Each Life Touches us for Good

There is a popular hymn that states:

What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.

Christlike, or not, regardless of your beliefs, I believe everyone around us has the power to “strengthen us and enrich our days”, and we have the ability to do so for others, as well.

Middle-class childhood, Little League and high school baseball, golf lessons with my hero/Dad, missionary service in Ecuador, married at 22, divorced at 28, remarried to my best friend at 29, personal and professional travel all over the world, 3 years in Minor League baseball, 6 years in education…it all has taught me lessons in life, in understanding people, in what motivates and inspires us, and how we can make more of an impact on people in our daily lives.

My experiences living as missionary in South America for two years, working for an Australian company, working in professional sports, running a minor league baseball team, and now working in education for a major university, have given me the opportunity to meet thousands of people, and I have learned that we all have very powerful, unique experiences that deserve to be shared.

We also have a lot in common.

Every experience and relationship that I have developed over my nearly 50 years has taught me lessons that will stay with me forever. From my childhood best friend, Stevie Reilly when I was about 5 years old, to a woman I met last week at a networking event, there is a lesson, or lessons, in every experience, and in every encounter.

In the early 1990’s, I started keeping track of these experiences, and began to pay closer attention to the lessons this life has to offer. It started as a project of just tracking all the people I have met in my travels, and writing stories about our conversations, what I learned from them, what I think they may have learned from me, etc. Some of these people are great sports legends and household names, but most of my experiences have been with unknown, private people. That is the beauty of it…we don’t have to be hall of famers, or public figures to have a positive influence on the lives around us. In fact, the greatest impact we will have will be on those in our homes, in our social circles, and in our neighborhoods. We all do this each and every day in our lives, but most people have no idea how to teach, or learn from, others, unless it is in a formal setting.

We can tap into the lives of everyone around us, even if it is simply a 30 second discussion with the cashier at the grocery store, or with the person pumping gas next to us!

I’ve had some unique experiences in airports or airplanes, in hotel lobbies, on trains, in baseball locker rooms (some of which will stay there!), and some of these conversations have been life changing, for me, and for others. There are stories that I share, and lessons that I think any of us could use in our lives. I’ve been working on putting them into a book for a few years, and will finish it one of these days, even if it is just for me and my family.

I love approaching strangers, regardless of where I am, and enjoy engaging them in conversations, sometimes idle chit chat, and often times deep, meaningful discussions. Regardless of the length, or depth, of these encounters, I usually walk away from these typically brief “relationships” a much better person, and hopefully they do, as well.

My family often jokes about how quickly I can strike up a friendship, even with the person on the other line when I call “4-1-1” to get a phone number! I just love talking with people.

That being said, however, you don’t have to be an extrovert to be comfortable approaching strangers, and you often times do not have to even have a conversation with someone to learn from them. I have dozens of stories of experiences where I learned life improving lessons simply by observing someone for a few moments. Not a word was exchanged in these situations.

As I have compiled stories over the years, I’ve noticed a common theme throughout all the stories…that all people have wonderful lives and stories that should be shared with everyone! Each of us has a history that is worthy of sharing, and that could teach many others.

At one point, about 19 years ago, I created a list of literally every person that I ever remembered meeting, going back to my childhood, what our relationship is/was, what we discussed (if it was a one-time meeting), and what I learned from that person, or what I shared with that person. It turned out to be something pretty powerful for me. Maybe you won’t make a list as I did, but hopefully you will begin to look at your relationships, long, short, deep, or seemingly insignificant before now, and see how powerful every person in your life can be to you, and how much of an influence we all do, indeed, have in the lives of others.

This entire premise goes back to the idea of connectedness, that all of us are connected, and that we all have something powerful to learn, and to share, and that the people around us, sometimes in places where we would least expect it, could potentially be our greatest teachers, or in many cases, our greatest students!

As we meet people, we should ask ourselves “Therefore what?” Why did this person come into my life? What is the lesson that is to be learned, or the experiences that we are to have, because we have met?

