Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yes, Us....The Real Issue Behind the UNC Mess

My wonderfully loyal, fellow Carolina alumni still don't get the real issue about the mess in Chapel Hill. The real issue is not about football or the integrity of the University. Unfortunately, lots of people throw around the phrase, “integrity of the University,” like it’s a dollar tip, but they couldn’t tell you how it connects to reality. The real issue is the perceived integrity of the University.

The reality is that The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is and will continue to be one of the greatest universities in the United States and, by extension, the world. Unfortunately, in today’s society we make too few decisions based on reality and too many on perception.

At Carolina a small but outrageously visible corner of the University, sports, specifically football, has acted in a manner that has created a perception that the integrity of the University should be questioned.

Donna Shalala, president of The University of Miami, has said, “Sports is the front porch of the university.” The message sports conveys about a university may or may not be true, but the power of media coverage spreads the message like a virus. And there could not be a better example than The University of Miami. In the late ‘80s Miami football players were seen as thugs. When they played Notre Dame the game was billed as “Convicts Vs Catholics.” The university’s academic reputation was less than stellar. In a few years, Butch Davis, of all people, cleaned up the program and President Shalala made decisions that changed the academic community’s perception of UM. Were there already football players of good character and great talent at Miami, yes. Were there already outstanding academicians, absolutely. The perception, though, was that Miami was a second-class university and program even though it won national football championships.

Again, university integrity is directly connected to what people believe about Carolina. We have always believed that Carolina, and the people who comprise our Carolina family, was about outstanding character, quality and achievement. Research that came from Carolina was credible and a degree from UNC-Chapel Hill was a door-opener.

Seeing bad news on the front page or in lead stories on television every day creates the perception that the value of the product that comes from Chapel Hill is less than what it really is. Now, I’m not a media hater. In fact, my degree from Carolina was in media and I have worked in, or peripherally in, the media for the majority of my career. But, if the media believes they can sell one more paper or get one more eyeball on a TV or computer screen they’ll keep this mess running. That’s why firing Butch Davis was imperative whether he had anything to do with all this or not and why Dick Baddour had no choice but to step down. I’m not necessarily a Holden Thorp fan but if the media keeps tracking him on this issue he’ll have to go, too. Firing people means fewer headlines down the road and that stops the financial bleeding.

And yes, it’s all about money. The longer this mess is in the forefront of the public’s mind the more it costs the University. To put it simply, Carolina, and everything that comes with it, is like a stock. If you do not believe the management of a company is effective or that the product won’t do what it is promoted to do you don’t invest or buy. The silliness in Chapel Hill will affect fan paraphernalia purchases (t-shirts, etc.), alumni giving, Ram’s Club memberships and other areas.

The most expensive cost will come for our young graduates. Some of my young friends, college seniors last year, told me that the first question recruiters often asked in job interviews was, “So, what’s the deal with the football program?” Whether the question and the ensuing discussion mattered is not the point. The point is that there should not have been a reason to ask a question that diverted the recruiter’s attention in a negative way. Now some recruiters will wonder, “Is this kid a plagiarizer?”The perception of the value of a Carolina degree has been tarnished. Recruiters and graduates will tell you that they know, intellectually, that there is no connection between football and a degree and in reality they are right. But, the perception…….

My Carolina brothers and sisters say, “We’ll get through this!” And we will. But, it will take years. The repercussions of the sloppy ending of Mack Brown’s tenure at Carolina are still being felt and he’s been gone for over a decade.

Here’s the saddest part for me, and maybe for you; as much as I have loved being in Kenan Stadium on crisp, clear, Carolina Blue sky Saturdays in the fall that experience has been diminished. The reality of the day will still be there but the perception of it all has lessened.

And no matter how big a smile you put on, no matter how loudly you shout your support for the University and the Tar Heels, deep in your heart you know I’m right. When you are in front of friends, family, co-workers, pinheaded Duke and State fans, and others you’re holding to the party line. But, in private, when you pull the covers to your chin and think about all Carolina means to you you probably think the same three words that keep quietly echoing in my mind…Please, Not Us.

