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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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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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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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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Whether we find ourselves setting the pace for the race, or just trying to keep the pace, we should always find time to give our mind and body a little rest.

Some of you have shared that these past several months have given you a chance to slow down, get back into forgotten hobbies, or start new ones.

Spending more quality time with friends and family.

And others have shared that they have never been busier and that their mental stress and physical fatigue have never been higher with little or no time to take a breather.

In a bigger, faster, harder, go go go, world, sometimes we get so wrapped up in trying to keep up, we forget to take care of ourselves along the way. We schedule more meetings or calls than we can fit into our day.

We squeeze more work into our already jam-packed weekends and try and justify it by saying that it “needs” to get done. Or we try and fool ourselves into believing that we are the only ones who can do it, denying our mind and body the rest we need to perform at our best.

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Are you currently working with someone who you admire and respect as a leader? Have they been able to provide guidance to you and your organization as they navigate change and work hard to keep up with the rush and crush of challenges and opportunities? What traits stand out to you?

Over the course of my career, I have been blessed to work with great leadership. Some of the leaders were managers, chief executive officers, or business owners, all of who provided terrific insights and contributed wisdom that furthered my own leadership journey. Other leaders were part of business groups, mentoring, and coaching relationships and some were, and are, close friends.

Through my experiences and through these relationships, here’s one of the lessons that I learned and have shared with people who have been a part of the teams I have personally led. It’s something that was demonstrated to me by some of the most influential managers and leaders I had the privilege of working with. It’s the idea of providing people with information that they can put to use immediately to help solve a problem, increase performance, and improve productivity. Not information overload, or simply theory, but actionable guidance that slowly builds the strengths and capabilities of individuals over a sustained period of time as they practice and apply the guidance given.

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Hope may not be a strategy, but then again it just might be, especially when we tie it to encouragement.

Although I have personally limited the amount of time I spend reading or watching the news, and have scaled back on the time I spend on certain social media platforms, it seems like I still find news and posts that focus on what seems hopeless instead of what is possible. We all see how some choose to tear others down instead of putting their energy into the encouragement of a better and positive outcome.

Perhaps hope and encouragement are not top of mind for everyone. And if that’s you, it’s OK. We are living in unprecedented times that may have eroded our once hopeful disposition. And if you find yourself feeling this way, one of the best ways we can regain our hope is to find a way to encourage others around us.

With a little spark of hope and with the encouragement of others, the possibilities of what we can do become endless. Some of us have tremendous hope, but that may have not always been the case. Those who are filled with hope today may have been feeling hopeless yesterday. And then one day someone showed them a little encouragement, and with a little encouragement and a little hope, who knows what we can accomplish?…

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