Friday, January 31, 2014

Back to Normal

Blue sky above and the forecast here in North Carolina is for 60 degrees today.

The weather was a massive change for millions of people.

For some it was a delight; snowcream, sledding, children laughing, red noses.

For others it was an annoyance; being housebound, children crying and screaming, work issues, trying to drive in it.

For a few it was tragic; an accident, the cold caused serious health issues.

But, now things are getting back to normal.

This is life. Cold and hot. Fast and slow. Challenging and easy.

Here we are at the end of a challenging week. Did you and I learn a lesson we can use?

It doesn’t have to be a macro, big-picture lesson. It could be something small, like me learning to keep a faucet dripping during multiple days of below freezing temperatures.

Enjoy the weekend, don’t bet a ton on the Super Bowl.

See you Monday.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What I've Learned

It’s easy to get bored when you’re snowed/frozen in and there’s a wide range of solutions, some positive, some not.

Last night I was going through files and cleaning them out and ran across an old exercise I did about 10 years ago. Try this as a wonderful exercise when you’re bored:

Write “What I’ve Learned” at the top of a sheet of paper and see if you can come up with 25 things you’ve learned in life.

Forget the clichés unless they’ve been true for you.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble and you’d like to read some interesting life lessons simply go to and check out what some of the most interesting people in the world have learned.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

One Thing About Being Snowed In

If you’re snowed in or snow is slowing you down today I have a couple of simple suggestions.

Don’t blow the day off. Don’t look at it as a gift vacation day.

And, if you have kids and they are home today don’t let them overwhelm you and your time.

Find one thing to accomplish.

Look for one thing that, if you accomplish it, today has been a good, productive day.

So often, when a situation such as a snow day, sick day, car-breaks-down day or some other occurrence happens that pulls your attention away you get to the end of the day and realize that the situation was all you focused on.

The distraction doesn’t get you closer to success. By virtue of the very fact that it is a distraction it pulls you away from your path. But, you must deal with the distraction and that takes time, energy and focus.

So, pick one thing, large or small; one thing that, if you complete it, you get one step closer to your goal, or you were at least somewhat productive today.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Does It Work?

Like you, I love music. Yesterday I went to Radio Shack to get a splitter (a small add-on that lets two wires come into one input, or vice-versa) and some cable. I’m using them to link my computer to my music system.

I explained what I wanted to do to a young salesperson and he helped me find what I thought I needed. It did concern me a little that I had to keep explaining what a “splitter” is, but I figured, “Hey, he works here and I’ve always had good luck with Radio Shack so…..”

As you can guess, when I got home and tried to put the pieces together they didn’t fit.

So, bad on me for not looking more closely and bad on them for not doing a better job of training employees.

I’m headed back to Radio Shack this morning to trade in the parts that don’t work and, hopefully, get parts that do.

Whether you or your folks interact with customers have you thought through what people need to do their jobs? Sometimes the information is pretty simple; other times it can be complicated and expensive to effectively train people.

Either way, you have a better chance of having a successful interaction. This seems common sense, but too often common sense isn't common practice.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Hit the Ball, Drag Tom

There’s an old joke about the guy whose golfing partner has a heart attack and dies in the middle of a round. One of his friends asks how he handled the situation he says, “I did what any good golfer would do; hit the ball, drag Tom, hit the ball, drag Tom.”

Most of us consider ourselves to be thinking humans who can analyze our way through the challenges of life.

But, when change is coming at us we don’t Analyze-Think-Change.

We See-Feel-Change.

Emotions--what we are feeling, not logic--are huge factors in how we work our way through change.

There are a variety of ways we can move our emotions. If we don’t first recognize their power, though, it’s like we’re moving through life dragging a Tom along the way.

What’s a change you’re in the middle of? What emotions are you feeling when you consider the change? What, or who, are you dragging?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Is It NOT Cold, Anywhere?

If you haven’t figured out that it’s cold on the East Coast let me be the one to break the news to you.

All my pipes are frozen.

One of the good things about this sort of cold is that it’s a wonderful focusing experience.

Try this: Go outside and simply walk a short distance. What are you totally focused on? GETTING BACK INSIDE!

Now, what if you could take that sort of single-minded focus and point it at a goal? What could you accomplish?

Stay inside and stay warm.

If you have to go outside wrap up.

And, for goodness sakes, don’t be as stupid as the 50 or so scalded folks who have ended up in emergency rooms because they threw boiling water in the air to see if it would freeze before it hit the ground.

