Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Take That Lizard Boy!

One of my neighbors is a Stage IV cancer survivor.

In the chemotherapy ward where she received her treatments there was a bell and when you received your last treatment you got to ring the bell.

“You know,” she said, “Some days the only thing that got you through it was the dream of ringing that bell.”

Is there a difficult, challenging experience you’re going through? If so, create your own kind of bell, have a reward, yell “I Did It,!” do something that announces your completion of the task.

Life isn’t about just slaying one dragon and then moving on to the next one. Part of life should be putting your boot an the dragon's head, holding your sword up in the air and yelling, "Take that, Lizard Boy!!".

Do you have a bell?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

IHOP Heaven

I’m an IHOP guy. Waffle House is OK, but any restaurant that’ll serve you everything from pancakes to pot roast at midnight is pretty close to the American Dream as far as I’m concerned.

I even love their name, International House of Pancakes. Not just the Raleigh or North Carolina or American House of Pancakes…but, The International House of Pancakes. The only better name would be the Intergalactic House of Pancakes.

So, last night I’m looking for a place to celebrate after my last seminar for the summer. I’m on vacamacation (my word) for two weeks…can you believe I’ve NEVER had a two week vacation?

During the day yesterday I kept adding to a list of ideas for what I wanted to do to celebrate. I’d written down “champagne.” “beer and cigars,” “steak dinner,” “monster burgers” and a few other things that we'll just keep to ourselves.

However, I’m a simple guy and getting older and wiser. When I saw that IHOP sign I knew I was home. When I walked in my first thought was, “Why isn’t there a perfume that smells like pancakes?” Unlike most perfumes there wouldn’t be that “lets tear our clothes off and have sex on the stove” kind of pressure when you smell it. Well, OK, I’ve had some folks tell me that that’s my attitude when I smell anything up to and including Black Flag roach spray, but that’s another story.

The menu was a dilemma. So many choices, such a small table.

Here's where the story gets a little different. They have a steak omelet that’s the size of a Ford Prius and it comes with pancakes. YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO ORDER HASH BROWNS, THE OMELET HAS THEM IN IT! But, here’s the dilemma, there was a spinach and mushroom omelet with hollandaise sauce…mmmm….I love hollandaise sauce…it’s like…mmm….breakfast gravy.

Now, I've always been a reasonably assertive guy, but I've never been big about switching stuff around on the menu. I've been a waiter and I know it can be a pain.

So, I thought, “Cowboy up, Mike! Even though it isn’t on the menu, order the steak omelet WITH hollandaise sauce. I mean, we're celebrating, right? All they can do is say, ‘No,’”

I did. And my waiter, Colin, and the folks in the kitchen were glad to give me exactly what I wanted.

AND IT WAS GREAT!!!!!

Sometimes asking for what you want in life can be as simple as…well…asking.

Sometimes it’s a little, or a lot, more challenging. But, getting what you want and need is not a bad thing. You deserve it. Life’s too short.

Ask for what you want. All they can do is say, “No.”

What have you hesitated to ask for?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Uh, Grandpa, That Ain't the Mailbox

A 91-year old Englishman is suing the British postal service. It seems that for 3 years he had been putting his mail into a sidewalk box reserved for the dog poop owners scooped up when they took their pooches for walks.

Grandpa is suing because he thinks the postal service should have done a better job of helping him figure out where to put his mail. A passerby who saw him deposit a letter clued him to his mistake.

He said, “My eyesight hasn’t been so good for the past years.”

Once you get past the, “Aw, poor grandpa,” thought there are a couple of questions that should come to mind: Why did it take 3 years for someone to point out his mistake (the guy who helped him couldn’t have been the only one to see him deposit his mail incorrectly)? If no one was responding to his mail, assuming he sent something in addition to bills, why didn’t it occur to him that something was going on? Didn’t whoever empties the box see the letters? Do all British mailboxes smell like dog doo?...we could go on, but let’s not.

My basic questions are these: How often in life do we blame someone else for something that is basically our mistake? And how long do we keep making the mistake before we own up to it or have it pointed out to us?

Finally: What do we do about it?

Friday, August 26, 2011

THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!

My most vivid memory of the last big hurricane to come this way, Fran, in 1996, was lying in bed and listening to trees fall.

There would be a loud, THUMP! And then another. And then another.

