A Matter of Honour


Duty and honour have a close relationship. In my last Toughen Up post, I mentioned the linguistic roots of these two words, and today I’m going to tell you a little more. When it comes to succeeding in your life’s purpose, it’s necessary to understand these two concepts and how they’re connected. After all, you hardly ever see one without the other.

From the Oxford English Dictionary (OED):

Duty: “something one has to do because it is morally right or legally necessary.”

Honour: “great respect”, “a clear sense of what is morally right”, “something that is a privilege or a pleasure.”

I find these definitions really interesting. The second definition of “honour” is almost identical to “duty”, which is notable in itself. But the first and last definitions of “honour” are the most striking to me: honour is used to pay “great respect” to the people who have earned it, and it’s “a privilege or a pleasure” to do it.

The biggest difference between duty and honour is even more interesting to me because it’s also one of the things that tightly bind the two concepts together. That difference? Enthusiasm.

I’ll elaborate. In addition to the definitions above, the OED defines duty as something that’s “done because of a feeling of obligation rather than enthusiasm.” But honour is all about enthusiasm. After all, when we have honour, we do the right things because we feel passionate about doing them—it’s a “privilege or a pleasure”. We don’t do them because we feel we should. We do them because we genuinely want to, and we genuinely care.

But when we’re doing the right thing, we’re doing our duty. An attitude of honour gives us the motivation to do it enthusiastically, without complaint. And that’s where the connection lies.

When I first started building my business, Lana and I spent a lot of time talking to and learning from Orrin and Laurie Woodward, and a number of others. These people unselfishly gave us their time and their experience, helping us to build a successful future for our family.

As we began to experience success, we felt an overwhelming sense of respect and honour towards these people—not only because they helped when we needed them, but also because they were a big factor in our success. We’re grateful to them.

In the military, we placed great importance on honouring the people who earned our respect. The people who paved the road ahead of us with hard work, bravery, and loyalty. The people who cared so much about doing their duty that they were willing to give their lives for their cause. We spend time learning about these men and women, and we honour them as much as we can.

Unfortunately, this kind of honour is often missing in business and family, even when it is well deserved. I’ll never forget the sacrifices that Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady made so that I could be successful. And whenever I can, I make an effort to show them how grateful I am. That’s honour.

You are the people you associate with

Blog post 14Think about the top five people you’re spending time with. Are they successful? Committed to a cause? Do they toughen up when they need to? If this sounds like the people you’ve surrounded yourself with, chances are good that you’re going to be pretty successful yourself.

On the other hand, if those five people aren’t working towards anything, quit when the going gets tough, and have poor lifestyle habits, you probably do the same things.

My mother smoked for 42 years. Eventually, she got to the point where she needed a machine to help her breathe at night. When she reached that point, she decided it was time to quit. But amazingly, some of her friends weren’t supportive. They would offer her cigarettes and try to convince her to start smoking again. Thankfully, she resisted, but those friends were no help at all.

Fortunately, we get to choose the people we spend time with. For example, in the early days, when I was still building my business, one of the men I was working with called me up and asked if we could talk. We met in person, and he told me that he wanted to take a break from the business. As I questioned him, I realized that this “break” was actually a subtle way of quitting. So I responded with, “Ah, man, we were doing so well. I was really relating to you, we were getting along really well, and I was enjoying my time with you. We were kickin’ butt. We were on a path to really growing our business, and I thought you’d become a leader in our company. And now you want to quit. It’s really sad.”

Harsh, right? Well, I was probably a little harder on him than I should have been, but it was really important to me to make sure I was surrounded by successful, likeminded people. After all, one of the pillars of my system is knowing that there’s only one way to turn a loser into a winner. It has nothing to do with giving them money and opportunity. It’s all about changing the way they think.

That was a tough conversation, but there was an important principle I needed to pass on. If you spend time with people who are willing to give up when they get tired, or when things get tough, their attitude will influence you. Having courage means loving yourself enough to say, “I will not let my goals be hindered by people who aren’t willing to work to achieve theirs.”

It’s possible that my former associate did have a good reason for taking a break–maybe he wanted to play baseball to strengthen his relationship with his son. If so, that’s wonderful. But we need to remember: we can’t achieve our goals if we’re constantly falling back on excuses.

Take a few minutes to think. Are you letting excuses stop you from achieving your goals? If so, it’s time to reconnect with your reason for pursuing that cause in the first place.

