Friday, October 29, 2010

The Astronaut's Mantra: Maintain an Even Strain

This week’s blogs have gone from goat to glory. Probably appropriate.

Life seems like that sometime. For every good thing you do there’s a failure or something you wish you hadn’t done.

You have to understand the old saying that “you’re never as grand or as gross as you think you are.”

And while I understand the concept of staying on an even keel it just doesn’t seem like living to, as engineers and astronauts say, “maintain an even strain.”

So, the best thing to do is get jacked up when you’re in heaven and enjoy the good times, but if you’re in hell, keep moving.

Hope you have good times this weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What, This Ole Thing?

This weekend I’ll be part of an event that has been decades in coming. Lots of folks have said some very kind things about my contributions to the big day.

Whenever I hear compliments I attempt to deflect them; “Well you know, it’s been a team effort. Lots of folks have stepped up.”

I have my reasons for replying as I do. I have a bad habit of not believing compliments (for a range of reasons that, if I went to analysis, would buy a shrink a Mercedes); I always believe that I could have been doing a lot more than I did; it’s true that others have played big roles and I don’t want the praiser to think that I think I did it all… get the idea.

Southern women are especially guilty of this type of praise deflection. Someone compliments, “What a beautiful dress!” And, what’s the reply? “Oh, this ole thing? I just pulled it out of the closet.”

A good friend jumped on me the other day and said, “Let people appreciate what you’ve done and just say, ‘Thank you’.”

His logic is that by deflecting their congratulations I am minimizing their appreciation and lessening their gift. In fact, to some people the deflection is an insult to their judgment.

Better to simply say, “Thank you” and appreciate the compliment.

So, this weekend I’m going to say “Thank you” and move on. However, for my remarks to the crowd on Saturday afternoon I’ve got a list of fellow contributors that would rival the Oscar recipients who thank everyone up to and including their third-grade drama teacher.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Good Goat'll Do That!

I ate goat yesterday. Now, I may have had goat in the past considering some of the places I’ve dined (there was a meal at a diner in Hawaii that looked NOTHING like the picture on the big display behind the counter), but it’s the first time I had actually ordered goat.

Trying something new can be scary. You don’t know what to expect, you don’t know how to act, you don’t know what the results will be.

A recent story noted that 80% of the time we wear 20% of our clothes; the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule, at work again.

We fall into habits that rule our lives.

Stepping even a little of the way out of a habit, coloring outside the lines just a bit, can have wonderful results.

There’s evidence that says that most of us park in the same space at work most of the time. Parking in a different space creates new neural pathways in our brains and makes us smarter.

What new thing will you try today?

(If you get a chance to try the goat at The Mint restaurant in Chapel Hill, try it. Its’ good and I’d order it again.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

At 2:30 pm, 129 years ago today, Wyatt Earp and his brothers and gunman/dentist Doc Holliday confronted the Clanton and McLaury brothers at O.K. Corral in Tombstone, AZ. The shooting only lasted about 30 seconds but after a century of romanticizing the conflict has become the best known shootout in Western History.

Some experts believe that the Clantons and McLaurys threw up their hands when the Earps and Holliday demanded their guns. Billy Clanton and Frank and Thomas McLaury died. Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded.

After a 30-day trial the presiding judge dismissed the charges stating that the Earps and Holliday had acted in self-defense.

Surrounded by a mix of facts and myths the event is a great example of how stories change over time, depending on who’s doing the telling. Who shot first? Did the Clantons and McLaurys try to surrender? Did Billy, the youngest Clanton, die in the corral or did Wyatt hunt him down as he ran from the shootout, as the movie portrays?

Depends on who you ask or who’s doing the telling.

The phenomenon is called “framing,” how we create a story that explains the situation to our satisfaction.

What events in your life might have been framed differently depending on whose perspective is taken?

What might be happening right now that, when framed by someone other than you, would cause you to ask, "Were you even at the same event?"

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Little Woozy

I was dealing with a case of vertigo this weekend. It started on Friday evening and got a little worse as the weekend went along. Still experiencing it this morning.

