Saturday, December 25, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Our Life Stocking"

It was a rare Saturday in December when there wasn’t a holiday party to attend. There was one scheduled for the evening, at my darling girlfriend’s house, but I wasn’t invited. No, this was her annual “girls only” gathering and I was told to stay away.

The day was spent holiday shopping, writing, working out, running errands before heading to Longmont, Colorado, 25 miles north of Denver, to check in on an old buddy of mine. We first met years ago when his company sponsored a hole at a golf tournament where I was also a participant. By random chance I ended up being their “celebrity” member of the group. We had a blast that day and have been good buddies ever since.

The Peoria, Illinois native has always been a dreamer. I like that a lot about him. He’s built several successful companies and always seems to have another idea waiting in the wings. He does a nice job of, as I like to say in Pep Talks, “putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win.”

But like all of us, the entrepreneur is not perfect. He has talked for the past year about writing his first book. Finally, after twelve months, we’re seeing some action. It’s my pleasure to occasionally make the short trip north and encourage the process. “Just start dumping” is what I usually tell him in trying to get his life story out of his brain and into, at least initially, a computer.

Evening was descending upon the day as we sat in the back of his retail shop and talked about jumpstarting his dream. In uncharacteristic fashion for this energetic father and husband, he’s allowed fear and self-doubt to dominate courage and wonderment. He’s been reluctant to start something healthy and productive that consumes a lot of his thoughts. Ever been there? I sure have.

So often in life we battle ourselves when it comes to chasing dreams and goals. We think constantly about something but do little, or nothing, about it. I believe two culprits hold us back: self doubt and ridicule. Our brains tell us, “you might fail” and our brain also tells us, if we share the idea, for validation, with someone else they might have a wide-eyed look of, “Are you crazy?” We trapped in this vice, created by our brain, between self-doubt and potential ridicule. It’s a lousy location when your spirit inside is saying, “go for it!”

It’s the holiday season of 2010, time to think of meaningful gifts for others. What about giving a gift to self this year? How about the gift of courage winning the, almost daily, battle against self-doubt and potential ridicule?

Courage. Self doubt. Ridicule. This holiday season may you unwrap the blessings of the first choice: courage. It’s a gift. The other two are limiting beliefs we must try our best to keep from slipping into our life stockings.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "The Best We Possess"

It’s that time of year again, the holiday season and its tsunami of greeting cards arriving daily. I do love the yearly chronicles many friends send at this time. I must admit to being terrible about making the time and taking the effort to send holiday greeting cards. I can’t remember the last time – probably when I was a married man a decade ago – that I’ve sent anything to anybody. I promise though, I’m not a Scrooge.

Recently I was opening various cards that had arrived during the week. I rip open one from a buddy who is veteran of the human resource world. An entrepreneur, he’s built a fine career and always sends cards, not just at Christmas, but many other holidays.

This year’s card did not recite events of the past twelve months. Instead it listed eight thoughts about life. You have probably heard them before but it never hurts to be reminded occasionally, right? Each on its own, and certainly all collectively, help us play like champions – home, work and elsewhere. Allegedly they come from a sign hung on the wall of a children’s home in Calcutta, India. They are excerpted from Mother Teresa’s book, A Simple Path:

· People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered – Love them anyway
· If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives – Do good anyway.
· If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies – Succeed anyway.
· The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow – Do good anyway.
· Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable – Be honest and frank anyway.
· What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight – Build anyway.
· People really need help but may attack you if you help them – Help people anyway.
· Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth – Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

What a great list! But, let’s be honest. It’s easy for me to read it, easy for you to affirm it, but when times get tough and we have to LIVE that list? Easier said than done.

To love unconditionally; to never grow weary of doing good; to strive constantly for success; to be unfazed when good deeds go unnoticed; to be honest and frank; to realize “stuff” happens that can wipe out all the hard work; to realize some fear help and reject it. Living with a mindset where wonderment defeats fear does leave us susceptible to bumps and bruises to the mind, body and spirit. Hey, it’s life.

The simple act of opening a holiday greeting card reminds me of the importance of being a student, not victim, of life’s experiences. It’s not easy, we get kicked in the teeth more often than we’d like but let’s always encourage – give hope and confidence to - each other to keep on offering the world no less than the best we possess anyway!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Do Your Best"

It was one of those Saturday afternoons in the Mile High City that makes you give thanks for living in the Centennial State: late November but the sun is warm, the breeze cool and the sky a blazing blue – it’s beautiful.

I have removed more leaves from the gutters, winterized the sprinkler system and swept the garage. It’s time for a beer so I wander, with cold beverages in hand, down the street to my neighbor’s to provide hydration while he takes respite from a project of his own. Teamwork, it’s the key to success.

The conversation centers on Denver Broncos’ head coach Josh McDaniels. The young coach, after starting undefeated through six games a year ago, was now the subject of much criticism and ultimately, would be fired for winning just five and losing 17 since the great start. As a sports talk show host in the Mile High City, trust me, many were grumbling the Ohio native, a Bill Belichek protégé in New England, was not the right guy for the beloved Broncos.

My buddy, between swigs of brew, states, “There are certain horses for certain courses.” I had never heard that phrase before and it just about knocked my socks off. Ain’t that the truth? So often in life we make decisions that initially appear to be quite good. But then over time, it becomes apparent that we’ve got the wrong horse for the course; or vice versa, we’ve got the wrong course for the horse.

We’re left wondering, “What the heck is going on around here!” These thoughts might be revolving around a deteriorating or destroyed marriage, job, health or whatever. We have that sudden, or perhaps gradual, realization, “this isn’t working.” It’s a lousy spot to be.

Then the question becomes, “What to do about this predicament?” My goodness, when we’re talking about making decisions dramatically affecting relationships, professions and health, a lot of soul searching, with its inherent battle between fear and wonderment, comes along for the ride. I want to say, “Choose wonderment” but realize that’s too vague.

Perhaps this is better. When it comes to answering the question about “horse and course” or “course and horse” let’s try, when thinking about making a change, to remember the three-way test: Does what I’m contemplating honor me? Nurture those dependent upon me? Add value to the communities I serve? If you hit the “yes” trifecta on that test – go for it. While there’s no guarantee of success, you run this race against adversity without blinders, with little need for a corrective whip and a sense of accomplishment at the finish line of something very important: The satisfaction of knowing you did your best.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Worth the Effort"

Recently my son and I were driving home from a “watch party” for the Colorado/Nebraska football game. We were listening to post-game comments of the Huskers’ convincing win over the Buffs in their final Big 12 battle before each departs, respectively, for the Big Ten and Pac 12 conferences.

Over the radio, CU’s interim head coach Brian Cabral, who had led the Buffs to impressive wins over Iowa State and Kansas State since replacing Dan Hawkins, was talking about his chances of earning the job permanently. He mentioned that yes, he wants the job, but, “It is really out of my control at this point.”

As we drove quietly toward home, with the sun disappearing along the Centennial State’s purple mountain majesty known as the Front Range, Cabral’s “it’s really out of my control” statement permeated my marrow. It made me think of the Serenity Prayer that starts with: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

I first heard the prayer years ago while attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings in support of a family member struggling with alcohol abuse. It’s one of those, at least in my opinion, “simple to say and affirm, but not easy to execute” kind of statements. The prayer is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian of the early-to-mid 20th century, who admits, “It may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I honestly believe I wrote it myself.”

The serenity to accept things we cannot change. Wow, two painful divorces, I fought hard to avoid, immediately come to mind. Each marriage produced an amazing child. Each divorce rocked their world. But with time as the great healer, this unwanted and unexpected journey has become a blessing in bringing a wonderful woman into my life. Son and daughter, now almost 21 and 14, adore her too. Along with my kids’ respective mothers and their new families we joke, “We put the fun in dysfunction.”

All joking aside, I do struggle with how divorce may affect the kids’ thoughts of relationships. I hope and pray my behavior in dealing with life’s disappointments – home, work and elsewhere – will always be an example to them of, as I wrote about in my third book, “turning lemons – heck with lemonade – into sweet and savory margaritas.”

Learning to accept the things we cannot change. Brian Cabral cannot change the disappointing outcome of a game where victory probably would have guaranteed him the job as CU’s next football coach. I can’t change two divorces, you can’t change – fill in the blank.

What we can change is perspective concerning life’s challenges. Let’s vow to encourage one another to never grow weary of being students, not victims, of our experiences. It takes courage and wisdom but is so worth the effort.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Reliable & Trustworthy"

At this time of year we pause and, collectively as a nation, give thanks. One that comes immediately to mind for me are wonderful neighbors who reside in my Congress Park neighborhood of Denver. For instance, my alley neighbors will frequently call and say, “Hey Mac, you left your garage door open.” This wonderful couple and their two children have lived directly across the alley since I moved in 16 years ago. I’ll never forget the first time we met.

I had pulled into the garage, jumped from the car and rushed into the house to retrieve – can’t remember what - something important. Well, I forgot to put the car in park. In the brief moment I was inside, it rolled out of my garage, across the alley and blasted into their garage door, destroying it. I had to knock on their front door, introduce myself and pronounce, “I just demolished your garage door.” The father, an attorney, with a wide grin on his face, cracked, “Thanks, I’ve wanted a new door for quite some time.”

Over the years we have shared many visits. They’re usually on weekends as we clean out those garages or happen to, simultaneously, arrive or depart via them. We occasionally have dinner and it’s been a joy to watch their two children mature.

I recently attended their son’s Bar Mitzvah. First, let me say, I love attending this Jewish tradition of welcoming a young man, or in the case of a Bat Mitzvah, young woman, into adulthood and its possibilities and responsibilities. The music, energy and love present – very cool. My alley neighbors’ son did a magnificent job of reading the Torah and then, during what’s called the “D’var Torah”, giving his interpretation of the reading– a life lesson to share with those gathered.

