Do THIS for the Ones You Love.

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Identifying and clarifying your personal values is more than an academic exercise. It is an activity which can define you on your own terms and which can lead you to the kind of success which is sustainable. Knowing your values and then living in congruence with what you know provides you with four important benefits.

First of all, your values can provide you with a sense of security. I say ‘can’ because they will only do that if they are in alignment with, if not exactly the same as, true principles. That’s a whole other article. But knowing them can provide you with the knowledge that whatever happens, they won’t fail you. You can fail them if you lack the discipline to enforce your own rules, the rules that were created in their regard, but they will never let you down. Properly identified and complied with, your values were rules you set that consciously or unconsciously will support you in times of challenge.

Secondly, they provide guidance. When those challenges, problems, situations, events and other ‘happening’ words take place that make you pause in confusion over what to do in response, your values will objectively tell you what (you know) you should do. They do this by reminding you what you decided, in advance, was the ‘right thing’ to do. It’s when you ignore your own advice (conscience) that you feel shame, guilt or strong doubts about any action you took.

Properly considered values provide you with wisdom. Knowing that you have already considered them, they will pay you back by reminding you of the wisdom that you found in defining them. It’s a loop. “I chose my values wisely, they therefore advise me wisely, I learn better, and that new wisdom repays me.” But the new wisdom reinforces the old wisdom – it rarely replaces it if the original value was in line with reality and genuine principles. But yes, if the old value was ill-considered, experience can result in a reassessment.

And your values provide you with a sense of power. Knowing that what you are doing is the right thing to be doing, reinforces your mental capacity to choose and to enforce that value in the situations that demand such application.

You best come to know when you have lived in accordance with your values when you suffer a challenge and, despite the potential for pain that your values-based decision may cause you, you make the values-based choice – and you feel good about it. Even when you feel a sense of disappointment about the actual outcome – you feel satisfied that you did right. You can then deal with that new outcome without the emotional baggage that a ‘wrong choice’ may have created.

I know that’s happened to me occasionally. My last resignation was the result of a values-based decision to walk away from a damaging situation regardless of the sense of injustice I felt. I won’t say it wasn’t painful, but the pain is assuaged by the firm belief that my solution was as right for me as it was for anyone else.

In my website https://threeresolutionsguy.com you can find a free exercise through which you can identify and define your personal values. It is both an easy and difficult task. Finding the term for a value is easy – defining it is a little more complicated as it requires you to imagine the situations in which it may apply and to define your response accordingly. And actually living it can be very challenging indeed – espousing honesty and then using little white lies is risky.

But it is worth it. I’ve lost count of the number of times the act of reviewing my value statements has jolted me into action. The same process could serve you.

And those you serve – not just your employer or client, but those you love.

Do it for them.

For a detailed values identification process, read The Way, available HERE on Amazon.

The World Has Lost All Reason – Have You?

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Ayn Rand wrote, “Those who deny reason cannot be conquered by it.” At the same time, police officers say, “Accept nothing, believe no-one and check everything.” Police live on an evidence based basis (so the reason someone invented the phrase ‘evidence-based policing’ when it is ALL evidence-based policing, escapes me.)

Both phrases relate in some way to the Second Resolution. Rand’s lends itself to Character – the acknowledgment that we are not all-knowing, and that where we express opinion we may be wrong. In other words, humility. Ideologists don’t like that idea. They prefer to counter Rand’s tenet by shouting louder. Argument is not key to winning; silencing the other side is their route to ‘right’.

The police motto lends itself to Competence. It’s about not accepting ‘facts’ blindly. It’s about questioning to identify fact from fiction, truth from exaggeration. All towards ensuring that action taken is the best solution to the challenge faced.

There is a corollary to that, of course. When I hear the expression ‘there is no evidence that….’, my next question is always ‘Has anyone actually looked?’ Zebras didn’t ‘exist’ until someone saw one. The evidence wasn’t there. Then, when the first person to saw one described it, some disbeliever or doubter would say, ‘That’s just anecdotal evidence’. Which all eye-witness testimony is, so it’s as valid an evidential basis as any.

I digress.

