Keep a Positive Perspective on Today

I’ve been thinking lately about how important it is to have a positive perspective and live life in the present. I have a journal I read frequently where I have written inspirational thoughts as well as motivational quotes. I try every day to live by these three positive thoughts:

  • You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.
  • You become an adult when you realize life is about serving others rather than being served.
  • Life is about significance. Making a living is about success.

To me significance is about making a difference in the lives of people you touch every day. Success—doing your job well—is important, but it’s not the meaning of life. As I continually say:  Life is all about who you love and who loves you.

I also am inspired every day by a wonderful saying attributed to Stephen Grellet, a French-born American Quaker missionary: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” What a great perspective this is—if you can do some good or be kind to someone, don’t wait—do it now.

After the big football game last Sunday, I reflected on when I was part of a panel in Dallas many years ago with Tom Landry, the late, great Dallas Cowboys coach. If you ever watched Landry when he was coaching, he was the picture of calmness no matter what was happening. A man in the audience asked him, “How do you stay so calm in the midst of this crazy game of football?” Tom’s quick answer was this:

“Staying calm is easy for me, because I have my priorities in order. First comes God, then my wife, then my family and friends, and finally, my job. So if I lose on Sunday, I have a lot left over. Unfortunately, I see some coaches who are devastated when they lose because winning is their whole life.” He really knew how to put winning and losing in perspective.

When I met Don Shula, legendary coach of the Miami Dolphins and my coauthor on Everyone’s a Coach, I found out he had the same philosophy as Tom Landry. Don’s wife and family were always center stage for him before winning. I’ll never forget once when I was visiting him, the Dolphins had a very important game and they lost. I was concerned because Don and I had a big television interview scheduled for the next day. But much to my surprise, when he arrived at the studio he was very upbeat. I asked him how that was possible after a major defeat. He said, “The philosophy I’ve instilled in our team is that we have only 24 hours after a game to either celebrate a victory or bemoan a defeat. After that, our focus has to be on the next game.” Talk about living in the present, not the past, and then planning for the future.

During the opening ceremonies for Sunday’s big game, it was great to see Don, at age 90, on the field smiling and waving to the crowd. He was being recognized as one of the 10 greatest coaches of all time. I called him a few weeks ago on his 90th birthday and said “Happy birthday, youngster!” He immediately replied “I can still kick your a**!” Now there’s some perspective! Ha!

One of the fun things about arriving home from a trip is the greeting I get from our fabulous little dog, Joy. It shouldn’t go unnoticed that “dog” spells “God“ backwards. I think it’s because dogs behave the way God would like us to behave—they focus on the present. They don’t worry about the past—yesterday is over. They have little concern for the future—tomorrow is yet to come. They stay in the present and enjoy every moment. Dogs are living, breathing guides to a positive perspective on life. Then why can’t dogs live longer? The best answer I’ve heard is that if you gave out unconditional love 24 hours a day, you’d be exhausted, too!

Thanks for permitting me to reminisce about all these things. I hope you have a wonderful day focusing on the now. Keep your “I love yous” up to date. And never forget that life is a very special occasion. Savor every moment!

Every Ending Is a Brand-New Beginning

As 2019 comes to a close, I’m taking some time to reflect on the significant events of the past year and to anticipate the exciting things yet to come.

This is a long-standing tradition of mine and perhaps of yours, too. At the end of each year, Margie and I write a letter to all our friends, wishing them a happy holiday and catching them up on what’s been going on in our lives over the past 12 months. We’ve been doing this since shortly after we got married in 1962, the year Margie graduated from Cornell. That’s more than 57 years!

Together, all of these letters tell the story of our lives over the past half-century. What’s amazing is that by looking back, we can see how problems that once seemed insurmountable were the necessary conditions for wonderful new developments. A few choice examples spring to mind:

1967

This was the year I earned my PhD in education from Cornell. I had anticipated finding a position as a dean of students. Even though I had great interviews with several universities, none of them hired me. This was a blow to my ego and sure looked like an unhappy ending. But I ended up taking a position as the assistant to the dean at Ohio University, which was an important new beginning. At Ohio University I met Paul Hersey. Paul liked my writing and asked me to coauthor a book with him. That led to our development of Situational Leadership® and my career as an author and leadership expert.

