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I asked my dad why he never learned to speak Polish. He said he knew a few words but that his mom and dad would not let the children speak anything but English. He said that in the 1920’s, speaking a foreign language meant that you were a foreigner and you would not be able to go to school, learn a trade, or get a good paying job.

People left their homeland seeking opportunity or safety. They were committed to survive in the new land. They would do what it takes to assimilate…to be part of the culture of their new home. They were not looking for hand-outs. They were looking for a hand-up.

“Just tell me what I have to do. Point me in the right direction,” they would cry.

Assimilate: to integrate, adapt, adjust, conform, blend in, fit in.

By coming to America, they were willing to change. These immigrants focused on assimilation so that the first generation would have a better life. The result was the first generation children became successful business and professional men and women. They were taught to respect the opportunity to learn and succeed.

Years ago, there were Irish, Polish, Italian, Chinese, etc communities in most cities. These communities accommodated the new arrivals. They had churches, social clubs and even sports teams. In the Lawrenceville area of Pittsburgh, there were Polish, Irish, German and Italian catholic churches and each had their own grade schools and some even provided high schools.

Keep in mind that these communities had free public schools, but the people chose to pay extra to have their children educated in a more regimented curriculum. They wanted a curriculum that would support their family goals to assimilate and would give their children the best chances for success. They invested in their children’s future.

The teams from these ethnic communities competed outside their locale and students began to assimilate. The students learned to recognize and respect different cultures and customs. The families forced the children to move out and move on. If their children were to become successful, success would have to come from outside the community. Today, these ethnic communities are mostly memories.

But what happened to the few who clung to their heritage? What happened to those who tried to hang on to their past…to bring their past with them?

Vegetate: to stagnate, behave in a dull or inactive way, to loaf.

Ellis Island

The immigrants who wanted to bring their past (what they left behind) with them resisted assimilation and thus vegetated. In the 1990’s I met Russian immigrants who were sponsored in order to come to the United States. They lived in a small neighborhood in Pittsburgh. After 6 months and unable to find work (they could not speak any English), they became eligible for complete support from the welfare system. They received food stamps, rent support and educational and full medical benefits at the expense of the working people of Pennsylvania. They started families…free. They were able to stay in their little Russian communities, speak their native language and had no incentive to move on. Our free welfare system was better than the Communist/Socialist system that they had in Russia. In Russia they would have had to work for their benefits. Why assimilate when you can get paid to vegetate?

In 1993, I met a young Bosnian man who had escaped the ethnic cleansing that was going on in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. The Serbian army had come into their town to take the women and children away. The men and boys were to be executed. Elver was lined up against the wall with the men in his village. The soldiers were getting ready to fire their weapons.

The military commander saw Elver’s mom standing in the crowd. The commander and Elver’s mom were classmates from the same town and went to school together for 10 years.

“What are you doing here,” he asked?

“That boy is my son,” she cried.

“Take him away, now,” he ordered.

Mom grabbed Elver and took him away. Later that night, Elver was taken to an area where he escaped and ultimately ended up in Denmark. He went to Denmark, then to England and finally to Erie, Pennsylvania. At 18, he got a job in a plastic plant and mastered the language. He walked 5 miles to work, saved his money, bought a bike, saved his money, rented a larger apartment and took in other Bosnian refugees as boarders. In the plastic plant, he was able to translate for the workers and was subsequently promoted to team leader and then foreman. He charged rent, he charged for transportation, he saved, and he studied and eventually was able to go to the university. He became an engineer.

Elver knew that his past would not help him. He had to work to assimilate within this new culture and society. He eventually made a place for his sister and mother to join him. Through Elver, I met many Bosnian refugees. I never met a lazy one. I never heard them complaining about what social benefit they could claim. They only wanted opportunity. Just point me in the direction and I will go.

We see people today who come to this country and try to change this country. They come here for opportunity but want things to be like their old country without opportunity. They come here to avoid poverty, disease, or unrest but they want to change things so that we have poverty, disease and unrest. They come here to seek peace and happiness but demand change to meet their comforts.

This country was built on the backs of immigrants. Greatness of each generation came through assimilation. Learning from each other. Blending customs, cultures, ideas, and talents, into a cauldron of innovation, strength, and leadership. Each migration brought something special…something new…something original. More importantly, they assimilated.

If our new immigrants focus on assimilation, they will produce the next generation of leaders and innovators. If they focus on the comforts of vegetation, they will produce the next generation of tomatoes and potatoes. If we facilitate the assimilators, we will grow. If we facilitate those who wish to vegetate, we will get people who demand more, contribute less and still have a vote. It is a choice for all of us.

Make it a great day

Dr L

I’m always skeptical when someone offers me something for free. Outwardly, I appreciate their generosity, but at this time in my life, I wonder, is it a friendly gesture or does it command reciprocity?

When I was in the Air Force, there was a custom at the officers club called the Dining In. It was a mandatory formal affair for all of the officers on the base. The cost of the dinner was divided among all the officers, regardless of your attendance. If you had to pay for it anyway, you might as well attend.

