Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Role of Faith in Self-Action Leadership


"We all know that something is eternal. And it ain't houses and it ain't names, and it ain't earth, and it ain't even the stars ... Everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you'd be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There's something way deep down that's eternal about every human being."

Thornton Wilder 

(From Act III of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town)


I am a believer. 

Nay... that is too weak. Put more precisely, I am an ardent, enthusiastic, and passionate person of faith. I'm not asking you to be a believer—at least not in theological or religious terms. I'm merely letting you know that I am, and that I'm comfortable with being open about this fact—not in a preachy or proselytizing way, but in a self-confident, I'm-quite-comfortable-in-my-own-skin sort of way.  

It is interesting to me how popular it has become these days to not believe. 

And yet, despite any and all claims of atheism and agnosticism, do we not all; nay—must we not all—each and every day of our lives take various leaps of faith in order to get anything of value accomplished? And is it not true that the greater the achievement, the greater the leap of faith?

If this is true, then are not all of us persons of faith in one way or another, and to one extent or another, regardless of our views on the existence (or lack thereof) of a Higher Power or the eternal nature of the human soul?  

When I reflect on the greatest accomplishments in my life, every single one of them resulted from my willingness to exercise a TON of faith. Whether it was becoming a State Champion or All-American athlete, figuring out how to effectively manage mental illness, moving to the other side of the country and finding the love of my life, earning a doctoral degree, writing a book and getting it published, or starting a business from the ground up, every single significant achievement I have ever attained was realized by first taking a bold leap out into the darkness of life's great "unknowns" trusting that if I followed the rules, hearkened to my instincts and conscience, did my best, never gave up, and treated other people with respect and dignity along the way, I would eventually land on firm ground and find a sure pathway that would take me exactly where I wanted to go.

Let's face it... accomplishing anything of lasting value absolutely demands that we exercise FAITH in ourselves, FAITH in other people, FAITH in true principles and practices of thought, speech, and behavior, and FAITH in the serendipity inherent in the metaphysical concept of karma—in conjunction with the mathematical and scientific "Law of the Farm" (As ye sow; so shall ye reap).  

At Freedom Focused, we do not ask self-action leaders to become believers in God or religion, even though most of us are, and most of us do. We do, however, ask YOU to have faith in yourself, faith in other people, faith in the true principles and practices of human thought, speech, and behavior outlined in the Self-Action Leadership Theory and Model, and faith in karma and serendipity.

Those willing to exercise such faith eventually take flight in their personal and professional lives, the results of which include growth, success, satisfaction, fulfillment, rich and rewarding relationships, and inner peace—the greatest gifts in life.  

Those who are unwilling to exercise such faith ultimately founder, falter, and fail to rise to their full potential.

In the final analysis, the greatest human beings are always persons of faith. Such persons may not be religious or believe in God. In fact, some of them will even claim to be atheists or agnostics. But if they are accomplished and successful in the long-run, they are so for one reason and one reason alone: because they were willing to exercise great quantities of faith as described above. 

Are you a person of faith?

If not, then it's time to start exercising some, because FAITH is an absolute prerequisite to becoming an authentic and effective self-action leader. Why not let go of your fear and finally take that leap of faith in your life and career—you know... the leap that could empower you to truly take flight?   

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Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn more about what it means to Be the Change You Wish to See in the World (Gandhi).  

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

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Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbooks

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A NextGen 7 Habits and Road Less Traveled

Two score and three years ago, M. Scott Peck, M.D., wrote one of the greatest books that has ever been written on the subjects of human cognition and behavioral regulation as it relates to personal CHANGE and GROWTH.  

The book is called, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth.

Peck's book is not religious scripture, nor is it an ideological, political, or philosophical treatise. Rather, it is a practical, common sense exploration in psychology, love, and personal growth based on Peck's own experience working with real patients as a clinical psychiatrist.

The Road Less Traveled was published in 1978, one year before I was born. For the following decade—throughout the 1980s—it was a huge bestseller, demonstrating that many human beings really do earnestly seek after real answers to real problems in their lives, even if it requires hard work, courage, and personal sacrifice.

Eleven years later, in 1989, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People—Dr. Stephen R. Covey's famous book on essentially the same subject (Personal Change)—was published. Like Peck's The Road Less Traveled, Covey's 7 Habits was also a huge bestseller (selling nearly 20 million copies) demonstrating a generation later that, once again, many human beings really do ardently desire real solutions to real problems in their lives—even if those solutions require hard work, sacrifice, dedication, persistence, and patience on our part. 

These two books—The Road Less Traveled, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, influenced my thinking—and the development of the Self-Action Leadership Theory and Model—more than any other single texts. Other books by Covey and Peck, including: Principle Centered Leadership (1990), Further Along the Road Less Traveled (1993), First Things First (1994), and The Road Less Traveled and Beyond (1997) were similarly influential on my thinking and writing.

For you old timers who are wondering what the NextGen Road or 7 Habits is going to be, you don't have to wonder anymore. It has already been written and published!

The 1980s brought The Road
The 1990s and 2000s brought The 7 Habits
The 2020s now offers SAL
It's called: Self-Action Leadership, Volume I & II; and it builds upon The Road and The 7 Habits in creative and important ways. And the only significantly substantive difference between SAL and its two forerunners is that SAL hasn't yet sold millions of copies. 

But all in good time my friends; all in good time!

Or, in the words of Alexander Hamilton (of Hamilton the musical fame): "There's a million [copies I haven't sold], but just you wait; just you wait!" 

