Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Focus on Improvement"

I don’t know exactly how this happened, but I ended up coaching my daughter’s middle-school volleyball team. Well, I’m actually co-coaching the team along with Myriah Storrer, a talented and energetic young lady who played high school and junior-college volleyball and knows her stuff.

On the eve of our first practice, I was trying to think of wise words for a group of fifth and sixth-grade girls who comprise the Good Shepherd Grizzlies junior varsity team. At this age, the focus is having fun. But next year the older girls move to the varsity level where things become more competitive and the better players play more, lesser skilled players play less. It becomes more a microcosm of life.

It struck me quickly that, perhaps, an effective message would be the Comeback Coach’s challenge to those experiencing a “Run to Daylight” workshop. Toward the end of the presentation participants are encouraged to realize “there’s nothing noble in being superior to somebody else, true nobility lies in becoming superior to our former selves.”

In other words, don’t worry whether or not you’re “better” than somebody else. Focus on improving your own skills. That’s a good message for each of us because it’s true whether we’re talking about improving our volleyball skills; our relationship skills; our workplace skills; our fitness skills – whatever, right?

The key is stay focused on improvement. Where could that apply to you, right now? Where could you begin the process of self improvement in ways that honor you, nurture those dependent upon you and add value to the communities you serve?

Ironically, this rookie coach learned in the season’s first game the importance of becoming “superior to his former self.” The Grizzlies had split two games against a good opponent and were huddled in preparation for the decisive third game. I goofed and mentioned the word “winning” in a brief pep talk to the team. I changed the focus from becoming “superior to our former selves” to “winning” and, reflecting, I think that threw them off a bit in the hard-fought third game we lost 25-23.

This week, take the time to reflect on areas of your life where you can become “superior to your former self.” Regardless of the area the self-improvement might reside, don’t worry about “winning” the contest. Instead focus on what you can control – becoming superior to your former self. In doing so, the outcome will always be good whether you win or not.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"Heart and Soul"

I often like to say, and too often others agree: “Ya know, I’ve been called a lot of things in life, but smart has never been one of them.”

Well, I got smart recently, thanks to my wonderful girlfriend’s insistence, and attended my first Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert. Wow, what a show.

“Is anybody alive here in Denver?” the musical superstar demanded often as the sold-out Pepsi Center rocked to the band’s amazing sound. What blew me away was the enthusiasm the New Jersey native and his team brought to the show. “We’re gonna bring the music and the passion,” the 59-year-old warned the crowd early in the evening. “You gotta bring the noise.”

In each and every Run to Daylight presentation, the Comeback Coach encourages audience members to put fear and self doubt aside in the constant pursuit of our dreams and goals. The point being, true fulfillment in life comes from understanding who we are and what makes us tick. What are you passionate about? Then, it’s critical that we must do our best, despite life’s changes, challenges and adversities, to stay in alignment with those dreams and goals.

It’s not easy. Life throws us many curveballs. We wonder, “How the heck did I end up here?” But refuse to be a victim of circumstance, instead become a student of experience. Learn, adapt and move on.

No doubt, in the creation of Springsteen’s band – it started in a New Jersey house basement on “E” Street - there were challenges. Many, including the Boss himself, might have questioned whether the endeavor would be a success. But determination to focus on courage and wonderment won the battle against fear and self doubt.

Springsteen’s a legendary rock star. We’re not. However, we all have one thing in common: we’re human beings on a journey filled with unexpected and unwanted, twists and turns. The question becomes, “What are we going to do about it?”

Let’s learn from the Boss. Don’t give up on dreams and goals. It won’t be easy and will, at times, require incredible perseverance. But the glory days you’ll experience, as reward for your effort, are worth the sacrifice.

