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John Wilkes Booth, James Earl Ray, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mark David Chapman, Jack Ruby, Sirhan Sirhan are all infamous assassins – each well known for their terrible attack on another person. But out in the world there are other assassins wreaking havoc. Often on poor, unsuspecting and innocent people. These assassins are – character assassins.
So what is a character assassin? Simply, someone that purposely slings insults or untruths about someone else – behind their back. These assassins ridicule, belittle, disparage, denigrate or make exaggerations of or about another person.
Most people would be ignorant of the impact that a character assassin can have on others. Some people are simply gossip mongers, some are truly malicious, out and out liars or trying, desperately, to cover up or deflect on their own inadequacies. Whatever the reasoning – it doesn’t make them any less guilty.
“So what’s the harm?” you may say. “The person being talked about us, usually never knows!” Even if they don’t – it perpetuates rumours, spreads lies, incites others, divides some and invites mistrust. It encourages disloyalty, shows disrespect and displays shallowness.
Whatever the excuse, the justification or the reason for these character assassinations, these people could be viewed as assassins just like Booth, Oswald or Ruby – the only difference is – they don’t make headlines about it.
Most of us, at least sometime in our lives, have been guilty, however small, of being character assassins. Whether we realise it or not. It is often, so easy. A family member, friend or a workmate has a whinge about someone and then you say something in support of this and then they say something else and in no time, together you have painted a picture of this worthless, lazy, overweight or no good individual who may have done or meant no harm to anyone.
One of the beauties of human nature is that we are all so different from one another (heaven helps us if we were all the same). Instead of belligerently pointing out someone’s differences we should all embrace and honour each other’s individuality. And what we should NOT DO – is judge. Yet that is what character assassins do – judge other people –day in day out.
Our judgement of others are often based on assumptions – and just as often those assumptions are wrong. Let me repeat a story I heard – In a New York subway travelling on a train was a man with two small children. His children were acting up, running amok – up and down the carriage. An elderly lady berated this father on the selfish and uncaring behaviour of his children and said that, he as a responsible parent, should keep them in line. The main replied “Normally I would, but, they just found out their mother had died”!
How often are we ignorant of the real facts that affect or afflict other people? Someone may have – psychiatric problems, be separated from a partner or their family, suddenly become bankrupt or homeless. Have been bullied, physically or mentally abused or been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Or perhaps it’s a seemingly small but significant impost someone has. Perhaps they are dyslexic, have difficulty interpreting the written or spoken word, had problems at home, are shy or perhaps anxious when out of their comfort zone.
Of course you have heard the old adage “If you can’t say something good about someone, say nothing at all” How about we change that a little? Instead “If you can’t say something good about someone, find something (however small) and tell them how good they are.” Encourage – Don’t crucify.
And if someone truly is guilty of some misdeed or socially unacceptable action – instead of sticking the boot in behind their back – kindly and tactfully make them aware of it. Talk to them and guide them to a better way or help and encourage them to become a better person.
Don’t denigrate. Instigate. Spread a little love, show a little support, offer a little praise. Next time that family member, friend or workmate comes to you and starts to put the knife into someone – stop them in their tracks. Discourage those assassins – because perhaps tomorrow it will be you in their firing line.
Until next time
How often do we see on the news that someone has died? And if it is someone’s child, how do we feel? At times, perhaps like you, I have thought that for a parent to bury a child it would be the hardest thing in life to do.
For many parents, and now for me, this is a reality. Three months ago my 22 year old son Michael took his own life.
I am not saying this to shock you or to elicit sympathy. I am saying this in an effort to try and make some good of Michael’s death.
We all experience ups and downs. Most people can ride the roller coaster of life and take it in their stride. There are a few of us, however, that get stuck in the dips. Unfortunately Michael was one of these. For many years Michael’s demons caused much suffering. He experienced darkness and despair that no person should endure – but none – more so than our young.
On Michael’s good days he would light up a room the moment he walked in – with his booming voice, boisterous grin and funny wit. He was loved and respected by those that could see through the hurt and pain and those others that were simply unaware. He had the kindest heart.
Michael had his faults, as we all do, but a massive difference between Michael and many of us is that Michael took ownership of his. He would blame no one else. If he stuffed up – he would say “I stuffed up.” Also, he wouldn’t lie – there were certainly occasions that our family could have done without his unbridled honesty – sometimes ignorance is bliss. Did we really need to know everything that he got up to the night before?
