Friday, July 29, 2016

Why Be a Dope?

There’s a great little place down the road from me. The Chubby Buddha has really cold beer, an over-worked air conditioner, a reasonably good juke box and, hanging on the wall—one of my personal markers for a quality bar—the print of dogs playing poker.

It’s close enough and the traffic is usually light late in the evening so sometimes I’ll take off on my bike and be sitting on the back porch at Chubby Buddha in about 10 minutes. 

I’m usually there for only 1 or 2 beverages and then I head back…which is when the adventure begins. The road I take out of the neighborhood has some homes and lights, the road I take back in, doesn’t. Also, there are huge, old, gnarled trees with limbs loaded with moss overhanging the road.

It is so dark coming in that you literally cannot see five feet in front of you. The first couple of times I tried to ride home this way I was a little intimidated by the wall of darkness I rode into at the mouth of the street. In fact, after riding off the road and into the grass (and a ditch) I started getting off my bike and walking it through the darkness. And, at about midnight, 1 am, it is really, rrreeaalllyyy, quiet. 

At this point you’re thinking, “Why be a dope? Why not just take the same way back in that you took out? It’s safer.”

Tru dat.

Buuuutttt, this has become a wonderful learning experience. Due to the environment, my senses are running wide open and I’m exercising some basic, primal skills. It’s also a low-risk (relatively), easy way to address basic fearful feelings (think dark and quiet), practice some problem-solving skills (how do I get through this and not mess up?), and slow down (not something I’m good at).

Here’s the main lesson I’ve learned: As much as Focus is understood to be a key to success; keep your eyes on the prize, bring all your power to bear on the challenge—sometimes the best thing you can do is relax, slow down, simply keep your eyes and ears open, and keep moving. 

I noticed after a few trips through the darkness that looking straight ahead—as anyone would and should when riding a bike—didn’t work . The total darkness meant there was nothing to see that I could orient myself with. 

I found, though, that if I looked up I could see little patches of night sky and catch glimpses of where the tree limbs on each side of the road touched; they were signaling the middle of the road. So, I’m slowly riding along looking straight up.

(Do I worry about dogs, cats, etc., in the road? No, they do better in the dark than I and will get out of the way and/or let me know when they are in my path)

Do you have a challenge in life that’s really wearing you out? Maybe, instead of doubling down and picking up the pace, the best thing to do is slow down, keep your eyes and ears open, and simply keep moving.

Enjoy the ride.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Just Something to Think About

Considering the last two weeks, I'm just sayin':

"Political designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
George Orwell

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What's Hiding In Your Head...and Your Heart?

What’s going on in your head that no one knows about? 

Nooooo, I’m not talking about you Repubs spending last night wearing your Trump masks and flipping The Bird at the television throughout the Democratic Convention.

I’m not talking about you Dems mooning every news story about Trump…course, you ARE spending a LOT of time de-pantsed, now aren’t you?

(Stick with me on this…it’s a little long, but you’ll like it)

You may be like me; there are lots of times when we’re in line at the grocery store or sitting in the crowd at an event and we look around at our neighbors and think WTF?!?!?!

Just kidding…

I don’t know about you, but I wonder, “What are they thinking? What gems, treasures and great discoveries are hidden in their minds.” 

I think about what ideas they have that might never be revealed…much to the detriment of their  lives and, sometimes, the world. 

Here’s the best example I have: For most of his life, Mr. Vollis Simpson lived in Lucama, a little town just south of Wilson, NC; less than a mile off I-95. One of his sons, Mike, was a great college friend and I was in his wedding. 

When I met Mr. Simpson (as a Southern male, I’ll keep referring to him as “Mr. Simpson” because he was my elder and, definitely, my better) and shook hands with him, I thought, “This man has the biggest and roughest hands I’ve every encountered.” Later, I learned where the roughness came from. He was one of 12 children and was expected to work from the time he could walk (and pretty much impressed that work ethic on his children). Mr. Simpson left school in the 11th grade. He owned and operated a machine shop where he created machinery for heavy equipment and for hauling large trucks.