Before entering the dining hall and meeting the base commander in the receiving line, we indulged around table after table of cocktails. Each table had at least fifty glasses of a specific poured cocktail…martinis, manhattans, whiskey, scotch. We just walked up, grabbed a glass and moved on or went back, and back, and back.

Free is Not Free

Some officers never made it into the dinning hall. But the justification was interesting. Since we were dividing the bill among all the officers, if one guy had two drinks and you only had one, then you were paying for part of his drink. To be fair, you would have to have another drink in order to be even. And these were all officers! Needless to say, everyone was trying to catch up with the other guy and, ultimately, they missed the dinner…and still had to pay for it.

Free is never free. Someone always has to pay. We see free eye exams, free consultations by contractors, free cell phones, free vacation trips. There are actually people in our society that believe in free. The office that offers a free eye exam must recoup the cost of the exam in the price of the glasses. The free consultation from the contractor recoups his costs in the price of the job. The free cell phone is an advertising expense covered by the charges for the service. Who pays? The end user always pays.

Today, we have people who feel college should be free. They already were given 12 years of free education paid for by every working individual in the country. It’s interesting that the people who can’t or won’t work already received the 12 years of free education. It was a FREE gift from the working people. The workers get a bill from the tax collector every year. Free education is not free.

So who will pay for the free college education? Just send the bill to the working people. I wonder how all the college grads will feel when they start working and get their bill for a stranger’s college tuition. Will they step up or want to step out?

Some people feel healthcare should be free. It should be paid for by the people who are working. The working people pay for education already and now they are asked to pay for healthcare. And what about the people who can’t or won’t work, they still would get free education and healthcare. What about the people who purposely abuse their health, who eat, drink or smoke too much? Of course, they would also get free care at the expense of the working people.

But you don’t understand, my employer pays for my healthcare insurance. Interesting. Where does your employer get the money to pay for your healthcare? It comes out of your employer’s operating expenses. Therefore, every customer pays for your healthcare. That said, when you buy anything from a store, you are paying for someone’s healthcare, including your own.

Also interesting is that the insurance companies are in the business of distributing the funds from the employer to the hospitals and healthcare providers. And yes, they charge for this service. How else could they pay for the healthcare for their employees? For every dollar that your employer pays toward your benefit, the insurance company (distributor) keeps 15 cents. That’s billions of dollars. Look at the names on the tall buildings. You will likely see the name of your insurance company. Free healthcare is not free.

Did you ever look down and see a penny on the street? I was always told to pick it up. It would bring me good luck. I have a lot of dirty pennies and I’m not so sure about that luck part. I really never thought much about the person who lost the penny. Maybe, loosing the penny was a bad luck day for him.

Suppose you found a money clip with several hundred dollars or a wallet with money and credit cards, you would really think someone was having a bad day. But it was your lucky day. The penny paid off. Someone had to pay for your lucky day.

The beautiful hotels and casinos in Las Vegas are built at the expense of the losers. But they advertise the experience of the winners. They offer free rooms, at the expense of the losers, free dining at the expense of the losers, and free entertainment at the expense of the losers. Knowing this, the losers keep going back for the free hotel, food and fun…and paying for it. Free is never free.

For the officer who wanted the free drink, the student who demands more free education, the smoker who wants free healthcare, the guy who picks up dirty pennies, or the man rolling the dice at the crap table, the expectation of free costs someone somewhere. Unfortunately, they know that someone personally. He’s in the mirror every morning.

Once we accept the fact that free is not free, and that someone always has to pay, we will begin to understand how businesses must work to succeed and survive. We will understand how we must take responsibility for our own financial freedom and independence. We will be able to determine what price we are willing to pay. Financial freedom comes with a price tag. Free is not free.

Sometimes we can learn a lot by just looking at the things around us. Sometimes we think we know what we need to know and why bother with just a little bit more information. But sometimes a little bit more information can make a big difference.

The difference between 211 degrees and 212 degrees is the difference between hot water and steam. Hot water can cook potatoes but steam can move a train, power a ship, and produce electricity for a whole city. Just a little difference, one degree, makes a big difference.

Looking Around:

A lot of what we need to know is available to us by just looking around. My grandpa told me it was harder to knock down one tree standing alone than twenty tall trees standing together. That seemed kind of dumb but he wasn’t talking about trees, he was talking about me growing up to become successful.

He said a tree that stands alone is able to get sun from all sides. This means it can grow all the time. It puts out broader branches in all directions to take advantage of the sun. The roots grow deep and spread out to capture the moisture from the drip line of the leaves.

Trees that grow in the forest compete for the light and moisture. Their trunks are tall and thin as they reach up for the sun’s rays. Their roots compete with the other trees for moisture. The roots do not and cannot spread because of the dense roots from the nearby trees.

Like the trees, our strength will come from either our foundation or our associations. Our growth will be a function of how much knowledge we can attain and process. A strong foundation will maintain our presence and permits us to seek and process the information around us.

Strength and Growth:

The solitary tree gets its strength from broad roots (foundation) and its growth from continued nourishment from the soil and sun. (Knowledge/learning). Because the tree stands alone, it must deal with all the challenges of nature. The winds try to tip it over so it spreads its roots. The sun and rain cause more branches and leaves to sprout so the trunk thickens to hold the weight. When it’s about to crack, it bends, and then gets stronger. It supports the nesting and resting birds and provides shade and shelter for the cows and deer. It also provides seeds, nuts and fruit for you and me. One tree, standing alone, does it all…a leader among trees.

