What Did You Learn Today?

I was in Boston earlier this year to give a Leadership Presentation. At some point during the talk I said that “every person on earth knows something that you don’t.” My point was that if we keep an open mind we can learn something from everyone we meet.

The next day I hopped in a cab for the short ride from Back Bay to Logan Airport. We were just a couple of blocks from my hotel when a car cut in front of us and my cab driver was forced to hit the brakes a little hard. 

He laughed a bit as he apologized and said that in his city there were many important people who were always in a hurry. He didn’t seem the least bit angry or frustrated by an occurrence that must happen frequently. 

I couldn’t place his accent but I could tell for sure that he wasn’t a native Bostonian; he probably wasn’t born in the U.S. either. But he had a wonderful sense about him; you could just tell he loved driving a cab and he loved the City of Boston.  

I asked him how long he had been driving a cab and he said “a very long time.” He had “completed” school and held several jobs before this one but he really loved this one because he learned more driving a cab than “in all his years of school.” 

He said his cab was like a classroom where he could study people. Over the years he had seen wealthy people who were never happy, happy people who would never be wealthy and poor people who were just happy to be alive.

He said “when you put them all in a pot together you learn that real happiness ain’t nothing more than a choice.” He says a prayer each day before he gets in his cab; he asks for wisdom to remember “his lessons” and for patience when the people around him don’t remember theirs.

He was an absolutely fascinating person to talk with. I had no idea when I got into that cab that a life lesson was waiting for me. It really is true, when you keep an open mind you can learn something from virtually anyone.

That also means you can learn something new almost every single day. With that in mind, what have you learned today? 

Should You Quit Your Job?

I’m tempted to make this post very short and say to quit your job the moment it begins to feel like work….but I know that not everyone is blessed with a job that they love.

When to quit your job is a big, difficult decision for many people. It should be, it’s a life altering decision. Younger people tend to quit their job too soon, they jump ship before they realize that what they don’t like about their job may be themselves. They get to their new place of employment and there they are; and many of their problems came with them. Older people sometimes stay too long, they “hang on” and overstay their usefulness instead of moving on to somewhere else where they might make a real difference.

Of course one of the biggest differences between younger and older employees is this: for younger people work is something they do; for older people work is some place they go. Younger employees work is “portable” but older employees work is located at a place filled with familiarity and that can be tough to leave.

So, when should you quit your job? My recommendation is to leave your job when it stops providing you the opportunity and environment where you can be happy. Now I want you to read that last sentence very carefully. It says stops providing you “the opportunity and environment”  to be happy. 

Do not expect your job or company to make you happy. It is not a requirement for your employer to make you happy. Companies that want to retain employees will however provide an environment where happiness and fulfillment are possible.

But your happiness is your responsibility. It is also your choice. When you allow others, your boss, your company or whatever, to determine your level of happiness then you give up a pretty important choice.

Successful people accept responsibility for all aspects of their life, including their happiness. 

Companies that provide that opportunity and environment have several things in common, here are a few of them:

They have trusted leadership. It’s tough to be happy when you’re looking over your shoulder.

They provide opportunities for advancement. Now once again let me point out that word “opportunity.” Opportunity does not mean a constant string of raises and promotions, it merely means the possibility for both exist when you EARN them.

They provide the opportunity for self-development. Companies are either developing their employees or they are using them. If you’re feeling used it will be nearly impossible to be truly happy. However, if your company offers you educational opportunities and you decline to accept them then you’re not being used. You’re just cheating yourself out of self-development that could lead to greater success.

Success to me is about much more than making a living, it’s about making a life. To make a life I believe that you must make a difference. 

If the place that you work does not allow you to make a difference then find some place that does. You of course do not have to make a life at the same place that you make a living. I might even encourage you to have more than one “place” in your life.

One more thing… if you do choose to stay at your job then you MUST do the job to the absolute best of your ability whether you like it or not. Failing to do so isn’t a whole lot different than stealing. If you accept the compensation then accept the work as well.

Is Your Life TBD?

Your life, at least everyday going forward is “to be determined.” The only question is, who will determine it. 

