Today, only a few words.
We will remember them.
Retirement sucks. Enforced retirement sucks even more. What’s more, the longer the gap between stopping work and finding alternatives, the harder it is to find the motivation to do so. But the biggest suck of all is knowing how productive and organised you are, when you haven’t much to organise and produce.
Which is a lie, to be frank. Nobody has nothing to do. But after years of managing work in the service of an employer, coping with interruptions, dealing with new projects, facing greater challenges and fending off – sorry – helping other people, managing your own life and household comes a poor second. Or does it?
When writing about the service-orientation of principle centred leaders, Stephen Covey wrote, “I emphasise the principle of service yoking up because I have come to believe that effort to become principle-centred without a load to carry simply will not succeed. We may attempt to do it as a kind of intellectual or moral exercise but if we don’t have a sense of responsibility, of service, of contribution, something we need to pull or push, it becomes a futile endeavour.”
Which profoundly makes my point. Knowing that serving is a worthwhile endeavour means little or nothing in the absence of actually providing that service.
I guess that’s one of the reasons for these blogs. My avowed intention is to bring the word of Stephen Covey to greater prominence (if that is even possible) so that others may benefit from learning what I have learned. I have taken one of his concepts and expanded upon it as both an intellectual exercise and in an effort to become a principle-centred leader, myself. Unfortunately, fate slapped me in the face and I found myself looking at The Three Resolutions from an academic perspective when I lost the opportunity to serve an organisation that I still hold in high regard.
So I still serve. I don’t have a formal job, but through this medium and other routes I train, I teach, and I develop others. And in doing so I still get to organise and produce, even if the pay is pitiful. 😊
Service does not require compensation – in fact the best service is arguably unrewarded by money. But that doesn’t mean that service shouldn’t be rewarded. As implied by Covey, the idea is that whatever it is you are called upon to do by way of providing any service, you yolk up and put your back into it. You provide the best service that you can. You do so by proactively choosing that your best is what you are willing to give.
Which takes discipline. And it means being competent at whatever it is that your service requires of you.
And not just in the workplace. There’s another, important part of your life that requires competent service. Your family. If you just teach, listen to, nurture and provide good example to your immediate household, that’s a service. So be good at listening. Become more patient and understanding. Provide for them if that is within your role, and if you aren’t the breadwinner, just be fully present.
That is the best part of being retired. Four and a half grandchildren who can see me when they want, where they want. And I get to see them, too.
I may miss work. But now I have a new job. Pappy. No dosh, but the best job in the world.
I find some great nuggets of wisdom in the strangest places. I was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, an American attorney who has written some excellent books on subjects relating to better living (in terms of happiness and self-awareness). Her depth of thinking is really intense, psychologically sound, yet profound (easy to ‘get’).
She was quoting a friend, and the quote expresses exactly what I have been trying to communicate when it comes to the Third Resolution and the idea of Service. The quote reads, “…you have to do that kind of work for yourself. If you do it for other people, you end up wanting to acknowledge it and be grateful and to give you credit. If you do it for yourself, you don’t expect other people to react in a particular way.”
His nibs Stephen Covey of 7 Habits fame underpinned that idea years before, when he promoted the idea of ‘anonymous service’, where the recipient of good deeds didn’t even know (and therefore could not acknowledge) your input.
They are both suggesting, if not daring to go the whole hog and so corrupt genuinely generous intent, that providing a service to others can be done with self-interest in mind. This idea is quite subtle, and if you wish you can delve deeper into the specifics , like asking the question “when does serving others become too self-serving?”, for example. “Does a selfish motive corrupt a genuinely provided, even anonymous service?”
In my book, The Three Resolutions, I address that very point. I shan’t reproduce the text here because I want you to research for yourself*, but in brief I defy you to suggest that anyone providing a service does so out of 100% selfless motives. (Particularly charity CEOs, whose selflessness is rewarded by 6-figure salaries. Think about how many ‘£3-per months’ go in their pockets.)
