Saturday, December 31, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Listen More, Speak Less"

It’s the final day of the final month. It’s late in the fourth quarter of 2011 and here we gather. For some I would suspect, for a variety of reasons, it was a tad difficult 365 days. So, and you know what’s coming here, we have a decision looming concerning our recent past. Are we going to become a student of its experiences or victim of its circumstances?

Now, having said that, it’s certainly realized, for many, there have been unimaginable events that have us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” Perhaps it was the sudden death of child; deep pain of divorce; big drop in finances or other despair creating moments burrowed deep within. Momentous, as offered in Pep Talk presentations, “Pokes in the eye.”

Those moments of life where our souls bleed. It ain’t a pretty place to dwell. I have been blessed over the years with mentors encouraging me - when soul was bleeding - to carry on. I love what buddy Bill McCartney says about the subject. We talk often over water and mud. The subject frequently centers around those times in life when, as my mentor would say, “We gotta lie on the battlefield for a bit and bleed. But then we must rise and carry on.” I don’t know about you but that makes this old jock’s marrow warm.

I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, so this is just my opinion, but to consistently “rise and carry on” is a good trait to possess considering life’s uncertainty, right? Please tell me the answer to that question is yes! Simple, not easy, right? So, would it not be wise to surround ourselves with like-minded folks? Other determined human beings committed to “rising and carrying on?”

The task before us, turning life’s lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas will be challenging. Somebody wrote a book about that, right? Anyway, we will probably need encouragement for the journey of learning from, not becoming victim of, life and its unexpected and unwanted twists and turns that make us want to text, email or write, “WTF!”

It’s late Saturday morning in the Mile High City. The wind is howling outside while Billy Joel’s Lights on Broadway blares behind me and it makes me think of another buddy. I had just emailed an exaltation to this dynamic business leader. Then cranium jumped to the sports talk show I co-host with Jimmy Doogan each weekday afternoon on Mile High Sports Radio. It’s a good problem to have, but as the call volume increases, out of respect for others, we need to encourage our wonderful listeners to, as I was taught at the University of Missouri School of Journalism long ago, “Be clear, concise and compelling.”

It’s a terrific trio ain’t it? If we’re clear, concise and compelling with one another it creates an environment fostering honesty, clarity and engagement. Give me honesty, clarity and engagement on a consistent basis and I like our chances to claim victory against whatever ails wherever we roam. The venue may change but the strategy remains the same!

And here’s - again just thoughts - what really is cool about a clear, concise and compelling trio transforming into an equally - maybe more? - beneficial trio of honesty, clarity and engagement. It starts with us listening more.

You see, if we’re clear, concise and compelling we talk less and listen more. We get our point across quickly so others can speak and we can listen. Who knows, maybe we’ll learn something beneficial in honoring us, nurturing those dependent upon us and adding value to the communities we serve. Dang, you can imagine?

Maybe that’s where this should stop. Billy is wailing through Everybody Loves You Now and here’s a quick little prayer for each of us as we try and excel in 2012: “May we be joyful for the blessings of life; optimistic about the future and courageous despite the past. Also, as the New Year begins, give us the strength and courage to be clear, concise and compelling with whomever we meet. In doing so, it will allow time for us to listen more and speak less. God knows that’s a good thing!”

Amen to that. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Fair, Reasonable and Agreeable"

Consistent readers of this weekly musing, and folks who have heard me speak in person, know the message often includes this belief: when facing challenging moments in life, we must have “the courage to put fear and self doubt aside and allow wonderment to win.”

Usually when talking, or writing, about courage trumping fear my mind wanders to a buddy and long-time mentor Dr. Jerry Gibson. He’s in his eighties these days but still has the passion and enthusiasm of someone half his age. The former University of Illinois football team chaplain and I used to have wonderful breakfasts together in the Mile High City before he and beautiful wife Normadeene moved to Arizona about a year ago.

I’ll never forget one conversation about the importance of courage and risk taking in reaching desired goals, when the retired minister proclaimed, “Mark, when it comes to risk taking we could learn from turtles.” I almost spit out my oatmeal while chuckling but was able to query, “What the heck are you talking about, we could learn from turtles?” With a grin as wide as the chasm separating America’s rival political parties, Gibson responded, “Think about it. A turtle doesn’t make any progress until sticking its neck out!” Ya know he has a point. So, here goes: I’m gonna stick my neck out.

For the past seven years, folks like you, have received a weekly Pep Talk. A short story, from life experiences, designed to encourage others to play like champions - home, work and elsewhere. Two years ago, Victory Productions added a Daily Dose of encouragement via mobile device texts. Each product has the same mission: help you effectively deal with change, challenge and adversity and keep your spirit hopeful. The writing and distribution of these services takes time and money.

As a small business owner, - many of you can relate too - we must constantly evaluate where we’re spending time and resources, right? A trusted advisor challenged me recently, “Mark, you need to discover what value others believe your writings bring to their lives. You need to have the courage to ask.” He’s right. How many businesses survive when providing services/products for free? After prayer and deliberation, I am asking for a $20 annual subscription fee in consideration of the time and effort required to produce Pep Talk and Daily Dose.

I hope you agree. Yes, it will cost a little but, trust me, it will mean a lot toward Victory Productions’ ability to provide these services. For every $20 payment received before January 1st, 2012, $5 will be donated to Widow’s Walk,, a Denver-based non profit providing support and services to women and families who have lost a husband and father.

Thanks for considering this value proposition. I hope you find it fair, reasonable and agreeable. At this time, I hope you find life in a similar fashion too. Happy Holidays! Here's where you can subscribe to Pep Talk/Daily Dose:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Two Men Named Mac"

It was a Saturday Centennial State day eight days before Christmas; everybody on the planet is talking Tebow in the buildup to the Broncos and Patriots and I’m doing laundry. While the cat snores beside me, a few thoughts crashed into the cranium, including:

My wonderful father. Most folks who knew the personable and trustworthy dude called him “Mac.” What sparked remembrance of a golfing buddy who passed back in 2007, was a conversation with another guy most know as “Mac.” That would be Bill McCartney.

Coach Mac and I have known each other a long time and we’re hitting the road to speak to groups about life and leadership. Yeah, as he likes to say, “The righty with the high hard one and the lefty with the off speed - off beat? - stuff.” Yeah, we’re a team. He’s the coach, I’m the quarterback. Which is appropriate. Anyway, we had just wrapped up a productive phone call that ended because he and his darling wife Lyndi were hustling to their grandson’s basketball game. After hanging up the phone, I paused and gave thanks for Coach Mac. For whatever reason, that joy shifted my spirit to Marvin Walter McIntosh, Jr., my old man.

They have each been wonderful mentors. In fact, when I was going through my first painful divorce years ago, these two men were in the fox hole with me. Marv Mac, who lived in Kansas City, would call weekly and visit often. Meanwhile Coach Mac, then leading the University of Colorado football program, would write often. Each was always encouraging me to overcome adversity. As I like to joke, “turn life’s lemons - heck with lemonade - sweet and savory margaritas.” Somebody wrote a book with that silly title, right?

Back to the point. I’ve always been a big fan of “spirit” and its power. Whether it’s been a team, person, organization and other stuff, my opinion, we’re usually attracted to others because of a similar spirit, right? Well, I’m a damn lucky dude to have Marv Mac and Coach Mac as mentors. They have similar spirits and they inspire me.

To me it’s a great example of someone’s spirit, Marv Mac’s, being alive and well through another, Coach Mac. Hey, it’s just my opinion, but I think it’s pretty cool. The experience, did make me think of my father and brought tears to my eyes. The beautiful part is they were tears of joy. Never a bad thing to have show up every once in a while, right? I hope, in the craziness that is the holiday season, joy’s showing up for you too. For those where that just ain’t possible, for a variety of reasons, a quick prayer: “May you find strength from above, below, within or wherever to hang in there and believe better days lie ahead. Cling like heck to hope!”

As we scurry about looking for the special gift for someone this holiday season, how about this? Let’s call, or write a hand-written note, folks who showed us how to cling to hope in the challenging times and give them thanks and praise.

Two men named Mac took me to thanks and praise. It’s a good spot to dwell. One I hope you find as well this busy time of year. Blessings.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Unshackled Spirit"

Do you have a favorite moment of the week? You know, an event? It might be poker night, Pilates workout, coffee with a long-time friend, dinner with your precious daughter, date night with your darling girlfriend, quiet time with an aging parent, volunteering for a cause - whatever?

Do you have a special time of each and every week reserved for something that sparks joy? I sure hope so. I also know life, and its unexpected twists and turns, can often make that desirable quest easier said than done, right? Well, I’m blessed. Friday mornings, I get the chance to huddle with a bunch of knuckleheads and talk about our faith. We’re just a bunch of “jacked up dudes” who happen to share a real passion for following Jesus. Usually about 15-20 strong, we love to gather in a business office conference room and lambast, cajole, encourage and pray for one another to have the strength to be mighty men for our families, businesses and communities. We call it Platoon. Others might suggest, Animal House.

It’s a tough crowd, like a football team. We know the battle will be difficult and love the weekly camaraderie and its value in helping us dig deep for the resolve to claim victory in living our faith. We’re big on “actions speak louder than words.” The group is led by LeRoy Matticks. We call him the Coach. He and I, along with Carl Medearis, also host a 15-minute radio show each weekday called, Street Theology: A Different Look. You can learn more about that at

Anyway, back to the story, at this week’s meeting a question was asked: “Do you see your problems as the start of a great opportunity?” We had animated conversation centered around that thought-provoking question. Matticks, a western Nebraska native - don’t hold it against him please - brings important figures of the Bible alive in ways I’ve never experienced. He had just told us the story of two buddies long ago, who also thought the world of Jesus. They were imprisoned for it but still displayed joy, optimism and courage despite dire straights.

