What do you think?

Idea Exchanger – Choices

Read the excerpt below from a February 2004 issue of People Solutions about Choices and then Jim’s thoughts from Then and Now about the excerpt. After that, we have two questions for you, and your answers will inspire others to participate and make this Idea Exchanger process a valuable learning experience for all of us.

Excerpt from People Solutions on February 6, 2004


Builder and Destroyer

You get the point: it’s all a choice. From the moment you open your eyes in the morning until you close them again that night, you will be consciously and subconsciously making choices of what to do, how to do it, what to say, how to say it, when to respond and with what attitude you’ll respond to every situation.

Regardless of who we are or what your life’s circumstances happen to be, we are all making choices big and small, all day, every day, choices that determine our present, our future, our happiness, our success, our peace of mind, and choices that come together to design who we are and where we’re going. Please keep in mind that it’s always a great day to make wise choices!


What I Think I Was Thinking When I Wrote This and
What I Know I Am Thinking about This Topic Today

The concept of “making choices” has always been intriguing to me. In 2004, my level of understanding was we can make a right choice or a wrong choice. In FIVE IMPORTANT THINGS, which came out 8 years prior to this newsletter, I introduced “THE CHOICES AND FOLLOW THROUGH,” outlining actions the character in the book would use to make the right choices in his journey. These were also very applicable to the reader . . . and the author.

I also wrote in this newsletter about Viktor Frankl and his book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING. He suggests that we have something that no one can ever take away from us, and that is the freedom to choose our response to a situation no matter how dire or challenging it may be. That was eye opening to me back in 2004 and continues to inspire me to this day.

Nathaniel Branden Definition of Self-EsteemSince then, my awareness of making choices has expanded on the basic foundation presented in the newsletter excerpt above. Through the years, I have become very curious as I observed individuals making choices that were not conducive to building their careers, relationships, companies, and happiness. I have wondered about and sought answers as to why obvious wrong choices would be intentionally made by some people and the right choices actively made by others. That curiosity powered some of the evolution of the BUILDER and DESTROYER concept and how our choices are influenced by the way we feel about ourselves: our “self-esteem.” In my observations, people with higher self-esteem, or Builders, seemed to more consistently own the responsibility to make better choices and ultimately produce better outcomes for themselves and those around them. Those individuals plagued by lower self-esteem, the Destroyers, were very good at not accepting the responsibility for their choices and had a talent for deflecting, blaming, and justifying their poor results and outcomes on their circumstances or the poor decisions made by someone else.

Today, 18 years after writing the referenced newsletter, it is clear to me that preparing ourselves to make the right choices and achieve the outcomes we want for ourselves, family, careers, and business means that we must own the responsibility. We must be in the moment even as we look toward the future and consider the cause and effect of how the choice we are making will influence the actions we are taking. It will be those actions that define what we accomplish and what our life stands for.

What do you think?

What is going through your head on this topic? Agree? Disagree? Do you have something to add? Do you have an example of how this might apply to you? In the space below, with 50 words or less, exchange an idea with us and stay tuned as we support each other to get a better understanding of “CHOICES.”

Exchange Your Idea Below

43 Responses

  1. Jim
    Congratulations on the transition to the next step of your amazing career.
    I have always enjoyed your newsletter and love this now 18 year old post. We all have choice and the choices we make become the actions reflected by those who look to us for leadership…..our family, our staff, our community!

    1. Paul, Thanks Paul, AMAZING to think about how our CHOICES can impact so many. . . Far beyond what we every may know. . . KEEP CHOOSING WISELY!

  2. Hi Jim,
    So sorry to have missed the retirement surprise party, but, couldn’t be more excited for your and Beth and your next chapter. I love the idea of re-introducing thought provoking People Solutions newsletters. During these times where we debate and polarize everything, it’s reassuring to be reminded that we can choose another path and focus on the many positives that will ultimately chart our own destiny. Again, thanks for getting this going…and of course, thanks for being YOU!

