Friday, January 29, 2010

Watch Where You Point That Bottle of Champagne!

The South Carolina Gamecocks beat the #1-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in men’s basketball this week. SC fans rushed the court in jubilation and the school was fined $25,000 by the Southeastern Conference for the celebration. (Bunch of stuffed-shirt killjoys, but that’s another blog.)

Watching the kids rush the court got me thinking about celebrating big events. I love the celebration at the end of the Super Bowl, or the last hole at the Masters, or the running of the Kentucky Derby, and the only reason I watch game 7 of the NBA Finals or the World Series is to see the celebration when the championships are decided.

We are conditioned to think that the culmination of a great effort or the completion of a big event should be accompanied by paper flying, loud screaming, horns honking and back slapping. I’m not against any of those activities. In fact, I’m a paper throwing, yelling, honking, slapping maniac depending on the celebration.

However, sometimes there is no big explosion of joy, just a quiet feeling of accomplishment. No champagne, no couches burning, no one else but you. Those celebrations can be the best.

The key is to reward yourself for an accomplishment. Life isn’t supposed to be about “slay this dragon, bring on the next one.” If you live life without rewards it gets to be a day-to-day slog.

Take time—at least a few moments—to savor an accomplishment before moving on to the next challenge, the next thought. The expectation of rewards, even small ones, can be wonderfully motivating.

Yesterday a number of major accomplishments came together for me. So, last night I stood outside, alone in the cold with a large cigar, a little rum, some tunes, and a beautiful moon that looked like it could be the dot at the bottom of life’s exclamation mark.

It had been a good day.

Celebrate something this weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Heaven is a Foot Away

Whether you are reading this while sitting at your computer or on some sort of hand-held device I want you to take a moment and look and listen to what is going on around you.

Find something you consider to be beautiful or, at least, pleasant. It could be a painting or photo, a song, a pleasant physical sensation, something that smells good, or even a taste.

Focus on it for a moment. Why do you find it to be a positive focus? Your answer can be anything that makes sense to you.

What you’ve just done is smell the roses.

You’ve heard the timeless advice, “Take time to smell the roses.” The simple exercise you completed is a practical example of smelling the roses. And, if you are like most people, it probably only took about two minutes, if that.

Here’s the best part: In an instant, you made yourself healthier. Taking short bits of time to experience something pleasurable activates parts of our brains that then pump out chemicals like serotonin, relaxing us and making us healthier.

You don’t have to go to Hawai’i to experience beauty, it might be a foot away right now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

So, Whatcha Gonna Do?

Yesterday was an interestig day, health-wise.

I had my annual physical last week and got a call from the doctor's office with the results of my blood work.

Now, as the comedian Ron White would say, "I gotta tell ya this so I can tell ya that." One of my favorite movies is the Bruce Willis adventure flik, Armageddon. A favorite scenes is when NASA doctors are examining Willis' wild group of oil field roustabouts who are going to be sent into space and a doctor says one of the men, "Your triglycerides are disturbingly high and your cholesterol is shocking." To which the character unapologetically answers, "Pork rind this!"

When the nurse told me that my cholesterol is 324 (they want under 200), my triglycerides were 210 (under 100 is desired), the doc wants me to lose 40 pounds and he wants to see me again in 6 months (never heard that request before and have been seeing him for 25 years), I thought, "Beer/mexican food/doughnuts/french fries/ice cream this!"

So, here's the deal: When you get basic, factual information telling you that you should probably change a behavior what do you do?

The sad fact is that most people don't change. Most change is not easy, not fun, and not lasting. In order to make the change stick you have to be committed.

What do I do with this cold water in the face?

Looks like it's going to be exercise/better eating/more rest/better choices this!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's About Time

Ok, this is the last week of JANUARY!

Can you believe it? The first month of 2010 is almost over!

Here’s the question: What resolution did you swear you’d be solid on for this year and you’ve already blown it off?

Yeah, yeah, I can hear some of you doing your TV announcer voice, “Wellllll, I never make resolutions.”

