You may have had the perfect meal recently, accompanied by a perfect bottle of wine. Maybe you had a perfect tee shot, driving it dead center in the middle of the fairway. Or maybe you had the perfect start of your day with time spent reading, exercising, and a healthy breakfast. But have you ever met a perfect person?

I don’t mean the perfect person for you; many have met their soulmate in life. And I don’t mean the perfect person to help you out when you needed it, like the perfect friend.

What I am asking is, have you ever met a perfect person?

A person who is perfect in every way. There is not a blemish to be found on them or in them. They are never wrong. They have never made a mistake. They have never had a bad day or created a bad experience for anyone. They practically walk on water. Oh, well there was that one perfect guy who walked on water. But since then, who?

Like me, who is far from perfect, I am sure you have met a few folks along the way who believe that they are perfect in every way. When they are wrong, it’s usually someone else’s fault. When they are right, they are really right. And they usually prefer to keep company with friends who they believe are less than perfect, just to maintain an air of superiority. Believe it or not, some of those perfect people who are without fault even judge the rest of us at times.

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Here we are, four weeks out from ringing in another New Year. Many of us can’t wait to put 2020 in the rearview mirror. These last 11 months are difficult to describe in one word, it’s even hard to describe them in just a few words without finding something negative, sad, or troubling to say, so yes, the rearview mirror analogy could be an excellent way to try and put it all behind us.

However, it’s only a good strategy if we make sure that we can shift our focus on what is in front of us, not only on what’s behind us.

“See, when you drive home today, you’ve got a big windshield on the front of your car. And you’ve got a little bitty rearview mirror. And the reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because what’s happened in your past is not near as important as what’s in your future.” – Joel Osteen

Success is a funny thing as we can see others succeeding where we feel like we have not.

Whatever they touch turns to gold. They simply have a knack for being successful at whatever they endeavor to do. Even in a difficult COVID year, they were still able to meet with success. What’s the difference? The difference is in the way we see ourselves…

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Before we completely turn the page and allow last week’s Thanksgiving holiday to pass us by, I wanted to take a moment to thank every one of you who have done your very best to truly focus on what you have been most grateful for this past year.

You may not think it matters, but I can assure you that your sense of gratitude and appreciation never goes unnoticed.

And as we roll into the new year, I firmly believe that it is our gratitude and appreciation for the three C’s that may still be ahead of us —

Challenges, Chaos, and Confusion —

That will make the difference. I know that these don’t sound like “Winning Words,” but they are, and let me explain and why I see them as game-changers.

If we had to list all the challenges or difficulties that we have witnessed or that we are experiencing personally, we would have a very lengthy list. Collectively the list would seem insurmountable. So why would I intimate that a challenge is something we should be grateful for? It’s because in every challenge we see someone who emerges and goes out of their way to help someone else. We see people sharing God’s love, pursuing God’s will, doing God’s work, and doing it for all of God’s people…

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One question that I seem to be getting more of these days is around motivation. Not only are people asking how to get motivated, but they are also asking how they can stay motivated.

People often say that motivation doesn’t really last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily. – Zig Ziglar

Ziglar certainly knew a lot about how to motivate us and more importantly how to keep us motivated. And he would also be the first one to remind us that motivation is temporary unless it is coupled with action. It is one thing to be motivated about setting a goal or getting inspired by the thought of a new project, and it is something completely different in taking the actions necessary to achieve our goals or complete our projects.

Sometimes we can use a motivated mindset as the spark that leads us to take the actions necessary for our productivity or success.

For some of us, this is how we are wired. When we are feeling good and life is better than good, finding sources of motivation is easy, our creativity is inspired, we are filled with hope, and we end up crushing our tasks and to-do lists. When we are feeling motivated, we may exercise a little longer and push a little harder.

When we are feeling motivated, we may make better choices in what we do, what we eat, and how we treat our bodies.

But what happens when we aren’t feeling so good, or when life isn’t going quite the way we want it to be going? What happens when we really don’t feel like exercising, going to work, or staying on our eating plan?

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Sometimes it is the current or the wave that gets all the attention, but maybe we can first begin by talking about the pebble and the ripple, and even our own role as either one in the creation of those rippling waters, currents, and waves.

As we do, there are a few things about being the pebble or the ripple that we should keep in mind.

The first is that there are times where we can be both, making our initial splash or point, and then doing our best to perpetuate a shared feeling or message.

The second thing to consider is that both the pebble and the ripple can either be positively charged or negatively driven.

And lastly, most times the pebbles that generate the biggest ripples are the same ones that carry the message the farthest and have the greatest impact.