The world’s best-selling book on wisdom, translated into more than 2,500 languages, shares the story in Acts. It’s about Paul and Silas having a real bad day if you consider imprisoned, shackled and beaten less than best. However, the pair managed to keep a good attitude and rallied for dramatic victory and historical induction. If I could steal one from the sports world: Hall of Famers. If they’re not playing golf with my old man maybe they’re having a cold one together, somewhere. How would you like to sit down with those two dudes over a beer? For all the event planners out there, that would be a great auction item wouldn’t it?

Ya know, I might be a fruitcake, but folks, that seems a good example of seeing your problems as the start of a good opportunity. The gathered men of Platoon sat in relative silence for awhile, soaking in the meaning and how it applies to us, when a guest shared his story. It burrowed deep into the marrow of every man present and took the message from past to present.

He and his wife were homeless. He had been sober for about a month. He earnestly seems dedicated to transformation. In his late 50‘s, the Oklahoma native’s dream is to move to South Dakota and serve others on an Indian reservation. He was seeing his problems - homeless and jobless - as the start of a great opportunity to never grow weary of doing good. I had the thrill of sitting next to Marcos - what are the odds? - and we shared three or four hugs in the hour and a half together. He has a wonderful spirit right now. It’s my prayer it never departs.

What about us? No doubt we have some challenges in life right now, right? Maybe it has to do with a job situation; a relationship unraveling; a malignant tumor; a child severely injured - stuff happens, right? We have those moments when we’re wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?”

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s when we must make a choice, choose wisely, K? Be a student, not victim. Keep an unshackled spirit toward challenges. Whether long ago in a prison, a few days ago in an office or, right now, in life - home, work or elsewhere.

I dunno, just a simple dude from Missouri; been called many things in life, smart rarely one of them, but this much I believe: while there’s no guarantee of success, possessing an unshackled spirit seems, if used wisely, to increase the odds we prevail against whatever foe might ail us.

Thanks for your time, attention and willingness to connect. I hope this Pep Talk is received as intended and encourages others to accept diversity of belief while working like heck to promote unity of spirit.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Riches Money Can't Buy"

It was a snowy Saturday in the Mile High City. The much-needed white stuff had been falling since overnight. My unofficial measuring stick, the backyard patio table, seemed to suggest about eight inches or more - needed moisture for which we give thanks. It was noon time. The news of the day was Herman Cain suspending his presidential campaign.

While that unfolded on the television in the background, I’m parked at the counter separating kitchen from family room. The cat snored on a chair nearby. I’m reading correspondence on Facebook after encouraging others there to “think about their neighbors who might need some help with shoveling.” The return musings of wonderful Centennial State residents doing good works warms my heart on a chilly day. The stories are powerful, at least for me, examples of what the world’s best-selling book suggests we do for one another. In Galatians we’re encouraged to “never grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time, we’ll reap the harvest if we just don’t give up.”

I have always loved that verse. The real challenge is living it. There are times in life when you wonder, “Okay, when am I gonna reap the harvest if I just don’t give up?” It makes me wonder about historical figures: Christopher Columbus, Abe Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, Betty Friedman, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Addams and many others from a list of the 100 most influential Americans I found on the Internet. Before these folks, and other honorable American-history influencers, did something very cool to make the record books, surely they must have had moments when they wanted to shout, “This sucks, I give up!”

But somehow they persevered and continued to never grow weary of doing good. That good might have been abolishing slavery, stressing education for the uneducated, fighting for women’s rights - whatever. The bottom line is, for some reason, there was a spirit inside these pioneers of progress encouraging them to continue, despite the adversity, the quest for mission success.

What inspires such resolve, defined as “great determination?” What separates those who keep faith in their vision, persevere and ultimately, achieve their goal? What is it that allows some to stay rooted in courage and wonderment and not become mired in the muck of fear and self doubt? That is a tricky question, that, for a simple dude from Missouri comes down to faith - home, work or elsewhere.

Let me give you an example. I know a guy who seven years ago began a journey, through writing, speaking and consulting, to encourage others to play like champions in the game of life and exalt those who demonstrate those abilities. The father of two beautiful and maturing kids has invested most of his life savings in the endeavor. The fitness fanatic feels truly called, considering his life experiences, unique talents and personality, to exalt and encourage others to live their lives in ways that honor, nurture and add value to the communities we serve.

I know him pretty well and know, financially, times are tough. The southpaw likes to joke, “I’m broke but consider myself richly blessed.” He’s fighting to remain rooted in courage and wonderment. By the way, that guy would be me.

Without question, in addition to your humble correspondent, you probably know others who might need an encouraging word right now to continue chasing their dreams. Maybe it’s one of your kids; an aging parent; neighbor; friend or a complete stranger.

Let’s never grow weary of doing good for each other, okay? I believe it will help us “reap the harvest if we just don’t give up.” Thanks for your time, I’m gonna go shovel my elderly neighbor’s sidewalk. Will it help my business achieve success down the road? I have no idea. However, this much I do know. It makes me feel good and provides riches money can’t buy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Whisper Greatness"

Is anybody out there trying to raise teenagers and, at the same time, trying to care for aging parents? It certainly has its challenges, right? The question becomes, how we will respond?

The journey through these often turbulent waters requires patience, love, discipline, courage, gentleness and, when you feel like tearing your hair out, or lashing out, self control. Full disclosure, I could improve in all areas. Beautiful human beings: those who created us and those we created; we ache when they ache; weep when they weep; rejoice when they rejoice.

Constant thoughts about life as a member of what I like to call the “Sandwich Generation” controlled my cranium following a workout at my sister’s home during the Thanksgiving weekend. A few days earlier she had suggested I read a letter placed beneath glass on the dresser inside the guest bedroom that was my residence. I finally had a moment, grabbed my reading glasses and discovered a wonderful reminder to what, when it comes to concern for chronically-advancing children or parents, ailed an aching heart.

It was a short letter written a few years ago by my late father to my niece - my sister’s daughter - during her senior year of high school. A standout prep athlete, she had just decided to play college basketball for Washburn University. My father, before his passing in 2007, was known for an upbeat personality and positive outlook. He had read a story in the Kansas City Star about Washburn’s women’s basketball team, nicknamed the Lady Blues. He had clipped the article and wrote a short note to a young woman finishing a successful high school career and looking forward to chasing collegiate dreams for the Topeka, Kansas university known for its excellence in women ‘s basketball. Here’s what he shared:

Dearest Had (short for Hadleigh):

Thought you might like this article on the Lady Blues. Your play last night at Fort Osage (the opponent) was something to behold and confirms all I have known was you since you started your drive to be a great basketball player. Your leadership, character and ability was so evident and you are definitely in control of your destiny. I am so proud of you and the beautiful person you have become. All the best is yet to come.

Love, Grandpa.

Suddenly tears joined sweat upon my face. A short and encouraging note reminded me of, not only, a loving father but of another person too. A wonderful friend and his recent wise words. I had spoken with this mentor about feelings of inadequacy in helping, in healthy and productive ways, a developing teenager and aging parent. His words were brief, simple and powerful: “Whisper greatness.”

That’s exactly what a grandfather, in his letter to a grandchild, had offered; that’s exactly what a friend, in his encouragement to me, had suggested; it’s what each of us could do to whomever - child, parent, friend or foe - needs an encouraging word.

Ya never know, this week, our soothing words may just inspire a soul - whisper greatness.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Out of Love"

It was late on a Thursday evening and I’m driving back from Boulder, Colorado after an event that brings great joy to my heart: since September, each Thursday night “Coach Mac’s Feast and Fix” feeds, entertains and, we hope, inspires others. It’s a bunch of CU football fanatics who are buffs to the bone in support of head coach Jon Embree, staff, players and everybody else trying like heck to restore the fortunes of the football program.

It’s a fun night out that brings together folks around a common goal: unwavering support of the challenging restoration project ahead. The Buffs, from the late ‘1980‘s through early 2000‘s won a national title, many conference titles and recruited many great players who went on to great success in the National Football League. The Buffs during that span, under Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett were an elite program - not so much right now.

So each Thursday night, McCartney challenges a growing number of folks, bellies full of Pasta Jay’s great food served within the beautiful confines of Gebhardt BMW - great event space - to unite. It’s been a lot of fun hearing the funny, heartwarming and courageous stories guests - players, coaches, staff - share. The crowd also gets an inspiring leadership message and poem from McCartney. Yeah, that’s right, the tough and intense football coach? Yeah, he loves to write poetry and shares a poem, written to honor the guests, with the audience right before the event closes with the school’s fight song. Trust me, it’s worth the price of admission.

Anyway, back to the point. I was driving home from the “Feast and Fix” and had three “to go” boxes of food. I wasn’t hungry but I had grabbed three of the boxes before departing because of a great lesson I learned long ago, when covering the CU Buffs football team as a sports guy at KCNC-TV in Denver. I did that from 1988-2005 and traveled on the team plane for most of those years. You become part of the family in many ways. Well, former Buff All American Bobby Anderson, who was on the radio team back then, would always grab leftover sack lunches left on the plane once we landed back in the Mile High City after what was usually, considering the years we covered the team, victories by the Buffs.

A lot of the kids, after a grueling football game, get on the plane and sleep, listen to music, chill - lots of food is left over. Anderson used to scoop all the unopened meals and take them to a homeless shelter in the area. I always thought that was pretty cool.

So I had grabbed the food, headed back to Denver and pulled up to an area of downtown known for having hungry folks congregated. I pulled up and asked, “Anybody hungry?” A few folks immediately came to my window and, in a respectful way, took the food. Then another approached, looking famished and forlorn: “Do you have any more?”