I’ve always loved working, and playing, in teams. The combined energy, strength, and potential of a team is much more powerful, to me, than anything I can accomplish alone. Each relationship we have has that same potential to make our lives, and this world, so much better.

I challenge us all to look more closely at everyone we know, and search more carefully for the lessons to be learned, and friendships to be developed. It just could change your life, and make you appreciate every experience, and every person, a bit more.

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It’s What You Do After You Mess Up That Means The Most!

“It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce that counts.” – Zig Ziglar

Recovery is a word that is used in many areas, especially when it pertains to someone who is battling with an addiction of some kind, or is coming out of a serious surgery or medical treatment. I have had family members go through some severe addiction problems over the years, have close friends and family who have had major, sometimes life-threatening surgery, and the word recovery is used to describe the state of getting better, or responding to the treatments they have received.

In economic terms, we have experienced a major recession over the past 5 years, or so, and some economists and politicians will tell us that we are now in a recovery – meaning the economy is improving, or on the upswing.

I recently played 18 holes of golf, and while I scored horribly, and was incredibly inconsistent, the two shots I will remember the most from the more than 90 (ouch!) I took that day, were shots that were taken from very difficult lies, or situations (both of which were my own fault). In fact, nearly all recoveries, whether in the physical, professional, economic, or recreational aspects of our lives, are usually as a result of some action, often ill-advised, we took which led to the necessity of a recovery.

In my recent golf game, each shot had a “conservative” or “easy” next shot, which would have, in essence, cost me a stroke, or hurt my score a little bit. However, there was also a risky, more dangerous option which, if executed properly, would salvage my score on each hole. The risk of hitting another tree, or knocking the ball into the water, essentially ruining the hole for me, was there in both circumstances, but in these cases, the potential rewards were each worth the risk. (After all, I wasn’t playing in a tournament with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, or anything significant. I was just out playing golf with friends!).

We have had all heard the saying “success is measured in how often you get up after you fall down” or some variation of that quote. To me, success is all about recovery. That is what Ziglar’s quote (above) represents. What you do after you fail (because we are all going to fail – a lot, in our lives) is the measure of success I notice in life. If I hit a bad shot on the golf course, success is when I recover and hit a good shot to get myself out of trouble.

In baseball, a great hitter will fail 70% of the time, so the majority of the time he comes up to bat, he is following a failed attempt. Even a great basketball player fails half the time that he shoots the ball.

Life is very similar to golf, baseball, basketball, or other sports. I guess that is why I love sports so much. Playing sports for most of my life has taught me how to deal with adversity, how to work in teams, how to prepare and work hard, and most importantly, how to recover after failing.

It is significantly better to try and fail at something than it is to not try at all. Again, we’ve all heard some semblance of that quote, and that is because it is true.

I had a sales manager years ago who taught me to love hearing the word “no” because it meant you were getting closer and closer to the word “yes”. Every time I asked for the sale, and the prospect said “no”, I knew I was one step closer to closing a deal with another prospect. That held up over the years, to the point where losing a deal, or even losing a client, does not bother me nearly as much now as it did when I was early into my career 25 years ago.

Back in the mid 2000’s, the baseball coach at Cal State Fullerton, George Horton, brought in a psychologist to work with the team. They were extremely talented, and were struggling. The psychologist introduced the concept of flushing the previous experience, whether good or bad, down an imaginary toilet, where it was gone, and would not have an impact (especially negative) on the current situation. The team turned things around, and went on to the College World Series.

Success, now, to me is all about the effort and results on the next shot, after putting myself in a bad situation on the previous shot. I can get angry, lose my concentration, and hit another bad shot, or I can simply flush the bad experience down the toilet, and focus on how I am going to recover.

The next time things go south in your life, whether in a relationship, at work, with a client, or on whatever your “golf course” is, remember that you will ultimately be measured by how you recover from your failures, and not on your failures themselves. Life is about recovery. What you do next after you mess up (and mess up you will!) is how you will be known, and remembered.

