Be a Bridge

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This past week while on campus at Benedictine University to teach my usual Business Law course, I noticed a huge gray wall constructed in the middle of the hallway in the Kindlon building where class is being held. It caught my attention because it is a recent addition to the décor: one not there even the week before. While many words were inscribed on this wall, four in particular stood out – Build Bridges not Walls. The wall and those four little words, prominently displayed, nearly stopped me in my tracks leaving me to ponder – how could I possibly share the significance of the imagery now embedded in my mind. Here I was minding my own business on my way to teach a class when I glanced at this wall and found inspiration staring back. With so much racing around in my head, I could hardly make it home from class fast enough to jot down the thoughts that had been occupying my mind the entire evening. I knew then as I know now this topic is ripe for discussion.

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For certain the inscription got me to thinking not only about how I live my life, but also about the real impact of those four little words on how we all choose to live our lives. Do walls of indifference and separation surround us, or are we drawn together by a bridge built to overcome difference and divide? Quite frankly, this prompted me to recall a line from my first book on leadership – “you must get out of the boat in order to walk on water and move from the side of the road to build a bridge.” It was a line I had penned to encourage and inspire others toward the value in leadership as sacrifice. What I meant was in order to achieve something of significant proportion we must contribute something of import to the lives of others.

This momentary experience had taken me to a contemplative place connected to the transformational significance of bridge building to overcome the divide between people, places and things. Indeed this four-word phrase, captured on a wall for the general consumption of college students – and apparently all who visit campus, – had and has the power to bring about change in the world in which we live transforming it for the better and for all. But words alone are powerless to transform. It takes people to drive transformation. And I was left with this one pregnant question that perhaps you too are inspired to raise with self – what am I doing to build a bridge or better “be a bridge?” What am I doing to be a bridge to people who do not think like me, look like me, act like me, respond like me, or even have the privilege of living like me, but who are people nonetheless? What good have I sown into the lives of others causing me to reap a harvest in kind? What will I do tomorrow on behalf of an-other different than what I did today?

As I turn the page to close this blog, I am reminded of a physical bridge of significant US history located in Selma, Alabama. This weekend thousands of Americans from across the country have gathered to commemorate “Bloody Sunday,” a 1965 march for voting rights, wherein marchers attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and were beaten and tear gassed at the foot of the bridge never to make it across that day. It is no coincidence that just at the time I am writing this blog people are gathering at this bridge once again, as we still have a ways to go as a nation and for that matter as a world. The importance of a bridge is tied to its symbolism as a structure that overcomes barriers and facilitates safe passage over an obstacle. Thus, one important factor for real transformation is that more of us become bridge builders to help others not only survive, but more importantly thrive. What good have you done today? For whom have you built or become a bridge? If you find you are dissatisfied with your current answer, tomorrow is yet another day!

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Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey – Dr. G

Book Quotes taken from Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line with permision.

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

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Just Say No!

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The popular three-line statement after which this Blog is named was born out of former first lady Nancy Reagan’s passion for discouraging children from experimenting with drugs. Since then, however, “Just Say No” has taken on considerable popularity in an untold number of venues. From credit cards to relationships to the foods we eat, “Just Say No” is a household term that has gained and maintained significant notoriety around the power and importance of saying no. Just googling this simple phrase led me to a website of the same name that is self-described as the “No Community across social platforms.” In short, wherever you find strung together these three one syllable words they are meant to encourage you to say no – where and when appropriate for you.

In reality, however, it is not as easy as it sounds. As I look around the world, I…

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Just Say No!

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The popular three-line statement after which this Blog is named was born out of former first lady Nancy Reagan’s passion for discouraging children from experimenting with drugs. Since then, however, “Just Say No” has taken on considerable popularity in an untold number of venues. From credit cards to relationships to the foods we eat, “Just Say No” is a household term that has gained and maintained significant notoriety around the power and importance of saying no. Just googling this simple phrase led me to a website of the same name that is self-described as the “No Community across social platforms.” In short, wherever you find strung together these three one syllable words they are meant to encourage you to say no – where and when appropriate for you.

