Monday, November 30, 2009

UB+

The news is covered up with the story of Tiger Woods driving out of his driveway at 2:25 am on Saturday morning and running into a fire hydrant and then a tree in his neighbor's yard. Woods was evidently banged up but his wife, Elin, broke one of the car’s windows with a golf club and helped him out.

In a short article about denim in today’s newspaper I saw that a pair of 100+ year-old denims were recently sold for $25,000 at auction.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking one of two things: “What in the world could be the connection between the world’s greatest golfer and a century-old pair of blue jeans?” or, “Mike is so ticked about Carolina blowing a lead to NC State and losing 28-27 that he’s finally gone over the edge.”

Nope.

Here’s the deal: You have to be living in one of two places for news items like those I mentioned to be featured in the media; especially with the prominence of the Woods’ event.

Either, (A) we live in a society that is so wonderfully affluent that silly things like Woods and old pants are news; or, (B) we live in a society that is so far off track from what is truly important that it’s gonna take a meteor strike to get us focused.

The reality is that it’s probably a little of both.

However, whichever view—A or B—you automatically chose tells a lot about your life view…positive or negative. And the wild thing about the A or B stuff is that either comment could go either way.

Take a moment and write this down…”U B +.” That’s right, UB+…that’s your sign and mantra for this week.

You Be Positive. UB+.

Go forth.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wal-Mart at 5 am

I’d love to write something business-focused but on Black Friday (for shoppers) and Fun Friday (for folks who love college football) I’ve got to go with the fun stuff.

My heart goes out to all those folks who are working today, especially the ones working in retail and the restaurant business. It’ll be a wild day.

A friend called a moment ago and she was at a Wal-Mart at 5 am.

Madness.

However, if you look at the jobs, income, profits, and economic boost today offers it’s hard to get too cranked up about the craziness of today.

Oooops, did I slide into biztalk?

Going to the Carolina/NC State football game tomorrow…rivalry Saturday all over the country.

Find someone to pull for…or against…and enjoy the spirit.

See you Monday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'll Always Love My Mama

The cover article for this week's issue of Time magazine is about helicopter parents and how they are trying to overcome their smothering attention of their children. About a week ago I read an article in a journal about the fact that parents have much less of an impact on kids than childrens' peer groupls.

We are sliding into the time of year in which parents are naturally on our minds. My father is gone, but this afternoon I'm driving down to my hometown to spend Thanksgiving with my mother. I started thinking about the wonderful soul group, The Intruders, and their 1973 hit, "I'll Always Love My Mama."

I'll always love my Mama 'cause she's my favorite girl.
I'll always love my Mama, she brought me in this world.

In this season of Thanksgiving if you still have one or both of your parents, and they are reasonably healthy and coherent (in this day and age coherent could mean a lot of things), you should be thankful. If one or both of your parents are not doing well you have my concern and prayers.

In Bonnie Raitt's song, "Nick of Time," she sings that time changes our bodies and those of our parents and we look at each other and it makes us both feel strange.

Watching our parents is often like looking into our own futures.....scary isn't it? The older I get the more I believe that when most of us look ahead and see fewer days, the uncertainty and fear makes us all act a little squirrelly in positive and less-than-positive ways.

Let this holiday season be the one, even if only for a day, in which you help your parents and other older family members and friends have the holiday they envision.

And let it be a thankful holiday for you. It is for me.

Have a great Thanksgiving, and be careful on the roads.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Daily Dozen

For decades members of our military services have cherished the concept of The Daily Dozen.

It’s a physical training concept: Twelve exercises that form the core of a daily fitness routine. Pushups, sit-ups, Jumping Jacks, and other exercises are familiar to millions of veterans and active duty soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

What are your Daily Dozen, or Daily Seven or Daily Five….and I don’t necessarily mean exercises?

What are the activities you need to engage in every day that, cumulatively, will assure that you succeed in having the life you want?

