Let’s Celebrate Love!

I love the month of February because on Valentine’s Day, we officially celebrate love.

A few years ago, my colleague Michele Jansen sent me a wonderful thing. A group of professional people posed the question “What does love mean?” to a group of children. The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone would have imagined. See what you think:

“Love is when someone hurts you and you get so mad, but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings.”

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”

“When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.”

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore, so my grandfather did it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis, too.”

“Love is the first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way.”

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend you hate.”

“When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you’re scared they won’t love you anymore, but then you get surprised because not only do they still love you, they love you even more.”

Aren’t they wonderful, all these great sayings from kids about love? “Your name is safe in their mouth.” “Start with a friend you hate.”

Love is essential to good leadership. As my wife, Margie, often says, “Leadership is not about love; it is love.” When love enters into your decision making, you’re on the right track.

For too long, people thought love and business were mutually exclusive. Nothing could be further from the truth. When love extends to your mission, your values, your people, your customers, and the products or services you create, you make the world a better place.

So, let’s celebrate love this month—and every month!

Determining Your Personal Values

For the past couple of blogs, I’ve been writing about the three-step process of creating a compelling personal vision. We’ve explored the first step: writing your life purpose. My last blog showed how to complete the second step: envisioning your picture of the future. This week I’ll explain the third and final part of creating a compelling person vision: determining your values.

It’s been said that the most important thing in life is to decide what’s most important, and that’s what determining your values is all about. But what is a value? In Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision in Your Work and Your Life, Jesse Stoner and I conclude that:

Values are deeply held beliefs that certain qualities are desirable. They define what is right or fundamentally important to each of us. They provide guidelines for our choices and activities.

Let’s face it, if your personal vision is going to have any real meaning, you have to live it. And where you live your vision is in your values, because values are what guide your behavior on a day-to-day basis.

Select Your Core Values. The first step to determining your values is to write a long list of qualities that have meaning to you. For example:

  • Truth
  • Wisdom
  • Courage
  • Recognition
  • Creativity
  • Honesty
  • Trust
  • Freedom
  • Spirituality
  • Love
  • Success
  • Humor
  • Peace
  • Security
  • Excellence
  • Learning

There are many more, but you get the idea. Once you’ve generated a long list, begin to narrow it down. Hold each value up against the others and see if you can pick out your three to five most important values. Winnowing down your list is important, because research shows that to be memorable and effective, values must be few in number—no more than five.

Define Your Values. The next step in clarifying your values is to define them. Why is this important? Because to be able to live consistently with a value, you must be able to explain what that value means to you.

For example, let’s take a value that has many meanings, like “love.”  I define this value by describing how it feels, as well as how I express it to others:

“I value love. I know I am living by this value anytime I feel loving toward myself and others, anytime I express compassion, anytime I show love to others, and anytime I receive the love of others.”

To give you a better sense of how this works, listed below are my rank-ordered values and how I define them.

Spiritual Peace

Because my mission is to serve, not to be served, spiritual peace is my highest value. I know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I realize I am a child of God and He loves me no matter what I do.
  • Any time I am grateful for my blessings.
  • Any time I pray and feel God’s unconditional love.

Health

This value has moved up in rank since I’ve had 59th anniversary of 21st birthday! I value health and know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I treat my body with love and respect.
  • Any time I exercise.
  • Any time I push my body to expand its present limits.
  • Any time I eat nutritious food.

Love

This had to be one of my values, because I’ve always said, “Love is the answer. What is the question?” I know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I feel loving towards myself and others.
  • Any time I express compassion.
  • Any time I show love to others.
  • Anytime I receive the love of others.

Integrity

My father taught me the importance of integrity. I know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I am honest with myself and others.
  • Any time I walk my talk.

Joy

Businessman and author Fred Smith said, “Real joy…is when you get in the act of forgetfulness about yourself.” This value is so important to me that I named my dog Joy! I know I am living by this value:

  • Any time I let my playful child express itself.
  • Any time I wake up feeling grateful for my blessings, the beauty around me, and the people in my life.
  • Anytime I smile, am happy, laugh, and kid.

Rank Order Your Values.  Think about which values are most important to you and write them down in that order. Listing your values in order of importance will further guide your decision making. If a situation arises where two or more values conflict, you’ll know which action to take, based on the value of highest importance.

