The Paradigm of “Is”es and “Ought”s

The Paradigm of “Is”es and “Ought”sI learned a long time ago that one of the greatest frustrations in life is how people respond to “The Paradigm of “Is”es and “Ought”s.” But, before I continue, I apologize for the grammatical errors that must inevitably accompany the explanation of this paradigm.

The paradigm comes into play at any time when you realize that where you is is not where you ought to be.

This can be even more problematic if you and your spouse are driving and you find yourself at a dead end on an unnamed road instead of at your intended destination. This is especially true if your spouse has told you more than once that you had made a wrong turn. You have arrived at where you is, but it isn’t where you ought to be.

Now the problem becomes: If you is where you is, and where you is is not where you ought to be, what is it that you must do to get from where you is to where you ought to be?

By now you should be getting the idea. But the foregoing is just an illustration of the frustration that can arise out your being where you is when being where you is is not where you ought to be.

The paradigm often comes into play at work (get it?) when an employee is not where he ought to be on a projects. According to the milestones and Key Performance Indicators, where he is is not where he ought to be. This is a corollary of success is not measured by what you achieved, but by what you have achieved compared to what you should have achieved. In other words, even when where you is appears to be successful, if you aren’t where you ought to be, wherever it is is not an indicator of success. It may, in fact, be a sign that where you is is in trouble.

The correct approach to resolve this paradigm in a serious business model is to implement a gap analysis. The first thing that gap analysis does is to ensure that you know where you ought to be. If you don’t know where you ought to be, you is no longer in trouble. You is in BIG trouble.

The next thing the gap analysis does is to figure where you really is. Having determined where you is, that information is used to determine how to get from where you is to where you ought to be. With that knowledge in hand, the objective then becomes eliminating the gap.

One of the things I like about performing a gap analysis is that it focuses on defining the problem. Once the problem is adequately defined, an appropriate solution can be determined and implemented.

Another thing I like is that it does not focus on the person or the reason for where you is not being where you ought to be. Why you is where you is is subordinate to getting from where you is to where you ought to be. Why you got to where you is is important only to the extent that you don’t repeat the same mistake(s) again. The overriding issue is to determine the direction for how to get where you ought to be. If you keep ending up somewhere other than where you ought to be, then the “why” becomes important and requires corrective action to keep the same mistake from recurring.

People who do not understand the paradigm of “Is”es and “Ought”s are destined to deal with both short-term and long-term frustration, either as a boss or as an employee. But it also applies to life at home and in every possible venue. Understanding “Is”es and “Ought”s simply makes life easier. At least it ought to.

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It’s Never Right to Do Wrong in Order to Get a Chance to Do Right

It’s Never Right to Do Wrong in Order to Get a Chance to Do RightThis is a follow-up to my earlier post, “When Doing the Right Thing Is the Wrong Thing,” published on January 3, 2015.

I want to expand on that concept. In that post I proposed that “the right thing” is not defined by the desired result. That is, there is nothing that is right about a plan to rob a business. Granted, in order to pull it off successfully, there are, as with anything else “right steps” to take in order to achieve the objective. But that does not make those steps things that are inherently right. In fact, morally speaking, each of those steps are wrong within the scope and context of the objective.

For instance, let’s assume that the robber doesn’t want to hurt anyone. That’s a good thing in and of itself, but once it is a part of the overall plan to do wrong, it is by nature a part of the bigger wrong.

Now, let’s turn that argument around. Let’s say that the reason for robbing the business is because the robber is unemployed, deep in debt, about to be evicted and cannot provide for his family. The question becomes, “Is it right to rob a business to provide for his family?” Some people may want to say that it’s okay, because they don’t know what they would do if they were in the same situation. If that is the case, those people have a broken moral compass.

What if the question was, “Is it right to rob business to pay off his debts?” Those without clear moral direction – without the ability to clearly distinguish right from wrong – may be inclined to answer the two questions differently, even though they are the same. You see, the question is really, “Is it right to rob?” The answer is “No, it is not.”

It’s that simple.

But every day, all around the world, people rob others, justifying their actions on excuses like, “They’ll never know” or “They’ll never miss it” or “It’s not a big deal.” Cashiers steal money from registers because they believe that they need the money more than the business does. Repairmen charge for things they don’t do so that they can make more money. People shoplift so that they don’t have to spend money on items they want – or to sell those items for other purpose. Employees steal from employers. Employers steal from employees, suppliers and customers using all sorts of schemes.

