Friday, February 27, 2009

Article 6 of 6: The Role of Character

...Bo Short

“No man can climb out beyond the limitations of his own character.” …John Morely

Character is one of the most difficult words in the English language to define, but it is one of the easiest to perceive. The character of a person is something that we can sense almost immediately…and the character of a person is clearly demonstrated over time.

Character is the collection of personal attributes that encompass all of the admirable, inner qualities of human nature. The quality of our character determines the quality of our actions and our leadership; good character is essential to have if you want to live to win.

A friend related a story to me about a third grade school teacher he knows. He likes to teach his kids how to juggle. He says that whenever he starts to teach a classroom full of kids how to juggle, a couple of them always raise their hands and say they already know how to do it. So he calls them up to the front of the room and, of course, you know what happens. The same thing that happens to us if we don’t know how to juggle. The kids throw the balls in the air and wave their arms around but they don’t really know how to juggle. They try to imitate the real thing, but they can’t.

Juggling is not something you can fake. Either you can juggle or you can’t. One of the reasons juggling has always appealed to this teacher is that juggling is so unambiguous. There are no phony jugglers. If the balls stay in the air, then you can clearly juggle. The ability to juggle is always genuine. You have to learn to be able to do it. Character is exactly the same way. A person’s character, whether it’s good or bad, is always genuine. It has to be learned. And you might try to fake good character, but sooner or later, it becomes obvious whom you really are.

Character enables us to do what is right for the right reasons. When we act with good character, we develop integrity and gain the inner sense of satisfaction that comes with it. When we know that we have done right, we can live with a clear conscience. We’re free of any guilt or fear of getting caught.

When we are honest with other people…when we are reliable and fair and compassionate, we have no fear of being exposed as a liar or a cheat. The deeper we feel our convictions… the better our character… the greater our ability is to do what is right.

William Reed says, “It is sometimes frightening to observe the success which comes even to the outlaw with a polished technique, but I believe we must reckon with character in the end, for it is as potent a force in the worlds conflict as it is in our own domestic affairs. It strikes the last blow in any battle.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

The author Anais Nin wrote, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” Ann Landers wrote, “Opportunities are usually disguised by hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” Our character dictates how we see the world and how we behave in the world.

Character is the backbone of a nation. It’s the backbone of freedom. It’s the backbone of a marriage. It’s the backbone of a company. My wife says, “If you don’t have character in one part of your life then you simply do not have character.” That is so important to understand. It is not a “sometime” thing. Aristotle wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Our character, basically, is a composite of our habits. That’s why you either have good character in all aspects of your life or in none. Either you have good habits or bad habits. Another old adage goes like this, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Our character, then, is our destiny.

When you consider how character is developed, it becomes clear that every leader, regardless of economic background, is in a very real sense self-made. The more authentic and genuine a person is, the more effective he or she is as a leader. Why? Because the strength of their character makes them trustworthy and believable. People become much more willing to follow you in any pursuit — business, government, athletics, education, community service, anything — if they have reason to trust your character.

In the words of the writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “What comes from the heart, goes to the heart.” We demonstrate our character each and every day in hundreds of ways. In the decisions we make, in the people we choose as our friends and business associates, in the way we conduct ourselves in the privacy of our own home and office.

There’s a Japanese proverb that says, “When a tiger dies he leaves his stripes behind, and when a man dies he leaves his name behind.” Have you considered what people will remember about you when you leave your name behind?

One of the problems in business is that we look at everything as “business”. If we are not careful, we compromise our integrity trying to get ahead. The former Chairman of Coca-Cola, Roberto Goizueta, once said, “If you look at all the problems of Wall Street and all the bad publicity, it has been caused by human beings with a lot more intelligence than integrity.” Good character will never hold you back. Never. Good character will help you to get ahead.

I was inspired by a feature story that the journalist Charles Kuralt once did about a talented high school gymnast who happened to be paralyzed from the waist down. This young athlete was really good, and it was thrilling to see how accomplished he had become. At one point during the interview he said to Kuralt, “I don’t come with the wheelchair. The wheelchair comes with me.”

I suppose that statement also reflects the young man’s courage. And, of course, overcoming his paralysis even to become a gymnast of any talent, must have taken incredible perseverance. But just think of the tremendous character within that young man to be able to say, “I don’t come with the wheelchair. The wheelchair comes with me.”