Peck famously opened The Road Less Traveled with a timeless truism summed up unforgettably in just three (3) simple words...

"Life is Difficult."

As seemingly self-evident and obvious as this statement may be, Peck went on to explain that a certain irony exists in the phrase as it relates to us humans.

In his own words: 

"Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief ... that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and that has somehow been especially visited upon them, or upon their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others" (The Road Less Traveled. 1978, New York, NY: Touchstone. p. 15).

Peck then humbly confesses what most (if not all) of us might well echo:

"I know about this moaning because I have done my share" (p. 15).

If I'm honest, I must echo Peck's confession myself.

Life is indeed difficult—for everybody. And while it may often seem to be more difficult for some than for others, it is vital to remember that an individual's suffering, no matter who that person is or what they may face, is relative.

As Viktor Frankl—a Nazi concentration camp survivor, who knew a thing or two about intense suffering—so cogently articulated:

"A [person's] suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the 'size' of human suffering is absolutely relative" (Man's Search for Meaning. 2006. Beacon: Boston, MA, p. 44).

Given this reality of our human experiences, we would all do well to spend less time and effort judging others and comparing ourselves to others and instead reinvest that same energy in alleviating and managing our own suffering in an effort to grow personally and professionally—and then help others to do the same.

By so doing, we can inch steadily toward "gain[ing] ever greater levels of maturity" (Peck, 1978, p. 11). After all, GROWTH (personal and professional) is the entire purpose of the SAL Theory and Model.

Along the way, we have the opportunity to realize that high ideal set forth by the great Russian novelist, Dostoevski (and reiterated by Frankl), whereby we have the potential to become "worthy of [our] sufferings" (p. 66). In Frankl's view, being worthy of our sufferings qualifies as a "genuine inner achievement" (p. 67), which can, in-turn, lead us to a "spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful" (p. 67). 

As we consider our options for responding to the inevitable difficulties of life, there are, generally speaking, only two kinds of choices to be made in any situation. One option is negative, reactive, combative, and therefore counterproductive. This choice invariably makes any situation worse than it was in the first place. The other possibility is a positive, proactive, cooperative, and therefore productive response. If pursued consistently and persistently, the latter option is bound to either solve the problem(s) at hand, or at very least, to mollify or ameliorate it/them over time.  

For thousands of years, civilizations around the globe developed and flourished on the wings of certain timeless aphorisms, mantras, and other simple statements of fundamental truth about the way things really are in this world in terms of their relation to human actions and interactions—and their concomitant consequences. 

Conversely, many of these same civilizations eventually atrophied into extinction by choosing actions that flouted goodness and truth as articulated in said aphorisms. The consequences of doing so led inevitably to disaster, destruction, and despair.

Such statements of "Truth" are rooted in science, religion, philosophy, politics, commerce, parenting, literature, and a wide range of other human endeavors. The authors of such statements—from Plato and Pericles to Caesar and Cicero; from Moses, Muhammad, and Jesus to Confucius, Siddhārtha Gautama, and Guru Nanek; from Franklin and Goethe to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.—are representative of all major civilizations, continents, cultures, creeds, races, and religions. When civilizations adhere to principles and practices contained in this diverse, yet largely harmonious, historical canon of "Wisdom Literature," positive long-term consequences ensue, both individually and collectively speaking. When this wisdom is disregarded, disasters always arise eventually, for both individuals and the body politic.   

This historical ebb and flow of circumspect adherence to common sense principles of successful human thought and behavior has, in the past half-century or so, wended deeply toward its latest ebbing (speaking collectively and not individually). This dramatic ebb explains why there is so much violence and unrest in the streets, so much fear, panic, and desolation in the lives of individuals and their families, communities, and organizations, and why the United States of America is so dramatically divided—or perhaps fractured would be a more accurate term—both politically and culturally. 

What is the answer to these deep, perplexing, and systemic problems? Wherein lies the key to our escape from the current moral ebb into a future ascent (hopefully) into the next flow of peace and prosperity? What will the next chapter in Western Civilization look like? And how in the world did we get here in the first place?

I would suggest that one of the biggest problems in the West today is our collective tendency to focus too much on the weaknesses and shortcomings of others while simultaneously failing to see, much less working to change, ourselves.

Quite frankly, ours is a sad, even pathetic, era marked by endless finger-pointing. According to politicians, professionals, and pundits everywhere, every problem under the sun is someone else's fault. It seems almost nobody in the spotlight is willing to take any real personal responsibility for anything. And even when a high profile person does "accept responsibility" their half-hearted admissions and forced apologies are usually "all talk" and "no action."

Sadly, in the midst of this ever-cycling blame-game, individuals everywhere fail to comprehend that every time they point a finger of blame at someone else, there are three other fingers pointing right back at themselves.

If you don't believe me, just try it! 

Point your index finger out at some imaginary someone else out in the distance, and then look closely at where your middle finger, ring finger, and pinkie are pointing.

Gotcha!  

It is very popular these days to talk in broad, sweeping strokes about serious and complex macro subjects that are important and require our attention and action.

The SAL question, however, is not "whose fault is it?" The SAL question is: what are YOU actually doing about macro problems in your own little micro world? If you are like most people, you probably talk about the problem and point the finger of blame at others a LOT more than you actually DO SOMETHING that will make a tangible difference in the lives of real people.    

Self-Action Leadership is all about individual ACTION and micro SELF-CHANGE. Why? Because I am the only person I can control; and you are the only person you can control. And because all real macro organizational or societal change begins in the minds and hearts of individuals.

This includes YOU; and it also includes ME—because we are individuals.  