Have a great weekend, stay warm, and we’ll see you on Monday.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Name the Problem

Until a few moments ago I didn’t know the winter storm hammering its way up the East Coast is named Janus.

I knew we named hurricanes and cyclones, but winter storms? I haven’t heard names for tornados yet.

Interestingly though, in Tribes, Seth Godin’s outstanding book about leadership, he advises naming problems. He uses the term Sheepwalking to describe the actions of folks who follow along with the crowd.

At the end of the college football season, on rivalry weekend, I saw a story about a young boy Ohio State fan and who has cancer. He named the cancer “Michigan” and talks all the time about beating “Michigan.”

I like the name-the-problem idea. It’s kind of fun so it lowers the heat level on the problem by using humor. It also allows you to focus on the issue rather than getting lost in a lot of the surrounding factors such as loss, pain or worry.

There’s a great site, , that allows you to make up words. Check it out.

I was trying to come up with a word to describe the feeling caregivers have when they just don’t want to do it or are afraid of it. helped me come up with carefusal and carefear.

Obviously, you can name your challenge whatever you want but you might want to keep it clean, at least if you’re going to talk about it in public or around family and friends.

I have a number of challenges. I’m going to pick one and name it. Got any suggestions for the name?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grilled Cheese, the First Step on the Stairway to Heaven

Sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn the really important things; the things that make life worth living.

Last night one of those moments occurred for me.

I learned how to make a grilled cheese sandwich that is so good that, after the first bite, you don’t want to take another one because it means the sandwich will eventually be gone.

The secret is to spread a thin layer of squirty margarine on each side of the sandwich and cook it on medium heat. Each side gets golden brown and a little crunchy and the cheese melts wonderfully.

If I could actually create the words that would truthfully explain how good it is you’d lean forward and lick the screen. Heavenly doesn’t even come close.

I know it’s a cliché, but the simple things really are the best.

Try this: Make a list of three simple things you’d love to know how to do well, and learn how to do them. Your life satisfaction level jumps dramatically and neuroscience shows that the experience actually makes you healthier.

3 things.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Dark Secret Revealed

I’m doing my best to start the New Year off right by being more honest with myself.

I’m challenging some long-held beliefs and asking myself, “Is this helping me or hurting me?”

So, in the interest of honesty I’m going to make a confession and just put it out there for the world to see:

I read….Luann

Ok…there…I’ve admitted it and it’s out in the open.

Luann is a comic strip in the News and Observer. It follows the trials and tribulations of a bunch of high school kids and in addition to being mildly entertaining it is a reminder of all the things we thought were earth-shaking (and some were) when we were young.

One of the storylines is about a young couple; he’s dopey, overly-cautious and average-looking while she’s gorgeous, impulsive and adventurous. (And yes, sometimes life imitates art) 

His natural style is to think through things before he does them and he finds all kinds of reasons for not stepping out. She’s trying to get him to—every once in awhile—reach out and grab life.

How often are we that guy? When an opportunity comes along our first reaction is…No.

If your first reaction upon reading the sentence above was, “Well Mike, you just can’t take your whole savings account and go to Tahiti!” Or, “As adults we can't be as impetuous as kids”…then, you need to keep reading.

What if your first reaction in life was…Yes?

I spent a lot of years…even into adulthood…as a Yes person. But, over the last few years I’ve been saying No more often. In some areas of life it’s become an automatic reaction and I don’t like that in myself, it’s one of the things I want to work on this year.

How about you? Are you a Yes person or a No person?

And I realize that, as adults, our first reaction is, “You can’t say Yes to everything.”


However, what’s your average? More Yes’s or more No’s?

Say Yes this weekend to something new.

I’m saying Yes to the Tango tonight.

See you Monday…and say No to betting a ton of money on the pro football games this weekend. 

Go Seahawks…Go Denver.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Friend, Standing on the Platform

Was just beginning today’s blog when a text came in.

A friend from the past is in a hospital here in Raleigh. His cancer has returned…in his liver…and he’s terminal.

He’s a good guy. Met him in college. Ran around some together. He’s one of those people who always had a smile on his face.

During his life he had a lot of success, then ran into some difficulties.

He has a wife who has always stood by him and children who love him. A lucky man.

Whenever I hear about someone who’s standing on the platform waiting for the last train home to stop at the station to pick him or her up I wonder, “What are they thinking?”

They know the end is near…very near.

What are they proud of? What do they regret?

