Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Body Under the Sheet

My encounter with Eric Simpson was only momentary. I was a driver slowly passing through an intersection on the outskirts of Durham and he was a body lying in the middle of the intersection.

I would not have known Eric to see him. All I saw were tennis-shoed feet showing out from under a white sheet. The covering was red-stained where his head lay and a pool of blood flowed out into the little, low places on the pavement.

Eric was 27 and a manager at a local Barnes and Noble. He was on his way to open the store early Tuesday morning when he was hit and killed. His coworkers described him as “likeable, talented, energetic, enthusiastic and happy-go-lucky.”

I’m sure that there are people who love (not loved) Eric…(you don’t stop loving people just because they’re gone) Those people went to bed last night with sad hearts and awake this morning in a world that, for the time being, is a little smaller than it was this time yesterday morning.

Life is fleeting is a cliché. The reality is not. I catch myself looking down the tunnel of life, and while I can’t see the headlight of the train yet, I can put my foot on a rail and distinctly feel the clack, clack, clack of its wheels.

When I saw Eric I had an overwhelming feeling to call the people I love and tell them that. So, I did. The reality of life is that in the next moment I might not be able to.

I don’t know what your belief system or life philosophy tells you, but mine tells me that you don’t get another ticket into the park. You’d better ride all the rides, see all the exhibits, and eat all the fair food you can.

Call the people you love today and say the magic words to them. And take a moment to remember Eric in a prayer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flippin' the Triangle

Go grab a sheet of paper and a pen, you’ll need’em.

At the beginning of The Perfect Workday seminar I describe a perfect workday/time management as the interplay of Time, People, and Stuff (emails, paperwork, equipment).

I start by drawing a triangle on the board (you might want to do that on your sheet of paper right now). Then I label the sides: Time is the left side, People is the right, and Stuff is the bottom. I begin my description with Time.

I have to tell you that I am changing how I teach this part of the program. Here’s how and why:

From now on I’m going to draw and label the triangle as in the past…and then turn it one click counterclockwise. Try it. The turn automatically creates an upside-down triangle with a flat top.
The top becomes People. This why I’m changing: The biggest problem we have with People is Miscommunication and the best way to lower Miscommunication is by asking more and better Questions.

Instead of starting your day by trying to figure out what to do with your Time, start it by asking Questions; of yourself and others. The answers to the Questions will tell you what you need to do with your Time and Stuff.

The Questions begin with What, Why, Who, Where, When, How, How Much.

Start asking.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And Now, Class...a New Word

Hysteresis is a new word I learned this weekend. It describes the lag phenomenon between when a cause has been applied to an object or a system and when the effect occurs. Think about pushing on a foam pad. The foam doesn’t automatically pop back out, it takes a few seconds. That’s hysteresis.

The word comes from the Greek, husteros, which means late. The ultimate state of hysteresis is when a cause is applied that makes the system snap in such a way that it can’t be fixed; it won’t bounce back to its original state. Think what happens when you bend a plastic ruler until it breaks, or you drop a lightbulb.

The word is usually used in physics and metalwork. However, hysteresis is being used to refer to the economy and the question is, “Is the economy broken in a way that can’t be fixed?”

But, the word can also be used to refer to other issues such as relationships, business practices, or habits. When a business offers training or announces a new change, if it takes the employees awhile to implement the training…to get it…that’s hysteresis.

In relationships of all types things change, one person has a new idea or perspective and it may take the other person or people awhile to catch up to the new concept or understanding. That’s hysteresis.

However, some people don’t want to catch up, or change, and it could be for a variety of reasons. Habits, in action or thought, are hard to change.

Here’s today’s point: Some people and situations will not change. Sometimes we have to understand that the situation has evolved to a point at which it can’t or won’t bounce back. At that point you have a decision to make: Put up with things the way they are, or make more permanent corrections.

I see this all the time in business. An organization is attempting to change with the times and some employees just don’t or won’t get it. If the company can’t find a productive position for the laggers they are either tolerated (to the detriment of the organization) or, mercifully, moved out. Again, the time it takes from cause to decision/action is hysteresis.

In today’s world, the shorter the lag, the shorter the hysteresis, the better off you are.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On My Knees On the Gravel at B's

(Okay, I know that this is the second blog today, but I'm on the road in Kitty Hawk and won't have time tomorrow to write.)

I love it when a business is so good you can't wait to tell people about it.

Here's the deal...if you want the best BBQ chicken on Planet Earth go to B's in Greenville, NC. They even have a road named after them and rumor has it that the food is so good and they have so much pull in Pitt County that they are getting the county/state to widen the road in front of the restaurant. I saw it being done today.

