Thursday, October 29, 2009

Call Waiting

You know there is something you are supposed to be doing in life but you just can't put your finger on it. You lie awake in bed at night trying to figure it out; you drive down the road locked into the process of trying to pull the thing out of your subconcious; you have a feeling in the shower that, whatever it is, it's close, but you just can't grasp it.

The thing could be a decision about where to go in your career, relationships, health or fitness, or spiritual life. It's so close you can taste it, but it's just out of reach.

Sometimes we try to "rush to decision," or hurry the process along.

Now, you've got to get this next point: You can't hurry along the right decision. The cliche', "things happen in their own time," is un;fortunately true. Try to hurry a boiling egg or a blooming rose along. Can't do it.

Today's decision-making process says that we should go ahead and make some sort of decision and then adjust on the fly. That works for business decisions but not for emotional decisions.

Gregg Levoy, author of Callings, writes that the important directions in life are callings and can't be rushed, and you can't use business-decisionmaking tools, logic, to hurry them along.

Callings happen in their own time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Beast

Am in Winston-Salem with a health care group and having a blast. I'm presenting, "FUN Is Not a 4-Letter Word!"

Dave Gowarty, director of pharmacy at a hospital in Henderson, NC, is a good friend who is here and he and I sat up last night and solved most of the major problems of life.

Dave has an interesting take on human behavior. He talks about The Dark Side; that side of us that, when we go there, has the potential to get us in trouble if we delve too far into it or get so far out there that we can't get back.

I tend to call that side of us The Beast. Everyone has it. Some people don't find a need to go there at all while others spend waaaaay too much time there.

The Dark Side/Beast might lend itself to drinking, drugs, sex, aggressive behavior or depression. At the same time, The Dark Side/Beast also has a positive aspect. It's the same part of us that leads to creativity. When we are out there on the edge blazing new frontiers as some smart people I know call it, that's an example of you using that barely controllable part of you in a positive way.

What's it like when you let your Dark Side/Beast out? We all have it. Some are frightened of it; others delight in it. The expedition out can be thrilling. Just be sure you leave a string or cookie crumb trail so you can find your way back.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

At Least That Ain't Me, Babe

You’ve got to go to the site, peopleofwalmart.com. You’ll experience one of those wonderful moments in life that prove to you that you are not the craziest person on the planet. And we all need those moments every now and then.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Staggering Toward the Answer

There is a wonderful freebie publication in Chapel Hill, The Stagger. It provides info about a lot the entertainment and drink specials for all the clubs, bars, pubs, and restaurants. You can go to thestagger.com and see it.

I love to pick up The Stagger just to read the band names. Ya gotta love Trivia From Hell, Robobilly, The Dirty Little Heaters, and Beer Pong Night…mmm….ok, the last one is a drinking game, not a band…my bad, it’s Monday.

And, yes, on Fridays after work I don’t mind knowing who sells a REALLY big beer.

But, the point is that folks at The Stagger have determined that there is a type of information that answers a question (where’s our kind of fun?) that a group of folks need, and The Stagger provides the information. It’s a great source.

The first step to moving in the right direction in ANY area of life is to determine what the basic question/questions is/are. The second step is to ask, “Where can I find the information I need?” The source could be the Internet, but it also could be walking up to the appropriate person and asking the question, reading a book, getting out and taking a walk, saying a prayer, tuning in or tuning out, meditating, or taking one of those little sample spoons at Baskins-Robbins and trying a new taste.

Answers don’t come from just one source; look around.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jefferson, Buffett, Rice, Parsons

Everyone needs role models. If you are one of those folks who considers himself (ok, to be politically correct..himself/herself…but isn’t that really unwieldy?) a one-of-a-kind-doesn’t-need-a-role-model person, then God Bless You. We’ll put your picture on a stamp, retire your jersey, and salute your statute out in front of the post office.

The rest of us are human and often need to look ahead to those folks who have blazed the trail in life and show us the way to do things.

Here are four of my role models (I have more, but you’ll get the idea). In no particular order they are: Thomas Jefferson, Jimmy Buffett, Ron Rice, and Bob Parsons.

Jefferson is self-explanatory. President John F. Kennedy once hosted a group of Nobel Prize Winners at the White House. He said, “Never before has there been so much intelligence gathered at the White House…with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Jimmy Buffett proved that you could turn a beachcomber/sailor/troubadour lifestyle into a brand and make a living at it.

Ron Rice invented Hawaiian Tropic. He proved that you could be a lifeguard forever. I once had the pleasure of interviewing Rice. I asked him for the secret to a successful life. He said, “Mike, I’ll tell you something no one else will tell you. Go where you want to be. Then find a way to make a living so you can stay there in the style you would like.”

Bob Parsons created Godaddy.com. He showed the way for making a living in the Wild, Wild West of the 21st Century, the Internet.

Who is your role model? We all need’em. Except for the statue folks.

It’s 4 pm on a beautiful fall Friday in Chapel Hill and I’m listening to Buffett right now. I can hear something cold and wet calling my name (no, it’s not a dog’s nose). Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Keepin' LIfe In Front of You

Yesterday I bought a medium-sized (24”x36”), cork bulletin board. I put it on the wall in front of my desk. I’m using it to post notes and information that I need to keep in front of me. Over time I found that, considering the schedule and life I have, there are a variety of responsibilities, tasks, issues, and ideas that I want to be reminded of and I needed a better system.

It’s easy to fall into work and life habits that, over time, lose their effectiveness. The key to being successful over the long term is to continue to try new ideas.

Check your life for these three areas and see if a new system, a new habit, might help:
1. How do you see time? What type of calendar system, idea generation system, and tickler file do you use?
2. How do you build fitness and health into your day? Remember ELMO! Every Little MOvement. If you are going up in a building less than four floors take the stairs. Stop at every water fountain you see and take three swallows of water.
3. How do you connect with whatever the Divine Reality might be? Make a point each day to stop for 1 minute and appreciate the beauty of life around you and the fact that you are maintaining a heartbeat and steady respiration.

You get to pick other areas that are important to you. The above are three simple ones that, if you pay attention to them, will improve your life.

Finally, my Tar Heels are on national television tonight playing Florida State on ESPN. If you don’t have a dog in the hunt pull of the guys in light blue.

Go Heels!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Right Direction

I read a wonderful Buddhist saying last night: When you are faced in the right direction you only need to keep walking.

Wonderful advice!

As long as you believe it's the right direction, step out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kickin' a Pig

One of my favorite movies is Lonesome Dove starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones as former Texas Rangers Augustus (Gus) McRae and Woodrow Call. If you haven’t seen it (and you should, multiple times) you have to know that the movie is one of the greatest buddy flicks of all time; it includes multiple love stories; and is the most outstanding statement on honor and commitment to be shown on television in the last 40 years.

Here’s the synopsis: In order to make their fortunes—and to please Gus, who is the only one who understands that men need adventures and worlds to conquer—the two are going to move a herd of cattle from Texas to Montana. Along the way they encounter all kinds of adventures; good, bad and terrible.

Gus catches an arrow in the leg fighting off Indians and as his leg festers he is told by the doctor that if he does not have his leg amputated he will die. He obstinately refuses the operation.

The following exchange occurs as Gus lies in bed:
Woodrow Call: What do you want legs for anyway? You don't like to do nothing but sit on the porch and drink whiskey!
Gus McCrae: I like to kick a pig every once in a while. How would I do that?

Knowing the basic things you need—and why—to have the life you want is the first step to having the life you want.

‘Cause there’s hardly ever a pig around when you need one.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Sliver of Blue Sky

In the current issue of The New Yorker magazine writer Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, Outliers) writes about the connection between dogfighting and the NFL. NOW, DON’T CLICK OFF JUST YET…WAIT FOR THE POINT!

Gladwell notes research that an increasing number of NFL alums suffer from dementia of a special type. It looks like Alzheimer’s, but isn’t. The condition isn’t a neurological problem, its source is external. It comes from the repeated trauma of getting hit in the helmet. Linemen seem to suffer more than backs and receivers. Every little hit seems to have a cumulative effect that sets these guys up to suffer from this debilitating condition. The UNC-Chapel Hill football program is providing research right now.

Life is like that. Every little ding, each emotional slap, all the negative hits you take tend to mount up. I believe the hits we take go a long way in determining whether we have a positive/optimistic outlook on life or a negative/pessimistic view of the future. Unless you’re careful it’s easy to let all that stuff take the joy out of life and put you in a hole so deep that it sometimes seems impossible to dig your way out.

The key is to understand that you make the choice whether or not to dig yourself out. You can stay in the hole and look up and see a sliver of blue sky. Or, you can start chipping footholds on the hole wall and little by little climb out.

