Winners' Wisdom
by Jim Stovall

Coaches and Critics

As we move toward our professional and personal goals and dreams, we often need help and input from others. If you’re looking for advice or direction in your life, there will be no shortage of people willing to step up and give you their judgments or opinions disguised as fact. Among the most critical decisions you will ever make is that of sorting through all of the clutter labeled as advice to find the real help, direction, and encouragement you need. I find when you begin separating these people, they fall into two distinct categories: coaches and critics.

Coaches are those individuals in our lives who are always there with the appropriate word, gesture, or encouragement to help us get from where we are to where we want to be. Coaches have the experience, knowledge, and wisdom that it will take for us to reach our goals. They have our best interest at heart. They have no unstated agenda other than our success.

Critics, on the other hand, are those individuals who are invariably in the wrong place at the wrong time to give you the wrong advice. They do not have your best interest at heart. Oftentimes, they actually enjoy criticizing your performance, questioning your progress, and casting doubt on your goals and eventual success. Critics generally seek you out and stand ready, willing, and able to thrust their poison in your direction.

Just because someone claims to be interested in you does not necessarily mean that they are a coach. Critics often claim to be coaches. Critics will judge you much more harshly and hold you to standards that they would never apply to themselves. Critics suffer from that all-too-common human frailty of judging their own intentions and everyone else’s performance. They allow themselves a myriad of excuses and alibis but want to hold everyone else to the letter of the law.

Coaches may judge us harshly, but they understand and respect our abilities and hold themselves to the same standard. Never take advice from anyone who doesn’t already have what you want to achieve. As you go through your day today, look for the handful of coaches who will help you to win in every area of your life.

Beyond Your Imagination

One of the keys to your personal and professional success is to take your ideas, goals, and dreams and turn them into reality. Once you start to achieve a certain level of success, you will begin to experience an amazing phenomenon. Your ideas and concepts that were born in your mind and brought to existence through your effort and creativity, will begin to sync up with someone else’s goals, dreams, and ideas. You will then find your own work growing in exciting ways you never imagined. It’s much like having a child that, in the early years is totally dependent upon you, then goes through a phase of emulating you, but finally takes on a life of its own.

One of my most successful books is entitled The Ultimate Gift. It has sold over a million copies, been translated into numerous languages, and is literally sold around the world. The Ultimate Gift is currently being made into a major motion picture that I look forward to telling you more about in one of these columns as we get a bit closer to the theatre release date.

The Ultimate Gift is a story I devised for the sole purpose of illustrating some principles I believe to be important. One of the characters, through a set of circumstances, goes through 12 life lessons where he learns The Gift of Work, The Gift of Money, The Gift of Friends, etc. One of the gifts he is given to learn is called The Gift of a Day. The character learns the impact and importance that just one day can truly have for an individual.

Recently, I was giving a corporate speech for Crossroads Hospice at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. They are a wonderful group of professionals who help individuals and families who are facing terminal illness. Crossroads took my infant concept of “The Gift of a Day” and turned it into reality. They have helped terminally ill people all across the country live out their perfect day. They shared media coverage, newspaper clippings, and stories of a 100-year-old man who wanted to ride a motorcycle, a dying patient who wanted to meet Bette Midler, a lady who wanted to spend a special day at the beach, an individual who wanted to talk football with Coach Barry Switzer, and many others. Sometimes when you complete a project, you think it is a fully grown and mature tree when, in reality, it is the seed of a new beginning that will go far beyond the horizons you imagined.

As you go through your day today, look for people to expand your work and look for others’ work that you can expand.

All About Life

Since the beginning of time, there have been a number of questions that have continued to plague humanity. Among the most simple of these questions is, “What is life all about?” Down through the ages, thousands of philosophers, theologians, teachers, etc. have given a myriad of answers to this question. While many of their answers contain great wisdom, the question still remains.

This past week, I was at an awards banquet. It was a true pleasure for me, because it was the first such banquet in memory when I did not have to make the speech. The speaker that evening was quite eloquent, but among his many comments, the most penetrating was one he attributed to his daughter. She said, “The purpose of life is to find your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away.” At least to my way of thinking, this may be the best answer to the eternal question of, “What is life all about?

Most people don’t even know they have a gift, much less ever find it in a significant way. These are the poor souls who are so busy making a living that they forget to create a life. They take their great gift with them to the grave never knowing it even existed.

I believe that all of us have a special gift. It is a talent, an ability, or a special way of doing things that separates us from anyone else. Our gift is unique to us, and is the key to happiness, satisfaction, and everything we want out of this life. While most people don’t even know they have a gift, there are a few people who do, indeed, find their gift. They are very successful in a traditional sense as they go through this life. Their gift brings them great rewards, success, and fame. But simply finding one’s gift and exploiting it does not, in the final analysis, make one happy. It only makes one gifted. The newspapers and history books are full of examples of gifted people who were unhappy, depressed, and even suicidal.

So, while there are a majority of humans who don’t even know they have a gift, contrasted to the relative handful of people who find their gift, the true meaning of life comes into play when you not only find your gift but you give it away.

If you find someone who is truly happy and fulfilled in both their personal and professional lives, you will have found an individual who knows they have a gift, who knows what their gift is, and an individual who has become dedicated to giving it away. As you go through your day today, recognize your own gift and find ways to give it to the world.

Defining Love

Love is, quite probably, the most overused, misunderstood and misused term in the English language. The problem arises from the fact that, in our language, there is only one term for love. One individual during the course of a brief conversation may state that they “love” football, their children, Mexican food, the holiday season, a new sweater, and diet cola. If you love everything, one has to wonder if you really love anything. It is hard to define how and why we determine to love certain things or people. For years, human behavior experts have argued whether we control this impulse or whether it controls us.

As is often the case, children can bring us the greatest wisdom. Sometimes I think we were born with a simple wisdom, and children have not had as much time to be corrupted as the rest of us. Recently, there was a survey done of 4-to-8 year old children regarding their definition of love. I feel that some of their answers may be instructive to all of us.

Rebecca, age 8, said, “When my grandma got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandpa does it for her now all the time, even when his hands got arthritis, too. That’s love.”

Billy, age 4, said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouths.”

Chrissy, age 6, said, “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”

Terri, age 4, said, “Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”

Bobby, age 7, said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

Tommy, age 6, said, “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.”

Elaine, age 5, said, “Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken.”

Mary Ann, age 4, said, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.”

And maybe my favorite comes from Jessica, age 8, who said, “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”

As you go through your day today, don’t forget to say “I love you” and the next time you’re looking for the answers to life’s most perplexing questions, you may want to try an elementary school instead of a university.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at . Visit for additional information.

Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2005 by Jim Stovall. All rights reserved.

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