It starts with enthusiasm. Pour heart and soul into your endeavors – at home, work and community. Bring the music and passion, the world will return the noise in ways that honor you, nurture those dependent upon you and add value to the communities you serve.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

“Gulick’s Great Wisdom”

One of the many things I enjoy about hosting Colorado and Company is the wonderful people who appear on the show promoting Colorado’s nonprofit world. This tugs at my heartstrings considering the three years I spent leading Camp Fire USA’s Central Rockies Council.

Recently United Way’s Christine Benero and Volunteers of America’s Dianna Kunz appeared on the show talking about their respective organization’s wonderful partnership and the importance of nonprofit collaboration to better serve our communities.

Whenever I see Kunz, who has served VOA in some capacity for more than 35 years and led since 1988, it always reminds me of Camp Fire. She was a Camp Fire Girl in her younger days, which takes me to that organization’s founder Luther Gulick.

In each and every Run to Daylight presentation, the Comeback Coach encourages others, “be limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenges we face.” Luther Gulick certainly walked that talk. Almost 100 years ago, in 1910, while watching young men march off to summer camp opportunities, he wondered, “What are we doing for the girls?”

Camp Fire Girls, now coeducational Camp Fire USA, was born from the creativity of a man who, earlier in his life, played a huge role in the development of the YMCA and the invention of basketball – Gulick was an incredible man.

A wise man who started a youth development organization that prepared young women for opportunities outside the home and promoted physical exercise – few thought either was important for girls back in 1910 - based upon three simple, but often challenging principles. Three principles, that I promise, if you follow on a consistent basis, will create great potential for success at home, work and in community.

Gulick stressed the value of hard work, healthy choices and love for self, others and community. Can you imagine what our homes, workplaces and communities would look like if we stay focused on working hard, making healthy choices and showing a little love and respect for one another? My goodness, if we could do that for one day, what would that day look like?

Hey, go big or go home, right? This week, let’s shoot for seven straight days of hard work, healthy choices and respect for self, others and community, okay? Times are tough but committing to those three wonderful principles costs nothing, and guess what? The return on investment – ROI - is out of this world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

“Friends not Foes”

At a recent breakfast event in downtown Denver I might an incredible young man. He serves in the United States Army and is preparing for a second tour of Iraq. “In your opinion, what’s the biggest reason for the reduction in violence?” I asked. Without hesitation, he responded, “It was when everyone realized the enemy of our enemy is our friend.”

In other words, when the tribal leaders of Iraq realized their enemy was not the Americans, but Al-Qaeda, and the Americans realized their enemy was not the Iraqis, but Al-Qaeda, things began to shift. U.S. and Iraqi forces - Sunni, Shite or Kurdish – started working together in defeating the true enemy, foreign fighters from Al Qaeda.

It’s a wonderful example of what the Comeback Coach talks about in each “Run to Daylight” workshop. We have to hand off this notion we can go it alone in life – regardless of the venue – and realize that “teamwork is the key to success.” That’s true whether we’re talking fighting wars halfway around the world, or within our homes, workplaces or communities. We need to become one heart beat in running to daylight and playing like a champion in the game of effectively dealing with challenges and adversities.

As I walked away from a chance encounter with this brave soldier preparing for another venture into a war zone, I couldn’t get his “when everyone realized the enemy of our enemy is our friend” comment out of my mind.

Where today is it time to realize “the enemy of my enemy is really my friend” in our lives? Perhaps it’s time to realize, the enemy is not an alleged disagreeable spouse or significant other but the APATHY currently present in the relationship? Maybe it’s time to realize the enemy is not the alleged grumpy boss but our ATTITUDE toward our job? Could it be time to accept the enemy is not what we eat or drink, but HOW much we consume?

What’s the old saying, “keep your friends close and your enemies even closer?” Well, that’s fine, but first, we have to be very clear, who the enemy really is!

This week take a cue from a soldier who has experienced firsthand the wisdom in realizing sometimes alleged enemies – home, work or community - are in reality, friends. Comrades – friends not foes - more than willing to help us overcome whatever challenge or adversity we currently battle.

