Don’t underestimate what one person can do

Last year I memorized and meditated on these three statements. Together, they are finding purchase in my mind and making a difference in my life.

  • “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” John F. Kennedy
  • “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Edward Hale
  • “Do not hesitate to do for one what you might need to do for all, or else you won’t do anything.”

Don’t underestimate the impact that one person can have.

The following is my favorite story of all time.

The African bishop, Desmond Tutu, was once asked why he became an Anglican priest. He replied that in the days of apartheid, when a black person and a white person met while walking on a footpath, the black person was expected to step into the gutter to allow the white person to pass and then nod his head as a gesture of respect.

“One day,” Tutu said, “when I was just a little boy, my mother and I were walking down the street when a tall, white man, dressed in a black suit, came toward us. Before my mother and I could step off the sidewalk, as was expected of us, this man stepped off the sidewalk and, as my mother and I passed, tipped his hat in a gesture of respect to her! I was more than surprised at what had happened, and I asked my mother, ‘Why did that white man do that?’ My mother explained, ‘He’s an Anglican priest. He’s a man of God, that’s why he did it.’ When she told me that he was an Anglican priest, I decided there and then that I wanted to be an Anglican priest too. And what is more, I wanted to be a man of God.”

Desmond Tutu not only became a priest, he influenced his entire nation. He, along with Nelson Mandela, led the successful fight against apartheid which changed the course of South Africa.

The priest that deeply impacted young Tutu’s life probably never knew “the rest of the story”; but through one simple act of kindness he deeply impacted one life which would deeply impact an entire nation.

There are 7 billion people on planet earth, but don’t let that large number deter you from doing what you can, individually, to make an impact.

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

Anticipate life’s ups and downs

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Life is like a roller coaster: it has its ups and downs, but it’s your choice to scream or enjoy the ride.

Life’s ups and downs:

Are inevitable

Life is a series of ups and downs. The cycles run daily (my morning goes well, the afternoon stinks), weekly (Monday is a bummer, Tuesday gets better), monthly, and yearly. It’s unreasonable and impossible to stay on the top side of the cycle, but neither should we acquiesce to staying on the down side. Having ups and downs is the status quo.

Take on different forms

We’ll oscillate in most areas of life: emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, and others. One day we’ll feel elated, the next day we’ll feel discouraged. We’ll enjoy good health for a season, then suffer from sinus infection for six weeks. For years we’ll be financially plush, then go through times of want. Spiritually, we’ll experience droughts and seasons of plenty.

Most ups and downs are temporary

The story is told of an Eastern monarch who charged his wise men to invent a sentence which would be true and appropriate in all times and situations. Following months of careful thought, they presented him this sentence, “And this too, shall pass away.”

Abraham Lincoln, upon hearing this anecdote, commented, “How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

Good times don’t last forever, but neither do difficult times.

[This brings up another thought which I’ll pursue in another post: during times of prosperity we should prepare for times of adversity.]

Should not be experienced alone

A burden shared is a burden halved; a joy shared is a joy doubled. Don’t experience life’s peaks and valleys by yourself; you need a soulmate (or several) with whom you can bear your soul. When we wrestle with challenges, alone, we’ll be thrown to the mat. When we celebrate happiness, alone, it will be lacking. We need to share our life experiences with people who care and we need to reciprocate and be attentive to them.

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

Love is not just a feeling, it is a set of actions that you can learn and incorporate into your relationships. Don McMinn has written a practical workbook with 20 lessons that will help you to love others better. Get 25% off with coupon code “2017”.

Embrace three things that will enhance your happiness

At the end of Brad Thor’s novel, Field Agent, he says of the protagonist, “He had the three ingredients to happiness right in the palm of his hand and he knew it—something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.”

This is good advice. It may not be a comprehensive and fail-proof philosophy of life, but it’s still good advice.

Strive for:

Something meaningful to do.

