Monday, September 28, 2009

"Set Me Free"

Whenever I have a chance to write, or speak, about effectively dealing with change, challenge and adversity, the message always includes this thought: “be limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenges we face.”

It’s my belief that type of attitude is the key to success to whatever ails us: at home, work or community. We have to put fear and self doubt aside, and as the Comeback Coach likes to say “allow wonderment to win.”

That’s an accurate description of the attitude a busload of men took with them recently while heading from Denver to Sterling, Colorado. These men – I was invited to join them - shared many traits: faith, membership in the same church, passion to help other men and past experiences. Moments in life that, except for grace or luck, would have had them inside our destination: the Sterling Correctional Facility where more than 2,500 men are “in the joint” for crimes against humanity.

A powerful moment was early in the visit, when one of the offenders asked our group, “Who are you and what inspired you to drive 100 miles to visit with us?” That question unleashed a torrent of honesty from more than a dozen men about addictions and challenges – usually centered on alcohol, drugs or lust – that, again, for whatever reason, grace or luck, had us inside the walls with, clipped on our shirts, a pass to freedom.

I shared my story of a severe head injury ending a promising athletic career. I also shared about deciding to drown my sorrow in booze and many nights of having no clue, or recollection, of how I navigated a car home safely from the college hangouts. It was not until a few years later when I went back to graduate school and earned a master’s degree in journalism and began my sportscasting career that I truly regained a focus and purpose for life. I was struck by the irony of it all: Human beings, you, me and others usually have challenges and addictions that have us feeling like we’re “locked up” with no escape, whether we’re physically incarcerated or, mentally and emotionally, prisoners of our minds.

What’s your prison? Are fear and self-doubt hijacking your dreams? My thoughts are interrupted by a voice from the facility’s loudspeaker: “Time for the 11:15 headcount!” Time. In prison it’s always about time: headcount, chow, yard and lockdown.

Perhaps it’s also time, in our lives, to break free from the incarceration we’ve created via thoughts, words and actions that don’t honor us, nurture those dependent upon us and add value to the communities we serve. Where’s it time to go before the parole board of your mind and say, “Set me free!”

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Trust is Key"

It was troubling, at least for me, to see the bickering that preceded President Obama’s message to our nation’s school children about the importance of working hard in school, graduating and becoming productive contributors to our society.

I think it exposes a deeper challenge to our nation’s future than improving the achievement scores, graduation rates and career/educational opportunities for our nation’s youth. Without question these challenges are real, but the backlash to the president’s chat with our children also, in my opinion, exposes something equally dangerous: the lack of trust prevalent in America today.

And trust me, when trust goes out the window, there is little hope anything worthwhile can be accomplished. Think about it, what’s usually the first thing that dooms a relationship? Somebody acts in a way that violates the trust that is the very essence of intimacy, whether romantic, professional or societal. Once trust erodes, fear and doubt permeates the foundation. It is weakened, vulnerable to collapse. What good comes from operating from fear and doubt? Little, if any, I would suggest.

Trust is the key. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking success in a marriage, business, athletic team or the leader of the free world encouraging children to realize the importance and responsibility of education.

In each and every Run to Daylight presentation, as the Comeback Coach, I encourage others to focus on three things that help trust thrive. After all, when talking about trust, we can only control ourselves, right? I can’t do a darn thing – except being trustworthy myself - that will make you more trustworthy, right? It starts and ends with me – and you, and everybody else. The three traits are – daily - do only things that honor you, nurture those dependent upon you and add value to the communities you serve.

That’s being trustworthy, defined as “worthy of trust, reliable.” Where might it be time for you to become more trustworthy - at home, work or community? Where is it time to really step forward and be a person of your word? Someone others can trust? Defined as “a firm belief in the reliability or truth of a person or thing?”

