Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pep Talk: "Not So Tough"

It had been a good final April weekend Saturday with workout, yard work, catching up with neighbors, nice stroll with 15-year-old daughter, securing donation from community-minded restaurant owner for daughter’s high-school volleyball team, first sighting of darling girlfriend in too long and short bike ride to neighborhood liquor store for weekly six-pack. Dang, so far so good.

Last, but certainly not least, opening day for Pep Talk writing from Poor Man’s Porch. Oldies’ music on the radio and sounds of Congress Park in the background. It might be smart to buy a lottery ticket this evening. I’m feeling real blessed.

And then my mind wanders to the before-mentioned wonderful soul who is teenage daughter. The volleyball setter has become, often, chauffeur. Yea, that’s right. The blue-eyed beauty has a learner’s permit and needs to drive, with a family member, about 50 hours before attempting to earn a license upon 16th birthday. She’s a good driver and recently achieve a major, at least in her mind at that time, milestone: successfully navigating the tight turns of a restaurant drive through. It’s a piece of cake for us old timers but for someone just starting out, a bit intimidating.

It’s so cool to witness evolution. For whatever reason cranium venture to younger years. A favorite story in my first book, Kids Teach the Darndest Things, recalls a time shortly after the fashionista had learned to read. At night we had bedtime reading. Well, one night, and I know many, if not each, of you have been there, I was just not in the mood and was tempted to blow it off. I didn’t. Here’s where it gets interesting.

So tempted to bag the reading and not wanting to sort through children’s books to find the right story, I just grabbed a framed copy of Life’s Little Instructions
occupying a corner of my bathroom vanity. Simple little statements about, my words, playing life a champion in the game of life. Stuff like, “sing in the shower; compliment even small improvements, wave to kids on school buses, don’t expect life to be fair.” Simple statements that at Rachie’s reading level at the time, I thought she could handle.

She had been sitting in a comfy reading chair a few feet away and zooming through them when we hit turbulent water. Toward the end of reciting the short but powerful phrases, there’s more than 50, the little lady got stuck: “Live you life as an.....x.....x......, not an x...........” The precious princess was stuck on words starting with “x”. She bounced into the bathroom with “Daddy, how do you say this?” She hands me the plaque and point a dainty finger to: “Live your live as an exclamation, not an explanation.”

It was one of those moments folks. I love telling that story in live Pep Talk presentations.  Here comes the question. Are we living our lives as an exclamation, not an explanation?
If not, why? How could we this week do one thing to turn a lemon of life into a sweet and savory margarita? Make it a virgin margarita if desired.

But where is it time to cease with the explaining and do some exclaiming? Wherever it might be, go for it. You can do it! Perhaps, just like a novice driver navigating a drive through, you’ll realize exclaiming not explaining is not so tough and so worthwhile.

Good luck!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pep Talk: "Better Each Day"

It was a recent Thursday spring day in the Mile High City. I’m hanging at Brandon’s Pub in Cherry Creek North. I love the restaurant’s salsa, chips, food and, except at lunch, margaritas.

ESPN is on in the background. The big story is Pat Summit stepping aside as head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols’ basketball program after 38 incredible years and many championships. The 59-year-old is suffering from early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and, as her son said, “Wanted to do what’s right for the team.”

In all my years of sportscasting I don’t recall ever meeting Summit but do know former CU head women’s basketball coach Ceal Barry always spoke highly of the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history - women or men. Coach Barry’s endorsement is good enough for me. If you need more proof about the reverence held for Summit, within a day of her announcement - she will remain involved with program as head coach emeritus - President Obama honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award. And whenever I think of the Medal of Freedom, it takes cranium to Whitney Young.

I speak of him often during live Pep Talk presentations. Young was born in 1921. His Kentucky childhood was rather uneventful and he earned a degree from Kentucky State University. Then he marched off to World War II and into the record books. Young was assigned to an all black regiment of soldiers responsible for repairing Europe’s bomb-ravaged roads. The war was over but to get people back to work and economies percolating, road reconstruction was necessary. The engineer and other black soldiers were supervised by an all white, Southern, officer crew. This was the 1940’s folks. However, Young stood out and was quickly promoted from private to sergeant, causing consternation on both sides of the racial divide of the time.

That division planted a seed inside Young’s soul to, upon exiting the military, dedicate life to improving race relations in our country. He worked for the National Urban League office in Omaha; taught university classes on race relations in Atlanta; checked in with the NAACP for a bit and then, at the age of 40, was named the national president of the National Urban League. In the ten years he ran the organization it saw tremendous growth in size and stature. At the age of 47, then President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Young the Medal of Freedom too. He was a stud who sadly drowned at the tender age of 49 while swimming on an African vacation.

Young’s life mission statement was “There’s nothing noble in being superior to somebody else. True nobility lies in becoming superior to our former selves.” Wow. I have always loved that statement and hope you embrace it too. What’s the old saying, “There’s always room for improvement?” Ironically, the music being piped through the neighborhood pub just landed on Todd Rundgren’s Bang the Drum All Day and it’s lyrics, “I don’t want to work.” I promise that’s the truth.

Anyway, the point is this: this week let’s focus on becoming superior to our former selves - home, work or elsewhere. Becoming superior to our former selves requires a passion for getting better. It requires work. That was one of Summit’s final thoughts on this transitional day for Tennessee athletics, she said, “I made a vow early in my career to always try and be a little better each day.”

It worked for Whitney Young. It worked for Pat Summit. It will work for us too. I know, it ain’t always easy, stuff happens. However, this week let’s keep our eye on the prize of being a little better each day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pep Talk: "Embrace Shakespeare's Advice"

It’s early Sunday afternoon, Rockies going for sweep of Diamondbacks on the tube, cat in the face - her breath does stink - and writing you on my mind. I’d like to chat about chasing dreams.

The previous 24 hours of a fifty-fourth birthday weekend a perfect example of this exciting, frightening and unpredictable journey we call life and the importance of chasing dreams. It resonated within me deeply while dropping talented niece at airport. That moment culminated a visit centered on a, considered, move to the Mile High City once graduated next month from nursing school.

The standout basketball player had injuries curtail a promising collegiate career and turned attention to caring for others via nursing. I like to call that “turning lemons into - heck with lemonade - sweet savory margaritas.” Basketball and then nursing, two healthy and productive, potentially, endeavors. Quick to smile and laugh, this young lady has many gifts and seems to relish, like many of us, the Colorado lifestyle and its magic. Young adults dig Denver. I think that’s cool.

While watching her walk into the terminal, thoughts wandered back to watching #20 play basketball. A guard, my niece played with great passion. I have always admired others who pour heart and soul - call it passion - into their efforts. Whether home, work, sports or elsewhere, it really warms my marrow to watch others ooze enthusiasm in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to communities served, wherever roaming. Just my opinion, but the energy emanating from folks like that is infectious and inspires me to better effort. You?

Anyway, back to the point. An uncle is observing a fabulous young lady, product of sister and good buddy from high-school basketball days, marinating in one of life’s defining moments: courage to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win.

It’s a favorite story shared during practically each live Pep Talk presentation. Long ago, when precious daughter, today a volleyball standout, was in second-grade she played some hoops. I’ll never forgot driving the now 15-year-old and two classmates to their first basketball practice. The three were in the back of my car, buckled in and discussing what most second-grade girls seem to talk about: fashion, boys and television shows. We’re about five minutes from practice when one of the girls blurts out, “Hey, when is our first game?” Remember, I’m driving them to their first practice. My daughter and the other girl respond, almost in unison, “First game? Oh, it’s tomorrow.”

The inquiring young lady’s face flooded with shock and fear. This came from mouth but originated in soul: “Tomorrow? I don’t even know how to play basketball!” Daughter and other gal fire back with this gem: “Oh, that’s okay. Here’s what we do. When we have the ball we put it in the basket. When they have it, we steal it. The coaches will teach us the rest.”

Next time we interview a basketball coach on Mac and Doog we’ll have to offer that advice: score, play good defense and learn. I can’t wait for that response!

Anyway, the body language of an inquiring young girl changed immediately as she confidently muttered, “Oh, okay!” Here’s where it gets really good. From the moment, five minutes later upon arrival, that terrific trio of young ladyhood marched into the gym each became good players. None better than a once frightened young girl, given wise instruction from teammates, putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win.

It worked for a young girl many years ago. I wonder if she even remembers the moment like I do? Probably not and that’s okay. Putting fear aside and allowing wonderment to win will work for a darling niece considering moving west to the Centennial State. It will work for your humble correspondent. It will work for you too.

Where this week is it time? Time to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win? Home, work or elsewhere? Where is it time to take a leap of faith into the great unknown? Wherever that question rattles your bones, please remember, it ain’t happening unless wonderment wins the battle with fear.

If you think I’m crazy, perhaps Shakespeare’s take on it might resonate. Wikipedia calls the English poet and writer “the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.” Writing most of his work in a 24-year spurt beginning in the late 1500‘s, the dude considered the greatest writer in English language history, once declared: “Our doubts are traitors that make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”

He’s right. Let’s promise one another the following: embrace Shakespeare’s advice. We must keep chasing dreams. It starts with wonderment defeating fear.

Good luck this week!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pep Talk: "Gentle and Forgiving"

It was a Friday night in the Mile High City. The cat at the door whining for the backyard, the Rockies, on opening night, battling Houston in a game Colorado eventually won and I’m finally getting around to reading Wednesday’s Denver Post. An article in its front section rattles the skeletal system.

It’s a story about, what appears, a tragic accident in the northern Denver suburb of Thornton. A distracted driver hit a man and two sons walking along a rural road. Father and one son perished, the youngest boy survived but experienced the passing of his father and brother. Tough stuff.

But here’s what blew me away in reading the article by the Post’s Jessica Fender: The presence of forgiveness. Yeah, the victims’ kin, instead of unleashing anger and fury at the man who veered from his lane, chose to respond with: “Everybody’s hurting. It was a perfect storm of things happening. We realize it was a horrific accident. Our hearts go out to him (the driver) and his family.”

Wow. It sure makes me think of the power, and benefit, or letting go of negative energy expended when life’s challenging moments leave us bitter, angry and resentful. Anybody winning there?

Now granted, this family’s incredible response will be tested as the reality of its loss sinks in. The respected stages of grief suggest it’s okay to be angry, your world has been rocked. The big question becomes, “How long are we gonna dwell in negativity?”

When blessed to be speaking with others in a Pep Talk coaching situation, I like to offer: “We have to decide whether we’re going to be victims, or students, of life’s unwanted and unexpected situations.” And yes, while origins of “What the heck is going on around here” moments vary, I would like to suggest, strategies remain the same. There are four critical things we must do, as quickly as possible, in trying to turn these, as I wrote in my third book, lemons into margaritas:

Forgive and learn
Rally with like-minded folks
Encourage one another to move forward
Transform in ways honoring, nurturing and adding value to communities served.

When it comes to dealing with life’s crap, I like to call it, just my opinion, the “Fantastic Foursome.” What are the other options? We see them often don’t we? Ten years post divorce, or other misfortune, we observe, or demonstrate, burrowed bitterness? It’s just one example but you know what I mean. There is probably no greater gift than the one of forgiveness. In the world’s best-selling book, in Colossians, it says, “be gentle and forgiving, never hold a grudge.”

Where this week could we take a cue from a grieving Centennial State family? Where is it time to finally let go of the past and focus on the present and future - home, work and elsewhere? Again, venue doesn’t matter, strategy does. It starts with being gentle and forgiving of others, and self.

Good luck!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pep Talk: "Riding the Storm Out"

It was another absolutely gorgeous Centennial State Saturday. I had just returned from the accountant’s office. Humbling year for Victory Productions. Things must get better. The underachieving must end.

My focus was broken by a knock at the door. My buddy, Scott Canady, had stopped by to get the sprinkler and lighting systems fired up. The lawn is thirsty and worthy of hydration. The bulbs burned and needing replacement. A big CU fan, a Buff to the bone, the father of two has been taking care of sprinklers and lights around this modest abode forever. He’s a good dude and does a good job. DayStar & Associates for those who might need a quality company in that area. About 45 minutes later, after great conversation and quality workmanship, the chat ends and I was back inside writing this Pep Talk.

However, there’s trouble in the workspace. The cat, upon my abandoning the writing post and wandering outside, took advantage. She was dipping an aging paw deep into my glass and licking the water once paw returned to mouth. Bullet, 15 years running and growing more sly by the day. My thoughts return to writing and thinking of my accountant buddy. He’s another good dude who is riding high right now considering his college-freshman daughter, a standout swimmer, and University of California teammates just won the NCAA swimming championships. “The team’s going to the White House” he said with a sly grin.

Back to downloading thoughts from cranium to computer. Victory Productions must do a better job of effectively communicating its value to clients. When it comes to business development, we need to better inform others our trio of radio, social media and community-based marketing and advertising might be a good fit for them. I’ve been called a lot of things in life - smart rarely, native often - but hope tugs at flesh with belief in the following: there are business owners along Colorado’s Front Range, within Mile High Sports Radio’s signal, who would see value in radio advertising on Drive Time with Mac and Doog, recognition of good works in the community on Facebook and, finally, a Mac and Doog supported event inviting the public to a fun community gathering to network, learn more about the company and raise money for a worthwhile cause. Just my opinion, but it seems a marketing/advertising strategy centered around good works might move the needle and help companies play like champions in their endeavors.

But you know what? It doesn’t matter what I think. The question becomes, will others see value in it? I sure hope so because it seeps from my marrow. It makes me think of you and others. We all have our challenges in life, don’t we? Right now for your humble correspondent, it’s a struggling business demanding a better way.

I think of so many others who I know, and don’t know but know, are in the throes of divorce, illness, child sickness, job loss and other calamities that leave us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?”

My good buddy, Billy Mac from Hackensack, would call these times, “tough sledding.” He’d exhort we dig deep for resolve to overcome whatever ails us. I’d like to suggest the same.

Remember that song, Riding the Storm Out, by rock band REO Speedwagon? A band that has sold more than 40-million records had humble beginnings. It was a cover band, playing campus bars in Champaign, Illinois around the University of Illinois. I just YouTubed it and am listening now. That’s what we gotta do, ride the storm out. There’s high seas, howling wind and a question, “We will survive to fight another day?” Let’s encourage one another this week to make sure the answer to that question is “Hell yes!”

Good luck!
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