Pride Goes Before the Fall

Proverbs16:18

G.K. Chesterton once said, “If I had only one sermon to preach it would be a sermon against pride.” In my opinion, pride is a major problem in today’s world.

Leadership author, John Maxwell, wrote a great article about this proverb a few years back, titled Pride Comes Before the FallIn it, he discusses how we are able to point to famous athletes, actors and businesspeople who are living examples of this proverb while others seem to thrive professionally in the midst of having big egos and pride:

Muhammad Ali’s brash egotism did not prevent him from triumphing in the boxing ring. Charlie Sheen’s sickening smugness may have burned relationships at CBS, but he has never been more popular, selling out several nationwide tour dates in a matter of minutes. The conceit of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has been noted by competitors, colleagues, and friends alike, yet he ranks among the world’s wealthiest men.

What can be said, then, about pride? Is arrogance really as dangerous to leadership as some people would insist? On the surface, it seems that pride does not necessarily hinder success. However, I maintain that pride is every bit as destructive to the welfare of a leader as the ancient proverb forewarns.

Along with the propensity to see themselves as superior to others, Muhammad Ali, Charlie Sheen, and Larry Ellison share in common the attainment of enormous success. However, each also appears to have left a wake of destruction relationally. While their pride may not have cost them professionally, privately it seems to have taken a toll.

In its truest sense, success involves more than material wealth and career accomplishments. When considering the implications of pride, we must remember to see the whole picture. An individual may be standing atop the world with respect to a career, yet still fall to the deepest depths.

The opposite of pride is humility. Albert Einstein once said, “A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” I know there have been situations in my life where I thought I knew everything only to find out very abruptly that I did not. And most of those times, I learned something new once I made the decision to humble myself and change my attitude.

We learn the most when we have an attitude of curiosity and openness and miss out on important lessons when we are too busy pretending to be know-it-alls. C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”

Pride puts the focus on “me” instead of others. If you want to be a leader, you need to be a servant. True leadership starts with being willing to humble one’s self and serve other people.

A Necessary Ingredient for Happiness

Proverbs 15:13- “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”

Smile

I’m writing this post on a Sunday evening. And just like many of you, I have to go to work in the morning. With statistically most people having that Sunday evening pit in their stomachs, I thought this Proverb was appropriate as we venture into Monday and the new week.

We can all agree that we tend to smile when we are happy. And when we aren’t happy, it’s probably safe to say we aren’t doing a whole lot of smiling. Pretty profound right?

Did you know that scientists have discovered that if you force yourself to smile, whether or not you feel like it, you can cause yourself to feel happy feelings? This forced smile actually has a name. It’s called the Duchenne smile, named after anatomist Guillaume Duchenne who studied emotional expressions in the mid 1800s. Psychologist Paul Ekman has expanded on that research in the past 50 years to discover this:

The Duchenne smile, it seems, is accompanied by increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex — known to be the seat of positive emotions. The most fascinating thing Ekman found is: You can work it in reverse. If you put on a Duchenne smile, you can activate your pleasure centers. You can literally make yourself happy by smiling.

Next time you’re feeling down, stressed, etc., try to force yourself to smile. I know it’s easier said than done but just try it.

Researchers at Uppsala University took these studies one step further with the goal of finding out to what extent we are in control of our facial movements when engaged with other people:

During the study, Dr. Ulf Dimberg told volunteers to react to a series of pictures of expressionless, happy or angry faces. They were told to make frowning, smiling or expressionless faces in return. Often the face they were told to attempt was the opposite of what might be expected – meeting a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile.

The results showed that volunteers simply did not have total control over their facial muscles. While it was easy to frown back at a picture of an angry man, it was much more difficult to pull a smile. Even though study subjects were trying consciously to curb their natural reactions, the twitching in their muscles told a different story. Dr. Dimberg describes this as “emotional contagion”.

So this “emotional contagion” proves that smiling and frowning is contagious. I don’t know about you but I would rather have a contagious smile then a contagious frown. I dare you to smile around people tomorrow and see if they react likewise. I’ve tried it myself and seen it to be true. Just a quick tip: don’t be awkward. 🙂

Mother Teresa once said, “Peace starts with a smile”. Do yourself a favor and put a smile on your face this week.

The Supreme Quality for Leadership

Proverbs

According to Webster’s dictionary, duplicity is defined as “dishonest behavior that is meant to trick someone; the belying of one’s true intentions by deceptive words or action.”

Honesty and integrity should be the foundations for each and every aspect of our lives. A word that comes to mind when I think of integrity is consistency. The American writer, John D. MacDonald, once said, “Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather.”

Are you consistent in every aspect of your life? Do you act the same way no matter where you are? Whether you are with co-workers, friends, family or by yourself behind closed doors, are your actions consistent?