Here’s my Daily Dozen: Do something spiritual (read, meditate, pray): Sell Something/do something that makes money: Work on my business: Workout (move in some physically challenging way): See, talk to, or think about someone I love (if possible, tell someone I love them): Read something that can have an impact on my life (ex. success literature), Write something (this blog is a great check-off item): Learn something: A little fun: Good food: Laugh: Cry.

The last item may surprise you. The late coach Jim Valvano said everyone should think, laugh and cry every day.

What few things can you do every day that make sure you get where you want to go in life?

I find my Daily Dozen to be a wonderful measuring stick for my day. Every evening I look at the list posted on the board in front of my desk and ask, “How many can I check off for today?”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Give'em What They Want

This is Thanksgiving week so the official start of the holiday season is here. That’s opposed to the business start of the season which begins the day after Labor Day.

This morning I read an interesting take on how to experience the holidays. The basic point was that the holidays, and friends and family, rarely live up to the idealized, Norman Rockwell-painting version many of us have in our minds.

So, if our reality does not fit our grand image how do we move through the disappointment? Service. We try to do what we can to help others have the type of holidays they imagined.

If the holidays are a time of giving, then give. And it’s not just about giving tangible gifts. The best gift you can give others is to get to know them enough to know what they really want (again, it isn’t always about stuff) and then give them that. Only giving others what you want them to have is more a gift to yourself than to others.

If times for you are tight, which for many they are, give gratitude. Being truly thankful for the gifts of life you have received this past year is enough.

(If you’d like to read the source of the message go to MondayMorningMemo.com and click “Read Memo.”)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Waterhole #3

While talking with a friend the other day he mentioned a business situation he was going to participate in. I thought it was a great idea and started talking about what a wonderful expansion of his business this new opportunity could be.

He said, “Mike, don’t confuse this with what it really is.”

For him, he was right. For someone else, the opportunity might be the key to a new future. But for him, it was a short-term solution to a problem.

In life, how often do we make the mistake of trying to make much more out of a situation than it should be?

I asked myself, “Which happens more often, we make more out of something than it really is; or we don’t take a situation as seriously as we should?”

(email me and tell me what you think)

The question reminded me of a wonderful western spoof, Waterhole #3, with James Coburn. At the key point in the movie, which is about a bunch of folks trying to get some gold out of a waterhole, Coburn is riding out of town and he stops, turns in his saddle and says, “Some people don't take gold too seriously….and then, some people don’t take it seriously enough.”

Which is it? What are you making more of than it really is? And what are you not taking seriously enough?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sharing Selflessly

Owning a business is a constant journey on which you find new places, have new experiences and meet new people. Maybe that experience of discovery is one of the best reasons many of us take the challenge.

Too often, though, the new people we meet who have knowledge that would help us are reluctant to share the knowledge because they believe, especially in tough times, that the knowledge they share might give the other person an advantage, or it will mean lost dollars.

But, when you meet someone who is not only willing to share but does so in a wonderfully giving way it's a true bonus of life. Haj Dove is one of those folks. His knowledge of how the Internet can be used for business is truly amazing and, over lunch on Wednesday, he was kind enough to share a wide range of strategies that will make my effort to spread the word about The Perfect Workday more efficient and effective.

Haj's business is at dovemarketplace.com. He offers all kinds of cool gifts and with the holidays coming it's a great place to visit. I'll be shopping there this year. Check it out.

Educators have motto, "Steal shamelessly, share selflessly." That's not a bad way to look at business, and life.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tearing the Top Off the Kool Aid Packet

“I drank the Kool Aid on that,” is a phrase I sometimes use to show that I am an all-in, totally committed believer or participant in whatever the issue might be.

Today is the 31st anniversary of the creation of the phrase.

On November 18, 1978, Reverend Jim Jones and his cult died in the biggest murder/suicide in modern history in Jonestown, Guyana. Jones and his minions killed themselves with cyanide-laced Kool Aid. Survivors talked about participating in earlier drills in which all the members of the group drank Kool Aid they believed might kill them. They had bought into Jones’ religious message so deeply that they were willing to end their lives if he told them to.

