What Matters?

Who Are You, Really?

I was listening to a speaker recently who said, “Tell me what you do with your time. Tell me your passions, interests, what is important to do when you have free time, what you watch on TV, what you read, if you read, and I will know who you are as a person. If you spend most of your time on meaningful tasks, you have become or are becoming a meaningful person, if all you do is shallow and superficial, then that is who you will become.”

Have you ever asked yourself, “Who am I?” Have you ever even pondered the question?

It is like asking a person what do you do? They respond, “I am a doctor,” or “I am a CEO,” or a salesman, researcher, etc. My response is, no, that is what you have become, but not who you are.

I have discovered reading!

Now that may seem to be a strange public acknowledgement, but it is true. In the past I had not been a reader of anything that did not have to do with business or my career. I just had not discovered the value of it. I was too restless, too impatient, too naïve in understanding what I would gain from this time. BOY WAS I WRONG!

What Matters - Books PhotoI have been reading personal development works by Brené Brown, spiritual books by Rick Warren, Brennan Manning, and the Bible. I have started reading interesting books for the sheer joy of just reading. I’ve also become interested in Minnesota-based mystery books by local authors and have been receiving recommendations from others of books I should read as they are learning that this is a personal interest.

Regardless of what I am reading at the time, I have found value: Value that may be is as simple as relaxing enjoyment, Value in reading something that resonates with me in terms of imperfections that I need to decide if I care enough to adjust, Value in spiritual understanding and developing an intimate relationship with my God, Value in just challenging my mind and thoughts on a topic, Value in something that makes me a more interesting and broader person, reading something that I have enjoyed and may be of interest to those around me.

Looking at the compilation of my reading, here is a personal discovery (interesting at least to me) that I am learning to embrace from my reading, as it has created a new level of comfort, calmness, and perspective:

When I accept myself as whom I am, that I am “good enough.” I feel a decrease a hunger for power and control because my comfort with acceptance and intimacy increases my inner sense of security. I no longer try to “fit in” and instead find that I want to “belong.” I have a diminished NEED for being powerful or popular. I no longer fear criticism as I accept my shortcomings and personal human limitations. I have learned and understand that learning, transformation and maturity is an endless process.

Reading is allowing me to define more of who I am.

If there are any books you would highly recommend, jot a note in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.


One Shining Moment

There are few recaps of any collegiate event that are so iconic in their meaning and association and can stir as much emotion as the NCAA College Basketball National Tournaments, “One Shining Moment.” If you are a basketball fan, or at least a follower of the NCAA Championships, that theme elicits memories and emotions.

CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz put the power of the video montage, shown at the conclusion of the national championship game into perspective: “Every kid that takes this stage, knows the song, knows the lyrics, knows what it means, dreams of stepping foot on that platform come Monday night. That song is really being played for them, dedicated to them.”

Watch the video from the 2016 NCAA March Madness: http://tinyurl.com/z66emqy

First the obvious: The music touches your emotions, along with the energy and emotions of the young players chasing a dream most of them have had for years. The exhilaration of success in a win and the devastation of their dream coming to an end is felt. The entire team’s entourage is dreaming of winning the last game of the season as National Champions. However, only one team will realize this dream, all but one will experience the wrenching side of a loss. But were there any losers?

What strikes me as less transparent: We see the passion and the love of the game that transcends to success whether it is winning the last game of the season, or just being in the tournament as one of the best 64 teams in the country. We feel the story of the human spirit and the power of dreams, effort, emotions, team work and the overcoming of adversity. It is striving for ONE SHINING MOMENT as a result of a string of countless smaller less transparent shining moments strung together to produce the outcome portrayed.

We see the final outcome, not the journey. What we do not see, as in the case of most significantly successful events, changes, and outcomes are the countless hours in the gym, the sacrifice, the weight room training sessions, all those games of success as well as failure. We do not see what is happening in the locker room. There are countless stories of individuals where sports saved their lives by providing them a scholarship and entry into college where they have the opportunity to be part of a team and to experience the feeling and joy of belonging and success.

Moving off the basketball court, there’s something else we often don’t see: The years of commitment of a young employee in corporate life that culminates in being named CEO. We only see the outcome and say to ourselves, “lucky guy or lady,” or “how cool.” I sometimes reflect on the time I’ve spent mentoring a young person on what it takes to succeed in corporate life; the patience, doing what is needed despite the manager, looking for opportunity, paying your dues, taking some risk, developing relationships, and putting in the hours. I have mentored many, yet only a few will do what is needed. Others find fault in everyone around them for their stagnating corporate career. They fail at reaching their ultimate shining moment as they are not willing to have a series of smaller shining moments on their journey.

We do not see the person who makes a decision to change in order to achieve their personal desires in business, in life, in relationships. We do not see the struggles, the emotions, the leaning into the issues, for something that is staggeringly important. If someone is willing, and has the courage to take the risks and make the commitment to strive for their own shining moment, then they will be willing to seek help from resources beyond themselves.

We do not see the transformation when intellectual knowledge is applied to behavior to bring about change. We do not see the journey or the passion it takes to reach for and attain the desired outcome. We may not see how someone prays that those around them will take the time and have the patience to lean into the journey with them in order to experience the magnitude, joy, and amazement of being part of the final outcome.