The aim of SAL is to teach and inspire people to recognize that the only person on the planet they can truly control is oneself. As such, we should spend the majority of our time and effort focusing on what we need to think about, say, and do to be our best selves, rather than continually pointing out where others are falling short and must improve.

Colonel Theodore Roosevelt
First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment
In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, one of the most courageous, progressive, enthusiastic, and accomplished leaders in American history:

"There are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. ... It is not the critic who counts; not the [person] who points out how the strong [one] stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the [person] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends [oneself] in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if [he or she] fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that [his or her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Perhaps no one in American history is more qualified to talk about self-change and striving valiantly in the arena than Theodore Roosevelt. Growing up, Roosevelt had to focus intensely and work diligently for many years to overcome a devastating and breathtaking (literally) case of asthma at a time in history when medical treatments for the mysterious disease were limited and primitive.  

Then, a few short years before becoming the youngest President in U.S. history at age 42, Roosevelt was voluntarily charging up San Juan Hill at the head of a regiment of cavalrymen that he himself had organized and helped train. Many tried to persuade the 39-year old Roosevelt to stay in Washington where it was "safe." At the time he was serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy—an excellent and entirely legitimate excuse to not join the fray on its front lines. But Roosevelt had the heart of a lion and could not remain caged on the sidelines when his Country needed his help in the arena.

Winston Churchill in middle age
circa the World War I era.
Eighteen years later, another lion-hearted leader—Winston Churchill—followed Roosevelt's example by accepting a field commission in the British Army after losing his prestigious and high-ranking post as First Lord of the Admiralty (aka: Secretary of the Navy in the U.S.) following the disastrous amphibious Allied landings at Gallipoli. Like Roosevelt in Cuba, the high profile Churchill spent several months alongside ordinary field soldiers in the dangerous trenches of the Western Front—perhaps as personal penance and to otherwise take personal responsibility for his unintentional, but nonetheless high profile and costly failure at Gallipoli.

Why would he do such a dangerous and courageous thing when he didn't have to? Because that is what principle-centered leaders do: they are proactive, courageous, and have integrity—and win or lose, they always take personal responsibility for their speech and actions.         

Like Churchill, Roosevelt was the author of many books and countless letters and speeches over the course of his incredibly energetic and productive life and career. He was also fearless when it came to putting his money (walk) where his mouth (talk) was. As a result, his life and legacy changed the course of American history in a variety of positive and productive ways. America needs more men and women, boys and girls with the heart, mind, conscience, and courage of Theodore Roosevelt.

Turn on the news or join in on most contemporary conversations about current events and you are almost certain to hear next-to-nothing about SELF-CHANGE. Instead, you will see and hear endless finger pointing. According to most politicians and pundits, all of the world's problems are somebody else's fault! According to present cultural conversations, all of America's problems are the fault of others, while oneself is perpetually postured as being highly virtuous and above reproach. And since none of us are perfect, hypocrisy obviously abounds in many of these conversations and reports.

It is a sad, childish, dishonest, and counterproductive state in which we find ourselves; but it is where our culture currently stands. 

This trend must change if things are going to get better. And the truth is that for any real, lasting, macro changes to occur, individuals must begin making real, lasting, micro changes within their own minds and hearts.    

SAL is all about looking in the mirror
in an effort to grow and improve personally.
Any truly honest and authentic person knows deep down in one's heart and soul that the only real solution to our deepest personal, relational, and civic problems is to look oneself straight in the mirror, accurately identify one's own personal (or organizational) foibles and flaws for what they really are, admit them candidly to oneself (and where necessary, to others), and then go to work courageously to do the most difficult thing in life: that is, to actually CHANGE.

Until that difficult but oh-so-necessary step occurs, things are only going to get worse, wending us further down a slippery slope to the utter desolation or destruction of individual lives, organizations, communities, states, and nations. 

It really is that simple (in theory). And it really is that difficult (in practice).

It is simple because the answer to all of our deepest and most distressing problems in American and beyond lies in right thinking, doing, and being—not from a political or cultural point of view, but from a behavioral, existential, and moral standpoint. And it is difficult because thinking, speaking, doing, and being right on a consistent basis is incredibly challenging; indeed, it is a lifelong struggle for even the most careful, conscientious, and circumspect among us. 

In the words of Peck:

"We cannot solve life's problems except by solving them. This statement may seem idiotic... or self-evident, yet it is seemingly beyond the comprehension of much of the human race. This is because we must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it. We cannot solve a problem by saying 'It's not my problem.' We cannot solve a problem by hoping that someone else will solve it for us. I can solve a problem only when I say 'This is my problem and it's up to me to solve it.' But many, so many, seek to avoid the pain of their problems by saying to themselves: 'This problem was caused me by other people, or by social circumstances beyond my control, and therefore it is up to other people or society to solve this problem for me. It is not really my personal problem. [And] the extent to which people will go psychologically to avoid assuming responsibility for personal problems, while always sad, is sometimes almost ludicrous" (p. 32-33). 

For those willing to put forth the enormous effort required, it all beings with an EDUCATION that is dedicated to truth and reality. After all, in the words of Peck, "truth is reality" (p. 44) and "we must [therefore] be totally dedicated to truth ... [and] must always hold truth ... to be more important, more vital to our self-interest, than our comfort" (p. 50).

In other words, SAL only works if YOU are willing to get out of your comfort zone and stay out of it for as long as true change and authentic growth demands.  

To illustrate the kind of education promoted at Freedom Focused, consider a story from the life of M. Scott Peck, M.D.

