Become a Better You

Six essential qualities that are the key to success: sincerity, personal integrity, humility, courtesy, wisdom, charity. - William Memminger

When we cultivate compassion, the primary beneficiary is really ourselves...So if you have a warm heart and human affection, your mind will be calmer and more peaceful, which will give you a certain strength and also allow your mental faculties to function better, your judgment and decision making abilities will be better, and so on." - The Dalai Lama

"Labour well the Minute Particulars: attend to the little ones...He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars." - William Blake

"If you can't help people, what's he point of being successful." - Matt Damon

"Having Integrity" - Lawrence J. Danks

It can take a long time to develop a reputation for integrity. It can be lost in an instant and it can take a long time to reclaim it. Sometimes it can never come all the way back.

After Watergate, former President Richard Nixon did many things to rehabilitate his image through writing books, foreign travels, consultations with the presidents who followed him, and with foreign leaders. (Presidents consult with former presidents more than one might think. Read The President's Club. It's very informative.) At the time of his death, Nixon had regained a fair degree of public respect, but nothing could ever make the public fully forget, or excuse, his large breach of integrity.

Integrity means not just talking the talk, but walking the talk that goes with it. Having integrity is an important element for success. Being thought of as trustworthy, and as a reliable person, can help open many doors that would be closed to others. Bonds of trust can be mutually beneficial in many ways.

Integrity means being able to be trusted. It means that someone knows how to keep a confidence. Anyone should know when they tell you something confidential, that that's as far as it's going to go. Breaking a confidence is what Stephen Covey called a "Major Withdrawal" from an "Emotional National Bank" account you have with another person.

Integrity not only refers to personal confidences, but to business and professional ones too. Anyone in a position of trust, and anyone who works in such organizations, must always keep in mind that personal and business affairs should never be shared with anyone outside the organization, and even with anyone inside of it, unless it is on a need to know basis. This includes: attorneys, bankers, accountants, credit bureaus, police, college and school administrators, teachers, counselors, and many others.

Integrity also means going above, and well beyond, what is expected. Women and men of character do that. I have had two memorable experiences I hold up as models for me and for you:

Many years ago when I was working as a real estate salesperson, I helped a gentleman I had known for only a few years find a special purpose residential/business property he was looking for. It was another broker's listing. An agent of that broker, whose listing it was, wanted to accompany us on the showing. Afterward, the broker contacted my buyer and tried to offer him an incentive to deal directly with him. A real breach of ethics. He picked the wrong guy. The buyer told me about it and said that he told th other broker that if he didn't buy the property through me, that he wasn't going to buy it at all. It was a property that suited his purposes perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that he's still there, over forty years later. I knew the buyer was a man of character when I showed him the property. I really knew it after he did the highly principled thing that he did. Anyone who knew him wouldn't have found it the least bit surprising.

In the other case, a private party wanted to buy the rights to use the content in one of my real estate books. I had already stopped selling the book and told him that he was a good friend and that he could just take it and use whatever he wanted. He wouldn't hear of it. He said, "Come up for lunch. We'll talk." He said that he wouldn't use the book material, unless I took something for it. I was only thinking in terms of a very nominal amount, just so he would use it to help himself. He offered ten times that amount, and he wouldn't budge. It was more than all the royalties I had made on the book previously. What he could have easily had for nothing, he insisted on paying for. What a display of character. He died in 2014, I will always think of him fondly and as a true role model, not only in that instance, but in all others that I knew him.

Would you trust people like this? I would. For as long as I live. Be that kind of a person.

Fight Against Indifference - Elie Weisel

Elie Weisel was a Romanian-born, American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor. He was the author of 57 books, written mostly in French and English, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.(Wikipedia)

He spent his life helping the world "To Never Forget" the horrors of man's inhumanity to man in the concentration camps. He also spoke out about the problems indifference can cause. He died on July 2, 2016. As he pointed out so well, indifference to world issues has caused some horrific problems and will continue to do so unless we remain vigilant, speak out and take action. A true giant of a man.

This reminded me too that, on a personal level, we can cause ourselves a good deal of harm by being indifferent to our own situations in life. I would especially say that being indifferent to your own progress toward finding happiness and success in life is not a good thing either. Do a "gap analysis". Take a look at where you are, and then where you would like to be in your life, determine what needs to be done to close the gap, then do it.

"Finding Happiness and Success By Giving Thanks" - Hannah Morgan, US News and World Report

The key to sustaining happiness and success is retraining your brain.