Whenever I get this sort of news two words always come immediately to mind:



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Your Technobilical Cord

On Monday night during the break of a seminar one of the attendees asked me for help. He had a question about writing a business plan. I was delighted to offer an answer, but as I was talking with the young, budding entrepreneur he could not keep from looking at the iPad in front of him…and it had nothing to do with what we were talking about.

I finally pointed at the tablet and said, “Are you with me or with that?” The young guy was stunned for a second that I’d asked. I added, “If you’re with me I’ll be glad to help, but if you’re with that then I’m interrupting.” He slowly nodded and said, “I’m with you.”

This past weekend a young man was shot and killed in a theatre in Wesley Chapel, FL because he wouldn’t stop texting during a movie. The man who shot him is a retired Tampa police officer who has been a member of the Crime Stoppers group in his community. The older man asked the young guy to stop texting and even went to the manager to complain, but when he returned to the theatre the two got into an exchange and now one family has lost a husband and father and another may lose a husband and grandfather to prison.

In his new book, One-Day Contract, University of Louisville basketball Coach Rick Pitino writes about “The Trap of Technology” and how, if he is talking to a recruit who is constantly checking a cell phone, the coach he doesn’t really want to coach the kid because he knows the player will always be distracted.

I’m far from being a Luddite, the folks who want us all to reject technology and go back to a simpler time tilling the soil with a pointed stick. I love what it can do for us.

But, wasn’t this stuff supposed to make our lives easier?

I hate to admit it but there are times that I find technology grabbing me in ways I don’t appreciate. In yesterday’s blog I decided to give up on one technology and not pursue it.

You’ve had days like I have on which you’ve almost panicked when you drove away from home and realized you had forgotten your cell phone. Did you drive back home to get it? How far did you drive?

I wish I had an easy answer. Technology is so pervasive now that many of us are tethered to our phones/tablets/laptops/etc.

If you couldn’t read this short blog without checking on an email or looking at your phone…think about that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Apple and Away

About a year ago I presented a program for a group that had some seriously cool technology in their training room. They could see a computer screen on their big-screen television and make it do all kinds of things. I asked how they did it and they pointed at an Apple TV unit.

If you’ve never seen one it’s a little gizmo about the size of a cellphone you attach to your television and it brings in lots of stuff from your computer/laptop/iPhone/tablet.
Please note the highly technical way I described the unit; that should give you an indication of how technically adept I am.

So, I went straight to Best Buys and bought one for $100.

During the last year the unit has been in its box in my office, living room, stereo area, dining room table, office again, stereo, coffee table, end table, bedroom, back to the stereo area and now on my desk in my office. I kept moving it around because I thought that if it was right in front of me I’d be motivated to connect it to my television so MY television would do lots of cool stuff.

On Sunday afternoon I thought, “This is ridiculous. I’ve had this thing a year. I know I want my TV to do really cool things. I’ve got two degrees and I read a lot and can figure out the Cryptoquote most of the time so I’ve got to be at least a marginally intelligent person. I actually teach people to stop procrastinating. So, let’s open this bad boy and get it hooked up.”

It comes with a little instruction book that, if you are Stephen Hawking or Chris Cassidy (the only Navy SEAL who is also an astronaut), is pretty simple to understand.

It only took a couple of minutes for me to make a decision. I’m giving it away. I’m sending it as far away from me as it can get and still be in the continental United States and I’m going to let a friend of mine who, while not Stephen Hawking or an astronaut, thinks these things are fun.

Good intentions are good…that’s why they are called good intentions…but, sometimes we have to cut our losses and walk away. If you want to ask yourself a question that can get kinda uncomfortable, ask this, “What is there in my life that really doesn’t help me, but I’ve sunk so much time/energy/money/emotion into it that I keep hanging on?”

Might be time to box that thing up and drop it in the mail.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I'd Like to Drink Your Blood

Yesterday at lunch a friend said something that gave me pause.

He said, “Micro management yields macro results.”

He wasn’t talking about micromanagement in terms of always looking over someone’s shoulder and obsessing over every little detail; not those little vampires looking to suck up our time.

He was saying that if we look for the few things that are key to making the big things happen then micro management leads to macro results.

What are the few things you and I need to focus on?

And how do we keep those little energy/time/efficiency vampires from sucking the life/success/effectiveness out of us?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How About a Little "Doom Porn?"

Heard a great phrase the other day….Doom Porn.

