Archive for August, 2007

As Within, So Without

Friday, August 31st, 2007

Over the past couple of days I’ve been reading an excellent book titled, The Man In The Mirror, by Patrick Morley. Pat’s main goal in this book is to help men find deeper significance and lead more balanced lives. But as I read the book I began thinking to myself that many of the problems that men face are due to inner battles that are going on within them. If we have a peaceful inner life, then our outer life will be peaceful. If we are in turmoil in our inner life, then our outer life will be in turmoil. So, it is with every human being. Our outer lives reflect our inner condition. As within, so without.

Our outer world is like a mirror that reflects back to us what is going on in our inner world. Everything that happens outside of you corresponds to something that’s going on inside of you. James Allen wrote a wonderful book titled As A Man Thinketh, which has gone on to become a timeless classic. He espouses the same idea – that our life is governed by our thinking. As within, so without.

I have come to discover that my outer world of people is reflected in my own own attitude. Whenever I have a positive, optimistic attitude, people respond to me almost immediately in a positive and cheerful way. Even my personal relationships mirror back exactly the kind of a person I am. When I am happy and optimistic and at peace, my relationships will be happy and harmonious and loving. But when my thinking is disrupted or negative for any reason this will be immediately reflected in my relationships. As within, so without.

Discover Your Highest Value Activities

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

One of the most important keys to making your mark is discovering what your highest value activities are. Not all the activities you engage in bring productivity and effectiveness into your life. You must be crystal clear about the key activities which bring most value into your life. Discovering this sets you apart from the mass of humanity who engage in random activity with no sense of direction or purpose. It puts you in a league of your own in which every action is deliberate and every move is geared towards enabling you to bring your very best to the table.

Here are some quick ideas on how you can discover your highest value activities:

1. Think about your performance.

Past performance is the greatest indicator of your highest value activities. Your performance reveals the results of your efforts and thus enables you to measure what activities bring the most results. Performance reveals where your strengths lie and enables you to focus on key activities that develop your strengths.

2. Ask your colleagues at work or supervisor.

Your co-workers or supervisor at work can be a great resource for discovering your high value activities. The easiest way to get this information is during a performance review, appraisal or assessment. Such tools can be critical in enabling you to discover where your greatest strengths lie so that you can focus on them.

3. Ask your family and friends. 

Nobody knows us better than those around us – our family and friends. In most instances, our family and friends have our best interests at heart and will tell us the truth when we sincerely want to develop ourselves. The people who observe us on a daily basis can provide valuable feedback that can enable us live more effective lives.

Once you get this information use it to enable you focus on your highest value activities.   

The Lost Art of Mentoring

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

I recently got hired as an adjunct instructor in the Business department at Indiana Wesleyan University’s College of Adult and Professional Studies in Cincinnati, Ohio. During the faculty orientation held earlier this month I was assigned a mentor who will guide me through my development as a learning facilitator at the university level. I was also encouraged to consider finding other instructors whom I can mentor, be it at the college or university level. This simple act spoke volumes to me. Mentoring is an art that has long been lost to so many leaders and it is a great encouragement to see that a University of Indiana Wesleyan’s calibre is committed to ensuring the existence of a strong mentor-ship environment.

What exactly is mentoring? Mentoring is simply a structured and trusting relationship that brings two individuals together, the mentor and the mentee. The mentor usually has more expertise, experience or knowledge and acts as a guide and coach to support and encourage the development of competence and character of the mentee. Mentoring is powerful because it enables the mentor to be of service in helping the mentee to unleash his or her potential. It also provides the mentor with an avenue through which he or she can expand influence and see the fruits of his or her labor come alive in another person’s life. Mentoring changes life. Every human being should not only have a mentor but should also mentor others to become all that they can be. Rediscover the power of mentoring by finding other individuals whom you can build mentoring relationships with.

The Key Ingredient of Successful Teams and Groups

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

If you could take everything we know about teams and groups, put it all in a large pot, boil it and distill it down into its critical essence, we will find that it is all about people. People are the greatest asset of any team or group. Your team or group may have the latest gadgets and state of the art equipment but unless it has quality people who value one another and are passionate about the mission, the team or group will not excel. Building a winning team or group begins with a focus on the people within the team or group.

Most, if not all, of the success of a team or group of individuals will depend on their ability to get along with one another. That is why any President, regardless of country, always selects a cabinet of people who get along with him and with one another. The group has to exhibit a commitment to the team vision and a desire to help each other as they all endeavor to realize this vision. Teamwork does make the dream work but it’s people who make the team possible. In the final analysis then, it all starts with choosing quality people who will make the team a success.