Now, forget about the dying part; is there ANYTHING you’ve drunk the Kool Aid about? How about love, family, money (financial independence), God, good health, fun, your kids, democracy, that you control your own destiny, that someone or something else controls your destiny, prejudice (whoever the THEM might be), that the world owes you something, that men/women are jerks, that bosses are always trying to get something on you, that the people you manage are slackers?

What belief might you hold so deeply that you simply act on it without thinking? When that happens, especially if the belief is negative, you need to hear the sound of the top being torn off that little Kool Aid packet. Remember that?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Train In the Diistance

The entire human race can be divided into two groups…melody people and lyric people. I tend to be a melody guy; my brother focuses on the lyrics. The implications are pretty deep when you think about it, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Joe has been trying to get me to listen to a Paul Simon song, “Train in the Distance,” for quite awhile and until Sunday I had not had a chance. I downloaded it and listened to it four or five times. Am listening to it right now as I write this.

There are some incredible lines (go to Lyrics.com and check’em out), but the ones that have really stuck with me are: “Everyone loves the sound of a train in the distance, and everyone thinks it’s true,” and, “the thought that things could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and brains.”

Well, YEAH. If that ain’t America I don’t know what is….if we don’t believe there’s something better out there in some areas of life then it’s the movie Groundhog Day (living the same day over and over) all the time. Ya gotta believe that the future is going to be better in some way than the present, or, especially, the past.

Victorian poet Robert Browning said, “Your reach should exceed your grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?”

Ab..so…damn…lutely!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Light In the Sky

Saturday was an incredible day in Chapel Hill. The Heels were playing Miami (Ok, we won…and that was great, but not the point) at 3:30 pm in the final home game of the season, the sky was a brilliant Carolina Blue, the stands were reasonably full at the end of a week in which it seemed that everything you read was about basketball season starting, and a flyover was scheduled.

Here’s three words for you: I love flyovers. For a lot of reasons that I’ll tell you in a moment, so hang with me…’cause that really is the point of this blog, but keep reading.

At about a minute before kickoff, as the captains are calling the toss, a glint of reflected light on the far eastern horizon caught my attention. I pulled up the binoculars and sure enough, the light is bouncing off the canopies of 4 F/A-18s banking left and lining up on Kenan Stadium.

It looked as if they were crawling through the air toward us and the lead fighter’s nose was pointing right at my seat. As they blasted overhead that wonderful deafening roar choked me up, as always.

So, as the comedian Ron White would say, “I had to tell you that so I can tell you this.”

The thing that gets me emotional every time I experience one of these flyovers is this question: “What, in the grand span of the universe, did I do in a previous life that was so good that I have been fortunate enough to be born into a country and time that can create a machine that magnificent, and grow young people smart and brave enough to fly them and to put themselves in harm’s way on my behalf?”

I understand my friends’ knee-jerk reactions about war machines, and better use of resources and all that. I get it.

But, we have the opportunity to have non-violent debates about those topics thanks to the types of folks, and machines, that flew over Kenan Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

That loud roar? That’s the sound of the blanket of freedom being pulled over you every night as you lay safely in bed.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Correction...Help Me

I rarely post twice in a day, but the events of the last few hours beg for a correction. I’ve spent the last four hours coming to the understanding that there is a difference between taking the easy way out, and following the path of least resistance. (Read the last blog and get the background.)

And the difference isn’t just a matter of semantics.

The easy way is…well…the easy way. Take another drink. Eat another donut. Be late to work, come back from lunch late, leave work early. The easy way if often simple laziness.

The path of least resistance means following your true nature. And figuring that out sometimes takes some thought and requires making choices. It means following the path of who you know yourself to be.

Now, let’s be honest; if you don’t really know who you are, if you’ve always been someone else (that happens when you do things because other people think you ought to do them instead of because you are doing what you know resonates with the real you) then you’ve got to spend some time getting in touch with who you really are, what you want, and what your vision of your life is.

