Month: June 2014

Your Personal Constitution: what holds true to you

Stephen R. Covey says that we should always begin with the end in mind.

For most things in our lives we do begin with the end. We are just not fully aware of it.

For example, artists, before painting a portrait, have a picture of what they want it to look like before grabbing the brush. Professional athletes visualize what they want to do in a game before the game has even started. An entrepreneur, before launching his/her business, will write down a business plan of what he/she would like the business to be.

So, with everything in life there will always be 2 creations. Our visualization and the concrete product.


We always create things twice: once in our minds and then in the physical world

The Funeral

As an exercise, Covey asks his readers to close their eyes and picture themselves driving to a loved one’s funeral.

As you get there you see family, coworkers, community friends, and others getting ready to speak in honor of the fallen. There will be four speakers: one from his/her immediate family, a coworker, a friend, and someone from a community organization (a church or volunteer program) whom which has been involved with him/her.

However, as you get close and look inside the casket you see yourself! This is your funeral in 3 years from now.

Now, what would you like these speakers to say about you?

Write down 10 to 15 things you would like to be remembered for.

Leadership comes before Management

The 10 to 15 points you wrote down are your principles. These are the things you value the most in life and would define your terms of success.

Living through a well thought out set of values is going to direct you towards the path you want the most. These principles will guide you towards your personal definition of success, and ultimately will be what you will be remembered for.

For example, when I am long gone I would like to be remembered as a person who always loved to help others before myself, had a progressive vision with what I wanted to do, carried myself with great leadership, integrity and confidence, was easy to talk to, and worked extremely hard towards goals bigger than myself in an ethical and value-driven way.

With these set of values I have done my first creation of what I would like my life to be like.

So, now comes the question: what is the difference between leadership and management?

  • A manager focuses on how he/she can accomplish certain things
  • A leader focuses on what he/she wants to accomplish

With this distinction it is easy to understand why leadership has always to come before management. For example, group of explorers are traveling in a jungle with producers cutting through trees looking for a treasure. The managers are the ones behind the producers sharpening the machetes, writing procedure manuals, and organizing the schedule.

The leader, however, is the one who climbs up the tallest tree and says: “We are in the wrong jungle!”.

The leader has a set of well thought out principles which serves as his/her compass. This compass will guide his group in the right direction. With that being said, no management success can compensate for failure in leadership.


Your principles become an internal compass that guide you in your journey

Your Personal Constitution

Think about the Constitution of a country. That is the tool used to evaluate any law that is passed or not passed. The Constitution will last and endure over years because it is based on a set of correct principles which are the truths obtained upon the declaration of the independence of this country.

By beginning with the end in mind you will be able to develop your own Personal Constitution by utilizing your imagination and conscience (discussed in the previous post).

As an example, I will share my own Personal Constitution:

I am at my best when I inspire others.
I will try to prevent times when I let my negative feelings dictate my responses.
I will enjoy my work by finding employment where I can lead a group of people towards a common goal.
I will find enjoyment in my personal life through making the ones around me laugh.
I will find opportunities to use my natural talents and gifts such as learning quickly, including people into activities, solving problems, motivating myself and others towards achievements, and communicating with others.
I can do anything I set my mind to. I will start a company in the sports industry and utilize the profits to help the poor in Third World countries.
My life’s journey is to continually develop myself as a leader in my community in order to attain the resources and trust of others to help the poor and my own family. I am doing this because I was raised in Brazil being exposed to poverty and also lived in Canada, getting to see the benefits of living in a developed country. I intend to end my journey by inspiring many others to take on the challenge of being a proactive member in society with the desire to help the ones in need.
I will be a person who will always carry myself with integrity, self-belief, and respect (for myself and for others). I will always be a leader with a progressive vision and trail blaze a path to many others behind me. I will always be easy to talk to.
My most important future contribution to others will be to provide my family with options to choose from. I want to return everything my parents have done for me and become a good supporting parent like they were for me. I also want to help the poor communities in my country to develop and thrive as individuals.
I will stop procrastinating and start working on:

  • Going to bed earlier and waking up earlier
  • Getting off my cellphone/laptop and doing more activities outside
  • Taking more chances on the things I believe are right for me

I will strive to incorporate the following attributes into my life:

  • Being humble and generous
  • Carrying myself with great integrity and respect
  • Leading others with a pioneer’s mindset

I will constantly renew myself by focusing on the four dimensions of my life:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Meditating regularly
  • Reading regularly
  • Interacting with others regularly

You can also develop your own mission statement by clicking here (read the entire post first).

The 4 Balancing Factors

Before writing our personal mission statement we must first understand what fuels the center of our lives.

Stephen R. Covey describes the four interdependent vital factors that dictate our balance in life:

  • Security: your sense of self-worth, identity and self-esteem
  • Guidance: your source of direction in life, your internal frame that interprets what is happening outside
  • Wisdom: your perspective on life, how your principles apply and relate to each other, a sense of oneness
  • Power: your capacity to act, your vital energy to make decisions, your capacity to overcome bad habits

Depending on what is in our center, each of these factors will be found somewhere in between strong (security, guidance, wisdom, and power) and weak (security, guidance, wisdom, and power). For example, your sense of security will be found either on one end of the spectrum as extreme insecurity, or on the opposite end as a deep sense of self-worth.