The trees in the forest get their strength from each other (association). Because they stand together, the force of the wind is distributed among them. Did you ever notice that when a strong wind attacks the forest, the trees along the edges will fall? It is because they have a small root distribution. Their roots are limited due to the competition with the rest of the trees.

If you cut all the trees but one, it will fall at the first wind. People, who depend on their support group for survival, are like those trees in the forest. As soon as they loose that support (association), they struggle and fail. Leaders are like the solitary tree in the pasture. They can help the other trees grow strong and survive, but the seed must be planted away from the forest. The environment must support a strong foundation.


Growth:

The growth of trees in the forest depends on how they can share the nutrients from the soil and sun (rationed knowledge). The amount of sun and rain at any one time must be divided among all the trees. They grow
tall to compete for the sun. They are always trying to get higher than the tree beside them. Interesting. It is not too different than when groups of people want to let others get ahead in life, but just not ahead of them.

Family and friends may want you to succeed but only to the level at which they will be comfortable with your success. I’m not sure that it is bad. It is just how people are. A leader steps out, succeeds, and then uplifts the people around him. That’s the mark of a real leader. People are better off because of him.

Fruit for Generations:

Another example of nature’s message to us can be found in an apple orchard. If the farmer wants a good crop of apples year after year, he plants the trees so that they will not have to complete with the other trees for sun, moisture and the nutrients in the soil. Too close and the trees can’t produce enough fruit. Too far apart and the farmer cannot produce enough fruit to be profitable…to sustain his business.

On the other hand, the farmer who produces trees for lumber, plants them close enough to grow but not to branch out. The trees grow tall and are harvested before they produce abundant seeds. Trees in the orchard produce fruit for today and seeds for the next generation. Trees in the forest produce lumber for today. The harvest precludes any seeds for the next generation.

That’s not too different than families who instill in their children good family values and teach them to pursue knowledge… to never quit learning. The seeds are planted for the next generation. It’s interesting that we see first generation families in this country that are self-reliant, responsible, and generational in their thinking. They often come from a survival environment with limited or no formal education. Then we find fifth generation families whose children can’t read after receiving a free education. Their survival depends on others and they feel entitled to convenience, comfort, and happiness. We must plant seeds today in order to sustain future generations.


Harvesting the Trees:

When we need lumber, we want straight boards. That old tree in the pasture with the thick stumpy trunk and twisted branches is only good for firewood. The short trunk will have huge knots from each of its branches. We leave it alone. Did you ever notice that the old trees in the pasture always have a smile when the sun shines on them? In their final days they will only be used to keep people warm.

In the woods, however, the trees were tall, few branches and perfect for making long boards. These trees got their support from the others so they were easy picking. Just one at a time. Trunks were narrow, long and had few branches. The lumber would be straight and had few knots. The trees never had a chance to get old. As soon as they grew tall, they became a cupboard, chair or deck.


What’s up, Grandpa?

What the heck was grandpa trying to tell me? If you are going to stand alone, if you want to be successful, if you want to be a leader, then, like the tree that stands alone, you must have a strong foundation and never quit growing. That strong foundation will come from the family, from the teachers and mentors that we let become a part of our lives. The growth will come from what we do today and tomorrow to build on that foundation.

Like the tree in the pasture, even with a strong broad root formation (foundation) that could resist the strongest winds, it will wither and die without light and moisture (knowledge/learning) to feed the leaves and roots. Conversely, without the roots to hold the tree and support the leaves, the sun and rain (knowledge) will be wasted.

If we are going to be leaders, we must start with a broad, strong foundation. When you talk to real leaders, they are humble and always willing to learn. The strong foundation gives them the strength to continue to seek knowledge. They recognize, like the tree that stands alone, that there will always be more sunshine and rain (knowledge) to process. They learn everyday.

If we choose to be like the trees in the forest and listen to the people around us, we will grow at their pace. We will never have our head above the crowd…be the tallest tree. And when harvest time comes, we will be like the rest of them…part of someone’s cupboard, chair or deck.

It is a Decision:

We make decisions every day. The easier decisions give us comfort as we stand among the tall trees around us. Our comfort zone is in the association with others. We live in commonality and resist standing alone. We share the sunshine; compete for the rain; and breathe common air. We grow in concert with our surroundings, carefully not to outgrow those around us. The tough decision is stepping out of the trees and seeing the sun, feeling the rain, and breathing fresh air. Some decisions give us strength, like the tree in the pasture. It is tough to step out

If the decision is to stand alone, to be a leader, to be the strong tree looking down at all the trees in the forest, our roots must be broad, our trunk must be strong, and our branches must reach out for the sun and rain. We must develop that strong foundation, strong will and commitment, and seek any and all knowledge that will help us grow.

Like grandpa said, “the tree standing alone in the pasture is stronger than any tree in the forest.” Leadership begins with a decision. “Will I commit to becoming a leader or will I go with the crowd?” Leadership is lonely. Leadership is humbling. Leadership is tough. But leadership has the reward of helping others to achieve great things. A leader reaches out his hand when people struggle or fail. His puffed up moment, when he sticks his chest out, is when people succeed.

