The Death of Common Sense

Common SenseYesterday my wife was juicing lemons from our lemon tree. She decided to cut the peels before running them through the garbage disposal and in the process of cutting them she cut something else too. A big, kind of circular cut right on the end of her middle finger.

So off to the Urgent Care we went to see if stitches would be required. Once at the urgent care we waited, and waited, and waited.

It was after a couple of hours that I started to get a little bored so I sent out a light hearted post about our long wait and said something about having no idea the Obama Care had kicked in already. It was meant as a joke.

But admittedly I should have known better.

I learned during the past election cycle that common sense was dead. It was replaced by incredibly over-sensitive people who don’t believe in humor. They only believe in “their position” and refuse to even listen to anything else.

Just to be sure, this is not just a “Democratic” problem, there are just as many over zealous Republicans as there are Democrats. Maybe more.

I received one response to my tweet that said I was being immediately un-followed. I replied that my tweet was meant as a joke. The response I got back was amazing: He said that killing people, poor people, black people, union people, as ALL Republicans want to do is no joking matter.

Another response said that my “insensitivity” showed my “white privilege” and the racist leanings of ALL Republicans.

A few others just cut to the chase and said they hoped I died for insulting the President.

Really? Has it come to that? Is it any wonder nothing gets done in Washington with the outright hatred on both sides of the isle.

Where is the common sense folks? We are all one people and everyone’s opinion matters. What many people don’t seem to realize is that if you don’t allow someone else’s opinion to matter then your opinion doesn’t matter either.

If you only listen to people who agree with you, then you will never learn anything. If you only talk to people who already agree with you, then you’ll likely never have the opportunity to make a real difference in the world.

In my tweet I never said anything about being Republican, never insulted President Obama, never said anything about killing anyone. Yet, that’s what people took from my mention of Obama Care.

Maybe we need to watch a little less of Fox News and MSNBC and return to the days when we valued and learned from the opinions of our friends and families, not people paid to drive up ratings by slandering “the other side”.

I hope common sense can make a comeback; if it doesn’t we are all in for a tough, likely unhappy future.

Can I get a vote for the return of Common Sense to American Society???

Mountains to Climb

great-smoky-mountainsMountains are beautiful from a distance, especially when we don’t need to hike over them to get somewhere else.

Imagine what the mountains meant to the early pioneers traveling across the vast prairie in search of the Great Northwest. They were not a welcomed sight, but rather, the very definition of hardship. It took days to travel even a few miles. The journey was rugged, the work exhausting, the progress minimal. Joy in passing through the rugged range rested completely upon the attitude of the pioneer.

Trials and hardships in life are like mountains. They are inevitable, challenging, unwanted obstacles, and much more beautiful when looking back on those recently conquered.

Today, many of us live in the midst of mountains. And so the question must be asked – how is your attitude?

I speak often on the importance of maintaining control of our attitudes. The ability to “set the tone” for your day, everyday, is critical for success in the face of the mountains that challenge us each day. It is difficult; to say the least, to remain positive when it seems as if every light at the end of the tunnel is just another train on it’s way to running you over. It might even be impossible to do it alone.

So….I’d like to offer a small suggestion – don’t try to do it alone. Simul-climb! Simul-climbing is a technique used by experienced rock climbers to move up a rock wall with a steady pace, it also allows the peak to be reached much faster.

Simul-climbing is basically two climbers roped together climbing at the same time. While it offers many advantages there seems to be one big shortcoming, if one falls, they both fall. This causes simul-climbers to be very selective when choosing a partner.

Pick a partner, or mentor, that will help you maintain control over your attitude and someone that you can help as well. This is a person who you can share your challenges with, one that offers advice and encouragement and accepts the same from you. Tie yourself to this person and attack the mountains that stand in the way of your eventual success. Remember, if you fall and your attitude goes south on you, you will be taking someone else with you.

So don’t fall!

Gun Control – Yes or No?

GunsI’ve been thinking about writing on the subject of gun control for a while now. It is certainly top of mind for many people in the United States these days and rightly so. For some people in the United States, on both sides of the gun debate, it is their number one “issue” every day of the year.

It was a couple of articles in today’s edition of the Minneapolis Star & Tribune that finally prompted me to add my two cents on the topic.

