Stephen Covey writes often about how difficult change can be. He espouses starting small when trying to make changes in order to ensure progress and prevent early failure; in essence taking baby steps. Covey also uses the metaphor of the “trim tab” to illustrate his point that small incremental adjustments can lead to big changes.

The trim tab on a ship’s rudder is used to provide the leverage necessary to move a much larger turning or “change” surface. By moving the trim tab to one side, a low pressure zone is created (the water must travel faster on the turned side) causing the rudder to move slowly in that direction. This, in turn, makes it easier to turn the entire rudder and ultimately change the direction of a huge ship. The trim tab concept proves that small changes can have a huge impact.

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Researching this concept led me to discover that this idea is borrowed by Covey from the great thinker, futurist, architect, and inventor, Buckminster Fuller. Descended from a long line of New England nonconformists, Fuller was twice expelled from Harvard and never completed his formal education. He saw service in the U.S. Navy during WWI as commander of a crash-boat flotilla. In 1917 he married Anne Hewlett, daughter of James Monroe Hewlett, a well-known architect and muralist. Hewlett had invented a modular construction system using a compressed fiber block, and after the war Fuller and Hewlett formed a construction company that used this material (later known as Soundex, a Celotex product) in modules for home construction. In this operation Fuller himself supervised the erection of several hundred houses.

The construction company encountered financial difficulties in 1927, and Fuller, a minority stockholder, was forced out. He found himself stranded in Chicago, without income, alienated, dismayed, confused. He considered that year as a pivotal one in his life. His daughter, Alexandra, had died in 1922 of complications from polio and spinal meningitis just prior to her fourth birthday and Fuller dwelled on her death, suspecting that it was somehow connected with the damp and drafty living conditions of his home.

The Fuller family had no savings, and the birth of their daughter Allegra in 1927 added to the financial challenges. Fuller drank heavily and reflected upon the solution to his family’s struggles on long walks around Chicago. During the autumn of 1927, Fuller contemplated suicide, so that his family could benefit from a life insurance payment.

Fuller stated that this experience led to a profound re-examination of his life. He ultimately chose to embark on “an experiment, to find what a single individual [could] contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.” This experiment, in turn, led to his philosophical concept of the trim tab, seen in this quote from an interview in 1972:

“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, call me Trim Tab.”

 

Fuller kept true to his new philosophy and became a trim tab during his life with an array of inventions, concepts, philosophies, and writings during his relatively long life. And while Buckminster Fuller was an intelligent and highly gifted man, perhaps his greatest contribution was this notion that a small change, however seemingly insignificant, can greatly impact the lives of others for the better.

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Want an example of persistence – tenacious persistence? The life and career of Weather Channel meteorologist Dave Schwartz, well known to weather geeks and Weather Channel watchers alike, smacks of it. Schwartz loved weather at an early age. As a child, he built a weather forecasting kit from Radio Shack that his father had bought him and watched the tornado scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ with delight.

Schwartz’s rich history with The Weather Channel began in 1985 when he worked as a “gofer” in the newsroom. He landed the job after making a spectacle of himself by offering to clean the bathrooms for free! Schwartz wanted to learn from the best  –  no matter the cost. He worked at the network on Saturdays while working at the Fulton County Health Department Monday through Friday. On his only day off, Schwartz would come into the unoccupied studio and practice delivering forecasts in front of the camera. He eventually made it into the on-camera apprentice program, where he would be on-air from 2-3 a.m. once a week alongside an experienced on-camera meteorologist. When an on-camera position would open up, Dave would apply. After many failed attempts, in 1991 his persistence paid off - with the help of an application letter entitled, ’10 reasons why Dave Schwartz should be the next on-camera meteorologist for The Weather Channel.’

Schwartz died on July 31st at age 63 following a long and public battle with cancer. After fending off pancreatic cancer, and a subsequent remission, the longtime weatherman was diagnosed again in 2015, this time with stomach cancer. Known for his friendly on-air demeanor, he often referred to viewers as “my friend” before giving forecasts.

In March, his co-worker Bailey Rogers wrote a heartfelt tribute to Schwartz’s tenacity on the story platform Medium. He detailed the weather man’s persistence in rising up the ranks, and his enduring dedication even in the face of cancer:”Whereas many people would probably take time off, Dave prefers working at his dream job.”

