A Perspective on Greatness

What does greatness mean to you? Would greatness mean you are at the top of your field, earning a top income, associating with world renowned people? Have you given much thought to what it would mean to be great? If you have not pondered that in a while, give it a minute right now.

Eleven year old Liang Yaoyi gave it much thought. "There are many people doing great things in the world," Liang Yaoyi said, according to China Daily. "They are great, and I want to be a great kid too."

To Liang, being great meant donating his organs upon his death.

Prior to his death in June of a brain tumor, Liang told his mother he wanted to donate his organs so someone else could live. It was a chance for him to be alive in a different way.

Liang’s perspective deeply touched the physicians, so they bowed to honor him after they removed his liver and kidneys. In the Chinese culture, the deeper the bow, the deeper the respect. As you can see in the photo, the physicians bowed deeply. You can see how touched Liang’s mother is in the background. 

Liang’s selfless act was so great that the bow has garnered the attention of media outlets around the globe. Now, a child who lived only eleven years will impact the world in a greater way than he imagined.
There are many ways to be great, and anyone can be great if they want to be. Most people don’t ponder it much. Most people are wrapped up in the mundaneness of daily life and we miss opportunities for greatness.

This week, slow down and seek those opportunities. They are all around. There are many people doing great things. Do you want to be one?

Observing Veterans Day with a WWII spitfire pilot and Roger Waters

This week, we will see signs acknowledging the military service of our colleagues, family, and friends. We will have coffee with them in the morning, meet with them throughout the day, and work with them tomorrow. As we do, let’s remember they have had a significant life experience the rest of us did not have. Today we set aside a few moments to honor them for it, and they let us. Most would rather the day go by without notice, but this one day, we get to recognize they have done something for us. Today, we get to remind ourselves to make their military experience worth it by earning it the rest of the year.

Two recent events reinforced the meaning of Veterans Day for me this year.

One was the Stand Up for Heroes concert last Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. The video below describes how a band of brothers came together to perform at the concert. The band members are Wounded Warriors, and they are led by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. The band members talk about the impact music has on them and one, Marine Corporal Tim Donnelly, says, “I feel more whole now that I’ve ever been in my whole life.” He lost both legs and use of his arm in the recent war in Afghanistan.

The other event was not from the recent wars but from WWII.

Upon the death of his uncle, a man found two suitcases full of video shot by his uncle during WWII. His uncle was a flight surgeon who took more than 100 hours of film. As the man watched some of the film, he became curious about the people in the clips. He wondered if they had ever seen the film and if they would want to. One of the clips is of a pilot making an emergency landing of a spitfire.

The video below tells the story of the uncle and the pilot. The video shows Lt. John S. Blyth, a WWII recon mission pilot who flew unarmed and alone over Germany, seeing the film of his landing for the first time. The whole story is interesting, but seeing the pilot see his landing for the first time makes stories like this hit close to home.

On days like today, we often hear the phrase, “All gave some, and some gave all.” We work with people who gave some and know people who gave all. Today we honor all of them. 

Do you have a perception problem?

Yesterday afternoon I met a friend for coffee. We had not seen each other since May, so we enjoyed catching up for a while. At one point, I was telling her about an upcoming activity with some high school students, and she encouraged me to show a lot of confidence when interacting with kids that age. Another time in the conversation, I mentioned the first year with MRIGlobal flew by yet I feel so new, and she again urged me about confidence. After her second mention of it, I began to wonder if I come across to her, or in general, as if I don’t have confidence.

So, now I’m paranoid and lacking confidence!

The conversation prompted me to dig a little about perceptions. How do our impressions of others impact our behaviors? How do our perceptions of ourselves impact our performance? If anyone reading this has a perception problem, what I learned and pondered might help you too.

The psychology gurus are pretty set on the definition of perception: it is the process by which we translate our environment into our view of the world. Of course, our view affects our behaviors and behaviors lead to success or failure with work and people.

Take a look at the photo to the left. How old is the woman you see? The way you see the woman will impact how you treat her, if she were a real person in front of you. Or, perhaps you see something else entirely?

A colleague told me a story recently. The story was about selling shoes in India. As the story goes, an Indian leader wanted to set up a shoe business in a specific region, so he sent an ambassador there to do some recon work. The elder ambassador spent little time in the region and told the leader that selling shoes in that region would be a waste of time because the people don’t even wear shoes.

In the meantime, an enterprising young man met the leader. The young man was eager to prove himself worthy of a position with the leader, so he offered to go to the same region to assess the shoe business potential. He spent time in the region, interacted with the people, noted their interests and needs. When he returned to the leader, he was excited about the potential shoe business. There was great potential because the people don’t wear shoes! Turns out, the young man was right and the shoe business prospered.

Perception affects behavior, and behavior affects success with work and people. Watch out for three common perception problems to make sure you see things as they are and act accordingly.

Self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing something is true causes it to come true. The best example I can think of for this is “parking karma.” I believe in such karma and it almost always works for me. When people in the car doubt or make fun of it, it always works. Right when a passenger laughs off my parking prayer (“Hail Mary full of grace, help me find a parking space”), someone pulls out of the front spot. Another common example is when searching for a lost item. It is better to say, “I will remember to print the report” instead of “I hope I don’t forget to print the report.”

I read a statistic a long time ago that said 70%-90% of what we say to ourselves is negative. Pay attention to how you talk to, and about, yourself to see if that number could be taken down a notch or two.


Self-sabotage: Self-sabotage goes deeper than self-talk. Sometimes people procrastinate or do mediocre work as a way to sabotage themselves. A technique that helps self-sabotagers is Stop-Challenge-Focus. (SOURCE: Turn Self-Sabotage Into Success By Geoffrey James on www.inc.com)
When you avoid taking an action that would help you reach your goals, use the three steps:
1.       STOP. Identify the belief that's causing you to feel emotions that aren't helping you succeed.

2.       CHALLENGE. Question the validity of that belief and find reasons why it's not really true or not true in this case.

3.       FOCUS. Create a specific inner dialog that supports your goals and then take action immediately.

Fundamental attribution error: This is when we give positive explanations for our results and negative ones for others. For example, I got the “A” on the exam because I studied hard, while Joey got the “A” because he was lucky. At work, this might relate to positions, promotions, evaluations, or project assignments. A flawed sense of oneself leads to career stagnation or failure. It is difficult for others to give feedback when our vision of ourselves differs from how others view us, so watch for it yourself.

One of the great philosophers of our day, Stephen Colbert summed this issue up nicely, “It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything.”

Whether we are with friends, colleagues, or customers, perception is everything. Remember, that includes your perception of others and of yourself, not just their perception of you.