Archives For Personal Growth

Know Thyself

September 11, 2013

I bought a new scanner. I have decided to go as paperless as possible. During my scan, throw away or shred exercise, I have run across papers that I had forgotten about.

One of those papers was my Strengths Finder report.

I actually took the survey twice (once in January 2009 and again in July 2012). I found both reports and surprisingly, they have different results:

• Harmony
• Restorative
• Communication
• Empathy
• Learner

• Analytical
• Harmony
• Responsibility
• Learner
• Restorative

I will admit that the first report had me scratching my head. I have never considered empathy one of my strengths. I showed that list to my wife and even she couldn’t see it (we have been married over 20 years so she should know). Dissatisfied with those results, I decided to take the quiz again–not to get different answers, but to clarify. Well, it turns out the second list seemed more inline with what I expected. Analytical and Responsibility took the place of Communication and Empathy.

Here is the summary for each of the strengths in my report:


Your Analytical theme challenges other people: “Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming istrue.” In the face of this kind of questioning some will find that their brilliant theories wither and die. For
you, this is precisely the point. You do not necessarily want to destroy other people’s ideas, but you do insist that their theories be sound. You see yourself as objective and dispassionate. You like data
because they are value free. They have no agenda. Armed with these data, you search for patterns and connections. You want to understand how certain patterns affect one another. How do they combine? What is their outcome? Does this outcome fit with the theory being offered or the situation being confronted? These are your questions. You peel the layers back until, gradually, the root cause or causes are revealed. Others see you as logical and rigorous. Over time they will come to you in order to expose someone’s “wishful thinking” or “clumsy thinking” to your refining mind. It is hoped that your analysis is never delivered too harshly. Otherwise, others may avoid you when that “wishful thinking” is their own.


You look for areas of agreement. In your view there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum. When you know that the people around you hold differing views, you try to find the common ground. You try to steer them away from confrontation and toward harmony. In fact, harmony is one of your guiding values. You can’t quite believe how much time is wasted by people trying to impose their views on others. Wouldn’t we all be more productive if we kept our opinions in check and instead looked for consensus and support? You believe we would, and you live by that belief. When others are sounding off about their goals, their claims, and their fervently held opinions, you hold your peace. When others strike out in a direction, you will willingly, in the service of harmony, modify your own objectives to merge with theirs (as long as their basic values do not clash with yours). When others start to argue about their pet theory or concept, you steer clear of the debate, preferring to talk about practical, down-to-earth matters on which you can all agree. In your view we are all in the same boat, and we need this boat to get where we are going. It is a good boat. There is no need to rock it just to show that you can.


Your Responsibility theme forces you to take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion. Your good name depends on it. If for some reason you cannot deliver, you automatically start to look for ways to make it up to the other person. Apologies are not enough. Excuses and rationalizations are totally unacceptable. You will not quite be able to live with yourself until you have made restitution. This conscientiousness, this near obsession for doing things right, and your impeccable ethics, combine to create your reputation: utterly dependable. When assigning new responsibilities, people will look to you first because they know it will get done. When people come to you for help—and they soon will—you must be selective. Your willingness to volunteer may sometimes lead you to take on more than you should.


You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered—this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences—yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”


You love to solve problems. Whereas some are dismayed when they encounter yet another breakdown, you can be energized by it. You enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms, identifying what is wrong, and finding the solution. You may prefer practical problems or conceptual ones or personal ones. You may seek out specific kinds of problems that you have met many times before and that you are confident you can fix. Or you may feel the greatest push when faced with complex and unfamiliar problems. Your exact preferences are determined by your other themes and experiences. But what is certain is that you enjoy bringing things back to life. It is a wonderful feeling to identify the undermining factor(s), eradicate them, and restore something to its true glory. Intuitively, you know that without your intervention, this thing—this machine, this technique, this person, this company—might have ceased to function. You fixed it, resuscitated it, rekindled its vitality. Phrasing it the way you might, you saved it.

I have to say that nearly everything in that report fits me perfectly. I’m a little wary of harmony. I never considered myself harmonious. Maybe I am and just didn’t know it.