Make Your Vision Come Alive. It’s one thing to write a personal vision statement—and another thing to put it into practice. Many years ago, I learned a wonderful lesson from Norman Vincent Peale, my coauthor on the book The Power of Ethical Management. Norman contended that we all have two selves. One is an external, task-oriented self that focuses on getting jobs done. The other is an internal, thoughtful, reflective self. The question Norman always posed was, “Which self wakes up first in the morning?” The answer, of course, is that our external, task-oriented self wakes up first. We leap out of bed, jump in the car, and race from activity to activity.

It’s hard to put our vision into practice when we’re caught in an activity rat race. What we all have to do is find a way to enter our day slowly, so we can awaken our thoughtful, reflective self first in the morning.

I’ve been working on entering my day slowly for many years.  One way I encourage my reflective self to guide me is to read my personal vision statement each morning, to remind myself of my purpose, my picture of the future, and my operating values.  This helps my behavior line up with my good intentions.

At the end of the day I like to pick up my journal and reflect on the day. What did I do that was consistent with my vision? This is an opportunity to praise myself for a job well done. What did I do that was inconsistent with my vision? This is an opportunity to redirect my behavior and possibly make amends for any errors I’ve made.

I hope this series of blogs has inspired you to create your own compelling vision. Having a personal life purpose, a compelling picture of the future, and your own clearly defined values can give you the clarity, inspiration, and motivation you need to make a difference for yourself and the world.

Your Personal Picture of the Future

There are three parts to a compelling personal vision: your life purpose, your picture of the future, and your values. In my last blog post, I detailed a four-step process to help you write your personal life purpose statement.

The second part of creating a compelling personal vision is to come up with your personal picture of the future. It’s never too early to start thinking about how you want to spend the rest of your life and how you might want to be remembered. My wife, Margie, and I each have a favorite activity to help people achieve this goal.

Fantasy Friday

One of Margie’s favorite phrases is “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Back when she was working on her PhD in communication, she taught an extended learning course where she came up with this writing exercise to help people turn their dreams for the future into goals. She calls the exercise “My Fantasy Friday.” Here’s how it works:

Imagine it’s a Friday ten years in the future. It’s a work day but also the beginning of the weekend. Write a paragraph that answers the following questions:

  • Where are you living, and with whom?
  • What are you doing throughout the day, hour by hour? (The more details, the better.)
  • How are you feeling—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually?

That’s it! After you’re finished and you read what you’ve written, it may surprise you.

When Margie first came up with this activity, she suggested that we write our Fantasy Friday paragraphs separately and then share them with each other. When we compared our paragraphs, we were amazed to learn we had both been dreaming of not only living near the water but also starting our own business. We had never shared either of those ideas before. Keep in mind this was before we decided to move to San Diego and start our own company!

Write Your Own Obituary

At the risk of sounding morbid, I believe it can be helpful to think of your own obituary as your picture of the future.

I first got this idea when I read about Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. As the story goes, when Albert’s brother Ludvig died in France, the French newspaper mistakenly printed an obituary for Alfred instead of Ludvig. As a result, Alfred had the unusual experience of reading his own obituary. To his dismay, the focal point of the piece was the destruction brought about through his invention. Alfred was devastated to think that was how he would be remembered. It’s believed this incident caused Alfred to set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prize so that he would be remembered for peace, not for destruction.

To determine your picture of the future, I’d like to challenge you to write your own obituary. Since this is not something you can put together as quickly as you did the draft of your life purpose (see my last blog post), I suggest you spend some time on it and then share it with loved ones—not to scare them, but to get their feedback. Ask them “Is this the way you would like to remember me?”

To give you an example, the following is an obituary I wrote about myself. When I first shared it with Margie, she thought I was getting a little dark. But then she got into it and helped me write it.

“Ken Blanchard was a loving teacher and example of simple truths whose books and speeches on leadership, management, and life helped motivate himself and others to awaken to the presence of God in our lives and to realize we are here to serve, not to be served. He continually inspired, challenged, and equipped people to live, love, and lead like Jesus. He was a loving child of God, son, brother, spouse, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, friend, and colleague who strove to find a balance between success, significance, and surrender. He had a spiritual peace about him that permitted him to say “no” in a loving manner to people and projects that got him off purpose. He knew full well that B.U.S.Y. stood for Being Under Satan’s Yoke. He was a person of high energy who was able to see the positive in any event. No matter what happened, he could find a learning or message in it. Ken Blanchard was someone who trusted God’s unconditional love and believed he was the Beloved. He valued integrity, walked his talk, and was a mean and lean 185-pound golfing machine. He will be missed because wherever he went, he made the world a better place.”

