Seeds of Greatness: Roots & Wings
Course 5 – Balanced Living – Positive Self-Dimension
Please listen to the audio file first in each section as it contains greater detail than the written text. Then follow the instructions, if any, at then end of each lesson.
Lesson 1: Becoming a Win-Win Parent
If there is one golden thread woven throughout the fabric of this program, it’s “The Golden Rule” of “loving your neighbor and others that you meet, as yourself.” In previous modules, we’ve suggested that parents treat children with the same respect and loving concern that they would give their best friends, and with the same loving affection that they themselves would like to receive.
The essence of this program is that the real, authentic winners in life get what they want by helping others get what they want. They are service-oriented, not self-serving. Independence has been replaced by interdependence. We must face the inescapable fact that we, as individuals, are vital but single organs of a larger body of human beings that make up the world. There are
too many people, too few resources, and too delicate a balance between nature and technology to build our fortunes in isolation today. As individuals we cannot succeed or even survive for long anymore without the others. The Tsunami in Asia is our devastation. The famine in Africa is our famine. The strife in the Middle East is our strife. The poverty in Haiti and India, the Hurricanes in Florida, and the earthquakes everywhere, all belong to you and me, and our children.
We have a global village today where boundaries are rapidly disappearing as instant satellite communications and wireless technology bring every human condition into our living rooms, our businesses, our schools, our minds, and our hearts. Do you consider the quality of the journey as important as the result? Is your definition of success is a million dollars in your bank account and a vault stuffed with stock certificates, or is success taking the high road and placing value on people and the precious, natural world—your family and others whose goals you can help reach? If you could balance the demands of your business and personal life with more outside activities, what would you choose? To spend some weekly time reading to the elderly in a community retirement home? Take more walks on the beach or in a park? Volunteer for a drug awareness program for teenagers? Or, certainly, spend more quality and quantity of time with your own children.
It’s easy to be caught in a narrow, constricted perspective, easy to forget that life—like our money, property, jewelry, and antiques—is something we never really own. We’ve only been entrusted with our possessions, given the privilege of enjoying them for a few seasons, after which we must pass them on to the next caretaker. Whatever you do, whatever your business is, whatever your professional or personal mission statement, ask yourself about your impact on others. Are you planting shade trees for future generations, under which—you yourself—may never sit?
One simple truth can never be overemphasized: Success will not be based on your bank account or your earthly possessions. Your sense of fulfillment will always be in direct proportion to how wisely you use your time and how well you maintain your health, both of which will be gone forever once they are spent. Only by nurturing these twin components will your life be balanced, and in the process you will help smooth the ride on your spiritual road best traveled.
And in the time we have to live, we realize that we are the parents and grandparents of our children all throughout our lives. We provide roots and wings until our last breath. We are planting the seeds of greatness with every personal encounter, in every phone call, e-mail, greeting card, letter, photograph, and memory we share. This is why Quality of Life is different and more precious than Standard of Living. Always remember, Standard of Living is how much money you have. Quality of Life is how you spend the time of your life. It is how you view your creation and how you fit into the big picture of spiritual depth and authentic joy. No one can reasonably claim that the daily life choices are easy. We trust we’ll never forget M. Scott Peck’s great The Road Less Traveled—inspired by The Road Not Taken, a well-known poem by Robert Frost—whose opening line consists of three words: “Life is difficult.” No doubt it has always been difficult in various ways, but some stretches are more difficult than others, and America has known far easier, happier periods.
The increase in violence is frightening, not only via terrorism from outside our borders—but also that spawned in our own cities, suburbs, schools, and streets, which betrays the underpinnings of our family life, our sense of responsibility, our culture. Many of our children seem destined to live in a world of angry anarchy, with all that it means for society as a whole. We worry about our children, in this respect and others. Confusion grows, tempers are raw, relationships are strained, the traditional American optimism has been worn a little thin. Economic security—homeland security—security of all kinds seems to be disappearing. All of this is true, and most of it is rightfully worrying—but at the same time, the opportunities for personal growth and success are unparalleled.
As we grow older, we recognize that certain battles are no longer worth getting upset about. Therefore we should choose our conflicts carefully, just as we should choose the road on which we walk with increasing care. Which road is best? As Robert Frost said, the road less traveled made all the difference. If that’s the road you’ve chosen—never mind whether you’re racing ahead like a cheetah, struggling on an upgrade like a tortoise, or resting a moment while you catch your breath—you know that life is not a book that is finished when you’ve read its last pages.