Types of Centers

You could center your life in a variety of different aspects of your life, and with that your four balancing factors will consequently be affected by that.

For example:

  • If you are  money-centered your sense of personal worth is based on your net worth, becoming vulnerable to anything that threatens your economic situation; profit is your only decision making criterion; making money is the lens through which you see life; and your power is restricted to what you can accomplish with your money.
  • If you are friend-centered your security is a function of the social mirror; you base your decisions on others’ judgements; you see the world through a social lens; and you are limited to your social comfort zone.
  • If you are enemy-centered you are always wondering what your enemy is up to; you guide your actions based on what your enemy does; you are defensive and overreactive; and the little power you have comes from anger, resentment, and vengeance.
  • If you are family-centered your security if founded on family acceptance; your family dictates your source of correct attitudes and behaviors; you interpret all your life in terms of your family; and your actions are limited by family models and traditions.

According to Stephen R. Covey you can also be spouse-centeredwork-centeredpossession-centeredpleasure-centeredchurch-centered, and self-centered. All of the above provide a volatile way to center your life around, putting your sense of securityguidancewisdom, and power at the mercy of external factors.


By centering your life around a well-thought out set of values and a personal constitution your four factors will be dependent on internal factors. This will provide you with a more consistent balance throughout life:

  • Security: based on principles that do not change regardless of external factors and you understand your own development
  • Guidance: you are guided by a compass and you stand apart from life’s situations, emotions, and circumstances enabling you to look at a more balanced whole.
  • Wisdom: you adopt a proactive lifestyle basing your actions on long-term consequences.
  • Power: you are only limited by your basic understanding of your correct principles and your decisions are not based on your current financial or circumstantial limitations.

Applying your Principles

Our brains are divided into a left and a right hemisphere. The left hemisphere is more logical and verbal, whereas the right hemisphere is more intuitive and creative. Although people use both sides of the brain, one tends to be more dominant than the  other depending on the person.

Since we live in a primarily left brain dominant world, where words and logic are enthroned, our creative and intuitive side tends to be overlooked. Even in the public educational institutions we are teaching all of our kids to become mathematicians, engineers, or analysts. We hardly see schools encouraging music and art – it is more of an option for the students.


Once we understand our values we have a better idea of where we want to go

However, we do need to exercise our right side of the brain in order to be able to visualize our first creations. It is extremely important that we begin to value more our intuition and integrate that with our left side of the brain to put it into practice.

Once we figure out what is important to us, what are our values, we make a promise to ourselves not to react to the external environment. We become more aware of ourselves and once we find a fork on the road we are sure of which road to take.




Responsibility: the ability to choose your reponse

Have you ever thought about what the word Responsibility means?

When you were a kid and your parents told you to be responsible, most of us just took it in as “don’t be stupid”.

But when we dissect the word we can see that being responsible is having the ability to choose your response when receiving stimuli.

For example, we all have dealt with people that really got in our nerves. Someone who is trying to make us mad, get in our heads, or simply just angry at us. Their attitude and words are stimuli that our brain receives. Someone highly responsible is able to respond to that stimuli based on his/her values, and not based on the other person’s weaknesses.

Stephen R. Covey tells us a story about Victor Frankl, who was a Jew that survived the death camps in Nazi Germany. There, Frankl experienced the most unimaginable atrocities a human being could potentially go through. He saw his parents, wife, and brothers die. Him and his sister were the only ones from his family who survived.

One day, when Victor was left naked and alone in a small room he began to become aware of what he calls “the last of the human freedoms”. The Nazi captors could take away his physical freedom, but they could not take away his freedom of identity. Frankl was the only one capable to decide how all of those atrocities were going to affect him. He walked into the land found in between the stimuli and the response.


The “Last of Human Freedoms” is attained through the ability to choose your responses.

And so, through mental, emotional and moral discipline Victor was able to grow his interior freedom larger and larger, until it was larger than his Nazi captors. In other words, his captors had more options to chose from their physical environment, but Victor had more freedom to exercise his options.

Therefore, within our freedom to pick our options we have:

  • self-awareness: seeing ourselves from an outside perspective
  • imagination: ability to create things in our minds
  • conscience: know what is right or wrong
  • independent will: ability to act based on our self-awareness

Being Proactive

When Stephen R. Covey talks about the first habit of being Proactive he is talking about staying away from being a Reactive person. In other words, choosing our response based on our self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will; and not on external factors.

Covey talks about the essence of proactive people: the ability to subordinate an impulse to a value. While reactive people are highly affected by their social environment (when someone treats them bad or good, on their circumstances, and feelings), proactive people act based on their well-thought out set of values.

When most married couples go into couple’s therapy and talk about how they are not feeling “love” anymore, they end up learning that love isn’t a feeling, but an action. You can choose to love someone – making sacrifices, doing things without expecting anything in return, truly caring about someone else. Reactive people approach love as something that just happens based on the stimuli they receive.


