Looking for Solutions

Looking for solutions is not like shopping for clothes. It’s not about staring at a rack and picking out the color and style we like. Sometimes the solution is something that has never been tried, or looks nothing like we expect it to. It’s a very creative process that works best when we are deeply open to all kinds of possibilities.
Create
For inspiration, read this short story about a NC middle-school principal. As a young teacher, she was struck by an experience she had helping kids prepare for an open-house night for parents. With all that the kids did to clean their desks and make the classroom ready for parents, she will never forget how she felt when not one parent showed up that night. She began to see that getting kids engaged in their own education and getting parents interested was going to take a new kind of solution. Now as a principal, she has found a way.

 

Sometimes those solutions can be spontaneous. Like this story that transformed an ordinary morning commute on a New York City subway into something extraordinary. Faced with a car full of hateful graffiti, strangers bonded instantly to do something positive. You can read the story here.
What solutions will you create? The biggest barriers to solving problems are often wrapped up in the victim mentality. It happens when we focus too much on what’s wrong and waste precious energy wishing it were different. Experiment with focusing on what’s possible next time we’re faced with what’s wrong and get creative. Successfully discovering creative solutions is not just fun, it keeps us inspired. At TRP Enterprises, Inc. we are having fun creating new training programs to keep the inspiration going. Stay tuned for more as we debut our new program this month on Managing Change.

Inspirational: Inspires others to be their best by setting the example.

The newly revised competencies of a TRP include five key qualities. Each of them describe important aspects of our highest ethical character. This month we’ll explore the quality of Inspirational. You can see all five qualities here.

Below is a picture of Rodney Smith Jr., the founder of Raising Men Lawn Care. If you haven’t heard Rodney’s story, click the image below to see the 2.5 minute YouTube video. He and his colleague have just cut this lady’s lawn. All three are residents of Huntsville, Alabama, home of Rodney’s business. That business is about giving young men a job that builds character: cutting grass for elderly neighbors, without charge.

raising-men

What do you see in this picture? Here are a few things we’ve picked out:

  • Rodney and his team view their own youthfulness as a responsibility. Because they are young and able, they can and will give back and serve older people.
  • People of diverse backgrounds can have meaningful, common connections.
  • His team mentors young men to stay “busy” with production and service.
  • When busy with the above, young men also learn to be focused.
  • They observed a PROBLEM with older people not being able to take care of their lawns.
  • They observed a PROBLEM with young people giving in to negative habits for a lack of positive opportunities.
  • They offered a solution to both problems that has an exponential impact. Not only does it solve the above two problems but it fosters hope and inspiration that can ripple out far beyond their neighborhood. On their facebook page, they end all of their posts with, “Making a difference in our community.”

Thanks Rodney and the folks at Raising Men Lawn Care for inspiring us to do our best by setting the example. To our readers… pass it on!

Freedom and Responsibility

America’s birthday this month marks many decades of growth and progress, and yet we have a long way to go towards fulfilling our potential.

Viktor Frankl once suggested that in addition to the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast, America should erect a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast. Perhaps by this he meant we cannot ever know true freedom until we are willing to accept full responsibility for our actions and our choices.

liberty

Photo Credit: Thunderstorm in NY by Marco Fedele

In these times of conflict where examples of negative behavior seem to exist everywhere, ultimately the only person we can change is ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words were to “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

In a recent TRP workshop, this idea was illustrated for us by a participant. She shared her O-FLAG (Opportunity For Learning And Growth) story with us:

She had young children and came in early to get work done so she could leave early and spend time with them. However, her manager would typically come by her desk late in the afternoon and “check-in.” The conversations with her manager always seemed to stall her plans and nearly every time she’d be “stuck!” She was growing frustrated. She wanted her manager to change the routine… she wanted her workplace to change the rules for her… She wanted everyone else to change so she could get what she wanted!

Instead, she changed herself.

She slowed down and allowed the mornings to become quality time with her children. Instead of coming early, she would come to work on time, get her work done, and leave on time. When she came home, she was fully present and she didn’t feel guilty about it. She was more focused at home, and more productive at work. It was the personal adjustments she made – it was the freedom to choose how she felt and what she could do about it that made all the difference.