The middle-school student talked about trust. In reading the Torah, he told the story of Isaac, wife Rebekah and their two sons Esau and Jacob. At one point in their family history, betrayal changed their lives forever. The 13-year-old was reminding everyone the importance of trust, defined as, “firm belief in the reliability or truth of a person or thing.”

I sat there in admiration of this handsome soccer enthusiast; once a baby, then a cute little kid with the longest eye lashes you’ve ever seen and now, on his big day, a young man accepting responsibilities for his actions and encouraging us to do the same!

Ladies and gentlemen, without trust in one another we have nothing. This week, wherever we roam – home, work and elsewhere – let’s be reliable in ways that honor, nurture and add value to the communities we serve, okay?

Later, at a beautiful celebratory luncheon, I shook this young man’s hand and said “Thanks” for the reminder about the value of being reliable and trustworthy. Kids, they teach the darndest things don’t they? Shalom.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Deeds and Words"

It was a recent Sunday morning in the Mile High City: a good workout behind me, reading the Denver Post and watching the Broncos host the Kansas City Chiefs in front of me on this chilly mid-November day. I go to Facebook to see what the heck’s happening in the world.

I notice my former wife has posted pictures of our precious daughter. They’re pictures from a while back, before the teen years. Looking at the pictures, my mind wanders to an earlier time, the time of these pictures, when that same daughter arrived home from school, threw her backpack on the kitchen counter and headed off toward her bedroom.

I began to sift through the pack for the school’s “Wednesday Envelope.” Back in the days before mass email communication, this envelope was the school’s weekly link with parents. As I pulled the packet from the pack, I notice another crumpled slip of paper toward the bottom of the backpack. I straightened it out. It was obviously from the weekly children’s Mass held Wednesdays during school hours. It was a poem apparently meant for the kids during the service, it read:

“We are writing our gospel a chapter a day, by the deeds that we do, words that we say; others will read what we write, determine whether it’s faithful and true; what’s the gospel according to you.”

I was impressed and read it again, and again. It then dawned on me that really, we all are writing our gospel - our story - a chapter a day by the deeds that we do, words that we say. Others – home, work and elsewhere – will read what we write, determine whether it’s faithful and true; what’s the gospel, what’s the story, according to us?

Let’s take some inventory. What does our story look like right now? Is it one that honors us, nurtures those dependent upon us and adds value to the communities we serve? If the answer is yes, great; if not, what are we doing to make sure the next chapter embraces that honor, nurture and add value script?

Life is full of unexpected and unwanted twists and turns. We all know that, right? What is the great unknown is how will we react when the storms of life threaten to batter our bodies, brains or bank accounts.

A Sunday morning glance at Facebook and seeing pictures of my daughter takes me back to a backpack story that inspired my first book Kids Teach the Darndest Things: Life Lessons from Our Little Ones.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are writing our gospel – our story – a chapter a day. It boils down to a few basic things. Life is simple, not easy. The deeds we do and the words we say, let’s make sure they’re good ones, okay?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Digest and Pass It On"

I recently attended a farewell party for a special guy. We used to have breakfast together consistently before schedules, illnesses and life’s other stuff interrupted our routine. This wonderful gentleman, Jerry, and his darling bride Normadeene, are in their advancing years. They are moving south to Arizona. I’ll miss them a lot.

I’ll never forget many of our moments, but one especially stands out. We were having breakfast and sharing thoughts when the former University of Illinois Fighting Illini team chaplain kicked his oratory skills into high gear.

When Dr. Jerry Gibson gets fired up about something over breakfast, it’s time to be on high alert. His enthusiasm for God and the topic of discussion whips him into frenzy. The wonderful soul often projects whatever’s being consumed - eggs, sausage and biscuits usually - toward his eating companion. Despite having to dodge food occasionally, I love his passion.

Anyway, on this day we were talking about the importance of, as I like to say in Pep Talks, “putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win” when the octogenarian proclaims: “Mark, when it comes to having the courage to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win, we could learn from turtles!” The long-time pastor’s eyes were ablaze. I smiled back and said, “Come on man, what the heck are you talking about, we could learn from turtles?”

His response knocked me back in the booth: “Think about it, a turtle doesn’t make any progress until it STICKS ITS NECK OUT!” Ain’t that the truth? Quite often, when life has tossed lemons our way and we’re sitting there wondering, “What the heck is going on here?” we begin to withdraw into our respective shells. We allow fears and self-doubts to hijack dreams and goals.

Please remember to not allow fear to get in the way of your dreams. No, instead remember courage is the soul of your dreams. Where’s it time for you to stick your neck out? At home, work or elsewhere? Where is it time to be limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenges you face?

This week, let’s display a picture of a turtle in a prominent place where it’s seen constantly. It will remind us of a simple, but not easy, truth: most often in life, to get where we want to go, we gotta stick our necks out and, in pursuit of dreams and goals, risk failure, ridicule and scorn.

Jerry’s advice, unlike the projected food, hit its mark. I hope you digest and pass it on.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Sound the Alarm"

It’s one of those Saturdays a middle-aged dude enjoys: awaken next to beautiful significant other who, during a pre-dawn gentle goodbye kiss, sarcastically mutters, “It’s the weekend, you can sleep.”

Later, as dawn awakens, connect with wonderful friends at the gym; complete errands, including mailing a copy of Lemons into Margaritas to a buddy who wants his son to read it; haircut with Jackie, who has sheared my locks for about 15 years and finally back home.

By now, afternoon has arrived and I’m parked on the couch, cold beer in hand and watching alma mater Missouri getting blown out early against Nebraska on the road. My brother from another mother, neighbor Lou Lazo, is keeping me company.

While watching the game, Mr. Lazo and I are talking about the current state of our nation. He offers, “We have become a nation that values ideology more than intellect.”

It’s one of those “knock my socks off” kinda statements. Obviously there will be many who will say, “That’s crazy.” But for a few moments, let’s consider that statement, “valuing ideology more than intellect”, is true.

Would it be wise - home, work or elsewhere – for us to ever believe ideology is more important than intellect? Let’s take a look at the definitions of each, okay?

Ideology is defined, according to the Oxford American dictionary, as “the principle ideas and beliefs characterizing a particular group.” Meanwhile, intellect is defined as “the mind’s power of reasoning and acquiring knowledge.”

It seems to me, but I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, it would be more productive to be of person of reason and dedicated to acquiring knowledge, than a person professing unshakable belief in a group’s ideas and beliefs.

Why? Because, for me, the question becomes, “What if the ideas and beliefs of the group you pledge allegiance to – ideology – are ineffective and the smart thing – intellect - to do is exercise reason, acquire knowledge and improve?

Become, as I like to say in each and every Pep Talk, “superior to our former selves in ways that honor us, nurture those dependent upon us and add value to the communities – home, work and elsewhere – we serve?”

Which leads to the final question: Why would we ever adhere to old beliefs our collective souls tell us no longer work instead of embracing a new frontier? I think, just my opinion, it’s because we’ve accepted, as okay, a complacent attitude toward the value of learning.

When we lose a passion for learning, it’s time to sound the alarm. When the desire to learn is lost, nobody wins.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "I Can"

I was recently enjoying a business meeting with a guy about my age when he told a story that just about knocked my socks off. His name is Chris Pentico, everybody calls him “ChrisP.” The Colorado native has experienced adversity in life, including surviving a small-plane crash, and is a fan of the weekly Pep Talks. He also thinks your humble encourager should run for president in 2012. He even printed up some “McIntosh in 2012: Common Ground” bumper stickers. Let me know if you want one.

Anyway, the father of three wonderful daughters, and the man who brags about marrying well above his head, was a good athlete in his earlier years. His dream was to play collegiate football and baseball at the University of Houston.

He had a baseball coach there who, in ChrisP’s opinion, “was one of the greatest motivators ever.” One of the coach’s most powerful motivational tools was simply, a can.
Yes, just a plain can that always sat on the coach’s desk. It was a constant reminder to the mentor and the players who visited his office of something very important in life – belief in self.

It was just a can but it stood for “I can.” So often in life we get into challenging situations testing our fortitude, defined as “courage in the face of pain or misfortune.” We want to give up, toss in the white towel, surrender, call it what you want. It’s at those moments when an “I can” can could make a great difference.

It sure did in the life of many University of Houston baseball players who would wake up on certain mornings, during challenging times – on and off the diamond – and find an “I can” resting on their dormitory doorknob. It was reminder to the players that the coach had their backs and believed in them.

I want to challenge each of you this week. Get yourself an “I can” and stick it somewhere visible to you each day. Also get another “I can” and put it on the doorknob of someone you cherish who might need a little encouragement – hope and confidence – right now.

And there’s one more thing you need to do. Put a little note inside the can asking the person for some of their time so you can explain - and convince them you’re not crazy - placing a can on their doorknob.

This exercise makes me think of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great philosopher of the 1800’s who once proclaimed: “It’s one of the most beautiful compensations in life; no man, or woman, can sincerely try and help another without helping themselves; serve and thou shall be served.”

To steal a line from Nike, “just do it.” Together, utilizing the “I can” can we can make a difference in the lives of others. Nobody will benefit more than us.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Give a Hoot"

I had a female recently unsubscribe from the weekly Pep Talk distribution list proclaiming - I’m paraphrasing - “I could give a hoot about football, don’t bore me with it.” The fact the word “football” had not appeared in the recent “Simple, not Easy” means little in comparison to her disdain.