Make a decision to help others succeed and you will have made the first decision toward becoming a leader.

Make it a great day

Dr L

Comfort to Contentment ... A Journey

Life is a journey from the restless comforts of infancy to the subtle quiet contentment of old age. When grandpa was in his eighties, he had an apartment in a high-rise senior citizen community. His journey started in Europe and then by boat as an unaccompanied teen to America. He lied about his age in order to get a job in the coalmine. He and grandma raised five children while he worked in the steel mill.

As a teenager, we looked forward to visiting him. The visits were brief, but we were always thankful for the few minutes that he shared. A lot of our daily decisions centered around, “what would grandpa think?” He had his special souped-up bottle of whiskey that he used for the toast when we arrived. He didn’t like the taste of whiskey so he added sugar and sugar and sugar. It was almost syrup.

I often thought about grandpa and what he did when we weren’t there. We found that he liked to just sit, read the paper and visit with his friends in the building. He loved to hear how people were doing in their lives. He would listen to us report our activities and usually just smiled with approval. We were all so busy with life. High school, college, jobs, businesses, farms and the golf course all occupied everyone’s time. When he was our age, was he as busy as we were?

Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

I think life might be a journey from comfort to contentment…quiet contentment. The newborn cries as he seeks comfort. He doesn’t know where it comes from nor what exactly it is, but he feels a certain comfort from the mother’s touch, the soothing confident voice and the warm caress.

From infancy to early childhood, the child begins to recognize and seek specific things that bring comfort. It might be the parent, sibling or even a pet… a special toy or even a favorite food.

Adolescence brings more demands for comfort and the beginning of responsibility for their own comfort. They realize that parents may not always be around and they must now start to look to the future. The quest is still for the comforts in life, but now we have the increasing recognition of responsibility for one’s own comforts. Survival is still a low priority.

Comfort is a very broad term. It represents the things in life that make us happy or help us survive. The pursuit of these comforts might not be quick, simple and as easy as they were when someone else had to provide them. They may involve a teacher, coach, mentor, spouse, children, and place significant demands on our time. It may require personal growth, tough decisions, heartache, and even failures.

We choose the comforts that we want in our life. We determine what when and how much. The important thing is that the pursuit of our comforts in life is just part of a journey. We all make the journey. Some journeys will be shorter than others. Some will have more obstacles, detours and roadblocks. But the journey will continue.

As we mature to middle age, we begin to enjoy the fruits of our labor. But questions arise. Has all the work to provide for comfort and survival been worthwhile? Do we have to make changes or start over again? Should we adjust the demands for comfort at the expense of survival?

We can’t change our past but we can influence our future. As we get older, we start to adjust our demand for comforts. Comforts should not be at the expense of survival. I’m not talking about jumping out of a perfectly normal airplane just to see how close you can come to the ground before you open your parachute. I am talking about taking an around the world cruise every year at the expense of losing your house or becoming a burden to your family or society.

I’m talking about having the comforts of life until you complete your journey. The comfort for grandpa was having the family come for a visit. The twinkle in his eye when he saw the anguish on our faces as we politely toasted his whiskey mix. The comfort for grandpa was to know that he gave his sons and daughters the passion to learn and become successful. He no longer had to pursue the comforts in his journey. He could simply enjoy them. Now it was quiet contentment. His was a journey from the pursuit of comforts to the comfort of quiet contentment. A twinkle. A wink. A smile.

Make it a great day

Dr L

We were young newlyweds at Chanute AFB in central Illinois. On Sunday afternoons we would go for a ride just to see the countryside. Not knowing where to go, (GPS was a figment of someone’s imagination and a flip phone was a phone booth along the road that got hit by a car) we would come to an intersection and ask, “Left, right, or straight ahead?”

Which Road?

We had no clue as to what was ahead of us but we wanted to keep going. We would do this for hours. We got to see countryside that the traveler never would see. On one occasion, as the dirt road became very narrow, we were presented with a shallow stream running across the road. We stopped. We saw that the road went through the stream and there were tire tracks on the other side.

Left, upstream. Right, downstream. Straight ahead, cross the stream. Or back? We knew where we came from. Upstream would be tough without a paddle. Downstream would be easy but we would only go where the stream took us. Straight ahead would give us new territory to explore.

Over the years, we all come to crossroads and we must decide left, right, back or forward. These can be tough decisions but a fifth option may be the worst…do nothing. Failure to make a decision is a decision. When we were on those back roads in central Illinois, not making a decision would leave us in the middle of the road. We could be struck by another vehicle, (likely a tractor or horse) or simply starve on the spot.

When we opt not to make a decision, or when we elect to stay where we are, life and all that it puts before us, good or bad, will still be there. We are attending life instead of participating. We are a spectator rather than a player. So long as we are willing to make a decision, left, right, straight or back, we are a player. We are in the driver’s seat. When we fail to make that decision, we are just a spectator, waiting in the middle of the road for something to happen…good or bad.