I think I have made my point, so let’s return to the title, which is a quote from the late Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. “It’s never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.”

Right and wrong are not defined by our circumstances, but whether we do what is right or what is wrong defines who we are.

It may require some changes in your perspective and your actions, but “Do right. Do right until the stars fall.”

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When Doing the Right Thing Is the Wrong Thing

When Doing the Right Thing Is the Wrong ThingBack in the 1980’s, I worked for a company that promoted “Doing the Right Thing” as its slogan. The power of that message was overwhelming several decades ago, not as much as I would suppose that it would be today. People were longing to be associated with anyone or any entity that had an apparent desire to do the right thing. New customers, employees and suppliers were banging on the doors, wanting to be a part of this movement.

It didn’t hurt that, at the time, the company was just beginning to break through and was becoming recognized for its potential to become an industry leader. People figured that the company’s success so far was the result of doing the right thing, and they reasoned that doing the right thing would continue to produce similar, positive results. Having been a part of the company at this nascent stage, I witnessed first-hand the power of the attraction of “doing the right thing.” But I also learned that “doing the right thing” was not always the right thing to do. It all depends on what you mean when you say it.

I come from a background of, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” That’s what I was taught, so, like so many others, I assumed that everyone was taught the same. I forgot to take deception into account.

What does it mean to “do the right thing?”

It sounds virtuous, doesn’t it? That’s what attracted so many to this company ethic. We all want to be around people who are committed to doing the right thing. But, “the right thing” does not necessarily equal the virtuous thing. And therein, as William Shakespeare once said, lies the rub.

The slogan, “Do the Right Thing,” was cleverly crafted to BE the right thing to attract those new customers, employees and suppliers. It created a sense of partnership and loyalty that was, and still is, uncommon. But it was entirely one-sided, and defined entirely by the inner circle that ran the company. Let me illustrate.

In the second quarter of the 20th century, there was “a problem” in Europe. Adolph Hitler rose to prominence with a promise of “a final solution.” He had a plan to solve the problem. His plan was immoral, inhuman, and insane, but – and please bear with me here – he did “all the right things” to make it happen.

I use that illustration to gain your attention. Your ethics are defined by your goal. If your goal is pure, then “doing the right thing” means exactly what we first imagine it to mean. If you goal is nefarious, you still must do the right things to accomplish your goal.

Over a period of time, people began to realize that it was never the company’s goal to do the right thing. The company’s goal was dominance, and they were committed to doing all the right things necessary to accomplish that goal. And part of the right things that needed to be done was deceiving people into cooperating with them. They succeeded. As a result, while the inner circle prospered, others’ lives were destroyed by the power of deception.

Let me offer an example. In the company’s early days, it struck an exclusive supply agreement with a young manufacturing company halfway around the world. For two decades, that partnership seemed unbreakable. What people thought they were witnessing was a commitment to loyalty, which would seem like a commitment to the right thing. But, what was going on behind the scenes had nothing to do with loyalty at all. It was all about reaching the company goal of dominance. The two worked together for two decades to develop and introduce new electronic components to be distributed worldwide.

Then, one day, the relationship was over when my former company introduced its new line of identical products – manufactured by subsidiary company, based on the designs of the loyal manufacturer. The goal was never to partner. The goal was to develop a product line that they, themselves would control. But, getting from nothing to having a complete product line was a huge leap. The “right thing” for them was to use someone else to get them to their goal, then cut the cord and become the loyal supplier’s competitor.

Lesson learned: Be wise. Be discerning. Deception is not accomplished through direct opposition. We can believe deception simply because it sounds like the right thing. We need to understand that “doing the right thing” is not necessarily a moral standard for some people. It is simply doing what they need to do to get what they want.

Let’s stick to the highest moral and ethical standards and motives, so that what we are doing is not deceptive, but is, in fact, the right thing.

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The Value of What You Have in Your Hand Is Determined by What You Do With It

The Value of What You Have in Your Hand Is Determined by What You Do With ItThe following is a true story.

