Wednesday, September 7, 2011

When the moral compass we all have, stops working

When the moral compass we all have stops working.

When young men or women are in their early stages of life, it is often said that the most important period is at the age where habits are formed. According to Freud, it is between your second and seventh year of life.

There is controversy with this theory, it might not even be true, but we can all agree that when your habits are formed, that is a very important period in your life.

Ah, but there might be an even more important period, and that is when the ideals of young people are formed and little by little adopted.   There might even be a correlation, as you form your ideals; you work on your habits in order to be in a better position to achieve your ideals.

No one is raised in a moral space or vacuum. Every mentally sound person is brought up Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu, new age, free thinker or an atheist.  Everyone is told right out of the crib, to obey your parents, be a good boy or girl and don’t lie.

An amoral person is a moral person who for the time being disconnects his behavior from his values.

Each of us possesses a moral compass, some sort of GPS, also called a conscience.

This GPS was programmed by parents, grandparents, coaches, priests, pastors, coaches, friends and peers.

This compass is part of you and it will remain so for the rest of your life, guiding your behavior day by day.

When I was a young boy, my parents didn’t want me to smoke at the age of 12 and it was very clear that I wasn’t supposed to do so. Yet, with a group of friends, I went to the movies and one pulled out a cigarette pack and we each took one. It might have been peer pressure but I allowed that to happen and when he started to light each of the cigarettes, I didn’t object.

I smoked that one cigarette, well, didn’t actually smoked it, just blew out some smoke, but as I was doing it, I immediately realized I was disobeying my parents and I felt very guilty.

I made the decision to not ever smoke and I have never ever smoked cigarettes or for that matter anything else.  As I entered the University of Puerto Rico, there was strong peer pressure to smoke marijuana, snort cocaine and taste other recreational drugs and since I had been successful in resisting peer pressure when my friends started smoking, I was able to avoid the drug consuming behavior.   It helped that I played basketball and I was always training but a lot of my basketball teammates smoked cigarettes and everything else.

Certain types of behavior encourage a disconnect with our GPS or conscience.

Rationalizing blurs caution lights, arrogance dims boundaries, and a sense of desperation or time pressures overrides good sense.

Whatever is blinding you, the right wrong indicator light continues to flash continuously. We might not ask but the compass always tells.

We have to understand that today’s society tolerates too much questionable behavior, there is no doubt about that, and it makes it much harder for the younger generation to discern what is right or wrong.

Even so, does anyone accept stealing? No, it was wrong a hundred years ago and it is wrong today. Don’t students know that cheating in the exam is wrong? Of course they do.

Kids know what the right conduct is even if they don’t always admit it. Their moral compasses although still developing are in working order. They are too young to know that they can trade in their conscience for a higher rating in Standard and Poor’s.  By instinct they feel better when they are at peace with themselves.

Many, still too young, may not know who Sophocles was but they do understand his message: “There is no witness so terrible or no accuser so powerful as the conscience”.

In one elementary school years ago, I went into the classroom and the kids had come up with some rules that they thought would help them in school and later on in life. I was very amused but very impressed that they were thinking about what was right and what wasn’t right.

If memory serves me right, some of the rules were: Don’t open your classmate’s bag without his or her permission, always tell the truth no matter the consequences, do your homework, obey your teacher and when in doubt, ask the teacher.

For teachers that read this column, it would be a good idea for you to see what kinds of rules your students think are important in the classroom and then later on in life.

I once knew a very important member of society that was accused and convicted of having sex with a minor. I had the opportunity to speak to him before going to prison and asked him how in the world he allowed that to happen.

He said to me that when he saw the young lady for the first time and the idea came to his mind, he could have taken it out of his mind and that might have saved him. But he allowed the idea to stay in his mind. He saw her again and the wrong thoughts came to his mind and he allowed them to stay in his mind and started fantasizing even when the girl wasn’t present. That did him in. There was a point where he simply couldn’t control his thoughts and then couldn’t control his actions.

We have just been witness to a very sad situation with Senator Arango.  Even though in his resignation letter he said he was innocent, most people, if not everyone believes that it was him in those pictures. Assuming he was, one click of the camera and one click in the computer ruined his career and maybe even his life.