So, I promise, this Pep Talk is not about sports, but starts with a sports story. It’s about life and trying our best to add value to home, work and elsewhere. It was the Colorado Rockies at St. Louis Cardinals on the final Saturday of the 2010 baseball regular season. The teams, each expecting post-season appearances, had been eliminated from playoff contention and were playing out the string. Often, these meaningless games are a good opportunity for coaches, general managers and fans to see which players truly love the game and who, once there’s little to play for, like my female critic mentioned earlier, could give a hoot!

Anyway, it was a close game. The Rockies’ Ubaldo Jimenez, already with the club single-season stikeout record in his back pocket, was trying to win his 20th game - a respected baseball milestone.

About halfway through the scoreless affair, play comes to a halt, for good reason: to honor a great man, Cardinal Hall-of-Famer Stan Musial. 89 years young and looking damn good, the three-time world champion slugger known as “Stan the Man” finished his career with around 3,600 hits, close to 500 homers and was a 24-time All Star in 22 seasons. What you ask, “How can you be a 24-time All-Star in 22 seasons? Long ago, they played two All-Star games each summer.

Anyway, the television play-by-play announcer, as viewers see a picture of everybody in the stands waving to the icon from a golf cart circling the field states: “This great man is a recipient of the Medal of Freedom and will receive it soon from president Obama.”

The most honorable thing that can ever be bestowed upon an American citizen is the Medal of Freedom. You are an American stud or studette – case closed. That’s the story of the Pennsylvania-born Musial. The “Medal of Freedom” mention takes me to Whitney Young. I talk about his guy often when somebody gives me the great joy of standing before a crowd and encouraging them with a Pep Talk.

Young was a military, civil rights and family leader who, in 1971, drowned on an overseas business outing. Two years earlier, and emerging as a promising national leader, President Johnson awarded the Kentucky native the Medal of Freedom.

Young’s life motto was: “There’s nothing noble in being superior to somebody else, true nobility lies in becoming superior to our former selves.” Damn, I love that! A baseball game halted to honor a legend takes us to “superior to our former selves.” Would it be fair to suggest, another way of saying “superior to our former selves” is “there’s always room for improvement?”

And then it gets better. In looking up Medal of Freedom history, I run across the requirements: “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

It then inspires me to encourage you to consider something: How about each of us this week, in our thoughts, words and actions decide we’re going to focus on making an especially meritorious contribution to the security or interests of home, work and community?

Let’s be honest, the odds of ever being awarded a Medal of Freedom are slim, but we can contribute – play like champions - to the security and interests of our homes, business and communities, can’t we? I know, it ain’t easy. That’s why it’s darn important to encourage one another. Encourage defined as, “give hope and confidence to.”

Do that this week. While walking your talk, reach out to somebody and give them hope and confidence to act likewise. In comparison to a disgruntled Pep Talk subscriber, give a hoot, okay?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Salutations to Seuss"

Whenever given the opportunity of speaking before a group and encouraging others, despite what arrives unexpected and unwanted, to try our best to turn life’s lemons – the heck with lemonade – into sweet and savory margaritas, we always talk about the importance of “being limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenge we face.” I know that might sound incredibly naïve and idealistic, but here’s a real life example that exemplifies that truth.

I have recently learned about a young man who was attending a prestigious Ivy League university. He ran into trouble with the school’s administration when he and some buddies were caught drinking in their college dorm. As punishment, administrators forced the aspiring writer to resign from all university extra-curricular activities, including working for the campus humor magazine. It was a devastating blow. But remember, as stated before, sometimes in life we must, “be limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenges we face.”

Raised in Springfield, Massachusetts - the birthplace of basketball among other things – the spirit of this son of German immigrants knew no boundaries. He began to write, and contribute to, the humor magazine under a pen name that made him sound important – doctor – and utilized his middle name - Seuss.

The rest is history. Theodor Seuss Geisel, before passing at the age of 87 in 1991, became an American icon. You know his work well: Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Dartmouth University, the Ivy League school where, during Prohibition, he was caught drinking in the dorm, has a cool way of honoring one of its most distinguished alums. Incoming freshman always take a camping trip together - a unifying event. On their return to campus, the Dartmouth rookies overnight at a New Hampshire lodge where, the next morning, green eggs and ham are served for breakfast.

Theodor Seuss Geisel faced adversity – getting booted off the campus humor magazine – and decided to be limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenge he faced – a passion to continue to write for that publication.

Each of us has unique challenges. And while the challenges are unique, guess what? The strategy to deal with them remains the same! We must - I know it’s easier said than done - put fear aside and allow wonderment to win. To steal a line from Dr. Seuss, when talking about the wisdom of putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win: “"If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Common Ground is Key"

I was reading the Denver Post on a recent Sunday afternoon when a letter to the editors caught me eye:

“Our national ‘dialogue’ is dominated by self-important agendas meant to set aside others and their concerns and needs. Call me crazy and perhaps naïve, but wouldn’t we be a lot better off by putting all the energy into finding common ground?”

The writer, Kelsey Kenfield from Denver, is somebody I want - as former CU football coach Bill McCartney would say - “to charge out of the foxhole with.” Common ground. Is it fair to call it “teamwork?” It’s stressed everywhere: our families, schools, neighborhoods, businesses and athletic teams. Why in the heck have we lost track, it’s a universal truth? We must work together to solve what ails us. I know, simple, not easy.

For example, two issues surrounding life in America needing immediate attention are education and immigration. Our schools are financially strapped and our immigration policies in desperate need of enforcement and revision. Whenever I have the honor of standing before a group and encouraging them to play like champions in the game of life we always talk about “believing in the law of circulation; that one good deed leads to another.”

In the context of education and immigration, how about this idea: We finally get Congress to pass new immigration policies providing excellent security at our borders, a reasonable pathway to citizenship and a promise, from those applying, to the following: “work hard at your job, obey the law and encourage school-age children in your home to embrace the value of education and fluency of English as their primary language.” In other words, The United States of America sets expectations for those who desire a new start in our country. In return, the path to citizenship would be through a front door, not the back and its dangerous pitfalls.

Returning to Kenfield’s thoughts expressed in the Post about “common ground” and the importance of it, could this be a step in the right direction? America sets the expectation, those seeking admittance accept, the door is open, come on in. It’s really no different than successful strategies for raising kids, building businesses and safe neighborhoods: we find common ground, set expectations and expect cooperation. When that doesn’t happen, there are consequences.

Finding common ground, setting expectations and expecting cooperation are excellent building blocks for success – anywhere! It boils down to this: are we willing to sacrifice self – costs a little –for the betterment of the common good – means a lot? Like Kenfield, I’ve been called crazy and naïve before, but if you ask me, when a majority of folks answer “yes” to questions about common ground, expectations and cooperation, we’ll begin to make progress wherever we roam in America – home, work and elsewhere.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Beats being Bummed"

It was a spectacular Mile High City day of mid-September. I’m wandering around my near eastside Congress Park neighborhood: stopped into to see my buddies who own the grocery store; then a quick meeting with business partner just a few doors down and then, lunch with another buddy and his two darling daughters – neither would sit next to me and crammed into the booth next to their father. Am I really that scary?

I’m now strolling back to my modest abode, enjoying the warm sunshine, incredibly blue sky and perfect temperature – feeling very blessed. And then it gets better.

I bump into a neighbor friend whose mother, in her 80’s, is still very physically healthy but has some memory challenges. Those challenges make living in an assisted living facility a smart move for her and loved ones – folks like you - agonizing over the best strategy - independence or assistance – for their cherished creators, mentors and supporters.

“My mom rarely calls, but she called the other day,” says my neighbor friend, a great woman, wife and mom, “She was so jacked about their trip to the mountains.” Then my friend said something that made my marrow gurgle: “She sounded so joyful.”

Ah, music to my ears. Whenever I have the thrill of standing before a group and encouraging them to “run to daylight” and “turn life’s lemons into – the heck with lemonade – sweet and savory margaritas” we always talk about the importance of being “joyful for the blessings of our life.”

Now, I understand, that’s easier said than done. Quite often, when it seems like you’re up to your ass in crocodiles – I heard that often growing up in Missouri – and feel like lunch for the crocs, it’s damn tough to be focused on being “joyful.” I get it.

But we do have a choice. We can still, despite life’s lemons, be focused on the sweet and savory, the margaritas. It might be real hard to find them sometimes but they’re usually there. What we don’t know until we’re in that spot, is whether we will choose to focus on the challenge itself or perhaps, be focused on a solution. And sometimes the solution is to say, “Okay, I know I have this – fill in the blank – but I choose to refuse to allow it to have me.”

Focus on your blessings. Promise yourself to be a student of your experiences and not a victim of your circumstances. My neighbor’s mother is aging, forgetful and has other issues, but at least on this two-day getaway with others from her assisted living facility, she chose to be joyful.

It’s a good place to operate from. Whether it comes from walking around your neighborhood on a glorious day, remembering a great vacation or counting your blessings, being joyful sure beats being bummed out. Today, tomorrow and down the road - home, work and elsewhere.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Simple, not Easy"

I have had the great joy of returning to my sports roots for the past four months. It’s been a lot of fun. Each weekday afternoon from 3-6PM, along with Jimmy Doogan, I co-host sports talk radio on Mile High Sports, AM1510 and FM93.7. We call the show “Drive Time with Mac and Doog: Ain’t about us, it’s about YOU!”

We really try and focus on our listeners and give them a forum to express their opinion. Imagine, we’re all sitting around the bar talking sports, that’s the atmosphere we’re trying to create. Even when we have guests on the show we encourage our listeners to call in, with one caveat: considering our guests – players, coaches, analysts and others – are taking time from their busy schedules to join us, the least we, and our callers, can do when speaking with the guests is to, as we mention on the air, “Be nice and mind your manners.”

