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Character, Discipline and Consistency- Why You Need Them

 

Developing character is a major challenge of our times.  We are constantly bombarded by messaging that tells us that appearance is everything, by institutions that reward those who game the system above those who work honestly.  We all know at least one person who got where they are by smooth talk and stepping on the people around them.  But consider, do those people have the confidence of their subordinates? Can their leadership energize a failing organisation?  Do others trust them enough to come to them with problems or to partner with them on major projects?  In a real emergency, would they retain leadership- or would their subordinates look to someone more trustworthy?

Character, discipline and consistency are levers that allow us not only to gain the trust of others, but to trust ourselves.  They allow us to commit to a goal with the certainty that we can do what it takes to get there.  We’ve all signed up for a gym and then never made time to go, we’ve all resolved to commit to major projects that ended up going by the boards.  By committing to work at something incrementally and consistently doing it, despite the boredom, the distractions, the other pressures we face in life, our own tendency to procrastinate and so on, we are telling ourselves that we have the willpower to make major changes in our lives.  If we’ve done it once, we can do it again.  Developing these qualities allows us to become the people who get things done reliably.  We’ve all faced the situation of group projects where others in the group don’t do what they’ve committed to.  If you’re the person who always comes through, then you can be the person people will trust when it really counts.

Watch the video above to hear Brian Tracy talk about the critical quality of self-discipline, and another word we don’t like to hear, sacrifice.


Can Leadership Be Taught?

Turn up your speakers… or just read on!


MP3 File

Before you begin reading this post or listening to the audio version, I must warn you it is not for everyone. If you are someone who cannot bear a politically incorrect word or if you live life well within your own comfort zone, what you’re about to hear may very well offend you.