People serve because they want to. The want to because it makes them feel good. Thinking about Rubin’s friend, there comes a poor nexus when providing the service stops being generous and starts becoming selfish. The truth is that there is a continuum between totally selfless and totally selfish. The ideal is to acknowledge that you are unlikely to be at the ‘better’ extreme, but the closer you are to that end, the more noble the motive.
You have to acknowledge the pleasure you get from serving. That’s the foundation to the effort and the competence you put into that service. If you didn’t really care, you wouldn’t try. If it didn’t make you feel good you’d be stupid to be doing it because that emotion would, eventually, poison any service you provided.
Enjoy what you do, do what you enjoy. (Must trademark that.)
You’ll serve – and be – better because of that.
(*Buy the book)
I write regularly for LinkedIn, the professional Facebook. (Although the lines continue to blur….) Owing to the fact I will not pay LinkedIn £30 a month for services I won’t use, I suspect that what I am writing isn’t getting the airtime my magnificence deserves. Alternatively, sobering as it is, I might equally have to accept that what I am writing isn’t being read – not for any particular reason, but perhaps for no better reason that people haven’t the time.
My ego says, “Why bother, then?” BUT the Third Resolution requires me to provide that service in any case. And it occurred to me this week that the simple truth, for an individual as much as a business is – you can’t force people to subscribe to your services.
You can market, you can advertise (different, apparently), you can beg and cajole, but no-one can be forced to accept what you have on offer, even if HMG is moving slowly from ask to cajole to enforce in terms of the vaccine. (Conspiracy, moi?)
Particularly if you can’t convince them that they need what you’re offering. (Although convincing people they need something that costs more than they earn is whole other level of begging.)
Which I think is odd, because – and I’m going out on a limb here – most people know that they could be better than they are. We can all be better, and we all know it. But we pretend otherwise, and we certainly (and in monetary terms, perhaps justifiably) resist investing money and time in closing the Gap between what and where we are, and what and who we want to be.
Some people – yes, you know someone like it – would even violently (verbally or physically) fight anyone who suggests they could be calmer, more restrained individuals.
How big is YOUR Gap – the distance between your current emotional, physical, financial, spiritual and mental state, and your ideal? I digress. Mull over that question later but, for now, let me get back on point.
Despite the fact that people don’t want your services today, or ever, there is great personal gain in carrying on trying. In maintaining professional and personal relevance, in keeping up with technologies and thinking in your field.
(Did you know, all thought leaders pretty much think what their predecessors have thought? They just put it differently. Fair dos, so do I.)
If you do that, the moment you are called upon to provide a service – you’re ready. You’re not embarrassed by ‘having to look something up’, to buying some piece of kit that supports your efforts.
As you may be aware, I teach advanced driving. You may appreciate that for the past 18 months that hasn’t been possible. So rust could set in. meanwhile, my qualification to do that is up for renewal next week. In preparation for that, I figured that I would hit the books and prepare. So I did.
And I discovered that I knew it for the simple reason that I practice it. It’s not just something I teach, it’s something I do. As I read the books I realised ‘I know this stuff’ because I review it constantly, not just before an examination process. (In fact, three years ago I got a call from a tester about a due retest, and he said, “How about tomorrow?” I was ready. I just drove as I now routinely drive. It wasn’t an exam as much as it was a demo.)
Keep up your service standards. You may get the opportunity to provide them sooner than you expect.
For more on this subject, read The Three Resolutions, available at AMAZON in paperback and Kindle formats.
You are familiar with the expression Win-Win, are you not? It’s a management go-to term when you are engaged in some kind of negotiation. Of course, in most negotiations the term is interpreted to mean that ‘I will win most and you will win some’. For example, the nice double-glazing salesman my father played, whose opening gambit for doing our whole house was £10,000, but when he wasn’t getting anywhere with that dropped straight to £6,000, at which my Dad suggested the salesman had (a) just tried to con £4k out of him and (b) better leave while he still could.