It’s a real basic request and everyone so far has honored the request, that’s pretty cool.

I wish to say I could take credit for thinking of this, but that wouldn’t be honest. I must give credit to my buddy Chester. My brother from another mother, we became good buddies during our college days at Mizzou and have stayed close ever since. At his family’s place in Crested Butte, Colorado, above the refrigerator is a sign that in large letters proclaims: “Be Nice and Mind Your Manners.”

I wonder if they have a sign like that in the halls of Congress? What about in our homes, workplaces, schools and elsewhere? Wouldn’t it be cool if, wherever we roam, it was emphasized to be “nice and mind your manners?”

I’m not saying we can’t have disagreement or discourse. I’m just saying can’t we exercise those important elements of society in a more civil manner than what seems to dominate these days. Do we really feel we must shout down another to be heard?

I think it all comes down to respect, for one another. We don’t have to always agree but my goodness, let’s debate our issues – home, work and elsewhere – in ways that honor, nurture and add value to self, others and the communities we serve, okay?

Be nice and mind our manners. It’s easy to say, and easy to affirm, far more difficult to execute, simple, not easy. A lot like life if you ask me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Supporting Aspirations"

It was one of those Friday nights on Fillmore that I cherish: wandered down to my neighbor’s for our customary beer and chat; walked two blocks to a fabulous neighborhood Italian restaurant for dinner at the bar while watching, with other fans, another Colorado Rockies’ baseball victory; strolling home, getting online and connecting with others via Facebook.

That’s a blissful Friday evening in my book. The online conversation centered on a Daily Dose of encouragement I had posted earlier that day: “Live in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan mutters, “Oh hell, she/he is awake!”

The statement, I post one each weekday morning, drew many comments and led to some engaging banter. One participant really caught me eye, a young woman, the first to respond with an “I love it” after the posting. I discovered she’s interning, for three months, at a Denver restaurant and dreams of becoming a great chef like Jennifer Jasinski, owner of two popular Mile High City restaurants.

Brittany Gresh jokingly said in our conversation, “Someday I hope you post something about a dish I cooked.” I immediately responded with: “Let me know when you’re ready. It would be an honor to support your aspirations.” After sending that message, “It would be an honor to support your aspirations” I began to ponder the word “aspiration” and looked it up in the dictionary. It’s defined as: “a strong desire or ambition.”

What do you have a strong desire or ambition for these days? I recently hosted a young man Ross Guignon who is a rising star in American junior tennis. He’s gearing up for his senior year in high school, being recruited by top-notch collegiate programs and has a father who is one of my “brothers from another mother.” They stayed at my home while the southpaw played in a tournament at the nearby Gates Tennis Center.

Ross Guignon has a strong desire and ambition to play championship tennis, that’s his aspiration. What about you? What gets your motor running these days? Does your strong desire and ambition honor, nurture and add value to your life?

Brittany Gresh and Ross Guignon, two young kids chasing dreams. We all have dreams, aspirations and strong desires. And guess what? We all need support in the pursuit of those aspirations. There are times when it’s, as former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney would say, “tough sledding.”

It’s in those moments where each of us can help. Let’s never grow weary of encouraging – give hope and confidence to – one another. Supporting aspirations, a very good thing to do in the kitchen, on the court, at home, work and elsewhere.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Angels Among Us"

It was last weekend, Labor Day 2010 and I’m blessed to be in the mountains with darling girlfriend and my two precious children. I’m just observing them together and feeling very lucky.

For whatever reason my mind wanders to an earlier time, back to last year’s holiday season when driving across the country with Kyle and Rachel. The journey started in New York City where “K-Man” had attended NYU. He was moving to Los Angeles to continue his studies and work full-time in the entertainment industry. His younger sister and I had flown into New York, rented a big SUV, packed up Kyle’s belongings and started our trek west.

Through three time zones and nine states we drove. We’re only 100 miles from Denver, and a brief respite from our travels, when, what had been a flawless trip hit an unexpected bump in the road. We ran out of gas!

“Dad!” the kids wondered, “How in the world could you run out of gas?” I didn’t have a good answer. “The fuel gauge said we had about 30 miles left in the tank” was my lousy excuse. I surveyed the situation: the waning daylight of late afternoon; 10 miles from the closest service station. There was an interstate exit about a quarter mile down the road. “I’m gonna run up to that exit and see if I can find somebody to help.”

I’m jogging along the shoulder of the interstate. Big trucks are whooshing by when something inside says, “stick your thumb out for help.” Right then a man driving a pickup truck, towing a trailer loaded with freshly cut hay, pulls over. He rolled down the window in a friendly way. I explain my predicament to Wayne. He was quite amused.

“How can you run out of gas here?” the part-time farmer wonders. He then noted his brother-in-law owns an auto repair shop at the nearby exit. A minute later we’re there. He jumps out, disappears for maybe two minutes before reappearing carrying a three-gallon can of fuel.

Less than ten minutes later, my kids are startled to see their old man’s quick return. Wayne, who happens to also be a Colorado Department of Transportation employee, pours the petrol into our tank. We’re back on the road and heading for home.

Whenever giving a Pep Talk to a group, I try and encourage others to never growing wearing of doing good things for others. It’s that “one good deed leads to another” philosophy. What are the odds of, within seconds of running out of gas, someone stopped, had a nearby source of fuel and possessed the willingness to help?

Wayne, I never caught his last name, is an angel among us. We can be that type of person too. Look around, be aware and never miss any opportunity to help another because when you least expect it – or deserve it in my case - that goodwill will bounce back in ways you would never imagine possible.

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Honesty and Courage's Offspring"

Last week I made you suffer through a weekly Pep Talk almost double the normal length. To compensate for my exuberant behavior, this encouraging short story will be brief.

I’m riding home with son, good buddy, the good buddy’s wife and daughter from a weekend in the mountains. I’m crammed between son and friend’s daughter in the sports sedan’s backseat. During a lull in the lively conversation, I’m reading more of David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, Truman.

The author is talking about a letter our nation’s 33rd president, Harry S. Truman, while still an impressionable young man, received in 1894 from his mother. The words are not hers, but those of her idol, General Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the Confederate Army during our country’s Civil War: “You must be frank with the world; frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted you mean to do right. Never do anything wrong to make a friend or keep one. A person requiring you to do so is dearly purchased at a sacrifice. Deal kindly, but firmly with all your classmates; you will find it the policy that wears best. Above all, do not appear to others what you are not.”

Harry S. Truman’s mother was a smart woman to share this with her son. We could all learn from the advice given to our country’s future president, then 10-years-old. Let’s embrace these 87 words as our guiding light, this week and forever. Share them with others. More important than sharing the value of frankness – the child of honesty and courage – is living it.

Again, say what you mean, act with honor, never comprise goodness to keep or attract a friend, deal kindly but firmly with others and above anything else, be authentic.

Many things change in life; fads come and go but, frankly, embracing those five character traits should never go out of style in our quest to play like a champion – home, work and elsewhere.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Pep Talk: "Parenting PEP Talk"

It was a typical weekend morning. I’m at the gym grunting, sweating and watching television. A commercial, “Colorado Dads”, appears on the screen. This program has been around since 2006 and tries to strengthen father/child relationships and improve parenting.

The commercial, slowly but surely, unveiled three strategies for men to become better fathers and parents; the first was patience. Defined as: “an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay” what a wonderful attribute, not only in mentoring kids, but in leading others – home, work and elsewhere, right? But it’s not always easy to exercise patience when observing a child, employee or athlete continue to make repeated mistakes. It’s important to remember patience is a virtue.

The next tip suggested fathers be “proud” of their children. I must admit to struggling sometimes with telling my kids their old man is “proud of them.” Instead, choosing to verbalize, “I admire what you’ve done” thinking “proud”, defined as “highly gratifying to the feelings or self esteem” seems more self-centered than “admire”, defined as, “to regard with wonder, pleasure and approval.”

What’s the best way to show our kids we are proud of them? How about encouraging them, in healthy and productive ways, to continue to chase activities, dreams and goals leading to others’ pride or admiration? There is not a better word in the English language – personal opinion – than “encourage” defined as: “to give hope and confidence to.”

While the huffing and puffing continued, my eyes were glued to the television and my mind to the message, as the commercial implored others and me to exercise patience and be proud. I thought, “The second strategy should be encourage” and waited, in shortness of breath, for the third and final tip. Since the first two had begun with a “P”, I knew the third would also. My mind cried out, “Present” while the screen flashed “Protect.”

The half-minute guessing game about better parenting was a nice respite from the necessary, but monotonous, workout. I was challenged, when it comes to parenting, to exhibit “patience, pride and protection.” I’d like to adjust that to: “patience, encouragement and presence.” You have to be present to be protective, right?

The commercial came and went long before the workout was complete but I left the gym with a startling realization: each week I create a Pep Talk video/blog encouraging others to play like a champion – home, work and elsewhere. But this message is the ultimate encouraging short story, or Pep Talk: When it comes to parenting, P-atience, E-ncouragement and P-resence form the acronym PEP. They should also, always, form the foundation of our dedication to kids, 25% of our population, 100% of our future.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Walk the Talk"

Now that football season is upon us, I can remember a Sunday afternoon last December, the undefeated Indianapolis Colts were defeating the spirited Denver Broncos to win a NFL record-setting 22nd consecutive regular season game. I’m watching the game, reading the newspaper when I get hit between the eyeballs by a story in PARADE magazine.

Written by David Baldacci, it’s a “catching-up-with” piece about our nation’s 41st president George Bush and his wife and former first lady, Barbara. First, after 65 years of marriage, you can tell they still love one another – good for them.

