Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Fourth and the Blanket of Freedom


Ok, like many of you I’m starting my Fourth of July Weekend today…for the next few days it’ll be novels/beer/working out/maybe the beach/beer/hotdogs/movies/naps/beer/golf/a dab of work each day just so I don’t forget/lots of music/sitting on the deck/beer/grilling/mowing the lawn/reading the Constitution/the pool/and maybe easing off the beer a little…or not.

Seriously, though…as humans, where we live is the biggest determining factor of the type of life we have. It usually determines our opportunities in life, education, ways of making a living, religion, whether or not we are respected (especially for women), whether or not we encounter danger on a daily basis and a wide range of other factors.

Throughout the history of humankind there has never been a society like we have in the United States of America.

You can offer your own logic, but there are three reasons we have the society we have:

First, our inherent sense of initiative. We are willing to step out and make things happen in our lives, our communities, our nation and the world. Deep down we have an understanding that life can be better and we have the power to make it happen.

Next, our ability—whether we like it or not—to change. In a speech last year President Obama attributed much of our success as a nation to our willingness to accept and deal with change. And, all you Obamahaters can shut up for a few days, it’s the Fourth of July, we’re all Americans.

Finally, our military. Whether you agree with the missions the military carries out, the dollars spent on defense that might be spent elsewhere, or having a military at all, the truth is that the world ain’t always blue birds and lemonade. So you need to remember, as Winston Churchill once said, “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men (and now, women) stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm." If you are anti-military, I’ll go with Jack Nicholson’s line as Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men, “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it."

Have a great, safe Fourth of July and when you see a flag—and you’ll see many—offer up a little prayer for those who keep us safe.

See you next Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

1 Hour, That's All

If you had an hour to tell your employer what you wanted next year to be like what would you say?

Bruce Clarke knows. As president and CEO of CAI Inc., a nonprofit human resource management firm in Raleigh, Clarke writes a column every Sunday in the Work section of the News and Observer. Last Sunday he talked about an hour conversation that could change your work and your life.

The hour isn’t a performance review. It’s your opportunity to talk with your manager about where you think you are and where you want to go. Why do you stay with the company? How can they make the things that keep you there better? If you need to move on to another opportunity how can they make your transition a positive one?

The objective in any workplace is to get everyone pulling in the same direction. That objective has never been more important than it is today.

Are you willing to show the initiative that it takes to look and plan ahead for yourself?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day Five Was Chicken and Fish

A friend is teaching 2, 3 and 4 year-olds in Vacation Bible School this week. Last night she taught creation.

She used poster boards and numbered them 1-7.

For Day 1, she had all the children tightly close their eyes and cover their eyes with their hands and then she cut off the lights. She said, “This is dark. It’s the night.” Then she cut on the lights and had them uncover and open their eyes, “This is light, like daytime,” she said.

She went through each day with wonderfully simple explanations.

On Day 5, she held up the poster with birds and fish and asked, “What did God create on Day Five?” One little boy yelled, “CHICKEN AND FISH!!”

On Day 7, she said to the group, “On Day Seven God looked at what he created and was happy, so what did he do?” A little girl answered, “He took a nap!”

My friend agreed, “Yes, He rested.”

Whether you believe the creation story or you believe, as the comedian Stephen Wright says, “Religion is about two people arguing who has the better imaginary friend,” you’ve got to the appreciate my friend’s creativity.

When she told me about last night she said, “It’s all about communicating with them on a level they understand.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Are you doing that with the folks around you? Are they doing it with you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Are you Hailing or Hiding?

Do the people who could improve your lot in life know what you do and how good you are at it?

Self-promotion can get ugly if you go overboard, but so often the people who could give you a hand up are so busy trying to take care of what’s going on in their corner of the world that they don’t notice your contribution.

However, if you are not doing a good job or you’re a slacker just trying to get by until retirement the last thing you want to do is attract attention.

So, what’s your first thought: I need to let someone know what I ‘m doing…or….I hope to God they don’t find out about me?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bent Out of Shape

Ok…another message about technology…but, medium technology, not higher tech.

For any of you who are responsible for your own yard you know that every now and then you have to buy a lawn mower.

By now you know that I have a little house with a small yard east of Raleigh and for the first time in awhile I need to do some mowing….and since I love cutting grass, that’s a good thing.

Bought a mower; small, great little Briggs and Stratton engine, easy to use, about a month ago.