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It’s amazing everywhere. In today’s world, many of us live fast-paced lives. It’s easy to miss how amazing the world in which we live is. Insects, moss and lichens on rocks and telephone poles, sunrises and sunsets, the clouds…on and on. Slow yourself down this weekend. Take a yoga class, attend services, take a hike, take a nap. Do something that slows you down, so you can more easily see how amazing it is out there.

Dave Schwartz

Dave Schwartz’s dealings first showed up in an odd way. Ten years ago while applying his on-camera make-up, Dave noticed a yellow tint to his skin and the whites of his eyes that prompted him to make a doctor’s appointment. To his shock, the diagnosis was stage 2 pancreatic cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, for all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the one-year relative survival rate is 20%, and the five-year rate is 6%.

In attempt to remove the cancerous tumor, Dave underwent a procedure called the Whipple in a local hospital, but unfortunately, due to a complication, the surgery was unsuccessful. He was given just a year to live.

Instead of throwing in the towel, Dave persevered and sought treatment from the surgeon who wrote the book on the Whipple procedure — literally. This mission steered him to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where his doctor suggested chemotherapy and radiation to shrink and isolate the tumor, followed by surgery to remove what was left. The treatment was a success.

The victory, however, was short lived. Less than a year later, during routine check-ups, spots on his lungs appeared — pancreatic cancer again.

Knowing that Dave is a descendant of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe, his surgeon suggested he undergo genetic testing to check for a particular gene mutation that appears more frequently in that population. His bloodwork came back positive for the BRCA2 mutation — a good thing in this scenario. A combination of new and old generation drugs had recently been discovered as an effective treatment option for pancreatic cancer patients with that genetic mutation. Dave was no exception. He was cancer free again.

“None of us is guaranteed tomorrow – we all know that. As far as I’m concerned whether you have cancer or not, we are all in the same boat. None of us really know that we have more time than what we have right now. So I’m no different than anyone else. I have my struggle. I have my cross to bear – other people have their crosses to bear, and let’s hope that we wake up alive tomorrow.”

Dave Schwartz

Another philosophy Schwartz lived by is no “what ifs.” “It is what my wife and I decided early on — 10 years ago — when I was first diagnosed. Period. Let’s go with what we know, and that’s all there is. You can worry that 95% of people don’t live beyond a year with pancreatic cancer…what if…no…more like, what are we having for dinner?” It’s one step at a time and a “no kvetching” (yiddish for complaining) mentality in the Schwartz household.

These perspectives, coupled with his passion for weather, fueled his decision to maintain a normal work schedule at the network. “I enjoy sitting in front of a computer and digging up interesting things to pass on to viewers. I love creating stories. There are so many reasons why I enjoy coming to work. I’m going to come to work as long as I can come to work. The people are great. I love the weather. What could be bad?”

When offering his advice to people diagnosed with cancer, Dave’s advice was to “gather a support group that will rally about you and don’t be afraid to tell everyone you know because everyone knows someone who has or had cancer. There is great information out there through people you know.”

Schwartz demonstrated some of the best qualities of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People throughout his life, particularly in the way he dealt with cancer.

 

 

 

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens said it best. Habits, bad and good alike, have a way of controlling us. Over time they grow from a gossamer thread to a yarn to a rope to a hawser. They serve their master well, for better or for worse. And ultimately it is our choice to put them on.

Covey contends that habits lie at the common intersection of three factors: what to do (knowledge), how to do (skill), and want to do (desire).

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Fundamentally, we create our habits or character (a composite of our habits) and then our habits (or character) create our world. But what is character? Our character is basically a composite of our habits.

Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny as the maxim goes…

Habits are driving forces that consciously and sometimes unconsciously express our character. They can increase or decrease effectiveness. They can be developed, broken, learned and unlearned, but to learn or unlearn takes tremendous commitment and effort.

It is said that a space rocket takes far more energy to lift-off and break the bonds of gravity than it does for the rest of its travel through space. This is basic physics – Newton’s First Law of Motion says a body stays at rest or remains in motion unless acted upon. And so habits are the same way. Breaking a habit requires a force to act upon it – maintaining a habit also requires force to sustain it.

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Covey’s answer to form a habit or destroy a bad one? Make little promises and keep them. Then make bigger promises and keep them. Covey contends that over time, your honor will become bigger than your emotions. The urge to revert to a bad habit will be subdued. And as a result, you will succeed!

