Fall foliage is stunning. Orange and brown and red and yellow and green blend together to make a gorgeous tapestry on the ground. Yesterday I was raking the leaves from my yard, and it dawned on me that the trees are changing. It is a type of “micro-reinvention”. And it got me wondering about the ways that I will reinvent myself? Which areas of my life will I reinvent — faith, self, family, venture, career, community? What small experiments can I try in the reinvention process, that will tell me if an idea will work, without committing a huge investment first? I am planning 6 weeks toward generating reinvention ideas in the late part of this year and early next year. Even when things are going well, we can run experiments in reinvention, see which ones will transform our lives for the better, and GO!
Do not criticize, condemn, or complain. Those 3 C’s make up the first technique of working with people, from Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. In that book he tells the story below to emphasize the point.
“I made a special study of Lincoln’s method of dealing with people. Did he indulge in criticism? Oh, yes. As a young man in the Pigeon Creek Valley of Indiana, he not only criticized but he wrote letters and poems ridiculing people and dropped these letters on the country roads where they were sure to be found. One of these letters aroused resentments that burned for a lifetime.
Even after Lincoln had become a practicing lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, he attacked his opponents openly in letters published in the newspapers. But he did this just once too often.
In the autumn of 1842 he ridiculed a vain, pugnacious politician by the name of James Shields. Lincoln lamned him through an anonymous letter published in Springfield Journal. The town roared with laughter. Shields, sensitive and proud, boiled with indignation. He found out who wrote the letter, leaped on his horse, started after Lincoln, and challenged him to fight a duel. Lincoln didn’t want to fight. He was opposed to dueling, but he couldn’t get out of it and save his honor. He was given the choice of weapons. Since he had very long arms, he chose cavalry broadswords and took lessons in sword fighting from a West Point graduate; and, on the appointed day, he and Shields met on a sandbar in the Mississippi River, prepared to fight to the death; but, at the last minute, their seconds interrupted and stopped the duel.
That was the most lurid personal incident in Lincoln’s life. It taught him an invaluable lesson in the art of dealing with people. Never again did he write an insulting letter. Never again did he ridicule anyone. And from that time on, he almost never criticized anybody for anything.”
This week our department has evaluators from ABET visiting. ABET is the “Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ABET). Every 6 years, they visit our department — we invite them and pay their expenses — and they look over the extensive documentation we prepare during the intervening 6 years, and evaluate whether we are doing for our undergraduate education what we as a department, college, and university say we will do. As far as I know, nobody enjoys it.
But does that mean we should not do it? There are other cases that perhaps nobody enjoys: Going to the dentist comes to mind. For 6 months we brush and floss each day in preparation for the evaluation. Then we go to the dentist, where our teeth are cleaned properly with a sharp tool, and inspected for underlying damage that we call “cavities”. If there are cavities, they represent failures in our daily process of brushing and flossing. Yes, we then need to go through the pain and expense of fixing them, but the evaluation allows us to identify the problem and correct it before it causes further damage. We don’t like it, but it’s good for us.
Now here are two critical questions: 1) In what areas of life do each of us need to set up periodic evaluation processes, to do a proper cleaning and identify and remove “cavities”? 2) What daily process will we establish so that we are ready for this evaluation? If we are going to imagine great dreams and win great victories, in what areas do we need periodic accreditation, either from ourselves or from a team of external evaluators?