EVERY Small Thing Matters!

I frequently talk about the small things that transform lives. I usually do so from a positive perspective. For example, a smile or a compliment can brighten someone’s day. Let’s turn it around and see if the principle also works in a negative manner. We’ll explore it with the following questions.

  • How many times does an adult have to use profane or vulgar language before a child mimics the words?
  • How many times must a person drink and drive before they cause a fatal accident?
  • How many acts does it take to start a bad habit?
  • How much LSD is too much?
  • How long does one second feel when you’ve already held your breath for 60 seconds?
  • How many times must we neglect or offend someone before they are hurt emotionally?
  • How long will “a donut a day” be a harmless habit?
  • Can you get a $4.00 car wash if you’re one coin short?
  • From Chris DiMarco’s perspective, how important was a centimeter when Tiger Woods ball sat still on the edge of hole #16 at the 2005 Masters’ Tournament before it eventually trickled in?
  • From silver medalist Milorad Cavic’s perspective how important was 1/100 of a second when Michael Phelps won the 100 meter butterfly event in the 2008 Olympics at Beijing?
  • How important is 1/10th of a grade point in a race to be Valedictorian.
  • How important could one more SAT point be on an application to Harvard University?
  • How important is one punctuation mark?
    • I’m sorry I love you.
    • I’m sorry; I love you.

Is there an element of luck, good or bad, in the outcomes of these small matters? Perhaps sometimes, but I believe our chosen actions, at the very least, play with probability even when they don’t directly determine results. Instead of assuming we’re merely on the receiving side of luck, we should ask, “What did I do to shift the odds in my favor?  What will I do differently the next time to assure a more positive outcome?”

Zig Ziglar said, “Every choice you make has an end result.” Our beliefs, attitudes and actions are choices that influence outcomes.  He also said, “The choice to have a great attitude is something that nobody or no circumstance can take from you.” These choices, whether one-and-done or habitual, are real regardless of whether the matter at hand is small or large; positive or negative; important or irrelevant.

What choices will you make today with greater care than yesterday?  Visit www.CrossAbilities.com to see available choices waiting for you to decide.

Potential Perspectives

Having closed out 2012 with two sessions of our program Your Potential Matters!, I’m inspired to share some thoughts about potential.  Pastor Claude Robold, Senior Pastor at New Covenant Church in Middletown, Ohio jokingly defines potential as “what you have NOT yet accomplished.”  From this perspective, if someone says that you have lots of potential, how is that a compliment?  Interesting thought!

Perspectives on Potential

Potential can be considered from two perspectives: talent and development.  Talent is a gift.  As such, we have no right to take credit for any potential that is embedded within our DNA.  Gifts come with the responsibility to not be wasted.  What we do to develop and apply our talents is a personal decision and a daily responsibility.

Let’s consider two additional perspectives.  First, there’s the potential of today – a person’s present capacity based on their talent and preparation-to-date.  There is also lifetime potential – a person’s absolute maximum capacity which combines natural talent with a lifetime of total commitment and preparation.

Understanding Mediocrity

I say with humility and a sense of regret that I sometimes perform at a mediocre level.  People who know me best would agree.  Those who know me casually or have a different perspective about potential are possibly confused by this, so let me explain.  A mediocre result is not a comparison with the results of others.  Just because I beat out others for a spot on the team doesn’t mean I reached my athletic potential.  Just because people enjoy my singing voice does not mean I have fully prepared and performed consistent my potential.

Mediocrity is a measurement that says, “You can do much better!”  It’s settling for “good enough” when your potential begs for more.  We are mediocre whenever we rely too heavily on our talent to get the job done.  Even when our accomplishments appear better than someone else’s, mediocrity is still mediocrity.

Confronting Limits of Our Potential

Some motivational speakers say that human beings have unlimited potential.  I disagree.  As long as we exist in human form, we have limitations. Could Olympic athlete Michael Phelps swim 100 meters in 30 seconds?  Certainly not!  Even if he could, how about one second?  The point is, potential is NOT unlimited – human beings have physical limitations that limit our potential.

While it’s useful to accept this truth, it’s much more important to avoid the trap of setting the bar too low.  Western culture teaches a code of practicality called “realism” – that somehow being realistic is virtuous.  Consequently, well-meaning people caution idealists to be more realistic and dreamers are ridiculed for their so-called “unrealistic goals.”

Realism is important, but it is also overrated.  The greatest achievements of mankind began with “unrealistic” dreams.  The conclusion is this.  As we look for our own potential, we should err on the side of “bigger is better” because our true potential is found at the very edge of impossibility.

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that
this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”
– Walt Disney

Limited Vision Limits Potential

Zig Ziglar was famous for pointing out the negative effects of stinkin’ thinkin’.  This practice includes the self-imposed limits people place on their potential.  The more you focus on your limitations of the present, the more difficult it will be see the potential of your future.  It’s far more productive to expand your perspective of possibilities and adopt a plan to get there.

