Make friends

friends3.001Besides, which would you rather have, money or a faithful and modest friend? Epictetus

Years ago I saw a cartoon depicting a thief pointing his gun at a frightened victim and yelling, “Give me all your valuables.” The next panel showed the victim stuffing all of his friends into the thief’s sack.

Friendships are among the most valuable assets in life. I value them more than currency or possessions. In terms of friendships, how wealthy are you?

Take the initiative to develop friendships.

An ancient proverb says, “He who would have friends must show himself to be friendly.” My favorite word in the English language is initiative. It is a common trait of leaders and people who progress in life. And it is mentioned in this proverb as a key to developing friendships. To make friends you must “show yourself to be friendly.” Take the first step; make the first move; pick up the phone and call someone you would like to start a new friendship with or contact an existing friend to deepen the relationship.

 I went out in the world to find a friend.
And I could not find one there.
Then I went out to be a friend.
And friends were everywhere.

It’s okay to categorize your friendships.

There’s nothing wrong with categorizing friendships based on how close the relationships are. When I consider the different levels of my friendships I visualize concentric circles. The inner circle represents my closest friends. The next, larger circle includes a larger group of friends that I’m not as close to, and so on.

It’s interesting and satisfying to watch a friendship move from an outer circle to one nearer the center. For instance, I first met my friend Ken Allen about nine years ago when our families were sharing a meal together. Ken joined the church choir that I direct so we started seeing each other at least twice a week. In the next five years he participated in several choir tours so we traveled the world together with other choir members. We’ve shared a lot of meals together. We have slowly become very good friends. Our friendship deepened in a natural, unforced manner.

Don’t underestimate how many friendships you can develop.

Don’t think “I can only negotiate 10 close friends” or “about 50 friends is all I can handle.” Through the years, my concentric circles of friendships all get larger.

One of my goals in 2016 is to make 50 new friends. As of August, I’ve cultivated 25 new friends. I met Larry on a European trip we were on together. My new friend, John, is married to a woman who works in my office. I met Sayed when I opened an account at Fidelity Investments. If you look for them, potential friends are everywhere (see my post on the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon).

One way I’m solidifying and deepening these new friendships is to host a weekly luncheon where six of us meet to talk about important issues. We meet for five consecutive weeks. It’s amazing how quickly friendships can deepen if you talk openly about significant thoughts.

Soon after Jack Benny died, George Burns was interviewed on T.V. Burns commented, “Jack and I had a wonderful friendship for nearly fifty-five years. Jack never walked out on me when I sang a song, and I never walked out on him when he played the violin. We laughed together, we played together, we worked together, we ate together. I suppose that for many of those years we talked every single day.”

Jack and George shared a priceless commodity—friendship.

Click here to read a great article on the topic of friendship.

Utilize the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

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baader2Several months ago Mary and I were contemplating buying a new car. We narrowed our search to a Honda CRV. Suddenly, Honda CRVs were everywhere. I saw them on the road and noticed them in advertisements in magazines and online. I soon met several people who owned one. Within 48 hours that particular car became ubiquitous. Why had I not noticed them before?

We’ve all experienced this phenomenon—a concept or item is put on the forefront of our minds and suddenly it seems to show up everywhere. Of course, it was there all along; we’re just now seeing it.

There are several terms that describe this phenomenon; one is colloquial, coined by a journalist, and the other is a more academic phrase coined by a psychology professor.

The term Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was first used in 1994 by a commenter on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ online discussion board, who came up with it after hearing, for the first time, the name of the ultra-left-wing German terrorist group twice in 24 hours.

In 2006 Stanford professor Arnold Zwicky coined the phrase “frequency illusion” to describe this syndrome. It’s caused, he wrote, by two psychological processes. The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you subconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence.

We can use this phenomenon to our advantage. Since we tend to notice that which we look for, let’s choose what we look for.

For instance:

  • We are surrounded by innumerable reasons to be grateful—life, freedom, friends—but we’ll remain unaware, and perhaps ungrateful, unless we look for them.
  • We are encompassed by beauty—nature, children, music, books—but often don’t recognize it.
  • God is at work in our lives but we may not recognize His activity because we’re looking elsewhere.

This concept has huge implications for goal setting. I’ve often wondered why, when we set a goal and go public with it, our chances of accomplishing the goal dramatically increase. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon would suggest that once goals are placed on the forefront of our minds we’re more aware of them and we’ll devote more time and effort to achieving them.

For instance, one of my goals for 2016 is to make 50 new friends. Having set and announced the goal, making friends has become an important part of my conscious thinking. I’m constantly looking for friends and, guess what, I’m finding them everywhere.