 

 

 

 

 

The day was not going well. At every turn, starting with small things in the morning, my day was going wrong. The internet was not working, spoiling my plans to write early after waking. I forgot to get more coffee, prompting an unscheduled drive to the supermarket. After breakfast, I went out to start my lawn tractor and realized I needed to get gas – another trip. Then I tried to start my lawn tractor and it was dead – another trip for a new battery. But even after installing a brand new battery (the old one was confirmed dead), the tractor still wouldn’t start…

In my own situation described above, I’ll admit to initially heading down the “reactive” trail. But I stopped before going too far, remembering Dr. Covey’s teachings. I reversed course and began to think of the problems I was facing as opportunities. I learned more about my tractor, replacing the battery successfully, but then ceased doing more troubleshooting since the need to cut my ever-growing lawn loomed large before me.

So, I got out the push mower, started it, and began the laborious task of cutting 1.5 acres of high grass. And I turned the whole situation around on the point that this would be excellent exercise, something I needed after a long winter. And indeed it was! I huffed and puffed but at the end of the day I had exercised for 4 hours. My legs and upper arms were sore – a good thing.

Being proactive means you carry your own weather with you. Your circumstances do NOT define your response. When our lives are a function of conditioning and conditions, it is because we have, by conscious decision or by default, chosen to empower those things to control us. In making such a choice, we become reactive. Reactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and their performance.

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Reactive people are also affected by their social environment, by the “social weather.” When people treat them well, they feel well; when people don’t, they become defensive or protective. Reactive people build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them. They are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. Proactive people are driven by values — carefully thought about, selected and internalized values. Dr. Covey teaches that we all have a space between stimulus and response and it is in that very space that our greatest gift – the freedom to choose – can be found. So the next time the weather looks bad – the physical weather or the social weather – will you curse it and allow it to ruin your day, or will you choose a good response to it? Or as my mother used to say, will you make lemonade from lemons?

 

 

In the working world, a journeyman is an individual who has completed an apprenticeship and is fully educated in a trade or craft but not yet a master. To become a master, a journeyman has to submit a master work piece to a guild for evaluation and be admitted to the guild as a master. But in the sports world, the definition isn’t quite so clear and varies to some degree by sport…

In any sport, a “journeyman” is someone who routinely plays just well enough to remain in whatever league or circuit he/she belongs to.

This is not an individual who is ever expected to win a championship or become a star. In baseball, it’s the backup catcher who hits .240 and floats from team to team. In ice hockey, it’s the third line checking winger who is too good for the minor leagues, but will never score more than ten goals in a season.

In golf, it’s a player who is annually ranked below the top fifty players in the world, but who is good enough to keep his tour card.

Journeyman players are necessary for professional sports.

These are the folks who the stars rise above. If there were no journeymen, the elite players wouldn’t look so good comparatively speaking.

The term “journeyman” probably gets its name from the notion that these players do a lot of travelling to earn a not-so-lucrative living. They go wherever the jobs are.

It’s use in golf is a bit strained because everybody on tour (even the stars) travel extensively. But “journeymen” will not always follow their “own” tour from venue to venue. A journeyman might depart from (say) the PGA Tour for a month to play competitions with the European Tour if the journeyman expects to make more money.

(The above definition is from Leaderboard.com)

So being labeled a journeyman in golf is both a compliment and, well, an acknowledgment that one isn’t quite top notch in their career. Unless you’re Jim Herman…

Jim Herman, PGA pro, was born in 1977 and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. Herman attended St Xavier High School, a private prep school, where he played golf. He continued with golf, attending the university of Cincinnati, and then turned pro in 2000.

Turning pro is one thing – making it as a pro is entirely another…

“Becoming a tour player requires a lot more time time and effort than most ambitious golfers are willing to put in. Think about it this way; to consider a life as a tour player ask yourself whether you are willing to devote the next 10 to 20 years of your life pursuing this career choice, with at least 5 hours of practice 6 days out of 7, and playing 54 to 72 holes each week.”

It’s now common knowledge in the media that Jim Herman recorded his first PGA Tour victory, in his 106th start, at the Shell Houston Open on April 3rd, 2016. He shot a final round of 68 for a 15-under-par total to complete a one shot win over Henrik Stenson. After Stenson missed a putt to tie Herman, he successfully two putted the final green for the win and earned an invitation to the following week’s Masters Tournament, an event he played for the first time. He also earned his first invitation to the PGA Championship.