Learn from experience

Blog post 13When you’re trying to achieve something, do you reach out to someone who’s done it before? Or do you tend to go it alone?

I believe that when you’re trying to reach a goal, listening to the right mentors can make a huge difference. When I was in the military, I constantly listened to the stories of people who had more experience than me. Even when those stories didn’t seem relevant to anything I was going through at the time, I’d often find that I’d be able to apply pieces of what I’d learned later on. After all, there’s no substitute for experience, but listening to the people who already have it is a pretty good alternative.

One of my mentors, Orrin Woodward, used to tell me that it’s important for people to read, listen, and associate. We need to learn from our mentors, take it all in, and apply it to their lives. Because when we do this, we’re building an inventory of knowledge, which gives us something to draw on when things get tough. And Orrin didn’t just suggest I start reading–he set an example. Every time I see him, he makes new recommendations. And I’ve done everything I can to read the books he suggests. Sometimes I even read them more than once, knowing that I’ll learn more the second time around.

Reading books by leaders in your field is also important to your success. And when I say “reading”, I don’t necessarily mean that you have to pick up a book. You can also listen to audiobooks. In fact, that’s my preferred method of reading; whether I’m in my truck or my office, I’m constantly listening to something. Even when I’m working on something else, the CDs are still on in the background, and my mind is still absorbing plenty of new information. More than once, I’ve heard one of those great ideas come out of my mouth and I’ve found myself wondering, “where did that come from?”

Taking in this kind of advice can set you apart from the crowd when it comes to building your business. For example, a few years ago, I was mentoring a friend who had been experiencing some amazing success. I told him he should start reading. He resisted, forgetting that business is competitive.

Unfortunately, his competition was reading. And my friend started losing business to that other company. Why? Because reading not only gave the other business leader an edge, it also gave him access to the experience of other successful business owners. That mistake ended up setting my friend back by three or four years.

Remember a couple of posts ago, when I mentioned that if you start making the right choices on a regular basis, it’ll be easier to do it when things get hard? Reading and spending time with the right mentors is just a couple of those “right things” that will help you on your way.

Building Courage

blog post 12When I was in training, our instructors would have us run for hours. This was no light jog; it was a sweaty, gasping-for-air marathon. They’d watch until they saw us begin to struggle. But did they let us stop? Not a chance. They’d push us to run through our exhaustion and draw from energy stores we didn’t even know we had.

This might seem excessive to someone without military experience, but there was an important reason for this exercise; it built courage. It prepared us for that inevitable moment when we’d have to make a tough choice between satisfying our bodies’ needs (in this case, taking a much-needed rest) and doing the right thing (trusting that our instructors had our best interests at heart and following through with the training).

Wondering what this has to do with courage? Imagine you’re on a ship. You’ve been working hard all day, performing tough physical tasks in harsh conditions. You’re exhausted. Your muscles are aching and you’ve strained your back. You’re on your way to bed when someone shouts the words that you never want to hear at sea: “Man overboard!”

What do you do? There isn’t much time, so you need to make a snap decision. Do you cross your fingers and hope that someone else steps in and fishes him out? Or do you push past the fatigue and the screaming muscles and dive in after him?

The running exercise was designed to help build both the courage and the stamina to go after that person. Our instructors wanted to know that if someone needed us, we’d find the courage to help, even after we’d reached our limit.

Would you have ignored the shouts, leaving that man to someone who was able to conquer their exhaustion? If so, I’ve got good news for you: courage is a habit that you can develop. Start making the right choice on a regular basis, and when the going gets tough, you’ll be more likely to find the courage to do the right thing. Think about it. If you start cutting corners on the little things, how are you going to respond when real courage is required?

When I was at one of my first big business meetings, I remember being astonished by all the people who weren’t taking notes. After all, how would they remember what they had learned? Building a business is tough even with advice—I couldn’t understand why would they make it harder on themselves by failing to preserve that important knowledge.

The tough questions

Claude Hamilton Tough QuestionsDuring my talks, I like to ask my audience a few tough questions. These questions are difficult for many people, but the funny thing is, the people who would rather avoid these questions are usually the ones who need to think about them the most.

The tough questions:

  • Are you doing a good job? For your country, your family, your friends, and your career?
  • If you’re building a business, are you doing it for money? Or are you chasing a dream or fighting for a cause?
  • Do you believe so strongly in your life’s work that you’ve cried over it?
  • Have you felt the thrill of making a real difference in a part of your world?
  • Does your cause inspire you to be bigger, better, and stronger?
  • Are you willing to fight for your cause?


