Monday, May 28, 2012

Pep Talk: "Understand and Pursue"

It was one of those moments jarring bones, brain and soul - like a linebacker from the blindside - that make you pause, desired or not. I had one of those recently while folding clothes, preparing for a Friday edition of Mac and Doog and, hey this is tough work, watching ESPN’s Sports Center.
Actor Vince Vaughn is on with a noon-time guy - don’t know his name - and their having fun chatting about Chicago sports and Vaughn’s upcoming movie. The talented thespian is a native of the Windy City - nicknamed for politics not weather - and loves his home-town sports teams and the city. I do too, at least the city.  Darling girlfriend’s from there, the successful businesswoman’s family lives there, we visit often and America’s third-largest city holds great memories for dear friends, like former Cubs’ outfielder Bob Dernier. Sinatra’s not alone, Chicago’s my kind of town too.
Anyway, back to the point of this Pep Talk. As Vaughn and the anchor continue to play witty and engaging  mental gymnastics, the conversation steered toward the fact ESPN, at it’s Bristol, Connecticut campus, has an in-house dodgeball league. Ever play dodgeball? It’s a fun and challenging game. Upon hearing this fact, Vaughn immediately asked, “Is it real dodgeball? Do they place the ball in the middle of the court and then you have to sprint and retrieve the ball for your team?” The star of several clever and funny movies seemed skeptical modern-day dodgeball had similar requirements to the game of his youth, and mine for that matter. The “real dodgeball” answer was affirmative and seemed to impress the 42-year-old who also excels in screenwriting and producing.
For whatever reason mind wandered back to youth. As I recall, therein lies the first problem, that’s how we used to play the game. Put the ball out in the middle, blow the whistle and first team to the ball has the advantage. I was always one of the guys chasing after the ball. God built me that way: decent size, quickness, strength and desire. I loved to compete and knew it was my job to “go get the ball” for the team.
I understood and, thank goodness, embraced the job. It was challenging sure, but it was also a heckuva lot of fun. Team sports, just my opinion, foster great memories and life lessons. So, I knew when the whistle blew I had teammates, coaches, parents and supporters expecting me to get the ball. I tried like heck most times and experienced success and failure. Thankfully, the former more than the latter. But most important, the role was clearly defined and, at that time, this simple dude could not get enough of that funky stuff. I was blessed to grow up in a community - Raytown, Missouri - which really supported youth athletics. Thanks everybody back home.
That was long ago and life, like I know for each of you, has taken many detours. Ya know, those “What the heck is going on around here?” moments burrowed deep into soul? Would it be fair to label these episodes of life, “defining moments?” Is that fair? Let me know. I enjoy hearing from you about these musings!
This much I hope is indisputable: we must understand and, my opinion, embrace our roles in life. I know, easier said than done, right? Physical, emotional and financial stress make remaining enthusiastic about life a real challenge, for all. Sometimes the roles we have to play suck but we have to try and keep a positive attitude about them. Ya know, that ol’ “lemons into margaritas” stuff.
Victory Productions, in partnership with the Denver Improv, had its first Comedy for a Cause event last week. The fun evening honored the Colorado Hawks basketball club for its work in encouraging kids to play like champions in athletics, academics and life. I love the organization’s nickname. The club, founded in 1997, has as its nickname: HAWKS. An acronym for “Hard at work kids.” The staff, coaches, parent and supporters of the Hawks understand their roles: encourage kids to play like champions.
What is our role right now, home, work and elsewhere? I pray this week we all find the strength, despite the crap that comes our way, to understand our roles and go get the ball. It’s necessary to win. You gotta have the ball, or at least, “be on the ball.”
It was my job, because of my athleticism, to get the ball. But then there were other equally important teammates, who had other skills necessary for success. The bottom line is this: everybody understood their role and pursued success passionately. Whether we’re talking communities, or athletic teams, a collective bunch of determined folks who understand their roles and pursue success passionately have, just my opinion, a decent shot at success, right? Please tell me the answer to that question is more toward affirmative than other choices.
A Friday midday, folding clothes, watching ESPN and, then, settling on Poor Man’s Porch to visit with you took cranium to good times and reminders of two of life’s great lessons: Despite what ails us, we keep running to daylight. The venues may change - home, work or elsewhere - but the strategy remains the same. We understand our roles and go get the ball.
Memorial Day 2012. A day we honor those who certainly knew their role and went after the ball. They understood, and pursued with passion, the mission: protecting our freedoms. For that we should all be grateful.
Understand and pursue. Yes, true, there is no guarantee for success but ya never know, it might just work too, right? Understand and pursue, with passion, our roles in this journey someone long ago coined as “life.” What the heck, let’s try it for a week and ya know, see what happens. 
Good luck!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pep Talk: "Thus the Crush"