Individuals on the road less traveled are generous to others because they have a strong sense of their own self-worth and don’t need to hide behind impostors’ masks. They can give freely of themselves without feeling depleted. They know the only thing they can really keep is what they’re willing to give away. These travelers also know that they can never be certain of what lies around the next bend. So they walk in quiet faith, one step at a time, one day at a time, reaching out to one person at a time— starting with members of their own families, their neighbors, and their teammates at work.
How do you find these roads less traveled? You can’t find them in an atlas or in a travel agent’s brochure. It’s harder than that, but also easier. They are roads you build yourself, roads that lead into your own mind and essence. And one way or another, you must travel the road you yourself have designed. During many periods of history, farmers left a corner of their crops unharvested so that the less fortunate might use them for food. This ensured that everyone had enough to eat, and also demonstrated the farmers’ compassion. It showed that they cared about others and didn’t have to have it all in order to feel successful. It was what one did on the road best traveled.
Now that we are well into the 21st Century, it is apparent that the innovators and visionaries will replace the intimidators, the predators, and the luminaries. You see, independence will be replaced by interdependence, and the real winners in the present and future world will be more often champions of cooperation than the champions of competition. The survival of the fittest philosophy will give way to the survival of the wisest philosophy: Understanding, cooperation, and reason.
The old culture of short-term profit and the old win/lose play book that suggests that there must be a loser for every winner, it’s obsolete, it’s finished; and the new win/win play book is the only one that can endure. What it means is: If I help you win, then I win too. You see, the real winners in life get what they want by helping others get what they want. The most competitive force in the world is to always give more in the quality and amount of service you render than you expect to receive in dollars. Rising expectations of developing nations and consumers make it absolutely mandatory that we never rest on our past laurels and never take success for granted. We must open our lenses, like the eagle, to see the forest and the trees, and to spot opportunities to create synergy by joining individual parts of our lives to make a greater, more dynamic whole, total person, a person who understands the meaning of team and time.
Lesson 2: The Four Stages of Maturity
Every child seems to go through four stages toward maturity. Some people stay in kind of a childish or adolescent type of maturity, but there are four stages that can be identified. The stages are: “What can you do for me?” “I want to do it myself.” “Let’s do it together.” And, “What can I do for you.”
First, there’s the little child who says and thinks, “What can you do for me today, world? What can you do for me?” In other words, “You take care of my needs” because young children need to be safe while they learn survival and security skills. As children move toward the teen years, they seek the privileges of adults with the responsibilities of a child. “I want to do it, but I don’t want to pay the consequences.” Or “I don’t want to pay the fee.”
A lot of people go to work saying, “What are you going to do for me, company? What are you going to do for me, world? What kind of a vacation/sick leave program do you have for my retirement? I’ve decided to see what you’re going to give me before I’ll do more for you” or “I’ll do just enough to get my pay.”
The next stage “I want to do it myself ” is the motto of the adolescent who wants to break away from parental authority and become more independent. “Excuse me, I want to do it myself, world. I’d like to do it myself, Mom and Dad, I’m almost an adult, and don’t feel the house rules and advice should apply to me.”
If you are able to mature beyond the childhood and adolescent emotional stages and move away from “What can you do for me, world?” and “I want to do it myself ” you become a team player with the motto: “Let’s do it together, world. Let’s do it together, team. Come on, team. We can do it together.” You realize you need to work with other people to achieve your goals.
And finally, if you become a genuine, mature leader instead of just a manager, your primary motivation and vision is “What can I do for you, world? What can I do for you today? How can I help you? What do you need? I’m here to serve, available for service.”
This message on positive self-dimension is the idea of balancing our own individual success with the mission of helping others who are in need of our leadership and inspiration. Positive self-dimension is all about living a win-win life, in a win-lose culture. While the message should be, “If I help you win, then I win too” it is often obscured and drowned out by the roar of the arena mentality that magnifies the thrill of victory versus the agony of defeat. Our kids are brainwashed into believing that for every winner, there must be a loser. Competition, however, is not the problem. Competition raises standards, keeps prices in line with quality and service, and motivates us to be the best we can be. And Denis and I are both avid sports’ fans. I have been a nationally ranked marathoner and Denis is known for his work in the mental training of professional and Olympic athletes.