So, how do you improve? Do you walk through the personal improvement store and new skills, ideas, attitudes, and habits stick to you like Velcro? And then, when you walk up to the people at the check-out lane of life do they just say, “No problem, walk on by”?

I….think….not.

So, again, what were you going to improve on or do differently and you haven’t gotten started?

It’s three weeks in…about time, wouldn’t you say?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Out of Sight, Out of......

Am heading back to the East Coast today. I started thinking this morning about some of the challenges that I left behind last Thursday and that it's almost as if I'm flying back to them today.

For the weekend, many of my issues have been out of sight both literally and digitally. And, while they certainly haven't been totally out of mind I haven't given them the constant thought and attention I did when I was in the middle of them back home.

Hopefully, distance has helped me find a new perspective for some of the challenges. Thinkers and creators from Aristotle to da Vinci to choreographer Twyla Tharp have extolled the virtues of changing your place in order to change your thoughts. I don't know if the old adage, "absence makes the heart grow fonder" is necessarily true, but I can tell you that very often "absence helps the mind prioritize."

I'm finding that I'm coming back with a new focus on some of the issues.

I know that today is Monday and most often we think that getting way happens on the weekend. But, escaping doesn't have to happen for long periods of time. In fact, it doesn't have to physically happen. You can escape in your mind.

Where can you go, literally or mentally, to look at your challenges from a new angle? Visit a local museum, take a walk somewhere new, go home a different way, find a book full of pictures and leaf through it and see if you don't receive new thoughts as if they were gifts of the mind.

Friday, January 22, 2010

OK, Let's Talk About Sex and Politics

It seems somewhat unreal that I'm in Los Angeles and some of the big news is from back in North Carolina.

John Edwards' admission of fathering a child with a campaign worker is one of the headlines out here.

Let me add my 2-cents worth: WHATEVER John Edwards might have done sexually does not affect my life, not one iota. And, I believe that all the folks who get so wired up about issues like this are using them to avoid addressing issues in their own lives.

This is an issue to be handled among John and Elizabeth Edwards, the woman involved, and the child.

Whatever Bill Clinton, JFK, or any of the other political figures who have strayed off the straight and narrow have done sexually does not affect our lives...at...all.

Now, if people have done something of a criminal nature, that's a different story.

But, the tendency for America's media and a significant segment of the population to get wired up about the sexual proclivities of celebrities, athletes and politicians is embarrassing. It uses up time, energy and resources that could better be used on things that matter. It makes us looks silly and small to other countries around the world who don't have such provincial attitudes about sex. The tendency crosses the line that a lot of us try to hold as truth: Don't stick your nose in other people's business.

Comedian Jay Leno once said about the Clinton/Lewinsky story, "Don't you want the man who has his finger on the nuclear trigger to be as relaxed as possible?"

One final thought: Uber-comedian Mel Brooks, in his character The 2,000-Year Old Man, said about sex and politicians, "Let them do it to each other, or they'll do it to the country."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How About a Vacation?

Arrived in LA about 11 am and have had a great day. Visiting the Peterson Automotive Museum, The Bodhi Tree Bookstore, and a famous cigar shop.

Along the way my friend, David, said, "We'll do anything you want to do, it's your vacation day."

That comment surprised me because I couldn't think of the last time I had a vacation. I've taken some days around the holidays but I was always checking emails, doing a few things related to work, and thinking about work.

Years ago I found that if I totally took off; I mean, no work, just play and relax, it took me awhile to get back in the swing of work. So, on the times I've taken "vacation" I was just kinda working at a lower volume and slower speed.

But, the comment today shook me. I need to take a vacation. Plan it, look forward to it and take it....because I need it.

When was the last time you really took a vacation? Lots of folks say you have to take at least two weeks to really unwind. In today's economy I don't know how many folks other than bank executives can afford to do that, though.

Can you take a weekend? Or, better yet, a long weekend, and just slow down a bit and relax?

We all need vacations. It's time to take one.

