“The first and best victory
is to conquer self.”
7 Best Practices for Life Leadership Continuum and 7 Areas of Life
Best-Self Leadership is the first best practice to plan and lead in life.
Joan Dunn donated to Life Leaders a box of books on leadership and professional development Stretch valued. A few folders enclosed included workbooks and handouts that he or we had presented for Life Leaders or other organizations over 25 years.
One of the sheets was from a presentation I invited Stretch to give on Best-Self Leadership, which he gave in 2015. He was trained in it at West Point and committed to it all the years I knew him. The sheet outlined his philosophy and plans to guide his life and to coach others. He listed motivational quotations, including Plato above, and a summary of concepts and covenants to which he was committed.
I thought you would want to know this as well as appreciate the wisdom of ancient Greek philosopher Plato. –David
By Dr. David Dyson citing and remembering lessons learned from Col. Stretch Dunn
- Did I make someone a hero today?
- Would our Lord say, “well done my good and faithful servant…?”
- Would my mama be proud?
Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Retired) asked himself these three questions at the end of the day to help make sure he stayed on the right path. He spoke of them when mentoring others and at annual Life Leaders seminars designed to help people improve plans for life. He asked his wife, Joan, to help him be accountable to “be, know, and do” as his best-self.
Most years for two decades during the Life Leaders Plan for Life Seminar he shared his updated page of goals for the 7 Areas of Life so others might benefit from this annual ritual and to help “hold him accountable” privately for what he stated publicly. For actions he considered extra special, such as some of those that led him toward his three questions, he called them “rituals” because they took on even more significance than “habits.”
Joan helped me confirm the updated list of questions he was using at the end of his life. He had edited the list over time, adding the second question. He also believed in a concept called “The Harder Right” that he used on his list a decade or so earlier.
After the “911” attacks on America, when Stretch and I were writing Professionalism Under Stress (about common denominators of true professionalism in college, combat, corporate life…), he told me of “The Harder Right” and its roots for him at West Point.
The core message: take the ethical action even when our instincts tell us this option will be “harder” and we may “lose” short-term.
When we do the harder right, such as admit a mistake or take ownership for paying restitution even when we could “get away with it” we usually benefit instead of lose. Our integrity gets stronger and our trust with others gets stronger because they see us tell the truth and take fair action even when it’s “harder” to do so. Many citizens and corporations, even leaders in the public office tend to “distance themselves” or “protect themselves” from bad results. In case studies on major disasters, companies and individual leaders who admit the problems and take action to fix the problems with accountability usually lose profits short-term as they pay restitution though long-term gain market share and trust in the marketplace resulting in positive gains.
The United States Military Academy (West Point) believes in “The Harder Right” and include the term in the “Cadet Prayer.” This takes a stand and increases the chances of internalizing ethical action by making it a habit to cite the concept as part of the prayer.
Why Questions of Assessment Help
Why should we assess our actions? A principle of leadership and management is, “what gets measured tends to gets repeated.” At the very least, if we have a target and internalize it we are more likely to aim and have a better chance of hitting “bulls eye.” Another principle of management science is to identify and do those practices that “increase probability ” for us to fulfill the mission.
Stretch wrote, reviewed, stated intent, and updated regularly his Goals for the 7 Areas of Life, his Big 3 Questions, and his Mission and Vision for Marriage with Joan. Because of these rituals, he was more likely to aim at and succeed at making others “heroes,” being a “good and faithful servant,” and making his “mama proud.”
Motivating question that may influence whether a person will take action on this article: Are goals like these or the people who would be affected important enough to you to make it worth a few minutes of your time daily to write a vision or questions and assess if you took action?
One more step we can take to make plans, actions, and results better
Plan how we can answer the questions positively. If we are going to answer important questions, we can do better if we outline plans for our time and action aimed at creating positive answers. For each question, outline a goal and action to create desired results.
- Help someone: one idea is to keep on your calendar a daily appointment with yourself to call someone and offer to help. If like Stretch, you can ask, “How can I make you a hero?” or “What can I do for you, Sir?” Or, you can just do something for someone you believe is needed. [It’s good to confirm what we think adds values is actually valued by the person important to us.] Your action could mean either a one minute call or a longer block of time to add value for them by “lightening their load” through service or “encouraging their perseverance” on one of their resolutions.
- Be a good and faithful servant: part of the core of “faithful” is to identify and fulfill our callings, gifts, and talents. When we Pray. Listen. Act. Now. (PLAN) on our callings as well as our choices, we become better stewards of our faith.
- Do the harder right: for many, increased awareness of instincts when you feel pressure of possible embarrassment or other loss and how you believe your best-self should respond will improve behavior. Challenging “why” you do certain things can help you stop doing bad habits that may have been taught to you by well-intentioned adults or you may have adopted as habits from peers when immature. If never challenged, bad habits can live on even for well-intentioned adults. When you have a seemingly tough choice to make, imagining a special person “watching you” can help you do the harder right and form good habits until your personal integrity gets strong enough to guide you automatically.