"I had the kind of grandfather every boy ought to have. He was not a particularly smart man, and his speech was seldom more than a series of clichés. He would say to me, "Don't cross your bridges until you come to them," or, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Not all were admonishments; some were consoling, like, "It's often better to be a big fish in a little pond than a little fish in a big pond," or, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." ... He was not above repeating himself ... [and] if I heard "All that glitters is not gold" once, I must have heard it a thousand times. But he loved me. ... [And] it was on ... walks with my grandfather ... that I was able to not only hear but to digest and absorb his proverbs, and their wisdom has stood me in very good stead over the years" (Further Along the Road Less Traveled. 1993. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 141-142).

Peck then goes on to say:

"I've often thought that it would be saving if we could develop some program of mental health education in our public schools, but I know we wouldn't get away with it. People would object to it. ... But ... [who could] possibly object to a program in our schools to teach the old proverbs to our children[?] ... So I hope someone will start instituting such a program. I also hope it will be done soon" (p. 143-144).

I will never forget reading these words back in 2011. I was high up in the air on an airplane en route to an eastern Canadian city where I was scheduled to teach some business seminars. I had known for nearly a decade already that my life's calling was to answer this call of Peck's, and had been anxiously engaged in striving to fulfill that mission since 2003. Peck's words therefore served to powerfully reinforce the mission in my own mind.

Unfortunately, though, Peck is right...  many people—including and perhaps especially those in positions of power capable of doing something about it—do object to it. And there is a chance that Freedom Focused won't "get away with it," just as Peck feared. But that won't stop us from making the attempt and giving our all in the process. Thus, if we do fail, it won't be for lack of effort or passion; it will merely be because those who needed it most chose to reject it.  

This article—and everything else that goes forth from the mouth of this organization—is part and parcel of that attempt. We will keep trying and won't ever give up until someone in a position of power finally does listen, and by-and-by grants us the opportunity to empower a growing number of others with the kind of saving education that all successful, happy, and self-actualized (Maslow, 1943) persons ultimately receive and apply—to their own benefit and the blessing of others.  

Freedom Focused has been around now for 17 years. The Self-Action Leadership TEXTBOOKS have existed (in one form or another) for 15 years. Sadly, its message of self-leadership, personal responsibility, education, truth, and a "dedication to reality" (Peck) has been almost entirely ignored for all those years.

As frustrating as this fact sometimes feels, it doesn't alter the quality of my life personally.

Nope.

I have a great life no matter what happens with Freedom Focused

How is that possible, you ask?

Simple: I have a healthy mind and body and a wonderful, loving family that is committed to SAL principles and practices. Moreover, my wife has been very successful in her career, so we don't need the money

What more could I possibly ask for?  

In other words, our lives are already FANTASTIC because we have lived this stuff ourselves for many decades now. It's just who we are; SAL is inextricably linked to our very souls and we practice what we teach, even though we admittedly do so imperfectly—just like all human beings. Yet, even with imperfect practice, the results speak for themselves in terms of the long-term happiness, success, unity, growth, love, and inner peace we have enjoyed. And those same patterns will continue in our lives as long as we remain committed to SAL principles and practices. After all, there is nothing special about us, per se, but everything is special about SAL principles and practices. Thus, other people—including YOU—can ultimately benefit from them as richly as we have if you are willing to pay the price demanded by natural law. 

Simply stated: if you are willing to put in the work, then SAL principles and practices will WORK for you, and serendipity will usually take care of the rest over time.   

Why? 

Self-Action Leadership works because it is rooted
in physical and metaphysical truisms.
Because SAL principles and practices are rooted in natural laws of physics and metaphysics. So they are scientifically sound and rooted in common sense. In other words, when rightly applied over time, they work! And they can work as well for YOU as they have for Lina and me. 

That doesn't mean our lives will mirror each other's exactly; and that is a good thing, because how boring would that be? Besides, SAL is not about comparisons. As our pal Teddy Roosevelt once wisely put it: Comparison is the thief of joy.

"Comparison is the thief of joy."

— Theodore Roosevelt  

Self-action leaders do not spend their time unwisely comparing themselves to other people and their unique talents, attributes, accomplishments, or successes. Self-action leaders recognize and rejoice in the reality that unlimited happiness, success, unity, growth, and inner peace is as much a possibility for THEM in their lives as it is for me and my wife in our lives—or anyone else on the planet for that matter.  

I do confess that it saddens me that so many people who could be helped right now aren't being helped by the message of SAL because of a current lack of courageous, proactive, visionary, and principle-centered leaders who presently possess the power to begin bringing SAL into the lives of their students, children, subordinates, etc., but who, for whatever reasons, choose to ignore, reject, or delay.   

But I'm not worried.

Such leaders are in the process of being developed, and when the time is right (i.e. once they have gathered up their courage and are otherwise sufficiently prepared), I have no doubt they will rise to the occasion and help us change the world—one mind and heart at a time. In the meantime, I certainly can't complain about the myriad of blessings I enjoy both personally and professionally—thanks to a synergized amalgamation of serendipitous grace and my own conscientious dedication to SAL—so I am amply prepared to continue to work hard and wait patiently... for however long it takes.    

If you are a parent, educator, leader, politician, or just an ordinary citizen bereft of any formal title or organizational influence, I invite you to buy, read, and study the Self-Action Leadership textbooks—and complete the SAL Master Challenge along the way. If you discover the value and benefit of taking on that challenge yourself—as I did in my own extended, comprehensive journey throughout the past 34 years, I further invite you to help me spread the message of SAL far and wide, so that it can begin to influence, impact, and even transform the lives of others who, like all those readers of The Road Less Traveled in the 1980s-90s and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in the 1990s and 2000s, are desperately seeking for real solutions to real problems in their lives and careers.