A Getaway

If you are reading this on Thursday morning I’m on an airplane to LA. Going out to see some friends for a few days.

I’m glad I’m not on airplanes every day, but flying once in awhile is a treat. My favorite part about flying is that it allows me to focus. You’re trapped in a seat with nowhere to go and few distractions other than the squawling young’un behind you.

I save up a bunch of magazines that I don’t have time to read and in the few days before the flight I tear out all the articles I want to read. Then, during the flight I read the articles and then stuff them in the seatback pocket in front of me. I almost always come back with an empty bag.

Where can you go that allows you to focus. We live in such a loud, overstuffed, information avalanche kind of society that it’s difficult to find places to get away.

I’ve had times in life in which I rented a hotel room for a weekend, loaded up all my equipment and resources, and never turned the TV on. Ordered Dominoes for delivery. Got more done in a couple of days than I might have in a couple of months.

Find a place to focus and come up with a simple system that allows you to get things done when they have to be done. Having your our own cave, closet, or castle (with the drawbridge up) is a tremendous asset.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Christmas Card Caper

I have a confession to make and it's kinda embarrassing so you have to promise that you won't shout out loud, "No, you didn't!"

Promise?

Ok, here it is: I didn't send out any Christmas cards last month.

I know, I know, a pox on me! I had great intentions; even bought some funny, funky cards and was going to....well, there were other things going on in life.

So, here's what I'm going to do. Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to send the cards with a kind of life catch-up enclosed that will let folks know how I'm doing and what's going on in life. I'll send them to my regular Christmas card list and enclose this disclaimer, "You know, during this time of year we are all coming to the realization that Christmas is over and it's a long way until Easter and I wanted you to get something that would put a smile on your face."

(My alternative message is: "My New Year's Resolution is to start planning ahead so here's your Christmas card for this year." to tell the truth, just for the Hell of it, this one is looking really attractive)

See, that get's me off the hook as far as not sending cards, I've put smiles on some faces, I've gotten rid of the cards and I won't feel like a total Sluggo for not sending cards.

However, the thing I REALLY like is that during Christmas we all get a lot of cards and they kind of start blending together. None really stand out. If you send a Christmas card now people notice who it's from...you.

I know I'll get calls from folks who get the card, especially if I use the Resolution reason because it's funny. And, they'll be people from whom I don't hear during the year.

Step up and get rid of those old cards, spread some smiles and have some fun.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do This Right Now!

Am presenting a program today in Whiteville, NC, about how to create a positive workplace.

The Number One strategy for creating a positive workplace is....Catch people doing things right. If you will catch one person a day when they do something right and compliment them, pat them on the back, you will create a more positive, effective workplace.

Try it right now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Courage and Shame

The Martin Luther King Holiday always makes me think about two issues: courage and shame.

Believing in something so deeply that you're willing to face the opposition, hate, and threat to life experienced by Reverend King is a type of courage that is unfamiliar to me.

If you're like me, and most folks, right now your inner voice is saying, “Well, I’m sure there are things I’d die for; my children, freedom, my God.”

Really? History and nature don’t support your thought. Billions of people throughout human history have been enslaved, beaten, forced to accept religious beliefs, and degraded and did not have the courage to resist when the moment came to do so.

Courage.

And, whenever I see news clips of the police turning fire hoses on civil rights marchers and siccing German shepherds on protesters I can’t describe my feeling as anything other than shame.

I don’t share the stereotypical white shame experienced by some. Mine is human shame. How could anyone treat another human like that?

Shame

The affirming thought I always get on this holiday is this, “If it is true that we are all essentially alike, and if one person can step up and be a bigger, better, greater person, then I, too, can do that.”

What can you do today that gets you one step closer to being the person you believe you should be?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Staying on the Path

Life is not a linear process for most of us. Very often we move two steps forward and one step back, or three steps back and one step forward. We get detoured to the side for long periods of time and then have to find our way back to the path.

Detours and missteps can be discouraging. We may be off the path so long that we forget our purpose for being on the path in the first place.

