become.

“Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors” — Jonas Salk (1914–1995), American biologist, physician

“Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you.” — Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881), Swiss philosopher, poet

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” — Anthony Robbins (1960- ), Motivational speaker

“Every person is responsible for all the good within the scope of his abilities, and for no more” — Gail Hamilton (1833-1896), American writer

Opportunities for responsibility are instrumental in building character.  They should be treated as life’s quizzes, tests, and exams — tools to learn, reinforce, stretch, and provide a progress measurement.

“A new position of responsibility will usually show a man to be a far stronger creature than was supposed.” — William James (1842–1910), American psychologist, philosopher

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” — Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), American educator, author, orator

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” — Abigail Van Buren (1918- ), Advice columnist

Free will allows each person to accept as much or as little responsibility as he sees fit.  But, everyone must be willing to accept some measure of it.  Whereas some will consistently leave responsibility on the table, the professional will rise to the challenge, picking up the slack for the greater good.  The hidden gem for the professional is what he becomes in the process.

“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German author

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” — Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British Prime Minister

God bless,

— CC

[ P/Q=P’s and Q’s | Index | S=Service ]

© Copyright November 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Joy Means “Grinning Inside”

[ I=Integrity | Index | K=Kindness ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Jovial: full of joy and happiness; merry”http://www.Dictionary.com

“Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.” — Melba Colgrove

Based on public image, whom would you rather hang out with, Woody Allen or Steve Allen? (Forget for a minute that Steve Allen is dead.) Both made a lot of money, achieved significant fame and are known for the funny things they said. Whom would you choose? (It’s okay to make a quick trip to Wikipedia before answering.)

“My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.” — Woody Allen

“Asthma doesn’t seem to bother me any more unless I’m around cigars or dogs. The thing that would bother me most would be a dog smoking a cigar.” — Steve Allen

If you like being with people who are jovial over people who are sour, then based on public personae, you would have to choose Steve Allen. The alternative, Woody Allen, is the poster child for the sad, lonely and pathetic human being.

In reflecting how joviality is linked to professionalism it becomes apparent that the journey of becoming a professional produces joviality. Joy is the fruit of a positive attitude, good character and other aspects of professionalism. In other words, joy is a personal choice.

“Who decides whether you shall be happy or unhappy?  The  answer — you do!” — Norman Vincent Peale, “The Power of Positive Thinking”

This raises the question, “Can someone who is unprofessional be jovial?” Sure. Joy is not a black and white condition. Joy occurs in shades of gray, reflecting the personal satisfaction someone feels in response to the amount of professionalism he has achieved. If it were possible to measure joy, psychologists might establish a joviality index with theories about how it rises and falls relative to changes in attitude. We would probably learn that the more professional a person is, the less volatile his hypothetical joviality index.

“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue… as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” — Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search For Meaning”

The greatest most enduring joy comes from knowing one’s life purpose and living accordingly. To me, purpose is a God thing. So is joy. God intends each of us to have joy and the path to joy begins by discovering His purpose for us. Joy is our reward.

“Someone once said there are two great days in life — the day you were born and the day you discover why.” — John C. Maxwell, “Success” August/September 2008

“In the world to come, I shall not be asked, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I shall be asked, ‘Why were you not Zusya?'” — Rabbi Zusya

“Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.” — Viktor Frankl

Now if God intends for us to be joyful and purpose is a precondition of joy, it follows that He must have installed in each of us the ability to discover and the capacity to achieve our intended purpose. In other words, potential accompanies purpose. Therefore, if ‘X’ is your purpose, by definition you have the capacity to fulfill it. More importantly, with potential being granted by God, you have the responsibility to put your gifts to use.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

“For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

— Bible, Matthew 25:14-30

Remembering that joy is an effect, not a cause, it follows that pretending to be jovial and pursuing joy for its own sake are both ill-conceived strategies. That’s not to say that we have no control in the matter. As long as we focus on the causes rather than the effect, there is much we can do. It’s the little things we do everyday that produce fertile soil capable of sowing and sustaining joviality. We choose our friends, television shows and movies, books and music as well as the places we go and ways we spend our time and money. Collectively, these seemingly trivial choices affect our professionalism level leading to changes in our joviality index.

“Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast.” — Norman Vincent Peale

“Nothing on earth is so well-suited to make the sad merry, the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing, to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate, as music” — Martin Luther

“The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy.” — Eudora Welty

In pondering life’s choices, it’s critically important to differentiate between pleasure and joy — they are not the same. “Looking for joy in all the wrong places” is a character flaw and contrary to the definition of professionalism.

“Joy comes from using your potential.” — Will Schultz

“I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.” — C.S. Lewis

“One of the sanest, surest, and most generous joys of life comes from being happy over the good fortune of others.” — Robert A. Heinlein

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” — Bible, James 1:2-3

“Joy is not in things; it is in us” — Richard Wagner

“A joy shared is a joy doubled” –- Unknown

“I can think of nothing less pleasurable than a life devoted to pleasure.” — John D. Rockefeller

Professionalism is defined internally by our attitudes and externally by our actions. To the extent that they move in a positive direction joy tends to increase and the joviality index become less volatile. What hasn’t been mentioned, but is probably intuitive is that this is neither quick nor easy.  Achieving professionalism is a lifelong, challenging endeavor.

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” — Kahlil Gibran

God bless,

— CC

[ I=Integrity | Index | K=Kindness ]

© Copyright October 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Procrastination

Each person makes thousands, maybe millions of choices everyday. Life in America, “The Land of Opportunity,” is a rich buffet of choices. Some choices are complex, some are safe, some are scary, some are risky, some are fun, some are necessary, some are matters of life and death, and most are habitual.

It’s pretty common to get stuck on a decision about a particular opportunity. Think for a moment about one of life’s big opportunities facing you today. How long have you been considering your options – a few days, a couple weeks, several months, or more? Ask yourself (be honest), “Am I evaluating or procrastinating? ” No one can answer this question for you. But, before you pass judgment on yourself, check out these wise sayings about procrastination:

“Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried.” -– Unknown

“Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.” -– Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.” -– Wayne Gretzky

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” -– Wayne Gretzky

“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” -– Napoleon Hill

“Procrastination is opportunity’s natural assassin.” -– Victor Kiam

“We shall never have more time. We have, and always had, all the time there is. No object is served in waiting until next week or even until tomorrow. Keep going… Concentrate on something useful.” -– Arnold Bennett

“How soon ‘not now’ becomes ‘never’.” -– Martin Luther

Here’s a simple procrastination test.

A) Am I actively forming questions and diligently seeking answers about a choice I face?

___ Yes (good) ___ No (procrastination)

B) If so, are the questions new ones (i.e. not the same ones over and over again)?

___ Yes (good) ___ No (procrastination)

Procrastination is commonly the fear of risk, fear of failure and/or fear of the unknown. Instead of focusing on the good things that are possible, people become “fear frozen” into inaction. A simple simple risk vs. reward assessment might be the solution. Consider the following questions:

  1. What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen if I decide a certain way?
  2. What’s the likelihood that “worst case scenario” will actually occur?
  3. What would be the fallout?
  4. What’s the best possible outcome?
  5. What are some of the more likely outcomes?
  6. Do I value the positive outcomes more than I fear the negative ones?

This simple assessment process can be an effective fear management tool. But there is another dimension to this problem of procrastination. When fear has you in a headlock, you could be wrestling with your conscience. I don’t believe it is possible for any person of faith to be at peace with a decision until he has sought God’s counsel. Without the assurance that one’s decision is in full alignment with God’s will, it is impossible to move forward with the confidence that God will provide strength, courage and whatever else is necessary to get the job done. Where there is doubt, there will be fear.

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” — Dorothy Bernard

“Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.” — Soren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855)

“A grandfather was walking through his yard when he heard his granddaughter repeating the alphabet in a tone of voice that sounded like a prayer. He asked her what she was doing. The little girl explained: ‘I’m praying, but I can’t think of exactly the right words, so I’m just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me, because He knows what I’m thinking.'”— Charles B. Vaughan

God Bless,

— CC

© Copyright July 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com