As you continue to live to win, you are going to be presented with amazing opportunities. You may have the opportunity to build a successful, profitable business. You may have the opportunity to raise a family. You may have the opportunity to run for elected office or to serve in government in an appointed position. You may create a nonprofit organization. You may be a coach or a teacher or an attorney. You may decide to go into medical or scientific research. In every situation, your character will strike the last blow. In every situation, your character is what will leave the most indelible memorable impression.

St. Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, responded to some questions by members of the early church in Corinth. They asked him, “What are the things in life that are permanent, on which we can build priorities that are superlative?” Paul said, “They are the things that you cannot see.” This seems like a strange response until you think about it. What are the things that are permanent that we cannot see but that we use as a foundation for setting our priorities? It is character, and the qualities that make up our character — honesty, respect for law, decency, tolerance, trustworthiness, fairness, and duty. It’s our character.

A century ago, the French social philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, traveled throughout America and then wrote down what he observed. He wrote, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” Since America is a collection of individuals, de Tocqueville’s statement really applies to each one of us. We live in a country that provides us with resources, the opportunities and the freedoms to make the most of our lives. And what we do, how well we do, is determined by our character - as a nation and as individuals, as fathers, mothers, businessmen and women, leaders, volunteers.

Character is what will enable you to be a leader, to rally people around you. Character will keep your feet firmly planted on the ground as this information age swirls around us. Character, what is in your heart, is what you will communicate by the way you act. Character, your good name, is what you will leave as your ultimate legacy to your children. Remember that. When you die, when you leave this earth, what you possess will belong to someone else. But what you are will be yours forever. Please remember character is built slowly, but it can be torn down with incredible swiftness.

I saved Character for the end because I think good character is the most important quality you can have. I believe in you. I know you can do whatever you set your mind and your heart and your character to doing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Article 5 of 6: The Role of Responsibility

...Bo Short

“There is a price tag on human liberty. That price is the willingness to assume the responsibilities of being free men.” – Eugene Holman

When it comes to describing the importance of responsibility, I think Winston Churchill summed it up best. He said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”

It’s that simple. Greatness is yours. It’s there. It’s within your reach. But you will never attain any lasting success unless you first decide to accept responsibility. We all need to assume responsibility for our successes and our failures. If we are not willing to shoulder the lessons of our own defeats, then we will never enjoy the euphoria of triumph. Stand tall, measure up, and claim the losses as well as the victories.

Every successful individual — entrepreneurs, business owners, athletes, musicians, artists, teachers and elected leaders will tell you winning means paying the price. And that price is responsibility. Real success requires that we take control of our destiny, that we stop letting life be something that just happens.

John D. Rockefeller, the great American industrialist, said, “I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation; every possession a duty.”

Look for a moment at the word “responsibility.” It combines “response” and “ability.” We each have the freedom to choose our response.

Proactive people recognize and accept their responsibilities. Truly accepting responsibility is like becoming a parent. Any healthy man can father a baby, any healthy woman can give birth. But having children means only that the work of becoming a parent has begun. The biological event is very different from the actual responsibility of being a parent — the love and commitment… the skinned knees and the dirty diapers… the faithfulness to homework and Little League… the sacrifices for music lessons and college tuition… the laughter and the tears. Accepting these responsibilities, ideally with love and grace, add up to earning the title, “mom” and “dad.”

It’s assuming responsibility for your successes as well as your failures. I grew up in Virginia right across the Potomac River from the Washington Monument. My father was Senator Strom Thurmond’s Chief of Staff. One day my dad and I were walking with the Senator. He was 96-years-old at the time. We were walking over to the 16th annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service in Washington, DC, right in front of the Capitol building. I asked Senator Thurmond a very simple question. I said, “Why is it some people succeed and other people fail when offered the exact same opportunity?” He looked at me and didn’t bat an eye. He said, “Because they don’t accept responsibility.” It was simple. Simply put, you have got to be responsible.

Responsibility Empowers You

America’s first seven astronauts were put through an incredible battery of tests as they prepared for their first mission into the final frontier. Some of the toughest tests were simulations of the launch and then re-entry into the Earth’s orbit. The astronauts were exposed to extremes in temperature, turbulence, g-forces, and other stresses that most of us would not want to experience.

The mission control staff conducted an important experiment involving responsibility. They constructed two simulators. In one, the astronauts were simply buckled into their seats and had no control over their surroundings. They were along for the ride, so to speak. In the other simulator, there was a switch, a simple toggle switch. If the stresses became too much to handle, the astronaut had the option of reaching out and switching off the simulator.