I didn’t and felt terrible. The ten minutes that remained on the drive home changed dramatically: what had been a joyful night became quite reflective. Did I create more problems? Did they fight over the food? What about the woman who, unless the others shared, might go hungry? Doubts about whether it was the right thing crashed into my cranium.

I don’t have an answer for that, but this much I do know. In the best-selling book ever written, in Galatians, we’re encouraged to “never grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time, you’ll reap the harvest if you just don’t give up.”

It just makes sense, right? Hungry people, need some food, care for them. The gesture was meant out of love. Let’s try like heck this week to never grow weary of thoughts, words and actions meant out of love. I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, but it just seems if we dwell there, wow, against such things, there is no law!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "No Exceptions"

The music was the usual, old-time favorites, as I burrowed deeper into another day of cleaning gutters, raking leaves and winterizing the back yard. The early 70’s hit “Everybody Plays the Fool” was on the radio.

Here’s a little history. The song rose to number three on the charts in 1972. I recall that year well. My older brother was a high school senior and played for the Raytown South Cardinals who, that year, won their second Missouri state basketball title under legendary coach Bud Lathrop. I later played for the incredible coach and owe much to him. I remember the man, year and song with fondness.

According to Wikipedia, a trio, The Main Ingredient, recorded the song which was nominated for a Grammy the following year. For Cuba Gooding, Sr., Tony Silvester and Luther Williams, Jr. it was their biggest hit as a team. I’ve always loved the lyrics for their truth: we all have “played the fool” a few times in life, right? The subsequent lyrics certainly suggest that, stating - “no exceptions to the rule.”

In those “What the heck is going on here?” moments, the question becomes, “How are we going to react? Are we going to learn from the experience or become a victim of the circumstance? You know the best answer. Easier said than done, right? It’s easy to talk about turning life’s lemons into - heck with lemonade - sweet and savory margaritas but far more difficult to accomplish. We’ve been hit from the blindside and it’s a struggle to rise and fight again - do. My buddy Bill McCartney would say, “sometimes you have to lie on the battle field, bleed a little, then rise and march on.”

Amen brother.

Back to “Everybody Plays the Fool” and the lyrics, “no exception to the rule” and their importance to dealing with life’s unexpected twists and turns. Here it is. When we’ve played the fool it’s critical to repent to anyone we’ve harmed but equally important to forgive ourselves. We can’t keep dragging that hurt and disappointment around with us. It’s like a beer belly, easy to notice and not good for us.

I have always loved in the Bible what it says in Colossians. The Apostle Paul, writing while imprisoned in Rome, encourages folks in Colosse - western Turkey along the Lycus River today - to “be gentle and forgiving, never hold a grudge; remember the Lord forgave us, we must forgive others.” I have always tried like heck to live that truth, would encourage you to try the same and would like to add a bit to the “forgive others” end of the verse: “starting with ourselves.”

We can’t, or shouldn’t, beat ourselves up too long. We have to rise, dust ourselves off and move on down the road. It ain’t easy - few rewarding things in life are, right? - but try and stay focused on learning from the experience and determined to become superior to our former selves in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve - home, work and elsewhere.

The song ended and for a bit, so did the yard work. A song tugged the heart strings, activated the spirit and inspired me to share what crashed into cranium. In conclusion, can I tell ya something? I hope and pray a few encouraging words about not beating ourselves up is received as intended: everybody plays the fool; there are no exceptions to the rule but hang in there, persevere, learn and grow.

Blessings to ya and good luck!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "On Our Hearts"

It was one of those Centennial State early November weekend days that, at least for me proclaims, “Dang, I love living here.” A good bit of vegetation grooming in the alley was complete, along with quick chats with three alley-sharing neighbors in Denver’s delightful Congress Park neighborhood. One of the families loves the fact I’ve left up, despite little use, a basketball goal in the alley. As I think about their words: “Our kids like to shoot baskets on it” my heart warms with thanks.

It also makes me think of Bill McCartney, for a few reasons. First, he and I have a bet to settle. You see, each of us fancies ourselves as pretty good basketball players, especially at shooting. Sooner or later my buddy and I are gonna have a shooting contest. Not many folks know McCartney, known as an outstanding football coach, was a standout athlete in three sports growing up in Michigan. He was the first Michigan prep coach to ever win a state football and basketball time in same school year. The guy knows how to play, coach and win. During our frequent visits over water and mud he likes to make a “swish” sound while warning, with an ear-to-ear grin, not to mess with him on the basketball court. I’m not smart enough to heed his advice. I”m just a simple dude from Missouri. He’s gotta show me! I also ponder, it might be wise to join the neighbors’ kids and use the adjustable hoop.

And then another thought, centering around brainstorming with the only coach to lead the CU Buffs, in football, to a national championship, crashes into my cranium. Our time together has taken me to a new level of effective prayer and inspires me to share and hope you find value in it.

McCartney likes to suggest, “there is no discussion without dissension!” To that, I say, “amen brother.” Our brainstorming sessions about the Buffs to the Bone project and other topics get animated. At that time, something very cool usually happens: we will stop and say a quick prayer - clarity and courage - to truly speak what is on our heart. Honesty in the best policy, right?

I learned it - stopping for a quick prayer in times of adversity or joy - from Coach Mac. Thanks. This quick, painless and empowering act seems, at least for me, to calm the spirit and allow articulation of what’s burrowed in the heart. Then it does get tricky because we also want to make sure what’s on our hearts is good natured!

I dunno, thought you might like to try it this week. When you’re in one of those tough moments where you know honesty in the best policy, but that’s gonna take a lot of courage, stop. Say a quick prayer like, “Dear God, give me the strength to speak what is truly on my heart” and then, share your idea, thought or suggestion.

The question becomes, “What is truly on your heart?” The answer to that question is vast, wide and deep. Let’s try like heck this week to make sure answering that question lies within the playing field of honoring, nurturing and adding value to communities served wherever roaming - home, work and elsewhere.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "A Steady Diet"

There are moments in life that really define us. The circumstances of the experience may vary, but the strategies to successfully navigate the unexpected twists and turns, my opinion, rarely, if ever, stray. Stuff happens leaving us wondering, “What the heck is going on?”

But despite the bone-rattling experience, we persevere and march forward. We, as buddy Bill McCartney would say, “Lie on the battlefield, bleed a little, rise and march forward” with, despite the crap, hope and confidence. Coach Mac likes to talk about, “The greatest source of motivation is encouragement” and to that, I shout, a huge “Amen brother.”

I have always been in love with the definition of encourage. According to the torn and tattered Oxford American dictionary referenced often in writing Pep Talks, the word encourage suggests: “give hope and confidence to.”

Dang, can I have two? You? Imagine what our world might look like if everybody was walking around with hope and confidence? As I’m writing this on the first night of the 2012 World Series, St. Louis hosting Texas, almost 50 exotic animals, released from an Ohio refuge, are running wild. The community around Zanesville, Ohio was on high alert after a felon somehow ended up owning the sanctuary and, before taking his life, set the lions, tigers and bears loose. The media shouted, “Stay inside.” The communty, wondered, “What the heck is going on?”

Life throws us curveballs - mental, physical and financial - leaving us in that “WTH” frame of mind. We’ve all been there, right? Amen. The next step is critical. We must decide. Student, or victim, of the experience? Our choice, choose wisely, right?

I’m a simple dude from Missouri; been called many things in life, smart rarely one of them; but this much I do know: choose the former.

Dust yourself off and keep on trucking. Learn from it and become better because of it. That ain’t easy to do. So, what’s real important is to realize we’re not alone. Given that truth, let’s find other folks in the same boat and focus on one thing: encouraging one another! Give each other hope and confidence to put fear and self-doubt aside and allow wonderment to win in turning sour lemons into sweet and savory margaritas.

It’s real easy to talk about achieving but damn tough to accomplish. Back to McCartney, he’d say, “We’ve got some tough sledding ahead.” Yep, no question. However, the reward is so worth the effort. Challenge one another to move forward in ways honoring self, nurturing those dependent upon us and adding value to the communities we serve. Trust me, that ain’t a bad thing. To handle life’s twists and turns in ways helping us grow as humans seems a viable way to play like a champion in this crazy adventure we call life, right?

All this takes me back to a guy who taught me to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and under control. The fruits of a healthy and productive spirit. In the Bible’s chapter focusing on Galatians, Jesus talked to his social network about the benefits of embracing those noble nine traits.

It what seems a world with few absolutes can you imagine a world where we love one another? We’re joyful for whatever blessings exist; peaceful toward others; patience with same and self; kind; good; faithful; gentle and under control?

Man, I want to play on that team. You? Let’s make sure those nine fruits, available for daily consumption, are a steady part of our diet this week, K?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Respect"

A recent errand took me into the neighborhood grocery store just a short walk - two blocks - from my Congress Park home on Denver’s near east side. One of the owners and I share a passion for golf and there’s also a U.S. Postal Service office within his store. We chatted for a bit, “business is slow” he admitted - bless small business owners fighting to survive! - before I headed toward the back of the store to grab a spot in line to mail documents to the mortgage company. I had to ensure it repairs were made to my humble abode’s roof following a Colorado summer hail storm. Hail is about the only thing that can screw up Centennial State summers, right?

I was second in line behind a gentleman who was, I was within earshot of his conversation with the clerk, mailing a rather large box to a adult daughter living in North Dakota. While the clerk worked diligently wrapping the parcel, the elderly man and I began to chat. I asked him how many children he had, “I have three grown daughters.” He asked me the same and I offered, “Two wonderful kids; a 22-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter.” Then, I couldn’t resist considering I’m a resident of that crazy hotel fathers dwell in while raising teenage daughters - I’ve never been a girl and know what boys are like at that age, asked, “Any advice on raising daughters?”

A sly smile broke quickly across his content and weathered face. “I had it easier in my day,” he offered. “Kids today with the Internet - he now has teenage granddaughters - have so many temptations far beyond our control.” Amen brother.

