The Value of Values

“Without ethical culture, there is no salvation for humanity.”

-Albert Einstein

I think that we can all agree there are a lot of things we (society as a whole). . . well. . . disagree on. These days, so many topics feel “unsafe” to talk about because they can be polarizing and controversial (politics and religion, especially). Everyone seems to have a different idea about the right way to vote, the right way to worship, what things should and should not be illegal…the list goes on. Although it can be difficult to work through differences with others, I think diversity is one of the things that makes our country so wonderful.

However, I’d like to talk about something that we can all agree on. Even when politics and religion and other controversial topics are set aside, I believe there are some common values that are (at least should be) at the foundation of our society. These are values that we as parents, educators, mentors, and coaches should be instilling within the hearts and minds of the young people we work with. These are values that make us productive employees, loving spouses, attentive parents, successful students, loyal friends, and contributing members of society.

Although this list is not exhaustive, I’d like to share a bit about some non-negotiable values that we should esteem highly, not only in our own character, but also in the young people we influence.

  • Integrity— When you are a person of integrity, you adhere to ethical character, follow through with your word and always tell the truth, no matter what.. You may not always be liked or loved, but you must always be trusted. To that end, we like to challenge people to only say neutral or positive things about someone who is not present. If everyone adhered to this, it’d literally change the world! Of all the values, I think this one is the most important.
  • Kindness—This is exemplified by the Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Who can argue with that? When we operate with kindness, we use words that encourage and uplift and actively seek out ways to help others.
  • Authenticity—Be the real you! With all the peer pressure to fit in, this one can be tough for young people. There is nothing more liberating than living freely as your true, authentic self, without the hindrance of masks or facades. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to change who you are or compromise your values to be accepted by someone or some group, they’re not worth your time. You’ll never become sustainable friends anyway.
  • Respect: This involves showing honor, regard, and consideration toward others. We’ve all been taught (or should have been!) to respect our elders and people in authority, but this applies equally to everyone we’re around. Of all of the values, I think this one is being diminished to the greatest extent, both with adults and with the younger generation. While many pay lip service to tolerance, their behavior is decidedly in
  • Personal motivation/self-discipline—Without personal motivation and self-discipline, we would never be successful at our careers (or school)! By staying committed to performing well, being reliable, and having high standards, your productivity will skyrocket and your reputation will soar. Strive to live up to the motto: on time, every time, with excellence.

How would you rate yourself on these values? Consider using this as a self-check, and take a moment to see how you’re doing in these areas. Are there areas for improvement? Remember, humility and a willingness to change and grow is an important value in and of itself.  Share this post with the young people in your life and encourage them to do the same.

If you’d like to read more about the values we consider to be of utmost importance, check out this values checklist we’ve compiled. Or, stay tuned for next week when we will share more values from our list and talk about how valuable values really are.

3 R’s for the New Year: Reflections, Resolutions, and (No) Regrets

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Looking back on 2015, do you have any regrets? Are there things you did and wish you hadn’t—or things you didn’t do and wish you had? Any relationships that are strained? Opportunities missed?

We all have regrets from time to time. However, you can minimize big ones (or avoid them altogether) if you periodically ask yourself the regret question and then actually do something about it. The new year is a great time to start, but reflecting on our regrets and resolutions is a great practice to adopt all year long.

For many people (myself included), personal reflection time is the area we sacrifice when our lives get busier. Unfortunately, when this happens, we can get out of balance, grow impatient, and often burn out. We’re not at our best. That’s why it’s so important—at New Year’s and all the year through—to take time to unwind and reflect. Frankly, it’s the only way we can go deep with ourselves—to explore how we’re doing and consider where we’d like to go. Find a place that inspires you and quiets your soul, and let your mind ponder some new growth possibilities. (If you are a person of faith, it’s a great opportunity to include prayer for discernment and wisdom.) You’ll be surprised by your renewed spirit and by the new ideas and insights that can surface during quiet times like this.

I also find there is wisdom to be gained from older people who are in a naturally more reflective stage of life. When I’ve asked some of them about their life regrets, I’ve heard things like:

  1. I didn’t spend enough time with my loved ones.
  2. I didn’t tell my family and friends that I loved them often enough.
  3. I was too stubborn or proud to admit my mistakes and apologize.
  4. I chose bitterness over reconciliation.
  5. I allowed my life to be consumed by work.
  6. I was too hesitant to take risks, try new things, and believe in myself.
  7. I wasted too much time.
  8. I didn’t appreciate the little things in life.
  9. I valued things over relationships.
  10. I worried too much.