A long time ago, in a land far away, a man who had once been a scholar, an eloquent speaker, a military hero and a high-ranking government official, had retired at the age of 40, married, and was working his father-in-law’s ranch, for what he had expected would be the rest of his life. After another 40 years on the ranch, little did he realize that his plans were about to change.

You see, Moses had an epiphany. No, it was more than that. It was an encounter with God. And Moses found out that God had different plans for him. God told Moses that he needed to use him to be a leader again. Moses wasn’t all that excited about God’s plans, so he did his best to convince Him that he was not equipped to do the job.

During their conversation, which, by the way, would be the first of many that they would have, God asked Moses a number of questions. One of those questions was, “What is that in your hand?” Moses replied, “A-Rod.” No. Wait. I think that’s a typo that spellcheck didn’t catch. He didn’t have a Yankee Hall of Famer. He had “a rod.”

What Moses was really saying was, “Nothing. Just a stick. I can’t lead people with a stick.” Was he about to be surprised! Even after God demonstrated what could be done with the stick, Moses tried to make excuses for why he couldn’t do what God wanted him to do. Yet, in the not-to-distant future Moses would raise that same stick high above his head and, when he did, the Red Sea parted and the people of Israel walked across the sea, as if on dry land, until they all safely reached the other side and Moses lowered the rod and the waters returned.

In fact, battles that were impossible to win were, nonetheless, won when Moses held that stick in the air.

What’s the point?

I meet people all of the time who, for instance, have a computer, but who either don’t use it or who use it solely for entertainment. When challenged to do something productive with it, they say, “I can’t do that. I don’t know how.” When given the opportunity to be taught how to be productive, the truth begins to come out in the form of, “I really don’t want to know.”

Perhaps you know someone like that. One of the reasons that some people, some businesses, and even some churches never reach their full potential is that they refuse to look at what they have in their hand and discover how it can be used to expand their knowledge, to help their business processes become more efficient or to effect growth in their ministry.

No one can afford to miss the power of what is in their hand. I doesn’t matter who or where you are. There is something in your hand or within your reach that can be used to benefit others and to glorify God.

Don’t look at what is in your hand and say, “It’s just a stick.” Look at it and ask yourself, “How can I make the world a better place with for what I have in my hand?” Whatever you have has been given to you for a purpose. Find that purpose, and do it.

(Right now you are using the internet. Have you discovered yet, how you can leverage its power for you, your business or your church? We can help you progress from potential to powerful. Give us a call. We are here to help.)

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Control Freaks Are Freaky

Control Freaks Are FreakyDo you know anyone who is a control freak? That’s really not the question I wanted to ask, but it is a good place to start, nonetheless.

One of the reasons we don’t like control freaks is that those whom we know are usually trying to control us. That makes controlling-type people about as irritating as woolen underwear. We don’t like it when they try to control us, but that is not what makes them freaky.

There is a difference between perfectionists and control freaks. Perfectionists focus on controlling those things that they directly touch. Control freaks are different in that they have an overwhelming compulsion to control everything within their sphere of influence except the one thing that they have the ability to control: themselves. That is freaky. It’s freaky because it doesn’t work. And it never will.

One of the things that makes a control freak freaky is that they, themselves, are always out of control. It borders on insanity to keep spending time trying to control things you cannot and to ignore what you can. I’m not sure what side of the border it is one, but it seems to be on the other side.

Have you ever noticed the unusual amount of anxiety that control freaks have, all because they want things to be done their way? No wonder the sale of anti-anxiety medications exceeds $76 billion annually. Control freaks generate an overwhelming amount of self-anxiety because, no matter how hard they try or no matter how much effort and energy they invest, almost everything in their sphere of influence is out of their control.

Control freaks want to be the boss of everyone. That becomes a major problem when an actual boss is a control freak. Control freaks don’t lead or manage, because they can’t. Their entire understanding of leadership and management is skewed by their vain imagining that they must be in control. Effective leaders and managers understand that they must control their own time and efforts while providing vision and direction and delegating authority to others to accomplish the common objective.

The problem is that sometimes control freaks become bosses, often by establishing their own businesses. Working for a control freak is not impossible, but it is certainly unbearable. Working alongside one is almost as bad. Dictators – and many “skilled politicians – are typically control freaks, because they feel the need to have control over those who may oppose or unseat them.

Here is the point (and the question I really wanted ask up front). Are you a control freak? A peaceful life is characterized, not by controlling others, but by controlling ourselves. Essentially our lives are controlled by external circumstances. Our responsibility is to control how we respond to those circumstances and to other people who live and move within our sphere.

There is nothing freaky about self-control. It promotes peace within ourselves and between people and organizations.

Self-control is admirable and is respected by both those who exercise it and those who do not. It is the revelation of the beauty of a disciplined life. When a person neglects the discipline of self-control, they focus on controlling others. That is freaky. And that is why those people are called control freaks.

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No One Has Ever Accomplished Anything by Waiting for Someone Else To Do It

No One Has Ever Accomplished Anything by Waiting for Someone Else To Do ItThere are a lot of lazy people out there. You can find them in every office, every organization, every manufacturing plant, and in many homes. You do realize, don’t you, that lazy people go home at the end of the day? And, when they get home, they are still lazy.

The problem with lazy people is not that they never do anything. It is that they never accomplish anything. In fact, lazy people will often do just about anything to avoid being productive. Lazy people are a liability to any organization, but, oddly, they are rarely dealt with when it comes to increasing productivity. The rule of thumb practiced by most businesses, consciously or unconsciously, is to give additional workloads to the people who are already productive. While this works in the short term, it is a tactic often results in the burnout of the best employees.

Meanwhile, the lazy people do just enough to make it appear that they are doing something, and they keep right on drifting from one day to another.

Have you taken a look at your organization lately? Sure, you know who the star players are, but have you taken the time to consider who the lazy people are? Here are a few ways to identify them.

  1. Their desks are usually neat. They believe that, if they appear to be neat, that makes them appear to be productive.
  2. They smoke. I can just hear the reactions to that statement and I haven’t even finished writing the next sentence! Every company I have worked for has had some kind of allotted break time for all employees. However, smokers have always seemed to manage an additional four to six breaks per day. I don’t really care what your view is on smoking, but I am smart enough to understand that taking a smoke break is not being productive.
  3. They are always trying to impress people with the amount of work they are doing. One fellow I worked with had a pile of notebooks and folders on his desk. He picked them up and carried them everywhere he went. The pile always contained the same notebooks and folders. By his own private admission, he did it so that people would think he was busier than he really was. He was probably the laziest person I have ever met.
  4. They whine about every extra thing they are asked to do and every extra amount of time they are asked to work.
  5. They spend a lot of time talking about sports, the latest from Dr. Phil, or last night’s reality TV shows (which gives you some insight into how productive they were at home last night).
  6. They never offer any creative thoughts. By the way, saying that management doesn’t communicate enough is not a creative thought. Everyone who is not management says that.
  7. They always seem to know the latest rumors, although they would prefer to call it “knowing what is going to happen before it happens.”
  8. Remember that birds of a feather thing. If you find one, you’ll eventually find another.
  9. They like to work on “projects” that have nothing to do with the company’s mission. I knew one goldbricker who spent most of his time in his cubicle building homemade model airplanes from company parts. He scavenged the mini electric motors and impellers from the automatic restroom deodorizers to add functional “blades” to his creations.
  10. They arrive late and leave early.
  11. They avoid learning anything new. The catch here is that technology is moving so quickly that, in order to be efficient, a person has to keep learning. Twenty years ago, I introduced individual PCs to an entire department. One fellow, who had a fistful of sharpened pencils bound with a rubber band, refused to use his “new toy.” He doesn’t work there anymore.
  12. They don’t produce. They politic.
  13. They hitch their wagons to a star, in hopes that the star, once promoted, will be their benefactor. That’s how lazy people get promoted.
  14. They call productive people “workaholics.”
  15. They mosey.
  16. You have to close your left eye and point your finger at them to see if they are moving.
  17. They never accomplish anything.

Sometimes you have got to look for these people with earnest, because many of them are very good at what they do, which is nothing.

No one every accomplished anything by waiting for someone else do it. Why would you want that kind of person in your company?

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Why are Some People Who Live on the Edge Surprised When They Fall?

Why are Some People Who Live on the Edge Surprised When They Fall?I admit it. I have a fear of heights. It began many years when I almost fell from a precipice on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point. I had been running as best one can through some dense underbrush when I saw what appeared to be an opening ahead. As I broke through, I realized that it wasn’t just an opening – it was drop of more than 50 feet. I managed to grab a hold of limbs reaching out to me on both sides, limbs that saved me, perhaps from death.

It was in those eternal seconds when I was leaning forward, hanging on for dear life, staring at the rocks below and sucking for air, that I realized that I needed to learn to become much more acutely aware of where I am at all times. That has saved me from falling countless times since.

I find it fascinating that so many people like to live their lives and even run their businesses living on the edge. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve heard all of the explanations, like going for the gusto, or experiencing the next big thrill, or making a lot of money. But, have you ever noticed that, before you make that bungee jump, some person whom you have never met before, hands you a clipboard and a pen and asks you to sign a waiver that releases them from responsibility for the action they are about to help you take? Think about that for minute. You’re the one about to do the dangerous thing, but they are the ones looking for protection!

I’m not here to advise you against taking risks, but there is a huge gap between foolish risks and calculated risk. Experience has proven to me that most people unwilling to count the cost of their actions. Unless you count the cost, you can’t calculate the risk.

I don’t walk close to the edge of cliffs or busy highways, because the cost of the risk is more than I believe that I can afford. There are many accomplishments that can be achieved, if one is willing to pay the price for living on the edge. Climbing Mt. Everest is a loft goal, but it is not without significant risks. Anyone who would consider taking on that challenge must also consider that the risk of failure is greater than the reward of success. The bodies buried beneath the ice and snow are testimony to those who had believed that nothing could stop them.

Our generation has tainted the original meaning of the Nike slogan, “Just do it.” The fact is that that is often very bad advice. I have stood high on mountain tops and savored the magnificence of the Grand Canyon, but I refuse to approach the edge. Stone Mountain rises out of the ground not far from Lithonia, Georgia. I have climbed it several times. But there is a strange phenomenon about that place. There is a point of no return as one walks toward the vertical side of the mountain. The human eye is not able to discern where that point is. For that reason, many, thinking that they were safe, walked too close to the edge and have fallen to their deaths. My point is that often times we are not able to tell where the falling off place is.

That being the case, it seems to be best to try to avoid that place, not to try to see how close you can come to it.

On a much more practical scale, I propose that we count the cost and calculate the risk more carefully when . . .

. . . We think about telling a lie
. . . We consider stealing from others
. . . We want to see how fast this baby can go
. . . We contemplate revenge
. . . We feel like following the crowd
. . . We value power or popularity more than personal integrity
. . . We don’t care what others think
. . . We don’t think that we will get caught

When you break it down and reason it out, there is no more dangerous place to be than on the edge. The thrills that kill last a lifetime. The problem is that the lifetime is often much shorter or much less enjoyable than it could have been.

I can think of a dozen ways to end this, but I think that Rotary International’s 4-Way Test can help in every situation where we must decide what to think, say, or do. We would all benefit from asking ourselves these four questions before we make any decision:

  • Is it the TRUTH?
  • Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  • Will it build GOODWILL and better FRIENDSHIPS?
  • Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Answering those questions honestly will keep us far enough away from the edge to be safe and secure, if not prosperous and of clear conscience.

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Is Success Measured by What We Accomplish in Life?

Is Success Measured by What We Accomplish in LifeSuccess is measured by what we accomplish in life. Isn’t that right? No, it is not.

The problem with measuring success by what we accomplish is that we have no standard against which to measure. The fallacy of determining success is often subtle.

We have been trained to view success as reaching a goal. That goal could be imposed or it could be self-defined. Some would say that earning a degree is a measure of success. It’s hard to argue with that, but it is only a success in that you achieved a predetermined goal. But that “success” is limited to achieving that singular goal. Once achieved, there must be new goals set and new attempts to reach those new goals. Reaching each goal is a success. But when does a person become a success?

Is it when you earn your first million dollars? Or is it when you retire? If success is earning a million dollars, the majority of people on the planet are not successful. If it is retirement, another whole group are not successful, and many of those are people who successfully planned to retire, but who suffered some kind of physical or financial disaster. Does that mean that they were never successful? Suppose you make a million dollars. Suppose you spend it all. If you called earning it success, what do you call spending it?

