The Gifts of Success: The Second Cornerstone of Positive Leadership

Another philosophical foundation of our Theory of Positive Leadership is constructed on the axiom “it is better to give than to receive.”
Man is a social animal. Human beings have advanced to our current level of achievement because we have developed a sophisticated system of groups and organizations to facilitate the safety and prosperity of increasingly larger populations. From the first time man elected to pool his resources with that of others, to the very present, the success of the group has been contingent upon the willingness of the individual members to give of themselves, even if it means foregoing the immediate gratification of their own wants and needs. Similarly, nothing so threatens the group as the existence of individuals who choose, first, to serve their own self-interests.

One of the things that distinguish powerful positive leaders is the zeal with which they give of themselves to their organization and its people. These men and women understand that their own success is measured by the success of their people and their organization. Positive leaders work not only to advance the skills and accomplishments of individuals but also to create the synergies that occur when individuals come together as part of effective teams. They understand that, in effective organizations, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Zig Ziglar said it most eloquently:
“You can get everything you want and need out of life if you help enough other people get what they want and need.”

If you are a giving person and you strive everyday to help the people around you be successful, then you will be perceived as a leader and you will have captured the essence of success.

The gift of success is something that anyone can give and once you give it, remarkably, you also possess it, in full measure. Giving does not necessarily have to be of material things. It may be giving of one’s time and energy or of one’s talent. It may be doing one’s absolute best on the job or volunteering for a community project.

The world needs givers and lots of them. Be a giver and it will make a difference in the way you feel about yourself and about your life. It will make a difference in the quality of the relationships you have with your spouse, your children, and your friends. It will make a difference in the wholesomeness of your community. It will make a difference in the success of your business or career and, finally, it will make a difference for you financially.

Yes, there is an inherent risk in giving of oneself. There will be disappointments. Some people will let us down and others will even hurt us. These things are inevitable in life and will occur whether we give or take. True success and the most cherished joys in life come, however, only to those who give freely.

If you want a better marriage, give of yourself and be a better spouse. If you want better friends, give of yourself and be a better friend. If you want a more successful career, give of yourself and do a better job. If you want to be a part of a better organization or live in a better community, give of yourself and be a positive leader.

Giving fully of one’s self – holding nothing back – is, very simply, the key to success in life! It is magical, miraculous, simple, and relatively painless. “It is better to give than receive” is not just the secret of positive leadership it is a prescription for a democratic society.

Another 5 Star Review for Reinventing Education Hope and the American Dream!

An invaluable resource for anyone with an interest or passion in improving education., October 28, 2013
Jay Mittener

This review is from: Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America (Kindle Edition)
This book “Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America” is nothing short of brilliant. This book is exactly what everyone needs to read and understand about the state and future of our nation. Our standards of living, our income potential, our successes and ability to advance on life are all directly related to the education we received in this country.

It’s very eye opening and honestly very scary to see how little education is valued in today’s society and the reasons behind it. We are a nation who have slowly lost faith in our own systems and in our own ideals and truths. We are no longer seeing ourselves as a land of opportunity because we were not given, and we are not giving our children the educational tools needed to realize the American dream.

Hawkins is brilliant- He is saying the hard things, he is opening eyes and he is doing it in a way that is logical, easy to understand and will incite a passion in you to change the way we view education and it’s importance in this nation.

A must-read for parents, teachers and all those involved in improving the state of education

A Review of Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America, on by Thalia:

“Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America’, by Mel Hawkins, provides a critical look at the current state of education in America and follows through with innovative, inspired and crucial steps to reviving the standard of education in American and, thereby, reinvigorating the future of its workforce and the standard of living throughout the nation. Hawkins argues that the current state of matters must be tackled with `unprecedented urgency’, otherwise America’s very way of life will be jeopardized, with its stint as the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world likely to end.

Hawkins explains that education in America has lost its relevancy, with citizens no longer seeing it as `the ticket to the American Dream’. Therefore, education is no longer deemed as important as it once was and, because of this, many children are not infused with this knowledge by their parents, which has a roll-on effect to their levels of motivation and abilities to withstand peer pressures and, ultimately, their levels of academic success.

This is particularly concerning as, through research and data analysis, Hawkins shows us that motivation alone (or lack thereof) to learn is the predominant factor which influences the success of a child in reaching their full capabilities (not race, parental income levels, teacher skill or other such factors which are usually associated with variances in levels of academic success).