Do any of these apply to you? Be honest! Although regrets run the gamut, did you notice that most involve relationships and priorities? This is why it’s so important that our life be balanced and our priorities right. When we see something is out of order, let’s resolve to make a mid-course correction.

After some time for reflection, ask yourself what resolutions you’d like to make for the upcoming year, especially those that might minimize regrets next New Year’s Eve. The Oxford English Dictionary describes resolutions as “(decisions) to do or to refrain from doing a specified thing from that time onwards, or to attempt to achieve a particular goal, usually during the coming year.” What have you been doing that you’d like to stop doing? What have you not been doing that you want to begin? Are there new growth opportunities or experiences on your bucket list? Then don’t stop there. Turn your resolutions into goals and your goals into executable actions. That’s living with intentionality!

This discipline of regrets, reflection, and resolution is a good one for all ages. Consider sharing it with the young people in your life. It will help you—and them—make needed changes and “relationship repairs” along the way. Wouldn’t it be great, though, to reach the end of 2016—and even to the end of life—and be able to say, “NO (or few) REGRETS?”

Image credit: Brianna Showalter
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Out with the Old, In with the New!

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A fresh year always inspires fresh dreams. Most of us think, “What are the things I could improve in my life, if I had a fresh start?” For some reason, “January 1st” symbolizes new possibilities and a chance for a “do-over.”

In what area of your life would you like a fresh start? In your parenting or other relationships? Your performance at school or on the job? How about being more financially savvy or more organized? Or, maybe yours is like mine: to take control of busyness and reserve more time to reflect. All of these are admirable aspirations—but how can we make them a reality?

Most successful people accomplish their aspirations by staring with dreams and then establishing goals and plans to help make them come true. And, they know that the most effective goals are both specific and measurable (as opposed to vague and difficult to evaluate). As you start to identify your aspirations for 2016 and beyond, it’s important to develop short-, intermediate-, and long-range goals to help get you there.

Even if you’re not naturally a goal-setter, it’s not difficult to become one.  Start by imagining what you want your life to look like. What are the large-scale goals you hope to achieve? These are your long-term or lifetime goals.  It’s important to set these first because they will shape your overall perspective and help frame your smaller and shorter-term goals. Think about such areas as:

  • Education and learning
  • Career
  • Marriage and family
  • Finances
  • Community service
  • Relationships
  • Spiritual life
  • Physical goals (sports, etc.)
  • Talents and skills
  • Travel
  • Experiences
  • Retirement

Once you’ve established your long-term goals, you can set some medium-term goals (e.g., three to five years) that will help you achieve your long-term goals.  From there, you can set one-year, six-month, and one-month goals, all of which will ultimately contribute to the larger picture. Periodically check on your long-term goals to make sure they remain high on your list. Also, monitor your progress on your medium-range goals to make sure you’re on track.

(Parents, you may want to make some parenting goals … check out our book, Parenting for the Launch, for some ideas to help you set goals and create a family mission statement.)

Finally, start making daily to-do lists, prioritized by importance and urgency. If you do, you’ll be contributing on a daily basis toward the things that will make your lifetime goals and dreams possible. Here are some guidelines as you do:

  • Phrase your goals in the positive, not the negative
  • Make them realistic goals—ones that are possible and achievable
  • Make them measurable and specific, such as “visit five continents” as opposed to “travel around the world”

What are your aspirations for 2016? Beyond that? This can be fun and lively discussion with family and friends over the holiday season. Make a plan to check back with each other next New Year’s and see who has gained the most ground in accomplishing their goals.

Leadership for a Lifetime: Passion

The year was 1973 and I was enjoying my first year of independent life as a college freshman. On the other hand, our nation was in a full-blown funk, consumed with Watergate and the Vietnam War. We needed a shot in the arm and bad. Who would have known it would come in the form of a horse?

For a quarter of a century, America had been waiting for another Triple Crown winner. Some had come close, but often the Belmont Stakes proved insurmountable. But, this year would be different. It was Secretariat’s year. The chestnut-colored thoroughbred had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness handily and in record form. But, how would he fare in the stiffest of tests?

In what remains history’s greatest horse race, Secretariat annihilated the field, running with an abandon never seen before or since. Under jockey Ron Turcotte, Secretariat smashed the record by an unthinkable two-plus seconds, winning by an unheard of 31 lengths. To this day, I consider it the greatest feat in sport. Legendary athletes were in tears as they witnessed perfection. [If you haven’t, you must watch this incredible performance (just Google “Secretariat Belmont”) or better yet, the full documentary.]

