How to Build a Better World

Your task is to build a better world,’ God said. I answered, ‘How?… this world is such a large, vast place, and there’s nothing I can do.’ But God said, in all His wisdom, ‘just build a better you.’ – Author Unknown

Every person I know seems to want a better world. Pretty much everybody you see on TV talk shows says they want a better world. All the politicians you hear and see are talking about how they have a plan to build a better world. 

All the plans seem to have one thing in common… Somebody else has to change or somebody else has to do better. It seems so daunting a task that few people actually attempt to make the world better. 

Pretty much everybody you see or hear talking about a better world forgets the easiest place to start… with themselves. It is just like the poem says, “build a better you.” 

Befriend people who aren’t like you. Don’t judge them, just try to understand them. Listen, really, really listen to someone who has a point of view very different than your own. Put yourself in their shoes and look at their point of view as if you were going to help them convince someone with your point of view… that your point of view is wrong. 

It’s very difficult to learn new things when we invest our time only with people who think like us, act like us, and do the things we do. Expand your horizons by expanding your sphere of influence, have a conversation with someone you normally wouldn’t at least once a week. 

Learn a foreign language and while you’re at it learn about the country and people who speak it natively. Don’t criticize someone else’s thinking without first understanding the origin of their thoughts. You may discover that the only reason you don’t like someone is because you don’t know them well enough.

Don’t wait for someone to ask for help, don’t offer to help someone who you think needs it… just help whenever and wherever you see help is needed. Don’t aspire to a position or title that people will follow, instead inspire them to follow the PERSON that YOU are. 

Never, never, never try to be someone that you’re not. Don’t try to imitate someone else, simply be the best you, the you that you have always been meant to be.

Invest time and energy in building a better you every single day and imagine just how much better the world would be if every other person followed your lead. 

If you really want to build a better world… then begin by building a better you!

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.

Why You Need a Mentor

I am darn near perfect. The only thing that keeps me from just outright declaring my perfection is that I am also very humble. If other people could see my perfection the world would indeed be a better place!

I remain perfect pretty much right up to the time someone who cares about me talks some sense into me… then I see a little different me.

You don’t see yourself the way others see you. You may not think you’re perfect but because you’re human you likely hold yourself to a somewhat different standard than you hold others. It is much easier to state your principles than it is to live them.

The person that talks some sense into me is called a mentor. (or my wife but that’s a different post) They are a truth teller. They see my world from the outside, without the fog of ego, defensiveness, shame, and the need to be liked.

They see me the way others see me and they paint me a picture so I can see it too. 

That helps me be a better me. If you want to be a better you then you need a mentor. If you don’t want to call them a mentor then call them a coach. You can call them whatever you like but they need to care enough about you to invest in your growth by being honest with you. Even when “honest” hurts. It’s okay to be friendly with them but they don’t necessarily have to be a friend, it might be better if they weren’t. 

You can hire a professional coach or select someone that you admire and that most people see as successful… however you define successful. Whether your coach/mentor is paid or not that best way to repay them is by following their advice. Listen, REALLY LISTEN, to what they have to say, linger on their words until they sink in. If you’ve picked the right mentor then they are telling you the truth. If they are telling you the truth then you NEED to listen. 

Regardless of your current level of success you will be better off with a mentor. Even if you’ve reached the pinnacle of your career you will be better off with a trusted sounding board. 

A coach or mentor will not tell you what your principles are, they just help you live them.

If You Want Better Then Be Better

I would hazard a guess that every person on earth wants “better.” They want to do better, have better, speak better, love better or just plain be better. 

It doesn’t matter what race they are, it doesn’t matter what country they are from. Their faith or lack of faith, their age, and their level of education doesn’t matter either. Everyone wants better.

I’d guess a day hardly goes by that the majority of humans don’t think of something or someone that could be better. Sometimes that “thought” turns into a complaint. Sometimes people will give voice to that complaint by saying “why doesn’t somebody do something?” 

Why indeed! 

Can you imagine a world in which that question was never asked? Can you imagine a world in which instead of asking that “why doesn’t” question they just did it?

Can you imagine a world in which YOU never ask that question but instead just do something?

I’m reminded of a poem first shared with me 25 years ago by my great friend and mentor, Mark Norman. I think of this often when I fall into the trap of thinking “somebody” ought to do something. Here is the poem: 

Your task,

To build a better world said God.

I answered: “How?”

The world is such a large vast place

So complicated now,

And I so small and useless am,

There’s nothing I can do.

But God in his great wisdom said: 

“Just build a better you”.

                          Author unknown

There are certainly many things that could be better that you and I have no control over.  Trying to control those things will only add unneeded stress to your life. So instead of trying to control what you can’t why not commit to controlling and bettering what you can.

You!

One of my goals for each day is simple: be a little better today at something than I was yesterday. It’s a worthy goal and some days I achieve it. I achieve it on the days when I intentionally go after it. The key to achieving almost any goal, even simple ones, is intentionality. You won’t get better by accident, you’ll get better by purpose, on purpose, for a purpose.

Decide today that the “somebody” who “ought to do something” is you. Make a plan, set a goal and get after it! 

Always remember, when you make a difference for even one person you have made a difference for the world. Even if that one person is just little ol’ you.

How Coachable Are You?

They say that in football (okay, in American football) defense wins games. That seems to be the case, especially in the big games.

It’s a very different story in the game of self-improvement. Defense loses. Loses big as a matter of fact. The more defensive you are when someone is giving you advice the harder it will be for you to succeed.

Every long-term successful person I know has had or does have a coach or a mentor. It’s usually someone that they admire. Perhaps it’s someone they aspire to be like. Whatever the case, it’s always someone they trust and they trust them enough to let their defenses down and really listen to what they have to say.

If you’re going to be coachable enough to accelerate your chances at success you’re going to have to accept that pretty much everything your coach or mentor tells you is possible.

It’s possible you’re not as good as you think you are in some areas. It’s possible that other people see some things in you that you don’t see in yourself. It’s even possible that you’re better in some areas than you think you are.

If you’ve chosen the right coach or mentor then LISTEN to them. Not only is it possible they are right, it is likely that they are right.

Here’s a little test to determine if you’re really listening – after you’re offered advice do you respond with a quick “yes, but?” That quick “yes, but” is a good indicator that you’re not listening. Now, you crafty people that never say that – if you’re thinking it then that is another good indicator that you’re not really listening.

Coachable people are great listeners. They are willing to learn from anyone. They consider all advice; even the advice they eventually discard was considered for it’s possibilities.

If you are fortunate enough to have a coach or a mentor then follow their advice. They have your best interests at heart. Listen to them, watch them, learn from them. You can take years off your journey to success if you’re willing to accept the fact that other people may just know some stuff that you don’t.

One last thought – some of those people that might know something you don’t…. well some of those people might just be people that you don’t trust. They might be people that you don’t like.

If you’re open minded you can still learn from those people. They may not intend to help you but if you pay close attention you can learn from them. You may learn what to do or you may learn what not to do but either way you learn. All knowledge is useful when you’re striving to succeed.

The most successful people learn something everyday and they are willing to learn from anyone.

Are you coachable enough and successful enough to do that?