Friday, February 26, 2010

Chances Are

As an incurable romantic I have to confess to a lifelong love of Johnny Mathis’ music. The first time I heard a Johnny Mathis song was as a young man listening to a late-night show from WPTF in Raleigh called, Our Best to You. I think the song was, Chances Are. I had a big, plastic, red radio under the covers with me, turned down low. The show was all romantic music and I was quickly hooked. At 12-13 years-old I knew that this kind of music had power, I just didn’t know what those feelings were all about.

I do now.

I’ve had people tell me that one of my greatest misconceptions in life is that relationships should be like Johnny Mathis and Carpenters’ songs. I still believe that.

If you love music of any kind you probably have a list in your head of artists you’d like to see in person before you head to the big jukebox in the sky. Mathis has always been in the top 3-5 of my list. He is in Raleigh singing with the North Carolina Symphony tonight and we're going to see him.

At 74, Mathis has lost a little range but none of the smooth, timeless quality that has endeared him to fans for over half-a-century. He’s had a truly interesting life. I knew that he had been a good enough athlete to play basketball with Bill Russell and Casey Jones, and he was a finalist as a high jumper in the Olympic Trials in the ‘50s. I did not know how extraordinarily shy he had been. He commented once that it was all he could do to get on stage and sing.

I’m always impressed by people who understand that they have a gift and are willing to overcome obstacles in order to offer their gift so that others may benefit.

The objective in life is to matter in whatever way you can. It serves no one for you to hide your gifts. We can’t all sing and touch millions like Johnny Mathis, but we can indentify our gift, do what we can to cultivate it, and touch one person; make their life better.

Johnny Mathis has always touched my life in a wonderfully positive way. Tonight, I hope he sings for 8 hours.

Have a big weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Delightful Blizzard

This morning the snowflakes looked as big as playing cards. It snowed off and on, and pretty much on, all morning.

Walking and driving through the snow was exciting....buuuuut....it didn't stick. And, for now, that's a good thing.

It would have been easy to get kind of anxious watching the snow fall and remembering a couple of weeks ago when the snow locked everyone in.

So often in life we experience situations that start off running pretty wide open. It seem like they'll be much bigger, or worse, or important than they turn out to be. If you let yourself get cranked up and react to the initial "snowfall" you may end up expending precious energy, money, emotion, or political capital tnat you will need later.

When it seems that life is turning into a blizzard maybe the best thing to do is step back and collect your thoughts. A wonderful explanation I read last week says that stepping back lets your brain catch up to your emotions. Wonderful!!!

It's sunny outside now. For a day that started off like a blizzard this one has turned into a delight.

Maybe life is like that.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Man in the Mirror

There is a mirror outside my office. Since my office is in my home, and I often write this blog first thing in the morning before doing anything else, you can understand that the reflected image I sometimes see when I come out of my office may not be… mmm… pretty…or, handsome, depending on how you look at it.

In fact, let me be honest, there are times when my reaction is similar to John Belushi’s in Animal House when he sees the slide of Kent Dorfman…AAAAAAHHHH!!!...during the pledge-naming ceremony.

Who in your life knows what you really look like? I’m not talking about in the morning when your hair looks like someone combed it with a firecracker and you feel like you washed your face with ketchup.

I’m talking about who knows who you are in your heart.

It’s hard for people to know who you really are if you don’t show them.

And that’s a gamble, isn’t it?

Because if they really know who you are they may not like you, or work with you, or pay attention to you, or love you.

But what if you show them who you really are and you discover that, yes, some folks walk way, but there are other, better, people who like you more, will work even harder with you, will pay more attention to you (because they click with you), and love you more (see the click comment)?

Showing the real you can be risky, but the outcome is better than spending a lot of energy being someone else.

You might still jump when you catch sight of yourself in the mirror in the morning, but you’ll sleep better at night.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Look at the Future

Having a peek at the future is always fun. And, even if the future’s reality doesn’t turn out exactly as described there are always a few grains of truth in the prediction.