 

2007

Fast-forward 40 years to the year a raging wildfire burned our house to the ground. What had every appearance of being a tragic ending was in fact an inspiring new beginning. Margie and I moved up the street into an even better house, this one with a view of the hills to the west. Now we never get tired of watching breathtaking sunsets from our back patio.

 

2019

This year one of our company’s superstars, Howard Farfel, is ending his 18-year career with Blanchard, seven of those years as president. I have real mixed feelings about Howard stepping down. I don’t know a nicer human being or finer gentleman than Howard. He’s had a powerfully positive impact on our company, and his smile and sense of humor will be sorely missed. But this ending marks a thrilling new beginning: My son, Scott Blanchard, will be taking leadership as Blanchard’s new president. As anyone who’s heard Scott speak knows, his love and passion for our company and the work we do is second to nobody’s.

I’m excited about 2020 and I hope you are, too. Before the new year, take a few moments to reflect on the things you’re leaving behind in 2019. Even if some of those things make you sad, remember that what looks like a finality isn’t really the end—it’s the beginning of something brand new.

 

Make a Difference by Giving to Others this Holiday Season

I often talk about how important it is to reach out to others in love and service on a regular basis. But during the holidays, we need to be especially focused on giving, serving, and caring for people. I want to offer up a few ideas on how simple it can be to make a real difference in someone’s life this holiday season.

At our company’s headquarters, our “Giving Tree” is set up in the main lobby. We choose a couple of families in our local community each year who could really use a lift over the holidays. On the tree are gift tags for the family members—kids, teens, and adults—with requests for specific things they need or would like: slippers, a sweater or jacket, a certain toy or book, etc. Lots of our associates take one or two tags off the tree and return with gifts to be distributed to these folks who otherwise may not have expected much in the way of gifts this year.

Making a difference doesn’t have to involve money, though. Think of ways you can offer your time or talent. Bake cookies for people in a group home or halfway house. Get a group together to sing holiday songs at a retirement center. Spend a few hours serving meals at a shelter or working at a food bank—places that are extra busy this time of year.

Writing a personal note to someone you care about is another no-cost way to make a difference in someone’s life—especially if it’s someone on your list who “has everything.” A heartfelt note written to a parent, a sibling, or a long-distance relative or friend may be the most important gift they receive this year.

My good friend Colleen Barrett, former president of Southwest Airlines and my coauthor on Lead with LUV, is remarkable in many ways—and something she is known for are her thoughtful, handwritten notes. When Colleen was at Southwest, she sent out more than 1000 handwritten notes every year to staff and managers. She had spies everywhere! Colleen wrote notes for every reason—to celebrate work anniversaries, weddings, new babies, graduations—to sympathize when someone had been in an accident or lost a loved one—or to praise a worker who had gone above and beyond for a customer. Even though she is retired, Colleen’s handwritten notes of kindness to others continue to flow.

Remember: real joy happens when you get in the act of forgetfulness about yourself. Giving is not about you. Don’t give a gift because of how good someone was this year, or what they did to help you. Just give because they deserve it. And don’t serve because you expect something in return. Do it because you care, and because it’s the right thing to do. Your reward is simply joy—the joy that comes from giving.

So this holiday season, find a way to make a difference in somebody else’s life. Reach out to a family member. Reach out to a friend. Reach out to a neighbor. Reach out to a stranger. Because that’s what it’s all about. And when you do it, you’ll get into the moment. You’ll feel the joy. And you’ll realize that life really is a special occasion.

What Do You Really Want from Your Work?

Many years ago I participated in an “Aligned Thinking” seminar, designed by Jim Steffen. One of the exercises in the program made a big difference in my life, so I want to share it with you.

Think about how you would answer this question: What do I really want from my work?

