Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pep Talk: "No Short Cuts"

It’s late on a Saturday afternoon in late February. Billy Joel plays in the background but cranium is focused on Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have been watching with interest the saga surrounding the MLK Memorial dedicated last year in our nation’s capitol. The civil-rights hero had a dream and, I can only speak for myself, challenged each of us to get past color of skin and focus on courage of heart in transforming America for the better. The memorial sits on our National Mall adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial and between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. It’s the first major memorial on the Mall dedicated to an African-American and non president. Impressive.

There has been controversy about the design. Specifically a quote carved into the memorial’s side. I think, just my opinion, it’s a good example of the danger of taking short cuts when more effort would have resulted in better outcome.

Here’s what’s burrowed into the stone on one side: “I was a drum major for peace.” Well, that’s not exactly what King said when others suggested his leadership made the orator a “drum major” for social change. Opponents of the inscription said, and I agree, it made King sound arrogant. What he actually said in a 1964 speech just a month before his assassination, was this:

“If you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for justice; if you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for peace; if you want to say I was a drum major, say I was a drum major for righteousness.” Humble.

Kudos to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for stepping in and saying, “Hold on here folks. We must get this right.” Why a stoneworker from China, not America, chiseled the words and why nobody in the project’s development process stepped forward to correct the prose are topics for another day, the point is this: When we screw up the best darn thing we can do is try and fix it as fast as possible. Unfortunately, often those screw ups come along when we’re trying to cut corners and not giving our best effort.

What is our best effort? That’s a tough question to answer, right? Dang, sometimes “best effort” means just surviving the heartaches of life that show up when we least expect it: Divorce, illness, injury and job loss to name just a few. And then there’s moments where “best effort” is moving forward from any of the before-mentioned, or other, calamities that strike and leave us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” And yes, there are moments when “best effort” involves us continuing to excel in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to the communities we serve - home, work and elsewhere. “Best effort” ain’t easy to define but always worthy of pursuit.

I’m just a simple dude from Missouri but it seems to me the more time, spent hanging out in the “best efforts” category, the better. It’s tough to dwell there when we’re cutting corners, wherever we roam.

This week, let’s keep this MLK goof in our craniums as an example of the challenges we bring forth in our lives when choosing to take short cuts. Let’s don’t go there, K? Because more often than not, when choosing such a course, we lose our way and repairs to relationships, careers, health or monuments are costly considering the deep initial chisel.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

This week's Pep Talk: "Make Headlines"

It’s a weekday ritual in preparation for a daily three-hour afternoon sports talk show on Mile High Sports Radio in Denver: scanning ESPN’s website looking for topics that might spark interesting, engaging and entertaining conversation. Partner Jimmy Doogan and I really try and walk the talk in having a show focused on listeners and asking them questions. Everybody has a right to their opinion, right? I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, been called a lot of things in life, smart rarely one, but that’s why it’s called, Drive Time with Mac and Doog: Ain’t about us, it’s about YOU!

It was a Friday, the second one in February, and, toward the bottom of the headlines, this caught my eye: “Youkilis to marry Brady’s sister.” Apparently, veteran Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis and Julie Brady, one of New England quarterback Tom Brady’s three sisters, are engaged and gonna get hitched. Good for them and good luck in that honorable and challenging thing called marriage - been there a coupla times and it was bumpy. But something else about the story resonated. It took me to a joyful moment.

My son graduated from high school four years ago. As a graduation gift, with the help of an amazing buddy, I planned a “Dad and Dude” weekend to Boston to watch his beloved - at the time - Red Sox play at Fenway Park. Just a few weeks from enrolling to study film at New York University the hard-working young man had visited the fabled venue far earlier in life. At about 18 months old, the chocolate-chip-eyed baby boy, his mom and yours truly caught a game at baseball’s shrine before heading to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. What I remember about that moment - of course Kyle doesn’t - was my now 22-year-old son swinging a miniature bat around and almost taking the heads off of others seated close. Another memory bringing smile to face and warmth to heart - two darn powerful things for which I’m grateful. Each is good for us.

Anyway, Kyle’s graduated from high school; he and his old man head to Boston to watch the Red Sox for a weekend series. It happens, this was August 2008, the same weekend the Brady-led Patriots were playing an exhibition game in nearby Foxboro. That incredible pal Rich Fisher - “Fish Daddy” to me - set us up big-time at each venue: seats right behind home plate at Fenway and, because of his friendship with Brady, a couple a seats in the future Hall of Famer’s family suite at Gillette Stadium. I’m pretty sure I met, briefly, Julie while sitting there watching the game. The Brady family is very welcoming and friendly. They made two complete strangers feel welcomed and comfortable. A long overdue “thank you” to the Brady clan for contributing to a wonderful weekend for a father and his son.

And that’s where this all ends: a father with tears in his eyes about a wonderful moment in his life - road trip with his boy. It came from scanning ESPN’s website. It also comes at an interesting time in the relationship: A young man working hard, and making progress, in a dream to make his mark in the entertainment industry - not an easy chore. He wants and deserves his space. The thought of a similar road trip and hanging with the old man, in all likelihood, not real high on his “good-time” agenda at this juncture of his life.

And then it comes to your humble correspondent and, “Will I have courage to accept and receive?” For some reason, that question makes me think of my father. Three decades ago, when I was in my early 20’s, he wasn’t very cool either. That sure changed before my old man departed to lung cancer in 2007. Miss our golf games buddy.

Stepping back and letting kids spread their wings. Ain’t the easiest thing in the world, right? Parents, let’s make sure, despite feeling ignored, to keep encouraging our kids to chase dreams. It will strengthen their spirit and help them soar like eagles.