In reality, however, it is not as easy as it sounds. As I look around the world, I am constantly baffled at how difficult it is for some (including me at times) to say no while others find NO something they deliver with ease. I was reminded of this fact during a conversation with a friend this week wherein she said, “I am amazed at how it is so easy for me to say No to me and yet so difficult to say No to others.” Of course, her statement got me to thinking about the reality of how difficult it is for many to say no – even when it is in their best interest to do so. Whether it is saying no to a family member, friend, employer or client; an organization whose cause we love, or a solicitor who sends an email promising the world in exchange for little or nothing, saying no is a healthy essential in life that allows us to maintain balance and boundaries. It is often said – saying no is easier for men than women; but I dare not tackle that subject in this short blog. My goal is to encourage ALL of us around the growth that is achieved when we learn to give and receive the necessary – No.

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This thought provoking conversation with my friend prompted me to think about how the inability to say no is often associated with an “addiction.” And here I use the term loosely as I am aware the word addicted has its own set of issues and can trigger all types of responses. But hear me out before you hit close and stop reading. I suggest it is possible many have trouble saying no because perhaps we have become a world that is addicted to saying yes. While addicted often points to substance abuse, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary and other sources I referenced, addiction is “to devote or surrender to something habitually,” or as another source recorded – “enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.” The truth is, we find it difficult to say no for a variety of reasons including guilt, pressure from others, co-dependency (a term used by my psychologist friends), threats both perceived and real, and of course our habitual “friend” – fear. And fear, I argue is what keeps us addicted to saying yes. That is, we are often afraid of the outcome if we do not say yes.

But consider the following: In life, we must find balance where we are able to say no to some things so that we can partake in self-care, self-development, and yes self-actualization. If you always say yes to everyone else and what everyone else needs, it is almost a surety you are saying no to yourself on matters that really matter and particularly matters that make you better for achieving what you were born to accomplish. So today, I encourage you to learn the art of saying No, as it is often in the best interest of not only you, but also the person to which you are struggling to say no. If it is a “thing” to which you cannot say no like too much stress or eating too much of the wrong things, you would be surprised the sense of freedom you feel after just the first time of saying No.

So I offer you this “Call to Action.” In the upcoming week, take courage to confront fear by saying No to something you have struggled to say No to and experience a new sense of freedom. Take that newly found freedom and allow it to help you begin to establish healthy boundaries for when you say yes and when it is absolutely OK (in your best interest) to “Just Say No.”

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Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey – Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Kindness Bears Fruit

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During a recent dining experience, I was favored to share a conversation with the Chef/Owner.  I will never forget how he looked me in the face and with all sincerity said, “Kindness alone saved me.”  Needless to say I was so impacted by his statement that I scrambled for a pen to capture this small but profound account of his life.  In just that moment, he had gained my undivided attention, and I wanted more.  His statement moved me so much so that I repeated it and knew immediately it was “ripe” for my upcoming Weekly Wisdom blog post.  He went on to explain how Kindness was the one thing in life that had permeated him to the very depths of his being.  It was kindness that had led him to change and lead a more simple life.  Kindness had inspired him to both eat and live healthier.  Kindness had led him to a greater spiritual existence, and kindness dictated the manner in which he would live out the remainder of his earthly existence.  Wow – there was so much packed into this small but life-altering testimony.  I could hardly wait for time with pen and paper and the opportunity to inspire others with what I had heard this night.  This small town Chicago suburban “restaurateur” had not only served me great food, but also great lessons for life. So, here it is…

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The experience that evening was so powerful it drove me to my dictionary for a closer look.  Classified as a noun, kindness was defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.  In reality, this definition did not come close to capturing the depth of what kindness had clearly accomplished in this man’s life and truth to tell in my life either.  It left a void.  So I turned to the Greek Dictionary where indeed I found my answer.  Translated from Greek, kindness equates to moral excellence suggesting if real in your life kindness will permeate your very existence.  And moral excellence is intentionally setting higher the bar for the manner in which you will live and setting it higher than your comfort zone allowing you to continually stretch toward what is good, just and right as you encounter others.

