October 26, 2012

Don't Let Optimism Get in the Way of Hope

My dealings with friends, family, and others in the recent past have led me to think often on the ideas of Hope and Optimism.  I think many of you can relate to this.  These are hard times for most everyone.  "If it rains hard enough, everyone gets a little wet." as the saying goes and it's obviously been raining for quite a while.  How are we to cope with our respective problems and challenges?  

The generic answer is be optimistic.  It's so easy to tell someone that "the grass is greener on the other side" or, "everything will work out."  My personal relation to someone else's hardships cause me to question that generic solution to every problem.  I feel like it's a copout sometimes.  We have to say something comforting, right?  Maybe, but I wonder if we are missing an opportunity.  

Optimism is the positive mindset that everything will work out.  It is a mindset regarding the potential for better things in the future.  It allows people to look past their problems to the potential of better things ahead.  It brings comfort knowing that things could be better than they are currently.  Within optimism, however, lies a problem.  Optimism seemingly lies in opposition with reality.  As time passes and challenges persist, the view of our better future gives way to the reality that we can't actually be sure if it will end up that way.  We end up having to keep revisiting our problems and repainting our desired outcomes in our mind.  This kind of optimism is unfounded and weak.

Hope is often confused as the same thing as optimism when it really is very different.  Vaclav Havel was a president of The Czech Republic as well as an accomplished playwright.  He is known internationally as one of the top intellectuals of our century.  Consider his definition of hope.   "Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."  Hope is not about some futuristic picture that may or may not be true.  It is a tangible result of our meaningful acceptance of present situations.  Hope is the perfect balance of optimism and reality.  It doesn't give way to reality because it is founded on reality, and it doesn't overshadow optimism because it leads us to it.  It combines the structure and foundation of realism with the positive attitude and forward thinking of optimism.  

No matter how much we progress in life, there will always be barriers in our way that knock us off balance.  Hope gives us the power to find meaning in these experiences.  So before we try to picture ourselves in a better place, find something to be grateful for where you are now.  Before you tell someone else that everything will work out, help them learn the lessons life is currently trying to teach them.  

October 6, 2012

Finding Your "Walden Pond"

Many of us have heard the wonderful story told by the great author, Henry David Thoreau, as he escapes the distractions of the city in search of a life more fulfilling.  He travels to the rural Walden Pond and settles to begin a journey of life completely independent of others.  In this solitude, Thoreau is able to contemplate everything from economics to human warfare. 

What inspires me most is WHY Thoreau seeks out this experience.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” 

Thoreau’s cause is noble and extravagant.  So much so that many of us cannot imagine doing it ourselves.  The stresses of life make it look so desirable.  The common phrase “I need a vacation” is heard all too often.   It is easy to get caught up as Thoreau did, in the business of life.  It is easy to forget the simple pleasures that make life worth living.  It is easy to get so fed up that we feel like we need to take a break just to regain our sanity.  While I like the courage Thoreau showed in his “Walden” experience, many of us do not have the same literal opportunity to physically and geographically escape the distractions of life.  True courage is finding that same solitude and independence even amidst our career, family, and social duties.  We can find our own, figurative “Walden”.

Here are some pointers:

Be grateful for the small everyday things.

Learn about yourself and what you want to do with your life

Love someone and allow someone to love you

Give service

Work hard for the things that are most important to you

Keep a journal of your thoughts, impressions, feelings, gratitudes, and experiences

Oscar Wilde said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”  What a shameful thought.  It’s time for us to focus on the revitalization of the endangered idea of living.

September 28, 2012

We've Got Ourselves A Game

I have always been big into sports. I love watching them and playing them. I know what it's like to be the underdog. I know what it's like to have the passion and desire but lack all the skill. And I've seen that passion and desire come off on top of others skill. It taught me a lesson that applies outside of sports as well. 

I look at what our culture defines as "successful" people and I admit, it is easy to feel weak, unable, and ungifted. It seems like they started with all the right tools. Tools that we may never get. But we don't see the hard work and passion that goes into it-- no matter how gifted. 