We are very much in tune with the original mission of the Olympic Games: The value of the whole person in body, mind, and spirit; the belief in individual freedom and merit and a consciousness to our individual and collective responsibilities to each other. The original idea behind the Olympic Games is that there is a place and time where the boundaries dividing people are forgotten; where heritage, language, race, and religious belief raise no barriers between individuals; where social order of birth, or material wealth are of no account; where individuals, stripped of their labels, compete with their neighbors, peacefully and honorably, solely to be the best they can be against world-class standards. The hope has been that this Olympic spirit can carry over to influence the whole world, not just for a couple of weeks of an Olympiad every four years, but every day of every year. We urge you to embrace the original Olympic vision and become Olympic parents to your children by lighting the torch of compassion for others in their minds and hearts
Lesson 3 – Developing Children into Win-win Leaders
To help develop your children into win-win leaders, who will make a valuable contribution to society, begin early and stay consistent:
- Have your kids give some of their toys to a children’s shelter or to other needy children.
- Get involved with them during holidays and vacation time with community service projects such as senior centers, food programs, and programs for disadvantaged children.
- Let your children observe you giving generously of your time or money or both to worthy, charitable causes.
- Encourage your children to reach out to welcome new kids in their school and neighborhood, regardless of their ethnic origins and cultures.
- Look at yourself through others’ eyes. Imagine being your child.
- Be empathic in your communications. Knowledge isn’t always wisdom, sensitivity isn’t always accuracy and sympathy isn’t always understanding. Really get inside the other person and listen without bias or distraction.
- Build a home atmosphere in which each family member respects the needs, dignity, and individuality of all the others. Make your cornerstones love, caring, trust, and giving.
- Develop a magic touch and don’t assume that your love for your children is something they should take for granted.
Not too long ago, we were speaking at a seminar for corporate executives and their families. We had just begun a session on developing authentic self-esteem and noticed a young boy, about 11, with his head down sitting next to his father. When we began discussing the importance of expressing to your children that your love for them is unconditional, the boy perked up and nudged his father with his elbow. Both father and son looked at each other briefly, and then the boy sank back in his seat for the duration of the meeting. After the close, we were walking behind them and heard the boy ask his father: “Dad, how come you never tell me that you love me?” The father shrugged and said, “The fact that I don’t tell you does not mean I don’t love you. You know I do. I show you by caring for you, giving you a beautiful home to live in, every comfort and every opportunity a young person could ever dream of.” The boy was silent as they walked out of the hotel meeting room and through the lobby to the parking lot. You can never assume your children know they’re loved. The father of that 11-year-old made that assumption, and he was on his way to building a youth with a lot of things, but heading for emotional bankruptcy. Love can’t be purchased. It must be expressed from inside out.
Lesson 4 – Teachers the Unsung Heroes
In ancient times, a king decided to find and honor the greatest person among all his subjects in the kingdom. First, a man of enormous wealth and property was singled out. Another, who was a prominent physician, who saved many lives, was praised for his healing powers. Still another great lawyer and statesman was honored for his wisdom and fairness in interpreting the law. Another was brought forward for his brilliant business acumen. Many other successful people were brought to the palace, and it became evident to the ruler that the task of choosing the greatest person in the kingdom would be very difficult. Finally, the last candidate stood before the king. It was a white-haired woman, whose eyes shone with the light of knowledge, understanding, and love. “Who is this?” asked the king, with a puzzled look. “What could she possibly have done to measure up to those who preceded her? She looks somehow familiar to me, but I don’t recognize her on sight.” “You have seen and heard all the others,” said the king’s counselor. “This is their teacher, Sire, and yours as well!” And the king came down to honor her, while the gallery applauded, for surely she was the one he had been searching for.
No program on leadership and parenting would be complete, without paying special tribute to the thousands of dedicated teachers whose sole mission in life is to give our children the knowledge base to compete in the 21st Century. Too often, teachers are running repair shops instead of classrooms, because of the lack of responsibility, self-discipline, and basic social skills among students which should be taught in the home.