Another example – when someone with a purpose on television says ‘we need a debate’ may imply they are seeking a win-win solution to the issue at hand, but what they really mean is they want a debate where the other side does what they want done. My evidence – politicians stating that the other side should ‘show leadership’ by doing what they’re told.
Readers of the classic Seven Habits of Highly Effective People will know that a true Win-Win means that both sides seek out a solution that is better than either of them foresaw when they began the relationship, or they just don’t do the deal. That takes courage and consideration – the courage to stand for what you believe while also being considerate of the other’s needs and perspectives. It’s not surrender – it’s a deeper discussion.
It also means applying all of the Three Resolutions. It takes self-discipline to not blindly default into seeking what you want at the other’s expense, and it means denying yourself your initial victory in preference for consciously seeking a better one. It takes character (knowing what you value and being unwilling to compromise your principles) and competence (specifically the intellectual capacity to negotiate, to understand conceptually within the practices and legalities which cover the matter at hand, and the technical ability to do what is agreed). And it requires that you know your purpose and are willing to serve the other party and their stakeholders as much as you wish to serve your own.
This isn’t just a business related idea. This applies to all interpersonal transactions, from deciding on a family holiday to getting a stubborn teenager to clean her room. (That adjective was redundant, really, wasn’t it? They’re all stubborn.)
It means being proactive. It requires a momentary pause between the stimulus of getting your needs met and starting to demand them, instead using the pause to ask ‘how important is this relationship’? It means deciding that you want to consider your ultimate objective from the broader perspective of a whole-life view and any future dealings. It means giving thought to how you want the project to progress, and whether carrying it through is ethical, and won’t compromise your values and external principles.
Nope. Negotiating from a desire for all involved to benefit is definitely not easy. But it all starts with your being the kind of individual who is conscious of the above principles, and sufficiently proactive as to notice when they need to be applied. Instead of jumping straight to the default ‘win’ programming that we tend to adopt as we grow up – and learn from our ‘betters’.
Next time you want something that involves someone else, ask yourself – “Am I disciplined, congruent, competent and service-orientated enough to take the time to find out how I can be a part of making this a mutually beneficial project?”
If the answer is No, even in the moment, then decide to wait until you are.
The results will be truly extraordinary.
For more on The Three Resolutions, got to Amazon and buy the book.
Is your LinkedIn ‘blurb’ the whole extent of your existence? Is your quirky, deeply-considered and often trademarked tagline the result of deep introspection, or just a marketing tool for making you special? I’ll be blunt – I suspect for many it is the latter. It has a genuine purpose, and you’ve put a lot of thought into it. But the motivation may not be ‘right’.
We are not a job title, quirky or otherwise. We are far more than any professional trademark can ever describe with any accuracy. What is more, what we are we are all The time, whereas the registered trademark (is it really, or have you just popped an ® by it?) is, at best, nothing more than who we are at work.
We are whole human beings, and our senses of being, purpose and relating should be reflected in a set of self-defined guidelines that, if we are to be seen as having true integrity, must be executed with consistency.
That is why I wrote The Way – Integrity on Purpose. It is a deep-diving guide to identifying, defining, designing and executing on a personal credo that is about as comprehensive as I could make it. It is a book that provides counsel on self-analysis to the point at which you – yes YOU, not me or anyone else – decides what your are for in your personal, interpersonal and professional lives to the point at which you are congruent in the way you ‘are’ at all times, instead of different people in different situations.
It is also the route I took to deciding to write and (try to) live by the contents of my magnum opus The Three Resolutions. It is also the foundation to my ability to roll with the several punches I have suffered over the years in terms of cancer, professional challenges and occasional failures.
To be frank, and some psychologists would agree, material and counsel of this type is what can turn someone from feeling ‘meaningless’ to ‘purposeful’ – and we know the devastation that can occur when that gap isn’t addressed, don’t we.