Therefore, Hawkins advises that the education system must be overhauled to create a reality where children are motivated to learn and every child ‘succeeds’ (because all success is relative). In order to do so, however, people must be challenged to change their basic assumptions about the way children are educated. They must recognize how kids learn (through encouragement) and do their utmost to both motivate and support them so that they are always working at the edge of their own capabilities. Of course, this entails changing the current class structures and increasing the teacher to student ratio, if students are to be working alongside one another at different levels, but Hawkins outlines smart and practical solutions to making this system workable.

What I like most about Hawkins approach (and what separates this from other educational reference texts) is that he recognizes that more qualified teachers, better facilities, better materials and better technology in classrooms are not the solution to what has become an entrenched and festering crisis. Educational performance can only be remarkably improved if the current widespread symptoms of hopelessness and powerlessness are counteracted with a surge in motivation for education, which can only be achieved by a joint effort between parents and teachers, administrators and principals, and government and public figures, to name a few.

The only thing missing for me were the graphs/figures which were not displayed in the kindle version (perhaps as I have an older kindle, images were replaced with an icon of a camera). However, the data I assume these figures displayed was adequately discussed and analysed in the text, therefore it did not really take away from the text, more that these may have added that something extra.” [Editor’s note: the graphs are visible on most devices.]

“This handbook is particularly useful for parents, teachers, support staff and school administrators who work with American children. From a wider perspective, it is valuable in supporting children in general to become their best selves, hence this book is an invaluable source of information to all who play a role in children’s education.”

The Positive Principle

This is the second in a series of articles introducing the Principles of Positive Leadership!

The philosophical foundation of our Theory of Positive Leadership begins with the positive principle, which was introduced by Norman Vincent Peale in his seminal work, The Power of Positive Thinking, first published in 1952. Twenty-First Century readers are encouraged to read this work with the caveat that it was written by a Christian clergyman within a strong evangelical Christian context. Nevertheless, the message has great secular value.

The essence of the positive principle is that anything man can imagine, man can do. It is only when one has a belief in the possibility of a thing that it becomes possible. The positive principle also incorporates the belief that human beings are children of our creator and are essentially good. The message suggests that the world is full of negative forces and influences that will eat away at the esteem in which men and women view themselves, individually and as part of the world around them. The work is full of examples that demonstrate that “you do not need to be defeated by anything, that you can have peace of mind, improved health, and a never-ceasing flow of energy.”

Dr. Peale writes that we all want the same things out of life, “What every one of us wants, more than anything else, is life. Life is vitality; it is energy; it is freedom; it is growth.” Peale suggests that the differences between people, of whatever race, creed, or heritage are insignificant when compared to the similarities. Once one accepts this axiom, that we all want the same things out of life – that we are, in fact, interdependent – it becomes much easier to work toward win-win opportunities in both our personal and business relationships. Think about this in the context of supply chain management, that all members of a supply chain are interdependent and that the success of any one member is contingent upon and serves the success of the other members.

For leaders, irrespective of venue, this suggests that all the people within the organization are interdependent and that this interdependency extends beyond the boundaries of one’s organization to includes both those who serve and those whom are served by the organization and its mission.

The positive principle suggests that most of the obstacles that stand in the way of the achievement of our goals and objectives exist in our mind, not in the real world. Peale writes that “too many people are defeated by everyday problems of life,” and that this is “quite unnecessary. . . . People complain about the bad breaks they receive without any sense of how they, as individuals, can control and even determine those breaks.”

Positive Leaders understand that anything we can imagine is possible and that all human beings are linked by common objectives of the most fundamental kind. Positive leaders also understand that one’s focus on the positive is powerfully energizing on the one hand and serves to bring negative influences and factors into a manageable perspective. Positive leaders also believe that their relentless pursuit of ever higher levels of excellence serves the interests of all of the partners of a supply chain. It is based on the fundamental belief that every job done well contributes an element of beauty to the world.

Our Current Educational Process Ignores the Way Children Learn

The following is the text of my comment to a blog post by Diane Ravitch. The subject of the post was a response from one of her readers, “a Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry,” who suggested that “all of the initiatives of the last nearly 15 years, not only Common Core, are failing also because they ignore the brains of developing children and all learning theories relevant to education.”

The Professor is correct that the failure of educational reforms over the last fifteen years results, in part, because the educational process does not take into consideration the way children learn. I would add that this problem has gone on for far longer than the last fifteen years in both private and public education.

The current educational process, in public schools throughout the US does a poor job of assessing where a child is when they arrive for their first day of school re: their developmental readiness for learning and understanding academic subject matter. We then compound the problem by starting students off at the same point of embarkation and expecting them all to move from lesson to lesson at the same speed and proficiency. This process sets children up for failure and humiliation because they are pushed ahead to material for which they are poorly prepared. As children experience failure, it begins to affect their self-esteem and makes learning a stress-filled process rather than something that is both natural and fun. With each new lesson that teachers are expected to present, the students find themselves further behind until their little minds begin to shut down. Learning has ceased being fun and children begin to think of themselves as failures. Children are very much like the rest of us in that, as soon as we realize we can never win the game we decide not to play. In the case of children in school, they are no longer willing to try.

It is correct that our focus on testing in much of present day public education has exacerbated the problem but we have been teaching children the same way for generations in our public schools. We seem more concerned with the pace at which children learn rather than whether or not they actually do learn.

If we stop to think about how young children learn anything, they do it at their own unique pace, applying trial and error in an environment that is totally supportive, non-threatening, and in which failure is not even contemplated. Learning to walk and riding a bike provide helpful examples. What matters is not how quickly they learn but that they do learn and, within a short time, children are able to demonstrate the comparable levels of proficiency. The fact that the process of mastering the skill was easier and happened more quickly for some students is totally inconsequential.

In my book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America, I show the reader how our current educational process chews children up and spits them out. I suggest an alternate approach. It is an approach that allows children to commence from their unique starting point and to progress, from lesson to lesson, at their own pace. The focus is on success and what matters is that every child progresses along their unique learning continuum as far as they are able. As a child experiences success, we can begin to raise our expectations for them.

Our objective is not that all children arrive at the same place at the end of twelve years of formal education rather it is that what they learn they can actually apply as they proceed through the balance of their lifetimes; lifetimes that are nothing more than an extended learning continuum, unique to each individual.

Shutdown Subverts Democratic Principles!

Forget, for a moment, how you feel about the Affordable Care Act. Forget about what you think about the national debt, government spending, entitlements for the disadvantaged, national defense, public education or protecting the environment. All of these issues are important, but not one is anywhere near as important as what you think about the principles of democracy in a world where powerful men and women can force a government shutdown to get what they want.

The underlying premise of the Constitution was to prevent the powerful from usurping the will of the people just because they have the power to do so. The Constitution was meant to protect the American people from despotism under any guise, even in the disguise of elected officials who strive to exert their will when they disagree with a decision that was lawfully and constitutionally determined. Make no mistake; forcing a government shutdown is an act of despotism.

Imagine a future in which the tactics displayed today by a political minority become the accepted way of conducting the business of the people. How long will our right to vote matter in a world in which powerful men and women can disregard the voice of the people and use coercion to get what they want?

Letter to the Editor, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

October 7, 2013


Can We Really Blame Bush and Obama for the Problems in American Public Education?

In a recent post on Diane Ravitch’s blog a reader suggests that “It will take years, maybe decades to recover from the mess Bush and Obama have generated in our schools.”

To blame Bush and Obama for ruining education is like trying to blame the EPA for the polluted lake they were striving to clean up. What we have been doing for the last fifty years, both in terms of business as usual and also in terms of a half century’s worth of failed reforms, are the things that led us to our status as a second class educational system.  The way we should approach our current challenge is something that teachers, more than anyone, should understand. When something doesn’t work, we do not blame someone for trying rather we strive to understand how and why what they did failed to work. In other words, we need to learn from our mistakes.

Think of the scientific principle. We develop a hypothesis and then we test it. Based upon what we learn from the outcomes of our efforts we make adjustments in our hypothesis and then we try again, repeating the process until we are able to consistently predict the results of our efforts.

Imagine what the world would be like today if, throughout the history of mankind, we blamed people for their failures and chose to cling to past practices rather than trying something new. Had that been the protocol of historical man, we would now be living in an extended version of the stone age.

The reason why education as evolved into the a system where an unacceptable number of children fail is  because we have spent the last fifty years trying to make incremental improvements in a technology that has become obsolete. This is what educational professionals have done and this is what policy makers have been doing whether their backgrounds are in education or business.

If the reader will pardon another historical metaphor, imagine if we were still striving to make incremental improvements in horse-driven transportation technology.

I do not envision that privatizing education can get us where we need to be but that does not mean that business principles are irrelevant when addressing the problems of education in America. What happens in business is that the world in which our customers live and conduct business is undergoing relentless and often revolutionary change. For a supplier to be successful, they must take the time to understand what has changed in our customer’s business environment and find new solutions for them. More often than not this means replacing rather that re-working old technology. Failure to understand and effectively respond to ever-changing customer expectations means loss of market share followed by business failure.