Peck was spot on: Life is indeed difficult. 

          But that doesn't mean it isn't doable.  

With the power of SAL and the grace of serendipity in your corner, the sky is truly the limit—both personally and professionally.  

          What are you waiting for?


Click HERE to buy the Self-Action Leadership TEXTBOOKS   

...............

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn what Faith has to do with Self-Action Leadership.  

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Sweet Southern Hospitality

State Seal of the State of Florida
Centerpiece of the Florida State Flag
I am pleased to announce that Freedom Focused is moving from the Great State of Texas to the Sunshine State of...

FLORIDA!



And we are EXCITED about it!

This week's blog post chronicles my lifelong love of the Sunshine State, and the seeds that have been germinating for a quarter century that recently sprang up into the fruit of this exciting and welcomed step in my personal and professional life.   

When I was a little boy, age 11, my dad, grandpa, and older sister and I took a cross-country road trip from the Intermountain West to the eastern United States and back. It was the first time I had ever been east of the Mississippi, and the first time I ever saw the Atlantic Ocean. 

On the Mississippi River with my dad,
older sister, and Grandpa in 1991
One of the most memorable events of that trip involved eating supper one evening at a diner deep in the heart of Kentucky. Our waitress was one of the kindest, sweetest, and most friendly people I had ever met.

And that accent....

          Wow!

I may hail from Southern Utah, which is like the South in some ways, but I had never heard anything like that Kentucky woman's country drawl! The experience left an indelible impression on my little 11-year old mind and heart.

Dad explained to me that muggy August night back in 1991 that the waitress's attitude and demeanor was emblematic of "Southern Hospitality." As far as I can remember, that was the first time I had ever heard the term Southern Hospitality; and I would never forget it!

For many years thereafter, I began developing romantic notions about the Southern States. As a result, I deeply desired to go exploring beyond just Kentucky.

Years later, immediately after graduating from college, I fulfilled my dream to visit—and relocate to—the American South. My intentions were to spend a period of time there, "seek my fortunes," hopefully find love along the way, and perhaps remain until the day I died.

It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made because it was there—in Atlanta, Georgia—deep in the heart of the South that I met my beautiful, intelligent, and talented wife, Lina, who was from even farther south... in the Miami, Florida area. Lina was living in Atlanta at the time to study mechanical engineering at The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech).  

Getting to live in the South and meeting Lina have been two of the greatest blessings of my life to date. And I've been blissfully enjoying lovely "Green Christmases" in South Florida ever since!

I have visited and traveled extensively throughout every Southern State, and the whole region has a special place in my heart. Georgia, in particular, will always be "On my Mind" because it was in the Peach State that I met my best friend, the love of my life, and the mother of our three (3) children. 

If you include Arizona, New Mexico, and Southern Utah—a college professor of mine once rightly remarked that Utah is, in some ways, a displaced Southern State—I have lived in the Southern States for most of my life and therefore have a pretty good understanding of what Southern Hospitality is all about.  

More recently, I experienced an outgrowth of this phenomenon in my outreaches to leaders and coaches in college athletics.

To illustrate, check out a few stats...

In the spring of 2020, I sent marketing inquiries to over 5,000 coaches and leaders at approximately 150 colleges and universities in all 50 States. In response, 15 coaches and leaders replied back to request review copies of the SAL Textbooks. Eleven (11) of the 15 coaches — a whopping 73% — of them were from Southern States (east and west).

Then, of the five major football programs I contacted (Florida, LSU, Texas, and two northern schools that will go unnamed), I received nice letters back from either a Head Coach or Athletic Director from ALL THREE (3) southern schools.

The first letter I received—and arguably the most impressive—came from Head Coach Ed Orgeron. What made Orgeron's reply so singular and special was that it arrived only a few weeks after his team won the 2019 National Championship against Clemson at the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on January 13, 2020.

Despite being the most famous college football coach on the planet (at that point in time), Orgeron still found time to reach out to little ole' me—a complete stranger he had absolutely no formal obligation to acknowledge, much less communicate with. I'll never forget the kindness, courtesy, and respect of Coach O's thoughtful outreach.

What a guy!  

Wearing my new Gators hat from
AD Scott Stricklin.  Go Gators!
The second letter came from Head Coach Tom Herman at The University of Texas, and the third was sent by Scott Stricklin, Athletic Director at The University of Florida. Both letters were respectful of my work and thanked me for reaching out. Stricklin generously went a step further and included a gratis Florida Gator hat as a gift to me.

I was impressed!

You can guess, of course, which schools I heard crickets from.  

That's right... the two northern schools.

I sent 13 hard copy letters to one northern school's Head Coach, yet never received so much as a syllable in return. I must confess that I had a good time pestering ole' -------, and so had to just chuckle at the fact that he was even more determined not to respond than I was determined to reach out to him. 

I was less humored by another northern team's snub. The reason for my chagrin was two-fold.

First, I used to be an enthusiastic and passionate fan of this particular team up north. I would talk up their football coaches, leaders, and players to anyone who would listen.

Second, in addition to sending dozens of combined letters and emails to coaches and leaders at this school over the course of the entire year (2020), I also sent FOUR of my SAL Textbooks, which set my own wallet back several hundred dollars.

Textbooks aren't cheap!

And the SAL Textbooks are no exception. Despite these gratis gifts and numerous hard copy letters and emails, I never heard back from a head coach or athletic director at either university up north.

