Mother Teresa on Life, Love, Loneliness and Hurt

Over 100 years ago this month Mother Teresa was born. She was a woman who had incredible wisdom, dedicated her life to a very selfless mission, and taught the world a lot about love. As I was considering her life, I happened upon a few quotes that speak to some insights on how we may be able to help the world heal from the tragic events that have unfolded around the US and world in the past few weeks, not to mention those that are ongoing situations. These situations can’t be resolved with a simple shaking of hands or trading of objects, these are issues that have remained and repeated in one way or another for decades, if not centuries. Resolution will take time, effort on everyone’s part and ultimately a decision that the world is a better place if things were different. Mother Teresa said:

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.”

“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

“Even the rich are hungry for love, for being cared for, for being wanted, for having someone to call their own.”

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

“Peace begins with a smile.”

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

No war is won or lost by the actions of one person. No one person could have won WW2 or the Civil War or the Trojan War by themselves. But without each of the individuals who participated in those wars on the winning side, the history may have happened much differently, likely creating a much different today. If the world is to become a healthy, fulfilling, thriving place, we have to start doing something different and treating each other different, starting with ending the violence. Yes, there will always be violence, but in the majority of the time, a simple, quiet word can do more than an abrasive, violent tantrum.  I encourage you to take a deep breath the next time your first reaction is to be nasty or overreact, and see if you can’t communicate with a little more patience, peace, respect and love first.

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Epic Fails

It’s hard to miss all the discussion around United Airlines the past few weeks over what happened when a flight got overbooked and they needed to address the issue: big failure.  The publicity around the event has been crazy, and rightfully so.  There are tons of ways this could have been handled and wasn’t.  In business I think most of us try to do our best when it comes to working with our customers, so maybe you got a chuckle over what happened, after you got over your disbelief.  After all, who would handle this situation like that?  Let’s take a look at a few thoughts on the whole event.

First, let’s talk about the situation and actions taken.  Would the violence and severity of the actions taken have been the right course of action if it were a life and death issue, yes.  As many reports have revealed there were at least a handful of other options that could have been pursued before this degree of action was taken.

Second, as you may know, I’m a big believer in not trying to be everything for everyone.  I don’t think we business owners need to try to please everyone or offer our product/service to everyone.  What we offer isn’t for everyone.  So when we run across the stubborn individual who decides they absolutely have to work with/buy from even though it’s not a good match and then ends up leaving a nasty review because (as we knew) we weren’t what they were really looking for, it’s frustrating.  However, while we may not have to offer something to everyone, that doesn’t give us the right or reason to treat our non-ideal customers or interested parties in a rude, aggressive, or disrespectful manner.  Just because there’s an issue with them it doesn’t mean that we can ignore that they’re human too.  And as long as they’re not being aggressive or threatening, there’s no reason or right to treat them in that manner, nor are the issues something you need to air in the public space.

Finally, the ever challenging concept of handling problems.  We won’t get it right 100% of the time, but we can do more to get it right more often.  As I said there were some options left to United before they escalated to the level that they did, yet they chose not to take those options.  Often there’s a simple way to resolve the issue and usually it involves money in the form of a refund or credit.  Some companies have chosen to offer free returns as a way to alleviate any initial fears buyers may have about purchases.  Another simple solution is to give people the answer they’re looking for, sometimes all that is necessary to make the customer happy is a little troubleshooting and being available to listen to their feedback.  They may not respond and they may not change their negative review (some people prefer to be unhappy and leave a nasty (and often irrelevant) review), but you’ll have at least extended the olive branch.

Procedures and policies are in place for a reason and when they’re not followed we end up with unnecessary issues like United, and often those issues revolve around how we treat others.  I encourage you to take time to evaluate your policies this week and make sure you’re really prepared for situations that could occur, and that you’re first and foremost handling them with communication and compassion.

A Heart for Greatness

One of the things we’re talking about this month is having heart.  I believe that having heart is something that applies to all our lives, whether we’re the CEO or homeless on the streets, whether we have lots of people we call “family” or we’re on our own, or whether we’ve got a degree from Harvard or from Life.  Heart isn’t something you can really put in a box or write on a card, it’s something you weave into your life and becomes part of you, the choices you make, the friends/associates you keep, the people you’re in relationship with and how you interact with the world.

Sometimes we do need to make decisions that are based primarily or even solely on fact.  Maybe we make those decisions because of how personally invested or emotionally attached we are or because we have no gut feeling.  It’s not wrong to make decisions based on fact, but I don’t think most decisions can really be made just with the facts, I believe that we have to take into account the human element.  People can’t always be put into neat and simple boxes, we’re complicated and complex, and that’s describing those of us that are considered “normal,” not those that would fit into a pathological diagnosis.  And then when you add in things like drugs and alcohol the complications increase.