Whataya think? Am I off base or not? Email me or go to my Facebook page and tell me what you think. This idea has captured me and I’m going to ride it until I get an answer or the horse drops under me.

Is there are difference between the easy way, and the path of least resistance? Tell me.

Easy or Hard

Like a lot of you I’m working through some challenges in life right now. As I talk to people I hear, “You know, nothing worth having is easy.”

I’m willing to bet that some of you hold the belief so deeply that you just nodded your head with that sage, “That’s true, that’s true.”

But, is it?

Whenever everyone believes something it’s time to start asking yourself if it really is true. Or, are people saying it’s true and believing it simply because people are saying it’s true and believing it. Does everyone REALLY deserve a second chance? Is EVERY bird in the hand worth two in the bush?

I’m slowing but surely starting to ask myself, “Isn’t the way that seems easiest the best way in a lot of situations?” I can hear some of you grown-ups right now, “If it’s easier to (put any ridiculous example here) should you do that?” I’m not talking about things like, “Should I wear footy pajamas to work just because they're the only thing clean in my drawer?”….mmmm….ok, so who’s been to my house and looked…..ooops, sorry, I digressed.

But, here’s part of my evolving logic: Professor Adrian Bejan at Duke University is literally one of the smartest people on the planet, he is in the list of 100 scientists around the world whose work is most cited by other scientists, and Bejan’s Constructal Law (Google Constructal Law) shows that, as humans, we look for the path of least resistance. We’ve done this throughout our evolution because it’s a way to conserve energy and assure our survival. I’m beginning to wonder if this is the way to go on a lot of life decisions.

What feels right? My quote yesterday from Cicero notes that what is simple is often most congenial to man. I think simpler is easier.

There’s enough craziness OUTSIDE that makes life difficult without compounding your stress by making things harder INSIDE.

Try it this weekend. Take the simple, easy way. Don’t confuse things by making them harder.

Let’s find out if, “Nothing worth having is easy,” really is true. Or, if they’ve lied to us just to keep our noses to the grindstone.

I’ll go first.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dressing Like a Penquin

"What is true, simple, and sincere is most congenial to man's nature." Cicero

How often do we complicate our lives? Too much of this, that, or the other clutters our external and internal lives.

There's a story about Al Neuharth, founder and publisher of USA Today that I love. Neuharth is a clothes-horse. As the story goes, it used to take him 45 minutes to get dressed every morning because his closet was the size of Rhode Island and was packed with clothes that he delighted in choosing among....until someone asked him how much that 45 minutes cost him in money.

Neuharth cleared the closet of every item that was not black, white, or gray and donated the clothes to charity. From that moment to today every piece of clothing he buys is black, white or gray. Now, no matter what he chooses it takes 5 minutes to get dressed....and everything matches.

Are you complicating your life? I'm not saying you have to dress like a penguin, but maybe, in a wide range of areas of life...maybe Cicero was right.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let'er Rip!!

Yep, I know it's late to be posting a message for Wednesday (about 7 pm) but I hate to miss a day.

Let's talk about anger.

Some of the best research I've seen has come up with a simple formula A x B - C.

"A" is Activating Events...we have events that happen in our lives and they kick off emotions in us.

"B" is Beliefs. The strengths of our Beliefs tend to multiply the effects of the Activating Events.

"C" means Consequences; what we end up saying, doing, or feeling as the outcome of the combination of Activating Events and Beliefs.

If you have an Activating Event that cranks you up and you have very strong Beliefs about the situation the Consequences are likely to be powerful.

Might be a good idea to slow down and breathe a little when the events are important to you and things don't go the way you wish they should.

Or, you could just say to hell with it, or them, and let'er rip. Just try to be sure that you are willing to handle the outcome.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dumb or Donuts

I woke this morning next to a Dunkin Donuts store...mmm....not like right next to it, I was in a hotel. I'm really a Krispy Kreme kinda guy, but, hey, a donut's a donut. So, the first thing I thought was...wooooo....donuts for breakfast.