Others can help you. They can stand at the top of the hole and beckon; but, only you make the decision to climb.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hook'em Horns!

Sorry, I missed talking with you yesterday…

Today is a big day in the Southwest. It’s the annual Texas/Oklahoma game in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl. If you don’t like college football you can watch The History of Wedgewood China on PBS or take a walk.

Now, I’m not so much a Longhorn fan as I am a Mac Brown fan. Lots of folks hammer Mac for leaving the Tar Heels but the fault was as much ours as anything. The powers-that-be at the time couldn’t abide having another sport compete with basketball at Carolina.

But, here’s the point: For his entire career Mac Brown has been focused on one thing, rising to the top of his profession; being the best college football coach he could be. You can’t fault anyone for that. I have to say that I admire that sort of dedication.

As I get older I find that watching college sports (I love the color, excitement, positive energy as opposed to the negative energy the pros seem to generate, and the “evergreen” quality of college ) is like watching a science project. You get to see the participants grow and improve or fail, you see management in action, and you see the effect of emotions—not money—on performance.

The Texas/Oklahoma game this year has the potential to be a classic. If you get a chance, tune in.

Hook’em Horns!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ice Cream and Cheesecake for Dinner...Just Shoot Me

Here’s my confession for the day: Last night I had butter almond ice cream and cheesecake for dinner.

Why? Because it was the best thing to do.

Ok…there were other reasons….I was about half-ticked at life, the weather was cold and rainy and altogether terrible, my computer and projector wouldn’t work the way I needed them to, there are a number of people who aren’t cooperating on important life issues, kinda messed up my back lifting weights, office was too messy to find a couple of things I needed (I know, I teach this stuff but sometimes it just happens), the only foods in The Cave were tuna and spinach, and I’m out of those little Kleenex-looking things you throw into the dryer to make stuff fluffy and smellin’ good.

Now, I’ll step up and be man enough to admit that I’m whining. And I realize that the stereotype of a real man is that we don't whine. But, you know what, If you are going to stay sane there are some days you get to whine.

Granted, you only get a few whine days, but there are some days that you just don’t want to suck it up, be tough, handle it, put the shoulder to it, be a man, do your best, or be Stoic about it. You want to rant, throw something, punch something, cuss somebody, get drunk, or tear something up. Or, whine.

There was a day when I would have done some of the things in the first two sentences in the last paragraph. But, if you live long enough you start understanding that some days you don’t want to do the things in the first sentence…and, as one of my best friends, Al, would say, “and that’s OK.” You also come to understand that the stuff in the second sentence usually hurts more than it help.

So, I ate butter almond ice cream and cheesecake...shoot me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Song for the South

I love it…we Southerners are finally getting the praise and respect we deserve.

You might remember the Charlotte-bound jetliner that miraculously crashed in the Hudson River about a year ago. The plane was piloted by Captain Sully Sullenberger. In a book released on Tuesday, “Miracle on the Hudson: The Survivors of Flight 1549,” 118 of the 150 passengers gave interviews to writers/spouses William Prochnau and Laura Parker.

According to them, a key reason evacuation of the jetliner went so smoothly was because it was largely populated by Southerners.

“An inbred politeness seemed to work,” said Prochnau. “Whenever someone would feel a rising sense of panic, others in the group would settle them genteelly and direct them to safety.”

At a time when rap musicians, politicians, and tennis stars are showing their a**es in ill-mannered outbursts a bunch of Southerners in a clear life or death situation faced the challenge with a sense of courage and grace. All the superior attitudes, cheesesteaks, operas and big buildings can’t beat that.

Right, y’all?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Get On With It!

I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read my blog. But, who do I read? The only blog I read EVERY day is Seth Godin’s (sethgodin.typepad.com). Seth has a great handle on marketing and leadership and, as I’ve mentioned before, wrote the best leadership book I’ve read in the last ten years, Tribes.

Over the last few days Seth has blogged about two areas that are high on my list right now. Apparent Risk vs Actual Risk, and Decisions. Obviously, the two are connected.

Too often the Actual Risk is waaaaay less than the Apparent Risk. A great example is traveling. It’s much safer to fly than to get out on America’s roads and drive. In terms of health, we’ll take handfuls of vitamins when, in fact, the best thing we could do for our health is eat about half what we eat.