I mowed twice …and then it wouldn’t start. Never had a B&S engine let me down. Not since starting to mow grass at 11 years-old.

Messed with it for a week. Neighbors are starting to give me ugly looks because my grass is getting high.

A friend came over last night and she’s one of those, “LET’S GET UP RIGHT THIS MINUTE AND FIX SOMETHING!!” kind of people.

So, I said, “Fine, go right ahead. I’ll sit on the deck and watch.”

Well, within about a minute she discovered that a small metal tab had been bent so that the choke on the engine wouldn't work correctly. She bent it back to the correct position.

I couldn’t have found and solved that problem with a team of engineers from MIT.

Now the engine works. And my grass is mowed.

The last two days have shown me that sometimes you have to slow down, see what works, maybe get a little help, and say, “Thank you.”

What little thing, seemingly unimportant would, if you fixed it, make big difference in your life?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Who's Got Time to Read the Damn Instructions?!

Yesterday afternoon I bought a big grill.

It’s great to be able to cook outside again!

However, I could NOT figure out how to light it and I’d started to get pretty cranked up about the frustration of the whole process.

Luckily, a friend stopped by about the time I started to just turn on the propane tank and stick a match in front of it to end my misery.

He looked at me, looked at the grill, and asked, “Did you read the instructions?”

Well, not just NO! But, Hell NO!

I don’t need to read the instructions! I’ve bought and used a grill before!

Don’t you think that I……oh….it works like that? Hmmmm….the other grill I had didn’t work like that….and the instructions are printed right there on the front of the grill, are they?

Hmmm. Well….Ok….thank you.

What thing/issue/activity/belief do you just KNOW you can handle, but it isn’t going right…and if you slowed down and read the instructions, it might turn out better?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

On Monday I talked about the importance of self-selection; making the decision to matter, to lead, to accomplish, and then going out and doing that.

If you've been to the movies in the last 15 years you recognize the title as a line from Forrest Gump.

The line is truer than you think.

If you are going to matter you’ve got to keep learning.

If you are not doing something outside work hours to increase the skills you use during work you are already falling behind.

It always amazes me that, according to most reliable sources, at least 87% of the American population never reads a whole book once they exit high school or college. That is stunning, sad and scary.

When was the last time you learned something? I don’t mean something as simple as not to touch a hot stove…something complicated?

When was the last time you read a non-fiction book, watched an informational/educational video, or attended a class or seminar?

When was the last time you consciously moved forward?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Today Is ...............?

This'll be short and sweet.

Today is the first day of summer.

Depending on how your winter and spring might have been today can be the first day of a brand new season; a time to start over.

Or, it can be a continuation of your successes and a time to push to greater heights.

Or, it can, to heck with all that hard work and striving! Whataya say we lay back, slather on some sort of goo and have a cold beer while TURNING UP THE MUSIC!!!

It's Summer!

Have a great day!

Monday, June 20, 2011

If You're Waiting to Be Asked You’re Waiting to Be asked to Leave.

I’m seeing interesting trends about employment and opportunity in a lot of what I’m reading nowadays.

The trends are showing continuing high unemployment, increasingly tighter budgets in a lot of organizations (especially government agencies), and the hopes that we can spend our way out of this mess or have entrepreneurs save us are not going to work.

That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news…at least for some of us.

I’m seeing an increasing understanding that the people who are willing to step up and say, “I’ll be responsible for that,” are the most valuable. It’s not the ones who shuck and jive and BS and actively disengage from their work (because they are close to retirement or have a special relationship with the boss).

As some of you know, I read Seth Godin’s blog EVERY DAY ( Today, he talked about giving more than is expected; calling it “A path on the way to building a reputation…(and) an excellent way to be the one people seek out.”

Every Monday morning I get the Monday Morning Memo from Roy Williams (no, not the UNC coach), the Wizard of Ads (

This morning he wrote about self-selection, saying, “To be self-selected is to volunteer. No, that’s not it. To volunteer is to say that you’d be willing to take action if it were asked of you. But self-selection doesn’t wait to be asked. E.W. Howe (1853-1937) understood self-selection perfectly, I think. “When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.”

In today’s work world you must self-select yourself to be a high performer. If you're waiting to be asked you’re waiting to be asked to leave. It’s that simple. I do not believe there has been a more important time since WWII to do more than is expected of you.

What will you do today that you can give 110% to?

Friday, June 17, 2011

What's Wrong With a Little Sexting Between Friends?

