Monday, February 20, 2017

Becoming Outstanding, II

LEARNING: A Lifetime Pursuit

Continuing to learn is essential. Socrates is quoted as saying, “A wise man knows he knows nothing.” Late in his long life, Michelangelo wrote on one of his sketches, Ancora imparo, “I am still learning.” The late, great Nobel-Prize-winning physicist, Richard P. Feynman called himself a “curious character,” continually wondering “why?”

Shufeldt urges us to read, read, read, and take classes. I enjoyed his quote from Winston Churchill, “I began my education at a very early age---in fact, right after I left college.” The self-taught American writer Eric Hoffer [read his (Hoffer, 1966) The True Believer, if you get a chance], wrote, “The future belongs to the learners---not the knowers.”

OPTIMISM/ENTHUSIASM: Look on the Bright Side

Shufeldt claims to be optimistic, almost to a fault, but writes that it allows him to view difficulties as opportunities. Blind optimism would be wrong, but a rationally positive view helps keep us going.

The story is told about writer and editor Norman Cousins, who overcame cancer largely through his unwillingness to acknowledge defeat and his focus on humor and laughter. Many other examples are presented, including that of the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale (1952), author of the best-selling guide, The Power of Positive Thinking, who distinguished between the “energetic optimists” and the “purveyors of gloom.” Dr. Peale founded Guideposts, an inspiring monthly magazine with a circulation of over two million.

Shufeldt writes, “enthusiasm is infectious---spread it.” Science fiction novelist Robert A Heinlein, one of my favorites, notes that even if pessimists were right more often than optimists, being optimistic is more fun.

PERSPECTIVE: Changing It Changes Everything

It has been said, “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” Our cherished positions are often determined by our “points of view,” our perspectives. Dr. Shufeldt maintains that the most important lesson life has taught him is that life is about perspective: changing your perspective changes everything.

Southwest Airlines’ phenomenal success is accredited largely to their philosophy of putting their employees first, on the theory that happy employees will treat customers right. One guru has advised, “You choose to worry or you choose not to.”  Another enjoins us to focus on the journey, not the destination. My favorite quote on the topic is, from Horace Walpole, “Life is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.”

INDEFATIGABLE: Empty the Tank!

When you are engaged in something worth doing, do it all the way.  Go the extra mile. Use up all the gasoline in your tank. We can do more than we think we can. Run your marathon flat out. Go all in, beyond your comfort zone.

Shufeldt cites one of his favorite movies and mine, Chariots of Fire, which starts with beautiful footage of British runners in training, doing their utmost. He reminds us of the brave passengers on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, who, led by Todd Beamer and inspired by his “Let’s roll,” overcame the hijackers intent on crashing the plane into one of the government buildings in Washington, DC. They indeed gave their all.

As Kipling wrote, we are to “fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.”

Digresssion: “Do you like Kipling,” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. ”I’ve never kippled.”

EFFICIENCY: Doing Better What’s Being Done

Theodore Roosevelt lived only 59 years, yet achieved amazing feats, as a warrior, explorer, statesman, writer, the youngest man inaugurated as President, and he served two terms. He lived life to the fullest and did so efficiently.

Management expert Peter Drucker is cited, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Both are important. Shufeldt advises us to have goals that we put into writing: “S.M.A.R.T. goals, goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.” Then we must act on them.

 Have a “to-do” list and work on it. Your daily list should likely have only a few, most important, elements. The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is credited with having found a new way to conduct a retail business. Bezos emphasizes that Amazon is “customer-centric.”

INTEGRITY: A Priceless Commodity

“Simply put, integrity is doing what you say and saying what you’ll do,” Shufeldt writes. “Integrity” is derived from the Latin word for wholeness. Cheating is anathema to those with integrity. Examples of integrity in sports, such as golf, where players have cost themselves victories by calling fouls on themselves, are given.
Former U.S. Senator from Wyoming Alan K. Simpson stated, “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.”

INTUITION: Your Guts Don’t Lie

While the preceding discussion has emphasized accentuating the positive, there are times when fear is appropriate, and you must “listen to your gut.” Our “fight or flight” response may be needed and we must avoid “freeze.” Whether you are walking in a strange area at night or surfing an unfamiliar site on the Internet, you need to be cautious.

Shufeldt notes there is an organization named “Heartless Bitches International” that has a web site listing hundreds of “red flags” people should heed in developing relationships. Sexy actress of the last century, Mae West, is quoted, “Don’t marry a man to reform him. That’s what reform schools are for.” Google uses a “red flag” for myriad sites with warnings. Lies are red flags, as are rudeness, arrogance, laziness, negativity, tough pre-hire negotiation, callousness, excuses, misspellings…. Shufeldt warns, “In my experience, women have better gut instincts than men, but are less likely to follow them.”
Finally, Dr. Shufeldt advises:

THE RARE FIND: Become the One of a Kind

Actress Bernadette Peters is quoted: “You’ve gotta be original, because if you’re like someone else, what do they need you for?” Don’t try to be just any kind of unique, but uniquely good. American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, a favorite of mine, wrote, “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” It’s lonely at the top, sometimes, but the air is clean and the view is terrific.

Dr. Shufeldt acknowledges that much of this we have heard before, but it is worth repeating. In just under 200 pages, he includes his own observations and anecdotes along with those of many other successful people and students of success. The work is a virtual handbook for those who hope to be outstanding, like you.


Excerpted from my Write Your Book with Me, published last year by Outskirts Press and available from online booksellers like and See

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