Exercising our power of choice is not insignificant during these times of tension and challenge. Let’s be the change that we wish to see in the world.

Unhappy People

This post is in response to a question from a serious leader. She is all about improvement and bringing out the best, both at work and at home. She says:

I have a good friend of many years. In the last couple years, she’s grown to become a negative and unhappy person. We no longer spend much time together, mostly because she is so negative and there is no longer much common ground between us. If I can change this, I would like to do so. How?

Great question! We asked several people their experience of dealing with similar situations to the question our friend posed. Here are their answers. Any necessary context has been included too.

1. One of my co-workers is a habitual complainer. She is a person who cares about others, just like me. It can be hard for me, and I think for other people to see how inside, she’s a thoughtful, caring person who loves others and wants to see them succeed. I look for that part of her and focus on that. I look beyond the other stuff.

2. I am “friends” with people on facebook who are really negative. So I just hide them and don’t have to see their stuff in my news feed. I do not dislike them but I can choose what I “listen to.”

3. For me, it’s about  being true to myself. I know that Momma loves me, she just has a weird way of saying those three words. The other night on the phone I thought I was going to lose control with every word she said. Especially when I told her how happy I was now that I’ve been taking personal responsibility for my own choices and she said “you’d better get off of your high horse, missy!” It was in that moment I realized there was nothing I needed to do to change my mother. All I needed to do was to be her daughter.  I simply said, “Momma, if you ever see me on my high horse and acting rude or arrogant, will you please let me know? I don’t want to be that way.” For several poignant seconds, there was absolute silence on the phone. My mother changed the subject after that and we had a delightful conversation.

4. For more learning on this subject, consult appendix H in the TRP Participant Workbook (revised workbook pages 80-82).

We’d love to hear from you. What do you do with unhappy people, what works for you?

 

The Man Who Found Solutions

Saturday night in Rochester, New York, the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI) presented the annual Visionary Award. Each year and individual is chosen to receive the award. The person chosen is one who embodies the mission of ABVI: to prepare and empower people who are blind or visually impaired to be self sufficient and contribute to their families and communities.

This year’s award was presented to Jarret. Jarret became legally blind in his mid 40’s. He was an ordinary man. He had a good job and didn’t mind working hard. When vision problems prevented him from doing his job, he found a solution by focusing on the things he could do, and not the things he couldn’t. He worked with his employer and stepped back from his role as chief financial officer to take on a role of systems development, working with computers.

He loved riding a bicycle, so he adapted and learned to ride on the backseat of a tandem bicycle. With his son James, he rode that tandem from Seattle to Rochester in the summer of 2001.The next summer his daughter Mary rode with him from Maine to Rochester, completing the final 500 miles of that coast-to-coast trip.

Through learning to adapt and solve problems for himself, he found he had a passion for helping others do the same. He began volunteering with the organization that counseled him, the Rochester-based Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI).

While advising the group financially for years, Jarret became a member of its board in 1994 and was chairman from 2000 to 2002.

This man Jarret, was my father. When my mother received the visionary award on his behalf this past Saturday night, nearly 300 people were gathered together for the ceremony. They gave her an immediate standing ovation. With grace and poise, she delivered an eloquent “thank you” speech to ABVI and those who support its’ mission. And to all those who honored and loved my father.

I give thanks today to my parents who have given my siblings and me a great example. And to my father Jarret who taught so many of us that no matter what obstacles we are presented with in life, when we look for one, there is always a solution.

Reversing the Flow Illustrated in Downton Abbey’s 2014 Premier

Fans of the PBS hit, Downton Abbey, were entertained by season four’s first episode this month. It seems that the series writers may have had some connection with the TRP® ideas as there were several references in the first episode of ideas similar to TRP®’s Reversing the Flow.

Those who have attended a TRP® training know page 20 of the workbook introduces Reversing the Flow as a process of channeling negative emotional energy into service for others. The result is transformative and helps change the negative feelings of fear, anger, grief, etc. into a positive expression.