I can’t remember a darn thing about topics discussed that day on Mac and Doog. However, preparation for it took me to first, a wonderful memory, and then, a present experience. Now the question becomes, given those two truths, what does the future hold for father and son? I sure hope, and will try like heck to facilitate, it grows into friendship and admiration I was blessed to share with my old man.

Friendship and admiration. Two things that make life fulfilling. Okay, here’s the challenge this week: Let’s be a good friend and act in healthy and productive ways others would admire - home, work and elsewhere.

Who knows, maybe we’d make headlines too. Have a good week. For those where that just ain’t possible right now, hang in there!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

This week's Pep Talk: "Pick One"

I want to start this week’s Pep Talk with thanks to you. Our conversations - phone, email, face-to-face, letter - surrounding unique, challenging and inspiring experiences - yours and mine - often trigger these musings designed to encourage others to play like champions wherever roaming - home, work and elsewhere.

That is certainly the case this week. What started as a simple phone call to discuss a business project quickly became far more relevant. What emerged from a lengthy chat - more life than business - is, at least for me, a great love story centered on service to others. The storyteller is a woman, spouse, mother and friend. The dynamo was describing a family event from a few years ago. You know, one of the moments we encounter in life that leave us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?”

How storyteller and devoted spouse dealt with the deep cut and lasting scar, again, at least for me, represents two incredible expressions of concern for others. Thinking beyond ourselves. The story began with hubby informed a lengthy and successful career had been terminated. We’ve all been there, right? Those times in life when something cherished is taken from us, unexpected and unwanted? Sure we have. It sucks. The question becomes, how are we going to react, right?

Well, this adoring grandpa, hurt deeply an employer no longer valued him, knew devoted bride and family had other important matters needing attention: their son’s wedding 800 miles to the east. The storyteller explained, on the couple’s long drive to America’s heartland, husband uttered nary a word about his personal pain. In an incredibly loving gesture, a man knew his bride of 35 years was focused on the wedding. He didn’t want to muddy the waters. He stood down for a greater cause. Impressive if you ask me.

The story got even better. Once the wedding was complete, with grand success, husband informs wife of the situation. What she did next was just as, maybe more, impressive. Without her husband’s knowledge wife marches into husband’s former employer and informed the boss, in a one-way conversation, she is married to a honorable, loving and integrity-filled man who walks that talk daily. Remember the 1960‘s hit song, Stand by Your Man by Tammy Wynette? In the court of public opinion, this could be Exhibit A.

The power of standing down and/or standing up! Where might it be time to stand down for another? Stand up? Where is it time to put welfare and concern for others before self? One of my favorites statements in the best-selling book ever written on wisdom is in Galatians where we’re challenged: “Never grow weary of doing good for others because at the proper time we’ll reap the harvest if we just don’t give up.”

I’m just a simple dude from Missouri, but a man standing down for his wife and a woman standing up for her husband seems to fit the “never growing weary of doing good” criteria. It’s reaped a harvest for these incredible human beings: more than three decades of loving and committed matrimony, two beautiful children, three grandkids, community respect and exciting business projects. In my book, they’re turning life’s lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Stand down. Stand up. This week, pick one. Take action in loving service to another. Rarely, if ever, is that a bad thing. Have a good week!.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This week's Pep Talk: "Where Resilience Rules"

Devoted Pep Talk readers know mentor Bill McCartney is often referenced when speaking of overcoming adversity and challenging situations. I love the way the former national champion football coach describes it: “We get knocked down. It’s okay to lie there and bleed a bit. But eventually, we must rise, dust ourselves off, and continue the march.” Amen to that brother. I would call it, “turning life’s lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas.”

I witnessed a good example of transforming life’s lemons into margaritas recently on a trip to St. Louis, Missouri for a friend’s wedding. This man has been a good buddy since our college days at Mizzou. The former roommate has always had a “can do” attitude toward life - home, work and elsewhere.

Like most of us, that optimistic spirit has been tested more than once. Most recently, about five years ago, when a 24-year marriage, that produced three beautiful children, crashed and burned. The successful business owner was, as Coach Mac would say, “knocked down and bled a little bit” but found the resolve to dust himself off and continue the journey in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to himself, his children and now, new bride and her three children.

I’m sure most of us can relate, right? We’ve had those moments leaving us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” The question becomes, “What are we going to do with unexpected, and unwanted, twists and turns life tends to throw our way at the most inopportune times?”

Those thoughts ran through my cranium as, along with darling girlfriend, we celebrated and rejoiced a marriage and second chances. As the band played into the night and the mood grew more festive, my mind suddenly shifted to someone else I had spent time with earlier on this day. A friendly woman sitting next to me on the flight from Denver into the state of Missouri’s largest city. “I am trying to find my way” offered this gentle soul upon descent into Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The southeast Missouri resident is dealing with the recent and sudden death of a beloved husband of more than 40 years.

The mother of four and grandma of ten stays busy with community activities and spoiling grandkids. But there’s a wound to the heart and she wonders if it will ever heal. Our conversation ended with prayer for her courage and strength for the days ahead.
In the best-selling book of wisdom ever written, in Jeremiah, we’re encouraged to remember God has a plan for us; to prosper, not harm us; to give us hope and a future. While grooving to the music, with arm around the love of my life, another prayer surfaced for my airplane buddy: “May you someday emerge from this painful moment with hope for a bright future like Becky and Tim have from their challenging times.”

Challenging times. We all have them. Stay strong. It’s okay to lie down and bled a little but don’t lose hope. Rise and march on. I know, easy to talk about, far more difficult to execute. Do it anyway. Forge a future where resilience - readily recovering from disappointment - rules. While there is no guarantee for success against whatever ails us, resilience sure seems to improve our chances. An absolutely gorgeous bride and handsome groom tearing up the dance floor is proof of that truth. I hope it’s your truth this week too.
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