If you have any sense of self-doubt – any at all – then reading this book will, I firmly believe, at least point you towards a bespoke solution for rediscovering a sense of purpose and inner peace.
It’s not about having a registered trademark to hide behind. It’s about having a set of standards to which you hold yourself, all the time and everywhere.
Go and explore the index. See if there’s something there for you – or for someone you care about.
Don’t just be a By-Line. Seek a “Be Line.”
“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Mary Pickford
Every now and then, even the best have a poor day. An actor fluffs a line, a singer misses a note, Tiger Woods misses a road. These days of woke, a slip of the tongue causes offence and you are the one in the wrong, undermining hundreds of years of basic law about intent being the important element of a crime, not the ‘feelings’ of the other party. People are losing jobs because of momentary lapses of judgment that have nothing to do with their actual job performance – and often because the ‘offendee’ has an agenda (newspaper sales, TV ratings, they want your job, etc.), and not because they were genuinely offended.
And you’re cast down. Do you stay there?
It’s entirely up to you.
Here’s some advice for those who fall. Get up and start again from the First Resolution. Re-establish the disciplines that made you the success you were until only moments ago. Address the mistake by deciding either to never repeat it or to stand by it. Depending on your perspective and the nature of the event – you decide. If you were guilty, in part or in full, accept your tort and never do it again. If you weren’t, be steadfast and step away from the situation before it worsens.
Then look at the Second Resolution: revisit your sense of character, a massive element of which is Integrity. What does your conscience say about your ‘offence’? Was it wrong – if so, decide never to do it again. If not, conclude others were in the wrong and move forward. Examine your professional competencies: which ones weren’t what they could have been – if personalities were involved, what did you miss? Who did you fail to judge accurately? What nagging doubts (‘yellow alerts’) did you ignore? What action did you fear to take? It is rarely your professional competency that fails – it is almost always relationship-related – people, in other words.
Finally, consider the Third Resolution: can you still follow through on your sense of purpose, even if it is in a different way? Who can you serve, instead? What skills do you have that haven’t been compromised or lessened by your fall, that can be put to good, or even better use?
This* happens. But only death can really stop you doing something meaningful with your life. Anything else is a temporary distraction if you decide that to be so. The world is full of recovery stories – write your own if you need to. Use the philosophies available through the many books on purpose, discipline, and so on. Discover an alternative route to the end that what you lost was intended to provide.
Apply The Three Resolutions.
Get Better. BE Better.
Starting the moment you get over what happened.
For the past 8 days I have been dutifully watching a PBS documentary series on the Vietnam War, covering the 1961-1973 American involvement in what had hitherto been a French problem. And the overarching message that I have received has been – if they’d just applied the Second and Third Resolutions, maybe the lives of 282,000 US/South Vietnamese and other allies’ service personnel, 444,000 North Vietnamese/Viet Cong soldiers, and 627,000 civilians, would have been saved. Not all, I suspect – if North Vietnam had simply been handed control there would no doubt have been the kind of casualties usually associated with a communist takeover.*
Why would the Second Resolution have saved them? Character.
You see, the recurring message of the testimony and evidence produced showed (a) how often the US authorities admitted, in secret, that they were fighting a losing battle from when Kennedy was still alive and (b) that the self-interest of Presidential re-election was the focus of some of their decision-making. They even produced evidence that Nixon sabotaged peace talks as a way of supporting his efforts to replace Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 elections. How many of his citizens dies because of self-interest – because of a lack of character?
Which also brings up the Third Resolution. The other factors that killed countless people was unbridled ambition on the part of the leaders of both sides. The North could argue that they wanted to unite their country under one flag, albeit a communist one. The American evidence was clearly that, rather than acknowledge a huge error and step back from it with careful consideration as to how, they just threw people at it to avoid having to admit to a mistake – even someone else’s! Just to maintain power 6,000 miles away.
