Friday, December 31, 2010

A Ticking Clock and a Second Chance

As I’ve said before, I’m always hesitant to use sports analogies in situations where there are readers or audience participants who aren’t into sports.

However, my Tar Heels’ victory last night over Tennessee in double overtime in Nashville’s Music City Bowl is too good to pass up.

The game went back and forth, up and down. It looked like the referees were going to steal the game, penalties played a crucial role and every time you turned around it looked like a Tennessee player was trying to start a fight. Some kids went from hero to goat and back in the course of a single play.

And then, we won!

I had to go out and buy two newspapers this morning to make sure it really happened.

But, for the last hour or so I’ve thought about the game in relation to the concept of second chances. I’ve given you more game details than you probably want, but the win was based on the fact that the Tar Heels got a second chance at the end of the game.

Life is like that. Depending on how you frame your experiences and your life you can almost always get a second chance…even with life. Energy is a force that cannot be destroyed, it simply changes form. So, even at death our energy moves on to another form; we get a second chance.

There are few better times to recognize the potential of a second chance than New Year’s.

If you need a second chance, take it.

And have a great New Year’s…and New Year.

See you Monday.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The STUFF Is Winning!

I’d love to be able to say that my work area is always as organized as what I teach in some of my seminars. (A shrink once asked me if I ever listened to what I tell other people to do in my seminars.)

Well, sometimes.

It’s the end of the year and so much of my office has become a catch’all for ideas, books, papers, folders and technology I have to learn how to use.

Are you feelin’ my pain? Are you running into the same problem?

I’ve used my 30-Second Secret (take 30 seconds to put up and clean up), and usually it works to keep me organized, but I’ve been overwhelmed by so much STUFF during the last few weeks that the STUFF has won at this point.

However, today’s the day I get started with getting things straight. My goal is to have everything in its place or thrown out by noon on New Year’s Eve.

Here’s my plan: I’m going to divide the office into segments…the bookcase…top of the desk…Pile #1 on the floor…and so on. Then, I’m going to tackle each segment. When I finish a segment I’ll reward myself…go to the gym…eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut…go for a walk…eat another Krispy Kreme. You get the idea.

Also, I’ll keep a football game or music going in the background. This slows me down a bit as I stop every now and then to watch or listen, but it makes the whole process more enjoyable.

Do you have a quagmire to dig yourself out of? Do you have a plan? When will you know what “done” looks like?

Have a plan. Have a deadline.

Let’s get ready to blow out this decade and welcome the next.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snow

(The lyrics of the song, Snow, from the movie, White Christmas)

Snow, it won't be long before we'll all be there with snow
Snow, I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow

Snow, I long to clear a path and lift a spade of snow
Snow, oh, to see a great big man entirely made of snow

Where it's snowing
All winter through
That's where I want to be
Snowball throwing
That's what I'll do
How I'm longing to ski
Through the

Snow, those glist'ning houses that seem to be built of snow
Snow, oh, to see a mountain covered with a quilt of snow

What is Christmas with no snow
No white Christmas with no snow
Snow

I'll soon be there with snow
I'll wash my hair with snow
And with a spade of snow
I'll build a man that's made of snow
I'd love to stay up with you but I recommend a little shuteye
Go to sleep
And dream
Of snow, snow, snow, snow, snow

Monday, December 20, 2010

What Guys Think About

Spent the last 24 hours with 5 guys; some of whom I knew and some I didn’t.

The group ranged in ages from about mid-40s to upper-50s, in education from high school or less to advanced degrees, in income from “not a proverbial pot” to a lot of money, in fitness from “would have trouble walking a mile” to a triathlete, and in street smarts from innocent to extremely knowledgeable. Needless to say it was a diverse group.

And I can tell you up front that this was not a Bible study group.

One of our guys was treating all of us to a Charlotte Panthers game and a wide range of recreational and after-dark activities.

It was one of those times that proved to me that people are people.

Someone once said, “Small people talk about people; very small people talk about themselves; great people talk about ideas.”

I was obviously with a group of great people because some of the ideas discussed ranged through: girls, travel, women, Christmas trees, beer, sports, cars, philosophical ideas of life, women, guns, vacations, books, tequila and “brown water,” Kindles, haunted houses, bowling, women, kids, wives, ex-wives, multiple ex-wives, work, could you really laugh yourself to death?, fire control, kitchen equipment, cheating in college athletics, money, women, movies, drugs, spirituality vs church, hat sizes and women.

People are people. We are all concerned with being happy, finding love and doing something that matters. How we reach the goals we desire within those three things can be different for all kinds of people, but life boils down to those three issues; happiness, love and mattering.

How ya doin’ in those three areas?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why In the World Would You Think I'd Like THAT?!!

Was able to do the vast majority of my Christmas shopping yesterday.

Bumped into a friend at the mall and we got into what turned out to be an animated discussion about present buying.

She is adamantly opposed to gift certificates while I think that in lots of cases they are the perfect gift.

Her logic is that gift certificates signify “the easy way out” and that they show the giver as someone who didn’t want to put a lot of thought into the gift.

My logic is that while her argument might be true in some cases I believe that people should get what they want for a gift and not necessarily what someone thinks they ought to have. And, the best way to guarantee that the getter gets what they want is to let them pick it out. Without having the getter standing beside the giver and picking out the gift the gift certificate is the best way to go.

My logic comes from experiences of putting thought into what someone might want only to have them say something like, “Eeeeeeewwwww! Why in God’s name would you think I’d like that?!!” or, “If you cared about me you’d know what I want!” or “It’s…uh…cute…but I don’t like the (fill in the blank).” Or, you never again see them wear it, use it, eat it. Or, you see it regifted to someone else.

So, I decided that very often the best way to go is with the GC.

Good luck if you’re shopping this weekend.

And remember, if you can’t find a Carolina Blue sweater in XL, gift certificates are fine.

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Expect Delays Ahead

It’s been snowing, raining, and sleeting here in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.

If you go out driving on I-40 you’ll see big signs that say, “Inclement Weather, Expect Delays.”

We should look for signs like that in our lives; times that we can expect delays. If we see the sign we can plan for a better way to maneuver around the person, situation or issue that is causing the delay.

The holidays are supposed to be joyous times, but we often run into (I’ll say it again) people, situations or issues that cause delays (friction, conflict).

So, whataya say we expect the delay and come up with a strategy ahead of time that moves us over, under, around or through the delay?

What “delays” do you see on the road ahead during the next couple of weeks?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

You Go, Middle Class!

Today must be Values Day.

My devotional reading this morning was all about understanding your personal values and being true to yourself.

Then, an article by New York Times columnist David Brooks focused on the global rise of middle class values such as “industry, prudence, ambition, neatness, order, moderation and continuing self-improvement.”

Ok, Ok, so those of you who know me are questioning my commitment to prudence, neatness and moderation. I gotcha. Let’s move on.

Brooks’ point is that an increasing middle class (from 430 million world-wide in 2000 to 1.5 billion by 2030) bodes well for America. We INVENTED middle class.

What I took away from the article was an optimism about where the world is headed. If the objectives of an increasing number of the world’s people are to have more comfortable lifestyles, children with better lives, and reasonable retirements then terrorism, theocracy and intolerance simply can’t win in the long run.

We need to keep the hammer down on terrorism—especially cyberterrorism—but let’s focus on getting people back to work so they can have better lives.

I mean, without a job you can’t by a Barcalounger. It’s hard to think about blowing something up when you’re laid back in a recliner watching football.

Pass those cashews over here, will ya?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Looking Back to Look Forward

It’s the middle of December and now’s as good a time as any to start looking back at 2010 and deciding if it was a good year for you, or not; and then to start looking ahead to 2011 and deciding what type of year you want it to be.

The best guide I’ve seen in a long time for retrospection and future planning is online at http://chrisguillebeau.com/3x5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/.

The author, Chris Guillebeau, wrote The Art of Non-Conformity. I found out about Chris’s work from the Seth Godin blog.

The annual review has a great feel for categories, ways to create action steps to get you to your goals, and encouragement to create a theme for the coming year.

The best line in the article is absolute truth: “We overestimate what we can get done in a day, and we underestimate what we can get done in a year.”

Have you looked back? Are looking forward?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pick UP Your POOP!

“Pick UP Your POOP!” is a sign being carried by four kids in a Cary neighborhood.

Two boys and two girls, all under 12-years old, decided that some of the adults in their area had been too slack in cleaning up after their pets so the kids created the sign and started going door-to-door to enlist families in an awareness program.

“One old lady shook her fist at my dad when he asked her to clean up her dog’s poop,” said one boy.

These kids are learning some great lessons. Obviously, they are learning teamwork, goal-setting and communications.

But, they are also learning that some folks just don’t care about the mess they make and they have no intention of cleaning it up.

Do you know people like that in your workplace?

So, what do you do?

In the workplace, if you can point out the poop in a reasonable way, some will become aware of it and clean it up, or stop doing whatever the poop-creating activity might be.

Other people won’t care, won’t clean it up, and won’t stop.

At that point, you have some interesting decisions to make, don’t you?

PS. A Zen attitude would simply say, “Pick UP their POOP, throw it away, forget it and move on.” Thinking and worrying and obsessing about their poop causes more friction than the simple task.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do You Look, Listen or Live?

Good teachers know that to be understood you must communicate in a way the student understands. That’s why you’ll hear educators talk the fact that we learn in three ways: visually, auditorially (hearing) and kinesthetically (feeling or movement).

In fact, the best teachers will include examples or experiences in all three learning styles when making a point; that way they know they should have everyone covered.

