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.

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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.

Stop, Think and Start Living Life

Proverbs 4:26

NIV- “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

ESV- “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.”

Know Your Why

Often we hear stories of people who once had big dreams for their lives when they were in their 20s and 30s only to wake up one day and realize that over time they slowly moved off that course (probably without even realizing it). Along with this realization usually comes regret.

I heard someone say this one time and I’ve never forgotten it: “If you don’t know where you are going, you aren’t going to be happy with where you end up.” Too many don’t take the time to stop and think about where they are going. And when they look back, they don’t like where they’ve ended up.

What are five ways we can ‘ponder the path’ and prevent looking back with regret?

Stop
Just stop and as this Proverb says, ponder your path. Think about the direction you are moving in. Nothing in life is static. The truth is that we are either progressing or regressing. Which one are you?

Know Your Why
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What’s your hot button? Maybe your why is that you want to have financial freedom. Maybe you want to be able to provide for your child to go to daycare. Or even be able to be at home with your children. Usually the why is something larger than ourselves. Find out what your why is and get in the pursuit. Life is so much more enjoyable when we are in the pursuit.

Focus
Where and what is your focus and is it in line with where you want to end up? If not, the good news is that you can always re-focus. It’s never too late to start over or get a new goal.

Set a Goal
If you have a goal then you’re ahead of most people. If you don’t, then set a goal. What do you want to accomplish? What is your purpose? I believe that we’ve all been created for a purpose in life. We all should have goals.

Have Fun
Have fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Life isn’t going to be fun 100% of the time but we weren’t given the gift of life to not live it to the fullest. I see too many people who look miserable all the time. Live life!

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.

Three Questions To Take a Step Back and Ask Yourself

Proverbs 10:6,9

MSG- “Blessings accrue on a good and honest life, but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse. Honesty lives confident and carefree, but Shifty is sure to be exposed.”

In doing research for this post, I came across a quote I felt was applicable to this passage:

”Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson

I love that quote by Thomas Jefferson and it is so applicable when discussing the book of Proverbs. Honesty and integrity need to be the basic building blocks and the foundation for anyone conducting business. Nobody wants to be affiliated with a person who lies, cheats, tricks people, etc.

Recently, I was chatting with someone who was sharing with me their frustrations regarding a competitor that they know is not conducting business morally. This particular business owner has inherited a reputation within the industry for lying, cheating and, essentially, stealing from his customers. However, his customers haven’t picked up on that reputation yet. And as a result, to make things worse, he has had some short-term success as a result of these deceiving actions. And to add even more to the person’s frustrations that I was talking to, this gentleman is attempting to bring his competitors down by spreading lies about them in order to make himself appear better.

I was getting fired up just listening to that story. Definitely felt for the guy. Sometimes as someone who is striving to conduct business morally, it can seem flat-out unfair, especially when it seems like you are getting beat by the person acting without integrity. It may even be tempting to move to the other side since it seems to be working. My suggestion is to remember the passage above during these times. Unfortunately, there are always going to be people in the business world who are willing to strive for success by bypassing honesty and integrity. The Bible talks about how you reap the seeds you sow. If you sow negative actions, you’ll eventually reap negative results. Likewise, if you steadfastly remain firm, sowing good seeds, God promises blessings.

Business Ethics vs. Honesty and Integrity

We hear the phrase business ethics. Every organization seems to have something about it in their mission, vision or value statements. Conducting business with honesty and integrity goes way deeper than simply acting “ethical”, though. In my opinion, practicing business ethics doesn’t go far enough. There is way too much grey area. In my eyes, there is right and there is wrong. If God’s Word is your foundation (like mine is), then the difference between right and wrong should more times than not be black and white. There is no grey area with God.

As we are conducting business, my advice is that we take a step back and ask ourselves these three questions:

1. Am I treating my clients and employees the way I would like to be treated?

We all learned the golden rule when we were kids: treat others as you yourself would want to be treated. You wouldn’t want to be lied to or cheated against. We expect others to be honest in working with us. We should do the same to others.