“Against the Grain”

At the recent Mile High Chapter of the American Red Cross’ “Breakfast of Champions” the national CEO/President of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern, spoke briefly about Clara Barton, the organization’s founding mother.

The words that came from McGovern’s lips almost knocked me into the back wall of a banquet hall filled with almost 800 people gathered to honor this organization’s great work locally, nationally and around the world. McGovern, who after a successful corporate leadership career, took the reigns of Red Cross about a year ago, said the following about Barton’s philosophy of life: “Clara Barton was a rebel, kinda like me in school, she believed it was okay, and necessary really, to defy the tyranny of precedent.”

After I gathered my wits, rose from the floor and returned to my seat it got me to thinking, “ain’t that the truth?”

It’s exactly what the Comeback Coach talks about in each Run to Daylight workshop: “Quite often in life, we gotta put fear and self doubt aside – that’s the way it’s always been done – and have the guts to go for it, run to daylight and see what happens.”

But that takes courage to “go against the grain” so to speak. Many, including our fearful selves, will try and tell us differently: “There’s no way that will work, are you crazy?” Ever heard that before? Some will sound the alarm bells of fear surrounding, “What are you gonna do if it doesn’t work out?”

Tell ‘em you’re gonna “defy the tyranny of precedent.”

This week, whenever you run into somebody needing encouragement in effectively dealing with change, challenge and adversity give them a little hope and confidence, and perhaps a chuckle, when you say, “run to daylight and play like a champion in the game of defying the tyranny of precedent.”

They will look at you like you’re certifiably crazy. You must expect that, be ready. But then you come right back with, “Hey, listen it worked for Clara Barton, Gail McGovern and many others, it can work for you too.”

And guess what? Having the courage and wonderment to defy the tyranny of precedent and go against the grain will work for each of us as well. At home, work and in community, but please remember three things. Wherever implementing this philosophy make sure it’s in ways that honor you, nurture those dependent upon you and add value to the communities you serve, okay?”

“Reminder from the Miracle”

It’s one of the most heartwarming stories of recent memory. A disabled airliner successfully crash lands in the chilly waters of New York’s Hudson River and all aboard are rescued, none with serious or life-threatening injuries. The headlines shout, “Miracle on the Hudson” and proclaim the plane’s pilot Chesley Sullenberger a national hero.

Meanwhile the former Air Force Academy graduate, a fighter pilot in Vietnam, shrugs off the praise with a simple, “Hey, everybody on board that aircraft from the pilots to the flight attendants, we were just doing our job.”

The 58-year-old veteran pilot, during his time at the academy, happened to be an excellent glider pilot. Years later, at a critical moment, that talent came in handy when it was time to miraculously maneuver a doomed airliner, with no engine power, onto the river’s choppy waters without the plane cracking into many pieces.

He was “just doing his job.” Well, not many people could have done the job the US Airways’ pilot and crew pulled off that day. They are experts in their field for sure, but there’s a lesson in this miracle for each of us concerning the responsibility to “just do our job.”

In each and every Run to Daylight presentation the Comeback Coach encourages others, despite the unexpected challenges life throws our way, to keep mustering the courage to pursue their dreams and goals, with one caveat: whatever we are pursuing must pass a critical three-way test. Does what we are focusing our time and talents on, honor us, nurture those dependent upon us and add value to the communities we serve?

Does what you’re focused on today, tomorrow, this week say “yes” to those three questions, or does it say “no”? This simple but challenging test to “just doing our jobs” involves our roles as parents, spouses, siblings, co-workers, neighbors, friends and citizens of our community.

Sullenberger and others employed to be aboard that plane had the training, courage and creativity to avoid a tragic accident. Guess what? We have the same traits within us to avoid crash-landing our lives due to unproductive and inappropriate thoughts, words and actions that endanger our selves and others, right?

