Zoning In!

The ABC’s of Professionalism

Let’s play a game. Identify phrases and titles containing the word “zone.” I’ll help you get started: time zone, no-fly zone, construction zone, The Twilight Zone, The Dead Zone, school zone, temperate zone, end zone, zone defense, red zone, strike zone, buffer zone, zone in, zone out, flood zone, comfort zone, and “in the zone.” These are mine. You have 60 seconds, GO!

The variety of uses for the word “zone” is impressive. A Google search of “zone” produced 416,000,000 hits. (I didn’t go through all of them.) Two zone concepts are especially relevant to professionalism: “comfort zone” and a psychological phenomenon known as being “in the zone.”

Comfort Zone

A comfort zone denotes the limited set of
behaviors and environments
that a person can engage in without becoming anxious.”

Source: <www.answers.com>

Comfort, in all of its physical and psychological forms, is wonderful for rest and rejuvenation and a necessity for the next day’s challenges. It is also an ideal reward for a job well done.

“Words of comfort, skillfully administered, are the oldest therapy known to man.” — Louis Nizer

“Rest: the sweet sauce of labor” — Plutarch

Yet, it is precisely these therapeutic qualities that give comfort its potential to become a dangerous trap. Comfort is about self. When it becomes a goal, it is one short step away from becoming an obsession. As a goal, comfort is likely to lead to short-sighted, success-limiting compromises. In other words, love of comfort is counterproductive to professionalism.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” — C.S. Lewis

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about” — Charles Kingsley

“To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle” — Albert Einstein

“Man has always sacrificed truth to his vanity, comfort and advantage. He lives by make-believe.” — William Somerset Maugham

Personal observation has convinced me that comfort experiences cause a person to draw boundaries that define his comfort zone, building a trap with comfort as the bait. As time goes on, the seductive nature of comfort further exploits human nature to tighten these boundaries producing a death grip.

“A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes a hindrance instead of a help. Therefore the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and a snare.” — Mohandas Gandhi

“The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest and then becomes a host, and then a master” — Kahlil Gibran

There are different types of comfort zones each with different hazards. For example, dreams can be a trap. When the dreamer is full of fear and void of hope, his most vivid dreams are little more than wistful impossibilities. Perpetual dreaming without action is a trap.

“A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.” — Denis Waitley

“To the degree we’re not living our dreams, our comfort zone has more control of us than we have over ourselves.” — Peter McWilliams

“All the concepts about stepping out of your comfort zone mean nothing until you decide that your essential purpose, vision and goals are more important than your self-imposed limitations.” — Robert White

As with food and medicine, a certain amount of physical comfort has value in maintaining good health. Conversely, excesses can lead to deadly addiction. Professional wisdom is the key to recognizing the time for comfort and accepting the need for adversity. It comes down to timing, moderation, and balance.

“Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” — Finley Peter Dunne

“There is a time for everything, and
a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,”

— Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-3

Love of material possessions is a self-obsessed form of comfort that devalues people and relationships.

“The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” — Pope John Paul II

“Greed, like the love of comfort, is a kind of fear.” — Cyril Connolly

Story of the Rich Man…

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

“Which ones?” the man inquired.

Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

— Bible, Matthew 19:16-26

For most people, physical comfort is real and measurable. For instance, we know about how often and how much to eat to feel satisfied. Intellectual and emotional comfort is more complex, therefore more elusive. Sometimes emotional comfort can be found by singing or focusing on an uplifting person, place, or thing. Another way is to employ apathy and ignorance to block out unpleasant realities. Still another is to become a self-appointed expert. These people confuse personal opinions with facts.

“We find comfort among those who agree with us — growth among those who don’t.” — Frank A. Clark

“If you’re in a coalition and you’re comfortable, you know it’s not a broad enough coalition” — Bernice Johnson Reagon

Imagine driving up the long winding road of “Happiness Hill” with a wide variety of successes available at every milestone. Now, think of your comfort zone as being the same thing as trying to drive uphill with the car in neutral. Not only is it impossible to coast uphill to these successes, eventually you will begin coasting backward toward the bottom. There’s a saying in the business world, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” The adage is as true for human beings as it is for businesses.

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.” — John C. Maxwell

“Comfort zones are plush lined coffins. When you stay in your plush lined coffins, you die.” — Stan Dale

“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” — Brian Tracy

“Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.” — Charles Dickens

Professionals know and accept that they must shift in and out of their comfort zones as often as needed both to avoid death at the bottom of the hill AND to make steady progress toward the top.

