This year our organization celebrates 45 years in business. These are the attributes that made it possible for us to grow, exhibited in the lives of owners, Al and Sue Boenker. I add additional attributes each week so check back in as we go along.
This weekend I hope you'll have the opportunity to celebrate the past 365 days and welcome the New Year, moreover, I hope you have time to reflect.
One of our 45 attributes of growth is SOLITUDE.
Philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662) wrote,
"All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."
Solitude permits us to focus on life, work, family, friends, self and God without distraction. If these are things we care about and we want to improve upon, then we must have solitude: time to think, read, meditate, and pray.
Our lives today are filled with noise.
"Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone. Though I shouldn't say taking away. We are doing this to ourselves; we are discarding these riches as fast as we can," writes author William Deresciewicz, "The End of Solitude".
John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis has stated we may be the first culture to entertain ourselves to death. We have the ability to distract ourselves every minute of every day to the point we lose touch with what is important or reality itself.
In 2017, be intentional about solitude. There should be a moment each day when you turn off the noise and are alone. Use this time to read, pray, wrestle with yourself, talk out an issue, or just be quiet. As the French Philosopher Albert Camus wrote,
"In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion."
We all prefer the company of enthusiastic people. They bring up our spirits, encourage us to press on, and generally give us a greater sense of purpose.
Enthusiastic people are positive, optimistic, and joyful. In addition, they show commitment to others and their craft.
The Apostle Paul in 77 AD wrote, “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart.” In essence, if you chose to do something, go at it whole-heartedly - enthusiastically.
If you want to grow, knowledge and time are key elements, but enthusiasm can take you across the finish line. Exhibiting enthusiasm will excite others and gain their help in achieving shared and individual goals.
I’ve seen successful business people, celebrities, and politicians that want to spend time with our chairman Al Boenker. The main reason - his enthusiasm is contagious.
If you lived in 350 BC, 70 AD, or 1200 AD the discussion of self and the attitude toward others was always a part of philosophical debate. How others are treaty is exhibited differently from the views of Stoics, religions, Humanism, modern and post-modern philosophy.
Putting the needs of others before one’s self was not a cultural practice until Christianity began to spread in 70 AD.
The Declaration of Independence, Rights of Man, the Civil Rights Movement were powerful in changing how we responded to others because they were built on absolutes, a defined truth about the value of others.
Selflessness begins with always considering how your actions will affect another. I would argue it is an absolute truth to value another person above yourself.
This attitude in our office and lives will not diminish our value or purpose, but will ensure that there are others alongside to celebrate successes and carry us through difficult times.
American Idol, X-Factor and America’s Got Talent are full of contestants that are “shocked” they did not go to the next round. All of us watching are fully aware they did not have the talent to proceed as a singer, but somehow they are clueless to their lack of tone.
Many children grow up hearing, “you can be anything you want to be!” This is simply not true. What is true, is we may discover our unique talents and can use them in incredible ways.
Life demands our flexibility. We need to understand where our ability or knowledge may be limited, then decide how we may gain the learning or practice needed to progress.
Closed doors do not limit us, a lack of flexibility, or unwillingness to change will limit us.
adapting successfully to changing situations & environments
Keeping calm in the face of difficulties
Planning ahead, but having alternative options in case things go wrong
Thinking quickly to respond to sudden changes in circumstances
Persisting in the face of unexpected difficulties
Anticipating & responding positively to changing environments
Ability to adapt to change positively in response to changing circumstances
Taking on new challenges at short notice.
Dealing with changing priorities/workloads
Always move forward while remaining flexible and opportunity may abound.
Al Boenker has stated quite frequently as we waited on individuals for meetings,
“If you’re not early, you’re late!”
Author Oscar Wilde said of this virtue, “Punctuality is the thief of time.” Wilde was wrong.
Punctuality offers a glimpse into how individuals live out all aspects of their life and their attitudes toward others. What is always true, failing to be punctual shows disrespect to those waiting. As the old proverb warns,
“People count the faults of those who keep them waiting.”
Punctuality is an act of respect and a show of interest. It honors those you are meeting with or serve. At the BGOC we do weigh and measure a person’s punctuality before ever considering offering further training and opportunity – it is an attribute we admire.
“Better three hours to soon than a minute too late.”
- William Shakespeare
There was a fantastic book written over 2,000 years ago by Macus Tulluis Cicero called “The Treatise on Friendship and Old Age”. Cicero offers instruction as applicable today about how to choose friends wisely and the tenants to gracefully growing older.