Now, B's is an absolute hole-in-the-wall restaurant. It looks like it was an old country store at one time; small and maybe 15 tables and booths. I don't know who cooks (maybe B), but the women who make it run go wide-open until the food runs out and then they close. They are all wonderful and Southern (kinda goes together, doesn't it) and sweatin' (no glistening at B's) and are totally committed to you walking out like you just had your last meal and it was exactly what you wanted.

B's only serves BBQ pork and chicken with some coleslaw (the best) and taters on the side. Throw in cornsticks and a drink and you don't need anything else. Yes, they do have some kind of desert but I don't have a clue what it is because I've never gotten that far.

B's only does one thing. But, it does that one thing so well that you don't think about the fact that they do only one thing. They concentrate on that one thing being the absolute best it can be. And it is.

Every time I leave B's I'm tempted to get on my knees in the gravel parking lot and thank God for the experience I just had. It reminds me that it can be flat-out fun being human.

What have you run into recently that gave you that experience? If you haven't had something like that....you have my permission to look for it this weekend.

See you Monday.

Yuck It Up!

Laughing is so therapeutic that some astute physicians are starting to prescribe it.

For the last couple of days I’ve been listening to some of the Sirius radio comedy channels in the car.

I’ve cracked up at Larry the Cable Guy, Ray Romano, John Capanera, Jeff Foxworthy, Ron White and lots of comedians I’ve never heard of.

It’s surprising how positive my outlook is after I’ve been laughing for half-an-hour.

What makes you laugh? If you can dial it up, like I have been doing, or buy a CD, or visit a comedy club, or listen to a joke from a friend or read a joke in a book or online why not use that strategy to deal with stressful or down times?

So, a preacher, a nun, and a live badger walk into a bar and..........

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Goodbye Summer of Crazy!!

First day of fall yesterday. I’ll have to say that this is the first time in my life that I was glad to see a summer end. Summer of Crazy!

The great thing about life is that you can declare the start of a new day--or a new life--anytime you want. Sure, there are lots of things that will be the same as yesterday; the you you see in the mirror, for instance. But, life is truly in your mind. So, you get to decide when the new you starts…other people don’t get to decide that.

How about it? Wanna join me? I’m planning on 2010 being one of the best years ever and I’m going to spend the next 90 days planning and creating the foundation for 2010.

What is one thing you can do that will have a dramatically positive effect on your life next year…and what can you do to get started on it—today?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

All Hail the Shire!

Today is Hobbit Day!

Today commemorates the birthdays of the main characters of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins; and their creator, J.R.R. Tolkein.

Tolkein modeled the Baggins’ village, The Shire, after the garden at Exeter College, Oxford University. While at Oxford as a student I lived at Exeter College. The garden, especially the huge oak tree at its border, is a wonderfully relaxing, inviting place.

All Hail the Shire!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

That's the Way, Uh Huh, Uh Huh, I Like It!

I woke this morning to KC and the Sunshine Band’s 1975 hit, “That’s the Way (I Like It).”

While I lay in that gray area just before becoming fully awake I realized that this past weekend included a lot of things I like: The Tar Heels won (31-17 over ECU), my wife and I had a great time, saw some old friends, beer was cold, burgers were perfect, taxi rides were fast, weather was wonderful, did I say the Tar Heels won?, music was danceable, church was memorable, a couple of walks through the trees on campus at Carolina were relaxing, Franklin Street was alive with people, workout was invigorating, and I did mention that the Tar Heels won, didn’t I?

Knowing what you like, what gives you the feeling of being happy, is one of the greatest realizations you can come to in life. If you don’t have a clear idea of what makes you happy, what you like, you’re simply floating through life hoping for pleasant accidents. Knowing what you like, planning for those events or experiences, and then actively working to make them happen is one of the keys to happiness. There is an often-repeated Chinese proverb that says the keys to happiness are: Having someone to love. Having something to do. Having something to look forward to.

Knowing what you like and planning for it means you having something to look forward to. Take a moment and write a list of ten things you like. Simple things. Like butter pecan ice cream. Now, make a point of experiencing three of the things on your list during the next 48 hours.

Trivia Point: The last I heard, Harry Wayne Casey (KC) lives in the exclusive Governor’s Club outside Chapel Hill, NC.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Dog Poop in Hell

Here’s a story I can’t resist passing on.

A guy breaks into a house in Myrtle Beach on a Sunday morning. The owner, a elderly woman, is at church. While ransacking her house the burglar is bitten by the woman’s pug dog. So he puts the dog in the oven and turns the oven on; props a chair against the oven door so the dog can’t get out. Dog dies. Yesterday, the burglar was sentenced to eleven years in prison.