If you have never taken the Strengths Finder assessment, you should. Go to, create an account and take the assessment for $9.99 (FYI, I am not getting paid to send you over there, nor am I getting paid to write this post). Once you discover your strengths, please come back and share them with us.

My next step will be to learn about what careers would be a good fit for my strengths.

Times are Changing

January 25, 2013

My oldest son started working at a local grocery store chain last Spring. He’s actually working for the same store manager I worked with when I was worked in the grocery business in the mid 90s.

Anyway, with his first job, came his first income tax filing.

I have to say it was kind of fun teaching him how to file his taxes. Fortunately, they’re really easy to do. He was even able to file for free via the H&R Block website (I’m sure all tax preparers offer free filings). And, because he has a checking account, he was able to get electronic deposit.

A few days later, he told me that he told a classmate and fellow coworker to bring his W-2 and iPad to school and he helped him file his taxes in their physics class. I thought that was pretty cool (as long as they weren’t supposed to be doing something else). It also sounded like something I would have done in high school.

All of this got me to thinking about how different things are than they were back when I was a kid. We had to file paper returns and wait several weeks to get the refund if there was one. Now they can be filed online and the money deposited directly into a checking account.

I have always tried to be proactive in helping my teenage boys learn about finances. I took them to get debit cards before they were teenagers. Then, as soon as they became teenagers, I took them to get their own checking accounts. It’s kind of funny because most of their friends do not have debit cards so they will pay my boys to order stuff for them from

Over this past Summer, both boys worked to save up money for the new iPhone. As soon as they came out, both of them were able to order their phones and pay for them with their own money. Their friends at school were asking lots of questions about how they were able to do all that without their parents’ help.

Yeah, I’m bragging. It’s this part of parenting that I like.

I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to function financially once they’re out in the real world. They still don’t do everything the way I wish they would but that’s part of growing up.

Have you ever found yourself in the following situation when you meet someone new:

You: “Hello. My name is __________.”

New Person: “My name is ___________.”

You (to yourself): “GREAT! I’ve already forgotten his name!”

Honestly, this happens to me a lot. I guess I’m just not paying attention.

Today I was reading through John Maxwell’s 25 Ways to Win with People: How to Make Others Feel Like a Million Bucks*. In the chapter on “Learn Your Mailman’s Name,” he details the SAVE method for remembering names:

S – Say the name three times in conversation.

A – Ask a question about hte name (for example, how it is spelled) or about the person.

V – Visualize the person’s prominent physical or personality feature.

E – End the conversation with the name.

I’m going to try this with my wife and see if I can remember her name. (That was a joke, people.)

*Affilite link

I have been going back through some of my older posts. I found this one from back in 2007 (hard to believe that was five years ago). Anyway, I liked this post and decided to improve upon it by turning the list into a downloadable PDF. So, here it is (just click on the graphic to download the PDF). Print it out use it to your heart’s content.

Among the many books I’m working my way through is Think Your Way to Wealth (Tarcher Success Classics)* by Napoleon Hill. The book is essentially an interview between Napoleon Hill and Andrew Carnegie which ended up being the basis for many of Hill’s books—especially The Law of Success*. Some of the language and ideas are dated but the book as a whole is interesting.

Chapter 5 in the book is about going the extra mile, a virtue that almost seems to have vanished these days. I have always been a believer in going the extra mile. I’m not sure why. It probably had a lot to do with the way I was raised. If it’s one thing my dad taught me, it was to do a job, do it well, and give people more than they paid for. It does pay off in the long run as long as you do it with a good attitude. Oh, and one advantage I have seen personally is that it helps you stand out from the competition.

So, here are Andrew Carnegie’s advantages of going the extra mile. Some of the terminology might make better sense after reading some of Hill’s other works.

1. The habit of Going The Extra Mile gives one the benefit of the law of Increasing Returns, in a variety of ways too numerous to be described here.

2. This habit places one in a position to benefit by the law of Compensation, through which no act or deed will or can be expressed without an equivalent response (after its own nature).