In his Treatise on Old Age Cicero refers to moderation numerous times as a key to a long and balanced life.
“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.” - Cicero
Since then dawn of humankind we have known that moderation is the key to good physical health. We have to be moderate in our activities as the body requires rest and we must be moderate in our diet or the body begins to fail.
Moderation is important to more than just our health but to all aspects of our life. We must moderate the relationships in our life in order to meet the needs of many. We must be moderate in our finances in order to use them wisely over a longer period of time.
More of anything is the answer society gives us for our restlessness, our boredom, our anxiousness, and our unhappiness. More of anything is sold to us as the cure for everything. Yet, paradoxically, the more stimulation we receive, the less joy and enjoyment we get out of it. The key to greater fulfillment and pleasure is actually moderation; to cultivate the virtue of moderation by seeking greater enjoyment and pleasure in things you are already doing and have now.
Two quote two more ancients:
“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” - Epicurus
“Throw moderation to the winds, and the greatest pleasures bring the greatest pains.” – Democritus
War metaphors are not used much anymore because many within Gen X (my generation), Millennials, and Gen Z have no true understanding of the cost associated with defending a way of life or protecting a country, but the cost is real, difficult and will continue.
The survival of a country, a company, or a family demands defenders. Someone who will loyally support the unit at the greatest cost for the right reason.
Every organization needs soldiers. Individuals who are committed to the ideology and people of the company.
If you are a soldier for a company you:
reflect and protect the company reputation.
believe the best not the worst of the organization and its people when criticism arises
seek all relative information, present the truth in defense of your company or if an error has occurred confess failure with a commitment to change
serve and protect every individual in the organization and perform at a level worthy of their respect
identify enemies without and within and take efforts to protect all others.
Soldiering requires knowledge, wisdom, loyalty and presence. A team of committed soldiers can, and have changed history.
Discernment is simply the ability to know true from false, but it is not a simple skill to develop. If you have a desire to be a leader it is an attribute you must hone.
Whether it is situations, or people, discernment must be applied to ensure the next step taken is the best option, or that a person is trustworthy for a relationship or task.
The Book of Proverbs says, “My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion.”
“…do not let wisdom and understanding out of your site..”
This is an action statement. Wisdom is knowledge gained through study and experience. If you wish to improve your discernment it requires a learning and attentive mind. This means that only with effort and time can you improve your ability to discern.
“…preserve sound judgment and discretion…”
This is a commitment to a way of life, to lifelong learning and upright behavior.
With time and study, you will be able to identify true and false more quickly. Your mind will recall relative data from your study and experiences with which to assess a situation. What you see and hear will help you identify trustworthy individuals.
Learn your craft well, and learn about the behavior of others, and then you will improve your discernment and decision making.
Unfortunately you never had a business course on forgiveness, however, it is one of the most important attributes to a successful life in and outside of business.
Everyone makes mistakes, intentional and unintentional, that need your forgiveness. If you work closely with others at some point in time they will disappoint you, fail you, or offend you. A relationship is not solidified until it has overcome adversity and overcoming adversity requires forgiveness.
I am not suggesting an acceptance of a continuation of unacceptable behavior or poor performance in the work place, but a willingness to forgive and allow correction and reconciliation.
A willingness to forgive also comes in tandem with a willingness to confess. Since we all err, we will have moments we owe direct and sincere apologies with an effort to change. If you perceive you are owed an apology in most situations you encounter, you are the problem. Forgiveness requires humility and self-examination.
No relationship will ever survive without forgiveness. Provide some latitude for mistakes, forgive quickly, offer a road to reconciliation, and move forward.
There are times to speak and times to remain silent and the choice can make or break a relationship, a career, a business, or a government. We must all choose the timing of our words and actions wisely, or recognize a poor moment to say anything at all.
To remain tactful we must be mindful of our audience and the personality or personalities present. We must have a historic understanding of how people in general respond to certain statements, but moreover, an understanding of the unique individuals we are addressing.
Business success requires savoir faire.
Interactions with clients, peers, vendors, regulators and others requires intentional thought about your actions, appearance, body language, and words. You must be tactful in order to influence.
Before a meeting or correspondence know what reaction you wish to solicit: agreement, concern, compliance, astonishment, forgiveness, etc. and use your appearance, posture, words or lack thereof, to achieve the result you seek.
“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”
― Benjamin Franklin
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Simply put, excellence is making right choices routinely.
Excellence is a commitment to do well. In order to aim for excellence then we must know what it means to do well, or to do rightly.
