How to Know Yourself

Who you are determines how you view other people. It also determines how you respond to life’s typical ups and downs. When you know yourself you’ll have a much better understanding of why you react the way you do to the people in your life and the circumstances those people create for you.

 

So the question becomes how exactly do we truly know ourselves? There are a number of factors that make you who are but here are the two with the biggest impact: 

 

Your experiences in life. Every person you’ve ever met, everything you’ve ever done, both good and bad, everything you’ve learned and everything you believe has helped shape who you are. 

 

The people and events of your life have a huge impact on your self-image. That’s why it is critical that you make good choices about the people you allow into your life. No matter how strong you believe yourself to be, no matter how principled a life you think you live, no matter your level of self-discipline, you WILL be influenced by the people around you. Those people will determine, at least to some extent, what, when and how you experience the events that make up your life. 

 

Choose your friends & associates well because they help make you who you are. If you really want to know yourself then watch the people who are closest to you. You are basically a compilation of the four to six people that you spend the most time with.  Watch and listen to them and you will know yourself.

 

The second major factor that determines who you are is your attitude about those life experiences

 

Most people don’t think about this often enough but the fact is that your attitude is your choice. It’s ALWAYS your choice. ALWAYS! 

 

Bad things can happen to good people. The most successful and happy people CHOOSE to look for the good in nearly every life experience. Even the bad ones. 

 

For those of you who sometimes doubt whether your attitude is really your choice I fully understand. It can be really challenging to maintain a positive attitude and easy to forget that it’s a choice. It’s even harder when the people you spend the most time with aren’t helping you. 

 

If you’re hanging around with people who refuse to choose a positive attitude then you are very unlikely to have or be able to maintain a positive attitude yourself. And that’s a big deal! 

 

It’s a big deal because the attitude you keep has perhaps more impact on your success than any other single factor. If people, like your boss maybe, are telling you that you need an attitude adjustment what that really means is you probably need to change the people you consider friends and associates. 

 

The hard truth is that most people find it nearly impossible to make the choice of a positive attitude when fed constant doses of negativity. It’s possible but highly unlikely. 

 

No one wants to be thought of as negative but if you’re too often expressing negative viewpoints then people may begin to see you as negative…and they may just be right. Hang around with positive people and they will let you know when you’ve forgotten to make the choice of a positive attitude.


You may not like to hear it but it is a vital part of truly knowing yourself.

Are You a Carrot, an Egg or a Coffee Bean?

There is a great story about a young woman who went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as if she solved one problem only to have a new one pop up almost instantly.

 

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.  In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what do you see?”

     

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the daughter replied. The mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. The daughter did and noted that they got soft. Her mother then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, the daughter observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, her mother asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she smelled its rich aroma. The daughter then asked. “What’s the point, mother?”

     

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity — boiling water — but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. It’s thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, it’s inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.

     

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”

     

That’s a fair question for all of us. When “stuff” happens, how do you respond? Do you get weak in the knees? Maybe hard headed or worse, hard hearted? Or do you take control and change the very circumstances that created the challenge in the first place?

 

Every successful person has overcome challenges on the road to success. Many people who failed were just a few steps away from success and only needed to push ahead a little more to succeed. In both cases their outcomes weren’t determined by the challenges they faced but by how they responded to them. 

 

The next time you’re tempted to quit think about why you started and then think about how you’re going to change the circumstances to eliminate that temptation. 

Are You All In?

There are lots of things that can slow down your progress towards success and the more of them that you accept responsibility for the better. 

 

If you’re thinking that some of those things or maybe even the majority of those things are just “bad luck” then you should know that most bad luck comes straight out of bad decisions and worse choices. 

 

Here’s the deal…until you accept complete responsibility for both your success and shortcomings YOU will be slowing down your own progress towards success. You must be all in for your best chance at success.

 

Lots of people are credited with quotes about making your own good luck by working hard. I believe that to be true. But you don’t hear too much about making your own bad luck by not working hard. You almost never hear anything about creating “bad luck” by consistently making bad choices and hair brained decisions. 

