A learning adventure in positivity

Author’s note: I originally wrote a version of this for the Chowan Herald, a weekly newspaper in northeastern North Carolina. Since this is a blog about all of my adventures, I have added this mental adventure. It happened the day before the Pinehurst 10K, which I recap here.

PINEHURST GOLF COURSE, North Carolina — Friday and Saturday, I spend most of the day in or near the St. Andrews room of the fabled Pinehurst Golf Course Clubhouse.

Photos of the US Senior Open are among those lining the walls at the Pinehurst (NC) Golf Course clubhouse.

Along the plaid-carpeted hallways stood testaments to golf championships of the past — the greatest players of their sport memorized in bronze, glass and photographs. During the weekend, I was lucky that I wasn’t there to learn how to play golf, as it was rainy and cold. I did run a 10K (6.2 hilly mile) on a dreary Saturday morning with my husband, but that’s another story.

On Friday, I attended a workshop on positive psychology and leadership held by the Character and Leadership Center. Due to a generous donation from the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association, myself and about 60 others attended the workshop at a faction of its usual cost. They even threw in a discount to a race held by Resort Races.

The instructor was the Character and Leadership Center’s founder, Mike Erwin. Erwin is a father, Army veteran, West Point grad, co-author of “Lead Yourself First” and founder of the nonprofits Team Red, White and Blue and the Positivity Project. While Team RWB works to enrich veterans lives, the Positivity Project works on helping children cultivate a better understanding of themselves and others. Through the center, Erwin teaches adults the positive psychology and leadership skills taught to children through the Positivity Project.

With Americans so focused on social media and technology, many of us, myself included, have issues with talking with others. Some degrade others without realizing it. Others prefer email or text, even on issues with require a more personal touch. This workshop looked at that issue and how we can address that in our relationships.

Mike Erwin, founder of the Character and Leadership Center, talks to the crowd during the workshop.

I’d love to go through the entire workshop, but really that would spoil the surprise. The workshop is best in person, talking with your colleagues at the table. So I’ll just give you the 10 main points of the workshop and try to give a decent explanation.

1. Lead yourself first. Your words and actions impact those around you. Pay attention to what you say and do.

2. Leverage solitude as a chance to focus and reflect. Set up a time every day where you can collect your thoughts. You can be in a coffee shop or out for a run. Take a little bit of time to look at the situations your dealing with and think about them without paying attention to other’s influences.

3. Life hinges on good decision making. A good decision can set you up for success, while a bad one can lead to failure. Indecision also plays a role in this. If you don’t decide, someone will do it for you, and those decisions usually aren’t in your favor.

4. People are the smartest investments you can make. Companies, nonprofits, communities, families, etc., that take the time to make sure their members have the tools they need to thrive and succeed, will do better than those that don’t.

5. People are complex — embrace that reality. I could say something to you. You may take it to mean something totally different than what I intended. We have different belief systems and different life experiences, which skew how we listen and interpret what is said to us. When we recognize that people are just complex, we can have more meaningful conversations.

6. Human interaction is at the core of influence. As an example, if someone is mean to an employee at a business, the customer is less likely to be treated with the respect he or she deserves. As another example, if you can cultivate a relationship with a co-worker that goes beyond the office, you may become aware of problems at home that cause them to work a certain way. You may be able to ease his or her burden at home, making he or she more productive at work.

7. Develop a healthy relationship with technology. The average teen spends about 50 hours in front of a screen — computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. Do you use Facebook to be social (it is part of “social media”) or as your main form of communication? Do you constantly check your phone to see how many likes or comments your post has? Technology has its advantages, just use it in a way that helps you be productive and engaged in your community.

8. The soft skills of today will be the hard skills of the economy of tomorrow. According to research, people in the younger generations — Millennials and Generation Z — are likely to change jobs at least seven times over the course of their lives. It is essential that these people learn how to interact with people in ever changing settings. Soft skills — such as teamwork, knowledge of digital tools, an understanding of rules and regulations, responsibility and commitment — need to be taught now, as they’ll be the most needed in the future job market

9. Lean into your relationships. Human interaction takes work. Maintaining relationships requires constant work — be it a quick phone call or a note. The more work you put into the relationship, the more benefits you will see.

10. There is no silver bullet. Creating strong relationships require hard work. There is no 10-step guide, because, well, see No. 5 — people are complex.

Side note

Before the workshop, I was supposed to attend an outdoor yoga event, but it was rained out. This gave me a chance to explore Pinehurst, near the golf course. It has a lot of cute shops and beautiful historic buildings.

The neighborhood itself reminded me of walking through a forest, as the sidewalks often was just sandy paths densely lined with trees. Everything seemed to be off the road, meaning there was vegetation hiding cute houses and other structures from passers-by.

Coffee and coffee cake from The Roast Office. A section of the former post office containing a safe filled with history books is in the background.

My favorite place, was the used bookstore/coffee shop, housed in the former post office. The Roast Office was a great place to get warm and look for something to delight the senses.

Downtown Pinehurst is made up of old brick buildings stacked closely together. Several of them feature curved facades or intricate brick designs in the falls. It’s a bit reminiscent of old versions of London as seen in films. It’s not Victorian, like many older downtowns in smaller cities along the East Coast.

This workshop, coupled with another event I attended a few days later confirmed so things I knew I needed to work on in regards to my mental health. When I work on my mental health, I better take care of my physical health.

If Pinehurst wasn’t so far away, I’d visit it a little more frequently. There are many parks and trails that would make excellent exploring opportunities.

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