Friday, July 30, 2010

Hit the Gas!

I’m working on a new novel for fun and therapy.

I’ve found that in times of stress, or should I say, distress, if I focus some energy on activities or thoughts that are fun, creative, and about as far from the stressors as possible, my thoughts and feelings are pulled into more positive areas.

When you’re driving down an increasingly dark road you can’t wait for someone or something outside yourself to pull you into the light. They might not show up.

You’ve got to put your turn signal on, make the turn yourself, and look for the light that will pull you to it.

Sorry, gotta go. I see some light ahead and I’m hittin’ the gas.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is the Timing Good?

How much of life is timing? Being in sync, whether it’s with ideas, feelings or actions is incredibly powerful.

Two people having the same feeling at the same time can be love (or lust) or it can be a fight breaking out in a bar. Believe me, I’ve been in all three situations and the energy generated can give you a feeling of being able to conquer the world.

So often, though, we seem to be in a back and forth dance in which I’m ready, you’re not, I’m hesitant, you’ve already hit the gas.

“Life is all about timing... the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable... attainable. Have the patience, wait it out. It's all about timing.” Stacy Charter

If you have a secret to timing I’d love to know it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bloom On!

I always think it’s a hoot in drama/improv classes, or pop psychology exercises, when you’re asked, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” In fact, the question is so well-known that it’s become a cliché for a boring exercise.

However, I started thinking the other day (while in….mmm….a softer frame a mind) that, in life, we’re all like flowers. We need some watering, some sunlight, some fertilizer (a little BS can go a long way to making life more fun, more coherent, and more toleratable...is that a word?), and some care.

Lots of us think we’re little tuffies and we can handle anything. But, sooner or later we start understanding that if we don’t get some watering, warmth, fun and care we start to wither. When that happens there is no way we can reach our blooming potential.

Maybe you’re meant to be a little flower…or a big blossom, but whichever it’s going to be you can’t get there without a little help.

I’m for being a BIG flower; standing out among the crowd of other blossoms; calling for someone to come over and comment on how beautiful my colors, how fragrant my bouquet, and how sturdy my petals.

But, in order to do that I need encouragement.

Ok…it feels like all this flower talk is knocking down my testosterone level. I’m going into the den and turn on ESPN Classic with the Texas/Oklahoma game from 2003, smoke a cigar and read a weightlifting magazine.

Have a big day!

PS…And you can take the blooming comment any way you’d like.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tell a Good Story

What's your story?

As humans we come up with stories to explain major and minor issues of life. The Greeks explained the rising of the sun as the god, Appollo, pulling the sun across the sky with a chariot every morning. The reason you stubbed your toe on a stool when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night was because your kids left it in the middle of the hall while playing.

We create the stories in order to make sense of the world we live in.

So, what's your story that explains where you are in life right now? Do you explain it in such a way that it's positive or negative? Are you where you are due to positive decisions or faulty judgement?

It's your choice. A decision others might see as crazy might seem to you to be the best decision you've ever made. It depends on the story you tell.

I have a really smart friend who can put a positive spin on anything. If she fell down on the sidewalk she'd be looking for coins people dropped. Her worst assessment is, "It'll work out."

The stories you tell yourself in your mind, about your life, set the stage for what your life will be like. If you keep telling yourself that you've made stupid decisions you're probably likely to keep making those types of decisions. But, if you position them as, "You know, I've made some decisions that put me in challenging situations, but I've learned from them so I don't make decisions like that anymore" you're more likely to turn the negative into a positive.

Tell yourself a good story today.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Problem Or Solution?

Welcome to Monday!

Here's the question of the day: Are you a problem or a solution?

Solutions get to stay, problems have to go. Even if you offer some solutions but the existence of your job is a problem, you're a problem.

However, offer enough solutions and you no longer are a problem.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Watch Out for the Turtle Eggs

This morning I was listening online to my Beach Music station down at Myrtle Beach.

They’ve run a couple of public service announcements about watching out for sea turtles. It may be the time of year when sea turtles come onto the beach to lay eggs. There was information about keeping outside lights off (sea turtles like the dark) and keeping trash off the beach (sea turtles eat plastic because they think it’s jellyfish…which, evidently sea turtles like as much as a fat baby likes candy).

It struck me that 949 The Surf had spent more time figuring out how to help us take care of the turtles than most of us spend thinking about taking care of ourselves.

We’ll worry and fret about what’s going to happen, or what has already happened, but as for actually thinking our way through a challenge, putting the plan in place, and following through…for our own benefit…we’re not very good at doing that.