We all need to be involved in meaningful activity. We need something that will engage our hands and minds; something that is enjoyable to us and helpful to others. Hopefully, your work qualifies, but for some people it doesn’t, in which case you need to find another area of meaningful engagement. The qualifier “meaningful” implies that the act will be enjoyable to us and helpful to others. Playing golf all day doesn’t qualify.

Someone to love.

I like this thought because it encourages us to focus on giving. It doesn’t suggest “someone to love me” although we need that, too.

We need someone (ideally more than one person) that we can love unconditionally and without reserve, and interact with on a regular basis. Love as a verb, not a noun.

Something to look forward to.

Granted, the future is the great, unending, unknown. But it is advantageous to plan something in the future that we can joyfully anticipate; a “carrot in front of the horse.”

It can be short-term “I look forward to relaxing and seeing a movie this weekend.” It can be mid-term: “I look forward to taking a vacation in six months.” Or, it can be long-term: “I look forward to finishing my college degree and beginning my professional career.”

Can you sense the despair that sets in when these three issues are missing?

  • I have nothing meaningful to do. My days are marked by boredom and tedious activity.
  • I have no one to love. I am emotionally constipated. I keep searching for someone to love me, but I don’t have someone to give love to.
  • I have nothing to look forward to. The future looks uninteresting and bleak.

My personal response to these three suggestions is:

  • I love my job. It is interesting, invigorating, challenging and rewarding. I also find meaning in writing these blog posts, hoping they are beneficial to my readers.
  • I love my 26-month-old grandson, Benjamin. I delight in pouring love and affection on him, our newest family member. (I am reminded of the axiom: Grandchildren are God’s reward for not having killed your own.)
  • I just booked a transatlantic cruise from London to New York City on the Queen Mary 2. Between now and the trip, not a day will go by that I won’t think about it.

Personalize this lesson by answering these questions.

  • What meaningful activity do you engage in?
  • Whom do you love?
  • What are you looking forward to?

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

Lead Well workshop – September 27-28, Dallas, TX

Learn to be an effective leader

The health and growth of all organizations rises and falls on leadership.

Leadership is the primary factor influencing the health and growth of every organization. Organizations can increase their leadership quotient by:

  • Increasing the effectiveness of existing leaders.
  • Increasing the quantity of leaders by identifying, training and empowering new leaders.

Fifteen year ago I developed a leadership development curriculum that has been taught to thousands of leaders in diverse industries including technology, medical, non-profit, and financial services.

Lead Well offers leadership training and resources to organizations and individuals in all industries. Our propriety curriculum focuses on 12 indispensable leadership skills – six hard skills (what a leader does) and six soft skills (who a leader is). The training provides a thorough and systematic approach to leadership development.

The fall workshop will be held September 27-28 in Dallas, TX. We’ll meet both days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Click here for a summary of the curriculum.

Go to to take a free, leadership skills assessment tool and to learn more about the workshop.

For more information and registration contact



Sometimes be a little deaf

deaf-2In every good marriage, it helps sometimes to be a little deaf. I have followed that advice assiduously, and not only at home through 56 years of a marital partnership nonpareil. I have employed it as well in every workplace, including the Supreme Court. When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.   Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg [This excerpt from Ginsburg’s new book My Own Words appeared in a New York Times article.]

Your spouse, friend, colleague, or total stranger makes a silly, unnecessary, provocative, or dubious statement. It may be, at best, trivial, inaccurate, vague, or unfair; at worst, it’s tacky, wrong, even hurtful.

When is it okay to just let verbal flatulence slowly dissipate without addressing it, and when is response compulsory?

As Ginsburg advises, sometimes no response is the best response.

Put yourself on the other side of these hypothetical conversations. How often do you say something that you later regret saying? When you say things that should have remained unsaid, aren’t you appreciative when someone offers you conversational grace?

Granted, there are times when unwholesome words should be addressed, particularly if someone is a repeat offender. Chronic verbal abuse is inexcusable and should not go unchallenged.

So the question is: when should you ignore and when should you respond?

In the coming days, exercise the “Ginsburg-restraint.” It is a tool we all need in our relational toolbox.

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