Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Power of the Tongue in Life and Death

A group of frogs were traveling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the unfortunate frogs they would never get out. The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit.
The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and simply gave up. He fell down and died.
The remaining frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and suffering and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out. When he got out, the other frogs asked him, "Why did you continue jumping. Didn't you hear us?"
The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

From The School of Practical Philosophy, Unknown Author

Monday, April 28, 2014

Texting and Driving Story: See What Happens?

The reporters writing the short “see what happens” articles for newspapers across the nation and even in the UK didn’t know Courtney Ann Sanford, 32. It’s doubtful that you knew her other than seeing the story in the news or all over Facebook.

While driving to work last Thursday morning, it seems that she put a text on Facebook at 8:33, saying, “The happy song makes me HAPPY.” Less than a minute later she was dead. At 8:34 a.m. the 911 dispatcher in High Point received a call about a head-on collision on I-85.

The pictures were horrifying. The front of her red sedan was destroyed through the front seat. Responders had to cut the roof off. The front end of the truck she hit in the on-coming lane was crushed. The 75-year old truck driver walked away unharmed, thank goodness.

I knew Courtney’s parents reasonably well a few years ago, I’ve spent nights in their home. They are nice folks. I had the pleasure of meeting her on a couple of occasions. She was bright, personable and high-energy. She experienced a terrible assault as a freshman in college but pulled herself together, went back to college, joined a sorority, completed a couple of degrees and by all accounts had a happy life going, as she noted in the text. If you Google her name you’ll already see pictures of her. Those pictures and the stories will be online forever. No one, other than the folks who read her obituary, will note that according to her parents, "Courtney felt that with each passing the universe gained a new star. May her star shine bright."

What people will know is what they saw and read in today’s broad range of media. The people who write and publish those stories, even the folks who post them to Facebook, will tell you they did it to help people understand the danger of texting and driving. We get it. But, even over and above the “if it bleeds it leads” focus of the commercial news it often seems there’s a smidgen of the, “they got what was coming to them” air about the deliveries.

In one of the pictures there’s a blue tarp covering something on the ground just outside the driver’s side of Courtney’s car. I’m sure that would be what’s left of Courtney, and I’m sure whatever is under that tarp looks nothing like the pictures online. Courtney didn’t deserve—no one deserves—what she got.

We all screw up. Every day and in ways ranging from mundane to miraculous. I text while driving. I’ll tell you that I try not to do it in traffic, but that’s a rationalization. I’d like to stop, but I probably won’t. It’s just gotten too easy.

You probably do it, too.

The only real difference between us and Courtney is that we woke up this morning.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Season of Festivals

Today’s newspaper featured a story about all the festivals in the area and noted this as the beginning of festival season.

Take the time to visit some sort of festival during the next few weeks. Yes, you’ll have to actually get out of your home and go to the festival and find parking and pay a few bucks and walk around among people you don’t know and see some stuff that may be new to you and see some stuff that you think, “Who in God’s name would ever want to do/have/be THAT?!” and see some stuff and think, “That is SO cool, I’d love to do/have/be THAT!” and probably eat more than you should and have your feet get tired and drive home and collapse on the couch.

It’s called living.

Try it, you’ll like it.

See you Monday.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Grabbing, Appreciating and Taking a Hit

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell, author, The Hero’s Journey

Did you plan a linear life? Were you taught that life was high school, college, job, marriage, kids, a house, career and retirement?

Me, too.

Has it worked out that way?

Me, neither.

In order to survive and thrive in a non-linear life you have to be able to do two things: grab and appreciate opportunities, and take a hit.

Grabbing an opportunity takes courage; appreciating an opportunity takes knowledge and the acquisition of knowledge takes time and experience.

Being able to take a hit requires resilience and patience.

If you aren’t living the linear life you expected you can do..again…two things; whine about the fact that life isn’t what you expected, or prepare for the non-linear life by grabbing and appreciating what you have and building the resilience to take the hits that will surely come.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Shot Down and Buried Alive

This past weekend was spring cleaning weekend here at The Cottage. I bought some 409 cleaner and Pine Sol and other stuff I never use and did a reasonable job of cleaning up a winter’s worth of gunk and dust.

