Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pep Talk: "Resist Zero Gravity"

A while ago, I was flying to Tampa, Florida for a speaking engagement. I’m reading a book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. It’s a delightful gem where author Mark Batterson expresses views about many things, including adversity.

The Oxford American dictionary defines the word as: misfortune, trouble. That’s it. While it is simple to define the word, we know from personal experiences, misfortune and trouble can appear in many different forms: a marriage or relationship falls apart; a job is lost because of economic conditions or poor performance; a loved one’s, perhaps your own, health is jeopardized because of illness or injury.

Three examples of twists and turns arriving – unexpected and unwanted – in our lives that must be dealt with. They deliver adversity forcing us to change direction and chart a different course. Effectively dealing with change, a real key in leading a successful life, right? It’s not that we have to LIKE the change, but we must keep a healthy attitude toward it. We must be determined not to become a victim of the circumstance bringing misfortune and trouble into our lives, instead becoming a student of the experience. We learn from, and become better, because of it.

Batterson, in talking about the same premise, offers an analogy of astronauts and what they face when returning from space. While in orbit these men and women operate in zero gravity – there is no resistance. That’s not good for the human body. Long-term exposure to zero gravity leads to loss of muscle mass, bone density and accelerates heart rates to dangerous levels. In other words, resistance, synonymous with adversity, is a necessary component of life. Another analogy he used was good too. It’s rare for someone to break a bone in the same place because that particular bone usually grows back STRONGER after the misfortune or trouble that led to the initial break.

Could we apply the same logic to our lives? We all have misfortune and trouble – that’s life. Sure, we often think we’d love to experience life without any problems, zero gravity. But if we realize the opportunities adversity presents to help us grow stronger, perhaps we could face change, and its challenges, with a different attitude?

It’s not easy. But the effort to learn from, not become a victim of, adversity will help us one day at that roller coaster ride we call life. Promise.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pep Talk: "Our Reaction to Irritants"

Ever had to deal with difficult people? Sure, we all have been in that boat before - home, work and elsewhere, right? The question becomes, how do we deal with a family member, boss, co-worker, neighbor, fellow volunteer or whomever seems an irritant.

I was thinking about this the other day while overhearing the conversation of a young lady who had just learned she had made, as a sophomore, the starting unit of her high school’s varsity volleyball team. It was quite an accomplishment, an example of hard work paying off, but there are repercussions already emerging. In this example, older girls, two seniors, not happy a youngster will be taking precious playing time from them once the season begins in a few weeks. The icy stares and cold shoulders are chilling.

Listening to the young lady describe the issue took me back almost four decades to a time the writer of this Pep Talk was in a similar situation. It also, once again, reminded me of the good fortune I have had over the years to have incredible mentors to show me the way.

It was the fall of 1973 and I was an incoming sophomore - high school was sophomore through senior back then - at Raytown South High School in suburban Kansas City, Missouri. In those days, athletics were all that really interested me. Well, sports and girls to be honest with you. Anyway, I was a pretty good athlete and had been named the starting quarterback over another player who was heading into his senior year and had been the starting junior varsity quarterback the year before. He was not happy and neither was a group of buddies who had played alongside him for many years.

But I was lucky to have a coach who prepared me for the adversity. He mentored me in how to handle the scorn and stay focused on the important task at hand: leading the team’s offense and working to improve daily. Most of the abuse was petty and, in hindsight, somewhat amusing but was ever-present in reminding a youngster that a few upperclassmen were not thrilled with the coach’s decision to move a popular senior to another backfield position. For the record, the older athlete ended up excelling in that role and set a school record for most single-game receptions in the season’s final game.

A high-school football coach, Vance Morris, showed me the way to deal with difficult people. It’s a lesson that has stuck through the years. Today I’m blessed to have a platoon of men who challenge me weekly to “never look for justice in this world but never cease to give it.” Just my opinion, but that seems a good way to deal with difficult people, love them.

The daydreaming stopped when I heard the young lady mention, “My coach has told me she has my back.” Good for the coach! When life gets challenging we need to have each others’ backs. This week, if we find ourselves in a tough spot with others, it’s a part of life after all, let’s rise above the fray and try like heck to remember “this too shall pass.” Let’s focus on what we do control: our reaction to irritants.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pep Talk: "Deeds versus Intentions"

We’ve all heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” Do you believe it’s true? I sure do.

That was the thought running through the mind of a simple dude from Missouri as four devotees of Lakewood, Colorado-based Hospice of Saint John transferred a big pile of household goods from my garage to their trucks. As the second oldest free-standing hospice in the country, this organization has built a reputation in skilled, compassionate care, providing service regardless of age, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or the ability to pay. In fact, the Hospice of Saint John accepts the highest percentage of uninsured and under-insured patients in the Centennial State. Good for them.