Caribou has a slogan, “Life is short. Stay awake for it.” This is meaningful for those who desire to truly be alive and awake for themselves and those around them. This is also meaningful for those “inner circle” people in a person’s life who want to share in the joy and excitement of an amazing future.

What we see in the NCAA’s “One Shining Moment” is that it’s one thing to rejoice in the moment of victory and another to honor the journey that brought us here.

I tip my hat to those willing to do what it takes to make a change, to be humble along the journey, to make the sacrifice and be patient, to strive to be their best, to strive to be part of the ONE SHINING MOMENT through a series of smaller, less noticed shining moments.

Cowboy Values

A Retreat Surprise

Cowboy Values Book CoverWithout looking at the title, there are certain books and writings that by reading just the first few words you know immediately what the subject is:

  • “We the People…” the Declaration of Independence
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Tale of Two Cities
  • “Call me Ishmael.” Moby-Dick
  • “In the beginning…” the Bible

What is the opening line of the book of “YOU”?

Let me take a step back and provide some context.

Recently I attended a retreat and had time to do some reflection, reflection that focused my attention inward, blocking out the external thoughts of the day and week to focus on what really mattered to me. This retreat enabled me to “lean into” myself. I used this time to learn, discover, reinforce, and adjust what I knew about life, relationships, and what matters to me.

Isn’t that what a retreat is all about?

I heard an analogy that dealt with this exact behavior: External forces (friends, significant others, workshop, and spiritual leaders) can provide us with an amazing spark, yet it is up to the individual to sprinkle it with an accelerant in order to turn the spark into a raging fire of size and significance. When we receive a spark we must intentionally commit to do something with it—to provide it with fuel to continue burning and create change.I have learned that the value in having this knowledge is doing something with it. Having intellectual knowledge without applying it to change a behavior or action, is a total waste of God-given talents and respect for your own time. 

Have you ever found yourself learning great things and then later finding you never applied what you learned? Think about it. If the answer is “yes” then STOP IT!

Memo to Self: Good information often comes from a source you least expect, keep your eyes open! This seems to occur more often when you have opened your mind and heart to be graciously receptive to outside input, influence, suggestions, criticism, and assistance—this retreat was no different. Here’s what I mean:

While on a break during that retreat, there was a book sitting on the table, Cowboy Values, Recapturing What America Once Stood For by James P. Owen. It caught my attention as I had read his first book, Cowboy Ethics, What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West. I knew I had to read Cowboy Values before I left the retreat.

Here are some thoughts from Cowboy Values that resonated with me:

Have you ever sat down and contemplated how society has changed since your childhood? For many of us, we have had perhaps 40 to 50 plus years of observation, opportunity, and now reflection. One thing that clearly stands out: Society has changed. We all are far more self-absorbed: “It’s all about me!” and “What’s in it for me?” or “Yes, I understand, but let me tell you about me!” have become common place in our culture. This self-absorption has permeated our nation. And it is not just one generation—it crosses all boundaries of age, race, religion, and nationality.

Am I wrong? Is it only me (and James P. Owen) that feels this way? What long-term impact does this have for how we relate to those around us? Does it challenge a person’s authenticity?

According to James P. Owen in Cowboy Ethics, there are 10 principles to live by. However, there are three that particularly resonate with me:

  1. Live each day with courage – Do not be afraid to take risks; courage is not bravery. It takes inner strength to live our lives as they were intended, with authenticity, honor, and truth. As researcher Brené Brown has so effectively described, vulnerability is the key to intimacy and to great joy and belonging.
  2. Always finish what you start – Do as you say and say as you do!
  3. Talk less, say more – Close your mouth and listen to the words.
It is who we are that overshadows by a thousand-fold what we may have.

I’d also like to share two of the seven Core Values discussed by Owen’s in his second book that I am intentionally making a part of my daily life:

  1. Authenticity – Are you the “real deal”? Do you carry that touch of confidence that goes along with knowing what you are all about mixed with the proper level of humility that is direct, obvious, and resonates through your actions and behavior?

Authenticity grows from:

  • Understanding one’s self as a whole person, something that takes deliberate time to discover and embrace.
  • Satisfaction in being who we are (and not trying to be anyone else)
  • Actions guided by a coherent set of core beliefs
  • Recognizing our own strengths and weaknesses (and acknowledging them as part of who you are as we are all sinners and to not believe this is deceiving yourself and others) and graciously accepting input from others as we work on our weaknesses
  • Saying what you mean
Honor is the personal integrity and character of a person.
  1. Honor – This is an inward belief and behavior that allows a person to know that they will be honorable in their behavior and decision making. It means doing the right thing especially when no one is looking. It is a moral compass that guides us. In Bill George’s book, Discover Your True North, he talks specifically about how this trait is so critical in corporate leadership, personal growth, and relationships.

I would be remiss if I did not reference an added third core value of my own —having a deep intimate faith and relationship with God. I have come to believe that these are three of the critical core values that define a person and me personally. By incorporating these principles and values into our lives we have the foundation for living out the gifts and talents given to us (as they were intended) and to have a meaningful life and relationships.

Now, back to the opening of this “rambling”: How might your core values and principles influence the first few words of the book of YOU?  

Cowboy Values, Recapturing What America Once Stood For, James P. Owen; Lyons Press
Cowboy Ethics, What Wall Street Can Learn from the Code of the West, James P. Owen; Stoecklein Publishing

Discover Your True North, Bill George; Jossey-Bass