Everything you have ever learned of value with regards to teams and groups is only helpful to the degree to which it contributes to the success of individual team-members and their ability to get along with one another. Successful teams and groups know that it’s the people within them who are of primary importance, not the vision, strategy or objectives. People are the greatest asset of a team or group and the key ingredient for success.

The Desire to Excel

Monday, August 27th, 2007

There may be many things that distinguish between human beings but nothing is more common to all human beings than the desire to excel. We all want to achieve excellence at what we do, even though the definition of that may vary between different people. For some people, excellence may mean success at what they do, for others it may mean significance, for some it might mean power and authority. There may be many different definitions of achievement but we all want to be somebody and to have a feeling of importance.

The key to becoming excellent in life is to discover what one is gifted in and to commit to developing this on a daily basis. For instance, I am continuing to discover that I have a gift in writing. That is why I have maintained a habit of blogging daily since December 2006. I continue to work on developing other aspects of my writing but blogging remains the number one avenue for me to do this. Along with discovering our gifts, we must play to our strengths. I have found that my strength (in terms of writing) is in non-fictional, personal and organizational development material. I not only write about this area but also read a lot of personal and organizational development material. This helps in sharpening my thinking and keeping me abreast of what is happening in my field.

You can achieve excellence in your personal life. The key is to major on those things that you are naturally suited for – your gifts, talents, strengths, etc. There are hundreds of materials on the market that can help in discovering what you are good at. There are people around you who can help you understand what you are good at. Learning to find what you are good at is perhaps one of the greatest investments one will ever make in themselves. Find what you are good at and pursue the excellence you were born to attain.

The Acid Test of Determination

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

We all have dreams and desires to go beyond our current levels or experiences of life. Progress, however, is never smooth. In all my endeavors I have discovered that any initiative will always have it’s challenges. Nothing comes easily, no matter how much we may want to have an ‘easy button’. There will always be problems, and even crisis, to go through. What takes winners through such challenges is the quality of their determination. The acid test of determination is your commitment to stay the course and not quit when the challenges come your way.

General Douglas MacArthur said, “Age wrinkles the body; quitting wrinkles the soul”. Quitting prevents you from experiencing the fullness of what could be. Their is a vast gap between what is and what could be and that gap can only be filled by a determination that resists the temptation to quit. In order to become and be all you can be you have to make a quality decision that you will not quit without exploring all the possible solutions for your challenges. There is always a solution to every challenge. Yes there are certain times when quitting is a solution (please read Seth Godin’s groundbreaking book, The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When To Quit And When To Stick). There are certain things that you must look at critically before making that decision (Seth explains this better than I’ve ever heard anyone do).

Choose to stay committed and to stay the course. The acid test of your determination is your willingness to do all you can and need to in order to experience all you can.

Design Your Own Life Plan

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

Jim Rohn is famous for his depth of thought and philosophy. In my study this morning I came across a quote of his that I’d like to share. He said, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they might have planned for you? Not much”. It sounds pretty simple but that’s a powerful idea. If you are going to make a mark, you’ve got to design your own personal life plan. You can’t leave your future in the hands of other people. You’ve got to take control of your personal journey and choose to make it your very own masterpiece.

A couple of years ago, when I was still a University student in Nairobi, Kenya, I decided to sit down and develop a game plan on where I wanted to be in five years. This was some time in the year 2000. The main goal in my plan was to come to the United States and pursue a Masters degree. Well, five years later I had accomplished that. In 2001, I came to the US and in 2004 I graduated from Regent University with a Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership. 

I have found that having a personal plan is not only motivating but it also acts as a magnet that attracts to you the kind of lifestyle that you want. When I developed that goal as a student, I did not have a passport (therefore no visa) and I did not know how I would ever raise the money, first for coming to the US and second for my graduate education. It’s the designing of the plan that created the environment in which I was able to attract all that I needed for realizing the dream. Take time today to design your own life plan. It’s one of the most rewarding actions you will ever take for yourself.

The Need for Self-Motivation

Friday, August 24th, 2007

The past couple of days have seemed rather dry for me. As we advance towards the end of summer, it’s easy for motivation to run dry. I’ve found that the many books I’ve collected, the DVD and CD lessons in my possession and all the online newsletters I receive have been inadequate in keeping me as motivated as I need to be. There are times when all you have learnt turns out to be insufficient for facing the darts of life. You must find a way to keep going in spite of this because your destiny depends on your continued persistence in moving forward.