Now, many of you who read this blog have never seen me. You've seen the picture to the right, though, and you can probably tell that donuts for breakfast is probably not my best choice. Also, I've been making some better health choices and my weight is going down a little, so there you go.

I ended up checking email and eating Raisin Bran for breakfast. Not donuts, but a better choice. Here's what I did: I told myself, "Mike, you can have all the donuts you want this weekend." And it worked. My desire dropped off, I have a positive anticipation for the weekend, and I made a better choice.

I'm certainly not above using a little mental sleight-of-hand to get me closer to a goal.

What's a goal you have that you have had difficulty reaching? What little trick or strategy can you use to get you a step closer?

(And if you are skinny, have a donut for me today!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Berlin Wall and Your Own Barriers

Today is the anniversary of the fall of The Berlin Wall in 1989. Do you remember scenes of people joyously climbing on the wall, or banging away with sledge hammers and using mallets and spikes to tear chunks out of it?

Some issues in life are like the Berlin Wall. They've been in place seemingly FOREVER and don't seem to be something that can be overcome. But, they can be torn down! You simply (and, yes, it's easier to say this than do it) have to chip away at them until you can tear the whole thing down.

And here's an odd bit of history...President Ronald "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Reagan, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and West German President Helmut Koll helped the fall of the wall by....doing nothing. Diplomacy had laid the foundation of the historic event and when it started the leaders simply let...it...happen.

What areas, problems, challenges, or habits do you need to tear down?

In fact, what one issue in your life—if you could tear it down—would have an overwhelmingly positive effect on your life? What could you just...let...happen...and know that the effect would be positive?

We all have challenges that need addressing; and some challenges are more challenging than others. But we ALL have them.

What specific, tangible step can you take this week that will get you closer to resolving your issue, overcoming your challenge, or changing your habit?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Homecoming Weekend

This weekend is a rare combination of Homecoming and the Carolina/Duke football game. It should be a big time.

I’ve always liked the phrase Homecoming. Some families and churches use Homecoming to refer to a reunion. I have wonderful memories of reunions of that type. All the different types of foods, cousins I saw only once a year, and the grown-ups laughing and arguing and remembering the past created a kaleidoscope of sensory experiences that are, even today, wonderfully vivid.

Schools also use Homecoming as a type of reunion. The current students are electing Homecoming queens (and kings at some schools), there may be a parade, there’s usually a dance or event of some type, and the anticipation of who you might invite to Homecoming is always a big deal. For the old grads it’s a time to reminisce, renew old friendships and make new ones, and, for a few hours or days, maybe stop being a grown-up.

The people I come in contact with who seem the happiest have Homecoming every day. They have a person, place, activity, state of mind, or feeling that, to them, is home. It’s a safe haven; a place where they believe, “Here, I am home.” Coming home for them means they can relax, be whomever they believe themselves to be, and be appreciated for that…even if there is no one else involved and they are appreciating themselves.

Not having a home can be incredibly stressful. It’s a feeling of being lost. Sometimes it’s a feeling of being on edge, on guard, almost all the time…feeling that you can’t relax and recharge. If you understand the concept and importance of home you may spend an inordinate amount of time looking for it....looking for somewhere to come home to.

Do you have a home? It can have nothing to do with where you lay your head at night. It’s more a matter of where you lay your heart.

I hope you have a Homecoming this weekend.

Go Heels.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

How Hot Is That Stove?

Ya gotta love stories like this: A 20-year old guy in Oxford, Ohio, dresses up as a Breathalyzer test for Halloween and gets pulled over and arrested for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, at night, with his headlights off.

Seems that he’d had a couple of beverages, one of which was open and in the car. He had a fake ID and blew .158 (yeah, you probably know the legal limit is .08).