You know you have challenges coming. What are you going to do? The solution might be painful but why not get on with it so you can come out the other side in a better situation?

Have a big weekend. and if you’re in the The South, stay cool.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

If You See Me Eating Ice Cream and Crullers

Wide awake at 2:45 am this morning. Rolled around for 2 hours and then finally got up and created a Power Point for a seminar I’m doing this morning.

Waking in the middle of the night always happens when I eat high-carbo foods late at night. I had butter almond ice cream and crullers at 10:30 so I knew what was coming and had decided to use the awake time constructively if I couldn’t get back to sleep.

If you know your body or mind reacts a certain way to specific situations or stimuli why not take advantage of it?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Forever Online

I’m getting better about considering what I put on FaceBook, Twitter,in emails and anywhere that has any connection to the Internet.

Every now and then I wrote from a stream of consciousness and made wisecracks and comments that you might not say out loud in the company cafeteria, but you might say in a bar.

I’m done with that. Every day now you see that some executive, government official or athlete has put something out on the Internet and it’s come back to bite them. (Please notice that I didn’t say where it had bitten them, which I might have done in the past.)

A recent Wall Street Journal story pointed out that managers are now following employees comments in social media and interviewers are checking the online persona of job candidates.

I love freedom as much as anyone else, and I spare no opportunity to exercise that freedom. But, as someone once offered to me the morning after I got waaaay out on the edge the night before, “Hoss, sometimes ya gotta act like ya got some sense.”

A very, very smart 13-year old whom I like a lot encountered kids posting less than smart comments on her FB page. As she advised them, “Pls b nice.”

Remember, this stuff is forever.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It IS About You

The devotional I get in my email every morning said today, “It’s not about you.”

My first thought was, “Well, that sounds nice, but it better be about you to begin with.”

If you aren’t taking care of yourself it’s often the case that no one else will.

And go ahead and understand that there will be people who believe that you are selfish when you're taking care of yourself.

As my mother used to say when I’d head out the door, “You take care of you.”

It IS About You

The devotional I get in my email every morning said today, “It’s not about you.”

My first thought was, “Well, that sounds nice, but it better be about you to begin with.”

If you aren’t taking care of yourself it’s often the case that no one else will.

And go ahead and understand that there will be people who believe that you are selfish when you're taking care of yourself.

As my mother used to say when I’d head out the door, “You take care of you.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Combat Vs the Copy Machine

I love used bookstores…mmm….it isn’t that the store is used, you understand, it’s the books…well, forget it, you probably understood the first time.

Anyway, one of the prizes I found recently was the “Leader’s Manual for Combat Stress Control.” It’s a manual, created by the Army in the mid-80s, that helps officers understand how to help their soldiers and themselves deal with the pressures of combat situations.

If you skim it you see almost exactly the same advice and terminology you’d see when reading about dealing with stress in the workplace; which, obviously, for the military, that's what combat is.

Now, let’s be honest…in no way, shape or form am I connecting what our heroes do on a daily basis with the fact that your boss is a jerk and comes into the office with a litany of problems every day.

However, the advice is the pretty much the same: Take care of your physical needs (especially rest), keep your eyes open for threats (the situations that can cause you harm), and understand yourself well enough to know how you can come back to a point of balance after a stressful encounter.

Good advice can come from a lot of different sources. Looking to areas of interest that don’t seem to have an immediate connection to how you live your life can offer tips, tactics and strategies for creatively dealing with challenges. Some engineers have found the answers to structural challenges by learning about how music is created; physicians have solved dilemmas by focusing on sports strategies.

Look to something that seems to have no connection to what you do. You’ll find a fresh perspective.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ok…so let’s say you took my advice over the last few days and thought about where you are and where you want to go in life. And then you looked around and found a couple of people who seem to have made the trip; people whom you might use as guides.

What now?

You have three choices:
- Watch your guide and pick one thing they are doing and start doing that. Check your progress occasionally and see if you are heading in the direction you want to go.
- Reverse engineer the situation. Start at the goal, at the bullseye, and then ask, “What is the last thing I’d have to do just before I reach my goal?” and then what is the step before that, and before that, and before that. By backing up, reverse engineering, you eventually get to where you are now. Then, all you have to do is follow the path you’ve laid out to get to the goal.
- Do nothing.

Doing nothing is the easiest thing to do. You keep the status quo (even if you're dissatisfied), you don’t have to have difficult conversations or do things that get you out of your comfort zone.

Doing nothing is what most folks will do.

Is that what you’re going to do?

Have a big weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who Has It Made?