During this first episode we find the characters grieving over the death of Matthew Crawley which occurred shortly after his marriage to Lady Mary, daughter of the Earl of Grantham, the head of the Abbey. In addition, Matthew was half owner of the Abbey. Matthew’s death occurred in the last scene of the last episode of season three.

The two people most impacted by Matthew’s death are his wife, Lady Mary (who also gave birth to their child after Matthew’s death) and Matthew’s mother, Isabel Crawley.

Season four begins with several scenes with both of these ladies seemingly paralyzed by their grief. Mary is angry and Isabel feeling useless.

Through the efforts of Mary’s brother-in-law who is involved in management of the Abbey and the head Butler, Mr. Carson, Lady Mary begins the process of reversing the flow of her attention away from her grief to paying attention to the operation of the Abbey.

An interesting exchange occurs between Mrs. Hughes, the head housekeeper of the Abbey, and Isabel Crawley, Matthew’s mother. Mrs. Crawley is grieving and feeling useless. Mrs. Hughes has discovered a homeless man (an old acquaintance of Mr. Carson) who is in need of assistance. She goes to Mrs. Crawley and asks her to take this man in saying he has potential. The dialogue between the two is instructive:

“To be honest, Mrs. Hughes, I don’t see that, it [the homeless man] is any of my business.”

“That’s something I never thought I’d hear you say, ma’am. A wretched man is in the workhouse and he reaches out to us for rescue.”

“He reached to Carson. I don’t see what you want me to do.”

“Mrs. Crawley, I wondered if I could bring him here.”

“Here?”

“If you and I would vouch for him to the authorities, I’m sure we could get him away from that place.”

“But why here? Why not the Abbey? Isn’t he Carson’s responsibility?”

“I’m sorry to say it but Mr. Carson has turned his back on his old pal.”

“I see. So, you want to risk Mr. Carson’s wrath by rescuing this Mr. Griggs.”

“He’s a pitiful being. But, he’s not beyond work. He’s not beyond a decent life if he could find it.”

“You see, in my present state I don’t believe I’m strong enough…”

“But, you are, ma’am. If you could just set aside your grief, and use that strength for another’s good.”

Shortly thereafter, the homeless man was broght into Mrs. Crawley’s home and was on his way to recovery.

Mrs. Hughes is right on. Let’s collect some more examples in our lives.

Feedback Can Unleash Creativity

Feedback usually consists of some form of praise or censure. Focusing solely on someone’s faults can have a negative effect: the recipient can become demoralized and develop an attitude of “Nothing I do is ever good enough”—even if the intent was to provide “constructive criticism.” This can result in a state of despair and decreased effort, since increased effort would seem futile.

Similarly, the recipient of high praise may become so prideful about his/her accomplishments, that further effort might seem unnecessary. He/she may become complacent by thinking “I’ve already arrived.” Note that future effort is thwarted in each case. Thus, TRP® seeks balance between these two types of feedback. We all need at times both correction and encouragement—mistakes should not be overlooked and good work should not go unrecognized.

In TRP®, mistakes and failures are seen as essential and ordinary parts of life; they create opportunities to learn and grow (they are O-FLAG’s—Opportunities for Learning and Growth). In fact, a large part of life is about learning from and correcting our mistakes; also, trying new things and failing, and then trying again. This indeed is how we learn competence in any field of endeavor or any area of life. Failures are necessary along the path to success—and we often learn more from failure than success.

Take for example this anecdote from the life of Thomas Edison: upon hearing from an assistant that 10,000 experiments had failed, Edison is reputed to have remarked, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” This is the TRP® attitude.

Excerpted from TRP Participant’s Workbook, page 109. (C) TRP Enterprises, Inc.

Now That’s Service

Inspired by a few frustrating experiences with hearing impaired passengers, this New York City bus driver decided to learn sign language.

Now that’s service! It is not expected that a bus driver would ask a passenger how his or her day is. Edwin Cora not only sees that simple greeting as part of his job, but he sees that he can raise it to another level of inclusion. One of his hearing impaired passengers said, “You can’t overestimate what these exchanges mean to a deaf rider.”