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Intrapreneurship: Fuel for Economic Recovery

Intrapreneurship: Fuel for Economic Recovery

By Brian D. Goodman

 

Entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the U.S. are helping to spark economic recovery through innovation.  Corporate America must now play its role in creating a generation of intrapreneurs, or entrepreneurs within large companies, to add further fuel to not only economic resurgence, but our nation’s long-term competitiveness.  While corporate earnings are beginning to rise, the improvement in quarterly financials at far too many multi-billion-dollar companies has been primarily a function of reduced expenses from slashed headcount and overhead – including research and development (R&D).  Unfortunately, many of these “positive” earnings reports are not a function of intrapreneurship.  During the recession, employees at many larger and mid-sized entities adopted a “keep your head down, take no risk” mentality and employers rewarded this behavior.  Now that the recession is turning, this mindset must be altered if the economic recovery is to gain steam.  Boards and C-suites must foster and reward intrapreneurship to cultivate innovation and economic sustainability.  

 

According to the Small Business Administration, entrepreneurial innovation continues to play a significant role in the nation’s economic competitiveness in a global marketplace.  A recent advocacy study by J. Isom and David R. Jarczyk took a look at the patent activity of small businesses and analyzed how employee headcount, sales, and R&D expenditures affect the drivers of innovation.  What is startling is the lack of understanding of this corollary at the top of many of America’s corporations.  Pressured by institutional shareholders or private equity owners to meet quarterly numbers, management may unwittingly short-change innovation and cut-off opportunities to create new revenue streams and hence, intrapreneurial ideas.  Nevertheless, there are steps both management and individuals working within large or mid-sized companies can do to change this course and ignite intrapreneurialism.  These corporate management transformations can include the following:

 

  • Starting with the CEO, the concept and culture of intrapreneurialism should be officially introduced – or reintroduced – as a priority within the company.   With clear and consistent internal communications, senior management must incite and inspire its employees to break through barriers, take chances and question and create what customers want in the future.  These messages must cascade throughout the organization so that all layers of management sincerely embrace and reward this behavior.
  • Make organizational changes to facilitate intrapreneurship.  Whether it is appointing a Chief Intrapreneur Officer or an Intrapreneurship committee with representatives across the company, employees must not only hear, but see that things are different within their organizations. 
  • Publicly and financially reward intrapreneurialism.  Recognition must go to those who take chances and embody the spirit of intrapreneurship.  Management must acknowledge and commend these individuals, whether their efforts result in enormous or minor successes. 
  • Invest in intrapreneurialism.  Beyond the internal pronouncements, employees will only welcome intrapreneurialism into their daily routines if management invests time, energy and resources in the processes.  This may entail the creation of intrapreneurship pods, the institutionalization of intrapreneurial training, or simply the allocation of additional research and development funds, but it must be tangible and significant.  Boards must support these efforts. 

 

For employees within these organizations, the path to intrapreneurship may include bold leaps for the aspiring brave new leaders and small steps for the pack:

 

  • Volunteer to be a part of the intrapreneurial steering committee.  Whether the employee serves as head of the committee or as secretary, it is important to get involved early on.
  • Stay close to customers and engage them in discussions about the future.  Understand what drives their decisions and listen to their needs.  Consider conducting additional market research or survey groups focused on future needs.  Discuss these findings with team members and use this as a spark for intrapreneurialism.
  • Form broad relationships within and outside the organization.  Take time each week to have breakfast, lunch or coffee with colleagues from different departments, service providers, and others in the industry and use professional social media (e.g., LinkedIn, XING) to keep these relationships strong.  This will ensure that employees are connected and knowledgeable in various aspects of the business and are building the alliances and support to succeed in intrapreneurial ventures.

 

Corporations can be poised to contribute vitally to fueling economic recovery through intrapreneurship, with a powerful voice at the top advocating for ideas and innovation, concrete changes in place, and employees motivated to step out of their safety zone.  At the same time, these companies can take their rightful place next to entrepreneurial small businesses in playing a critical role in global competitiveness.

