“Never try to be better than anyone else …but always try to be the best you can be.”
This was the fatherly advice given to the legendary college basketball coach John Wooden, who passed away on June 4 at the age of 99 years. The great thing about John Wooden is that he was revered more for the man he was then for being college’s best basketball coach ever. And while his fame can be attributed to the remarkable championship run coaching the UCLA Bruins hoop team, my belief is that Wooden would have stood above the crowd regardless of the size of his platform. Much has been written about Coach Wooden and I encourage you spending some time to get to know more about his character. Please see the links below and much more that’s available on the web. I really enjoyed the audio interview conducted by Anthony Robbins, called Power Talk. While talking to Robbins, Coach Wooden emphatically notes that from very early in life, he learned to focus on what he could control; his own behavior. By doing this, Coach looked at every minute of every day as an opportunity to contribute and did not waste time concerning himself with what he could not control. This is core to self accountability. But with Wooden one could also easily expound on his living and breathing respect and abundance too. He was truly a man with character and another member of the Character Hall of Fame.
John Wooden’s Love Letter; Rick Reilly, December 7, 2009
Coach Wooden’s last lesson is one of simple devotion, Bill Plaschke, LA Times, June 4, 2010
As the CEO of a company I look around for examples of team members applying the Character Triangle everyday. Sometimes the examples are small, sometimes GIANT.
Yesterday a team member voluntarily washed a car for fellow worker who has been out of town for a month. It was just a small gesture of caring; of being kind and generous of spirit. In a story from The Times in England, neighbors packed and moved a family stranded in Florida because of the volcanic ash cloud.
Recently, I learned more about Rishi Nair, the 8-year-old son of one of our team members. A week ago Rishi appeared on The Today Show. Rishi was born without functioning kidneys. Instead of choosing the path of being a victim, Rishi and his family decided on the path of becoming a super hero and a “peaceful warrior.” Why not!?
He’s now a member of the “Character Hall of Fame.” If you have a Character Hall of Fame nominee, please let us know who, why, and how they apply the Character Triangle.
Is it possible to be “kind” in today’s world? Won’t you get eaten up and spit out if not swallowed whole? Somebody posed this question the other day and its worth reflecting on. My contention is that being kind is part of the value of Respect; one of the key elements of the Character Triangle. So does being kind mean being weak? Absolutely not.
Being kind is actually a state of strength. It usually means you are present; aware of your surroundings. You can see and sense how to interact in a kind and polite way. But being nice doesn’t mean being a pushover – on the contrary. You can disagree and even point out inappropriate behavior in a direct and tough-minded way. The key is to focus on the behavior and not to imply or state a negative view of the person as an individual. Calling you a jerk doesn’t help when you cut me off in traffic. You likely didn’t even know you did or you had some other situation distract you. But once I call you a jerk and you flip me off, well things get personal.
If someone raises their voice in anger at you, you are within your rights to firmly state that this behavior is not acceptable. If this person wants to have a constructive dialogue with you they can be angry and they can be tough, but they can still be kind. The action of being kind usually disappears when one treats others in a way that attacks or ignores their sense of being. When actions toward others are rude, insensitive and /or oblivious; it is not kind. Nor is it in my opinion, necessary. Nice guys do win and in my opinion, in order to do so they have to be the toughest and strongest people of all.
My historical observation is that those people considered unkind are also least successful in the long run. They are often the most fearful and insecure. They make others feel bad to momentarily feel better. Who do you like to spend time with and work with? Kind people.
Be respectful. Be kind. Be tough.
I’m reading Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent into Madness in Iraq, by Jim Frederick. In this case, members of an American Army platoon, after a devastating unraveling of events, murdered and raped an innocent Iraqi family of four. The entire book is about Character. As you read it the Character Triangle lessons seep through every page. Black Hearts is about the most serious decay of character; when the moral compass is lost in every way. Throughout the book Frederick points out the confusion between accountability and blame at every level.
Even if you haven’t read the book…listen to the following quote from Sergeant John Diem after a blaming session between brass and troops, as captured by Frederick… “If Colonel Kunk got up and said, “I *****d too. I have allowed you guys to turn into monsters. And I have completely forsaken you when you needed the support that only I had the power to provide. But I lacked the Character to do it. All of you failed. Me, and we as a family, as a 1st Battalion, Bravo Company, 1st Platoon, all the way down the line, have failed, …but nobody’s got the grit to say that. Everybody wants to say, “But it wasn’t my fault.””