Interesting, isn't it?

And even more fascinating is the fact that one northern coach actually sent me a nice card in response to a previous query I had sent him back in 2006 during his time coaching at a different school that was deep in the South, yet he failed to extend the same courtesy after moving north to coach a different team.

Uncanny, isn't it? It sometimes seems as though the hospitality in the North mirrors Midwest mercury in January!  

One of the things I have learned through my entrepreneurial experiences is that getting rejected is preferable to getting ignored.

Why?

Because a rejection still acknowledges your existence; but getting ignored makes you feel like a non-entity, which is a viscerally demeaning and enervating experience. Consequently, I'd rather be rejected than ignored. While getting rejected is never fun, getting ignored feels a whole lot worse.   

Now... I'm sure those coaches and leaders in the North who snubbed me are all "good guys" who love their families. And their capacity and accomplishments as coaches and leaders are noteworthy. That's a big part of what led me to follow them in the first place. Moreover, I recognize I am a NOBODY in their eyes.

But... I am ostensibly just a nobody to the coaches at LSU, Texas, and Florida also; so why the difference in courtesy and respect in response to my written queries?

Southern Hospitality is a Warm & Welcoming Phenomenon
It Makes People Feel Comfortable, Capable, and Confident
It's gotta be Southern Hospitality!  

Perhaps character plays a bit of a role as well. After all, one of the most important SAL lessons I've ever learned is that a person's character is best unveiled not by how they treat a romantic interest, superior, celebrity, or other VIP, but by how they treat a subordinate, service worker, homeless person, or a nobody—like me!

The good news about Self-Action Leadership is that Southern Hospitality doesn't have to remain exclusively in the South. It can travel anywhere human beings choose to embrace the SAL attributes of kindness, cheerfulness, courtesy, warmth, and respect. 

The Boys from the North aren't the first high profile persons to ignore or reject written requests of mine, and they won't be the last. Rejection (and getting ignored) is just part of being an entrepreneur.

I accept this reality.

          I don't like it.

                    But I accept it.  

If you can't deal with getting criticized, doubted, dismissed, rejected, ignored, misunderstood, underestimated, mocked, or made fun of, you won't make much of an entrepreneur. For me, all of these things have actually been a hugely positive force in my life, career, and relationships.

Why?

Because instead of discouraging me, it always accomplishes the exact opposite: it provides a turbo boost of added fuel to my desire and motivation, which then doubles, or even triples my determination to succeed. It seems, in fact, that the more I fail to succeed in the short run, the more spectacularly I end up succeeding in the long-run. Such a course is admittedly not an easy pathway to tread; but it is certainly rewarding in the end—making it a journey entirely worth pursuing.      

Furthermore, when it comes to that very natural, human urge to seek "revenge" on an opponent who has disrespected, rejected, ignored, or beaten you, there is no greater revenge than success.  

Success is the Greatest Revenge

I learned this lesson years ago, after being rejected 130 times by 80 different women over the course of 13 long years of interesting and adventurous, but largely deflating dating experiences. At age 28, I finally won the heart of a woman—from Florida, no less—who is better than the woman of my dreams.

That ONE success was worth all of the pain, suffering, and wait that accompanied the seemingly endless failures. In the words of Country Music Band, Rascal Flatts: "God [really did bless] the broken road, that led me straight to [Lina]."  

Click HERE to read details of Dr. Jensen's ROCKY ROAD OF ROMANCE

I didn't like getting rejected or ignored romantically. In fact, I liked it even less than I like getting ignored or rejected professionally. Yet the pain of those rejections fueled my eventual success with Lina. 

Click HERE to read details of Dr. Jensen's CAREER CRUCIBLES

Some of the greatest pain I've ever experienced came in the realms of romance, or, in the words of the Immortal Bard, in the throes of "despised love" (Hamlet)—a circumstance which became frustratingly familiar to me between the years 1995 and 2008. Yet out of that pain and rejection came an unquenchable desire, motivation, and determination to succeed... and not just in romance; but in every area of my life.

I eventually did succeed in romance and marriage, and have, for the past twelve years, enjoyed one of the greatest single blessings of my life to date—the flowering and maturation of a deep and growing relationship anchored by an eternal commitment to my beloved Lina. Second only to Almighty God, I owe everything to Lina. Aside from being a better man because of Lina, she has, more than any other person on the planet, made possible my own greatest hopes and dreams. I will love her forever for her goodness, kindness, companionship, selflessness, generosity, faith, and love.

Truly, Lina is one in ten million—at the very least.

And the COOL thing about having kids together is that I get to see Lina and all of her wonderful qualities in each of my children every time I see them. It is an incredibly bonding and binding phenomenon the purity and majesty of which I—wordsmith though I am—remain completely incapable of adequately explicating.  

And now... I'm gonna do something a little jr. highish, but I'm not above taking a cue out of my teenage playbook when the right moment calls for it, so here goes...

I'd like to dedicate a couple of songs—written by a couple of smooth Southerners—to my wonderful wife and best friend, Lina Marie Jensen. Mr. Moore and Bentley say it even better than I can. And they sing it far better than I can.     

Click HERE to watch the music video of Kip Moore's Hey Pretty Girl

Click HERE to watch the music video of Dierks Bentley's Woman, Amen

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I don't believe in "revenge" in the negative sense of hurting my opponent. I don't want my opponent to fall or fail. I merely want to succeed myself, and help others do the same, including my opponent (if my opponent wants my help). Thus, the best way to get revenge on my opponents is to succeed myself, and hopefully inspire them—and others—to do the same along the way.    

