We had a conversation with Rodger Dean Duncan, bestselling author of Change-Friendly Leadership: How to Transform Good Intentions into Great Performance. It was an informal reality check, on my part, for some of the realities I’ve observed in my own life, as I described them in The Constant Choice. Duncan’s vision focuses on leadership, human performance, and the strategic management of change. Stephen R. Covey called his views on leadership “brilliantly insightful, inspiring – profound, yet user friendly – visionary, yet highly practical.” His book has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Eric Hoffer Award for “the advancement of principles and practices that are vital for a thriving society.” He’s a regular contributor to Forbes magazine.
Other people I call my guardian angels helped make my happiness possible. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done in my life without the help of others. Have good people helped you in crucial ways?
My grandfather was good with his hands and could repair most anything. He taught me that with enough grit and determination, I could accomplish just about any reasonable goal.
Many of my friends and business associates have been great models of ingenuity and creativity. Some of them have been particularly good at modeling trust – how to earn it, how to maintain it, and how to extend it.
One of my early editors was Jim Lehrer, whom most people know from his later career in public television. Jim taught me to look closely at cause and effect, and especially to examine the gap between what people aspire to and what they actually achieve. My friend Stephen R. Covey, whom I knew from the time he was an anonymous college professor, taught me to “begin with the end in mind.”
I write in The Constant Choice about the significance of habitually choosing the good, and how it can change a person over time for the better. The science of epigenetics backs me up on this. What sort of good choices have you made in your life that became vital habits that have changed you for the better?
I believe . . . human beings have a predisposition to do good and to be good. Rather than human beings undergoing a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings undergoing a relatively temporary human experience. Part of that experience is exposure to both good and evil and the opportunity to make choices. Our choices, then, determine our destiny.
I have a great gym in my home, so I have no excuse for not exercising. Yet I wasn’t using the gym as much as I’d intended. So several months ago, I started wearing a pedometer, even when I’m wearing pajamas in my house. My goal is to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day, and I want at least half of those steps to be aerobic. Because I’m the kind of person who likes to measure things, the simple metric of counting steps has helped motivate me to establish and reach personal goals. I now walk 50 miles or more each week, and most of that walking is “power walking.” It started with a simple choice to establish a measurable goal of daily walking.
Have you ever had periods of your life where you struggled with choices between good and evil? How hard did you find it not to rationalize yourself into making bad choices?
When it comes to resisting evil, it’s easier to say no when there’s a stronger yes burning within you. When I married my wonderful wife 46 years I made a firm commitment to be faithful to her in every way. That firm commitment – that deliberate and mindful choice – has been and remains an important part of my true north compass. Resisting any opportunity to be unfaithful to my wife has been simple because I’m truly committed not only to her but to all of the collateral benefits of a strong marriage.
My father used to say that the main thing that separates successful people from the failures is that successful people consistently do the things that the failures aren’t willing to do. If you want to play the piano well, you must practice relentlessly. If you want to maintain good health, you must get off the couch and exercise. If you want to excel in school, you must establish and maintain smart study habits that emphasize real learning and internalization rather than temporary memorization and other short-term tricks.