Our conversation shifted to marriage and this easy-going man, with another grin on his face, informed me of 54 years of matrimony. As a twice-divorced veteran of the marriage game I have always admired others who make marriage work and queried, “What’s the key to being married that long and be happy?” He must get asked that question often because there was no hesitation, “We respect each other and don’t get on each other’s nerves.”

Amen again brother. The delightful conversation included a few good chuckles and some sports talk but was over in a few minutes. A short while later, after completing my transaction, while walking back toward home thoughts about respect crashed into cranium. I have always been fascinated with that word, defined as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone, or something, elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements.”

I think we all have folks we respect, right? Family, friends, co-workers and others we deeply admire? Suddenly I remembered an acronym for “respect” that a few years ago bounced from my brain. Here it is: Reasonable Expectations Spark Productive Encounters Creating Tranquility.

Where this week could we exercise, toward others and self, “reasonable expectations sparking productive encounters creating tranquility?” Could it be what the doctored ordered as a prescription for solving challenging situations before us - home, work and elsewhere?

Operating from a foundation of respect apparently has worked well for an engaging man at the post office happily married for more than half a century, right? I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, but it seems respect based upon reasonable expectations can work for us too, wherever we roam. Good luck!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Unwavering Support"

The lighting for writing on the porch was not ideal but the moment was when the following crashes into cranium: the importance of unwavering support.

The thought blasted through whatever brain matter remains after tugging on my McIntosh Open Golf Tournament cap. That act brings forth the spirit of a wonderful father. Taking the cap off for a second to throw on a Louisiana College comfy shirt brings forth the spirit of a wonderful mentor. I then march to a favored spot to share some thoughts: a converted kids’ playhouse where when this musing - call it a Pep Talk - emerges from yours truly and he remembers to realize this is special ground: be careful to honor that when trying to inspire others to play like champions wherever they roam.

Father and coach who gave, and with Vance still give, me unwavering support; son and daughter who until my final breath, will have mine. It’s a beautiful Centennial State day, trees beautifully turning gold, brown, burgundy and other wonderful colors in the Mile High City’s Congress Park neighborhood. I’m sitting here sharing the idea of the importance of unwavering support. Thanks for caring.

I’m thinking of the music playing behind me. Old time greats, ironically, and I promise this is the truth, Percy Sledge’s 1966 mega-hit “When a Man Loves a Woman” booms through the box and it takes me to darling girlfriend. That’s my love song to Kathy Gans. Now and forever.

Anyway, back to the point, of unwavering support. This wonderful collection of enjoyable songs arrived in my life thanks to a buddy at the gym. He’s been challenged of late. I have been subbing for the delightful CSU Rams' fan as instructor of an old-farts spin class. He gave me the cd long ago but now I get to play it during the Monday morning class. I get to honor his spirit. We talked the other day and I hope he believes my support is unwavering - bless ya buddy.

The cranium is tracking other recent examples of unwavering support in action. Dink! It makes me think of Thursday night’s in Boulder, Colorado. There, thanks to friends like Pasta Jay’s, Gebhardt BMW and others, coach Bill McCartney, I help a bit, leads a huddle of CU football fanatics unwavering support of beloved son Jon Embree’s attempt to restore pride and tradition at the University of Colorado - it’s been absent for a bit. This group of fun and committed folks meets once a week during the football season believing its unwavering support will make a difference. Hey, why not try?

There’s a chill in the air so I went inside as the music moved to Neal Diamonds' 1966 debut single “Solitary Man.” Off the hook of “favored weekend pullovers” emerges one from buddy John Wristen. He’s the head football coach at undefeated CSU-Pueblo, long-time friend and good dude who gave it to me a few years ago as a gift for speaking to his team. The Thunderwolves just knocked off fourth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney, on the road, and moving up in the polls - “Go Johnny Go!”

It makes me think of McCartney. Long ago, back in his CU head coaching days, he gave unwavering support in overcoming the disappointing loss of my first marriage. He continues to challenge me these days too, thanks CW. It makes me think of each and every one of us. Through the years there have been many who stood behind us with unwavering support. Now, that doesn’t mean there weren’t unexpected and unwanted challenges along the way, but it does mean, as coach Mac likes to say, “You can’t make it tough enough for me to complain.”

Unwavering support. Shoulder to shoulder in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to unity of spirt in pursuit of a worthy endeavor. I wanna play on that team forever, you? Even in the most challenging moments and regardless of venue - home, work and elsewhere - the strategy never wavers: We’re ready to charge, in healthy and productive ways, from the foxhole wherever we roam. It can be a powerful force.

It’s made a huge difference - thanks Dad, Vance, Jerry, Mac and others - in my life. I would suspect you could rattle off more than a few too. This week let’s promise each other to be such a person to others. Unwavering support can change a person’s life.

It’s time to quit boring you and close with this. Again, I promise it’s the truth. The music is now Jackie DeShannon’s 1965 classic “What the World Needs Now” and she sings beautifully, “What the world needs now is love sweet love. No, not for some, but for everyone.”

Amen to that. But here’s, my opinion, the tough part: It’s tough to give unwavering support without love in your heart. I’ve been called a lot of things in life, smart rarely one, but, for this simple dude from Missouri, it seems love, sometimes tough love, has to be part of unwavering support’s foundation, right?

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Too Few to Mention"

I’m a big Frank Sinatra fan and especially love his hit song, “My Way.” The song was written for Sinatra in 1968 and he recorded it early the next year and as they say, the rest is history. For whatever reason, the words the legendary singer uses about halfway through the song have always resonated with me: “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption.”

To me, those words have always be a good reminder that life rarely goes as planned. We have regrets for things we should have done, but didn’t; things we shouldn’t have done, but did and regrets for whatever lies between the extremes. The Oxford American dictionary defines regret as “a feeling of sorrow, annoyance or disappointment.” Ever felt that way? You bet, each and everyone of us has at various points in our lives.

Just the other night I was introducing one of the greatest players in University of Colorado football history. The California native grew up on the tough streets of south-central Los Angeles before venturing east to make his mark with the Buffaloes. In the three years Darian Hagan was CU’s starting quarterback, 1989-1991, the Buffs won three straight Big 8 Conference titles and a national title in 1990. Currently the school’s recruiting coordinator, the 41-year-old was a featured guest at Coach Bill McCartney’s Football Feast and Fix. It was my job to exalt Hagan’s great career which ultimately landed him in the school’s athletic hall of fame.

I have one regret from the evening. I was so focused on the statistical accomplishments of one of college football’s great dual-threat quarterbacks that I totally spaced out one of his most noble achievements: he blew out a knee in the 1991 Orange Bowl game but worked his butt off and was ready for the start of the regular season less than nine months later. Despite not being fully healed from the patella tendon surgery, the cat-quick signal-caller guided the Buffs to their third straight conference title ending his career as the school’s all-time total offense leader.

I regret forgetting the impressive bounce back from injury in the introduction. I regret a lot of things through 53 years on this planet: divorces breaking up families; jobs being eliminated; bad decisions adversely affecting others and self. The question becomes, what to do when we’re feeling sorrowful, annoyed or disappointed?

Take action! Seek out the person afflicted and earnestly apologize; eradicate the unproductive behavior and vow to not stay locked in the debilitating clutches of regret for too long - it can wear us out! I called Hagan and apologized the next morning.

One of the most important facts of life we must face on an almost daily basis is whether we’re going to become victims of the circumstances of our lives or students of the experiences. Choose the latter, stay focused on thoughts, words and actions honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve and refuse to allow regrets to define us. Remember Sinatra’s wise words: “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Too Tough to Complain"

It’s an absolutely gorgeous Colorado fall morning on Poor Man’s Porch. It’s the first Sunday of October. I just hung up the phone from a passionate discussion with my older sister in Kansas City. We talk often these days. The discussion usually focused on care for our aging mother.

These chats can get emotional to say the least. I don’t think we’re alone. Anybody out there relate? I like to joke to being part of the “sandwich generation” - you? - trying like heck to, in healthy and productive ways, raise children and care for elderly loved ones. There are few more noble efforts, my opinion, in life than caring for those who gave us life and those we returned, hopefully, the favor. It can get challenging though, considering a few things: siblings, with obligations of their own, scattered around the country; relationships over the years have strained; finances are different, so too, attitudes.

It makes me think of former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney. He likes to suggest, especially in challenging times, “You can’t make it tough enough for me to complain.” That’s the spirit of Coach Mac’s Football Feast and Fix huddle held Thursday night’s at Pasta Jay’s in Boulder, Colorado: it’s a group of CU football fanatics rallying weekly in unwavering support of program resurgence under, respectively, home-grown Jon Embree, Eric Bieniemy and Greg Brown - head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator.

Coach Mac always begins the program reminding the ever-growing crowd, at one of Boulder’s best restaurants, a sobering fact: playing like champions does not happen overnight. There is “tough sledding” ahead. To the comments from the coach who led the Buffs to a national title in 1990, I’d like to add “amen” and this: that’s the truth, playing like a champion takes time - whether we’re talking college football, home, work and elsewhere.

Often the challenges before us, like making good decisions in caring for aging parents, is an ongoing process requiring excellent teamwork from those involved. To steal Coach Mac’s phrase: “You can’t make it tough enough for me to complain.” Now, let’s be realistic here, this is not to suggest we all don’t have plenty of “stuff” on the platter, right? We have to focus on working like heck to turn those life lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas, true?

Well, hey, I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, but it seems, regardless of the venue making life challenging - work, home, elsewhere - we have to ask ourselves a basic question: “Hey knucklehead, student or victim?” I’ve been called a lot of things in life, smart rarely, but, my opinion, the former is better. Seeking solutions instead of complaining, inspires us, and others, to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win in creating productive choices to challenges faced.