When the motives of our president, when encouraging our children about education, are questioned, it speaks volumes about how mistrustful our nation has become. It’s paralyzing progress! Trust is the key. Without it, we’re doomed – at home, work and community - to failure with nobody but ourselves to blame. This week be part of the solution. Be trustworthy at all times.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Curious not Callous"

I’m a huge fan of social networking. It’s an amazing way to connect with others on so many levels: business and personal. I really enjoy reading what others are up to as they “post” information on their personal page.

Recently a long-time colleague from my sportscasting days posted: “I’m so glad my daughter convinced me to go up on the roof with her and watch the Perseid Meteor shower. It was amazing.” The celestial light show, with 100 shooting stars an hour, occurs once a year as the earth passes through a trail of dust and ice particles. It happened in early August this year.

Anyway, the joy and wonderment exuding from this wonderful father and newsman’s posting reminded me of what is discussed frequently during Run to Daylight presentations: the importance of allowing wonderment to win. It’s not easy sometimes with all the demands on our time. It’s so easy to say “no” to something because the benefit does not seem worth the effort.

But, in my opinion, quite often if we make the effort to say “Why not?” pretty cool stuff appears in our world. In my first book, Kids Teach the Darndest Things, I wrote about such an instance: It was several years ago, my daughter was eight or nine, and had just received many gift cards for Christmas. On a Sunday, she wanted to visit a nearby mall to cash in the cards. But it was a Broncos’ Sunday and her old man – me – was determined to park himself on the comfy couch and watch some football. Rachel won that debate.

So we head off to the mall, daughter quite excited, Dad bummed out. We hit almost every store in the place that caters to kids. On the verge of a meltdown – I’ve run three marathons but shopping for more than a few minutes is torture! – we entered the final store. I sat in a chair, whining to anyone within earshot, about having to miss the Broncos game for this!

Finally, my daughter announces, “Dad, it’s time to go.” We head toward the back of the store to pay when my mood shifted dramatically. The clerk was folding a t-shirt Rachie had purchased. Across the front of the shirt in huge letters it proclaimed, “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

This week, keep a curious, not callous, attitude toward life. Say yes when everything inside of you is screaming no. Beautiful experiences might be right around the corner, or up on the roof, to remind you how cool life can be.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Last Chance Harvey's Lesson"

It was another one of those perfect Friday evenings: take-out barbecue, snuggling with my darling girlfriend and watching a movie. We enjoyed "Last Chance Harvey" starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.

The story is a message of redemption, defined as “to make up for deficiencies or inadequacies.” In this case, it was Harvey’s – played by Hoffman – deficiencies and inadequacies as a father that led to many painful experiences, culminating when his daughter gets married. Add some unfortunate news professionally, and it was not a good time in Harvey’s life. But then a series of serendipitous events occur and…you gotta watch the flick to learn the rest!

What happens at the end is an excellent example of the Comeback Coach’s message during Run to Daylight presentations, when talking about effectively dealing with change and adversity: “Quite often, once the dust settles and the pain subsides we realize change bring things into our lives worth keeping no matter what.”

For me, it’s been head injury, divorces, corporate restructuring that, unexpectedly, forced me to adjust on the fly and head in another direction. In retrospect, each was quite painful at the time, but “once the dust settled and the pain subsided” each also created space in my life professionally and personally for wonderful blessings to appear.

In the film, the same thing happens to Harvey. Just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, life changed dramatically in a good way. The point is this: Don’t live in the past! No doubt, there are challenges in your life right now. They might be physical, emotional and/or financial. Where they originate really doesn’t matter. The important question is, “What are you going to do about it?”

Harvey, with a big assist from a friend played by Emma Thompson, was able to let go of the past. He was able to remember: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s but a mystery, today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” Whatya’ say we take advantage of the present? Right here, right now, let’s open up that space of possibility that lies within each of us to shift from what “is” to what “could be.”

"Last Chance Harvey" is a movie, fictitious. But the film’s message resonates with truth about a key to success in life: maintaining a belief, despite what presently exists, that, when you least expect it – if you keep trying and don’t give up - life’s lemons can be transformed into – the heck with lemonade - sweet and savory margaritas.
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