Want More Energy? Keep it Positive!

association, attitude, freedom, leadership, Optimism, positive mental outlook

Have you ever interacted with a person who left you amused, baffled, frustrated or down right angry?  If you get out of the house much I know you have.  And if you are anything like me you’ve probably laughed some of it off, told some of them off or complained about one or two of them to a co-worker, spouse or friend.  Now certainly we all need a way to relieve the pressure that builds in dealing with interesting folks (if you know what I mean), but how we vent the inevitable buildup can mean the difference between failure and success on any given day.

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know of everybody.”  Now wait a minute, surely Mr. Franklin didn’t intend that to apply to your hard-nosed boss or the “moron” who cut you off in traffic.  And certainly he wasn’t referring to the unpatriotic pessimist who told you he’s fleeing the country to live life out on a beach.  It can’t possibly apply to your in-laws and their unsolicited advice—or maybe it does. While venting can ease immediate frustration, perhaps Mr. Franklin was also giving a sound formula for managing attitude and effort on a daily basis.

According to Dr. David Schwartz, author of the Magic of Thinking Big, we are a product of our environment; he is referring more to our psychological environment than our physical one. Wow! If that is even partially true, how long should we remain in the “moron’s” psychological environment?  It makes me wonder if dwelling on or gossiping about them perpetuates the environment?

Some of the most successful men in American History were Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.  They accomplished nearly super-human feats with what appeared to be boundless energy.  Perhaps not so coincidentally both created mechanisms to improve their psychological state.  Among these were affirmations that encouraged them to avoid gossip in all its forms. Many of Franklin’s 13 virtues, that he systematically attempted to master throughout his life, dealt with creating a positive encouraging environment in all human interaction.  Washington followed a pamphlet called the Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation to help him develop a sincere demeanor in both professional and personal interactions.  In it he learned to: “1. Sleep not when others speak… speak not when you should hold your peace…; 6. Shew not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy; 9. Let your conversation be without malice or envy, for ‘tis a sign of tractable …nature, and in all causes of passion permit reason to govern;  13. Speak not evil of the absent for it is unjust.”
Often I think in our fast paced, technologically advanced society we discount these age old rules of civility, but today books like How to Win Friends and Influence People have repackaged these concepts, concepts that go well before Washington’s time.  So let me conclude with this piece of wisdom that goes back some 2500 years.  Perhaps you’ve even read this Aesop Fable to your kids:

A Farmer placed nets on his newly-sown plow lands and caught a number of Cranes, which came to pick up his seed.  With them he trapped a Stork that had fractured his leg in the net and was earnestly beseeching the farmer to spare his life.  “Pray save me, Master,” he said, “and let me go free this once. My broken limb should excite your pity.  Besides, I am no Crane, I am a Stork, a bird of excellent character; and see how I love and slave for my father and mother. Look too, at my feathers—they are not the least like those of a Crane.” The Farmer laughed aloud and said, “It may be all as you say, I only know this: I have taken you with these robbers, the Cranes, and you must die in their company.”


The moral: “Birds of a Feather Flock Together”


The next time we need to blow off a little steam let us pause to think about who we are about to psychologically “flock together with.”  For whether we see ourselves as one of them or not doesn’t change the fact that our minds are still caught up in the very same net. So if for no other reason at first than to preserve our own energy stay clear of the net of gossip and negativity so that our minds and activities can focus on freedom and productivity in all its forms.

Trust, Traitors and Tax: What Does Trust Cost?

freedom, resolutions, trust

I received a visit the other day from an agent of the US Department of Defense.  Upon presenting his credentials to me, he asked if I would be willing to entertain a few questions about the character of a friend of mine who I knew was considering a high security clearance position with the DOD.  I experienced no cross examination or intense scrutiny, but the questions were devised to establish two things: first, was this man trustworthy and second, was he moral?  This short conversation caused me to consider the cost of distrust in our society.