To break this down, make a list of five things you would really like to get out of the work you do (e.g., income, skills, training, camaraderie, pride, positive feelings, etc.). Don’t rush this—think it through. Choose the five most important things you can imagine gaining from your work. Now, give each one of those items a value from 1 to 10 in terms of how well you feel your job is achieving that goal or fulfilling that particular desire right now. When you are finished, take a look at how you scored yourself.

If your current job is giving you most of the things you desire from your work, you are one of the fortunate people who have a fulfilling work life. Your job is probably providing enjoyment, excitement, energy, etc. Good on you—that’s great!

But what if the things you want from your work are different from what you feel you’re gaining in your present job? In that case, it may be time for you to ask yourself a few questions, such as “What am I getting out of my work now? How is that different from what I really want to do? Are my tasks at work connected to things that are meaningful to me? How can I adjust my actions and attitudes so that my work can better meet my needs and wants?”

When I took this quiz, I came up with these things that I know I want to gain and enjoy from my work:

  1. The opportunity to serve others. I’m convinced we finally become an adult when we realize we’re here to serve, not to be served.
  2. Meaning. Every day I would like to make a difference in someone’s life, even if it’s just by giving them a warm smile. I’m always looking for meaningful encounters.
  3. Fun. If something’s not fun, I don’t want to do it. Of course, not everything we do can be fun—some things have to be done so that we can accomplish other more important things. But if I can squeeze some fun into my day, I will.
  4. Social interaction. It’s important to me to work and play with smart, fun loving people. That’s why I have so many coauthors—I really love working with and being around people.
  5. The opportunity to grow and learn. I never want to stop learning new things. As I’ve said many times before, if you stop learning, you may as well lie down and let them put dirt over you.

I made this list many years ago, and I still love doing the kind of work that provides meaning, fun, social interaction, the opportunity to serve, and the opportunity to grow and learn new things. Most days I still do pretty well at checking off those boxes.

Of course, the ebb and flow of deadlines, special projects, health concerns, etc., keep many of us from being able to say our job satisfies our wants and needs every single day. But when we determine what we really want from work, we create a purpose—an individual mission—for working. And we can start taking steps toward achieving those desires.

Life is a special occasion. Work is an important part of it. People who practice Aligned Thinking know how to get more of what they want out of work—and life.

 

Happy Families are No Accident

Years ago, Peter Drucker said “Nothing good happens by accident—put some structure around it!” So if you want something good to happen, put some structure around it. This doesn’t just apply to business; it’s also for family life. I can name several traditions that are perfect examples of Drucker’s line of thinking.

 

Like many families, we like to get together on every family member’s birthday. As part of the celebration we all sit at the dinner table and, one by one, tell the birthday person what we like about them. Our kids Scott and Debbie used to protest this tradition, but today they encourage their kids to take part in it, too. It’s an easy thing to do and a great way to make someone feel extra special on their special day.

 

Here’s another Blanchard tradition: every Christmas Day, between dinner and dessert, all our family and friends who are gathered share something special with everyone. They can sing a song, recite a poem, or tell us something important in their lives. This not only delights all those who are gathered, it makes the day more memorable and meaningful.

 

We know several couples who plan a date night at least once every two weeks. They make a rule that they can’t talk about work or the kids—only about their relationship. “How are we doing with each other?” If every couple did that 26 times a year, I guarantee there would be a lot fewer divorces.

 

Structure also helps our family business. You may or may not know this, but The Ken Blanchard Companies is family owned. Margie and I cofounded the company almost forty years ago—and Scott, Debbie, and Margie’s younger brother, Tom, joined the company around twenty years later. Sometimes family businesses work well and sometimes they don’t. We didn’t want to run the risk that our family business would mess up our family, so Scott had the idea that the five of us should meet one day every quarter with an outside consultant/facilitator. And what a great idea it was! We’ve been holding our “Family Council” meetings for a number of years now. More recently, Tom’s wife, Jill, and Scott’s wife, Madeleine, have joined us. We all know it’s due in no small part to these meetings that we still love each other and often vacation together, even though we work together almost every day.

 

So follow Drucker’s advice. If you want good things to happen, put some structure in place—it’s as easy as starting a few simple family traditions. When families find new ways to celebrate their positive relationships, life gets more enjoyable.