Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Courage and Sacrifice - A Profile of Character

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Reflecting on this past holy week, sacrifice and courage come to mind. The sacrifice and courage of a people liberated from Egyptian bondage, and the sacrifice and courage of a man with the desire to free mankind from the bondage of its own sins. Courage is defined as, “the ability to do something that frightens one, strength in the face of pain or grief”, and a definition of sacrifice is “an act of giving something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important and worthy.” There are many who believe that having the courage to strive for freedom, and to protect the moral value of humanity, are worth even the sacrifice of their own lives. What is the basis of strength behind demonstrating courage and warranting sacrifice? It is a belief in something greater than our self. A focus and purpose toward a goal that reflects the core values you believe in.

When was the last time you displayed courage? Was it in the face of demonstrated unfairness toward another? Was it standing up for a principle you believed in, even at the risk of your own personal safety or professional security? Was it a time where you decided not to just go with the flow because everyone else was doing it? The strength to demonstrate courage is challenging if you do not understand what it is you stand for and believe in. Without a foundation of core values there is no platform for consistent behavior and therefore courage is rarely displayed. When being courageous is based on moral principle and an ethical foundation of goodness toward others, the ability to sacrifice what is needed to make that decision and achieve that goal is validated.

One of the questions I ask during my organizational training presentations is, “How do you motivate others.” The answer is, “You make people feel valued.” I follow that up with an interactive exercise. I select a person from the audience and ask the other attendees to share a characteristic of leadership they believe that person possesses that inspires others to look up to them and to respect them? Immediately I receive responses that commonly include characteristics such as kind, respectful, genuine, caring, selfless, humble, fair, honest, but the one attribute I am most impressed with is when a colleague shares that this individual possess courage. It is always interpreted by others that this particular person has strength of character and someone you would want to follow when times are difficult. A person who is more likely to take a risk, buck the system, and do what is right in the face of disagreement and rebuke.

Courage is more than just an external behavior displayed, for example on the battlefield. It is an internal strength of character that demonstrates a firm belief in the causes one believes in and the willingness to sacrifice to see that cause come to fruition. A barometer for your level of courage can be measured by how much you care about what others may think of you. Do you sacrifice your own principles for acceptance by others? Do you place more value on how others perceive you than how you perceive yourself? That type of sacrifice is self-destructive because it violates personal honesty. Personal honesty is achieved when how you view yourself is in alignment with how others view you. It takes courage to be personally honest, because each day there are temptations, distractions, and your own vulnerabilities that negatively influence that alignment.

A theme that has always carried through my “No Excuse!” message has been the value of thinking more about others than our selves. The most valuable courageous and sacrificial acts have always been when the aftermath has been for the betterment of those around us. It takes guts to stand up for what you believe is right. It is also imperative to ensure that taking that stand is a true reflection of who you are, and the values you believe in. Be courageous in all you do. Many in our society, particularly our children, are yearning for leaders of courage and strength of character. Be that example today and every day.



Spring Cleaning - Not Just For Your House

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For a moment, cast aside the emotional baggage that may be weighing you down. Lighten your load of worries, excuses and mistakes, and smile that a new day has sprung, and spring is here. The sun is warmer, the sky is brighter, and an opportunity to begin anew awaits each of us. It is time for a little spring-cleaning of not just windows and rooms, but of mind and heart as well. Let us all replenish the good and discard the unhealthy in our lives. It begins with attitude and the choice to make it a positive one. It is the primary utensil to be used in the cleaning process. Subsequently, reinforcing the core values you stand for and believe in is essential to putting that spring back in your step.

As spring is a rebirth of the environment around us, take part in the splendor of renewing what is wonderful about you, your family and those you impact every day. What aspects of your life need a little cleaning? Relationships, values, balance, patience, mind, body and spirit are all facets of life that need a little dusting off and polishing once in a while. Forgiveness and establishing goals for your project are the two primary cleaning agents. To forgive personal failures, those who have hurt you, and any unhealthy environment around you are vital to a thorough cleaning. Establishing the goals of the cleanup process provides direction and structure for the undertaking at hand. Personal accountability is the action step that validates a genuine positive attitude and the values you wish to exemplify. Not taking ownership for who you are, the life you have created and the changes you would like to make, is equivalent to expecting the house to clean itself.

Successful spring-cleaning requires time, commitment, energy and perseverance just as successful personal growth requires. It takes elbow grease and at times getting on your hands and knees to really do it correctly. It is never easy, and it should not be, for life is too precious and important to do a half-baked job. If you find yourself emotionally stuck in the basement, realize you have others who love and respect you, and want you to come up and enjoy the sunroom. A proper attitude, combined with a solid set of core values and taking ownership for the implementation of those values is a formula for greater self-respect. Self-respect is also achieved when you learn from yesterday, and apply that knowledge today for a better tomorrow. How many individuals do you know who leave their house a mess, then generate excuses why the task to clean is too difficult and too tedious? The result is a home that deteriorates in quality, declines in value and is neither comfortable nor enjoyable to live in. The same occurs when you procrastinate in cleaning up any mess in your life. Your life deteriorates, you decline in value, and you are probably not too comfortable, nor enjoyable to be around.

Personal honesty is the acknowledgement that an initial cleanup is needed. To deny a needed change from the status quo is detrimental to your overall well being, both personally and professionally. As spring-cleaning creates more order in the home, emotional spring-cleaning creates greater balance in your life. Disorganization and a lack of balance foster additional stress and diminish personal value and motivation. Without spring-cleaning how can you get your house/life in order? Attitude, accountability, self-respect, personal honesty, and balance all contribute to the development of effective principled leadership. It establishes a core of solid character, and an example to be looked upon favorably by yourself and others. As the aftermath of spring-cleaning your home brings with it a sense of accomplishment and pride, the aftermath of the attentive cleanup to any mess in your life is no different. Take a deep breath and celebrate when the cleanup is complete, and relish in knowing that even warmer days and brighter skies are ahead. Happy Spring Cleaning!



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