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!
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