Anyway, recently the hospice created a program where others can “clean out the clutter” and donate household goods that are turned over for recycling and the non profit, founded in 1977, receives revenue based upon the total weight of the junk donated. After almost 20 years in the same home, I had a lot of junk and was grateful to get rid of it.

The process of cleaning out the clutter was an interesting exercise. It became a fun banter topic with an alley neighbor who would, upon us seeing one another on weekends, mutter, “There’s no way anybody’s going to be interested in that!” as items - toys, art, tools and other stuff - were placed in the alley for others to snatch. 

It was also an emotional journey as cherished family pictures, the kids’ class projects and other keepsakes were unearthed from a storage area above the garage that had become a dumping ground for “stuff.” Cleansing can be cathartic!

So as the five of us celebrated the trash, or is it treasure?, transfer with ice-cold sodas from the garage refrigerator, thoughts switched to another neighbor encountered earlier in the week while working to extract gold from the two-decades deposit of household minerals.

“Those fans you put out the other day are really helping keep the house cool,” mentioned the long-time neighbor and friend who resides next door. “Thanks man.”

You bet buddy.

Perhaps this Pep Talk comes down to this: This week, let’s remember there are usually plenty of opportunities to invest our time, talents, treasures or, in this case, trash in service and benefit to others. I do believe we think about doing good for others a lot but then that darn thing called life, with its unexpected and unwanted distractions, derails us from executing our plan.

It makes me think of another old, but true, saying that offers, “The road is paved with good intentions.” It’s our job to transform intentions into actions considering it’s also true the smallest good deed is better than the grandest good intention.

Deeds versus intentions. It’s a choice. Let’s encourage one another to choose the former whenever possible, K?

Have a good week!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pep Talk: "Eyes, Ears and Hearts"

Little did I know so much wisdom could permeate skull while getting a hair cut. But hey, as my philosophical mother loves to suggest, “A blind sow finds an acorn occasionally.” Well, this little piggy went to market big time recently.
The other day while getting the monthly trim of a thinning herd of hair, the wonderful single-parent woman shearing a simple dude from Missouri’s locks was talking about her darling sons. There’s a picture of the two handsome guys, around 10 and 8 respectively, under glass in her workspace for all to see.
This is a busy entrepreneur who works long hours and it made me wonder, “Who watches the kids while you’re working?” She paused from her labor and responded, “I’m lucky to have my mom and dad watch the kids. I cherish the fact my kids have a safe and nurturing environment when I’m not around.”
We covered many other topics in the 45 minutes spent together. I don’t recall many. What has burned white-hot since was something the talented stylist muttered about the, via high-character family members, ideal child-care arrangement. “To care for another with our eyes, ears and hearts is never a bad thing.”
Amen to that sister.
Can you imagine? If this week, three of our most powerful influencers - eyes, ears and hearts - were tuned to caring for others? Could it make a difference in our lives and the lives of others? I would say, damn right it would! I know, easy to talk about, not so easy to execute, right? Life, with all of its challenges, tries to pull us in many directions and complicate that mission of caring for others through what’s observed, heard or sensed.
Let’s make a vow this week that our respective reticular activating systems shall be placed on high alert. For instance, personally, heart says it’s time to connect with a friend battling brain cancer; eyes, while watching an aging neighbor slowly trudge for the morning paper, focus on reminding this wonderful woman and widow, who spent time in an internment camp during World War II, that once Centennial State snow starts flying in a few months, friends on the block will shovel her walk; ears, well ear, since I’m deaf in one of them, from conversations, news broadcasts and meetings, registers calls of opportunity to serve others in healthy and productive fashion.
The question becomes, what will we do with the signals being sent via eyes, ears and hearts? Will we dismiss, despite the vibration of what Emerson called, “the iron string within” because, “We’re too busy?” Or perhaps, can we muster resolve this week to realize the value in never growing weary of doing good things for each other? Can we prioritize in a way allowing what eyes, ears and hearts are transmitting to burrow deep into our souls and, then, manifest in our actions - home, work and elsewhere?
The scalp massage - ain’t they great? - and hair cut ended. I departed the shop with a reshaped noggin, exterior and interior. The exterior makeover will last but a month or so. What about the interior reminder of the value in caring for others with eyes, ears and hearts? It ain’t easy but I’m gonna try like heck, and invite you to do the same, to ensure it lasts a lifetime.
Have a good week!
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