Over the past 50+ years, we have come upon many crossroads. We still ask the question, “left, right, straight?” There are more than 100 restaurants within a five mile radius of our home, yet when we go out for a bite, no one can predict where we will finally have dinner.

Worst case was, after deferring the decision and discussing our respective day’s activity, we found ourselves 30 miles from home at the Alabama border. We laughed and turned around to get back where we could find someplace for dinner.

Now we were only a few blocks from home, still without a decision on where to eat and a novel idea surfaced. Let’s go to Publix, get some chicken and go home and watch a movie. Ninety minutes, 100 restaurants and 60 miles later, we ended up with a box of chicken and a movie. Not making a decision is a decision.

Last week, we made a great right turn. We decided to go to the mountains to see the leaves. Although we planned to go in one direction, we came to an intersection with a sign, “Tiger.” We turned right.

For nearly an hour, the road weaved up and down through the hills and valleys. A beautiful red, orange and yellow canopy accompanied most of the road. Finally, the canopy opened and we saw the valley leading to Tiger Mountain.

We chose left and stopped at a little vineyard. We had no idea how important that left turn would be. The owner’s daughter greeted us. She was excited about their vineyard and shared how her mom and dad had started it on the nearly two hundred year old family homestead. The old barn and silo had been renovated and was now a quaint restaurant overlooking the vineyard.

We were having breakfast when mom and dad came down for their lunch. Mom was a journalist, author and lawyer. Dad was a physician. We were strangers but for some reason (making the right turn) they shared their story. Their story was so inspiring. Both were professionals who had come to a crossroad. Left? Right? Straight? Back?

They chose straight. They chose new territory building with new knowledge and past experiences. They were humble people with a vision. They were passionate people with a dream. They were focused and committed. Had we not come to the mountain crossroad and turned right, we would never have met them. We would not have heard their story.

But their story of pursuing a dream is one that many people have in their hearts. They come to that crossroad and they can’t make the decision. They stop and life passes them by. In the book, “It’s Not What I Know…It’s How I Learned It,” the author talks about coming to crossroads and making the tough decisions.

Dreams…Goals…Vision…Passion…Commitment. These are the ingredients that turn dreams into reality. These are the ingredients for success. But it all depends on what we say when we come to the crossroad. Left? Right? Straight? Back?

Be the player and not the spectator. The game goes on regardless. Be the driver and not the passenger. The journey goes on and there will always be a crossroad. Left? Right? Straight? Back?

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T S Elliot

Make a decision. Make it a great day.

Dr L

Just Taking a WalkA leader without any followers is just a guy taking a walk. That statement might be called a thinker but have you ever met someone who is a self-declared leader only to find that they are still looking for followers. Leadership is earned. It cannot be decreed by others, declared by one’s self, or determined by our DNA.

We become a leader when we inspire others to embrace a common goal. Followers must perceive a benefit to them or their cause before they will embrace the leadership that will get them to their cause.

An individual who has been given a leadership title (decreed leadership) is not a leader until he has someone to lead. Often this leadership position is hollow, lacks direction and is unproductive. It’s like assigning someone to watch a parade on TV.

A self-declared leader is a figment of his imagination. It’s like bragging that you are the CEO of your company of which you are the only employee. We all have to start somewhere. But a CEO of a successful company has a team that supports the company’s mission. They share a commitment and passion for the common good.

The born leader (it’s in his DNA) is a product of his environment. If it was in his “DNA” but he never had anyone to teach, counsel and set an example, then he would not be a leader. He is just a person with DNA like the rest of us.

Leadership is earned. Leadership is a learned skill. You can’t earn it until you know what it is and you possess the leadership skills. You can’t possess the skills until you learn them. We learn them at home (the family), at school (teachers, mentors, books), and in life experiences (environment).

When we read about great leaders, they often reflect on the foundation of their leadership skills. Their early years and the family environment becomes the foundation and determine the direction of their development. Poor or rich. Educated or uneducated. Oppressed, suppressed or depressed. Leaders evolved from these family environments. All these conditions become the foundation for the individual leader.

Great leaders will also credit their education. I believe that personal mentorship is important to keep the student motivated. However, the pursuit of knowledge through books and experience will develop and hone the leadership skills. There are many books on leadership. Most are saying the same thing in a different way and that’s good. We learn through repetition.

Books:

Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell

Jump Start Your Leadership by Shawn Doyle

Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips

Leaders will tell you that they are always in the learning mode. They read leadership books and they associate and listen to other leaders. The more responsibility they have to lead, the more knowledge they seek. They try to surround themselves with successful people who can help them lead.

If I am to be a leader, I must answer a few important questions.

  1. Have I made the commitment to learn the leadership skills necessary to lead? The leader is a product of the books he reads and the people he knows. He is constantly in the learning mode. A great leader was a good follower long before he became a leader. Leaders make commitments long before the team takes the field.
  2. Do I have a passion to help others achieve their dreams and goals? A leader looks at the big picture. Success is beneficial to all the team members. General and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
  3. Am I willing to make the tough decisions and to put the needs of the team ahead of my personal needs? When things are tough, I need to do more and when things are going great, the team is doing a good job.

A chain is as strong as its weakest link. The leader must recognize the weak link and either grow, change or eliminate it from the team. A team’s level of success will depend on the level of commitment and passion of each team member. It’s not the average level, but the lowest level of commitment that will undermine a team’s success.

