Author Archives: Houston

Dear Humanity

Human nature won’t change, human actions can

Dear Humanity,

I agree.

I agree that human nature is pretty rough around the edges. I agree that meanness and insecurity are intrinsic pieces of our personality. I agree that, more often than not, we think hurtful/cruel things. And I certainly agree that life can be dark and messy and complicated.

I am not asking you ignore these things. In fact, I am asking you to consider them – to put your darkness in the light so you can take a long, hard look at it. Maybe even laugh at it.

Each one of us has messy, mucky lives. As much as we’d like it to be, life is not a neat little package. It is full of fear. Fear of rejection, fear of disapproval, fear of failure, fear of whatever-it-is for you.

It is human to fear. It is human because, deep down, we know we aren’t perfect. And that scares us because it sure feels like we need to be sometimes, doesn’t it? It is why we question ourselves so often: What will my friends think? How could I be so stupid? Why would my parents say that to me?

But, to be blunt: Screw human nature.

Seriously. We can wallow in our imperfections or we can actively work to be better. We can think mean thoughts, but we can also go out and do kind things. We can stand around in the dark or we can look for the light.

As Albus Dumbledore says, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

Sure, human nature has some problems. But I like to live the solution. I invite you to do the same.

Choose Love,


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Forgiving is Hard


By Elisha Goldstein, PhD

Once in a while you find a quote that really hits the nail on the head. Here is one such quote by Lily Tomlin about forgiveness:

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”

This quote is often met with either people saying “aha” or laughing because it is simply so true. When we refuse to forgive, it’s as if we’re holding onto the past and saying “see past, I’m not going to let you have the pleasure of me letting go of you.” Meanwhile, the past is the past, it’s not happening right now in the present moment — or is it?

We keep the past alive by holding tightly to it, so perhaps it is occurring in this present moment. Now, I’m not suggesting we forget the past for the past is our teacher, however, I am suggesting that we loosen our grip on it a bit.

I ask you to consider this experiment:

“Think of someone in your life right now (maybe not the most extreme person) who you are absolutely holding a grudge against right now. There is no way you are willing to forgive this person right now for their actions. Picture that person, and hold onto that unwillingness to forgive. Now, just observe what emotions are there. Anger, resentment, sadness? Also notice how you are holding your body right now, is it tense anywhere or feeling heavy? Now bring awareness to your thoughts; are they hateful and spiteful thoughts?”

This is what lives inside of you by holding so tightly, so the question is always: who is suffering?

Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When there is a mature relationship between people, there is always compassion and forgiveness.”

There is an understanding at some point that we are all human beings capable of all kinds of atrocities, depending on our genetic makeup, the environment we grew up in and the events that have surrounded and influenced our lives.

This is not a statement meant to excuse or condone an aggressive or violent action committed, however, it is a statement meant to help cultivate understanding and compassion in order for the ones who are suffering to come to terms with the way things are, and slowly let go of allowing the atrocity of the past to still be occurring in this present moment.

We can begin to forgive, even though we will never forget.

One last note about forgiveness: This is not a process that occurs instantly after reading about it. This is something that is about timing, meaning if the act is fresh, you may need some distance from it before even considering engaging in this work. Even when it is the right time, it may take time and practice as the tides of anger and hate will bring you back to holding the grudge. May the understanding of this bring a sense of patience and wisdom through this process.


Thanks SC Jen for finding this!


The Freedom to Fail

My dear friends,

I am a recovering perfectionist. I thought that to be a leader I had to be perfect, or at least appear perfect. As a perfectionist I wanted to make a difference so badly that I forgot my humanity. Struggling was not an option for me. Looking back I think about how many opportunities I missed to genuinely serve because I was so wrapped up in Big Lies #1 and #2 (from “The Search for Significance” by Robert McGee). Read more »


You have all heard the saying, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?” Well, if you haven’t, I would like you to think about the implications of that saying and its application to accountability.

There was a shocking occurrence in New York City on 1964.  A young woman by the name of Kitty Genovese was chased and attacked three times over the course of thirty minutes.  During that time, 38 of her neighbors watched from their windows.  The terrible fact was that the incident, which ended in her death, received no phone calls to the police from the 38 onlookers.

When people are in a group, like a student body, accountability for acting is diffused.  They assume that someone else will make the call/decision, or they assume that because no one else is acting, the apparent problem isn’t really a problem.

FORTUNATELY, this behavior can be influenced and overcome by the “law of the few”.  The law of the few states that it only takes a few to tip the scales of an epidemic.  A few individuals to spread a message or behavior like an infectious disease.  Sounds crazy huh?  Well, it has proven true time and time again.

There are those who seem to care about their actions and how they affect those around them.  They understand that they must be responsible for what they do regardless of who they are with, where they are, or what time it is. They know that their sphere of influence has to extend beyond the halls of high school for an accountability epidemic to spread.

Can you imagine if every student felt like they personally had to answer for the state of their school.  That they personally had to answer for why there was trash in the hallways, fights in the courtyard, or bullies at lunch?  So, what about that tree?  The key to the tree is to ask yourself, do I act the way I should no matter who is watching, listening, or where I am?   Then, you must become an infectious agent of accountability to those around you by serving them and being an example of accountability.  By understanding that even when you leave those halls, eyes will watch to see how you act.  Soon the accountability epidemic will spread and you will have a huge task force of peers working to make your school a better place by governing themselves.

