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.
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