Progress is hard. It always has been and always will be. Even for consistent winners and high performers, it is a continued effort. You can make it easier by choosing to always stay committed to your personal development but you can never make growth an easy activity. However, once you accept that personal growth is hard, it somehow becomes a little easier. When you stop expecting growth to be something other than it is, much of the stress of developing yourself goes out of it. As William James said, “The first step in dealing with any difficulty is to be willing to have it so.”

So, today I told myself, “This is hard but I am committed to continually developing myself. I may not have material to motivate me but I have a passion deep within that burns like a fire. I will let that passion guide me as I journey towards my destiny. I am a winner and nothing will stop me.” Be self-motivated. Don’t allow dry spells to cast their shadow over your life. You may be going through a tunnel right now but in a little while you’ll be on the other side. Stay focused and the best will come in it’s time.

Recognizing Your Inner Check Engine Light

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

I drive a 2001 Isuzu Rodeo. It looks and runs great but it’s six years old! I love it. I’ve done a couple of things to add flavor to it and my family and friends like it. The rodeo has a DVD player in it that my son absolutely loves. It’s the first thing he always asks to be turned on when we get into the truck. It has a Sony navigation system that I absolutely love. I don’t have to stop and ask for directions anymore. It also has a six-disc CD changer system that my wife absolutely loves. Once she loads her favorite music discs in it we can cruise on and on all day. However, yesterday something happened that I’m extremely surprised by: the check engine light came on!

Have you ever felt like that in your personal life? Things are going well. You are having a blast and enjoying your life. Your family is doing well. You are being productive at work. Then all of a sudden, your inner check engine light comes on! Of course you won’t be able to recognize that the light was on if your focus was on all those things that are happening around and in your life and not on the dashboard of your life. Great vehicle operators keep their eyes on the road and their surroundings but also on their dashboard.

So, what’s the inner check engine light that you should keep an eye on? Think about a vehicle’s check engine light. What does it do? It tells you that there is something wrong with the engine. This is key to recognizing your inner check engine light because it also tells you that there is something wrong in your life. When the my vehicle’s check engine light came on it immediately brought pain with it because I was wondering what I was going to, whether the car would make it home, what the problem was, and many other things. Your inner check engine light works in much the same way. It brings you physical, mental and emotional pain.

The key to recognizing your inner check engine light is to carefully listen to and monitor your mind, body and emotions. These three give you guidance that can save you from a lot of trouble. When you experience pain, something is wrong with what you are thinking, saying or doing. Inner pain is an indication that you should stop doing what you are doing. Inner pleasure is an indication that you should continue doing what you are doing (provided it is a positive activity that is adding value to you and the people around you).  Learn to recognize and respond appropriately to your inner check engine light and you will experience lasting happiness and productivity in life.

Transforming Negative Pressure into Positive Pleasure

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

It’s been said over and over again that success comes through finding and doing what you love. The truth is that many of us end up engaging in things that bring tremendous pressure into our lives. From our jobs to families and social lives, we allow stress to become the driving force of our lives. Our responsibilities increase, duty becomes the story of our lives and everything in life becomes a battle. This ends up in headaches, high blood pressure, trouble in our relationships and all sorts of other maladies.

The pressure of living can be transformed into pleasure. All of us have moments of pleasure in life but if we are going to succeed and live significant lives, we must commit to increasing the overall degree of positive pleasure in life. By learning to love what we do and trending towards those things that enable us to add value and enjoyment to life, we can experience more positive pleasure in life. Positive pleasure is productive in that it allows us to find the energy for a fuller life.

Choose to transform your negative pressure into positive pleasure.

The Greatest Feeling in the World

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Life is an adventure. Every adventure brings with it different feelings at different times. Every season of life is governed by a different feeling. While all these feelings are essential for our growth and development, I believe that there is one feeling that stands out from the pack. I call it the greatest feeling in the world. It is the feeling that you are engaged in a cause that is greater than you are.

Regardless of one’s personality or temperament, we all want to be part of something that is greater than ourselves. Human beings have been created with an innate desire to contribute towards life in a way, shape and form that makes them feel superior to the challenges that occur in our journey of life. We have within our spirits and souls a certain desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Fulfilling this desire brings about the greatest feeling in the world.

Exercising Relational Fitness

Monday, August 20th, 2007

Great relationships are the key to an exciting life. Sound relationships can be likened to solid glue that connects us to society. There are two schools of thought when it comes to relationships:

The first is the group of people who believe that relationships are hard work. This group of people believe that you have to ‘work’ at making relationships work. The second is the group of people who believe that relationships are all about being smart in one’s approach to maintaining them. This group of people believe in getting into the ‘spirit’ of having good relationships. Which group are you in?