No astronaut ever even reached for the switch, let alone used it. But as the mission control staff monitored the simulations, they learned something really interesting about human nature. When they were in the simulator with the switch, the astronauts displayed lower blood pressures, lower body temperatures, and slower heart rates.

In other words, they were able to cope more effectively with the extreme stresses and pressures when they were given responsibility for controlling the test. The ability to accept responsibility over their surroundings actually relaxed the astronauts. They were empowered by it.

We’re the same way. Taking responsibility strengthens us. Obviously, life does not come with an on/off switch, we don’t have the option of saying, “Stop the world, I want to get off!” But taking responsibility for whom we are and what we do is a heck of a lot better than just being along for the ride. If we accept responsibility, then we help control our journey. The alternative is just to sit back and let life pass us by. If that happens, I guarantee that you will end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

I had an interesting experience in my own life that reminded me about the importance of accepting responsibility. I visited my old high school a number of years ago. I stood next to my old locker and when I looked up I saw my reflection in the window. I saw a man who was 40 years old. And this is what hit me; I have made a lot of great decisions in my life. I have made a lot of bad decisions.

But here’s the point ­— I’ve made decisions. Sometimes they were right and sometimes they were wrong. But I made the decisions and I accepted the responsibility for them.

Some people go through life and don’t make decisions. They keep putting them off. It always seems a lot easier to do that. So people put them off, life goes by, and then they die. Then it’s too late to make decisions and live with them.

Accepting responsibility when things go wrong is extremely important as well. Ronald Reagan had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said, “You can accomplish a lot if you don’t care who gets the credit.” So here’s my advice to you when you’re working with other people. If something goes right, give your team the credit. if something goes wrong, you accept the responsibility for it. People will respect you for doing it.

The most eloquent line in the Declaration of Independence is the last. It reads, “We mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Let me repeat, “Our sacred honor.” That’s responsibility. We can’t have one without the other. With all of our rights, come responsibilities. Just as we have a fair claim on our rights, America’s sacred honor — our sacred honor — has a claim on us.

If you are a leader, if you are living to win, then you have an opportunity… you have a responsibility… to serve others. It’s our sacred honor.

As Americans, we live in a nation that is now the only superpower on earth, with opportunities for true national greatness. Let’s think a moment about the true measurements of greatness. We are obviously the strongest military power in the world. We have the greatest political influence. Economically, we are probably stronger than any other nation. We enjoy a tremendous amount of basic rights. So the question becomes, are we measuring up as a nation, which means are we measuring up as individuals, to our responsibilities? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Are you contributing to the strength of our nation? You must. A strong nation rests on the rock of responsibility. Our sacred honor.

We are, each of us, beneficiaries of those who came before us — and not just those who served in the armed forces in times of war. They paid the highest price. Their mark stands forever. But we are all indebted for our institutions, our laws, our music, our paintings, our way of life to those who went before us. This nation just didn’t happen. The outcomes of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and World War I and World War II were not pre-ordained. They didn’t have to end the way they did.

But people stepped up. They measured up. They took responsibility for the life of our nation and the rest of the free world. As Winston Churchill said, “We haven’t come this far because we are made of sugar candy.” And remember what else Churchill said, “The price of greatness is responsibility.”

One of the lessons of history is that we must appreciate what we have and accept responsibility for maintaining what we have… improving and perfecting it. I believe you have the opportunity to achieve greatness in your life. I know you can. I know you will achieve greatness by making decisions, accepting them, and moving forward. Make the tough decisions. Don’t let your life go by without making the decisions that will ultimately decide what your quality of life will be. You are too important for that, your family is too important.

Coming Next: The Role of Character in Pursuit of Success.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Article 4 of 6: The Role of Perseverance

...Bo Short

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do and, with the help of God, I will do!­­ ­— Everett Hale

The dictionary defines perseverance as “the persistent adherence to a single course of action in the face of any and all obstacles.” I suppose that’s the technically correct way to explain what perseverance is — the persistent adherence to a single course of action.

But here is how I would say it. Keep going. Don’t stop. Keep working. Keep dreaming. Don’t quit. Work some more. Don’t ever, ever give up. You should expect failure after failure before you succeed, but if you never give up, then you will ultimately prevail. You will succeed.

One reason I am so passionate about perseverance is because I believe it to be the Number One Killer of dreams in the world today.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing will take the place of persistence. Talent will not, nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not, unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, perseverance and dedication are omnipotent.”