Although these questions can be uncomfortable, the answers will tell you if your life is on the right track. And if it’s not, your responses will put you on the path that your life is meant to take.

There’s a second way to know if you’ve veered off your life’s path, and it has to do with attitude. If you find that you’re spending a lot of time consciously adjusting your attitude, chances are good you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. Because if you’re truly heading in the right direction, you’ll be so excited, so passionate about your cause, that you won’t need to make adjustments—you’ll naturally make the right choices for the right reasons because you’ll be able to visualize your goal.

Some of us find our life’s purpose early on, but for others, finding that cause takes a lifetime. If you haven’t found your purpose yet, keep your attitude in check, do the right thing when you make your decisions, and keep thinking about your dreams. Eventually, something will click, your attitude will fall naturally into place, and you’ll know that you’ve found your cause.

It’s important to remember that even if you’ve found your life’s purpose, you’ll probably still spend some time in the Dissatisfaction stage, the place where most people give up because they think it’s just too hard to achieve their dreams. But if you’re tempted to throw in the towel, remember that everyone has something unique to offer and, if you’ve got the right attitude, your best efforts will make a big difference for others—your family, your friends, your colleagues, maybe even people you’ll never meet.

Want your dream life? Find the cause that you’d work towards for free, simply because you feel driven and passionate about it. I guarantee that if you find your purpose, you’ll also discover all the happiness and joy that your life has to offer. And remember, the first step is keeping a positive attitude.

There’s one sentence in my book that sums up today’s post perfectly, so I’ll leave you with this: “You will never, ever regret working your hardest for the thing you care about the most.”

Perspective is everything

Perspective is everything blog post 10One of my military leaders was a great storyteller. At the time, I was spending a lot of nights in a helicopter with a team of Americans. Some of those nights were long ones, so our leader helped us pass the time by talking about our missions, and why we were doing them. Those talks had the potential to be pretty boring, but his stories had a way of giving me goosebumps. He made every mission feel significant, even if we were doing something as simple as taking pictures. In fact, his words were so inspiring, I felt like even if I weren’t being paid, I would still be up there, doing whatever we were doing that night.

Why did this man evoke so much commitment and loyalty? Because he showed us that we had a cause. By the time he’d finished talking, we already felt like we were making a difference, just by sitting in that helicopter. And our leader was right—what we were doing did matter, but we didn’t realize how much until he found the words to express it.

After my perspective changed, my attitude improved almost automatically. Now that I had a cause I understood, I had something to work towards. I felt committed to accomplishing a task that would better the world, and that was more motivational than anything else could have been.

Just think about it. In World War II, were soldiers fighting to earn money? Not a chance. They were fighting for freedom, a greater cause that provoked passion, commitment and a sense of duty.

I’ve carried that lesson with me as I worked to build my business. Even though some days were incredibly tough, I was working towards a cause that kept me motivated. And my cause wasn’t money, either. More than anything, I wanted to give my wife a way to stay home. Most mornings, she was in tears as she left for work, in anticipation of being mistreated by her co-workers. So there was nothing more important to me than helping her out of that situation.

Although, realistically, I needed money for her to stay home, I wasn’t visualizing dollar signs when I went to meetings every day. I was focused on my cause—giving our family a way to live, grow and learn from each other.

Once I found my cause, my work wasn’t so hard anymore. I started having fun, because I was able to picturing the life I was working for. The more I pictured it, the more excited I got. And the more excited I got, the harder I worked to achieve my goals. Eventually, even the rejections got easier. I began to focus my efforts on helping others, and each small success brought me a sense of excitement and achievement that kept me going until I was able to help someone else. And now? I’ve achieved that family-oriented lifestyle I was working so hard for. And it’s all because I found my cause. What’s yours?

Caring When It Counts and Your Positive Attitude

Claude Hamilton blogLast week I wrote about a business rejection that made a big impact on me— because it made me worry about the future of my business and whether or not I had the strength to keep going when the going got tough. But there was another rejection that really bothered me, in an entirely different way. It was an experience that I may never forget, and I wrote about it in Toughen Up.

