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.
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