May I submit that success should not measured by what we have done? Rather, it should be measured by what we have done compared to what we could have done. Success is a measure of accomplishment versus possibility. The real question is not, “What have you done?” It is, “What have you done with what you have available?”

The founder of a prominent, private university used to say that, “Not everyone comes to school with a 50-gallon brain to fill. Some only have a thimble.” He would continue on to make the point that the school would make every effort to fill whatever brain capacity you brought. The problem, as he had seen it over the years, was that altogether too many who brought large capacities graduated without a thimble-full of essential learning. The question he was asking was, “At the end of four years, what will you have learned compared to what you could have learned?”

Barbara Corcoran, of Shark Tank fame, noted that she will never invest in any enterprise run by children of wealthy parents. Her observation was that they tend not to appreciate what they have, because they have so much. Therefore, they are more likely to make reckless decisions because they think in terms of, “What have we got to lose?” At the other end of the spectrum there are people who invest and risk everything they have. Some win. Some lose. But they all tend to try harder.

Those with nothing to lose don’t need to try as hard. If their venture fails, they can always try something else. I generally agree with her observation. It is not always true, but it is often true. She understands that people who are standing with their backs to the wall have no choice but to give it everything they’ve got. If they don’t, they may have to start over with nothing. These people have determined that they are “all in.” For them, there is no “Try.” There is only “Do.”

They are the successful people. They are not the people who measure success by what they have done. They are the people who measure success by doing all they can do to be all they can be.

Where are you on the road to success? Are you giving it all you’ve got? That’s what it is going to take.

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Cause & Effect are not necessarily closely related in Time & Space

Cause & Effect are not necessarily closely related in Time & SpaceMost of us learned years ago that, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” We were also taught that “There is a cause for every effect and an effect for every cause.” Somewhere along the line, we have come to misunderstand how those two principles operate.

In the western culture we have come to believe that every reaction is immediate to the action, and we transpose that onto cause and effect. We have complacently led ourselves to believe that cause and affect are closely related in time and space. That is not necessarily so.

The fact is that cause and effect are not necessarily closely related in time and space. They can be, but they do not have to be. If we fail to understand that, we will eventually suffer consequences that can sometimes be severe.

Lung cancer as a result of smoking cigarettes is a classic example. Many young people have understood the potential effect caused by smoking, but they always think that, “it won’t happen to me.” Day after day, month after month, and even year after year, they continue to smoke with no apparent effect. Then, one day, in what had once appeared to be the distant future, an x-ray or other test reveals the inevitable effect. It may have been a long time coming, but it came.

There is an aspect of this axiom that can yield positive results, but one which may also cause us to unnecessarily suffer. I’m talking about doing good things for others and expecting immediate results. If we do not understand that the real effects of our good deeds may not appear for many years, or that we may never personally witness the ultimate outcome, we can become weary, even to the point of bitterness, thinking that we have wasted our time. It is only when we fully grasp the concept that the desired effect will eventually come, that we can continue pressing on even when we see no apparent effect.

In the early 16th century, as a teenager, Galileo notice that when the chandeliers in the cathedral at Pisa swung back and forth, the time it took to make the swing from one end to the other was always the same, regardless of the distance. He conducted experiments that proved his observation to be correct and he recorded his observations. Fifty years would pass before another man thought of a practical application for Galileo’s findings. The invention of the pendulum clock became one of the most dramatic, life-changing events in the history of mankind.

Now here is the moral of the story. We make countless choices every day. Each of those choices will ultimately have some kind of effect. Some of those effects will be immediate, but some will not. What is more, some of those that have an immediate effect will also have a long-term effect. The principle applies for every choice. It does not differentiate between good and bad. It just is.

Making right choices tips the balance in your favor that the eventual effects will be beneficial to yourself and others – perhaps many others. I would hope that we would always choose wisely, or at least try to. I wish everyone who reads this would stop making bad choices, not just because they are inherently bad choices, but because their effects will eventually be felt. But my concern is far greater than that.

My singular hope today is that this article will have an effect on people who are already committed to making right choices, that it will encourage you to keep on keeping on and that you will focus on continuing, with full assurance, that cause and effect are not necessarily closely related in time and space. Do not be discouraged. Do not think that you are not having an effect. You may not see it yet, but your reward will come someday.

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