Elegance in Simplicity, Wisdom in Truth

“To thine own self be true.”
— William Shakespeare

There is elegance in simplicity and wisdom in truth.  Recently I was treated to an example of this when Bryan Flanagan, during a sales workshop in Ohio, used two simple questions and one statement to make a key point to a room full of sales professionals.  He began with an important sales tool – transportation.  “How much do you spend each year on your car?”  He then asked us how much we spend on professional appearance (hair, clothing, hygiene, etc.)  The estimate was in excess of $6000.

In context with the rest of the session the logical conclusion was clear when he completed the point by revealing the price of his sales training package.  Your car gets you to the appointment.  Your personal appearance helps create a good first impression.  But, it’s who you are that earns their business.  The implication was this.  You need to continue investing in yourself and here’s an affordable opportunity for doing so.

“Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”
― Thomas Jefferson

It’s amazing how much simpler life appears when we give honest, straightforward answers to the right questions.  It’s even more amazing how much simpler life becomes when we comport ourselves according to what we discover in those answers, not what we wish to be true.

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end;
if you look for comfort you will not get neither comfort nor truth
only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”
— C. S. Lewis

Integrity and Honor

[ H=Heart | Index | J=Joviality ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

A familiar story with a new sequel every two years, cheating Olympians, completely baffles me. Why are certain athletes willing to trade their integrity for an Olympic medal? Why are certain coaches and/or trainers willing to look the other way or even aid and abet? Don’t they realize that wearing a gold medal and being an Olympic champion are not equivalent? There is no victory in cheating.

“Winning is nice if you don’t lose your integrity in the process.” — attributed to Arnold Horshak, character in the television sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”

“…a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.” — from the Disney movie “Cool Runnings”

Playing by the rules is more than sportsmanship. It is a reflection of honesty: honesty toward others and honesty with one’s self. And isn’t honesty at the heart of integrity? There’s another integrity aspect: having and following a “moral compass.”

“Integrity means adopting a morally strong value system and having the honesty, courage and conviction to live and act within these values.” — Clancy Cross

This definition leads to two thoughts. First, integrity is an inside job, which means it’s a personal decision.

“We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.” — John C. Maxwell

“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.” — John C. Maxwell

Second, integrity is so important to building and maintaining relationships that a person’s greatest gift may be to live a life of integrity that inspires and encourages others to raise their standards and commitment to integrity. Ideally, an integrity foundation is built in the home during the formative childhood years and is forever nurtured by teachers, pastors, friends, colleagues and others.

“The reward for doing right is mostly an internal phenomenon: self-respect, dignity, integrity, and self- esteem.” — Dr. Laura Schlessinger

“Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.” — Bible, Proverbs 20:7

“The effect of one upright individual is incalculable.” — Oscar Arias

“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.” — Socrates

This ideal picture of integrity breaks down because inevitably, moral and ethical principles will be violated. The realization that human perfection is unachievable is not a new revelation. So, how can there be integrity when everyone commits violations against his own principles? It would seem that the only logical alternative for avoiding universal hypocrisy is to adopt a personal philosophy devoid of moral principles. Some would say “moral relativism” is an attempt to do just that. (That’s a topic for another day.) Actually, the paradox dissolves when we fully understand the final piece of integrity.

“Honor isn’t about making the right choices. It’s about dealing with the consequences.” — Midori Koto

How does a person of integrity respond to his own moral failings? First, he makes a humble admission of and apology for the offense, totally free of excuses. Conversely, “I’m sorry I did it, but …” is hardly an effective confession. Second, the person of integrity takes ownership of the consequences and makes appropriate reparations. Finally, integrity demands a commitment to do better. After that, the rest is up to those who were offended. Will they forgive? Will they hold a grudge? Whatever the aggrieved party decides, a person of the highest integrity will accept the verdict with grace and move on.

Humility is what allows integrity to survive moral indiscretions. Even so, it’s important to realize that it takes more time to develop integrity than to destroy it and even more time to restore it when it is damaged. While Integrity has some room for errors, just one momentary indiscretion has the potential to be a major setback against a lifetime of progress. This implies that people serious about their integrity should behave as if any violation will destroy it and when necessary, respond with humility and urgency to restore it.

“Honor is like a steep island without a shore: one cannot return once one is outside.” — Nicholas Boileau-Despréaux

“Character is much easier kept than recovered.” — Thomas Paine, author, statesman

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” — William Shakespeare

Life without integrity is a miserable and pathetic existence. So, in a sense, hanging on to integrity is a matter of life and death.

“What is left when honor is lost?” — Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

God bless,

— CC

[ H=Heart | Index | J=Joviality ]

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

Your Excellency!