Teachers are often the targets of prejudiced parents who try to shift the blame for their children’s unacceptable behavior from themselves and their children to the school and the teachers. Teachers are very dedicated individuals, who we call unsung he- roes and heroines, because they receive very little praise or recognition throughout their careers from students, parents, or from administrators. Those who have the commitment to continue teaching in this kind of environment must develop their own healthy self-esteem and motivation from within. Get to know your children’s teachers. Attend open houses and parent/teacher meetings. Become active in your local PTA. Really listen to your children’s teachers, and try to look at each of your children through their teacher’s eyes.
As children become of school age, some teachers and coaches spend more time with kids than their parents do, especially in a setting where the children must interact with and get along with other children and adults.
An unknown poet described the partnership this way:
I dreamed I stood in a studio
And watched two sculptors there;
they fashioned it with care.
One was a teacher and the tools she used Were books, and music and art
The other a parent, with a guiding hand And a gentle, loving heart
Year after year, the teacher toiled To give skills for the young child to win
While the parent labored by her side And polished the core from within
And when, at last, their work was complete They were proud of what they had wrought
For the values they’d molded into the child Could neither be sold or bought
And each agreed, they could never succeed, If they each had to work alone
For behind the parent stood the school, And behind the teacher the home.
We appeal to you, as parents and leaders, to become more proactive in the education of your children. Support your children’s schools and their teachers. Give more of yourself to your children, so they will give more of themselves to help others. Your children may never remember or thank you much for all the money you have spent on them and all the things you have bought them. But they will always remember, and comment on throughout their lives, the precious time you spent with them nurturing them, supporting them, playing with them, traveling with them, and sharing memories with them.
Real success comes in small portions, day by day: a smile, a hug, a sunrise or sunset, a sandcastle, a child’s happy squeal, a hand extended, a tasty meal eaten without haste, playing with Frisbees in the park, and precious moments with friends, fam- ily, and extended family members. The list is endless, but our minutes to enjoy and appreciate life’s small successes are not. If there’s one thing we want our children and grand-children to learn from us, it is to take pleasure in life’s daily little treasures. It’s the most important thing we’ve learned about measuring true success. Simple pleasures that become priceless treasures.
Lesson 5 – Take Time to Live
Being card-carrying optimists, we prefer to see our glasses as almost always full, rather than half-full, or half-empty. We are not into the polarity of politics, nor do we blame our government for our current state. We must defer to the most basic definition of motivation: “When the belly’s empty, you start to think!”
Our major problems—in our opinion—stem from our feelings of entitlement and an obsession with immediate sensual gratification. Newly arrived immigrants are hungry for food and knowledge, and are willing to put in the study and effort to gain the KASH, the knowledge, attitude, skills, and habits that have always been the ingredients for achievement and success. Those who have been born in America or who have enjoyed the benefits of abundance for a number of years, often begin to rest on past laurels and become apathetic and selfish. They lose their sense of wonder, their curiosity, their incentive to continue learning, their interest in the common good and look for someone other than themselves to take responsibility for their outcomes. Time never stops to rest, never hesitates, never looks forward or backward. Life’s raw material spends itself now, in this moment—which is why how you spend your time is far more important than all the material possessions you may own or positions you may attain.
Positions change, possessions come and go, you can earn more money. You can renew your supply of many things, but like good health, that other most precious resource, time spent is gone forever. Each yesterday, and all of them together, are beyond your control. Literally all the money in the world can’t undo or redo a single act you performed. You cannot erase a single word you said; can’t add an “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you”—not even a “thank you” you forgot to say.
Time is the only resource or gift distributed indiscriminately to everyone, at least by the day or week. Each human being in every hemisphere and time zone has precisely 168 hours a week to spend. Scientists and computer experts can speed up data transmission to perform millions of transactions a second, but they can’t create a single new second. None of us seems to have enough time, yet we all have all there is or ever will be. It would take a hundred lifetimes to accomplish all we’re capable of, but we’re given just one for learning and experiencing as much as we can, for doing our best. If we had more time, there would be less need for programs like this one, less need to make plans and set priorities. If we had forever, we could probably wing it every day and still end with immense knowledge, possibly even wisdom. But we’re strictly limited to those 168 hours—10,080 minutes—a week, which is why Benjamin Franklin urged us not to squander “the stuff life is made of.”