As I learned from this restaurant owner, kindness is not a matter of how you are served at a restaurant or even that you are served with a smile.  Kindness is a fruit that when properly nurtured, cared for, and pruned, like a healthy fruit tree, can bear life-giving, life-inspiring, and life-transforming fruit.  When kindness exists as fruit in your life, it becomes a part of who you are not just what you do. Kindness is not a box that you can – without more – check completed.  It is more than please and thank you, or being polite when circumstances dictate; more than benevolence, or even philanthropic pursuits.  It is more than patting yourself on the back for lending someone a helping hand.  Kindness is an attitude, belief, and core value.  It is character and integrity.  It is humility and humanity.  Kindness is a difference-maker!  And it reminds me of a quote from my book on leadership that really applies to us all, “Leadership is not advanced by the number of people you encounter; rather, its power is in the depth of the transaction.”  Where do you measure on the making a difference meter?

My hope for you after having read this blog is that you will never be able to view kindness in the same manner and that it will move you to thought AND action. Kindness is a moral imperative for life that reaches capacity within when you so impact the lives of others that they will never be the same as a result of having had an encounter with you.

Quote borrowed from Leadership DASH Breaking Through the Finish Line.

williams_geneace09_v3   Until next week, Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Faith Over Fear

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While attending a Leadership Conference last week, I heard the word fear far more times than I care to remember.   As with all recurring themes, however, it left me thinking “it must be a topic ripe for this week’s discussion.”  I walked away pondering – What is Fear really, and why are we all so afraid anyway?

Fear, I have gathered, is a negative emotion brought on by the threat of imminent danger.  In life, there is fear of people, places or things, broken relationships and what someone else might think; fear of circumstances, change, and, yes, fear of the unknown to name a few.  We tend to fear anything we perceive as a threat, and it appears it is largely connected to what we do not know or, better, understand.

Not being a psychologist, psychiatrist, or even psychotherapist, I do not pretend to be an expert on fear.  Nevertheless, a few things seem clear.  Fear is a matter of perception, and as I have heard most of my life – perception is reality.  Fear traps you in your own body and prevents you from discovering who you really are and the true meaning of life.  Fear strips you of hope and leaves you in despair.  Fear robs you of courage and spiritual victory.  Left unchallenged, it keeps you bound and prevents you from reaching your very destiny.  The fact is, wherever we allow fear a foothold, it will set up residence and stay as long as welcomed.   Make no mistake; fear is not a friend!  Fear causes you to overreact, lash out, and worry about things over which you have little to no control.  Truth told, some of us have feared for so long that we can no longer recognize its behaviors for what they are or amount to – FEAR!

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But if you no longer want fear to stymy you, perhaps you have stumbled across just the right post to help you turn your life’s page from fear to a more powerful force.  For in reality, stripped of its perceived power fear CAN be defeated.  You have the power to change your perception and correspondingly your reality.  Yet there is only one thing I know powerful enough to defeat fear.  That one thing is faith, and it starts with you not the paralysis that has stopped you in your tracks.

Instead, make up your mind you will work toward fearless.  That is – you will fear-LESS.  However, before you can master fear-less, you will have to decide to become more faithful.  What I mean is – faith-full.  You must fill your life’s cup full with faith – believing that what you cannot currently see or touch can and will become reality.  Even so, you must remember – Faith without works is dead.  To arrest fear and allow faith to lead, you must take ACTION daily.  You must become faithful in telling fear no.  And when fear says no, say yes.  Change your attitude from negative to positive.  When you don’t feel like doing something you know you should do, do it anyway.  When negative thoughts invade your space and discourage you from the positive opposing view, think positive anyway.  When fear suggests you will fail at something about which you are truly passionate, try it anyway.

Give yourself a healthy dose of positive reinforcement by adopting affirmations that encourage you wherever you are in life and through whatever you are facing. Take the passion, courage, and resilience I have championed over the past few weeks and add faith.  And when fear comes as a threat to maim you, as it surely will, be prepared to believe and practice faith anyway!

williams_geneace09_v3  Dr. G

 Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Resilience Trumps Adversity

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Over the past week, I have had the privilege of sharing in conversation with a host of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life.  I am always in awe of the opportunity to dialogue with others about things that matter, as this is “the” place where authenticity and vulnerability meet growth and development.  It is a place where I can get real with an-other, and they with me.  In turn, we can both close the exchange inspired to learn and grow and grow and learn.   And wherever you find real growth, learning, for sure, is lurking somewhere in the background.

