Circle of Influence – aspiring leaders need to know

image courtesy of
image courtesy of

The most critical element for any leader is to increase their circle of influence. This of course means looking inside oneself in an honest effort to improve. Personal growth involves expanding the command of one’s personal resources. This require a direct investment in one’s personal capital, specifically time and emotional energy. Leaders from all walks of life spend a significant amount of both time and energy driving the results for their various endeavors. In the end, success as a leader can be predicted by how willing the leader is to seek growth from within.
What are the benefits of internal growth? For starters it places one in a much better position to attain the goals that matter most. It creates an atmosphere of development, a halo if you will, around all those whom you come in to contact with. That means family, coworkers, church members, and anyone else who you have influence on. It’s a form of energy that transfers between individuals like a contagion of good will. These strategies are essential in expanding one’s circle of influence.
Improved communication
When communication fails, everyone involved loses. Embrace listening to the thoughts of others. Don’t just listen with the ears but endeavor to understand the emotion behind the words. Avoid any interruptions and the urge to solve whatever problem is being detailed. A concentrated effort on listening with will improve your personal internal growth.
Delegate tasks
You have to be courageous to undertake big task. Never be afraid of delegating various duties to some experienced members of your team. Often, you will get that job done better than if you yourself had undertaken the task. In doing so your time can be invested in creating the next steps of the process. It also improves the quality of the services as team members gain confidence to tackle more responsibility (remember the halo.)
Leadership qualities
Leaders have more responsibility in a business. They facilitate solutions for almost all the complex problems in the business. More agile, high quality decisions are made and implemented through stronger leadership qualities. Leadership is the core of success for any business, church, or even families. Respect each member of the unit. Be yourself. Don’t copy other’s ideas but be prepared to benchmark others when necessary.
Do what you say
Personal credibility is highly eroded by the lack of trust. It’s then wise to build trust. It’s a fundamental element to securing one’s influence. If you ethically undertake your task as required, most people will trust you. Be consistent with what you say and once promised, deliver.
Be available
It becomes worse to have a conversation with somebody who is in a hurry. Be present. Put away all devices when having a conversation. Switch off the TV and laptop if possible. Plan for another time to hold a talk if you have any appointment and worrying to miss it. Be punctual. Note that people tend to make time for you if you make time for them. This one is closely linked to listening and communication.
Develop yourself
It’s wise to invest in one’s own personal capital. Build blocks to extend your influence and reach. This is at the center of personal development. You can only influence others to the extent you can develop yourself. Remember the contagion?
Strong leadership is derived from the ability to influence others. Modeling the proper behavior may be the most direct way to that end. It’s actually an incredibly valuable thing in all business and personal relationships. Don’t be ambiguous when promising outcomes, specifics are your friend! Choose battles that have important consequences. Go for a fight that serves more than just oneself and watch how your circle of influence can multiply.

The average of 5 Rule

einstien positive

The idea that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with is not new. Its’ been touted by self improvement gurus all over for the last several years. Often referred to as “the average of five rule,” It was first put forward by motivational speaker Jim Rohn several years back. While I would agree with Mr. Rohn’s premise, I would say it a different way. My version is that we tend to move towards the average of the four people we spend the most time with and the fifth person is our self. My suspicion is that Jim had this in mind when he was quoted.

The interesting thing about this is that it’s just good old every day horse sense. The kind of stuff everyone should be aware of. I remember as a kid hearing adults make reference to someone who found their way into a “bad crowd.” Those elders were referring to this same law of human behavior that we know as the average of five rule. It derives from the scientific law of averages that states the result of any situation will be the average of all the possible outcomes. We all learned at a young age, if you lyes with dogs, you will get fleas!

Undoubtedly the vast majority of humans can’t simply be described as good or bad. People who tend to make more good decisions than bad are often referred to as good. Likewise, people who tend to make bad decisions more often than good are labeled bad. No one makes all good decisions just as no one makes all bad decisions. The best way to start making more good decisions is to spend time with those who make more good decisions.

As the decisions one makes start to be better, in turn, happiness and well-being will increase. It’s simple if/then logic. Our level of happiness is largely affected by the decisions we make. Both good as well as bad decisions are taken equally into consideration by the mind. Not only is the final decision weighed, all the thoughts and possible outcomes are factored in as well.

We finally arrive at what we’ve known to be true all along. The types of people we spends most of our time with will affect our happiness level. The best way to start improving the life satisfaction of yourself and those around you is to raise the bar in the group. Don’t give in to negativity. Share experiences and ideas that are positive. At first your efforts may seem to be to no avail, be steady with your effort. The law of averages tells us both you and those around you will move, even if slowly, to a more positive outlook.

positive outlook

garbage in garbage outDo you want to have a more positive outlook on life? Did you know the way one thinks, the food one enjoys, the way one chooses to worship, even the sexual preferences one has can be directly attributed to the information that enters into the human micro-processor we call the mind. Of course born temperament has its part to play and I don’t want to downplay the importance of genetics. Temperament controls how the untrained mind reacts to any given set of circumstances.