The words of this post will test your dedication to becoming a RESILIENT person. What is a resilient person? Quite simply, it’s someone who is on the way to becoming a true human being, to exploring and living out the full potential of a being created in the divine image. And every resilient person is, in fact, a warrior, because no one can overcome the barriers that stand between mediocrity and resilience without great courage.
Every resilient person is also a leader. First and foremost they are leaders of their own lives – they know who they are, what they stand for and where they’re going. And it’s because and only because they know these things, that they’re fit to lead others.
Why is leadership so critically important for you? Because it’s impossible to become a resilient person or to help others attain resilience otherwise. Until you develop the qualities of a leader – on fire with an inspiring vision, living by noble principles, genuinely caring for others and dedicated to brutal honesty in all things – you’re as handicapped in your pursuit of a better life as a three-legged horse would be at the Kentucky Derby.
The Few:
How do we recognize such people? If you personally know even one or two such people, you’re truly blessed, because they are very few and far between. You’ll recognize them because they will inspire and motivate you without even trying. They’ll make you feel glad to be alive and enthusiastic about the challenges to come. You’ll notice they serve a purpose far greater than their own self-interest, they live by principles rather than their own convenience and they can be relied upon one hundred percent of the time to give and demand brutal honesty and truth. That’s why the cowards who surround them call them disruptive and “loose cannons”, considering them dangerous and inconvenient.
At least, that’s what they said about people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and many others.
Of course, the few are “dangerous”. You see, the few have no interest in the artificial rules or the polite lies that all of society wallows in. They’re completely committed to what’s real. They have no interest in comfort, in playing it safe, or in avoiding the tough decisions. No, they’ll jump in with both feet, knowing that audacity will always rule the day and snatch the victory.
The few don’t waste their energy trying to perpetuate ossified institutions or obsolete social structures and decorum. Gandhi didn’t have the social standing to lead India to independence, nor did he have any interest in perpetuating the social evil of untouchability. The few are far too focused on the magnificent possibility they see in their mind’s eye to bother with such things. And this passion that enflames their very souls is contagious – you can’t talk to one of these people about their passion without coming away with some of that flame yourself… if, of course, they think you’re worthy to hear about it.
The Many:
The many are quite different. Why do we call them “the many”? Simply because at least ninety-five percent of the people around you fall into this category. Now don’t get me wrong – the “many” can be perfectly nice people. They can be your neighbors, your colleagues, members of your church and community and you can be very happy with them. Yet however pleasant your social interactions with them may be, they are not leaders, no matter how prominent they may appear.
Despite this, they constitute well over ninety-five percent of the so-called “leaders” in our society – our politicians, our managers and bosses, and the leaders of our religious institutions. And that’s only natural since, unlike true leaders, they actively seek the limelight.
Why is that? Ultimately, it’s because they live for themselves, not for any higher purpose (despite any claims they might make to the contrary). They’re not dedicated to any great and inspiring vision, which explains why, as “leaders”, they’re totally unable to inspire their subordinates to follow them. Part of the reason is because they consider themselves superior to their underlings, they value control over collaboration and stability over results. They’re really just functionaries, rather than leaders and, to them, the process is the product.
They live well within their comfort zones and see preserving the status quo as a sacred duty, even when the status quo is a total betrayal of the principles they make such a fuss about adhering to. But that’s something they’ll never admit to themselves, let alone to you. So life among the many leaves you swimming in a sea of lies and half-truths so bewildering it will have you questioning your own sanity.
The Crisis:
In the life of every institution, community, group or team there always comes a crisis. And crisis is most useful because it lays bare for all to see who is willing to call a spade a spade, to stand up and be counted, rather than cower in the corner and submit to a lie for the sake of personal convenience.
That’s why it’s so often said that you only know who your real friends are when things go wrong.
That’s what makes crisis such a great gift – it sorts out who’s who with all the accuracy of the “sorting hat” in Harry Potter. It also explains why the literal translation of the word “crisis” is so bang on – you see, the ancient Greek word “Krisis” means “judgment”, and every crisis is precisely that. It divides the resilient from the weak, the courageous from the cowards, the leaders from the functionaries and the visionaries from those who play it safe.
Of course, in rare cases a crisis can be the catalyst that propels a person to leave the many and join the few. The Lord of the Rings is a tale about exactly that: Frodo and his fellow Hobbits did not have to take the one ring back to Mordor at great personal risk, and we watch their inner debates unfold as they’re tempted to rejoin the “many” by giving up and going back to the Shire. Perhaps it’s the sure and certain knowledge that there won’t be an Shire left unless they persevere that saves them.
The Myth:
Of course, our governments, corporations and educational systems don’t want you to know all that and the reason is quite simple. Just ask yourself who runs those institutions… Instead, they tell you that anyone can become a leader through training, by acquiring the right “skill sets”.
In fact, that’s totally erroneous. The many are not the many because they lack certain life skills. The many are the many because on a level deep enough to remain hidden from the world and usually from themselves, the many are unwilling to put their well-being, their livelihood and ultimately their lives on the line. They have settled down to live with the mediocrity, the political correctness and the polite lies that pervade our everyday experience. Yes, they may be raising fine children, donating to charity and volunteering their time, but when the crisis comes, you’ll see them for who they are. And no amount of training will change that.
Take the typical corporate manager. Training in leadership, change management, team building or whatever else can no more turn this person into a leader than it can change their racial DNA from Caucasian to Negro or Oriental to Caucasian. You see, leadership, like resilience itself, is not primarily a skill set. The “many” can never become leaders by learning “skills”; they can only become leaders by doing one thing…
Repenting. That’s right. Until such a person decides that personal integrity means more to them than life itself, they cannot be taught. You see, the fundamental dividing line between the few and the many, between the leaders and the functionaries, is precisely a matter of character, of virtue.
The many can think of lots of things to live for, but only the few believe that there are some things worth dying for.
In the words of Star Trek’s fictional Klingon general Chang, so ably portrayed by the great Shakespearean actor Christopher Plumber, as he addresses a group of elite recruits:
“You have surpassed your peers to earn a place within this distinguished hall. Yet I tell you now, this is not enough. In the days to come, you will be tested, well beyond your current limitations. I am not interested in the names of your fathers, nor in your family’s lineage. What I am interested in is your breaking point. How will you conduct yourselves in battle? How far will you go to preserve your honor, to fulfill your duty? These are simple questions that will decide the fate of our empire.”
The crises you will inevitably face in daily life – at home, at work, in the society around you – these will test you beyond what you think you can handle. And every one of these crises will reveal one thing – whether you belong to the few or the many. Your social status, your previous achievements are irrelevant. Will you live with integrity or won’t you? Will you boldly proclaim the truth or indulge the lies of the many around you? Which will it be? You can’t fudge this – it’s one or the other. This is the battle. Will you preserve your honor and fulfill your duty to yourself and those who depend on you or will you not?
And it is not only your own fate on the line, it is ultimately the fate of your country and your whole civilization as well.
The Challenge:
Several years ago, a great financial scandal broke out in my Church, engulfing hundreds of communities throughout the United States and Canada. My bishop here in Canada had the temerity to stand in front of his people week after week and proclaim that nothing was wrong, that there were simply some “administrative difficulties”. By doing so he willingly participated in the cover up of a felony – the embezzlement of some two million dollars that had been earmarked for victims of 9/11, the Beslan massacre, the Armenian earthquake and similar tragic events. He also publicly besmirched the reputations of several people who were demanding an open investigation into the financial scandal, calling them “trouble-makers”.
Yet the majority of our people were not outraged or overly concerned. The “many” never are until it’s much too late. The “many” are like sheep that an unscrupulous “leader” can lead straight over a cliff. Only the “few” took action, often risking their status, their reputations and their livelihoods to tell the truth in the midst of endless lies, to demand openness in the midst of a cover-up and justice in the midst of criminality at the highest levels. As for myself, I was only marginalized and effectively booted out of my own parish for speaking out. Others suffered much more and for much longer. In the end we were vindicated, though not necessarily reinstated or recompensed.
Events like this are distressingly common – they’re taking place all around you and you have a choice to make. Will you tell the truth, live by your principles, and dedicate yourself and your energies to working toward a noble, inspiring and better future, or will you choose the easy way out?
Only you can answer that question. Behold, I have laid the challenge before you. Or rather, the challenge is constantly before you; I’ve simply brought it to your attention. Time to make a decision…
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Self-Image, Principles and Character: Forgotten Keys to Excellence

