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.
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