Let me ask: If Congressman Anthony Wiener does some sexting, if former Senator John Edwards fathers a baby with his lover, if football players don’t pay parking tickets or if Chaz Bono decides to be a guy instead of a girl…what direct effect does it have on your life?

If you said or thought, “Not a bit,” then hold all calls, we have a winner!!

Even before the Internet smacked traditional media like spanking a squawling 4 year-old at WalMart the media used sensationalism to draw readers/listeners/viewers.

In the early 1800s, in order to gain readers, newspapers printed lies about President Andrew Jackson that were so sensational (they said he was a bigamist) that his wife died from depression.

I’m always amazed when some of my smarter friends go off on rants about stories the media run, like that stuff really matters.

Here’s the question for the weekend: Are you spending time concerned about something you have no control over and/or that doesn’t directly affect your happiness/success?

If not, great!

If so, why?

PS...if you quickly linked to this blog because the headline grabbed you, that's how it works.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Trashcan Today!

Today is a great day! I get a new trashcan!

One of the wheels on my big trashcan is messed up an it’s a chore to try and roll it down to the street. So, I called Waste Industries and they’re going to replace the can today. I’m really looking forward to having something that simple make my life easier.

A long time ago my mother told me to find one thing to look forward to each day. It’s one of the simplest and most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned.

If you have something positive to look forward to you get up each day with a sense of positive anticipation.

And, yes, for you cynical folks (yep, I’m in your ranks sometimes), there are days when the event you’ve anticipated doesn’t turn out as positive as you would like.

But, simply having something to look forward to turns life into a continuous gift….which is a lot better than looking at life as one smack in the face after the other.

What can you look forward to today? And tomorrow? And the day after that?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Come Onnnnnnn! Just Relaxxxxxxx!

(Just because you’re seeing the word golf here don’t click away.)

My buddy, Al Ward, says golf on television is the perfect sport for napping.

He says, “When you flutter your eyes open during your nap you’re looking a beautiful, tranquil scenery and the announcers even talk softly.”

If golf’s on, Al’s horizontal.

Increasingly, for me it’s sitting out on the deck under the trees at my new home, The Cottage.

Do you have a situation like that in your life?

It could be a place or time or thought; it’ll be some sort of cue that puts you in a relaxed state (without drinking nine beers, that is).

In order to stay healthy you should go there on a regular basis.

If you don’t have a relaxing cue you should.

If you don’t have a relaxing cue that should tell you something about the pace of your life.

What’s your relaxing cue?

Monday, June 13, 2011

What, Who and the Here and Now

What or Who have you been focusing on?

I’ve mentioned before that my good friend, Charles Melvin, a successful executive in Charlotte, says that you can tell what’s important to people by looking at what they focus their time and money on.

Today’s message, though, is about Who, not What? But, your What could be a Who…right?

So, Who or What is important to you?

Or, have you been saying that it/they is important, but not focusing on it…uh, they?

Gets confusing doesn’t it?

Here’s the deal: The Who is always more important than the What.

I went to two funerals last week.

I didn’t see a single car, job, hobby, TV or football game in any of the pews in either service.

The pews were filled with people; people who knew and loved the folks who had passed on.

Try this exercise this week: Spend a little more time on the Who(s) in your life than on the What(s).

What Who will you focus on today?

Friday, June 10, 2011


My little house has ants.

They aren’t everywhere yet, just in a small area on the kitchen counter. It seems that they are coming out of an electrical socket or from behind the stove.

I’m trying Raid, Toro and Hot Shot.

My new housemates seem to really like the Raid. They’re rolling through that stuff like they’re going to Dairy Queen.

The Toro hasn’t kicked in yet so the jury is still out on it.

I used the Hot Shot outside (it’s a spray while the others are “in place” solutions) and my sidewalk looks like the beach at Normandy in Saving Private Ryan, except with ants.

It’s been interesting to look at it from the ants’ point of view. They have their own little world and nothing bothers them until they intrude in someone else’s little world, mine; or someone or something intrudes in theirs.

When one set of creatures makes another set of creatures uncomfortable someone or something is going to resist; and that creates stress and disharmony.

Does that sound like your work or family life?

This isn’t a suggestion that you try Raid, Toro or Hot Shot on your spouse or co-workers. But what WOULD work if things aren’t going as smoothly as you would like?

I’ll let you know how my battle’s going on Monday.

Have a great weekend.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

You're Up How Early?!

It’s 6:27 am and I’m up.