It’s often a good idea to remind ourselves why we are trudging, running, walking, or crawling along.

The best way to motivate yourself to keep moving is to hold in your mind an idea of what the destination will be like. In fact, the more vivid you can make the image in your mind the more motivating it will be. Try to imagine what your arrival point will look, feel, taste, smell, and sound like.

Make it as vivid and wonderful as you can. Your mind will then start working on getting you there.

I love the phrase, “What does done look like?” If you can imagine what done looks like the universe lines up to help you.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

NOW!!

What do you feel a sense of urgency about in life?

I don’t necessarily mean what issue, person, feeling, thought, task, or responsibility gets you out of bed in the morning; although any or all of those things could prompt a sense of urgency in you.

I’m asking, “What in your life gives you the feeling of, ‘I’ve got to get this done NOW!’?”

There are thousands of good folks mobilizing to help the people of Haiti. The motivation is to help others and time is creating a sense of urgency to get help and supplies to our earthquake ravaged neighbors.

What, if anything, gives you a feeling of urgency? Is there something in your life you are afraid of losing, or something that you desperately want to win?

Research shows that humans fear loss more than we hope for gain.

I’m not above using fear as a motivator, for myself or others.

There are some things in life that I increasingly fear losing so I am doing what I can to regain them. There are goals in my life that I want to reach and I am trying to create a sense of urgency so that I can attain them.

But I’m finding it interesting that, like the research points out, I wake every morning now with a sense of urgency about trying to figure out how to keep from losing some of the things I want: The sense of urgency is already there. I’m trying to manufacture a sense of urgency to get me to some of the other goals, though.

There’s a message in that realization that I’m trying to understand.

How about you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Which Do You Want...The Best or The Worst?

For years, maybe decades, I was one of those folks who thought, “Everything works out for the best”…and it seemed to.

Then, for a variety of reasons (not the least of which was that I let life challenges get me down), I moved away from that positive attitude. I was able to put on a good front and most of the folks I know saw me as being wonderfully positive and motivated.

But, behind closed doors I was what I’ve come to call a “functioning pessimist.” I’d dream for the best, but expect the worst. In reality, that’s not a bad way to look at life. If the worst happens you aren’t surprised or disappointed…”Because I knew it would be like that.” However, if the good happened it was surprising and great, “I can’t believe that really worked!”

I’ve come to a point, though, at which it’s time to go back to a positive frame of mind. Life’s too short to expect the worst and…worse yet…expecting the worst seems to bring it forth. I love this quote, “Worry is a prayer for the worry.”

So, one of my New Year’s Resolutions—which, if you think about it is a positive attitude in itself—is that I’m going back to my old way of thinking.

Everything works out for the best.

Interestingly, I’ve focused on this thought for 12 days so far this year and a variety of very positive things have happened. Reconnections with wonderful people, business situations that seemed to drop out of the sky…even finding parking spaces in just the right place have been occurring with surprising frequency. Call it coincidence, call it serendipity, call it what you want. I like it!

I think, “Everything works out for the best” is a prayer for the best.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No...You Aren't Different

I don't fly as much as some of my colleagues but when I do fly I enjoy it. There's an amazing quality to flying that I still can't get over and most of the experiences I've had related to flying have been positive.

From the first time I flew I've caught myself looking down on the housetops or the toy-like cars and trucks steadily crawling along interstates and thought, "I wonder what the people in those houses, cars and trucks are like?"

I flew into Miami yesterday afternoon and the, "wonder what" thought ranged from the mansions lining the bay to junky, two-bedroom boxes near the airport.

The hotel in which I awoke this morning is a beautiful Westin about 3 football fields from I-95. When I stood at the window this morning, stretching, I saw a truck navigating the on-ramp to head north. My father drove and managed 18-wheelers for much of his career and I wondered, "who is that truck driver and what is his life like?"