In the Zone

“In a state of focused attention or energy
so that one’s performance is enhanced”

Source: <www.answers.com>

Imagine a line graph. On one end is the comfort zone that represents stagnation and slow death. On the opposite end is something athletes call The Zone, which refers to a special state of consciousness and the extraordinary achievement it produces. This special phenomenon occurs when talent, preparation, attitude, and focus converge to produce results that seem to go far beyond the performer’s realm of capability.

“being in the zone, that magical place where mind and body work in perfect synch and movements seem to flow without conscious effort.” — Alice Park, “Getting and Staying in the Zone”, Time Magazine, Jan. 8, 2006.

“Suddenly all is quiet. The other nine players? They’re all moving in slow motion! I’m at normal speed! I know where everyone’s going even before they know themselves. The basket is huge, maybe six feet across! How can I miss? It’s like throwing a rock into a pond.” — Michael Jordan, < http://www.basketballshootingcoach.com/contact_us&gt;.

“Looking back on the seven birdie putts and two eagle putts, I’d no idea how well I was playing. It was eight shots better than the average score on the back nine in the end.” — Padraig Harrington, “Padraig Harrington Wants to Become Michael Jordan of Golf” by Ciaran O. Raghallaigh, 27/07/2008, .

Sports psychologists identify one more ingredient needed to find The Zone: FUN!

“Mike Holmgren … understands why the legendary quarterback [Joe Montana] was so effective under pressure. Holmgren says, ‘I think he had a great ability to have fun playing and have fun practicing and have fun going to work’”In the Zone, by J. Mitchell Perry, J. T. Perry, Steve Jamison, 1997, p. 54.

“Being in the zone is a state of total involvement in a task without the mental burden or worry, doubt, or fear about results.” — Patrick J. Cohn, Ph.D.

The Zone is not reserved for world-class athletes. Anyone can find himself in The Zone. As evidence, I offer Exhibit A, the story of John Smith. (Yes, that’s his real name). It was June 8, 2002 at National Golf Links near Springfield Ohio where I witnessed The Zone by one of my fellow “golf maniacs” as we sometimes call ourselves. John must have started with a birdie, because I distinctly recall half-jokingly that he should putt everything out, no conceded putts, so his “course record” would be legit.

John’s course-adjusted handicap that day was 11, an honest 11. A reasonable prediction would have him scoring in the low 80’s plus or minus 5 strokes. Let me be clear about one thing. The guys in our weekend group are not inclined to make outrageous bets. A one-dollar Nassau is more our style. But, if John had been so bold that day as to suggest he would flirt with the course record, there’s not a guy in our group who wouldn’t have offered a sizable bet against him – even if he had made the prediction halfway through the round. Thankfully John is not the bragging type or who knows what might have happened. What did happen was John quietly found The Zone for an entire 18-hole round. He hit fairways and greens like a pro and made putts like a machine. When he wasn’t perfect, he made up for it on the next shot. The nearest he came to slipping out of The Zone was at the par five 12th hole. Hitting hole-high in two shots, he chunked his chip shot, but maintained his composure and got up and down to save par. In the end, John Smith accomplished the inconceivable for a weekend golfer: 3 under par, 69 gross score, 58 net score, and soundly beating the runner-up 4-handicapper by 8 strokes!

As I’ve already stated, The Zone is not an exclusive club for athletes. musicians, writers, actors, artists, managers, manufacturers, health care workers, teachers, engineers, clerks, and salesmen can also find it in their professions. In fact, anyone, professional or not, could someday find himself in The Zone. The principles of professionalism described throughout this series simply increase the odds of getting there more often, staying there much longer, and doing so when it counts the most.

God Bless,

— CC

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© Copyright February 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Make More Mistakes

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Precedent. Lincoln’s mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. When Lincoln was President, he wore only a tall silk hat. He said, ‘In onion there is strength.’ Abraham Lincoln write the Gettysburg address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope. He also signed the Emasculation Proclamation, and the Fourteenth Amendment gave the ex-Negroes citizenship. But the Clue Clux Clan would torcher and lynch the ex-Negroes and other innocent victims. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposedly insane actor. This ruined Booth’s career.”