"Giving thanks and being grateful is trendy right now and tomorrow we give thanks. A tradition that began hundreds of years ago as a way of showing gratitude for the food harvested. It is easy to lose sight of the original meaning of this holiday when we're overwhelmed by the force of holiday consumerism. Let's slow down a minute to look at what thanks and giving can do to improve your happiness, without draining your wallet.

Success does not equal happiness. We've all said it: "If I just get this job, everything will be great," or "this promotion will get me on the right career path." You may have even resorted to saying, "a decent wage is all I'm asking for." The problem is, once you get the job or more money, your brain resets the goal for happiness and you never reach the point where it allows you to feel happy. (The carrot is always hanging out in front of us dangling from the stick.) Think about the last time you really felt sustained happiness after you reached a goal. You may have experienced the initial rush of excitement, but how long did that last? (Famed psychologist Frederick Herzberg compared it to a meal he had in Atlanta the night before. He said it was great, but that there was no food that could keep him from eating again. We frequently seek more.) The key to sustained happiness and success lies in retraining your brain.

Retrain your brain

Shawn Achor is an award-winning Harvard professor, speaker and author of The Happiness Advantage. In his TedX Bloomington talk, Achor says, "only 25 percent of job successes are predicted by IQ. Seventy-five percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat." Achor's research found that we can reprogram our brains to be more positive and productive. It takes just as much energy to think positively as it does to complain.

Be grateful

By taking a few minutes each day to recognize the good, positive elements of your life and writing those things down, you can reprogram your brain to be more positive. In other words, you have reprogrammed your brain to seek out the positive. Achor found that when people wrote down three positive things for 21 days, it improved the participants' productivity and outlook. You may want to check in with your friends who have been expressing gratitude on Facebook this month and see how they are feeling these days. Stick with your gratitude journal for 21 days and afterward, leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

Get moving

Exercise produces dopamine, a chemical found to improve your brain's activity and your mood. By adding regular exercise to your daily routine, you stimulate your brain and produce happy and healthy thoughts. Creating an exercise ritual doesn't have to cost a lot of money, it just requires a time commitment. We all have 30 minutes we can re-allocate to exercise if we wanted to. The evidence to support the many benefits of exercise are out there, so just do it.

Take a time out

Another way to gain more control over your brain is to practice meditation. When you slow down, it allows you to focus. All our hectic lives with multi-tasking and balancing personal and professional priorities needs is a good old-fashioned time out. Meditation only requires self reflection, deep concentration and some quiet space.

Give, give and give

When you take an extra step to articulate your gratitude to others, it helps your outlook too. This may even lead you to perform random acts of kindness. What harm can these acts cause? (As a famous jockey once said, "If you could help a child, why wouldn't you?") Kind acts take very little energy and time and just looking for these opportunities to help reprograms your brain to make a difference.

Is it real?

Only you can be the judge of whether these actions will work to change your outlook. Be positive and you'll think positive. Why do you have any reason to believe this wouldn't work?

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice. She guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa".

Your Best Life Now - Joel Osteen

Joel Osteen is a television evangelist and the pastor of a mega-church in Houston. They hold services in the same facility that The Houston Rockets NBA team played in and routinely have 20,000 people attending church services there on Sunday. His books have a great deal of positive, self-help encouragement whether someone is a Christian, of any other faith, or has no religious belief, so don't let that part of it, or his exuberance, which some find annoying, turn you off from the good advice that he offers:

1. Enlarge Your Vision
- If you can't imagine it, if you can't see it, it's not going to happen for you...Start seeing yourself rising to a new level, doing something of significance..."Set your mind and keep it set on higher things".
- You have to change your thinking before you can change your living

- Low expectations will trap you in mediocrity

- You don't have to fill anyone else's shoes. (Just be your best self. That's what will benefit the world the most.)

2. Develop A Healthy Self-Image

- Don't strive for the approval of other people or depend on compliments from others to feel good about yourself.

- What you believe has a much greater impact on your life than what anybody else believes.

- When things don't go your way, keep your confidence up.

- Just because something didn't work out your way or somebody disappointed you, that does not change who you are. If one dream dies, dream another dream. If you get knocked down, get back up and go again. When one door closes, another always opens...

- Don't compare yourself with other people... Be the best you, you can be.

- Always be open to wise counsel.

- Only you know deep down what is right for you. Learn to follow your heart.

3. Discover The Power of Your Thoughts and Words

- Circumstances don't have you down. Your thoughts about your circumstances have you down.

- Strip off old negative thoughts and put on a new attitude...We can dig a new river, one going in a positive direction. The way to do it is one thought at a time.