Bush’s legacy as commander-in-chief includes the Persian Golf War. U.S forces booted Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army from Kuwait. Some wonder why America didn’t stay and eliminate Hussein. I love Bush’s response: “We didn’t stay and chase down Hussein because I had given the coalition my word that we’d kick him out of Kuwait and go home. And we did.”

Any time I have the honor of encouraging others with a Pep Talk, we talk about the importance of being a person of your word. There’s an acronym I love to use that encourages others – and me – to live our lives with PRIDE. It stands for being “punctual, respectful, imaginative, dependable and enthusiastic”.

Being a person of your word falls nicely into respectful and dependable. It sure makes relationships more trustful. When we state, “I’m gonna do this or that” and actually do it – when and how we proclaim – good for us.

Folks, that’s not rocket science. It’s a necessary foundation to a successful partnership whether we’re talking at home, work or community. If you tell someone you’re going to do something, bust your butt to meet your obligations in ways that honor you, nurture those dependent upon you and add value to the communities you serve.

I know it ain’t easy. We’re not perfect plus internal and external pressures will tempt us. Bush admits being tempted to “stay and get that bad guy.” But his word was his bond and America withdrew its troops.

Where might it be time to, despite internal and external pressures, stand firm in being a person of our word? Life seems so darn unpredictable these days: wars, the economy, the immigration debate and other controversial conditions dominate the headlines and effect our lives. It’s a bit crazy right now. Many important segments of life seem beyond our control.

One area we do control is our selves and the importance of accountability. Be a person of your word. Remember that saying, “A good name is better than great riches?” It’s the truth.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Trust is Key"

Are you a horse lover? I can remember childhood days in suburban Kansas City, Missouri. Our family, actually my older sister, had a Shetland pony, Tonka, which was kept at a stable not too far from our modest middle-class home. I can remember, many times, watching her stubbornly refuse to gallop away from the barn but, WHOA, once she turned in the corral and saw home, that little horse did its best Secretariat impression. However, right before the gate leading back to the barn, she would slam on the breaks and, often, throw her rider, usually an unsuspecting friend. I thought it was funny at the time but it also made me, still am today, a tad nervous around horses.

Those were the thoughts running through my head as I sat on a bale of hay, beer in hand and, as the emcee, listened to an expert in equine therapy, I had just introduced, speak at a fundraising event for Zuma’s Rescue Ranch, It’s a fabulous nonprofit organization with a mission encouraging neglected kids and horses to heal each other.

Equine therapy is a growing platform to help abused kids overcome obstacles, learn better life skills and become students, not victims, of their experiences. For the kids, interacting, caring and feeding horses - intuitive animals that sense an abused kid’s fragile psyche – are excellent therapeutic tools in restoring hope for their futures.

One of the expert’s statements hit me with the force of a stallions’ kick: “Think about it. A kid’s trust in adults is shaken by abuse and then they’re asked to go visit another adult, a therapist, and talk about it. There are serious trust issues to overcome,” Phil Tedeschi shared. “Not so with horses. Through working with these incredibly intuitive animals kids can take the initial, and critical, steps toward trusting again.”

What he said was a vivid reminder of the important of trust, defined as: “a firm belief in the reliability of a person.” There is nothing more important to our success in life than being able to trust others and vice versa, being a person of trust. When trust departs a relationship its like a torpedo hitting the side of a ship, there’s a big hole and lots of damage. That’s why it’s so important to live a life that honors, nurtures and adds value to the communities we serve. Think of it as making big deposits in the trust bank

Make it your mission to be trustworthy. It’s not easy. Life tempts us to violate the trust of our intimate relationships – home, work and elsewhere. Do not surrender to the temptations. Trust that the fallout, from being untrustworthy, will be more painful, in a multitude of ways, than any kick received from the most rebellious horse you could find in any stable.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "It Ought to be Possible"

In a 1999 survey of public address scholars, Martin Luther King’s infamous “I have a Dream” speech was ranked the top speech of the 20th century. It was, and remains, a stirring speech. In part for its use of what’s called anaphora, which is repeatedly using a phrase like “I have a dream” to introduce and connect related themes.

Less documented, two months before King’s 1963 message, was President John Kennedy’s call for change in America. In what has become known as Kennedy’s Civil Rights Address, our nation’s 35th president basically chewed America’s butt for its racial climate saying, “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one are threatened.”

Only 44-years-old when taking office – youngest president in our nation’s history – Kennedy used anaphora often in his message. Repeatedly stating “it ought to be possible” to introduce and connect his thoughts about the importance of racial justice in our land.

Almost half a century later, I’d like to utilize anaphora to introduce and connect related things that I hope can help you play like a champion – home, work and elsewhere.

· It out to be possible that despite the unexpected and unwanted twists and turns life often throws our way, we can vow to become students, not victims of our experiences. The only thing constant in life is change, right? So would it also be true those who effectively deal with change are going to be successful? Learn and grow from experiences.

· It ought to be possible to realize when going through challenging times, we’re not alone. Many have health, relationship or financial challenges, reach out to other like-minded individuals and connect with them. We can draw encouragement, wisdom and strength from others on similar journeys.

· It ought to be possible that despite life’s unpredictability, if we become students, not victims and connect with others of like mind we can encourage one another to keep moving forward; to keep putting fear and self-doubt aside and allowing wonderment to win. Too often we allow the past to hijack our future. As Shakespeare once said, “Doubts are traitors that make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”

· It ought to be possible to accomplish this terrific trio in ways that honor us, nurture those dependent upon us and add value to the communities we serve – home, work and elsewhere.

Simple, not easy, strategies for life; easy to state, to endorse, the challenge is LIVING in a way demonstrating belief in these four philosophies. It’s my hope and prayer within each of us – you and me – our souls emphatically say: “Thy will be done.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Learn from Losing"

I recently read a fascinating book about legendary college football coach Eddie Robinson. Grambling University’s head coach for 57 years, the Louisiana native’s career paralleled the Jim Crow era of segregation in the Deep South and every major event of the Civil Rights Movement.

Grambling University, and other predominately black colleges, was loaded with outstanding black athletes until the late 1960’s and early 1970’s because the more powerful athletic conferences, like the Southeastern and Southwest, still insisted on forming all-white teams. Eddie Robinson, ever the gentleman, didn’t rail against the injustice, instead encouraging his players to work hard, make healthy choices and show love and respect for one another and country and believe justice would prevail. Many called him the “Martin Luther King of football.”

Author Denny Dressman tells many great stories. One in particular exemplifies how often in life, in defeat, we learn our greatest lessons, if we choose to learn from the experience.

The scene was Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama in 1970. The University of Southern California was on the road for a season-opening tangle with Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide, pride of the Southeastern Conference. Alabama had no black players on its roster. Southern California, under Coach John McKay an equal mix of talented white and black players, routed the ‘Tide 42-21. After the game Bryant met McKay at midfield and thanked the Trojans’ coach for the humiliating defeat. Bryant knew the stinging loss would be a watershed moment for Alabama football: the next year, running back Wilbur Jackson and other black players debuted, and starred, for the Crimson Tide. The point is this: Alabama’s embarrassing defeat, with an all-white team, opened the eyes of ‘Tide faithful who needed to be awakened to the necessity of social justice.

Quite often defeat is exactly what we need to chart a new course encouraging us to become superior to our former selves – home, work and elsewhere.

The racial integration of the Southeastern and Southwest Conferences hurt Robinson’s recruiting efforts at Grambling since black student/athletes had more options and were not limited to the predominately black colleges of the Deep South. But the Hall of Fame coach never complained. He realized Grambling’s defeat, in terms of recruiting, was a victory for social justice in America.

The ability to turn defeats into victories, home, work and elsewhere, in my opinion, the most important skill we can ever learn. You know life can be cruel. We get hit with devastating blows. If Coach Robinson was alive – he died in 2007 – he’d encourage you to pick yourself up, get back in the game and learn from your mistakes and probably holler at you: “If you’re learning, you can’t be losing.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "Jump Time?"

I have recently returned to my sports roots and, daily, co-host two hours of sports talk radio. It’s fun chatting up co-host, Jimmy Doogan, guests and listeners about sports, which have been a huge part of my life.

Recently, Dave Krieger, outstanding columnist for the Denver Post, was a guest. We were talking about, at the time, the Colorado Rockies’ inability to deliver key hits late in baseball games. Krieger, when talking about the problem, suggested the modern-day player’s ability to watch videotape of their swings might be hampering them a bit. “They go back into the clubhouse and watch swings where they crushed the ball and want to emulate that swing when the situation dictates a different approach.”

In other words, when making contact and putting the ball in play might be very beneficial to the team, players are locked into a “homerun” swing. Because of this mentality, too often, players have been striking out when, in baseball terms, “situational hitting” would serve the team better.

Listening to Krieger expound on his theory, my mind wandered to a message I share often about the necessity, usually more often than we like, of becoming superior to our former selves – home, work and elsewhere.

For the Rockies the challenge is smarter hitting. For us it might be more intelligence at work, relationships, parenting or losing weight – to name just a few. Recognition of the problem is certainly the first step, but then comes the tough part: having the desire, and determination, to truly transform. Sounds simple, but we all know, it ain’t easy.

There’s a well-known saying that goes: “There’s nothing noble in being superior to somebody else; true nobility lies in becoming superior to our former selves.” I read it a few years ago at the bottom of my gym monthly bill. Then it was meant to encourage members to get in better shape. Right now, it’s meant to challenge each of us to take inventory: Where in our lives is it REALLY time to put the excuses aside and change – become superior to our former selves?

Change is tough, you will often feel like quitting, don’t. Connect with like-minded folks, facing similar challenges, and encourage – give hope and confidence to – one another.