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But Herman’s journey to Augusta National for his first Masters Tournament didn’t begin with an early Monday morning flight from Houston. It didn’t begin one day earlier, when he clinched his spot in this week’s field by finally becoming a PGA Tour champion. It didn’t even begin five years ago, when he initially reached the world’s most elite level as a full-time member. Jim Herman’s journey began in 2006, when he took an assistant professional job at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Not long after being hired, Herman was placed in a match alongside Donald Trump, the club’s famous owner. And Jim Herman was on his game that day.

Fortunately, Donald Trump saw an opportunity. It wasn’t long until he offered the club’s new assistant pro a chance to chase his dream, giving him the financial stability necessary to pursue a career as a touring professional, with the caveat that he could always return if it didn’t work out. So Herman took Trump up on the offer. He played the mini-tours for a while and then played the developmental Web.com circuit. He graduated to the big leagues, flunked out, then got promoted again. Herman surpassed the million dollar mark in season earnings last year but never forgot where he got the jump-start. Herman credits Trump for his support and for confidence.

Herman’s week at the Master’s included playing alongside Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III in the Par-3 Contest. He also had many fellow pros congratulating him for his life-changing victory at the Shell Houston Open.“It was a wonderful, wonderful day,’’ he said. “I can’t tell you the ovations that I’ve been getting all week. It’s just unreal. It’s an honor to be playing out here.’’

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Jim Herman celebrates winning the Shell Houston Open

“I don’t know if it was true or not, but at the Par-3, Phil got a great ovation and Davis got a great ovation and it seemed like I got one that was louder,’’ Herman said. “That’s impossible. Phil is a three-time champion here and Davis is a major champion and Ryder Cup captain. I just won the Shell Houston Open and I’m getting a bigger applause.’’

But Herman showed the impossible can be turned possible with “sticktoitiveness”, hard work, determination, pure grit, an eye on the goal, and a little hope and luck. And as a result, he crossed the line from journeyman to master…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A significant challenge in life is the gap between the close up view of life (urgent things, immediate needs and tasks) and the long term view (fundamental needs, long term direction). People tend to respond to urgent, pressing matters even when importance stares them right in the face. Observe anyone in deep, meaningful conversation and see what happens when their phone rings. Yet we all know, down deep, that the key to a life well lived is to emphasize importance over urgency – the compass over the clock. And so it should be with planning. Highly effective people ensure that the close up view never overshadows the long term view of life. And the key to doing this with balance is being able to look at things in the intermediate term – in the context of the week.

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Covey argues that weekly planning provides much greater balance and context than organizing daily or monthly. For one, the week is culturally respected as a single complete unit of time. Business, education, and many other facets of society operate within the framework of the week. And from a religious point of view, the week is also recognized as a time standard, the Sabbath – one day out of every seven – being designated as a day of rest and spiritual reflection.

But the week also gives the perfect balance between perspective and focus to our planning. Covey likens this to walking down the street looking through a camera lens. Imagine, first, seeing the street before you with a zoom lens. One’s view would indeed be very fine and detailed. While this would afford tremendous focus on say, the pavement, all else, including the traffic perspective in the road and the walk-way would be cut out from view, a dangerous situation indeed. On the other side of the spectrum, imagine the view with a wide-angle lens. Here one’s view would be broad, big picture, and perspective rich but detail-poor. With a wide-angle view, the focus needed to turn down the correct street or watch for a trip hazard would be lost. Both focus and perspective have their place in life, but an intermediate view is most needed to get the proper balance of each. This is where weekly planning is the best way to approach life planning.

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So cherish the week and make planning on a weekly basis a habit. Set a day and time, preferably on the weekend, and make it Q2 time – a space in the hectic pace of life to look back, look forward, and plan that critical, bite-sized chunk of life called the week.

“To maintain the P/PC Balance, the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness.”

Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey is known to use old literature for reference in much of his writing. One such reference is Aesop’s fable of “The Goose with the Golden Eggs”. The fable is about a poor farmer who one day observes a large golden egg next to his favorite goose. The farmer believes it is a trick and has the egg tested but much to his disbelief, the egg is solid gold. The farmer checks every day and collects a golden egg – his wealth explodes. Finally, the farmer gets the idea that he should kill the goose and extract all of the golden eggs at once, but when he does, he finds the goose barren.

