Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Credibility - More Than Just a Diploma

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Recently, I was told that it was hypocritical for me when I primarily discuss personal and professional development, to venture away from those topics and ponder other issues, in this case a political viewpoint in regard to leadership. I was also told I would lose credibility if I took a stand, and voiced my opinion related to politics and made it public. Could that be any more incredible?

My goodness, where are we going as a citizenry when voicing an opinion and taking a stand on a belief decreases your credibility? If that were the case, we might as well throw courage into the human character trashcan. Credibility is established, or negated, based on principled behavior not an opinion. Because a person has an opinion not in alignment with yours does not mean he or she is not credible. Credibility is defined as, "worthy of belief or confidence, trustworthy; capable of being believed, believable." Worthy of belief or confidence is established by ones character, and the behaviors reflecting that character.

What makes you credible? It will always be your behaviors that supersede your degrees, diplomas, and the number of letters after your name that legitimizes your credibility. Having attended West Point certainly provides credibility, but it is my behavior that either validates or diminishes the credibility of attending that institution, and the ideals it represents. You can have a bachelor’s, a master’s, or a doctoral degree in a certain field, but it is the application of those credentials that establishes your credibility. Reinforcing that credibility with a consistency in behavior that reflects your core values is integrity, establishing your reputation.

Reputation is defined as, "the estimation in which a person or thing is held, especially by the community or public generally; repute." What is your estimation of an individual who stands for nothing and is indecisive, or an individual who is inconsistent? For example, a person who professes tolerance and then is intolerant, righteous, and indignant when you disagree with them? I would doubt he or she would be a person who be held in favorable repute. Effective leadership is taking a stand, going out on a limb, thinking out of the box and being decisive. Ineffective leadership is flip flopping, being narrow-minded, going with the flow, being passive, bowing down to criticism, not stirring the pot, and lacking the courage to act on your principles. How many times have you heard someone say, " I don't agree, but I don't want to say, do, or attach my name to anything because it may cause someone to get upset at me.” Or, "I don't agree but that's not my problem, he is just an idiot, let someone else challenge him." Is that credible?

Everyone has the right to an opinion and the freedom to express it, thank you First Amendment. However, to personally attack another based on an opinion lacks integrity, and undermines credibility. Of course, we do not act on everything we disagree with, but there comes a time where we should all step up to the plate when we passionately believe in a cause. The beauty of our Constitution and the Democracy it supports is that it provides all of us the opportunity to do just that. Maybe everyone should take a deep breath in this present political environment, and realize that not everyone is always right or wrong all the time. If your feathers are ruffled because of an opinion then refute the opinion with facts and figures. I respect an individual who can take a stand on an issue and do it with professionalism and clarity, even if I do not agree with the stand they are taking.

As Mahatma Gandhi stated, “There are seven things that will destroy us: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Religion without sacrifice; Politics without principle: Science without humanity; Business without ethics.”



Let’s Bring Some Manners Back to Society

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As a society, have we lost an understanding of the significance in being mannerly toward one another? Are we too self-centered or self-absorbed with our own agendas that we carelessly disregard our behavior toward others? What mannerly path are our youth on, and what is the exemplifying trend that we as parents and adults display to our young?

Unfortunately, there is a persuasive thought that we may have lost the societal battle in creating a citizenry that is mutually respectful and considerate. But I believe the battle is not lost, and it is time for all of us to initiate a resurgence in reinforcing the manners that we expect from our children and one another.

The common courtesies of “thank you,” “please,” and “you’re welcome” should never be neglected. Small acts of kindness such as opening a door for someone should not be forgotten—whether it be pulling out a chair to assist in the sitting process or standing when ladies excuse themselves from the table. You may think that is old fashioned, out of date, and not necessary, but it sure feels nice to be treated with a degree of respect and politeness.

The fact is that being polite and displaying manners is the right thing to do. Whether someone responds or not is irrelevant, but it should not deter us from continuing to set the appropriate example.