 

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What is Your Winning Percentage?

Ed HS Baseball

2013.

Two weeks down.

Most of us set goals, or “resolutions”, and I am guessing some of us have already reverted to our old ways.

I decided to avoid resolutions (new things, new programs, etc) and simply look at a few things that I have done throughout my life (gym, food, prayer, scripture study, etc) and simply strive to do each of them a little bit better this year. No new stuff, no new gym memberships, diet programs, etc. I am just focusing on doing everything a little bit better, and then taking inventory before I go to bed each night on how I did. A sports team is measured on one thing, their winning percentage. Since I have a strong sports background and passion, I have decided to measure my days the same way.

As I settle in for the evening, and ponder my day, I ask myself, “Did I win today, or did I lose?” My win/loss decision is based on whether or not I made good decisions, made progress in key areas of my life (spiritual, financial, physical, emotional, mental, personal, professional, etc). I don’t have to be perfect in each area, but I have to have made good decisions, or made progress, in each area each day.

I also am focusing my attention on truly living one day at a time. If I blow it today, there is always tomorrow. If I had a great day today, I celebrate, call it a “win”, go to sleep, wipe the slate clean the next day, and start over.

When I worked in professional baseball, I learned that success or failure one day has no impact on the next day. We could score 15 runs on Friday night, and then struggle to even get a hit the next day. Whatever success, or failure, from the previous day simply did not carry over to the next. We played close to 80 games over the course of about 90 days, so it was imperative that we not get too high or too low based on yesterday’s results.

The same holds true in our own lives. Sure, we can let the momentum from yesterday carry us into today, but we still need to work, put forth effort, and make good decisions today, otherwise we will set ourselves up to suffer a disappointing day. We need to learn from yesterday’s experiences, and apply them to today, but we cannot assume that our effort yesterday will carry over and create the win today. Yesterday’s preparation, combined with today’s effort, produces our results.

If you look back on your day tonight when you go to bed, and you don’t like the results, the answer is simple. Tomorrow, make different decisions. You will be surprised at how easy it is to change your life.

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Identify Your Values, Create the Vision, Then Get To Work!

Identify Your Values, Create the Vision, Then Get To Work!

By Ed Hart, Director, Center for Family Business, Cal State Fullerton Mihaylo College of Business and Economics

“See it, feel it, do it.” – Tom House

Success, in my opinion, is based on three simple questions.  Success in life, in work, in relationships – it all comes down to these questions. 

Are you ready?   No, that wasn’t one of the questions.   Here you go.

What do you want?  Can you see it?  Are you willing to work to get it?

In life, in your career, in your relationships – what is most important to you?   What are you doing today to get you to where, or what, you want?  Can you see it?  What is standing in the way?  My belief is that people do not succeed, or get what they want, for one of three reasons.   They don’t know what they want; they can’t see what they want; or they aren’t willing to do the work to get what they want.  

If you truly value something, you will do what you can to protect it, or to obtain it.  But if you can’t see what you are seeking, if you have no experience of what it feels like to have it, all the work in the world probably will not get you any closer to obtaining the goal than if you simply did nothing.   Many people know what they want, and sit around dreaming about it all day long, but do not work.   Others bust their humps all day, but really don’t have a vision of what they want.   They just work and work and work, yet are no closer to happiness.

I know some people who obtain houses, cars, boats, take extravagant vacations, and work tirelessly to be able to afford these things, yet they are not happy.

I heard a quote recently that says “Happiness brings success.”   Too often, we twist that around to “Success brings happiness.”   My feeling is that, to be truly happy, we must know what is important to us, see our lives surrounded by the things, people, or belief systems that are important to us, and then work to get (and stay) there.

I play golf.   Not as often, or as well, as I would like, but since I was about 12 years old, I have enjoyed  playing golf, first with my Dad, then my friends, and now, also, with my wife.   Many members of my family play golf, as well.