The unexciting fact is that the vast majority of the people in those houses, cars and trucks; most of the folks in the high-rise buildings I see on the horizon; the guy who rode down in the elevator with me a few minutes ago, have lives that are, for the most part, just like yours and mine.

We want to think we are special and, in the sense that we are miracles of life, we are. But, other that we're pretty much the same. To paraphrase the Chinese proverb, "We all want someone to love, we want someone to love us, we want something to do, and we want something to look forward to." The particulars might be different, but the basics are the same.

We all have similar problems to which the answers are basically the same. We all suffer the same types of hurts, just from different sources.

However, some folks are a little further along the path than others: Relationships, work, spiritual connection, staying healthy and fit, and feeling happy are some of the areas of life in which our skills range far and wide.

If there is an area of your life you would like to improve find someone who has seems to have that skill (and make no mistake about it, there are learnable skills that allow us to succeed in each area of life I mentioned) and ask them, "How do you do this?"

If you are succeeding in an area of life in which others struggle, be willing to share if asked.

I'm mean...hey...as the cliche' says, "We're all just people."

There's no just about, we're miracles...but all the same.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Morning Madness

How ironic...my blog last Friday talked about dying on the can and this week started out in the presence of that wonderful piece of porcelain furniture.

When I flushed this morning the commode stopped up, as I was reaching for the designer plunger I keep nearby I slipped, grabbed the shower curtain, pulled a couple of the little plastic holes loose and one of the metal shower curtain hooks popped off the rod and into the......right.

So, since a metal shower curtain hook won't flush I'm headed to the closet to get a coathanger to fish the hook out. On the way through the bedroom I slam my toe into a bookcase. (Is this a Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau scene or what?)

I finally get the hanger, get the hook, put the hook in the tub and run enough hot water on it to boil it sterilized, and the commode now flushes.

Here's the problem: I'm kinda superstitious and today has not started out auspiciously. Which I'm thinking doesn't bode well for the rest of the day and week.

But, here's the REAL problem. I'm flying to Miami and back over the next two days. And I'm already a little concerned because the cover story of Time magazine for this week is about why we should fear flying...terrorists, delays, bad peanuts and all.

So, there are two ways to look at this: A. I'm screwed. Just go ahead and write out a will and leave it on the couch for my family and friends to find when they come to clean out my stuff after the plane is hijacked by terrorists. B. All the bad stuff that can happen to me this week has already happened, so it's clear sailing the rest of the week.

I'm gonna try and go with B.....but, just in case...to Joe, my brother, I leave my music...to David, my best friend, I leave all my Carolina paraphernalia, and all those...mmm...toys...in the bedroom closet belong to someone else!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Elvis...and dying in the can.

Today would have been Elvis’ 75th birthday.

I was never a big fan of The King’s music, but I LOVED his movies. Ann Margaret, cliff diving, driving that boat while wearing the funky little captain’s hat, driving race cars in Vegas or digging into a jail in Daytona Beach during Spring Break…you couldn’t ask for a better role model for a young, impressionable, teenage boy.

Raging testosterone and Elvis showed you what it was supposed to be used for.

No wonder so many of us guys are so screwed up when it comes to relationships.

We often forget that…THEY ARE MOVIES! And, while they might slightly reflect real life…they ain’t it. But, many of us thought they were.

A smart woman once told me that my #1 Problem with relationships was that I thought they were supposed to be a Carpenters’ or Johnny Mathis song.

She said it like it was a bad thing.

I mean, if you can’t hope then what’s it all about? Just sloggin’ to work, sloggin’ home, changing diapers (ok, in reality, since I never had kids of my own I’ve only done it once and…wow…if you’ve ever done it once why would you EVER have another kid?), paying bills, getting fat in front of the television, and then having a heart attack and dying while sitting on the john…which brings me back to Elvis.

So many of the ideas we have about life we’ve gotten from movies and television. Earlier generations got a lot of their ideas from reading and oral histories they heard from their elders. There’s a lot of difference, I believe, in those two flows of information.

Where do you get the stories that guide your life? Are they based on fact, or fiction?