For proactive people, love is a choice not a feeling.

Owning up to your circumstances and accepting that you are the only one responsible for where you are today is a tough pill to swallow. Most of us will blame our bosses for not being promoted, our teachers for getting a bad grade, or our weather for not going out and getting stuff done. But in reality, we are the only ones able to control our Circle of Influence.

Stephen R. Covey describes the Circle of Influence as the things we can do something about. The rest of the things we have no control over are found in the bigger Circle of Concern.

In a Proactive Approach, people focus their energy in their Circle of Influence. They exhale positive energy, work on being instead of having, and act upon. This makes their Circle of Influence bigger with time.

In a Reactive Approach, people focus their energy in their Circle of Concern. They victimize themselves, focus on other people’s weakness, and use reactive language (such as I can’tI mustIf only). They get acted upon, what makes their Circle of Influence smaller.

Consequences and Mistakes

However, we also have the other side of the stick when we pick one up. We call that side the consequences. We cannot control the consequences of our actions, only our actions themselves.

For example, as a college student one will present many projects in front of a class. The student can put in all his effort into his assignment and still get a B. The grade is a mere consequence of his presentation. It is something that is out of his/her control. It is in the Circle of Concern.

With that, if the student spends most of his/her time worrying about the potential grade of the project, he/she will most likely do a poor job on the project. However, if the student focuses most of his/her energy on the project itself, the consequence will most likely be a successful one.

There are times that we make wrong decisions, we pick up the wrong stick. If we could go back in time and pick another stick that would be our choice. We call these “wrong sticks” our mistakes. Those are also in our Circle of Concern and there is nothing we can do about them but learn from them.


Reactive people spend too much time wishing they could go back on their mistakes. Proactive people learn from them and move on.

Finally, one can work on being a proactive individual by making promises or commitments. These hold us accountable and will remind us of what we stand for. When we feel like reacting we will remember of our promises of not to react based on feelings, for example, and be more proactive as a consequence.



Spurs vs. Thunder Game 6: OKC never had a chance

Throughout all these years, the Tim Duncan Era Spurs have shown to be one of the greatest teams that was ever put together.

Since the 1997-98 season, with the hiring of Greg Popovich as the head coach, the San Antonio Spurs have never had a season with less than 50 wins (with the exception of the 1998-99 season, which was short due to a lockout – Spurs were 37-13). In other words, they have not finished outside of the Top 2 spot in their conference for over 17 seasons. And have won 4 championships so far.


They have had great players such as David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili to name a few. But in my opinion, the greatest star on that team is Greg Popovich. The stats don’t lie. It is clear that with his arrival he brought with him an amazing culture of greatness and discipline.

Most people don’t enjoy watching the Spurs play. But, again, most people do not understand basketball that well. San Antonio has played the perfect team basketball for over a decade. Their plays are perfectly ran and their defense is other teams’ biggest fear. It is hard to find a flaw in how they play the game. They don’t take the shots that other teams give them; they take the shots that they want to take.

This is a championship basketball approach. How can you beat a team where they have a 12 man rotation, and their level of play never declines even when the bench is on?

Also, the Spurs don’t buy teams, they build teams. They have kept the same players foundation for years, and still manage to compete with the Big 3’s and “Super-Teams” all over the league.

Here’s a clip of how polished they look when they step on the court.

Now, let’s talk about the Thunder.

Since Scott Brooks took over the head coach position in Oklahoma in the 2009-2010 season, the Thunder have had 4 seasons with 50 or more wins.

The Thunder have 2 superstars that, in my opinion, have both been in the Top 5 MVP list for a few years already. Westbrook is arguably the second most athletic player in the league (only behind Lebron James), and Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the league hands down.

Serge Ibaka is a tremendous athlete, as well, but lacks basketball IQ. Kendrick Perkins is one heavy block of muscle that sits in the paint. And Tabo Sefalosha is a great on ball defender.

Their bench, however, is not very deep. Maybe 2 or 3 players are able to come in and legitimately cause an impact in the game (Reggie Jackson, Dereck Fisher, and Nick Collison).

Their offense is freelance for most of the time. Players taking turns trying to make something happen.

Drive and kick, drive and kick, drive and kick…

Eventually, Westbrook takes it to the hoop and slams it down, or KD knocks down a deep three over 3 defenders. But this is not a very reliable way to win in the playoffs.

With a small bench, KD and Westbrook end up playing over 40 minutes a game (KD played 52 minutes on game 6 of the WCF!!).

In my opinion, the Thunder will keep getting shut down deep into the playoffs every year, until they get more quality bench players to give KD and Westbrook a break.

With all of that being said, after watching this series and looking at the stats, I don’t believe there was ever a chance that the Thunder would have beaten the Spurs.

Here’s a great video that Coach Nick did about the Spurs vs. Thunder Game 6, breaking down how San Antonio absolutely handled OKC.

To be totally honest, I believe that the Spurs will beat the Heat this year. They are just too good right now to be stopped. Besides, they still have that bitter taste in their mouths after letting the championship slip through their fingers on game 6 last year. But this is a whole other story saved for another post…