Despite the fact I have the most amazing girlfriend any knucklehead from Missouri deserves, there’s another woman. Yep, I’ve got a big crush on a gal named Thelissa Zollinger.
We celebrated her birthday Saturday, in the chilly rain, with about 350 best friends. I love to sing, especially with a microphone in hand,  and was honored to lead the throng in a rousing rendition of the birthday song. The crowd had gathered for the sixth “Gift of Life and Breath” 5K road race, run and walk on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus, which, with its impressive array of research, facilities and care, is emerging as the Mayo Clinic of the Rocky Mountain West.
Despite lousy weather many appeared and endured in honor of a woman’s passion for life. This beautiful spirit - thus the crush - has a pretty darn good reason for not being so dynamic and effervescent. The way-to-early death of beloved hubby Gary. He was a good dude, successful businessman, devoted father and community leader, non smoker too. But somehow the oil and gas executive was diagnosed with cancer in each lung. 
This darling couple with six great kids, many darling grandkids and tons of friends fought the good fight for more than three years. They tried just about every treatment known to man, including a rare double-lung transplant.
In an all-too-common theme, lung cancer won. It usually does. Do you know we lose 160,000 Americans a year to lung cancer? It kills more of us than breast, prostate, colon and melanoma combined. My father passed five years ago from it. If you’re diagnosed stage four, it’s usually one of those, “Get your affairs in order” kinda conversations.
So after Gary, just before his 59th birthday, passed in 2007, Thelissa decided it was time to get busy. She refused to be a victim of the circumstance and focused on being a student of the experience. The blue-eyed bundle of energy sunk heart and soul into raising money to fund research for an early-detection test for lung cancer. Progress is being made but, unlike the four previously mentioned cancers, a reliable and affordable test remains elusive. Thelissa’s leading the charge in trying like heck to turn that personal lemon into a sweet and savory margarita for someone else. While watching her work a crowd your humble correspondent senses the spirit of late hubby encouraging, “You go girl.”
As we prepared for the start of this year’s event, a bone-chilling rain poured upon participants, volunteers, vendors, sponsors and everybody else assembled for the cause. It didn’t seem to faze many. No, there seemed to be a spirit present taking  attendees to a different spot: loving thoughts of loved ones lost to lung cancer.
It was like, “Okay it’s rainy, cold and uncomfortable but considering what I witnessed my - fill in the blank - endure in fighting cancer. This is a walk in the park on a beautiful day.”
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: it can always be worse. I can recall a recent moment while talking with a client about some marketing stuff and life. There are challenges on each front. I then remembered another buddy who, five weeks ago, lost a 25-year-old son to suicide.
Life often has us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?”
Take a cue from Thelissa Zollinger. Her honorable quest  to find an early-detection test for lung cancer attracts admirers - thus the crush. She’s on a mission to transform her pain into progress for others.
Rarely is that not a noble endeavor. Could this be the week for you to try and transform pain into progress? What the heck, like terrific Thelissa, you might have success too! You don’t know till you try, right?
Have a good week!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Rise Above"

It was a Thursday night in the Mile High City. The town on the verge of Nuggets’ mania as the home town boys jumped to early lead against the Lakers in Game Six from Pepsi Center. I posted this to Facebook fellows:
Might be one of those nights when Kobe, despite being sick as a dog, comes up with one of those gutty big games. That's what superstars do, rise above. It's true whether we're talking in basketball and beyond - home, work and elsewhere. Sorry, could resist. Thanks for letting me vent.:)
Ultimately, Kobe did have a good game, scoring 31 points, but the Nuggets won to force a decisive seventh game in a series the Lakers eventually prevailed. But this Pep Talk ain’t about basketball, it’s about rising above.
Sure easy to talk about ain’t it? Yeah, we can lay out the game plan for dealing with life’s challenges easily. It’s the execution of the game plan that gets tricky. This past week Mac and Doog hosted, along with Wystone’s Teas - great spot in Belmar - a fundraiser for the WilLiv Center and its founder, Marla Swanson.
Life has thrown this fabulous lady several “What the heck is going on around here” moments. However, there’s resolve buried in her bones to try like heck to rise above - to use personal pain to promote progress for others. A few years back, the stay-at-home mom with two kids had the rug pulled from beneath when hubby decided marriage wasn’t his cup of tea. He disappeared from the family’s life.
Marla’s world was rocked. For whatever reason, something inside whispered, “Rise above.” In 2007 Swanson founded the WilLiv - a blending of son Will and daughter Olivia’s first names - Center. The non profit’s mission is to help single moms and their kids thrust unexpectedly into one of those “WTH?” moments.
WilLiv has helped many women and families over the years. It needs our help today. It’s founder, the beloved Marla, has tongue cancer. Doctors told her, “cut it out.” She queried, “Are there any other options?” There have been but they’re experimental, expensive and uncertain. Marla’s trying like heck to rise above right now but it’s damn tough. She’s lost all her money, most of her weight but little of her hope.
She’s turned lemons into margaritas before and is trying like heck to prevail again. You might be in the same boat right now. The challenge might be physical, emotional or financial, who knows. The venues change but the strategy remains the same: rise above.
It might be beneficial to rally with like-minded people at this time. Encourage - give hope and confidence to - one another to burrow deep into our soul’s for the perseverance to rise above the fray.
Good luck! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Better for the Effort"

It has been a while since Billy Joel blared in the background as the latest Pep Talk transferred from cranium to computer to you. I hope you find value in the messages. I sure enjoy writing thoughts about life and encouraging you and self, despite inevitable challenges, to play like champions - home, work and elsewhere.
My mind wanders to earlier this warm, almost hot, 2012 Centennial State day. It happens to be Cinco de Mayo. Did you know, at least according to, under Latin American history, the holiday commemorating an improbable 1862 Mexican war victory, is celebrated more in America than Mexico. As the old saying goes, “Truth is stranger than fiction” sometimes, right?
Anyway, back to the story, perched upon bicycle I’m rolling downhill into Cherry Creek North for lunch with a dear friend, financial advisor and life mentor - a father figure. I admire him greatly. A few minutes before embarking on this five-minute spinI had put on the favorite weekend “at least he took a shower” golf shirt in anticipation of our meeting. It’s blue and comfy and proclaims “Louisiana College.” I love this shirt for comfort - physically and emotionally. Another of your humble correspondent’s stellar mentors coaches football at the small liberal arts school in Pineville, Louisiana. He’s coached me, and thousands of other young men, in more than 50 years of prep and collegiate coaching.
These two men have always encouraged and supported my dreams and the dreams of many others. I love and value their friendship and want to inform them, considering, unfortunately, we never know when it might be too late to express such feelings.
Football lost a special person this past week when Junior Seau terminated life with a shotgun blast to his heart. The future Hall-of-Fame linebacker starred for the San Diego Chargers and later played for Miami and New England in a 20-year career. He was admired by teammates, coaches, executives, fans and community. One of those “charge from the fox hole” kinda guys a buddy, Billy Mac from Hackensack, likes to talk about over mud and water.
Watching the 12-time Pro Bowler’s grieving family, teammates and community pour their souls into testimonies rattled skeleton and chilled marrow concerning a prevalent theme: the apparent lack of knowledge to the 43-year-old’s desperation and despair.  Grown men; big, strong and tough football players weeping, along with Seau’s heartbroken mother and others, often stating, “I wish I would have known. I would have reached out to him.”
Who knows if it would have made any difference in this instance. I think we all have had, and will continue to experience, these types of situations. Those moments in life, rarely joyful, when we look back upon painful experiences and admit, “If I would have done this.....”
The CU Buffs won three straight Big 8 football titles from 1989-91. Colorado also won its only national championship in that time frame, the greatest run in school history. Each of those terrific teams had the same starting quarterback. Darian Hagan. Today he’s the school’s recruiting coordinator. In the hearts of many Buffs to the bone, #3 will always be “Mr. Magic.” 
Anyway, during his playing days, after a Buffs victory one year back when covering the team, I recall asking the California native a question about an interception he threw. I’ll never forget the cat-quick quarterback’s response concerning not playing the “if” game:  “You can’t count on ‘ifs’ because ‘ifs’ are no good.”
Amen to that brother. This week let’s remember Hagan’s wise words and the powerful visual reminders of indescribable grief associated with tragic loss. Let’s try like heck to have our reticular activating system on high alert for someone near and dear to our hearts who might be discouraged right now. 
Let’s promise one another to call, write or visit - no texting or emailing allowed - one person who needs to feel our loving and encouraging touch. Who knows, it might give them hope and confidence to weather the storm. Maybe it won’t. This much I do know, we’ll be better from the effort.
Have a good week!

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