More than any other factor, how you see yourself will determine your success in every area of your life. Without a solid self-image and the self-respect that comes with it, several consequences will always ensue:

• It will be difficult to increase your income, whether in a job or a business
• You will make consistently poor life decisions, especially related to income and relationships
• You will find yourself mired in habits of thought and action that will take you in a downward spiral

If you’re like most people in the Western world today, your self-image has taken quite a beating over time. A few years ago I was coaching a forty year old engineer who’s dissatisfied with what he’s achieved in life. Not surprisingly, he related to me that his father frequently put him down, saying he wouldn’t amount to anything. As a result, the engineer thoroughly internalized this message and it has held him back for decades, despite his many and great talents.

In your formative years, those first two decades of life, your self-image is extremely vulnerable to all the input around you – from your parents, siblings, teachers and peers, many of whom may have attempted to cover up their own inadequacies by tearing you down.

These dents in your self-image impact your character, which is how you actualize yourself in the external world. And character is everything. As Theodore Roosevelt put it, “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of individuals and nations alike.”

The wonderful news about human life is that you can rebuild your self-image! You can determine from this moment on to become an excellent person, someone of impeccable character, openness, honesty and integrity. You can choose to see yourself not only as a success, but as a leader, an inspiration and a beacon. And as you see yourself, so shall you become.

To accomplish this, the most important step is to commit yourself to living by proven principles. Devoting your life to higher principles is not only the key to success; it’s also the key to happiness itself. In the words of the great educator, Horace Mann:

“In vain do they talk of happiness who never subdue an impulse in obedience to a principle. He who never sacrificed a present for a future good, or a personal to a general one, can speak of happiness only as the blind speak of color.”

The vital caveat here is this: you must commit to these principles NOT for the massive success they will bring you, but solely because it’s the right thing to do. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

 

The Great Principles of Life and Success:

So what are the key principles that high-performing individuals commit to? People committed to personal and professional excellence:

1. Accept full and complete responsibility for everything that happens in their life, for all that they have and are. Consequently, they refuse to blame anyone else, whether their parents, spouse, God, karma, the government or any other external factor.