In my quiet time since then, I have reflected again and again on those recent conversations.  Quite frankly, they reminded me of last week’s blog.   If you have not yet read last week’s post, it is worth the read.  Suffice to say I talked about courage and getting outside of comfort in order to head in the direction of true purpose.  Yes, so much talk about passion, courage, and purpose might inspire you; but the truth is it cannot and will not lead to overnight success.  In fact, “On the road to success, purposeful living is always met by adversity.”  And so this week on our wisdom journey we meet adversity head-on.

As I think back to those conversations from last week, a few things stand out.   They all had one thing in common; everyone – bar none – was facing adversity of one sort or another.  And everyone – bar none – was impacted by the shear weight of adverse circumstances.  But this week, I dare challenge you to embrace adversity and see it in a light different than before.

Adversity is necessary, as learning, growth and progress are its offspring.   And there is no requirement that adversity be the enemy many of us were taught it to be.   Adversity is opportunity wrapped in different packaging.  It is teacher, and classroom all rolled into one.  What I like most about adversity is given the chance it can become the precursor to resilience.  Adversity is like a force that presses against you to hold you down or push you back.   But my friends in the world of psychotherapy have told me that resilience is the ability to be knocked down but get back up again knowing in the cycle of life adversity is sure to come.

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This fact harkens me to Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Physics – “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  That is how I see adversity and resilience.  Adversity knocks you back or down, but resilience picks you up and moves you forward again.  Make no mistake – resilience is not automatic.  It comes with time, effort, work and resistance.  Developing resilience means every time you are knocked down by something in life you get up stronger and more determined than before.  Resilience means you learn your weaknesses or the things that slow you down and adopt or develop tools that will help you overcome and get back in the game.  I encourage you to not allow circumstances to dictate how far you go in life and what you are able to achieve.  Once you jump off the cliff of comfort into unknown but exciting and purposeful work as I suggested last week, be prepared with tools of resilience, as Adversity is sure to meet you in your new and unfamiliar surroundings.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Courage Over Comfort!

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Last week I challenged you to “Fuel Your Passion” by setting an intention that is aligned with what you desire to achieve in life.  That intention, I suggested, must be turned into action steps to move you in the direction of your life’s purpose.  Since last week, I hope you have given yourself permission and time to think about you, as you cannot effectively help others until first you have “tended to self.”

Interestingly, when I sat down to think about what I would share this week, I thought about a quote that is near and dear to me – one that inspires me every time I read it, hear it repeated, or just think of it.  “The Possibility of Extraordinary Begins at the Edge of Comfort.”  Thinking of this quote led me back to the pages of my first book and a discussion about comfort versus courage.   Anyone can walk in comfort, but courage requires an entirely different mindset.  Consider the process of learning to swim.  “In swimming, the instructor starts his student in the shallow end.  The shallow end experience is meant to help the student become less fearful of the unknown, more knowledgeable and comfortable in the water, and at ease with swimming technique.  In essence, a student’s time in the shallow end is designed to teach an important how-to lesson while simultaneously minimizing fear of launching into the deep.  The shallow water is akin to ‘easy’ because a swimmer can reduce risk and difficulty by simply changing his position to a stand.”

“In life, just as in swimming, there are those who have not allowed themselves the gift of release from shallow water thinking.  Shallow water thinking limits one’s imagination.  It prevents you from moving beyond what is comfortable.  It tempts you to continue with things that offer little challenge and stimulus for growth.  It leaves room for fear and doubt and edges out courage.  In fact, it discourages you from pushing yourself to the next level of performance.  It disavows you of faith and champion thinking and certainly limits your ability to accomplish what is beyond your immediate reach.”  Shallow water is the place of comfort, and your time there should be limited and temporary.  It is more than probable an impediment to achieving purpose.  But courage challenges you to release shallow and comfort because the greatest things in life happen outside your comfort zone.

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Today I encourage you to move beyond the familiar and take a step toward the unfamiliar.  Move in the direction of something that is much larger than you – something that challenges you to dig deeper.  There is much more inside of you than you know.  Take a deep breath and march right up to the edge of your comfort zone and let go as if you are approaching the edge of a cliff prepared to jump.  Don’t be tempted to allow fear to talk you into remaining in comfort.  The parachute of life is bound to open.  And there the real work begins…

Quoted material taken from: Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line

 Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams