Black Walnut Trees and Generosity: Are you Generous?

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Black Walnut Tree[/caption] Are you generous?  Is that something you think about often?  I do from time to time and usually come to the conclusion that I could be more generous.  It hit me yesterday when tipping the pizza guy, the bill was $23 and I decided to give him a $5 tip.  Hey, he was dressed like a superhero and was giving me hot pizza, it was the least I could do.  (We order from Galactic Pizza where they drive electric cars and dress up like superheroes.)  I felt good after giving him that tip.  It made me happy.  Generosity is one of the main keys to happiness.  The more you do it, the better you will feel.  During the past few weeks I heard an amazing story about how a loving family used Black Walnut trees to give generously to support the dreams of their children.  I needed to share the story with all of you. Black Walnut Trees & Supporting Dreams I work as a consultant doing strengths based organizational development.  I use the Clifton StrengthsFinder with clients to help them understand who they are, how they fit in a team, and how they can help build a strengths based culture where they work.  During the introductions at a recent client engagement we asked who people are, what their job is and an event or person that has helped shape their life.  The first two questions are easy, but the third question sometimes throws people off because they have a choice to get vulnerable and share something that is more than what is on their name tag. During that recent engagement a man shared that an event that had shaped him was a trip after his college graduation where he was able to spend time in Africa on a safari.  My ears immediately perked up because that is a lifelong dream of mine to see and explore Africa.  This man described the trip and how important it was to his journey, and who he is today.  The story of the trip alone was enough to keep me interested, but when he said how the trip was paid for, it stuck in my mind so much that I needed to share it with you. How did he, the son of a farmer from northern Minnesota, afford an African safari trip over multiple weeks?  His...
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5 ways to be happy

Happy. Such an elusive place for many of us to be.  The body of research on what makes people happy is growing at a fast and exciting rate. There is now research on what makes us happy! We can learn a lot of ways to be happy simply by following what is going on in the latest happiness and well being research.  Here are a few things I have gleaned over time from others and from personal experience on ways to be happy. What are some of those ways to be happy? 1.  Earn between $50,000 and $75,000 "It seems the sweet spot is somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000. If you make under $50,000, you might be stressed about your financial situation. If you make over $75,000, the additional returns on working longer hours might not be worth it anymore. But it’s nice to know that a $75,000 salary isn’t necessary to be happy. It’s just a perk." - Alden Wicker Money can buy you happiness but it has a diminishing return after a certain level, in the study Alden Wicker looked at over $75,000 did not yield a lot in the way of happiness. I would add that your happiness may increase depending on how much you love your job and how much you are engaged at work.  I know plenty of people who make over $50,000 per year and are not engaged at work, and are not that happy in general.  So, how can you find a job that allows you do what you are talented at and what you are passionate about? 2.  Be Generous:  Help other people and causes out From the Happiness Project people:  "For our happiness, how we spend our money is as important, if not more important, than the amount of money that we make. Giving to others releases endorphins, activating the parts of our brains that are associated trust, pleasure, and social connection. Being altruistic and spending money on others leads to higher levels of happiness. Happiness, in turn, increases the chance that we’ll be altruistic in the future, creating a positive feedback loop of generosity and happiness." The happiest people I know are also the most generous people I know.  They give without expecting anything in return, over and over again.  I used to work with a colleague named John.  John is a radical giver.  He gives to everyone in one way shape or form, and I even...
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7 Books I have read in the past few months: Reading List Alert