Now, I’ve got to admit that I didn’t get all worn out about Michael Vick and the dog fighting stuff.

But, I’ve got to wonder about the burglar and the dog and the oven. I’m figuring that if there is a Heaven and Hell there has to be a special place in Hell for people who would do something like that. Like he’ll spend eternity cleaning up dog poop in Hell with the souls of bad dogs (that assumes that there is a dog Hell, too.) bitin’ him on the butt every time he bends over to pick up the dog poop. Karma.

Oh yeah, Jimmy Hendrix died 39 years ago today. Another happy note.

Have a great weekend…and pet a dog if you get the chance…or play Purple Haze.

See you Monday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Pledge Allegiance.....

Today is Citizenship Day. At schools across America the Pledge of Allegiance will be recited. At some time during the day we should all take the time to say the Pledge.

At a time when it seems that so many issues are trying to pull us apart as a nation, reciting the pledge together or individually is one of those rituals that bonds us. I just said offered my Pledge, hand over heart, standing at the window and watching the rain.

Today used to be called Constitution Day. It is the anniversary of the day in 1787 that delegates from 12 states (Rhode Island didn’t send a delegate) voted unanimously to approve the Constitution.

And, just to reinforce the idea that great things happen in bunches, the National Football League was created on this day in 1920.

I love America.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thank You

“If the only prayer you ever prayed was, ‘Thank you,’ that would be sufficient.” Meister Eckhart.

A few years ago, a wonderful study at the University of Miami showed that people who, at the end of the day, wrote a list of the five things they had to be appreciative of in life had fewer bouts with depression and their blood pressure went down to healthy levels.

Stop right now.

Ask this question: What three things in life do I appreciate?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why Try for a Perfect Workday?

Why try to have a Perfect Workday?

- Self-Esteem. You know when you are coasting and not giving it your best. Pushing for a Perfect Workday builds self-esteem.
- Helps the Economy. We are not often told--specifically--what we can do to help the economy other then spend money. Billions of dollars are lost due to inefficiency, miscommunication, and disorganization. Do your best and you're doing your part.
- Helps you keep your job. If your bosses are looking around to see who can be laid off you don't want to be one of the ones standing around saying, "I'm taking a break."
- Makes you more employable. If you are let go, having done your best means your employers may be more likely to help you get your next job. At the least, they'll be likely to give you a sincere recommendation.
- Finally, shooting for a Perfect Workday is a lot more fun than than being slack. It's living.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Me and Mr. Olympia

In my bathroom on a shelf I have a picture of me shaking Dorian Yates' hand. Yates is an Englishman who won the Mr. Olympia five times. The picture was taken a few years ago when he was on a visit to Raleigh promoting a protein supplement and not in contest shape. Both of us are in shorts and dark T-shirts and to be totally honest, our physiques (from what you can make out) don't look all that different. Obviously, when Yates was in cotest shape, or if he had stripped off the T-shirt, his physique and mine are dramatically different.

I got to thinking, "What is the difference between me and Dorian Yates?" Well, to start with genetics and my reluctance to take so many steroids that they would have turned me into Mr. Ed.

But, those are just excuses.

The real difference has to do with little decisions. Every day from the time he was a teenager Dorian Yates made little decisions that eventually allowed him to have the one thing he wanted more than anything else--a Mr. Olympia body.

If there is no other truth in life it is this: The little decisions you have made throughout your life have created the you that you are today.

If you don't like the you you are, or the life you have, you must make different decisions. The big decisions are dramatic and attention-getting and exciting and motivating. Deciding what you want or who you want to be is a big decision. But, it's the little decisions that support and fulfill the big decision; the day-in, day-out habits make it happen.

There's a wonderful thought, "Will power gets you started; habits fulfill the dream."

Damn. That's about halfway depressing. I think I'll have a doughnut.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Word of the Day: Capricious

8:24 am September 11, 2009—Eight years ago, right about now, 3000+ Americans were on their way to work, already at work, chatting with their seatmates on airliners and anticipating the weekend. Two hours later, they were gone.

Every year in America more people die on our highways than died in the war in Vietnam (50,000+). A startlingly large number are killed by drunk drivers or people who, in some way, are affected by road rage.

What’s the connection between the two topics? Whenever I see images that remind me of September 11 or hear or read about someone who died on the highway I think about the word capricious (adj. “tending to change abruptly and without apparent reason”).

I always wonder how many of those folks who were taken abruptly and without apparent reason said goodbye to the people they loved and who loved them. How many of them took the time to say I love you.

