Resist bullies

bullyIf Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

This old saying shows up a lot on t-shirts, coffee cups, and wall plaques. It’s supposed to make us smile, but it annoys me.

Shame on Momma for being so self-centered and narcissistic that she manipulates people with her emotional moods.

Momma is a bully.

A mature mother would have this attitude: Even though I may not be happy, I want others to be, so I’ll conduct myself in such a way as to conceal my unhappiness until I can find the right time, place, and method to deal with my challenges.

Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, harm, humiliate, or dominate others.

The only way to stop a bully is to resist him. Bullies can’t exist without victims, so if we refuse to be passive and actively resist their behavior, we can stop bullies in their tracks.

Some bullying is obvious: high-level Mafia-type extortion, tyrannical behavior at school or at the office. These certainly need to be identified and resisted. But there are also more subtle types of bullying—like Mamma making everyone unhappy if she’s unhappy.

Have you ever known someone whose behavior is so unpredictable and irrational that you feel like you’re constantly “walking on thin ice” when you’re around him? You always have to think twice about how and when to interact with him because you never know what mood he’s in. It’s a subtle form of bullying and he won’t quit until someone stands up to him.

My father was a bully. He manipulated others with his erratic, temperamental, and sometimes volatile behavior. His moodiness made everyone uncomfortable and on edge. Early on, someone should have told him, “Stop it. Your behavior will not be tolerated. Do that again and your family will leave and you’ll be all alone.” Sadly, no one ever pushed back. He was a bully until his death at age 77.

Resist bullies.

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What? – Don’t be bullied.
So what? – As long as we play the role of a victim, bullies will continue their behavior. So tell bullies, “Stop!”
Now what? – Are you tolerating any bullies in your life? If so, calmly but forcefully resist. Don’t compromise or bargain with them.

Leaders – Do you bully others? Is there a bully on your team? Address this behavior.

Be curious

curiosity7.001Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go; it hits your mind and bounces off. —Christensen

I’m an oenophile — I enjoying studying about wine. One evening Mary and I  were having dinner with friends and we opened a bottle of Cava, a sparkling wine made in Spain. I’m known as the local wine expert so someone asked me, “Don, what grapes are used to make Cava?” I was embarrassed because I didn’t know. That question (and the added emotional discomfort) formed a “space” in my mind. As soon as I could, I looked up the answer (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-Lo) and the answer immediately had a place to go. It is firmly in place and will never leave.

That’s why questions are so important. Answers abound but they remain unattached until matched with a question. We should always have more questions than answers because questions long for and search for answers. Questions are to answers what a magnet is to iron filings.

This helps explain the effectiveness of “teaching moments ” — times in our lives when we are eager and quick to learn because life has created a vacuum that is, at best uncomfortable and, at worst, painful, until it is filled with appropriate knowledge. Often, we don’t learn until we need to know. That’s why a curious mind is a good thing and a prerequisite for personal growth.

Curious people enjoy the interrogatives; what, why, when, who, where, and how.

Curiosity was a motivating force in the lives of two famous theoretical physicists: Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

Einstein said, “I have no special talents; I am only passionately curious.” He also said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning…never lose a holy curiosity.”

In his first Facebook post (which reached 900,000 people in a few weeks), Stephen Hawking wrote, “I have always wondered what makes the universe exist. Time and space may forever be a mystery, but that has not stopped my pursuit. Our connections to one another have grown infinitely and now that I have the chance, I’m eager to share this journey with you. Be curious, I know I will forever be.”

Be curious.

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What? – Curiosity is a valuable trait. Unanswered questions will lead us to a good place.
So what? – Be curious.
Now what? – To prime the “curiosity pump” write down five questions to which you want an answer.

Leaders – Consider the role that curiosity can play in your organization: the creation of products and services, understanding your stake holders, initiating change, etc. Is curiosity valued or sanctioned?

Control your thoughts

thoughts9.001That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change; but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent. – Chinese proverb

Your thoughts are very influential; they affect your emotions, direct your behavior, and eventually shape your life. The good news is, as suggested by the proverb, you can control what you think about, particularly what you dwell on.

Psychology Professor Brian Little, in his must-read book, Me, Myself, and Us, shares a delightful anecdote that illustrates the fact that we can control our thoughts. He writes:

“I had the opportunity to attend grand rounds at a large psychiatric hospital where the demonstration for that month was about ‘thought stopping’ for reducing violent behavior. The demonstrator asked us to close our eyes and imagine, for about three minutes, a scene that made us frustrated and at least somewhat hostile. I had been deeply concentrating on (a particular) image and building up a nice wad of anger when the demonstrator’s voice screamed through the microphone: STOP!!! We all jumped and stopped simultaneously. Our instructor then asked us how many were still thinking about the event that made us hostile. None of us were. The next step in the demonstration was to show how we could incorporate this ‘cue word’ — STOP — whenever we wished to be diverted from a course of thinking that was creating hostility, anxiety, or another undesirable emotion.” (page 127)

Granted, we usually cannot control our initial thoughts because they are spontaneous and often come from sources beyond our control. But we do have a choice as to which thoughts we entertain and which ones we reject. For better and for worse, the thoughts that we pursue and leave unsanctioned influence us the most.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Analyze all thoughts as to whether or not they are true. If they are true (“I may lose my job”), deal with them; if they are false or cannot be confirmed, refuse them.
  • Even if thoughts are true, if they are negative, don’t dwell on them. If, indeed, you are going to lose your job, don’t let that issue monopolize your thinking.
  • Choose to dwell on thoughts that are productive and those that will lead to positive outcomes.