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The moral of the fable is that ‘greed loses all by striving all to gain’, but Covey uses the fable to illustrate a different moral or principle. Covey relates the fable to ‘effectiveness’ which he says is defined by what he refers to as the P/PC Balance. The “P” stands for production – the “PC” stands for production capability. Both are necessary for effectiveness. Covey tells the story of the manager who takes over a work area and makes huge productivity gains almost immediately. This manager has taken over a previously well-run operation, but decides to neglect maintenance, personnel care, training, and other PC functions in the name of production. In the short term, the manager is lauded for setting new production records, but over time, with production capability neglected, problems start cropping up. Personnel are burned out from excessive overtime, work instructions are not revised, causing quality problems, and machinery begins to fail, causing excessive downtime and stops in the production line. Production eventually goes down.

But too much focus on production capability is just as bad as the manager’s obsession with production. Excessive maintenance in the name of pride, training on topics that don’t directly impact production, a focus on quality perfection as opposed to fitness for use – all these things are ills just the same as neglecting production capability.

So effectiveness is achieved when there is a balance between our ability to produce and our capability to produce. Habit 7, “Sharpen the Saw” is the very essence of production capability. In our personal lives, for example, how many of us can run, run, run through a busy and hectic week without taking some time to recharge our batteries. And yet, we could put so much focus on exercise that we find we have spent a life running and not living.

So take time to think through every aspect of your life and examine how effective you are balancing P/PC. This applies as much to work or your profession as it does to relationships, finance, your spiritual life, your physical being, your mind, and your recreational activities. Remember that effectiveness has its roots in balance and moderation…

We all think that with age comes maturity. In some ways this is true. For one, we all mature physically. As we progress through adolescence and puberty, we become men and women. We also learn from life and gain some amount of wisdom from the experience. But is there more to maturity? What is maturity and how do we know we have fully matured, mentally, spiritually, and socially / emotionally?

Dr. Stephen Covey writes about this in Habit 1 of his Seven Habits and he refers to it as the “Maturity Continuum”. This model for true growth and personal effectiveness is represented in an upward-moving spiral. It represents the path we all travel in our lives, and if we truly mature over time, marks our transition from dependence to independence and ultimately, to interdependence. Unfortunately, not all of us will travel far along the maturity continuum. Indeed, some people never truly leave the dependence stage.

No matter how far we go, we all start life at the same place: dependence. As infants, we are entirely dependent on our parents for feeding, care, love, and development. We also require shelter, food, and clothing. Without someone to depend on for the very basics of life, we would perish. Over time, we slowly become independent, at least in some aspects of our lives. We learn how to take care of some of our physical needs. Gradually, we achieve enough independence to make it on our own. But for many, dependence is still a stage we are stuck in. We may be living on our own, yet may depend on another for our happiness. We may earn enough money to achieve a decent standard of living, yet still be dependent on parents for some level of financial support due to high debt.

Covey illustrates how his Seven Habits help us progress from one stage of the maturity continuum to another. To become truly independent, we must embrace and live Habits 1, 2, and 3:

  • We must be proactive, for example. We must learn that WE are responsible for our own happiness. We must learn to respond rather than react. We must focus on our circle of influence and not the circle of concern.
  • We must begin with the end in mind. We must learn that all things are created twice – the mental or first creation, followed by the physical, or second creation. We must develop our own self-awareness and endeavor to craft a personal mission statement that will serve as our own unwavering constitution or code, through life.
  • And we must put first things first, focusing our efforts on high-leverage quadrant II activities before the world tries to mire us down in urgency. We must seek for balance in life, between production and our capability to produce.

Once we have truly mastered the first three habits, we can work on the second three to help us achieve the ultimate stage of the maturity continuum: interdependence. Interdependence is a far higher level of maturity and effectiveness in life, and one not achieved even by many who we consider “successful”. To become interdependent, we must embrace and live habits 4, 5, and 6:

  • We must first think “win-win”. Without this higher view on life, we can never expect to seek true interdependence in working with others.
  • We must then seek first to understand, then to be understood. Without truly listening and fully understanding where others are coming from, it is impossible to build deep and true relationships and the trust that results.
  • Finally, we must synergize. Synergy is considered by Covey to be the highest activity in all of life. It is where 1 + 1 equals more than 2 – and sometimes 3, 5, 100, or even 1,000.

Even if we reach a level of interdependence, the maturity continuum represents a spiral of continuous improvement. And regular practice of Habit 7, “Sharpen the Saw”, is a great way to improve while assuring gains that are made are held. In fact, Habit 7 embodies practices that improve all of the other 6 Habits.