Whenever blessed to have a chance to encourage others to play like champions in the game of life, I always challenge them to “put fear aside and allow wonderment to win.” It’s true for the Rockies and their hitting woes and it’s true for whatever ails us: to become superior to our former selves requires us to leap into the great unknown of possibility. It’s jump time, are you ready?

Monday, July 12, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Matters of the Heart"

Do you have a “bucket list” of things to accomplish? Whether expressed publicly, written and stuffed away or secure in our heart, I think most have a list. It might be big: becoming president, curing cancer or advancing world peace. It might be personal: having a child, running a marathon or visiting a foreign country.

One thing vanished from my list recently after recording my first hole-in-one. On a par-3, 165-yard hole, a properly struck seven-iron ended up in the cup. The guys in our threesome wondered, “Who are you going to call and brag about the great shot?”

I honestly could think of nobody who would give a hoot that Mac finally – I’ve been close a few times – recorded an ace. Well, there is one, but his cell phone is out of range. My father, he passed three years ago from cancer.

After celebrating with pictures and high fives, we headed toward the next tee, thoughts more on my old man than what had just transpired. We, along with my younger brother, loved to play golf together. It struck me, far more dramatically than the shot, at the top of my bucket list would be spending more time with those I love and cherish.

That was the mindset a few days later when I ventured to Crested Butte, Colorado to spend Father’s Day with two buddies. Yea, that’s right, we spent Father’s Day, not with our families, but with each other. “What does this say about us that on Father’s Day weekend, we’re here while our families are elsewhere?” I asked buddies Pete Guignon and Dan Lauer. Almost in unison the Kansas City natives responded, “It means we’re good dads who, 51 other weekends out of the year, are dedicated to our families. They’re saying go have some well-earned fun.”

It sounded good to me, mainly, because it’s the truth. We had a blast hiking, four-wheeling and hanging out, being guys. In the rare moments when the conversation turned philosophical, we talked about encouraging one another to embrace a common bond: return to our respective worlds and continue the life-long mission of being responsible fathers dedicated to honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve – home, work and elsewhere. And yes, having some fun along the way.

We know if we do that, next Father’s Day, we’ll have earned another weekend away. To consistently honor, nurture and add value, a bucket list item far more important than a hole-in-one. Wherever my old man is right now, he’d agree to that. I hope you feel likewise. Whatever’s on your bucket list, make sure at the top is taking care of business where it matters most, matters of the heart.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "PRIDE vs. PITA"

I was on the phone with a dear friend, and during the course of the conversation, she got around to speaking of her children. One of her daughters had a situation at school that was challenging. “Boy,” she groaned, “There’s an administrator at my daughter’s school who is really acting like a pita.”

A perplexed look came across my face as I asked, “What the heck is a pita?” She went on to explain that “pita” is an acronym for “pain in the ass.” I had never heard that before and got a pretty good chuckle out of that one.

But after hanging up the phone, I could not get “pita” out of my mind. How exactly would we define someone who is acting like a “pain in the ass?” What types of behavior are usually associated with being a pita? A few came immediately to mind: someone who is chronically late; does not deliver as promised; permeates negativity instead of optimism. Tardy, unreliable and grumpy, do you think those three unflattering traits would qualify you, and me, for entrance into the Pita Club?

But let’s turn the question around. If being consistently tardy, unreliable and grumpy would qualify us for the Pita Club, what might be some good character traits that would keep us from ever being considered for membership?

Five come to mind. Here they are. Let’s all work hard this week to be members of the PRIDE club. Yea, let’s be committed being: punctual, respectful, imaginative, dependable and enthusiastic. We have prides of lions, why not a pride of people, in our thoughts, words and actions, determined to remain members, in good standing, of the PRIDE Club. We would view the PITA Club as a rival along the lines of Republicans vs. Democrats, Red Sox vs. Yankees or Saks vs. Neiman’s – you’re either one or the other, there’s no in between?

Admittedly, it’s not easy to remain in good standing within the PRIDE Club. Life, with it’s unwanted and unexpected twists and turns, can get very annoying at times – but we don’t have to. When the going gets tough and it’s tempting to transform into a pain in the ass, instead focus on being punctual, respectful, imaginative, dependable and enthusiastic.

Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig once said, “Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple – and difficult – as that.” He is so right. It’s tough to be devoted to PRIDE and not PITA but like anything else worthwhile in life, certainly worth the effort.

Monday, June 28, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "Bang Your Drum"

It was a cool and blustery first day of May, a Saturday, as I exited the gym. Workout behind me and short walk - nearby service station for car after oil change - in front of me, the moment was interrupted by my cell phone ringing.

It was a wonderful interruption. As I walked, a friend described in great detail what I encourage others to remember in each Pep Talk musing or message: “the more we give, the more we receive.”

I have known Lisa Girard for many years. We worked together in the television industry and she has done much work on my website. The Texas native is a wonderful woman, wife, mother, and possesses one of the world’s greatest smiles.

She’s also a musician and one of the board members of the Mile High Community Band. For more than 65 years, this non-profit organization has been making music and making a difference in the Denver community. It accomplishes that mission through providing rewarding music education and performance opportunities for youth and adults. It’s a great place for kids, who because of budget issues might not have access to band programs at school, to learn about music.

On July 10th of this year, the group will hold its first Colorado Community Band Festival. Nine bands will perform while families enjoy games, face painting, balloon making and other fun activities characteristic of summer festivals. “We are getting great support from the west Denver community,” the charismatic lady proudly proclaimed. “The Edgewater – a small municipality wedged between Denver and its western neighbor Lakewood – City Council has even informed us that our efforts to rally the community has inspired it to bring back Edgewater Days next year.”

This story is the latest example, we see them daily, of a truth too often ignored: the decision to put fear aside – “nobody will care” – and allow wonderment to win – “it’s a good idea” – will often create a ripple effect far beyond what imagination might have envisioned.

But allowing wonderment to win against fear takes courage! Where might that apply to your life right now? To recap: A bunch of music and civic-minded folks act on an idea, reach out to serve in ways that honor, nurture and add value and, in return, a community is encouraged – given hope and confidence - to restore a proud remnant of its past. How cool is that?

Never underestimate the power within you to make a difference. Never forget that, okay? And never forget to courageously bang your creative drum because when you least expect it, that resonance will vibrate within others too. The harmony created, within a band, home, work or elsewhere, will be music to the ears, and souls, of many.

Monday, June 21, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: Perseverance and Principle

It was a Saturday morning, a buddy who takes care of my lawn sprinklers and yard lights is making a few minor adjustments to each, I’m chatting with him while picking weeds when the conversation turns to John Wooden. The legendary basketball coach, who won ten national titles with UCLA, had died the day before. “Do you realize Wooden did not win his first national title at UCLA until his 16th season?” my buddy suggested.

I paused with the pulling and pondered that fact. “Really?” was my surprising response. I instantly thought of perseverance, defined as: “to continue steadfastly, especially in something that is difficult or tedious.”

We often get frustrated don’t we, when things don’t happen as quickly as we would like? Wooden in 29 years as a basketball coach never had a losing season, but it took him 16 years at UCLA to take the Bruins to a national title. There’s a good lesson in that for each of us. If we are engaged in work that we love, but the expected success has been elusive, persevere – continue steadfastly – toward the goal! Victory might be right around the corner with the next sale, the next book, the next relationship, the next job, the next exercise routine. Persevere.

John Wooden was known for many things: discipline, wisdom, graciousness, humility to name a few. Perseverance should also be on that list. It should be on ours too.

Another descriptive word that defines Wooden is principled. In reading the various accounts of his life, a story from his coaching days at Indiana State – his job before UCLA – really stands out. It was 1947, the school, then called Indiana Teachers College, had been invited to a prestigious post-season tournament. But there was a caveat. The tournament organizers said Wooden’s team was welcome, except for its lone black player. Wooden told the tournament that was unacceptable and Indiana Teachers College stayed home in support of its teammate. Principle won over prestige. There’s another good lesson that would serve each of us well – choose principle - a personal code of right conduct - over prestige.

In all my years of athletics, sportscasting and admiration for coach Wooden I was not aware of these examples of this wonderful man’s perseverance and principle.

Respectfully known as the “Wizard of Westwood”, the coach is universally regarded as the greatest collegiate basketball coach of all time. But you know what? The qualities and characteristics that provided the foundation to his success are present, and available, for each of us!

We might not be able to coach basketball worth a darn but we can decide that embracing perseverance and principle can help us play like champions in the game of life - home, work and elsewhere.

Monday, June 14, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "Terrific Trio"

We all have our stories, don’t we? Few, if any of us, have been blessed by life unfolding exactly as planned. The journey takes unexpected detours leaving us wondering, “What the heck is going on here?

I believe the most important aspect for success in life is effectively dealing with adversity. In my opinion, there’s nothing more important than becoming a student, not victim, of our experiences.

Bethany Bullard just graduated from high school in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Bethany has Down Syndrome, a congenital disorder caused by having an extra 21st chromosome that usually results in a flat face, short stature and mental retardation. . But long ago, with great help from her family, Bethany made the decision to put fear aside about what her challenges might be and allow wonderment to win about what her life could be.

I grew up with Bethany’s parents. Her old man and I used to zoom around Raytown, Missouri in his fast-driving Camaro. We would always drive really fast past her mother’s house after football practice. Vicki and Dennis Bullard are incredibly responsible, loving and successful people, always have been, always will be.

Recently Bethany’s proud father emailed pictures of her high-school graduation. As I sat there looking at the joyful scene, it reminded me of the power, when we allow it, of the human spirit to overcome obstacles.