By now most Americans have a basic idea of how the computer operates. More specifically, the micro-processor in a computer can be compared to the input or training the mind receives from external sources. Like the sensors leading to the input of the micro-processor, the five senses are inputs to the mind.
These inputs come in many forms. They come to us from those we interact with, from the television, movies, news broadcasts, newspapers articles, and any of hundreds if not thousands of different sources. Our mind, like the micro-processor is controlled by the inputs supplied.
Any idea or any thought one has is simply a product of an input placed in the computer of the mind sometime in the past. Often these ideas can quietly incubate for years waiting on the time when the mind will call the idea into action. Taking the action it demands based on the other millions of inputs it has observed and of course the inborn temperament of the individuals mind.

All this is to point out how important it is to minimize the negative influences that can and will affect one’s individual happiness. If one desires positive outcomes in life it becomes essential that positive actions be taken. Any time positive actions are observed, rest assured, positive thinking is hiding just under the covers. Finally we come full circle to see the importance of allowing more positive and less negatives inputs into one’s life.
People who are positive thinkers give off a positive vibe. This vibe is generated in the mind and is picked up by the minds of others. Thus surrounding oneself with positive thinkers will undoubtedly yield a more positive outlook on life which naturally creates more wellbeing and happiness.

Do you want to have more influence on your family, coworkers, customers, and any number of other people you come into contact with? Try this, give up one source of negative inputs for 30 days. For me the first one was the news. The major news networks flood the airways with bad news. After seeing all this you are naturally in a state of negative delusion about the world around you. There’s no doubt this world has problems, but there is much more good to be seen than bad. The news is an input you can do without, at least multiple times per day. After abstaining from the news for 30 days see if your outlook is starting to change. Don’t worry about missing something major, if you need to know about it, someone will surely let you know. The world won’t stop turning and you miss it because FOX or CNN wasn’t playing in the background. You will feel more positive, more engaged in real life, and generally have a stronger sense of wellbeing.

Values, standards, and behaviors

To live a happy fulfilled life means to be in balance. Balance can only be achieved when ones most important values are allowed to flourish. When personal values line up with the actions taken in life we start to get a hint at what happiness really means.
As I discussed in my article on selfless acts, the mind will drive an individual to do whatever is necessary for it to be contented. Furthermore, as Mark Twain points out in his essay “what is man,” the conscious must be contented first then secondary and tertiary benefits are considered.
How does this relate to core values and happiness? The reason living core values is of such importance is because those core values are precisely the prescription for contenting the mind. You can think of the values like the roots of a beautiful plant. The roots are the values. They are what keeps the plant in place. Likewise identifying and understanding your core values will provide roots that help you stand tall. The plant standing tall can be equated to happiness.
The stem that gives the plant rigidity and pushes it upwards towards more light can be thought of as our standards. The standards we set must line up with our values or we will have a difficult time contenting the conscious. In fact, just like the stem gives the plant structure; the standards we adopt guide us in the decisions we make and the actions we take every day.
The roots and stem are not the whole plant and by themselves would not be considered beautiful by most standards. The beauty one enjoys when taking in the essence of a plant lies in the flowers. Undoubtedly, the flowers of a plant are akin to the behaviors one exhibits day in and day out. When those behaviors are a result of standards and values that are adorned by both God and man a state of beauty exists that is hard to miss.
Remember this, the journey towards happiness must begin with a single step. Identifying one’s core values and living those values through standards and behaviors is the key to staying on course. Values, standards, and behaviors.

personal development

grass growing
I was trying to get a small patch of grass started in the yard to cover the red clay that pervades the upstate of South Carolina. First I scratched up the ground and added my seed and fertilizer. Then I covered up the seed with straw to keep it moist and in contact with the soil. At this point the only things the grass needs to grow is sunshine and water.
In my eagerness to see the grass do well I did my research and found something I didn’t know. When the grass starts to grow it’s important that the roots grow deep. They need to dig far enough into the soil to still get moisture when the top soil dries up in the summer time.
What I learned must be done to encourage the roots to grow deep is to only water enough to keep the grass alive. It turns out when the top soil stays wet it makes a great environment for the grass but the roots don’t bother to grow deep as they are quite comfortable where they are. The problem with this is you can never stop watering as the shallow roots leaves the plants vulnerable to drought.
The point of this information on growing grass is to point out how nature promotes growth. It’s the stress of the dry soil that drives the roots deeper. It can be said the roots need to get out of their “comfort zone.”
Likewise, if we want to develop our talents and strengths we must learn to be uncomfortable. The fact is, we can stay comfortable in our challenges and remain where we are or we can venture outside our “comfort zone” and grow! This personal growth is instrumental in developing wellbeing and happiness. What are some things you could do to get out of your “comfort zone?”