To do well is to create or maintain that which is beneficial and in service to others.
We do well to review a claim in detail and ensure we have offered what is right to indemnify. We do rightly to ensure our data is correct before presenting an option for the orgsnization. We do well to ensure a customer fully understands the information we delivered. We do well to create a comfortabke and enthusiast environment for our coworkers and across departments.
An aim and a practice of excellence should be applied to all of our actions and duties in a day.
Many times if we leave disappointed it is because we are aware of our lack of aim for excellence with what the day presented to us.
Life is full of uncertain and sometimes fearful moments. Courage is the ability to do something that frightens you. The strength to face pain or grief.
For most people, the toughest moments in life have yet to arrive. The question is: are you prepared to face them?
To face life with courage you must first have a positive view of life. This requires you to build and have a positive attitude so that you may manage fearful moments and look for resolution, manage change, or let go.
To face life with courage you must help others be courageous. If you are not investing in others, supporting others in their crisis, and bringing joy to others, you might not have the support you need when your moment comes. Difficulty is easier to face when you lock arms with friends and family.
To face life with courage you must have a defined world view. If you have not answered the big questions in life: Why am I Here? Where did I come from? What is my purpose? Why do I matter? Why do others matter? Where am I going? If you do not have the answer to these questions you will find adversity much more difficult because the answers to these questions help identify and understand what you fear.
“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” – Victor Hugo
If you are called idealistic today, it is generally with a negative connotation that you have a vision of how things should be with a lack of reference or experience or that you hold to something unreachable. We must rescue the term.
An idealist is different than a dreamer, an idealist is someone who envisions greater things and then works to make it happen. “Sustained action.“
Ideas affect how people live. Idealist take a vision and apply it to daily living.
“When you study enough examples, you will find that the most successful idealists are not only masters of their crafts but masters of themselves as well. They not only have the vision but also the will to overcome all obstacles. If they find they lack a certain skill, they learn it. If they need to win over certain people in order to move forward, they do it. They never quit until they have achieved their goal. And if they achieve their original goal, they are disciplined enough to set new ones.”
If your ideas fit into reality, reason, and are virtuous, then hold to them and evangelism them. The world needs great idealist.
After Christmas or birthdays my mother would be all over me about writing thank you notes. As I grew older, I discovered the value in these short notes for others and myself.
First, it made me stop for a moment and reflect. I reflected on the fact that someone cared enough to give me something or do something for me and I reflected on the relationship with the person. Second, people shared with me on occasion how few times they heard from someone and they were grateful just to have been thanked.
Gratitude should be given out of honor and out of sincere thankfulness. But, there is a truth to gratitude that is also self-facing. One of the sayings I shared with my kids when I too pushed them to write thank you notes was this, “Gratitude gets you latitude.” A thankful person is often given more freedom and opportunity.
Thankfulness is a sign of the condition of the heart. A thankful heart is more trustworthy and less prideful. The worst character is a person who believes themselves to be owed something. There is little grace offered to the ungrateful.
Be thankful and articulate it to others with frequency.
“It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich!” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer
There may not have been an American Revolution if not for the writings of Thomas Paine. His pamphlet “Common Sense” written in 1775 was widely distributed throughout the colonies, read at taverns and at home to families. His words gave purpose for the revolution and united people from different colonies to a goal for which they were willing to lay down their lives. The colonies became united.
You’ve heard, “a house divided falls”. A company divided falls as well.
Unity brought growth to our organization over 45 years. There were numerous individuals over that period of time pushing against unity, but because the majority was unified in purpose we persevered.
Unified in doing excellent work, serving the needs of insurance consumers, serving each other, providing for our families, and living life together well.
An organization will fail, or leave people miserable, which permits self-aggrandizement, dividing personalities, or poor quality work as these traits create division.
A unified team doesn’t mean everyone is the same, quite the opposite, as multiple skills, personalities, experiences and backgrounds only make you stronger. It means the organization is united in goals and purpose.
If you are here to provide for your family, learn, and serve others then you are united in our purpose. A family owned company, providing opportunity for families, as we all serve families with our talents. Let’s continue to pursue this together.
“Not in numbers but in unity that our great strength lies. “
CAREFUL USE OF TIME
When I was 26 I had a mentor that asked me what I was reading. I shared that we just had a baby and there was no time in my life for reading. He responded with something I have never forgotten, “You’ll always make time for what you consider important.”
We all have some many people and things demanding our time, so we must make careful use of this limited gift.