Let us all take the time to be more cognizant of how mannerly, or not mannerly, we are to one another and the example we set for our children. Our little darlings are not always so darling. Educating them in understanding the important role of manners and holding them accountable should not be diminished by societal acceptance of behaviors that are disrespectful toward others.



Want Success? Then Develop This One Key Character Trait

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Have you ever abandoned a task or dream because of the overwhelming feeling of stress, self-doubt, or awareness that an alternative course might be easier, but less rewarding? Self-discipline mitigates those feelings, weaknesses, and temptations. In fact, self-discipline is perhaps one of the most important character traits for all people to display—both professionally and personally.

Unfortunately, increases in alcohol and drug abuse, acting upon temptations for personal gratification, and the willingness to violate one’s personal core values for self-serving financial gains are all results of a loss of individual self-discipline in our society. The ever-increasing advancements in media and internet technology only fuel the exposure to the lure of being distracted from one’s primary focus, a proper life path, and a difficult task at hand.

For example, as a student, would it be easier to continue to work on a research paper, or to goof off on a site like Facebook? As an employee, is it easier to sit down at night and watch the “boob tube” (literally), or to work on developing one’s mind or skills through constructive reading and intellectual engagement with others? On a personal level, is it easier to eat cake, or to say “no” and eat healthy to maintain proper weight? A lack of self-discipline is a, if not the, primary factor for the hindrance of personal growth and professional development.

Five steps to strengthen your self-discipline are

1. Reinforce an understanding of the core values that you believe in and reflect who you are. Define those values and incorporate them in the process of accomplishing the task at hand.

2. Take “baby steps” when beginning the pursuit of a new endeavor. It is imperative to not look at the entire vision at hand, but approach the task day-by-day. The old adage of “do not bite off more than you can chew” is essential.

3. Establish a moral compass that is in alignment with the core values you espouse to. A clear sense of your morality will subdue the temptations of the deadly sins we are exposed to every day. Personally, I define morality as how I treat another human being, and I believe we should treat one another with dignity and respect. Take the time to assess how you would want to be treated if you were walking in another’s shoes.

4. Manage your time and effort by planning properly and executing the task efficiently. Prioritize the elements of the task at hand to best reach that goal in the most efficient manner possible.

5. Finally, visualize the light at the end of the tunnel, and anticipate the satisfaction of the successful completion of that goal.

Remember, Concerted Effort + Determination = Self-Discipline. There is nothing more satisfying and self-respect developing than the knowledge that your efforts and determination were the primary factors in the achievement of your success. Successful leaders are always self-disciplined in the pursuit of their passions, dreams, and goals. Be that leader and set a positive, self-disciplined example every day for those around you.




Do You Know Who Your True Friends Are?

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You may have many acquaintances, but are they true friends? As the days of our lives pass by with the joys and sorrows we experience, it is the presence of friends that enhance our experience of joy and provide compassion during time of sorrow.

A true friend inspires goodness, empathy, and mutual respect. It is a bond that transcends time and distance, and invigorates memories of happiness, fun, excitement, challenge, sadness, and perseverance all in one sphere of trust. True friendship is not judgmental but supportive in good times and bad. It is a unity of life between two human beings where the experiences of one are the experiences of the other.

Although technology has enhanced the speed and our capability to communicate with one another, it has also created a world of pseudo friends. Social networking sites have provided an outlet to share our lives with those around us, but how many of your Internet acquaintances are really true friends? Would they ever put your agenda and needs before their own? Would they literally be there for you because you needed them? Do they really care about you, or is it just an opportunity to project themselves on to others?

Friends anchor us when the sea of life is unsteady, and yet encourage us to continue the journey. A friend is one who jumps aboard when others have abandoned ship. Your real friends do not focus on your faults, but always see your strengths. As Helen Keller stated, “With the death of every friend I love, a part of me has been buried, but their contribution to my being of happiness, strength, and understanding remains to sustain me in an altered world.”

Genuine friendships create a treasure chest of love, respect and richness in life that is priceless and forever memorable. As the beauty of a flower is expressed through its petals, so is the beauty of who we are expressed through our friends. Know who your true friends are, and you’ll be closer to knowing yourself.



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