Who do you know who has it made?

I don’t mean someone who has every material possession in a life that seems perfect. I mean someone who has a grasp on how to live life as you would want to live it.

We all can call a person to mind, real or fictional, who seems to be living life in a manner we would like to live. Again, I’m talking less about possessions than about how they make decisions, relate to the other people in their lives, and think of themselves.

Here’s the surprise: If they can do it, you can do it.

If you have what my Jewish friends call “chutzpa” (loosely pronounced hutspa) , or nerve, go to the person you’re thinking about and ask them, “How do you do it?”

In most cases they’ll be flattered that you asked and won’t mind telling you some of their ideas about how to live life.

Again, if you see someone who is the type of person you want to be, living the type of life you want, you have the potential to do the same. If one person can do it, another can.

Or, if you can’t or don’t want to approach them you can observe how they live their life and emulate them. This works great if you are using a fictional or historic person as a guide; think Thomas Jefferson, Dr. Martin Luther King, or Mother Theresa.

So, who do you know who has it made?

You can have it made, too.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Roadmap to the Future

Yesterday the question was, “How will you use your life?”

Try this exercise: Spend some time simply contemplating, “In 5 or 10 years, if my life is what I want it to be, what will it be like?” Get your thoughts down on paper.

Think in terms of your physical life (your body and health), work, spiritual life, friends and family, hobbies and recreational activities, and any other area of life you’d like to consider.

Then, think about where your life is now in those areas.

The exercise works better if, after you get your thoughts down on paper, you take another couple of sheets and draw simple line graphs. Put the now stuff on the left side and the future stuff on the right side and put some relative distance between them to show how little or a lot you’ll have to move to get to the desired future.

Got it?

Essentially, what you have now is the first stage of a map of your future. It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you are going. And a tangible roadmap works better than something you see in your mind.

An extraordinary number of people live day-to-day and can’t understand why their lives are not as they would want. While there are lots of reasons, the basic one is that they dreamed of a different, better future but didn’t plan for it.

Where are you going?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Using Your Life

Here's a scary question: How will you use your life?

At a time when most of us will live to 80 and beyond the thought of slowing sown in your 50s or 60s doesn't make much sense.

So, how will you use your life?

Roll the question around in your mind today and we'll look at some ways to find the answers over the next few days.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sawing Your Way to a Positive Day

On Saturday I spent about 2 hours sawing a shuffleboard table in half.

If you know the type of game table I’m talking about you know that it’s about 8-9 feet long and made of heavy wood. It was a chore.

You don’t really need to know why we were doing it, but that the table needed to be moved and this was the easiest way to do it.

I had started out the day in a rather low mood, but by the end of the day, after being totally focused on the project and working with some young guys who are a lot of fun to be around, my spirits were soaring.

Sometimes the best way to get out of the doldrums is to simply get to work. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to think your way out of the hole you’re in, just get to digging.

If you are feeling low and slow right now, what project or activity could you jump into that would engage you and possibly take you up and out of your funk?

Here’s a hint: Don’t think it through too deeply, just do something! (do you have a shuffleboard table of your own?)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Straighten This Out

The last two messages have been about the continuum of getting things straightened out.

At one end is the, “Do a little at a time” strategy and at the other end is the “Get a flamethrower” style of getting the situation back in order.

The objective is, as I keep saying, to straighten things out.

Why do we concern ourselves with returning the situation to the straight?

Seems that it comes down to two thoughts: The Path of Least Resistance (twists and turns create friction, resistance) and The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is a Straight Line.

Here’s the conundrum: Life isn’t linear. It isn’t straight.

Things happen. Curves and resistance is created. Life just doesn’t seem to follow the linear path a lot of us want it to.

The only answer I can figure out in 58+ years of living is that you have to start trying to enjoy the curves. That thought clicks with the beliefs that it’s all about the journey and not the arrival, and the Buddhist attitude of being in the moment.

But, it sure would be nice to have a little straightaway every now and then, doesn’t it?

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Take a Flamethrower to It!

In the movie, A Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino plays the leading role. He’s a former military officer. At one point in the film he faces a problem and loudly says he should, “take a flamethrower to this!”

Some problems beg for a flamethrower. Whether it’s cleaning off your desk, straightening out a family or work issue, or, for that matter, solving a national/global issue.

There are challenges that have to be dealt with quickly and dramatically and completely so you can simply start over.

Two thoughts come to mind: Pulling a band-aid off quickly and a comment made by John C. Maxwell, America’s preeminent leadership teacher. Maxwell said, “Your probability of having a successful, happy life is going to be based on your willingness to have difficult discussions.” And some of the discussions will be flamethrowers that straighten the situation out instead of candles that enlighten.