Other than a year on a local college golf team, and a few junior tournaments here and there as a teenager, the joy and recreation of golf are what have kept me going back for more, even though I have never been good enough to make a living at it.  Being a great golfer was not a value of mine, so I did not put forth the effort to be a great golfer.  I could see myself being great, but it wasn’t so important to me that I put in the hours of practice to get there.

One life lesson that I learned from playing golf since I was 12 was about the power of visualization.   Often, after I have lined up my shot, I will take a couple of practice swings to get the feel for what I want to do when I step up to the ball, and then I will close my eyes before the “live” swing, and visualize what I am wanting to accomplish with the shot.

I can’t tell you that it works 100% of the time, or else I would be making millions on the PGA tour!  What I will tell you, however, is that it works more often than it doesn’t.

Everything is created mentally, and spiritually, before it is created physically.

Look around at the buildings near you.  The developer didn’t just show up and start building.   He had a plan, an idea, a blueprint, and many visions of what he wanted to build before the first shovel broke ground, and the foundation was poured.

The same holds true for anything we do in life.  If we allow ourselves the time to ponder, visualize, or even meditate on the results we are after, we will dramatically increase our chances of success.    

When we focus on avoiding the sand trap instead of on hitting the green, the results are often disastrous, for it is impossible to think negative thoughts in a positive way.

Make sure your goals are specific and precise.   I’ve heard it said that our goals must be SMART.   SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time bound.

“I want to make money” is not a SMART goal.    ”I want to make $100,000 by December 31, 2012, is a better example of a SMART goal.    It is specific, measurable, could be attainable, produces results, and has a fixed timeframe.

As we visualize the results we are after, being SMART in the way in which we visualize, we will begin to see the results that we are after, in our personal, family, professional, financial, spiritual, and all other aspects of our lives.

So, change your mindset from “I want to hit a nice shot”, or “I hope I don’t hit this one into the water”, to “I am putting this shot 6 feet from the hole”, and you will start seeing the results that will bring dramatic improvement to your life.

Visualization allows us to see exactly what we want before we create it – it keeps our focus on what is most important to us in that moment.

As Curt Carlson, chairman of the Carlson Companies, once noted, “Obstacles are those frightening things you see when you take your eye off the target.”

As the Director of the Center for Family Business here at Cal State Fullerton, my days are spent working with family-owned companies throughout Southern California.   I have the privilege of meeting with leaders, founders, and executives of these companies on a regular basis, and the ones who are the most successful share many common traits, one of which is the power, and patience, to see things in their mind before they created them physically.   Of course, there have been obstacles, and the occasional detours, but ultimately one characteristic that they all share is that they have kept the vision in their minds of where they want to be.   They have not lost focus of the dream.   With that focus, they have worked to get there.

Over 70% of all companies in America are family-owned, so chances are you either work for, or with, a family business in your day-to-day dealings.   One of the characteristics I see in America’s best businesses, family-owned or not, is that they have an established set of core values – principles and beliefs that drive everything they do.   Successful family businesses are known for sticking with their values, and operating their entire organization around those values.  Many people prefer to do business with family companies for just that reason…they like the values for which these companies stand.

Core values are the foundation of any successful organization.   As we identify what our core values are, we then visualize how the organization, or project, or event, will look, based on these values.   If one of our core values is discipline, then our company will be known for how disciplined we are.  If a core value of an organization is integrity, then that organization will have a reputation for keeping their promises, every single time.   Once we establish the core values, we then visualize how our company will operate, driven by these values, and then we execute the plan.  

When a professional golfer sets her sights on being the best golfer in the world, she sees what it will look like to see her name at the top of the world golf rankings, to sink the winning putt at the US Open, or to live in a big house that her earnings have created.   To get there, her core values had better be centered on work, patience, diligence, and fitness.   Sure, there are many other values that will get her there, but until she establishes what her core values are, all the visualizing in the world won’t do anything for her if she doesn’t value the effort it will take to get there.