2. Forgive completely everyone who has ever wronged them and work as hard as necessary to expunge any bitterness they feel toward these people.

3. Treat everyone with equal courtesy and respect, regardless of their social status and without the least regard for personal gain.

4. Commit to excellence, to accomplishing their goals and living each day of their lives in an excellent fashion, and to becoming the very best they can possibly be in their chosen profession. In all humility, they dare to see themselves as the best and they strive to attain that.

5. Commit to living by the highest and noblest values: love, faith, honesty, integrity and forthrightness.

6. Dedicate their energies to serving others, to transcending their own small lives in pursuit of a greater good.

Success depends not only on leadership but, prior to that, on “self-leadership” – your ability to be the leader of your own life. And all leadership depends on a noble and inspiring vision. Needless to say, without committing yourself to timeless and proven principles that take you beyond the narrow prison of your short-term self-interest, there is ZERO possibility of an inspiring vision.

So the essential first step in reclaiming your life is to RETRAIN your habits of thought to cleanse your self-image of the damage you’ve accumulated over the years. You do this primarily by making an irrevocable decision right now to become an excellent person and to walk, talk and think like such a person until it becomes ingrained in every fiber of your being.

If you commit yourself to living by these ennobling principles, I can absolutely guarantee that both your life and your personal satisfaction will reach new heights. This will utterly transform your self-image, multiply your self-respect and attract higher quality people to you. Though not always easy (what is?), this new direction will turn you into a natural leader, an inspiration to those around you and an inevitable success in whatever you choose to pursue in life.

 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Winning Arguments and Seeking TRUTH in the Warrior’s World

We’ve all seen formal debates at one time or another, two rigid ideological positions locked in mortal combat.  You know in advance that neither party will be persuaded by the other’s arguments.  You can also bet that supporters of each side will post video clips of their guy from the debate on YouTube to support the point of view they already agree with.  Anyone watching who’s undecided will be presented with two polarized extremes, because neither side will soften or modify their position because of something the other side said – that would be showing weakness.

Debate is many things – a hobby to many, a ritualized demarcation of ideologies, an exercise in rhetorical skills that are sadly no longer taught in any other form – but above all, it is an illustration of how difficult it is to change your opponent’s mind through  intellectual argument.

It is human nature to embrace the opinions of the majority of whatever groups you belong to, and naturally you will believe that they are rational – after all, you’ve heard and thought about more arguments for than against them.  True intellectual integrity is bought at the price of an open mind – allowing yourself to release your ideological lines in the sand and follow the argument even if you don’t like where it’s going, take it on its own merits and only then think of ways in which it may be flawed.

But even this is not enough.  The core values of humanity – integrity, compassion and so many others that are at the core of who we are – do not come from rational empiricism.  If fact, rational empirical logic, in and of itself, cannot yield values or imperatives of any kind.  It is the imperatives that we choose that condition our logic.  We’ve talked before about the logic of courage versus the logic of fear.  Both can be perfectly logical and self-consistent and yet yield diametrically opposed conclusions.  The logic of the Newtonian worldview and the logic of personal development are likewise incompatible.  Positivist/materialist points of view and spiritual philosophies are ultimately speaking two different languages, and thus find it difficult even to find meaningful grounds of debate.

And that is exactly why rational argument is not enough.  All authentic ancient traditions hold that their core value is the development of the human person.  The criterion, therefore, for any truth that they profess can be verified through its positive impact on the state of human life.  The authentic teachings of these traditions are not abstract things thought up by the rational mind, but are deeply and inextricably linked to the essence and the proper functioning of the human organism in relation to the rest of the universe.  The teachings are verified by experience.

That, in turn, gives us a leg up, because we know that to really reach someone does not mean to out-argue them.  It means changing the values and imperatives that they’re starting from, by demonstrating the alternative.  This means both living out that alternative, and demonstrating it in our approach to discussion.