In today's blog, Seth’s point about Decisions is to make one. Make a lot of them. The worst thing you can do is not make a Decision. The old attitude that says if you don’t make a decision things will probably shake out by themselves is just that…old. In today’s world things happen so fast that even if you make a wrong decision you’ll probably have an opportunity to come back around and make another decision that corrects the situation and gets you going in another direction.

In business the current strategy is to get a product into the marketplace as fast as possible...don't try to make it perfect...and then let the desires of the marketplace help you make corrections.

The message I’m taking away is to get the information you need to make Decisions, but make sure that you know the difference between Actual Risk and Apparent Risk.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Any Vs Every

Have you ever had one of those moments in which you come to a conclusion that defines where you are in life? As soon as you have the thought you know that it can change your life if you take it and run with it.

Here’s mine: I can have any life I want. But, I can’t have everything I want.

Wish I'd figured that out decades ago.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Life's Yard Sale

Saw a sign last night near where I live that said, “Community Yard Sale Saturday.”

For some reason a quote I read recently popped into my mind, “Someone needs something you have.”

Whether we know it or not that’s life in a nutshell. No one has everything they need no matter what they tell you. I’m not talking so much about the material life like the stuff we see at a yard sale. I’m talking about the connections we need with other people.

Whether it’s knowledge, love, affirmation, companionship, or friendship we need something from others. Humans are communal creatures and no matter how much someone says that they are self-sufficient we all need something from someone else. In fact, the people who seem the most self-sufficient often seem to be the most boring people.

There is a slogan some education groups use, “Steal Shamelessly and Share Selflessly.” I like that when it comes to professional behavior. In our personal lives I would like to see, “Receive Openly and Share Selflessly.”

That should be the mantra for life’s yard sale any day of the week.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Deep Thinker?

The other day I had someone accuse me of being a “deep thinker.” Whataya think, should I take it as a compliment or not?

Actually, I do take it as a compliment because I believe it refers to someone who asks some of life’s big questions. I don’t know if I come up with any better answers than anyone else could, but it seems to me that, at least once in awhile, ya gotta take a look at something bigger than whether or not the Panthers will win a game or if Salma Hayak really is the most beautiful woman in the world.

The answer to the Panthers question is “probably.” The answer to the Salma question is, “ab-so-skippin’-lutely!”

Sorry, the Salma factor threw me off track.

The tough thing about the big questions is that they often don’t come with yes/no, black/white answers. Seems to be a lot of, “it depends” and gray.

And, don’tcha wonder about those folks who have the definitive answers? They seem so sure of themselves.

The other day I asked a friend if, when God spoke to her, did God speak in her voice or sound different. (like James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Casey Kasem or Pee Wee Herman…or Salma Hayak) My friend is in the God business and has a great sense of humor and she said, “Well Mike, it doesn’t work like that.”

Maybe not. Or, maybe it does.

A deep thinker?

Hmmm…..let me think about that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

They Can't All Be Human, Can They?

Every day I check the birthday list to see who’s celebrating. I’m always amazed at the irony of some of the Happy Birthday Boys and Girls. Today is one of those days.

Desmond Tutu is 78. If there has ever been a walking, talking symbol of courage it is the South African archbishop. At the other end of the, They Can’t Be of the Same Species, list is Simon Cowell, 50, the acerbic talent judge on American Idol. In the middle is Russia's Spy For Life Vladimir Putin, 57.

However, here’s the thing they all have in common: They understood early in their lives what their talents were, and they maximized their gifts, for good or ill.

Floating through life punching a time clock and wondering what you’re good at won’t feed the bulldog, as a friend of mine from Georgia says. You’ve got to identify your gifts and put them to use. It’s a sin and disgrace not to.

I’ve got to believe that a century from now no one will know or care who Simon Cowell or Vladimir Putin were. But, American children will still be reading about Desmond Tutu in their history books, and South African children will still be singing songs about him.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Peanut Butter and Raisins

I’m eating breakfast as I write this. My breakfast today, as it is probably 80% of the time, is a sandwich made on 15-grain bread with Jiff Extra Crunchy Peanut Butter with raisins sprinkled on it, an apple, and a big glass of milk.

Now, I’m not a health Nazi at all (although I do think it’s a reasonably healthy breakfast and it provides a lot of energy), it’s just that I like this breakfast so I have it as often as I can.

