Words

Sometimes the hardest thing to find
Is a way to express what is on your mind
Are words always enough to get across
Feelings ranging from love to loss?

Words come across in different ways
Depending on the type of phrase
They say things in a different way
When we laugh than when we pray.

The same word we speak or write
Can give us joy and also fright
Words can paint pictures for all to see
Or only pictures a thousands words to be?

Words whether written or spoke
Can make us rich or make us broke
They can bring us hapiness or pain
They can even control our brain.

Words of any size have so much power
Yes or no make the strongest cower
That is why as we go through each day
We must be careful in what we say.

Whether with our pen or with our voice
We are the only ones that make the choice
To use words to help and to heal
Or to express anger that we may feel.

It is in this choice we have to find
Ways in which to be respectful,  compassionate and kind
Fore as you think of the words in your head
Remember someone could say them to you instead.

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Visualize Your Success

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When you see Tiger Woods study a putt or you see Lebron James stare at the basket before a free throw they are visualizing success. Every great athlete uses visualization as a tool to see themselves make the winning putt, score the winning goal or hit the winning home run.  Anyone who has participated in sports has had those dreams whether they were nine or ninety.  I also have no doubt that the great artists and great photographers have a mental picture of what they want the end product to look like. And that great musicians know the sound they are looking to produce. People who are outstanding in their field all have one thing in common, they have a vision of success.

In taking that dreaded look in the mirror I would say I have not had a clear picture of success for myself. My vision for myself would have been more like those scratched up black and white photos from the 1950s that my family kept around all these years. I am now working on a new HD version supported by my writing and mission to share my experiences.

When I get to talk with people about having a vision I use my oldest son as a prime example. From early in his life, as early as eight or nine, he spoke of wanting to be a sports broadcaster. It was his vision to learn, know and speak sports not only verbally but through video. He spent hours learning everything he could about every sport. He learned to put  highlights together to music. He produced his High School football video year book. Helped teammates and his cousin with recruiting videos. And he and his friends won an internship during college to work on a national sports show. He had a vision  and today is successful in broadcasting. I couldn’t be prouder.

I tell this story because we should all have a vision of success. In business we may want to be the CEO, or open our own local sporting goods store. In life it may be about reaching a certain social level or being the best parent you can be. Having a vision for yourself and doing all you can to get there is what counts. Your vision is not about what others want for you, it is about what you want for you. When visualizing success others will be part of the picture and should be. But it is your vision and you must be focused on its success.

I know that staying on point to realize your vision will have challenges. Some will say you are selfish when you won’t change for them. Some will say you are not good enough and are wasting your time. Please remember two things; a vision is only selfish if you act selfishly and never let someone else tell you that you can’t accomplish anything.

If you don’t do any other thing over the next few days find a vision. Find something you can focus on that will help you reach the happiness you deserve. Then go make it happen. It will not always be smooth and roadblocks will appear but the only one who can stop you from seeing your vision become your life, is you.

What is Success?

successI have struggled over the years, especially since my Dad passed away, with my personal definition of success. Earlier today I posted a comment during a Twitter chat on people skills that has ended that search. Here is that comment:

“You are successful when the people around you succeed and you help them succeed by caring. “

When I look around my world and think about how I feel and react to situations in my life I realize that it is very important to me that the people in my life succeed. And that people know I care about their success. I was told once that I would; “never be successful” because I cared about my people. My response was; “I have been successful because people know I care.” For me that is the most important measure of success. Whether it is in business, friendship or in my family, success is found when others meet their goals.
That is my personal definition. What is important to realize is that everyone’s definition is different. For some the measure of success is financial, for others it is status or position, and for others it is measured in wins and losses. In each area the definitions and measurements for each person will be different. And while success may have a different definition and a different set of measurements for each person there are some things that should all be a part of success. The first ingredient should be integrity. As we have seen, far too often in the world of sports over the past few years, winning at all costs has become more important than winning the right way. The use of steroids, HGH and other performance enhancing drugs has not only put a black mark on the history of great games and people it has resulted in fewer people in the stands. People who have spent a day or twos pay just to buy a ticket to a game are deciding to stay home. Winning is not success, without integrity!

True success includes action not just words. I had a Manager tell me once that; “presentation was more important than substance.” This Manager was a person focused on status. Where he stood in the company was more important to him than how he got there. We have seen over the years, especially in politics, that there are many people who can talk a good game. But, that when it comes to getting things done the actions don’t live up to the words. A presentation without substance and actions is a waste of time. If I were to sit with my children and discuss the importance of reading to their future and they never pick up a book to read, was I successful? No, because my discussion never turned into action. Success is not about words, it’s about actions taken as a result of those words.

Success is not singular. No matter what we may think we are not successful by ourselves. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are two of the greatest Quarterbacks in football history. Without great receivers catching the ball they would not be successful. As great leaders they understand the importance of not only their receivers but also the rest of the team. Great business leaders such as Jack Welch and Bill Gates have gained their success with the help of all those with which they work. They lead but they are not alone. Success comes by believing in and having empathy for the people you engage with every day. Great social Leaders succeeded in creating change by inspiring people and leading them in a new direction. They did not make the changes alone. Success is not only about you, it is about the people around you.

