A Celebration of Generosity

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan

The word today in this quote made me pause and think about my efforts in helping others. My business is about helping others, and I also volunteer with several local organizations. Yet it made me reflect on the value I have for generosity.

The first thought that comes to most of our minds is money. But generosity is much more. It is as simple as taking the time to provide a service to another person. Life would be very boring if we were not driven to help others. Helping a friend, a family member, a co-worker, or a neighbor is what can give our life significance on a daily basis.

Most of my service time is spent with groups organized through the church, but I also spend time mentoring others. Many professionals provide  some pro bono work, and I decided i would like to do the same. I have never thought of coaching in terms of a generosity I can provide.  Going forward a portion of my coaching hours each month will be provided on a pro bono basis.

I have provided sample coaching sessions in the past to potential clients, but I am excited that this venture will be different. This will not be an introduction to coaching, but ongoing coaching. I plan to offer selected individuals at a minimum three months of coaching. I would like to use 10% of my monthly work hours in this fashion.

Interested? Stay tuned to this newsletter (or register if you are not already registered) for more information in the next week or two. I am ready to celebrate my ability to help others, what can you do to be more generous on a daily basis?

What Do You Want to Achieve?

What Christina Aguilera said is true, “The roughest roads often lead to the top.” Achievement takes work, perseverance, and desire in some magical combination. This week I captured some thoughts about achievement.

1. Achievements fade over time. The importance of an achievement is highest at the time of achievement. It is the culmination of the time and effort spent. Afterwards, the effect is diminished. As a plant manager I monitored cost, delivery, quality, safety, and employee engagement among many other metrics. All of these accomplishments were important, but the importance was reduced the next month, because I had a new target. At times I found myself too focused on this month’s target that I missed bigger opportunity.

2. Define your own goals. Most of my working life I was given goals by my boss or the company directors. The goals that meant more to me and my team were goals that we created. When I challenge myself, I am more likely to find a way to reach the goal. I will also learn more and enjoy the process more.

3. Understand why. Blindly following goals that you don’t understand can be very frustrating. When I could embrace the reason for the target, it was much easier to get the team working together.

4. Have fun with what is important. The achievements I remember most are the ones that were fun to complete. Work can be enjoyable with the right team. If you can make your goals fun, it is easier to spend your time working towards them.

For me, I found accomplishments to be important milestones but they are not as important as the journey to achieve them.

Is a Balanced Life Impossible?

A work-life balance is something we all wish we had. To me it has always seemed elusive. I can only do one thing at a time, so balance must come from splitting time among activities that I care about. At any one moment, balance is an illusion.

Victor Hugo wrote, “To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better.” Harmony may be a better way to evaluate our efforts, rather than balance.

As a reflection exercise this week, I focused on the word balance. Here are some thoughts I had.

1. Consider both heart and head. The energy to do something comes from the heart. If you listen mostly to your head, you will most likely run out of steam.

2. Keep moving. Life is like riding a bicycle. If I keep moving, then it is easier to keep my balance. If I wait too long to take action, I risk getting stuck.

3. Lean into the future. What is in front of me tends to be more important than what is behind me. I can’t change yesterday’s balance, but I can change tomorrow’s balance.

4. Recognize hopes and needs. I need to know the difference between my hopes and my needs. Hope helps me reach for more. Needs focus my efforts, and demand humility.

For me, balance may always be just out of reach, but maybe that is a good thing. How do you find balance in your life?

Four Certainties about Competence

As a reflection exercise, I sometimes like think about something I value from my perspective.  Recently I spent some time thinking about competence. Competence means possessing the skill, knowledge, and ability to effectively perform. It provides significance and context for our actions. Here are four things I know about competence.

1. I am never as good as I think I am. It is human nature to see things unfold better in our minds than in reality. I never practice missing a 30 foot golf putt in my mind. But when playing, I miss more than I make.  When I take time to think through an idea before taking action, I plan for a positive outcome. The basis of self-confidence is belief that we can be successful, the reality is we must fail along the way.

2. I can always improve. Improvement is a never ending process because I am not perfect. I am not even close to perfect. Any competence I possess can be improved. I can gain new knowledge, or increase my skill, or invest time in practice. Master pianists have natural talent, but their competence comes from hard work. It is the same with me.

3. I care more about my skills than anyone else. Others can only judge my competence from their perspective. However, my perspective is more important. My evaluation of myself determines my actions. Do I work to improve, or am I content with my current level of competence? External influences affect my plans, but ultimately from within me comes my motivation to improve. No one can force me to become better without my participation.

4. I must use and improve my competence in order to keep it. If a surgeon returns from a five year hiatus, would you want to be their first patient for surgery? If I do not use my skills, they will begin to lose proficiency. Some investment of time is required to maintain my level of competence.

Throughout our lives we gain and lose competence based on the decisions we make and the time that we invest. Taking time to reflect on competence has helped me challenge myself. How do you improve or maintain your competence level?