What did Michael teach me? Looking through Michael’s things I found something that I would like to share with you. It was headed “Michael’s Pursuit to Happiness.” There were five points he listed that were designed to help him improve his lot in life. They were:
- Don’t Jump to Conclusions
- Don’t Make any Assumptions
- Positive Attitude Towards Life
- Self Reassurance and Self Respect
And in bold was
- “LOVE YOURSELF”
Most of you did not know Michael but out of respect perhaps we can, ourselves, try to live up to these wise words – for our own Pursuit to Happiness.
Not so long ago I said to Michael that his ability to snap out of a dark depression into the happy, boisterous, fun loving son that I knew — inspired me. I was so proud of him and indebted to him – he was teaching the teacher. Thank you Son.
So what I am asking of you? Simply one of two things – to help others – or – to ask others for help.
I ask you to extend a loving hand to someone in need. Sure we all of have our own set of problems but just remember there is always someone worse off than us. Have you heard this quote? “I complained because I didn’t have shoes until I saw someone without feet”.
If you see someone struggling, under pressure, ostracized or down and out – extend your hand. Give just a little of your time, support or love. More often than not the joy one gets from giving is far greater than that of the person receiving. How good did you feel when you gave a few dollars to someone shaking a charity tin? Think how fantastic you could feel by giving just a few minutes to someone in need. A smile, an inspiring nod, a few short words or pat on the back can make the world of difference to someone who is hurting.
If you, on the other hand, are the one that is troubled, having difficulties or feeling worthless I ask you to take a little courage and reach out for help. People don’t know how you are feeling or what is in your head. They are not being selfish – it’s what happens – most people just get caught up in their own world. So speak to someone – tell them how you feel, how you are hurting, how you are struggling. That person could be inside or outside your family. They could be a sibling, a parent, an uncle, a friend. A mentor, colleague, minister or counsellor. And what if your pleas fall on deaf ears? Don’t give up. Keep asking – someone will listen – someone will care.
And I ask you – please – don’t ever give up. Each one of us is important in our own right. We don’t need to be a great achiever, leader, thinker or entrepreneur to make a difference. “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
If your yesterdays were tough, step out and live this day and may your tomorrows give you all that you need.
Until next time
It is what you let it be
I’m lucky, having not feared much in my life. The times I am generally most fearful are situations where I am not in control. (like being a passenger in a car – I hate it) Perhaps it is fears like these that make me a bit of a control freak!!
Taking action or controlling our destiny is paramount to our continued successes in life. Of course a major component of one’s life decisions is FEAR. Yet, if the will is strong, if the ambition inside you is burning to get out then fear can be relegated to the back seat.
Sure fear is important – a consequence of fear is that it vividly shows us the outcome if things don’t go as planned. Fear can ground us to be careful and aware. Fear can be a good educator. So don’t let fear hinder you. Let it propel you.
A fear I held long ago is back now in my thoughts
Twenty nine years ago I started my first business venture – selling stationery and office supplies. That was on the trailing edge of the mini depression we had in 1983. I had some detractors who said the timing was not right but I was full of energy and confidence. Sure, I had fear – but not what you think. My back up plan for survival was that if things got tough and money was short I decided I would continue to slug it out during the day and then go out and drive taxis at night. The fear of driving taxis at night was even stronger than the fear of failing in business. So of course my business success was guaranteed.
Sure, since then I have had my share of failures and disappointments and also some extremely rewarding experiences. Life for me, as for you, doesn’t always go the way we hoped or planned but we need to continue to step out and clutch at our destiny.
I have come full circle again – I am off again with my next business venture – starting my own commercial real estate agency. Again the timing is certainly not optimal due to the current economic forecasts and job losses (that alone can be a huge motivator).
Sure the fear of failing is certainly there and again I have relegated it to the back seat – where I won’t let it consume me.
So what fear can I use to drive me through this new and exciting venture? I have decided that it be the fear of letting down all the people who have guided, moulded and supported me throughout my life – family, friends, colleagues, customers, peers and the many others that have entered my life. I owe them all so much and I would like to make them proud.
Don’t let fear stop you. Let fear be your friend? Use it to create your own outstanding successes.
Until next time
In 1945 Japan was devastated by the dropping of two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These blasts rocked the nation to its core. They caused an immense loss of life, lead to unimaginable suffering and created an enormous disruption to their economy. After the war the people worked tirelessly to rebuild their country, restore a shattered confidence and turn their lives and their crippled nation around. Over the ensuing years the workers rallied to transform the business sector into hugely successful corporations.