The people who persevere know one thing, they know they want to win… they know they want to succeed… they know they want to make it. They don’t just want to survive; they don’t just want to be comfortable and get by. They want significance in their lives. They want to do something great, something new for their company, something meaningful for their family, something truly worthwhile with what little time we all share.

Thomas Fuller said, “An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.”

The football coach, Mike Ditka, who led the Chicago Bears to their only Super Bowl victory says, “You are never a loser until you quit trying.”

Rick Mears, the five-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 says, “To finish first you must first finish.” It’s perseverance.

I oftentimes hear young people say that they were taught, “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” That’s a nice thought. But I don’t buy it. Here’s what the great American industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, thought about winning. He said, “The first man gets the oyster, the second man gets the shell.”

Of course, how you play the game is critical. How you play the game says everything about your character. You must play the game with integrity. You must be honest and play by the rules. If you cheat to win it is called cheating not winning.

But the reality is that it does matter whether you win or lose. It makes a difference. Life is too short. It goes by too quickly. It’s not just about doing something; it’s about doing it well. It’s not just about playing the game of life. It’s about living your life to win. It makes a difference.

You are probably familiar with the phrase, “It’s a grind.” You may have even used that phrase in your life to describe a tough day at the office or a punishing practice in sports or a difficult day with your kids. It’s a grind.

Well, for some people, life can be a grind. But we get to decide whether the challenges that all of us invariably face every day will grind us down or actually polish us up. The people with perseverance actually get polished by their experiences… they get seasoned… they move on and move up. They’re the ones who are making a positive difference in the world.

There Will Always Be “Circumstances”

Everyone, every organization, is confronted with adversity. Everyone faces problems, sometimes significant problems. Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes big ones. It’s relatively easy to predict that on any given day we will confront difficulties. What is less easy to predict, however, is what we do when these problems arise? How do we react? Some people stop. They give up. Some people overcome repeated disappointments and setbacks.

The important thing is not the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The key is how we view these circumstances and respond by action.

Napoleon said, “The greatest attribute of a soldier is not loyalty, it’s not courage, it’s endurance.” It’s being willing to stand up one more time, to go forward one more time, to extend yourself one more time. So many people fail, they fail five times and they stop, when the sixth time they could have made it. Ross Perot, the multimillionaire businessman, says, “Most people give up when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from the winning touchdown.”

The great inventor, Thomas Edison, who developed the first light bulb, said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

What you are doing may seem insignificant but it’s not. Perseverance is born through seemingly insignificant moments. How you respond to those moments is what makes difference. Marriages fail if you’re not willing to persevere. Businesses fail if you don’t persevere. Nations fail if their leaders do not persevere.

When you are faced with troubles, fight through them. Vow to stand tough and get through them. And when you win, you will not only have triumphed for yourself, but you will also have won the respect of your friends. And you will deserve that respect.

Perseverance is nurtured in quiet moments. The reason is simple; you are lonely when you have to nurture it. Often when it’s time to persevere it’s because other people have quit. You’re alone. When it’s time to move on it’s because other people have already left and decided it wasn’t worth the effort. This is when you feel as though you are in the grasp of insignificance. Once you learn to adapt to that, you realize it’s not insignificant even though it feels like it at the time. Get through it, fight through it.

As I was building my companies, perseverance was the quality that got me over the hump. Perseverance was the toughest thing for me. There were many nights, many times when I was driving alone at night, when I felt like giving up. My wife and I used to talk about it. We knew that a lack of perseverance would have killed our best efforts. So we just kept going. We simply did not ever give up. And, today, our results have far surpassed our own dreams.

Thomas Edison, the great inventor, was once asked by a reporter, “What have you got to say about the fact that you have failed thousands of times in your attempts to create the light bulb?” Edison replied. “I beg your pardon. I have never failed even once. I’ve had thousands of learning experiments that didn’t work. I had to run through enough learning experiences to find a way that it did work.”

Just think how much further ahead we would be if we could learn to approach our so-called failures as mere learning experiences. In fact, before you succeed, you should expect failure. This is particularly true in science and in research. That’s why scientists and inventors like Madame Curie and Thomas Edison are such great models of perseverance. You must have great perseverance to be a great scientist and we can learn a lot from their examples because the same principle of refusing to give up in the face of obstacles applies to our lives.

Whether its building a business… running for elected office… working for a good cause at a nonprofit organization, pursuing a career in art or music… and certainly when it comes to raising a family and teaching your children what they need to know to be successful, the same principle of perseverance applies.

