Monday, March 29, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Keep Spirit Alive"

In cities across America in late February, thousands decided to spend their Sunday morning a little differently. Instead of lying in bed reading the newspaper or watching the morning talk shows, these hardy souls decided to set fire to their lungs and legs. But local fire departments did nothing to douse the infernos since the fires were fueling the American Lung Association’s great work in fighting lung-related illnesses in our country.

In Denver, the gluttons for punishment walked, ran and staggered up 56 floors of a downtown office building. This year’s “Fight for Air” climb set records for money raised and participants. Each man or woman had individual reasons for lambasting lungs and legs, but we shared a common bond: a burning desire to raise money for research and programs to help others – perhaps ourselves – battle lung-related illnesses.

My father died of lung cancer almost three years ago. I miss him everyday, especially our time spent on the golf course. My old man was one lucky hacker. We had many great moments on the course together. To honor Marvin Walter McIntosh, Jr., I trekked to the top carrying my golf clubs.

“Why in the heck are you carrying golf clubs?” was a common question as I waited, like a hacker at the first tee, with my Kinetics Fitness Studio teammates to start the journey. “It’s the least I can do to honor my father and remember the joy we shared on the links” was my joyful response.

Whenever standing before a group and leading a Pep Talk discussion, we talk a lot about “never growing weary of doing good things for others.” We discuss the importance of, “it’s better to give than receive” and “believe in the law of circulation” and “one good deed leads to another.”

In downtown Denver, and around the country, Americans united, were one heart beat. Despite the searing pain and lack of breath, it sure felt good to rally around one another for a good cause. It also felt good to honor my father. When was the last time you did something to honor someone who impacted your life in a positive manner? Maybe it’s a deceased parent, perhaps a former teacher, coach or business mentor?

There’s something magical about honoring the spirit of another. While they physically have departed, we can choose to keep their spirit alive. It doesn’t have to entail starting a fire in your legs and lungs but I promise you this, your actions will create a spark keeping their eternal flame flickering.

This week, take the time to remember, via actions, someone who touched your life - keep ‘em alive, in spirit, okay? Your good deed will honor their legacy and serve you and others well. As Emerson once said, “serve and thou shall be served.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Absence or Prevalence"

The heated debate about reforming our nation’s health care system seems to have at least one thing we all agree upon: The United States of America must find a way to control the ever-increasing costs of the system.

There are, obviously from the quibbles in Congress, differing opinions about many things - public option, tort reform, purchase across state lines - but it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than someone proclaiming, “health care is too cheap.”

So I think we could get an “amen” from just about everyone, when speaking of cost, the system is broken. A recent Price Waterhouse estimate says the expense each year for America’s health care is about 2.5 trillion dollars. And here’s the embarrassing kicker: Of that 2.5 trillion dollars spent, according to Price Waterhouse, half is for what it calls “absence of personal responsibility.”

Whenever leading a Pep Talk concerning living, despite its challenges, a successful life, toward the end of the discussion we talk about “courageously eliminating any self destructive behavior preventing us from expressing ourselves in healthy and productive ways.” One of things we talk about is “what are we putting into our bodies and minds?”

If the Price Waterhouse survey is even close to being accurate it’s shocking to realize half the nation’s health care bill would be eliminated if we started taking better care of ourselves: more exercise, sensible diets and weight control and less risky behavior concerning what we eat, drink or smoke.

We can haggle longer than the best Senate filibuster over a host of possible reforms but it sounds like, considering half the cost is absence of personal responsibility, until there’s a serious discussion about what we – personally - must do to enact change, the system will remain, for too many, too expensive, inefficient and elusive.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, “We must be the change we wish to see in this world.” It seems we Americans must be the change we wish to see before our dysfunctional health care system is transformed.

And you know what? An “absence of personal responsibility” is usually the demon that leads to the downfall of many things we cherish: marriages, professions and friendships to name a few.

This week, let’s turn this discussion on its head. Let’s focus, in our thoughts, words and actions, on the “prevalence of personal responsibility.” Despite what life throws our way tempting us to stray from healthy and productive behavior, let’s resist the temptation to demonstrate an absence of personal responsibility. Instead let’s make sure it’s prevalent – at home, work and community.

Monday, March 15, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Soul of Solutions"

It’s impossible to avoid the constant chatter about the battered state of the nation’s economy. There are still far too many Americans unemployed, underemployed and scrambling to make ends meet.

The same is true for our local and state governments. There is much angst over the need to cut budgets. Our nation, collectively, is on a financial diet and the pains are gut wrenching.

Whenever I have the pleasure of presenting a Pep Talk to a group, we always discuss the importance of being limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenges we face. America’s challenge is to learn to live, successfully, on fewer financial calories. It’s time to get creative.

That was the focus of the discussion at the Denver Business Journal’s first “State of the Cities” economic-forecast breakfast featuring Denver mayor John Hickenlooper and his colleague and friend, Aurora’s mayor Ed Tauer.

Each man told sobering tales of slashing budgets while trying to preserve, as best they can, vital community services each municipality provides to its citizens. Toward the end of detailing the good, bad and ugly concerning the Mile High City’s predicament, Hickenlooper told a story that is a perfect example of putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win.