What we must understand about this Twenty-first Century is that the playing field in which the United States must compete is undergoing relentless, radical, and transformational change. In response to these changes, our competitors are leaping into the future where they are finding new and innovative ways to respond to these changes. In the meantime, Americans trudge along, yearning for the good old days that are forever lost to us.

The reality in Twenty-first Century America is that our educational process is failing to produce the kind of results necessary to compete in the international marketplace and if we don’t figure out what to do about it right now, the golden era of the United States of America, once the richest, most innovate, and productive nation in the history of the world, will grind to a sudden and unpleasant halt.

I encourage the reader to check out my book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America in order to understand how to utilize a systems-thinking approach. Only through such an approach will we be able to challenge our fundamental assumptions about the educational process and then re-engineer the system to do what we so desperately need it to do.

The one certainty facing us is that, should we fail to transform our systems of education, both public and private, in fifty years China and other developing nations of the world will be looking to the U.S. for their supply of cheap labor because that is all the American people will be qualified to provide.

The Failure of Public Education and Poverty: Symptoms of the Same Pathology

In a recent post on the Blog of Diane Ravitch, she talked about Michael Petrilli’s assertion that education can solve the problem of poverty.

It is my belief that understanding the relationship between poverty and the problems of our systems of education is crucial to fixing education.

Michael Petrilli’s assertion that education can fix poverty may have a ring of truth to it but for reasons other than those that he offers. What is incorrect is to suggest, as many do, that there is a causal relationship between poverty and the problems of public education in America.  Clearly one is influenced by the other and vice versa but that is as far as it goes.

In my new book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America, I suggest that poverty, deteriorating neighborhoods, the failure of so many American children, bad schools, and burned out teachers are all symptoms of the same underlying pathology. That we do not recognize the true nature of the relationship contributes greatly to the failure of educational reforms over the past half century.

I suggest that race has nothing to do with this failure but culture is another matter, entirely. There is a expanding population of American men and women who have lost faith and hope in the American dream and no longer believe that they possess control over the outcomes in their lives. These Americans reside under a blanket of hopelessness and powerlessness. What has happened as this cultural phenomenon has evolved since the end of World War II, is that an increasingly more pervasive cultural disdain for education has emerged and it transcends race.

Whatever the ethnicity of a subculture that is characterized by this disdain for education, children in these communities are not taught to value education and are not reared in an environment that would foster a strong motivation to learn. In a time when the American dream has become meaningless, an education, which for generations has been viewed as a pass of admission to the dream, is now a ticket to nowhere.  The children from these cultural pockets throughout much of urban America, and in some rural communities, arrive for their first day of school with precious little motivation to learn an even less preparation. There, they are greeted by a system that is poorly equipped to respond to the challenges that these students present and by educators who are as much victims of the system as are their students.  For huge numbers of these children our educational process sets them up for failure and humiliation and figuratively chews them up and spits them out.

That teachers and their principals are bewildered that these children are disruptive, earn failing grades and disappointing scores on state competency exams is, itself, bewildering.  One wonders how intelligent men and women could ever be persuaded to expect anything else.  Pleas to parents for help and support are shunned by men and women who, themselves, are products of the same educational process. The expectations of these parents are that schools exist to keep the kids out of their hair for five days a week and they resent the intrusion.

In Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream, I reject the conventional wisdom about the reasons for the academic failure of a growing percentage of American children and offer an alternative hypothesis. I suggest that the problems with education in the U.S. are 1) this burgeoning disdain for education on the part of parents and the resulting lack of motivation on the part of their children, and 2) an educational process that is focused on failure. The very fact that children can fail contributes greatly to a reality in which so very many of them do.

The book then outlines 19 specific action strategies for reinventing the educational process to one in which children are taught how to succeed within the context of ever-rising expectations followed by 14 action strategies for re-packaging and reselling the American dream and then re-engaging parents as full partners with the teachers and principals; sharing responsibility for the education of their children.  The book is available at this website where you can learn more about the book and also where you can explore my blog, THE LEADer, (Thinking Exponentially: Leadership, Education, and the American Dream)


A Healthcare Story: A Health Insurance Victim

A young woman in Indiana, twenty-eight years of age, seemed poised for a good life. She liked her job in a small professional office where she was respected for her consistent performance. She enjoyed the people with whom she worked and she was engaged to be married, in only a few months, to a young man with whom she was thoroughly in love. Life was happy, busy, and could hardly have been better so she paid little attention when she experienced occasional dizziness and a slight numbness in her left arm and leg. These symptoms were followed by blurred vision and headaches and, at the urging of her family and her fiancée, she went to her doctor.