Leadership is lonely and demanding. It is lonely at the top. But you will find that great leaders are humble, dedicated, committed and passionate about the cause and the people they lead. Not everyone is willing to make such a commitment.

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” – John Maxwell

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie

So when someone declares that they are a leader, look over his shoulder. You’ll know if he is a leader or just a guy taking a walk.

Make it a great day.

Dr L

People view their life, job, family from inside of the box or out side of the box. The In-the-box view is “this is the way it’s always been done” or “this is the way I know will work.” The Outside-the-box thinking is “this is the way it’s always been done but can ‘different’ be better? We need both in our society…in our lives.

Three things to know about the box:

  1. What is my box…am I in the box or out-side-the box?
  2. What is their box…recognize other people’s boxes?
  3. When can I get a new box…can I change?

In general, people have a particular propensity for their box. Some have dominant in the box characteristics but show recessive outside the box in certain situations. The converse is true for the dominant outside the box characteristics.
No one is 100% in or out of the box.

Box

In The Box Thinking

A dominant in-the-box thinker does everything by the numbers. Their children are raised by the book, or the way that their parents raised them. They say, “Look at me. I turned out OK.” They won’t go over the speed limit, never let their gas tank go below a quarter tank, and can’t stand to be late for anything. They measure in excess and no detail is unattended.

The dominant in-the-box thinker tends to support the status quo and resist change. Creative thinking, innovative technology, or social/political trends will frustrate them. They tend to rejoice when they finally embrace a change. They feel that innovation requires their approval.

A successful manager, project supervisor or construction worker are examples of in-the-box thinkers. The manager gets it done right. The construction worker builds to the plan. Once the plan is set, all the thinking must stay in-the-box.

Risk of inside the box thinking:

The risk of in-the-box thinking is that it stifles creativity. Had we not looked out side the box, we might be still riding horses, writing letters, and not know the difference between pause and press pause. If doctors were all in-the-box thinkers, we would not be replacing worn out parts. The outside-the-box docs came up with a whole Parts Are Us catalog. I want an outside-the-box doc developing the best knee joint. But, I want an in-the-box doc doing the surgery to replace the knee joint.

Outside-the-box thinkers

The dominant outside-the-box individual may be the less organized, less punctual, and the guy who just passed the gas station a mile ago, but is standing beside the road with a gas can. How things should be done is less important than why things should be done.

This person may be fun to be around because they are always coming up with something new and exciting. They are positive and refreshing because they are positive and refreshing. Are they fun to be around? Yes, for other outside-the-box thinkers. But they drive the in-the-box thinkers crazy.

What is exciting and refreshing is that they are positive about the future, excited about change, and willing to step out in order to step up. They see the status quo, the way we always did it, as merely a foundation on which to build…to grow. The in-the-box thinker agrees that you can’t learn to jump eight feet in a room with an eight foot ceiling. The outside the box thinker agrees and then raises the ceiling to nine feet. We need the outside thinkers in order to grow.

Risk of outside the box thinking:

Outside-the-box thinking nurtures creativity by disrupting the status quo. Most people like the status quo. Most people resist change. Most people are more in the box than outside the box. The outside the box person upsets the status quo. But order and the status quo are necessary for stability, for continuity, and as a foundation for creativity.

There must be a starting point. The builder starts with the foundation. No matter how hard he tries to start with the roof, it will always be the foundation. If the last brick is the only brick, it is the foundation. The outside the box thinker gets more bricks. This would frustrate the one-brick builder.

Balancing the boxes:

Everyone has a dominant and recessive thinking pattern. In one part of our life, we will be well defined and deliberate. In other activities, we are creative, innovative and pushing the limits. Balance is important. When you look at your box, are you looking at the inside or outside? Or, which view do you see the most?

If your clothes are arranged in alphabetical order according to size and color, you are in the box. But if you only know that your clothes are somewhere in the closet, and you are not even sure where you put your box, then you need some in-the-box companionship.

Individuals can adjust box thinking based on the venue at hand. With family or social matters they may think inside the box. But when it comes to their profession, they are out of the box. Balance simply means that you recognize your dominant characteristic and understand how it might affect the people around you. Apply this understanding of you and it will become a brick in the foundation of your character.

Recognizing Box People

Some people are in the box and close the lid. It’s dark and boring. They are intellectuals and tend to think they know everything about everything.

Some people are in the box, open the lid, get excited and enjoy the light, but return to the comfort of their box. They control the lid on their box. They like some change and know they can get out of the box any time. They know that they don’t know and get out of the box in order to learn/grow.

Some people are outside the box. When it gets too exciting, they hop into the box for rest and relaxation. They don’t know that they don’t know but keep asking questions.

Some people are out of the box and don’t know where they left their box. They find that every box they open is occupied. (Authors note: there are not any two people boxes.) There is excitement in their lives but not much order. They don’t know that they don’t know, but who cares, it’s exciting.

In-the-box people are students of the past…that which has already happened.

Outside the box people are students of the future…that which can happen.

Are you in the box or outside the box?