This rejection happened during those early days of my business, when I was constantly busy setting up meetings, making connections and just generally working hard to get my business off the ground. I was meeting a man at his home to talk about what my business had to offer. I pulled up into his driveway, next to a car with a safety rejection sticker plastered on the window. I glanced up towards the house and saw a big satellite dish in the yard, and flickering images from a large TV in the living room window.

As I walked towards the door, I began to make connections in my mind:

  1. The owner of the vehicle obviously couldn’t afford to fix whatever problem had warranted the reject sticker—or else they would have had it done at the garage. As a result, the car couldn’t be used.
  2. I’ve noticed a strange trend over the past few years. The bigger investment people make in their TV, the less money they seem to have. This man had made a pretty significant investment.

These two conclusions led me to make an assumption—this man needed to earn more money. Why else wouldn’t he fix his car? I wanted to help. I was welcomed into the home, and I spent some time talking with the man and his wife about what I had to offer.

Now, rejection is one thing, but nothing could have prepared me for his final response. He said, very matter-of-factly, “I don’t think there’s anything I want bad enough to do more work for.” I was floored. I wanted to blurt out, “what about the brakes on your wife’s car?” but I held my tongue and glanced over at his wife. When those words came out of his mouth, she paled. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more helpless look than I saw on her face that day. She was about eight months pregnant and she was still getting up every day and going to work. That woman was tough.

But despite her positive attitude, her spouse’s attitude—which featured a serious lack of self-discipline and focus—had caused her to lose her personal freedom. And although she was trying to push through, doing what she could for the family, the toll she was paying was written on her face that day.

I left the home feeling sad for the family. There was nothing I could do to help someone who didn’t want to work, and couldn’t recognize the needs of his family. And unless his attitude changed, his family’s situation would never improve.

I wanted to tell this story because it illustrates how critical it is to have a positive attitude. But even more than that, I wanted to express the kind of impact a negative attitude may have on your loved ones.

Pushing Past Rejection

Pushing Past Rejection Claude HamiltonWhen was the last time you were rejected? Were you presenting an idea to your boss? Initiating a new relationship? Making a sales pitch to a client? No matter what the situation was, I’m sure it was rough. Being rejected is hard, and regardless of the other person’s intention, it always feels personal.

When I think about rejection, one particular experience comes to mind. I was just starting to build my business. I was full of enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. That day, I was looking forward to bringing a new trainee along to a couple of business meetings with potential clients.

At the time, I was still working as a diver. Diving is hard work. It requires a lot of physical strength and endurance, and I often ended my days on the job with new bumps, bruises and scratches. This time, the scratches were on my face, and because the water was dirty, they were infected. But diving had been a part of my life for so long that I barely thought about it. I met with my new trainee and we set out for our meetings, feeling keen and confident.

The first meeting was at the client’s apartment. But we didn’t get very far before he suggested we meet somewhere else. Since were already there, I pointed out that it made more sense to stay. I was startled when he responded with “Man, you know what? I don’t think there’s anything you have that I’m interested in.” It stung. I was new to the business and wasn’t used to rejection yet. But we set it aside and went to the next meeting.

This time, we barely made it past the front door. The man we were there to meet stopped up as we were walking up the stairs and told us that he wasn’t comfortable with us in his house.

It dawned on me then. With the infected scratches, my military haircut, my lean, muscular frame, I must looked like a hardened warrior—or maybe a criminal. Either way, my appearance was making people uncomfortable.

We left and I went home to bed, feeling overwhelmed. At that moment, it seemed so easy to just give up. I tossed and turned all night, running through the encounters in my mind and wondering if I should quit. But the next morning, my wife went off to a job where she wasn’t respected. It was worse than that, actually; she was constantly hassled by the guys who worked there.

That was all the motivation I needed. I wanted to get her out of there, and that meant I had to refocus, push through the rejection and keep working toward my goal. I accepted that there was a learning curve to my new path and I gave myself time to adjust.

When I look back now, I realize how much I would have lost if I had quit. Our life, our friends, our community and the lifestyle we’ve built—if I hadn’t pushed through, we might have missed out on all of it.

So the next time you feel like quitting, make it a learning experience. Look at what went wrong, and if it’s something you can fix or improve on, then do it. If it’s something that you can’t change, move on and try something different next time. If you’re working towards a goal that you truly want to achieve, never let rejection pull you down. You might be giving up more than you know.