We all have a dominant style. The majority of folks learn visually…we see it, learn it, know it. The next most popular style is auditory, then kinesthetic.

Do you know and understand your dominant learning style. It may be a combination of two or three of the styles.

If you know your learning style it can make learning, changing and growing so much easier and faster.

Pick something simple to learn this weekend and see which style clicks for you.

Have a great weekend and stay warm.

See you Monday.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Steal and Share

Recently, I saw a great sign at a conference for educators. It read:

“Steal shamelessly and share selflessly.”

What a great life philosophy.

There are all kinds of great ideas out here…steal’em! And then share them with others.

If more people worked from that kind of attitude we’d have a faster spread of the ideas that worked. We’d also have a faster recognition of the ideas that don’t.

What can you steal and share today?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Huh?

What do you think about all day?

Do you think about good health and abundance or do you dwell on your aches and pains and the fact that you are always behind the eight-ball, financially?

Throughout the history of humans philosophers around the world have offered one consistent message…we are what we think.

So, if you want to change your life you have to change your thoughts.

What are you thinking right this instant about the last line?

Are you thinking, “That’s a bunch of that positive thinking, change your life kind of hooey;” or, “That’s true. What we think becomes who we are;” or, “That’s interesting, how does it work?”

Or, are you thinking, “Huh?”

Whichever of those four thoughts were in your mind says a lot about the life you have…and the type of life you could have.

So, whataya think?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Blog #2

Someone actually reads and understands this blog.

Last Friday I said that there were two books I’d read recently that were outstanding; one was Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, Crush It! and I said I’d talk about the other one on Monday.

Weeelllll, I forgot about the other book for yesterday’s blog and a friend mentioned it.

So, here’s the book: Different, by Harvard Professor Youngme Moon does a wonderful job of explaining why the best companies are doing outrageous things to stand out and be different.

The basic problem is that most companies are doing the same and come across as the same. Think McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Hardees and Burger King. Yes, there are small differences like fried vs flame broiled. But, for the most part they are the same.

Now, think about companies like Jet Blue that only have one seating selection, no food, and go to only a few places. But, their seats are extraordinarily comfortable and you have lots of leg room. Different.

If you own a business or really want to know what works in marketing, get Different.

Monday, December 6, 2010

How Do It Know?

There is a wonderful old joke about the country boy who, when asked what the smartest thing in the world was, replied, “A thermos.”

Why?

“’Cause, it keeps hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold. How do it know?” was the answer.

Recently, my chiropractor gave me an All-Temp Comfort Pack to use to reduce inflammation in my back. It can be put in the freezer for cold or in the microwave for hot. Actually, it looks like a flat, rectangular breast implant.

Now, someone smart invented this product. And, while I don’t have a clue about the chemical process that makes it works, all I know is that it works.

Every day we take for granted ingenious tools that, a century ago, someone would have thought were magic.

We spend so much time worrying about all the troubles and challenges swirling around us that we often forget to be grateful for the complexity/simplicity of our tools and toys.

What have you used in the last 24 hours that didn’t exist even 10 years ago?

Friday, December 3, 2010

What the Wine Seller Knows

Every now and then a business book comes along that is different; one that brings information we can actually use and isn't just a rehash of what’s been done before.

In the last month I’ve read two books you need to be aware of. The first is Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk. If the wild last name clicks with you, you must love wine.

Vaynerchuk does winelibrary.com and has a following of over 100,000 people who watch his video blog about wine every day. He’s been on Letterman and The Today Show. He also has his own site, garyvaynerchuk.com. He’s a wild guy, a New Yorker, and his message is that we should all look for whatever that thing is that gets us excited about life and find a way to turn it into a living.

The Live What You Love message is older than Mark Twain saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

But what Gary V. does that’s different is provide a practical roadmap for promoting your interest and getting your personal brand out into the digital world with Twitter, FaceBook and other social media. If you continue to wonder about the importance of social media this book is the best thing I’ve seen so far to explain these new media.

Your opportunity to have lots of Perfect Workdays may be based on how you promote yourself. Vaynerchuk shows you how to do that in practical terms.

I’ll tell you about the other book on Monday.

Have a big weekend and stay safe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Screwed Up

The basic question of yesterday’s blog was, “What did you learn?”

This morning I received a difficult and expensive lesson.

I messed up. And it was a pretty big mess-up that put some folks I like a lot into a tough, embarrassing situation. It would not have been so bad if the mistake had been one of commission…if I had failed forward. But, it wasn’t. It was a silly omission on my part; something that could easily have been prevented.

All I can do is say that I’m sorry and try to do something to make it up to them.

But, screwing up like this isn’t fun, smart or professional, three descriptions that I hope relate to me most of the time.

It’s easy to say, “We all make mistakes,” and let it go.

The key, I believe, is that you don’t let it go. You remember it, and don’t do it again.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

End of Day Question

What did you learn yesterday?

Every day you have the opportunity to learn something that will help you the next day, and the next, and the next.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “I didn’t learn anything yesterday” it’s your own fault.

You don’t have to sit for hours contemplating your navel and wondering about the big questions in life. The simple question at the end of each day, “What did I learn today?” will suffice. Asking the question gets your brain working and gets you out of the rut of life that it’s so easy to fall into.

I learned about couple of things yesterday; one is small and useful, the other is part of something big. Both are helpful.

What did you learn yesterday?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Today Matters

What is the one thing that, if you can get it done today, will get you closer to some of your major goals in life?

If you don’t have goals of some type you’re already falling behind the curve.

If you don’t know what action needs to be started or completed today—no matter how small—you’re losing time.

I know, I know, it’s easy to jump in and say, “That’s the sort of attitude that keeps us all on the treadmill,” but it’s the truth.

Goals, and the series of actions that accomplish them, define the type of life you have.

And you do want to have a life….don’t you?

Monday, November 29, 2010

7 Doughnuts a Day

Fitness clown Richard Simmons would burst into tears if he had any idea how many doughnuts I ate over the Thanksgiving holiday. It seemed that everywhere I turned there were doughnuts and I thought, “It’s the holidays! Why not?”

This time of year pushes excess on a wide variety of fronts; food, buying things, seeing people, annoyances, joys (if you’ll let them happen).

Today is a wonderful day to bring it all back into balance. There’s no sense in continuing the moving food feast for the next 5 weeks. Why not get back on schedule until Christmas Eve and then blow it out for two days. Then, back on track until New Year’s and you get another couple of days of fun.

My friends realize that I’m not a moderate kind of guy, but what I can do is be moderate part of the time so that I can be a glutton at other times.

In your life, what do you need to dial back for a few days so you can enjoy the excess again?

By the way, I’m having an apple, some turkey (I know, I know), and a glass of milk for breakfast even though I have doughnuts and cake in the kitchen. In fact, I’m going to toss the doughnuts and cake….and that makes ME burst into tears.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Six Weeks of Excess

Stereotypically, today begins six weeks of excess. Lots of folks use today as the first day of the Thanksgiving Holiday and continue celebrating until the week of New Year’s.

Six weeks of blowing it out seems a little much to our waistlines, wallets, patience and stress levels.

The best way to move through a time that, for some, may be difficult, is to remember what you have to be thankful for.

In previous blogs I’ve mentioned the University of Miami study that led to the practice called, “The Three Blessings.” Researchers discovered that people who, at the end of the day, wrote down 3-5 things they were grateful for in their lives, tended to have fewer depressive episodes, lower blood pressure and a more positive outlook on life.

What are you thankful for?

Whoever you are, if you are reading this, I’m thankful for you. I certainly enjoy creating these messages and I appreciate the fact that you take time from your day to accept them. I only hope that they contribute in some small way to you having a better workday.

Have a great Thanksgiving! Be careful. And I’ll see you next Monday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Marvin, Pull'em Up, Dude

Thinking and feeling like you’re King or Queen of the Universe is a wonderful experience. If you start believing it, though, life can go off the rails pretty quickly; two events in the last 24 hours have provided me with examples of that.

Last night I went to see Russell Crowe’s new movie, “The Last 3 Days.” It’s ok..kinda slow…but a good message. Anyway, I’m coming out of the theatre and here’s Marvin Austin, UNC’s preseason All America at defensive tackle who has been the cornerstone of a humiliating NCAA investigation, traipsing out of another theatre with his jeans down around his butt and looking every bit the silly man-child who dashed Carolina’s dreams of a great season. Living, walking proof of my mantra this season, “High hopes dashed by dopes.”

This morning, the Raleigh News and Observer noted that former-governor Mike Easley would accept a plea bargain with state and federal authorities for campaign expense improprieties. He’ll be the first governor in the history of North Carolina to be convicted in court of a crime related to his official service.

Both these guys thought they were Kings of the Universe and lots of folks around them encouraged that belief. And the belief that they were invincible led them to color outside the lines.

In the South we have a phrase; we say that someone has gotten “too big for their britches.” The NCAA, UNC and state and federal authorities have shrunk these guys down a size or two.

I know I’ve got an area of life in which I need to get a more realistic grip. Do you?

One last thought. Marvin, pull’em up, dude.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Grrrrrrrrrrrr!

Frustration is one of those emotions that none of us seem to have a good handle on. The dictionary defines it as, “a deep, chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs.”

Sometimes it suuuuuure gets inviting to simply give up and quit. When you get that feeling, try these simple steps:

1. Ask Yourself, “What Is Working in This Situation?” When you discover something that is going right the action puts you back into a positive frame of mind.

2. Focus On What You Want to Happen. Sometimes we get so tied up in the frustration we forget what was supposed to happen. Ask two simple questions:
- What do you want to happen differently this time?
- What do you need to do in order to get there?

3. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify. Usually, any big problem can be boiled down to a few basic issues. Clear the clutter and focus on them.

4. Come Up With Multiple Solutions. There’s usually more than one way to handle a situation. Knowing that you have options calms you down. However, new research shows that too many choices also slows you down. Pick the one you think is best and….

5. Take Action. Nothing happens until you do something, even if it’s wrong. If it’s right, that’s great. If it’s wrong you correct it and move on.

6. Visualize a Positive Outcome to the Situation. Focusing on what you don’t want to happen keeps you in a negative loop.

7. Stay Positive. Like the old song says, “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.”

A state of frustration is not a fun place to be and it leads to another “tion” that makes things worse; procrastination.

Get off the pot. Do something. Correct as you go. Get moving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Next Step

“They would often change who would find happiness and wisdom.” Confucious

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Telling a Lie First Thing In the Morning

A good friend of mine is absolutely one of the most positive people I've ever met. Every time I've ever called him and asked how he was doing he has answered, "Fantastic!" If I feel myself slipping I'll call him just to get a shot of positive.

I once asked him about his perspective and he said, "You've got to be positive. If you don't the negative stuff can overwhelm you." Simple.

My father and mother used to have a banter that went something like this when my father got up grumpy: My mother would say, "Bill, as soon as your feet hit the floor why don't you just say, 'I feel great and it's going to be a wonderful day!'? If you do that, it will be." To which my father would laugh and answer, "Marie, why get up and lie to yourself first thing in the morning?"

The key is that you have a choice. Whether you believe that the day will be great or not is your choice. Hoping it will be and being surprised is better than being sure it won't be and being proved right.

My parents had a friend who joked that the first thing he did in the morning was read the obituaries. He said that if he, himself, was not in them it was a good day.

Being vertical and maintaining a steady respiration are good enough reasons to be positive.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Old Me, Meet the New Me

Recently, two young men just strolled into the Kenan Football Complex at Kenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and stole a football helmet and some other football-related items.

Security has them on video but you can’t see their faces. The University and local police have released the videos to the media and have asked for the public’s help in identifying the culprits. One of the police said, “Somebody may actually know these people. A high-end football helmet would typically stand out a bit on somebody’s mantel.”

The last line is what scares me a bit. I have a decorative Carolina football helmet on top of a bookshelf and it’s easily visible when people walk by my place.

My friends who really know me could rightly question whether or not it was the stolen helmet and if I was one of the guys in the video. It could have been if this had happened 40, 30….even 20 years ago. But now, no.

Sooner or later most of us do learn our lessons. And, as the philosophers instruct, life keeps providing the lessons until we finally learn them.

What lesson do you need to learn?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Runaway Train

Yesterday I saw the new movie, “Unstoppable,” about a runaway train and two engineers’ attempts to stop it. The film is based on a true story of a runaway train in Pennsylvania.

Denzel Washington and newcomer Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in last summers’ “Star Trek”) are the stars and, while I won’t spoil the ending for you, I’ll just say that they both live through the movie. If you like action you certainly won’t be disappointed by the last third of it.

I knew a little about the original story and Washington and Pine did a great job of showing two regular guys who get caught up in an extraordinary event.

I believe that most of us wonder from time to time what we would do in an extraordinary situation. We play “What If?” in our minds. Studies show that the simple exercise can be a great practice session for the real thing. Our minds can create wonderfully real scenarios into which we place ourselves; then we decide how we would react. Positive reactions to our mental exercise can create a foundation that gives us confidence.

That’s a roundabout way of saying, “Ask yourself, ‘What If?’,” and then imagine yourself moving through the situation successfully. You’ll end up more confident and better able to handle difficult situations in the future. It’s mental practice.

Imagining negative outcomes has the opposite effect. The activity is a negative runaway train in your mind that leads to less confidence.

Play “What If?” and win.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Are You Thinking, Or Are You Thunk?

Last week one of the folks in a seminar came up to me afterwards and offered a quote that has had me thinking ever since.

The quote is: “A man who has an hour to waste should always waste it with a man who doesn’t have it.”

My knee-jerk reaction is to apologize for the political incorrectness of the gender focus, but you get the idea.

I don’t have a clue about the quote’s origin. Googled it and what came up was Charles Darwin’s, “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

My interpretation of the quote is that if you have an hour to waste do it with someone who is productive so you can use them as a guide, mentor, or model.

In short, you’ll learn something.

The cynical approach is that if you have an hour to waste spend it with someone who’s busy so you can slow them down, too; they’re blowing the curve for the rest of us! LOL!

The metaphysical approach is that you NEVER waste an hour. You’re doing what you are supposed to be doing at each moment.

What do you think the quote means?

See there, gotcha thinking, didn’t I? Any moment spent thinking isn’t wasted.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lovely Rita Meter Maid

I got a parking ticket yesterday. The meter lady was writing it out as I walked up.

I didn’t think I’d be away from the car that long but I got caught up in a discussion and it threw off my timing.

Life’s like that. You think you have things planned perfectly and then…well…life pops up and delays you or speeds you up and you fly right past the opportunity you were counting on.

The cliché that timing is everything is right. In business, love, and life you can maneuver some things to work out the way you want them to but all too often it’s the timing that makes them click…or not.

Expect the best for yourself, do the best you can, and things will happen the way they’re going to happen.

Have a great weekend. Fall is here, don’t miss the colors. See you Monday.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Tip of the Spear

Today is Veterans Day. So, let’s face it. One of the main reasons you are able to sit at a computer in comfort and safety and read this blog is because some 19 or 20-year old had the courage to pick up a weapon and stand to post at some God-forsaken dirt pile on the other side of the world. He or she has chosen, on our behalf, to be the tip of the spear.

The older I get the more in awe I am of people in uniform. You may not agree with their missions at times but you have to respect the courage and dedication it takes to do their jobs.

If you are serving, have served, are going to serve, or you are a member of a veteran’s family, thank you.

Remember veterans and their families today with a moment of gratitude, and tonight remember them in your prayers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We Are All Batman's Villain, Two-Faced

A seminar attendee in yesterday’s program was telling me that he has twin daughters; four-years old.

He was saying that they are opposites; one loud, the other quiet; one courageous, the other seeks security. He said, “One wants to swim to the deepest part of the ocean while the other won’t get her ankles wet.”

I left thinking that we are all like that to some degree. We have the opposites of style and behavior in us and what we hope we do is show the appropriate side when necessary (kinda like the Batman villain Two-Face).

When we show one side more than the other we get a reputation of being that way; and we may come to assume that we are that behavior (ex. I’m cautious, or quiet, or a saver, or…you get it).

Making a leap to the opposite and rejecting what you’ve always done is difficult. I love the fact that the act can be thought of as courageous, but the label seems to only apply when the leap works. If it doesn’t, and you see the cliff on which you had hoped to land start rising above you as you fall, the jump seemed foolhardy.

No wonder we, as humans, seek safety and security. The benefits we gain rarely seem worth the pain until we get them.

Unless the thrill of the leap itself is the benefit....and we are not concerned about whether we land or not.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's Tuesday, Now Get After It!

Tuesday is a great day to get something done!

Think about it, you aren’t whining because it’s a Monday. It isn’t Hump Day, Wednesday, when you spend a lot of the morning thinking, “All I gotta do is get to lunch and it’s a downhill slide to the weekend.” Thursday is almost useless because you can see the weekend just over the horizon and it’s time to start planning for it. And then, Ta Daaaaa!, it’s Friday and and 5 o’clock and Yipppeeee!

So, get focused, it’s Tuesday,

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Jimmy Buffett's Birthday

Welcome to a new week!

This will be my only Christmas rant, so bare with me. (Is that right…bare? Or, is it bear? Since I’m sitting here in what passes for my pajamas would bare with me have a whole new meaning? Or, would bear with me mean we’d both be kinda overwhelming, as in being a bear to deal with? But, I digress.)

It’s 47 days until Christmas and Santa appeared at a local mall on Saturday. Tons of retailers, especially the big boys, have had their Christmas decorations up since 5 minutes past midnight on Halloween. Santa caps are available at grocery store checkout aisles, and a local radio station announced that it’ll run Christmas music 24/7 starting in a few days.

I’m all for planning ahead, gettin’ deals and making sure what the kids want is available, but, as Coach Bobby Bowden would say, “Dad-gum!”

Let’s enjoy the fall a little and get cranked up about Christmas at 5 minutes past midnight on Thanksgiving.

End of rant.

Thank you for your patience, I’ll be here all week, please tip your waiters and waitresses.

PS...and, yes, Jimmy Buffett was born on Christmas Day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pan's Music

All too often, when we are trying to move into new experiences, our concerns, cautions and fears lead us into feelings of "panic."

The word comes from the Greek meaning "related to Pan."

Pan was the Greek goat-god that led warriors and armies to victory by encouraging fear in their opponents.

Later, though, Greeks and Romans interpreted Pan to also mean passion, excitement and the kind of music (with his flute) that leads us into mystery and magic.

The new and different can bring bring feelings of panic. You can let the feelings convince you to turn back, or you can use them as emotional music that encourages you to quicken your step into a new reality.

Find something to do that scares you this weekend, and have a great one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Curiouser and Curiouser

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. Fortunately, there is no cure for curiosity.” Anonymous

I love that quote!

The problem is that the rest of the quote probably should be, “Unfortunately, life beats the curiosity out of a lot of us.”

Following your curiosity takes time, energy, and focus. And, in these days and times, it seems that those three resources are in short supply.

But, following your curiosity helps you find new paths, emotionally, financially and professionally.

Curiosity feeds the new you.

