I’m Grateful . . . Finally

Gratitude is nature’s natural lubricant.  Life flows a lot easier with a healthy dose of gratitude.

I used to be a critic.  A serious critic. An Olympic-scale critic. Almost featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. I could find fault with anything, everything, and everyone.  Nothing and nobody was perfect, nor did things match up to my standards and expectations.  For example, I would go to a restaurant and critique the service, the table reservation system, the flow of food from the kitchen, even the process to settle the check. And being a performance improvement consultant made the experience even worse, for them and me.

And the security checks at airports was one of my favourite critiques. If I ran this area people would move much faster through the security process, and the lazy TSA agents certainly wouldn’t be wandering around talking to each other about their most recent date!

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.     -John F. Kennedy

As I look back on my days of endless critique, I now see a sobering reality.  None of my critiquing or comments on how to improve things ever made a difference.  To be honest, they were just grumblings!  Critics don’t improve things, at best they just point out the obvious.  And often in an obnoxious manner.

Okay, so I’ve reformed.  I’m not longer a vocal or even an “internal” critic.  And to be honest, life is much better, for me and everyone around me.

Whoh! I can here the wheels churning.  What changed?  How does a serial critic evolve into a person of gratitude?

My story is perhaps not unique, but at the ripe old (young) age of 51, I became a father of a lovely little girl.  Now, you tell me, what is more perfect than a young child? Full of potential.  Full of wonder.  Full of mischief.  Full of ideas.  Full of life. And what is more miserable than an old cynic?  Something had to change! The default future did not look good if I continued as a critic.

My critical nature didn’t evaporate immediately, and it isn’t completely eradicated.  But the more I view the world through the eyes of my daughter, the more I realise that perfection is an illusion and yet at the same time, everything is perfect, just as it is.

Could I be taller?  You bet. I always wanted to be 6 feet tall. But, you know what, I’m my perfect height.  Could my daughter be smarter in school? I’m learning that no matter how hard you work there is always someone smarter. She’s perfect just as she is.  Could she clean up her room more or study with more diligence?  After all, I did.  But, she’s perfect as she is. Could she practice more on the violin and piano? Absolutely, but her progress has been amazing. Do we still remind her to study and clean up? Certainly, and it seems that we will be reminding for along time.  But so what?  Her life journey is hers, not mine to dictate or prescribe.  My wife and I (mostly my great wife) have given her all the basic foundation values and lessons we can and I am confident they have sunk in deeply.  The critic says they should surface in the next instant and everything should be perfect.  My new view is that the lessons are there, they will surface when the time is right.  Cherry trees that have been properly watered and cared for bear fruit at the right time.  I am confident the values and lessons instilled in our daughter will do the same.  Not when I want, but when the time is right.

And it’s strange, moving from chronic-cynic to gratitude-learner, I tend to smile more, be less grumpy and definitely more confident about the future.

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

 What’s your gratitude story?  I’d love to hear it.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

john@johnrchildress.com

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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3 Responses to I’m Grateful . . . Finally

  1. Steve Borek says:

    I’m grateful for everything.

    I came out of the projects of the inner city not knowing if I would make it out alive. I lived in “the hood.”

    Lived most of my adult life in beautiful Central NY. Raised a wonderful family, Had a successful career in the high tech industry. Then arrived at the place that I love. Coaching executives, leaders, and their teams.

    Like

  2. Yay for you! My story? I live in a third-world country, and the mere sight of children looking for food in the dumpster is enough (though only diminutive in a plethora of reasons) to make me grateful for everything I have and the simple joys I’m able to experience so far. 🙂

    Like

  3. Great post John. I’m grateful for much today including my family and this new blogging forum which has opened up a new world of wonder for me.

    Like

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