 

But that’s every bit as true as the quotes about good luck. We make our “luck” both good AND bad.

 

If success is going to be in your future then you must accept 100% responsibility for everything you say, think and do today. Everything!

 

If some of those things that you say, think and do today are holding you back then YOU must make the decision to change. No one can change you, you can only change yourself. Real change, the kind that can lead to improvement must begin with you.

 

Again I tell you that YOU must be willing to accept 100% responsibility for every decision you make and every action you take… or don’t take.

 

Blaming others for your decisions and actions prevents you from learning from them. It prevents you from growing and it lessons your chance at ultimate success.

 

Please don’t tell me, and most importantly never tell yourself, that you didn’t want to do the things you did but someone made you. No one can make you do anything that you do not want to do. Now, before you start disagreeing with that let me explain. You have almost certainly done some things you would have preferred not to do but someone or something found a way to make you decide to do it.

 

They may have threatened you, maybe they tricked you or maybe they gave you some sort of incentive but in any event, YOU choose to to it rather than the alternative that seemed even less pleasant to you. 

 

You made a choice. 

 

Most of my bad choices were not about doing bad things, they were (and are) about doing nothing. I delay, I hesitate or I downright procrastinate. Usually because it’s easier than doing what I should be doing. So I don’t do what I should, I do nothing instead. 

 

Lots and lots of people are just like me in that regard. We think we can do it later but discover again and again that later all too often becomes never. 

 

I’ve absolutely missed some opportunities in life but you know what? Those were MY choices not anyone else’s. I attribute whatever success I’ve had to the fact that I’ve never blamed someone else for the decisions and choices I’ve made. I’ve never given up the power to improve but failing to accept responsibility for my actions. 

 

Your own chances for success go way way way way up when you accept complete and total responsibility for BOTH the good and bad choices and decisions you make everyday. 


Blaming someone else for what happens to you makes someone else responsible for your success and that my friends rarely turns out well.

Invest in Trust

All leadership is based on trust. If someone doesn’t trust you they simply will not be committed to truly following you. They might comply with you, they may do what you tell them to do, they may even kind of like you but they will not commit to you.

 

Building trust takes time. When I hear someone say “you must earn the right to lead” what I really think they are saying is “you need to build some trust before anyone will actually follow you.”

     

Authentic leaders know that their title or position does little in the way of building trust. People don’t trust titles, they don’t trust positions, and they don’t trust names. People trust people.

     

Trust building must be intentional. It should happen every day. If you’re a leader, or someone in a leadership position, (of course you know that holding a leading position doesn’t mean you’re actually a leader) then you should be aware that your people are watching you. They want to see if your actions match your words. They want to see if you honor your commitments, and not just to them but to others as well. If they are going to trust you then they expect you to honor your commitments, period.

     

Every leader, every person really, has what I call a “credibility bank.” Every time we do what we say we will a small deposit is made into our bank. Every time we fail to do what we say we will do a large withdrawal is taken from our bank.

     

If that doesn’t seem fair get over it. Building trust takes time and real trust doesn’t come easy for most people. The next time you’re tempted to blow off a commitment just remember your credibility bank and maybe the temptation will pass.

     

If trust building must be intentional as I’ve already said it must, then how do you plan to go about it? Seriously, I’m suggesting to you that you don’t just let trust happen, don’t just assume that people trust you. I’m suggesting that you become intentional in building trust.

     

Take tons of notes about the commitments you’ve made, block time on your calendar to honor those commitments. Return phone calls, answer emails, if you say you’ll do something then by any and all means possible, do it! Always, every time, no exceptions and no excuses. 

     

Virtually everything you say and do sends you to your credibility bank, the only questions is; will you be making a deposit or withdrawal?


Think about that for a while and then get busy adding to your credibility bank!

It’s About Time

I remember a former colleague telling me about a performance review she once had. She was working as an assistant manager at a nationally known restaurant chain. It was kind of an upscale chain and as an assistant manager you would have been pretty well paid.

 

The day of her performance review arrived and she anticipated receiving high marks because she was in fact an excellent assistant manager. Almost.