Try this simple, quick exercise: Ask yourself, “What was my favorite subject in school?”

Now, when you finish reading this blog, Google the topic and see what you learn. Take a few minutes to follow the thread of information and thinking.

What you’ve done is give candy to you mind. It loves thinking and thinking about something new renews your mind, makes you smarter and may make you mentally younger; all good things.

How curious are you?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If You Don't Play, You Can't Say

Are you voting today?

Are you waaaaay past ready for all the negative political ads to end?

Are you even waaaaayyyyeeeerrrrr past hearing all the doom and gloom forecasts of what will happen no matter who wins?

Me, too.

But, remember, if you don't vote you don't get to complain.

So, stop whining and get out there amongst'um as my father used to say.

A large portion of the human rsce would kill, or is killing, to get the privilege to vote.

Now.....go

Monday, November 1, 2010

Every Day Is Halloween

On Saturday night and Sunday I saw everything from astronauts to zebras in downtown Chapel Hill.

Halloween is a big deal here. They close Franklin Street for Homegrown Halloween and thousands come to walk around, look and celebrate. In 2007, 80.000 people filled downtown Chapel Hill.

I love Halloween. I have a big, silver HAZMAT helmet; combine that with some overalls and a pair of Carolina blue, Converse Chuck Taylor high-tops and you have a costume for life.

If you think about it, though, the basic Halloween question, “What are you going to be?” takes an interesting twist if you apply it to life.

We ask people the same question in different ways throughout life. “What will you be when you grow up?” “What are you going to do after college?” “What will you do in retirement?”

Basically, it’s all the same.

But, what if being who you are going to be was as easy as going into your closet and pulling out an old hat, an over-sized coat and a mask?

In fact, it is. We all make decisions first thing every morning about who we will be that day. And the accumulation of decisions determines not only who we are that day, but what our life will be like.

So, who are you going to be today?

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Astronaut's Mantra: Maintain an Even Strain

This week’s blogs have gone from goat to glory. Probably appropriate.

Life seems like that sometime. For every good thing you do there’s a failure or something you wish you hadn’t done.

You have to understand the old saying that “you’re never as grand or as gross as you think you are.”

And while I understand the concept of staying on an even keel it just doesn’t seem like living to, as engineers and astronauts say, “maintain an even strain.”

So, the best thing to do is get jacked up when you’re in heaven and enjoy the good times, but if you’re in hell, keep moving.

Hope you have good times this weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What, This Ole Thing?

This weekend I’ll be part of an event that has been decades in coming. Lots of folks have said some very kind things about my contributions to the big day.

Whenever I hear compliments I attempt to deflect them; “Well you know, it’s been a team effort. Lots of folks have stepped up.”

I have my reasons for replying as I do. I have a bad habit of not believing compliments (for a range of reasons that, if I went to analysis, would buy a shrink a Mercedes); I always believe that I could have been doing a lot more than I did; it’s true that others have played big roles and I don’t want the praiser to think that I think I did it all…..you get the idea.

Southern women are especially guilty of this type of praise deflection. Someone compliments, “What a beautiful dress!” And, what’s the reply? “Oh, this ole thing? I just pulled it out of the closet.”

A good friend jumped on me the other day and said, “Let people appreciate what you’ve done and just say, ‘Thank you’.”

His logic is that by deflecting their congratulations I am minimizing their appreciation and lessening their gift. In fact, to some people the deflection is an insult to their judgment.

Better to simply say, “Thank you” and appreciate the compliment.

So, this weekend I’m going to say “Thank you” and move on. However, for my remarks to the crowd on Saturday afternoon I’ve got a list of fellow contributors that would rival the Oscar recipients who thank everyone up to and including their third-grade drama teacher.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Good Goat'll Do That!

I ate goat yesterday. Now, I may have had goat in the past considering some of the places I’ve dined (there was a meal at a diner in Hawaii that looked NOTHING like the picture on the big display behind the counter), but it’s the first time I had actually ordered goat.

Trying something new can be scary. You don’t know what to expect, you don’t know how to act, you don’t know what the results will be.

A recent story noted that 80% of the time we wear 20% of our clothes; the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule, at work again.

We fall into habits that rule our lives.

Stepping even a little of the way out of a habit, coloring outside the lines just a bit, can have wonderful results.

There’s evidence that says that most of us park in the same space at work most of the time. Parking in a different space creates new neural pathways in our brains and makes us smarter.

What new thing will you try today?

(If you get a chance to try the goat at The Mint restaurant in Chapel Hill, try it. Its’ good and I’d order it again.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

At 2:30 pm, 129 years ago today, Wyatt Earp and his brothers and gunman/dentist Doc Holliday confronted the Clanton and McLaury brothers at O.K. Corral in Tombstone, AZ. The shooting only lasted about 30 seconds but after a century of romanticizing the conflict has become the best known shootout in Western History.

Some experts believe that the Clantons and McLaurys threw up their hands when the Earps and Holliday demanded their guns. Billy Clanton and Frank and Thomas McLaury died. Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded.

After a 30-day trial the presiding judge dismissed the charges stating that the Earps and Holliday had acted in self-defense.

Surrounded by a mix of facts and myths the event is a great example of how stories change over time, depending on who’s doing the telling. Who shot first? Did the Clantons and McLaurys try to surrender? Did Billy, the youngest Clanton, die in the corral or did Wyatt hunt him down as he ran from the shootout, as the movie portrays?

Depends on who you ask or who’s doing the telling.

The phenomenon is called “framing,” how we create a story that explains the situation to our satisfaction.

What events in your life might have been framed differently depending on whose perspective is taken?

What might be happening right now that, when framed by someone other than you, would cause you to ask, "Were you even at the same event?"

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Little Woozy

I was dealing with a case of vertigo this weekend. It started on Friday evening and got a little worse as the weekend went along. Still experiencing it this morning.

The “uh-oh” feeling isn’t so bad that I can’t walk through the house, but it is more than a little disconcerting.

However, if I slow down a little and focus I can get the things done that have to be done.

Life is often like that. Something pops up that throws you off balance. You have two choices: you can sit down and give up, or you can slow down a little and work your way through it.

What’s making you a little dizzy right now?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Morning is for the Birds

I’ve gotten up at 6 am or earlier every morning this week. Early rising is for the birds….literally and figuratively.

I know some of you get up that early every day…God Bless You.

But, I’m not usually an early morning person. My energy level peaks around mid-afternoon.

Your energy flow is called your Circadian Rhythm.

The more you can work with the flow the more effective you are. At your energy peak you think and talk faster. If you are doing planning during your peak you set higher goals for yourself and come up with more creative ways to overcome challenges.

If at all possible, try to match tasks to your energy level. You’ll work more effectively and have more energy.

And you morning people, be very careful who you meet with or talk to after 3:30 in the afternoon. It’s easy for fatigue and irritability to set in and you may pop off and say something you’ll later regret.

As for energy, the weekend is a great time to reenergize. Have a big time this weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

70 Generations Ago

I’m looking at a coin on my desk. It’s a Roman coin made in 365 AD and made of iron, I guess. It’s kinda heavy and there’s a pointy-nosed Roman on one side and some figures on the other.

It was found in a large urn with a bunch of other coins in the middle of a field in England.

Now, obviously, the person who made it is gone as are any of the people who might have been around at that time. In fact, about 70 generations have passed since the coin was made.

When I think about all the little, piddly things that bother us I think about this coin. It’s here and all those folks aren’t.

And their worries, and troubles, and problems aren’t either.

Sooner or later it’s over.

Why not make the best of the time we’re here?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So, What's New?

Nurses have long used the tradition of, “Watch one, do one, teach one,” as a way to learn new skills and pass on their experience to other nurses.

When is the last time you were taught? When is the last time you taught others?

Early in life our parents show us the ropes; then we look to our peers to gain the skills we need to move through life and, hopefully, we learn are exposed to socialization and practical skills in some sort of educational setting.

But, once out of school and away from our families, how do we continue to learn?

If you’re smart you have some sort of self-directed learning program (whether you realize it or not) that helps you acquire the knowledge you need to move through life.

Unfortunately, at least 70 percent of the population never reads an entire book after they exit formal educational settings. You can get some information from the Internet if you’re pretty focused. But, the best way to learn is still the oldest, from others.

Do you have a mentor? Are you mentoring someone else?

Your mentor does not have to be face-to-face, they can be in books, videos, CDs or other technological delivery systems.

Whataya want to know? What do you need to know? How will you learn it?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Focus on Solutions

Have been reading a TON about how to deal with change. The change seminar I’ve been doing has gotten pretty popular and I keep studying, trying to fine-tune.

Never mind that I’m studying as much for the answer of how to deal with dramatic changes in my own life, I’m trying to find some answer that make sense for all of us.

Recently, I’ve been trying to track the neuroscience sources of change resistance. I’m looking for what happens in our brains when we are asked to change or we recognize the need for change?

There are a variety of chemical reactions that are interesting, but I’ll fast forward.

When it comes to adapting to change there are three simple rules.

The first one is, “Look for solutions, don’t fixate on the problem.” In simple terms, when we fixate on the problem the neural pathways that recognize the problem get stronger, and the stronger they get the more difficult it becomes to move away from the problem.

Try it. Look for an area of life in which you need to change. Very often, when you start thinking of solutions your mind pulls you away and back to the “Damn, I’ve got a problem” mode of thinking.

But, keep pulling yourself back from the habitual mode of thinking and into the solution frame of mind and you’ll start realizing that some imaginative ideas begin to pop up.

So, the first of the three steps to dealing with change is, “Focus on solutions, no problems.”