The power was out so I took a flashlight, eased downstairs and looked out the kitchen window. I could see the trunk of one of the largest pine trees in the back yard lying parallel to the back deck. It had missed by 2 feet.

I went back to bed and listened. THUMP! THUMP!

Over the next few months I cut and hauled 66 trees out of the yard.

The good part about a hurricane or tornado or almost any other natural disaster is that they happen fast. This will all be over by Sunday morning and Irene will have moved north.

But, the effects may last for decades.

I can’t believe it, of all times, I’m reminded of the Jimmy Buffett song, “A Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling.”

Forty-eight hours from now we’ll be helping our friends to the east and north dig out and rebuild. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

Wherever you are and whatever you are facing have a good weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Paralysis By Analysis

We all have a system for how we get things done.

I have a friend who, when she gets an idea, DIVES into it headfirst, slaps her way through the obstacles and, through persistence, usually arrives at a goal that is pretty close to what she was aiming at.

Another friend is more methodical. He sees a goal; comes up with a plan; goes step by step through the plan; when he encounters obstacles he thinks, plans and works his way around the obstacles; and, most of the time, ends up somewhere near what he had in mind.

I envy my friends because they usually reach goals faster than I do. When I set a goal I start reading everything I can get my hands on about the process. THEN I start creating a plan. I often end up suffering from paralysis by analysis.

Over the last few years I’ve been paralyzed when it comes to a major decision. I’m about to get off the pot and make it, but I’ve wasted way too much time thinking about it.

I’d probably do better to just jump in, sink or swim, and adjust accordingly. The best companies today are operating on a READY—FIRE!—AIM kind of business model.

One of my business heroes, Bob Bly, says, “The money is in the doing, not the reading.” He talks about 25-50-25. 25% of your time is spent in planning, reading and thinking. 50% of your time is spent in doing it…action. And 25% of your time is spent in following up.

What have you spent too much time analyzing? Time to get off the pot?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On!

Lots of folks are all shook up about the little earthquake we had yesterday. The news went crazy, front page of papers today, everyone Tweeting, Facebooking, calling each other about it.

Yeah, it was news, but if you talk to friends in California who experience these things all the time they’ll laugh at what a lot of folks on this coast thought was a big deal. I know that there was some light damage, but the effect was based more on the uniqueness of an earthquake on the East Coast than anything else.

It’s easy for our attention to be called away by something minor just because it’s different; we’ll pay a lot of attention to it and worry it like a cat with a dead mouse.

But, the overall impact on our lives is miniscule.

To paraphrase Michael Douglas in one of my favorite movies, The American President, “We have serious things going on in our lives and we need serious focus to face them.”

Take a moment to appreciate the power of yesterday’s event and then get focused again.

What little thing…what…itty…bitty…thing…are you spending waaaaaaay too much time focusing on?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Do I Do Now?

Yesterday was one of those days that you pray for if you do what I do for a living.

I had the chance to present two seminars for the staff of the New Hanover County Health Department in Wilmington and they were great! Lotta fun, smart people, lotta energy.

Afterwards, a young woman came up and asked how I started doing seminars. She’s one semester away from finishing her sophomore year in college, has a child and a job, and wanted some guidance on where to go with her career.

Too few of us do what she had the courage to do; approach a stranger and ask, “How do you do what you do?” and “What suggestions might you have about where I should go now?”

Too many of us think we know it all or are intimidated to approach and ask or are simply too lazy.

The young woman yesterday was not any of those things by any stretch of the imagination. If she maintains her sense of courage and curiosity I’d love to meet her in 10, 20 and 30 years and watch her career progress.

The first step to the future is wanting to go; the second step is knowing your destination. Sometimes you’ve got ask someone, “What’s out there?” before you know where you might want to go.

Who have you asked for directions lately?

Or, do you know it all?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Girls Can Suck Your Brains Out

A wonderful cartoon today shows two teenage guys talking about the stammering, stumbling, inadequate feeling that comes on when trying to ask a girl out. One guy says, “It’s a scientific fact, dude. Girls have the power to suck your brain out."

I’m 59 and women, across the whole range of human activity, still suck my brain out.

We all have people or issues in life that befuddle us. It could be girls/women, boys/men, teenagers, math, the national debt, why folks don’t support same-sex marriage…it could be anything. Sometimes they push us into stammering, stumbling, inadequate feeling drones.