A contributing factor of these corporate successes was their adoption of what they call Kaizen. Spelt K. A. I. Z. E. N. In translation Kai means to change or make better and Zen means to become good. The practical application of the Kaizen philosophy is for continuous incremental improvement. Kaizen was expertly used to encourage teamwork, foster creativity and build discipline which in turn generated better ideas, greater efficiencies and vast improvements in every aspect of the businesses.
Remember, the core element of this principle is for continuous incremental improvements, not massive, back breaking, unattainable targets – but small, sustainable improvements over a long period. The increases they were seeking may have been as little as 1%. Now look at that minute improvement on a grand scale. If there were 100 employees who each increased their productivity or creativity by just 1% a week the company’s nett gain would be a massive increase in one year of a staggering 5,000%
So you can see how in the last few decades Japan, has undoubtedly earned a global respect for their outstanding quality, massive efficiencies and exceptional innovations in so many areas. The Kaizen philosophy has certainly played an important role in their phenomenal success. The thing about success is that word travels quickly and today countless businesses worldwide have adopted the Kaizen philosophy to make their own outstanding improvements. With such a simple philosophy the next natural progression was for people to take the Kaizen method and adopt it into their day to day lives to achieve their own outstanding personal successes.
Many of my own successes in life have come about by continuous incremental improvements. At one job I applied myself that little bit more to each of my roles and quickly progressed from Junior Storeman to General Manager. As a salesman I never had the gift of the gab, but to overcome this and to beat my rivals, each day I went out and knocked on just a few extra doors. To become the best CFA volunteer fire fighter I could be, I simply read one extra book – the MFB Fire Fighter’s Training Manual.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have greatly improved my knowledge and skills by taking one more course, reading one more book, going to one more seminar, by taking on one more task, one more challenge. I’m becoming a better public speaker by listening that bit more, practicing that bit more and speaking just that bit more.
Friend, for you to consider adopting the Kaizen philosophy there is no need to make mammoth changes to your lifestyle. To achieve greater success and happiness it just takes that little extra bit of consistent effort. Pick any task and put in just 1% extra effort – a day – or even a week.
Why don’t you try to:
Spend 1% more of your time with your family
Increase your effort at work by 1%
If you jog, run 1% further
Study 1% harder
Sleep 1% less
Read 1% more
Try and eat 1% less
Save 1% of your salary
Give 1% of your day for the service to others
Spend 1% of your day on personal development
Give up just 1% and in no time at all you will be slimmer, healthier, smarter, richer or happier. As I said earlier – there’s no need to dramatically impact your lifestyle. If you can give up 1% of your day and put it to better use, I guarantee, over time, that 14 minutes will transform your life.
If Kaizen could help turn Japan from a bombed and crippled nation to a hugely respected, innovative, creative and efficient contributor to the peoples of the world, what could Kaizen do for you? Friend, are you willing to commit to continuous incremental improvement?
Will you become a 1%er?
Until next time
Are you one of those kind hearted motorists that flash your headlights to warn other road users of a speed camera a short distance up the road?
Have you really thought about the potential consequences of that seemingly helpful action?
Many of us may speed just a little and we all hate getting those dreaded tickets in the mail. Whether you think a speed camera is a road safety initiative or a revenue raiser it doesn’t matter. However you look at it the outlook is the same – speeding fines are optional. You alone decide if you want to pay. If you don’t speed – you don’t have to pay.
Whether we like them or not – speed cameras do provide a positive impact on road safety. Tell me, the last time you saw a speed camera or were unlucky and got caught out speeding and copped a fine, did it slow you down? For many people it does slow them down – sometimes for good.
Back to my main point – what are the consequences of giving a warning flash to oncoming drivers of a speed camera in the area? Of the five or ten or twenty drivers that see the warning flash, there’s probably a few very grateful drivers, some others may have not been speeding and a few may have been totally oblivious of the intention.
But perhaps in that line of traffic there was one habitual high speed offender. If so, then the flasher is simply perpetuating the risk to themselves and other road users by keeping that idiot on the road? Perhaps the driver was only one point away from losing their licence – and what has the flasher done? Give that driver a reprieve and kept them on the road. These habitual speedsters need to be taken to account. Let them get caught. Let them be taken out of their maiming and killing machines.