I’ll give you the other two steps on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cakes and Columbus

Last night I was in Roanoke Rapids, NC, doing a seminar about how to write a business plan. A woman in the seminar is starting a business of creating custom cakes. These cakes are all the rage now and there are a couple of wild cake shows on the Food Network.

She had pictures of cakes that looked like little kids hiding under a blanket (you could see their little butts and bare feet sticking out), a sports-themed cake with a baseball bat and ball and hat, and a cake with playing cards made from flondant (a sugary substance that comes in sheets and can be cut and molded).

This morning at breakfast I read an article about Columbus Day.

Now, what in the world do those two things: cakebaking and Columbus, have to do with each other?

Discovery.

As humans, we are all about discovery and creativity. We are all creative in some way in our lives. We might not bake cakes or happen upon a new world, but we might be creative in child-rearing, work, worship or any of a range of other activities.

As humans, we seek creative activity. Discovery and the Aha! moments in life are like candy for our brains. The activities make our brains light up on fMRI tests.

Be creative this weekend. Look for something new to see, feel, taste, touch or smell. Invent something. Read something you might never have read before. Go somewhere new. You'll be giving good kinds of candy to your brain.

And, by the way, Columbus didn't discover a new world, 5 million Native Americans were already here.

Have a big weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do You Need Some Steel-Toed Shoes?

This blog won’t end like you might expect, so keep reading:

Yesterday, when I was writing the blog I mistakenly wrote, “Even strong men stumble,” instead of the correct quote, “Even strong men struggle.” Then I corrected my mistake.

I thought about the mistake a good bit yesterday and finally came to the belief that it was not a mistake but a Freudian slip.

I’ve had some stumbles over the last year or two and I’m finally coming to grips with them. I’m understanding that truly stumbling only happens if you are moving forward.

You can be moving backward and trip over something because you couldn’t see it. But, I believe that stumbling comes when you see the thing in front of you and you don’t make it over, around or by it.

I know the trip or stumble deal sounds like a simple semantic flip, but I don’t believe that’s the case.

An important question comes to mind after the stumble? Do you want to continue to stumble? Do you straighten up and keep moving? Do you learn from the stumble and try not to stumble in the same way in the future?

We all stumble if we’re trying to actually live life and not just cruise through it on autopilot.

How you recover from the stumble is the key.

Stumbling is a sign that you are trying. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Get up, look back at the thing that made you stumble and ask this question, “Is it important to me to not stumble in the same way in the future?” (Let’s be honest, some people don’t mind stumbling)

If it’s important to you to not stumble you’ll need to make some changes. If you don’t mind the stumble you’d better get some steel-toed shoes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Even Strong People Struggle

T. D. Jakes is the CEO of The Potter’s House, a megachurch in Dallas. Some religious and lay leaders in America believe that he is the next Billy Graham, a religious leader who can reach people in all areas of society.

Jakes wrote an outstanding book, He-Motions, about how men can live better lives. He has a phrase I like, “Even strong men struggle.” Obviously, that goes for strong women, too.

Too often, many of us believe that we can withstand any stressor, overcome any obstacle, and that we should have all the answers.

We don’t. And we shouldn’t feel weak when we don’t.

Of course, “shouldn’t” and “don’t” are two different things. Just because we shouldn’t feel a certain way doesn’t mean that we don’t feel like that.

Unfortunately, we often beat ourselves up when we don’t live up to unrealistic expectations. Cut yourself some slack. Another phrase, “we’re all human,” is true.

How would you feel if you applied FDR’s advice, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”?

Breath in. Breath out.

You’ll get there.

Relax, if only for a moment.

Even strong people struggle.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Think Pink

It seems that pink has become one of the team colors for every team in the NFL. Watching the Jets/Minnesota game tonight it was amazing to see all the pink gloves, shoes, wrist bands, chinstraps, towels, ribbon decals on helmets and cheerleaders’ pom-poms.

The commitment by the NFL to raise breast cancer awareness is great.

Many folks could discover the disease in its early stages with regular self-examinations. The same goes for men and testicular cancer.

I never thought I’d use this phrase in this blog, but check yourself out. Take a few minutes in the shower and check for any lumps, bumps or abnormalities.

Do yourself a favor and think pink.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just for Solomon

One of the best has taken the last train home.

Solomon Burke was 70 when he died of a heart attack this past weekend at an airport in Sweden.

Burke was never as widely known as his disciples, James Brown and Marvin Gaye, but he was one of the greatest soul singers of the ‘60s. Legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler called Burke, “the best soul singer of all time.”

According to his website, Burke was born March 21, 1940, “to the sounds of horns and bass drums” downstairs at the United Praying Band The House of God for All People in West Philly. As an adult, Burke served as a preacher for the church.

In 2000, he played for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2002 and won a Best Contemporary Blues Grammy in 2003 for his album, “Don’t Give Up On Me.”

Burke toured recently with The Rolling Stones and his song, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” is the basis of the escape scene in the Blues Brothers movie.

Burke had the ability, as any magical musician does, to vocalize and verbalize the heart’s feelings.

If you love, or have ever loved, anyone, go to YouTube.com and search “Just For You, Solomon Burke.” BeachmusicDJ has posted “Just For You.”

Thank you, Solomon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Be Big

I awoke this morning at a hotel just off I-95 in Wilson, NC...have a seminar this morning at the community college.

When I went into the breakfast area I encountered a women's track team from the School for the Deaf in Louisiana. They are here to compete against one of the deaf schools here in North Carolina.

I watched the girls "talking," checking email, texting, laughing and doing all the things any teenagers and college students do, but without being able to hear or speak. It was amazing.

When I'm in situations like this I often think about how frequently I let some little something get in the way of me accomplishing a goal, getting a daily chore done, or simply enjoying life. And these young people are living life and don't seem to let what, for me, seems a great hindrance get in the way.

I always feel small when I realize that no matter how tough things are in my life there are other folks out there who are not only surviving, but excelling, with much greater burdens than I.

If you are reading this it's likely that you are not starving, you are somewhere cool or warm, you are safe, and you have a great life in front of you. Live it, and enjoy it.

Have a big weekend. I'll see you Monday.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are You Running To or Away?

The MAO-B is a behavioral profile used in business. To cut to the chase, it determines approach or avoidance in six needs or motivations in life.

Approach means you’re moving towards something. Avoidance means you’re trying to move away from the issue.

For example, in the area of Achievement are you moving toward success or trying to stay away from failure? The motivation to move toward success is simple to understand. But, we all know someone who grew up poor and is determined to never be poor again; moving away from poverty is more important to them than moving toward success.

In Affiliation (relationships) are you moving towards inclusion or away from exclusion. Some people are motivated more to be included in a relationship while others are working hard to keep from being left out. Some people want to be in a loving relationship because they believe they grow when in close contact with a friend or partner. Others are trying to keep from being lonely.

Got it?

Which are you? Broadly speaking, are you running toward something, or working hard to keep away from something else?

I don’t know if there’s any good or bad here. I mean, if you end up rich what does it matter if you were running toward wealth or away from poverty.

But, taken to extreme the motivations can push some folks to negative behaviors; clinginess, victim attitude, unethical choices.

“The most valuable knowledge is self-knowledge,” said Aristotle.

Knowing what pushes you is valuable. Do you know?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lighten Your Heart, Live Your Life

I have a friend who believes that he could be a great golfer…if only he had time to practice. Another one of my buddies believes he could be a spy(well, maybe not a spy, but every time I talk to him he’s got some national security issue that only he and few other people really understand the workings of). And both of them are absolutely serious in their beliefs about their possibilities in these two areas.

Both of them would be much better off if they understood, “That just ain’t gonna happen,” and moved on with their lives.

I’m not saying I’m immune to this sort of delusion. There are a couple of areas of life that I have clung to for decades and I keep thinking, “If I’d focus on THAT I could do it.” I’m sure my spending many of those decades steeped in positive thinking literature has supported my fantasies.

William James, the father of modern psychology, once spoke about a “lightening of the heart.” I use the term in seminars to refer to looking at life and living it with a sense of humor.

James used the term to refer to the decision to drop illusions such as being a millionaire, being slim, learning a musical instrument or being a great athlete. “Lightening” meant that dropping the fantasies and illusions in our lives made us lighter and better able to reach our true potential.

If you want to understand what you could jettison to make your life lighter simply finish this phrase, “One of these days I’ll……”

Now, ask yourself this question, “If I no longer held that belief, and no longer spent time and energy supporting it, what could I accomplish with the time and energy I would free up?”

Today’s the day I stop thinking that one day I might be Mr. Olympia, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and the education cop for a lot of the dopes who come to my seminars. I’m done.

Wow! I feel lighter already.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Chimp In a Sailor Suit

Yesterday I went to a financial business for a service. The woman who “helped” me did a reasonable job of providing the service. However, she had this stone-faced expression the entire time.

As I was leaving I asked the young man at the front desk, “Does she ever smile?”

He said, “Yep, at 5:30.”

Here’s the thing: If the only time you ever smile is at the end of the day or when you get your paycheck you’re in the wrong job.

Now, I have to tell you, I don’t expect someone to be dancing like the Irish River Dancers when they provide a service, but I do want to see some sort of reasonably positive, human reaction. A machine or trained chimp could have provided my service yesterday. (Actually, the chimp would have been kinda cool if it had been dressed in a Michael Jackson or Russian sailor outfit)

I certainly understand that people need jobs, but think about it from two sides: From your side, life’s too short to spend a significant part of it in a job you hate. From the customer’s side, life’s tough enough now that we shouldn’t have to put up with a sluggoe when are paying for a simple business transaction.

