Good Manners

Okay, maybe I’m a little old fashioned, old school even, but isn’t it just good manners to show a little respect and civility?

Please.

Thank you.

Excuse me.

Can I help you?

Let me help.

I’m sorry.

May I?

You are welcome.

Take my seat.

Let me share.

You go first.

After 5 days of travelling across the length and breadth of the UK- trains, planes and taxi’s, my huge lesson is this – I know we can be more respectful, more patient, more courteous, more civil and much more polite to one another.

In my journeying. the platinum rule sprung to mind – “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them, not as you would have them do unto you.”

Respect, being civil, good manners, all lift people up! Think what will happen in our homes, offices, classrooms, and society in general if we just treated others with more civility and respect. Think what will happen to our relationships, to our health and well-being. Yes, life is stressful and often uncivil, but we can change that – little by little – as we choose to embrace civility and remember our manners, lets make them in fashion again!

Remember, manners cost nothing.

Please consider how you can show more respect for someone today.

What will you do differently?

Stay or Go?

“Do I stay or do I go?”

Hinge Points are pivotal moments of truth in our life – for some of us, they may be happening right now. Moments that are deeply personal and significant that enable remarkable life changes.  An instance, a point in time where strength of character should be shown, or a stand against the odds is required. Here is a story of my very own.

My personal journal entry – Tuesday 17th October 1989.  “Today, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life.  I endeavoured to organise a line of thought that would actually have a positive frame of mind on the choice, the dilemma I was facing. Do I stay or do I go?”

The day before, I’d just returned from my first trip to the USA, where I had enjoyed the most fantastic 3 week holiday and road trip with wonderful friends.

The Situation

I returned to my job, Tuesday morning, to find that my employer had turned things completely on their head for me.  A great friend, colleague and mentor had been sacked…. Yes… Sacked!  In total shock and as I listened in disbelief to what had happened, my heart sank.  As the day wore on I became very, very disillusioned.  Finishing time couldn’t come quickly enough for me.  I went straight to my friends home to determine what had really happened.  As I listened to his story, it became clear that I was going to have to make an extremely difficult choice….Whose story was right? And ultimately the consequence…

Stay or Go?

I was 24 years old, still relatively young and inexperienced with the vicissitudes of life and more importantly business political life.  What should I do?  I returned home and spoke this challenging situation through with my parents. How grateful I was that evening for family who whilst growing up, had taught me strong values and principles .

Coaching

I shared the reality of the issue and we then considered every possible option that evening.  Little did I know it then, but certainly do now, that the coaching around options that my parents gave me that night, has become a stable model in my own coaching profession now, when having to consider choices in life. What was the right thing to do?  Could I work for an organisation that did these kinds of things?  It was a tough lesson for a youngster in corporate affairs.  The night wore on and my last entry of the evening was simply this…”I’ve decided to quit.”

There were many immediate consequences, including difficult conversations and very emotional situations to deal with.  However, the upshot was, I handed back the company car, faced up to the reality of unemployment, little money and endured a pretty challenging time for the next 3 months, until another (and better) employment opportunity arose.

Moral Courage

Courage requires consequence. If there is no cost, no risk or consequence, then courage is easy – and empty.  In fact, as consequence rises, so does the amount of courage needed to take a stand.  It is I believe in our very nature to admire those who stand against the odds, many great leaders come readily to mind. However, simply stated, courage is meaningless without consequence.

Where physical courage often prompts others to follow and take action, moral courage can be very isolating.  When a person stands on principle, speaks truth to power or tells peers what they are doing is wrong, others will sometimes fall away.  In my opinion, moral courage often puts people in a lonely place; and subsequently, extreme strength of character is required by anyone displaying moral courage.

Thomas S. Monson has stated that “Life’s journey is not travelled on a freeway devoid of obstacles, pitfalls and snares.  Rather it is a pathway marked by forks and turnings.  Decisions are constantly before us.  To make them wisely, courage is needed: the courage to say ‘No’ the courage to say ‘Yes.’ Decisions do determine destiny. The call for courage comes constantly to each of us.  It has ever been so, and so shall it ever be.”

Each of us will have to face up to ethical and moral challenges in life.  The clock continues to tick by, for your very own personal moment of truth to arrive…. and it will.  We may not be able to solve every corrupt action in the world, but each decision is taken one by one, by one… by you, me and others just like us around planet earth.