Life can often be cruel with what it throws our way: maladies, divorce, death, financial ruin and job loss to name a handful. What has always fascinated me is how differently people react to life’s nasty curves. Challenging moments seem to inspire some to great success while driving some to great despair. What separates the two?

A few things come to mind, starting with the before mentioned importance of being a student, not victim. Then I would suggest it’s important to realize, regardless of what ails us, we’re not alone. Reach out to others in similar situations. We can find strength from one another. Third, despite what ails us, never give up on yourself. Put fear aside and allow wonderment to win.

Bethany and her family did a great job of embracing the three. They became experts on the disease, connected with others in the same boat and kept chasing dreams. Down Syndrome is not derailing Bethany Bullard’s march through life.

We all have our challenges. Don’t allow what ails you to derail your march! Be a student, not victim, reach out to others of like mind and put fear aside and allow wonderment to win. The terrific trio guided Bethany to a high school diploma. It can blaze a trail to whatever you desire too.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pep Talk Blog: "Thanks, Art"

I read with mixed emotions the recent death, at 97, of entertainment legend Art Linkletter. The radio and television pioneer was amazing for his ability to get kids to say the darndest things on the popular television program House Party that ran for almost 20 years. He also, in later life after a daughter’s suicide, became an anti-drug crusader, popular motivational speaker and in his final years, a champion for the aged.

I had the honor of being the master of ceremony at an event where the Canadian, abandoned at birth and adopted by parents who brought him to California at an early age, spoke about life. We sat next to each other, and before he amused and inspired the audience, we got to know each other. A picture of us sits on my desk. I look at it daily as a reminder to live life to its fullest.

That one evening, that one personal encounter with Linkletter was a powerful moment for me. He became – he didn’t know this – a mentor in planting a seed within me to embrace a good recipe for living a healthy and productive life. I recall there were four things the author of more than 20 books believed led to aging well: exercise consistently, eat sensibly, laugh abundantly and love unconditionally.

Another thing I remember from that evening: Art gave me grief about my book title, Kids Teach the Darndest Things saying it was too close to his legendary, Kids Say the Darndest Things.” He laughed when I countered, “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.”

I was sad to hear of Linkletter’s death because he fell short of his goal. I know from our conversation that he wanted to live to be at least 100 years old. He also wanted to continue to travel the world speaking and encouraging – to give hope and confidence to - others to live life with zeal and enthusiasm.

And while Linkletter did not reach the goal of living a century he sure tried in ways that honored him, nurtured those dependent upon him and added value to the communities he served. His life can be a great reminder for us: have goals that honor, nurture and add value to the communities we serve, pursue them enthusiastically and focus on the input, not the outcome – the joy is in the journey.

The journey is complete for Art Linkletter. It continues for each of us. How should we embrace this crazy thing called life? Let’s take a cue from Art, who was once asked when he was going to retire. “Retire?” he said in 1988 while skiing in Vail. “If you retire, you can’t ever take a day off.”

Let’s never, or perhaps rarely, take a day off from exercising daily, eating sensibly, laughing abundantly and loving unconditionally, okay? Thanks, Art.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Till the Soil"

It was a typical Friday evening in our Congress Park neighborhood on Denver’s near east side: I’m hanging with the neighbors, having some beers, visiting about the week and having dinner. This evening take-out Chinese was being consumed in hearty amounts – that happens when you have teenagers and invite McIntosh to dinner.

Anyway, after devouring the various delicacies we turned our attention to dessert, fortune cookies. The neighbor’s daughter, a high-school sophomore cracked open a cookie and read some wise words written on a thin strip of paper: “Life does not improve by chance. It improves by change.”

Ah, that was music to my ears and made me think of William Bridges. A former professor of English, the California-based consultant and lecturer is one of the world’s foremost experts on change and transition. His second book, The Way of Transition is one of my favorites and was tremendously helpful in the aftermath of my second painful divorce about ten years ago.

In the book Bridges discusses his own painful experience following his beloved wife’s death from cancer. He was really struggling with her departure and was also beating himself up emotionally because he was the “change guy” but he wasn’t dealing with this change very well.

With these issues as the emotional backdrop, Bridges after speaking on the East Coast was flying back to California. It was a beautiful and clear day across America and from his window seat the Ivy-League educated change expert was glancing down on America and pondering his future. He began to notice our country’s great rivers: The Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri and how each twists and turns on its journey toward its ultimate destination. But something else warmed his marrow. Where these rivers twist and turn is where rich sediment is dropped and a large portion of our nation’s food supply is produced. In other words, the twists and turns along the river’s journey and the sediment dropped provide a fertile spot for growth!

The irony shook him more violently than unexpected turbulence. Could it be that life is often that way? That the unexpected twists and turns, while painful, ultimately can produce rich soil for us to grow into something superior to our former selves?

It takes us back to the fortune cookie: “life does not improve by chance. It improves by change.” But here’s the important point. Life will not improve by change unless we keep a healthy attitude toward it and commit to being a student, not a victim, of our experiences. We all have our stories, right? Has anybody’s life gone exactly the way you planned? I would suspect the answer to that question is, “of course not.”

Life might be taking you on some crazy twists and turns right now. The question becomes how will you handle it? Don’t forget to till the soil of change. Within it might be all the nutrients necessary for explosive and fruitful growth at home, work and elsewhere.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Curious, not Callous"

I was sitting with a potential business partner and the conversation turned to how he had met his darling wife. “It’s interesting,” laughed the Texas native. “It was at a social function I didn’t want to attend but decided at the last minute to go. It was the same for her. We’re lucky considering we’ve been together ever since.”

That response brought a broad smile to my face and took me back to one of my favorite stories in my first book, Kids Teach the Darndest Things. It also reminded me of the importance, for all of us, to try our best to keep a curious, not callous, attitude toward life.

Several years ago on a late December Sunday afternoon, just after Christmas, my darling daughter approached and suggested it would be a great day to go shopping. She was armed and dangerous with many gift cards in celebration of Christmas and her fast approaching eighth birthday. But it was a Sunday, and that meant NFL football and a big game for the hometown Broncos. “Rachie,” I sternly announced. “Today is not a good day.” She looked at me with those beautiful eyes and said. “So.” Off we went to the Cherry Creek Shopping Center.

We hit all the stores: Claires, Children’s Palace, The Gap and many others. Finally, after about an hour and a half, I thought we were done. But no! Rachie informed me we had one final stop: Limited Too. I know it’s been said, “patience is a virtue” but man, guys have trouble with this when it comes to shopping!

Rachel patiently walked around the store, sifting through many items while her old man, frazzled, sought relief in a big comfy chair smack dab in the middle of the store – made for Dads I would suspect. I was throwing a little pity party for myself about the drudgery of shopping, thinking, “how do girls do this?” About ten minutes later, I hear sweet music for my ears. “Okay Daddy, I found something, let’s go.”

We walk to the back of the store toward the checkout stand. I muttering, “I’m missing the Broncos game for this?” when things changed dramatically. The sales clerk is folding the shirt Rachie purchased. Across the front, in big and bold letters it proclaims, “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

I would have missed that wonderful and loving moment had I gotten my way and been at home on the couch watching the Broncos. The gentleman I was visiting with would have not met his wife had he decided not to attend the social function. The point is this: Keep a curious, not callous, attitude toward life – home, work and elsewhere.

The next time you sense you’re slipping into that unproductive pattern of being unenthusiastic about things, remember, when you least expect it, wonderful surprises will jump up and smack you right in the face when you embrace a curious, not callous, attitude toward life.

Monday, May 17, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "The Plumber"

I was sitting in the audience at the Denver Business Journal’s 2010 “Partners in Philanthropy” event and listening to the keynote speaker. The man, a well-recognized and respected leader in the nonprofit world, was encouraging the gathered to embrace a stronger bond between the business and non-profit worlds.

The speaker, Jeff Pryor, concluded his excellent remarks with a powerful story about a woman on Colorado’s Western Slope facing difficult times: she had lost her home and child-welfare authorities were threatening to take her four children. The single mom and the kids had moved into a ramshackle apartment, trying desperately to makes ends meet. The apartment’s hot water heater didn’t work and there was no washing machine. Too often the kids went to school in dirty clothes and authorities were concerned for their welfare.

Well, an incredibly generous woman of that Western Slope community spoke to the mother and learned of her plight: no job, little money and even less hope. The incredibly generous woman called a friend – a plumber – and told him of the woman’s challenges. She also offered to pay for the plumber to fix the hot water heater and install a washing machine in the woman’s apartment.

It was the beginning of transformation. A few months later, the desperate woman reported back that she had been able to keep her kids, had begun classes in learning to become a cosmetologist and had a positive vision, despite the challenges of raising four kids on her own, of the family’s future.

Jeff Pryor learned of this story from the incredibly generous woman and congratulated her for hiring the plumber and paying for the hot water heater repair and the washing machine, “Wow, you really did something amazing for that woman.”

Here’s where it gets really good folks. The generous woman responded, “No Jeff, I did something amazing for the plumber.” Perplexed, Jeff wondered, “What are you talking about?” The lady’s response was awesome, she said: “I gave that plumber a chance to realize the talents and skills he possessed could have a profound impact on another’s life.”

Ain’t that the truth. Each of us has within, unique and valuable talents that can be of tremendous value to others – at home, work and elsewhere. Where might it be time share those talents in ways that honor you, nurture those dependent upon you and add value to the communities you serve? It might be serving on a non-profit board, volunteering to coach a youth athletic team or truly following your heart and pursuing a career path allowing you to really express unique talents that can be a great value to others.