Statue of Mohandas Gandhi
in Mumbai, India
I've written previously about some of the "healthy discontents" (Emerson) I harbor about human beings and organizations in this world. I have likewise written about how these discontents have continually driven me on a lifelong quest to heed Gandhi's advice to: "Be the change I wish to see in the world."

My experiences with rejection and getting ignored are good examples of this. And while I myself sometimes have to say "no" to individuals and organizations who are not a good fit for my inner or outer personal and professional circles, my goal is to always treat others better than I was treated along the way. This includes respectfully rejecting (when necessary) and never ignoring people or failing to acknowledge them—even if I choose not to embrace their requests.

There are consequences for failing to acknowledge the existence of others, or otherwise treating human beings (no matter who they are) disrespectfully or dismissively. For example, I used to be an avid fan of a team up north and would sing their praises to anyone who would listen.

I don't do that anymore.

Instead of cheering for that team up north, I now cheer for Coach O's LSU Tigers deep down in the blessed bayou. He gave me a reason to cheer for him beyond the football field and training room. In the process, he earned a new fan, and I now talk him up whenever an opportunity arises.   

Coach O treated me with kindness, consideration, and respect. And I rewarded him with my loyalty as a fan. Coaches ------- and ------- and ------- were completely dismissive of my work and me. Consequently, they have lost an avid fan and enthusiastic advocate on their behalf.

Now... I recognize that losing little ole' me as a fan isn't going to hurt either team up north; moreover, my desire is not to hurt them. I don't seek after the kind of revenge that hurts others. I seek revenge borne of personal success myself. And I also seek to help others along my way. But sour the minds and hearts of enough people with arrogant and condescending attitudes or behaviors, and it just might have a noticeable impact over time. And while I'm certainly not perfect, this fact is something of which I continually remind myself.

Bottom line: The way you treat people matters. And as self-action leaders, we really do reap as we sow over time

I can't control the way others treat me; but I can control how I treat other people. As a result, I can learn from the omissions, commissions, and missteps of others and strive to avoid making the same mistakes myself.

Southern Hospitality and Winning

Geaux Tigers!

          GO GATORS!!    

                    Hook 'em Horns!!!   

Another fascinating phenomenon is that there seems to be a connection between Southern Hospitality and WINNING. After all, LSU, Texas, and Florida have won SIX (6) National Championships in football over the past two decades, while ALL the teams up north combined have accounted for only ONE (1) National Championship in that same time period (Ohio State in 2014).

Southern Schools Dominate
Collegiate Athletics
Of the past 60 National Champions in Football, Baseball, and Men's Track & Field, 48 of them—an astounding 80% of the gold medalists—were Southern Schools, mostly from the Southeastern Conference (SEC) or BIG-12 Conference. In other words, the recent contest between North and South at the highest level of collegiate competition is not even close. And a similar pattern emerges in a number of other sports as well.  

Just two nights ago, a Southern School (Alabama)—the program that has won more National Championships in football than any other NCAA team in the modern era—crushed (by a score of 52-24) the great northern school (Ohio State) in the College Football National Championship. And if you go back to the year 2005, guess who has won 15 out of the last 16 National Championships (94%) in the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision's (FBS) most prominent sport (football)?

You guessed it: Southern Schools!  

It's pretty remarkable when you start taking a close look at the facts and stats on this subject.

So, to all you good-ole' Southern boys and girls, I want to say "Thank You" for treating me—a nobody as far as you are concerned—with so much courtesy and respect. I really appreciate it! It does not go unnoticed. And it means all the more because you are so successful yourselves. I always remember these sorts of things, and I believe karma will be kind to you in the long run for your character and courtesy.    

Now...  I am nobody's fool. I have traveled to all 50 U.S. States over the course of my life and career to date. So I know from first-hand experience that there are all sorts of people (the good, the bad, and the ugly)  everywhere you go. The South does not have a monopoly on kindness, cheerfulness, courtesy, friendliness, respect, or athletic success—even if it comes close in that last category (SMILE). Moreover, we all know that nice guys don't always finish first.

Nevertheless, I've also experienced enough of the patterns shared above to know that given the choice, I will always choose to live and work (first) in the American South! And apparently 11 out of the 15 coaches and leaders currently reviewing the SAL Textbooks feel the same way!  

God bless the Sunbelt!

I am pleased beyond all description to announce that in just a few weeks' time, my wife, family, and I are off to the great southern State of Florida, which is where we will establish Freedom Focused headquarters for the next two decades, and where my eventual successors will likely continue operating from into the foreseeable future beyond that.

The fruit of our upcoming move to Florida began as tiny seeds planted long ago.

When I was a little boy in elementary school, I developed a fascinating fixation and fun-filled fantasy about South Florida. What makes it fascinating is that my daydream was both triggered and cultivated independent of any family members, friends, or teachers. No one in my inner or outer circle (at that time) had any connection to South Florida. Part of this growing fixation stemmed from my love of College Football and the famous Orange Bowl, played every year in Miami since 1935.

In fifth grade, we were assigned to write a unique fictional story. After we finished our stories, our teacher and other adult volunteers helped us bind our books in a makeshift manner to look as if we had created our own, published children's book.

My story was called "The Tale of Two Twins" and was the first "book" I ever wrote and "published." It was a story about two twins (inspired by my older twin brothers whom I greatly admired). From somewhere I cannot recall, I had heard the name of a city in South Florida that absolutely entranced me. The city was "West Palm Beach," and was therefore the city I chose for the setting of my story. I had never been to West Palm Beach before. Nor did I know anything about it, other than my (correct) assumption that it was close to a beautiful beach. Despite this fact, a very real metaphysical pull towards that part of the country began tugging on me like a magnet. 