One of life’s great ironies is that time crawls when we’re young and flies as we age. When we were children, the ride from the airport to Disneyworld lasted forever. It took an eternity for holidays and summer vacations to arrive—birthdays, too, until the twenty-first, which had always been far distant in the unimaginable future. Then, slowly at first, the clock began to accelerate. The thirtieth birthday seemed to arrive inexplicably soon after the twenty-fifth. The fortieth came altogether unexpectedly, and with less than a hearty welcome. The ten years between thirty and forty—a decade of watching children’s rapid growth from toddlers to teens and of often arduous climbing of corporate ladders—passed like three or four.
After age forty, we began linking time to the seasons. There was a blur of time from winter skiing to spring cleaning and onto summer travels and fall commitments. We lived in short swallows of breath, climbing mountains, weathering unexpected storms, enjoying experience and growth and feeling that six months raced by like a week. After fifty, we realized from very personal experience that time appears to race with the years because we understand how precious and rare it is; we appreciate our remaining portion as if it were pure oxygen escaping from a beautiful balloon that can never be refilled.
Many people live in the past, wishing they could put the clock in reverse, largely to undo mistakes. Most people live in the future, wishing for and worrying about what they want to have and to do but can’t—instead of enjoying what they have and doing what they can do, but don’t. They put happiness and fulfillment on permanent layaway. We can’t relive yesterday and mustn’t waste today by living in a fantasy tomorrow. Only the actions we take here and now can create tomorrow’s real promise. We will not have this day or moment to enjoy again.
When we were five years old, one year represented twenty percent of our total lives. At fifty, a year represents two percent, or one fiftieth, of our life experience. No wonder it took so long for holidays to arrive when we were in grammar school—and little wonder also that after age fifty, when a year represents such a small portion of the time we’ve already spent, it goes by in a seeming blink of an eye. It’s a little like a videotape speeding up as it rewinds and accelerating almost wildly near the end of the reel. So goes your remaining time as it dwindles down.
The reality is that our time is dwindling. All the more reason to keep searching for the road less traveled, keeping our priorities in line. We’re going to put more effort into enjoying the ripple effect that comes with making a difference. The ever wider concentric circles from a stone thrown into a pond is an appropriate analogy. Today is a good time to start making your own waves in your world. Your smallest, seemingly most insignificant action can be of great importance to a family member, friend, business associate, animal, or stranger.
Lesson 6 – Your “To Do” List for Joyful Family Life
We’ve made a little list of things we’ll do more and less of from now on:
- Laugh at our misfortunes more and at other people’s predicaments less. Spend more time counting blessings, less time scrutinizing blemishes.
- Spend more time playing with children and grandchildren, less time watching professional athletes perform. More time enjoying what we have, less time thinking about the things we don’t have.
- Walk in the rain more without an umbrella and listen less to weather reports. Spend much more time outdoors in East Africa and much less time in tall buildings and big cities.
- Eat more of everything healthy and delicious, less of everything each meal, saving enough on the bill to feed a starving child.
- Do more listening and less talking so we can learn to understand rather than being desperate to be heard. Spend more time looking at trees and climbing them, less time flipping through magazines made from dead trees.
- Get more beach sand between our toes and less friction between ourselves and others. Take more long baths and fewer showers. Spend more time with old people and animals, less time with strangers at clubs and parties.
- Act the age of children and grandchildren more and act our own ages less. Give our loved ones more tender touches and much less advice.
- Spend more time fully involved in the present moment, less time remembering and anticipating. Become more aware of our core values and life mission, and less concerned with the reasons why we might not measure up.
- Smile more, frown less. Express feelings more, try less to impress friends and neighbors.
- Forgive and ask forgiveness more, and curse our adversaries less—but most of all we’ll be more spontaneous and active, less hesitant and fearful.
When a great idea or spur-of-the-moment adventure pops up—a safari of any kind, an open house at school, a game of hide- and-seek, an opportunity to solve a problem at work or to satisfy a disgruntled customer, to understand someone who looks and believes differently than we do, to go on a hay ride, to be invited to build a snowman or paint over graffiti, to watch a lunar eclipse or a double rainbow—we’ll be more inclined to jump up and say, “Yes, let’s do it!”
We’re going to dedicate ourselves to live this new way every day. We’ll never have all the moments we’ve missed, but we do have all the time remaining.
Lesson 7: Roots and Wings (An original poem and song by Denis Waitley)
Seeds of Greatness: Roots (5 Courses)
Seeds of Greatness: Wings (5 Courses)