Before we begin let me set the record straight. I am a gun owner. The most liberal among us would call me a gun nut, the people I might be tempted to call a gun nut would say what I own are nothing more than toys. Some people hate all things gun related and some people love all things gun related.

Such is the emotion that surrounds this important debate. As with most topics that are worth debating it is that emotion that makes the debate so unfruitful.

The first story I noticed in the paper was the story of a man who murdered his mother in 1995 with a shotgun when he was just 14 years old. He was found to be insane and was committed to an institution for the criminally insane. Under both state and federal law if he was ever released he would be forbidden from ever buying or owning a gun again.

Well, he was released, and there are NO RECORDS to indicate exactly when. Nice isn’t it, they really aren’t sure just when he got out, that would indicate to me that they also can’t say it was okay to let him out. Was he cured or not?

Well, apparently not.

In the time since his release he has been acquiring guns, “legally” purchased at local gun shops. A LOT of guns, the paper rightly described it as an arsenal. He just lied on his permit application, switched his first and middle names and presto – he’s good to go.  He managed to acquire 13 guns, including semi-automatic rifles, an AK-47, a Tommy gun, assorted shotguns and handguns, including a .50-caliber Desert Eagle.

Then he posted a photo on his Facebook page of all his guns laid out on a table. A local sheriff’s office saw the photo and recognized the name of the person as someone who was forbidden to own any weapon, much less this stockpile.

When the deputies arrived at his home, the same home where 18 years earlier he had murdered his mother, they discovered letters he had written (apparently to no one) that talked about the “monster” within him that wanted to kill, and kill and kill.

I wish I could say that the paper reported this was an isolated incident but apparently not being able to legally purchase guns in Minnesota is no hindrance to “legally” purchasing guns in Minnesota. The loopholes are so big you could drive a tank through them.

Why would we even need “debate” about closing those loopholes? Sorry folks, but I don’t want convicted murderers, crazy ones at that, standing next to me at the gun range blasting away.

The next story would almost be funny if it wasn’t so ridiculous. On Saturday, January 23,  2013, five people were shot at various gun shows around the U.S. All accidentally, and all will fully recover. But five people, in a day?

I probably wouldn’t have paid that much attention to this story except for the part about the guy who had just purchased himself a used 45 caliber handgun. Apparently one of the first things he did was point it at his business partner and pull the trigger. Well, guess what – unknown to the guy who purchased the gun it came with bullets and the bullets were in the gun. His business partner is hospitalized but recovering.

Now here’s the part that really caught my eye. It’s illegal to bring a loaded gun to that gun show but the person who did will likely never be prosecuted because no one knows his name. It was a simple cash transaction. No records and no ID required! We would probably never know who bought it either if the knucklehead knew anything about handling a gun.

Could we at least get a name of the seller? Just a name? Why would we even need to debate about that?

I went up to my neighborhood store for my morning diet coke this morning and there was a guy in front of me who looked to be about 40 years old. He was buying cigarettes, they asked for his ID and he showed it to them.

So remember, when buying cigarettes be sure to bring your ID, when buying a gun, be sure to leave it at home.

I do not want more gun control laws passed in the United States. I will not surrender my guns, I will not stop supporting those who choose to owns guns, lots of guns. It is a basic right of every law abiding citizen of the United States. It’s fun to target shoot, hunting is a great sport and having a gun for self-defense is a very reasonable thing to do.

BUT….

Can we be reasonable people? Can we FULLY enforce the laws currently on the books? Can we track the buyers and sellers of guns in the manner that we track the buyers and sellers of certain cough syrups and cold medicines in the United States?

Can we ask people for a legal ID before we let them set up their table and start selling guns at the local gun show?

Worried about the “government” collecting all the guns? Stop deluding yourself; you and I know that is NEVER going to happen – 300 million guns are not going to go quietly into the night.

This really shouldn’t be so hard.

One last question to my fellow Conservative Republicans before you start ripping on me for this post ….  We want to pass “Voter Rights” laws that require people to show an ID before they vote (which I support) but showing an ID before buying a gun at a gun show is unconstitutional?

Help me out with that one.

 

 

You’re an Example, Like it or Not

actionsLeaders lead by example, whether they intend to or not. You can tell your team, your employees, your people what to do but what they will actually do is whatever it is you’re doing.