Here’s a suggestion I’ve offered before and it often works in my-brain-is-being-sucked-out times: The Pause. It’s a 3-4 second delay.

When you feel like your brain’s being sucked out (I do love that image…the reality is that you feel like you might be losing control of the situation or the thought process) take a simple pause for 3-4 seconds.

The pause allows your logical mind to catch up with your emotional mind. Which, to be honest, is what’s being sucked out…sorry, I can’t stop with that.

Your logical mind will convince you that that situation is not as bad as you think, that the person doing the brain-sucking is still just a person, or that you’ve handled problems like this before and you can do it again.

So, what or who do you encounter in life that deserves a pause?

Have a great weekend and see you Monday.

PS…yes, it IS a scientific fact that teenage children can suck your brains out.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Rickshaw Ride, Beer and Cigar In Hand

Charleston, SC, is a great town with a wonderful nightlife. You can't beat the range of restaurants, bars, stores, hotels and magnificent homes downtown.

Last night I took a bike rickshaw ride around the downtown and the Battery.

I'm willing to bet that Joey, the young man doing the pedalling, has the cardiovascular system of a deer. Saturday night he pedalled 98 miles; he checked it with a bike odometer.

Needless to say, he was sweatin'. I wasn't.

Also needless to say, he does not need to try and find ways to put movement into his day.

Think about this; If you walk up stairs 6 minutes a day it cuts your heart attack risk by 15%. The mayor of Denver is hammering his employees to walk stairs instead of taking elevators. He's finding that the more his folks move the lower his healthcare costs are.

What simple steps can you take (pun intended) to put more movement into your day?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pancakes That Glow

A Swedish man has been arrested for trying to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen.

He was harvesting nuclear materials from smoke alarms and old clocks.

He said, “I wanted to see if it was possible to split the atom in the kitchen.”

You have to wonder if it really started with a couple of his kids asking, “Daddy, we love chicken tenders and pancakes. Can you make them
glow in the dark?”
After triggering a minor explosion he decided to call authorities about his work.

This situation can be seen in a lot of ways:
- If you are going to do something monumentally stupid do you call attention to it?
- Some good ideas are going to go wrong. Accept it, change it, move on.
- Curiosity is a good thing…but, damn!
- It’s probably good if some food can’t be seen in the dark.

The guy has been released from jail and said he’d limit his future explorations to “theoretical” nuclear physics.

Which one of the four reasons above seem to fit something you're doing right now?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Will Someone Puhleeeze Open a Window!!

I love beans. I love black-eyed peas, pinto beans, navy beans, snaps and field peas, small peas, lentils, pork and beans, red beans, black beans, green beans...almost any kinds of beans you can find.

However, beans do not like me.

I’ve read some evidence that our digestive systems are set up to process beans easily but we eat so much meat that our systems get out of synch and that’s why some of us have difficult time digesting our friends, the legumes.

So, I only eat beans now if I know that I don’t have to do a seminar for a few days or if I won’t be around anyone but my guy friends for awhile. Yes, ladies, we think the results are funny. Always have, always will.

On a similar note: This summer I’ve declared off hard spirits. I love a cold beer or a glass of wine but I’ve finally realized that the hard stuff causes changes in my personality that I’m not happy about or proud of.

This is the first summer in 40 years that I’ve not had a cocktail.

Most of the time it’s easy to find what’s good for us. We can see it, smell it, feel it, taste it, hear it and we know.

Sometimes, though, we don’t do a good job of identifying what’s not good for us. Or, when we do, letting go of it takes too much courage and effort. Habits are hard to break.

Even the Declaration of Independence states, “all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Sometimes you just have to Cowboy Up and realize that it’s time to let it go.

What do you need to say goodbye to in your life?

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Dog On a the Chain

Woke up in the Baymont Inn in Asheville this morning. In about 2 hours I'm speaking about change to the staff of Asheville Radiology, a great group of folks.

Came downstairs for breakfast and encountered the night clerk. When I said, "Good morning," I got a sullen stare and, "What can I do for you?" I repeated, "Good morning," and got the same response.

A dog on a chain.

Life has obviously not worked out the way this guy had hoped.

Believe it or not, the ONLY thing you truly can control is your attitude about life. When you roll out of bed every morning you make decision about who you are going to be that day...and that decision has an impact on how your day goes, who you meet, and whether or not you see life as a gift or a burden.