Be worthy of your heritage by never giving up. Be responsible for your failures. When I talk to great people about their successes some say, “You just see me in the spotlight, you’ve never seen me in my moments of failure. This is all you see but I failed many times to get here.” So be responsible for your failures as well as your successes. When other people have quit and you’re alone, use those quiet moments to keep yourself going. Remember, “…Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance.”

The writer Samuel Johnson wrote, “Great works are not performed with strength, but by perseverance.”

No matter what happens, don’t give up. Set your course and stay with it. Keep going and sooner or later you will reach your goals. You can do it. Perseverance will enable you to win.

Coming Next: The Role of Repsonsibilty in Pursuit of Success.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Article 3 of 6: The Role of Courage

...Bo Short

“It is courage, courage, courage, that raises the blood of life to crimson splendor.” ­ ...George Bernard Shaw

The Latin root of the word “courage” means, “heart.” Courage, then, is at the heart of the matter in everything we do.

Courage is often associated with dramatic acts of heroism. But the kind of courage I want to discuss with you is the courage we need to have every day. The courage to deal with the challenges and decisions we face every day of our lives… the courage we need to be successful entrepreneurs and business people… the courage we need to be good husbands and wives and parents… the courage we need to be leaders in whatever profession we may choose… the courage we need to serve our communities and give something back to those who may be less fortunate than we are.

Dreams and vision activate our imagination and can point our lives in new, exciting, and prosperous directions. But vision without action is merely a daydream. It is courage that gives us the boldness to act, to move forward toward achieving our vision. It is courage that gives us the strength to live our lives in pursuit of victory.

I can promise you one thing; when you stand up and set yourself apart, and challenge the mediocrity around you, people are going to laugh. People will laugh at you when you speak of wanting to win, of wanting more for your life and for your family. At that critical moment, the average person succumbs. When they hear the laughter, when they hear people question their vision and their goals, they retreat. They surrender. They give up without ever really getting started.

But the above-average person — the person who refuses to go through life as a nameless, faceless statistic — finds the courage to face that laughter and move on. Living your life to win means striving to achieve your goals despite what other people might say, despite the obstacles you may face. And the most beautiful part about courage is that you don’t have to go looking for it —courage will find you. Courage is already inside of you. All you have to do is to prepare properly. Courage finds those whom have prepared to win.

To be courageous requires no special qualifications… no magic formula… no unique time, place or set of circumstances. Opportunities to be courageous present themselves to us all the time. Winston Churchill wrote, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all the others.” Churchill also said, “Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts.” Yes, it is courage that counts.

Andrew Jackson said, “One man with courage is a majority.” One man or one woman with courage becomes a majority. It takes one person to stand up and make a difference. Many people believe that they, by themselves, cannot make a difference. Of course you can. I guarantee you that you already have made a difference in the lives around you. Think about it.

Researchers say that even the shyest person will influence 10,000 people during the course of their lifetime. Clearly, each and every one of us has the potential to make a large and meaningful difference in our businesses… in our families… in our communities. We can be true leaders if we find the courage to act.

I know that by simply reading this article you are already motivated to make a difference. So remember, it takes just one person standing up and speaking their mind to take over a room. One person can take over and motivate a team. One person can take over and mobilize a company. One person can take over and lead a nation.

In battle, one soldier with courage has meant the difference between victory and defeat. A lone preacher has moved multitudes. It was one man who broke the color barrier in baseball and, by himself, helped change the face of our nation.

Socrates, who is considered one of the wisest men in history, had the courage not to compromise his pursuit of truth. He refused to compromise his philosophies and teachings. Socrates was brought up on false charges, convicted, and forced to commit suicide by swallowing hemlock. Plato, a student of Socrates, held courage in such high esteem that he considered it as one of the cardinal virtues.

Copernicus was laughed at when he discovered that the sun is the center of the solar system and that the earth revolves around it. Galileo was threatened with execution and later placed under house arrest because he actually proved that what Copernicus had discovered was true.

Great composers such as Vagner and Devusee were booed and hissed offstage. The critics wrote them off. But they kept coming back. They were courageous. And they’ve contributed some of the greatest music in the world.

Claude Monet was the originator of impressionism. Today, people stand in lines that stretch entire city blocks to buy tickets to see Monet paintings on exhibit in museums around the world. Claude Monet literally looked at the world differently than any artist who had come before him. And yet, one of the art critics of his day said, “Claude Monet has declared war on beauty.”

You see, people laughed at him for having the courage to pursue his vision of art. But he had the courage to keep going. And I wonder how many of us wish we had the millions of dollars required to purchase a Monet painting.

