Saturday, January 29, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Trying to Make a Difference"

I was aboard an airplane transporting myself, and others, toward Kansas City from Denver on a late January Saturday morning. I’m reading the OP-ED section of the day’s Denver Post and a well-written tribute to Sargent Shriver. Awarded the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award, in 1994, Shriver recently passed from Alzheimer’s at the age of 95. Shriver was a champion for life’s underdogs, including founding the Peace Corps and Special Olympics.

The writer of the tribute worked, as a speechwriter, for Shriver in the early 60’s and was, upon Shriver’s death, reflecting on the one-time vice presidential candidate’s life. The scribe recalled a principle that inspired Shriver’s work: “The cure is care. Caring for others is the practice of peace. Caring becomes as important as curing. Caring produces the cure, not the reverse.”

What really resonated was the “caring for others is the practice of peace.” While Shriver’s work was on a global scale in caring for others and promoting peace through programs like the Peace Corps, the truth in “caring for others is the practice of peace” could certainly apply to many areas of our lives – home, work and elsewhere.

But caring for others can sometimes be a tricky proposition. We can truly care, try our best to make a difference and still not succeed. I admire Shriver’s thoughts about “caring produces the cure, not the reverse” but also realize it doesn’t always work. Say, for instance, we have a loved one, or loved ones, we care deeply about; we can care deeply for their well being but really are powerless to change what ails them until they decide to take the courageous steps in becoming superior to their former selves.

But we can always care. An earlier story read on the flight toward my hometown chronicled a controversial recent Colorado state legislature decision. In an effort to hack away at a projected one billion dollar budget deficit, a committee within the Centennial State’s legislative body decided to eliminate a program providing funding for low-income kids to have breakfast at school. Many had decried the wisdom of terminating a program ensuring needy kids, at a cost of roughly 30 cents a meal, food in their bellies at breakfast. The thinking being a growling tummy does not foster a hunger for learning – sure makes sense to me.

“Caring for others is the practice of peace.” Well, as stated before, while not ensuring success with an endeavor, I believe it provides peace in our hearts to know we tried to make a difference. Trying to make a difference. It fueled the passion Sargent Shriver brought to life. It can do the same for us.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "A Soothing Salve"

I was driving toward my darling girlfriend’s place when thoughts steered toward my teenage daughter. An amazing eighth-grader full of so much: potential, beauty, intelligence, hormones and, most scary, a fascination with boys. Ugh.

Since I’m such an annoyance these days – what father of a teenage girl isn’t? – the call goes unanswered. I wonder, is the talented volleyball player staring at her phone pondering, “Nah, I have no desire to talk with my old man.”

I listen to her maturing voice inform me to leave a message. I oblige with the following: “Sweetie, this is your old man. I know things have been a bit rough of late with the ‘boy’ thing, but please don’t get caught up in the drama. It’s just not worth it.”

For whatever reason my mind jumps to an old song I remember singing years ago on the elementary school playground. It was a goofy song boys would sing about girls and then, girls would sing right back at us:

“Boys are made of goofy, goofy gopher guts, mutilated monkey butts; chopped up parakeets, french fried eyeballs swimming in a pool of blood, that’s what boys are made of.”

I’m sure, thank goodness, that song is rarely, if ever, uttered today on school playgrounds. It came back to my vividly when thinking of my daughter’s introduction to the wild and wacky world of relationships: a roller coaster ride with unexpected and unwanted twists and turns along the way. I finished singing that silly song, included “Love ya Sweetie” and one final thought: “I know it’s real easy for me to say ‘don’t get involved in the drama’ but also know, easier said than done.”

I parked the car and, for a brief moment, sat in stillness contemplating what I had just said to one of two – her older brother the other – people I think about constantly hoping and praying for their well being, Parents do that concerning kids, right?

We want to protect them from pain, of any kind - even middle school crushes. At the same time we know it’s all part of the journey and rarely can be avoided. I hope she realizes she’s not alone. We’ve all been there. If then hits me, a reminder of one of life’s most important truths: When crappy stuff happens, we often feel isolated, regardless of our age.

In moments of “Why me?” when forced to confront life’s lemons, reaching out to other like-minded folks takes courage, do it. Be vulnerable, bold and encouraging. Give hope and confidence to, and draw strength from, others who share similar experiences. It’s a soothing salve – home, work and elsewhere – for what ails us. Someday I hope darling daughter embraces that truth.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Honor Be Our Clothing"

I was standing in the back of the jammed-packed auditorium the day the Denver Broncos announced Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway was returning to the team, 12 years after his playing days ended, as its director of football operations.

But my eyes were more transfixed on owner Pat Bowlen than Elway. The two of them, along with team president Joe Ellis, sat before the horde of media, organization personnel and others gathered. The press conference was to formally introduce the legendary icon as the guy in charge of turning around the once-proud franchise’s sad state of affairs when it comes to winning football games.

Bowlen, who had not spoken in public for more than a year ended his brief comments, in introducing Elway, with: “Many years ago, after the first Super Bowl win, I said, ‘This one’s for John.’ Maybe now with John in charge, someday he will say, ‘This one’s for Pat’.”

It was a powerful statement from the Broncos long-time owner who, at 67 years old, is battling health issues most believe result from dementia or Alzheimer’s. The Broncos have publicly stated Bowlen has “memory issues” but have not been more specific. As Elway walked toward Bowlen and gave him a warm embrace, it stirred my soul.

Something in that big hug from the most-famous player in franchise history to the owner who built one of the most respected organizations in professional sports, tugged at my heartstrings. It resonated with Elway’s “can do” spirit and seemed to say the 50-year-old father of four will do everything in his power to grant Bowlen’s wish of seeing another Broncos’ Super Bowl victory in his lifetime.