Did Secretariat have a special secret? He most assuredly was an amazing physical specimen. However, after he was euthanized at 19, the autopsy revealed that Secretariat’s heart was twice as large as normal. No wonder. His engine was like no other.

Secretariat raced with heart and with passion.

I believe passion is the special sauce of life. And, while no one exemplified this better than Secretariat, it’s not a quality only reserved for the supremely gifted. Great leaders live with passion. And, so can you.

Here’s how I describe it to young adults, facing newfound freedom and setting the stage for their lives:

  • Giving everything your best
  • Committing to continuous improvement and an insatiable appetite for learning
  • Viewing each day as an opportunity to make a difference
  • Not just attending all classes (and putting academics first), but sitting in the front row
  • Stretching yourself in new ways and “going for it!”
  • Seeking opportunities to uplift others
  • Prioritizing relationships and meeting new people
  • Viewing your time as a precious asset to be used wisely
  • Being proactive rather than reactive
  • Building your competitive edge through learning, experiences, and leadership opportunities
  • Ensuring that no other candidate in a job interview is more enthusiastic than you!
  • Always demonstrating a positive attitude and a grateful heart

My challenge to you is to unleash your “inner Secretariat” and live with passion. There’s nothing like it!

3 Ground Rules for Playing the Dating Game

Why does “The Bachelor” have such a rabid following? It’s beyond me, but it sure appeals to lots of people! Maybe it’s because people know the drama of trying to find that “special someone,” and watching someone else go through it has a kind of vicarious romantic appeal (without the heartache, of course!). Whatever the reason, it’s a big hit.

 

           

Dating can be the best of worlds and the worst of worlds, particularly for young adults. There are so many new, fun, and interesting people to meet as one’s circles expand, but it’s also a mystery because you never know what will become of the people you meet. I recall feeling like I was on an emotional roller coaster at Six Flags at that stage of life wondering if she was Mrs. Right. Yes, I, Mr. Analytic, even lost his objectivity from time to time. It never worked.

 

           

Do you (or does the teen/young adult in your life) have a random or a strategic mindset when it comes to dating?

 

 

 

Although true love can happen opportunistically (e.g., when my college sweetheart and I were successfully matched at a computer dance!), it pays to lay down some personal ground rules in your dating life.  One way is to become a “3D dater!” Seriously! Here’s what I mean by “3D”:

 

 

Be Discriminating

 

Be highly selective with your choices of dates. Sadly, so many people define their self worth by whether they’re dating someone that they “date for dating sake” and often compromise their values along the way. It always pays to be choosy by focusing on people who share similar interests, values, and goals.

 

 

 

 Be Discerning

 

Be wise when you date. Many approach dating so impulsively and emotionally that they simply don’t think clearly. Understand what you want in a relationship, like your goals and expectations, and have the courage to move on if it’s not a great fit. Also, avoid placing yourself in “high risk” situations with people you don’t completely trust.

 

 

 

Be Deliberate

 

Be patient. This is often the hardest thing to do when the infatuation is intense (or when a computer matches you!). However, if the relationship is truly meant to be, it needn’t be rushed. If you’re feeling pressured, have the strength and self respect to put on the brakes. If they’re not willing to, they’re probably not the best choice for the long term and you’re only delaying the inevitable.

 

 

By being a 3D dater, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success rather than settling for short-term, superficial gratification that’s so common today. You’re much more likely to find Mr. or Mrs. Right with fewer peaks and valleys (and heartaches) along the way!

 

                                                                       

 

As you reflect on any dating you’ve done in the past, how would you rate yourself along the 3D dimensions? If you are a parent or youth mentor, how can you communicate what you’ve learned with the young people in your life?

 

8 Ways to Find Your Purpose

“Great minds have purposes; others have wishes.”

Washington Irving

           What in the world are you doing here?  Ever asked yourself that question?

            Your life purpose is an incredibly powerful force that will direct your life and determine the legacy you will leave behind you. Find a successful person who is content and fulfilled, and you’ll likely find a life guided by an inspired purpose or mission, and a person who has applied his or her unique talents to a worthy cause.

            Knowing your life purpose—what makes you tick, what motivates you, what you are alive on earth to do—is what ignites passion.

            What makes YOU tick … and if you don’t know, how can you find out?

