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Strengths & Weaknesses…close neighbours

by Rick Baker
On Dec 7, 2016

We must never forget, the DNA of our greatest weaknesses lurks within our greatest strengths… and vice-versa. The fine line separating strength from weakness may be as thin and fragile as humility. Or, when humility isn’t present, perhaps, strengths resist the temptation to become weaknesses as a result of some other tempering wisdom.

Regardless, strengths and weaknesses are close neighbours and they are reliant upon the direction of thought and action. Thoughts and actions aligned with true goals, long-term goals aligned with personal values, bring strengths to the forefront. Conversely, thoughts and actions that stray from the paths paved by true goals and personal values are the bad habits that grow weaknesses.

To a degree, at least a material degree and possibly a huge degree, our strengths owe their existence to our thoughts.

And, to a degree, again at least a material degree and possibly a huge degree, we possess the ability to choose our thoughts.

So, we have the ability to choose our strengths, first in our thoughts then in our actions.

When we fail to choose our strengths our indecision gives life to our weaknesses.

Our strengths and their related good habits are the consequences of the good choices we make. Our weaknesses do not have to wait for our choices. Our weaknesses may be the consequences of bad decisions or they may arrive on the backs of our bad habits of indecision.

Controlling the common littlenesses of human nature

by Rick Baker
On Aug 29, 2016

William MacDonald described Benjamin Franklin as a man who could control the common littleness of human nature1. It is clear MacDonald had tremendous respect for the special gifts Benjamin Franklin brought to Mankind, as a citizen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States of America…and the rest of the world.

When MacDonald talked of Franklin controlling the littlenesses of human nature, he was describing Franklin’s innate ability to understand the littlenesses housed in himself and other people and adjust himself in order to get around those littlenesses so he and others could accomplish great things. 

By the mid-1700’s, when he was less than 50 years old, Benjamin Franklin had become a worldwide phenomenon…a true polymath…a true leader of men…a true leader of thought...a leader in scientific thought...a true hero.

Franklin’s accomplishments are mind-boggling.

As examples:

By his early 20’s Franklin was a self-made business success.

By his late 40’s Franklin was recognized [worldwide] as a gifted scientist.

Between those milestones he had:

  • created a mastermind, gathering intelligent friends to philosophize, share ideas and create practical solutions to Philadelphia's problems [his Junto, also known as the Leather Apron Club]
  • created time-management/personal-organization tools and decision-making tools...his pioneer work in this area lives on in legacy, for example - 'Franklin Covey'
  • co-founded an early [if not America’s first] subscription library
  • co-founded an academy that became the University of Pennsylvania
  • led the community movement that funded the first paving of roads in Philadelphia
  • built an international printing empire by creating partnerships, funding & franchising a series of strategically-located print shops 
  • built a successful newspaper - the Pennsylvania Gazette 
  • created a bestseller – 'Poor Richard’s Almanack'
  • created Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire brigade
  • taught himself French, Italian and Spanish languages
  • served as Philadelphia's postmaster
  • invented the Franklin Stove, an energy-efficient heating system still in use today…then refused to patent it because he felt he had benefited from others’ inventions so others should benefit from his

Of course, Franklin was a well-respected civic and provincial politician…long before he became America’s political representative to other nations prior to, during, and after the American Revolution.

Yes – Franklin was one of the 56 who risked the gallows2 by signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

And, of course, Ben Franklin did that experiment with a storm, lightning, a kite and a key…and he invented the lighting rod and the best methods of installing it. This invention illustrated to the world that electricity could be controlled, to a degree, by Mankind. That illustration helped introduce a new era of scientific thought and experimentation that is still advancing today. And the lightning rod saved countless lives and reduced, on a world-wide basis, damage and loss of property caused by lighting fires.

On top of these things, Franklin was a commissioned Colonel who built a series of fortresses to protect Pennsylvanians from the French and Indian invasions in the mid-1700's, He personally led Pennsylvanians into battle against these invading forces...he led peace talks with the native Indians and, after the war had ended, he ensured the protection of peaceful Indians from unruly Pennsylvanian mobs.

Benjamin Franklin did much more than these things.

Here's another sampling...

Franklin left Boston at the age of 16, venturing out on his own to Philadelphia. He was a vegetarian during his teenage years. He understood the value of character and he practiced character-building ‘virtues’ throughout his life. This practice started when Franklin was about 20 years old. Somehow, he was wise well beyond his years. Somehow, he understood his ‘littlenesses of human nature’ and he committed to removing his own to full extent he could accomplish that goal. Benjamin Franklin worked on that throughout his life, for over 60 years. Franklin's desire to design and build his character along strict guidelines allowed him to control many, but not all, his ‘littlenesses’. He was candid about his shortcomings and he took a humble stance on his amazing accomplishments. 

Benjamin Franking is a man worth studying…and his practices - his good habits - are certainly worth emulating. 

It is never too late to start emulating heroes.

 

Footnotes

  1. 'The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin:  Now First Printed in England from the Full and Authentic Text', (1905)
  2. These are words Napoleon Hill used to describe the ‘founding fathers’ of what is now the U.S.A. 

Curiosity bolsters self-confidence.

by Rick Baker
On Aug 5, 2016

Curiosity opens the door to alternative realities: this is discovered when you are curious, when you ask questions and when you listen to other people's self-stories. 

When people see your [sincere] curiosity at play, most will reciprocate and share their realities with you - realities that are as true and accurate as yours...but, often, remarkably different than yours. 

There are, of course, other ways to learn about other people's realities. We live in the age of The Internet of Things and enormous volumes of information are available online. Consider Facebook and Twitter. These two online social media venues offer insight into people’s realities, or at least insight into the way they want to present their 'realities' to you in pictures and stories. 

To really get a full perspective on other people's realities it is better to interact with them face-to-face. Have real conversations. And to maximize those conversations, it is best to be curious and to ask good questions then observe and listen intently. 

Give people plenty of time to share their stories with you.

Curiosity is an innate talent. We all possess it. At least, at one time when we were young we certainly did.

Curiosity is also a learned skill. 

If life experiences have beaten curiosity out of you – don’t give up. Your curiosity can be resurrected. Your curiosity can also be enhanced so it will become a lifelong tool. Curiosity will help you understand other people in ‘your world’. Curiosity will allow you to understand how you differ from other people in very fundamental ways. And curiosity will help you understand why other people disagree with your views and sometimes refuse to embrace your views. As you gain understanding of the differences, the knowledge you gain will build your self-confidence. 

When you understand your perspectives differ from other people’s perspectives, you have the ability to construct your messages in ways that do not threaten other people’s perspectives. At the same time the messages embedded in your questions will help others understand your views. In effect, communication preparation – question preparation – is the key to building both self-confidence and personal relationships. Choose to deliver your viewpoints in ways that will be understood [questions] rather than in ways that will be poorly received [instructions]. When you develop skill in this area you will grow self-confidence. 

 

About Todd Henry's 3 Types of Work & 4 Worker Profiles

by Rick Baker
On Jul 5, 2016

Todd Henry presents a very helpful way to think about work and the types of work people favour.

This perspective on work and workers' natural preferences can be used to complement the wisdom embedded in Gallup's Talents and Strengths tools. Of course, for Gallup, 'Developer' has a different meaning.


An introduction to Todd Henry's thinking

Your Peace of Mind ...&...Your Character

by Rick Baker
On May 23, 2016

There's a sweet spot where your thoughts & actions, your talents & strengths, and your values & virtues align and overlap.

This sweet spot is the place where your peace of mind lives. For many people, peace of mind is hard to find...like that tiny font in a sweet spot.

Here's the picture:

 

Other people can sense but not really feel or see your peace of mind. Other people cannot truly know your thoughts. AT best, other people can guess your talents and your values. However, they can and do observe your actions and make conclusions about your virtues, values, talents, strengths, and thoughts. They sum all these things up very quickly and, in a word, they call them your character. This all starts with first impressions, which get corrected each time you perform and they observe new actions. And, in their minds, you character remains fragile...slow to build and quick to demolish. Their minds are harsh judges, always opining on your actions. And, again, their opinion of your character can easily sustain damage and permanent injury.

Your character, as they decide it,  becomes the framework they use to determine the nature of the relationship they will [or will not] have with you. 

Here's the picture:

Of course, you have a biased view of these aspects of your peace of mind and your character...as do others who observe you.

When the going gets tough...

by Rick Baker
On Apr 28, 2016

When the going gets tough...

When you are all stressed out because the work ahead looks so daunting...

When your spirit is weakened...

...review your key talents and areas of strength. Think about your past successes and why & how you brought them about. Why was the success important to you? Does the work ahead share any common ground with the work already successfully completed?

...remember babies learn to walk one small step at a time. Think about major challenges you faced in the past and the small steps you took when you needed to get beyond the big obstacles. How did you select then focus on those small steps?

...take a short time out and countdown with 10 slow breaths. As your mind quietens, think about a time when doom and gloom scenarios seemed imminent then as time passed those problem scenarios did not happen.

Consider the possibility - this present problem too shall disappear in time.

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