- Make your mother (or someone else important) proud of you: as we plan intentions and assess actions, a partner or board can often inspire us to improve ourselves more so than the motivation for personal gain. In addition to parents, people often choose accountability partners, children, or other family members as sources of motivation.
Principles and Best Practices Supporting these Suggestions
My best practices for Best-Self Leadership 1-3, tested and taught since 1987:
- Lead Your Life
- Plan for Life
- Have an Impact.
Dr. Stephen Covey’s Habits 1-3 in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
- “Be Proactive”
- “Begin with the end in mind”
- “First Things First.”
Both sets of practices and habits suggest we can do better if we decide to take action, envision desired results, let that vision inspire and guide goals and actions, and assess if we are having impact with priorities.
Personal Application Example
I took inspiration from Stretch, used his list, and adapted my own. I share it here in case two examples may serve you better:
- Did I help a person and an animal live better today?
- Did I improve my ability and attitude to help others?
- Did I Pray. Listen. Act. Now. (PLAN) for my callings and choices?
- Did I improve my plan for life?
- Did I live my priorities?
- Did I do my best joyously?
- Did I make my family proud?
Three questions are easier to internalize. Or, after you develop your seven you could summarize into your Big 3 to remember and share with others more readily.
Have an Impact
Stretch’s upbringing with parents Lieutenant General Carroll Dunn (USA Retired) and Retha Dunn, education at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point ’66), and training in the US Army influenced him greatly. He intentionally planned for and took action to live the core teachings of his parents and honor the “code” of West Point. He invited his wife, Joan, to give feedback on his stated “intent” and be an accountability partner for his actions. If we do these things, we will come closer to “walking our talk.”
Question for those who want to walk our talk: are we planning for life, leading our lives, and living our priorities focused on the people and principles we say are most important?
Thanks Stretch for helping people to adopt ways to lead our lives closer to our best-selves.
Stretch died unexpectedly this 2017. We honor our friendship and lessons learned with him by sharing positive principles and practices with you and those important to you. We invite you to subscribe or support if you value this article or the 7 Callings we serve.
To learn more of Stretch Dunn
To learn more of Life Leaders
To read more articles like this one or follow: DrDavid.blog
To recommend or request: David@LifeLeadersInstitute.org
by Dr. David Dyson and Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Ret)
When people set resolutions at New Years or other times of inspiration or decision, the solutions usually require action though often we overlook the requirement to address our beliefs that either support or sabotage our success. “Moral injury” is one of the sources of setback for many people, perhaps most, especially for veterans of war.
When people seek to “be, know, or do” better we often have to face barriers that hold us back. If you have been setting the same New Year Resolution for years, you likely have a barrier holding you back from following through or even starting. Sometimes, between us and our goal stands a “Goliath” threatening us and those influenced by us. Some Goliaths we created and some happened to us, though in either case we can achieve breakthroughs by facing our barriers and deciding how our best-selves can make the best of situations and grow from challenges.
An example of a big barrier is when a veteran of combat faces feelings and beliefs from “moral injury” created having to kill another human being. Many veterans who return home face challenges to re-enter society. Some feel sad. Some feel guilty. Some feel they do not deserve better than their despair. They have been morally injured and need healing.
Some stay in their despair. Some “hold it in” and “others talk about it” with their buddies. Time might help to process and heal, though this often is a slow approach and there is no guarantee of recovery.
Those who act with intentionality are more likely to achieve not only recovery to a state prior to the trauma or injury but also “post traumatic growth.” For more on PTG, read Dr.Seligman’s work.
I asked Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Retired), West Point graduate, combat leader in Vietnam, founder of the Veterans Leadership Ministry, and co-author with me of Professionalism Under Stress, to provide his answer to the question from veterans struggling with psychological wounds of warfare.
Question: What can I do if I feel shame from killing that holds me back?
I was asked recently by a vet suffering the pain of “moral injury” a question tied to his feeling of shame. He still struggled with the commandment to “not kill” and his having to do so back in Vietnam. My response was one that has worked for me since I faced that dilemma in 1968.
Captain Dunn 1968, Vietnam
I never forget the capacity of our minds to rationalize anything. The treasure of being able to think is truly amazing.
That said, I live with my past by listening to the intent of the heart. Matthew 15:19 reminds me, murder comes from “evil in the heart.” While there is a moral imperative to not kill unlawfully, there is also the soldier’s duty to protect. The noble warrior punishes in proportion to the gravity of the offense.
So I told him I sought to “put on the whole armor of God” and do what had to be done to protect the innocent or my buddies in keeping with the oath I took in 1966 and the heart of a Noble Warrior.
Col. C.H. “Stretch” Dunn (USA Retired)
When writing the book, Professionalism Under Stress, with Col. Dunn, he introduced me to the meaning of a “least-worst option.” As the name suggests, all the options seem bad; the best option is the “least-worst.”
Killing the enemy is bad; the enemy killing your buddies or U.S. civilians is worse. Choices like these, tough choices, can stay with you for years in a negative way unless you process them in to your “best possible” way.