What was your decision this morning?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bounce This!

How big a bouncer are you?

No, I don’t mean the kind of bouncer who not so gently suggested that I leave a bar in Myrtle Beach a few years ago.

IT WOULD SEEM THAT JUMPING UP ON THE BAR AND EXPLAINING TO A BUNCH OF SOUTH CAROLINA REDNECKS THAT CHAPEL HILL IS THE ONLY REAL CAROLINA WAS FROWNED UPON IN THAT ESTABLISHMENT!!

Amen.

Bouncing back is about resilience, the hot, new word when dealing with the topic of change.

How resilient are you? How quickly can you bounce back from a challenge, change or difficult life situation?

In Positivity, Barbara Frederickson’s research shows that having a plan for bringing positivity (thoughts, activities, meditations, music, people) into your life helps create resilience; helps you bounce back.

Too many folks rely on luck to bring them back to a productive, positive state of mind. Don’t rely on chance to get you back in the groove.

I’m right in the middle of coming up with a plan to get me through a challenging time. You can do it, too.

Have a great weekend, buy Positivity and read it! See you Monday.

PS…if you’re in Cowboys in Myrtle Beach…tell’em Mike said, “Bite me.” They’ll know who you mean.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

3-1 Is Magic

In Positivity, author/UNC professor Barbara Frederickson writes that her research shows 3-1 as the optimal positivity ratio.

That means you need three positive thoughts and/or experiences for every negative to maintain a positive life.

As I’ve said for the past couple of days, Frederickson’s research is compelling. It isn’t just some “let’s all think positive and good things will happen” hopefulness.

Her research essentially proves that a positive outlook and a concerted effort to have positive experiences can make us healthier.

Now, if she could just convince the media of her findings. In San Antonio on Sunday all but two stories on the main pages in the newspaper were negative. Listen and watch on TV news…negative, negative, negative. It has an effect on our outlooks on life.

So, here’s the formula for the day, U B +.

Get it?

Write it on your paper; leave it on your desk; tape it to the mirror in your bathroom; write it on bathroom walls; mention it in a meeting.

I’m for this becoming a movement.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It Ain't Pollyanna #2

Barbara Frederickson, author of Positivity and UNC-Chapel Hill professor, has created a website, Positivityratio.com. to help you determine your ongoing level of positivity.

It only takes a few minutes to register and if you want to be part of her research you can check the box. It’s all anonymous.

Check out the site and get the book. It’ll be the best thing you can do for your health and life this summer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Positive Ain't Just for Pollyanna

We've all read books that changed our lives.

In fact, there's a book titled, You've Got to Read This Book!, about that very phenomenon.

I'm reading Positivity by Barbara Frederickson and it's changing how I look at so many issues in life.

Frederickson is a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and her focus is how positivity affects our lives, communities and the world. Positivity refers to the processes and actions of bringing positive thought and feeling into your life and how it affects a range of issues.

Her research is showing that positivity has an impact on everything from how you feel about yourself, your spouse or significant other, to your friends and even strangers.

Her results are not based on some Pollyanna solution to the ills of the world. They're based on hardcore research with stunning results.

Here's one simple topic: Frederickson is finding that positivity vs negativity broadens the mind. Her findings show that people who go into negotiation sessions (whether in personal or business relationships)create better outcomes, better deals. So, positivity can be seen as being more profitable than being hardnosed, negative and penny-pinching.

For the rest of this week I'll offer some of Frederickson's findings.

Why?

Because she's found that by spreading positivity others are more positive...for themselves and others...and that leads to more positivity...which leads to...

Try this: Think of a time in which things were going right for you. When were you happy and positive? Dwell on the thought for a moment. Get the feeling...now, turn your thoughts to a challenge you face. What you will probably find is that you see a broader view of the problem, or, you at least see it from a less negative viewpoint.

And, get the book. It'll change your outlook in a rainbow of ways.



Monday, August 8, 2011

Is Miss Mexico a Fatty?

Here in lovely San Antonio the fact that Miss Mexico won't be allowed to compete for the Miss World pageant is causing a stir. It seems that the beauty queen gained 6 (six) pounds and Mexican contest officials think she's too fat.