Probably eighty percent of our success in life comes from the relationships in our lives. Your attitude is the outward expression of everything that you are, and everything that you have become over the course of your lifetime. Your attitude has the greatest single impact on the relationships in your life. The development of a positive mental attitude is the indispensable requirement for great relationships in life.

To become and remain relationally fit, you must engage continuously in relational exercise. It is a never ending process that is dynamic, fun and engaging. Just as you do not achieve physical fitness and then discontinue physical exercise, you can not achieve relational fitness without being in the spirit of managing your relationships daily. It has to become an unconscious activity like breathing.

Everyone is Important

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

I have always believed that every single human being that I ever meet has something to offer me. Same with those that I may never meet. There are also so many people that you may never ever meet but they still have a lot they could offer you. It is therefore imperative that every single human being be treated with courtesy, kindness and respect. Having traveled extensively in East Africa, the United States, London and Jamaica, I have met hundreds of people who have influenced me in many different ways. My approach whenever I meet a new person is to look at them as a friend and not a stranger. I always have a sense of excitement, anticipation and an openness to learn when I meet new people.

We live in a society today in which individualism prevails. People find it easier to ignore strangers rather than welcome them. We find it easier to not show interest in people that are different from us, work in different organizations, have different careers, etc. Even in many organizations there are people who treat fellow employees rudely, employees who treat customers with disrespect and even customers who treat employees inappropriately.

Recognizing that everyone is important means being appropriate with everyone. It means fostering community and respect. It means living above average and going the extra mile with those whom we encounter daily. It means smiling at strangers. It means genuinely wanting to know the other person and share the joy of living with them. I have had the pleasure of living the first 25 years of my life in Africa and the last 6 in the US. There are huge differences in the general culture. Regardless of culture, everyone is important and needs to be treated with the respect, kindness, dignity and honor that communicates their value as human beings.   

How Do You See Yourself?

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Some years ago I worked for a car rental company located at the airport in Gypsum, Colorado. It was a fun job. I would sometimes go to the arrivals area and lead customers to our office where I would help them complete their rental contracts. Sometimes I would drive up to the plane and receive the high profile customers who didn’t want to spend much time at the office doing paperwork.

One of the things we (the rental team) did was upgrade customers to bigger cars and sell auto coverage in addition to the rental. In my first few days I would tell the customer about the upgrade and the insurance but I never went ahead and asked them to make the buying decision.

It was then that my manager pulled me aside and helped me diagnose why my sales were lagging. He had observed me make a couple of presentations and he suggested that I possibly had a ‘mental block’ that was limiting me from achieving better results with my customers. My manager then gave me a training DVD and asked me to watch it in the company break room. The main thing that stood out from the DVD for me that day was the power of self-image. The speaker pointed out that self-image was the number one obstacle to achieving higher productivity in any human endeavor.

As I thought about it I realized that self-image was the main thing I was dealing with. I had grown up in a family that was not business oriented and I never quite saw myself as a successful seller.  I had to break through this barrier before I started seeing better results from my presentations.

  

Become an Attractive Person

Friday, August 17th, 2007

The story is told that one of Abraham Lincoln’s advisers, urgently recommended a candidate for appointment to Lincoln’s cabinet, but Lincoln declined to follow his friend’s suggestion. When asked to give his reason Lincoln said, “I don’t like the man’s face.” “But the poor man is not responsible for his face,” insisted his supporter. Lincoln replied, “Every man over 40 is responsible for his face”.

While this is hilarious and demonstrates the humor of President Lincoln, there is great wisdom in these words. It’s clear from this story that we choose how other people respond to us, regardless of our looks. Our outlook, therefore, is more important than our looks. The presence we project is more important than the dress-sense we live by. Our attitude is more important than our appearance. Focus more on your outlook, your inner presence and your attitude. It is inner qualities like these that will endear you to the success or significance that you desire in life.

Get Excited About Your Life

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

One of the funniest things about life is that by simply getting excited we can set ourselves up for tremendous success and significance in life. Most people live boring lives. Henry David Thoreau said that most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. This blog is about exciting insights for empowered living because my goal is to produce and share ideas that make people excited about their lives, their jobs and their destinies.

