Monday, August 31, 2009

Dream the Dreams That Never Were

Aug 25

“We need men who can dream of things that never were”– John F. Kennedy

John Kennedy, like so many other dreamers from the mid-twentieth century, set his sights on far off goals that at the time they were set seemed impossible to achieve. In 1961 when he boldly launched the 10 year plan to put a man on the moon, many thought that it was either impossible or too far away to think about. For those who lived through that decade, those 10 years went quickly and culminated in Neil Armstrong saying “that’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” as he descended onto the moon’s surface.

Are your goals long-term or immediate; far-reaching or short-sighted; dramatic and bold or simple and conservative? With a little thought you can decide what to accomplish today, but have you thought about how today’s efforts could support what you want 5 or 10 years from now? With a little planning you can open a savings account and deposit your spare change each day, but have you considered what needs you’ll have when you’re ready to retire and what it will take to get you there? With a little study you can learn what you need to accomplish today’s tasks, but have you planned an education to teach you all you’ll need to know to achieve the greatness you hope for? Those bigger and broader goals are the things that dreams are made of – and there’s no better time to start planning for and accomplishing them than right now. That way, though they never were, in time they may be.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of the dream.” Eleanor Roosevelt

The Roosevelts were dreamers – Teddy dreamed of state and national parks, Eleanor of a better world order and Franklin focused on fixing a world gone awry with financial ruin and world conflict. Each, in their own way, saw both the good and the beautiful in their visions and made America’s twentieth century better as a result of their efforts. Their passionate approach to leadership created loyalty and admiration among millions of followers.

Think about the last time you tried to lead something or someone. Did you approach that effort with enthusiasm; did you explain it to others as though it really mattered to you; did you roll up your sleeves and pitch in as if the outcome were personally important; did you praise the efforts of others to make sure that all felt good about their efforts; did you help those in need of assistance or clarification to keep them on track; did you lead the others with humility and give credit where it was due; and did you thank everyone profusely no matter how much they participated??? Because if you didn’t do all of these things (and more) then chances are that the dream came up short in reality. Tomorrow, whatever it will be, depends on today’s efforts – be like the Roosevelts and let the beauty of the dream shine through. Bully!
“My hope still is to leave this world a little better for my being here.” Jim Henson

Jim Henson built characters: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and Big Bird; he also built a lasting legacy of fun, education and philanthropy that brought laughter and learning to millions of children and English learners. His vision was simple; its result was grand - thus proving that there’s no grandeur in the world without grand ideas.

Every day you have the opportunity to complete and leave a legacy about many things – take a look at the things you do today and decide if they will help better your world. When you awoke and welcomed the day – did you shuffle through getting started or enthusiastically approach the day with exercise, positive thought and spirit? When you went to whatever it is you do everyday – did you only do enough to get by or take extra time to make every task an effort of perfection?? When you spent time with colleagues, friends and family – did you talk and act superficially or genuinely engage in your conversations and exchanges??? Like the Muppets, your actions should be animated and stimulating; and like Sesame Street the lessons learned should be applied to doing something grand. That’s how to leave your mark every day.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view – until you climb inside their skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America. In the 1962 Academy Award winning movie of the same name, Gregory Peck played the role of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South who defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice. The book and the movie challenged a generation of Americans to learn to see the world through the eyes of others.

That lesson – seeing things from another’s point of view – may be the most important thing we learn in life and at work. There’s never a single point of view – in anything – and learning to recognize and be sensitive to the views of others is a key to being successful. Whatever you do today – try to see it through the eyes of others, feel it through the senses of others, hear it through the ears of others, understand it in the minds of others, and walk it in the shoes of others. The real mastery of this comes when you can do all of those things before you think or act or speak or write or walk; that’s when you’ll truly be at your best. That’s when you will truly understand. That’s when you’ll be one with the world around you.
“If I keep my good character, I shall be rich enough.” Platonicus

Lucius Apuleius Platonicus was born in AD 124 in Madauros, Numidia near modern Mdaourouch, Algeria. Platonic philosopher, rhetorician, and author remembered for The Golden Ass, a prose narrative that proved influential long after his death – it is a satire on the vices of the age, especially those of the priesthood and of quacks. He studied at Carthage and Athens, traveled widely, and was initiated into numerous religious mysteries. It’s truly amazing what you can find on the internet.