Much of what seeks to steal your time is useless. I’ll let you create your list of time killers so I don’t step on too many toes.
To use your time wisely you must live intentionally. You have planned your day with some room for flexibility. You know you need rest to enjoy a day and perform so you make time for rest. You know you have limited time at the office so you use it to accomplish goals. You know you want to spend time with those you love so you make yourself available. You know you want to improve so you make time for learning.
Schedule a date night each week with your spouse and invest time in growing the relationship. Plan a hike with your kids so you can have intentional conversations. Plan your first task tomorrow in the office at the end of today so you know you’re using your time wisely at the start of the next. Plan time to be alone and read and meditate so you have time to contemplate how you are spending your time.
Managing time is no easy task. Again, YOU MUST BE INTENTIONAL. Just letting life happen to you is a waste of time.
With each passing nanosecond you are running out of time. Be wise.
“You may delay, but time will not.” ― Benjamin Franklin
Most philosophers believe that, other things being equal, simpler theories are better.
A meek Catholic Franciscan monk from the 13th century in England made the world for centuries consider simplicity. William of Ockham proposed: “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.“
Modern science, philosophy, math and theology were birthed from quiet monks throughout Europe from 1200 – 1350 AD including Ockham, Aquinas, Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon. William would ask us to look at what is obvious and employ our common sense in discernment, but I think we can use this idea in our daily actions as well.
As you perform your job, or live your life it is important to look for straight lines to results. I would ask you to consider how do you accomplish the task correctly and rightly, but also quickly.
Look to simplify in daily life. Humans are complicated, but if you are in conflict a simple conversation may determine what needs to be addressed. Software assists us in our work, but you should inform of steps that could be eliminated to save even more time. Sales generating channels may vary, but the most attention should be given to the one that produces the most.
Reason, review and prayer help us understand and simplify what is going on around us in a complicated world. We must use these to understand and know what is happening around us and why, and how to respond. And the best way is usually to keep it simple.
“Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy” ― Isaac Newton
All of us know someone who overcame difficulty. We know individuals who have fought cancer and lived. We know people who lost everything, yet recovered. And we now folks who after much work and setbacks accomplished career goals. What did they all have in common…they persevered.
Before you consider how to apply perseverance it important to know your goals. Many people spend a life pursing at all costs goals that are not virtuous or fail to note in their lives what needs attention.
If you have a vision that you want to make a reality, then you will need perseverance. Life and others always throw up obstacles but those who persevere build great things and legacies.
Life always brings us the unexpected: illness, loss, and danger to name a few. We must be prepared to be dealt a “bad card” and show others how to play it. This is where an attitude of perseverance can serve others and us.
There is “bound to come some trouble in this life.” Perseverance is a choice of the heart and will. People need to see overcomers.
England was in a frightening position during WWII. Divided from the conflict in Europe by only a channel, the war came to their front steps and costs the lives of countless women and men. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was communicating a spirit of perseverance to the people of England. One of his famous quotes says it all whether it is chasing a dream, or battling and illness:
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Winston Churchill
SLOW TO ANGER
We now live in a culture of offense. People are offended by statues of people on college campuses, a rock carved into the Ten Commandments, or the words of a stranger not even speaking to them. An offended society has the ability to re-write the past and not prepare future generations for reality,
The truth is, as Dr. Phil says all the time, “Just get over it and move on.”
In relationships with friends, family or peers there are moments where they will upset you because of their disagreement, response or actions. Offense is a term that should be avoided. You may be upset, but your response should seldom be like kind.
There is a time for anger, but you have to take a moment to decide if an immediate reaction is necessary, or if patience is required.
Remember in any disagreement or poor response you are looking to resolve the situation, eliminate the confusion, or retain a good relationship.
So when you feel anger building, pause and ask yourself: Am I overreacting? Is the other party’s response understandable? What is the appropriate response? If I pursue this now will it escalate? How can I come back to this at a later time?
Over time, you’ll be able to respond intuitively, but if you are quick to anger, as has been an issue for me, you have to walk through the process.
Again, there is a time to be angry. You can use anger constructively and there are times people need to know their actions made you angry, but if you are quick to anger frequently, the problem is you.
It’s simple; always tell the truth, no matter how ugly, horrible, or concern of consequences, always tell the truth.
“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” ― Mark Twain
An organization can be destroyed by lies. If a staffer or staff covers up mistakes, doesn’t confess failures, or hides problems, a whole company can fail.
Failing to report mistakes, concerns, or respond directly to questions are all lies.