A couple of years ago, The TV netwrok Versus released one of the most inspiring commercials I've ever seen. It teaches that the playing field of life is not always what it seems. The big shots don't always come out on top. So if you're feeling like an underdog, take a second to watch this clip to remind yourself that people have as much of a chance as they give themselves. You may not start under the same circumstances. You may not even take the same route. But you can "flip the script and take a pass on yelling uncle".  It's what makes life interesting. 

Heres the thing that makes life so interesting. The theory of evolution claims that only the strong shall survive. Maybe so...maybe so...But the theory of competition says just because their the strong doesn't mean they cant get their ass's kicked. Thats right. See what every long shot, come from behind underdog will tell you is this. The other guy may in fact be the favorite, the odds maybe stacked against you, fair enough. But what the odds don't know is this isn't a math test. This is a completely different kind of test. One where PASSION has a funny way of trumping logic. So before you step up to the starting line, before the whistle blows, and the clock starts ticking. Just remember out here the results don't always add up. No matter what the stats may say, and the experts may think, and the commentators may have predicted, when the race is on all bets are off. Don't be surprised if someone decides to flip the script and take a pass on yelling uncle. And then suddenly as the old saying goes, WE GOT OURSELVES A GAME!

July 23, 2012

Drive ~ Daniel Pink

A very clever way to understand motivation~ "Drive" by Daniel Pink.  Check out his book as well.

July 20, 2012

The Colorado Shooting and how to move forward

I was going to write about leadership lessons learned while watching the 
newly released “Dark Knight Rises” but  the events of last night have encouraged me to share a more important message.

I do want to offer my condolences to those affected in any way by the shooting last night.  It is terribly tragic.  I offer my testimony that I personally know that death is not the end.  And I offer a perspective of life that can give comfort to both those directly and indirectly affected.  God has a plan for each and every one of us.  Learn about that plan here.

While the events were tragic and do ware heavy on our hearts, It is the spirit of the American people to not allow such actions and happenings to ruin our spirits.  It is my prayer that we will continue to live a life made possible by the freedom we enjoy.  Maybe we can make but one difference after what we’ve seen today, and that is that we try a little harder to be kind to one another.  Try a little harder to reach out to those that may appear to be struggling.  In the process, we will make friends and combat the causes of these tragic events. 

  I am glad to see that the politics of this years election was put on the back burner for a bit but saddened that it took an event like this to end the political games, and saddened by the idea that they will just carry on where they left off in a matter of days.  But I guess I should enjoy it while It lasts.  Today, both the President and the potential president ended their vicious attacks against each other and both shared powerfully uplifting messages to raise the spirits of the American people.  Does it really have to get this bad to see this kind of leadership?  Leadership is something that should prevail in the good times as much as the bad.

But regardless of what our “leaders” do, we have a responsibility to renew our commitment and our responsibility to lead and uplift those around us.   So as we remember those who lost their lives and those who came close, lets also remember that we have the power to make this world a better place. 

Passion and Compassion by Chantelle Steadman

Why We Lead holds strong to its belief that every person alive has the potential, and the responsibility to lead themselves and then influence those around them.  So many are looking up the hierarchy to government for leadership and we are learning that politics and leadership are becoming far disconnected.  We need to be looking within ourselves and to each other. So....Everyone, meet Chantelle.  Chantelle, meet everyone.  Chantelle is Why We Lead's first Guest blogger.  We will now be seeking out everyday leaders and asking them to share their stories or passions.  Great Idea?  Yeah, we know.  I now Introduce Chantelle.

My name is Chantelle Steadman
and I attend Utah Valley
University where I am studying
business management and human relations.
I currently reside in Orem, Utah with
my husband. I love people, talking, and smiling.
I have a passion for leadership
and I love to work with people. I
believe that leading by example
is essential if one is to be an
effective and inspirational leader.