Most of what’s left behind when we leave – a job, a relationship, a meeting, a party or this life – is our reputation. We all have to work hard – every day, every year, all the time – to build and keep a good reputation. The things we say and do are the foundations upon which it is based; the ways we treat others and respond to them are the walls from which its structure finds strength; how we think and plan and stay true to our ideals determines if it will withstand the elements of our existence. These are the treasures that sustain us and support the world around us. How good is your reputation? What will they say about you when you’re gone??
"Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence." -Author Unknown

Every now and then a quote by an unknown author sneaks into these musings. This quote could be by anybody – even you; so, close your eyes and make believe you’re the author. Do you see your work in terms of a clean palette each day, waiting for your brush stokes to add subject and color? Are you inspired as you approach the work, and do you let your enthusiasm show in your lines?? Is your mind clear yet focused on the subject matter and do you see it all before you begin??? Do you make sure that your creation remains true to your original ideas or do you adapt to the changing light???? And when you’re done are you proud and willing to sign your name with a flourish?????

Today you are like Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Van Gogh and all the other Masters. Your work may start simply and slow – but who knows where it will be tomorrow. Make every brush stroke worthy of the ages.
"I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate." Elbert Hubbard

Elbert Hubbard founded Roycroft, an Arts and Crafts community near Buffalo, NY that celebrated the pride that craftspeople have in their personal handiwork. He edited and published two magazines in the late 1800s, The Philistine and The Fra. The Philistine was bound in brown butcher paper and full of satire and whimsy. (Hubbard himself quipped that the cover was butcher paper because "There is meat inside.").

Take a moment to inventory all that you have and make sure that it’s just what you need. Simplify your life and limit your possessions so that your spirit can soar and appreciate all that you have. Then you’ll have time and energy to notice and appreciate the fine work that is done around you, and to comment on it to those responsible. Appreciating those things enriches your life, letting others know reinforces theirs. Try to avoid having and holding onto things that you don’t need, don’t want or don’t appreciate – that’s just excess baggage that slows you down and holds you back. Think of your world as being wrapped in Hubbard’s butcher paper – and make sure everything in there is as meaningful and good as it can be.
"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." -Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi represents a larger than life set of principles to many of the people that grew up in the last 75 years. In helping transition India from a colonial outpost to an emerging center of global influence he embodied the best aspects of human thought and conduct. Maybe best of all was the fact that his beliefs made him fearless in the face of what appeared to be invincible power.

Think about a normal day in your life – more demands than time, more expectations than energy, more pressure than resolve, more hunger than supply, more information than storage capacity, more stimulation than your senses can handle. So take a deep breath and let it all in gradually – processing what you can, storing more for later, making notes to yourself to help keep it all straight and just doing the best you can. Nobody expects you to be perfect – but you should always try to be as good as you can be at everything you do. You may or may not die tomorrow – but you will certainly be alive until you’re not – so keep taking it all in and learning from it and doing your best!
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person by person.” Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa (August 26, 1910 – September 5, 1997), born Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, was an Albanian Roman Catholic nun with Indian citizenship who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India in 1950. For over 45 years she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity's expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna, in 1980 for her humanitarian work. Thankfully she had the guts and good sense to start her mission alone.

Think about starting something in your world today? Take initiative and follow your inner guide – at work do whatever it takes to accomplish your work: listen attentively, ask questions, learn all you can about the things you work on and then provide the energy to move it ahead ; at home be aware of the latest techniques and information to help your family be safe, secure and happy: healthy living, regular exercise, programs that involve everyone and great group discussions; in your community learn what needs to be done: food banks and community gardens and beautification projects and volunteerism; and then just do it. Imagine if Mother Teresa waited for someone to tell her it was ok to create the Missionaries to help people with leprosy – it would never have gotten started. Imagine what you could accomplish with a little foresight, a big will and a lot of courage. Start one thing alone today and see what happens.
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Harry S. Truman
What a great quote from a man who never aspired to be president – he was an unlikely choice as Roosevelt’s VP for his fourth term, and served only a few months (Jan-May 1945) before becoming president. He was a man of principle, not really caring about public opinion, but rather always trying to do what was right. After leaving office in 1952 he drove himself to the train station in Washington for his trip back to Missouri.
Take a look at yourself and see where you measure on the scale of selfless behavior. When there are things to do, are you only looking beyond to see if it will improve your future or intent on doing the best you can at the time? When assigned to a group assignment, do you try to elbow your way to the point of highest visibility or jump into the exercise and do whatever needs to be done wherever it may be? When volunteers are needed do you jump for attention or let your demeanor and past actions speak for themselves? Today, more than ever, we’re called upon to do more with less, to care more than before, to work harder – all to try to help wherever we are get through these times successfully. The best among us brings credit to the team, knowing that that is the best reward. Earn (not take) credit for that and you’ll be more successful than you ever imagined.