I grant you, not all fatalities or serious injuries are related to speed, but speed is definitely a contributing factor to the carnage on our roads. There’s a lot of supporting evidence that attests the fact that reducing speed can minimise the severity of a crash and more importantly injuries.
So if there are any flashers out there, please think again. Perhaps that speeding driver you are about to warn could one day soon maim or kill an innocent individual. Perhaps it could be you or your loved one.
My interest in road safety came long before I could drive. Between the ages of twelve and fifteen I would get up at 4:30am to do a morning paper round. One of our daily newspapers in those days, the Melbourne Sun, was running a road safety campaign. They were campaigning hard to get the Victorian road toll below 1061. Can you believe it? In Victoria in 1970 there were 1,061 road deaths and over 6,000 people seriously injured. What devastating effects did these deaths and injuries have on the families? For many it would mean living a lifetime of hell – suffering still to this day.
Thank goodness for the concerted efforts in increased driver education and awareness, the dramatic changes to road laws, stronger enforcement and the technological advances in creating safer vehicles. All these have helped in reducing our death toll. In 2011 it was down to 287. Still much too high, but a terrific reduction none the less.
Let’s all try and minimise this terrible carnage on our roads and reduce the suffering that affects many thousands of families, year in, year out. Let’s all drive that little bit safer – and please stop flashing.
Until next time
I went in for a nose job and came out learning about the power of determination
Yes. I’ve had a nose job – purely for medicinal reasons – to better manage my sleep apnea.
So into hospital I went with a book tucked under my arm that I bought only the day before in a second hand bookshop. It was “Still Me” by Christopher Reeve. Probably not the best choice of book to read in a hospital – even one of the nurses said that she could never read it.
On the way to my allotted ward we walked passed an open garden area in the centre of the hospital and out there was a lady, in a dressing gown, holding a tiny umbrella – in the pouring rain – puffing on a cigarette. At first I thought she was mad, in hospital, to I guess, get better and there she is seemingly desperate for a smoke, perhaps risking pneumonia. I felt horrible for judging her and then on reflection I thought what tremendous willpower she had, being out there, braving the elements doing exactly what she wanted to do. If we all could harness that fierce determination, could nothing stop us?
The nurse settled me in to await my turn to be taken into the operating room, so I started reading. As I am sure most of you know, Christopher Reeve played Superman in four movies and some years later he had a devastating fall from a horse, paralyzing him from the neck down.
For many months after the accident he played the blame game and felt that he had nothing more to contribute. But with some outstanding medical professionals, a loving partner, the need to be something for his children and a true fighting spirit he reinvented himself.
The going was surely tough – he had to learn to speak and eat. He had to exercise and have countless operations, but he persisted and over the next few years he took on some exciting and inspiring challenges. He lobbied for awareness and funding for medical research, testified before Congress, made his directorial debut, starred in a movie and wrote two books.
Christopher Reeve was adored by many through his portrayal of Superman but many will best remember him for his courage and determination to fight on and also the way he helped, encouraged and inspired many people since his accident. I have wondered at times if his role as Superman, in some indirect way, made him more determined to succeed and overcome the mammoth obstacles he had to face, in real life!
Keeping in the theme of superhuman effort, I remembered a story, years ago, of a mother lifting up a car to save her son, so when I got home Googled it and this is what I found:
- In 1982 Tony Cavallo was repairing his car from underneath when it fell off its jacks. Tony’s mother lifted the car high enough and long enough for two neighbours to replace the jacks and pull Tony from beneath the car.
- In 2006 Tim Boyle watched as Kyle Holtrust was hit by a car. The car pinned Kyle underneath. Tim lifted the car off Kyle while the driver pulled him out to safety.
- In 2009, Nick Harris lifted a car to help a 6 year old girl pinned beneath.
- In 2011, a tow truck driver who was working under a car was pinned under the rear tyre after the car fell forward. Danous Estenor lifted the 1,600 kg car off the man.
It just goes to show what extraordinary, superhuman things the human mind can do when the time demands it.
“What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve” – Napoleon Hill
What extraordinary strengths do you have? Are you using them to your absolute fullest advantage?
Until next time
We’ll Chris and I had a short trip to Canberra, principally to visit the Handwriting Exhibition at the National Library. It was interesting to see some of the original works of some very famous people. Surprise, surprise – some of them had handwriting as bad as mine!