We make a ton of little decisions everyday based on what we like, what we want. But, are you making some of your big decisions based on what you would like, or on what you think you should do, or on what someone else would like?

The other day a friend told me that she had once asked her mother, “Mom, what do you want?” And her mother couldn’t come up with an answer. She had spent so much of her life doing for others that she didn’t know what she wanted.

There are those who would say that the woman was someone who had spent her life in selfless service to others. That sounds wonderfully grand. If the service was her choice that’s one thing, but if she never took a moment to ask, “Do I have a choice?” I think that’s sad.

You do have a choice, you know. And if you can’t immediately offer up what you want, that’s fine. Ask yourself, “What is it that makes me feel alive?”

If you don’t know what makes you feel alive….that is sad.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Damned Shame

Are you being wasted?

No, I didn’t ask, “Are you wasted?” I think your answer to that would be, “No.” If you were you wouldn’t be in much condition to read this blog. And, it’s Monday morning. So, if you are already wasted on a Monday morning you’re either on vacation or you have more problems than I can help you with.

But, I digress.

Again, are you being wasted?

Are you maximizing your gifts? Are you capable of so much more creativity, accomplishment, effort, love, passion than you are now exhibiting? If your answer to the first question is, “No,” and your answer to the second question is, “Yes” then you are being wasted.

And I don’t really want to hear, “But, Mike, I’m too busy, too tired, too involved with my job/kids/parents/whatever.” That can be true, but it’s still an excuse.

It hit me last Friday like a lightning bolt that I’m being wasted. Even with all the stuff I’m trying to do, I’m still being wasted.

And here’s the thing that bites us in the butt (or, at least it bit me in mine)…no one wastes you but you. We all make the decision to be wasted. If you are waiting on someone else to make use of you you are almost always going to be disappointed.

The legendary singer Bill Withers does a fantastic love song, “Use Me Up.” Well, the only way to have that happen is to put yourself in situations in which you will be used up—situations in which you won’t be wasted—and the only person who can do that is you/me.

Considering our potential as human beings, being wasted is a damned shame.

Time to stop being wasted.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are You OK?

When are you OK?

Traveled to spend a night with my mother last night. She's 81 and my brother and I are trying to touch base on a regular basis to make sure she's doing OK.

She's pretty spry. She takes care of herself with minimal problems (as far as we know), has a great sense of humor, pays her bills, and finds her way around town. But, she's getting to the point that she will ask the same question multiple times in the same conversation. When we bring that issue to her attention she calls it "old timers' disease." So, we're patient and as long as there are no serious episodes that we think we should react to, we guess that she's fine.

(This reminds me of the joke where the kid watches his family and says, "When the baby lays on the bed and waves at the ceiling fan you guys think it's funny. When grandpa does it, he's senile. What's that all about?")

Anyway, I think lots of us have times in our lives at which we question, "Am I OK?" The situations can range from the general feeling of malaise when you're a teenager to more specific questions focusing on financial, intellectual, and emotional health as we get older.

A shrink I know recently told me, "If you're living life like you want to; you're as close to the people you want to be close to; and you're taking care of yourself, you're OK."

So, are you OK?

Have a big weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Come Oooooooonnnnnnn!

I thought about doing a blog about Patience and then I thought, “Oh, what the hell, let’s just get on with it!”

Whether it’s prisoners doing time or children waiting for a birthday we all encounter situations when we wish time would go faster. Come ooooooooonnnnnn!

I can remember being young and talking to older people who would say, “Why are you in such a hurry?” And I’m thinking, “ 'Cause I want to get on with life!” What they didn’t tell me was that I was living life at that moment and I should slow down a bit and look around and enjoy it.

A wonderful little booklet, Patience Pays Off, lists these sources of impatience: obstacles, frustration, retaliation, confusion, lack of priorities, cold feet, fear, lack of self-confidence, competitiveness, the need for control, the need for rapid closure, and monotony. Pick your poison.

My devotion yesterday talked about “divine timing:” things will happen when their time comes.

If the spiritual reasoning doesn’t click for you just look around. Nature never hurries. Whether it’s the tides or the sun and moon or a growing rose everything happens on its own schedule. Try this: Go to a rose and say, “Come oooooooonnnnnn!” Right.

Shakespeare wrote of the patience of nature in Othello, “How poor are they that have not patience. What wound did ever heal but by degrees.”

I certainly wish it was different. But it isn’t.

Everything in its own time.