Excitement is the spice that adds flavor into a person’s life. It is the magnet that attracts positive energy and brings results into our lives. Thoreau understood this very well. In his last letter to Myron Benton, dated 31 March 1862, he said, “You ask particularly after my health. I suppose that I have not many months to live; but, of course, I know nothing about it. I may add that I am enjoying existence as much as ever, and regret nothing.” Here was a man who was excited about his life all the way to the end!

Let’s get excited about our lives. Let’s get excited about the seasons that life brings our way. Let’s get excited about our families. Let’s get excited about our jobs. Let’s get excited about the future. The best is in the present and more of the best is in the future. Get excited about your life. 

Two Kinds of Change in Personal Development

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Earlier today I decided to invest about an hour in reflection as I reviewed my life over the past couple of years and some of the changes that I have experienced. My reflection revealed to me that I have had two kinds of changes: gradual changes and monumental changes. I’d like to explore some of these changes in today’s post.

Gradual Changes

Every day of my life brings some form of change into my life. Sometimes it’s a change of perspective, a change in how I approach an issue, a change in my personal styles, a change in associations and the like. These are minor changes. The process of growth basically means change. I am changing daily as I embrace a fuller expression of who I am as a person. Gradual changes are routine changes that are common to all human beings since we all pass through various seasons of our lives.

Monumental Changes

These are big changes that occur every once in a while in life. Key monumental changes in my life have included committing to live a Christian lifestyle, leaving my country and coming to live in the US, moving fron one state to another, getting married, leaving one form of employmeny for another, starting my own organization and many more. It’s the monumental changes in life that really set the pace for the gradual changes. Monumental changes are mostly life-altering events that have huge implications on our destiny and purpose in life.

Understanding these two kinds of changes hopefully will enable us to begin to grasp how different events or happenings shape different seasons of our lives.

Make a Vacation out of Your Vocation

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

This morning I came across a quote that I’m trying to wrap my mind around and apply it to my personal life. The quote is from Mark Twain. He said, “The secret to success in life is making your vocation your vacation.” Now, that’s huge!! The mass of humanity approach their vocations as hard work and that is why many get thrilled when they get a vacation day or time off from their vocations. It’s all over society. In school, students can’t wait for school to close so that they can go on their breaks or vacations. I know many people who shout for joy when there’s inclement weather and they can’t go to their vocations. I once worked with a friend who worked for time off. He would amass overtime and count it against his regular time so that he could stay home and watch TV.

How do we get to the place where our vocations become a vacation? First, I think we need to do what we love. This means discovering what we are talented at and doing our very best at that particular thing. Second, we must love what we do. This means changing our attitudes about work. Work is supposed to be fun. Work can become play if we choose to make it so! Third, we need to become single-focus people. Many times we dislike what we are doing because our minds are distracted by so many other things. This may also mean becoming mission-oriented in life. Have a guiding vision that defines who you are as a person.

The Magic of Concentration

Monday, August 13th, 2007

I have come to learn that there are no secrets to success in life. Success is not a mystery. There are explainable reasons as to why people become successful or not. One of the reasons that many people attain tremendous success, be it athletes, businessmen, students, musicians or anyone else is because of the magic of concentration. William Mathews said, “The first law of success is concentration – to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right or to the left.” Concentration is one of the basic essentials in the pursuit of success.

Concentration enables you to bring all your energies to a point of focus. Think of the sun. It is big and powerful but it cannot start a fire unless it’s rays are brought to a point of focus. Using a magnifying glass, you can harness the sun’s ability to start a fire easily. Concentration is essential for success. It allows for creativity and an indepth understanding of the task at hand. Golfers make great shots because of their ability to concentrate on that one particular shot and make it their best shot. You’ve got to do the same. Concentrate on the task at hand and you will greatly increase your productivity.

Serendipity: The Secret to Achieving Success

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Some time last year I wrote here about serendipity and synchronicity. Just this last week I came across a quote that perfectly captures the meaning of serendipity. Mountaineer William Murray once said, “The moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.” Isn’t that powerful? It’s all about commitment! Once you are committed, the whole world will conspire to give you that which you desire!

This quote really reminds me the circumstances surrounding my leaving Kenya and coming to the United States in 2001. I was denied the visa four times before I finally got it. Even after getting the visa, I did not have the money to pay for the air-ticket. It took an intense commitment before all these things started falling into place. Within no time I got the money for the ticket and also received a scholarship to the organization that had invited me to the US. That’s first class serendipity!

The secret to achieving your success therefore is to simply stay committed to your goal. As you do that, events, situations and circumstances will conspire to enable you realize your desires. They key question therefore is: ‘How committed are you to your goals?’