Go to Youtube.com and use “Rolltop” as a search word. Click on the video that comes up.

The idea of having a carry-around computer that rolls up like a towel is cool enough, but check out the design features that include the assortment of accessories we all use.

Granted, the final item will probably be very different, but you have to congratulate the designers and engineers who came up with the idea.

PS..Sorry we didn’t get together yesterday

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sweatin' From an Oldie

I picked up some kind of virus recently and last night it came to a head. It was mostly a fever, but the sweats, the out-of-control shivering and the throat-scouring coughing lasted about 8 hours.

When you’re in the middle of something like that it’s hard to see that there will be a time when you’ll be better. All you can experience and think about is what’s happening right in front on you, and with a sickness it’s the physical stuff.

Other areas of life are similar….work and personal relationships, physical plateaus in pursuit of fitness, spiritual work, trying to complete an important project…we get in the middle of whatever “it” is and we are so deeply involved that we can’t see back to the beginning, to what got us into it in the first place, and we can’t look ahead and see an arrival point.

All you can do is put one foot in front of the other…figuratively, and, sometimes literally…and keep moving. Keep doing your work and look to the future with a sense of positive, calm resolve. If you keep your goal in mind and focus on how much better life will be when you arrive, you’ll get there.

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Laugh It Up!

How often do you laugh each day?

Some well-known research says that the average child laughs 400 times a day, while the average adult laughs only 15 times.

Whether that’s true or not, I’d say that most of us are laugh-deprived.

There’s a comedy festival going on in Chapel Hill this week. Each night at two separate venues there are a variety of standup comedians, improv groups and funny stuff going on. Admission is only $10 so even if it’s bad comedy it’s a deal.

I keep joke books handy. When I run into a tough stretch of life or a bad day I’ll grab one of those books and read jokes until I laugh out loud.

I’ll record comedians on TV and watch their acts. I often go to YouTube.com to catch segments of acts from great comedians.

The best source of clean humor is Reader’s Digest.

Friends who make you laugh should be treasured.

Find reasons to laugh.

Remember, the celebrity lawyer from the ‘70s, F. Lee Bailey, once said, “Laughing juries don’t convict.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'm Sorry

Apologies come in two types: Sincere and Insincere.

Sincere apologies mean you’re sorry and you’ll try not to make the same mistake again.

Very often, when children have been taught to say that they are sorry for mistakes or transgressions they believe that all they have to do is say, “I’m sorry,” and it makes everything all right. They’ll toss off “I’m sorry” and keep right on moving.

It’s understandable that, as children, they might not yet comprehend that they’re supposed to mean it when they say it. Hopefully, they’ll soon understand the full power and purpose of an apology.

Adults who do the quick, “Sorry,” with the tight little smile make matters worse. Their meaning is usually, “I’m not really sorry, but I’m supposed to say it.”

Sincere apologies are very powerful. They pull people closer together. A sincere, “I’m sorry,” doesn’t have to be overblown or profuse. It does, however, have to be heartfelt.

If you are sorry, apologize sincerely and move ahead.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Look Now

What will you learn today?

If you don’t learn anything new you are in the same spot you were yesterday…and in today’s economy, in today’s society, that ain’t good.

If you aren’t moving ahead you are falling behind. There are no more plateaus.

Your learning journey doesn't have to be a tiring, grasping, “What’s new today? What’s new today?”

It can be more of a relaxed curiosity; an awareness of what is around you and a desire to understand and appreciate life.

Yesterday I learned about rodeo photographers. I never knew there was such a thing. I had a man in a seminar who has a business photographing rodeo performers and when he described the barrel racers you could see the excitement--the life--in his eyes. Last week I had woman in a program who was a ventriloquist. While talking to them I learned all kinds of things I never knew.

Being curious about life keeps you young…ever watch a small child wander through a garden? Everything is ripe for discovery.