And, remember this, if you tend to watch a ton of television or play a lot of video games, you are watching people do what they love to do with THEIR lives. Are you doing with your life what you love to do?

I certainly understand financial realities, but if it ain't a little fun, or if you aren't doing something so that when you do check out folks will know that you mattered, then life starts gettin' like the paragraph above that began with sloggin' and ended with dying in the crapper with your pants around your ankles (apologies for the indelicacy).

Have a wonderful weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Problem Solvers Vs Problem Identifiers

Professional Speaker Judi Moreo has some thoughts on “The Top Ten Ways to Make Life Work.”

One of my favorites is #5. She says, “Become A Problem Solver. Problem identifiers (don’tcha love that phrase?) are a dime a dozen. Anyone can go around pointing out problems. On the other hand, problem solvers are worth their weight in gold.”

CBS Sunday Morning featured a variety of problem solvers in a story this past Sunday. Dafna Michaelson, a woman from Denver, is traveling the country, visiting one state each week, and writing stories on her website about people who are making a difference. Folks who are willing to say, “If it’s going to get done I’ll be the one to step up and do it.”

President Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Note: Sites to visit….judimoreo.com…and…50in52journey.com

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's the D*** Weather!! And, It's All Good

Since the cold weather is the talk of the talking heads a line in one of the late Richard Carlson’s, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, books caught my attention.

He said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather—just different kinds of good weather.”

I like that. He continued, “Look for the good stuff in every kind of weather.”

So I did. I like cold weather. You get to bundle up and feel…well…snuggly. You get to feel cool air as you breath it. There is a kind of challenge in getting out in it, doing your business, and coming back.

And when you get back the warm-wherever-you-are is so…warm.

And, yes, I actually do like rain and snow and sleet. It’s a challenge and you get to stay inside and, hopefully, do fun stuff.

Look at it this way. The only people with perfect cover for the weather are in cemeteries.

There ain’t no weather 6 feet down.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cold or Hot...The Same Reaction

Seems that it is cold everywhere in the country. It’s 33 degrees in Orlando for goodness sakes!

Got me to thinking about extremes. Extreme cold slows things down, but extreme heat also makes people want to slow down.

Both reactions come from our bodies’ efforts to conserve energy and survive.

When we open the door to a dark room we slow down. Darkness is an extreme loss of light.

Might not be a bad reaction in some other situations in life. When things start getting extreme, out of control and/or a kinda scary maybe we should slow down a little. Step back and collect our thoughts.

However, the new management thought says that business and life is now moving in the opposite direction. When things seem extreme you should speed up, challenge the norms, be kinda scared a lot of the time.

As humans, that is a difficult way for us to operate.

The new norm IS being kinda scared a lot of the time.

If you aren’t, maybe you should look around…something might be sneakin’ up on you.

Might be time to hit the gas in life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Biggest Skyscraper in the World...Nuthin' To It

The Burj Dubai, the tallest skyscraper in the world, opens today in Dubai. It's 160 stories, 2,625 feet tall. Twice as tall as the Empire State Building. Winds at the top reach 150-miles per hour and the top portion of the building sways a few feet in the wind. Elevators travel at 40-miles an hour.

As soon as I saw the story the first thing that entered my mind was the first thing that entered the mind of the people who created the Burj Dubai.

A thought.

Every tangible thing you see around you, every idea, started with a couple of neurons getting excited in your brain and they fired up some synapses and then a region of your brain got into the act.

It all starts with a single thought.

Now, here's the part I love: Sometime today you will have a thought that, if you follow up on it, will change your life. Maybe the change will just be for today. Or, it might be for your lifetime.

Coming up with the thought of creating the Burj Dubai was not a big deal...no pun intended. "Well, yeah, we could make the tallest building in the world." Or, "We could go to the moon." Or, "We could cure cancer."

It all starts with an idea.

The key is what you do with the idea.

But, it all starts with an idea and yours are as good as anyone's.

What life-changing idea have you had, or will you have, today?