A Calming Reminder of God’s Presence During Challenging Times

Jim Hinch (Author)

How a small moment on the subway is helping me trust God during the Covid-19 pandemic.

I live in New York City, an epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak. My family and I have a lot to worry about. We are sheltering at home. School is closed. Businesses are closed. The city’s normally unruly streets are eerily quiet. Thousands of miles away, my mom is similarly locked down in an assisted living facility in California. My wife Kate’s mom is in the same situation in Seattle.

One thing that helps keep me calm is a memory. It’s something that happened just a few weeks ago, back when I still rode the subway to work and Kate and I still held out hope that we’d get to take the kids on a long-planned, long-looked-forward-to trip to London. That feels like another lifetime.

I was riding home on the subway, already anxious about the Coronavirus’s steady advance toward New York. I was reading, trying to focus on something besides worry. Just before the doors closed at the 14th Street station, a man stepped aboard and said in a loud voice, “Good afternoon, everyone, pardon the interruption.”

I didn’t look up from my book. Homeless or mentally unstable people board the subway all the time and loudly tell their stories before asking for money. New Yorkers tune it all out.

Beautiful chords began playing on a guitar. “I just want to wish everyone a blessed day,” the new passenger said before launching into a soaring rendition of Michael W. Smith’s praise song “Open the Eyes of My Heart.”

His voice rang out in the hushed car: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you.” And then the chorus, even louder: “To see you high and lifted up, shining in the light of your glory. Pour out your power and love as we sing holy, holy, holy.”

The train neared the next stop and the singer lingered on those last words, repeating them over and over: “Holy, holy, holy.”

I lowered my book, closed my eyes and rested my forehead on my hand clutching the bar in front of me. I wanted to cry. All of my anxiety evaporated in that song, swept away by those words: “Holy, holy, holy.”

The train stopped. “Blessings to you all,” the singer called out. “God loves you, have a great day.” He stepped off and disappeared into the crowd.

Now, at home, when I feel myself starting to freak out, I play that song. I remember that moment of unexpected grace. And I remember something that is true no matter how bad things feel: God is here. God is at work even if we’re too anxious to see it.

Open the eyes of your heart. Trust me, you’ll see. 

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Lead by Example, You Can’t Avoid It

Naomi Rhode, a past president of the National Speakers Association, says in an intentional double-negative, “You can’t not lead by example.” In other words, succeed or fail, try or neglect, care or don’t…you are always influencing others via your example. We say to children, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Then they do as we do instead of as we say they should. They follow our examples more often than our words. There are many ways to inspire others through our actions:

We can do as we wish others would do. We can show them simple steps to follow to win. We can believe in them more than they believe in themselves. We can describe the future possibilities in vivid stories. We can pose provocative questions like, “What could happen if you merely did this?”

We can challenge them to stretch their thinking and reach for bigger possibilities. We can point out strengths they don’t know they have. We can coach and counsel them as they grow. We can introduce them to great ideas, books, teachers and sources of information. We can be their friend even when they are not noticeably succeeding. We can refuse to tolerate laziness, negligence, or low standards of behavior in them or us. We can appeal to their desire to be a better person. We can remind them that pain, fear and disappointment are simply momentary steps on the road to success. We can nudge them and remind them of the good things they could do or achieve.

We can show them how their behavior has value to others, that they matter in the world. We can point out better ways for them to apply their talents and be of greater service to others. There are many ways to inspire others and all of them have their time and place. The beauty of this is that as we do these things for others, we inspire ourselves as well.

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The Miracle of Personal Development

One day a valued mentor said, “Tom, if you want to be wealthy and happy, learn this lesson well: Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”

Since that time I’ve been working on my own personal development. And I must admit that this has been the most challenging assignment of all. This business of personal development lasts a lifetime.

You see, what you become is far more important than what you get. The important question to ask on the job is not, “What am I getting?” Instead, you should ask, “What am I becoming?” Getting and becoming are like Siamese twins: What you become directly influences what you get. Think of it this way: Most of what you have today you have attracted by becoming the person you are today.

I’ve also found that income rarely exceeds personal development. Sometimes income takes a lucky jump, but unless you learn to handle the responsibilities that come with it, it will usually shrink back to the amount you can handle.

If someone hands you a million dollars, you’d better hurry up and become a millionaire. A very rich man once said, “If you took all the money in the world and divided it equally among everybody, it would soon be back in the same pockets it was before.”

It is hard to keep that which has not been obtained through personal development. So here’s the great axiom of life:

–TO HAVE MORE THAN YOU’VE GOT, BECOME MORE THAN YOU ARE–

This is where you should focus most of your attention. Otherwise, you just might have to contend with the axiom of not changing, which is:

–UNLESS YOU CHANGE HOW YOU ARE, YOU’LL ALWAYS HAVE WHAT YOU’VE ALREADY GOT–

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Do Yourself a Favor

A poor, hungry young man sat moping on a bridge, watching a group of fishermen.  Looking into a basket and seeing a bunch of fish nearby, the young man said, “Boy, if I had a mess of fish like that, I’d be in good shape.  I’d sell them and buy some clothes and something to eat.”

“I’ll give you that many fish if you do a small favor for me,” a fisherman replied.

“Sure.”

“Tend this line for me awhile.  I’ve got some errands to do up the street,” said the older man.

The young man gladly accepted the offer.  As he tended the man’s pole, the fish were really biting, and he reeled in one fish after another.  It wasn’t long before he was smiling, enjoying the activity.

When the older man returned, he said, “I want to give you the fish I promised.  Here, take all the fish you caught.  But I also want to give you a piece of advice.  The next time you’re in need, don’t waste time daydreaming and wishing for what could be.  Get busy, cast the line yourself, and make something happen.”

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8 Life lessons That Have Helped Me

• THINK about what you THINK ABOUT… and if you catch yourself thinking about unhappiness, ill health and adversity, “change the channel” and think about what you want to happen!

• When something happens by chance, follow up. Lucky people tend to notice and act on good things that occur by happenstance.

• Believe that good things will happen. Expectations have a way of coming true.

• When bad things happen, look for the bright side; i.e., “what did I learn from that?” or, “how do I keep it from happening again?” Don’t dwell on it, move on!

• If the horse dies, dismount. Don’t continue to pour money and effort into a lost cause.

• Don’t look for love in the wrong places… not just romantic love, but the love of “stuff.” Stuff is O.K., but understand the delusion of “I’ll be happy when I have this or that… or, when I live over there, or when this happens.” Happiness is a state of mind in which our thinking is pleasant most of the time.

• Failure is a CHOICE made by the undisciplined. Failing to meet your objectives, regardless of what they are, is a choice, because something else has been given higher priority. If you fail, it is because you choose to fail.

• You don’t “catch” depression and you don’t “catch” happiness…you “create” it by the “thoughts” you put into your mind. Carefully choose what you read, listen to, and the people with whom you associate.

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EXCLUSIVE! Santa Claus Shares His Leadership Secrets in Rare Interview

After passing an extensive background check and being vetted by the CIA (Claus Intelligence Agency), I was granted an exclusive one-on-one interview with Santa Claus, one of the most legendary leaders of all time. I was eager to learn the secrets of his success. How does he maintain passion for his work after all these years? What’s the trick for keeping his team of elves inspired to perform their best? And the most nagging question of all: Does he have a dress code at the North Pole? I mean, I always see him and the elves wearing the same clothes. What’s the deal with that?

I admit I had trouble keeping the interview focused on leadership, seeing as how I had the opportunity to quiz Santa about all those strange gifts I’ve received over the years. (Like, why does my mother-in-law keep giving me those chintzy desktop bowling sets? Does she really think I have time to set up a miniature bowling alley and play while I’m at work? Is that a cruel prank by Santa or is my mother-in-law to blame?)

Below is an excerpt of the conversation I had with Santa.

Me: Thank you, Santa, for taking the time to meet with me. You must be anxious and stressed about all the work you need to accomplish prior to Christmas.

Santa: Ho, ho, ho! It’s my pleasure Tom! I’m not stressed, I’m energized!  I love the work I do and consider myself blessed to be able to bring happiness and joy to so many people.

Me: You are one of the most trusted and revered leaders in history. Why do you think that is so?

Santa: Well, I’m humbled by that compliment. I believe a large part of it has to do with my dependability. In all my years I’ve never missed a Christmas delivery. I know that millions of young boys and girls are relying on me to bring them gifts and I never want to disappoint them. If you want people to trust you, you have to be reliable and follow through on your commitments.

Me: How in the world do you manage to make all your deliveries in a single night?

Santa: I can’t reveal all my secrets, otherwise FedEx and UPS might give me a run for my money! Let’s just say that I have to be extremely organized. Any successful leader knows that you must have a clear plan of action.  It’s a cliché, but it’s true: People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan. I maintain trust with kids and parents by being organized and methodical in my approach to work. It helps me stay on track.

Me: I’ve heard that you keep a list, you check it twice, and you know who’s been naughty or nice. Is that true? Why do you do that?

Santa: Of course it’s true! In leadership terms I consider it my way of  “managing performance.”   I like to stay in touch with how all the girls and boys are behaving and I think it helps them stay on their best behavior if they know there are consequences for their actions. The parents are the front-line “supervisors” in charge of their kids, so they send me regular reports about how things are going. I partner with the parents to help them set clear goals for their children so the kids know exactly what’s expected of them. It’s not fair to evaluate someone’s performance if they didn’t have defined goals in the first place.