He is expressing the quality of empathy. It can be as simple as this example. Thanks, Edwin. Read An Introduction to Empathy in the TRP Participant’s Workbook, pages 51-54.
Read the full story on Edwin in the New York Daily News.

More on Reversing the Flow

(Excerpt from the TRP Participant Workbook, Appendix T)

Reversing the Flow is about consciously choosing to change our perspective from “me” to “we,” from negativity to joy, from taking to giving, from selfishness to selflessness—all expressed in service to others. Most of us would agree that we spend the bulk of our time thinking about ourselves—our personal growth, our salary, our reputation, our looks, our health, our happiness and so on. This self-focus limits our growth and effectiveness. Reversing the Flow greatly benefits our professional, personal, psychological and spiritual lives. Indeed, its benefits have been recognized throughout the ages and expressed in many ways.

HOW TO DO IT
Reversing the Flow requires the use of our minds and will power—
To move from selfishness to selflessness, from focusing on oneself to focusing on service.

  • To redirect our thoughts from personal agendas, desires and negative emotions to an out-flowing, service-oriented activity.
  • To constantly ask oneself—especially during times of emotional distress and strong desires—“How can I serve?” and then act on the answer.
  • To choose to express our inner “best” in service to others, even when we do not feel like it.
  • To substitute positive, character-based behavior for negative, self-centered behavior.
  • To consistently and persistently do all the above until it becomes a habitual and spontaneous expression of our inner goodness—our “natural” response.

The result of Reversing the Flow is like lifting a weight from our shoulders. When we shift attention from ourselves to others, it “lightens” and transforms us. If we are honest, we realize that most if not all our negative emotions result from too much self-focus; either not getting what we want or getting something we don’t want. It all has to do with us. But by reversing the flow outward, toward others, we discover the beauty of a transformed life. This is true no matter what we may be facing. Recall how Victor Frankl reversed the flow—even in a Nazi concentration camp, and made life more bearable by serving others.

Therefore, when we find ourselves in an emotional funk, or any difficult circumstance, we can simply choose to engage in an act of service; for example: help a neighbor with their lawn work; take food to a co-worker’s family during a time of sorrow; volunteer to clean the animal shelter at the local humane society; mentor a younger co-worker; arrive to work early to help finish a major project; or volunteer with hospice or another service organization.

Each of us has talents, gifts and strengths. When we use these in service to our workplaces, communities and families, we develop a clearer sense of life’s purpose and meaning. Moreover, as we serve without expectation of anything in return, we actually “want” to do a good job rather than “having” to do a good job. Doing a good job becomes a part of who we are rather than what we do. It becomes the outer expression of our inner character.

For example, we may view our work as an IT professional to be “aggravating,” “meaningless” or “trivial.” However, we can begin to see it as an important service to our co-workers, who need their computers to make their jobs easier and more productive. In this way, our enthusiasm and commitment to our work is strengthened.

An oft-cited example is that of the bagger lady at a grocery store who was bored with her job. But as she began to use her substantial people-skills to interact with and bring a little happiness to customers going through the line, she became much happier and more satisfied with her job. In other words, she used one of her strengths as a service to the customers and it transformed her work.

Other examples include the mother, who, after an unsettling discussion with her husband, resolved to cook her family the best Saturday lunch they had ever had. She reported that the moment she made this decision, her whole demeanor changed from irritation to joy.

The Myths of the Jack-O-Lantern

Last night my son and I had great fun carving a pumpkin. He asked why do we carve jack-o-lanterns, what does it mean? A fan of transparency, I told him I did not know. Thus we began to consider, what is this tradition about?

Google returns many prevailing myths about the origin of the modern day jack-o-lantern. While all of them have their persuasive elements, none are so compelling as the symbol we considered of the lighted candle within the carved pumpkin. We like it because it is the most TRP explanation, of course.

No smile is complete without the fire from within. Once the fire is lit, the smile is radiant. Whether the fire is the passion of the artist whose brush strokes add the color to life, the leader who inspires his followers, or the homemaker who creates harmony for a family – no smile is complete without that fire.

So, go set the world a-fire. So to speak. Happy Halloween!

Daniel and the TRP Team