The reality is…Yes. Us.

Friday, July 29, 2011

a-wuhndahful! a-wuhndahful!

If you are of a certain age you’ll remember the band leader Lawrence Welk and his television show.

Welk’s greatest praise for a musical act was, "a-wuhndahful! a-wuhndahful!"

When you are making a difficult decision do you ever ask, “What if this could turn out wonderfully?”

Having a wonderful life shouldn’t be an accident.

Life, God, the Divine Reality, even simple science wants you to have a wonderful life.

A wonderful life means growth rather than decay. It means that life continues.

Like the old Jimmy Stewart movie, A Wonderful Life, it is all about having a life you can look back on with pride. A life in which you love others and enjoy their love. A life in which you matter.

What one simple, low-stress event or situation—if it happened this weekend—would be wonderful?

If you are going through tough times you should start small and work up to the big events.

Have a wonderful weekend. See you Monday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bugs Having Sex In the Air

Yesterday, as I cruised happily down the interstate at about 75 mph with my front-seat windows down two bugs, locked together, flew into the car interior.

These weren’t little bugs. They were big, “should we eat Mike here or take him with us” sized bugs.

Now, I’ve had one bug fly in the window but never two at the same time. I know eagles can mate while flying but can bugs? I’m thinking…well…you get it.

They blasted into the car, smacked into my headrest and popped apart. Which, if they were doing what they might have been doing, had to be disconcerting to them. Ok, I’ll stop.

Anyway, they start flying around in the car and I’m swatting at them and trying to put the backseat windows down…and…I swerved and almost ran under an 18-wheeler.

At this point the bugs flew out the back, right-side window.

They had to be thinking, “If this fat boy can’t drive any better than this we better get the hell out of here!! And LOOK he’s got a Carolina sticker!”

I’m convinced that most bugs are Duke fans.

It’s easy to get distracted when the bugs of life fly in and start distracting you; the little or big annoyances, the things that grab your attention away from your main focus.

It’s easy to start spending a lot of energy on the bugs and forget that your main purpose was to move on down the road.

What are your bugs right now?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WHEN WILL THE NFL CALL?!!!

So often we make decisions based on who we wish we were, not who we really are.

I always joke that in February I’m ticked that the NFL never invites me to the combine to display my talents for all the teams. At 59-years old, 5’9” and 225 pounds I’m timed in the 40 with a calendar instead of a stopwatch. I know it’s a joke but I also know that there are areas of life in which I appear to be just as disillusioned.

When you make decisions based on a flawed premise they almost always turn out wrong.

By accepting who you are—warts, flaws, bad past decisions and all—you are better able to make decisions that work for you.

I’m not saying the decisions are easy…I’ll be the first to admit that I’m just now getting around to accepting some of my shortcomings so that I might be better able to make good decisions.

But, being able to honestly assess a situation—and myself—and say, “Yes, this is what I’m like and this other option over here is probably what would work better for me, even though it doesn’t seem like what I want” is a huge step to creating a future that works.

What about you do you need to accept so that you might make better decisions?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Have You Gotten Fat and Sassy? Or, Just Fat?

Have almost finished reading The Seven Sins, a novel by Jon Ladd.

It’s great! Exciting characters and plot twists with just enough new information that I’m learning things as the story progresses.

The main character owns a casino named The Seven Sins and uses the motto, “To Dream, To Dare, To Win.”

Isn’t that what we all want to do?

I know lots of people, though, who seem to have stopped dreaming. They’ve reached a point in life where they’re comfortable, where they’ve said, “This is enough.”

I'm not just talking about material possessions, about stuff. We can grow mentally and spiritually, we can get healthier, we can dream about good things we can do for others.

I keep thinking of poet Robert Browning’s line, “Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?”