Passion and Compassion
By: Chantelle Steadman
I have always felt that compassion is essential in order to become a true leader. It is such a leaders aim to inspire the people around them and to help them realize their full potential for the difference that their existence can make within the world. Without compassion, leadership turns authoritative and dull. Compassion requires leaders to recognize the differences and strengths within every person within their influence. It enables people to feel trust and confidence and it encourages them to work their hardest and give to the people around them.

From the heart of compassion, comes our passion as leaders. To be passionate is to have enthusiasm that comes from within. True leadership means finding your passion, coupling it with compassion, and dedicating your life to pursuing it. Passionate leaders are conscious of those around them. They will invest their time and energy into solving problems and building trust and support for their followers. Their passion or drive to alleviate others’ distress is derived from their desire to exhibit compassion.

When a person’s passion is truly genuine, they will have true concern for the people around them and will create an environment in which their followers will become increasingly concerned for each other thus creating a unity that cannot be broken. 


Chantelle chose this topic because she is a strong believer in compassionate leadership. She was inspired by a speaker that shared his story about an accident that took his wife and kid, inspiring him to rethink his life and live for compassion.  She says, "He talked a lot about the connection between compassion and passion itself and I thought it was very interesting. I strongly believe that a passionate leader understands how to treat their followers with compassion. By leading in a compassionate manner, anyone who is involved in a certain project can feel this and will want to behave in accordance. Strong relationships form and there tends to be much less tension than if there was a leader who didn't truly understand compassion."  

July 19, 2012

Success or Significance

First, a couple of questions to ask:

Is it better to reach a goal of leading a large organization?  Or is it better to influence just one person to change for the better?

Is it better to manipulate people to your cause for short term increase in numbers?  Or to uplift, empower, and help people find cause in themselves? 

Is it better to master the political game to win people’s hearts and gain public office?  Or is it better to be chosen by the people to lead because of the power you’ve given them?   

If you’ve been following my tweets, you probably know what this article is about.  It’s something I have strongly valued for a long time and the nearing political election has played a large role in getting it on my mind again.  It is the idea that significance is greater than success—that the culture of fighting for success as an end is destroying our potential for good.
So what’s the difference?  Dewitt Jones said that “the difference between success and significance is not being the best in the world, but rather the best for the world.”  We have created a culture where we will do just about anything for this idea of success.  It starts out as a noble pursuit.  It is good for people to want to achieve something.  But as soon as they do, they realize that it is not enough.   It is not as filling as they thought it would be.  The have to move on to the next thing, sacrificing more and more for selfish pursuits.   A lot of the trouble comes from the fact that people have learned that they can be successful even when they are doing things the easy way.  They can cheat and win and get away with it.  They can copy someone else that has seen success, completely omitting creativity.  A spiritual role-model of mine, Elder Jeffery R. Holland warned that “Surely fluttering somewhere over the highway to hell is the Chamber of Horrors banner reading ‘Welcome to the ethics of ease’.” 

Significance, on the other hand, is being successful in the cause of unselfishly serving the world.  Many of us have tried to offer this service and we can testify that it is no easy task.  Why is it so hard?  When you are focused on the quality of significance rather than the quantity of success, you are giving up yourself for a cause that is greater than your own.  And this cause requires everything of you.  Think about Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Viktor Frankl—they had to give up everything they had for their influence and significance, even their lives. 

So yes, to answer the questions above; quality influence on the few is greater than falsely leading the many, building loyalty and empowering is better than manipulating, Leading people and building leadership is better than politics.  Set your eyes on significance and let the real success follow.  Here’s a couple ideas to get you started:

Be Creative: You can mimic what others have done to be successful, but being significant requires that you do things your way.  Take the time to learn who you are before you decide what you do.  “[Vocation is] the place where your deep gladness meets the worlds deep need.” Frederick Buechners

Stop trying to find the easy way: Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!  No substantial service has ever been performed by doing things the easy way.  Hard work will define you as someone that is willing to sacrifice for the betterment of those around you.

Fear no failure:  Fear of failure is the enemy of progression.  It will discourage you from trying new things.  Find some creative way to serve the world.  You will fail, but remember, failure is nothing more than a lesson learned.  Get back up and keep moving forward.

What else?