The “uh-oh” feeling isn’t so bad that I can’t walk through the house, but it is more than a little disconcerting.

However, if I slow down a little and focus I can get the things done that have to be done.

Life is often like that. Something pops up that throws you off balance. You have two choices: you can sit down and give up, or you can slow down a little and work your way through it.

What’s making you a little dizzy right now?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Morning is for the Birds

I’ve gotten up at 6 am or earlier every morning this week. Early rising is for the birds….literally and figuratively.

I know some of you get up that early every day…God Bless You.

But, I’m not usually an early morning person. My energy level peaks around mid-afternoon.

Your energy flow is called your Circadian Rhythm.

The more you can work with the flow the more effective you are. At your energy peak you think and talk faster. If you are doing planning during your peak you set higher goals for yourself and come up with more creative ways to overcome challenges.

If at all possible, try to match tasks to your energy level. You’ll work more effectively and have more energy.

And you morning people, be very careful who you meet with or talk to after 3:30 in the afternoon. It’s easy for fatigue and irritability to set in and you may pop off and say something you’ll later regret.

As for energy, the weekend is a great time to reenergize. Have a big time this weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

70 Generations Ago

I’m looking at a coin on my desk. It’s a Roman coin made in 365 AD and made of iron, I guess. It’s kinda heavy and there’s a pointy-nosed Roman on one side and some figures on the other.

It was found in a large urn with a bunch of other coins in the middle of a field in England.

Now, obviously, the person who made it is gone as are any of the people who might have been around at that time. In fact, about 70 generations have passed since the coin was made.

When I think about all the little, piddly things that bother us I think about this coin. It’s here and all those folks aren’t.

And their worries, and troubles, and problems aren’t either.

Sooner or later it’s over.

Why not make the best of the time we’re here?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So, What's New?

Nurses have long used the tradition of, “Watch one, do one, teach one,” as a way to learn new skills and pass on their experience to other nurses.

When is the last time you were taught? When is the last time you taught others?

Early in life our parents show us the ropes; then we look to our peers to gain the skills we need to move through life and, hopefully, we learn are exposed to socialization and practical skills in some sort of educational setting.

But, once out of school and away from our families, how do we continue to learn?

If you’re smart you have some sort of self-directed learning program (whether you realize it or not) that helps you acquire the knowledge you need to move through life.

Unfortunately, at least 70 percent of the population never reads an entire book after they exit formal educational settings. You can get some information from the Internet if you’re pretty focused. But, the best way to learn is still the oldest, from others.

Do you have a mentor? Are you mentoring someone else?

Your mentor does not have to be face-to-face, they can be in books, videos, CDs or other technological delivery systems.

Whataya want to know? What do you need to know? How will you learn it?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Focus on Solutions

Have been reading a TON about how to deal with change. The change seminar I’ve been doing has gotten pretty popular and I keep studying, trying to fine-tune.

Never mind that I’m studying as much for the answer of how to deal with dramatic changes in my own life, I’m trying to find some answer that make sense for all of us.

Recently, I’ve been trying to track the neuroscience sources of change resistance. I’m looking for what happens in our brains when we are asked to change or we recognize the need for change?

There are a variety of chemical reactions that are interesting, but I’ll fast forward.

When it comes to adapting to change there are three simple rules.

The first one is, “Look for solutions, don’t fixate on the problem.” In simple terms, when we fixate on the problem the neural pathways that recognize the problem get stronger, and the stronger they get the more difficult it becomes to move away from the problem.

Try it. Look for an area of life in which you need to change. Very often, when you start thinking of solutions your mind pulls you away and back to the “Damn, I’ve got a problem” mode of thinking.

But, keep pulling yourself back from the habitual mode of thinking and into the solution frame of mind and you’ll start realizing that some imaginative ideas begin to pop up.

So, the first of the three steps to dealing with change is, “Focus on solutions, no problems.”