It starts with, thanks Coach Mac, a “You can’t make it tough enough for me to complain” attitude. Let’s work our butts off this week to, wherever we roam, exalt and encourage others and self. Trust me, nobody will benefit more than us considering most folks don’t enjoy being around complainers very long. Have a great week!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Seize Another Day"

It was a beautiful Friday summer evening in the Mile High City. I can hear my wonderful alley neighbors bonding as family in their backyard. I’m sitting on Poor Man’s Porch with cold beer, Rockies’ radio and cat lurking as thoughts turn to others.

Specifically, two incredible human beings, who at time of writing this, had, either, tragically died from a brain aneurysm or was clinging to life after an inspiring six-year fight against brain cancer. Warriors in this condition, my opinion, called life. Dudes who former University of Colorado head football coach Bill McCartney would call, “fox hole kinda guys.”

I think of these men’s families and the grief witnessed: these men will be sorely missed for good reason considering how, powered by faith, they honored, nurtured and added value to each community touched. Guys who I considered, “brothers from another mother.”

For the one kindred spirit clinging to life at this moment, we had a team meeting at his bedside. Many prayers for God’s will be done poured from the souls of those gathered around this hilarious man. Who, in the midst of dying, would joke at Friday morning’s fellowship, “I’ve had more issues than TIME Magazine.”

I’m among the gathered and, inspired by the other prayers, offer: “Hey buddy, without a miracle - and they do happen - you will never physically be present at Platoon, but I promise you buddy, we’re gonna do our best to keep your spirit alive.”

I can guarantee you that’s what loved ones who leave too early would expect - keep their spirit alive! What does that spirit look like? Well, how about what Peter wrote of in Galatians when speaking of a spirit demonstrating love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Those nine fruits certainly describe Doug and Mark, I miss them already.

I would suspect, but I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, that most of us - not everybody - have similar folks in our lives. Family, friends and others who really show us the way to, as I like to suggest whenever given the chance, play like a champion. Great mentors - past and present - who love us, believe in us and support our healthy and productive goals. We’re touched by their spirits, and it’s good.

The question becomes, as life unexpectedly kicks us in the teeth and we’re wondering, “What the heck is going on here?”, will we remember the spirit of those who show the way? Will we, when life throws us a lemon, dust ourselves off, continue the journey and seize another day of trying to transform lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas? I hope this week, the answer is a resounding “You bet.”

Monday, September 19, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "A JOCK Mentality"

I really try and encourage others to see the benefit of being joyful for the blessings of life. Granted, when life sucks, that’s a challenging proposition. But blessings are usually present, we just struggle to sense them.

It’s just my opinion, but I believe gifts of blessing, when talking about this condition we call life, usually show up disguised in one of three ways: surviving, growing or thriving. Many factors determine location within that tri-level residence. Most of us sure would enjoy more time on the top floor, right?

The joy for blessings meter was registering in the growing area as I zipped south toward the Mile High City after a quick trip to Longmont, Colorado. I had visited the proud community where some of North America’s earliest residents lived 14,000 years ago. It’s a beautiful spot with breath-taking views of the nearby Rockies. I had the honor of giving a Pep Talk at the Longmont Association of Realtors’ annual awards/induction banquet.

It had been a wonderful evening observing dedicated women and men being honored for past deeds and future responsibilities and encouraging everyone in attendance to play like champions wherever they roam - home, work and elsewhere. That’s a real joy of mine and the entire Faith, Life and Sports (FLS) Foundation family: giving others hope and confidence.

In short, spirit was upbeat as I’m navigating a detour in Denver’s Uptown neighborhood. A construction project near a hospital in the area is disrupting a normally smooth final few, from travels north of the city, miles to home. It was annoying. Then, while obeying a four-way stop, something appears in the car’s headlights that moved the spirit needle dramatically.

Two young adults entered the crosswalk in front of the car, arms around one another and crying. Something transpired inside the nearby hospital on a splendid Centennial State evening of late summer creating great sadness for a grieving - looked college age - young woman and man. It sure seemed like their world had been rocked and this was an evening to recall much differently than I would, for grief, not joy.

It quickly brought me back to a brutal, but true, fact of life: rarely does it go the way we planned, right? One of the biggest responses from the Longmont crowd had been when I asked, early in the message, “What’s the only thing constant in life?” Almost in unison, and emphatically, about 200 folks offered, “Change.”

When we least expect, and desire, it too. The change might be our health, job, relationship or other circumstances - venues change. What doesn’t change is our strategy - call it a game plan - for dealing with life’s lemons: focus on blessings even when they’re real tough to find; remain optimistic about the future and courageous despite the past. Joy, optimism and courage are terrific teammates helping us kick ass in the game of life!

Joy. Optimism. Courage. Kick ass. You could call it a JOCK mentality.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"In A Heartfelt Manner"

It was one of those Centennial State Saturdays, weather-wise, making you shout, “God I love living here.”

In fact, it was the day before our nation observed 9/11 a decade later. A day, like Pearl Harbor and others, that will live in infamy, defined as “notoriety caused by great evil.” Amen to that. That’s what occupying my thoughts while pulling into Target to fetch energy drinks for freshman daughter’s volleyball team and its day-long tournament. Then, for whatever reason, thoughts shifted to a wonderful friend who just lost his mother.

Singer Jackie DeShannon’s “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love” bellowed from the car’s stereo system as I parked, turned the music down and placed a call: “Hey buddy,” I offered into voicemail, “I hear your mom passed away. My thoughts and prayers are with you.” The dear friend on the receiving end of this message is one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met. We’ve known each other a long-time. I would trust him with my life. He had great role models in his parents. One of them is now gone.

“I guarantee you buddy, wherever your mom is today she is looking down on you and saying, keep up the good work as a father, husband and friend.” After a few more comments about how much I admired his mother and, him, the father of two growing boys, the call ended with “I love you buddy.”

Later in the day after the daughter’s volleyball marathon was complete, I’m back in the car fetching delicious barbecue in route to darling girlfriend’s home for a mellow evening. Donovan’s “Catch the Wind” is now the music of choice and a college buddy, in challenging times, the call of choice. As expected, considering he’s gone into a self-imposed submarine, there is no answer. I leave a message: “You can avoid me all you want but it will never erase my love for you.”

And then it dawns on me. The power of an encouraging word. I want to to challenge you this week: take the sixty seconds necessary to call - no email or texting allowed - and, in a heartfelt manner, someone and tell them how much you love them. Let them hear your voice and its sincerity.

In fact, as Americans a decade after a day notorious for great evil, might it be a good time for us to proclaim, in a heartfelt manner, our love of country? What could we start TODAY that would demonstrate love and contribute to our nation’s recovery from what ails us - home, work and elsewhere? More support of our kids, spouses, significant others, aging parents, schools, businesses, communities and others? All of the above require, to varying degrees, our work, wealth and wisdom. I know, easier said than done but WE CAN DO IT!
Back in 1918, while serving in America’s armed forces, Irving Berlin wrote the famous song and lyrics, “God bless America, land that I love.....”. Ten years have passed. We remember the loss, heroism and significance.

Let’s never forget this country’s potential. It starts with, in a heartfelt manner, love and respect for one another and a willingness to embrace unity of spirit while accepting diversity of belief. When you think about it rarely does anything, of value, begin without a heartfelt manner. Let’s display it in abundance this week!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"The Encouragement It Provides"

On a recent evening I zipped into a sandwich shop to pick up a sub platter former wife had ordered and was my responsibility to retrieve for our beautiful, smart and athletic daughter’s school event. I’m blessed we get along. Anyway, as I hurried to the counter, an enthusiastic employee smiles broadly and states: “Hey Mark, how are you. You spoke at the Larimer County Jail when I was there. Thanks.”

Okay, I might be a simple dude from Missouri, but that was a different introduction to somebody, right? The store wasn’t real busy so we had a chance to chat. It was inspiring. This handsome young man mentioned he was a shift manager, happy and working hard to learn from his mistakes. You go boy. I love speaking in correctional facilities. There are so many talented, smart and creative people incarcerated. It comes down to making healthy choices, right?

Now, let’s be clear, there are many bad people who need to be removed from society but there are many who are pretty good folks making, for whatever reason, bad choices earning time in the gray-bar motel. I’ve been there a few times myself for silly mistakes.

A young man with a bright smile and, at least at this time, even brighter future and I quickly ran through the four strategies discussed in the Pep Talk presentation he and other - male and female - inmates heard that day: be a student, not victim of life’s experiences; understand we’re not along and it’s important to connect with others of like mind; encourage one another to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win in creating productive choices to the challenges present in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve.

A few days after this chance encounter, I was reading a hot August day’s edition of the Denver Post when a story about a state Department of Corrections’ program catches me eye: It has inmates learning career skills in the growing renewable energy industry. Somebody’s thinking, thank you! Anyway, one of the inmates is quoted as saying, “Everything is turning green; why not get educated? It’s my chance to become a productive member of society.”

Amen brother. Can you imagine what our world would look like if EVERYONE was focused on becoming a productive member of society? Wow, can I have another, please? The society might be your home, work, neighborhood or community. It really doesn’t matter because, while the venues change, the strategies are the same.

You get kicked around for a variety of reasons including poor choices. We then have another very important choice to make: student or victim? Choose wisely, K? The road will not be easy. But, a sincere effort to become superior to our former selves is worth the effort. If for no other reason, the encouragement it provides others incarcerated by society or self.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Joy, not Regret"

It’s a lazy Saturday afternoon and I’m blessed to be sitting in Vail, Colorado, at the Red Lion, a popular local hangout. A folk singer is providing entertaining live music, a bartender is supplying cold beer and a weekend Denver Post is offering news of the day.