            Passion inspires initiative and creativity. It’s what builds momentum and creates enthusiasm. It also sustains hope and perseverance in difficult times, and provides a reason (and enthusiasm!) for getting out of bed every morning. However, it’s not always easy to identify what your particular passion is.

            Life purposes can be cause-driven (e.g., curing a disease, educating disadvantaged youth, sheltering the homeless, cleaning the planet, protecting our country) or skill-driven (e.g., athletes, artists, mathematicians, designers).

            How can you discover your life purpose(s)? Here are eight questions to ask yourself that can help you figure it out:

1.     What causes (e.g., global or community needs, people, situations, organizations) am I most passionate about?

2.     What problems would I most like to solve?

3.      What needs or people tug at my heart?

4.     What inspires me the most?

5.     What brings me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment?

6.     Whose lives would I most like to emulate and why?

7.     What are my special gifts and talents?

8.     Where can my skills have the greatest potential impact?

            Once you ponder these questions, see if a picture emerges about what inspires and motivates you. Then, as that picture solidifies into an identifiable sense of purpose, calling, and passion, start thinking about how you can live it out. Keep in mind that there may be more than one, and that it may evolve or change over your lifetime.

            Whatever you do, don’t set your life purpose on a shelf and forget about it. You are a unique individual with gifts, talents, and perspective only YOU can give to the world.  No amount of money, fame, or accomplishment can ever compete with that!

Someday, you’ll want to be able to look back on your life and say, “Mission accomplished!” What’s your mission? Are you living it out with purpose and passion? Please visit us on our website and share your comments;  we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Unleash!

There was a time I said, “No” a lot. After all, I was a busy exec with a 24-7 job and a growing family. My life spheres were narrowly focused on family, career, church, and friends. When opportunity knocked (often in the form of requests to serve), my answer was usually the same, “Thanks for asking, but I just can’t fit it in right now.”

Then, one day after a heart-to-heart with myself, I conceded that I wasn’t using all of me. I had some latent passions, but hadn’t created the capacity to pursue them. I decided I would start saying, “Yes.” To give more of me. To make room for new opportunities to serve causes and people I cared deeply about. To stretch myself with new responsibilities, even if they were outside of my comfort zone.

Ever since, my life has radically changed, with new meaning, new missions, new spheres, and new relationships with amazing people I would never have met had I kept saying, “No.” It’s been a profound change for the better.

2013 was a wonderful year for us on so many counts. Jeanne and I celebrated 31 years of marriage, graduated our youngest to pursue her dreams at a perfectly matched university, and watched our son embark on his new career and continue to serve God and others. How gratifying!

It was also a year when some of my biggest highlights were total surprises. Like co-authoring a new book, Parenting for the Launch, which wasn’t even conceived in the beginning of the year! Or, delivering my first Commencement speech—at a private school in Minneapolis! Or, shooting under par for the first time in my life! (And, not on a putt putt course!)

The New Year is a time for renewal and repurposing. For some, it’s also a time for new resolutions, although my highlights tend to be completely unpredictable at the beginning of the year. I love a good surprise, so my plans are always “written in pencil.” That way I can be attentive to (and save some room for) new opportunities for impact that come my way.

What stories do you have inside, just waiting to be told? What skills have been a little dormant and are ready for Prime Time? Who out there needs exactly what you have to offer? What passions are waiting to be pursued? What adventures are lurking if you would just make room and step outside of your comfort zone? What “Yes!” answer would have the greatest impact on others? And, you?

May 2014 be the year when you unleash you! Make it a great one.

Dennis_smaller~ Dennis Trittin

 

 

 

Focus on the Things that Matter

There sure is a lot of hustle and bustle this time year, isn’t there? Holiday shopping, holiday plans, holiday travel, holiday parties… It’s all too easy to get caught up in the activity and miss out on the things that really matter.

There will always be times in life when we feel like the rope in a tug of war, and it’s not just at Christmas. Often, when this happens, there are two formidable competitors pulling us in opposite directions. On one end are the key people in our lives with whom we have relationships. They want (and deserve) our time and attention, as well as an opportunity to grow with us. On the other end is one tough opponent—the “big three,” namely status, career, and wealth and everything that flows from that. Like most things, these are fine in moderation, but taken to an extreme (as they often are), they can destroy relationships. They can easily consume our time and energy and divert us from our priorities and core values if we’re not careful.