Yes, there are overlaps between those character- and competence-based expressions – there always are. To a degree that is hard to quantify, character enables competence, and competence develops character. But character listens, because competence requires it.

I watch too much television, but I try to watch debates to gain a better understanding of ‘things’. And it grieves me to watch the shouters who can’t wait to debunk their opponent’s statements before they are clarified, and do so by shouting over them. Those shouters are the ones Rand means when she writes of those who won’t be cowed by reason – they won’t listen to see if something is reasonable.

I’ll be frank. A lot of the v-word debate at the moment smacks of an unwillingness to listen. There are too many emotion-based, rather than rationale-based arguments being made. I have questions (police tenet) but the answers I get are likely to be emotion-based rather than factual. Truth be told, my experience of the whole COVID things is different to others. I know of absolutely no-one in my circle of family/friends/community who has died, or who has suffered more than a sore throat and lack of taste for a couple of days. This situation serves my scepticism. It seems that if you know me, you’re safe.

But listening to the ‘don’t kill granny’ arguments, I accept nothing, believe no-one and question a lot. Not so much about the virus, but about how the situation is being used to do things which otherwise would not be countenanced by a free society. And I admit to wondering why this immunisation programme differs from tetanus (10 years), Hep C (5 years), smallpox, MMR (both once, ever) and other preventative treatments. Which doesn’t stop me seeking them, just questioning why it is the only three-times in a year version.

But as long as the fire of debate is fanned by those whose interests do not necessarily match my own, I will remain doubtful about any argument that is made at a higher decibel level than that used by the other ‘side’.

When you shout, you can’t use – or hear – reason.

Why Knowing ‘Service Theory’ is not enough.

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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.

Provided your Intent remains Positive, Repeated Failure Makes You Stronger.

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The Gap between Knowing and Doing

I know I must Be proactive. I know I must Begin with the End in Mind. I know First Things must be First. And I know of four other important habits that, applied, lead to an effective life. I have read ‘that book’ hundreds of times, I could probably get a cracking score if it was my specialist subject on Mastermind. But..

I lose my temper. I get wound up. I forget things because I haven’t planned, and I procrastinate more often than i like to admit. I don’t listen (I’m a man), I am non-considerate – by which I mean I’m not inconsiderate (deliberately uncaring) but I’ve never developed the empathy required to see when compassion or thoughtfulness is called for. I frequently find reasons not to exercise my body or my mind.

So there is a gap between what I know, and my ability to master its application.

Yet I can live with it. I can live with it for two reasons. First of all, the guy who organised those ideas wrote that he himself had trouble living in their accord with 100% consistency, and if he can fail, it’s reasonable to say that I can fail, too.

But the second reason is because it means when I do comply with those effectiveness habits, I can recognise and learn from that experience from a positive state, rather than from the personal perspective of guilty failure.

It would be true to say that I should’ve learned by now. I know from recent experience that compliance with one’s values and ‘productivity training’ that making the effort brings great emotional satisfaction, while allowing emotions to set the agenda does not. In other words, deciding to be proactive, values-driven, productive and contributive overcomes the emotions of ‘tired’, ‘bored’, ‘unmotivated’, etc.

It’s all in his book, and mine. Yet all too often, in the moment, the emotions mentioned above will still dictate our response – I say our, because we both know it isn’t just me. You feel unmotivated, bored, tired and utterly washed out yourself, on occasion. And at times like that it is easy to fall into the Gap between what you know you should be doing, and what you actually are doing.

Eventually, just like me, you recommit. And the only question to be asked is: Will I get it this time?

Yes, you’ll get it. You’ll get it the moment you lapse again.

But here’s the rub. Over time you fail less and less, and you learn more – and better. Your knowledge/behaviour Gap shrinks. Or it changes its nature and you discover new and better ways of behaving in keeping with your values system, which may require more effort but which bring ever greater rewards, and a renewed sense of higher self-esteem.

That, readers, is your Integrity Muscle being developed. And the more you exercise it to the point of failure, the stronger it gets.

Know what to do, do what you know. And when you fail, you know something new.

Onward, ever upward.

The rewards of your efforts will be spectacular.