- Avoiding negative talk is not must get on the offense. You have to be aggressive.

- Speak good things into the lives of those over whom we have influence.

- We should never speak negative destructive words toward anybody, especially toward people over whom we have authority or influence.

4. Let Go Of The Past
- You can't do anything about what's happened to you, but you can choose how you will face what is in front of you...Forgive the people who did you wrong. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made.

- With some things, you may never know the answer...Leave it alone, get up and move on with your life.

- Maybe you've made some bad choices, and now you're trying to correct the things you've done wrong....To the extent you can make restitution for any hurt you have inflicted on others, you should attempt to do so....You can't fix every mistake or clean up every mess that you have made. You may be trying to pay a debt that you cannot possibly pay.

- Focus on what you can change, rather than what you can't...Don't let the regrets of yesterday destroy the hopes and dreams of tomorrow

5. Find Strength Through Adversity
- When you've done everything you know how to do, just keep standing firm.

- I'm not going to give up and settle for mediocrity. I'm going to keep believing for the best. I'm going to keep standing up on the inside no matter how long it takes.

- I've made up my mind that I'm going to live my best life now, and when my days are done, I'm going to die standing up on the inside.

- All things, not just the good things in life, but all things, work together for good. (Believe it and you can handle anything.)

- Adversity could be a stepping stone to something greater.

6. Live To Give
- You will never be truly fulfilled as a human being until you learn the simple secret of how to give your life away....We were created to give, not simply to please ourselves.

- Be on the lookout each day for someone you can bless. Don't live for yourself, learn to give yourself away, and your life will make a difference.

- If someone's name keeps coming up in your mind, and you feel a compassion toward them, do something about it. Don't push it off; make an appropriate phone call, stop by to visit that person, or make contact in another appropriate manner. If you want to reap good things, we too must sow some good seeds...The reason so many people are not growing is that they are leading self-centered lives. (A learned friend of mine said that when he was growing up in India, his father told him, "When you think of doing something good, do it before you can count to three." Otherwise, we can put things off. I once "intended" to go see one of my uncles in the hospital. I didn't go right away - as I should have. He died before I ever went. Do it before you count to three.) The best stress relief of all: get your mind off yourself and go help somebody else.

7. Choose To Be Happy

- Choose to be happy. Choose to keep a good attitude. Remember, happiness is a choice you have to make...Make up your mind from this day forward that you are going to bloom where you are planted and enjoy every single day of your life.

- A person of excellence does what's right, even when no one else is watching

- Start doing what you know in your heart is the better thing.

A Little Extra Effort Produces Happiness for Receivers and Givers

"Take Visitors Where They Need To Go" - Lawrence J. Danks

When visiting Paris, my friend and I took the Metro to Montmartre to see the area and the Sacre Coeur Basilica. Its front steps offer stunning views of Paris. As dominant of a building as it is, I thought it would be obvious where it was, once we exited the Metro station. It wasn't. I asked an elderly lady which direction it was in. She didn't speak any English, and my "French" is pathetic, but she gestured for us to follow her.

She led us down the street about three blocks to a point where the church was clearly visible. I nodded and thanked her, but she motioned insistently several times that we continue to follow her. We went about twenty more steps and she gestured with her hand for us to look up. Before us was a stunning, carpet of green grass and an unobstructed view of the basilica she wanted us to see, one we would have missed if we hadn?t continued to follow her. We thanked her and then she turned and went on her way, down the same little street she had probably walked for decades before. She wouldn?t settle for doing a partial kindness, but only the fullest one she could offer. Such sweetness and concern for strangers for us to emulate.

A partial good is good, but a better good is better. This applies in business and organizational life, as well as in personal interchanges. Warren Buffet says that company employees should not simply try "to satisfy the customer" but "delight the customer". That neighborly and thorough French lady surely delighted us. Who can we delight today?

"A Lesson in Character" - Lawrence J. Danks

"Difficulties Are Things That Show What Men Are" - Epictetus

This story may seem somewhat inelegant initially, but please bear with me. The giver (me) wound up being the real receiver here.

I saw a man sitting on the sidewalk outside a Burger King in Center City Philadelphia late in the afternoon on a Christmas Eve day. I asked him if he wanted some clothes I had been keeping in the car for someone who might have been able to use them. He accepted them willingly. I also gave him an amount of money I had never given before, one I don't think he saw too often. If perhaps you?re thinking, "Wasn't that nice?" I want to assure you that I was the one who came out way ahead in the encounter that day. It was a privilege to meet this man and for the lesson he taught me.