— From a compilation of student bloopers and mistakes, attributed to Richard Lederer. (Source: http://www.innocentenglish.com)

Now that you’ve hopefully had a good laugh, let’s get serious about “mistakes.” Human beings are deeply flawed in two respects. First, we make countless mistakes every day. No surprise, right? The curious part is why we harbor fears about making more. Fear of imperfection is the second and far greater flaw.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” — Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

“To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all.” — Peter McWilliams, Life 101


“If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working on hard enough problems. And that’s a big mistake.” — Frank Wilczek (1951- )

We fear mistakes because it reveals that we are imperfect.  But, everyone already knows that. So why do we think that makes us look bad?

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” — Henry C. Link

“I have learned the novice can often see things that the expert overlooks. All that is necessary is not to be afraid of making mistakes, or of appearing naive.” — Abraham Maslow, Psychologist

“Assert your right to make a few mistakes. If people can’t accept your imperfections, that’s their fault.” — Dr. David M. Burns

Mistakes should be welcomed and valued because they are opportunities to learn and improve.

“Mistakes, obviously, show us what needs improving. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?” — Peter McWilliams, Life 101

“An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats failures simply as practice shots.” — Charles Franklin Kettering, inventor

What we learn from our mistakes they will guide us and nudge us along the path toward success.

“If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.” — Tallulah Bankhead (1903-1968 )

“If I had my life to live over… I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.” — Nadine Stair

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t as all. You can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember, that’s where you will find success.” — Thomas J. Watson

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

“It’s a sad day when you find out that it’s not accident or time or fortune, but just yourself that kept things from you.” — Lillian Hellman (1905-1984)

If we are wise and able to suppress our arrogance, it is also possible to learn from the mistakes of others.

“You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” — Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes, the wise and the good learn wisdom for the future.” — Plutarch, Historian

Still, one’s own mistakes handled professionally are the best-learned lessons.

Don’t argue for other people’s weaknesses. Don’t argue for your own. When you make a mistake, admit it, correct it, and learn from it immediately.” — Stephen R. Covey, Author and Speaker

“It’s always helpful to learn from your mistakes because then your mistakes seem worthwhile.” — Garry Marshall, ‘Wake Me When It’s Funny’

There are proper and improper responses to mistakes.

“Laughing at our mistakes can lengthen our own life. Laughing at someone else’s can shorten it.” — Cullen Hightower

“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.” — Paul “Bear” Bryant, “I Ain’t Never Been Nothing but a Winner”

History has proven there’s an undeniable connection between mistakes and innovation.

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” — James Joyce (1882-1941)

“He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” — Samuel Smiles

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” — Steve Jobs

Here’s the lesson. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, then commit to improvement. As long as your intentions were moral and ethical and your efforts were careful and thorough, there is no valid reason to feel guilty about a mistake, even if it caused harm. Of course when harm has occurred the whole matter of forgiveness and reparations must take place. After that, there’s not much else you can do but move on and do better.

“How unhappy is he who cannot forgive himself.” — Publilius Syrus (~100 BC)

“Life is an adventure in forgiveness.” — Norman Cousins (1915-1990)

“Forgiveness does not always lead to a healed relationship. Some people are not capable of love, and it might be wise to let them go along with your anger. Wish them well, and let them go their way.” — Real Live Preacher, RealLivePreacher.com Weblog, July 7, 2003

The worst thing is to allow one mistake to turn into more.

“A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.” — Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC)

“If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.” — Mary Pickford (1893-1979)

Accepting our limits and imperfections as humans is not the same as being cavalier about mistakes. Errors are inevitable and they are serious business. Learning to deal properly with mistakes is the mark of a professional.

“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life” — Sophia Loren

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright October 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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One of the biggest stumbling blocks to living a good life is the belief that comfort and happiness go hand in hand. We have been further deceived into thinking that wealth and material things are the path to comfort and happiness. So, we paint a mental picture of carefree living, void of pain and stress, relaxing peacefully in the hammock of life. This issue of “Clancy’s Quotes” offers a different perspective of comfort. True comfort is more emotional than physical. It is a sense of personal value through worthy accomplishments in pursuit of noble goals. Comfort is being able to go to sleep knowing you did your best, served your fellow man and made a positive impact in the world.

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about. “ -– Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875)

Making comfort the goal puts limits on achievement.  Instead, comfort should be treated as a bonus for accomplishing more worthy objectives.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” -– C. S. Lewis

Comfort can become a narcotic and destroy us with the very thing we thought would make us content.

“Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.” -– Charles Dickens

“Bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into, but hard to get out of.” -– Anonymous

With the idea that there are more worthy and satisfying pursuits than physical comfort and that this type of comfort can become a trap, we are ready for the following inspirational piece comes from ”Do It! Let’s Get Off Our Buts” by Peter McWilliams:

“Here’s the premise: We are all, right now, living the life we choose.