People do what the leader does, not what they leader says to do. You may have some people that will follow your words for a time but after a while they follow what you do and that can last a lifetime.

That’s why it’s so important for an authentic leader’s words to match their actions. Most people simply do not know how to be successful, they need a model of success and that’s what an authentic leader can be for them.

Here’s an idea for you; invest some time developing a personal mission statement for yourself. Be idealistic about yourself, how would the perfect you look and act? How would the perfect you behave, believe, say and do?

Now be more realistic; what can YOU really commit to? How close to that perfect model can you get given the circumstances of your life and environment?

How will you move from where you are to the model you can commit to? What needs to change in order for you to get closer to the “perfect” you?

From those questions you should be able to develop a personal mission statement, so write it out.

ON PAPER!

This isn’t something you hide away in a computer or tablet. This is something you print out and hang in your office. This is something you hand out to your team. This is something you ask people to hold you accountable to follow through with.

Most important, share it with the people who truly care enough about you to be honest with you. Ask for their help in getting closer to the “perfect” you. You’ll never get there but the journey will greatly improve your ability to lead.

The closer you get, the more likely it is that your words match your actions and the closer the match the better example you become for the people you lead.

You DO lead by example, the only questions is; is it the example you want to set for the people you care and lead?

Why You Can’t Make a Difference

DifferenceI think given the chance everyone would like to make a difference, in the world, in their world of in someone’s world. I hope so anyway but I also realize that I might be a little naive in my thinking. I hope not.

Let’s assume for the purposes of this post that I’m correct and that we all want to make a difference.

So why do so relatively few actually make a difference? I believe it’s because they don’t know that they have in fact been given that chance.

You see, the title of this post is a bit misleading, you can make a difference, the only question is, will you.  You have a life, your decisions make a difference in that life everyday. There are people in your life, you naturally influence the people around you, therefore, you have a chance to make a difference for them.

You might be the only person to smile at them on a given day and that little smile could be a big difference for them. Your efforts at maintaining a positive attitude might rub off on them.  That could possibly make a difference for them and it will definitely make a difference for you.

You don’t need to invent the next iPhone or find the cure for cancer in order to make a difference. You just have to decide that you will make a difference.

Once you decide that you will make a difference, you begin to discover for yourself all the ways that you already do. When you realize that you already do make a difference, you will likely be more intentional at making even more and bigger differences.

If you’ve convinced yourself that you just cannot make a difference for others, then make a difference for yourself. Overcome a fear, learn a new skill, take a risk. Once you know that it can be done, once you know that you can do it, you’ll know that you can help someone else do it too.

Now, here is the most compelling reason to do any of this, to make that difference for you or those around you: because YOU CAN!

The question remains. Will You?

How to do an Innerview

InnerView_LOGOFirst let me point out that I did not misspell “interview’, I indeed meant to say innerview. There is a rather large difference between the two and the difference in the outcomes of each is even bigger.

Almost 20 years ago, when I was still selling Dale Carnegie Training, I made a sales call on the owner of what I believed to be a smallish company in a southern Minnesota city.

Now keep in mind I was there to sell training programs but the entire call quickly became one big learning opportunity for me.

Upon arriving at the company I was shown into the owner’s office and introduced to the owner and his General Manager. The company was an office supply firm with about 300 employees that also operated a few retail office and stationary supply stores in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area.

The owner almost immediately told me that before we could do business together I would need to know something about how they did business and with that he set about giving me a tour of his operation. At every stop, the front office, the warehouse, the loading dock, everywhere we went, he would stop and talk for a moments to a few of his employees. After one or two stops it became apparent to me that he knew every one of his employees by name. Not only did he know them by name, he knew something about them too, he would ask about their kids or hobby or just how they were doing.

I didn’t realize at the time what I was watching but I came to understand that it was an impressive display of leadership, perhaps the most impressive I have seen to this day.

When we returned to his office I couldn’t help but comment on what I had seen and heard. I told him how remarkable I thought it was that he knew everyone’s name and something about them. What he said next would change how I thought about leadership forever.

He said that “his people” were the key to his success. He said that without them he had no company. He said that “his people” were his greatest asset and that he “invested” the greatest amount of his time with them.