When I saw how many soldiers died taking ‘strategically important’ hills, only for the victors – survivors – to leave them once they got to the top, I was grateful that my children never volunteered to join the Forces, and simultaneously even more respectful of those who do.
I have always been willing to acknowledge and apologise for my mistakes. Even when my efforts have been rebuffed, and lies told about my errors, my disappointment has been more about another’s unwillingness to accept my apology out of self-interest, than it has been about the negative personal consequences.
Saying sorry often takes courage. It means acknowledging imperfection, it means risking a reputation – it means being vulnerable. Acknowledgement of a genuine effort to apologise is the least one can ask for.
But as Vietnam shows, stubborn insistence on ‘being right’ when patently ‘doing wrong’ in an effort to hide being even more wrongis dangerous to everyone involved.
Particularly for those who didn’t realise they were being misused by the players in the game.
Tell the truth. Live the truth, Acknowledge the truth.
*Turns out there weren’t any massacres. Just big re-education camps. Honest.
As I write this blog, the Handforth Council Planning Committee video is viral, the major press has got wind of it, and it has apparently chosen sides. Having been party to many a committee meeting myself, I thought I’d explore the concept from a Third Resolution (service) perspective. The question so obviously arising from this amusing event is – why do people choose to serve?
The most attractive and most frequently given answer will be ‘I want to serve the association, public, country, community’ (delete as applicable). For many, that is true. I know I wanted to serve my own Institute when I volunteered. Which was not necessarily my only motive, and therein lay the crunch.
In my opinion, when volunteering there is also the ego-driven desire to be/do something of importance. Don’t judge – there is an element of ‘What’s In It For Me’ in everything we do. That is a psychological truth. If there was nothing at all in it for you – what possible reason would you have for doing it? My evidence? ‘I want to be a nurse’ is a worthy vocational ambition, but years later ‘emptying Gladys’ colostomy bag’ loses its edge. You still do it because it serves your greater vision, but you’d be equally happy if you didn’t have to. We want the good stuff of the service we provide, and we endure the bad. Which is why there is no such job as ‘colostomy bag emptier’. No-one wants it. But they will do it as part of work they do want. You wanted the overall job, and to serve. You do the bad because it serves something else that IS in it for you.
The problems arise when instead of serving in order to get ‘something’, you start to serve with a view to making that service – serve you. Instead of giving to the cause, you start to demand that the cause gives to you – not just emotional contentment and a sense of purpose (which is why you started), but everything. The cause/organisation you serve now belongs to you, and you demand to direct it.
When I watched the Handforth video I found myself asking questions the press seemed to have ignored. Why was this ‘volunteer’ running the Zoom meeting and deciding who was in charge? Was she there because she wanted to serve – or because she didn’t like what she (or someone else) was hearing and wanted to stop it despite really having no business doing so? Watching the earlier part of the meeting suggests at least some internal politics at play.
If someone turned up in your meeting and declared she was running it because a third party ‘asked her’, what would your response be? If s/he rejigged the agreed agenda, added bits in and threw the Chair out because he wasn’t content to allow the hijack – would you go, ‘Fine, no problem’? And what if it was clear that half the attendees seemed to be either in on the hijack or willing to endorse it? (Which, if that was the case, would explain the anger displayed by the Chair/Vice-Chair particularly if it was happening ‘again’ and they’d had enough of it. Half a story is not a whole story.)
The Third Resolution is intended to counter the Restraining Force (possibly) demonstrated in Handforth. (And I emphasise – none of us knows the whole story, so that’s a big ‘possible’.)
That RF is UNBRIDLED Aspiration and Ambition. Note the importance of the adjective ‘Unbridled’ – aspiration and ambition in an individual is laudable until it becomes self-serving, and serves the individual at the very expense of the body being served. My observation of the meeting – which is admittedly subjective and may be misinformed – was that someone appeared to be interfering in someone else’s game, as modest and (in fairness) emotionally cool as she appears in the video, and perhaps shouldn’t have. I have done some research and have some questions but – not here. 🙂
So was she there to serve? And if so, serve whom? Only the parties involved know the whole truth. But if I wanted to serve the local authority I’d seek election or employment. And I’d only do it because I wanted to serve, even if I wanted to progress and serve from the top. Ambition good, unbridled ambition, bad.