Dr L

It’s ok to be bad at something so long as you are willing to try again. If you don’t try again, you will always be bad at it. I’ve heard people say, he’s good at everything he does…not talking about me, for sure. I wonder if they really believe it or is it just an excuse for them not to try to be better themselves. Difficult Golf Shot

When I was 15, I asked my dad, a natural athlete, to teach me to golf. When he swung the club, it was smooth. When I would swing the club, it was erratic, and I missed the ball. I exclaimed that the club did not feel comfortable. I felt that I was really bad at golf.

Dad agreed that I had a bad swing. He agreed that the club felt uncomfortable. He even expressed reservations that I would be able to hit the ball. But, he never said I would be bad golfer. He said, “You have to be bad at something before you can ever be good at something.” He explained that people who are bad at something
and never try again, will always be bad at it.

When dad was a youngster, there weren’t any TV’s. Kids in the neighborhood, played ball, every day during the summer, and evenings and week ends during the school year… softball, baseball, football, kick ball, tennis and even golf. As he got older, he caddied at the county club and learned the game.

How many pitches did he throw until he was good enough to be recruited by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1940? How many strikes did he have before he was consistently hitting fastballs. I remember when dad played in as many as three softball leagues during the same season.

I don’t think Dad was a natural athlete. I believe he just studied and practiced the game more than anyone around him. So do we have natural athletes or do we have individuals who have become good athletes by developing and practicing their skills?

Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent Is Overrated, gives hope to anyone who wants to get better at any task. Research showed that it takes about 1000 hours to develop a skill or what we may call a talent. They concluded that anyone who commits to developing a skill or talent could succeed.

Conversely, someone who shows a propensity for a certain skill, (at 5 years old he can hit a baseball), but becomes satisfied that he is a natural and does not practice, will be passed by the 8 year old who just learned to hit the ball a year ago.

Example: Two individuals who start on their 1000 hour journey, may work at different paces. At any given point in time, one may appear more talented because he has more hours of practice. If 1000 hours of practice takes 5 years to accomplish, that person will appear to have more talent.

The key to the successful development of a skill or talent is to never quit practicing/growing. If there is any credence to a natural talent, I will still opt for the individual who is willing to develop and grow over the “natural talent” who doesn’t need to practice anymore.

I’ve seen very talented young people give up on their gift, change focus, and start to develop a new skill or talent. Even though they are good at their first talent, they will now start out bad as they develop their new skill. It is important to recognize that just because you are good at one thing, does not mean that you will automatically be good at something else. Developing the new skill/talent will require the same amount of work/practice/study as the first skill/talent.

We have to become bad at something before we can become good at something. The difference between bad and good is a function of vision, focus, commitment and time. We already recognize that a baby’s first step does not have to be perfect. Even when the baby falls down, we encourage him to get up and get his steps in order. He must be a bad walker before he becomes a good walker.

Can you imagine a parent saying, “Well, it looks like we have another bad walker. At least we’ll save money on shoes. He can just crawl around.” Not acceptable. We commit to practice. We develop the walking skill. If we continue, the child may become a runner or dancer…a talent way beyond learning to walk.

So when is it ok to be bad? When we are willing to try again. We get better through practice and repetition. But we have to start somewhere. The second time will be better than the first time. We have to be bad at something before we can be good at it.

Vision. Focus. Commitment. Time. These are the four elements that will move us from bad to good. Quitting interrupts the 1000 hour journey to success. People, who we recognize as leaders, successful businessmen, athletes or entertainers, will describe long hours of practice, study and mentoring in order to reach their success. They will also report many opportunities to quit. They will report failures that became learning experiences…they went from bad to good.

It’s OK to be bad on your way to being good. Don’t quit. Just try again.

Dr R. B. Liposky

It was springtime and the ducks were migrating north. Our pond was a perfect rest stop along the way. I decided to take some grain down to the pond and feed them.

I knew they would appreciate the treat after a long flight.

With a bucket of grain under my arm, I ran down to the pond calling them to come and enjoy a fresh grain culinary masterpiece. When they saw me running down the hill toward them, they moved further out into the lake.

When I jumped into the water, they moved further away. “Here Ducky, here Ducky,” I shouted. The more I persisted, the further away they swam. Now the water was at my shoulders and the grain was getting wet. Don’t they know that I’m trying to feed them. I’m trying to help them.

Grandpa was fishing at the other end of the pond. He saw the whole event. When I got over to him, I was dripping wet, the grain was wet, and I was mad.

“Grandpa, what’s wrong with these ducks? I’m trying to feed them and they just swim away.”

He smiled, trying to see some hope in his grandson and said, “ Do the ducks know that you are trying to feed them?” “All they saw was someone running toward them, hollering, and then jumping in the pond.” “If I was a duck, I’d go the other way, too.”

He explained two important premises for feeding ducks: Ducks

  1. They won’t look for food until they are hungry.
  2. They won’t eat from the hand that will hurt them.

Did you ever see a new mom trying to feed her infant peas? He has more peas on his cheeks and bib and mom has peas on her hand, arms and dress. If he isn’t hungry for peas, she can’t make him eat them.