[caption id="attachment_297" align="alignleft" width="640"]A group of 7 books I have been reading A group of 7 books I have been reading[/caption]   During the past few months I have been reading a lot, some for my master's program, and some for my own enjoyment.  Thought I would share these books as you may find some of them interesting for your journey. 1.  Zapp!, the Lightning of Empowerment - William C. Byham A fun fable of a book highlighting why empowering your employees is so critical to employee engagement.  Great book for leaders, managers, and staff.  I learned so much from this book I bought copies for all my direct reports. 2.  The Education of Millionaires - Michael Ellsberg The title may sound gimmicky, but there is so much good stuff in this book.  The main learning I received from this book is how much more proactive I need to be with networking.  I also think this book has many valid critiques of higher education that need to be addressed by leaders in higher education.  I continue to watch as both faculty and administrators in higher education continue to refuse to implement real change that will set institutions up for success into the future.  I truly believe that in less than 10 years many colleges and universities will go bankrupt if they do not change how they do what they do and make school affordable to more people.  The answer is not to abandon college, although many now are, it is to make college even better for the right students. 3.  Reframing Organizations, Artistry, Choice, and Leadership - Lee Bolman & Terrence Deal I have read this book a few times.  If you are a leader, or you are someone who wants to bring change where you are - this book is a must to read and understand.  You will never look at change the same way again, and have a four dimensional view of how change happens, or does not happen and why.  I am so grateful my mentor, Dr. Greg Bourgond, introduced me to this book years ago.  It is so vital! 4.  How to Win Friends & Influence People - Dale Carnegie I cannot believe it took me so many years to get to this book.  Dale nailed the concept of networking and paying it forward and if you want to succeed in your career, any career, this book will...
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Why I never get tired of watching the Shawshank Redemption

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The Shawshank Redemption[/caption] I never get tired of watching the Shawshank Redemption.  Ranked as one of the most popular movies of all time this is probably not that surprising to most of you who will read this.  But why?  Why is this unlikely movie that resonates so deeply, so epic and so timeless?  The story.  The story and how any of us that have been through hard things in life can relate.  The Shawshank Redemption delivers because people connect with the story. The Story What is the story?  For those of you who are unfamiliar, and those that are, lets delve back into the movie and pull out some themes.  Andy Dufresne is the main character who is wrongfully convicted of his wife's murder and is sentenced to life in prison.  The prison is not a fair place and the inmates still find a way to have community and help one another out regardless of their circumstance.  Andy is befriended by Red, a longtime inmate who helps him see how he can embrace life, regardless of his circumstance.  Red challenges Andy to start living or start dying.  How many people out there are dying even though they are not in jail?  Maybe they are just in the jail of a job they hate.  Maybe they are in the jail of a relationship that is going nowhere.  Who knows?  But this life is way to short to not embrace life.  Andy goes on to make a choice to start living, and eventually spends years finding a way out of jail, through the muck and sewage both figuratively and literally.  Once out of jail, he helps his friend Red experience the same freedom through redemption and relationship.  Wow, I love that movie. My Story When I was 19 years old I was attending a local community college and had an agnostic philosophy professor named Frederich Hombach.  Known as someone who did not give a lot of homework, many of us stumbled into his philosophy classes looking for an easy A.  By the way, the only people who care or will ask you  about your GPA are people in education.  No one else really does.  This was a hard realization for me after many years as someone who cared about GPA's for a living.  More on that another time. Professor Hombach looked a bit like Albert Einstein and probably was...
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Stop being who you are not and start being who you are!

I am the first to admit that I have tried hard at being things that I was not meant to be. I grew up in Chicago and in Chicago, basketball is king.  Minnesota may have hockey, but Chicago has basketball.  More professional basketball players come from Chicago than any other city.  So what did I do growing up?  I played basketball all the time.  I went to summer camps, played in junior high, and shot baskets, regardless of weather, in my front yard.  You know what?  I was an average player.  I worked so hard - to be average.  As soon as I got to high school it was clear I would never see the court, and maybe even make the team.  So, you know what I did?  I focused on swimming which I was actually pretty good at.  You have the greatest potential for success in areas where you already have talent.  Stop trying to be something that you are not and start being who you are. "You can't be anything you want to be, but you can be more of who you already are."  -Curt Liesveld / Tom Rath This quote above was very hard for me to accept when I first heard it 14 years ago.  What?  What do you mean I can't be anything I want to be?  My whole life I have heard people tell me that if I just work hard enough at something I can be excellent at it.  My take on this?  That is a total lie, but with good intentions.  No matter how hard I tried to be an NBA basketball player, 10,000 more hours of training would not have helped.  I am 5'8" inches tall, the odds are forever not in my favor!  You know what else?  I had friends who were way better at basketball then me, and who were 6'3" and they played at a small local college.  10,000 more hours would not have made them NBA players.  You know what else?  My cousin Tim is 6'10" tall, was an honorable mention all-state basketball player in Illinois, played for Holy Cross, was the Patriot league player of the year (conference player of the year), I am sure he did 10,000 hours - and he even played professional basketball in Europe - but he did not make it to the NBA.  Now, Tim did receive a full...
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