Okay, I’ll admit that some of the things in my obituary are goals or hoped-for outcomes, such as being able to say “no” in a loving manner to people and projects that got me off purpose. (I still have never heard a bad idea!) As for being a 185-pound mean and lean golfing machine, that is also an ongoing aspiration. Ha!

I hope you have fun writing your obituary and also writing about your Fantasy Friday. I think you’ll find both processes interesting and perhaps even learn some truths about yourself as you ponder your goals for your future.

Next time I’ll cover the final step of creating a compelling personal vision—determining your personal values. Hope you’ll join me again!

Servant Leadership in the Midst of Tragedy

Several members from our church, including a friend of mine, recently traveled to the Holy Land. Before they left, my friend received well wishes from his friend, a rabbi at Chabad of Poway synagogue. “He gave us special blessings for a safe journey. Many people worried about our safety while we were in Israel and Jordan. How ironic that only a short time after our return, this attack took place at my friend’s synagogue, a mile from our home.”

On Saturday, the last day of Passover, Chabad of Poway was the scene of a shooting that left several people wounded and one woman dead. Witnesses say Lori Gilbert Kaye was killed as she jumped between the shooter and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein as bullets were fired. Friends of Lori describe her as a kind, generous person—a “warrior of love.”

During the attack, Rabbi Goldstein was shot in both hands. One of his fingers later had to be amputated. Yet, immediately after the shooter left the scene, the rabbi got up on a chair and said to the congregation, “We will not let anyone or anything take us down. Terrorism like this will not take us down.” What a great example of a servant leader—despite his own physical pain, he knew his congregation needed that comfort and encouragement right away. Rabbi Goldstein later spoke about the heroism he had witnessed. “It’s standing up to evil, standing up to darkness. It’s necessary in life. We can’t just be a bystander. We need to be an activist and get out there and be a hero. Light pushes away darkness.”

Only a few hours after the shooting, more than 900 Jews, Christians, and Muslims from all over San Diego attended an interfaith prayer and peace vigil at our own Rancho Bernardo Community Church, which is less than a mile from Chabad of Poway synagogue. It was a wonderful demonstration of the power of peace, love, and prayer.

No matter what evil there is in the world, we need to come together and love our neighbors. So this week, no matter where you live, reach out to people in your community who may be hurting—and always remember to keep your I love yous up to date.

It May Be Time to Revisit Your Vision

Multiple priorities.

Duplication of efforts.

False starts.

Wasted energy.

 

Do any of these working conditions sound familiar? If so, it may be time to revisit your three-part vision:

  • What is your purpose?
  • What will the future look like if you are successful?
  • What values will guide you as you work toward your picture of the future?

I learned the importance of vision from my father when I was still an undergraduate at Cornell University. It was 1959, and Dad had decided to retire early from the Navy as a captain, even though he could have stayed on and been promoted to admiral.

I said, “Dad, why did you quit early?”

He answered, “Ken, I hate to say it, but I liked the wartime Navy better than the peacetime Navy. Not that I like to fight, but in wartime we knew what our purpose was and what we were trying to accomplish. The problem with the peacetime Navy is that nobody knows what we are supposed to be doing. As a result, too many leaders think their full-time job is making other people feel unimportant.”

Dad’s comments made me realize that leadership—whether you’re leading yourself or others—is about going somewhere. Without a vision, you lose direction. As the author and seminar leader Werner Erhard used to say, “You wind up driving your car down the highway of life with your hands on the rearview mirror instead of on the steering wheel, and you have a lot of accidents and a whole big explanation about how driving is very tough.”

My father eventually did become an admiral, because Congress passed a law that said if you got the Medal of Honor or the Silver Star during World War II, the government would “bump you up” one rank upon your retirement. Since Dad got two Silver Stars, he became a retired rear admiral.

Admiral or not, he taught me the importance of having a vision and keeping it up-to-date.

How about you? Are you focused on the rearview mirror—or the road ahead?