The same as the judge, when that idea first came to his mind, again, assuming he did it, he could have stopped it. He could have listened to his GPS and he could have altered his behavior. For whatever reason, he allowed it to happen.  No one is perfect and we all deviate from our moral compass once in a while but what is important is to get back in line and correct the direction we are going.

Oscar de la Hoya knew that an athlete is not supposed to drink, more so when in training for a fight. Yet, he allowed that to happen. He didn’t listen to his conscience and he took a sip here and a sip there until he had to drink all the time. He then went on to more dangerous drugs and his marriage and his whole life was in jeopardy. He went into treatment and according to him he is completely rehabilitated.

When I lived in Los Paseos, I once saw him in a Starbucks with a young lady I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t his wife Millie. I had my book in my hand and was walking towards him to give it to him but when I realized what was happening, I turned around. I didn’t want to embarrass him. It might have been a friend or a fan but since he has admitted to being unfaithful, I will never know.  I have great admiration for his wife for sticking with him in this very negative period of their lives.

He is a very good guy that simply allowed that one negative idea to stay in his mind and it went on to lead him down a dangerous path. I do hope he understands that alcoholism and drug addiction has no cure. He is not cured. He simply is in remission and if ten years from now, he takes a drink, he will become an alcoholic again. So, that one thought of having a drink, must be erased immediately from his mind. I have great admiration for Millie whom I met when she was hired by Celulares Telefonica to sing in an event at the Marriott hotel and since I had a consulting contract with them, I was invited.  I admire her for sticking with Oscar in the worst of times.

Thinking precedes action; you become what you think about. Don’t allow negative ideas to destroy you. Stop them immediately before they take over your mind and your life.

A job interview is a sales interview

A job interview is a sales interview

Roger Ailes, a communication consultant specializing  in marketing and public relations, clearly understood the idea that when anyone is looking for a job, what that person is doing is selling an idea or an expectation to the one doing the hiring.

Several years ago he wrote the book, “You are the message”, I love the title, and in that book he tells us about a client who had just quit a very prestigious consulting firm in order to look for better opportunities elsewhere, maybe even making more money.

Roger says that the young lady was really very good at what she did, she was efficient and she had a great curriculum vitae but for whatever reason, she hadn´t been able to land a job after trying for a few months. He took on the challenge and proceeded to interview her for half an hour. Afterwards, very sincerely he told her that if she was applying for a job and he had to make the decision, he wouldn´t hire her.

The lady was very surprised at Roger´s comment and asked him why?  He proceeded to tell her that in the whole half hour, not once had she addressed how the company hiring her was supposed to make back the $150,000 salary she was asking for.   

This is a very important question that must be answered by anyone looking for a job, specially a well paying job. When a company is going to hire you and pay you X amount of money for your services, in order to have a better chance of being hired, you better make sure that in the interview you convince the interviewer that you are the best candidate and how will you make back the money they will be paying you and then some.  

In two sessions that followed the initial session with this lady, the P.R firm worked on communicating the tangible value of her skills and accomplishments throughout her professional career including their worth to the employee. This is very important, how much were those abilities and skills accumulated throughout her career translated into bottom line dollars for the employer.

They devised a list to be used on every interview from then on and it was so well thought out that I want to share it with you in case you are looking for a job or you are hiring people who are looking for jobs.

In a soft jobs market, more people will be competing for fewer jobs so you must give it all you have got during the interview.

Here is the list:

1.      How is my physical appearance? Am I dressed and groomed appropriately for this particular job, the company, and the industry culture? (This is important since you would not dress the same way if you were applying to work in Google as you would if you applied in IBM)

2.      How self assured do I portray myself to be? Can I put the interviewer or others participating in the interview at ease?

3.      Can I communicate the following during the interview in a clear, brief, entertaining and interesting manner:

·        How I represent a return on the employer´s total investment in my pay and benefits if I am hired (in other words, how much money I will bring in and how I will add measurable value to the company)

·        Specific examples of my achievements at work, each delivered in no more than a minute or two mini case histories and focused on results not on activity.