Who are you?

blog post 8Building my business was hard. At times, it was overwhelming, discouraging, and frustrating. But it was worth every bit of work, energy, and sleepless night. Because if it weren’t for my business, I may not have ever learned who I really am.

Last week I wrote about Kenneth Blanchard’s stages of success. I mentioned that Lana and I really struggled to get through the Dissatisfaction stage. It took us quite awhile to develop the attitude that we needed to get through that phase, but we did it. And, oddly enough, I think one of my biggest motivators was a statistic that I heard on television one day. The show said that the person who stays home with his or her kids will spend more time with them by the time the child is three, than someone who has a nine-to-five job will over eighteen years. When I heard that data, I just sat there, stunned, thinking about the implications.

Later that day, I told Lana that I really felt like we had to make a change. I told her about the findings, and that I couldn’t stand the idea of missing out on so much of my children’s lives. In the end, we decided that the answer was to continue building my business. If we succeeded, it offered the best of both worlds—time with my family and the financial freedom to do many of the things we wanted to be able to do together.

So Lana and I decided to reapply ourselves and really go for it. We refocused and pushed through the Dissatisfaction stage. And it wasn’t easy. We didn’t see much success in the first couple of years, and throughout the third and fourth years, we were still constantly learning lessons.

But I’m grateful for those lessons, because they made me who I am. As I struggled to make important business decisions, I would often find myself asking, “who am I?”. And at times, that was a difficult question to answer. But eventually I figured it out. I knew that, in a perfect world, I would spend all day at home, with my wife and children. But I also knew that ultimately, I wanted to be a better man. I wanted to show my son how to take care of himself, to build character, and to be kind. I needed to set an example.

When I realized this, I knew I had hit on something important; I had discovered my life’s purpose. Once I figured that out, things began to happen for me. Because I had a goal that I could envision, I was able to keep my attitude focused and positive. I began to make decisions with that goal in mind, so every choice I made brought me closer to achieving it.

I mentioned earlier that building my business was often overwhelming, frustrating, and discouraging. But despite the challenges, the journey was also exciting and rewarding. Best of all, it helped me discover my life’s purpose. And I’m not sure that I would have figured that out if building my business had been easy.

The Four Stages of Success

failure-successIf you haven’t read Kenneth Blanchard’s One Minute Manager series, you should. Even though the first one was originally published twenty years ago, the books are still relevant today. In fact, I feel so strongly about Blanchard’s ideas that I’ve incorporated his four stages of development into my own business philosophy. Here’s a quick explanation of the four stages you should get familiar with if you’re starting something new:

Orientation: This is the first phase of your new project or endeavor. Your energy is high and you’re feeling positive. This positivity causes an interesting side affect, though—an initial lack of direction. If you have an unrealistic expectation of how easy success will be, you can’t properly plan for the challenges you’re sure to face.

Dissatisfaction: This is where you figure out that success isn’t as easy as you though it would be. This stage is the natural reaction to trying hard and meeting little success. Your energy drops and direction is still low. This is also where most people give up.

Resolution: This is where you finally achieve some success. Your energy is still low, but you have stronger direction because you’ve gained the skills you need and you’re finally able to envision a future for your new business or project. Some people still give up here, because they have a better idea of what it will take to succeed and they don’t have the energy or resources to pull it off. But those who do make it through the Resolution stage are usually equipped with a good plan for success.

Production: Aim to stay in this phase for as long as you can. This is where you start to achieve your goals. Your energy is high and so is your direction. Success follows success, until you’ve achieved something consistent and reliable. This stage is hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Now that you understand the four stages of success, I’ll tell you the key to getting through them.

Lana and I often felt discouraged during the Dissatisfaction phase, but we followed Blanchard’s advice and clarified our purpose, worked with people who made us feel empowered, and learned to be more flexible. We also spent a lot of time with our mentors, who made recommendations and encouraged us. We followed their advice and kept working away and honing our skills. We met with a lot of different people and learned plenty. One of my key takeaways: looking like a gangster doesn’t open a lot of doors.

After lots of trial and error, we learned to be more effective and eventually found success. Looking back, I can confidently say that staying positive throughout each of the stages was the key to successfully reaching the Production stage. We also learned that we don’t have to wait for the Production stage to adopt the right attitude—it’s possible to keep our spirits up, our energy high, and our outlook positive, even when you’re struggling through the Dissatisfaction and Resolution stages.

Mahatma Gandhi sums it all up perfectly:

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”