Success takes competence and confidence. To be successful a person must be willing to learn and continue to learn. They must understand that having an open mind to learning is vital to having confidence. Can you be successful without being confident in yourself? Can you be confident in yourself without being competent in your subject? The answers are no. A musician that gets on stage and makes the show better than the song will not be truly successful. After my Dad passed away I was challenged by a former boss on my beliefs on leadership. My job was changed and I lost confidence in myself. Almost two years later I started reading again with a focus on leadership books, articles and blogs. I learned a lot and regained confidence in my competence on the subject. I took that confidence to a new level which resulted in me writing my blog. Success comes from believing in yourself and gaining belief from others.

One of the things I have learned through my reading and self-examination is that success is much like finger prints, there are no two definitions that will be exactly the same. The definition I have written for myself is not going to be the same that anyone else will write. Each have our own priorities, our own vision of what we see in ourselves and our own beliefs in how we want to be seen. Some may say that success comes from having a strong personal brand. Others will say success is about being a leader in their community. While others will see success as feeding their family three meals a day and having a safe place to live. The important thing is to have a goal for what success is to you, and to make it happen. Believe in yourself, learn and keep learning, bring others with you, act on your beliefs and always have integrity in the things you do. Success is within us all.

What is your definition of success?

Leadership Lessons from a Ballplayer!

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“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” – Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He was also a great leader. I have no doubt that, while he understood his place in baseball history, he did not realize the effects he would have on generations of future ball players. I am also sure he had no idea of the effect the words above would have on many people. Those words were not what made him a leader, it was his action. Mr. Robinson took on an entire society. He stood for his beliefs against hatred and racism by playing a game he loved and not letting anyone destroy his dreams. Words have meaning, actions are what count. That is a lesson we can all learn from today.

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about the seven leaders I would ask to dinner. Several readers suggested that I make a list of leaders who are alive today. As I thought about this list one of my criteria was action. To be included at dinner a leader would have to pass the action test, not just the word test. A person like Nelson Mandela would certainly fit into that model.  But at the same time in many leaders I see a lot of talk and not a lot of action. Please don’t get me wrong we have a lot of great business leaders in the world. Bill Gates, Jack Welsh and many others have done incredible things with technology and business leadership. But where are the social leaders of today? The people or person like President Mandela, President Lincoln, Martin Luther King or Jackie Robinson that lead social revolution and helped us build a better world.

 “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” –Jackie Robinson

One of #42’s strengths was shown in this quote. He wasn’t swayed by people liking him or not liking him. He wasn’t swayed by polls, or news stories or the people booing him in the stands. He believed in what he was doing and went out on the field and got it done. Today it seems our leaders are more swayed by what people think of them than by doing the right thing. They are more interested in protecting their brand than finding solutions to the issues of the day. In a way it is hard to blame them completely. Public figures are analyzed and critiqued more today than ever. Not only is every word looked at but the tone and context is broken down. Normally at least 50% of those commenting think they can do a better job or it should be done differently, although they won’t step out and take the challenge. Yet we don’t hold them accountable for what they say. Great leadership must overcome the words of others and take action. Few are willing to do that in today’s world.

“Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” – Jackie Robinson

So let’s all be honest; how many of us are spectators? Watching and waiting for the things we want to come to us, instead of going out and making it happen. Until I started to write this blog I was 100% guilty of being a spectator. For me this is the first step in trying to make a difference. If my writings have an influence on one person they are worth the time and effort. More importantly if they have an influence on my children and help them grow they will be part of my legacy. Most of us will not be in a place where we will influence the future of the world. At the same time we have the ability to make a difference when we decide to do so. With our children, in our communities, in our businesses, in our state or in our country we can make a difference by being involved and working to do the right things. We can make a difference by taking action and walking our talk not just talking.

Let’s think about this in another way. If Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Regan or many other of our great leaders of the past had been more concerned with their brand then with their beliefs and finding solutions we would have missed out on some great social change. If Jackie Robinson had given up on his dream of playing major league baseball would the game be the same today? We are in need of great leaders that will make their brand, action and not words. That will not worry about the things people say but will work towards solutions for today’s problems. That will make a difference in the lives of people.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner!

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Curt Summers @LincolnMgmt posted an idea of a thinking game on Twitter several weeks ago. He challenged his readers to pick seven people alive or deceased we would invite to dinner if we had the opportunity. Personally I could put together dinners for seven straight nights with seven different people each night. I would have a sports dinner or two, one with athletes and one with coaches. I would have a dinner of authors and another one or two with entertainment personalities. There would be one with reporters and news people and one with great people of influence. Since the original article by Mr. Summers was about leadership I am going to focus this blog on dinner with great people of influence.