The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Your Excellency!” Even those who never come in contact with royalty know what these words mean. Well, get used to a brand new meaning because they are now my battle cry for you and a call to arms against the dragons that are impeding your quest toward professional excellence. Maybe your dragons are named “Rut” and “Grudge.” Or maybe they are known as “Pride” and “Rigid.” Thankfully, there are attitudes, behaviors, and principles of professionalism that will equip you to slay them. This post in particular will help sharpen your battle axe and fill any chinks in your armor. Add them to your arsenal and get to work on “Your Excellency!”

Adaptability/Flexibility

Professionals will bend when they need to bend and stand firm when they need to stand firm. The challenge is understanding which attitude is appropriate for which circumstances.

“The definition of insanity is continuing the same behavior and expecting a different result.” — Alcoholics Anonymous

“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” — Thomas Jefferson

“Stay committed to your decisions but, stay flexible in your approach.” — Tom Robbins

Patience

People who orient their lives around accomplishment, who are driven by achievement, often have to work harder than others to develop patience. Perhaps it’s because when they visualize outcomes, they overlook the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to get there. Maybe it’s because they do not foresee certain challenges or they underestimate the level of effort required.    In any case, without patience, frustration sets in. Patience is a sobering virtue that adds realism to expectations. As long as patience does not become a substitute for action, it is an irreplaceable virtue needed to achieve professionalism.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” — Saint Augustine

“One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” — Chinese proverb

“For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.”

— Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Commitment/ Determination/Resolve

One of the worst habits anyone can form is the habit of giving up. When things get difficult, it’s not the time to quit. Struggling through difficulties, trying again and again after multiple failures is where the learning and improvement occur. Success follows failure. In fact, if you aren’t failing, you aren’t growing.

“If at first you succeed, try something harder.” — John C. Maxwell

It’s impossible to predict with 100% certainty which failure will precede success. What is certain is that every time you quit, you are forfeiting success.

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” — Japanese Proverb

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.” — Anonymous

Growing up, we had a rule in our family. No one was allowed to quit. It wasn’t as much a rule as it was an understanding. It meant, if I went out for football and made the team, I had to finish the season. If I was injured, I would be expected to sit on the bench (where I spent most of my time anyway) and support my teammates. It was acceptable to not go out the following year. But, finishing meant completing the season.

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” — William James

Quitting is no minor thing. It always means breaking a promise to one’s self.  It usually means breaking a promise to others, too.  Here’s some food for thought: is quitting also breaking a promise to God?

“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Loyalty is another word for commitment, usually referring to a relationship toward a person or a group of people, such as a team or an institution.

“Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk of life” — Napoleon Hill

An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.” — Elbert Hubbard

“A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.” — Robert Benchley

Champions are those who take commitment to an entirely different level. They have a do-or-die attitude. No failure, mistake, or hurdle is bigger than the desire they have to achieve their dreams. When people tell them, “It’s okay, you gave it your all.” they dig deeper and find a little bit more to give. Their dream is bigger than their doubts, fears, pain, and excuses.

“When the world says, ‘Give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’” — Anonymous

“Difficult things take a long time, impossible things a little longer.” — Anonymous

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” — Newt Gingrich

Trying new things is generally a good thing. People should always be willing to get out of their comfort zones for new experiences. However, there is a difference between “trying” and “committing.” Too often people walk away from something and say, “Oh well, I tried.” Did they really try? Or was it a half-hearted attempt? Did they start off with a built-in excuse? They next time you are faced with an opportunity, be resolute. Instead of saying, “I’ll try.” say, “I will!” That’s a commitment.

Assertiveness/Self-Assurance

Being assertive is sometimes confused with being aggressive, pushy, or rude. Once a person understands that ideas, principles, and opinions can be expressed in both a direct and respectful way, he is able to imagine the benefits of professional assertiveness.

“The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well being of others.” — Sharon Anthony Bower

Assertiveness takes form in all of the ways that define who we are: thoughts, words, and deeds.

“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!” — Attributed to Shakti Gawain

While becoming an assertive person is a personal decision, it is also unlikely to be a quick transition. Raw assertiveness tends to grow gradually in direct proportion to increases in confidence.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” — Arthur Ashe

“Self-confidence is the memory of success” — Anonymous

Discretion/Prudence

Professionalism requires assertiveness to be tempered with professional attitudes and behaviors such as kindness, forethought, and patience. With these well in hand, professionals are prepared to balance assertiveness with tact.

“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” — Sir Isaac Newton

“Forethought and prudence are the proper qualities of a leader.” — Publius Cornelius Tacitus

“Wit without discretion is a sword in the hand of a fool” — Spanish Proverb

“The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life” — William Shakespeare

“Discretion in speech is more important than eloquence” — English Proverb

There’s a special instance of discretion that involves appropriate use of private information. Let me be blunt — gossip is not a feature of professionalism.