 

As she expected her review went well; her manager pointed out several key areas where she outperformed expectations. She was equally as great with the staff as she was with customers. She understood the business and executed against the company objectives extremely well. Her manager offered abundant praise for her skills, abilities, and overall performance. 

 

Then, right in front of her and with great fanfare he tore her review into small pieces and tossed it in the trash. She sat there in shock for a moment before asking what he was doing. He replied that he threw it away because it didn’t really matter, it didn’t matter because there was one major flaw that made her skills and abilities far less valuable to the organization.

 

She had a problem, apparently a major problem, with punctuality. She was always running late, sometimes a few minutes and sometimes longer, sometimes much longer. 

 

He told her that all the skills and ability in the world didn’t matter if she couldn’t be counted on to be at work to use them. As an assistant manager she was setting a terrible example for the people she was supposed to be leading. 

 

The legendary former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Bud Grant, has always said that a player’s greatness was not only determined by what he did on the field, it was also determined by how often he was on the field. He makes the point that for a professional athlete durability is every bit as important as ability. 

 

No matter what profession you happen to be in you must know that skills don’t matter as much if your organization can’t count on you to be there when they need you. 

 

Punctuality matters. Your ability to be on time affects people’s perception of you as a professional. Calling from your cell phone to say “you’re running late” is not a substitute for being on time. 

 

Research shows that most people are terminated from jobs because of some sort of attitude problem. Chronic tardiness is not a time management problem, it isn’t a traffic problem, it isn’t a lack of sleep problem. It IS an attitude problem. Chronic tardiness projects either a “just don’t care” attitude or a “the rules don’t apply to me” attitude but either way it’s an attitude that you don’t want to be known for. 

 

If you can be a few minutes late everyday then you can also be a few minutes early everyday. 


You just have to decide that it’s about time to be more professional.

Who is Leading Who?

One of the main responsibilities of a leader is to fire their people! Not actually fire them but fire them up. 

 

Fire them up as in motivate them, challenge them, coach them, help them grow and help them succeed, again and again. If you’re in a leadership position and you’re not doing those things on a daily basis then you are simply not leading. 

 

If you’re in a leadership position and you’re not actually leading then you’re hurting the people you’re supposed to be helping. You’re also not helping the organization that has placed you into that leadership position and provided you with the opportunity to lead. 

 

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that your position makes you a leader. The only thing, the one and only thing that makes you a leader is leading. If you find yourself in a leadership position while lacking the skills required to truly lead then it is YOUR responsibility to seek out the help and training that you need to be a successful leader. 

 

Don’t wait for someone else to make you a leader, don’t expect the help you need to come to you. If you’re going to lead others then you must first lead yourself so lead yourself to the coaching you need to become a true leader.

 

If you’re following someone in a leadership position who lacks the skills to lead then you have three choices. 

 

You could just complain about it. You could point out their failings at every opportunity and become a drag on the entire organization. I’ve done that and it didn’t really work out well for anyone, especially me. 

 

You could, and should, attempt to lead up. By that I mean help fill the gaps of the person who is supposed to be leading you. You’ve no doubt already identified those gaps so try to use your own strengths to minimize the challenges those gaps cause within your company or organization. 

 

I’ll warn you that you may not get the recognition you deserve for leading up. Some people in your organization might even call you a suck up or worse. Even the person who is supposed to be leading you may be a bit leery about your motives but you’ll be doing the right thing. I can say with a high degree of certainty that doing the right thing will eventually pay off; it might take longer than you want but you can’t go wrong by doing right. 

 

The third option you have is to flee. Just leave, go find employment elsewhere. This is not as good an option as it may seem. While you left a problem behind you have no guarantee that you’re not just walking into another one. You also slow your own development by just leaving when the going gets a little tough. 

 

You may get lucky and join an organization that provides you with a true leader who works hard to develop and mentor you. If that’s the case then you’ve truly struck gold. The problem I have is with the luck part; I simply don’t like depending on luck for my success. 