In the ensuing years almost evey organization I would work with would “say” that their people are their greatest asset but I have yet to see another leader back that up with their actions the way this leader had.

So I asked him the obvious question: How do you get to know so many people so well? What he said this time would change how I taught leadership forever.

He said that you can’t lead people without caring for them and he said that you can’t, or won’t’ truly care about people that you don’t know about. He said that his most important “job” as head of this company was to truly know his people. With that in mind, everyday, absolutely everyday, he would take 5 or 10 minutes to conduct an “innerview” with one or two of the people in his organization.

He explained the difference as he saw it between an “interview” conducted while recruiting new employees and the “innerview” conducted with those with whom he had already entrusted with a part of his company. The “innerview” allowed him to ask much more meaningful, sometimes personal questions about a person’s well-being. About what they wanted from life and how he might help them achieve it.

He would ask them about how the company was doing “for them” and how they might work together to make it work better.

From this 5 or 10 minute investment of time he forged real relationships with the people who controlled the success of his company. He knew, with great specificity, why they came to work each day and how he could help them have a better life. He invested in them and they invested back.

I haven’t talked to that leader in several years and I’m reluctant to use his name without his permission but let me share just a little more about this remarkable person. Remember when I described his company as “smallish”? Well, I might not have done all the preparation for that sales call that a professional salesperson should have. You see, while it’s true that the particular company I was calling on had 300 or so employees, that was just one small part of what I can only call his empire. It turned out that he owned some other “stuff” like Major League Sports Franchises, other worldwide manufacturing and investment firms. In fact, as it turned out, I received this unforgettable life lesson from one of the 10 richest men in the world.

Now think about that for a minute. It’s something of an understatement to say that this guy had a lot going on, he was one busy man. Yet he made the time, everyday, every single day, to invest in his people. Everyday!!!

As I’ve shared this story through the years I am amazed by the number of “leaders” who say that their people are their greatest asset while in their next breath tell me they don’t have time to conduct an innerview.

Really?

Let me be perfectly blunt here as I share what I’ve come to believe about leadership the last decade or so: If you don’t have time to care, then you don’t have time to lead.

Invest your time in your people, it will provide you with the greatest return of any investment you will ever make. And hey, it just might make you some money too!

 

Your Words Matter

WordsWords are a big deal. I posted a tweet the other day that said we should think before we talk. Someone responded that sometimes we have to talk before we have time to think.

Now I like many people have spoken without the benefit of thought but “have to speak before we think”… I don’t think so. That sounds an awful lot like an excuse to me and a poor one at that.

Anyway it got me to thinking about the importance of words and that is the genesis of this post.

Words matter and they matter in more ways than we think.

Clearly what we say is vital, the words we select have major implications for how and even if, our intended message is received and understood. This is the area where people spend the majority of their time when “thinking” of something to say.

Just as important as what you say is how you say it. The tone of your voice can change the perceived meaning of many words. You know what you meant to say but your goal in communication should always be to make certain that the other person understood what you meant to say. If your tone is “off” there is a good chance you will be misunderstood.

Here’s is a little test for you in this area: If other people are telling you that you are snippy, hurried, loud, etc., then you most likely are. What they hear in your voice is their reality even if it isn’t yours. Remember, your goal is to be understood, so speak in a way that ensures that.

When you say what you say is also important. If people are too busy to listen, if they are distracted by other people or other things there is a good chance they won’t remember what you said even if they did initially hear it. If you want to be heard, make sure the person you’re speaking with is able to pay attention to what it is you’re saying.

Is there a purpose to what you’re saying? Why you say something will shape both the words you use and the tone you use to deliver them. You have the ability to tell what someone “really means” by how they say something. You’re not alone in that ability, other people have it too. Determine the “why” of what you’re saying before you say it, you may just decide to not say it at all.

Consider as well, who you are speaking with. While we always want to be respectful (I hope we always want to be respectful) of others it is even more important that we be respectful of ourselves. What we “tell” ourselves has an amazing way of becoming true. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed; but for heavens sake, never, never ever say that to yourself. Just like other people can feed off our words, so do we. Make sure that you give yourself a “diet” of success words each and everyday.

Your words matter!