Buying the 409 reminded me of my encounter with Wilson Harrell. He was one of the country’s best-known entrepreneurs from the ‘50s to the ‘90s. In the mid-1960s, Harrell, along with longtime friend David Woodcock and television personality Art Linkletter, bought Formula 409.

I met Harrell in the late ‘80s at the Kenan-Flagler Business School where he was on the board of the Kenan Institute. He told me a story that anyone who aspires to accomplish anything in life needs to hear.

Harrell was a fighter pilot in WWII and received the Purple Heart, the Air Medals with 4 Oak Leaves and the Presidential Citation. He was shot down over German-occupied France and severely burned in the crash. The area was crawling with German soldiers so the farmers who found him actually buried alive in a field! They would dig him up at night, check his wounds, feed him and let him rest an then re-bury him before daylight. Harrell said he could feel the soldiers walking close to his "grave." 

He said, “You know, after an experience like that being in a stressful business situation is really no big deal.”

Most of us have never been shot out of the sky or buried alive, but we’ve all gone through difficult life situations. Think about it; some of the challenges we need to overcome to have the type of life to which we aspire are not really big deals.

Friday, April 18, 2014

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Today is a beautiful day in North Carolina but it appears we have some bad weather coming in.

Some friends had a weekend at the beach planned and have canceled it due to the coming rain. They said, “We’d have be inside all weekend and that’s just not how we want to spend the weekend.”

I get it.

However, I also get the fact that for me, being inside with great books, nice people, some supplies and being able to listen to the rain roar on the roof sounds like a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

One person’s bad weather is another’s opportunity for a great time.

Sure, it’s a cliché, but if you’re handed a lemon can you make…a lemondrop!...it’s a drink with chilled vodka in a glass rimmed with lemon juice and sugar!

Whatever is coming your way, or whatever you’re in the middle of that seems less than positive, there’s a way to turn it around and look at—if not the bright side—the less-than-dark side.

Have a great weekend indoors or out! See you Monday.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Easy Is It to Be Happy?

Neuroscience tells us that when we experience “happy” our brains secrete chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin; the chemicals give us the feeling with define as happy.

Three things make people happy: Being in specific situations, engaging in specific activities and being with specific people.

Specific, not general.

So, what situations, activities and people give you the happy feeling?

If you will put yourself in those situations, engage in those activities and be with those people more often you’ll be happier.

It’s just that easy.

PS…studies show that thinking about those things or seeing pictures or coming in contact with mementos related to them (which make us think of the situations/activities/people) all give us some of the happy feeling.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Second Wind

Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second. Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.
-- William James 1842-1910, Psychologist, Professor and Author

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Free! Help Yourself!

To whom or what or where do you go for advice?

I’m not sure if research would prove this, but it seems the younger someone is the more likely they’ll go to the Internet for advice, suggestions, directions or instructions.

I think that’s a good thing.

Why wouldn’t you use the most incredible source of information in the history of mankind as a resource?

And yes, I know there’s a lot of squirrelly stuff on the Web and it’s a sarcastic cliché to say, “Well, I know it’s true because I saw it on the Internet.”

Got that.

But, try this: simply go to whatever search engine you use and search, “How to have a great life,” and see what you get.

You’ll find a number of list articles with 50, 10, 7 or 3 ways to have a great life. The wonderful thing is that there will be suggestions on the lists you never would have thought of!

Use the search phrase strategy for anything you want to learn and see what comes up. 

If you’re like me and you love learning it’s like walking into a candy store that has a big sign saying, “It’s Free! Help Yourself!”

And, that’s what you’re doing.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Heading Out of Port

On this date in 1912, at 11:42 pm, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and began sinking; over 1500 people died when the ship sank in the early morning of April 15.

On April 10, when the ship began its maiden voyage, it was the largest ship afloat and was considered unsinkable. No one could have imagined what would happen five days later.