If you really want to become the best person you can be do take time to learn the facts, explore the world, see other perspectives and try new things.  But never forget that a little compassion, a little caring, a little kindness, a little heart may go farther than the facts could.  If you really want to be the best leader, boss, employee, mother, father, parent, sister, brother, partner, neighbor, or friend you could be, take a step back and let your heart out of its box for a moment and let it guide you.

“A grateful heart is a beginning of greatness.” James E. Faust

The Story of a Veteran

You probably know that I’m a big reader. I love fiction as well as non-fiction and kids books too.  In November one of the days that are celebrated is Chicken Soup for the Soul day.  While it isn’t as talked about now as it was years ago, you’re probably familiar with the book series that swept the nation and the world, but to refresh, each book is filled with inspirational true stories about ordinary people’s lives.  What I love most about the book series is that they’re a reminder that the world and our past, present and future are made up of individuals with stories.  So often we hear about events or dates or places and it may not mean a whole lot to you, for example November 14, 1440, do you know what happened that day?  Probably not, which means that the date doesn’t mean much to you.  It’s one reason many people don’t like history or learning because they aren’t able to find a personal connection to what they’re supposed to be learning.   But when you add a face and a story to what seemed like a random date, event or place all of a sudden it becomes a lot more real and interesting.

Friday in the US was Veteran’s Day, the day that we take time to honor and remember the men and women who have put their lives on the line in one way or another for our country.  It’s not always easy to talk with kids about topics like war, fighting and dying.  We want to protect them from the reality that we worry about, but in countries around the world kids of their age are right in the middle of war zones and don’t know if they will see tomorrow.  That said with all of the devices and access to the internet that kids have today it’s a lot harder to hide the truth from them, and sometimes you have to ask if it’s really the right thing to do.  No, I don’t think kids should be exposed to the details of the horrors and hurtful things that people do to each other, but I do think they need to know that there is hurt in the world and they have to decide if they’re going to add to it or do something to change it.

But the point of today’s post is to not only thank the Veterans, but to give you an idea of how to talk with your kids about the men and women who face such horrors, especially if they’re killed in war and the kids never had a chance to know them.  Each and every Veteran has a story, they’ve got a life before they went to war, they have a family they left, and veterans have a life after the war.  Yes, the war changed them; you can’t see what they’ve seen and not be changed.  While most Veterans aren’t comfortable talking about what went on during their time in war, there are stories they are willing to share about their life or the war that aren’t about the horrors they saw.  Maybe they’ve got some crazy ship and travel stories, maybe they had some of the best food of their life from crazy little shacks in tiny towns that no one really knows exist, maybe they played cards with people from a bunch of other countries every night for months, or maybe they have stories about their lives before the war that they can share.  War can take a lot from our Veterans, but we can give them something back by asking for and sharing their stories, whether they’re stories of heroism, crazy drunk activities or sweet family moments, and reminding the rest of the country and the world that Veterans are people just like you and me whose life and choices have taken them down a very difficult path.

So this month as you think about Thanksgiving coming up, I encourage you to find some way to give back to the Veterans in your life and community.  Maybe you can invite a military family over for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you can donate a meal to a Veteran’s organization in your area.  Maybe you can give a military family in your area a gift of service from your business.  Or maybe you will just sit and listen to the stories they have gathered through their life and pass them on to future generations so they and their sacrifice aren’t forgotten.

Sharing Freedom through Hope

Every day we do a thousand things that could either hurt or help ourselves and others.  We make tons of decisions about our lives and the lives of the other people we interact with.  Sometimes they’re really good decisions, sometimes they’re lucky decisions, sometimes they’re selfish decisions, sometimes they’re selfless decisions, sometimes they’re lazy decisions, sometimes they’re rushed decisions and sometimes they’re thoughtless decisions.  It’s always my goal to make one more thoughtful and selfless decision each day, but I’m not perfect and don’t expect that I’ll make all perfect decisions anytime in the near future (and sidenote: sometimes the best decision you can make is a selfish one).

So what if, instead of trying for the impossibility of perfect, we focused more on doing one more thing that could positively change the world?  What if instead of letting that insensitive thought fly out of our mouths, instead we looked for the words that would heal or free someone?  What if instead of playing the victim card you turned it around and became the victor?  What if instead of trying to get revenge on someone for the way they hurt you, instead you went on to encourage someone else?  What if instead of looking for ways that you can be king or queen, you looked for ways to make a difference instead?  What if instead of trying to always be center stage, you let someone else shine?  What if you took the spotlight off your life and you looked for ways that you could make one person’s day a little brighter?