Now, I can tell you that this is a rare thing. I hate getting up early in the morning and I can tell all you “I’m up at 5 am to greet the day!” folks that I think you been drinking too many SunDrops.

But, I’m sitting at my desk in The Cottage and I can see young people with school bags walking up the sidewalk going to the school bus stop.

All the compelling evidence shows that children and teenagers learn more effectively after a good night’s sleep. Getting them up at 0-dark:30 and making them head to school seems counter-productive.

It’s all about energy.

I understand the realities of the workplace, responsibilities and the activities of our days, but are you working with your energy flow or against it?

What is the one thing, if you would do it, would raise your energy level?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pomp and Everyday Circumstances

Lots of high school graduations this week.

I can’t believe it’s been 40 years since I walked across that stage.

This morning I was flying through the memories and thinking, “When was life at its best?”

And I couldn’t come up with a time when things were BEST. It seems that there were good and bad times…at all times.

Some times seemed to be more challenging than others but the challenges either disappeared or were overcome.

The great times were fun but they always ended and morphed into something else.

The reality seems evident: Enjoy the good times and Cowboy Up when it comes to the challenges.

The problem is that you can’t tell the new graduates the reality and expect it to stick. It’s just another line in a speech by someone older than them who doesn’t REALLY know about life.

What good times do you have to look forward to and what challenges do you need to step up to?

Those are the times that make live an active verb.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Was Paul McCartney In a Band Before Wings?

A number of my friends have asked me, “As much as you love Chapel Hill, how could you move?!”

I’m telling them, “I’ve gotten to a point in life at which I need to be around more people who know that Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings.”

I need to be around more grown-ups.

Knowing the environment in which you might flourish—and having the courage to go there—no matter what the cost, is courageous.

Being in a situation that is limiting, and knowing it, and staying, is making a choice to be less than you can be.

People make that choice all the time for love or habit or dedication or simple laziness.

But, it’s a choice nonetheless.

Are you where you can be the best you?

Monday, June 6, 2011

I Know It's Around Here Somewhere!

I’ve moved during the last 10 days. Not far, from Chapel Hill to just outside of Raleigh.

But, if you’ve ever moved you know how much time you spend asking, “Now, where did I put the _____?”

While it’s annoying to some degree, believe it or not the questioning and searching make you smarter. No kiddin’!

The effort creates new neural pathways in your brain and that’s a good thing. The more pathways you have the better your brain works and, especially as we age, that really is a good thing.

So the small frustrations are actually investments in staying more cognitively alert and functioning.

Now, where did I put the stapler?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Closing Doors and Roses

I’m going to start off on a downer, but hang with me.

It seems that death is rearing its head.

A good person I know is in her last few days, struggling to hang on but fighting a losing battle.

First thing this morning I learned that another old friend was found Wednesday in his back yard and passed away yesterday.

Just now as I walked up the driveway after getting my paper, I noticed on the ground outside my kitchen door the petals of roses that had blossomed this past week, died, and fallen away.

The fading and end of life.

However, somewhere in the hospital where my friend lays there is a baby being born. This weekend, when my other friend is being laid to rest a family will move into his hometown. When I saw the dead rose petals on the ground I looked up and saw the beautiful red and yellow roses that had replaced them.

Life and renewal.

One door closes, another opens.

I’m playing golf with friends this afternoon (I know, I know, in 98 degree heat it doesn’t make much sense). I see golf as a celebration of life even with all the cussing and throwing things.

The journey is waaaaay too short. Celebrate life today and this weekend.…and don’t forget to admire the roses.

See you Monday.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Get a W.I.N. Today!

The legendary college football coach Lou Holtz talks about the concept of winning as W.I.N.

He says winning is about focusing on What’s Important Now.

Too often we get caught up in feeling busy when, in fact, we aren’t really getting anything done.

Hemingway wrote about “activity versus accomplishment.”

The basic thought is the same: are you concentrating on what’s important so you can win? Or, are you taking the easy way out just to feel busy?

Look out at the rest of your day and ask, “What do I have to do today to get a WIN?”

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One Hot, Spring Night

I know gas prices are high even though they've come down a few cents in the last week so you don't want to waste gas.

However, one of the simple pleasures of life is cruising on a warm spring or summer night.

Last night, flying along on I-40 with the windows down I was reminded of the quote that says something like, "the true joys of life don't involve stuff."

Life today can be complicated and expensive.

What simple, inexpensive pleasure have you been denying yourself or have you forgotten?