    1. THANK YOU RICK! You comment makes me wonder why we would ever choose a path that is polarizing or purposefully confrontational. I think what is interesting in todays world is that the polarizing option is getting old. . . Is becoming so sensationalized, that people are recognizing it as a weak approach to hide behind. They see it as it is. . . A weak approach to try and look strong. We used to talk about going on MENTAL DIETS in the PALUCH FAMLY. . . How many days can we go without letting a negative or unprofitable comment slip out. . . It was very good for the boys and Beth and I to practice this. . . I see its positive effects even today. A good mental diet should be to avoid making or getting engaged with POLARIZING RHETORIC. . .and see to find the unifying paths. They are there it just may mean moving a few weeds out of the way. . . THANKS for your thoughts!

  3. I agree 100%. Our power of choice is ultimately the only thing we can control in any given situation. The builder/destroyer characters have always helped me personally AND as a leader of people. I’ve personally been both. I’ve rarely (if ever) received desired results on the destroyer side!

    1. Dave, Isn’t the word “ULTIMATELY” an important word to be aware of when it comes to choices. . . A great question to be asking ourselves would be, “What is the ULTIMATE IMPACT OR RESULT of this action i am about to take or this comment I am about to make?” A 10 second pause to consider that question could ULTIMATELY have incredible positive results for each of us. THANKS FOR YOUR COMMENT!

  4. The concept of the builder and the destroyer has always resonated with me. So I was particularly excited to see this as your 1st idea exchanger. This simple representation is so easily relatable to the “builder” even though the “destroyer” would most likely never see or even want to see the connection from one to the other. The question I ask is does the destroyer want to change??

    1. Lowell, What a great question. I think years ago I would have answered this as clear and resounding “NO!” however, through a personal experience after course with Jim one of my co-workers, who was previously known for being difficult to deal with, had an eye-opening experience when we went through the Be A Builder course. I don’t think she ever considered it as a choice or even that some behaviors where that of a Destroyer. Coming to this realization changed everything. It changed how she related to others, interactions with co-workers, her personal relationships. It changed her life. That is how she described it. So, to answer your question, I think it many times the answer is a “Yes”. I think it depends on the person. Through this experience, It has made me realize no matter my opinion of the person, it is my place to introduce these concepts to my team and give them the tools to grow. It is up to them to use them.

    2. Great question, Lowell, about if the destroyer wants to change, and I completely agree with Hayley’s response. Sometimes people just need to become aware of their attitudes. In the Working Smarter Training Challenge, we include a Builder/Destroyer poster in each lesson, which presents the way a Destroyer would respond compared to how a Builder would respond. People start thinking about these and without anyone saying anything to them, they can begin making better choices by becoming more aware.

      1. Lowell, Hayley, and Linda. . . WOW . . . Such a great string beginning here. . . What comes to mind as i read through it is the word. “ AWARENESS” . . . I have found it to be a very key factor in creating changek and transformation. That is what makes the concept of the BUILDER and DESTROYER so effective it creates an awareness in a somewhat non-threatening way by putting putting to the contrasting characters or mindsets in front of us. . . I have watched the transformation happen many times as HAYLEY explains, and i think the root of it is when almost sub-consciously something in our brain goes. . . “Hey that is a destroyer action or attitude you are having.” It seems being able to discover it ourselves, see the contrast, and just one time make an adjustment. . . AND . . . Get a positive outcome or response from the world around us is where the transformation will begin. . . That is why it is so important to recognize an improvement no matter how slight in the destroyer . . . We help the transformation and improvement with our encouragement.

        1. Thanks Jim,

          I think your comments are pretty spot on, but shouldn’t there also be some additional words or qualifications besides just “AWARENESS”?? While I think “AWARENESS” is indeed very important word: doesn’t it only apply as long as someone has the DESIRE, WILLINGNESS and COMMITMENT to rectify what might be considered to be a fault by everyone but themselves. Not everyone chooses to reflect on there actions and or behaviors for any number of reasons that may actually have nothing to do with what they do or how they are are perceived. As an individual who try’s to work on themselves every year by changing one little thing that I think might make me a better person…it can be challenging and difficult!! This can be especially challenging for me since I see so many things that could use improvement!!!

          A person could be aware with no desire, commitment or willingness to make a change to what might be considered an error or weakness in there ways.

          Isn’t this the most dangerous destroyer???