I’ll give you the other two steps on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cakes and Columbus

Last night I was in Roanoke Rapids, NC, doing a seminar about how to write a business plan. A woman in the seminar is starting a business of creating custom cakes. These cakes are all the rage now and there are a couple of wild cake shows on the Food Network.

She had pictures of cakes that looked like little kids hiding under a blanket (you could see their little butts and bare feet sticking out), a sports-themed cake with a baseball bat and ball and hat, and a cake with playing cards made from flondant (a sugary substance that comes in sheets and can be cut and molded).

This morning at breakfast I read an article about Columbus Day.

Now, what in the world do those two things: cakebaking and Columbus, have to do with each other?


As humans, we are all about discovery and creativity. We are all creative in some way in our lives. We might not bake cakes or happen upon a new world, but we might be creative in child-rearing, work, worship or any of a range of other activities.

As humans, we seek creative activity. Discovery and the Aha! moments in life are like candy for our brains. The activities make our brains light up on fMRI tests.

Be creative this weekend. Look for something new to see, feel, taste, touch or smell. Invent something. Read something you might never have read before. Go somewhere new. You'll be giving good kinds of candy to your brain.

And, by the way, Columbus didn't discover a new world, 5 million Native Americans were already here.

Have a big weekend!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do You Need Some Steel-Toed Shoes?

This blog won’t end like you might expect, so keep reading:

Yesterday, when I was writing the blog I mistakenly wrote, “Even strong men stumble,” instead of the correct quote, “Even strong men struggle.” Then I corrected my mistake.

I thought about the mistake a good bit yesterday and finally came to the belief that it was not a mistake but a Freudian slip.

I’ve had some stumbles over the last year or two and I’m finally coming to grips with them. I’m understanding that truly stumbling only happens if you are moving forward.

You can be moving backward and trip over something because you couldn’t see it. But, I believe that stumbling comes when you see the thing in front of you and you don’t make it over, around or by it.

I know the trip or stumble deal sounds like a simple semantic flip, but I don’t believe that’s the case.

An important question comes to mind after the stumble? Do you want to continue to stumble? Do you straighten up and keep moving? Do you learn from the stumble and try not to stumble in the same way in the future?

We all stumble if we’re trying to actually live life and not just cruise through it on autopilot.

How you recover from the stumble is the key.

Stumbling is a sign that you are trying. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Get up, look back at the thing that made you stumble and ask this question, “Is it important to me to not stumble in the same way in the future?” (Let’s be honest, some people don’t mind stumbling)

If it’s important to you to not stumble you’ll need to make some changes. If you don’t mind the stumble you’d better get some steel-toed shoes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Even Strong People Struggle

T. D. Jakes is the CEO of The Potter’s House, a megachurch in Dallas. Some religious and lay leaders in America believe that he is the next Billy Graham, a religious leader who can reach people in all areas of society.

Jakes wrote an outstanding book, He-Motions, about how men can live better lives. He has a phrase I like, “Even strong men struggle.” Obviously, that goes for strong women, too.

Too often, many of us believe that we can withstand any stressor, overcome any obstacle, and that we should have all the answers.

We don’t. And we shouldn’t feel weak when we don’t.

Of course, “shouldn’t” and “don’t” are two different things. Just because we shouldn’t feel a certain way doesn’t mean that we don’t feel like that.

Unfortunately, we often beat ourselves up when we don’t live up to unrealistic expectations. Cut yourself some slack. Another phrase, “we’re all human,” is true.

How would you feel if you applied FDR’s advice, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”?

Breath in. Breath out.

You’ll get there.

Relax, if only for a moment.

Even strong people struggle.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Think Pink

It seems that pink has become one of the team colors for every team in the NFL. Watching the Jets/Minnesota game tonight it was amazing to see all the pink gloves, shoes, wrist bands, chinstraps, towels, ribbon decals on helmets and cheerleaders’ pom-poms.

The commitment by the NFL to raise breast cancer awareness is great.

Many folks could discover the disease in its early stages with regular self-examinations. The same goes for men and testicular cancer.

