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Develop The Courage To Be Brilliant With Marta Monahan
Internationally renowned character refinement guru, Marta Monahan, was born in El Salvador and settled down in The United States after travelling around the world for several years. For 25 years she has taught people how to discover their sense of purpose and how to develop their character to achieve that purpose. Besides teaching her private students, including world leaders and celebrities, Marta gives speeches around the world. In her first book in a series of four, Strength of Character and Grace [ed.note - retitled The Courage To Be Brilliant], she unveils the fundamental building blocks for developing character.
On her recent book promotion and speaking tour to Singapore and Japan, she found time in her busy schedule for an exclusive interview with Executive Inc. and provided suggestions on how executives can develop the courage to be brilliant.
EI: Your father, who was an advisor to presidents, instilled in you the courage to ask questions and the ability to learn something from every experience life offers. What caused you to be interested in character issues and focus your studies on it? Could you elaborate further or define more specifically the relationship between strength of character and living brilliant lives?
Marta: After several years of living in the United States as a teenager, I yearned for a taste of life in my native country. I wanted to continue my studies in El Salvador, and my father enrolled me in a boarding school. Instituto Bethania is a Catholic school in the European style. The discipline of the school is refined; everyone is treated with respect, and the beautiful culture is jealously maintained. Even though the school was expensive and exclusive, it had no household help except in the kitchen. We girls had to clean every room we used and every hallway we trafficked.
In my first week I was assigned the main corridor, a ceramic tile space of approximately 20 by 80 feet, half opened to the grounds with a low wall and arches. I completed my chore and put the mop away. While I was waiting for inspection, Mother Superior walked by. She asked me to look at the floor carefully and see the dozen streaks I had made with my mop. Then she said there was an eight-streak maximum and I would have to do it again.
I was taking flamenco classes and tried to apply the same sense of rhythm to my mopping. I glided backwards across the floor making figure eight's with my mop until the entire floor was complete without any streaks. When Mother Superior saw what I did, she declared me as the Master Mopper and asked me to train the new ones next year. I was so happy that I told the story to my father who said to me, "My little daughter, you have discovered the ballet of life. Whenever you see someone doing what he or she does efficiently, and it looks easy and graceful, remember you are in the presence of a master."
After that I tried to bring that quality to the things that I do. Doing my best made that act shiny, and that is all you need to do to be brilliant. It does not have to be the best job or better than anyone else.
The brilliance of character shines through when you develop an attitude of constant self correction. To have the strength of character is to be brilliant. If you develop the strength of character you will live a brilliant life.
Why does one person excel? It is not because they have more talent. No, talent is 10 per cent interest and 90 per cent effort. It is what happens when they do their best.
Originality starts from there. The more we improve something, the more original we become.
EI: The "character issue" is everywhere these days: the presidential candidates, the World Trade Organization and the threat of globalization. Everyday we hear the media and our neighbours talk about the lack of character in our leaders or the loss of character in our society. But what exactly is character? Who has it and how do we get it?
Marta: Character is based on high principles. Grace as mentioned in my book is an elegant conduct to support strong character. Strength and elegance do not conflict, they support each other. Everyone has it but it is not always developed.
Everyone has character, but what we have is weak character. The strength is the courage to do what needs to be done whether we feel like it or not, whether we are tired or not, whether we are afraid or not. The courage to be who we are and the best that we can be whether people will like it or not.
This is because most people are afraid not to be accepted and not to be approved of. We sometimes suppress our truth to be accepted and that is weak. The most important person we need approval from is ourselves.
EI: Your clients range from political leaders to people in business and entertainment. You have conducted seminars for corporations and government agencies around the world, helping to raise productivity and quality of work through improved character. What do you think about the new technology age and how it will affect society?
Marta: As we become more machine oriented, what we do is repetitive, and we are easily substituted either by a machine or somebody else. Character is that quality and strength that makes us unique. If we do our best in whatever we do, we're unique and indispensable.
In December 2004 we initiated the Marta Monahan Brilliance program with the primary goals of resolving ongoing friction between employees, establishing a more refined corporate protocol and lifting the general performance of all staff to a higher level.
The results have been excellent and have fulfilled our expectations. In addition to accomplishing our goals, Marra Monahan's Brilliance program has provided us with a simple but dynamic system to move us from excellence to brilliance on a daily and continuing basis. Three months after completing Marta's program, we continue to reap significant benefits as a result of our work together:
1. We have always taken pride in our corporate harmony, and it is now greater and continues to grow on a daily basis. Marta's Five Acts of Improvement have helped us establish an environment supportive to movement, growth, satisfaction, and professionalism for all involved.
2. This newfound harmony is directly connected to our heightened awareness of constantly improving and polishing what we do and who we are, so our efficiency, productivity, and quality are truly moving from excellence to brilliance. We notice the difference - and so do our clients.
3. The level of communication has never been better. Our staff is more open to share their views and ideas; teamwork is also at a new level of support.
4. Because Marta's program is custom designed, we were able to use her expertise to target several specific personnel problems that were at or near a boiling point. Marta's ability to arbitrate these conflicts was worth the cost of the program alone. Her one-on-one availability for specific individuals was key to our success.
We highly recommend the Marta Monahan Brilliance program. The flexibility of the program allowed us minimal interruption of our busy schedule. This program has been so successful that we are planning to have Marta back on a regular basis for ongoing instruction.
© 2013 Marta Monahan