Saturday, April 30, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Our Positive Energy"

First, I want to apologize, it’s just the way my brain processes stuff. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

It’s a Wednesday evening in the Mile High City. Nuggets and Thunder from OKC in game five of their first-round NBA playoff series. It’s a big game and a buddy is down for a beer and talk turns to discussion earlier in the day on the sports talk show, “Drive Time with Mac and Doog”, I co-host with Jimmy Doogan: “Why is it so damned tough – in fact it’s never happened – for professional basketball teams to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a series when it’s happened in baseball and hockey – two other sports with similar seven-game series’ opportunities?”

Two responses from our great callers really stood out: a baseball pitcher or hockey goalie can dominate a final game while, in basketball, it’s more team-oriented. One guy, like Michael Jordan’s 63-point effort in 1993, can score a ton of points but, considering a winning score is usually around 100, many others must contribute to succeed.

I also believe – as do others – that home-court advantage is also a very powerful and dominate factor in winning the finale. A great example came in the first half’s final seconds of Denver and Oklahoma City: The Thunder had a chance, with a score, to take a lead into halftime. The Nuggets dug in and were playing solid team defense, the seconds vanished from the clock and the crowd rose to its feet to cheer on the hometown boys. This was a big moment and the crowd – considered one of the NBA’S best – was encouraging the home team.

Encouragement, defined as, “to give hope and confidence to”, is a good thing to possess always, but real nice to possess when it’s time to shine – home, work or elsewhere. You know, shine in a way that honors us, nurtures those dependent upon us and adds value to the communities we serve?

When we’re being encouraged to accomplish that, whether on the basketball floor, school, home, work or community, it just makes sense to try like heck to make it happen. I’m just a simple dude from Missouri but it makes sense, right?

The hometown crowd and its energy poured toward recipients – in this case basketball players – can be a very powerful gravitational force. The question becomes, is the energy healthy and productive? Which takes me to parents. We’re the hometown crowd and our energy will greatly impact the future success of our most valuable players – our kids.

My wish is that OUR positive energy will inspire children, ours and others, to succeed like the Thunder’ home-town crowd was encouraging – hope and confidence – its beloved to defeat a gutty Nuggets’ team. Our positive energy can contribute to amazing things being accomplished. While there are no guarantees, I would offer, rarely has anything worthwhile been achieved without it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Show Them"

It was a Sunday to cherish: daughter played well and contributed substantially to a winning team effort as Juggernaut closes its season; the Rockies rally to win and take three of four, on the road, from Pittsburgh; The Masters has one of its most incredible finishes ever and I’m having a beer with my neighbor watching Ireland’s Rory McIlroy walk off the 18th green at Augusta National. I think of my son, Kyle.

Kyle and McIlroy, who led for 63 holes before crumbling late at the season’s first major golf tournament, are the same age. Each just 21 years old, kids.

I’m watching this disappointed Northern Ireland native walk off the final hole at the 2011 Masters and thinking, “I just want to hug that young man.” For whatever reason, watching the one-time PGA winner depart after leading, then decomposing, made me think of his parents and their feelings observing their son chasing dreams, and coming so close, but falling short. It had to have been a heartbreaking experience.

Once the dust settles and the pain subsides from disappointment – others or ours – is an opportunity to objectively look at what transpired – call it a moment of transformation. What becomes the great question in life is whether we will choose to become a student of the experience or victim of the circumstance. Will we grow, or shrink, from it? Our choice, choose wisely, right?

We all have those moments of regret along this journey we call life, right? We have those moments – like McIroy blowing a four-shot lead – where we wonder, “What the heck’s going on around here?” The question becomes, what to do about it?

In watching a young man suffer through a terrible final round and realizing “he’s the same age as my wonderful son” I sat there thinking about the first thing I’d want to do. What would, as a father, I do as my flesh and blood dejectedly departed golf’s biggest stage? I thought a warm embrace would be in order, probably with tears rolling down my cheeks, while proclaiming: “I’m so proud of you!”

But then here’s where it gets kinda tricky. The second-most important thing I could do after embracing him – same for a daughter too – would be, down the road a bit, in an encouraging way, ask, “How can we learn, not suffer, from this?”

Is there a greater psychological gift, demonstrating the value of becoming students, not victims, of experiences, we could give our children or others – home, work and elsewhere? The big challenge is – my opinion - all the money in the world can’t ensure learning, not suffering, from our experiences. We can’t buy it for our loved ones. We, hey I’m from Missouri, gotta show them.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Kids at Heart"

It was a beautiful, lazy and peaceful Sunday in the Mile High City. My NCAA tournament bracket was in shambles, Billy Joel was singing and I’m writing. My thoughts wander to a buddy. He had been real helpful at a recent fundraising event for Families of SMA, I was the emcee and Connor, 11-years mature, was outstanding assistant. He knew the facts, scoured the crowd for bidders during the live auction and just shined in my eyes. The fifth-grader’s also a darn good student and athlete.

Connor and I had never met before The Evening of Hope gala to help fight spinal muscular atrophy. But we were connected. We were one heartbeat thanks to a red JOCK wristband. Connor’s mother Joy, event organizer, had given it to him after I had offered it to her on the day we met to discuss my role. Handed the wristband, the proud mother grinned and proclaimed: “Connor will love this!” I hope you do too. I hope you love what JOCK stands for. Because, whether there’s an athletic bone in your body or not, there’s potential for a JOCK within each of us.

Let’s be joyful for blessings. I know, it’s tough; life pokes us in the eye – physically, emotionally and financially. What are we going to do about it? Choose to be joyful – despite the adversity – for blessings: a supportive team, income security, good health or something else. Be Joyful for them.