What decision will you choose to determine your own destiny?

Harvesting

What we sow, is what we reap.

Anything of great value and worth in life, takes persistence, patience and perseverance, as well as great attention to detail in order to ensure a great harvest.

Growing anything takes time. With any crop the process of fertilising and tilling the ground, planting seeds, weeding, feeding and regular watering will eventually lead to a great harvest. Sometimes bad weather can damage or destroy crops too and so a great deal of preparation is called for in order protect the harvest. I’m always amazed that one tiny seed, can multiply itself so many times over to produce a bounteous harvest.

So it is in life.

As a coach I work with people who are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges. And yet, over time as we work together in planting new seeds, or work through a process that takes persistence, patience and perseverance – these challenges start to diminish, simply through the law of the harvest – reaping what you sow. Frequently, its never easy, in fact, its often difficult to face up to the challenges. Yet, with hard work and effort, I wholeheartedly believe, that through time, with the right help and using the correct tools, all of our harvests can be great ones, no matter how tough it may seem.

What will you sow today?

Support

Who supports you?

As a 4 year old, I set off with family and friends to climb this hill near Dunning, Perthshire. Since 1969, I have climbed this hill on many occasions, with my own children, family and friends. In fact it’s become one of my favourite spots on earth, to seek some peace, solitude and to reflect on life.

Just prior to my father’s death, I recall that we were talking about this photo. As we spoke about it, he asked if I could remember anything about the climb up the hill. I said “No”. He laughed and then responded “You can’t remember anything?” Once again..”No”. He then shared the story of our ascent. He told me that as we were about half way up the hill, I started to complain about sore legs and that I couldn’t make it to the top.

As we carried on, dad encouraged me and told me that I could make it. So, seemingly I persevered for a little longer, but then after a while, I told him once again – “I can’t do it”. As a loving parent, he picked me up, put me on his shoulders and carried me the last little distance to the top of the hill. Resulting with this photo taken a few minutes later – of a very happy child atop the stone for the very first time!

There are so many principles in this story about getting tired, taking my eyes of the goal etc … But most of all I want to make the point that in our conversations together, lets be ever mindful of supporting each other to achieve our goals!

Who can you support?

Commitment

Are you committed to succeed? Are you all in?

As I think of commitment, I recall a story as a young salesman in 1989. I had a huge territory – Scotland, down to Leeds & Manchester, plus every 6 weeks, I headed over to Ireland. Leaving Dunfermline early morning at the start of the week, I drove to Stranraer and caught the ferry to Larne. Then I drove all the way to Cork, always arriving late on Monday evening, to work my way home that week. It was always a long day and a long week – yet, I was committed to succeed. It wasn’t long before sales in Ireland literally took off.

We cannot accomplish anything, without commitment. “Work will win when wishy washy wishing won’t” – Thomas S. Monson.

Commitment as a word cannot stand alone. We must always ask, “Committed to what?” Dale Carnegie once said, “If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.” Our journey through life is dotted with a series of commitments, interwoven with discipline – that can bring success – if we will consistently do what we have agreed to do. It isn’t easy, it’s never easy, yet a commitment to excellence will ensure that you obtain the success you seek.

I’m all in. Are you?

Mortality

As Goethe put it, “things that matter most are not at the mercy of things that matter least.”

As a teenager, only moments ago, I had time aplenty. Now, in my mid 50’s – I’m acutely aware of my mortality, my time here on earth is running out!

Jack N. Gerard observed “We live in a world of information overload, dominated by ever-increasing distractions that make it more and more difficult to sort through the commotion of this life….Unless we take the time to reflect, we may not realise the impact of this fast-paced environment on our daily lives and the choices we make.”

As I flick through TV channels, or scroll through social media, too often I find a world saturated with incessant noise, much of which is too loud, garish and crude. We need to pause and contemplate what we choose to do with the precious gift of time, before we fritter it away in frivolous “trivial tripe!” said James E Faust.

We don’t need more time. We have all the time there is. No one has more of it than each of us has. We must manage ourselves accordingly, rather than allowing conditions to manage us. Step back from the world – ask yourself how will I measure my life?

Treasure your time, value it, use it wisely. Much will come from very little effort.