The folks in San Antonio know the feeling...they booted their Miss San Antonio for the same reason...an official told her to "lay off the tacos" and gave the crown to the runner-up. The PR official who said that is probably now driving one of the wonderful, red trolleys here in town.

Miss S.A. sued and won her crown back.

I can gain six pounds at a Hooters in about 2 hours (not that I've ever been to a Hooters; I understand they're lovely).

The whole point is that as long as you don't go whole hog (no pun intended, of course) enjoying life shouldn't get you penalized.

Stay away from the buffets, drink more water and move a little more.

That's the ticket.



Friday, August 5, 2011

The Best $7 I Ever Spent

Last May I found an hour-glass at TJ Maxx for $7. It was the best $7 I’ve ever spent.

Well, it isn’t really an hour-glass, it’s a half-hour-glass.

Anyway, it’s on my kitchen counter and every time I walk by I flip it over. I’ll stand and watch a few of the grains of sand fall to the bottom and move on.

I did that for a few weeks before the import of what I was seeing hit me. Those grains of sand falling steadily to the bottom represented seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years of my life.

I know, I know, that’s what an hour-glass is supposed to do but I’m not that bright so it took awhile for the thought to hit me.

Not long ago I walked past the hour-glass just as the last few grains at the top flowed through the little opening and fell onto the rest of the sand.

The sight stopped me like I had stumped my toe on the wall.

That’s it, time’s up.

The thought hit me that I’d better get to work on some of the things I really want to do in life, ‘cause you don’t know when the last grains might fall.

AND ON THAT HAPPY NOTE!! Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Stay cool and stay hydrated.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hot As Hooties!!

Yesterday I was in Wal-Mart (I could hear my brain cells exploding) and heard a woman describe the weather as, “Hot as hooties!”

Headed to Wilmington today to present a seminar, “Library Rumble: Challenges for Today’s Library,” for about 50 folks. Should be fun.

It’s supposed to be 100 in Wilmington today. That’s hot as hooties, even for the beach!

On days like today when I see folks working outside I’m just glad I have a college degree, some simple skills people actually pay me to use and the opportunities to make a living.

In short, I have options other than doing some sort of labor that would have me out in this heat, or cold, or rain. I’m also not rolling a handtruck through a warehouse, sitting at desk in a cubicle, standing beside a machine or cleaning commodes.

Nothing wrong with honest labor but if your options are so few that you HAVE to do some of those things to make a living it’s easy to end up having a small life.

Quality of life is about options.

When was the last time you learned something new? Something you could use to make your life better? Something that gave you more options?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Has Google Gotcha?

Yesterday I hammered the technology demon. I was going to go off on PowerPoint, a lazy way of teaching, but I thought, “What’s the ….”…ok, you get the idea.

Then, an article about Google in The Week magazine (THE best magazine to keep you abreast of what’s going on in the world) jumped out at me.

Some researchers are saying the use of Google is changing how we think. They worry that it’s making human memory obsolete. Student subjects quickly forgot info they had just entered into the computer believing they could retrieve it whenever desired.

The gist of it is that the Web is great for small bits of information, 2 minute learning, but for deeper learning you still have to go with books. That’s good to know.

Socrates, in 370 B.C., believed that writing was making people dumber. He believed writing transmitted the mere “appearance of wisdom.”

It’s all about tools and knowing they exist and using them.

Google and other search engines don’t provide everything we’ll ever want to know. But, do they make us smarter? Probably. And faster, yes.

Do me a favor. Google ted.com and watch just one of the short videos from the Ted conference (smartest people in the world explaining what they do in less than 18 minutes).

Now, don’t you feel smarter?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Magical Technology Headaches

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Writer, futurist Arthur C. Clarke

You’ve seen this quote before and I keep coming back to it every time it occurs to me how much life has changed due to technology.

Last night I watched The Source Code, a new action movie about a science experiment that allows people to manipulate time. In a short scene in the movie the scientist/character who came up with the source code idea explains it.

For all I understood he might as well have said, “Blah, blah, blah, brain, blah, blah, time, blah, blah.”

I’ve been stumbling around sending emails from my iPhone and with gmail.com because my Outlook program decided it didn’t want to show “Send” on my email format and I can’t figure out how to get it back.

Technology…watcha gonna do?!

Increasingly, we are at the mercy of the geeks we teased in homeroom.

If technology is wearing you out say, “Amen.”

If you’re comfortable with all of it, God Bless You.