          1. Lowell, Those are good words! Absolutely important to change, yet it seems everything i have read, observed and practiced comes back a first step. . . Awareness that something needs to change, until that happens the other words are just words. Another thought i have on change is it must be done in small steps. . . Our brain likes to take things in small chunks, get a win move on. . . If we wait until we get the desire, AND motivation, AND, will power AND tenacity AND courage AND . . . We may never get started. . . Or may forget what it was that we were going to change. . . The cycle of CHANGE seems to follow this pattern . . . AWARENESS . . . ACCEPTANCE . . . CHANGE BEHAVIORS . . . PRODUCE POSITIVE RESULTS . . . Somewhat over simplified but AWARENESS leads the way. . . I think Buildeers and Destroyers is a very simple non-threatening approach to creating AWARENESS. . . Especially delivered in a discussion with participants can recognize and accept the concept of a DESTROYER is a mindset we want to move away from. . . Then discussions on the process of being a Builder creates a path for them to take. . . . Thanks for your input.

  5. Thank you Jim for reengaging in this journey, We have over a years worth of quotes from past newsletters posted on our shop walls we have used for inspiration. The next generation entering the workforce needs to understand how their attitude and daily decisions can positively or negatively effect the growth and success of our business and their career path.

    1. HELLO JASON ! ! ! Great quotes are great thoughts by great people suspended in time. . . Having quotes up where we can see them and think about them is a powerful opportunity to share the wisdom of the ages. . . It is also great to take the time to get a team thinking about what the quote means to them. . . Simply asking “WHAT DO YOU THINK?” In a morning huddle or leadership meeting. . . Can be a great five minute exercise. I have enjoyed great quotes by famous people for years, yet one of my favorite quote that means the most was from a not so famous person. Myrna Miller was a lady Beth and I knew from our church in Cleveland, Ohio. . . Had know her for 30 years or more. . . One day in talking with her, and she was nearing her 80th birthday she quietly said this, “The years will show what the days have been.” It helps me to consider how am i spending my day knowing the impact it will ultimately have on my future . . . GO GET EM!

  6. After many years of your Friday letters, I miss you, too. Builders and destroyers I have referenced many times. Keep it going. Thank you!

    1. Rolf, I think it is what makes Builders and Destroyers and effective teaching and coaching tool, it can be referenced over and over again, It sparks discussions and just like the process in this IDEA EXCHANGER discussion creates the opportunity to broaden our understanding of a topic! ! !

  7. Hi Jim,
    I have had a picture of the builder & destroyer next to my Own your Job site poster on my shop wall for years. I discuss those concepts many times a year, both to remind myself & teach my staff.

    1. Dave, I smiled at your post, i have thought many times presenting on BUILDERS AND DESTROYERS that it was not just the audience that needed to hear about them or be reminded of the concepts, It was me that needed to hear it as well. . . Great to hear from you. . .

  8. When I first read your Builder and Destroyer concepts I was struck by the fact that I was employing some of the destroyer attitudes, but I called them being cautious. It made me re-examine how I approached new ideas and have tried to be more open toward new concepts. I, too, have missed your columns and pithy quotes. Engaging readers in your solutions seems like a new Builder concept for the next generation of workers, and one us older generation should embrace as well!

    I hope you continue to enjoy retirement activities and relaxations along with the new interactive column.

    1. Thanks Mary, great to hear from you. I like the thought, “made me re-examine. . . “. I believe anything that stops us, and causes us to to take a closer look as to why we are doing something, thinking something, or saying something is a worthwhile thing. It is why it is so beneficial to read, to take classes, to network, to put ourselves in a place where we might be vulnerable, where we might be uncomfortable . . . It is good to come across anything that makes us hold the mirror up and take a closer look.

  9. Hi, Jim. DELIGHTED you are reengaging. Yes, you continue to be THE BUILDER and the Energizer. GREAT choice, and thanks for your leadership, positive thoughts and choices, and inspiration. Welcome back

    1. Thanks Dick, appreciate the kind words. … . Something this IDEA EXCHANGER process is teaching me, is that i must stay committed to retirement in order to stay engaged with this process. Let me try and clarify that a bit. There was a newsletter towards the end where it was mentioned retirement is not like coming to a finish line. . . It is more like coming to the next starting line. It is also like walking through a new door, no a garden gate moving from one great space to another. . . YET, we do not need to retire to doing that, we can find new great spaces at every phase of life. Helping with a youth group, a daily walk in the woods, getting up a half hour early to write letters, there are more inspiring spaces we can move into in a single day than can be covered in a lifetime. . . We just have to choose one and stay committed. I like the feel of this EXCHANGING IDEAS with great people. . . It is a great space for me.