3. It gives one the benefit of growth through resistance and use, thereby leading to mental development and increased skill in the use of the body. (It is a well-known fact that both body and mind attain efficiency and skill through systematic discipline and use which call for the rendering of service that temporarily is not paid for.)

4. The habit develops the important factor of initiative, without which no individual ever rises above mediocrity in any calling.

5. It develops self-reliance, which is likewise an essential in all forms of personal achievement.

6. It enables an individual to profit by the law of contrast, since obviously a majority of the people do not follow the habit of doing more than they are paid for. On the contrary, they endeavor to “get by” with a minimum amount of service.

7. It helps one to master the habit of drifting aimlessly, thereby checking the habit which stands at the head of the major causes of failure.

8. It definitely aids in development of the habit of Definiteness of Purpose, which is the first principle of individual achievement.

9. It tends strongly to aid in the development of Attractiveness of Personality, thereby leading to the means by which one may relate himself to others so as to gain their friendly co-operation.

10. It often gives an individual a preferred position of relationship with others through which he may become indispensable, thereby fixing his own price on his services.

11. It insures continuous employment, thereby serving as insurance against want in connection with the necessities of life.

12. It is the greatest of all the known methods by which the man who works for wages may promote himself to higher positions and better wages, and serves as a practical means by which a man may attain the position of ownership of a business or industry.

13. It develops alertness of the imagination, the faculty through which one may create practical plans for the attainment of one’s aims and purposes in any calling.

14. It develops a positive “mental attitude,” which is one of the more important qualities that are essential in all human relationships.

15. It serves to build the confidence of others in one’s integrity and general ability, which is an indispensable essential for noteworthy achievement in every calling.

16. Finally, it is a habit which one may adopt and follow on his own initiative, without being under the necessity of asking the permission of anyone to do so.

So what do you think? Is going the extra mile how you do your job?

*Affiliate link

Most excellent:

A snippet from his address (bold mine):

…if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another-which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality – we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point – and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic – and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You‘re it or you’re not.

You can read Mr. McCoullough’s commencement address here.

If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. So true.

Honestly, kids need to learn that there are winners and losers in life. This is tough for a parent to allow their kids to learn, but it is necessary. It’s part of growing up.

Thanks for my friend, Todd, for finding this video.

Below are ten books that I think my kids would benefit from reading before they venture off to college. In fact, I think they are worth reading enough that I would be willing to pay my kids $50 – $100 per book to read them (feel free to discuss below whether or not you think parents should pay their kids to read).

So, what books am I talking about? Well, off the top of my head, I assembled the following list in no particular order along with the amount I would be willing to pay my kids to read them in parenthesis.

Success God’s Way by Charles Stanley ($50). This has become one of my favorite books on success because it’s written for Christians.


Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill ($50). A classic. The language and some of the ideas are dated but the message is still very good.


Basic Economics (4th Edition) by Thomas Sowell ($200). Thomas Sowell is one of my favorites. This is a pretty large book. I would pay $200 for this one.


Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt ($50). This one’s an oldie but a goodie. Written in a very easy-to-understand way. One of my favorites.


Common Sense Economics (Revised Edition) by James D. Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, Dwight R. Lee, and Tawni Hunt Ferrarini ($50). I thought about not including this one in the group because it might be overkill. However, it’s a great book and could serve as compliment to Hazlitt’s book. Therefore, I want my kids to read both.


How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie ($50). A classic if there ever was one. This is an excellent book on how to relate to other people. This book was first published in 1936 and the information it contains has never gone out of style.


Goals! by Brian Tracy ($50). This is the best book I have ever read on goal setting—one of the best things your kids can ever do for themselves.


How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes by Peter and Andrew Schiff ($50). This is a fictional story about an economy that starts out with three fishermen alone on an island. Start it and you won’t be able to put it down. Excellent illustration of an economy.


Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison ($50). Just an all-around good book by an all-around good man.


Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey Mackay ($50). A book on networking. Remember: it’s not what you know as much as it is who you know. Sure you, have to have both. You know what I mean.