At the end of this blog take a moment to look around. Don’t worry about what needs organizing or cleaning or doing. Just look around and find something new in what is ordinary.

Look now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why Be the Grumpinator?

This past weekend was the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Carolina Basketball. Celebrated with a win and tons of folks in town; got to see some friends.

While the UNC program is widely-recognized as the predominant college basketball program in the nation over the last 40 years the most amazing thing about the program is that the people who have participated in it, and the fans, see it as a family.

One good friend who was a member of the program talks about get-togethers where today’s athletes chat easily with some of the oldest alumni. They help each other with jobs, life challenges and successes.

Is the place you work like that? Do people look for ways to make ideas work, or do they always find reasons ideas will fail? Do they celebrate each others’ successes or resent coworkers’ wins?

Being negative burns up so much energy.

Being positive creates energy.

Look around at winning organizations—winning individuals—and they are invariably positive.

Here’s a simple symbol you might adopt…UB+.

You Be Positive.

PS…if your family or coworkers look at you in surprise when you act in a positive manner you can bet that you’ve been Mr. or Miss. Grumpy for waaaaay too long.

Friday, February 12, 2010

More Snow? Who Do We Call?

MORE SNOW!!!

Forecasters say that our part of the country will get 1-3 inches of snow tonight and we have a 40% chance of snow on Saturday.

Weather people on TV are yammering, my friends are whining, I’m sure the people who clean off the roads are not spouting comments like, “Yippeee! I get to drive the salt truck today!”

But, we can’t do anything about it.

So, my philosophy is to lay in some supplies, pick some books to read and projects to work on, and pray that the power doesn’t go out.

In your day…in your life…there will be situations, like the weather, that you simply have no control over. You can complain all you like but they’ll still be there when you quit complaining.

Wouldn’t a better strategy be to ask yourself, “Is there some positive that can come of this?” or, “How can I turn this to my advantage?”

A few years ago FORTUNE magazine did a study of CEOs. One of the questions on the survey was, “Have you ever worked for a son-of-a-bitch?” That was the actual question on the survey.

Overwhelmingly, the respondents said, “Yes.” When asked, “What did you gain from the situation?” many of them answered, “I learned that if I could deal with them, and that situation, I could deal with anything.”

Every negative situation in life carries the seed of an equal and opposite opportunity. You just have to dig through the poop to find it.

***Don't forget that Valentine's Day is Sunday.

Bundle up and stay warm. See you Monday.

PS…remember, the Olympics start tonight….USA! USA! USA!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Olympic Workplace

The Winter Olympics start tomorrow. The Olympic torch has traveled around the world to find its way to Vancouver.

The whole point of the Olympics, as I see it, is to show the world that people from all countries can work, play and compete together. Even as competitive as some of the athletes are, for the most part you see an attitude of fellowship among them.

What if the same attitude permeated the workplace?...Your workplace?

What if everyone came to work determined to help each other succeed? To celebrate each other’s successes? To look for how ideas could work instead of determined to show why they can’t?

Take an Olympian attitude about your work and workplace today. It’s about winning together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Prime Time

When is your best time of day, morning or afternoon? When does your energy level allow you to get more done, make better decisions and deal with stress in the most effective manner?

If you are a morning person psychologists call you a lark; afternoon and evening people are known as owls. The biological name is circadian rhythms.

If you know when your best times are it makes you very powerful. Scheduling planning sessions, difficult conversations, and high-energy project work for your prime time means you are using your energy more effectively. At your prime time you set higher goals for yourself; you think and talk faster.

There is a wonderful quote from the book, Full Engagement: "Energy is the fundamental currency for high performance."

If you want to operate at your peak you have to know when that peak occurs.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What Got Us Here?

I believe the parade to congratulate the New Orleans Saints for their Super Bowl win will held today or tomorrow. There may be over 750,000 people attending.

Again, congratulations!