“What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t witness with your mouth.” — Jewish Proverb

“If it’s very painful for you to criticize your friends – you’re safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your tongue.” — Alice Duer Miller

“Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” — Spanish Proverb

“Gossip needn’t be false to be evil – there’s a lot of truth that shouldn’t be passed around.” — Frank A. Clark

“Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell.” — Shana Alexander

“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it hardly becomes any of us
To talk about the rest of us.”

— Edward Wallis Hoch

Finally, before setting out to slay your personal dragons, there’s a Biblical perspective to take into account.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;”

— Bible, Ephesians 6:10-17

Armed with these added tools of professionalism, you can be more prepared to someday say to yourself, “Welcome, your excellency!”

God bless,

— CC

[ W=Work | Index | Y=Youth ]

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

Amazing Grace

[ F=Finish | Index | H=Heart ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

Here’s a little-used word in business — grace. Except in religious and artistic circles it’s kind of an old-fashioned word.

Sports analysts like to talk about intangibles, which are those miscellaneous factors that influence the outcome of games. Intangibles are always present. But it’s only when the game stats belie the outcome that we look for the intangibles. In sports as in other ventures, intangibles are hard to predict, hard to quantify and hard to describe because they are less obvious. In life, grace is one of those intangibles that can be a difference maker.

“Virtue and genuine graces in themselves speak what no words can utter.” — William Shakespeare

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” — Denis Waitley

Grace Means Being Charming and Refined

The once familiar concept of “ladies and gentlemen” is becoming more and more passé in favor of rude, vulgar and obnoxious public behavior as promoted through television programs like “Married With Children,” “The Simpson’s” and “Roseanne”. These shows are meant to be funny and perhaps they are in a childish sort of way. The blogosphere is another venue where professionalism is being pushed aside by those who seek attention the only way they know — a tantrum of words. The good news is that it is easy to stand out as a professional when the majority has chosen another path.

“I seek constantly to improve my manners and graces, for they are the sugar to which all are attracted.” — Og Mandino (1923-1996)

“We require from buildings, as from men, two kinds of goodness: first, the doing their practical duty well: then that they be graceful and pleasing in doing it; which last is itself another form of duty.” — John Ruskin (1819-1900), The Stones of Venice, 1880

“Remember that it is nothing to do your duty, that is demanded of you and is no more meritorious than to wash your hands when they are dirty; the only thing that counts is the love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding.” — W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), The Painted Veil, 1925

Grace Under Fire

Seeing a leader maintaining composure in the heat of battle (figurative or literal) is both comforting and inspirational. Conversely, who follows a “leader” who “freaks out” in a pressure-packed situation? A leader ceases to be a leader when he panics.

“Always behave like a duck – keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath.” — Jacob Braude

“Grace under Pressure.” — Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Grace Means “Quiet Strength”

Because of the way our culture views leadership, grace also has the ability to camouflage more prominent traits of professionalism such as strength. Tony Dungy, a successful [American] football coach, led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007 on a model of strength with grace. Mr. Dungy’s approach refutes the familiar coaching image typified by loudness, boasting and anger. The title of his autobiography, “Quiet Strength,” befits a true professional who exemplifies grace both on and off the football field.

“O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength; but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.” — William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Measure for Measure, 1604-1605

“Real strength is not just a condition of one’s muscle, but a tenderness in one’s spirit.” — McCallister Dodds

Grace Means Generosity

True generosity, giving without expecting something in return, is another aspect of grace. Professionalism demands a giving heart.

“Riches may enable us to confer favours, but to confer them with propriety and grace requires a something that riches cannot give.” — Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832), Lacon, 1825

“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” — Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)

Grace Means Forgiving

Granting and seeking forgiveness may be the hardest parts of grace because they require an incredible measure of humility. We can all take a lesson from children.

“No one forgives with more grace and love than a child.” — Real Live Preacher, Weblog, 02-15-06

By the Grace of God

Everyone is here on Planet Earth at the pleasure of God. Our talents, resources and our very lives are gracious gifts of the creator. God’s presence in our lives, His love and forgiveness too are acts of grace. While it is likely that there are effective leaders who have no belief in God, it is difficult for me to comprehend anyone becoming a complete professional without an attitude of gratitude and actions that reflect the undeserved, amazing grace of God.

“God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” — Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), in a sermon in 1943

“There but for the grace of God go [I]. — John Bradford, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.” — Frederick Buechner

God bless,

— CC

[ F=Finish | Index | H=Heart ]

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