Today I encourage you to choose the gifts of encouragement, hope, reassurance and shared strength.  Let people know that the whole world has not gone to pot and that there are still caring people here.  Let the world know that each person matters, as an individual and a human being.  Let people know that they are not forgotten.   Finally, let someone know that their life is not over and they can still find purpose and fulfillment and live their life however they choose.  Who will you encourage today?

“Is there somebody in your life whom by a word or an action you can help to unbind, help to set free? Give them hope. For that is God’s gift to each one of us. Give that gift to another today.”  Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Your Expectations

Today I’m thinking about expectations.  We have expectations about ourselves, we have expectations about our family members, we have expectations about the place we work or the kind of work we do, and we have expectations about our world.  The dictionary defines expectations as: to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of; to look for with reason or justification.  Sometimes our expectations aren’t justified and we don’t have a whole lot of facts we can put behind them to support them, but if we really take the time to think about it, most expectations we can come up with a reason for expecting the result that we do.

The thing is though, not all of those reasons are good ones.  We may expect someone to let us down because we have had it happen in the past, we may expect that things will typically become less expensive over time because the products to complete them are cheaper, and we may expect something to happen because it seems logical to us or because it’s the only conclusion we can come up with.  However if you present the same exact situations and things to other people they may come up with completely different conclusions than you or I did because each of us has our own set of expectations.

The reason I bring up expectations today is because the expectations you do and don’t have could greatly affect, and even hurt, someone else.  For example if you expect someone to fail or not do their best work, while you may be right you’re discouraging them from giving it their best effort if/when they know you don’t believe they can do great things.  A prime example is when your kids hear that they’re “good for nothing” over and over.  When they hear that, and know that’s what you believe about them and expect them to produce (nothing), and most will be beaten down until they do produce nothing.  Of course, the reverse can be true too; if you have high expectations of someone you can help launch them to reaching bigger goals than they thought they could reach.

This week I encourage you to check your expectations.  Do you expect the best of people? Are your expectations so set in stone that you can’t see beyond them to the other possibilities that are out there?  Do you live up to the expectations other people have of you (and are they fair expectations)? Are you expecting the best possible result from this week?

Confidence Building Celebrations

Like much of the world I’m thinking about the Olympics today.  I love how it brings people and countries together regardless of language, location, sex or economic status.  It’s a chance for all kinds of people to show their particular athletic abilities and show off some country pride too.  Events like the Olympics are a chance for the world to put aside differences and disagreements and instead focus on encouraging each other and raising each other up.

Yes, there is a sense of pride for those who win, both the people and their country, but it’s fun to celebrate all winners because regardless of where you and they call home, as they’ve accomplished a feat that most of us couldn’t begin to do whether it be swimming so fast, running so far or hitting a target. Plus you’ve got all of the challenges the athletes have had to overcome and victories they’ve had to achieve in their personal lives to get to this point.

It’s important to share our gifts and talents with the world, and just as important to recognize the good things each of us can do.  It’s such a simple thing to tune in to the Olympics, to cheer at a little league game or celebrate when your kids get a good grade, but it’s so important to not only recognize the good they’ve done, but encourage them to continue doing their best.

This week I encourage you to step up in your regular life and recognize the people around you and the gifts they have.  Celebrate with them their accomplishments.  It may be challenging for you to do if you’re losing out on a position you were hoping to get that they got, or when they got a house when you’ve lost out on several, or got pregnant when you’ve been trying so hard.  Sometimes we have to wait (patiently) for our chance to celebrate, other times we’re the first ones celebrating.  What will you celebrate this week?

“What a gift it is when we can inspire others to have courage and to hope, when we can raise another’s confidence, when we can instill in them life and energy and vigor. How important it is for us to express care for one another regularly and explicitly, to commend and cherish one another, to work actively to build up [each other] by our words and actions, and not to undermine its health by bitterness and complaining.”  Br. David Vryhof

A Response to Violence

I’ve been receiving lots of emails about the violent deaths of black men and women around the US over the past few months and especially these past few days, and you probably have too.  I’ve shared some thoughts on violence before, but to sum up I believe it’s sometimes necessary, but only for reasons of showing your strength or defending those who are weaker and in trouble.  I don’t believe violence should be the answer to fear, differences, disagreements or the way to gain power.  We each have our differences and our similarities.  Just because we’re different in one way or another, it doesn’t make it right to treat anyone as less than a human with rights.  We all have our biases and beliefs, but if we really believe we’re meant to live in a global, connected world, we have to start working together at some point in time.

So today I wanted to share with you a few of the comments I have heard that stood out to me, I may reflect in depth on some of them on the Life and Spirituality blog over the coming days and weeks as well.