In the interests of balance, I might do a blog on emotionally-controlled addressing of interference and trespassers…….
I have written before about how many people confuse The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People with being a business book. It isn’t, never was. What it is, is a book about living effectively as an individual and as part of any relationship. It is not about fame or success, per se, but about living a principled life, which in turn can lead to those things – if they are what you want. But let’s be frank – most of us don’t want them or don’t see them as important as being a good person doing good work for the people they care about, while enjoying life – which this book promotes in spades.
I recall once attending a meeting of personal development teachers preparing to deliver the Seven Habits material to schools with the overall aim of teaching ‘leadership’, and I opined that what we would be teaching was self-leadership, and this was even more important because while everyone has the potential to be ‘a success’ and a ‘boss’ the vast majority of young people would be the staff, the workers, the led – and they should be trained to be the best they could be at those things, too. Leaders – self-leaders – make great followers.
The Seven Habits are (and I quote) A principle-centred, character-based, inside-out approach to personal and interpersonal effectiveness.
Let’s break that down a bit.
Principle-Centred. We like to think we can control events, but while we can control what we do, principles (sciences, incontrovertible truths, systems) decide the results. I’ll get deeper into that in future articles but for now I’ll explain that it means that instead of letting fame, wealth, family, church, peers, friends, pleasure, friends, enemies or work dictate how we think and behave, we let principles lead our decisions and resulting actions.
Character-Based. Our personality is what we show other people deliberately, but our character is what we really are. Personality tends to make us follow fashions and popular thought and ‘the latest thing’ so that we can fit in and benefit from that fitting in. Character, on the other hand, requires sacrifice, work and effort. But it lasts well beyond fashion, fame and money.
Inside-Out Approach. There is a tendency for folks to wait for their external world to change so that it suits them, instead of either changing it for the better themselves by changing their approach towards the changes needed. In 2020 we see protest after protest of people demanding other people change to suit their agenda – then they go home and wait for it to happen instead of engaging those in power in an effort to persuade and influence the change they want. The Inside-Out Approach is about looking into yourself and deciding what you need to change in yourself and how you need to change your approach, in order to achieve what you seek. Waiting for ‘them’ to change is ineffective.
Personal and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Effectiveness is not ‘just ‘success. Effectiveness is getting the results you want in such a way as to get them consistently – not once, but as long as they are needed. And it is not just about ‘you’ – it’s about effectiveness with and through other people, too. I have often said ‘Everything we do, we do with, for or because of other people – everything.’ So relationships are important enough to pursue with diligence. Including those we have with ourselves.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, then, are about taking responsibility for making things happen for the benefit of all those you love or serve, including yourself, while acting with good character and respecting the realities of the world.
Over the next 17 days (long story*) I intend to expand upon Stephen Covey’s work with a view to encouraging any reader to take up their own study of The Seven Habits so that they can benefit, as I have, from a better self-understanding and an improved recognition of what is going on around them, how they can respond to the challenges of the modern world – and do so without offending or being offended.
A word of warning, though – as you understand the lessons Covey taught you will start to recognise how many people are trying to tell you how to live. Covey’s main lesson is that you have that choice and it need not be imposed upon you. Reading the book will make you aware of how the world is trying to condition you – not necessarily out of malice but out of a desire to make you agree with ‘them’. After reading it, you may still agree with ‘them’. But it will be a conscious rather than popular agreement.
In the end, a major tenet of this book is this.
You can live your life or your life can be lived for you.
I hope you enjoy the work to follow.
(* Michael Heppell, personal development coach, has proposed a 17 day project for his Facebook Group and this is mine. That wasn’t as long a story as I thought.)