The current gubernatorial candidate, Denver’s two-term mayor related how a janitor at a large city office building had an idea: “If we perform the light janitorial duties during normal work hours – emptying trash cans, etc – and the more distracting stuff – vacuuming and mopping floors – after employees leave, we would cut down on energy usage and security costs at the building,” the smart employee told the mayor.

The janitor’s imagination was greater than his fear – “why would the mayor listen to me?” – and the city of Denver is saving about $250,000 a year now that the janitorial staff, and the security it needs while in the Wellington Webb building, is not there into the dead of night.

This can be a lesson for each of us. At home, work or community, where might there be a challenge that could use a imagination, not fear, dominating the thought process? Do you have a good idea that you’ve been sitting on? Fearful perhaps that others might suggest, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of!” Go for it. Shakespeare once bellowed, “Our doubts are traitors that make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

Don’t let fear get in the way of your dreams. Instead, take a cue from a sharp janitor, and remember courage is the soul of your dreams. It’s also the soul of solutions to whatever ails us at home, work or community.

Monday, March 8, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "Spare the Heartache"

One of the more popular questions these days is, “Can Tiger do it?” Can the once honored, now humiliated, golfing megastar truly - his words - “begin to live a life of integrity.” Of course he can.

It’s easy for me to say that, but it’s going to be far more difficult for Woods’ to execute. His amazing ability to recover from deep fairway rough or cavernous greenside bunkers pales in comparison to the fortitude, moral strength and discipline one of the world’s most recognized, and tempted, human beings must muster to succeed.

How do you think he’s going to react on the course when a smart-aleck fan, instead of “Go Tiger”, bellows “Go Cheetah?” Also, the temptations are not going to disappear. The beautiful women who seek his affection will still be present. That’s life as a superstar. Those realities come with the territory.

When I have the great pleasure of standing before a group a leading a Pep Talk discussion, the fourth of what I call the “five fabulous philosophies” centers on, in our thoughts, words and actions, only things that honor, nurture and add value to the communities we serve - those communities being our families, work and civic commitments.

Tiger’s transgressions have not met that test, have caused great family pain, embarrassed employees at his foundation and created disdain from former fans, including his legion of million-dollar sponsors.

But can Tiger turn this around? Absolutely. In my years as a television sportscaster, I covered the now defunct International Golf Tournament in Castle Rock, Colorado, just south of Denver. Tiger played twice. What I recall vividly was the respect the billion-dollar athlete garnered from his peers for mental toughness. Few talked about Woods’ abundant physical talents, they marveled at his ability to block everything out and focus entirely on the task at hand. Remember, he won the U.S. Open a few years ago on a broken leg and shredded knee!

Tiger can pretty much accomplish, including destroying his reputation, whatever he sets his mind too. But guess what, we’re the same. We can do that. Heck, I can remember entering graduate school at the age of 26. I had decent grades as an undergrad but when I returned for a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, I was focused and determined, and earned straight A’s.

We all have within us a tremendous amount of potential to achieve whatever – good or bad – we set our mind to accomplish. Be careful therefore, what you choose to emphasize because if you want it bad enough, you’ll get it.

That’s the truth for Tiger, for you and me. That is why it is so critical to remember the “honor, nurture and add value” test – it will spare each of us a lot of heartache.

Monday, March 1, 2010

This week's Pep Talk: "More Kindness"

I talk a lot about being joyful for the blessings of our lives. Most of us have them, in some way, shape, form or another. But let’s be honest, we often think more about our challenges in life than our blessings, right?

Well, one of my great blessings is the neighborhood where I dwell. Nestled on Denver’s near east side, close to the city’s beautiful botanic gardens, it’s like a little village with a wonderful retail area just a three-block walk from my front door. The area has small-business restaurants and shops for everything I need, including a grocery store and post office. They’re one and the same.

Sean and Stephanie, a loving couple and proprietors, have become good buddies. They provide real value to the neighborhood with their clean, reasonably priced and well-stocked store. They also have a U.S. Postal Service office within the store. I’m in there often, because thanks to folks like you, I do some sell books. It’s from 12th Avenue Market that I ship them to you.

I’m in there conducting business and ask Sean how things were going. “Mark, you know the grocery store side of this endeavor is going great,” said the scratch golfer. “But the post office stuff? We gotta talk.”

Whenever I have the privilege of leading a group – via a Pep Talk - and encouraging them to play like champions in the game of life, we always talk about the importance of conducting our lives in ways that honor, nurture and add value to the communities we serve. Those communities are: home, work and community.

It sounds like there’s been a few too many people utilizing the store’s post office, who don’t necessarily believe it’s real important to honor, nurture and value. “People can get really rude and impatient with the time element of a post office,” Sean tells me. “They need to chill out a bit.”

When he told me this, my mind immediately visualized adults acting like, well, maybe like smart-aleck teenage kids. “No,” Sean sighed. “Worse.”

And then my brain drifted to this: It’s a stressful time in this nation’s history. It seems there’s little good news out there concerning the economy and many other things. We’re tense. We’re wondering what the heck is gonna happen next?

This is the exact time where we have to rally around one another. This is when we have to come together, to unite. A good strategy to living a life that honors, nurtures and adds value to the communities you serve is to never grow weary of doing good things for others. This week, let’s start with a little more kindness toward one another, especially at the post office, okay?
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