Albert Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” I think that we all would hope to have the opportunity to one day be in leadership in regards to “important matters”. It’s the handling of small matters that lead to greater responsibility. I encourage you to see the small matters as opportunities.

Remember that your actions and words are seeds. What you do now will manifest itself later. While shortcuts and cutting corners may lead to short term gratification, it never lasts.

The famous architect and inventory, R. Buckminster Fuller, said “Integrity is the essence of everything successful.” True success is not possible without integrity. I came across an article in Forbes recently written by a contributor and entrepreneur named Amy Rees Anderson. She had these impactful words on the importance of integrity in life:

If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.

That last sentence is so true. If you need proof, just turn on the TV. Unfortunately, it seems that daily we hear stories of celebrities, athletes, politicians, etc. falling out of favor with the public due to missteps.

The 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, said “the supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

I’ll leave you with this. Whether you are currently in a position of leadership or strive to one day be, when people think of you, do they consider you to be someone with unquestionable integrity?

This post is also live at http://www.brandonhelderop.com.

Why Aren’t You Pursuing Your WHY?

Right now I’m reading one of the best books I’ve ever read called Start With Why by Simon Sinek. In the book, Simon fires off so many nuggets that I could literally dedicate a series of posts just to this book. However, I was reading yesterday and came across a quote that really grabbed my attention and prompted this blog post:

“All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of WHY; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.” (Start With Why, pg. 134)

Simon goes on to tell Bill Gates’ story and how his WHY is to “help us all become more productive and achieve our greatest potential.” (pg. 134) Want to know a leadership secret? Because of his WHY, everything Bill does is dedicated towards his WHY and his cause. Great leaders have a crystal clear WHY and, as a result, dedicate their lives to finding new ways, different WHATs to bring their cause and passion to life. That’s why Bill and Melinda have the Gates Foundation. Through their foundation, they’ve led the charge for around 100 billionaires who have pledged to donate half their wealth to philanthropy as well as leading the charge to defeat malaria. Through these two missions, their goal is to help millions of people have the opportunity to realize their greatest potential.

Maybe your why isn’t as huge as Bill Gates’, though. Guess what? You have a driving purpose, a passion, a dream. As a Christian, I happen to believe that God has given each and every one of us a dream and a purpose for living. What is yours? If you don’t know, I would highly encourage you to take some time to think about it.

Now think about WHAT you are doing right now in your job, business ventures, free time, etc. If you know your WHY, are your current WHATs helping you achieve that cause and passion? If not, maybe that’s why you aren’t happy doing what you are doing.

Your WHY should determine why you do your WHAT. People tend to feel like they are in a rut because they aren’t following God’s purpose for their lives. The reason a WHY is so inspiring is because it encompasses something that is greater than ourselves. It shouldn’t just be about you. If it is, then your WHY is too small. If we pursue our WHY, we are intended to touch the lives of a large number of people. That’s how a God-inspired WHY works.

But not only that… if we pursue our WHY with passion, because it is touches the lives of so many others, it’s very possible that others may begin asking you if they can be a part of it. According to Sinek:

“When a WHY is clear, those who share that belief will be drawn to it and may want to take part in bringing it to life. If that belief is amplified it can have the power to rally even more believers to raise their hands and declare, “I want to help.” With a group of believers all rallying around a common purpose, cause or belief, amazing things can happen.” (pg. 136-137)

I’d really suggest that if you don’t know what your WHY is, figure it out. I promise you that God has a plan and a purpose for your life. He has placed a dream and cause on your heart. I’ve heard it referred to as the “sweet spot”. It is up to you to figure out what that is.

Life will not always be perfect. However, it will be much more fulfilling if you can figure out what your “sweet spot” is and run at it with full speed and might. Pursue your cause so that great strides and achievements can be made. This world will be a better place if you are aiming to pursue your dream.

Brandon is the founder and author of Proverbs and Business. He is currently in the process of moving Proverbs and Business to his new website, www.brandonhelderop.com. Brandon enjoys writing about Leadership, Social Media and Politics. You can follow him on Twitter at @b_helderop or contact him at brandon@brandonhelderop.com.

Four People (Dead or Alive) I Would Invite To My Dinner Party

I came across a blog post recently that really got me thinking. The title of that post was “Ten People You Would Invite to Your Dinner Party”. Since the goal of having this dinner party would be to soak up wisdom and knowledge and learn from the greats, I’ve decided that four people would be a perfect number. In my opinion, a smaller group equals a more intimate and special setting. With that in mind, the following are the four people (dead or alive) I would invite to my dinner party:

Guest #1 – Ronald Reagan
If you know me, you know that I am extremely passionate about politics. I love studying past history and have spent many late nights reading about past Presidents and the United States’ Founding Fathers. One of my favorite Presidents is Ronald Reagan, not only for his accomplishments, but also for a few other qualities. First, Reagan was a phenomenal storyteller which allowed him to draw the interest of the American people and effectively connect. At my dinner party, he would keep us entertained with his entertaining stories. Also, Reagan had a great sense of humor and ability to lighten the mood when the time was appropriate. As the story goes, following the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan, as he lay on the hospital table, he looked up at the surgeons and said, “I hope you’re all Republicans”. Another story goes like this: during mike check for his Saturday radio broadcast, Reagan came on and said to everyone’s surprise, “My fellow Americans. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve signed legislation outlawing the Soviet Union. We begin bombing in five minutes.” He had a great personality and ability to make people laugh.