Just as success in your company, or career, is based on the efforts you have put into it, your ability to see what it is you want has played a partnership role in your work.  Successful businesses (family and traditional), from my research and experience, are led by people who are consistent in their core values, are able to see their values driving the business, and are gifted in hiring and/or developing people who share these same values and vision. 

So, if you are not where you want to be today, in any aspect of your life, ask yourself these three questions:  What do you want?  Can you see it?  Are you willing to work to get it?   If you can answer these questions specifically, and using SMART goals, you are well on your way to the success that happiness brings.

 

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Golf-Ocean-North-17th-Hole

Golf-Ocean-North-17th-Hole

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People Are Not Always What They Seem…

ImageIn the 1940’s, my Dad, Jack Hart (now 85), served in World War II.  One of the early lessons he taught me in life was that people are not always what they seem to be, at first.   While first impressions are often very accurate, it is important that we consider more information before we draw conclusions about people.  Imagine all the incredible people in your life that you would not know today had you gone with your first impression, and then closed the books on that person at that point.  

Let me share this story, in my Dad’s own words, from his basic training experience, nearly 70 years ago!

CAMP ROBERTS 1944               

“I didn’t know I could actually hate a man.”  “He must be insane.”  “How could the top command allow this to happen?”

The year was 1944 and the place was Camp Roberts, California.  We were in about the 13th week of a 16 week army infantry basic training program.  I had erroneously thought the training would be easy for me because I had been active in high school football and other sports, and had often caddied 36 holes of golf in a day, carrying two heavy bags.  However, after weeks of dawn to dark heavy duty physical exercise, we were all able to double time at least 20 miles in army boots in very hilly country, carrying a rifle and pack – while singing.

Our leaders had been outstanding, lead by company Commander Captain Geddy.  We loved him.  He was positive, inspiring, uplifting, and ready to participate in any of the exercises with us.  He was also handsome, eloquent, and compassionate.  When a buddy was sick or hurt, Captain Geddy was right there to make sure that he received proper treatment.

But one morning at the crack of dawn, Captain Geddy was not there to announce the activity of the day.  Instead, a new guy, Major Kendall was up front, telling us that Captain Geddy had been transferred.  Major Kendall growled at us that we were a sorry looking group of soldiers, the worst he had ever seen.  Then it began.  Nothing was good enough to please him.  We climbed hills double time with much heavier equipment.  Squat jumps and 50 push-ups were regularly ordered.  Then he’d shout “Do them again  – right this time!”

Training day ended late every night with hollering about how miserable our performance had been that day.  This went on for more than three weeks, which we barely survived.   This man was clearly crazy, or just plain out to get us.

On the final day, we were assembled in front of company headquarters, and Major Kendall strutted up front.  We were sure he was going to read us out.  Instead, he started something like this: “Men, I had no trouble seeing that you all hated me, and that was tough.  However, you are about to go into combat and confront an enemy who has one goal – to kill as many of you as possible.  I have been in many combat battles.  The only survivors were those who had been exposed to the toughest situations in their training.  The others were easy victims.  By God, I decided to do everything I could think of to help you survive this terrible war…”

It went on that way for at least half an hour.  There was not a dry eye among us, nor did we make a sound when he dismissed us and walked away.

So, which of these men, Captain Geddy, or Major Kendall, had the best interests of his men in mind?   Probably both of them.   However, it would have been very easy for my Dad, and his fellow troops, to immediately think that Major Kendall was just a jerk, and didn’t care about them at all.

So often in life, we make a snap judgement about someone, only to find out that we were dead wrong about them.   Take a little more time to really see what the other person is about, and remember that most people are good, kind, and actually just might have your best interests in mind, as well.   If we go through life assuming that those around have good intentions, it will make life much easier, less stressful, and our relationships much more harmonious.

People, indeed, are not always what they seem…often times, they are much better!

 

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