Have you stopped dreaming? Have you gotten too comfortable?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nature Boy Strikes Again

I love mowing grass and will mow big swatches in a skinny minute if given the chance.

On the other hand, I’ve never been a big planter, gardener, let’s-get-outside-and-dig-something-up kind of person.

However, I’m amazed at my flowers.

Planted a bunch of vincas a few weeks ago. Got’em from Home Depot in a tray of 18 little pots and I’ve been pretty good about watering them every day.

The thing that amazes me is that during these hot-as-hell days they’ve seemed to grow bigger even though I’ve missed a couple of days of watering due to being out of town.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve gotcha covered on the idea that I’m giving them too much water.

But, I keep thinking that with the heat they are, in fact, growing in the face of adversity.

That’s nature’s way. As long as stress isn’t fatal life gets stronger with adversity.

Even in tuff times we are growing.

What adversity are you facing now? What are you learning? How are you growing?

Have a great weekend.

OK, OK! I’ll ease up on the watering and see what happens.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Today Is a Two-Fer

Everyone knows what a two-fer is; two for the price of one.

Today’s blog is a two-fer…for today and tomorrow.

On July 20, 1969, the landing craft, Eagle, landed in the Sea of Tranquility on the moon’s surface.

(I know this is hokey but I just got goosebumps writing that)

On July 21, Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon.

“One small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.”

Buzz Aldrin soon followed. Michael Collins was piloting the Columbia, the Appollo 11 command module, as it orbited the moon.

Armstrong and Aldrin remained on the lunar surface for 21 hours and 31 minutes.

Hundreds of years from now when humans look back and our society is a blip in the ether—like the Neanderthals or the Byzantinians or the Phoenicians are to us now—they’ll ask, “What was the United States of America really all about?”

July 20-21, 1969 is the date they’ll see.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stay Close to a Bubbler

Do you know what a bubbler is? I’ll tell you in a moment.

My next-door neighbor is originally from Wisconsin. We had a wonderful visit on Sunday afternoon and we started talking about differences in terms between various areas of the country.

She said that in Milwaukee people use the term bubbler for…water fountains.

Had never heard that.

The heat index here will be over 100 degrees today. Easy to get caught in a situation in which your hydration level has dropped to an unhealthy level.

If your hydration level drops by 2-3% it inhibits your ability to do simple math. It inhibits your reaction time when you approach stop signs and stoplights.

Any time you walk by a bubbler today stop and take three swallows of water.

Watch yourself today.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Most Important Thing

What’s The Most Important Thing for you?

It’s easy to pop off and say: Kids, Family, Fun, Health, Spiritual Focus, being Happy, Service…there’s a slew of answers. The only answer that matters, the only answer that matters, is what’s important to you.

When you make decisions do you consider The Most Important Thing?

In What Do I Do Now?, a book about making great decisions, by Dr. Charles Foster, he says that in decision-making the key criteria is what, for you, is The Most Important Thing.

And he adds that The Most Important Thing should outweigh almost all other considerations combined.

Yes, I understand that, as adults, we must often take into consideration other people, dynamics and situations if they are different from The Most Important Thing. I also know that The Most Important Thing changes with different decisions. My Most Important Thing changes depending on whether I’m choosing ice cream flavors or a long-term life decision.

But, Foster says that if we don’t make The Most Important Thing the most important thing in our decision we’ll never be happy or satisfied with it. We might be OK with it in the short term (I love Butter Pecan, but I’m OK with vanilla), but over the long haul we’ll feel unfulfilled (see long-term).

What’s The Most Important Thing for you?

Try this exercise, we’ve done it before: Write down the three most important things in your life. Now, put them in order. This time, do it David Letterman/Miss America style with the second runner-up, first runner up, then the winner.

No one’s looking.

And now, the winner. The Most Important Thing is _________________________.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Feels Like Fall

The hellish heat we’ve experienced for the past couple of weeks is over for a little while.