·        My knowledge of the industry (market place , products or services, personal contacts, inside and outside pressures, trends)

·        Knowledge of my potential employer´s company including its goals, challenges, history and top management. If it is a public company, go to their web site and take a look at the 10K report, it is public information and gives you lots of information of the company’s challenges.

4.      Can I demonstrate with concrete examples my:

·        Maturity and readiness to take on responsibility?

·        Desire and enthusiasm to learn and grow on the job?

·        Positive attitudes toward management and coworkers?

·        Commitment and involvement; doing more than the bare minimum the job requires?

·        Understanding of the technical language and the practices of the industry?

This lady, after being trained and going to her first interview, was hired with a 25% increase in her expected salary. She followed the plan and because of it she was successful. Ray Pelletier, a good friend of mine, may he rest in peace, used to tell me that he only took clients on that were coachable. If someone is not coachable it is very difficult to help that person.

If you are looking for a job or if you have to interview people, it is important for you to understand this methodology because it will help you get the job or hire a good candidate.

Change your brain, change your world

Change your brain, change your life

“I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command, half the tasks you do you must just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed; you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great men and women and alas, of all the great failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will put the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you”.

Who am I?

The answer is “I am your brain”.  This paragraph written by Wendell Noble years ago sums up in a very effective manner the power of your brain.

The brain is involved in absolutely everything we do. How we think, feel, act and interact with other people. It is the organ that determines who you are as a person, spouse, parent, child, employee or boss.

If you have a good brain, you have a good life if you have a bad brain you have a lousy life. When your brain works right, you work right, when your brain doesn’t work right, you can’t work right.

What is most interesting is that this three pound lump of wrinkly mass is the most complicated thing in the whole universe and yet it is 75 to 85% liquid with the consistency of butter.

I find it so interesting that the brain generates nearly 25 watts of power while you are awake, which is enough to light up a light bulb.

Some scientists say that the brain generates more electrical impulses in one day by only one human brain than by all the telephones in the world.  This is difficult to believe until you realize that it is made up of 100 billion neurons, the same amount as there are stars in our galaxy. You can find 30,000 neurons on the head of a pin.

What I want to emphasize here is that every time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals.

Every bad thought releases chemicals that make you feel bad and every good thought releases chemicals that make you feel good.

In Dr. Donald Goff’s Ph.D. dissertation he observed that the negative activity taking place in his students was significantly related to the combination of three negative feeling states:

1.       Not feeling loved, cared about or liked.

2.       Generally feeling sad and or angry.

3.       Not feeling good about themselves and life.

He asserted that negative feeling states represented the strongest statistically significant relationship to harmful and unproductive behavior, more than any other identified factor.

The productive students on the other hand, felt good about themselves, liked themselves, felt life was good and worthwhile and felt good about the rest of their lives and their future possibilities.

These good feelings were significantly related to other constructive and positive attitudes and behaviors.

As a general principle, if you feel good about yourself, you will do well and if you feel bad or have bad feelings, you will do badly.

The often quoted scientist Albert Einstein wrote: “There are two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is amazing and truly beautiful”

Think about it, what would be the consequences if you lived your life being full of amazement, wonder and awe?

It doesn’t take a genius to know that your life would be very exciting, fun and you would be constantly challenged by what you discover on a daily basis.

What we must keep in mind:

What you think about, you bring about.

What you resist persists (Carl Jung)

The difference between a man or woman of weakness and one of power lies not in the strength of the personal will, but on what you focus on.

When the marshmallow experiment with the four year olds was performed (you can see the video on then type my name) some of the children that were able to delay gratification, did so not because they had a stronger will power but because they took their attention away from the marshmallow and directed it someplace else. That as they say, took away the temptation.  They focused on something else, not on the marshmallow.

Whatever you steadfastly direct your attention to, will come into your life and dominate it.  Understand that attention is power, energy goes where attention flows and what you focus on, will determine your reality.

If you focus on what you need, not on what you have, what you are not instead of what you are, what might have been instead of what is or what you are doing without instead of what you are doing with, you have an attitude problem that will close doors and opportunities all your life.

We know times are tough; you must keep a positive attitude and look for opportunities with an open mind and focus on how you can best serve society. If you do that, money will follow.

I end with a beautiful quote by Melody Beattie:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow”.