In terms of relationships, most people don’t like the heat and damage caused by the flamethrower. But, it will definitely get folks’ attention.

When cleaning up, sometimes it’s best to clear it all out and start over fresh.

In your life, what might it help to take a flamethrower to?

One caution: There is an adrenaline rush to using the flamethrower and it’s easy to turn it on a second issue when you see how completely it clears up the first.

Use flamethrowers selectively and carefully lest you burn yourself up with the problem.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I HAVE CARPET!!

My office looked like someone pointed one of those big wood-chippers into the window and started throwing book, CDs, bills, checks, files, pens, Sharpies, DVDs, cellphones and newspapers in the other end.

Embarrassing! I mean, I teach this organization stuff. And, I’d done my 30-Second Secret (Don’t walk away from your desk without taking 30 seconds to straighten a few things up).

But the last few weeks have been so overwhelmingly hectic that the avalanche had overtaken me.

Time to clear the decks.

So, I started with one piece of paper. The first one closest to my hand. And I threw it away. A good start. The next few bits went the way of the trash can, too.

Now, I’m on a roll.

Started separating bills and other mail into usable piles.

Now the desk is clean.

Time to start on the floor.

I HAVE CARPET! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!

Try it. A bit at the time gets you there.

Here’s the thought of the day: Your desk and work area is probably not the only area of your life that is cluttered. You can use the same—bit by bit—strategy to straighten out almost any area of life.

PS. I’ll tell you about the opposite end of the “get it straightened out” continuum tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Chinese New Year and July 4th

Chinese medical experts report a higher than average death rate among elderly Chinese just after the beginning of the New Year. They theorize that the old folks were hanging on to enjoy the celebrations of the New Year before letting go…and going.

So, you’re thinking, what in the world does the fact that lots of old Chinese take the last train home after New Year have to do with the fact that it’s a couple of days after July 4th?

Simple.

What do you have to look forward to? (Ok, for the grammarians out there….To what do you have to look forward? Now, satisfied?)

July 4th was this past weekend and Labor Day is the next holiday, two months away.

What will keep you going until then?

Do you have vacation time coming? Are there events with friends, family, or co-workers to which you can look and—on those days when you think that you just can’t take this anymore--think, “I’ve got something to look forward to.”

I know some of you are thinking, “Well, I’ve got the weekends.” That’s true. But, it’s got to be more than just slogging from one weekend to the next.

My suggestion is that you create mini-events; special weekends, activities, things to look forward to that keep you anticipating…life.

What are three good things you can look forward to between now and Labor Day?

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Last, Best Hope

Most Americans don’t realize how slim our chances were for independence.

We were up against the most powerful nation on earth, had little or no organized military, a large part of the population (educated and wealthy especially) was sympathetic to the British, our colonies were spread out all along the Eastern Seaboard. As someone once said about D Day, “It was a closely run thing.”

Then small groups started talking about the belief that men (OK, it was a patriarchal society, so lighten up on the grammar) should have the right to seek their own lives and not have a monarchy or dictator calling the tune.

Many of our citizens, especially Thomas Jefferson, had been influenced by the writings coming out of the French Enlightenment; writings about personal freedom.

On July 4th lots of us will exercise our personal freedom to cook out, go swimming, probably drink a little too much, get sunburned, and see some fireworks…well, that’s what I have planned and I hope you get to do some of that.

However, too few of us think about how rare our freedom really is throughout the history of mankind.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we are, as Abraham Lincoln once called us, “The last, best hope on earth.”

Have a great 4th.

PS: If you see someone wearing ANYTHING that denotes military service, shake their hand and say, “Thank You.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

1600 Bathrooms, 3.000 Televisions?

I still can’t get over Cowboy Stadium.

The thing that most impressed me was the planning and anticipation of the needs of the people who visit.

There are 1600 toilets in the stadium and almost 1000 are in women’s bathrooms….short lines and not much waiting. Now that’s good planning.

There are over 3,000 television monitors (which begs the question of what, compared to the number of toilets, is most important) so you wouldn’t even have to go to your seat to watch the game and have a great time.

In whatever is important to you are you anticipating the needs of others, or your own needs, so that they and you get what is wanted…not just needed…but, wanted?

Here’s a simple exercise: The July 4th weekend is coming. What do you need/want in order to have a great July 4th? You can think large or small. Find one thing over which you have control that you can do/buy/have so that you are more likely to have a great 4th.