Me: How do you keep all the elves motivated to work throughout the year?

Santa: I have the best team in the world! I’ve always tried to help the elves realize the importance of the work they do.  They aren’t robots who work on an assembly line. They are fine craftsmen who are bringing the dreams of kids to life and that’s a very meaningful job. I also look for opportunities to praise their performance and encourage them to praise each other’s performance as well. It’s creates an environment in our workshop where we cheer each other on to greater success. Finally, I put them in charge of achieving the goal. I make sure they are sufficiently trained to do their particular job and then I get out of their way. The elves have a great degree of autonomy to do their work as they see fit.

Me: Santa, I know you’ve got a lot on your plate and eager to get back to the North Pole and Mrs. Claus, so I’ll ask this one final question: If you could give one piece of advice to leaders reading this article, what would it be?

Santa: I would encourage leaders to remember the purpose of their position – to serve those they lead.   Leaders set the vision and direction for their team, provide the necessary resources and training, and then look for ways to support their team members in achieving their goals. Successful leaders remember that the most important thing they have is their integrity and the trust they hold with their followers, and they continually look for ways to build and maintain trust with others. If they focus on that, they’ll be successful in the long run.

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Gratitude Should Be a Continuous Attitude

It’s very disheartening to see a decline in the use of “thank you” by so many. When I hold doors open for people, I almost never hear a thank you. I go out for lunch or dinner quite frequently, and I tip well, but thank you seems to have found a place on the endangered species list. When I go shopping and buy something, I rarely hear a thank you any more.

For a while, I thought it was just me, being overly sensitive. But then I was watching The Late Show with David Letterman and heard about a man who went into a store looking for an item. He found no one to help. The clerks were disinterested at best, rude at worst. After much searching, he finally found the item himself. At the checkout counter he found a long line of people and a clerk who definitely worked only at her own speed. Finally he paid for his item, and the clerk threw it into a plastic bag and shoved his change at him.

The man had to say something, so he asked the cashier, “Can’t you even say thank you?”

And the cashier said, “It’s printed on your receipt.”

One of my faithful readers recently emailed me that he has saved a column I wrote on the topic 10 years ago, and uses it at his company’s monthly training meetings. He writes: “We are a society that no longer embraces these simple, yet powerful words and what they stand for. What astonishes me is that this is not generation specific. I grew up with please and thank you driven hard into me, and I am grateful for that today. Thank you Mom and Dad! I used to hear these valued words a lot. Today, little.” Thank you, Wayne Shimer, for your insight.

It takes only two words to say, “Thank you.” It takes only one word to say, “Please.” It’s so easy to say thank you, and it can have such a powerful impact.

As many of you may know, I am a big fan of creativity. Here are a couple ways I’ve used to say thank you creatively.

A great time to be imaginative is when you’ve landed a new customer and want to show your appreciation. Forget the standard letter from the CEO. Why not try what we sometimes do at Encouragement-Wired? Within 24 hours of receiving an order, we will arrange delivery of a banner saying “Thank You” in 15 different languages. Believe me, that makes it to the bulletin board, opposed to a boilerplate letter that ends up in the trash.

Do you know who else has mastered the Art of the Thank You? The Girl Scouts. First off, these gals are one smart troop of marketers. As of 2007, all types of Girl Scout Cookies are proudly trans-fat free. All of them are also certified kosher. Who can resist Girl Scout cookies?

When a precious set of twins, Anna and Grace, came to me to sell cookies, they were especially excited about a new variety, Thanks-A-Lot shortbread cookies sinfully dipped in fudge. Embossed on them are the words “Thank You”—and not just in English, mind you. But in five different languages: English, French, Chinese, Swahili and Spanish.

Anna and Grace were thrilled when I bought a case of these cookies as a way to say thank you to people who do nice things for me. They thanked me several times. Then I got a follow-up thank you email from these enterprising first graders. And another big thank you when the cookies were delivered a few weeks later.

By the way, everyone who has received a box from me has said thank you too!

Speaking of saying thanks, there is a movement making efforts to thank our military veterans that is so simple. Go to http://www.gratitudecampaign.org and take advantage of the opportunities to thank these heroes.  Veterans Day was just a few days ago, but it is never too late to say “Thank you” to those who give so much of themselves for the rest of us.

I returned some time ago from Beijing, China, and the Summer Olympic Games. You can surely tell that the Chinese government wanted its people—from cab drivers to waiters to everyone in service businesses—to display terrific manners to the world. In fact, “thank you” was one of the five English phrases all Beijing residents were encouraged to learn before the Olympics. Their image to the world was extremely important. And it doesn’t hurt tourism either.

Make it a point every day to have an attitude of gratitude.  It will change your life.

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