But, what’s next?

I’m sure a reasonable person would say, “Why worry about what’s next, right now? It’s time to celebrate!”

True, but the seeds of the next accomplishment—or failure—are sewn in the celebration of the current victory.

How can you use the energy, momentum and knowledge acquired to boost you to the next victory?

All kinds of organizations, military, sports, law enforcement and corporate, use debriefings after wins or losses to focus on what led to the successes or failures. Then, they try to institutionalize the successful strategies and create plans that, hopefully, keep them from making the same mistakes that led to the failures.

Whenever you have a win, take a moment—or more—to celebrate. But, consider taking a chunk of time after the celebration to ask yourself two questions:
- What did I do right that helped me gain the victory?
- What would I do differently?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who Dat Say Dem Saints is Super Bowl Champions?!

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints and to the Crescent City and region! What a wonderful lift!

Friday, February 5, 2010

What's the Code?

I just finished breakfast at a Waffle Shop in Jacksonville, NC, home of Camp Lejeune, where many of our Marine heroes are stationed.

I'm always amazed in restaurants where the waitpeople (see, wasn't that politically correct?) shout out the orders to the cook and the cook rarely makes a mistake.

When I went to the counter to pay for my meal I said to the waitpersoness..mmm...waitpersonette...no, that's not right...she was female (well, now that's kind of redundant, isn't it?)...ok, forgive me...the waitress, "How does your cook remember all these different orders with different people shouting different things?"

She said, "It's all in The Code." And she told me.

Here's an example: When the waitperson starts shouting a new order the cook pulls down a new plate. Depending on what the order is the cook puts different small items on the plate to signify what the order will be. If it's a cheese omolette they will place a piece of cheese on the plate; toast, a plastic container of jelly, and depending on the kind of toast (plain, whole wheat, etc.) the container may be right-side up or upside down; hashbrowns are signified by a couple of pieces of grated potato; and so on. If you know The Code you can read the plates and predict the orders.

Every workplace, every relationship has codes. Certain words, looks, movements, body language and tones of voice are codes for feelings, attitudes, actions, and thoughts. Poker players call them tells; indicators that tell other plays what type of hand the teller has. If you know The Code in any situation it makes it a lot easier to get along and get things done. If you don't know The Code, you're lost.

Taking the time to learn The Code is what's difficult. We want things to work immediately, without taking time to learn The Code.

Slow down a little. Ask yourself what some of The Codes in your life might be. And, here's a twist: If some of the things that people say or do in your life are codes for unpleasant, contentious or problematic thoughts or actions....think about changing The Code. When you see a negative code or tell, do something different and see if you get a different reaction. If so, you've created a new code.

Finally, as everyone but an armadillo in West Texas knows this is Super Bowl weekend. According to the oddsmakers in Vegas the Colts are coming in a 5 1/2-point favorite. The Saints are getting a lot of sympathy due to the city's recovery after Hurricane Katrina, but a lot of other folks are pulling for Peyton Manning (ironically, a son of New Orleans), the Colts' quarterback because they believe he
is one of the greatest quartebacks ever...and you have to win multiple championships to be crowned One of the Greatest.

My prediction: Colts 44 - Saints 34.

Enjoy the game.

See you on Monday.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Maze

“My ordinary days are spent inside the maze of never changing ways ” from Extraordinary Thing, by k.d. lang

There are three worrisome words and phrases in lang’s songline. Too often we don’t take control of our destinies in order to create extra(more than)ordinary days, so each 24-hour period becomes “Ordinary days.” And one ordinary day connects with the next and the next thing you know you have an ordinary life.

A “maze” is a confusing network of passages or pathways; a labyrinth. In the Greek myth, The Minotaur, the hero Theseus encounters the monster Minotaur in the labyrinth. In the mazes of our ordinary days we encounter monsters (ex. Failure, boredom, negative stress) too numerous to mention.