 

I think most successful people would tell you that they made their success, they didn’t just luck into it. 

 

So I’ve written a bit here to leaders and the people who would follow them. I also want to say something to a third group. That would be the folks who put people who can’t lead into leadership positions. 

 

The truth is most organizations were able to “get away” with that for a long time. There used to be plenty of followers to go around and if an organization lost a few here and there they just plugged in some new people. 

 

Not anymore!

 

One of the key considerations an organization must make these days is who is leading who. If you have good young talent being led by a non-leader in a leadership position that good young talent will leave. That’s not a guess, that’s not a maybe, they will be gone, period. And they are getting harder to replace by the day. 

 

Whether you’re in Human Relations or another senior position within your organization, if you’re responsible for placing people into leadership positions then you better make sure you’re putting actual leaders into those positions. 

 

There is almost no bigger waste in business today than giving a bright, motivated potential superstar in your organization to a person in a leadership position who lacks the ability to help that bright, motivated individual achieve success.

 

There will always be some leaders who are better than others. You need to be certain that your best people are being led by your best leaders. That’s the reality of the business world in which we live today; no organization can afford to have their top people led by people who are not leaders.


You may want to consider dealing with it before it’s dealt with for you. 


What Your Customer Knows

I have heard one too many complaints lately about customers and most of the complaints have been from people in customer service roles. They have come from kind of a wide variety of businesses but the majority have been from people working in the retail industry. 

 

It’s those complaints and additional comments regarding customers that prompted this post. 

 

While the complaints and comments have come from a variety of industries they all seem to have the same underlying theme…. “we” would have much easier jobs if it weren’t for these pesky, demanding customers. 

 

Keep in mind that the vast majority of these comments have come from people specifically charged with caring for customers. 

 

I find that amazing. 

 

Now I don’t think they actually mean that they wish all their customers would leave; if they would just listen for a second to what they are saying I’m certain they would quickly realize how foolish they sound. 

 

It’s a couple of other comments however which are really concerning. A couple of people I had lunch with recently work in the call center for a huge brick & mortar retailer with thousands of stores around the United States.

 

It became clear that they really believed a good many customers they dealt with on the phone all day were just plain stupid. They assured me however that they were experts in hiding that “belief” from those same customers. I think these two “professionals” honestly believed that the customers were so dumb that they could not tell the true feelings of the reps on the phone. 

 

If you’re a customer service representative of any kind and you told me 1000 times that you had the absolute ability to hide your true feelings and emotions from the customers you interact with I would tell you 1000 times that you are wrong. 

 

And I don’t believe in telling anyone they are wrong. But in this case you are as wrong a wrong could be.

 

You can only hide the fact that you believe the people you’re dealing with are stupid for so long. Sooner or later, likely sooner, much sooner, the people will figure it out. A few words here, a little tone of voice there and your “professional” demeanor is betrayed. 

 

Your customers know whether or not you respect them. Your customer knows whether or not you value their business. They know when you think they are a pain in the butt. I mean seriously, you can tell when you’re annoying someone, you can tell when the customer service rep just wants to get you off the phone….well guess what, your customers can tell that too. 

 

But that’s not the important lesson in this post. The lesson is this: your customers are NOT stupid. Yes, they may get some things wrong, they might not understand all your “policies” and they may at times exaggerate because they don’t trust you enough to take the matter seriously if they don’t. You likely do know more about their situation than they do but hey, you’re supposed to, you’re getting paid for it.

 

If you’re in any kind of position where you interact with customers you must treat with them the full level of respect that they deserve and I didn’t say deserve by accident. They aren’t just paying for your products, they are paying to be treated fairly and with respect. If you find yourself unable to do that on a very consistent basis then you need to find another line of work. Sorry to be so direct with that but hey, if you’re not taking care of the customer you’re not taking care of the business. 

 

There is this great big hulking monster of retail out there largely unencumbered by bricks and mortar who will take care of your customer if you don’t and in doing so they will take your business with them. 

 

In today’s business environment if you think that outstanding customer service is optional you won’t need to be thinking much longer.


Think about that!