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!
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