Once upon a time there was a man who rode a horse, wore a mask and brandished a rapier. He was dedicated to helping the downtrodden and fiercely protected those upon whom bad men preyed. His name was Zorro! The legend of Zorro dates back to 1919 and was a movie and television show. I have fond childhood memories of this dashing figure – he was a fictional hero to many in my generation. Why? Because he stood up for his beliefs. What do you believe in more strongly than anything else? Have you discovered how you want to express this belief? Everyone should be Zorro at least once in their life and stand up for something in which they believe.

We don’t have to be radicals to stand up for that which we believe. It’s not necessary to march in a picket line or participate in a demonstration to accomplish this. The key is finding a productive and positive way to be a modern day Zorro. We start with truly understanding ourselves and our core values. What do we really care about? Why is this important?

I submit that there are three parts to discovering and acting upon that for which we want to take a stand. The first part is fact-based. Perhaps we have strong beliefs about the U.S. Constitution. Or maybe it’s the environment, the sick or the poor. It might involve entrepreneurship, politics, animals – the list goes on. Whatever it is, we need to do extensive research to develop our position. This fact-gathering process will help shape our beliefs in an intelligent manner. And we’re more likely to persuade others to understand and respect our beliefs if we can present a thoughtful fact pattern in support.

The second part in becoming Zorro involves emotional intelligence. It’s the fire and the passion that we have when we are in the belief-zone. But it goes a step beyond and allows us to manage our passion and emotions in a constructive manner. We use our emotional intelligence to maintain quiet strength and conviction, and thus we have “emotion for” our beliefs without becoming “emotional.” When we become emotional, we risk our credibility if others perceive that we are excessive in this regard. To persuade others to support our position, we must find just the right balance between facts and emotions. If there is too much emphasis on facts, others may not see our passion and are unconvinced. If there is too much emphasis on emotion, others may discount our position in similar fashion.

The third and final part in becoming Zorro focuses on how we take action. This requires planning and starts with determining what form of action will have the greatest positive impact on the largest number of people. Obviously we must scale our action plan to fit the resources we have available – time, treasure and talent. My wife and I are passionate about educating young people to become teachers. In 1999 we created a scholarship program for high school students that want to attend our alma mater and enter the education field. Not only have we made a serious financial commitment, but we also make it a point to get to know each one of our scholarship awardees and his or her parents. We also maintain contact during their college years and even beyond.

One of the factors in determining our action plan was the fact that a teacher touches and shapes the lives of many young people. When we did the math, we realized that over a period of many years we could make a difference in the lives of thousands of young people by helping educate teachers. One hundred teachers in the classroom for 20-years with a class size of 20 will educate approximately 40,000 children. After understanding the exponential nature of the numbers, it was a no-brainer to fund our scholarship program.

We should all take the opportunity to be Zorro at least once in our lives. By crystallizing our beliefs through facts, emotion and action, we can make the world a better place.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


Yin and Yang

Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work – Peter Drucker (management consultant, author and educator).

Good intentions aren’t enough. People have good intentions when they set a goal to do something, but then they miss a deadline or other milestone – Harvey Mackay (businessman, author and syndicated columnist).

Good intentions never change anything. They only become a deeper and deeper rut – Joyce Meyer (author and speaker).

I have low tolerance for people who complain about things but never do anything to change them. This led me to conclude that the single largest pool of untapped natural resources in the world is human good intentions that are never translated into action – Cindy Gallop (advertising consultant).

Each and every one of us has intentions; and most likely they are good intentions. But there must be another component to “intention” for there to be success. This component is a counterweight of sorts. It’s the yang to the yin. Without commitment good intentions never come to fruition. We’ve talked before about execution and how specifically we act. But before we can take action we must install the middle step of commitment. If we have good intentions and try to take action without commitment, we’re likely to fail.

Commitment embodies obligation, responsibility and dedication. Let’s suppose that I set an intention to exercise every day for at least thirty minutes. So far so good. Then I plunge into exercise activities the next morning and the morning after that. Wow – now we’re cooking! But wait, the third morning I struggle to get out of bed and decide to skip the exercise routine; besides, I have an early breakfast meeting that would probably have shortened the amount of time I could spend on the treadmill anyway. Then the next morning I have another excuse and so on. What was missing here? Why didn’t I follow-through on my good intentions? Very simply, I lacked commitment.

Understanding how to link intentions and sustainable action through commitment may seem elusive. There are two foundational elements to commitment. The first is what I call an “A ha” moment. This is when something in our mind clicks – where all the pieces fall into place – and our intentions make perfect sense. I’m not really going to commit to an ongoing exercise program until there’s a meaningful reason for me to do so. Of course I know that I want to be healthier, but that’s not enough. Why do I want to be healthier? My “A ha” moment came when I realized that my oldest grandson needed me to be in his life for the long haul. At that point, being healthier had a much more important purpose to which I was willing to commit. Often it’s easier to make a commitment when someone else needs us to be committed.

The second foundational element to commitment is that of accountability. Sure, we can be accountable to ourselves, but unless we have tremendous self-discipline this isn’t always easy. If we feel an obligation to others for some reason, then we can be accountable to them for that which we commit. In my case the reason I’m committed to an exercise program is to be alive and supportive of my oldest grandson. And thus I’m accountable to him for this commitment. If for some reason I don’t feel in the mood to exercise, I see his innocent young face in my mind’s eye and it isn’t hard to kick into gear and follow-through with the necessary actions.

Intention and commitment are necessary before we can take action. Making a commitment to another person and being accountable to that person helps to ensure that we follow-through and translate our intentions and commitment into action.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.