We decided to head back to Melbourne via the coast. Always willing to do something different I thought I would go paddling in one of the countless lakes or rivers. Just to spend a few lazy hours conversing with nature and get a work out at the same time. I also thought it would be a nice change to be above the water, than in it.
NO SUCH LUCK. I went through countless towns and nowhere could I find a canoe or kayak for hire.
I was bitterly disappointed and a little grumpy to boot. Now I am back home I’m sure I can find someone with a paddle craft that I can try out on our Yarra River. Bugger! I left it a bit late to try out for the London Olympics.
However the trip home wasn’t a complete waste. I reflected on the book I had just finished reading “The Way of the Shark” by Greg Norman
Love him or hate him, this guy is someone to admire.
How he ever found time to sleep gets me. Not only was he a superb golfer (a lot of the time), he also expanded into many golf related businesses – course design, turf, clothing, event management, tournaments and academies – perhaps a natural progression, one may think.
But then he has also developed other equally successful enterprises – well outside his golfing forte – wine, beef, restaurants and property development.
Here’s what Greg taught me:
- The enormous impact that our thoughts and feelings have on our mood, our actions and outcomes for ourselves and to others.
- That life is not about successes and failures per se, but how we handle them, learn from them and remember them
- The importance of strength of character – integrity, perseverance, courage and commitment
- The necessity to learn all we can about anything that we are about to undertake
- On taking action. Grasping a goal or dream and implementing whatever is required to achieve it.
Until next time
Have you ever been in the position where you have experienced two types of parents – one loving and supportive and the other cruel and demoralizing?
Perhaps you admired the parent who sat down with their child whilst getting changed, perhaps after a football game or swimming lesson. They were supportive of their child’s achievement whether it was good or bad. They helped them get changed. Explained why they couldn’t have an ice-cream or go to the circus this week or discussed their plans for the day or week ahead.
And perhaps you remember a parent who was impatient, angry, hurtful and selfish. Offering no encouragement at all on their child’s performance. Instead, yelling at them to “stop whinging and hurry up” or ignoring little Johnny’s or Jenny’s frustrations on getting their clothes on. Saying “NO” to anything and everything their child asked of them or simply ignoring them.
Does this sound familiar at all? Perhaps you, like I, can relate to being both parents at some times in our lives. We can be under pressure, rushed, be of low self esteem, have our mind on a thousand other things, or being just plain thoughtless. Whatever the reason they are all excuses. Excuses for not doing what we should really be doing. Being loving, caring, thoughtful or empathetic to those around us.
We are all role models to people in our lives. We could be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, employer, cleaner, doctor, councilor, waiter, politician, manager, celebrity, taxi driver, sports star – or perhaps two, three, four or five of these.
Those little actions, gestures, words or feelings we do every day are watched by others, whether you are doing them consciously or not. And if a person looks up to you, believes in you, wants to be just like you. Then they look at you very closely. Their mind may not evaluate whether it is a good or bad habit they are experiencing. Their belief and trust is in you – and they may emulate your very actions – good or bad
We can also be deceiving ourselves and other at times when our actions or words imply “Do as I say don’t do as I do” – saying one thing and doing the exact opposite. That’s what impelled me to give up smoking in my twenties – we had two young children and I thought how can I say to them “don’t drink, smoke or take drugs” if whilst saying that I was puffing away on a cigarette. For my efforts I had a one in four success rate – hopefully one day three of my children will see the light and give up the smokes!
Each of us has the responsibility to be supportive, encouraging and inspiring to the people who need or look up to us. We need to be honest, empathetic and be prepared to set as good an example as we can. Look back at the people in your life that have given you the breaks, mentored you, guided you, stood by you. Are you now just as worthy as them?
Look around you, there are people who may be young or old, helpless or aspiring, challenged or resourceful. They may really need just a little guidance or encouragement – do yourself proud.
Until next time
There is no better way to lift your heart than to give of yourself with no expectation of reward or favour.
We should all lend a helping hand to someone from time to time. It could be a simple task, food, shelter, a small gift or even time to listen to someone’s troubles.
How about we all make a more concerted effort to give a little more.
And now that is it Christmas, there is one very special person you should give something to.
Try and find a couple of hours over the next week where you can have “me” time.
Do your most favourite thing or something you have been wanting to do for years but never made the time. Make time. Do something for you.
So this Christmas give of yourself to yourself
and in 2012 give of others. Lift their spirit and watch it lift your heart
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Safe and Rewarding New Year
“I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet”