Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pep Talk: "Pulling Others Together"

It’s a warm Saturday afternoon, the Mile High City is starting to see, at least from the trees, new birth. Golf and NCAA basketball are on the tube, Denver’s bone-dry March is in the headlines. So too, President Barack Obama’s comments about the recent death, and cries of racism, of a Florida teenager.

Obama said: “I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And I think every parent in America should understand why it’s absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together - federal, state and local - to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”

First, let me, as a parent of two marvelous human beings now 22 and 15 respectively, say heartfelt prayers to the parents and family of an unarmed 17-year-old boy. And, until the investigation is complete, we should withhold judgement of a 28-year-old man who pulled the trigger, he says in self defense after being threatened. But this Pep Talk was inspired by something else in the Democrat’s comments: his plea that “everybody pulls together.”

We know the benefits, right? When a group - home, work and elsewhere - decides to put their individual agendas aside and pull together? My buddy, Billy Mac from Hackensack, would call that “being yoked.” The power of unity of spirit. It has transformed families, teams, schools and other noble stuff. Here’s an example. Many years ago, my son attended a Denver parochial school. He had, in third grade, a male teacher. At that time a rarity: men teaching parochial elementary school.

This fine young man left after just two years. Tearfully, he told me, “Mark, I love it here but I’m making $19,000 a year and have an opportunity to go to a public school and double my income.” Let the record show, I had visited this dude’s neighborhood studio apartment. He had a single-bed mattress over in the corner and called it “the bedroom.” He lived simply.

Well, the realization that our children were losing quality teachers inspired a group of Good Shepherd parents to start a foundation in support of teachers. Our mission was to attract and retain quality educators and “care for them.” Well, it’s been a pretty darn good success since it’s inception. At least for me, it’s an example of what happens when those of like-mind rally around each other and, in healthy and productive ways, try and become superior to their former selves. You’ve been part of moments like that, right?
They sure warm the marrow don’t they?

In reading the Saturday March 24, 2012 Denver Post there were many stories describing the challenges before us as communities - local, state, national and global. The question becomes, where might our time, talents and treasures make a difference in changing things for the better?

We all have our unique gifts. A second question becomes, are we utilizing those gifts in pulling others together in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to communities we serve?

Perhaps it’s a question for one of those late night, or early morning, chats we have with self while staring into the bathroom mirror. If you like the answer, keep it up. If the answer doesn’t please you, do something this week to change it.

Have a good week!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pep Talk: "Truth versus Fiction"

It’s an absolutely gorgeous Centennial State Saturday. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. Considering I’m the offspring of a Perry woman and McIntosh man and it’s past noon in my home state of Missouri, a beer is cracked.

While Kansas State and Syracuse battled it out in second-round NCAA tournament action, I had been chatting with a friend. We talk often and share much in common, including occasional frustration. On this day the frustrating topic focused on what appears to make perfect sense: Making it an obligation people speak the truth. That concept is being resisted around a pending bill in the Colorado legislature. It’s a topic for another day, but doesn’t it make sense that individuals testifying, in committee meetings, before policy makers should tell the truth so women and men elected to represent us and the common good - please hold the chuckles at that thought - pass policy based upon truth, not fiction?

Please tell me the answer to that question is yes!

But hey, let’s be honest, sometimes in life the truth is too painful to bear, right? So we make stuff up. We have all done it, right? The transgressions range from minor to major but we’ve all had those moments in life when, because truth is too painful to bear, we choose a fictional course and usually skid off the path and crash - eventually.

And then that’s where life gets interesting doesn’t it? After the crash, while in the repair shop for physical, emotional or financial damage, the question becomes, “How will we emerge” from repairs? Perhaps another question should be, “Will we even seek repairs or just throw in the towel?” Please seek the former, K? If there’s anything Victory Productions can do in that area, please let us know.

Anyway, we all know this is true. Life will take us on a roller coaster ride making the world’s best twister seem like a limousine ride. For the record, according to teenage daughter, who had just awakened from a good night’s rest while yours truly is sitting at the kitchen counter writing, the Mind Eraser is the best roller coaster at Denver’s Elitch Gardens. The volleyball standout says it’s “fast, long and twists and turns a lot.” Back to the story, when life has us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” will we ask ourselves a critical question: “What is truth and what is fiction?”

If we don’t deal with the truth about our relationships, health, finances or whatever else ails us, how in the heck do we expect to turn those lemons - heck with lemonade - into sweet and savory margaritas? Without a foundation to the situation’s reality, how in the world can we bounce back and play like champions - home, work and elsewhere?

I know, simple not easy. But few things in life, truly meaningful, are easily accomplished, right? Help me out here, why is it moments in life when we have poured every ounce of energy into an endeavor, and achieved success, are the one’s permeating our marrow? I’m just a simple dude from Missouri but it seems to me it’s because those moments carry great value for exposing our potential. We have faced the storm, survived, rebuilt and became stronger from the experience. As my good buddy Bill McCartney would say, “Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!”

It all starts with separating truth from fiction. The venues may change but the strategy is always the same. When dealing with challenging times we start with the truth and decide to be a student, not victim of the experience; connect with like-minded folks and encourage one another to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win in overcoming whatever ails us; finally we make sure our effort honors, nurtures and adds value to communities served wherever roaming.

Truth versus fiction. Rarely is there a time when it’s appropriate to choose the latter, not former. The recently-awakened 15-year-old princess noticed my half-empty beer on the counter and queries: “Dad, you’re drinking at 12:30 in the afternoon?”

You bet sweetie. When it comes to truth versus fiction, I’ll toast to that any day, time or place. “Bartender, another round for everybody!” I hope you agree, at least about the truth versus fiction. Have a great week!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pep Talk: "Transporting Precious Cargo"

It was a Saturday afternoon in mid March, the weather warming nicely, the Buffs and ‘Cats from Los Angeles for the Pac 12 basketball tourney title and a simple dude from Missouri is finally getting around to reading Thursday’s paper. Hey, better late than never, right?

A front page Denver Post story freezes my marrow. There’s debate going on, in the Colorado state legislature, concerning an educational retention bill. It would make it tougher to graduate young kids, early in their education - kindergarten, first and second grade - if there are obvious literacy challenges. One of the bill’s sponsors is a former school superintendent, Millie Hamner. The life-long educator, with a doctorate in Curriculum and Leadership from the University of Denver, admitted this: “Really, this is a plea to parents to read to children, to spend time with their children developing language early in their lives.”

Wow. Has it come to this? We have legislators pleading with parents to spend time with their kids to help them develop necessary reading and writing skills? First, let me say thanks to all who enthusiastically embrace the responsibility of fostering an educational environment at home. This is a topic for another day but we need more of you!

It does make me think about parenting and a recent conversation, via texts, with teenage daughter’s mom about fetching the volleyball standout from practice. We had some rain/snow mix going on in the Mile High City and a concerned mom reminded me: “Be careful driving.” I responded with: “You bet. I’m carrying precious cargo.”

Our kids. 25% of our population, 100% of our future. A Centennial State law maker is begging parents to spend more time with them emphasizing reading and writing? And we wonder why education seems broken? Kids must have early-education literacy fundamentals mastered before moving on. I’ve been called many things in life, smart rarely one, but that just seems to make sense, right? Please say yes.

In sports, it always starts with the fundamentals. Football, you have to run, throw, block, tackle, stuff like that; basketball you must pass, dribble, and shoot; baseball....well, you get the point. If you don’t have the fundamentals mastered you’re gonna get your butt kicked whether it’s sports or educating kids, right?

I can remember my first television sports job in Harlingen, Texas. I once did a “Christmas for the Needy” story on a family of eight living in desperate poverty along America’s border with Mexico. Many of the kids were school age but none spoke English. My piece focused more on the love present in the cardboard shack with no running water or electricity. Two king-sized beds dominated the primitive space. I told a story about love and hope but was dismayed by the reality and the link between education and poverty. I wonder what those six kids are doing today?

Then my mind wanders back to transporting precious cargo, our kids, and showing them the way. Two words dominate the thought process: create and care. When we create something, whether lives, relationships, careers or buildings, doesn’t it make sense to care for it?

The basketball game on the television had ended. Tad Boyle’s team had shown great heart in winning four straight games in four days to claim the Pac 12 basketball post-season championship title. In a game far more important than basketball, we need to have great heart in our duty to care for our creations - kids.

It ain’t always easy, right? Parenting is tough work. But let’s never grow weary of doing good in that area, okay? Where this week can we get better? There’s always room for improvement, right?

Transporting precious cargo.

This week’s Pep Talk was finally finished, the next day, two hours before zooming around the globe for your thoughts. Please let me know, will ya? I love to hear from you. I learn, thanks.

Anyway, it’s exactly noon on Sunday the 11th of March; vigorous workout complete, the CU Buffs are Pac 12 champs in their first year in the league; the sun shines brightly; Billy Joel plays in the background and we’re wrapping up a chat about playing like champions when it come to raising healthy and productive kids.

How do we effectively transport precious cargo? The answer to that question is far above my pay grade, but I’ll offer this as a launching pad: With love, encouragement, discipline, joy, patience, goodness and self control because against such things, unlike literacy retention, there is no law currently on the books or proposed.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pep Talk: "Priceless Rewards Produced"

Have you ever had a moment in life warming marrow with significance? Sure, we all have, right? It might be winning a championship, getting married, the birth of a child or achieving a professional goal. Landscapes on this journey we call life forever burned into brain - good and bad.

Those of you - thanks by the way - who frequent Pep Talk know one of the core beliefs suggested is to never grow weary - you and me - of doing good things for each other. Trust me, this thought is no revelation from a simple dude from Missouri - darn it. It’s there for everyone to see within the best-selling book ever, the Bible. Yep, right there in Galatians, sixth chapter, ninth verse for those scoring at home.

Anyway, trying like heck to “do good for others” has always seemed a good idea, at least personally, for what it can manifest in our lives. Ya know, that ol’ “Law of Circulation” mumbo jumbo. Well, if you believe in that, here’s a recent example:

It was an early Thursday morning. Good sweat behind and busy day ahead as I turned the key to start the car. Immediate code red. The ten-year-old Audi A6 was running just fine an hour before on trip to gym, but now it’s coughing, smoking and decomposing before startled eyes. One of those, “What the heck is going on around here?” moments.

I had to fetch daughter and let her drive me to school - she has a learner’s permit and drives well - with the volleyball standout wondering, “Dad, what’s wrong with your car? Is it going to blow up?” Lights on the dashboard were flashing “Check Engine!” as precious princess, glad to be alive, exits car quickly upon school arrival. I jump into the driver’s seat and sputter toward a neighborhood gas and service station. Buddies there take care of the car’s general well being. By the way, the boys at Circle Conoco near Denver’s Congress Park neighborhood, now have a new nickname for your humble correspondent: “Smoky.”

The news was not good. “Mark, you can’t drive that car.” What to do? This is where taht “what goes around comes around” belief, just my opinion, began to rear its beautiful head. A quick call to neighbor delivers car about 15 minutes later. New wheels in minutes! I’d love to promote a business promising that sometime on Mac and Doog! Then it got better.

Despite having new wheels and rolling toward appointments, the grave condition of beloved transportation device was sobering: defective ignition coils and possible catalytic converter issues. The repair bill, estimated to approach $5,000. I know the darn car’s probably not worth that amount. In addition, hey, full disclosure here. on summer mornings in the Centennial State I love to write from a spot jokingly called Poor Man’s Porch. Budgets are tight at Victory Productions.

While driving back to the office I remember a direct mail piece received about three weeks ago. It advertised a Denver-area repair shop specializing in repairs to Audi and VW’s. Honestly, I had kept the marketing piece with the thoughts the company might be a good client of our afternoon show on Mile High Sports Radio. I grabbed the card, dialed the number in search of hope. I found it.

A friendly guy named Ryan answered the phone. He listens intently to the explanation of predicament and offered: “Mark, the first thing you should do is call Audi, give them your vehicle identification number and see if there are any open recalls on your car. I think there might be an open recall on your car for ignition coils.”

This dude was sharp and helpful. Hope, as prevailing spirit, had replaced despair. A quick call to Audi confirms the manna from heaven. There is a recall and repairs are FREE! Things started moving quickly after that: tow truck summoned - Audi paid for it too - repairs completed, car returned the next day. Order restored.

In saying a quick prayer of thanks cranium immediately went to the “never grow weary of doing good for others” suggestion and, at least for me, its great value. Let’s see here: Car coughs and snorts to a stop; neighbor swoops by and provides transportation; knowledgeable repair man offers solution. Repair bill goes from Mach 5 to zero real fast. I am grateful.

Did a personal dedication, despite falling short too often, to “never growing weary of doing good for others” have anything to do with this good fortune? I know there will be others - buddy who’s the hubby of the wonderful neighbor one of them - who will suggest, “Mac, it’s just a random act.” I choose to believe differently. What about you?

This week do good for others. I know, simple, not easy. But the effort often produces priceless rewards when we least expect it!
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