Truthfulness with each other and leadership can save an organization, and it certainly makes it a better company.
If you make a mistake or fail at a task, confess quickly, many times there is grace to those who are forthright.
Don’t build your life concerned about consequences; build it around goodness and rightness. This is a better way to live. Peers prefer a transparent person. We all mistakes, it’s how you respond to them that people measure.
Truth drives reality. We are depending on your full disclosure, your directness, and your concern for what is good and right, not what makes us look best.
“Honesty is such a lonely word. But mostly what I need from you” – Billy Joel
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Hope is centric to being able to move in the morning. No the world is not perfect. Yes, you can make it better.
Hope is a position from which you work. You have no idea what tomorrow brings, so move forward hopefully.
You can work at hope
Look for a clear path. Research and meditate
Look for roles models that have realized that for which they hoped. Millions of people have overcome adversity
Take action today. Do what you can. Act rightly
Serve others – help them in their hopes
Hope and pray
Hopelessness leads to despair and despair leads to inaction and inaction leads to status quo.
Work from a position of hope.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame.” – The Apostle Paul
One of the statements I make to new staff in claims is, “we must treat everyone with dignity.”
Managing claims is tough, because people can be difficult. There are those that after a loss don’t understand the process and become frustrated with us, there are sometimes mean spirited individuals, and there may be fraudulent individuals. However, most people were simply involved in an accident they weren’t anticipating and need our help. No matter how someone may treat us, negatively or aggressively, we are to take the high road of human dignity.
In every human engagement we must offer dignity to others. This means to respect and to honor them. It does not mean you should just agree with them, or accept poor behavior or choices, but it does mean you must acknowledge their nobility.
If you want to know if a friend or colleague cares about the dignity of others, watch how they treat wait staff in a restaurant.
Nobility must be derived from something, so what makes every person deserving of respect?
Let me offer a few sources that I believe work together to make this true. You may not accept them all, but you can find at least one source to pull from if you do not agree with all my sources.
First, I believe that God created women and men. He set life in motion, and defined us as “fearfully and wonderfully made.” If you are a person of faith, this should be enough to begin your engagement with others from a position of dignity.
Second, in the Rights of Man to the Declaration of Independence, it is stated that all men are created equal. If we accept this radical statement as it is written, dignity to all others is the law of the land. Understand that equality is a new idea in the history of the world. It took far too long for this truth to become accepted.
Third, reality speaks to our equality. In all the world, in all the different faces I’ve seen, in all the conversations I’ve had, in all the hugs I’ve shared, I have learned that life is better when you operate from the view - all others are more important than me and should be honored as such.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from Al was the power of “No.”
We must be careful what we agree to, or what burdens we accept.
We live in a culture that constantly reminds us of what we don’t have and why we need it. From TV to the internet we are hit with thousands of commercial messages every day. Beautifully Photo-shopped people tell us how much better our lives would be if we just had…X. We must keep our materialism in check by saying “No” more than yes. Yes, to all your wants means yes to a world of debt and sometimes onerous responsibilities.
“No” can also be applied to managing our time. From work, home, church, and community there is always someone asking for your time. We must learn to say “No” if our time is stretched. When our kids were young I permitted one sport or activity outside of school. They had several other activities they wanted to add and we said “no”. This meant less stress in our house, more time for schoolwork and more time together as a family. Saying “no” to excessive time demands means you are saying yes to what is most important to you and balancing relationships.
When making a purchase, always be willing to say “No.” If a salesperson knows you just must have it, you will pay more. If you are willing to say no you may discover what you want for less, or under a better circumstance.
Know the power of your No
“Where there is no vision the people will perish.” – Famous Proverb
If you do not know where you want to go in life, you are going nowhere.
If you have not defined a vision for how you want your life to be, you are subject fully to your circumstances. Your decision making will be reactionary instead of visionary.
You should stop everything you are doing this evening and write down a vision for your life if you have not already. These are some questions you may ask yourself, and then formulate your vision.
What are my core values I want to ensure I live out?
What do I want said about me at my funeral?
What are the most important values I want to instill in my children?
Where should my time be spent and why?
What do I want to learn?
What do I think Is impossible for me that I could work on today?
What do I get excited about?
What do I want my marriage to look like?
What talents have others told me I have?
What talents do I want to enhance?
What can identify as true and real?
These questions will help you find what is most important to you and help you build a vision for you and your family. Remember, as you get older visions change because you change.
Shoot for your vision and bend it with your growing wisdom.