What can you change today?

Punctured?

Have you ever felt a little flat?.. Yes, me too.

This personal story may help you to see things differently.

Just married and living in the Netherlands in 1994, I recall cycling home from my workplace at a Kaaspakhuis in Woerden when I got a puncture in the back tyre. Frustrated, I eventually made it home and began to repair the damage, in exactly the same manner that my dad had taught me so well growing up in Scotland. Removing the back wheel is always a bit of a pain. A few moments later, as I was busy with the repair, my brother in law arrived. Looking quizzically at me and laughing at the same time, he asked “What are you doing?” Cheekily, I replied “Isn’t it obvious!”

I was then given a life changing lesson on how to repair a puncture 𝙬𝙞𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙩 having to remove the wheel from the bicycle. An approach I had never considered before, dad always removed the wheel! A simple procedure that every dutch child learns to do at a very young age. Wow!! 😆

In a like manner, dealing with frustrations and challenges can sometimes puncture our enthusiasm and vitality for life, leaving us feeling flat at times.

I learned a great lesson that day, oftentimes, there is a simple way, a more obvious way to lift the trials from our life.

How about you?

Why don’t you slow down a little, perhaps there is an easier, more obvious answer to the problem at hand that you’ve never considered before!?

Hinge Points

What kind of person are you?

Yesterday, I spoke in a meeting about hinge points. I recalled a short story by Gordon B. Hinckley. “I approached a large farm gate one day. I lifted the latch and opened the gate. The movement at the hinges was so slight as to be scarcely discernible. But the other end of the gate cut a great arc sixteen feet in radius. Looking at the movement of the hinges alone, one would never dream of the magnified action that came as a result of that tiny movement. So it is with the decisions in our lives. Some small thought, some small word, some small action can lead to tremendous consequences.”

It is the little things upon which life turns that make the big difference in our lives.

My conviction today is that when all is said and done what really matters for all of us and for this world is the kind of people we are.

Who are you? What do you stand for? What are you learning?

Consider this poem from T. S Eliot.

In the sudden mirror in the hall

I saw not my own self at all;

I saw a familiar face,

My father stood there in my place,

Reflecting in the hall lamp’s glare

My own surprised and watery stare,

In thirty years my son shall see

Not himself standing there but me.

What does this mean to me? Give this some consideration and thought.

Career Choices

It was 2002. Setting off in the early hours of the morning, I knew it was going to be a very, very long day. In fact, not one that I was particularly keen on.

Following a client visit in Dumbarton, I arrived in Campbeltown around lunchtime. However, the journey down along the A83 that day was absolutely stunning – Scotland at its very best!. I was there on a sales visit with a supplier, who was demonstrating a new CCTV system to a large new potential client. It was only 175 miles from home, but it had taken over 4 hours to get there. After another 4 hours of demonstration, it was time to turn around and head home. By this time, it had gone 6pm. There wasn’t much of a rush hour down there, in fact I decided that I would take a leisurely drive back home. I didn’t have any real haste. The lessons learned over those next few hours were unquestionably a pivotal point in my life.

As I started back up the A83, the sun started to set. My thoughts turned from the demonstration of the afternoon, to much more important questions – such as “What am I doing with my life?”, “I’m not in the least bit interested in CCTV – so why am I driving for hours on end selling this stuff anyway?” “Is this just all about the money?” As the light started to fade I pulled over to look over the sea towards Northern Ireland to view the onset of the night sky. It was a beautiful clear evening. As I was reflecting on all those questions and more, I witnessed several shooting stars as well as the Northern lights (for the first time), in all their majesty. As I gazed heavenward, it was a quite remarkable, inspiring light show. I stood for a while fascinated by the beauty of creation. Those few moments had a real impact upon me. I started for home determined to face the future with much more faith and to embark upon a career journey that would enable me to get up every day and really love what I was doing.

That career journey has taken lots of twists and turns over the ensuing 18 years. There have been numerous difficult decisions. Lots and lots of personal procrastination, other seemingly more important priorities, along with mega doubts & fears within myself that I could actually do something that I loved. The journey also included two redundancies, a challenging selection of opportunities in between, mixed with a real belief that I could eventually take the leap of faith, face the fear of the unknown and start on my own.

The differentiators?

