Friday, May 24, 2013

Quotes That Inspire Me Daily

I have a poster over my desk at work, with hand written quotes from famous people and some anonymous sources. They serve as the compass that circumscribes my daily interactions with patients and co-workers, and inspire me to produce the highest quality work possible. My sincere hope is that you find some encouragement and valuable advice in these words as you pursue your life's journey.

"Quality is not an act, it is a habit" - Aristotle

The iPod, iPhone, and Mac Book aren't quality products by happenstance. They are quality products because Steve Jobs was a quality person who demanded the same from his employees and peers. If you want to deliver quality at work or in your personal life, start by making your bed every morning. Yeah, I know. Why make your bed when you're just going to jump back in it at the end of the day? If you get in the habit of doing small, seemingly trivial things well, you'll have no problem extending that habit to more important activities. Ladies, if you want to see what type of husband a man will be, look at how clean his house is, if his bills are paid on time, and if his clothes are wrinkled on the first date.

"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." - Ayn Rand

When your focus is on beating others, your marker for success becomes an external factor. When your desire is to achieve, success lies within you. When your desire is to achieve, even the act of losing becomes an opportunity to achieve great and better success. More importantly, you respect your opponent more for their achievements and embrace the factors that contributed to your failure. When your desire is to beat others, defeat becomes a debilitating afront to your ego. When Nicola Tesla invented the alternating electrical current, he was setting out to create a cheap, non-diminishing form of energy. His peer at the time, Thomas Edison, was an opportunistic businessman who just wanted to get rich at any costs. Common history remembers Thomas Edison as a pioneer and the inventor of electricity, but it was Tesla whose genius we remember. Edison died a very rich man with a multitude of enemies and Tesla died a pauper, but only one of these men died with their integrity intact.

"The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare." - Bobby Knight

No one likes to study. It's tedious and, often times, you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, have you ever tried to take a test without studying? The nervousness that ensues from not knowing what the hell you're doing will do you in faster than the exam itself. Confidence comes from knowing that you did all that you could do to prepare for a situation, even when you fail. The annals of history are filled with the stories of women and men who were successful. The part that is always left out is, what did they have to do when the lights and cameras weren't on to reach that success? We all remember Michael Jordan's many great performances and game winning shots. What we don't remember, because we were never witness to it, are the countless hours he spent in the gym preparing for those singular moments.

"Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be." - Og Mandino

Don't ever "play down" to the competition. Whether you are a cashier at McDonalds or the CEO of Virgin Airlines, every opportunity you have to serve is practice for an opportunity that you may not see coming. Who knew that a community organizer on the southside of Chicago would be President of the United States? Barack Obama could've been a hot shot on Wall Street, but he wanted to serve where his service was most needed. He practiced in the trenches and was prepared to practice those same habits of service at the pinnacle of world politics. Don't get up in the morning to just meet expectations. Wake up with the mindset to exceed expectations. It may appear to be an inconvenience with no rewards right now, but life is cyclical. The service that you've given to others will come back to you in the most unexpected fashion, and when you least expect it.

"The service we render others is the rent we pay for our room on earth." - Wilfred Grenfell

None of us are in this alone. There are very few, if any, completely self-suficient people on earth. We all get what we have based on the work of others, and others get what they need based on our work. This is the inextricable law of humanity. Selfishness, in the sense that you believe in yourself, is not bad. Selfishness, in the sense that you don't need others, is abhorant. Even in Ayn Rand's magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, where she praises the self-made man and woman, these individuals depended on each other to to supply the skills that they, as individuals, lacked. There is not a teenager (and some adults) that embrace the tasks of washing dishes or taking out the grabage, but is this not a fair trade off for the roof over their heads and the heat that vivifies in the dead of winter?