2. Do I have to rationalize business decisions?

If we have to convince ourselves that doing something is okay, then it probably isn’t okay. God blessed each of us with a conscience that helps us decide between right and wrong. If we are struggling with a decision because our conscience is leading us in one direction but we want to go in the other direction, we may be rationalizing.

3. Do I do what I say I am going to do?

Our word is our bond. One of my favorite quotes is this:

“If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. If you lose a friend, you’ve lost something. If you lose your word, you’ve lost everything.”

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Simple as that.

Bonus question: Next time you are in a “sticky” situation and struggling with what to do, ask yourself this: Will I be able to sleep well tonight as a result of my decision?

Remember, one day we will have to answer to someone higher. In addition, the message above in verse 6 is that God’s blessings accrue on a good and honest life. There are a lot of people out there in the business world who claim to be practicing honesty and integrity but not enough living it out. My hope is that we can all aim to make honesty and integrity core principles in our business practices. Talk is cheap. Let’s strive to live them out.

Can you think of any more questions we should ask ourselves to make sure we are acting with honesty and integrity?

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!

Be Faithful: There Are No Overnight Successes

Proverbs 28:19-20

NIV- “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”

On the news these days, I seem to hear more than ever about get-rich-quicks and the “next greatest thing/overnight success”. Having a network marketing background, I heard it way too often from others in that industry. In my four years in the industry, I came across businesses I couldn’t believe were even allowed to open their doors. I heard promises of riches in a month, two months and sometimes even sooner. Way too many today are looking for the easy way. Here’s a secret: there is no such thing. If you so choose to pursue the easy way, your prophecy is right above in Proverbs 28:19-20.

In today’s business world of Facebooks, Googles and Instagrams, it’s easy to imagine smooth journeys straight to overnight success. But how many people are truly overnight successes? A lot of times we see the success and celebration of “making it”, but we rarely see the journey that led them to that point. And more often than not, it is a story that is filled with countless setbacks, failures and crushing defeats.

It’s the journey, not the success that moves and inspires people. Why? Because people want to see evidence and proof that they can be great too. Nobody would want to listen to someone get up in front of an audience to tell their story if they had no setbacks and failures along the way. Can you imagine? Their story would consist of: “Well I built this business doing X, Y and Z and we had success right away. The end.” How boring…We want to hear what worked but we also want to know what didn’t work and how people responded to the trials along the way.

In business, you can expect failures to happen along the way. It’s part of your journey and, most importantly, it’s part of your story. As verse 20 above says, though, be faithful. If you are faithful in pursuing the seed and purpose that God has planted in your heart, as the verse goes on to say, you will be richly blessed.

A few friends and I recently launched a new project called Fail Detroit. The premise of  it is this, “We all fail. Learn from it.” Those 6 words are gold. In our business and careers, we are going to experience failures and mistakes that are painful and humiliating. Bank on it. The reason we started Fail Detroit is because of what is on the other side of those failures and setbacks. What would the world be like if Thomas Edison had stopped after failed attempt #9,234 to create the light bulb? What if James Dyson had quit before his completing his 5100 experiments that eventually led to his revolutionary vacuum cleaner? Get the picture?

It’s not just your personal success that is on the other side of perseverance and faithfulness. It’s your lasting impact and potential lasting legacy. I read this in a recent post by Josh Linkner:

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing websites in history, but struggled for a long time. Pinterest’s CEO recently said that they had “catastrophically small numbers” in their first year after launch and that if he had listened to popular startup advice he probably would have quit.”

As a result of their perseverance, Pinterest has now made (and continues to make) an enormous impact in several ways: creating jobs which adds to the economy, giving entrepreneurs and others with hobbies ways to showcase their products and talents and offering entertainment to those who get satisfaction out of “pinning”, just to name a few.

So next time you are going through a trial or a setback, think about what is potentially on the other side. If you refuse to quit, the world will be a better place as a result of you persevering and being faithful.