 We rarely begin voyages of life planning to fail. But, staying in port is not really an option unless we want lives devoid of love, excitement, challenge and fun.

Over the weekend, as I appreciated all the birthday wishes (oh, did I tell you Saturday was my birthday <62>?!), I thought about the love, excitement, challenges and fun of the last few months, years and decades. There are some situations, people and decisions I’d consider changing, but if I did I might not have the moment in life I have now.

And this moment is pretty great.

Even understanding the challenges I probably would have still have headed out of port.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!!

My birthday is tomorrow. 62. Who’d have thought?

Someone once told me that anyone over the age of 9 who gets excited about their own birthday is childish…I’ll take the rap on that.

Birthdays mean one more year of life, of learning, of leaning into the wind of experience.

There’s a lot of truth to the old saying that if you don’t like getting older think of the alternative. I have a cartoon framed in my kitchen that says, “If you don’t like working out 1-hour a day maybe you’ll prefer being dead 24-hours a day.”

I wouldn’t like that, but I don’t think I’d be aware of it.

Try this: Google your birthday. You’ll see lots of things that have happened on your day and it’s a surefire “Are you serious?!” moment.

On April 12, 1962, Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space!

I have lots of good activities planned for the next 72-hours (yes, it’s never a birth DAY…it’s always a birth-WEEKEND…at least) and a friend has promised a surprise on Sunday. So, Happy Birthday to me! I can hear you singing now.

Have a great weekend! I’m planning to!

See you Monday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Get Ready!

What would you do if you were presented with a wonderful opportunity?

This chance-of-a-lifetime could be in relationships, career, health/fitness, spirituality or any area of life you can imagine.

You’re thinking, “I’d take it?!” Right?

You’re making an assumption, though, aren’t you?

You’re assuming that you’re prepared to take advantage of the opportunity?

Here’s the usual scenario: You come up with an idea you KNOW could make a ton of money and think, “Great! This is my ticket to the life my family and I always wanted!”
But, you don’t have the knowledge base to make the idea a reality and you certainly don’t have the bankroll to fund it.

Granted, those two obstacles, low knowledge and low funds, never stopped anyone who really wanted to be successful…but…the challenges did slow them down.

That’s the point here…are you ready for a wonderful opportunity when it comes along? Or, do you have to start from the back of the pack and fight your way through a variety of obstacles before you can take advantage of the opportunity…and what if it’s gone by the time you get ready?

Here’s the key: If you have even an inkling of what you want in life are you preparing yourself—at least a little—every day to grab the opportunity when it cruises by your front door.

Because, a wonderful/horrifying truth of life is that opportunities come our way EVERY SINGLE DAY. They come in the form of an idea/comment/person/hardship/joke/pain/problem.

I was simply sitting in the right place at the right time when the greatest opportunity of my life walked in the room and stood next to me. I stood to offer my seat and when I looked her in the eyes I felt like I’d been Tazered. The relationship has created a wide range of opportunities to learn and experience life on levels of which I had only dreamed.

What are you doing, reading and thinking? Who are the people you come in contact with on a regular basis and what can you learn from them? What do you spend your time on the Internet reading and watching?

Spending a few minutes each day preparing yourself for the bluebird that will fly through the window or that diamond you have to dig out of the dirt is a small investment when you consider the potential payoff.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I'm Sick of Talking About This!!!

A good friend is getting ready to break the news about some big changes in his organization. He’s a good guy and his heart is definitely in the right place, but I fear that he’s going to be disappointed at the number of people in his organization who will drag their feet, push back and flat-out refuse to change.

The vast majority of people don’t like to change unless the change is what they want when they want it and they get some sort of reward for doing it.

I once asked some executives who had led change efforts what the most difficult part of the change initiative was for them.

Every one of them said the same thing: You have to talk about the change until you are absolutely sick of talking about it and hearing about it. 

And then, one of them added, “Because about the time you are sick of talking about it your people are just getting it.”