”This choice, of course, is not a single, monumental choice. No one decides, for example, ‘I’m going to move to L.A., and in five years I will be a waiter in a so-so restaurant, planning to get my 8-by-10’s done real soon so that I can find an agent and become a star,’ or ‘I’m going to marry a dreadful person and we’ll live together in a loveless marriage, staying together only for the kids, who I don’t much like, either.’

”No. The choices I’m talking about here are made daily, hourly, moment by moment.

”Do we try something new, or stick to the tried-and-true? Do we take a risk, or eat what’s already on our dish? Do we ponder a thrilling adventure, or contemplate what’s on TV? Do we walk over and meet that interesting stranger, or do we play it safe? Do we indulge our heart, or cater to our fear?

”The bottom-line question: Do we pursue what we want, or do we do what’s comfortable?

”For the most part, most people most often choose comfort – the familiar, the time-honored, the well-worn but well-known. After a lifetime of choosing between comfort and risk, we are left with the life we currently have.

”And it was all of our own choosing.”

Start by dreaming again. Dream like a child, without limits and with specificity. Big dreams about specific outcomes lead to passion and passion fuels action. Without the dream, decision and action are more difficult.

“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” -– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.” -– John F. Kennedy

Consistent, long-term action is required for life-changing results and is possible only with dream-inspired passion. A dream without action is a wish. A dream combined with action can lead to a better type of comfort.

God bless,

— CC

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

Effort, Time & Knowledge

I’m not a mathematician. But, I’m playing one today in my blog. While thinking about the effects small things can have, I came up with the following equation:

E x T x K = R where: E = Effort, T = Time, K = Knowledge, and R = Results

Each of the variables on the left must be greater than zero to produce a positive result. For example, experience teaches us that knowledge with no effort accomplishes nothing no matter how long we do nothing.

“0 is not equal to 1, not even for large values of 0.” — Clancy’s Derivative of Grabel’s Law

Working really hard cannot overcome incorrect (i.e. negative) information, until failure is translated into positive knowledge. The old adage “practice makes perfect” has been replaced with “practice makes permanent.” This formula would imply that only “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Drag races are measured in thousandths of a second. World swimming records beat old records by only a few hundredths. Coming in first place means a spot in the record books and in the memory banks of the masses. Conversely, most everyone forgets immediately who came in second. The difference between winning and losing and between legacy and obscurity is measured in fractions of an inch or second. This difference-maker is often just a bit more effort, and a little more time, and one more piece of information.

“I always tell the kids, ‘You know what’s great about going the extra mile? There’s very little traffic.’” — Jim Larranaga, George Mason University basketball coach

Here’s another aspect of life impacted by going an extra mile. A recent study found that 50% or more of the bankruptcies could have been avoided with a mere $300/mo in additional income. Jim Rohn, speaking about “the magic of part-time,” explains how an extra $1000/mo. of part-time income can be life changing for almost anybody. Do you ever imagine what you could do with an extra $1000 every month? It could change your address or the keys to your car. It could fund a mission trip or put the kids through college. Dreams inspired by this very question have motivated tens of millions of Americans to take on a second job or start a part-time business. In fact, the Direct Sales Association reported that about 46 million Americans have home-based businesses today.

Here are some quotes related to effort, time, knowledge and results.

Effort and Results

“In reality, serendipity accounts for one percent of the blessings we receive in life, work and love. The other 99 percent is due to our efforts.” — Peter McWilliams

“About the only thing that comes to us without effort is old age.” — Gloria Pitzer, in Reader’s Digest, 1979

“Energy is the essence of life. Every day you decide how you’re going to use it by knowing what you want and what it takes to reach that goal, and by maintaining focus.” — Oprah Winfrey

Time and Results

“More time is wasted by the minute than by the hour.” — Unknown

“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

“It takes time to build a corporate work of art. It takes time to build a life. And it takes time to develop and grow. So give yourself, your enterprise, and your family the time they deserve and the time they require.” — Jim Rohn

“We can no more afford to spend major time on minor things than we can to spend minor time on major things.” — Jim Rohn

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, ‘til it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” — Harriet Beecher Stowe

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” — John F. Kennedy

Knowledge and Results

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

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” — Abigail Adams

“Experience teaches only the teachable.” — Aldous Huxley

“The wisest mind has something yet to learn.” — George Santayana

“Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.” — Theodore Roosevelt

“Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.” — W. Edwards Deming

God bless,

— CC

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