 

Discussion is fundamentally different from debate in that it is not a contest (well, depending on your personality profile!).   It’s an exchange of ideas.  The exchange of ideas between open minds should give both parties something to think about.  Just because I am sure of my core values doesn’t mean that I’ve thought of everything, or that I can’t profit by taking in other points of view.  I reflect on what I hear, and, if warranted, modify my thinking accordingly.  This sounds so obvious, but the open mind is increasingly a lost art in our polarized society.  Above all, your ego should not be at stake in discussion.  It’s not possible to successfully make the case for philosophies advocating kindness while your ego is on the line.

 

When making your case, it is helpful to structure your arguments to reach not just the rational mind, but the inner person.  To do this, you have to realize the other person’s emotional investment in their own beliefs and programming.  That means going slowly.  First of all, give them only as much as they can digest.  Start them on a line of thinking now that you intend to fill in much later, so that their subconscious has time to chew on it.  Give them a reason to be curious, to want to learn more.  Once they start genuinely asking questions, they’ve let down part of their emotional defense mechanism.

To get past the rest, they have to get to the point of making the decision, “I will follow this line of thought even if it makes me uncomfortable or upsets my beliefs, so that I can objectively assess its value.”  From there, the next step is to approach the imperative or core value which is the real difference between your positions.  Even this can be done indirectly, through stories and examples.

 

Remember that people bring their own filters, emotional traumas, personal histories, social prejudices and personalities to bear on every argument, and what you are saying is not necessarily what they’re hearing.  In public relations and advertising, it’s proverbial that you should consult the people who know your audience the best.  You can actually recruit your audience by not trying to give them the full, comprehensive picture.  Answer their questions, but don’t take every opportunity to hammer your own point home.  Give them the pieces, but let them put the puzzle together.  Realizations that people come to on their own are more powerful than outside arguments, because the person knows how to express it to themselves.  In other words, you farm out some of the work of constructing your case to those to whom you are speaking (or writing).

 

These approaches to making a case are designed to give the other person the best chance of letting their own internal guidance system come into play.  Each person really does have within their own being the tools they need to measure the truth of any important position.  Truth is not an intellectual proposition, but a living thing, life itself, and we know truth because our health as beings depends on it.  Thus, these tools are intended to bypass the emotional baggage that normally drowns out that inner guidance system.

All of these approaches carry corresponding personal value for us.  By being willing to let down our own emotional guard and ideological preconceptions and take in points of view – the more diverse the better – that make us uncomfortable, we can use them to sharpen and adjust our own points of view.  One of the most valuable things you can do is to study history, because history teaches us the vastness of diversity in human points of view, values and imperatives.  “The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said.  We owe it to ourselves as seekers of the truth to value the little bits of truth we can find almost anywhere, because what is true enhances our being and that of everyone around us.  We likewise owe it to ourselves to understand the traps that have led so many people, now and throughout history, to abandon truth, love, compassion, integrity and everything else that is at the core of human realization.

 

The truly open mind is a rare gift, and the mind of a seeker must always be open.  It is for that reason that so many seekers arrive at truths that cut across the grain of popular society.  They defy conventional science, conventional medicine, conventional psychology, and they make it work.  They transcend the political spectrum and countless other mechanisms that are used to divide and simplify society.  The seeker does not fear complexity, because he has an inner compass with which to navigate it.

So, in the end, the only path to complete inner integrity and self-knowledge (and the incomparable health and life benefits that come from that) is the path where you relinquish your emotional attachment to what you think you know and remain open to what is really true.  This extraordinarily uncomfortable place of UNKNOWING is something that all of us must pass through.  And it is then and only then that TRUTH can reveal itself to you.  And it will do so.  It cannot NOT reveal itself to you at that point, because universal law says it must.

Alas, very few people have a burning desire to discover TRUTH.  That burning desire is the only reliable mark of the true Warrior.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 🙂

 


The Backbone Crisis: does Anyone Still Have Principles?

In today’s society, the idea of acting from principle sometimes gets lip service, but when it comes right down to it, we’re more than encouraged to sell out- we are often required to do so, especially in business.  On the other hand, we do have the benefit of a very extensive body of standards governing professional behavior, employer-employee relationships and so on, an inheritance that helps to curb abuses in the workplace.

This dichotomy shows our competition-driven, consumption-crazed society’s schizophrenic relationship with principle.  Principle in our society is largely a defensive concept- it exists to stop bad things from happening (a legitimate and necessary function), but seldom is perceived as a motivator for what we do.

 

Principle as Motivation

Earlier this week, I attended a very interesting presentation on branding.   The presenter, a longtime branding consultant, kept insisting that the most important first step in designing a brand was to be able to distil a business’s product or service down to one simple sentence.

But as the presentation went on, it was clear that the business statements she upheld as examples had very little to do with what the business physically does.  Instead, the brand statement always answered one or more of the following questions:

  1. What did I go into business to do?
  2. Why is my business compelling to me?
  3. What do I want to change/ contribute?

In other words, it is the core principle of your business, what you want to bring to the world.  If you can’t articulate that, you’re probably in the wrong business.  A handyman could probably get away with answering questions 1 and 2 with, “To putter around” and “Because I like to putter around”- customers would even like that, since a passion for building and fixing things is the essential qualification for being a handyman.  But if you haven’t got another answer to question 1 besides “To make money,” and lack an answer to question 2, chances are your business will never really excel, nor will it be personally satisfying to you.

Not that making money is bad, but why do you want the money?  To be successful, to hold your head high in the community, to provide for your family, to do the things you always wanted to do?  Let’s be honest- sure, you may want the nice car and the nice house and vacations in Minorca, but the bottom line is you want money because you want to feel fulfilled as a person and have the opportunity to reach your full potential.  Anything else either follows from that, or doesn’t matter.  Thus, we even have a principle behind earning money.

 

Wanting money is about being happy tomorrow.  But the truth is, tomorrow never comes, especially in business.  If you’re going to postpone personal fulfillment until retirement or wealth, whichever comes first, you will have spent the best years of your life doing things you don’t care about.  Why not find a business or a line of work that you’re passionate about in the meantime?  It starts with an idea and a passion.

This is what I mean by principle as motivation- you are passionate about creating something, giving something to the world, because you know it’s a good idea.  It’s the difference between managing a McDonald’s and managing the hottest organic restaurant in town.  The McDonald’s manager is there, strange as it sounds, to make money.  The organic restaurant manager has a vision.  Only one of them has a shot at real success.  Same elements, different result.

 

Finding Our Core Principles

We’ve talked about principle as “that which I want to contribute.”  There is another side to the coin.  Principle also means, that from which I will not retreat.  It is, in effect, a set of pre-made decisions, decisions that you make, whether you know it or not, before you ever have to make them.  This is what makes principle such a powerful gauge for what we care about, the directions that we might take with real power to change the world.

The bottom line with principle is when we understand what principles are worth our life.  There were two news stories in Canada a few years back that I use to illustrate this.  In one, a man travelling on an intercity bus brutally attacked another passenger with a knife and killed him.  The attack went on for some time, but no other passenger tried to intervene.  The other was the story of a man who opened the door to a would-be murderer.  His wife prevented the attack from succeeding, at the cost of her own life.

We as a society are not used to thinking about these choices (except as they apply to characters on TV), and we are disturbed by the very thought.  The truth is, neither the passengers nor the woman made a choice on the day- she had already made her choice, because she knew who she was and what she was about.  The passengers, lacking that knowledge, could only live in indecision.

The so-called pragmatists among us look at these stories and say, “See, act from principle and you get yourself killed.  Be a coward and live.”  Well, it’s true.  Principle doesn’t promise safety- rather the opposite.  But at the end of the day, it is the only way to know who we truly are, our fundamental worth as human beings, the real dignity of choice, and what we can give the world.

It is only once we start to understand our own deepest principles, and the sacrifices we are prepared to make for them, that we truly acquire a backbone, a moral centre.  All other questions of integrity, honesty, compassion, moral courage- they all become much clearer to us.  In fact, without this backbone of principle, all those other questions are completely irrelevant – they are at best empty words and at worst a smoke screen.  The truth is, unless I acquire this backbone of principle in my own life, I can NEVER become a truly resilient and happy human being, nor will I ever have anything meaningful to share with the world.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 🙂


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