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Sometimes one of the hardest things to do in life is to live as a light. We all eventually become critical or judgmental to some degree in our everyday lives. And while there are many times where small things snuff out our ‘light’, there can also be valid issues, such as an ethical issue at work, sickness or even death of a family member, or a bitter divorce, that literally ‘puts out our light’.

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Regardless of the causes of things that get us down or make us negative, Dr. Covey advises us to ‘be a light, not a judge, be a model and not a critic’. Indeed, the second law of thermodynamics states that everything eventually falls apart, that over time all systems degrade from order to chaos. How easy it is to break from the practice of being proactive and begin to complain, to cite problems that are ‘out there’, and to act as if we are above the fray, mere spectators to this thing called life. Rather than pick at others, calling them out for their flaws, endlessly criticizing, why not seek first to understand them. Why not empathize and look upon them with compassion and look upon the world with a soft eye rather than a critical one. Understand what truly “is” and try to help if help is needed.

Try your best and be proactive – choose light over darkness. Light is leadership – it’s a choice. Choose light and move forward into the New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Covey spends a good amount of time on what he refers to as The Circle of Influence in his teachings on Habit #1, the habit of proactivity. The Circle of Influence is best described by a very simple diagram with two concentric circles:

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Covey teaches that the two circles essentially divide those things over which we have control or can influence in a positive way and those that lie outside our control and influence. He goes on to say that proactive people focus on the inner circle, the circle of influence, and not the outer circle, the circle of concern, whereas reactive people do the opposite. In so doing, reactive people give their energy to problems they cannot do anything about, which in turn allows their inner circle of influence to whither from a lack of attention.

Easier said than done. In this world of blame it is common to worry about things “out there”, when instead one could be putting energy into the inner circle and slowly growing one’s influence.

Such a lesson is perfectly illustrated in the story from the Bible (Genesis) of Joseph and Potiphar.

Joseph had been sold by his own brothers to traveling Midianites, who in turn sold him in Egypt to Potiphar. Potiphar was likely a very wealthy man; he was employed as captain of the guard and was able to purchase a servant. Potiphar would have likely led the king’s executioners as ordered by Pharaoh. Potiphar grew to trust Joseph due to Joseph’s influence and proactivity and eventually put him in charge of his household, entrusting to Joseph’s care everything he owned. In fact, the trust was so deep that Potiphar did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

However, the account of Joseph and Potiphar changes when Potiphar’s wife asked Joseph to sleep with her. When he refused, she falsely accused him of attempted rape. Upon hearing the charges, Potiphar removed Joseph as servant and sent him to prison.

In this Egyptian prison, Joseph found favor with the guards and was soon placed in charge of the other prisoners. He correctly interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants. This event would later lead to his opportunity to stand before Pharaoh and interpret the king’s dreams. When he did, Joseph was promoted from prisoner to second in command to Pharaoh and ended up providing a way to save his own family as well as the people of Egypt during a future famine.

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Many lessons can be learned from the story of Joseph and Potiphar, but perhaps one of the most instructive is how it relates to the circle of influence. How easy would it have been for Joseph to focus on his circumstances and woe, of which he really had no control? Instead, he focused on what he could control. Even though he experienced a setback, the false accusation of Potiphar’s wife, he still persisted in focusing on his own circle of influence and eventually became second in Egypt, only to Pharoah.

When you focus on what you can control and influence, and let the circle of concern go, this is what happens:

Concern_Influence

You gradually become more effective as your circle of influence expands due to your proactivity. This leads to effectiveness in life.

The difference between the two circles is also very much the difference between “have” and “be”. Reactive people focus on “have”. Rather than effectiveness and all that it brings, they focus on “haves” – if only I could win the lottery, if I could only have a better boss, spouse, parent, if only people would be nice to me, if only I had better looks…

Proactive people focus on “be”. I want to be a supportive spouse. I want to be a better employee. I want to be financially independent. Notice the difference – “have” puts the concern “out there”, “be” puts the focus where it belongs…

There are so many examples of people who, despite extraordinary obstacles and dire circumstances, focus on “be”, focus on the circle of influence, focus on being proactive. It’s hard, especially when it’s so easy to place responsibility on the outside. But ultimately, this is one principle that puts the ball solidly in your court, and ultimately, isn’t that where you want it to be?