May 11, 2015

A Good Apology

Listen to this letter of apology:

"Dear Dog,

   I am so sorry about you being sent to the dog pound for the broken lamp which you did not break; the fish you did not spill; and the carpet that you did not wet; or the wall that you did not dirty with red paint...

   Things here at the house are calmer now, and just to show you that I have no hard feelings towards you, I am sending you a picture, so you will always remember me.

Best regards, The Cat"

The Old French root of the word "repent" is "repentir," which actually means to be sorry. The cat may have said he was sorry, but there is no sorrow here. 

It reminds of me of the story of a woman with fourteen children, ages one through fourteen, who decided to sue her husband for divorce on grounds of desertion. "When did he desert you?" the judge asked. "Thirteen years ago," she replied. "He left 13 years ago? Where did all the children come from?" The woman looked sheepish. “He kept coming back to say he was sorry."

Again, no sorrow here, for if he'd been truly sorry, he'd have stayed. Sincere repentance always leads to change.

We need to learn how to make a GOOD APOLOGY -- one that is sincere and honest. One that gets the job done. Offering a good apology is not something many people do well. But we can learn. 

It is well said that a good apology has three parts: I am sorry; it is my fault; what can I do to make it right?

I am sorry. Three short words that, when they are heart-felt, can be most difficult to say. But when uttered, they can change lives.

It is my fault. No excuses. No blame. Psychologist Carl Jung insightfully said, “The only person I cannot help is one who blames others.” When we accept fault we have the power to do something about it. When we pass the blame, we are helpless to keep it from happening again.

What can I do to make it right? Unless we change something, nothing changes. A good apology is followed by action. Otherwise, it is only words. 

If you are going to apologize, apologize well. Never ruin your apology with an excuse and back it up with action. 

Learning how to make a good apology is too important to neglect. It’s part of maintaining whole and healthy relationships. And it’s something we can practice today.

– Steve Goodier

May 1, 2015

Success Tax

I have learned something about success: I have learned that it comes with a tax.

Achieve your dreams, they say. Anything you want can come your way. Nothing to it, they say. Just follow a simple system and anything and everything can be yours. Not so. There is a tax you pay to get what you want, whether you want more income, healthier relationships, emotional satisfaction, spiritual growth or a well-lived life. It is called dedication.

Orson Welles once said, "My doctor has advised me to give up those intimate little dinners for four, unless, of course, there are three other people eating with me." Some people will tell you that you can lose 25 or 50 pounds in just weeks. It's easy, they say. Not so. Andy Rooney observed that the two biggest sellers in any bookstore are cookbooks and diet books. “Cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and diet books tell you how not to eat any of it.” If it were easy to lose weight, who’d buy the books?

Some people will tell you that you can have the body of an athlete, or the Incredible Hulk or a fashion model (assuming that’s what you want). It's quick and simple, they say. Not so. It is never easy to succeed at difficult goals. There is a tax, and that tax is called dedication.

Do you want to excel at a sport, play a musical instrument well or become an accomplished artist? One man was lost in New York City. He poked his head into a taxi cab and asked the driver, "How do you get to Yankee Stadium?" The driver responded, "Practice, practice, practice." You want to become really good at something you enjoy? You probably can. But there is a tax to pay and that tax is called dedication.

Many of us would like closer relationships with a spouse or a child or with friends. There are never guarantees, but I promise that those relationships will suffer without dedication. When they were small, I wanted to figure out how to be closer to my young boys. And I noticed what the problem was...I wasn't spending enough high-quality, significant time with them. So, in addition to my other parental activities, I decided that I would take one of them out for breakfast every week. Just the two of us. For me it was alone time with one child. For my sons, it was a chance to get Dad all by himself -- with no distractions. 

I scheduled the breakfast dates a few days in advance. Some weeks it seemed like more of a nuisance and I was tempted to skip. Some weeks we didn't have the money. Some weeks I had an unusually busy day ahead and believed I just didn't have the time. But it was a high priority. I dedicated myself to it and, regardless of good reasons to cancel, I made it happen anyway. (And if truth be told, my sons wouldn't let me skip -- they looked forward to eating food they usually didn't get at home.) As I now figure it, I had breakfast alone with one of my children over 500 times. It became a time for listening and talking and bonding; never a time for correcting and persuading (those were the ground rules). As I look back, I made plenty of mistakes as a father, but if I had it to do over again, I would still do the breakfasts.

We pay a tax to succeed at anything worthwhile. That tax is called dedication, and here's the most wonderful part. Once you pay it, once you truly dedicate yourself to something important, you'll find the price was worth it.

– Steve Goodier