Here is my list:

  1. Mother Teresa
  2. Martin Luther King
  3. Ronald Reagan
  4. Abraham Lincoln
  5. John F. Kennedy
  6. Thomas Jefferson
  7. A. William Rhodes – My Dad

Of course, there have been many other people who have had both a great positive and a great negative influence on the history of the world. For me the importance of this group is that it is diverse. There are certainly differences in politics from top to bottom. There would surely be differences in how to handle the issues of today. And there would be differences in Leadership and Management Styles. What would not be different is the desire and ability to make a difference in the lives of people. Each of these people would demonstrate not only a great ability to speak but also to listen. They would be able to give examples of how they met real life challenges and overcame them.

Mother Teresa was an advocate for the poor. She devoted her life to making a difference for those less fortunate. One of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa is:

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa

All of us can learn the importance of seeing people as simply that people. No matter their place in the universe a person is a person.

Martin Luther King overcame so many challenges it would be difficult to list them all. And most importantly he did so in peace. He stood for the equality of his people at a time when they were thought of as second class citizens simply because of the color of their skin. One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King comes from his most famous speech:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”- Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream, 1963.

Today we are much closer to that dream yet we still have work to do.

Ronald Reagan was an actor turned President. President Regan was a man on a mission. His Regan Revolution was focused on making people less reliant on the government. It was not only about being proud to be an American, but also about taking pride in what you could do for yourself. In some ways he popularized the concept of Personal Accountability. My favorite of his many quotes:

To sit back hoping that someday, someway, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last–but eat you he will.” – Ronald Reagan

One of the top leadership conversations today is that of Personal Accountability. Will we take accountability for our own lives and our own futures or will we wait to be eaten by the Crocodile?

 

Abraham Lincoln, the tall, lanky man from the woods of Kentucky and Indiana lead during the darkest days of our country and died for fighting for what he believed. There are many stories about his cabinet meetings and visits to the Union troops during the civil war. He is most famous for the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address which both illustrate a man standing up for his beliefs. One of my favorite quotes from President Lincoln:

“I desire to so conduct the affairs of this administration that if, at the end … I have lost every friend on earth, I shall have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside me.”Abraham Lincoln

 

This quote speaks of leadership from the core. You must believe in yourself and stand for what you believe in if you are going to meet the challenges ahead. Leadership of many most often starts with being the leader of one yourself.

 

John F Kennedy was lost to us before he started. I have often wondered where we would be as a country had that day in Dallas never happened. He was much beloved despite his faults and was in a position to bring America an energy it had not seen in many years. I would ask President Kennedy what his plan was for the future. I bet the answer would be inspiring. My favorite quote of his:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” – John F. Kennedy, Inaugural address, January 20, 1961

 

This is a message we are still working to achieve today. In a world that has become smaller through technology we continue to work on solutions that bring people together and end war. And within our borders we continue to fight among ourselves rather than finding solutions for a better America.

 

Thomas Jefferson was not the first President of the United States but may have been our first great leader. He was a powerful advocate for liberty. Although it seems his tool of influence was more the pen than the spoken word, he stood tall among his peers. He drafted the Declaration of Independence yet did not initially place his signature on it. I see him as a humble man who would bring much wisdom to any leadership discussion. My favorite quote:

Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.Thomas Jefferson

 

This is a simple truth from a brilliant man. Sadly, it is a truth that may no longer exist in many facets of our lives. We seem to have accepted that dishonesty and little white lies are part of life. We have allowed our politicians, our advertisers and even ourselves to provide only part of the story rather than the honest, entire story.  Honesty and humility are two of the keys to great leadership. They are also the two that often keep good leaders from being great and our world requires great leaders today.

 

A William Rhodes is my father. Many of you will think that this is simply a sentimental choice from someone who lost his Father just over two years ago. In fact, I have planned a dinner with people of influence and for me and anyone fortunate enough to have worked with or met my father, he was a very influential person. My father and I certainly had our differences during our time together, but as I grew in my role as a father and manager of people, I began to understand more and more that we agreed on two fundamental concepts; respect and responsibility. Did my father like every person that he worked with or met through family and friends? Perhaps not, but he gave them all the presumption that they deserved his respect. He allowed people to speak their differences, he listened and he gave his response carefully and respectfully. My father also understood responsibility and held the expectation that everyone must take responsibility for their actions.  Those are important qualities, but what brings my Dad to the table is the way others saw him: the people who spoke at his retirement dinner and spoke about him publicly and privately throughout his life; the people who honored him at his Memorial and still speak of him two years later; the people who offered his children lodging during travel here and abroad.  I hear so many discussions about athletes or entertainers becoming role models in society and I shake my head. I grew up the fan of many great athletes and was fortunate enough to know friends who became great athletes, but my role models were in my home. My Mother and Father were my role models and strongest “people of influence” in my life. I believe parents should be the primary role models in the life of every child. One last note on Dad is that he probably wouldn’t accept his seat at the table without Mom sitting beside him, so I will add a plate.

My favorite quote:

“Your people don’t work for you, they work with you.”- A William (Bill) Rhodes

 

Words I remind myself of every day.

 

Those are my selections for a great leader’s dinner. Jot down your own, read about them and learn from them. We can all learn from the past to help us create a better future.