Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

A Father's Day Responsibility

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Sitting on a flight to Vancouver, BC to share my No Excuse! message with an organization, it just occurred to me that it is the 43rd anniversary of my father’s death from a heart attack, June 7, 1968 at the age of 49. I was eleven years old at the time and I can still vividly remember the day, and the days following his passing. Sitting in my sixth grade class hearing a siren from an ambulance and having an intuitive sense that my father was in it, and he was. Being met at the bus stop, my uncle telling me the news, and staring at him in incredulity. Seeing the sorrow in the familiar faces of those around me. My mother’s shock, my sister’s tears and my uncle’s effort to keep some semblance of order in the midst of emotional chaos. Relatives I had not seen in years and friends with their outpouring of sympathy just manifested the impact of the event. Seemingly numb at the funeral, and finally crying as the casket was being lowered into the ground I knew there would be difficult days ahead. My wondering what tomorrow may bring without a paternal influence. How will I know how to be a good father, a loving husband, and a man of character myself? Who will teach and mentor me? How will I have the courage to be emotionally intimate again with those I love when it hurt so much to lose the father I loved? Why did this have to happen and what do I do from here?

Questions that could easily become excuses, and excuses that could have ruined my life. Instead the questions became a subconscious motivation to find the answers, and eventually gain a thorough understanding that excuses are the antithesis of personal accountability. That may appear to be common knowledge and it should be, but how many put into practice that understanding? Understanding and projecting a belief is easy; implementing that belief is the ultimate test of individual character. I believe what happens to you happens for you, and it is an outlook on life that has served me well over the years. Those questions directed me to the path I am on, for you teach best in life what you want to learn the most. My journey of growing as a man continues and with it comes a responsibility to those around me, especially those I love.

Fathers of good character are needed now more than ever. Our children deserve strong male role models not simply based on muscle, brawn and title, but strength of character and demonstrated positive core values. Over the many years I have been far from perfect in my fathering skills, but I am still a Dad and I continue to strive to be a better one every day. Your children will not care about what you had only who you were and the example you set. My children have loved me unconditionally through the many ups and downs of my own journey and I will be forever grateful for their love, empathy and support. It is fascinating to reflect on how many times our own children teach us how to be better parents.

Father’s Day is not only a day to remember and appreciate the fathers in our lives, but should be a day for each father to reflect on the example they set each day. It should be an example of care, love, strength, and mentorship to name a few? What does it mean to be a dad? From my own perspective, I believe a father’s emotional presence for their children is as important as their physical presence. Asking questions is more effective than always dictating. Reflect and listen before reacting. Be an example of action not just words, and a teacher not just a protector. Understand anger destroys communication and emotional patience is key to creating harmony. Accept the uniqueness in our children rather than always expecting them to be like you. This demonstrates respect for who they are and will generate an emotional bond that will last forever. As Abraham Lincoln stated, “I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” Happy Father’s Day!



Manipulation and Exaggeration - Partners in Deceit

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The challenges of leadership can be many including dealing with change, motivating those you lead, attaining desired objectives, creating a culture of fairness, being fiscally prudent, and maintaining a workable foundation of organizational core values, to name a few. Two primary elements for achievement in any leadership endeavor are effective communication and honesty. As a lack of personal accountability continues to fester in our society, the use of manipulation and exaggeration only increases. As a result, these destructive behaviors undermine the need for accountability, honesty and diminish communication. Why? They facilitate excuses. Any of these sound familiar? “If only you were in charge I would have gotten that done.” “If they had let me do it my way.” “You should be in my corner on this one, I can help you advance.” “You are not going to believe what really happened.” “It’s all politics.” “There is no way this will work.” “She made me do it.“ “If we can only get rid of him.” “It’s always the HR Department’s fault.” “Don’t tell them, they’ll never know.”

This creates a practice of deception and therefore destroys the element of trust in any organization, family or relationship. Individuals do not communicate freely in environments where trust is questionable. Manipulation is defined as, “control or influence (a person or situation) cleverly, unfairly, or unscrupulously”, “alter (data) or present (statistics) so as to mislead.” The primary synonym for mislead is deceive, and deceive is defined as, “cause (someone) to believe something that is not true, typically in order to gain some personal advantage.” Manipulation is tangent to the truth. An individual who manipulates demonstrates a lack of personal accountability, integrity and is dishonest. It also creates a high level of misunderstanding and confusion since any manipulation thwarts an accurate flow of information. This hinders efficiency and productivity in the workplace, and harmony in any family.

In regard to leadership, manipulation creates dissension among those being led, because it distorts the truth. When an issue or situation is manipulated by a few, disagreement and conflict ensue. Some utilize manipulation to accelerate self-driven agendas. If twisting the truth can assist in enhancing their own ego, and sense of accomplishment, manipulation is the key to that end. The long-term end is self-destructive because the laws of nature have a way of coming full circle in regard to unethical behavior. If you are harmful, harm will be returned to you, one way or another.

Exaggeration is defined as, “represent (something) as being larger, greater, better or worse than it really is.” Like manipulation, exaggeration also creates a misalignment with what is actually the truth. In many instances it is used as an attempt to rationalize ones behavior, or position, on an issue. It can also be used to create unhealthy emotion by exacerbating a situation, i.e. making a mountain out of a molehill. Of course exaggeration can be humorous at times and is wonderful for effective story telling, but it is debilitating for an accurate assessment of the truth. Individuals of weak character use both manipulation and harmful exaggeration as an off ramp from having to take ownership for what they may have said or done. Also, do not confuse enthusiasm with exaggeration. One is usually honest excitement and the other is dishonest projection. I have never witnessed a situation where the use of manipulation and/or exaggeration has enhanced the success of a task, project or relationship. They are always deceptive in nature.

As Abraham Lincoln quoted, “You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” May we all make a concerted effort to never deceive and always be truthful, genuine and candid in our communication with others. As parents, it is imperative we educate our children in the destructive powers of manipulation and exaggeration. When practiced, these behaviors corrupt the truth and therefore deteriorate an individual’s self-respect, integrity and the development of a meaningful character. If at the end of each day you can say “yes” to having been truthful and accurate in communicating with others, then you will be a person of character and personal accountability. Enjoy the energy and freedom from having a clear conscience. It is truly a beautiful thing, and I am not exaggerating.



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