From the night before the wedding, through the next day, I don’t think I heard Mr. Simpson say two words, nor did I see him smile. He was obviously more comfortable in overalls than he was in a suit. If you had seen him in line at the grocery store you’d think, “Another big-ole country guy.” It wasn’t a bad or disrespectful thing at all, just an immediate impression.

There was nothing to indicate what was going on inside his mind.

What I later learned was that he was the most creative person—and one of the greatest surprises—I’ve ever encountered in my life.

By the end of his long and productive life in June, 2013, at 94, he had become one of America’s most unlikely art stars. His giant whirligigs made from metal scraps are not only seen in The Whirligig Park in Wilson, they whirl in a variety of locations around the country, including the Fearington Village south of Chapel Hill. 

According to his obituary in The New York Times, “His 55-foot-tall, 45-foot-wide ‘Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,’ is on permanent display at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, and his works are part of several other collections, including the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan.”

When his wonderful wife, Jean, was asked in the Times interview how he came up with his creations, which clicked, clacked, spun and jangled, she said, “It was just in his mind and in his brain and it just came out.”

it just came out

“He did it for his own pleasure in the beginning,” Ms. Simpson said in the Times. “It caught on and people liked it. It went from there.”

Mr. Simpson didn’t call’em whirligigs. “Didn’t call it nothing,” he said in a 2010 Times interview. “Just go to the junkyard and see what I could get. Went by the iron man, the boat man, the timber man. Ran by every month. If they had no use for it, I took it.”

Finally, he thought of them as windmills. Art experts viewed them as outsider art or visionary art. Later, they looked at them as giant interpretations of the old whirligig toys. 

While he started creating his art in the 1970s, the Times noted that, “he built his first windmill to power a large washing machine for soldiers’ clothing while he was serving in the Pacific during World War II in the Army Air Corps. He made it from parts of a junked B-29 bomber.” 

When he started putting’em up on his family farm people thought he was crazy. “Everybody made fun of me and laughed at me,” Mr. Simpson said in a documentary paid for by the North Carolina Arts Council. “I didn’t pay ’em no damn mind.”

didn’t pay’em no damn mind

Years later, after he was discovered some of his windmills would eventually sell for thousands of dollars. While he wondered if his creations would eventually simply rust and fall down, that’s not happening. In addition to the park, Wilson now has a Whirligig Festival each year that replaced the Tobacco Festival. If you don’t know North Carolina or Wilson, and you have no inkling of the importance of tobacco in the history of that part of the state, I can assure you that that fact alone shows how one man can do something that moves an entire community into the future.

One of the great regrets of my life is that after I found out about the whirligigs I did not go back to Lucama to see Mr. Simpson and talk about his efforts. Because of that loss I now pass no opportunity to ask people about their creativity, their ideas, and how they might have an impact.

I’m always amazed at how often people think their ideas are simply oddities, little nothings to be tossed aside like a used napkin…what seems to amaze them is that I’m interested. And, how easy it might be to see if the idea might work…if nothing else, just of the fun of it. 

I’m also amazed at how many people won’t pursue an idea because they don’t think it’ll make a million dollars. SCREW THAT!!!! You have to realize that the little idea may lead to another and then another…and then, you never know.

I recently made a mobile with seashells, sticks and fishing line…just to see if I could do it. It was fun and it was great!!! 

Your ideas are important. Maybe not to the world…yet…but to you. 

What are you hiding in your mind?

As for what other people might think…

don’t pay’em no damn mind

Check out The Whirligig Park:

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Inman!! Don't Stick Your Head In There!!

There’s a wonderful family living behind me. The young couple has two small boys. The older is Inman.

The other day I heard the mother’s voice coming from the backyard., “Inman!!” She yelled, “Don’t stick your head in there!”

Since I didn’t immediately hear screams I figured that wherever Inman was trying to stick his head couldn’t be that bad. I also remembered all the times my brother and I stuck our heads and limbs in places we probably shouldn’t have.

When we’re young we’re fearless. We don’t understand the consequences and pain that can come from some of our actions. We’re curious and thinking only of the…What happens if?