When we are inspired to achieve great things in a way that honors others and self. Man, does it get any better than that? To possess a burning desire, in every fabric of our being, to accomplish something, healthy and productive, that means so much to so many, that’s playing like a champion.

Ya know, that type of passion is not reserved solely for a former quarterback trying to resurrect a sagging football franchise and ensure the legacy of a fantastic owner. We can tap into that type of passion to become superior to our former selves at home, work or elsewhere. The venues change, but – my opinion here - the strategies for success are the same.

It starts with realizing the value of chasing dreams and goals that, while good for us, more important, honor others. This week, try and remember this: “If honor be your clothing, the suit will last a lifetime.”

Saturday, January 8, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "A Prevailing Breeze"

It’s the day of Christmas Eve 2010 and like Santa, I have just emerged from an afternoon nap, my good buddy’s down having a beer before his darling wife, Kerry, and this knucklehead from Pueblo, Colorado, host Kerry’s Christmas gathering for her side of the family.

It was actually a Friday, but felt like a Saturday, which is usually when the business consultant and I have a beer, watch some sports, catch up and exchange ideas. It’s a moment I cherish each week. Connecting with my buddy. It’s a good thing, connecting with others. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, we’re talking about a conversation I had earlier in the day. The conversation, with my older sister, revolved around a family challenge we share with many: aging parents. Fiercely independent in spirit, but let’s be honest, in need of close monitoring

As I’m driving on a beautiful Colorado morning, after just retrieving my computer from its caretaker, Sister Sue says, “Would you be willing to come back home (Kansas City) and help with this?” For the record, the beautiful singer and long-time boyfriend Eldon, offered frequent flier miles as a promotion I accepted without hesitation.

But it wasn’t until later in the day, when relaxing with my buddy, that the enormity of the opportunity became crystal clear. Do you remember the 1989 Academy Award winning film, Driving Miss Daisy? Well, I want to go back to my hometown of Kansas City and drive my aging mother around the city and help her. It’s been tough being 600 miles away in the Mile High City, incredibly busy and feeling something tugging at you, saying, “You need to help.”

Man, for me, when feeling what Emerson called the “vibration of the iron string within” and then choosing to ignore? I just don’t know how smart an idea that is. But, hey, I’m just a simple dude from Missouri. I’ve been called a lot of things in life. Smart has rarely been one of them.

An eternal force, I can choose to ignore, is calling me to take some weekends, fly back to Kansas City and drive someone, who supported all my childhood dreams, to appointed rounds. Where can I sign up for a gig like that? My mother. As she would say, “they threw away the mold” when she entered this world June 28, 1935. Patsy Sue Perry at birth and Pat McIntosh when I was born and raised is a piece of work. “Born the same day as John Elway” is what she’ll frequently remind me during our weekend calls.

Since my parents divorce, during my high school years, the smart and feisty woman has gone by Patsy Perry, her maiden name. I’m going back to my hometown and driving Miss Patsy. I have no idea if it might encourage progress in resolving our family challenges, but shame on me for not trying.

Whenever blessed to have somebody who will listen, I have always talked about “putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win.” Can I ask a favor? Wish me luck on this adventure, will ya? Mac’s heading home to walk his talk and knows having, as a prevailing breeze, your encouragement – hope and confidence – will help.

A prevailing breeze, encouragement from others, is rarely a bad thing, costs little and sure means a lot for the recipients. Try it this week. I promise, you’ll like it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Revvin' for 2011"

At the holiday season we are reminded via television, radio, print and our souls, there are many less fortunate individuals in our world. For whatever reason, this year, when I watched, heard, read or thought about the less fortunate, my mind kept wandering back to a family of eight that lived in a cardboard shack in the Rio Grande Valley along America’s border with Mexico.

I started my television sportscasting career at KGBT-TV, the CBS station in Harlingen, Texas, one of the three major cities – Brownsville and McAllen the others – of the Valley. 25 years ago, and I doubt it’s changed much since, the four counties along the border were considered among the poorest in the United States. Each year, our station profiled families during “Christmas for the Needy” stories. As the weekend sports anchor assigned to document this family’s plight, eight amazing people entered my life. I can’t remember their names but I’ll never forget them.

Their cardboard shack had no running water, electricity and little room. It was basically big enough for two king-sized beds and a couch. The parents didn’t speak English and the young kids, six of them, struggled with it. After finishing, along with a bilingual photojournalist, interviewing and shooting some video of the family, we began the drive back to the television station. Thoughts of how to write this family’s story raced through my head: desperately poor, uneducated, but, from what I saw in the two-hour visit, rich with something very important - love for one another.

We all know the facts. Children born into poverty face a steep uphill battle in gaining the education necessary to compete in today’s global marketplace. For whatever reason, I then think of my kids. They were not born into poverty but were raised in another challenging situation: they’re children of divorce.

As we turn the calendar, the challenges of children born into poverty and raised in divorce, continue to hamper our country from becoming superior to its former self. When are we going to, collectively with a united voice, address these issues, neither of which benefits kids, 25% of our population, 100% of our future.

There’s an old saying: “There is always room for improvement.” Amen to that. As a nation, we have many areas where America can improve, reducing poverty and divorce just two of them. What about us personally? Where might it be time for the excuses to stop about underachieving in terms of relationships, health, career or volunteering? A new year is upon us and with it, a chance to improve in ways that honor us, nurture those dependent upon us and add value to the communities we serve.

Let’s get our motors revvin’ for 2011. We’ve got a fresh 365 on the clock. Let’s strive for improvement and play like champions – home, work and elsewhere!
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