Character Counts For Something, Right?

“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

John Wooden   as quoted in How to Be Like Coach Wooden: Life Lessons from Basketball’s Greatest Leader (2006) pg. 5

I hate getting wisdom from athletic coaches.

As  a boy, I was rather non-athletic and I lived in a rural area where most boys were “real” boys who enjoyed hunting and fishing, were rugged and strong, and enjoyed the heck out of team sports.

Since I was “none of the above”, I felt a little out of place.   A little time in the Army cured me of the delusion that I could not become stronger and more rugged and a long period of running 5Ks, 10Ks, and longer races did help me see myself as somewhat athletic.   

But that’s not the point of this post.

Wooden points out a great reality:   You control your character, but you do not control your reputation.

Reputation is in the mind, but not yours

Your reputation is in the minds of other people.  You can influence, you can manipulate, you can campaign, you can try to trick, but ultimately those other brains still function independently of you.

Good thing to keep in mind about a great many life issues.

Character is all in your head

Character is built on what you think, what you say, and what you do … all of which are in your span of control.

Character is visible to other people, at least in part, so your overt behaviors may influence how someone else regards you.  Just remember you cannot control that regard, only influence it.

Character ultimately has more to do with how you view yourself and your world.

   Character really is all in your head.

Trying hard to remember this one because it’s important in the Heartland ….


I Worry About You …

“You’ll worry a lot less about what people think of you when you realize how little time anyone spends thinking of you.  They’re too busy with their own stuff.”

This was today’s Great Work Provocation.   These little gems appear regularly in my inbox and are never deleted without reading.  I will always make time to open any message from Box of Crayons,  because I can trust that value resides within.

I have never been disappointed or proven wrong in this belief.   Great Work Provocations are keepers.

The source of this ongoing stream of wisdom is  Michael Bungay Stanier, whose latest book is Do More Great Work.   When you visit his site, and you will want to do so, you’ll see much, much more good stuff being done with Michael providing the primary drive.

I have followed Michael’s work for years and can safely say that he is one of the most clear-headed, energetic, and thoughtful change agents and leadership guys out there.

… but don’t take my word for it.  I have obviously drank the Koolaid, as one unfortunate cliché goes.    

Spend a few minutes on Box of Crayons – I can promise that the time will be well spent, especially if you like creative, positive, and useful workplace learning and behavior advice, offered with just a dash of humor and whimsy:)

Loving this trusted source in the Heartland ….


Try, Try, Try Again …

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas A. Edison note:  Commonly attributed to Edison and certainly in-line with his tone and things he often spoke about.

First , Edison’s statement is one of great optimism

Many people view failure as … well, as failure.  Failure is a negative state, a loss, a set-back, a “fail” in the current culture.   

Our society tends to idolize winners and ignore or even castigate losers.  For proof, see most advertising. 

Optimism, especially in the face of failure, might be seen as either a total disregard for reality or a sign of inner strength.  It can be either, depending on the person.

Second, Edison is a phenomenal failure

Based on Malcolm Gladwell‘s idea in Outliers that we need to do something for 10, 000 hours to become a “phenom” or expert at it, Edison is apparently a phenom on failing:)

Just because you do something a whole bunch does not always make you what you do.

You are more than what you do.  You are more than what others see.  Only you knows the completeness of you.

Third, the value of failing is only as high as what you do with your failure.

Edison used what he learned from all those failures to continue to learn and to seek new ways that worked better than before.  

Maybe Edward Deming got his concepts from examples like Edison, who appears to personify continuous improvement.

Bottom Line:

As leaders, managers, or just someone trying to make a difference, we should develop the ability to persist.  Take the mistakes and the setback as learning experiences, and not personal disasters.

If you can create a culture where failure is not just tolerated, but viewed as a learning strategy, you will do well.

Learning tons of stuff from all the failures I’ve had in the Heartland ….


“Unlimited … My Future is Unlimited” …. Sort Of

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world”

Albert Einstein    Cosmic Religion : With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931) pg. 97    The quote continues, “…stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”

Imagine, one of the world’s best known scientists, a person whose analytical skills are beyond compare, giving a “shout out” to creativity:)

Knowledge tells us what has been and what is.

Imagination tells us what might be … and that is a powerful thing.

We need both and either without the other provides only partial fodder for our deliberations and decisions.

The trick may be to tell the difference …

Sometimes we talk about a creative possibility as thought it were a discrete fact.  

Because we can imagine something, we might assume it is a done deal or merely something to be tangibly accomplished.  

Sometimes we confuse a promise about something or a desire for something with an accomplished deed or situation.  Politicians use this to win elections and to govern.

Real creativity has to allow for those thing which will never be.  Even if something cannot be, that image or concept can still fuel ample speculation and discovery of things that we might otherwise have never considered.

Sometimes we talk about a fact as though it were just someone’s opinion.

We are sometimes quick to dismiss ideas which come from people who we see as intellectually inferior.   This includes those who do not have the right education or degree, those who do not have appropriate titles or credentials, and those we just disagree with or flat-out do not like.

Much in our world is relatively new thinking, as the pace of scientific and technological growth seems to increase.  Things we always thought were true have been proven false.  This makes  a fellow a little gun-shy about taking a stand.

However,  we can always rely on the current level of knowledge.  After all, moving from what we know to what we learn is how progress occurs.  Nothing new or startling about that:)

BOTTOM LINE:  Don’t ignore either knowledge or imagination.  One makes you smart and the other makes you creative. 

Trying hard to be realistically creative in the Heartland ….


Looking Both Ways …

“Knowledge is realizing that the street is one-way, wisdom is looking both directions anyway.”

Anonymous (not me)

Astute observation about knowing things and understanding the world.  Several helpful life lessons here:

Because things are supposed to be one way does not mean they will always be that way.

We move through most of our days expecting things to work the way we understand and expect them to work.   The lights come on, the coffee perks, and the traffic moves … all according to plan.

Until something does not work the way it always has.

Ever stumble over something you did not expect to be where it actually was?  Ever have someone drive a car differently than they are supposed to?

Prudence is almost always okay, even when it is not needed.

Much is made of the need for initiative and rapid movement, especially in this online, 24/7, fast-moving world.  Careers are made and extinguished in the blink of an eye, as our basic assumptions are challenged and our preconceptions wiped out within a very short time frame.   

We do not have decades to change direction and we cannot put the hard decisions off until “tomorrow”.

This does not mean we are excused from due diligence and following that quintessential motherly advice to “Be careful.”

Looking both ways takes more time and may make you look like a cautious person and even silly to some.   Just think how you would appear as a flatly squished victim.

Rules are rules, but behavior is up to each individual.

Some of us (including me) are real into following rules.  We like the comfort of knowing where our boundaries are and how far our limits extend.  Those who ignore or violate the daily conventions, rules, and laws are looked down on as amoral or childish, while we take great pride in “doing what’s right”.

Of course, those lawbreakers may get all the good stuff, but we have our righteousness on which to fall back:)

Rules ARE important, but the reality is that not everyone follows the rules and at some point, everyone bends or breaks those societal expectations.

Maybe they drive the wrong way down the street or maybe they simply do something different than you expected.

Okay, this really is not about looking both ways on a one-way street, although I do this, I taught my children to do this, and am teaching my grandchildren to do so as well.   This is about realizing that knowledge is based on what we already know and that’s not enough to be successful in life.

You have to know enough to know when to go beyond what you know:)

Trying to figure out what I know and what I need to know in the Heartland ….