“Never changing ways” refers to habits. Habit is a powerful force. Our habits create the maze of ordinary days. Habits of thinking, acting, speaking…assumptions we make…relationships we are in…even the fact that many of us park in the same parking space every day whether it has our name on it or not…habits, habits…habits.

Here’s the question of the day: What habits are slowing you down?

I have a bad habit of letting myself get distracted each time the phone rings, or email comes in, or I have a new thought. Need to be more focused. I’m working on it and finding strategies that help. For instance, I’ve turned off the little alarm that tells me when emails have arrived and I don’t see it on my screen.

Some habits are good, some are bad. Some started out good but have become obstacles to our success and happiness.

What habit—if you could change it—would have a dramatically positive effect on your life? (and don’t say smoking, eating too much, or texting while driving…those are knee-jerk reactions…find something else)

Mark Twain said, “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.”

Can you start coaxing your habit downstairs today?

PS. Parking in a new space every day creates new neural pathways in your brain. The newness makes you smarter and fights the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Second Chances

Second chances, mulligans, do-overs, don’t come around every day…or do they?

This month’s edition of the AARP magazine (don’t get me started about the fact that I get an AARP publication…I still haven’t gone for the senior coffee at McDonald’s) has a great article about Michael Douglas. It’s about his marriage to Catherine Zeta-Jones, 25-years younger, and their two children, 6 and 9, and how he sees his new family as a second chance.

I’ve always said that the people who say they have no regrets are either lying or they didn’t try hard enough to push the boundaries of life. So, getting a second chance may provide an opportunity to make up for some of the life experiences we regret. Or, simply to do a better job.

I’ve often said that if I won the lottery one of the things I’d do is get my college transcript (now, there’s a train wreck for you) and retake any class I earned less than a C in. I’d be going to college again for about 3 semesters.

But, do second chances come along by…well…chance? Or, are they there for the taking almost any time we want them?

As I think about it, I believe it’s the latter.

If you can change your mind, your attitude, your outlook on life you can become a new person. And that person can get another shot.

My favorite quote of all time is George Eliot’s, “It is never too late to be the person you might have been.”

You get to decide when you get a do-over.

Not Them.

You.

Take it.

I’ll go first.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide

Legendary boxer Joe Louis once said, "You can run, but you can't hide."

There are some situations in life that, for whatever reason, we run from. Depending on the threats we perceive we may run fast and far, or not so fast and/or not so far.

Here's the problem, though. We're essentially running in a circle and The Thing is chasing us...in a circle...and so often we are running fast enough to catch up to The Thing we were running from. I mean we run right up behind it and it stops and turns around and we're face to face with it again.

So, we're right back where we started. (and depending on The Thing, we may be in a worse situation than when we started running..ex. bills)

Sometimes the best decision you can make is to stop running. Let The Thing catch up to you and embrace it. This strategy gives you a better chance of dealing with The Thing on your own terms.

I'm done runnin'.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Where Were You During the Blizzard of 2010?

It’s Monday after the Blizzard of 2010.

While talking to a friend last night he asked, “Wonder how many Halloween Babies there’ll be this year?”

I had not thought about what lots of folks would be doing while snowed in…I ‘m mean, let’s be honest…you can only play so much Scrabble, watch so many movies, and eat everything in the refrigerator.

When he asked the question it got me to thinking about planting seeds (no pun intended).

It also had me thinking about Jimmy Buffett’s song, “A Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling.”

Actions we take, even thoughts we have, have consequences. And remember, the word consequences does not always mean something bad. It simply means a reaction to an action.

Did you start any projects or have any fertile (again, no pun intended) thoughts while snowed in?

What actions will you take to bring those actions and thoughts to fruition?

Here’s the best way to look at the situation: What is the next tangible action I need to take to move this project along? In fact, that’s the best question to ask about anything on your To-Do List.

If you were snowed in this weekend I hope you are thawing out. If you weren’t…we missed you.