A supportive family – who put up with me long enough and encouraged me to turn the dream into a reality. Supportive colleagues over many years, who helped me to understand the capabilities that I had been gifted with and developed over a long period of time. All of whom helped me develop my faith and take that step into the unknown. Thank you one and all.

“Smiles in the sunshine and tears in the rain
Still take me back where my memories remain
Flickering embers go higher and higher
As they carry me back to the Mull of Kintyre”

These are the words from the third verse of Paul McCartney’s – Wings #1 Hit record – The Mull of Kintyre. I have often reflected upon my journey that day and these words have always inspired me to reach for higher ideals, values and purpose in life. So, it is with all of us – don’t settle for the mundane – in fact never settle for it! It is important for each of us to have those meaningful conversations with ourselves and nearest and dearest about happiness and what makes each of us tick! If you are stuck in an unhappy career, perhaps its much more to do with your personal motivators. Now is not the time to revisit Herzberg’s Motivation theory – around incentives and hygiene factors – but I wish to encourage you to look deep inside yourself and question the reason and purpose of your work – is it meaningful – is it what you really want to do? Looking inward is the critical step, to face up to your fear. Now is the time for faith – not fear!

I love this quote from a wise leader Boyd K. Packer, he stated… “Faith, to be faith, must centre around something that is not known. Faith, to be faith, must go beyond that for which there is confirming evidence. Faith, to be faith, must go into the unknown. Faith, to be faith, must walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness.”

One of my favourite poems is by Christopher Logue.

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
and he pushed,
and they flew.

As you consider your challenges at home, at school, or in the workplace – reflect upon those things that really matter most. Face up to your fears, look inside and take those first few steps into the darkness – you can do it!

Stewardship

Think about it for a moment, we own very little, but are stewards over much!

As each year passes by, I have become increasingly aware of the illusion of ownership and the world’s pre-occupation with it. Oftentimes, I reflect on the fact we were born into this life with nothing, during our journey through life we exercise our greatest gift of agency, (the right to choose), and with the exception of our memories and experiences we depart this mortal life with nothing.

  • Ownership is defined as “the act, state or right of possessing something”
  • Stewardship is defined as “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something”

So here is the question – do you actually own your house, your car, or the latest gadget? Stop for a moment, really ponder over that question…… Is it really perhaps a matter of perspective and time? Consider this story: Two couples saw a masterpiece in a private gallery. “We must own it” said one. “It is so beautiful it possesses us, so we must possess it.” The other couple moved quietly away and said to each other, “Would that we could give it to all, place it in a public place for it is too beautiful to own and too uplifting to be kept from all”.

I have set myself a motto for this year “To BE and not to seem” which caused me to reflect on an experience I had on a business trip to India a few years ago. I managed to find some time whilst in Mumbai to visit the Mani Bhavan, which acted as the focal point of Ghandi’s political activities between 1917 and 1934. In the building there is a minimalist room where he ate, read, spun cloth, slept and received visitors. I came to realise that as Albert Einstein stated “Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth”. Ghandi died “owning” fewer than 10 items – he truly understood the value of stewardship as opposed to ownership.

I love this little story from Russell M. Nelson. “Sometime ago, as I was officiating in the nightly ritual of getting our little children into bed, I may have seemed a bit dictatorial with the directions to ‘pick up your clothes, brush your teeth’ and other such utterances. Then our five-year-old wistfully looked and said, “Daddy, do you own me?” While she has doubtless long since forgotten her question, I have remembered it as a challenge to distinguish carefully between ownership and stewardship. Often as parents and leaders we may be tempted to direct as owners rather than as stewards. In the last analysis, we own very little, but are stewards over much”.

Consider a few words – pride, envy, fear, stress, frustration. Now think about the cause and effect of these words. Remove the idea of ownership and the foundational characteristic of each of these words collapses. As we understand the reality of stewardship and apply the principle in our home, family and business life, we can replace these characteristics with their polar opposites – humility, empathy, courage, peace, fulfilment.

A friend recommended that I read “Tuesdays with Morrie” a true story by Mitch Albom, of experiences with his University Professor Morrie Schwartz. A remarkable testament of identifying what really matters most in our life and why we all need to slow down much, much more and enjoy the journey.

What does stewardship mean for you?  Are you a good steward?