I never thought I’d use this phrase in this blog, but check yourself out. Take a few minutes in the shower and check for any lumps, bumps or abnormalities.

Do yourself a favor and think pink.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just for Solomon

One of the best has taken the last train home.

Solomon Burke was 70 when he died of a heart attack this past weekend at an airport in Sweden.

Burke was never as widely known as his disciples, James Brown and Marvin Gaye, but he was one of the greatest soul singers of the ‘60s. Legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler called Burke, “the best soul singer of all time.”

According to his website, Burke was born March 21, 1940, “to the sounds of horns and bass drums” downstairs at the United Praying Band The House of God for All People in West Philly. As an adult, Burke served as a preacher for the church.

In 2000, he played for Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2002 and won a Best Contemporary Blues Grammy in 2003 for his album, “Don’t Give Up On Me.”

Burke toured recently with The Rolling Stones and his song, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” is the basis of the escape scene in the Blues Brothers movie.

Burke had the ability, as any magical musician does, to vocalize and verbalize the heart’s feelings.

If you love, or have ever loved, anyone, go to and search “Just For You, Solomon Burke.” BeachmusicDJ has posted “Just For You.”

Thank you, Solomon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Be Big

I awoke this morning at a hotel just off I-95 in Wilson, NC...have a seminar this morning at the community college.

When I went into the breakfast area I encountered a women's track team from the School for the Deaf in Louisiana. They are here to compete against one of the deaf schools here in North Carolina.

I watched the girls "talking," checking email, texting, laughing and doing all the things any teenagers and college students do, but without being able to hear or speak. It was amazing.

When I'm in situations like this I often think about how frequently I let some little something get in the way of me accomplishing a goal, getting a daily chore done, or simply enjoying life. And these young people are living life and don't seem to let what, for me, seems a great hindrance get in the way.

I always feel small when I realize that no matter how tough things are in my life there are other folks out there who are not only surviving, but excelling, with much greater burdens than I.

If you are reading this it's likely that you are not starving, you are somewhere cool or warm, you are safe, and you have a great life in front of you. Live it, and enjoy it.

Have a big weekend. I'll see you Monday.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are You Running To or Away?

The MAO-B is a behavioral profile used in business. To cut to the chase, it determines approach or avoidance in six needs or motivations in life.

Approach means you’re moving towards something. Avoidance means you’re trying to move away from the issue.

For example, in the area of Achievement are you moving toward success or trying to stay away from failure? The motivation to move toward success is simple to understand. But, we all know someone who grew up poor and is determined to never be poor again; moving away from poverty is more important to them than moving toward success.

In Affiliation (relationships) are you moving towards inclusion or away from exclusion. Some people are motivated more to be included in a relationship while others are working hard to keep from being left out. Some people want to be in a loving relationship because they believe they grow when in close contact with a friend or partner. Others are trying to keep from being lonely.

Got it?

Which are you? Broadly speaking, are you running toward something, or working hard to keep away from something else?

I don’t know if there’s any good or bad here. I mean, if you end up rich what does it matter if you were running toward wealth or away from poverty.

But, taken to extreme the motivations can push some folks to negative behaviors; clinginess, victim attitude, unethical choices.

“The most valuable knowledge is self-knowledge,” said Aristotle.

Knowing what pushes you is valuable. Do you know?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lighten Your Heart, Live Your Life

I have a friend who believes that he could be a great golfer…if only he had time to practice. Another one of my buddies believes he could be a spy(well, maybe not a spy, but every time I talk to him he’s got some national security issue that only he and few other people really understand the workings of). And both of them are absolutely serious in their beliefs about their possibilities in these two areas.

Both of them would be much better off if they understood, “That just ain’t gonna happen,” and moved on with their lives.

I’m not saying I’m immune to this sort of delusion. There are a couple of areas of life that I have clung to for decades and I keep thinking, “If I’d focus on THAT I could do it.” I’m sure my spending many of those decades steeped in positive thinking literature has supported my fantasies.