Helping people in their lives is not any different than feeding ducks in the pond or peas to a baby. You can’t help people until they want your help. You can’t help people until they are willing to change the things that they are doing that got them in the their current situation. If they are like the ducks in the pond that are just comfortable going pond to pond for a swim, then jumping in the pond with them will only make waves, frustrate their swim and get you all wet.

If I walked down to the pond, sprinkle some grain along the shore and grabbed a seat, the hungry ducks will come, check out the menu and the diner, and make a recommendation to all the ducks that swim in the pond. They won’t look for food until they are hungry. They won’t eat from the hand that will hurt them.

You will do more good helping the people who want to be helped rather than worrying about the people who don’t want to be helped. Focus on people who are willing to change, willing to grow, willing to move beyond the past. The past can’t be changed. The future is a decision.

There is a difference between those who can’t change and those who won’t change. The baby who is allergic to peas will die if he eats them. He can’t eat them. We must change the diet. The baby who doesn’t like peas won’t eat them. We keep them in front of him until he is willing to change. When he is willing to change, we can feed him.

There will always be people around who can’t change. Physical or mental disabilities may prevent or impede change. They will adjust to the disability. We see examples everyday especially in our veterans. They change the things they can change and adapt to the things they can’t change.

Those who really can’t change are easier to recognize than those who won’t change. Can’t change is out of our control. Won’t change is a decision.

Feeding the ducks was a decision to reach out and help. Most people have it in their hearts to reach out and help. But Grandpa also taught me one other important principle. If you continue to feed the ducks, they won’t move on. They will become dependent on your help. When you leave, they won’t have any feed…they won’t know how to find food…they will die.

We help people who are willing to help themselves. We want to help them help them selves. Then, when we are gone, they will survive. Isn’t that the dream of every parent? We want our children to be come self-sufficient…to be able to take care of themselves. The comfort in the heart of every parent is knowing that their child will be safe and successful when he leaves home.

If you find yourself all wet or with peas up to your knees, its time to look at how you are trying to help people. If the ducks move on fat and fluffy and your child likes peas, then you are doing it right. Helping people gives comfort to our hearts. It is a special gift that we received and can share. Reach out and touch someone. Make it a great day!

Dr L

Success

Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things.

Managers make sure the trees are cut down efficiently so that the road can be completed. The leader makes sure that the right trees are cut down so that the road is built in the right direction.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet with many successful businessmen and women. It has given me the opportunity to learn about their success. I can’t remember even one individual who achieved their success without dealing with failure or adversity.

Some people may think that these individuals have certain secrets for their success. The secret to their success is that there are no secrets. My experience is that they are perfectly willing to share their journey, successes and failures, and divulge the details.

With a twinkle in their eye, they might say that their secret is “I always wear a blue suit to business meetings” or “I always keep a $100 bill in my wallet.” But when they look you in the eye, they’ll say, “I focused on my goal, I never quit learning, I surrounded myself with a team smarter than me, and I never quit.”

In the autobiographies of Sam Walton, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Col Sanders and other well-known successful men and women, the common theme in very diverse businesses is:

  1. All had successes and failures
  2. All focused and never quit
  3. All developed themselves on the way to their success.
  4. As they became more successful, they became more accessible.

It was interesting to find that as they became more successful, they reached out to colleagues, staff and employees, community and society. Unfortunately, giving tangible gifts such as bonuses, scholarships, charitable contributions were expected and often unappreciated by some people. Even our government feels it should tax success. But the most valuable gift that anyone, including our government, can receive from these individuals is their knowledge and wisdom. It is a vast reservoir of human intelligence…a natural human resource.

My father told me over and over to get a good education. He said, “Never stop learning. What you keep in your brain, no one can take from you…and your brain will outlast your back.”

Isn’t it interesting that we retire our most talented people, those who have knowledge and wisdom, even if their backs may have failed, when they have the most experience. I’m not suggesting that we raise the retirement age but I do think we are losing valuable human capital.

I love to sit around at the country club after a round of golf and just listen to my friends talk business, politics, family and their PSA level. There is so much wisdom that forms the basis for every debate and conclusion. I suggest that we create a forum in order to listen and learn. The country club is not the best forum and most people don’t want to hear about their PSA levels.

The more successful, the more accessible. Here are some consistent traits that I have found in my association with successful business men and women.

Leaders know themselves…they are humble but tenacious.

Leaders know how to follow.

Leaders seek solutions…anticipate problems.

Leaders continue to learn…from other’s experience and their own mistakes.

Leaders build relationships.

Leaders inspire people to become successful.

Leaders motivate.

Leaders surround themselves with people who know…then they listen.

Leaders have the best view from the top…but depend on many to hold the ladder.

Leaders don’t quit…they see obstacles as detours not barriers.

In the book, “It’s Not What I Know…It’s How I Learned It,” leaders come to the front to teach, help and inspire. They are out front. They are accessible. Those who can’t lead and can’t follow, focus on stopping progress and preventing success in others. They are like the crabs in a bucket. They want you to get ahead, so long as it is not ahead of them.

To start, grow and stay in business, you must be the leader. All businesses start small. You don’t have to know everything to get started but you must be willing to learn, and learn, and learn. Reach out to successful people around you. They are accessible because they are successful.

Make it a great day

Dr L