In addition to those qualities, I would love to pick his brain on why he was so successful as President. In the future, I plan on running for political office so who better to take mentorship from than the one they called The Gipper.

Guest #2 – The Apostle Paul
If you’ve read any of my past posts on this blog, you would know that I speak often of the Vertical Alignment. The Vertical Alignment is how we prioritize our lives. For me, God is #1 in my life. Therefore, everything I do, believe, value funnels through my personal Biblical worldview of how I see the world.

The quality that stands out to me about Paul is that he was fearless and unapologetically bold about his faith. Paul knew he was called to be set apart for the gospel and, as a result, had purpose in everything he did and preached to all with absolute boldness. When someone is sold out for something like that, it is contagious and that’s why Paul’s ministry was so successful. My prayer is that I am unequivocally sold out for my faith like Paul was.

I would love to have Paul at my dinner party because I would love to be around somebody like that who is so contagiously sold out for his faith. Also, I would love to hear some stories that didn’t happen to make it into the Biblical canon.

Guest #3 – Rich DeVos
Hands down my business hero is Rich DeVos. For those of you who know me, you know that I have a background in network marketing that began when I was 19 years old. While I’ve since moved on to other ventures, I would not be the person I am today if not for my time in the Amway business (co-founded by Rich DeVos). A quality that sticks out to me about Rich is that he believes in people. That belief is so evident in the Amway organization. In Rich’s book, “Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People”, he writes, “It’s been said there are two types of people–those who enter a room and say, “Here I am!” and those who come in and say, “Ah, there you are.” Rich is the second type of person. It’s no coincidence that the last phrase in that book is a simple one: I love you. I can attest that Rich uses that phrase. I was lucky enough to receive a few wedding presents from Rich in the form of signed books. Each one at the bottom is signed with “To Brandon. Love Ya, Rich”.

I want to emulate that kind of belief in and love of people and would love to pick Rich’s brain. Not to mention, he’s a phenomenal communicator and storyteller as well.

Guest #4 – John Maxwell
I love to read books on leadership. Specifically, my favorite author is the leadership guru, John Maxwell. In fact, it is because of him that I blog on the topics of Proverbs and Business. I heard a talk of his a few years back in which he told of many leaders he knows personally that consistently read the book of Proverbs each month (one chapter per day). John is not only a leadership author and speaker, he is also a pastor. I love that he comes at you, the reader and listener, with leadership knowledge based on a Biblical foundation.

If you are looking for a good book, you won’t go wrong by picking up any of his books. My favorite, especially, is his book Failing Forward. I’ve written in the past about an online community I’ve co-founded in Metro Detroit, along with two others, called Fail Detroit which is based on the idea of failing forward like John talks about in his book.

I would have a ton of leadership questions for John and he would probably get tired of all the questions I would throw at him. The guy has one of the greatest leadership minds so I’d definitely take advantage of having someone like that to talk to. Not to mention, he is also a phenomenal storyteller as well. Seems to be a common thread among many leaders.

I think this would have to be an all-night dinner party or maybe week long because between all the knowledge, wisdom and entertainment, I wouldn’t want it to end.

Your turn: What four people (dead or alive) would you invite to your dinner party?

How To Stop Worrying and Start Looking For Solutions

Do you spend more time worrying than you should? Recently, it seems like I’ve been running into a lot of worried people. Many about job security. Others about company revenues being down. Some are worried about reports from the media that say economic statistics may be pointing towards another potential recession. And, among others, is health.

While there are some things we can and should be worrying about, we need to look for the silver lining and make sure we are worrying about things that we actually have control over. It’s easy to get caught up in things happening externally, like the negative news in the media. The problem, though, is that many of the worries we experience are out of our control and, as a result, we waste much-needed energy on them.

If you worry is job security. This is something you can control. Same thing with your health. Instead of wasting much-needed energy worrying about these types of issues, how about we look for solutions. If you are in danger of losing your job, set personal goals that will lead to an improved performance. Up your sales goals, come in a half hour early, stay a half hour late, join a personal improvement class, join a networking group to expand your personal network. At the same time, improve your health by eating a well-balanced diet, joining a gym, exercising regularly and dropping alcohol and smoking.