If you want to lead change or change yourself you have to keep the change out in front to see, feel, smell, hear and touch. Without the reminders we, and the people we want to help change, slide back into the comfort zone.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Rats and Bugs, Yummmm!

If you’ve never seen Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern on The Travel Network you’ve missed a wonderful opportunity to gag.

If it flies, floats, flips or flops Zimmern will eat it raw, boiled, fried, grilled, baked or roasted.

Last night he was out in the countryside in Thailand eating rats and bugs.

The show noted that as a poor population the Thais learned to eat anything and everything in order to survive. You have to wonder if it shows what an “advanced” society we live in that everyday food for living-in-the-countryside Thais is a novelty gag-a-thon for us.

A friend and I wondered how many of us watching the show understood how fortunate we are to be able to walk into a grocery store and simply pick clean, inspected and safe food off the shelf.

Be appreciative of something simple today. We don’t know how good we have it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Drunk Goggles and Reality

Not long ago a woman in one of my seminars said she’d run into a guy who she thought was a good guy, “but I guess I had on my ‘drunk goggles’.”

Drunk goggles?

“You know what drunk goggles are,” she went on, “They’re the lenses of life we see through late at night at a bar after we’ve had a few too many.”

Things/people/situations often look better, rosier and more inviting when we’re wearing our drunk goggles.

I’ve gotta believe drunk goggles are what people are wearing when they utter the famous Southern last words, “Hey y’all! Watch this!”

Scientists and psychologists have a different phrase for what happens when we have our drunk goggles on. It’s called distorted reality.

When we observe reality in a distorted way it means we’re looking at life through our fears, prejudices, assumptions and incorrect information.

In fact, there are three realities: Distorted Realtiy, Observed Reality and Ultimate Reality.

Now, Ultimate Reality is God, Buddha, pure energy, whatever you want to call it.

Observed Reality is what really happened; what the situation truly is without us seeing it through drunk goggles.

The sad truth is that a lot of individuals/groups/nations see most of life through drunk goggles.

If we ask more questions of the outside world and listen actively we start looking inward and asking, “Was I right about that? Is what I’m believing based on observed reality or distorted reality?”

Those are difficult questions to ask after midnight in a dimly lit bar with 9 beers in you.

The questions can be just as hard to ask in the cold light of day…but you still need to ask them.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Step...just...a little...closer.

What could you gamble on today? What, if you did it, would be a courageous act that, if it paid off, could reap huge rewards?

So often we live small, fearful lives simply because we are afraid to step out and do something risky.

You’re smart enough to know that I don’t mean something like drinking/texting and driving…and if you are thinking that that’s what I’m talking about take a moment and step back into the carriage with the rest of us adults.

I’m talking about taking a chance in an issue at work or home; in worship or play; in your life-of-the-mind or in your love life.

The universe gets behind those who are courageous.

Might you fail…of course; but, on the other hand, you might win.

In the last 48 hours I took a chance; did something that I thought was courageous...and at least for now, it has paid off.

Here’s how I did it: I imagined myself in an arena…now stay with me because I know this is a male/macho example. I imagined that my fear was a dragon and I was facing the dragon, sword in my right hand, looking up at that fire-breathing head and raising my left hand and gesturing to the dragon…to fear…

step…just…a little…closer.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Read Something Today

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writing so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.” Socrates

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Heliotropic Effect

Whatever that ball of fire is in the sky, I’m for it!

The heliotropic effect is the phenomenon of plants turning towards the sun, the source of energy. As you travel look around at trees, flowers, bushes and flowers. You’ll often see them bent and leaning towards the direction of the sun as it travels over them during the day.

Humans are like that, too. We turn towards people, situations, ideas and feelings that give us energy. If we’re down, and we’re smart, we start looking around for something that picks us up, something that gives us an energy boost.

Sometimes the boost is artificial, such as Red Bull. That can work in the short term.

But, we’re better off looking for more positive, natural sources that fuel us over the long haul.

If you have a difficult day ahead or you’re going through a difficult situation in life look up sometime during the day; it’s supposed to be good, sunny weather in the South. Take a moment and turn towards the sun.