During the past few decades, we’ve witnessed a cultural shift toward accumulating things, rather than emphasizing in-depth relationships. You see it everywhere, especially with retailers and credit card companies that are out to get our last nickel (especially during calendar-shortened holiday seasons!). It’s found in massive consumer debt when people overspend on status-conscious items and live beyond their means. And, you see it in people consumed by their careers and in those increasingly invasive businesses demanding their employees respond to evening emails.

This holiday season, I hope you’ll remember that truly successful people recognize how important they are to others and how important others are to them. Relationships are enduring—things are not. Let’s strive to always reflect this in our priorities and in how we spend our time. We can never get back the time we didn’t spend with our loved ones. That’s a life regret we never want to bear!

Let today, this week, this holiday season, be a time of special focus and renewed commitment to the things that really matter. Merry Christmas, all!

How are you spending the bulk of your time and energy? Are you focusing enough on areas that build stronger relationships with family and friends? Or, are you allowing other things to dominate your priorities? We invite you to share your thoughts and suggestions with us commenting; we’d love to hear from you!

 

Give the Gifts that Keep on Giving

What do you want for Christmas?” It’s probably the most asked question this month. There was a time when my Christmas list was a mile long, but now it’s filled with hopes for others—especially for the young people in this world. (Truth be told, my first career desire was to be Santa.)

 It is said that the first half of one’s life is the “accumulation stage” and the second half is the “distribution stage.” During the accumulation stage, you’re in “gathering mode,” spending your efforts on life’s needs and wants. You build a career, buy and furnish a house, start a family, save for retirement, and buy lots of things along the way.  But is that all there is to life?

Then, one day, usually around 50 when, you have all the toys you need and the kids aren’t kids anymore, you become more motivated to give back. You discover that the joy of giving is greater than the joy of receiving, and your perspective changes dramatically. I’m a typical case—it happened to me around 49! That’s when my life focus shifted to helping children and young adults lay a solid leadership foundation for life.

Did you notice how the first half of life tends to be more skewed toward self and family? And, in the second half how the focus often shifts toward others? Had I known this earlier, I would have sought more balance in my accumulation stage and started my distribution stage sooner. The joy and satisfaction that comes from giving our time, talent, and treasure so outweighs the fun of accumulating that I regret not starting this process earlier.

As I write this, it’s the Christmas season. Opportunities for giving and sharing abound. But hopefully directing our lives toward others will not be a once-a-year event. By starting earlier and making it last the whole year long, we receive far more in return than we give.

Do you want your life to have more balance, your spirit to soar, to make new friends, and maximize the impact of your life—and make the world a better place in the meantime? Embrace the gift of giving of yourself this holiday season… then make it the gift that keeps on giving, into January, the New Year, and beyond.                                   

Take a few-second self-check: Where are you centering your life? How are you modeling this principle to the young people in your life? Share your insights and ideas with us; we’d love to hear from you!

 

Be Proactively Nice

Looking for a great gift idea this holiday season? I’ve got a terrific one. No, it’s not a sweater—and it won’t cost you a dime. It’s the gift of being proactively nice.

Sadly, our world is becoming more impersonal each day. We’re consumed with busy-ness.  Phones and computers seem to command our undivided attention. We text and email instead of talk to each other. People enjoying meals at local restaurants pay more attention to their phones than to each other. Busy-ness has infiltrated our manners and our demeanor—especially in places like our freeways, restaurants, and airports where patience seems a rare commodity these days.  Compliments are rare—great service is expected, so why bother rewarding service providers when they deliver it? Anything less, and out pours the wrath.  

This holiday season, I suggest we start a little “rebellion” of sorts against the impersonal status quo. Here are some things I’ve adopted, to give a glimpse of what I’m talking about:

  • I say “hi” when I pass people on my running route, regardless of whether I know them or not
  • I let a driver who has waited longer go ahead of me
  • When asked by a restaurant server how my day is, I return the question (I always get great responses to this simple gesture)
  • I go out of my way to express appreciation and gratitude
  • I smile more
  • I call rather than text (okay, not always but I try!)
  • I don’t allow the rudeness of others get to me

Clearly, none of this is profound or particularly creative. I’m sure you can come up with better ideas than I did! Nevertheless, I’m struck by the reactions of others when I do it (especially at restaurants where they’re often startled). It’s amazing how these small acts of random kindness make someone’s day a little better. You can tell it in their faces.

What a wonderful gift to offer during this busy, and hectic holiday season!

What are ways you’ve been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness? How did make you feel?  Do you have any interesting ideas to share with our online community about how we can do this for others?