Some throw pebbles of negativity, trying to do as much damage to the calm of the water as possible without a care for the lingering effect those ripples may have on anything or anyone in their path. Others cast pebbles with a clear sense of purpose and desired outcome…

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In the words of Forrest Gump:

My mom always said that life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

The one thing that separates a good movie or mystery from a great movie or mystery is the element of suspense and surprise. As each story plays out, what will happen next will keep us on the edge of our seats, perhaps shock or scare us, make us laugh, and hopefully astonish us in a good way.

It’s when what happens next is completely expected that leaves us feeling a bit disappointed.

I find that most of us who really enjoy mysteries and thrillers look forward to the unexpected outcome, and the twists and turns of a book, television series, movie, game, or competition of any kind. It’s when we already can predict or even see what happens next that we lose interest.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. And although there are many of us who really enjoy a great mystery, there are many more of us who need to know the plot, the players, the situation, and an ending that they had already figured out, or probably at least anticipated. Previously, we might have known the camp that we fell into; those who love a good mystery or those who really need to know what’s happening next.

However, this year has given us all a reason to try and get ahead of what happens next, wanting to know what we should expect and when we should expect it…

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… where hope begins.

Over the last 12 years, I have now written 600 published columns. Additionally, I have posted thousands of messages through social media and have been on podcasts, radio interviews, and have appeared as a keynote speaker numerous times here in the states as well as around the globe.

I continue to be humbled by these opportunities to connect with you.

So first, let me say thank you to all of you who send me emails and messages, I sincerely appreciate you all and love our exchanges. Happily, most of our exchanges are extremely positive, after all the column is called “Winning Words.” There is a percentage of our readers who love to challenge me on a thought or an idea that I had shared, and in most cases, it is a very healthy and engaging dialogue. And then there are a few people who try and provoke an argument, all I can say is that sometimes we just have a difference of opinion.

So here in column number 600, I wanted to answer a couple of questions, and sometimes concerns, that I have received from our community. I am often asked why I have not taken a stance or a position on a sensitive topic. Some even suggesting that my silence must clearly define how I really feel or intimating that I have always stayed right down the middle, not choosing sides so that I do not offend anyone. And a part of this is very true as my goal is never to offend anyone but to encourage everyone.

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Proactive or reactive. I did or did not. I can or cannot. I will or will not. When we look at those statements quickly, which words resonate with us personally? What I typically see is that people who connect with the words proactive, I did, I can, and I will tend to be more action-oriented and results-focused.

There is no right or wrong answer here.

Those of us who may have felt more comfortable with the words reactive, I did not, I cannot, and I will not, are sometimes less action-oriented and not as worried about the results. Some of us in this group are comfortable letting others take the actions necessary to achieve the results we are seeking.

One of the best lessons that I have learned that has impacted my personal life and my career has been to understand the difference between “will” and “skill.” In most cases, a skill can be something we acquire over time. Yet no matter how proficient we become at a certain skill, if we do not have the will to actually use the skill, we will always come up short when it comes to the achievement of our goals and dreams. Action orientation begins with the will…

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There are certainly plenty of reasons for us to want 2020 to be a distant memory. The pandemic, the heartache of lives lost, the impact it had on our family and friends who suffered and recovered, and the economic burden and stress the pandemic created for so many individuals and businesses.

Layer on top of the pandemic the social unrest gripping our country, a very heated and contentious election year, one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record that left a wake of devastation, and hundreds of wildfires that burned out of control bringing more death and destruction.

It’s no wonder why many are hoping Jan. 1, 2021, gets here sooner rather than later.

There were some very real and horrific events that took place this year. The losses, hurt, damage, chaos, and confusion. Each one has been unnerving and unsettling, to say the least. And as with any event or season of life, the hope is that we will take something away from the experiences, even the pain. That we will learn from the failures and the mistakes that we made along the way. That we will not only learn, but that we will make the changes and adjustments that will bring lasting change, greater opportunities, a sense of calm, healing and hope, and a kinder society.

As I was taking a drive this past weekend, I heard Billy Joel’s song, “This is the Time.” As I reflected on the song lyrics, I thought, “Why is this the time to remember?”

Then my thinking shifted.

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There is a guiding principle that I am sure many of you are familiar with and may have put into practice in your daily communications. It’s the principle that Stephen Covey shared in his bestselling book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.”

This is a terrific concept that sounds awesome, and one that could easily add value to the conversations we are having and to the relationships we are building. If this is true, why isn’t this something that we practice more often?

Is it because we want to be the one doing most of the talking?

Is it because we are so convicted in our belief or position on a particular subject that we don’t want to give voice to a different way of thinking?

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