Next, let’s be optimistic about the future. Again, easy to suggest but challenging considering life’s roller coaster ride, right? Those moments of, “What the heck is going on here?” The families gathered for FMSA Rocky Mountain’s 10th fundraiser to battle, in spinal muscular atrophy, a terrible foe could vouch for that. It’s hard but necessary to be Optimistic about the future.

Also, courageously eliminate any self-destructive behavior preventing us from expressing ourselves in healthy and productive ways. What are we putting into our bodies? Our minds? Who are we hanging out with? Are they raising us up, or dragging us down? Whatever it is, Courageously eliminate it.

Late in the event, Connor and I are sharing the microphone as this fine young man told the gathered throng his JOCK bracelet - he was wearing it - stood for, “joyful, optimistic and courageous.” Then I asked, “Connor, if you’re joyful for the blessings of life, optimistic about the future and courageous despite the past, what’s the ‘K’?” Without missing a beat, my buddy, proclaimed, “You’re gonna kick butt!” You go boy.

Being joyful, optimistic and courageous – just my opinion – are three valuable talents to posses for this condition we call life. Connor knows that at eleven years of age. My prayer is he never - despite the stuff – forgets those truths. You too. We’re all kids at heart, right?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Our Highest Calling"

Have you ever had one of those moments, when meeting somebody, where you have an instant connection proclaiming, “I wanna play on your team?” Sure you have. I think it happens a lot in life.

I had one of those recently while enjoying a delightful lunch with Christy Cassidy, founder and executive director of Widow’s Walk. This organization partners with women in the creation of a “new normalcy” after the death of their spouse, faithfully dependent upon God, surrounded by a loving community and embracing life with hope, promise and vitality.

The mother of five created Widow’s Walk in 2009, nine years after life changed forever following her husband’s suicide. “I know from my own experience the challenges widow’s must confront with the unexpected loss of a spouse. Widow’s Walk is there to ‘stand in the gap’ for women searching for emotional, financial and spiritual support.”
As she shared her story, the phrase “stand in the gap” kept resonating within my soul. It made me think of the Greek word “Stekos” which, literally, means, “to stand in the gap.”

I had come across the word last fall when giving a Pep Talk to a high school football team. “Stekos” had been the motto of the Mountain Vista Golden Eagles during the 2010 football season. It was emblazoned wherever you looked and confirmed the wisdom of supporting one another.

Centuries ago, when folks lived together in walled communities, there were soldiers assigned to, when the community came under attack, “stand in the gap” of any holes blown in the fortresses’ walls. It was a task requiring courage, skill and commitment.

There are times in our lives when we are called to “stand in the gap” – home, work, and elsewhere. Those moments challenge us to walk the talk of never grow weary of doing good for others. It’s easy to say and affirm, but much more difficult to execute, right?

Cassidy found strength, despite the pain of losing a spouse, to start Widow’s Walk and “stand in the gap” for others. Where might it be time in our lives to do the same? Where might it be time to step forward with compassion and hold firm in support of another?

Illness, job loss, death and many other “what the heck is going on here” calamities blow holes in our lives and the lives of cherished loved ones. The question becomes, “What are we going to do about it?”

Let’s embrace “Stekos.” Let’s vow to stand in the gap for one another. Time marches on, unexpected and unwanted occurrences appear and through it all, one thing has never changed: the importance of caring for one another. It’s our highest calling.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

This week's Pep Talk: "Continue Steadfastly"

In the pre-dawn darkness of a chilly Colorado spring morning, I approached the gym door and heard music, reggae. It meant a special man was present. I saw him immediately, cherished a warm embrace and whispered, “How ya doing?” His response, as we continued the hug, was sobering: “I’m on the final journey.”

The embrace ended and I headed to another portion of Kinetics Fitness Studio – best gym in America, not for its spa, but its spirit. While working out I noticed my mentor pushing his cancer-ravaged body through its own paces. He has battled a rare form of cancer for as long as I’ve known him, more than seven years.

Tragically, the heavy doses of chemo, meant to keep him alive and cancer at bay, have begun to destroy organs. The clock is ticking. He knows it, everybody around the gym knows it and still he exercises as soothing reggae music plays in the background. The Texas native is usually the first to the gym – even before employees arrive at 5:30am – has his own key and preference for music, reggae.

While rowing, I watched him challenging his body, mind and spirit and noticed my pace had quickened considerably. The former medical industry worker is inspiring: he’s rowed more than 34-million meters – that’s a ton! – is the gym’s official rowing coach, a constant source of encouragement and owns a million-dollar smile. I can remember long ago when told of his cancer. With a big grin, he said, “I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me.”

Well, it does now. Life takes us on unexpected, and unwanted, twists and turns. Illnesses strike, relationships dissolve, careers terminate and we’re left wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” It’s called life and sometimes it sucks. Things cherished, like life itself, are threatened. Rarely do we have the joy of dictating the outcome.

The 62-year-old was still working out upon my departure. I walked into the prevailing dawn drenched in sweat and admiration for Nelson Boyd. Physical time – he admits, “the robe is about to drop” – with loving wife, daughter and devoted gym family is short, but he’ll flourish forever in spirit. There’s a banner in Kinetics proclaiming, the “Boyd Row House.”

Boyd’s a reminder to never quit, especially on our selves. Many things are beyond our control, but we do possess something no one, or nothing, can take from us, we surrender it: perseverance. Defined as, “to continue steadfastly, especially in something difficult or tedious.”

A beloved man continues steadfastly. It’s a great example to face challenges – home, work and elsewhere - with similar perseverance. It’s difficult and tedious for sure, but worth the effort considering the honorable impact delivered upon others wherever we roam - or row.
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