I’ll say it again: If the only time you enjoy your job is quittin’ time or payday, you’re in the wrong job. You might as well be a chimp in a sailor suit.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hi Ho Silver! Awaaaaaay!

Had the chance to ride a horse yesterday for the first time in over 20 years.

For those of you who ride on a regular basis, or have in the past, my hat’s off to you. I enjoyed the experience, but getting up on one of those big animals and getting it to do what you want it to do is an exhilarating, sometimes scary, experience.

My friend who owns the horses (and I guess you do own a horse like you can own a dog and unlike the fact that you never own a cat, they just decide if they want to be around you) had been asking me to come and ride for quite a while and I finally said, “yes.”

The experience was a bit out of my comfort zone and that was one of the major reasons I agreed. I’ve been in a rut for awhile and it’s time to try some new things.

When was the last time you tried something new? Not just a new version of the old, but something very different? And it doesn’t have to be a big new. It can be a little new. Any new and different is, well, new and different, and that’s a good thing.

I know that I probably don’t want to ride every day, maybe not every week, but am I going back? Yes. And will I do better next time? Yes.

That’s the only way to live life.

Will you try something new this week or will you keep “the same ole, same ole?”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Do You Go With the Flow?

What are your sleep patterns when you’re on a roll?

I have friends who, when they are really cranking out the work, will go to bed exhausted, sleep 8-9 hours or more, and then get up and get after it again.

When I’m really rockin’ I seem to need less sleep. The energy of the idea or the accomplishment keeps me energized. I seem to go to bed spent and six hours later it’s morning. I sleep more when I’m bored.

It’s a great idea to try and work with your natural rhythms. Life itself has rhythms of ebb and flow and if you can take advantage of how energy moves through your life you can be more productive and enjoy life more.

Working against your natural rhythms seems to be more stressful.

We live in a society in which time is dictated by the concept of work and not by nature. It’s been like this since we moved away from an agricultural society.

Today is October 1. For the next month, whenever possible, try to be aware of your natural rhythms and work with them. If you can’t due to work and life responsibilities try to be aware of whether or not you might be more tired or energized, stressed or relaxed, productive or nonproductive, and do those states match your rhythms.

As for me, it’s 6:30 am and I’m in the middle of a very productive time so I’d better get back to work.

Have a big weekend and I’ll see you on Monday.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What About the Furry Coach?

When I awake each morning I can look on top of a bookcase in my bedroom and see a football sitting point down atop a heavy crystal flower vase. I think I stuck the football in there simply because it kept rolling off the shelves.

The sight is a wonderful juxtaposition between things that are very dissimilar.

Believe it or not, making observations like that, putting the unlike together, makes us smarter. It causes our brains to have little “aha” moments. Here’s something else that’s kinda wild: when we have moments like that the areas of our brains that light up using a functional MRI are same areas that light up when people use drugs. Our brains love the activity.

Try this: Pick five nouns…any nouns…let’s say….coach, book, steel, telephone and box. Then, pick five more words based on the senses…let’s say….sweet, stinky, furry, screeching, nearsighted. Now…match up the two groups and see what you get.

Furry Coach, Stinky Book, Sweet Steel, Nearsighted Telephone and Screeching Box.

Any of the phrases might have made you smile, even laugh. (The Furry Coach got me ‘cause I know someone like that.)

But, the phrases could be the starting points of ideas that could develop into products, processes, or new ways of doing things.

The simple act of creation is a wonderful human trait and a source of joy for our brains. It makes us smarter.

Try it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best or Bum

Are you proud of what you do?

If you had to sign your job, would you?

During tough times there seem to be two attitudes that dominate: First, I’m going to do the best job I can do so I stand out as someone who deserves to be here. Second, I’m going to do as little as possible for the most money I can get because I might be gone tomorrow.

Come to think of it, the tough times deal doesn’t matter…those are the two basic attitudes about work, anytime.

Which are you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Classroom for 5-Year Olds

This past weekend my place looked like either a classroom for 5-year olds, or a strategic planning session….and, in a sense, it was both.

I spent the weekend with flipchart pages thumbtacked to walls, taped to the backs of sliding glass patio doors, lying on the floors and tables, and even taped to the refrigerator door.

All the pages contained ideas, plans, areas on which to focus, areas to dump, goals and action steps. I've got drawings that look like a 5-year old drew them; arrows and circles and triangles, smiley and frowny faces, and one monster with a tongue sticking out and cuss words surrounding him.

I try to spend at least one weekend a year planning what the next 12-18 months will be like in my business. The exercise is fun, hard, exhilarating, sad (some of the areas I’m getting out of have been great to me and will mean seeing some good people I like less often), and sobering.

All the mess from the weekend is now boiled down to a few lines on a 3"x5" index card that I keep in my pocket at all times.

The average American spends more time planning their vacation than they do their work life. Lack of planning is why a lot of folks are in dire straits today.

Whether you have your own business or not it’s easy for the craziness and stress of life to pull you off track; this exercise gets you back on the track in the direction you need to go to have the life you want.

Pull out a piece of paper and try a short version of the exercise. Draw a circle in the middle of the paper and inside the circle write, “December 31, 2011.”

Who and where will you be?

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Book In Time

When I walk through a bookstore I feel like I have on Velcro clothes. Books just leap off the shelves and stick to me. I’ve worried that my love of books was a type of addiction. It’s almost impossible for me to walk through a bookstore and not buy a book.

But, I could be addicted to worse things, right?

The other day I was in Barnes and Noble and found 50 Psychology Classics on the bargain table. It’s great! Short, 4-page summaries of books ranging from William James’ The Principles of Psychology (1890) to Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness (2006).

The back of the title page showed me that there is a 50 Self-Help Classics and I’m getting ready to order it from Amazon.com.

My trip to B&N also rewarded me with a couple of novels, one of which I’ve finished.

It’s a sad fact that waaaay over half of Americans never read a whole book after they get out of high school/college.

Any successful person will tell you that you must keep feeding your mind if you want to succeed.

I look around my home and think, “So many books, so little time.”

What are you reading?

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are You An Actor?

On Monday and Tuesday nights I recorded some of the TV premiers; NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Lonestar, and I caught some of The Defenders last night.

With the exception of NCIS I didn’t watch any of them all the way through. After about 10-15 minutes I deleted the others and turned The Defenders off.

At least in the short term my actions didn’t matter to the actors (if lots of people aren’t interested the shows won’t last too long).

But, the actors got to do exactly what they wanted to do, act.

Think about it, very few people stumble into acting like some folks stumble into selling, or fixing stuff, or standing at a counter and serving customers.

Acting is tough. You’re putting yourself into a situation in which the audience can quickly reject you if they don’t appreciate what you’re doing. If you are going to succeed as an actor you’ve got to want it….baaaaad.

I like that focus. I might not appreciate the story, characters, or production (went to see George Clooney’s new movie, The American, yesterday and was lukewarm about it), but I truly admire the persistence it takes to be an actor; even a bad actor if they try to stay with it.

Music and musicians are the same as actors in terms of focus, dedication and persistence.

So, think about your media habits like this: You are spending your time listening to and watching people who are doing exactly what they want to be doing in life.

Are you?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

And Now, In the Starting Position!

What do you think about first thing in the morning?

Does it seem that you wake up with worries of the day on your mind, or are you recalling a pleasant, positive memory?

When most of us wake up our minds are running us...we are not running, or directing, our minds. So, we get what we get and our moods and days reflect that.

What if you had a short, positive ritual that you started every day with?

It could be a prayer, a favorite song you listen to (I'm partial to The Stones'' "Start Me Up" on football Saturdays), a fragrance, a taste, someone you call, a view, a $100 bill; it could be whatever you deem positive.

Millions of people have simple, structured ways to begin their days so they get off to a positive start.

They are directing their minds, not letting their minds direct them.

How'd your day begin?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Will You Learn Today?

Still thinking about sitting on the back deck of the new fraternity house and the realization of a dream

When I thought about all the times I’d imagined the moment on Saturday, and the work that went into making it a reality, I asked myself out loud, “What did you learn from this experience?”

If we don’t learn from our successes…and more so from our mistakes…then we’re fools.

I meet people every day who seem to have stopped learning and growing. And they are content with that.

I’m lost when it comes to those kinds of people.

What did you learn yesterday that can help you today?

Monday, September 20, 2010

40 Years to Reality

Actually seeing the realization of a dream is an incredibly powerful experience.

For decades I’ve dreamed that the fraternity I enjoyed for 40 years would have a home close to the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

At about 5:30 on Saturday afternoon, as I sat on the deck of the new fraternity house—a block from campus, a block from downtown Chapel Hill, and surrounded by three sorority houses—I watched the young guys who are the current members enjoying an after-game party with their girlfriends, families and friends. Music and the sounds of football games on TV floated out the doors and surrounded alumni who were renewing friendships.

A friend pointed out that I should take the time to enjoy the experience before moving on to new challenges. They were right.

Look around you. EVERYTHING you see that is man-made is the manifestation of an idea someone had. EV-ER-Y-THING!

If there is a dream you want to see become a reality you must constantly hold it in front of you and do something every day to make it a reality.

There will come a day when you, too, are able to enjoy watching the celebration party.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Step Up and Take the Hit

I’ve always preached that the best way to deal with procrastination is to put a reward on the other side of the thing you’re putting off and the desire for the reward will pull you through the task.

I still believe that that method works. But, there are some things we put off that are so onerous that there may not be a reward readily available that is big enough to balance the task.

There’s something I have to do that I’ve been putting off and I can’t think of a balancing reward. I’ve tried. Nothing I can think of is helping. And the very grown-up attitude that my life will be better, or I’ll be a better person, sounds pretty hollow.