A picture in the sports section captures my attention. It’s former NBA player Dennis Rodman, overcome with emotion, giving his induction speech. Dressed eccentric as usual, the former Piston, Laker and Spur rebounding machine was grateful for the great coaches of his life who taught him how to play like a champion and remorseful for children neglected as a father.

Ironically, I had observed this picture just seconds after texting my 21-year-old son and congratulating him for being such a responsible older brother to his 14-year-old sister who recently visited the aspiring television producer in Los Angeles. One of the real challenges of being a twice divorced father of two great kids - one from each marriage - is the reality they don’t get to spend much time together. I’m very grateful for the time they do hang together even if, at their age, it’s time they’d rather spend solo, without their old man lurking.

Is there anything more important in life than, and I know it ain’t easy, being a responsible parent? My goodness, our children didn’t ask to be brought into this world, right? We created them, isn’t it our responsibility to show, not tell, them through our thoughts, words and actions, how to play like champions wherever they roam?

I don’t know how many kids - Wikipedia says three - Rodman has fathered over the years but his crazy lifestyle certainly has made far more headlines than accolades for parenting prowess. I find it also ironic that, during the emotional address, the New Jersey native understood the value coaches brought into his life.

It makes me think of mentors. Whether we’re talking home, work or elsewhere, including basketball, we are heavily influenced by mentors, another name for a coach. A friend of mine, with a good track record of coaching success in football and life, once told me a great definition for a coach. It comes from former Dallas Cowboy head coach Tom Landry, considered one of the greatest mentors in NFL history. Landry once said, when speaking of coaching: “A coach is a person who requires others to do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve things they’ve always dreamed of doing.”

Rodman had others who helped him achieve - Hall of Fame induction - things most could only dream of doing. For whatever reason, at least to this point in the 49-year-old’s life, he’s remorseful for underachieving when it comes to being hall-of-fame old man.

But here’s the beauty of life. It’s never too late to begin. It’s never too late to tell your children how much you love them, believe in them and support their pursuit of healthy and productive dreams. Perhaps more important than telling them, is to show them.

Parenting is coaching. It ain’t easy and there’s no guarantee of success but give it your best shot. Let’s work like heck this week to make sure any tears concerning kids are tears of joy, not regret.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Emotion of Great Delight"

While sweating away on cardio equipment at a gym in Vail, Colorado on Independence Day weekend, I was watching the men’s final from Wimbledon. Serbia’s Novak Djokovic had just beaten Spain’s Rafael Nadal for the title. The 24-year-old was celebrating afterward, tossing tennis rackets, sweatbands and kisses to the adoring English crowd.

Then the image of his family in the stands was shown. The unbridled joy on their faces prompted tears to flow from my eyes and join the sweat of my face. Is there any greater joy for a parent than to watch your child achieve a dream? It was this season’s number-one ranked player’s first Wimbledon title.

Joy, wow, what a great thing to possess, right? Defined as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying”, joy is something to cherish, and welcome, when it appears. In each and every Pep Talk presentation, we talk about being “joyful for the blessings of life.” Is it just me, or does it seem moments where joy reigns, like the Djokovic family celebration, are experienced less than speaking directly to a customer service representative? Rarely?

That darn thing called life, with its unexpected, and unwanted, twists and turns often makes it tough to experience great delight and happiness. Right before sitting down to remove this thoughts from cranium, I received a message on Facebook from a friend asking for prayers and support: a brain tumor was wreaking havoc on her mind, body and spirit, causing seizures and horrific pain.

Where’s the joy in that? We all have challenges - physical, emotional, financial and spiritual - constantly battering our bodies, minds, souls and wallets. The question becomes, how do we handle life’s lemons?

Well, how about this: Try like heck to become a student, not victim of the experience; realize you’re not alone and connect with others who might share similar challenges; encourage - give hope and confidence to - one another to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win in creating productive choices to the challenges faced. Finally, we have to make sure our strategy to overcoming the adversity honors us, nurtures those dependent upon us and adds value the communities we serve. It’s a four-step process with, darn it, no shortcuts.

Hope and enthusiasm for the future, in the face of great adversity, is not an easy task. However, with hope, “feeling that what is wanted can be had, or that events will work out for the best”, we are inclined to exert effort - like Djokovic at Wimbledon - leading to success and the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.

Imagine if that would be an accurate - exceptionally good or satisfying - description of our lives? Have a great week and for those where just surviving right now is a very good option - BLESS YOU!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "I Believe in You"

Considering the ease of email and texting, writing heartfelt cards and letters to others seems to be a long lost art these days. So it was with great pleasure I gently opened a card from a dear friend. She’s been a chief encouragement officer in the Faith, Life and Sports (FLS) Foundation’s efforts to raise the necessary money to get a 15-minute daily radio show funded. The program, Pep Talk with Mark McIntosh: A Daily Dose of Faith, Life and Sports, would be the centerpiece of FLS’s programs, services and products designed to inspire others to play like champions wherever they roam.

The wonderful friend, mother, grandmother, wife and businesswoman ended the handwritten note with this: “I believe in you.” Those words warmed my marrow and took my cranium to a moment earlier in the week when another friend had challenged me with this question, “What’s the most important thing you could say to your girlfriend?” Two options came immediately to mind: “You are always right” and “I love you dearly.” I chose the latter and uttered it with conviction.

Not surprisingly, I was, at least in the mind of the questioner, incorrect. “Nope,” cracked the long-time football coach and leader of men, the most important thing you could ever say to your girlfriend, or anybody else for that matter, is: “I believe in you.”

Hummm. In less than 48 hours, two people I greatly respect had either written, or spoken, those words to me. I am now inspired to share them with you. Four words; a short, yet very powerful, phrase that can motivate others, despite obstacles, to never give up on dreams. I think most of us can recall times in our lives where somebody - parent, coach, friend, teacher, spouse or others - encouraged our efforts with that quality quartet, right?

Shannon Sharpe, for 14 years one of the best tight ends in NFL history, was just inducted into pro football’s Hall of Fame. The three-time Super Bowl champion thanked many in an almost 25-minute acceptance speech but saved a majority of it for his devoted grandmother. She raised the Savannah State University graduate and his siblings on faith and hope in poverty-stricken rural Georgia. Materially, she had little but spiritually she possessed a lot and constantly told Sharpe, “I believe in you.” Her encouragement was the initial fuel that powered the athlete’s rise to football immortality.

I’d like to challenge you this week to think about somebody who could benefit from hearing those powerful words. Who might it be? A child, co-worker, teammate, spouse or estranged friend? Who needs to hear “I believe in you” - from you? For any reading this Pep Talk who might need someone to recite that fabulous foursome of prose to YOU, please know the FLS is here to help. Just email us at and make a prayer request.

The knowledge others believe in us and support our healthy and productive pursuit of dreams is, at least in my opinion, a foundational aspect to achievement and success.

“I believe in you.” Try to say it at least once a day - perhaps to self - this week and see how it may transform the mindset of the recipient, and you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"A Better Way"

A good portion of the 212th day of 2011 was spent on Poor Man’s Porch reading. I love to read and learn new stuff. Reading and learning, at least for me, generates ideas. That passion for reading, learning and then generating ideas can be a blessing and a curse. I have some who, lovingly but curiously, wonder, “So Mac, what are you up to these days?”

The roof of this backyard sanctuary echoes the voices of two great kids and their buddies who used to play inside a playhouse transformed into my writing base. The structure, long ago useful until my children outgrew it, had become blighted. But with the help of a neighbor buddy and some ingenuity, the space has been transformed into something incredibly special: it’s where I pour my heart out and hope it inspires you, and others, to play like champions wherever you roam.

I’m reading and listening to the Rockies’ radio pre-game show from San Diego. It’s the first post-Ubaldo trade day for a team dealing with underachievement that was the focus of last week’s Pep Talk. General Manager Dan O’Dowd offers: “In baseball there are three types of players,” the long-time Rockies’ leader suggested, “Those who are survivors, contributors and winners. We’ve had too many not moving up the ladder from survivor to contributor to, ultimately, winner.”

Honest and accurate if you ask me.

But that phrase, “survivors, contributors and winners” sunk into cranium like humidity seeps into skin: In looking at our lives, are we surviving, contributing or winning - home, work or elsewhere? Sometimes surviving is the best we can accomplish and should be celebrated but apparently, at least with the Rockies baseball team, it seems some team members were physically okay but mentally fried and not performing to expectations. Barely surviving, not contributing and thoughts of winning, considering their performance, fleeting.

It’s a yucky spot to find ourselves in, ain’t it? It might be challenges on the home front with significant other or kids, struggles paying the bills or illness threatening self or loved ones - whatever. There are many paths to quicksand. Initially, it’s smart to survive but then, as quickly as possible, we have to muster the will to lift ourselves from the muck.

In those crazy times of life, where we’re wondering, “What the heck is going on here?” might it be - I’m just a simple dude from The Show Me State writing on a Centennial State backyard porch, beneficial to embrace the following: become a student, not victim of the experience; realize we’re not alone and rally with others of like mind; encourage one another to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win and promise each other to executive this game plan in ways that honor, nurture and add value to the communities we serve. I call that strategy the “Faithful Foursome” considering its foundation is four Bible verses. We’ll save that for another day.

LIfe is often tough. Maybe it’s a good description of your journey right now. O’Dowd’s words might be worth embracing: Whether surviving, contributing or winning, the key factor, wherever we roam, is striving for improvement. Simple, not easy. Becoming superior to our former selves is rarely a bad idea, right?

We learn a better way. Try it. You might succeed, you might not. Prayers for the former this week!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Refined, Resolute & Fearless"

It’s a Sunday afternoon, the music is Oldies, the temperature is hot and the mood, mixed. A quick conversation with wonderful Los Angeles based-son about his sister’s pending visit is good, the breeze on Poor Man’s Porch is cooling but there’s sobering news to report: The local baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, are dead in the water and drifting away from land and the coveted island that is the baseball playoffs at season’s end.

