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Financial, Relationship and Spiritual Growth. Personal Development. Leadership.


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Guard Your Association

association(This is another excerpt from my upcoming book, Feed The Good Wolf. I know it’s confusing because there’s no “wolf” in the post title…)

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” Booker T. Washington

“You are the same today that you are going to be in five years from now except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books you read.” Charles Jones

As a parent… actually I’m not a parent so let me start again. As a child, my parents did their best to keep me away from  certain kids. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve done the same thing. Kids that are disrespectful, kids that swear a lot, kids that are bullies, that have violent tendencies, that mistreat puppies. You don’t want your child hanging around with them; you don’t want your own children to start adopting the behaviors and values of their undesirable peers. We want to insulate our children for as long as possible from bad influences, until they are old enough and wise enough to be able to discern right behavior from wrong. So our parents encouraged us to make friends with the polite, studious, well-behaved kids; rather than the foul-mouthed, car-jacking, drug-peddling crew. And frankly, they didn’t care which ones were the cool kids.

As adults, we think that we are immune to the effects of peer pressure, but that is because we are just better at lying to ourselves. If you were to give me half an hour to interview the five people that you spend the most amount of time with on a weekly basis, I could paint a pretty accurate picture of the kind of person you are—without ever talking about you. Your behavior, your beliefs, the music you like, your physical and leisure activities, the kinds of movies and television shows that you watch, are all things that are probably the same as your immediate peer group.

We will become like the people we associate with the most.

You could argue “of course I spend time with people like me. I choose to spend time with them because we have similar values.” That may be the case in some instances, but most of the people that we say are our friends are our friends because we were thrown together and forced to spend time together. Most of our long time friends are from our school years. Or people who live near us. Or people we work with. A lot of our friends became friends because of geography rather than values. Think of certain mannerisms or phrases that you use with one friend and not another, then ask yourself “Did I get that from him or did he get that from me?” Even if you think that you are immune to the effects of social imprinting by your friends, then they could have just as easily got their behaviors, beliefs, likes and dislikes from you.

Since we are social creatures, and since we are susceptible to peer pressure, we should try to use peer pressure to our advantage. As responsible adults, it’s up to us to make sure we are associating with the good kids.

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Feed the Good Wolf: Kindness

givingIt costs nothing to be kind, but a simple act of kindness can impact someone for the rest of their life. A compassionate smile from a loved one, a word of admiration from a stranger, a nod of acknowledgment from a superior can bolster the fearful and weary.

You never know when someone is on the verge of quitting, on the edge of despair, or are moments away from suicide. Sometimes a single kind word or a heartfelt compliment will pull them back from the darkness. Acts of random kindness are all it takes to make our world as close to heaven as it can get.

When you love someone, you treat them kindly. But also recognize that by being kind to someone, you expand your capacity to love. The two go together, but one doesn’t always precede the other.

Have you ever performed a good deed, a favor, a random act of kindness to some stranger for no particular reason? Didn’t you feel good about that later? That’s because at the core of human nature is the desire to do good. To be men and women of character. To serve others rather than to be served. As the law of sowing and reaping takes over, all your kindness will be returned to you multiplied many times over. Routinely performing kind acts, turns into a habit of kindness, which in turn develops into a kind soul.

Anytime you can give another person’s spirits a lift, or imbue him with more life and energy, you are performing a small miracle.

“Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.” Dale Carnegie.

Generously dispense words of kindness. People treasure them more than physical wealth. By being kind to others not only do we feed our own good wolf, we also provide food for the good wolf within those others.


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Feed The Good Wolf: Discipline

disciplineDiscipline is the ability to delay the gratification of desire for future benefit. Living a disciplined life means living in the moment but keeping focus on the future.

Discipline is not about denying the self for the sake of denying pleasure. It is about denying those activities that cause long-term harm to the self. It is about having a body and mind that operate properly. It is about improving rather than diminishing the self. Discipline is willingness to deny the lesser for the sake of the greater. It is seeking happiness rather than just pleasure.