When I gave this gentleman the folded up money as I shook his hand, he opened it up, looked at it, then he looked at me and said, "Do you know how much you gave me?" I said that I did. He thanked me, we had a brief conversation, then I left. I thought to myself afterward, here's a gentleman sitting on a sidewalk, on a cold December day, with next to nothing, and when someone gives him something he clearly needed, he had the character to ask if I had given him what I had intended. He may have been down on his luck, but he was right there with his principles. What explains how a man who has virtually nothing, shows character to emulate, and how others who have so much already will go to any length to get more, even to the detriment of others?

Character Is Destiny - John McCain

Character Is Destiny by the late Senator John McCain provides a book full of models to follow. McCain was a prisoner of war for about seven years during the Vietnam War and was the victim of torture. He was offered the opportunity to get out of his confinement earlier, but wouldn't leave because some lower ranking men weren't released first. That cost him a few extra years as a POW that he wouldn't have had otherwise. Regardless of political persuasion, there is fairly uniform agreement that McCain was a courageous man who upheld the finest in American traditions. He easily could have been a subject for demonstration of character and courage in his own book.

McCain has taken characteristics such as honor, purpose, strength, understanding, judgment, creativity and love, identifying about thirty characteristics in all, then telling the story of a person who exemplified it. I'd highly recommend the book as an excellent gift for anyone, especially younger people just starting out in life.

Unfortunately, I can't share all the stories with you, but I have selected one about Osceola McCarty as being emblematic of them all, and as a wonderful model for all of us to emulate. Being successful in life isn't incompatible with being a kind and generous person. I'm not suggesting that you do try to what Ms. McCarty did, only that you aim your life in the direction of doing the best you are able to in that lofty direction. Few of us will ever be Osceola McCartys.

What follows are only highlights of McCain's story about Osceola McCarty and her generosity:

"She knew the difference between need and want. For seventy five years she worked from early in the morning until ten or eleven at night washing and ironing other people's clothes. You aren't paid much for washing clothes. She didn't need much - enough food to eat, simple clothes to wear, a little something to put in the collection plate on Sundays - and she made enough money for that. She lived in a small wooden frame house in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with an old black and white television, a radio and a tattered Bible. She never owned a car, and never learned to drive. She walked to the grocery store once a week and two miles to Friendship Baptist Church, where she attended Sunday services since she was a girl...

She had enough money to do what she wanted, too. And what she wanted was to help other people. So she gave away most of the money she saved...She left most of it to the University of Southern Mississippi, in a scholarship trust for deserving students who couldn't afford a college education. The university was only three miles from her house, but she had never visited the campus...

"We loved to work', Ola later recalled. "My whole family was workers, just like I worked when I was able to. I worked all the time, night and day. Anything I wanted, I'd see it, I'd go at it, and get the money to pay for it. I didn't owe nobody nothing. Nobody.'...

"Hard work gives life meaning', she explained. 'Everyone needs to work hard at something to feel good about themselves. Every job can be done well and every day has its satisfactions.' (The thoughts of this elegantly simple washerwoman virtually match those espoused by Dr. Seligman in Authentic Happiness, and by The Dalai Lama, - any job can be made into a calling that can produce satisfaction.)...

"I can't do everything', she said. ?But I can do something to help somebody. And what I can do, I will do. I wish I could do more.'...

The founder of CNN News, Ted Turner, promised a billion dollars to the United Nations, explaining that he had been inspired to do so by the example of Ola McCarty... (What impacts we can have. Here was a woman who, as poor as she was, was able to inspire the giving of a billion dollars to help others. We can inspire others by our actions too.)

As we hustle along to make money, conspicuously consuming, accumulating all sorts of things we don't need, and going into debt, she reminded us that happiness isn't a commodity with a price tag. Selfishness won't purchase it, no matter how big a house you live in, how nice of a car you drive, how many toys you have, how easy your life has been. You have to give something away to be happy. You have to give yourself away. Osceola McCarty lived a simple life. She worked hard for it. And she gave everything she had away. In a sense, she gave all her work, all her life to others. People want to touch that kind of person, to see if a little of that happiness can rub off on them....

Ola died in 1999. She said, "A good life is any one you can be proud of ' ..Osceola McCarty lived a modest life, but she knew a few things, important things, that many people with more advantages never learn. She knew self-respect has a greater value than wealth or fame. She knew that hard work is more satisfying than a life of unearned leisure. She knew that generosity makes us happier than acquiring possessions we do not need. She knew that feelings follow actions, lived her life accordingly, and died a proud and happy woman."

Live a good and generous life, so you can die proud and happy too.