I’m not just talking about the cost of government policy created to determine the character of the employees who will be placed in positions of trust, but rather the unseen economic and relational costs born by societies of low trust.  Ralph Waldo Emerson declared, “Our distrust is very expensive.”  Consider the expense of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, enacted in the backlash of corporate scandals ranging from Enron to WorldCom.  According to Steven M. R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust,  implementing one section alone of that bill cost 35 billion dollars, leading him to declare, “Compliance regulations have become a prosthesis for the lack of trust—and a slow-moving and costly prosthesis at that…when trust is low, speed goes down and cost goes up.” (p 14) Such cost I remember well while acting as a General Manager in an International 500 Corporation tasked with trying to comply with that very act.  Even though I could understand the motive, I felt less trusted and more divided between compliance and productivity then ever.

While we can measure the dollars and cents costs of low trust environments economically, can one measure its impact on peace and security?  Benedict Arnold and his associates during the Revolutionary War provide an excellent case study on the subject.  Arnold was a brilliant military man, fearless in combat and courageous beyond measure, but his actions off the battlefield did not endear him to others.  On more than one occasion, he resigned his commission rather than subject himself to a fellow officer promoted into a command he felt he deserved.  Time and again his pride and ego tripped him up and broke down trust as he abandoned his team.  His loyalties were to himself.  At one point his character was questioned in a court martial proceeding that ended in a formal reprimand.  In spite of these suspicions, Washington needed capable military leaders and decided to give Arnold another chance by granting him command of West Point, a strategic American fort.

In debt, suffering from envy and feeling disrespected, the duplicitous Arnold, turned his back on his country and plotted to surrender West Point to the British in return for 20,000 pounds and a command as general in the British Military.  In a dramatic espionage climax, the plot was discovered, and Arnold escaped down the river to a British ship just before Washington rode in to his quarters with the intent of capturing the traitor.  The costs were high, trust had been lost on both sides, the British paid over 6,000 pounds to Arnold and gave him a high commission and a significant pension, but noted British Parliamentarians such as Edmund Burke considered this an erosion of military strength, stating, “the sentiments of true honour which every British Officer [holds] dearer than life, should be afflicted” by this action.  Military and Government officials on both sides had lost respect and trust as a result of one man’s actions.

With critics on both sides of the ocean, Arnold had gained a high commission but had lost respect.  James Thatcher, an MD during the war, quoted an officer in his journal as having said, “It is not possible for human nature to receive a greater quantity of guilt than [Arnold] possesses.  Perhaps there is not a single obligation, moral or divine, but what he has broken…His late apostasy is the summit of his character.”  Arnold died at age 60 suffering from dropsy, gout and delirium before passing on, but his greatest pain must have been the loss of respect and trust which he had so doggedly pursued.

It’s been said that nothing is as fast as the speed of trust.  High trust yields high self confidence, powerful relationships, improved economic conditions and strong organizations.  So the next time you consider breaking your word to yourself or others, consider the cost of broken trust and then resolve to lubricate the track of success with actions that build trust!

James Forten Powerfully Demonstrates How to Get Better not Bitter!

achievement, Blog Entries, Constitution, Education, George Washington, personal development

If you have ever endeavored to step out of the crowd, either in the attempt of achieving a lofty personal goal or undertaking a difficult cause, I am sure that you have been ridiculed or demeaned in the attempt.  In these defining moments you can either decide to quit and get bitter or push forward and get better.

LISTEN TO THIS AMAZING STORY about JAMES FORTEN and how he, in spite of opposition and unfair treatment, succeeded and had a powerful impact on his community!

George Washington and Analysis Paralysis?

achievement, Education, freedom, George Washington, Personal Application

It’s hard to imagine George Washington experiencing analysis paralysis, but the truth is we all do.  The trick is overcoming it.  CLICK HERE TO FIND out what Fred Smith, Founder of FedEx and George Washington have in common….