A disciplined man is not a glutton. He recognizes that moderation in his diet will prevent a stomach ache minutes from now and possibly an extra inch of fat for the rest of his life. Be disciplined enough to recognize that you cannot eat anything you want whenever you want. Eat healthy foods in healthy portions. There is a saying about the people in Hawaii, “we don’t eat until we’re full, we eat until we’re tired.” That is not discipline. Man eats. Beasts feed.

A disciplined man is not a spendthrift. He recognizes that his long-term financial health can be damaged by irresponsible spending. He recognizes that emotional purchasing decisions are rarely good ones. He knows that pennies saved are not only pennies earned, but that those saved pennies will actually work for him and multiply through sound investments. The disciplined man will save first before he spends; and never ever pay interest on depreciating assets. Earn interest, do not pay interest.

A disciplined man is not wasteful with his time. Don’t tick away the moments that make up a dull day. Don’t fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way; kicking around on a piece of ground in your hometown, waiting for something or someone to show you the way. (Okay, I admit that was a paraphrase of the first verse of Time by Pink Floyd, but the message is still valid—and the tune is cool).

Invest your money, but also invest your time. Money investments return more money. Time investments return timeless values if you invest into your own character or that of your children. The disciplined man will do the important things first, the selfish things when he has free time.

A disciplined man does not indulge his bestial nature. A disciplined man is capable of controlling his sex drive. He isn’t compelled to pursue every woman he sees like a dog. Sex is a beautiful act of love between you and your spouse. Man loves. Animals breed.

A disciplined man is slow to anger. A moment of rage can damage a relationship permanently. It’s the small man that raises his fists in anger. Resorting to violence is the last resort of the disciplined man, but an early option for the weak-willed. Yelling at a child or loved one can wound as deeply as a physical assault. Words spoken in anger can cause irreparable damage to a relationship or permanently afflict someone’s self image. There is a reason that profanity is called a curse. Be disciplined enough to control your tongue.

The long-term harm of a lack of discipline is exponentially greater than the immediate cost of discipline. The disciplined man feeds the good wolf and starves the bad wolf.


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Feed the Good Wolf: Humility

humble

“True humility–the basis of the Christian system–is the low but deep and firm foundation of all virtues.” Edmund Burke

Humility insulates us from pride. CS Lewis calls pride the greatest of sins because it leads to all others. The greater the person, the greater their vulnerability and the greater their fall from pride. The sin of pride caused Lucifer to rebel against God and be cast out of heaven.

To be humble is to be honest with yourself. To be humble is to admit your own shortcomings, your mistakes, your weaknesses. Only by being honest can you recognize your own faults and only by admitting them can you address and correct the problem. That’s why humility is considered the foundational virtue.

“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” Saint Augustine

Without humility we run the risk of an inflated ego. Ever notice how someone with a long history of being a loser that gains some small success becomes insufferable? Have you seen someone that is awarded great success at a young age without having to strive or sacrifice to attain it? It is why child stars and heirs to great fortunes have a tendency to self destruct. The ones that don’t are those that are firmly grounded with a sense of humility.

Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself either. I am no better than anyone else. I have certain gifts and talents but they only make me more or less suited to certain situations. I do not view myself in a negative light. After all, I am important. I am a child of God. I am inherently valuable and priceless. I have a soul. But so does that homeless person. When you have a perspective of humility, you see the value in all people. It’s why humility leads to compassion and compassion to charisma.

By placing value on others we position ourselves to greatly impact them in a positive way. Only once did Jesus say that he was setting an example for his disciples. It was when he was washing their feet. If I were walking on water, curing disease, casting out demons, and raising the dead; I could see myself having trouble remaining humble.

Without humility, any other values you instill in your children will eventually be lost to pride. With a false sense of one’s own greatness, they will feel entitled to the kindness of others without the obligation to be kind to them. Same with discipline, same with perseverance. How many people put into a position of power and prominence feel that they no longer need to be honest or take responsibility for their actions?

Humility is not just food for the good wolf. It’s also antitoxin that prevents the poison of pride from killing or corrupting it.

“To be humble to superiors is duty, to equals courtesy, to inferiors nobleness.” Ben Franklin