Tag Archives: Overcoming challenges

Cast a Wide Net

I attended a bat mitzvah yesterday. The girl (my cousin’s daughter) performed beautifully. The ceremony was very nice and the Rabbi was terrific. With one odd exception.

There were two prayers, one for healing and one for mourners, for which the Rabbi spoke at length about the meaning of the prayer and named people and groups to include in our prayers at this time. What I found surprising was that he didn’t mention Haiti. This wasn’t a sad event he missed. Rather, he omitted what will go down as one of the greatest natural disaster tragedies in history.

This got me thinking about how people deal with sadness and grief. Not their own, but that of others. After 9/11 Giuliani suggested you should never miss a funeral. He seemed to mean this literally, but we should take it figuratively. Never miss an opportunity to reach out and support those in pain. This could be someone who has lost a loved one, and it could also include the more mundane – a colleague who missed a promotion or lost a sale or is just having a bad day.

“Hey, I’m sorry for what you are going through. That’s a tough situation. Is there any way I can help?”

It can even apply to people you don’t know or barely know. The person behind the counter at the coffee shop, the crossing guard at your kid’s school, or the receptionist you usually just walk past.

“Wow. I bet this can be a tough job sometimes. Thanks for always taking care of me.”

These actions are good for their own sake, but they’re also valuable to your future. After all, what is going to happen when you need support, when you lose a sale or get a flat tire on the way to work or just had a fight with your spouse or lost a loved one? Who will notice and support you?

The wider the net you’ve cast in the past, the more people will include you in their own nets.


A Heroic Resolution

It’s not just a new year, but a new decade. We’ve seen events and changes over the past several years that we once might have said would be impossible. We’ll see more of the impossible in the years ahead. Some of it will be good. Not all.

The question is – How will you respond?

In the year ahead when your budgets are cut, how will you respond?

When your boss (or your spouse) criticizes you, how will you respond?

When you get passed up for that big promotion or lose the big sale, how will you respond?

When you get stuck in traffic on the way to an important meeting, how will you respond?

When your kids do their best to drive you crazy, how will you respond?

When you are at your wits end, how will you respond?

Make this year heroic. Don’t ever let yourself become a victim. This choice is yours. In those most dire moments, ask yourself what the heroic response would be. Then go be a hero.

South Bend

Newest edition of . . . 3 things you should know about this place. Where was I last week? See if you can guess. 

  1. It holds the College Football Hall of Fame.
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  1. It was the birthplace of the Studebacher.
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  1. It is the home of one of the holiest shrines in all of sports – the football stadium for a university that shares its name with a famous landmark in Paris.


Where was I? 


Mark your calendar for 8/4. My new book is fun and profound. You can be a hero – http://bit.ly/4bgdvi

El Sistema

“The most miserable and tragic thing about poverty is not the lack of bread or roof, but the feeling of being no one.”

That quote was from Jose Antonio Abreu, a musician and composer and the founder of El Sistema, a music education program that has created over 150 youth orchestras in Venezuela and is now building a global reach.

Abreu’s quote has defined a characteristic not just of poverty, but of humanity – that it is far less important to have what we want than it is to feel that we are important.

So when our resources run low –  budgets slashed, promotions unavailable, luxuries put on hold –  it is a perfect time to focus our attention on helping people feel important. Here are a few ideas for what to do.

  1. Tell. How do others affect you? How does their work help you or other colleagues, or customers? Point this out and thank them for the important role they play in an important process.
  2. Ask. Find an important project that could use help. Then ask someone to support it. This isn’t just a matter of giving someone work to do. This is about inviting someone to engage in something that matters. It is the purpose, not the task that is important here.
  3. Act. Find something important for yourself. When you are engaged in an important task you bring energy and life to your own work and to people around you.

Abreu pointed out that El Sistema created effects on three levels – individual, family, and community. When people feel important in their organizations, the same levels apply – individual, team, and organization. I applaud Abreu and the youth he serves and am thrilled to learn from such an inspired and inspiring man.

To learn more about El Sistema:

17-minute TED video

4-minute youtube video

El Sistema USA website

Be the Hero Testimonial

“This book is quick, easy and life-changing, showing how it is within your power to choose how you perceive and respond to the events in your life.” 

Sid Chapon, Senior Vice President/Director, Leadership and Organizational Development, Leo Burnett Worldwide



For more testimonials join the Be the Hero Fan Page on Facebook

Too Much Information

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by information overload in our society. It’s also easy to fall into the victim belief that there is nothing that can be done. I received an email recently that I thought was a brilliant and heroic response to the challenge of information overload.

It’s true that we have too much clutter, and it can get in the way of our productivity and our peacefulness. Here’s the email I received from my 9th grade Biology teacher. Leave it to a science teacher to come up with this.

    I am about to delete my entire address book as a way of purifying/purging my contacts I’ve amassed for the last 16+ years. Of the thousands of email contacts I’ve amassed from friends and students only about 50% do I hear from any longer. There are many reasons… many of you have changed your addresses and some of you are no longer even on this planet. Some are tired/annoyed of my emails. For some of you I have multiple addresses and I’m not even sure which ones you use or even work. Once I send out this email your address will be deleted. Then as people write back I will automatically add address as they come into me. In that way I’ll know that the email is viable and you still want to remain connected. If you get more than one email please only reply to the email you want to be contacted at.

It may not be for everyone, but it is a terrific example of taking an action and reclaiming control.
Be the Hero Bestseller Campaign is August 4th: Go to http://be-the-hero.com/bestseller/ for more info!


I recently helped the board of a professional association do some strategic planning. They were wrestling with the question of how to create a more engaged membership. I asked them what would cause their members to become engaged, and they had a lot of answers.

They said the members would need to

  • see value
  • build their knowledge
  • develop their skills
  • get exposure
  • strengthen their network

These were all very logical answers. They make perfect sense. Then I asked them to pair up and tell one another a story about an experience in which they were particularly engaged in an organization. After they told their stories I asked them why they had become so engaged. They had a lot of answers.

  • They had a chance to make a difference
  • They were personally welcomed
  • They developed attachments to specific people in the organization
  • The goals of the organization meant a lot to them
  • They received personal invitations

These answers were completely different. They were emotional, visceral.

There are two important lessons here. One is that engagement is emotional. If you want engaged employees, it’s not about the value they see. It’s about the emotional experience they get from their work life.

Two is that stories are incredible learning tools. If you really want to understand someone else, tell a few stories about similar experiences in your own life. The story will reveal the understanding you sought.

Be the Hero Bestseller Campaign is August 4th. Go to http://be-the-hero.com/bestseller/ for more info!