For more on the field of principled self-improvement and development of a personal philosophy with which you can be come congruent, get The Three Resolutions at Amazon, HERE

What!!?? It’s MY fault you offended me?

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Years ago, I made a mistake. I sent an email to a small group, and accidentally sent it to the world. The content was accurate, but the world didn’t need to know it. Embarrassed, mea culpa, apologised publicly to the individual, copied in the world who’d read it.

Unfortunately, sometimes instead of mea culpa, people who make that kind of error don’t apologise. They double down like a wronged spouse, who raises every fault the husband (usually) has committed, ever. Their mistake is entirely YOUR FAULT. Everything you ever did (even if you didn’t) caused the offender’s error.

The unfortunate part is that doing this destroys any good will. The party who was publicly stabbed will no longer go the extra mile to serve the offender. Which may have impact on any corporate, commercial or community interest within which that offender works. Where a simple apology, taken in good humour, could have healed all wounds, the doubling down defensiveness adds infection to the mix.

And the really funny part is that people committing this error are usually people who would consider themselves ‘senior leaders’. They may have that title, but do they read the leadership material that espouses humility, integrity, honesty? Evidently not. Years ago, I wanted to be taken to task in bad faith by a certain boss, because he had a copy of Stephen Covey’s ‘Principle Centred Leadership’ on his bookshelf and I would’ve picked the book, turned to the relevant page and shoved it in his face.

(Unfortunately, I never managed to offend that particular chap.)

This is not an attack on any individual. We all make mistakes, and we all have regrets. I have many. And I seem to amass them quite frequently despite all my best efforts to live according to my ‘code of conduct’.

And that leads me to the other dimension of character errors such as blaming the person you’ve offended. If you don’t apologise, how can you be forgiven? Don’t you want good relationships? Do you want to be thought of badly? Is there something wrong with being liked?

My code requires me to apologise when I’m wrong. I made a bad character error on holiday, recently – impatience – and even though it took me a couple of days, I walked up to the person I offended, offered her flowers, apologised twice despite her repeated ‘no needs’, and walked away with a tear in my eye, partly because of her forgiveness but also because of my humility – which sounds backwards but it is really emotionally satisfying when you act as per your personal code of conduct when the potential consequences could be severe – she might have called security, after all!!

So next time you make a complete noodle of yourself, acknowledge your error, apologise (truly, not just say the words) and take whatever comes.

It is soul-affirming.

Buy The Three Resolutions HERE – available in paperback or Kindle

Four Words That Make A Big Difference.

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Jerzy Gregorek is a Polish weightlifter who has won four World Weightlifting Championships and achieved a world record. Since retiring from competitive posing (sic) he has established a brand called ‘The Happy Body’ (https://thehappybody.com) serving his clientele in terms of the provision of nutritional and exercise advice.

But he is mentioned here because of a now famous quote attributed to him, which parallels the First Resolution, and which is the subject of today’s blog. The quote read:

“Hard Choices, Easy Life: Easy choices, Hard Life.” Four words, used twice, and an enormously powerful and profound truth that most of us try to avoid.

We know that eating nutritious food in sufficient quantities is good for us, but the easy choice leads us to the tasty stuff.

We know that exercise is good for us, but we park as close to the office entrance as we possibly can rather than use those dangly things hanging from our hips.

We know that doing an excellent job is the right thing to do, but if we can get away with it, we’ll do a ‘good’ job. But as Stephen Covey espoused and Jerzy agrees, the Good is the Enemy of the Best.

Hard Choices require a disciplined mental approach. They require that we look at our situation, the challenges presented, and consciously us the Gap between that stimulus and our yet-to-be-decided response and decide – what is the best thing to do, now?

Various alternatives will present themselves, and in that moment, the success or failure or ‘just get by’ is decided. To get the success – or at least the longer-term, substantial and irrevocable success – you have to make the Hard Choice.

That may only mean getting out of bed when you really want another five minutes, but that initial personal victory can have surprisingly powerful effect. It may not seem so in the gloom as you stumble for your slippers, but doing it once makes it easier to do again, and suddenly your time is being utilised better, your self-esteem expands, your results improve.

Which leads to the second truism. The Hard Choice rarely has an immediate payoff, whereas (psychologically) the easy choice provides exactly that, an outcome that doesn’t serve us at all. And you know that. You just needed reminding, like me.

What Hard Choices do you need to make, today? You’re already up so that’s one you can’t make again. But how about lunch – jacket potato, salad and beans, or a huge coronation chicken baguette? How about that difficult conversation? How about parking at the far end of the car park (unless it’s raining. I understand the practicalities of wet clothes in an office).

What can you start doing that’s better in the longer term? What can you stop doing that’s convenient but less conscientious? What are you doing that is already good, perhaps so good that you could do more of it?

Make the Hard Choice. It’s a heavy lift, but in the end you know it is the way to success in any area of life. Ask Jerzy.

For more on the subject, buy The Three Resolutions, available HERE at Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.

Or listen to this podcast

“But we’ve always done that way, you fool!”

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“Once we get into routines we feel comfortable. From comfort comes confidence.“ Judith E. Glaser, author of ‘Creating WE’

Nothing confines us more than an imposed requirement to comply with ‘the system’. In many ways systems serve us, keep us safe, and provide for the creation of consistent results. A properly considered system is a valuable tool. Or we could all decide, every morning, which side of the road we feel like driving on today.

But blind obedience to a system disallows creativity, stifles innovation, and doesn’t allow for the unexpected to be properly challenged. When something arises that is a bit off-the-wall, the system might not work and our slavish adherence won’t change that. A new system is needed, or at least a modification. And don’t we fight that!

Change is the greatest constant. So fighting change is pointless. On the other hand, applying Aikido to take control of change does have a point. (Eh?)

Aikido is a martial art that doesn’t resist attack like the fist- and foot-focused arts; it takes the force used by an attacker and redirects it until we can take over control. For example, as an attacker moves towards us, instead of resisting we step back and take the impetus away from the imposed force and send it where we want it to go until such time as the threat dissipates.

In the same way we can take a proactive step back when a system is challenged, and redirect our thoughts not to resisting the stimulus, but instead to re-identifying it and its likely direction, and then deciding what to do about it so as to achieve a desirable objective. In that stimulus-response gap we can identify whether the system is wholly inappropriate or just needs tweaking.

Which leads me to the repeated realisation that principles apply. They always do. They never change, and they influence the success of a tweaked system more than any other factor.

So the order of events must be:

  1. What is the system for?
  2. What has the new challenge done to affect the system’s ability to achieve that original objective?
  3. Where in the system has that happened?
  4. Can the system change in order to achieve the same result? If so – change it. If not – design a whole new system.
  5. And if a new system needs to be designed – do we have to change the way we see the problem? Because just changing what we ‘do’ might not be enough of an answer. The ‘why we do what we do’ might be what’s changed.

In any event – don’t blindly and repeatedly apply the ‘old’ system and expect it to work. Because it won’t.

(Reposted from 2015)

Are you an Investment Banker?

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That title woke you up, didn’t it? But this is a serious question, with serious consequences.

An experiment was conducted by psychologists, and as space prohibits great detail on the hows and whens I will get to the point. The researchers conducted an experiment to identify how ethical a group of investment bankers were at the office and at home. They conducted some tests which required self-reporting on results by the subject bankers, but the tests were designed so that random results could be prevented even though the subjects weren’t being supervised. Basically, they were honesty tests.

The results were interesting. What they found was this: investment bankers lie very easily and quickly in a working environment, but far less so, indeed almost never, in a home environment. Taken across the occupational board, could this mean that we all lie easily at work, but less frequently at home? Are we inclined to be two-faced?

Yes.

Advertisers can’t possibly believe half the tripe they peddle. Politicians are the greatest hypocrites of all. Lawyers have to conceal their own suspicions – even truth – if they are to make an honest (sic) buck. And police officers? “Of course you’ll get bail if you confess.” Ahem.

But lie to their kith and kin? Not if they want an easy life.

To an extent, I understand how dishonesty has become a ‘legitimate’ worklife tool. Ugly as it is, the legal system would collapse if people couldn’t trust their lawyers to at least act in confidence. Some dishonesty – usually of an omission rather than commission type – is required as a means of getting to the truth. If we told criminals about all the evidence held by the coppers, they’d invent excuses to cover it; withholding facts so that the dishonest can be caught out, is a necessity.

But there comes a point when absolute honesty is essential, and as a ‘character’ exponent (no I’m not perfect but I’d like to be), I believe that we all firmly know where the truth line sits.

The question always follows – are we always willing, even dedicated, to staying that one side of the line?

Some people are, some people aren’t. I know that to my own cost. People invent stuff, or they invent consequences of stuff, or they twist stuff. It’s human nature, to make facts fit the Markle – the ‘personal truth’ – in order to get what you want.

But one thing about human nature is that people can choose. They can choose to lie, cheat, steal and exaggerate, or they can choose to

  • Tell the truth whatever the cost;
  • Act in keeping with ethical codes; and
  • Forgive others when they proverbially trespass against those codes.

I know which side of the line I prefer to stand. And I know what I think of those who don’t. even if I do forgive them, eventually.

Bunch of bankers.

For more on this subject, read The Three Resolutions, available HERE from Amazon (paperback and Kindle available)

Accept Your True(st) Service Motive

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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?”

No.

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)

Choose your Role Models: And BE one, too.

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Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco, was a 12th century playboy. He was reportedly a good looking young man and he lived the high life; he enjoyed partying and utilised all the trapping of his parents’ wealth. At the age of 20 he enlisted in the army and went to war, was taken prisoner and spent a year in captivity. It is believed he started to question his hitherto profligate lifestyle at this time in his life and started to live the life of a pauper. Later, at the chapel of San Damiano he had a vision where he was told to rebuild God’s church (don’t panic, I’m not going to be espousing religion, here), and although he initially thought this meant funding the rebuilding of San Damiano it is evident that over time his spirituality grew within him and around the year 1208 he established an order of monks – the Franciscan Order, based in the Italian town of Assisi.

Francis of Assisi was on the road to sainthood.

But that is not why I brought him up. The reason he is mentioned at all is because of one quote, attributed to him and which is powerful enough to be a part of my own Personal Mission Statement.

He is quoted as having said: “I preach my philosophy constantly and, where necessary, I use words.”

It cannot be emphasised enough that when it comes to teaching integrity (and most other subjects), the most powerful teaching method is example.

Being seen to act in accordance with your values is more impactive to you and to others than any public declaration or display of the contents of a mission statement. Any public awareness of your stated values does enhance your need to live them, unquestionably. People will, often as much through malice as much as through a desire to help, make you accountable to it.

But when they see you living it, and when they see you stand up for it, and when they see you benefit from living it – then they learn from it. What’s more, Role-modelling your personal values to yourself is as much a teaching tool for you as it is for others. It is time for you, in living Your Way, to influence others. And you can do this through example, explanation and education.

Proof of the benefits and effects – and perils – of role modelling are also found in your own experiences.

You found your personal values by watching and learning from others. That teacher who saw something in you that you didn’t even see in yourself: that professional mentor who guided you and whose example you still follow: even your father’s laugh has impacted the way you laugh. And people on television perpetually answering ‘So..’ and ‘Yeah, no, I mean…’ are further examples of societal conditioning.

Your accent, your speech patterns, your clothing choices – all are the result of influences from others.

Until now, however, those choices may have been unconscious. Imagine deciding, instead, to actively choose your role models rather than just absorbing the ways of those who just happened to be nearby.

This is now an accepted personal development technique, particularly promoted by exponents of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, who follow the advice of their founders Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They suggested that role-modelling is a key route to developing the attributes you desire, not just by adopting fashion ideas and behaviours of the selected model but by going deeper into the model’s way of thinking, acting, behaving, speaking – almost to the point of absolute impersonation.

One of the objectives in my small book ‘The Way: Integrity on Purpose ’is to promote YOUR adoption of the behaviours, beliefs, rules and values of those YOU admire. Not mine. Yours.

I had mine. I chose some, some were inflicted upon me. I am proud when the better ones’ influences shine through on my better days.

Now identify – or choose  – your own.