Walked outside this morning to water my flowers and it felt like early fall.

You and I knew this cool-off was coming, we just didn’t know when it would get here.

It’s all about the ebb and flow.

Our area will experience extreme water shortages and every message is to conserve water…and then it’ll rain for a few days and we have all the water we need and more.

The tough times will last longer than we think we can stand, but we do, and then things ease up and the good times come along. And then, they don’t last as long as we wish they would and other/different challenges come along.

Back and forth.

A balancing act can be difficult to achieve….not impossible…but difficult.

Whichever times you’re in, the trough or top-of-the-hill, appreciate where you are. But, remember that you need to look ahead to the possibility—no, probability—that things will change.

Try this simple exercise: Greet people today with, “Isn’t this cool weather great!” and see how many respond with, “Yeah, but….”

Enjoy the simple pleasure of cool.

Have a great weekend. See you Monday

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is That the Damned Sprinkler?!!

Am at the beautiful Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, VA, presenting a program for the North Carolina Association of Radiology Business Managers.

Woke up and looked out the sliding glass doors and there was a golf hole right outside. Beautiful!!

I was so enthralled with my surroundings and thinking ahead to the program this morning that when I was walking out to the car I didn't notice the sprinklers were on.

As I cruised, head down, deep in thought (ok...for some of you who know me my thoughts might not be too deep and for some of you who zapped me about the strippers blogs earlier this week I'm sure you would agree), a sprinkler rotated over and zapped me a couple of times.

I'm thinking, "Is it raining again?!"

No.

Fighter pilots call it, Situational Awareness.

Are you so locked in on what's going on in front of you that you forget about what's going on around you?

Easy to miss the roses you meant to smell if that's the case.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bossypants

If you don’t know the name Tina Fey you’re missing out on one of the primary sources of funny in society.

She starred on Saturday Night Live (her Sarah Palin bits were so good the brought the real Sarah Palin on the show) and 30 Rock (she’s the star and executive producer). Go to youtube.com to see her.

Her new book, Bossypants, is a scream. I was only 12 pages into it and was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. This is a perfect summer book.

Yes, it will more than likely be out in the fall or next spring as a paperback. But, believe me, it’s one of those books in which you’ll read some and then stop and call to someone and say, “you’ve got to hear this.”

Humor is the shortest distance between two people and one of the best healers. What makes you laugh?

Get some of that today.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Coke Man and the Stripper

Forty years ago right now I was sitting in the passenger seat of a Coca Cola distribution truck somewhere out in Robeson County. Summer job after freshman year in college and one of the most valuable experiences I ever had.

The most important thought of the summer was this, “When some of these guys get so old they aren’t strong enough to throw a case of Cokes up on the truck, what do they do?” I realized at that moment that education was freedom.

This is also the anniversary of the first time I ever saw a stripper live and in the flesh. Hay Street in Fayetteville, with all the soldiers from Ft. Bragg, was like Noah’s Ark: if you didn’t travel in pairs you’d better not be there.

I remember standing in Rick’s Lounge, looking at a stripper and thinking, “When you’re too old to be up on that stage what do you do?”

As Baby Boomers a lot of us have drunk the Kool-Aid that we can do anything at any time. But, you know what, in some areas of life we simply age out. Sometimes the behaviors and thoughts that worked before don’t work now.

Saw a great phrase the other day, “Grow up or give up.”

What, if you left it behind, would make your life better, easier, healthier, safer, more productive, more fun, more focused, more…….?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Let's Get a Stripper!

MONDAY!!

Hang with me on this one, you’ll love it.

Don’t know if you’re into international affairs but about a month ago then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave his farewell speech to the defense ministers and other officials of NATO.

For fifty years the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been a coalition of the United States, Great Britain and many of the nations bordering the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It was created for one basic purpose, to face down the Soviet Union. Now that the Soviet Union is no more the mission has seemed vague.