Start being happy now!

It all too well settled for there to be any debate that happiness must be derived from within. Therefore, to achieve any real sense of happiness it’s critical that one’s outward actions align with one’s inner values more often than not. ghandi

The first step one must make in becoming a happier person is to decide change is necessary and wanted. Once the decision is made, it really becomes just a matter of mechanics. Simple SMART goals like I discussed in my article on goal setting can help clear the path.

So think about these questions, “Do I want to be a positive pleasant person to myself and the people in my life?” and “Do I want to be the chronic complainer who can never be happy? I’m going to tell you exactly how you can embrace the former and reduce the latter.

I propose one simple step that will almost instantly begin to increase your sense of happiness and wellbeing. STOP being negative! If you have been a grumpy Gus for a long time, taking a more positive approach will not come as easy as one might think. Galileo taught us the “law of inertia.” It basically says that objects in motion tend to stay in motion until acted upon by an opposing force. This phenomena is just as true of the human emotional attributes as it is asteroids traveling through the cosmos.

You’ve decided you want to change was the first step. Now, begin a genuine attempt to find positive things to comment on. It’s important that you vocalize your positive thoughts. If it’s good things about other people all the better. Even if it is just the weather, when the weather is nice share it. If someone holds a door for you say “thank you so much.” Say it with a smile as you look them in the eye. It critical to truly learn to be thankful for these small gestures of human kindness. What a tremendous help this simple step will make in creating the opposing force to reduce negativity and increase one’s happiness.

Remember the old saying your mother used to tell you that went, “if you don’t have anything nice to say- don’t say anything at all.” Take it one step further by making conscious effort to notice the positive aspects of others. Then verbalize and acknowledge these traits. Don’t do it in a manipulative manner. Do it from the heart, based on the higher values that your inner self is wants to flourish. Follow this simple practice and you’ll find your values and actions will start to line up; bringing with it less negativity and more happiness in your life.

Selfless acts?

Nobel Prize winning philosopher, Albert Camus, said “Heroism is accessible. Happiness is more difficult.”  Upon reflection it becomes evident that any supposed heroic effort is an attempt at achieving personal happiness and that there is no such thing as a selfless act. Literature is filled with examples of apparent heroic endeavors but if one looks deeper  it becomes clear that the rewards offered by internal gratification, reputation enhancement, and legacy are often primary motives.

One example from literature can be found in Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” The protagonist, Atticus Finch, finds himself in the situation of defending an unpopular case he knows he cannot win. There is no money in the case for Mr. Finch, but fortunately for Mr. Finch, this case pays in rewards that far outweigh greed. The gravity he placed on doing what his conscious demanded was far more valuable to Atticus than the difficulties he and his family were forced to endure.  Specifically, Atticus was able to gain immense internal gratification, and in the end tremendous adoration, from doing the work of his conscious. The work he himself agreed was of primary importance.
Another example can be found in the children’s story “The Gift of the Magi.” Recall the young married couple who neither had money to buy the other a Christmas gift. The lady had long beautiful hair and her husband wanted to buy her a silver hair clip. In order to buy the clip he had to sell his prized gold watch. Unbeknownst to him, his wife had cut her long beautiful hair and sold it to a wig maker to get money to buy a gold band for his gold watch. This is certainly a romantically sweet gesture from both parts of the couple. Why would each one of them give up something so important to them to buy a gift for the other? The answer is simple; the joy each expected to get from the gifts they purchased was far dearer than what was given up. Again we find the true motivation to be internal gratification for the person performing the supposed selfless act.

Finally we come to the age old saying of “I would do anything for my kids.”  The Creator put in each of us an instinctual desire to reproduce and thus reason dictates parents would also have the instinct to put the child’s welfare ahead of their own. All the work that went into the design of the reproduction system would have been lost had parents not persevered to get children to reproducing age themselves. This necessitates that putting children first, is in fact, in the parent best interest. It’s simply coincidence that the offspring’s best interests are served as well.

Naturally, one may point to any number of good deeds not unlike those outlined above and find evidence of a selfless act of heroism. The good will bestowed on others might be all that is considered when viewing the circumstances.  Newton’s third law of motion explains that for every force one body exerts on a second body, the second body exerts a force equal in magnitude back on the first body. When we apply this universal law to human phycology, we see that it is impossible to perform a selfless act of heroism.

Undoubtedly, the joy received is greater than the sacrifice. Specifically, internal gratification, reputation enhancement, and legacy are all factors in creating happiness. Satisfying the conscious is paramount. Think of your goals. Do they line up with your values? Look for ways to improve your happiness in serving others and thus serving yourself.

If you want to learn more about the idea of selflessness, check out Mark Twain’s Book, What is man? 


The Law of Human Nature

I’m reading the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Early on Lewis elaborates on what he calls the “Laws of Human nature.” According to Lewis, and I don’t disagree, every person no matter where on earth they are born recognize a certain code of conduct that is expected. People recognized a certain fairness should be involved with our mutual transactions.I’ve referred to this shared knowledge as the writing on the walls of the mind left there by the creator many generations before. A sacred law placed in the repository of the human mind many millenniums ago. Leaving genetics to do the work of ensuring the “Law of Human Nature” carries on. We humans can no more deny the existence of this program than we can the fact we have two eyes, two hands, two feet, or any other physical condition.

Lewis also points out that man will always break the very “law of nature” that he recognizes so intimately to be true and just. Have you ever hear the term “honor amongst thieves?” This very statement, a sentiment that is universally accepted, proves even those among us who would intentionally do harm to others recognize the law of human nature.

One of the first steps to taking incremental action aimed at increasing happiness and wellbeing is to recognize this “law of nature” and embrace it for the value it adds to existence. You’ve certainly heard the saying “it’s better to give than receive.” It’s this built in program, this writing on the walls of the mind that tells us it’s true. The sense of happiness that is enjoyed when the observation of the “law of nature” moves from the unconscious mind to the conscious mind should not be understated. This author asserts this truth to be one incremental step that can be taken to improve the wellbeing and happiness of everyone.


S.M.A.R.T Goals


SMART-goalsLike I mentioned on my previous post on happiness and well-being, S.M.A.R.T goals are the ideal place to start improving your quality of life.

  • S- Goals must be specific. You need to set you mind on exactly what it is you intend to accomplish. Suppose you wanted to run in a 5K foot race but you can’t run a single Kilometer without gasping your last breath. That’s OK, you can still be specific with your goals. Example> I will be able to run 1 kilometer without stopping in 60 days. That’s specific. It will be to you when the goal is achieved. Who knows, at the end of 60 days you may be able to run 2 kilometers.
  • M- Goals must be measureable. It would be pointes to say I want to be able to run further in the next 60 days. How much further? How will the progress be monitored? A measurable goal is the only way to quantify any progress.
  • A- Goals have to be achievable.  This is where a realistic view must be considered as to what can be accomplish. It’s important not to “lay-up” when setting goals. Any goal should stretch one’s comfort zone but not break it.  As in our earlier example, it may be too much to expect to run a whole 5K in two months, for some that’s just not achievable. The more achievable, but not easy, goal of running one kilometer makes more sense. On the other hand, one who regularly participates in cardio workouts may need to choose a more substantial goal or reduce the time.
  • R- Goals must be relevant to you. This is not the place to adopt another’s goal. It’s critical the big picture is considered and any goal be one piece of the bigger puzzle. A great way to help insure relevance is to ask a simple question. Am I passionate about this goal? If passion is not the right word then make sure the goal is something you can get behind, something you can see a benefit in.
  • T- Goals must be timely. A few key factors that may affect the timeliness of goals are: Does this goal fit into available bandwidth? Is enough time allocated to meeting the goal? Based on other things in life, can this goal coincide?If one were participating in a 40 day fast, it may not be the best time to tackle long distance running.

Happiness and well-being

For many people it seems the ebbs and flow of happiness and well-being are handed out like gifts, or possibly a curse, from the gods. More reasonably logical people realize happiness is something you live, something that requires a concerted effort. After all we all know that “anything not worth working for is not worth owning.”

This leads us invariably to the question of how one become happier, more engaged in life, with a solid sense of well-being. Join me as we look into the possibilities. Let’s look together at what life could be like with contentment and happiness as one of our emphasized underlying values.

I like to use the idea of a happiness scale. The happiness sale is a way to measure how we feel about our well-being. It looks like this: the two opposite emotions sad and happy are at both ends of a gage. Very Sad would be represented by 0 and extremely happy would be 10. Of course most people cycle up and down around the median. We on the other hand need to think about the incremental steps we can take to start nudging our Happiness value up the scale. The great thing about my system is it doesn’t matter if you are 2 or a 7 on the happiness scale. You can start today with incremental steps. Small steps and SMART goals are the key to becoming a happier more complete person.