What if I stick my finger in a pencil sharpener? What if I try to swim to the other side of the pool? What if I ride my bicycle by the rope that holds a LARGE fan to the roof of a tobacco warehouse and  grab the rope and swing off like I’ve seen in the movies? (I can tell you what happens. If the rope is tied in a slip knot it comes loose, the fan falls, hits the bicycle and crushes the handlebars, dings and breaks your foot, and you end up on the warehouse floor about 20 minutes away from a visit to the ER.)

As we get older the fear of embarrassment, consequences and pain tend to overwhelm the YEAH! feeling we get when we take a chance and it works as well or better than we expected.

We also get so slogged into the repetitive nature of life that any exploration or chance we could take is a change. And…we…don’t…want…to…change.

Whether it’s work, relationships, health, food, or spirituality, sometimes it’s a good thing to stick your head in there and see what happens. You might learn something, you might have a YEAH! experience…you might even call a friend over (or your little brother as was my case in a lot of situations) and say…

…“Hey, Joe, stick your head in there.”

Where will you stick your head today?

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Friday, July 22, 2016


Ha! Gotcha to read! This is a little longer than usual, but hang with it....

Considering some of the challenges I’m running into in life right now I’ve been thinking about this quote: 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” 

The quote is often attributed to Plato. (no, kids, not the planet…that would be Pluto…well, it used to be a planet and then a bunch of pointy-headed scientists said, “Noooooo…”….it’s really a…mmm…sorry, I digressed)

Anyway, Plato was a Greek philosopher.

Others credit Philo of Alexandria with…(Dang! Will you kids at the back of class calm the hell down!! No! That’s not Philo Bedow, the character Clint Eastwood played in Any Which Way But Loose…and yes, Sondra Locke was pretty hot in that, and the orangutan knocked out the bad guy and…whew! sorry! go off on a tangent again.)

Sooooo, the quote was probably created in the 19th Century by Ian McLaren, the pen name of Reverend John Watson, a noted clergyman.

But, here’s the interesting thing (and yes, if you’ll hang with me I’m going to make a point)….here’s Watson’s whole explanation…read it through TWICE and then I’m going to give you two very different ways to think about the quote:

“This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self.”

Here’s the first point: What if we looked at each other at work and remembered the quote? 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” 

You know that person who gets on your last nerve at work? What if they are having health issues, personal/family problems? Financial worries? Spiritual issues? 

Would you cut’em some slack if you knew that? Would you—and me—understand, “I’m running into issues just like they are?” Wouldn’t that bring you a little closer to each other?

And, yes, I get the automatic reaction of, “I don’t want to be closer to them?!!” I get ya, but the farther away we get from each other the worse life gets for all.

Which brings me to the second point. What if we remembered the quote:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

And we remembered it during the election season/process? You know those folks who are adamantly for Trump and opposed/loathe Hillary, or are sure it’s Hillary and stunned/disgusted by Trump? What are their lives like? What experiences are pushing them to make the decisions/statements they do?

The farther away we are, the worse life gets for all. 

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a couple of things in life that seem to keep me constantly girded for battle. Increasingly, I’m trying to remember the quote;

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Maybe They'll Get Hit By a Truck!!! Yeah!!!

Yesterday, I said I’d offer a practical way to move away from worry. 

And no, this doesn't involve miracle cures, the offending person being hit by a truck, winning the lottery, or not having to vote and make a choice in November. 

The best way to get worry out of your head is one of those, “I knew that,” solutions. It’s…


Whether you’re trying to get a squawling 2-year old to stop crying or an 82-year old Alzheimer’s sufferer to stop wandering, the solution is the same…redirection.

We all know our minds can only hold one thought at a time. We think we can multi-task, but we can’t. We simply switch from one thought to another so fast that it seems that we are getting more than one thing done, or thought about, at a time.

So, if you want to move away from worry, you’ve got to find something else to focus on. You can read, watch a movie, do something physical (walking doesn’t do it for me, I can walk and worry at the same time), do something spiritual, engage in an activity with others….there are tons of things you can do or think about other than the worry issue. 