Action leads to both successes and failures.  When I succeed I gain a clearer sense of my true potential.  Failures provide benchmarks of my progress and offer clues about what needs to change.  Both inspire me to keep pushing toward the next level.  Every time I approach my limits, I uncover new potential.  It’s staggering to imagine where I would be today if I had discovered and embraced this bit of wisdom earlier in life.  How about you?

Fear of Excellence

Why do so many people settle for less than their potential would allow?  The answer is fear.  We fear the sweat and sacrifices involved.  We fear how excellence could change our comfortable lifestyles.  We fear the responsibilities and expectations that follow high levels of performance.  Most of all, we fear failure.

Here’s the truth.  Failure is not avoided by choosing mediocrity.  We just learn to fail at a lower level.  Responsibilities don’t go away because we accept underachievement and we are not free of expectations simply because we choose the easy path.  Mediocrity is nothing less than an unfulfilling substitute for excellence.

Gratitude Leverages Potential

Are you truly grateful for the talents you have?  If so, you probably ask questions like these.  When was the last time I reflected about my potential?  In which areas am I settling for mediocrity?  What talents do I have that are collecting dust on a shelf?  What is keeping me from reaching my potential in my gifted areas?

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
  – Walt Disney

What I’ve learned about myself is this.  The more grateful I am for my God-given talents, the more I reach for the impossible, invest in my development, and apply my talents in service to others.  I believe these responses are as God intends.  And the benefits are amazing!

The Finish Line

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

I’ve heard it said, “The fortune is at the finish line.” The best example I can think of is farming. The farmer can plant, water, and fertilize, but these activities mean absolutely nothing unless the farmer harvests the crop. The harvest is at the finish line — success is all about finishing.

“There is no bigger waste of time than doing 90% of what is necessary.” — Thomas Sowell

Swimming champion Michael Phelps is an expert finisher. In Beijing, the Men’s 100 meter butterfly final was decided by a hundredth of a second. Phelps and Milorad Cavic approached the wall both needing a partial stroke to finish, with Phelps still trailing. Cavic coasted. Phelps drove hard into the wall. I believe it was the instinct of a master finisher that caused Phelps to take that extra short stroke and make up the deficit.

“Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.” — Mark Spitz (on Phelps winning his 7th gold medal)

While people continue to talk about the photo finish, Phelps actually out-finished his opponents at the other end of the pool as well. World-class swimmers know that the end of each length is actually the start of the next one and an opportunity to build momentum. Phelps reigned supreme in finishing every length, not just the final one. Going back to the race of the century, Phelps was said to be in seventh place going into the turn. Coming out, he appeared to be in fourth. Without two strong finishes, he would not have earned the gold.

So many people never put themselves in position for a strong finish because they never even get started. If I had been born as Yogi Berra, I might have said, “70% of success is showing up. The other half is finishing.” To become an expert finisher, first become an expert starter. As long as you develop the mindset of a starter, you are positioned to finish. Then, as you become a consistent finisher, you can learn to do it faster and better.

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

To finish first, you must first finish.” — Rick Mears

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s satisfaction in finishing if for no other reason than the objective can be crossed off the list.

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.” — Arnold Bennett

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” — William James

In other cases, satisfaction is found in the task itself. In fact, rushing through the task can result in missing the enjoyment.

“Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” — Greg Anderson

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza

Based on this concept, one would have to conclude that the old adage about success and paying the price is all wrong. Zig Ziglar explains, “You do not pay the price of success, you enjoy the price of success.” Struggles and challenges become part of the adventure. When this attitude connects with a vision, a champion is born.

“Don’t be content with doing only your duty. Do more than your duty. It’s the horse that finishes a neck ahead that wins the race.” — Andrew Carnegie

Your GPS

Keeping promises is an example of finishing. Whether it’s a promise, a small task, or a major goal, the objective needs to be following through to the finish line. There is no integrity without finishing and no professionalism without integrity. To become known as a person of integrity, one must develop the good habit of finishing.

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” — Vince Lombardi

“Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it, and doing it.” — Frank Tyger

“We are judged by what we finish, not what we start.” — Anonymous

Find that to-do list. Get busy crossing off the artifacts of your procrastination. Don’t worry about perfection. Perfectionism is a stumbling block for finishing. Many times, my late father-in law used the following expression to make this very point.

“It’s good enough for who it’s for.” -– Donald P. Nock, teacher and coach

Fear of imperfection is a poor excuse for not starting and not finishing. Approach every task in four parts: get started, make mistakes, learn from the mistakes and finish strong.

“It’s not where you start it’s where you finish.
It’s not how you go, it’s how you land.
A hundred-to-one shot, they called him a klutz,
He can outrun the favorite all he needs is the guts.

“Your final return will not diminish
And you can be the cream of the crop.
It’s not where you start it’s where you finish
And you’re gonna finish on top.”

“It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish)” Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

God bless,

— CC

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

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.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com