Although she had no health insurance—her employer was a small business and offered no employee benefits—her physician was able to arrange for a stream of increasingly more sophisticated and more expensive diagnostic procedures and, a referral to a neurologist. The diagnosis was Multiple Sclerosis. By this time the young woman’s symptoms had progressed and her physician pronounced her disabled and unable to work. Reluctantly she quit her job—at that time she truly was unable to perform her duties–and applied to Social Security for a disability.

After a lengthy process, during which her symptoms began to abate, the application for disability was rejected by Social Security. Although she felt much better, and was able to return to work, she was told that the MS symptoms might recur and could be even more debilitating. She was now a twenty-nine year old woman whose life was not so promising. She was unemployed, thousands of dollars in debt, and lived with the fear her health could deteriorate at any time. Her fiancée had stuck by her during the ordeal but the couple was advised to postpone their wedding, as a husband would become liable for her indebtedness. Heartbroken, frightened, discouraged and deeply in debt, she filed for bankruptcy.

Eventually she found a new job – her previous one no longer available – and although she didn’t care for the work or co-workers nearly as well as her prior job, a group health plan was offered. Unfortunately her MS was ruled as a pre-existing condition that would not be covered, at least during the first year. The monthly payroll deduction for the health insurance premium reduced her take home pay by twenty percent.

This young woman had become a victim, not only of her illness, but also of the system. The healthcare providers who took the financial risk to provide care for this patient were left with little choice but to write off a portion of the charges for their service. Although not visible to the public, costs such as these must be born by the system and they fuel the fires of medical inflation. There is no such thing as a free service, and someone, somewhere must pay.

Are Free Market Forces Good for Healthcare?

Contrary to popular belief, the problems with the American Health Care System are not the result of market forces run amok. In fact, just the opposite is true. The American health care system languishes because the forces of the free market are unable to exert their influence. Imagine, if you will, how our free market system would look if it functioned like our health care system.

Imagine that you are sitting at home, watching television, and something feels out of sync. You can’t put your finger on what it is you are feeling but it is nagging at you and keeping you out of sorts. After a few days, the problem seems to be worsening and you are really beginning to worry. Finally, you pick up the phone and place a call to your local retail professional and make an appointment.

On the appointed day you arrive at your local mall or shopping center and you describe your symptoms to your retail professional. Your retail professional listens intently, asks a few questions, and then diagnoses your problem and offers a treatment protocol to make you feel better. Your retail professional tells you that the problem is that your home entertainment system is not meeting your minimum daily requirements. As a solution, your retail professional tells you that what you need is a new home entertainment system with state-of-the-art technology.

Now, it just so happens that you retail professional has the perfect home entertainment system to sell to you and guess what? It’s covered by your retail insurance policy. In checking your benefits it turns out that you’ve already satisfied your deductible so your insurance is going to cover eighty percent of the total cost of your new system.

What your retail professional may not explain to you is that your home entertainment system exceeds the usual and customary charges for such items so the insurance is not going cover your retail professional’s full cost. She’s not worried, however, because there are a number of accessories she can sell to you that are covered and these will more than make up for the difference.

I know this sounds a little silly, but think about how our free market economy would work if the merchants with whom we do business would decide for us what we need and how much we are going to pay, and that we would be happy to accept their decisions without question because our insurance is going to pay for the merchandise, anyway. This is exactly how the healthcare system works today and we wonder why costs continue to rise at or above the rate of the Consumer Price Index.
The problem with the American health care system is not that doctors make too much money, the problem is that the incentives in healtcare reward the wrong behavior. The problem is not that health insurance companies, managed care, Medicare or Medicaid absorb huge chunks of our health care dollar, the problem is that these entities exist at all.

Think about it for a moment. If we really want to provide universal health care what value do health insurance, managed care, Medicare and Medicaid contribute? Don’t these entities exist to restrict access to care to only those who are eligible for coverage? Don’t these entities exist to limit care to only those services that are covered by our schedule of benefits and for which we have paid?

If we want to provide comprehensive health care to all Americans we have to change the way we think about our health care system. There is a solution but it resides outside the boundaries of conventional thinking.

Visit my website and check out my book, Radical Surgery: Reconstructing the American Health Care System. In fact, tell all of your friends about it.