“It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.” -Moliere


Mary Parrish


Why Do You Serve?

We know that in order to love people (love the verb) we must serve them, meeting their legitimate needs. We’ve learned to ask the question, “How Can I Help?” as a way to figure out ways we can serve and love others. These are necessary practices essential to being a servant leader, however it is important to think about WHY we are serving. Are we serving others because we know we are supposed to in order to be considered a “servant leader”? Are we serving because we know it’s the “right” thing to do? Are we serving so that others notice us and recognize our efforts?

If we are serving others for those reasons, we are not serving or loving properly. Instead, we are serving others as a way to serve ourselves.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t choose to serve if we feel it is the right thing to do in a given situation or to build and strengthen our character muscles. The important distinction is: the core of WHY we serve should be to show agape love to others because we have made the choice to. We have chosen to serve others because we love them, not because we want to get something out of it for ourselves.

When we learn to serve in this way our rewards are so much greater than if we were to serve with self-serving motives. Because we serve out of love with no stipulations or expectations of anything in return, it no longer matters what we get out of it. We are living the life of a true servant leader which, in my opinion, is the greatest reward of all.


Calling All Patience

“All things pass…patience attains all it strives for.” -Mother Teresa

As a leader, we are called to patience.  We can all imagine times when a situation before us was frustrating and discouraging through no fault or contribution of our own.  Essentially, as we have no control over the situation, we cannot determine an outcome. We can, however, control our behavior and choose to be patient toward the situation.  In their popular book, FISH! Catch the Energy and Release the Potential, Stephen C. Lundin PhD, Harry Paul and John Christensen outline some key contributors to the successful business of Pike Place Fish.  The concept of Choose Your Attitude is one of the four contributors to the success of Pike Place Fish.  The Fish Mongers of Pike Place Fish don’t get to choose the work they do or the way that others treat them, but they choose to be positive and persevere no matter the situation.  They choose patience with their situation, be it out of their control and enjoy a fun and successful working environment as a result.

Many of us are faced with individuals on a daily basis that may suck the energy right out of us – even just to think of them!  We can choose our attitude and decide that while this person may not be someone near and dear to us, they, as an individual and a human deserve to be treated with dignity.  Patience means that when we look at others we should treat them the way we want to be treated, or in essence, practice the “Golden Rule.” If you want others to be patient with you, you will extend patience to them, even when it is hard, hurtful or annoying.  We teach others how to treat us based upon the way we treat them.  By exhibiting patience with others, we are serving others.  That is not to say it is easy.  It is hard.  But it’s the hard that makes it good…. Read more »

Making Mistakes (Humility)

“We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility”

“I’ve made a mistake” is one of the hardest things to tell others; oftentimes an even more difficult thing to admit to yourself. But true humility is shown when you are able to do both – and do it in a way that is both optimistic and action-oriented.

Sincere humility strengthens relationships between friends, family, co-workers, teammates and partners. Our natural history has made us instinctively defensive – being the alpha male or female in a group ensured safety and respect. Fortunately, our world has evolved out of a time where this sort of hierarchy is necessary. Good leadership is no longer about who can defend the tribe, but who has built influence among the people around him or her. Read more »

Simply Serve

Peace begins with a smile. -Mother Teresa

This site is dedicated to simple lessons, thoughts & ideas regarding servant leadership and its ability to impact yourself, others & the world. The most influential people in history took time to serve others — people like Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr, Jesus & Mother Teresa built influence by consistently dedicating time, energy & love to others. How can we use this in our everyday lives? Why is it important? What makes it difficult? What makes it worth it?

To Serve Others will take time to answer these questions. But to start, simply serve & smile.

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Day Twenty

Day 20:  Reflection

The half-way point is a good time to really take a step back and think about what you are doing and why.

We Dare you to…

Consider your actions and feelings over the last 4 days.

  • Why are you still continuing to do these dares?  What are you gaining?
  • The dares will get harder.  Consider carefully, do you want to continue for the remaining 20 days?  Why? 

“Passion is the quickest to develop and the quickest to fade.  Intimacy develops more slowly, and commitment more gradually still.” –Robert Sternberg

“Help me to do the best I can, with what I have, where I am, all the time.” –Dale Turner

Day Nineteen

Day 19:  Selflessness

In the spring of 2009, the Central Washington University softball team was playing Western Oregon.  Both teams were in the running for the Conference title.  Down 2 to 1, Western Oregon’s Sara Tucholsky came to the plate.  Sara proceeded to hit the first homerun of her entire career, high school or college.  In her excitement she failed to touch first base.  Quickly turning around she severely injured her knee (later diagnosed as a torn ACL).  Realizing that Sara was unable to continue from first, Central’s Mallory Holtman, the conference leader in homeruns,  and one of her Central teammates, picked Sara up and carried her to second base, then third and finally home, assuring that Sara would score her first and only career home run.  By rule, Sara’s teammates were forbidden to aid her.  Western Oregon would win the game 4-2 that day but the real winners were Mallory and her teammate who selflessly served and sacrificed for Sara because it was the right thing to do.

We Dare you to…

Go to an event (sporting, music, chess club…) that you would not normally go to.  Afterward, seek out someone who was involved and give a complement to them. 

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know; the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” -Albert Schweitzer