Maybe you’re worried about the government’s actions. As someone extremely invested in politics, this is one area I struggle. I find myself, at times, getting worked up about politics. While you can speak to your local representative (or even run for office) to make your voice heard, in the grand scheme of things, there’s only so much one can do. Make your voice heard and do your part but don’t lose sleep over investments that you cannot directly control.

If the media and news is causing you to worry, while you cannot change the news, there is something you can do. Turn off the TV/Radio/Internet! Stop worrying because it is out of your control. Instead, put good things in your mind. Philippians 4:8 says this:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Instead of buying into the negative that closes your mind, fill your mind with positive. Anthony J. D’Angelo said, “Your mind is like a parachute. It only works if it is open.” I see entrepreneurs and employees that, because of negative economic reports, allow the news to affect their jobs. By chance, all of a sudden, there are no opportunities out there. Look at the glass half full. When we are looking at the glass half full, we are looking for the opportunities, rather than feeling bad for ourselves.

I love the quote, “You can be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution.” When we are worrying about things that are out of our control or not taking actions to fix worries that are, we are allowing ourselves to be part of the problem. Next time you find yourself worrying, ask yourself this: Is this something I can control? If so, take the necessary steps. If not, save your energy for the things you can control and start looking for solutions.

What types of worries do you have on a daily basis and what are some solutions?

Sloth: What Is It and Why You Need to Avoid It

Proverbs 3: 11-12

RSV: “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

Photo: “Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt,  1665

I have been somewhat alarmed at writing this post. Over on twitter, I have been expressing regularly how God has written more on my heart in writing this post than I have written down on paper (or screen). I have been alarmed because the same topic kept coming to mind: the sin of sloth. Let me explain.

In Proverbs 3. 11-12 , the author writes, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

In writing about the Word of God, I often find that I write the things I do because those are the things that are normally going on in my own life. You can see why, then, that the writing of this post has been of concern to me.

Sloth is one of those deadly sins and topics that is misunderstood and frankly, hardly talked about. That is because most people don’t know what it actually means.

Sloth does not mean laziness or sleeping in too late for church: it’s much more spiritual and deep than that. Sloth is despair in striving for God and His ways. It’s a spiritual laziness or sadness in wanting to be holy; at it’s core, a mistaken belief that God’s ways are less-than, and not more-than.

It is one of the most dangerous sins, and it is why history has labeled it a deadly sin.

Unfortunately we live in a culture which believes that the least important things are the most important things, and the most important things are the least important things. It’s not difficult to see: more money is spent in the porn industry than in any other industry. To them, lust is first and love is last. 

As Christians who are still on the journey home, we must ever be vigilant to stay on the path to the promised land, lest we get distracted in the desert and mistakenly desire to bow down to Pharaoh and his false promises of freedom. 

Now that we have defined what sloth is, the question begs, “So what do we do now as business owners, entrepreneurs, and young professionals?” I would suggest three things in the context of the rest of Proverbs 3.

First, as entrepreneurs, professionals, and even just as people who desire wisdom, we should always look outside of ourselves for the right answers. The author in verse 5 writes, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” We should find people to learn from, but not just any people. Find people that we want to be like. In this case, holy people: people who have persevered in running the race after God, who have loved others sacrificially, who have given their opportunities back to God to serve Him and people.

Second, just like in business, we need to build our spiritual house on solid rock. Interestingly, one of the best ways to do this is to start confessing your sins out loud to another person, somebody you trust. Verse 11 states, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Because I am Catholic, I can testify from experience that verbal confession is one of the best experiences of living the Christian life. Yes, it is God alone who forgives sins, but there is a real freedom in letting it out and hearing that even for this terrible sin that I just confessed, I am forgiven and set free anew. The second part to confession is the counsel that is shared by the other. It is critical to find somebody who will help you through the valley: somebody who will love you enough to tell you where you are wrong and what steps you need to take to grow.

Third, I think sloth can be avoided and conquered if we ask for more faith. With the eyes of faith, we will realize that being a disciple of Jesus is more, not less, unlike what the culture wants us to believe. We can run our businesses with integrity, with honesty, not taking advantage of our employees or our clients, and we can still win. In fact, we will win more by aligning our hearts with the servant heart of the Lord because we will experience the joy of sacrificial giving. But notice- it first requires us to take actions to align our hearts with His before we can understand such riches. 

With these three things in mind, let us hope that we can experience the joys of discipleship and steer clear of sloth, for wisdom is “a tree of life to those who lay hold of her, those who hold her fast are called happy.”

Ryan Eggenberger is a writer, blogger, and social media consultant for political, religious, and business organizations. He teaches people how to come up with creative ways to make money doing what they love. He blogs regularly at
RyanEggenberger.com. Follow Ryan on Twitter!