Never underestimate the impact those talents, when utilized in healthy and productive ways, can have on another person’s life – and in return, yours. We are here to help each other and nobody benefits more than us.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "In Whack"

It was a chilly and damp Mile High City Saturday spring day. I’m waiting to fetch teenage daughter from volleyball practice, watching NBA playoff action with my neighbor buddy and listening to the Pueblo native spout this pearl of wisdom: “You hear people talk a lot about being ‘out of whack’ but then that must mean there is an ‘in whack.’ What does that look like?”

I thought it was a darn good question and attempted to answer it. For whatever reason, the six inches of gray matter between my ears focused on a guy I greatly admire – Luther Gulick. 100 years ago, he founded Camp Fire USA, then known as Camp Fire Girls. I admire this organization and proudly served it for three years.

When creating the nation’s oldest non-sectarian youth development organization, Gulick wanted to give young women the opportunity to learn skills that would benefit them outside the home and encourage a value in physical fitness. Now remember, this was the early 1900’s and few saw the value in young girls learning anything but homemaking skills. The Hawaiian-born visionary was thinking way outside the box for his time.

But back to the original statement from my beer-drinking buddy that sparked this Pep Talk. If “out of whack” means times are tough, what does “in whack” look like? Gulick, in creating Camp Fire USA, encouraged girls and young woman, as they learned skills and practiced fitness, to also realize there are three fundamental beliefs that could help them, as I like to say in each and every Pep Talk, “play like a champion in the game of life – home, work and elsewhere.”

Here they are: Gulick, who also played a huge role in the birth of basketball in the late 1800’s, encouraged kids to work hard, make healthy choices and show a little love and respect for self and others. Just my opinion, but seems like a good definition of “in whack.” It’s been Camp Fire’s motto from day one and continues today.

If you happen to feel a bit “out of whack” right now, how about adopting the three fundamental beliefs Gulick encouraged others to embrace? What would “in whack” look like for you right now? Sticking to the diet, exercising more, drinking or smoking less, working smarter or committing better? What would it look like?

Some ideas, philosophies, beliefs – call ‘em what you want – stand the test of time. Camp Fire USA’s “work hard, make healthy choices and show respect” are certainly three as relevant today – perhaps more – than a century ago.

I know “in whack” is not easy. When the challenge seems overwhelming remember this: “Resolve must be firmer, spirit bolder and courage greater when strength grows less.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Pep Talk Blog: "Our Influence"

I was driving to work recently when my cell phone rang. “Hey Marko,” announced my stepmother Jo, “Happy birthday.” I was celebrating 52 years on this planet and appreciated her remembering. Our conversation, as it usually does, turned to my late father, her husband of almost 30 years.

What triggered the conversation was my question about Jo’s health, “fine” and what she had been up to, “staying busy.” Then the wonderful woman who had to deal with the McIntosh’s for three decades stated: “You know your father. If he thought for one minute I was down here bummed out he’s gone and not living life to the fullest, he’d be pissed.”

She was right about that. My father, despite a life with more than its share of lemons, always seemed determined to turn those lemons – the heck with lemonade- into sweet and savory margaritas. Actually for him, it would have been a beer or smooth scotch, but you understand what I’m saying.

She then told me a story that inspired this Pep Talk. “Mark, I was visiting with the neighbors recently. The husband was cleaning his golf clubs and mentioned he missed playing golf with your Dad.” I do too. My old man was a fun golf partner, lucky too and a good scramble partner.

Jo continued the story: “John joked that your father’s golfing buddies got together to play but the weather was lousy. Many wanted to sit in the warmth of the clubhouse, play cards and forget about golf.” I knew where this story was going as she proudly boasted, “But one of the guys said, ‘Hey, I know if Mac were here he’d say, I didn’t drive all this way to sit in the clubhouse. Let’s go play.’ That’s what they did.

My stepmother relating this story brought a broad smile to my face and warmed the marrow of my bones with the following truth. We can choose to keep one another’s spirit alive. I had just heard two wonderful examples of that truth. My father passed three years ago this month from lung cancer. But his spirit – my stepmother’s passion for life and golfing buddies braving the elements – is alive and well. It influences me daily too.

Please, never underestimate your influence on others. Through our thoughts, words and actions, good and bad, our spirit affects everyone we encounter – home, work and elsewhere.

This week make sure your spirit honors you, nurtures those dependent upon you and adds value to the communities you serve. I promise, it will have a lasting and positive impact on others, make life fulfilling and probably guarantee a darn good tee time on the other side, maybe in the same group with my old man.

Monday, April 26, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "Serendipity at Starbucks"

One chilly Kansas City winter morning, the kind most Midwesterners grow accustomed to suffering through year after year, I awakened in my hotel room about four hours before presenting a Pep Talk. I had time to kill and assessed the situation: Darling girlfriend sleeping soundly next to me would not want to be disturbed and the hotel had no gym. I would have to seek activity elsewhere.

I remember there was a Starbucks about three blocks from the hotel and decided to head there for a cup of chai, bite of food and wonderment. I glanced out the window and recognized, so I thought, a typical Midwest winter morning: cloudy and gray. So I threw on a sweatshirt and headed out the door with instructions from darling girlfriend, “Bring me a coffee and pastry.” While walking through the hotel lobby, I noticed the doorman looking at me in an odd way. Finally, he says, “Where ya going dressed like that?”

After I quickly explained my destination and offered to bring the young man a cup of coffee, he joked. “That sounds good, but you don’t have enough clothes on!” Well, I begged to differ: “Ah, don’t worry about me, I’m an athlete; three blocks is nothing.” I exited the hotel. Instantly the wind hit me like a Mack truck—cold, cold, horribly cold. The wind chill factor – about 25 below - wasn’t part of my plan, but I felt I could handle it and sprinted to the coffee shop.

The warmth of the establishment soothed my aching lungs yet I knew there was no way my “short” return trip would include another run. I’ve been called a lot of things in life, smart rarely being one of them, but even I realized it was impossible to sprint, carrying hot drinks through the frigid conditions. I had no idea what to do, then a brilliant idea hit me: I reached to pull my cell phone from my sweatpants fully prepared to call a cab for the three-block walk. Call a cab to traverse three blocks? How insane. But on this bitterly cold day, there was no other option. I dug for the phone but it was not there. It was recharging back in the room.

I looked around the coffee shop. The handful of people in the place didn’t appear remotely interested in my dilemma. NONE of them gave me a second look. Why would they? No one knew me. Then out of the blue, somebody tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me, are you Mark McIntosh?” Surprised I stammered, “Yep, that’s me,” I counter. “Do we know one another?”

Robert Thompson proceeded to refresh my memory about our paths crossing a few years earlier when he and some other University of Colorado Buffaloes’ fans had ventured to Pasadena, California to watch the Buffs and UCLA Bruins play at the Rose Bowl. Apparently, we had bumped into each other outside the huge stadium, and I wound up giving him a press pass that allowed him and his friends to watch the game from the press box. “What are you doing here,” I ask.

“I just stopped in here to get a cup of coffee before meeting my girlfriend for breakfast,” the financial advisor said. “I never got to thank you that day. It was great watching the game from the press box,” Robert proudly proclaimed. “So, thanks.” I saw opportunity knocking. “Robert, do you want to show me how grateful you are? Give me a ride back to my hotel!” Call it good luck, serendipity, law of circulation—whatever you like. All I know is Robert came to my rescue.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the legendary philosopher of the 1800’s, said it pretty well: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life. No man or women can sincerely try to help another, without helping themselves. Serve and thou shall be served.”

That brief encounter with Robert substantiates Emerson’s philosophy and my encouragement to you: whenever you have a chance to reach out and help someone, act on it! This unlikely encounter at Starbucks is sufficient evidence, when you least expect it, “what goes around, comes around.” Who knows when such a situation may arise again? No one. But trust me, it will.

Monday, April 19, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Good Will"

Do you ever have those moments when something happens that really validates your belief system? It inspires you to exclaim, to anybody that will listen, “That’s what I’m talking about!”

I did recently while attending Goodwill Industries of Denver’s annual Power of Work luncheon. It was an amazing experience that showcased the power of the human spirit to discover the good in life despite difficult physical, emotional and financial obstacles.

Whenever having the privilege of leading a Pep Talk discussion with a group, four life strategies, I like to call them the “Faithful Foursome”, are offered for discussion. They center on the importance of:

· Being a student, not victim, of our experiences
· Never growing weary of doing good things for others
· Putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win
· Honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve – home, work and elsewhere.

These four philosophies are, in my opinion, the foundational cornerstones to success. If we have those pillars drilled deep into our souls, I believe we have a good shot of dealing with whatever lemons life throws our way and transforming them – the heck with lemonade – into sweet and savory margaritas.

At this heartwarming luncheon those fourth truths came alive in the stories of the award winners. Charles Hensley is a great example. As a child, doctors removed a tumor from his brain. It saved Charles life but left him with physical and mental challenges. He became a “student, not victim, of experience” and today is a superstar employee at one of Goodwill’s retail shops.

And then there’s a wife and husband who certainly live “never growing weary of doing good for others” through their company, Environmental Safety. Partnering with Goodwill, ESI hires many former offenders who have paid their debt to society yet struggle to find gainful employment because of their past record.

“Putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win” describes Ariana Kasper and Jacob Grein. Each has overcome great physical and emotional barriers to lead healthy and prosperous lives despite overwhelming physical, mental and emotional adversities.

Finally, there is Goodwill, the organization and its mission. It certainly demonstrates the truth, and power, of “honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve” through helping more than 30,000 struggling adults and high school youth create a new chapter in their lives.

Right in front of me the faithful foursome was alive and well: Hensley, a student not victim; the Ford’s never growing weary; Kasper and Grein putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win; Goodwill honoring, nurturing and adding value.

This week, how about you and I embracing the value of the faithful foursome, in our thoughts, words and actions? I promise, it will be good for us and promote good will for others.
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