The Ultimate Life Lesson…

Lips blue and hands shaking beyond human control, Carl Brashear struggled to find the next step up the side of the metal ladder to the wooden pier.  As he made it to the top of the landing, he staggered to a wooden bench to sit down.  His legs were no longer strong enough to hold him beneath the weight of a 200 pound brass diving suit.  No one had survived this long.  No one yet.

For the past 9 hours, he had searched the floor of the ocean for the couplings, brackets, and screws he needed to complete his task.  Against supernatural odds and direct opposition from the world around him, he had found deep within himself the power to continue.  Years later when asked why he fought so hard, he simple stated: "I ain't going to let nobody steal my dream"...

In 2000, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the telling of Carl's story.  It ranks right up there with Rudy as one of the most inspirational movies of all time, Men of Honor...

Which got me thinking about a personal quality that is often overlooked by those who want to be high performers -- honor....

Honor can be a confusing concept.  I think of it less as a "knight and fair maiden fairytale" and more of the quite resolve that guides what we do.  It's our own code of conduct.  The rules we set for ourself and how we do business...

Changing the world demands a code.  Without it you get lost in the noise of the critics and lose out to the temptations to chose shortcuts and the easy way out.

Here's the harsh reality of our lives:

Most of us will quit too early...  Give up too soon!

We let our critics wear us down to the point that we convince ourselves that changing the world is no longer important.  We get tired of the friction of being different and acting different and decide that maybe the cause isn't that important.  We start taking failure too personally and start living petty lives derailing others.

We let others steal our dreams and our souls.

And here's another harsh reality:

It's our fault we lost our way... We let this happen.

We gave in to the pressure.  We stopped fighting when things for too tough.  We traded acceptance for belief.

And now we need to change it.  We can recharge our honor system; invest back into our code.

So let's do that....

(It starts with patience...)

Soren Kierkegaard, a danish philosopher said it best: “Patience is necessary… you cannot reap immediately where you have sown.”

You can't build your honor system overnight.  You can't.  There is something about living by a code that requires you getting a thorough beating.  An untested code is nothing.  You have to be tested (and many times over).

But the good things about honor is that you alone are the master of your destiny.  You control your responses to those around you -- the critics, the fans, the rest of the world.

SO:

  1. Be honorable to you -- You are all you have in the world and as soon as you lose your sense of "you", it all stops making sense pretty quickly.  Don't lie to yourself.  If you put in 40% effort and failed then admit it and put in more effort next time.  If you try to convince yourself that 40% was really 100%, then you just trimmed your peak performance in a huge way.  The effects get worse and worse and eventually you will find yourself sweating just to contribute 10% of your old self.  Decide to be unapologetically honest with yourself and you will find that even when you screw up, you perform at consistently higher levels than you did in the past.
  2. Be honorable to your dream -- It's hard to stand up when you keep getting pushed back down.  But the dream (your dream) is the most powerful force you know.  People live and people die.  Bad things happen and good luck too.  You can't always control your immediate circumstances.  But you can always control your attitude.  That's important.  Bad things can turn right around into amazingly good things almost overnight.  It's hard but you have to remember your dream.  You can't lose that part of you when it looks like the world is fighting against you
  3. Be honorable to your core values -- Don't do bad things to other people.  I don't know how to say it any other way.  It's amazing how karma comes around at the worst possible time to take it's "pound of flesh".  If you make it a habit to take advantage of other people, you can expect that you will get your ass kicked eventually.  Let's hope it's not at the time when you are taking down the biggest sale of your life.  Earn karma points by giving help to others without asking for anything.  Just do it to be a delight.  When you do take an uppercut, you'll find yourself surrounded by people wanting to help.
  4. Be honorable to your peers -- Admit when you make a mistake and apologize.  Nothing tests your code like having to admit that you were a idiot.  It happens.  What doesn't happen a lot of the time is us letting go of our egos.  And that sucks.  You can't be better -- operate consistently as a high-performer, when you don't take responsibility for your actions (even unintended outcomes)...  Own up.  Move on.  Don't hold out on apologizing because you think your peers haven't noticed that you screwed up.  Guess what?  Now, they not only think you're an idiot but an as$%hole at the same time.
  5. Be honorable to your critics -- It's OK to go down after you take an upper cut.  Let's face it -- you weren't expecting it in the first place.  Right?  You thought everyone wanted to play nice and instead you find yourself flat on your back trying to clear your head so you can get back in the fight.  Take your time standing up (take the full 10 seconds), but when you get back up, don't throw low blows.  Critics operate under one basic premise -- trying to convince the rest of the world that everything you do is motivated by the "mania of an ax murderer" (or something close to that).  Nothing you do will be right.  So just know that and move on.  Don't let it affect your code.  And whatever you do, don't really do something legitimately spiteful on purpose.  That just feeds the addiction your critics already have.

Friends come and go and circumstance change every few seconds but you have to live with yourself longer than anyone.  Be cool with yourself.  Live with honor.  Sell without limits...

My roots in understanding the concept of honor came from my dad, who just turned 61 on Monday.  Everyone who knows him knows what I am talking about.  He set a high standard...

I remember one snow day where all of us kids had the day off because the schools were closed.  Pebbled ice covered the road about 2 inches with another 6-7 inches of powder snow on top of that.  I expected my dad to be home with us as most of the federal offices were on leave because of the weather.  Instead, he took 5 hours to make the drive into the office at the NSA.  I don't really know what needed to get done that day, but my dad make the trek because it was important to him.  It's the small things that define our code.  It's the things that we are remembered for in years to come.