I’m not suggesting a naive, feel-good, positive-thinking approach to life. Be realistic and aggressively pursue problems. I am advocating a controlled thought-life that balances good and challenging thoughts and one where bird nests don’t form.

Sow a thought, reap an act.
Sow an act, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

What? – Control your thoughts because they deeply impact life.
So what? – Fortunately, you can control your thoughts but you must be intentional about doing so.
Now what? – Analyze your thoughts and control them.

Do more

thinker.001 copyIn June 1939, three months before England declared war on Germany, the U.S. military ranked 19th in the world—smaller than Portugal’s and only slightly ahead of Bulgaria. In 1944 we ranked 1st in the world.

In 1939 the U.S. produced $0.3 billion of combat munitions. By 1944 we were producing $44 billion annually — almost more than the Allied and Axis powers combined. This was equivalent to building a Panama Canal every week.

America’s response to World War II was the most extraordinary mobilization of an idle economy in the history of the world. Japanese bombs dropped on a U.S military base in the Pacific Ocean called the nation to attention and action.

It’s amazing what can be done when we’re properly motivated.

Most organizations can do more

Robert Schaffer says, “Join me in testing the view that most companies are functioning at only 40, 50, or 60 percent of their capacity, and that the much higher levels of performance reached in emergencies are actually more closer to true, sustainable potentials than are the ‘normal’ levels of performance.”

I once served as director of resources at a training and resource organization. One year, at the last minute, we thought it would be beneficial to have a new book to distribute at our national convention which would start in three weeks. We did what we had to do to get it done. We wrote, compiled, copy-edited, line-edited, typeset, designed the cover, and printed the book in 21 days.

Most individuals can do more

Years ago I thought it would be interesting and insightful to see how much work I could get done in one day. I determined that the upcoming Saturday would be the most productive day of my life. On a typical Saturday, I have about seven items on my to-do-list, but for this special day I had a list of 23 things I wanted to accomplish. I started early in the morning, maintained a brisk pace, and worked late into the evening and accomplished all 23 items.

I don’t want to maintain that pace every Saturday, but it did teach me that I can do a lot more if I want to or need to.

You may not want to maintain super-high capacity — it may be unsustainable, unhealthy or simply unappealing. But just know that the potential is there, and if the bombs start falling, you can rise to the demand.

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What? – Most organizations and individuals can accomplish more than they normally do, if they want to or have to.
So what? – Productivity rates should be analyzed; are they adequate, unreasonable, or insufficient?
Now what? – Consider your rate of productivity. Are you satisfied with it?

Leaders – Have you and your team ever had an unusual and demanding circumstance that required you to perform at near-maximum production? How did you do? How then did you determine what should be a normal level of productivity?

Embrace significant thoughts

shower.jpg.001Significant thoughts will change your life.

Call them what you want — wise sayings, proverbs, maxims, aphorisms, quotes — they are concisely written or spoken linguistic expressions that are especially memorable because of their meaning or structure. Distilled wisdom. Important thoughts reduced to a few choice words.

How do famous sayings come into existence? Who vets all the statements uttered by mankind and decides which ones are given the high honor of becoming timeless and often transcendent? Interestingly, there’s no selection committee and no official vote taken. A combination of time and human censorship filter and cull humanity’s thoughts, and what have survived are nuggets of truth.

Here are some suggestions on how to benefit from significant thoughts.

Constantly search for them

In your reading and conversations, be on the lookout for thoughts that matter. Just this week, while reading a book, I discovered this Chinese proverb: That the birds of worry and care fly above your head, this you cannot change; but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.

Write them down

If you don’t write it down, you’ll lose it. If necessary, write it on a scrap piece of paper until you can transfer it to your thought journal. Steven Covey says, “Writing bridges the conscious and subconscious mind. Writing is a psycho-neuromuscular activity that literally imprints the brain.”

Memorize them

This is the most important, but often neglected, step. When you memorize a statement, it finds a place in your mind and becomes available for reflection and application. Knowledge without memory is useless.

Share them

A.K. Chesterson said, “Thoughts disentangle themselves over the lips and through the fingertips.” Intentional dialogue is a terrific way to “untangle” significant thoughts. Simply introduce one of your thoughts into a conversation you’re having with friends. You might begin by saying, “I’ve been thinking about a phrase and would enjoy hearing your thoughts about it. Here it is…” The conversation will deepen your understanding of the thought and help solidify its place in your mind. It could also add value and meaning to what otherwise might be a frivolous conversation.

Apply them

One of the great moments of life happens when you personally experience, or see someone else experience, truth. For instance, one day I was coaching a young executive who was struggling with how to deal with a toxic team member stirring up strife among his team. I shared with him an ancient proverb, “Remove the scoffer from your midst and strife will cease.” He immediately sensed that it was the right solution to the problem and soon started the process of dismissing the troublemaker. When the man was gone, strife ceased. I enjoyed watching a significant truth impact life.

Significant thoughts will change your life. Learn them and use them.

Click here to see 15 wise sayings that have changed my life.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


What? – Significant thoughts can change your life.
So what? – Proactively integrate important thoughts into your life.
Now what? – Establish a personal system whereby you find, write down, memorize, share, and apply significant thoughts to your life.

Leaders – Don’t underestimate the benefit of integrating key thoughts into the life and culture of your organization. For instance, the maxim “All of us are smarter than any one of us” will help cultivate and empower collaboration among team members. Reiterating the phrase, “Get the right people doing the right thing in the right way” will reinforce the importance of aligning people, goals, and processes.