I’ll admit that in my younger years I did stuff this stupid. In fact, this kid was a wimp; I blew .18. I’ll have to ‘fess up and say that my car wasn’t moving but the cops didn’t appreciate that fact. And further, I’ll admit that getting a DWI didn’t cure me of cracking a beer and driving.

What slowed me down was when I started realizing what I might lose and what heartache I might cause my family and others if I was involved in an accident. I had to have the experience and the time to think about it, to learn.

There’s a wonderful saying, “Some people learn by being told, some people learn by seeing it done…but, some people just have to touch that hot stove.”

A lot of us, when we’re young, are touchers…as we age we hope we get smarter and learn by hearing and seeing, especially as the stakes get higher.

And yet, even now, with almost six decades of experience, I still find myself reaching out to the stove and thinking, “I wonder just how hot…..”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Texting and Driving

I’ve got to stop texting while I drive.

I know, I know. It’s been proved to be more dangerous than drunk driving (and less fun I’ll have to admit) and, as of December 1, will be illegal in North Carolina and many other states.

I’m trying to stop, but it’s gotten to be a habit and habits are so hard to break.

Habits always serve a purpose for good or ill. Texting while driving means I can respond to a thought immediately, fill boring driving time, and not forget an idea. But, it’s unsafe (I’ve drifted off the road a couple of times) and I keep thinking that it’s just a matter of time before I drift into a really bad situation.

All of this because of a habit. Mark Twain said that changing habits couldn’t be done quickly. They had to be “coaxed down the stairs one at a time.”

Let’s make a pact. I’ll stop if you’ll stop.

You go first.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Fiber?

Had a great time presenting at the Exceptional Children Conference in Greensboro. I met a ton of wonderful folks who help children with all kinds of challenges lead close-to-normal lives.

Met one person, though, whose whole take on life left me with the thought, “You know, if she’d add a little more fiber to her diet it would clear that attitude right up!”

I don’t know if the problem is the tough times…I’ve met folks when times were good who had the same sour apple view of life.

It’s just that folks like that can leave a residue when they move away and we end up feeling down, too. Dr. John Hunter (1723-1798), the Scotsman known as The Father of Modern Surgery, once said, “My life is in the hands of any scoundrel who chooses to annoy me.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that. I think we allow ourselves to be annoyed.

As one woman at the conference told me later, “When I meet people like that I vote with my feet. I leave.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Monday, November 2, 2009

5K or 1K, Does It Really Matter?

On Saturday I ran in a 5K in Chapel Hill. The race was a wildly successful (600+ runners) event held to raise money for breast cancer research.

Now, here’s the deal…since it was Halloween, and Halloween in Chapel Hill is a lot different than most places…I ran the race wearing a full Hazmat helmet. You know, the big, silver helmets with the gold faceplates that firemen wear? Imagine running in a sauna that covers only your head. If you’d like see some wild pictures go to my Facebook page and click on the one with me in the helmet. (or, friend me and I’ll connect with you so that you can see them)

…..mmmm…Ok, I guess I’d better own up….I hung back at the rear of the group at the starting line and when the starting horn sounded I turned around…and walk/jogged across the UNC-CH campus to the finish line. To tell the truth I guess I did a 1K.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “The way you did it, Mike, means that it doesn’t count.”

Not true. It counted for me. And, in the long run, that’s all that counts. I supported the cause, had a LOT of fun (pictures with little and big kids who loved the outfit and pictures with some other…ahhh…participants), was not competing because that’s not the reason I did it, and was able to stand at the finish line and yell at the anorexics who won, “What took y’all so long!!!”

Knowing which goals in life are really important to you and which are fun or of only mild importance is a key to having a happy, successful life. Every task, effort, goal, relationship, and job does not deserve 100%. If you try to give everything 100%, or believe that everything has to be done exactly by the rules, you’ll burn yourself out.

Decide what is important to you…and give that your all. For the rest—especially the rest that is based on someone else’s rules—take it or leave it…..or cheat and laugh.