It is an absolutely gorgeous, cool morning in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The sky is Carolina Blue. I am going to do what I have done each September 11 since 2001. Throughout the day I’m going to reach out to the people I love the most simply to hear their voices and tell them I love them. You never know, life being what it is, I might not get another chance.

Why not do the same?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Love Butter Pee-Can Ice Cream

I love ice cream!

My favorite ice cream from the grocery store is butter pecan (pee-cahn for those of you not from the South…pee-can for the rest of us).

My criteria for judging butter pecan is this: How many pecans does it have per spoonful? The more pecans the better. I’ve found that Food Lion brand butter pecan, the cheapest you can buy, has more pecans than all the other premium brands.

So, let’s get this straight, I can get what I want for the least amount of money.

In my book that would be a good thing.

When you are trying to figure out what you want, ask yourself, “What constitutes a win in this situation?” and come up with a specific answer. And don't always believe that you will have to pay a premium in money, time, or energy for what you really want.

But, you've got to know what you want to begin with.

You can’t get where you want to go with vague goals. This business of “I want it to be good” or “I want to be happy” doesn’t work. For you, what is good and what is happy?

If you don’t know what you want you can’t get it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Colonel Sanders!!

Today is the birthday of Harland David Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

After a rough childhood, Sanders found himself at the age of 40, with a reasonably successful service station in Corbin, Kentucky. As a way to pull in extra income he cooked chicken dishes and other meals for people who stopped at his station. At first, Sanders served meals in his home adjacent to the service station. But, his chicken was so popular (he pioneered cooking chicken in a pressure cooker so it would cook faster) he eventually bought a restaurant and motel.

In 1935 he was given the honorary title “Kentucky Colonel” by Governor Ruby Laffoon (don’tcha just love the name Laffoon?) and he dressed as a stereotypical Southern gentleman as a way of promoting his restaurant.

When 1-75 was built and it bypassed his restaurant Sanders closed his business, took $105 from his first Social Security check and took off in his car to sell chicken. He would visit restaurants, cook chicken for the owner and staff and then challenge them to tell him which was better, his chicken or theirs. He would wash his clothes in service station restrooms and he slept in his car. Franchisors started buying and KFC was born.

Now, here’s the point of today’s blog. HARLAND SANDERS WAS 65 YEARS OLD WHEN HE STARTED OVER!

When I read something like that I think about the motto of the Paralympics, “What’s Your Excuse?”

No matter how old we are, or how many years or tears or dollars we’ve invested in something that has stopped working or wasn’t working to begin with, there comes a time when—if you are going to LIVE life—you have to look in the mirror and ask, “What’s My Excuse?”

Habit seems easy. Living life can be scary.

The Georgia Satellites have a great song, “I Don’t Want to Die Asking for Another Chance.”

It’s up to each of us whether we do or don’t.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

YaaaaaY!!! Goodbye Summer!!

The day you dreaded is here. Summer is over. Or, maybe you weren’t dreading it. Maybe you are so glad it’s here that you woke up singing.

Was this a summer to remember or one to forget? Whichever, it’s behind us. Yesterday a friend reminded me that everything ends. Sooner or later, whether it’s good or bad, everything—including us—ends.

Time to start planning (if you haven’t already) a fall that either helps you forget the summer, or builds on the good things that happened over the last few months.

Your key thought for the fall (see, I’ve already forgotten the summer) is to set the stage for a great 2010.

What small thing can you do today that starts moving you in a positive direction. What gets you one itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny step closer to looking back on December 31 and saying, “No matter how the year went, I ended it on a high note”?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hungry Ghosts

Thank you, sir! May I have another!

Ok, so beat me for missing two days…sorry. On the road.

In order to make up for my inherent slackness let’s celebrate. Today begines the Chinese Festival of Hungry Ghosts. Also known as the Chung Yuan Festival, this important celebration honors the Chinese legend that during the seventh lunar month the souls of the dead are released from purgatory to roam the earth. Joss sticks are burned in homes and food, prayers, and “ghost money” are offered to appease the ghosts. Wayang (Chinese Street Opera) and puppet shows are performed and fruit, and Chinese delicacies are offered to the spirits of the dead.

Two thoughts about this: First…it sounds kinda like Ghostbusters meets what we leave out for Santa Claus when he comes down the chimney to me.

Second, what ghosts do you have running around in your life (your mind) that need appeasing or forgetting? What are the worries, unsettled conflicts, grudges, or guilt you are carrying that, all combined, are slowing you down?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could put an apple, a doughnut, or a piece of cheesecake on the doorstep and, in the morning, the thoughts would be gone? How much lighter would your heart be; how much less cluttered your mind?

I’m heading over to Food Lion for some honey buns RIGHT NOW!