They just lost 7-0 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was the club’s 14th-straight Sunday loss of the season. What? The Rockies’ best pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, since traded, was erratic, the hitters couldn’t solve a guy making his first start in two months and the will, to bounce back from a prior night’s shellacking, apparently on the disabled list and unavailable.

To put it another way. The 2011 version of the Jim Tracy-led Rockies have underachieved big time. Underachieving, wherever we roam, is a lousy place to dwell, ain’t it? You want to quickly shower the stench away, don’t ya? We all have been there at points in life, right? Where, despite best intentions, it’s a train wreck leaving us dazed and confused. What’s the saying, “Life gets in the way of our best laid plans?” The Rockies didn’t expect to be buried in a double-digit deficit to the world-champion San Francisco Giants; I didn’t expect to be divorced twice and you didn’t expect - fill in the blank. Life rarely goes as planned.

The question, when mired in underachievement, “What the heck are we doing to do about it?” We do have a choice, right? I’m just a simple dude from Missouri sitting here writing you from my backyard, but I think it’s this simple: We have to decide whether we’re going to be victims of underachievement or students of it. I believe that’s true whether talking baseball, love or whatever. We have to, when faced with the reality of underachievement, look inward and ask, “What could be done better to become superior to our former selves - home, work or elsewhere?”

But here’s where it get tricky. Accepting the truth of underachievement takes courage. First, to admit it and then, to explore a new path encouraging a better way. Simple, not easy. I think it starts with forgiving ourselves. I can only speak for myself, but it seems we’re usually our worst critics. In the Bible, in Colossians, it talks about “being gentle, forgiving and never holding a grudge against others.” I think it starts self.

When underachievement arrives at the most undesirable time, we have to muster the courage to dust ourselves off and move forward. Wiser from the experience, optimistic about the future and courageous despite the past. Refined, resolute and fearless from lessons learned in our quest to turn life’s lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas and play like champions down the road.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Thanks Zap"

I don’t think it’s being unreasonable to believe each of us has moments that brand our bones: those moments where elation or disappointment reign are snapshots from the journey defining our lives.

For me one of those moments was late in 1983. I was living in Denver, Colorado and drifting like a ship without sail or rudder. I didn’t like myself much that day while plopped on the couch of a modest apartment and watching rookie John Elway lead the Broncos to a thrilling win over the Baltimore Colts. A team that had drafted, but been spurned by Elway, being the first victim of the rifle-armed quarterback’s come-from-behind magic that is one of many attributes of his Hall-of-Fame career.

On that fateful day, I was on the couch watching a Denver sports anchor, after the rally, reporting live from a joyous Broncos’ locker room. I liked his style, passion and knowledge. I had an epiphany: “I wanna do what he’s doing. I wanna be a sportscaster like Ron Zappolo.”

That thought inspired me to take the necessary steps to return to my alma mater, Mizzou, for a master’s degree in journalism. The goal: become a sportscaster and return to my athletic roots.

More than a quarter century later, that goal, inspired by someone else’s example, is something remembered like yesterday. It takes my brain to this: how beautiful and beneficial it is to remember others who inspire us to be our best? To, as I like to say whenever blessed to encourage others with a Pep Talk, be “joyful for the blessings.”

Imagine - home, work and elsewhere – marinating in the physical, emotional and spiritual ingredients comprising those who inspire us to play like champions? Just me, and I know I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, but I like our odds of living a life that honors, nurtures and adds value wherever we roam.

The Boston native had that type of influence of my life. Occasionally I mention this to the man who set the standard for Denver sportscasters before transforming into an equally talented news anchor in the Mile High City. He smiles, shrugs and suggests, “Ah Mac, you’re too kind.”

No Zap, few in life have given me a greater gift than the encouragement that branded my bones that late-in-the-year 1983 date and changed my life, for the better. This week let’s, in thoughts, words and actions: “Be what Zap was for Mac.” Our example may help another become superior to their former self. Is there a greater honor?

Thanks, Zap.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Taste the Fruits"

Who remembers the song from the 1970’s named Disco Inferno? I would suspect most, considering our age, reading this Pep Talk can recall that vibrating and gyrating hit made hugely popular in the 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever.

Well, on a recent morning at the gym, the song, inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame a few years back, came blaring over the sound system and, not surprisingly, everyone’s energy increased dramatically. From my perch atop a StairMaster machine, I could see others, while putting their bodies through the paces too, moving and grooving to the upbeat rhythm.

There was an obvious surge of energy, sparked by the music, emanating from our bodies and the room. Most of us were singing along and when the lead singer from the Trammps belted out, “Satisfaction came with a chain reaction”, I felt like screaming, “Amen brother!”

There was a chain reaction, call it unity of spirit, pulsing through Kinetics Fitness Studio. It was fun to experience and made the “sweat a day keeps the doctor away” workout far more tolerable. The thought “satisfaction came with a chain reaction” stuck with me the rest of the day and led to this musing from Poor Man’s Porch.

I kept thinking about how it ties into the mission of the Faith, Life and Sports (FLS) Foundation and our goal to inspire others to play like champions wherever they roam. Through our programs, services and products we’re trying to create a chain reaction of satisfaction within others to successfully live in harmony with self and others.

A big part of the philosophy is embracing unity of spirit - a chain reaction - and respecting diversity of belief. What does “embracing unity of spirit” mean? Well, to me, much like what transpired within the gym that morning while listening to the music, unity of spirit is something easy to experience, but perhaps, hard to define. It’s like how Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in 1964, when trying to define pornography, stated, “I know it when I see it.”

To be part of a group experiencing, or witnessing, unity of spirit energizes us with hope and confidence. The challenge is to make sure unity of spirit centers on thoughts, words and actions honoring us, nurturing those dependent upon us and adding value to the communities we serve - the terrific trio test, right?

Spirit, when used as a verb means: “to encourage; urge on or stir up, as to action.”
Everyone present in the gym that morning was certainly urged on and stirred up by the music that started a chain reaction of spirit.

How could we, perhaps, be part of a spirit chain reaction - home, work or elsewhere? How could we utilize our gifts for the betterment of self and others?

Galatians 5:22-23 suggests there is great benefit to unity of spirit: “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things, there is no law.”

Inside that gym, exposed by a great song, unity of spirit - satisfaction with a chain reaction - swept us away to a very good place. Try and allow the same to happen to you this week, wherever you roam.

And remember to taste the nine fruits. They’re always in season, readily available and there’s no law limiting your indulgence.

Monday, July 11, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "What Goes Around...."

Beau Jo’s Pizza is a Colorado-based establishment that has, for a long time, been near and dear to my heart, for more than its mouth-watering pizza pies and the honey I love to pour onto their crust.

Many years ago, when my son was just a toddler, a dear friend and I were dining there, along with Kyle, when the fellow transplanted Missourian snapped a picture of your humble correspondent and son. It’s a cherished photo that still hangs on my bedroom wall, near the closet. Each day when preparing to dress, I see that picture, along with a similar shot of Kyle’s younger sister Rachel. The photos remind me of a few things: my love, devotion and responsibility to them and how darn cute they were before becoming teenagers and beyond. Today, I’m just their old man and that’s okay.

Anyway, back to Beau Jo’s Pizza, It was started 38 years ago in the small mountain town of Idaho Springs, nestled in the early stages of the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver. Recently, the famous apres ski hangout has returned to my life in a significant way because of its director of marketing Pam Friedentag. Earlier this year, while reading The Denver Business Journal, I happened across a story about Beau Jo’s partnership with the Autism Society of Colorado, The first Wednesday of each month, the restaurant hosts families afflicted with autism.

In reading the article I was struck by the empathy the company has toward autistic families often reluctant to dine out because of fear of the unknown - will my lovely child have a tough moment, perhaps act out and make things uncomfortable? Well, Beau Jo’s has taken an attitude, “Who cares!” The maker of delicious mountain pizza pies understands the value of connecting with like-minded people and drawing strength and encouragement from one another for our unique challenges - in this case, the journey autism brings into families’ lives.

We all have our challenges, right? Well, this story, and accompanying picture - especially Friedentag’s eyes - inspired me to call and arrange a meeting with her and Betty Lehman, executive director of the non profit. I wanted to discuss ways the sports radio show I co-host, Drive Time with Mac and Doog,, could help raise awareness of this wonderful partnership. I’ve been called a lot of things in life, smart never being one of them, but this was a smart call.

For it was from Beau Jo’s Arvada, Colorado location that I experienced a wonderful example of what we’re encouraged to remember in Galatians 6:9: “Never growing weary of doing good, for at the proper time you’ll reap the harvest if you just don’t give up.”

The store’s manager offered Doog and I, during our three-hour broadcast on the day Beau Jo’s was hosting the autism families, a complimentary pizza. Well, I was in the middle of a three-week dietary “cleanse” and pizza was taboo.

However, the manager quickly agreed to offering a Mac and Doog listener a free pizza if they came into the restaurant that evening. The phone lines lit up, the prize was given away and the winners, a lovely wife and husband, appeared before I departed later that evening.

Something I could not use - pizza because of a temporary diet - was offered to someone else who readily accepted and then, here’s where it became magical. The beautiful couple, upon completion of dinner, approached, gave thanks and offered, “Mark, we want to make a donation to the Autism Society of Colorado.”

Folks, the ol’ law of circulation was in effect that evening wasn’t it? A restaurant, a talk show host, a couple, guided by a belief of never growing weary of doing good things for each other. It really does work!