“We[‘ve] talked about the terror some of us feel in our own homes. Scared of feeling rejected, ignored, dismissed, or unheard by the people who matter most, we reactively retreat to passivity and self-protection.  This is not the path to peace in our own homes, nor in our own hearts…Ultimately, learn to represent your fullest self to the fullest. That way you give yourself, and the ones who matter most, the best chance at the relationships we all crave.”  Hal Runkel

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“… the attack is a reminder that no life will be safe and truly valued until we also confront the broader American culture of violence.”  Kai Wright

“There is a deep wound in this nation and we must re-double our commitment to be a part of healing it — and it must be done nonviolently.  The only way we can truly generate healing is to take the skills and values of peacebuilding deep into our communities.”  Matthew Albracht

“Everybody’s got to reach deep down and find some empathy.  If you cried for the brother who bled out next to his fiancee, but you didn’t cry this morning for those police officers, it’s time to do a heart check.  If you cried for those police officers, but you have a hard time taking seriously all these videos that are coming out about African Americans dying, it’s time to do a heart check.  Because we are either going to come together or come apart.  There’s enough pain on both sides that there should be some empathy starting to kick in.’  Van Jones

“You need the courage to push yourself beyond your own fears.  You need to embrace your fears in order to make your life everything it was meant to be.”  Chris Howard

The world you grew up in is much different than it was for your parents, and the world your kids and their kids grow up in will be much different than the world you grew up in.  I want a world that will be a place to grow, thrive and blossom, and that’s not possible if the threat of violence remains so high.  What world do you want to create for your future generations?

Taking Time to be Thankful this Father’s Day

This past week has been a tough one for many people.  With the loss of a child to an alligator and the killing of 49 people in Orlando plus the finding of the wreckage of the downed EgyptAir plane, and countless other tragedies that weren’t front-page news, anyone who cares about human life has reason to stop and give a moment of silence for those lost.  I’m reminded of 9/11, Titanic and other events that caused large losses of life.  Throughout the work to figure out exactly what happened in Orlando, exactly what happened on EgyptAir, finding the people who died in the Towers, and finding the place where Titanic sleeps, we’re faced with conflicting emotions.  On one hand we are so thankful and almost glad when we find out pieces of the puzzle, when we find any kind of answers because it means we don’t have to wonder quite as much.  But on the other, to realize the immense loss of life and remember that we’re looking at the place where people have died and may never be recovered, hurts and may even make us angry.

With Father’s Day on Sunday here in the US I want to encourage you to treasure the life you have and the people in your life.  Choose to be a father, mother, sister, brother, partner, boss, employee, friend, neighbor and citizen who is respectable, honorable, honest, giving, caring, compassionate and loving.  Choose to become the best person you can be.  Choose to make the most of each and every day, because as we’ve been reminded this week, you never know when it will be your last day.

Regardless of whether you lost someone you know in one of these tragedies, whether you are a parent, whether you support the LGBTQ community, or whether you even know anything about these tragedies or not, I don’t believe that “serves them right,” “good riddance,” “that’s the price we pay,” “whatever” or any other hate-and-ignorance-filled comments are the right response.  Every loss of life is a tragedy.  Choose to live your life to the fullest, to show compassion and love to those you meet, and make sure to thank and celebrate the people in your life that you appreciate this weekend, especially your dad, or the father-figure in your life.

Living with Thanks

We’ve reached the second to last month of 2014, are you ready for the year to be over or are you going to do your best to make the most of these last few weeks? This month we’re going to talk quite a bit about a topic that I believe is essential to business owners, parents, partners and kids alike: being thankful. So we will be discussing a thanks related topic each Monday (and you can read even more over on my life and spirituality blog).

Today I wanted to talk about what being thankful is really about. Theodore Roosevelt said:

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”

Last month I shared a lot about compassion, including the incredible realization that compassion isn’t just an emotion: it’s really an action. You can read more at this blog post, but simply put, if you’re feeling true compassion for someone, not only are you going to feel bad for the person where they’re at and the situation they’re in, but you’re going to do everything in your power to make sure they don’t stay there. True compassion is unable to leave the situation as bad as it is, it’s almost a compulsion to make a change.

In this statement Roosevelt reminds us that being thankful is much the same as compassion: it’s really an action based sentiment, of course we’ve gotten pretty good at making it just empty words. Which is really the challenge we’re up against this month: can we make being thankful about more than just 2 empty words that we say when someone holds a door for us or helps us pick up dropped papers? Can we turn around and do something nice for someone else because someone helped us? Can we go out there and make a difference in someone’s life because someone made a difference in ours?

That would be my challenge to each of us this month as we look at holiday sales, crazy family parties, and the celebrations of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years; to make a difference in the lives of others around us. Maybe that looks like a discount for a customer you know you can help but doesn’t quite have enough to pay you, or donating your time or resources at a homeless shelter, or taking the kids to play with homeless kids. What will you do to share your thankfulness for all you’ve been blessed with this month?