Fifteen (15) years later, that same magnetic pull led me to marry a woman who grew up just two hours south of West Palm Beach. And seventeen (17) years later I would find myself on West Palm Beach itself one evening basking in the refreshing waters of the gorgeous Atlantic prior to teaching a professional seminar in West Palm Beach the following day.
Jordan & Lina Jensen Family
Homestead, Florida

December 2020

In coming weeks, my family and I will be moving to within a few miles of West Palm Beach, where we will set up Freedom Focused headquarters in the Sunshine State for GOOD!

We can hardly wait to get back to the South, bask amidst the blissful beaches and other natural beauties and bounties of the Sunshine State, and then do our best to spread the felicitous, infectious, and positive personality and cultural traits emblematic of Southern Hospitality in every other direction possible and as far and wide as we have opportunity to do so throughout the rest of our lives.   

Through my work with Freedom Focused, I am hopeful and determined to make Southern Hospitality more contagious throughout other parts of the country and world. 

Perhaps someday, "The South" will even be synonymous with Self-Action Leadership.   

I thank "The South" and its wonderful citizens for teaching me the art of these noble human characteristics and virtues, and pledge my everlasting commitment to share that kindness, caring, courtesy, hospitality, and respect with others wherever I go and to otherwise give my all to "be the change I wish to see in the world."

And now... back to my jr. high playbook for one final dedication. This time to The South herself! 

Click HERE to listen to Buddy Jewel's Sweet Southern Comfort.  

....................

Tune in NEXT Wednesday to learn about a NextGen 7 Habits and Road Less Traveled.  

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook Volume I

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook Volume II



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Not in Vain

Emily Dickinson
One of my favorite poems was penned by a diminutive New Englander, famous nineteenth-century bard, and distant cousin of mine.* You have probably heard of this poet.

Her name is Emily Dickinson.

Her poem I speak of is called: Not in Vain. It is short, simple, and straightforward, yet deeply moving and powerful at the same time.  

Not in Vain

If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain:

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.


In life, we are sometimes erroneously led to believe that we must accomplish some GRAND thing for our lives to matter in the grand scheme of things. We are, like Oz the Great and Powerful, not content with being a Good man or woman; we want to be a Great One!** 

I am no different.

However, one of the most important lessons I've ever learned in my life is that being good is, in fact, the truest essence of greatness. And it doesn't matter how many (or few) people know about you and your life's work. What matters is that you did your best to be your best and that you mattered in the lives of those you were able to reach and touch.

Emily Dickinson's poem shared above is beautiful, concise, and easy to memorize. It serves as a continual reminder to me that authentic greatness does not necessarily involve fame, fortune, or colossal achievement. But it does always involve GOODNESS, RIGHTNESS, and TRUTH. Therefore, if you (or I) desire to be great, we should focus on doing what is RIGHT, being GOOD, and continually seeking after TRUTH. This quest can be accomplished in seemingly small and insignificant ways as we consistently provide meaningful service to whomever we are privileged to associate with each and every day of our lives.

As Nazi concentration camp survivor, Viktor E. Frankl once wrote in his famous book: Man's Search for Meaning

"Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as a by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it."

Along our various quests to serve others, we should also remember that the most important service we will render will usually not be "out there" in the world on some distant shore, grand stage, or epic scale. More likely, it will be "right here" in our own relationships, homes, communities, schools, and organizations. Indeed, the quantity and quality of service we render within our own inner circle of family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors should ultimately exceed whatever "extracurricular" service we may provide to others in our outer circle of associates, acquaintances, and fellow citizens. 

I have done a lot of work travel in my career. In doing so, I am intrigued by how kind, courteous, and thoughtful almost all people are to me as I come-and-go as a stranger in airports, shuttle buses, hotels, etc. I sometimes wonder how kind, courteous, and thoughtful those same people are to those who are supposedly nearest and dearest to them. We humans are funny that way; we sometimes treat those we care the least about with the most courtesy, deference, and respect, while reserving the worst sides of ourselves for those we purportedly love the most! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize that that approach doesn't make any sense and is bound to make us miserable in the long run.  

No one's life is ever lived in VAIN... as long as that life renders sincere and meaningful service to others. May we all strive to serve a little bit more and a little bit better moving forward in our lives. And may we reserve our very best not for strangers we meet coming-and-going, but for those who are nearest and dearest to us within the walls of our own homes and the corridors of our own communities, schools, churches, and organizations.   

.........................

Tune in NEXT Wednesday for a BIG announcement from Freedom Focused and some fun stories on the subject of Sweet Southern Hospitality.  

And if you liked this blog post, please share it with your family, friends, colleagues, and students—and encourage them to sign up to receive future articles for FREE every Wednesday.

To sign up, just enter your email address on the upper right hand side of this page where it says: "Follow by Email." Then hit "Submit" and follow instructions from there. Doing so will provide you with a FREE article from Freedom Focused in your email inbox each and every week of the year on Wednesdays.

Click HERE to learn more about Freedom Focused

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook, Volume I

Click HERE to buy the SAL Textbook, Volume II     

Notes:

* Emily Dickinson is my maternal sixth cousin, four times removed
**As quoted by actor James Franco in his role of the Wizard of Oz in Oz the Great and Powerful (Walt Disney Films, 2013). 


 

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