What do you look for?
Here’s an engaging YouTube video on this topic.

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

Only 10 openings remain for the Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information click here.

Don’t give people what you like; give what they value

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gift givine

Self-centeredness is a powerful force. If left unchecked, it will sully every aspect of our lives. For instance, even when we want to give something to someone else, our preoccupation with self can pollute our act—we’ll give what we value and would enjoy receiving instead of what he or she would like.

  • For my honeymoon I planned a trip to Acapulco; I had been there before and loved it, so I assumed Mary would, also. She didn’t.
  • I recently gave a friend a copy of a novel that I enjoyed reading. My friend doesn’t like fiction.
  • I took a friend out to dinner for his birthday to my favorite Mexican food restaurant. His favorite food is Italian.
  • I spoke words of instruction to my hurting friend. What he really needed was comfort.

So the next time you want to give, find out what the intended receiver wants. If you’re not sure what he prefers, ask him. He will tell you.

To get the full impact of this essay, please respond to two topics.

  • Think of a time when someone gave you a gift that he or she valued but you did not.
  • Think of a time when you gave someone a gift that you valued but the recipient probably did not.

The antidote for self-centeredness is to focus on others. Think about others and put them first – especially when giving gifts.

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

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Don’t make excuses for character flaws and bad behavior, thinking “that’s just who I am.”

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excuses3.001I once had an employee who had the audacity to declare, “I know I have a short fuse and a bad temper, but that’s just who I am. People who work with me just need to deal with it.” I informed him that his inordinate temper would not be tolerated because it is an area that he has control over and needs to change.

I have a friend who is always late. She’ll probably be late to her own funeral. When I questioned her about her tardiness, she replied, “Yeah, I’ve always struggled with being on time. My mother was that way; I must have gotten it from her.” Her attitude is unacceptable. It’s rude to be tardy and everyone can learn to be punctual.

Don’t ever make excuses for character flaws and bad behavior because they are not part of your inalterable essence—you can, and should, change.

The serenity prayer says it quite eloquently:

Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

  • You can’t change your height but you can change your weight.
  • You can’t change your basic personality (and you don’t need to) but you can choose to be punctual, positive, kind, discreet, fair, etc.
  • You can’t change who your parents are but you can choose your friends.
  • You can’t change the weather but you do have sovereign control over your attitude.

Take responsibility for your attitude and behavior. Don’t minimize, ignore, or make excuses for personal deficiencies. If you talk too much, talk less. If you talk too loudly, speak more softly. If you are pessimistic, choose to be optimistic.

Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach, said, “Over time, it is easy for each of us to cross the line and begin to make a virtue of our flaws—simply because the flaws constitute what we think of as ‘me.’ This misguided loyalty to our true natures—this excessive need to be me—is one of the toughest obstacles to making positive long-term change in our behavior.”

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Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information at

Do things sooner rather than later

procrastination1If something must be done sooner or later, sooner is better.
Procrastination is a vice; promptness is a virtue.

I prefer people who have a bias toward action. Give them a job and it will be done. They stay busy. At work, if they finish their assigned work and have time left over, they look for something else to do.

I also admire people who get work done sooner rather than later. It’s not just that they work fast (this, too, is a virtue); they start early and finish ahead of schedule.

There are advantages of doing work sooner rather than later:

  • Unpleasant tasks will not inordinately affect us. We often postpone the unavoidable when we perceive it to be unpleasant. But when we aggressively pursue all tasks, the unpleasant ones won’t haunt us.
  • Quality will improve. Quality often suffers when we do something at the last minute. Quality improves when we give ourselves sufficient time to complete a task.
  • We can recover from mistakes and setbacks more quickly. The noted philosopher Mike Tyson once mused, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” It’s true: projects seldom follow an ideal, predictable path. By starting early, necessary changes are more easily negotiated.
  • Some tasks will take longer to complete than we think. Starting early will provide needed margin to finish on time.
  • Completing responsibilities early will provide us with peace of mind; we can cease pining and relax.

Consider these scenarios:

  • You know your IRS tax return is due on or before April 15; why not complete it in February?
  • Why not write that thank-you note soon after you receive the gift, instead of waiting several weeks?
  • This week, you need to have a tough conversation with one of your team members. Do it on Monday instead of later in the week.
  • Plan your vacation a year in advance.

In my organization, we plan at least 12 months in advance. We visualize what life could look like 365 days from now and make a commitment toward it. We’re also flexible, realizing that plans may change, but it sure helps to prepare ahead of time.

Sometimes, there may be an advantage in delaying action. The extra time may allow you to get more and better information. Circumstances may change which will affect your task. But as a rule, be aggressive in getting work done.

Do things sooner rather than later.

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

Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information at