I know you know someone like this: No matter what is going on, no matter how good or difficult a hand life has dealt you or them, no matter what type of How’s it going? question is asked they always jump into the doom and gloom.

They’re into Doom Porn.

Think about it, the objective of porn is to get the reader/viewer excited. It’s salacious material (come to think of it I’ve probably never had the opportunity to use the word salacious, and yes, I know it means lecherous, lustful, obscene, pornographic) meant to transport the reader/viewer into a heightened physical/mental/emotional experience.

Have you ever watched the eyes, expressions and body language of the doom and gloomers? Some of them will get pretty jacked up telling you how bad the president is, or the credit card companies, or the people who don’t show up for church, or other drivers, or Dook Fans (ok, wait…now, those people REALLY are…well, maybe later), or the (you name it).

A lot of them have the same reaction as some folks have when they are into porn. The experience transports them into a negative experience in which they feel a sense of power; of excitement. For many, a warped sense of comfort.

I have a couple of friends who are into Doom Porn as I’m sure you probably do. All you have to do is toss out one of their favorite topics and you can almost see their eyes starting to fire up. They have no good, constructive ideas for what might work to change the situation they focus on, but they can sure tell you all the things they think are bad about it.

Doom Porn is a waste of everyone’s time and energy. It’s just like the real thing, an ugly substitute.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Forget About Goals

The first “real” job I ever had (1974) was working for the North Carolina Department of Corrections. And yes, some of my friends wondered long and hard why I as on this side of the fence and not the other.

At the time, the Secretary of Corrections was a successful businessman, David Jones. David was constantly preaching the late-60, early-70s business concept of MBO (Management By Objectives) and he made sure all the people who worked for him bought into it, too.

MBO was all about setting goals and breaking the journey to goal attainment into small steps. Ever since then I’ve read everything I could find about setting and achieving goals (check out one of the best goal-setting teachers, Brian Tracy, at

Increasingly though, I’m changing my tune about goals and I believe a blogger, James Clear ( may have a concept that’s as good if not better.

Clear talks about systems, not goals. His thesis is that if you create systems that allow you to complete the consistent, everyday, small steps that keep getting you closer to a goal you’ll have a better chance of reaching the outcome you desire.

Clear makes the point that setting a goal and continuing to look at it as somewhere you aren’t actually impedes your progress in doing the things you need to do where you are.

Small steps are easier, right in front of you and give you a feeling of accomplishment that bolsters your confidence.

Welcome to the New Year! Systems not goals. Something to think about.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Who's On Your Team?

“People inspire you or drain you—pick them wisely.” Hans F. Hansen

This time of year, with all the bowl games, always get's me thinking about teams. So, let’s say you’re creating a team. And the way you’re creating it is by looking at different people and choosing different points in their lives.

You might choose some folks when they were children; full of energy, fun, innocent and without guile. Others would be chosen as young adults; strong and athletic, inquisitive and ambitious. You could choose some team members as older, richer and more experienced.

I’d quickly choose Richard Branson because he seems to have all those qualities wrapped up in one!

If you were looking at me, depending on where in my life you looked, and what your team needed to accomplish, you might choose me or you might not.

In middle-school years, what those of us with grey hair used to call junior high school, I’d be the last person you’d choose for anything athletic.

In college, if your team’s goal was to have fun, I promise you, you’d absolutely want me to be one of the first people you’d choose.

As I’ve gotten older folks seem to recognize that I can hold two very different positions depending on the team’s goal. If the team’s focus is to start or stop something, to find the way through new territory, I’m your guy. I have no problem drawing the sword and, for good or ill, being first one out the castle gate.

However, if it’s managing an effort, doing what might be thought of as the day-to-day stuff, the consistently steady efforts that keep it all together…I’m probably on the bench for most of the game. I am learning though, and some very nice people are teaching me the power of steadiness.

We all have our teams, the people around us who influence us. Some members we pick, some are picked for us and some—family—we have little choice about.

So much of life is determined by who is around us and who we are around on a regular basis. How we look at life, how we talk, what we eat, how we approach/repel/treat others, what we focus our thoughts on, what we believe about spirituality, how we look at work in our lives…those issues and many more are strongly dependent on our contact with the people on our team.

Who’s on your team?

One of the most important resolutions you and I can make for 2014 is to be more choosy about who joins or gets to stay on our team.

Look around. You’re suiting up for the game right now. Who’s in the locker room with you?

This is a great OD on football weekend so enjoy it!

See you Monday.