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What Shadow are you Casting?

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln

What shadow are you casting? Is the tree providing amazing fruit to others? Does it have strong roots in values? Is it still growing or has it been stilted by circumstances?

It is time, it is always time, to consider your character and reputation. What legacy will you leave? If you understand your values, live them every day, you are on your way to authenticity, one of the elements needed for character. If you live your values, even when they aren’t popular, even if they aren’t expedient, even when those around you are going a different way( the tree) then you are seen as authentic (the shadow).

There are many character traits that remarkable people living remarkable lives exemplify. The character sets are likely different for every person you know or know about but there may be as many as fifty traits that many of those that fit the remarkable category share. Every Tuesday for the next while I am going to tackle two or three with examples from the world around us.

Curiosity

Like most character traits, curiosity is learned and cultivated. The nurturing of an inquisitive mind at home, with family, in play, and encouraged by reading, games, experiments, and challenges fosters curiosity. Most formal education systems stifle curiosity in favor of conformity, rules, models and theories but a young inquisitive mind can survive with a little prompting. Children, before attending school, ask “why” and adults that question should be celebrated. If you need some encouragement to be curious, Don Latumahina’s post offers 6 tips.

The inventors and activists share this trait. They are able to see new ways for old ideas to fit together and imagine new ideas that may lead to something interesting and/or useful. Most are risk embracers and seem to see mistakes/failures as new doors to the next path. Edison may have failed more than 2000 times before he found a working lightbulb and said “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Wayne Gretsky, Marie Currie, Mother Teresa all failed before their first successes but continued to be inquisitive, persistent and optimistic that their efforts would lead to a different opportunity.


Initiative

Initiative is often paired with curiousity. In the face of a problem and the possibility of failure, the power to begin or to follow through with a plan or task turns a challenge into an opportunity.

Muhammad Yunus saw the same poverty that millions witnessed throughout the sub continent, he felt compassion just as hundreds of thousands did, he said “this is unacceptable” as thousands had but he stepped forward, put his own skin in the game and took the first step. He loaned $27 from his own pocket, received repayment and took step two, three and four that has lead to Grameen Bank providing necessary financing in the order of $7Billion with a more than 94% repayment rate.

Curiousity and initiative seem to fit together – build, fix, build, fix, build again.

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