This morning I came to the realization that I’ve just got to Cowboy Up and do it and keep moving.

Sometimes you simply have to do your duty, or take your whipping, or swallow the medicine.

That’s not a happy thought to end the week and start the weekend with, but there it is.

What have you been putting off that you can’t find a balancing reward for? What is it that you simply need to step up, get it done, and move on?

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cigars or Drums...What's the Choice?

Had dinner last night at a meeting of a great cigar club in Hickory, NC.

Ok, so unwrinkle your nose. The guys were great, the food was good and the cigars were outstanding!

The president of the Carrillo Cigar Company talked about his business and his evolution in the industry.

Ernesto Carrillo, Jr. was a talented Cuban drummer as a young man in Miami and New York in the early '60s but he gave up music to return to Miami to run his father's cigar company.

I asked him if he still played the drums.

He said, "No, music and cigars are very similar. They both take total dedication. I chose cigars."

Increasingly, I'm realizing that my energies are divided among too many things; it's time to focus.

Are you focused or spread too thinly? Do you have the courage to make the type of choice Ernesto made?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What Hard Road Are You Travelin'?

Van Morrison’s song, “Someone Like You” has a couple of lines that tend to resonate during difficult times.

“I’ve been travelin’ a hard road,” “I’ve been carryin’ a heavy load.”

When I heard the song the other day those two lines jumped out at me. We often travel those hard roads and carry those heavy loads because of life events, responsibilities we believe we have to take on, or simple chance.

Or, we simply choose the hard road or heavy load. For whatever reason we don’t take the easy way. Some people do it because they don’t know any better. Others choose the difficult path because it’s more of a challenge.

Whatever the reason, the heavier, harder way can wear you down and push you to the point of finally asking, “Isn’t there an easier more positive way to do this?”

Asking the question is a good thing. It’s life’s way of pointing out, “Ok, now you’re ready to learn the lesson.”

What hard road, or heavy load, are you experiencing that….maybe…it’s time to ask, “Is there another way?”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hire People Who Play

“Hire people who play at what you have to work at.”

The quote came from a CD I was listening to yesterday. I had a real life example of the strategy this morning.

I have a couple of projects I’m working on and I just can’t get revved up to get them going. But, this morning I thought about them in a little different way and all of a sudden my energy level jumped.

I realized that I didn’t have to do some of what is slowing me down. I can do part of the project to get it going and I can hire someone pretty cheaply to handle some of the more onerous parts.

If you’re running into an obstacle and you can’t hire someone to move it for you you might want to delegate the task, if possible. Or, you could come up with a great reward that you get if you complete the task. Or, you could try to see the task in a different light (ex. You’re doing it to help someone, teach someone, or do it as your good deed of the day).

We all have stuff we need to do but don’t want to do. The key is to do whatever you can to get it close to “Need to do and want to do.”

So, whataya have?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't Tell Me You Were Working!

The average American worker is interrupted 6-8 times every hour and it can take 10-20 minutes to get back in the flow of work after an interruption.

Recent research showed that Intel executives received approximately 300 emails a day. Microsoft workers took an average of 24 minutes to get back to work after answering an in-depth email interruption.

Here’s the problem with interruptions; we’re smart people, so handling the interruption is not the problem. The problem is getting back in the flow of work.

Try these suggestions: Rearrange some things on your desk, it sets a new work space. Take a short walk. Drink a glass of water. Go to the bathroom. Listen to a song. Go over a bit of the work you were involved in before the interruption (I find that to be really helpful. It’s almost like getting a running start to get back to work.)

Whatever shortens the amount of time it takes you to get back in the flow is what you need to do.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What Good is Pink Eye?

I’ve had a case of pink eye for about two weeks. It was “impressive” according to the doctor I saw last week and, at this point, has eased off into the “annoying” category.

While I wouldn’t wish anything like this on anyone (except whoever originated the case I have) I will say that I’ve had a couple of life lessons presented to me.

First, we absolutely take some of the most important things in life for granted. Yesterday, while presenting a seminar to 300 people in Greensboro, my eyes started to get squirrely with mucous and I felt like I was looking at them through a dirty window. Like me, you probably take clear vision for granted. Don’t.

Second, there are lots of issues in life that you can’t hurry. I keep thinking that if I could get some stronger medicine this thing would clear up faster. But, would I put stronger medicine in my eyes and take a chance on damaging them? Probably not. Some things take time. Let’em.

I’ve spent so much time lying on the couch and in bed giving myself eye drops (and getting the drops EVERYWHERE BUT IN MY EYES!) that I’ve had time to think about the two lessons related to my pink eye and apply them to other areas of life.

Why don’t you do the same?

What do you take for granted in life? And what are you trying to hurry along that will take its own sweet time?

A weekend is a great time to ponder. Have a good one.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Is It True?

What’s bothering you?

No, I don’t mean that little rock in your shoe or the fact that you dropped a little bit of egg on your shirt this morning. I’m talking about deep down stuff; how you feel about you and others and the world kind of stuff.

Most of us are dealing with some of this stuff in one way or the other. God bless you if you don’t believe you have any of this gunk to deal with.

Byron Katie is a speaker and author who teaches a method of self-inquiry known as "The Work of Byron Katie" or simply as "The Work."

Katie’s method of getting at the tough stuff of life consists of using four questions to find out what’s going on and what you can do about it:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- How do you react when you believe this thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?

Take one of the difficult issues in your life and run through the questions. Now, do it again with the same issue. And one more time. Using the process a few times starts getting at the deepest issues of what drags you down in life.

What you may realize (and be ready to be surprised) is that a deep worry—a weight you’ve carried for a long time—may be based on an assumption, miscommunication, error in judgment, or mere accident.

The first question is the key: Is it true?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Are You Just Taking Up Space?

For those of us who run on Old-School schedules today is the first day of the year.

Summer’s over, Labor Day Weekend is done, the next big holiday is Thanksgiving.

What’s on your agenda? What big and small goals do you have on your list?

You say you have nothing on your list?

Then how will you know you’re here? Other than sucking up oxygen and taking up space, how will you know that you’ve lived?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Your #1 Chance to Keep Working

Labor Day Monday.

If you are working today take a moment and give thanks for your job. You might not like it, but you're working...unlike millions of other Americans.

Labor Day was created as a day to honor working Americans.

New studies show that we continue to be some of the most productive workers in the global economy.

However, recent research also shows a rapidly growing gap (income and opportunity) between what I'll call "more knowledge" and "less or no knowledge" jobs. You can forget blue-collar and white-collar jobs. Some of the new opportunities that would have been called blue-collar in the past, jobs on manufacturing lines, require computer skills and a talent for higher-level thinking; knowledge jobs.

If you aren't learning something on a regular basis that helps you in your job you're already falling behind.

In our culture we are still conditioned by the school schedules we and our kids follow to see the fall as a beginning; of the school year, of college football, of new opportunities.

Make this fall the beginning of a new time of learning for yourself.

If you map out a simple plan to learn something new this fall and get back in the habit of challenging your brain cells they won't the the only things with a better chance of working.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What Can You Learn from a Hurricane?

Here in North Carolina it seems that we dodged most of Hurricane Earl.

I’m sure that some of the folks who boarded up windows, drained their waterlines and left the islands are annoyed that they went to all that trouble.

But, if the hurricane had struck and those folks had been safely sitting 100 miles inland they would have been glad they made the efforts.

Recent studies show we do not like to spend time and money preparing for disasters…it’s a gamble, the disaster may not occur. But, we’ll spend lots more money and time cleaning up the mess after the disaster occurs.

Life’s like that. There are usually a few things that, if we invest in them, will pay off down the road. The investments are usually effort, time, money and emotion. The working out/better health connection is one of the easiest to recognize.

It’s a pain, though, to make those sacrifices and too often we don’t want to do it…and we pay for it later.

What’s the line, “Pay me now or pay me later.”

You can’t go back and invest in the past so that it pays off now or in the future. But, you can ask, “What in my life, if I invest now, might pay off in the future?”

If you are working today I hope you’ll end up with Monday off. Have a big weekend and be careful out there.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Are You Up To?

Met a 70-year old Maine transplant yesterday who has lived in NC for 20 years.

He talked about how so few people today have goals in life. “It seems like they drift from job to job or interest to interest and don’t have anywhere they’re really going,” he said.

He pointed out that when he was young he set a goal of being a fireman or policeman and he became both in his career.

He said, “If I decide that I’m going to go through that wall over there I’ll do it sooner or later. Might take awhile, but I’ll make it.”

I tend to be a goal-setter so I clicked with his life philosophy, and I thought about what he’d said the rest of the day.

And he’s right.

Most people have vague desires…to be happy, make some money, have good kids. But, they don’t have specific goals. Targets get you moving and help align forces to help you get there.

Our conversation also made me feel a little sheepish. I’ve run into a period of my life in which I don’t have specific goals as I have in the past. I’m really struggling with figuring out what’s next. And that’s rare for me.

Time for me to make some decisions and set some goals.

How about you?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Basic Decision

The group yesterday was just what I anticipated; smart, quick professionals.

I asked the group a question and got some interesting answers. The question was, “How do you handle change in the workplace.”

They offered the usual responses such as, “I embrace it,” “I take it one step at the time,” “I work off the stress of it.”

One woman, though, had a wonderfully astute and self-revelatory answer. I can’t quote her exactly (because I was so stunned at the unique quality of her answer that I didn’t write it down and forgot to ask her to repeat it after the program), but she said something like, “When we are confronted with change here I first determine whether I want to stay or go. If I decide to stay I then start figuring out how I can make sure the change works in a positive way for me. I lay out the positive things about the change and then I use them to help me move into the change.”