Callings and Choices are a key to a best-self leader.
Asking, God, what would you have me do? following by asking myself, Now, what would my best-self do? helps me move from thinking of bad memories to thinking of potential good solutions. The thoughts and actions that must follow can heal, inspire, and make you stronger than before your moral injury. May your thoughts carry you upward, David`
True Empowerment comes from earning it by individuals, teams, families, and organizations–and about society providing opportunity.
Empowerment Week starts Friday for the City of Birmingham, with nicknames such as Magic City, Freedom City, and more.
We believe a balance of education, service, and commemoration is best.
If you want to invest in your capacity to earn empowerment and help others earn empowerment, we invite you to attend a short seminar on the eve of Empowerment Week in Birmingham:
Thursday, September 10, 5:30/6-7 p.m.
Free Tickets as a Public Service of Life Leaders Members and Partners
Tickets (free and easy in less than a minute):
www.LifeLeaders.us (click Take Action at top and Attend to see seminar listing to click on Eventbrite button to get your ticket sent by email)
or call 205-422-6484–we can help.
Freedom to Flourish: Earning Empowerment
in support of YOU and Empowerment Week in Birmingham
This program offers tangible concepts and best practices for how to earn empowerment. Starting September 11, events of service and commemoration are sponsored by the City of Birmingham.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
5:30 Refreshments & Networking; 6-7 Seminar & Announcements
5:30-6 p.m. Refreshments, Networking, Seating
6-7 p.m. Seminar plus Announcements
7-7:30 Social and/or Discussion (Optional)
Birmingham Area / 201 Office Park
3rd Floor, 1st Financial Group Seminar Room
Use outside stairs or elevator to entrance, left after Life Leaders Sign
Hosted by Melvin Carrington Smith, Sr. / 205.276.2333
No charge for tickets thanks to membership donations, grants, sponsorships.
Life Leaders America is a 501 (c)(3) based in Alabama.
Donations optional for refreshments, materials, public programs.
Get Tickets for You and Guests Reserved and Sent by Email
Concepts, Benefits, and Contents of the Seminar
Earning Empowerment is key to taking action as a true patriot and true professional to act on our freedom to flourish.
In this seminar, we will provide a handout and instruction to provide you a tool to know better how to earn and delegate empowerment based on level of trust in attitude and ability.
Emerging leaders may benefit most. For mature leaders, they likely understand the concept, though this model will provide a tool to state intent with others for you choose when to delegate and when to direct. Intent and instincts should improve. Cooperation can increase and conflict decrease.
We will summarize the empowerment model that has 7 levels. We will provide an updated workbook with improved content and a new cover. The full seminar is core professional and leadership training highly recommended for organizations.
The event is free thanks to support of members and grants we receive from foundations and other sponsors. If you wish, you have the option to donate for your consumption of refreshments, for membership if you wish to join, or for a a project you value. No pressure. It is mission over money. We seek to serve and look forward to your attendance.
5-5:30 Team Meeting: Events updates and decisions October – December, other chairs can host meetings
5:30-6 Refreshments and Networking
6-7 Seminarby Dr. David Dyson
with open and call to action by Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Ret)
- True Professional definition
- Earn empowerment rather than wait for it (Professionalism Under Stress)
- 7 Levels of Empowerment
- 7 Components of Attitude and Ability
- How to state intent for earning empowerment with a leader/decision-maker
- Call to action summary
7-7:30 optional social, team meetings, discussion
Thanks to our Members and these Principal Partners providing Grants this Year
Daniel Foundation of Alabama – Protective Life Foundation
Learn more of additional events and services
October 1: Freedom to Flourish
November 5: Personal Leadership for Patriots
November 10: Patriotism in Action Tribute to the Founder of Veterans Day
December 15: Year-End Celebration of Purpose, Progress, People with performance by Roman Street
You can follow Life Leaders and invite others to attend with you
Colonel (Retired) Bob and Nancy Barefield (right) presented a commemorative Army ornament to Sergeant (Retired) Noah Galloway at the Second Annual Alabama Veterans Reunion Appreciation Dinner in Tuscaloosa on August 29th. Noah was the Keynote Speaker at the sold-out event. A double-amputee from wounds in combat, Noah inspires as a speaker as he did as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.
Colonel and Mrs. Barefield serve as chair of Patriotism in Action, a program presented by Life Leaders, which supports Veterans Day, patriotic service, and events throughout the State of Alabama. http://www.PatriotismInAction.us. Bob and Nancy also serve as leaders in the Support Committee of the Alabama National Cemetery. The ornament is one of a collection designed and sold to support the Overlook Project of the National Cemetery, Col. Stretch Dunn (USA Ret), chair.
Life Leaders Year-End Celebration
of purpose, progress, plans, & people
benefiting public programs for teachers,
students, veterans, & the public
Featuring Roman Street Music
Tuesday Evening ♦ December 15, 2015
Moonlight on the Mountain ♦ Hoover, Alabama