  10. Hi Jim,
    Not surprisingly, you are simply continuing your magnificent journey of developing yourself to the next level. You are indeed putting into action what you have always been teaching us.

    You are well prepared, all the best and looking forward to receiving and interacting
    with your new concepts.

    1. Ron, Great to hear from you. . . It is a journey isn’t it! Sometimes i feel i am just beginning. I have read 3 autobiographies over the past month or so. . . Henry David Thoreau, Jack London, and Mark Twain, and i thought of their journey, struggles, little victories, right up to the end and they all have these ups and downs in creativity and health and life challenges. . . WE all just need to keep moving forward.

  11. Hey Jim,

    I am also very happy that you are reengaging even after retirement. Sometimes what we been doing is exactly what we’re suppose to be doing. I am asked ever now & then when are you selling the business or retiring. The answer is always the same “I like the relationships we’ve built with our vendors, clients, employees, & peers in the industry” what more can I ask for but to be joyful & happy about what I due daily, and I’m grateful for all these years I’ve been able too do my job & I look forward to the months & years to come.
    Jim I want to tell you with the most sincerity I can. Your weekly newsletter were more valuable to me over the years than any conference or event I have attended. You & your team are the cream of the crop & I won’t compare you all to anyone because there isn’t any comparison. I am excited about your new concept & will participate in any way I can. As someone I know says “It’s a Great Day to make it a Great Day”. Thanks Jim

    What I

    1. Jeff, Always great to hear from you and thanks for kind words. . . RELATIONSHIPS, what a great topic to continue to explore, be reminded of and continue to work at for ever! I like the idea of putting an idea exchanger together on that . . . as i write i think of the book. . . “LEADERSHIP AND SELF DECEPTION that ask the question, “Do you see people as people or do you see people as objects?” That is the start of building relationships . . . Thanks Jeff, look forward to continuing the conversation.

  12. Jim I am happy for you that you made the choice to retire( although I suspect it be a part time retirement)
    Your coaching and discussions over the years have made me become very aware of the choices I make in working with my team, customers and family. Choices that are good for all concerned are the best choices one can make! I be calling you soon to go golfing down the street from your home!

    1. Steve, i like being reminded of of the importance of this statement, “. . .become very aware of the choices i make in working with my team!” Through the years of working with leaders i have found that some just absolutely miss this opportunity to be AWARE of how their responses, actions, words, attitude, appearance and on and on can impact our team. At some point even the best of leaders can forget this. As leaders, parents, grandparents, and every important role we play we live in glass houses and people are watching, learning and responding. . . How important it is to – BE AWARE and proceed from there.

  13. Jim,
    I could just repeat what has been already said in the previous comments but a simple “Thanks” to keep it short. In a day where there is a lot of destroying going on in our world and what we have all dealt with, over the past 2 years, what a great reminder of the all important “Builder” perspective. Thanks! As a leader, it has been a challenge and I realize I have had some “destroyer” thoughts and actions and had to dig deep to see the positive. There are many positives and this profession we get to witness them every day! We need to be builders to be leaders and leaders need to build everyone around us! Thanks for the push!

    1. Thanks Kevin, We are not perfect are we? We all need a push at some point. Years ago we had a painting in the hall leading to my son’s bedrooms titled “Even eagles need a push”. It was a mother eagle nudging her young ones out of the nest. . . We all need a push and sometime i may even need a flat out kick in the pants. I think that is why i see value in this IDEA EXCHANGER process. . . kind of like EAGLES helping EAGLES . . . Go Get Em,

  14. So what constitutes the “wise” choice that will lead to the actions were we see ourselves as a builder rather than a destoryer? I believe it is our values, our goals, our dreams, our experiences and
    “perceptions” of the results those actions will provide at any given moment in time. In the end we all know we will bare the responsibility for the outcome. As an eternal optimitst I belive people always want to to take the path that will lead to building a positive future. Sometimes those “destoyer paths” may just help us see the road ahead clearer and provide a stronger sense of self.
    PS: Congrats on the retirement. When I think of you I can still see you taking me on tour of your first office. All the best to you and Beth

    1. Thanks Diane, Great to hear from you ! ! ! I think somewhere in the near future i would like to see an IDEA EXCHANGER tackle this concept of “PERCEPTION’. Even working toward a definition of it as it relates to our personal motivation and ability to take action. It would be great to think about how we form perceptions in our mind and ultimately how those perceptions shape the world around us. . . “What perception is this forming in my mind?, would be a great question to ask ourselves! Do you think you sparked my interest? THANKS!