A lot of people offer the second part of her answer….the part about looking for ways to make the change work for them. But, no one has ever offered the first part. There’s always an assumption that they’ll stay. In fact, for most folks it isn’t even part of the question.

But, here’s the really powerful part of her answer. The first sentence showed me that she understood that SHE was in control of her life, not the corporation or the people to whom she paid her bills. Lots of folks will pay lip service to that fact but don’t really believe it, and certainly won’t act on it. She obviously does.

My hat’s off to her. You don’t meet someone every day who truly is the captain of their destiny.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are You Winging It?

On my way to New York today to talk about change with another group of folks who work with a large pharmaceutical company. These are really nice, professional, interested/interesting people so it’s always a delight to work with them.

They handle things in an extraordinarily professional way. Details are covered, people stay in touch to make sure I have what I need to maximize my time with them, and they think ahead and anticipate problems and have solutions ready.

Not everyone works like that. I’ve worked with other groups that say, “Be here at a certain time and talk about this topic.” And that’s it.

I don’t really mind the second type of group because I’ve been doing this a long time, there is not a whole lot I’ve haven’t seen, and if a problem comes up I can usually improvise and get us through.

But, there is a definite feeling of security when you deal with professionals and the older I get the less I like surprises and winging it. Flying by the seat-of-your-pants is stressful, it takes more time, and I don’t believe you can do as good a job as you might if there was a little planning involved.

In your work and in your life, where do you feel secure and where do you feel like you’re winging it? I’m all for the thrill of the hunt but we aren’t out on the savannah where we have to kill our food every day. Where can you make sure the details in life are covered so you can concentrate on the topics and issues of life that really engage YOU.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

500 and Counting

Yesterday was my 500th posting.

There aren't many things I've done in my life 500 times. Well, there is that.

I counted up once and I've worked out in a gym over 6,000 times. I've presented about 2,000 seminars. Been to around 250 Carolina football games.

What have you done a BUNCH of times in your life. The number often shows you what's important to you.

Thanks for paying attention.

Have a big day.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Davey Has Been Kidnapped!!

There’s been a kidnapping and Cary, NC, police are on the case…well…maybe not a kidnapping…more like a dolphin-napping.

Davey is, or was, a 30” bronze dolphin on a pedestal outside Davis Drive Elementary School. Sometime between 5 pm on August 17 and 8 am on August 18 someone took Davey.

The culprit was caught on video cameras located next door at Davis Drive Middle School. Described as a “teenager who wore light-colored shorts, a T-shirt and a hat,” the person was seen walking through the parking lot talking on a cellphone (now there’s a surprise!).

The statue looks like Flipper from the old TV series. It’s up on its tail with flippers extended and the story says little kids will actually go to the statue and hug it.

At this point you’re probably going, “Aaaahhhhh, that’s terrible! Now little kids can’t hug the statue.”

I’m not saying that. I’m saying, “Aaaahhh, that kid who took it was too stupid to look for the video cameras.” No kidding.

I’m certainly not condoning vandalism, but we all did dumb things when we were young (I climbed on top of a Pizza Hut and tore one of the Z’s off to give to a friend for his birthday, his last name started with a Z)…and according to some of the people who at least profess to love me I’m still doing dumb things.

But, here’s how the Davey Dilemma will probably shake out: The culprit will be caught because he (I’ve got $1,000 that says it was a guy), or some of his friends won’t be able to keep their mouths shut. And he’ll say he’s sorry, and he’ll return the dolphin, and his parents will pay the damage fee, and he’ll get some community service, and his parents, unless they are really mature, will forget that he owes them the damage money, and he’ll grow up with a story to tell, and he'll go to law school, and someone will remind him of his misdeed at a cocktail party 30 years from now and they’ll all have a big laugh.

Again, while I’m not condoning the theft, here’s how I compared it to what else is going on. On one page of my local paper there are three stories. One is about lifesaving relief not being able to reach 800,000 people in Pakistan isolated due to flooding; militants in Somalia killed 32 people when they attacked a hotel; and 42 people died in a Chinese plane crash.

Oh yeah, and there was a story saying that Lindsey Lohan may get out of rehab early.

In America we have a bad habit of letting the trivial, like bronze dolphins and Hollywood drunks, pull our attention and energy away from the important things.

A few years ago I attended a seminar in which I learned a truly valuable skill. The speaker said, “When your mind and attention starts going to topics that don’t benefit you simply start saying, ‘Delete-Delete-Delete,’ just as if you are hitting the Delete button on your keyboard. The exercise will pull your attention away from the unwanted topic, and then you can redirect it to something more worthwhile.”

(I’m sure that there are some folks who think, “Delete-Delete-Delete,” when their minds turn to me. That’s ok. They’ve learned to use the skill.)

Try the skill today. When your mind strays, Delete-Delete-Delete the unwanted topic, and send it wherever Davey the Dolphin is hiding.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get In the Car!!! We've Got to Go!

Frustration has got to be one of the most difficult emotions for me to deal with. Emotionally, I see frustration as a type of waiting; waiting for something to happen, other people to make up their minds, nature to evolve.

I certainly understand that there are lots of things in life that you can’t directly control. But, for someone who believes that you only go through life once time spent waiting is usually wasted time and that is to be avoided at all costs.

Sooooo, frustration seems such a waste.

I’m trying all the strategies: Focusing on something else, understanding the logic of the situation, eating, drinking, reading, a whole range of other.

Not that it’s helping a whole lot.

All those cute clichés like, “Time will tell,” aren’t helping because you know they were created by people who were frustrated.

Buddhists believe that frustration is the byproduct of wanting and that the less we want the less we find ourselves in conflict with life. I get the logic of that but it doesn’t mean that I spend less time outside Life’s house blowing the horn and shouting, “Come on, Life, get in the car. We’ve got to go!!”

Monday, August 23, 2010

We're All Freshmen

This is a great time of year in Chapel Hill or any university or college town. Freshmen are arriving and upperclassmen are coming back.

(OK, OK, so some of you don’t like the freshMEN and upperclassMEN …how does freshpersons and upperclasspersons sound? Dial your indignation down to about a 3 and just sliiiiiiide on by it.)

Anyway, before the Political Correctness Police got me off track, I was saying that all the kids coming back is fun, but a mixed blessing. It’s back to waiting in line for a restaurant and traffic has quadrupled.

Today, in church, the minister was welcoming students back and said, “When comes down to it, we’re all freshmen in life. We’re trying to make good decisions and get along in a life that often seems difficult and confusing.”

What if we all used that frame of reference every now and then?

How would you look at life differently if you were a freshman?

In business there is a style of planning that makes a similar assumption. The basic question is, “If we were not in this business already, would we get into it?” And, “What if we knew nothing about this opportunity/business/decision what would we need to know?”

Dropping assumptions and looking at a situation with fresh eyes is difficult, but worth it.

So, put on your freshman/woman/person beanie and ask, “What do I need to cast new, fresh eyes on?”

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Expendables

A buddy and I went to see The Expendables yesterday. It’s the new Sylvester Stallone movie that opens with cameo appearances by Bruce Willis and Arnold Shwartzenegger. The wonderful hook of the movie is that all the other co-stars were action stars from the 80s and 90s; Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolf Lundgren and Mickey Rourke. Eric Roberts makes a reasonably good bad guy.

The Expendables is definitely a guy flick with tons of violence, stuff blowing up, a couple of car chases, a really high body count and a guy-does-all-this-for-the-girl undercurrent.

As a big fan of the Rocky and Rambo movies (and the action movies made by all the other guys) I was a little dismayed to see how much Stallone has aged. But then, we all have.

I was delighted, though, to see them still at it. One more shot at doing what they love.

Life’s like that. If you don’t keep at it, if end up on the sidelines, for whatever reason, that’s where you stay. And lots of things can put you on the sidelines; age, lack of skills, the folks you care about decide they don’t care anymore, lack of motivation, a health situation.

If you are going to live, and “live” in this case is an active verb, you have to make the decision to step back into life and start trying again with whatever tools, skills, focus you have.

Some of the guys in The Expendables looked a little worse-for-wear even with Hollywood’s cosmetic magic. But all of them, even the ones who aren’t Oscar winners as actors, looked like they were having the times of their lives.

The weekend is here. There is no better time to have the time of your life than on the weekend.

Grab a friend and check out The Expendables. Grab some life! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ride'em Cowboy!!

If you read yesterday’s blog you can just call me Cowboy Mike. Got the dumpster problem solved, at least in the short-term, and probably have a long term solution in the wings.

Yesterday was a wonderful lesson in focus, cooperative communications, and the fact that a little money can solve a lot of problems.

At the end of the day I realized that the one important thing I had wanted to get done was done. By staying focused on the problem…and not let myself get pulled away by ten other issues…I had been able to concentrate my energy. There is a magic to focus.

The effort put me in touch with a wide range of people; city and county employees, neighbors, young guys who would do some moving for me, and contractors. In each case I focused on being clear and positive about what I needed (rare for me, I tend to be waaaaay too demanding a lot of the time) and in almost every case they came through. Looks like sugar does get more done than s***.

To make the short-term solution happen I needed a little money. Not a lot, but enough to pay someone to step in and take the short-term problem, a large pile of trash, away. I already had thought of two other solutions to that part of the problem if my first option had not worked.

So, the lessons of the day: Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish; stay focused; keep moving.

What do you have in your life that you can apply those principles to?

PS: It ain’t like we don’t know this stuff. We just don’t do it.