This method is especially effective if you choose an activity that is new to you. Your mind locks in on how to work through an activity you are unfamiliar with.

Will the worry thoughts return? Absolutely. And, when they do, you have to redirect your thoughts to what is going on in the moment, right in front of you.

If nothing else, move your body. If you are sitting and worrying, get up and walk around. If you are standing and worrying, do something in which you move your arms. Movement takes brainpower and your thoughts get pulled away from the worry issue.

This takes us full circle, back to yesterday. At some point you are probably going to have to confront the worry issue. Some people go their entire lives dodging issues, but the challenges almost always come back to bite them sooner or later. 

Go back to the blog yesterday and check the only two questions that address worry: Is this something you can do nothing about? Or, is this an issue you can do something about? 

If it’s the first one and you can’t do anything about it, get moving!!! Redirect with action of some type to get your mind off the topic.

If you can do something about it, THEN GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!

One last thought: What if? What if you were not the one worrying? What if the worrier was one of your best friends and you knew what they were worried about, and they asked, “What should I do?” What honest, focused, loving advice would you give them?

Now, give that advice to yourself…and take it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Stop Worryin'! Right.....

My devotion this morning opened with a great quote from George Washington: Worry is interest paid by those who borrow trouble.

I’ve spent a ton of time the last few months worrying about an issue. Has it done me any good? Not…a…damn…bit.

Here’s the deal: Whatever it is you’re worried about, the only two issues to consider are can you do something about it, or can’t you?

If you can do something about it, then do whatever you can do. Even if it’s only a little effort that gets you a tiny bit farther down the road it’s something. And, I can tell you that one something leads to another and another, and the next thing you know you’ve got a handle on that thing you were worried about. You feel more in control and the worrying tends to stop or, at least, lessen.

If you can’t do anything about it worrying won’t help. Hmmm…you didn’t seem to be paying attention to that last line because you were thinking, “Everyone knows that.” Right.

So, here it is again, “If you can’t do anything about it worrying won’t help.” 

Does worrying make you feel better? No. Does it make you feel like you’re doing something? Sometimes. I discovered that all my worrying at least kept the issue in my mind. I realized that I wanted to think about the issue so much that, even if it was hurtful/worrisome/depressing, worrying was better than just getting it out of my mind and forgetting it.

I’m over that now. The situation is what it is (I hate that phrase…it’s almost as idiotic as “Six of one, half-dozen of the other") and I’m rollin’.

Whatever you're worried about, either do something or understand that there’s nothing you can do and move on. In the next blog I’ll offer a really practical way to move on. 

Here’s a hint, redirect yourself.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Do You Have to Be In Prison to Get Something Done?

In Los Angeles for a week with friends. The 5-hour flight to San Francisco (90-minute connection to LA) once again taught me the that I need to be trapped, literally, in order to get some things done. The same thing happens for me if I’m in a hotel room.

Am finishing a book and needed to do revisions…I HATE doing revisions! But, as someone once said, “Writing is writing; good writing is about rewriting (revisions).”

So, I’ve found that if I can put myself in a situation in which I’m literally trapped, imprisoned, with nowhere else to go and nothing else to do…I can do revisions. 

Some people are disciplined enough to be able to do this with time. “I”m going to do spend an hour doing revisions/cleaning up/finishing that report.” I can’t do that. To a great degree, I find that my prison almost needs to a literal place from which I can’t escape.

In the past I’d bust myself for not being mature enough to just get the work done...and I STILL wouldn't get it done. I’m over that now. I’m going with what works and not fighting my natural inclinations.

I’m betting that if you’re a productive person you have a strategy/gimmick like mine. You do what works. If you are struggling with getting a project done or putting finishing touches on work you should start thinking about when you’re most productive and put yourself there, even if it’s in your mind.

I’ve made the decision that from now on, when it’s revision time for a book, I’m taking a flight somewhere or going out and getting a hotel room. Getting the job done is worth the money. Getting the job done is worth whatever it takes.