William James, the father of modern psychology, once spoke about a “lightening of the heart.” I use the term in seminars to refer to looking at life and living it with a sense of humor.

James used the term to refer to the decision to drop illusions such as being a millionaire, being slim, learning a musical instrument or being a great athlete. “Lightening” meant that dropping the fantasies and illusions in our lives made us lighter and better able to reach our true potential.

If you want to understand what you could jettison to make your life lighter simply finish this phrase, “One of these days I’ll……”

Now, ask yourself this question, “If I no longer held that belief, and no longer spent time and energy supporting it, what could I accomplish with the time and energy I would free up?”

Today’s the day I stop thinking that one day I might be Mr. Olympia, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, and the education cop for a lot of the dopes who come to my seminars. I’m done.

Wow! I feel lighter already.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Chimp In a Sailor Suit

Yesterday I went to a financial business for a service. The woman who “helped” me did a reasonable job of providing the service. However, she had this stone-faced expression the entire time.

As I was leaving I asked the young man at the front desk, “Does she ever smile?”

He said, “Yep, at 5:30.”

Here’s the thing: If the only time you ever smile is at the end of the day or when you get your paycheck you’re in the wrong job.

Now, I have to tell you, I don’t expect someone to be dancing like the Irish River Dancers when they provide a service, but I do want to see some sort of reasonably positive, human reaction. A machine or trained chimp could have provided my service yesterday. (Actually, the chimp would have been kinda cool if it had been dressed in a Michael Jackson or Russian sailor outfit)

I certainly understand that people need jobs, but think about it from two sides: From your side, life’s too short to spend a significant part of it in a job you hate. From the customer’s side, life’s tough enough now that we shouldn’t have to put up with a sluggoe when are paying for a simple business transaction.

I’ll say it again: If the only time you enjoy your job is quittin’ time or payday, you’re in the wrong job. You might as well be a chimp in a sailor suit.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hi Ho Silver! Awaaaaaay!

Had the chance to ride a horse yesterday for the first time in over 20 years.

For those of you who ride on a regular basis, or have in the past, my hat’s off to you. I enjoyed the experience, but getting up on one of those big animals and getting it to do what you want it to do is an exhilarating, sometimes scary, experience.

My friend who owns the horses (and I guess you do own a horse like you can own a dog and unlike the fact that you never own a cat, they just decide if they want to be around you) had been asking me to come and ride for quite a while and I finally said, “yes.”

The experience was a bit out of my comfort zone and that was one of the major reasons I agreed. I’ve been in a rut for awhile and it’s time to try some new things.

When was the last time you tried something new? Not just a new version of the old, but something very different? And it doesn’t have to be a big new. It can be a little new. Any new and different is, well, new and different, and that’s a good thing.

I know that I probably don’t want to ride every day, maybe not every week, but am I going back? Yes. And will I do better next time? Yes.

That’s the only way to live life.

Will you try something new this week or will you keep “the same ole, same ole?”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Do You Go With the Flow?

What are your sleep patterns when you’re on a roll?

I have friends who, when they are really cranking out the work, will go to bed exhausted, sleep 8-9 hours or more, and then get up and get after it again.

When I’m really rockin’ I seem to need less sleep. The energy of the idea or the accomplishment keeps me energized. I seem to go to bed spent and six hours later it’s morning. I sleep more when I’m bored.

It’s a great idea to try and work with your natural rhythms. Life itself has rhythms of ebb and flow and if you can take advantage of how energy moves through your life you can be more productive and enjoy life more.

Working against your natural rhythms seems to be more stressful.

We live in a society in which time is dictated by the concept of work and not by nature. It’s been like this since we moved away from an agricultural society.

Today is October 1. For the next month, whenever possible, try to be aware of your natural rhythms and work with them. If you can’t due to work and life responsibilities try to be aware of whether or not you might be more tired or energized, stressed or relaxed, productive or nonproductive, and do those states match your rhythms.

As for me, it’s 6:30 am and I’m in the middle of a very productive time so I’d better get back to work.

Have a big weekend and I’ll see you on Monday.