In short, Gates publicly spanked the other nations for letting the U.S. carry most of the financial and military burden for most of the organization’s life. Other nations cut defense spending and at this point couldn’t carry their load even if they wanted to.

Does this sound like your workplace? Do you have coworkers who rely on you because they know you’ll get the job done? What about folks who have purposely avoided training that might allow them to take on new responsibilities?

But, here’s the catch: Are you the one who isn’t carrying a fair share of the load?

There’s only one job I know of where all the employee has to do is show up and folks are happy and that’s a stripper.

Are you the U.S. of your workplace or the Poland/Spain/France/Turkey?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Remember Tang?

Today is a sad day.

If weather permits, it will be the last day for a long time that the United States, as a nation, sends humans into space using our own vehicles. The 135th and last mission of the Shuttle Program is supposed to launch today at 11:26. Politics and lack of focus have brought us to this point

I understand the financial burdens space exploration places on our nation. I understand that unmanned missions are probably more effective than manned flights.

But….damn.

I was talking to a friend about the end of the program and he busted me about my, “If something doesn’t directly affect your life don’t pay so much attention to it” attitude. See yesterday’s blog if you need an explanation.

The reality, though, is that I’m creating this blog and you’re reading it on devices that might not be in existence if not for the space program. Computers, nanotechnology, energy technology, metallurgy, communications, microwaves…hell, Tang (if you remember the instant orange drink), all came out of the space program.

In fact, the computing power in my little desktop unit or in my iPhone is greater than that in any of the Mercury or Appollo space capsules thanks to the space program.

Humans, especially Americans, are exploring creatures. We want to know what’s in the next valley or the next solar system.

In any area of life, if we don’t go, we don’t know.

It’s just a damned shame.

And on that happy note, have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Dolt Ceiling

"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind." John Donne

I get the quote above. Truly, I do.

But, the fever created about the Casey Anthony trial is beyond me.

I realize that the whole event is sickening and sad. But, if you know more details than: a child died, the mom went on trial and was found not guilty, and maybe that’s not the whole story…then you’ve spent too much time on it.

Some friends of mine were all over Facebook about the trial and verdict.

When I pointed out that what happened had and has no direct effect on our lives…other than to make people sad and angry…a couple of them lit into me about my callousness.

Yes, this is terrible. Does it affect my life or yours? No.

My point is this: If you are going to spend time and focus attention (see yesterday’s blog) on something make it an issue that has a positive effect on your life and the lives of others.

My view was validated in today’s political cartoon in the Raleigh News and Observer. On the left side of the cartoon President Obama and a member of Congress are studying the budget. On the right side is a large group of people staring at a television with a story about Casey Anthony showing. The President says, “I’m also worried about America’s dolt ceiling.”

Amen.

Focus on the things that affect your life positively.

I’ll ask again, “Where is your attention?”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The 700th Blog

This is the 700th blog.

Thanks for paying attention.

Attention has always been the most important mental resource.

Attention is the core resource of love, success, health, depression and failure.

We are that to which we pay attention.

As I’ve noted in the past, my good friend Charles Melvin says, “You can tell what’s important to people by what they spend their time and money on.”

Time and money are outward signs of where our attention focuses.

On what are you focusing your attention?

And again, thanks.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Making It Up as You Go Along

So, what’d you do over the Fourth?

I read two novels: the new James Bond book, Carte Blanche, by Jeffrey Deaver (gave it a C), and Dead Silence, by Randy Wayne White (gave it a B).

Also watched The Hangover again and listened to a ton of music.

What struck me was that I was engaging with people who are doing EXACTLY what they want to do in life. Actors/writers/musicians, no matter how poorly or grossly compensated they might be, are pursuing their dreams.

No one comes to a point in life and says, “Ok, I need a job. I think I’ll be an actor/writer/musician.” It just doesn’t happen. You have to want it and go after it.

What do you want? What are you willing to go after?