"Excuses are the tools of the incompetent, that build bridges to no where, and those that use them are monuments to nothingness." - Anonymous

I learned this quote while I was pledging a fraternity in college. At first, I didn't understand what this meant. It seemed like another form of hazing. However, after I entered the professional world, one defined by tight budgets and even tighter deadlines, I learned that people don't want to know why something happened, only what the solution to the issue is. In professional coaching, we learn that there are three types of negative personalities - whiners, complainers, and blamers. There is one simple way to diffuse all of these types of people - simply ask them what their solution is to the problem that is bothing them? Often times, if you can not come up with a solution, you can look in the mirror to find the real source of the problem.

"Everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be." - Marcus Aurelius

The fact that we quote Marcus Aurelius centuries after his death is proof enough that this quote is valid. Furthermore, Alexander Graham Bell could not have fathomed that the telegraph would eventually develop into the cell phone or the internet. Most people do not live long enough to see their hard work pay off, but they leave a blueprint for future generations to study, build upon, and expand to new areas. If you need further proof of this, look at your parent's accomplishments and then take a look at your own. My grandmother, who practically raised me, was functionally illiterate. Now, I have the ability to express myself in written form.

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." Eleanor Roosevelt

Don't get caught up in the rumor mill or gossip. That's peanuts for rats. If the reputations of Martin Luther King, Jr. as an adulterer or Mohatma Ghandi as a hypocrit had been of more importance than the philosophy of peaceful protest and civil rights, how many more millions of human beings would still be in servitude. As the late, great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, your character is who you really are and your reputation is what others think you are. If the fate of the American colonies had been predicated on the Founding Fathers' support for slavery, an industrial mechanism at the time, and not the overarching philosophy that all men are created equal in the eyes of God, we would be singing God Save the Queen instead of the National Anthem.

"Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable." - Coco Chanel

Fear is the greatest road block to achievement. Thinking too much, and not reacting, inhibits performance. Just ask any world class athlete or performer. How do you know what you're capable of doing if you already have a thought formed in your mind of what you're not capable of doing. Prior to running the Chicago Marathon, I had never run more than 13 miles. I didn't know that I would make it to the finish line, only that the finish line existed.

"It is not daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential." - Bruce Lee

In Western society, we display our worth by the number of possessions that we have. Some workers define achievement by how many emails or phone calls they answer. Activity does not always equal achievement and having money and possessions doesn't make a person truly rich. America is the richest country on earth, yet our citizens are routinely amongst the unhappiest. I live in a small studio apartment in a neighborhood that is not trendy or posh. The fact that I don't have a lot of things to think about makes me happier than I've ever been. I can focus on the things that really matter and produce true happiness.

"Discipline yourself, and others won't need to."  - John Wooden

No one likes being told what to do. How do you correct that? Tell yourself what to do. When I was in high school, the teachers and staff were always telling the young men to pull their pants up. My peers didn't like that, but all they had to do was put a belt on. More importantly, discipline in small deeds breeds discipline in great deeds. If you can't wear your pants right, show up on time, or finish your class assignments when they are due, how can you expect to be a professional athlete or run a multinational company? This is why, on the first day of training camp, Coach Wooden first taught his players how to properly wear their socks. His thought process was, if these players can learn to be consistent in this simple task, they could be trusted to run the Princeton Offense properly.

"To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is unacceptable." - Anonymous

This is another maxim that I learned while pledging a college fraternity that I didn't fully understand until I entered corporate America. This philosophy doesn't apply to every facet of life. If you're born too early, you may have life altering birth defects. How many people lived through 9/11 because they missed a train or bus that fateful day? However, it is the general principle of being cognizant of other people's time and respectful of your own time that matters. Following this principle also gives you time to mentally and physically prepare for the task at hand. When possible, I routinely show up for meetings 5-minutes early. This gives me time to write down notes for the meeting and have some informal conversations with any co-workers in the room to break the ice before the real work begins. I'm not saying that you have to constantly run around like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. However, if you keep this philosophy in mind, you will set yourself apart from the great many masses of ordinary people who have little to no regard for the virtue of timeliness.

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