Picasso was the same way. He broke all the rules that artists had followed since the Renaissance. Picasso’s courage to develop his own style, his willingness to explore something new, contributed more to modern art than anyone before or since.

Look at Gregor Mendel; he was the scientist who discovered the laws of heredity. His work was ignored by the scientific community of his generation. Ignored and ridiculed. Even though Mendel was brilliant, because of a lack of money, he was forced to live as a monk to support his scientific experiments. But Mendel had courage; he kept working. And today we know that Mendel’s work dramatically improved food production around the world, and his laws of heredity have been applied to biochemistry, physiology and even social science.

When Mendel was asked to discuss his efforts he said, “It requires indeed some courage to undertake labor of such far-reaching extent.”

Madame Curie, another scientist, devoted her entire career to studying radioactivity and, as a result, more than one million soldiers were x-rayed with her equipment during World War I. Madame Curie died of leukemia, most likely caused by her lifelong exposure to radioactive materials.

Think of the courage you have already demonstrated in your life. The very challenges you have experienced and overcome in getting this far is exactly what equips you to go farther. You have had to show flexibility, resourcefulness, diligence and grit to get wherever you are today. And those are precisely the qualities that are most valued in the world. They are all part of the courage we need to live to win.

You have faced risks growing up. You have faced risks in your career. The risk of failure looms large for all of us. You may have had to overcome poverty or a broken home or a disability or drugs and violence. Maybe you’re still overcoming them even today.

The PBS evening news reporter, Jim Lehrer, said, “Take risks, be willing to put your mind and your spirit, your time and your energy, your stomach and your emotions on the line. To search for a safe place, to search for an end to the rainbow, is to search for a place that you will hate once you find it. The soul must be nourished along with the bank account and the resume. The best nourishment for any soul is to create your own risks.”

The author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “The world has no room for cowards. We must all be ready somehow to toil, to suffer, to die. And yours is not the less noble because no drum beats before you when you go out into your daily battlefields… and no crowds shout about your coming when you return from your daily victory or defeat.”

So be courageous. Claim the courage that is yours. It’s inside you. Be courageous today. Courage will give life to your visions. Courage will help you win. You can do it. You must do it.

Coming Next: The Role of Perseverance in Pursuit of Success.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Article 2 of 6: The Role of Vision

... Bo Short

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”...Saint-Exupery, Flight to Arras (1492)

Having a vision is imperative to success. Vision is an essential ingredient in living to win. In fact, you can trace the importance of having a vision all the way back to the Bible. In Proverbs, chapter 29 it reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It has also been said that even a child building a sand castle has some kind of picture in his or her head telling them what to do next. It’s vision. If you want to become a leader in business, government, entertainment or athletics — if you want to be successful in any significant endeavor — you first need to have vision.

In order to understand the power of vision it is as important to understand how, throughout history, great people succeeded because they dared to dream, sometimes despite huge obstacles. I also want to encourage you to develop your own ambitious vision for what you want to accomplish in your life. Understand that there are no constraints on the human mind…no walls around the human spirit…and absolutely no barriers to our vision except those we build ourselves.

Every enterprise, whether it’s beginning a business, starting a family, running for elected office, teaching a class, or serving as a leader in the military, to name just a few, is based upon a vision. The significance of vision goes to the core of leadership. Vision is inseparable from leadership. Vision links the present to the future through the person of the leader. The philosopher and educator Alfred North Whitehead said, “Great dreamer’s dreams are never fulfilled, but they are always transcended.”

Study the lives of people who have achieved great things. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you should study great entrepreneurs…if you want to be successful in business, study the lives of great businesspeople… if you want to be a great composer or an attorney, then study the lives of great composers and great attorneys. Don’t study failure. Study success —only then will you understand how to emulate it and achieve it yourself.

It was Sir Isaac Newton, the father of science, who said, “I have seen so far because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Newton was describing how his vision was extended by studying the vision and the work of the great scientists who came before him. It worked for Newton and it is vitally important in our own lives.

Often times when I speak in schools, businesses, and civic groups I am amazed by the number of people that tell me that they were taught, “It’s a tough world out there, do the best you can do, but if things don’t work out it’s ok.” What a devastating thing to impart on your children. It raises my spirits when people tell me that they were told, “If its been done before, you can do it.” Well, my parents took it one step further. They said, “Even if it’s never been done before, you can do it.” What a powerful statement for a child to carry into their adult life. Even if it has not been dreamt of — you can do it. This unleashes unlimited possibilities in a child’s mind.

This is one of the most important points about vision. If you can think it, you can do it. Great thinking leads to great results. Conversely, mediocre thinking leads to mediocre results. We can accomplish anything as long as we dare ourselves to reach for it.

The author and well-known business consultant Peter Drucker wrote that the number one difference between Nobel Prize winning scientists and all other scientists was that they asked bigger questions. The Nobel prize-winning scientists did not have higher IQs. They were smart, but not necessarily smarter than other scientists. They did not work any harder. But the key was they thought bigger… they dreamed bigger… they asked bigger questions. They reached higher with their minds.

Vision Motivates Action

Having a vision stimulates passion and raises our energy level. We may have hundreds of goals that we want to achieve, and which we do achieve as we go along. Our vision keeps us looking and moving forward.

Research shows that children with what is called “future-focused role images” perform far better in school and are significantly more competent in handling the challenges of life. Teams, businesses and other organizations with a strong collective vision outperform those without the strength of vision. According to the Dutch sociologist Fred Polak, a primary factor influencing the success of entire civilizations is the “collective vision” people have of their future.

Vision is the best manifestation of our creative imagination. Vision is also the primary motivation behind human action. The opposite is also true; if we don’t have a compelling vision for the future, we are, by definition, not as motivated as we can or should be. Vision is the ability to see beyond our present reality… to imagine what does not yet exist… to become someone new… to achieve at a higher level. Vision gives us the capacity to look forward and live out of our imagination rather than look backward and live out of our memory.

Vision provides an overall context for our lives. Without a vision, we are basically reactive, we react to what other people value and want from us. We fall into the trap of trying to become all things to all people… trying to meet everybody else’s expectations… and we end up meeting nobody’s expectations, especially our own. But with a clear sense of vision, all the advice that we solicit, all the feedback we get, makes sense in the context of our vision. We can process the information in a way that is useful. We can build on it. We can move closer to actually achieving our vision.

Having a vision and achieving it is like the process of repentance and forgiveness. Repentance is not an event. Forgiveness is not a moment. It’s a process. We don’t say, “I’m sorry” and it’s over. It’s a process. We repent and then we work toward forgiveness. The same is true of vision. We develop a vision, we shape it and refine it and work toward it. Its a process that moves us forward as we live to win.

We all have some vision of our future and ourselves. That vision opens doors of opportunity and it also creates consequences. Perhaps more than any other factor except our character, vision affects the choices we make and the way we spend our time.

If our vision is limited, we tend to make choices that are based on what is in front of us. If our vision only extends to what’s on TV tonight or what we hope to do during the upcoming weekend, then obviously, our vision will not take us very far. If our vision is limited then we tend not to think very far ahead. We react to whatever seems urgent on a specific day or at a particular moment. We get sidetracked by other people’s priorities. We vacillate and fluctuate based on the day. We don’t go forward, we end up going sideways. It’s as though we drift.

If our vision is based on illusion, then we tend to get discouraged when we are confronted with challenges and adversity. If our vision is only partial, if it focuses on just one aspect of our lives, like our jobs, then we tend to get out of balance. If our vision is based on someone’s expectations, then sooner or later we will actually get alienated by the vision rather than motivated by it.

Your vision must be built on what you are passionate about achieving in your life. It has to be focused on something you know you want. It could be starting a business… it could be growing the business you are already in… it could be running for office and getting elected… it could be writing a great novel. Your vision can and will lead you to accomplish anything and go anywhere if it clarifies your purpose in life… gives you direction and meaning, and empowers you to perform beyond your resources.

The Olympic motto is the Latin phrase, “Citius, Altius, Fortius.” It means, swifter, higher, stronger. In a sense, this is the vision for the Olympic Games. It is the ideal that guides all of the competition. You will know deep inside your soul that your vision is right for you if it makes you move swifter, reach higher, and become stronger.

Vision can and should become the DNA of our lives. It should become so ingrained and so integrated into every aspect of our being that it becomes the compelling impetus behind every decision we make. It is the fire in our belly. It is the energy within us that makes our life a dynamic, exciting adventure. Our vision can literally enable us to transcend fear, doubt, frustration, discouragement, rejection and many other events or factors that keep us from living our dreams. Vision will help overcome our own perceived weaknesses. It will help us grow and develop our strengths.

The best advice I can give you is to dare to dream. You have every right to. In a way, vision is like Mozart’s melodies. The music exists on paper but it means nothing until it is both performed and heard. Much of the music’s effect depends on the ability of who is playing it. Vision is like the music. It must be played to become reality.

Remember, a compelling vision is the foundation of leadership. It is absolutely essential. Nonetheless, a vision is only the foundation. It is a beginning, a starting point. It is not a destination itself.

What’s important to remember about vision is that you can always do better. You can always reach higher. You can always improve. You can always innovate. Having a vision for your life is not a one-time, sudden event. It is an ongoing process.

You can do great things. Moliere said, “All men are alike in their dreams, and all men are alike in the promises they make, but the difference is in what they do.” It’s not what you say, it’s what you do with your life that makes the difference. Dream really big — bigger than you’ve ever dreamed in your life — because you can do it.

What I have observed in my life is that people usually don’t want too much. What holds them back is that they want too little. They think too small. So dream big because you can live your dreams. You don’t have to follow a trail that anyone else has laid out for you. Blaze your own trail so that people will follow you.

How you live your life will determine whether you transform your vision into reality. Your life is not the sum total of what you have been. Your life will be determined by what you yearn and work to become.

Coming Next: The Role of Courage in Pursuit of Success.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Article 1 of 6: Introduction

...Bo Short

This is the first in a series of six articles that are designed to challenge you to become your best; to become the best leader you can possibly become and to understand how crucial it is that you live your life to win.

I have had the great honor of spending time in the company of some of this nation’s great success stories; men and women that have overcome obstacles much greater than you and I will probably ever face in our lifetime. Some have led our nation, some companies, and then there are those like Eric Weinmeyer, who was able to summit Mount Everest. By the way, beyond the rarity of this feat, Eric is totally blind.

As you and I have heard their stories and witnessed many of these accomplishments we have been inspired to achieve beyond our own expectations. Having personally met them and spent time with many of them, it is my contention that their accomplishments were simply their ability to summon their “best effort” for an extended period of time. While each one of these individuals is flawed, they found within themselves the ability to lead, inspire others, and make a difference in the world.

What are these principles of leadership that these people have found within themselves that have given rise to their being recognized as great success stories? During the course of my time with people like this I would suggest that there are five basic principles of leadership. Principles that, if nurtured, will not only change your life but will have a profound impact on the people around you.

These principles are: Vision, Courage, Perseverance, Responsibility and Character.

During the course of your reading these articles it is not my intention to make you just feel good about your potential. Nor is it my purpose to simply tell you that you can make your dreams come true. I want to challenge you, to dare you to step out from the crowd and embrace your future… to do something great with your life. You risk too much if you do not. We live in a time where we are all to accepting of the premise that:

It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose it’s how you play the game.

I, for one, could not disagree more. Please understand that playing with integrity is critical. In fact, if you have to cheat to declare victory then you have not won at all. Playing with character is paramount to lasting success. However, I contend that it does matter if you win or lose. I believe that your life depends on it.

Excelling in all areas of your life, including family, health, spiritual, and financial brings abundant rewards. Failing can be devastating.

In the news you hear about children’s soccer leagues that have instituted a “no scoring” policy. High schools that have decided to recognize numerous valedictorians, as well as, multiple homecoming kings and queens. In this move to protect peoples “feelings,” we are lowering the performance bar and finding “less” to be acceptable. While turning our attention to pass/fail exams we are overlooking a very important fact. That is simply this; life keeps score. It rewards those who win.

Coming Next: The role of VISION in pursuit of success.

Find the Right Company

I have been asked by numerous people if I would share my insights and opinions on the role that leadership development plays as one attempts to build a network marketing business. I would like to add that this blog will be beneficial to you in any industry that you are engaged in. Good leadership is at the core of all success.

I think it is important to point out in advance that I believe that 98% of the companies in this particular industry are fundamentally flawed in one (or more) of 5 areas. Unfortunately, the personal leadership development that occurs in these 98%'ers generally results in little success. Finding the right company is like finding a needle in a haystack. However, finding the right company is paramount to your ability to impact people long-term.

To assist you in that endeavor my business partner, Ty Tribble and I have written a book that I am happy to offer you for free as a way to assist you in the selection process. You can get a free copy by going to

I will utilize this blog to answer questions and share relevant information that you can use on your road to success. If you have specific questions you can send them to

I look forward to interacting with you, and most importantly, applauding your success.

Coming Next: A 6 part series on the role that VISION, COURAGE, PERSEVERANCE , RESPONSIBILITY, and CHARACTER play in your any endeavor.