Take a reminder from the miracle. Let’s fly into this new week determined to “just do our job” in ways that, while perhaps not working miracles, keep us airborne, with full power and landing safely at home, work and within our communities.

“Saddle Up The Horses”

After almost 20 years as a sportscaster in the Mile High City, people still approach me and want to talk sports, which is just fine. I love athletics and personal experiences as an athlete and many moments from reporting on sports certainly shape how I view the world. Lately, many have asked my thoughts concerning Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen firing long-time coach Mike Shanahan. My answer? I was shocked.

I try and stay away from using absolute words like “never, always, perfect” but I NEVER thought Bowlen would remove Shanahan. I thought the two-time Super Bowl champion coach had a life-long deal with the Broncos.

But I think it’s a great example of what the Comeback Coach emphasizes during Run to Daylight presentations. Sometimes in life, “we must be limited only by our imagination, not our fears, in creating productive choices to the challenges we face. We must put fear and self doubt aside and go for it, run to daylight.”

The Broncos owner looked at his franchise and saw the following: three straight seasons without a playoff appearance; an underachieving defense; fans becoming more disgruntled. Juxtaposing those truths was the fact Bowlen really likes Shanahan; the two had made a great team in leading the Broncos franchise for many years. But Bowlen knew he needed to do something and that something ultimately was firing a man, who in many ways was almost like a brother to the Canadian-born owner.

Having the courage to make decisions that force you from your comfort zone, easy to think and talk about considering, but much more difficult to execute, right? But it’s an example of how effective leaders occasionally must respond. And guess what? This is true whether we’re talking about a football team, your personal life, something at work or an issue in your community.

The venues change but the leadership strategy does not. Change can be difficult but “quite often once the dust settles and the pain subsides we realize change brings things into our lives worth keeping no matter what.”

Where might it be time for you to muster the courage to say, “This is not working right and must change!” Where’s it time to take that leap of faith into the great unknown, limited only by your imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenges you face?

Take a cue from the Broncos’ Bowlen. Saddle up the horses you gotta trail to blaze.

“We Gotta Be Brave”

I was sitting in a Denver coffee shop catching up with a long-time friend who had fashioned a successful career in television news. She had risen from local reporter to national correspondent but had also seen the challenging side in losing a high-profile national position because of corporate downsizing. The devoted wife and mother was in transition wondering, “What’s going to happen next?”

As we chatted about friends and stories from our shared past, the Minnesota-born colleague mentioned reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She was in New Orleans a few months after the devastating storm. It was just days before Halloween 2005 and this faithful woman was assigned to discover how children of the storm were coping with the awful memories of their loved ones, friends, homes and schools being washed away. “I was talking with a darling girl who was maybe eight or nine,” my friend recounted. “She was content sleeping on the floor of her mother’s workplace, that was okay. What bothered this young New Orleans native more was Halloween and the scary ghosts and goblins who would be roaming the streets.”

My friend continued, “This big-eyed and beautiful child when describing how to deal with the fear of Halloween night, and all the ghosts and goblins, shouted out in a thick Cajun accent, “I just gotta be brave!”

Hearing that incredible story made me think of what the Comeback Coach encourages others during each and every Run to Daylight presentation: We have to put fears and self-doubt aside and have the courage to go for it – run to daylight. It’s absolutely critical for success in life to follow this young girl’s example: “We gotta be brave!”

Fear versus courage, the great battle waged within ourselves each day in deciding whether to take action in the pursuit of becoming superior to our former selves at home, work or community. It’s the challenge that’s been before mankind forever. 400 years ago, William Shakespeare stated: “Our doubts are traitors that make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”

Thanks to a transitioning reporter sharing a young girl’s story, we have a great reminder of something very important: Don’t let fear get in the way of your dreams, instead remember courage is the soul of your dreams. “We gotta be brave” in facing the ghosts and goblins of our past in the pursuit of dreams and goals of our future.
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