What goes around comes around. This week, let’s embrace that truth and most important, live it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pep Talk: "The Power of Purpose"

The pre-dawn atmosphere on Poor Man’s Porch was peaceful. I heard sounds of a service truck backing up, that “beep, beep, beep” sound; the birds were chirping away and my cranium was focused on two things: First, Patsy Sue Perry’s 76th birthday. This firecracker female gave me life, nurtured my dreams and supports my endeavors, including the Faith, Life and Sports (FLS) Foundation - thanks Ma. Second, the Daily Dose of encouragement, offered to others the day before, occupied the mind: “A person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.”

Oxford American Dictionary defines purpose as: “An intended result, something for which effort is being made.” An intended result, and the effort to accomplish it, is the core of Buffs4Life,, an organization, founded in 2005, dedicated to helping former University of Colorado athletes in challenging times.

Back in the mid 80’s, when CU’s football fortunes began to turn under the tutelage of head coach Bill McCartney and the talented staff he assembled, Anthony Weatherspoon was a hard-nosed fullback and team leader. Later in life, “Spoon” was stricken with cancer. Medical bills piled up and teammates, including current CU head coach Jon Embree, decided to help. This group had a purpose: care for loved one’s in need.

1 Corinthians 14:8 encourages us to remember: “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who shall prepare for battle.” Well, former athletes, coaches, staff and others closely aligned with CU athletics are sounding a clear call: “Once a Buff, always a Buff.”

Each year the organization holds a golf tournament to raise money to continue its mission of serving Buffs in need. This year a former female golfer at CU was the designated benefactor. I was honored to play in a group that included McCartney, James, Derek, Mike and John: former coach, pastors and players respectively.

Standing on a tee box waiting to thunder some drives down the fairway, while chatting with the two pastors, I mentioned apprehension about a necessary upcoming chat with my son. James Ryle - watch video of CU’s post-game celebration of its national championship win over Notre Dame in the 1991 Orange Bowl and you’ll see Ryle right next to McCartney - looks me in the eye and says: “Mac, before you begin to speak about the challenge, ensure your son of three things.” I admire this man and could not wait to hear the suggestions. “First, tell him that you love him. Second, tell him that you believe in him; Third, tell him that you are committed to helping him become the best he can be.”

Amen brother. Can I encourage you to do the same? Home, work and elsewhere, where there’s someone close to you who needs a little encouragement, begin from that terrific trio?

Pre-dawn darkness on Poor Man’s Porch had given way to the rising sun. A new day beckoned and my prayer is this Pep Talk encourages us to embrace the power of purpose. This week, make the effort to love, believe and commit to others - home, work and elsewhere. It’s a formula for success wherever we roam, with or without Buffaloes.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Perseverance, Forgiving and Living"

Like many of you, I enjoy traveling. It’s a lot of fun visiting loved ones, exploring new places and, at least for me, slowing down enough to read. I love to read while traveling. Recently travel took me to Chicago, for another celebration of darling girlfriend’s 50th birthday - it’s a year-long deal folks. Several of Kathy’s girlfriend’s also made the journey to the Windy City, her hometown. One of her “sisters from another mother” and your correspondent - the designated porter - were browsing for books at Denver International Airport before departure. “Mac, you should read this one” offered the beautiful wife and mother. Boy, was she right.

The Texas native suggested I read Unbroken. It’s about a guy, Louis Zamperini, written incredibly well by Laura Hillebrand. I will not spoil the story for you but trust me, it’s a riveting tail of perseverance, forgiving and living.

Devoted readers of these weekly musings know I like to write and speak often about the importance, despite life’s unexpected twists and turns, of trying to turn life’s lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas. Life rarely goes as planned, right? We’re stuck in situations that leave us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here? Why me?”

Zamperini, a California native now 94-years-old, could certainly have asked that question many times during a harrowing adventure in the Pacific theatre during World War II. Pick up the book, you won’t regret it. The former Olympic track athlete survived his ordeal, persevered, and then ultimately, was able to forgive his tormentors and truly begin living, again. Reports of Zamperini’s death, like Mark Twain’s, were greatly exaggerated.

I think quite often in life when we’re in challenging times - job loss, illness, relationship breakdown or others - we become despondent, right? We also want to blame others and seek revenge against our tormentors, real or perceived. I have not spoken directly to Zamperini about this - I do hope to interview him soon - but I would suspect his advice, in terms of seeking revenge or holding a grudge would be, “Don’t go there.”

Colossians 3:13 states: “Be gentle and forgiving, never hold a grudge, remember the Lord forgave us, we must forgive others.” From the time 30 years ago when boredom and a desire for direction led me to read those wise words, that passage has always stuck with me as valuable. Forgiveness. It ultimately set Zamperini free, it has done the same for me through injuries, divorces and job losses and might work for you too.

Thanks Kelly. While writing, in the early morning, on Poor Man’s Porch, I recalled her recommendation, “Mac, buy this book” leading me to Unbroken and Louie Zamperini’s life story. It’s a powerful example to - whatever may ail us right now - persevere, forgive and live. A current best-selling book, history’s best seller and this Pep Talk are reminders of that truth. Good luck this week living it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Be a Good Man"

Father’s Day 2011. I have sired two wonderful children allowing membership into the fatherhood fraternity. The oldest, son Kyle, is 21 and lives and works full-time in Los Angeles. We were on the phone recently talking about life and family. He asked about his youngest sister Rachel, 14-years-old and devoted to volleyball, and other family members.

Then the conversation switched to two men, one middle-aged, the other young, and the importance of, while having fun, trying like heck to make healthy and productive decisions about life - home, work and elsewhere. The conversation centered on a young man’s social life. Many of us - at least I do - know from personal experience it involves many late nights and an occasional overindulgence of drinking and other activities that have us, often the next day, wondering: “What the heck was I thinking?”

Father and son were chuckling about a Facebook profile picture Kyle had posted, briefly, showing him, after an especially productive day at work, celebrating with cigar and a drink. I asked him, “What are you drinking?” His response, “Scotch”, made me think of his grandpa, my father, Marvin Walter McIntosh, Jr.

My old man loved Scotch too. I have never taken a liking to it preferring beer, wine and margaritas. We hear often that some traits “skip a generation” within families, right? Well, apparently a fondness for Scotch permeates the genes of my son like it permeated the genes of my father. After my son offered testimony concerning enjoyment of an occasional Scotch, I recounted a story about his Grandpa that brought a smile to my heart and laughter to his soul.

My father used to organize, from his Kansas City, Missouri home, golf trips to Arizona each winter. Many would convene in the warmth of the desert, escaping the cold of Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado for a weekend of golf and fellowship. “Mac” as everybody called him, was always the tournament organizer and, in the end, commissioner. He would handle disputes whenever they might arise between friendly, but very competitive, participants of the “Desert Shootout.”

I told my son about Grandpa’s celebratory mood one evening after a particularly good day on the golf course. “Hacker Mac” had won a few “skins” and was festive, which meant the Scotch was flowing freely. Many were gathered in the bar area of the golf course, when lo and behold, a man who embraced life to its fullest despite its challenges - emotionally, physically and financially - leaped out onto the dance floor and started tap dancing, in golf spikes. Well, it made quite the clatter, inspired others to join in and left an imprint, certainly on the dance floor floor, but also within my soul concerning how much my father, who passed in 2007, loved life, golf and hanging with his buddies.

I hope someday my son has similar fond memories of the time we spend together. Marvin, Mark and Kyle McIntosh, three generations of McIntosh men. Each bonded by genes, two by Scotch and the one in the middle blessed to recall a great father who inspires him daily to play like a champion in the game of fatherhood.

Thanks Dad, you showed me the way and it is good. I love you, think of you daily and hear, especially when it comes to how I conduct my life, you whispering to my soul: “Be a good man.”

On this Father’s Day 2011, Dad wherever you are, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this story with others, especially fathers. I hope it encourages them like you encourage me.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Sacrifice Fears"

I always look forward to Friday mornings and fellowship with some buddies. We unite with a purpose: to challenge one another, through talking about faith, to play like champions - home, work and elsewhere - in ways that honor a higher power, nurture those dependent upon us and add value to the communities we serve.

On this particular morning, almost two dozen men - white, black and brown - focused on where our thoughts take us, especially in challenging and fearful times. When life’s unpleasant stuff comes a calling, where do our thoughts go? It’s a real challenge for each of us, ain’t it? Life rarely goes as planned, right? Would it be fair to suggest having a game plan for handling life’s lemons in healthy and productive ways might be smart?

We had a lively discussion about fear and how thoughts play tricks on us. There’s a great acronym for fear that really resonates with me and, I hope, with you: Forget Everything And Return. In other words, we try like heck to move forward from past hurts and disappointments in an effort to become, emotionally, spiritually and physically, superior to our former selves. But, we all can relate, the road to improvement can get a bit bumpy. Ever been there? Don’t feel bad, we’ve all visited that lousy lodge. We fall back into the old and unproductive habits that created the consternation in the first place - we forget everything and return, wondering, “Why?”

In these times, my foundation is faith, particularly the wisdom found in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not harm you; to give you hope and a future.” Whether it’s been moving on from the pain of devastating injury curtailing a promising athletic career; marriages, with children, ending in divorce; jobs in the television industry terminating with disappointment, remembering, and often reciting, those wise words have helped me stay rooted in hope for the future, not pain from the past - be a student, not victim of the experience.

I know, it ain’t easy. We also know truly valuable things in life are rarely achieved without sacrifice, right? Well, how about this week we promise one another that, collectively, we’re gonna do one thing: we’re gonna sacrifice our fears. Shakespeare once suggested: “Our doubts are traitors that make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”

An introspective prophet more than 2,000 years ago; an English poet and playright four centuries ago; a recent men’s fellowship group and now this Pep Talk reminder today - sacrifice fears, not dreams.

It’s a truth that transcends time, permeates the soul and fuels, if we allow it, faith.
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