It’s a vital question. The answer likely determines both the level of your happiness and success. 

Here’s a few questions to help you become more aware of exactly who is determining your future:

Are you waiting for your life to happen? Do you wait for something to happen while successful people are making something happen? Are you waiting for your “big break” while successful people are making themselves a big break? Are you working hard or hardly working? Do you have goals and a plan? Do you go with the flow or create your own current?

One final question … Can you be honest enough with yourself to answer those questions truthfully?

No matter the circumstances surrounding your life, the economy, your education, where you live or where you grew up or your past experience, no matter what, your future will be determined by YOUR actions. Your actions are mostly determined by your attitude. Your attitude is completely your choice and by extension, so are your actions.

Even if a great opportunity does just “happen” along you still must have to courage to reach out and grab it, you must have to courage to take action.

Do you have an attitude of “can’t” or an attitude of “can?” When you hear yourself saying “I can’t” you best ask yourself one final question. Do you really mean “I won’t?”  I’d personally bet on the “I won’t” because the fact is, you almost certainly can.

There will always be excuses available to those who are willing to accept them but here’s another fact: the most successful people do not need excuses and they will not accept them when available. They simply outwork the need for excuses.

While hard work is good, hard work with goals and a plan is great. If you don’t have goals, true goals, then you reduce your chances of success ten-fold. The creation of goals leads to the development of the plans required to achieve them. In nearly every instance the lack of a plan leads directly to the lack of success.

If you’re blaming “them” or blaming “they” for your lack of success then think again. Until you accept responsibility for where you are you will never do what needs to be done to get yourself where you want to be. You and only you can put yourself somewhere else. When you accept the excuses available you surrender the awesome power of YOU! You allow other people and other stuff to determine your level of success and often, your level of happiness.

Bob Hope, the great American comedian and actor said: “I’ve always been in the right place and time. Of course, I steered myself there.” That’s a great quote, I especially like the part where he says “I steered myself there.” You can do that too!

It’s unlikely that you would buy the car of your dreams and then only allow other people to drive it. Why let other people steer the course of your life with their excuses for you?

Step up this week and step out into the light of harsh reality. You may not like where you are but in all likelihood you put yourself there. You are the only person in the world who can put yourself somewhere else.

I’ve used the word success quite a bit in this post but so far I haven’t really defined what true success is. I won’t define it for you because I can’t. Never let anyone but YOU define your success or tell you if you are happy or not. YOUR success and happiness can only be defined by YOU. If others don’t believe you’re successful enough or happy enough that’s their problem not yours. 

If you’re happy with “where you are in life” then by all means stay there. If you’re not happy with where you are, then by any and all means possible, get moving in the direction of your dreams.

Start today! 

Be Thankful and Be Happy

On Thursday, November 28, the United States celebrates the National Holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s the one day during the year where we officially stop to reflect and give thanks for all that we have. 

One day. That unfortunately is a stretch for some folks. Those are the people who struggle to see the good in anything. If they won the lottery they may very well complain about the taxes they are expected to pay. They just don’t appear to be very happy people. 

On the other hand, there are people for whom one day a year isn’t nearly enough. They are incredibly thankful people. They see the good in almost any situation. They are the same people who look at a tremendous challenge and see only opportunity. They just appear to be happy people. 

Think about that for a moment. 

People who struggle to be thankful also seem to struggle to be happy. Thankful people are happy people. I don’t know if you must be happy to be thankful or you must be thankful to be happy but it really doesn’t matter. It appears that happiness and thankfulness go hand in hand. 

As you come to the end of 2013 and look forward towards 2014 take or make the time to seriously reflect on what you’ve accomplished. Think about the challenges you’ve overcome and the rewards you’ve received. Focus on what you have NOW, and not on what you wish you had. Reflect on the mere fact that you have the tools required to read this likely makes you one of the wealthiest people in the world. You’re blessed, if you haven’t taken the time to realize that then realize it now.

You’ll never be happier than YOU allow yourself to be. In this, the most wonderful time of the year decide to be incredibly happy, every minute of the day.