  15. This was a great topic to start your new series with. I have saved many of your old newsletters so I could use them in the future. It was interesting I used this newsletter on builders and destroyers just a few weeks ago for my quarterly team leaders meeting. Great insight into choices and how our attitude determines most of those choices. Chris

    1. HELLO CHRIS! ! ! Builders and Destroyers seems to be one of those topics that never misses. It is always a lesson that is applicable and easily understood. Keep telling the BUILDER and DESTROYER story. . . Look forward to hearing more!

  16. Congrats for your retirement Jim and wishing you the best in the new chapter of your life. I saved most of your newsletters for the 25 years I worked in my last job. unfortunately I lost them recently and that really made me sad.

    I remember as if it was yesterday that newsletter about builders and destroyers. I used it a lot on different occasions and with my kids as they were growing up. I was so happy to find an e-mail from you a few days ago. That was fantastic as the last 4 months have been very tough. I have to start in a very different and unexpected path and it is so nice to hear back from you. Your newsletters inspired me so much.

    1. HELLO MARIE, Thanks for your support and interaction through the years ! ! ! We will get that ORIGINAL BUILDER AND DESTROYER NEWSLETTER posted again for all of us to use! I look forward to your continued involvement and thoughts in this IDEA EXCHANGER PROCESS . . .

  17. Hi Jim, I knew you’d find a positive way to stay busy and keep that mind of yours busy as well. Regarding the subject matter, I’ve found in my 80 years that the right choices are so critically important in how we develop as a human being and as a leader. People look to those who make the right choices, and even often times, risky choices that others are afraid to make. That’s what good leadership is all about. Conviction to make the very best choices we can is essential because our choices almost always impact others lives and their individual success. We won’t know all the lives we’ve impacted, hopefully in a positive way, until they’re revealed to us in Heaven.

    1. UNCLE BOB ! ! ! You can be our SENIOR STATESMAN in this process! Your support and guidance through the years has been a tremendous help to me! How about the thought of “risky choices”. . . Great for us to be reminded of that concept. Seems like risky choices have the potential to have the greatest results . . . Having the conviction to make those choices takes preparation that begins today. . . Thanks for the reminder! ! !

  18. It sure helps to make the right choices when we begin to see great results from having made the right choices. Sometimes I just need to think about that to help me to choose right again today. I took my 7-year-old granddaughter to school this morning and out of the blue she said, “I’m in charge of myself at school so I have to make the right choices.” Wow!

  19. Choosing how we react to and respond to the situations happening to and around us is one of the VERY FEW things you can control and has one of the greatest influences on your own mental well being.
    I would add: Choosing to not react and not respond or give air to negative energy is very often the CORRECT way to “react”.
    As business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders it is often in our DNA to choose to run to problems and fix them. Sometimes that choice takes us places we were better off not going. There are always things to run to and fix. I believe the great challenge is being able to identify the ones you should stay away from versus the ones that deserve your time.
    I have found more peace, balance and happiness in my life today because I choose very carefully what and who gets my time, energy, reaction & response. The true currency of life is not money, but time. I’ve watched many in our shoes become miserable, unhappy people that have run themselves and those they love into the ground because they can’t control the desire to fix everything for everyone and allow things that DO NOT matter to get a rise out of them and suck away their time and goodness. I often ask myself, “when I am dead and in my casket, will the energy I give to this have been time well spent and have made a positive impact on the lives of those that truly matter or will it have just stripped time away from something else that does. You will be amazed at the contentment you begin to find when you choose who and what you give your precious time to.
    My 2 Cents!
    Congrats on retirement Jim, I like the interactive concept.

  20. Jonas,
    Great to hear from you and thank you for an incredible post! I can tell you have thought through that one. To me it shows you have gained wisdom from observing others, thinking about what you observed and then applied it to your life and how you choose to live it! That process is something we can all apply! I look forward to your thoughts on the new book!

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