Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pep Talk: "Purpose in Pain"

While climbing aboard the gym Stairmaster for the usual Sunday morning sweat, this simple dude from Missouri had no clue to the theme of this week’s Pep Talk. However, it didn’t take long before clarity crashed into cranium.

A mere five minutes into a 50-minute workout, while watching ESPN’s Countdown to Kickoff prior to the NFL games, an update story on former Rutgers’ University football player Eric LeGrand appeared on the gym television. The standout defensive lineman suffered a paralyzing injury two years ago during a game against Army. The 22-year-old’s story of hope, despite adversity, is inspiring. The New Jersey native has a recently published book: Believe: My Faith and the Tackle that Changed My Life where he encourages others to find purpose in pain and face setbacks with an overwhelming amount of strength.

Observing physical therapists vigorously working the collegian’s arms and legs, and the determined look on the young man’s face, was visible evidence the budding sportscaster is walking his talk. 

LeGrand’s plea to others, expressed in the book, to somehow, someway, find purpose in pain kept running through my mind as the minutes ticked away and the workout neared conclusion. Is it really possible to find purpose in pain? It made me think of family and friends who are battling a variety of cancers right now. Would it be possible for them to find purpose through the surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and other necessary treatments to survive?

Will it be possible for a friend, and his gorgeous wife, to ever find purpose in the pain of losing their talented, but emotionally troubled, son to suicide? Will it be possible for a US Army warrior to ever find purpose in the pain of losing every limb to an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan?

Will it be possible for you and me, despite what ails us, to find purpose from pain? Heck yes!

But it will not be easy. Few worthwhile things in life are, correct? For whatever reason my mind wandered to many years ago, and a painful moment, at the Tampa, Florida airport. Unexpectedly and suddenly, my first marriage had imploded. It was my responsibility to hand-deliver then five-year-old son, now 23-years-old, to his mother and new love interest for a holiday visit. At that moment, it was a chore to find purpose in that pain of sorrow. Eventually it did appear.

Life’s big question: Will we become victims of its circumstances or students of its experiences? Thanks to LeGrand, we have a wonderful reminder to a comeback strategy focused on understanding we’re not alone; connecting with like-minded people and, finally, encouraging one another to put fear aside and allow wonderment to win in successfully moving forward.

That’s how we find purpose in pain. Good luck!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pep Talk: "Traits We Control"

“Hey man, we gotta replace the garage-door system soon and have that beer,” were departing words to a wonderful neighbor family. My buddy, his beautiful bride and their two darling children are moving a few blocks away. They popped in, while I was watching college football, to let me know, after much delay, they closed on a better-suited, nearby home.

Earlier in the day I had been blessed with initial joy while spending time with another cherished buddy talking about raising children. It ain’t ever easy I suppose, but the teenage years offer interesting moments, don’t they? Anyway, this long-time friend has  more experience with raising teenagers. I’m picking his brain about strategies. I value his opinion. You have a buddy like that? Someone you can talk about life in a frank and sincere manner? I’m a lucky guy to have many wonderful friends smarter than me. I try and learn from them. Thank you.

These wonderful moments from an absolutely beautiful mid-November Saturday afternoon in the Centennial State were competing for the cranium’s attention with another, less uplifting, experience: listening, on the radio, to another Colorado Buffaloes’ blowout loss. I spent many years covering the Buffs when it was much different, they won often, and still spend considerable time with many of the coaches, players and staff from those wonderful years. I also talk about the Buffs often on the afternoon sports talk show, The Odd Couple: Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman, co-hosted along with Eric Goodman weekdays on Mile High Sports Radio. Full disclosure, I graduated from Mizzou twice - stop laughing - but am a Buff to the bone. The football program’s struggle under second-year coach Jon Embree is producing, potentially, the worst season in program history.

I was in the car running errands and listening to the announcers, accurately in my opinion, describe the mess. The sideline reporter was Jeb Putzier. It was the first time the former Denver Broncos’ tight end had joined the broadcast team. His sideline reports were revealing.

What bore into cranium, from Putzier’s comments, like a fist through a wall was this: If we’re in a situation in life where deficiency in skill, discipline or desire hamper progress toward our goal, we better make damn sure we compensate with an overabundance of excellence in other areas. In this instance, the CU Buffs, athletically are not as big, fast and strong as most of their opponents. They need to compensate with excellence in discipline and desire.

Putzier, who played seven NFL seasons, was very informative in telling listeners that, for instance, when kicking off, some CU players, once seeing the ball was not going to be returned, stopped running and headed for the bench. Meanwhile, according to Putzier, who played special teams most of his career, every member of the University of Washington Huskies’ kickoff team sprinted into the endzone, regardless of whether the ball was returned or not. It speaks to discipline and desire.

I personally witnessed, while watching the game on television before heading out, many plays in the first half where the 1-10 team committed silly penalties or carelessly turned the ball over. It speaks to discipline and football intelligence.

It should speak to each of us. Let the Buffs be our guide. When it comes to the building blocks of a successful life, would it be fair to suggest skill, discipline and desire are vital?

And could we also make the argument that IF there’s deficiency in one area it would be wise to have an overabundance in the others? The challenges before us might be winning in sports, business, family or life. It doesn’t, my opinion, matter. What matters is us. Will we muster the courage to become superior to our former selves when it comes to skill, discipline and desire?

Sometimes an overabundance ain’t such a bad thing. How about this week, we have an overabundance of traits we totally control: discipline and desire. While there is no guarantee of success, life is chock-full of examples where an overabundance of each has boosted others to - despite obstacles - play like champions. Home, work and elsewhere.  It can work for us too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pep Talk: "Nobody Wins"

Sam Cook long ago, 1963 to be exact, sang about “It’s another Saturday night....” but for this simple dude from Missouri, it’s actually a Friday night. But I ain’t got nobody. Darling girlfriend has fled to the mountains with the Aloha Pussycats. I do have some money ‘cuz I just got paid.

I’m sitting, somewhat anxiously, at kitchen counter waiting for high-school sophomore daughter and her same-class boyfriend’s return from dinner in the neighborhood. I’m reading the paper. A few more minutes and they’ll be officially tardy. Our evening game plan consists of relaxing at the house before dropping them downtown at Pepsi Center for the Nuggets/Jazz game that starts late. It’s the second game of ESPN’s Friday-night doubleheader and doesn’t usually tip off until about 8:45pm.

My heart warms, I hear voices and footsteps. Precious princess and suitor appear. Safely in harbor, ahead of schedule! Dude’s wearing an Alex English #2 Nuggets jersey. He’s asked, “Where did English play his college ball?” He admits to not having a clue. Give the young man credit, the straight-A student did know the greatness the former University of South Carolina standout displayed during his Hall of Fame career.

Their arrival ended reading a good piece from The Denver Post’s John Wenzel. He was interviewing Aisha Tyler, an emerging multi-media star who was showing off her comedic skills over the weekend in the Mile High City. The California native is also one of the hosts of The Talk, a CBS daytime television show featuring five ladies conversing about life. Insert your own joke here. Tyler’s the new kid on the block and has meshed well with existing team members in creating a program quite popular right now. For the record, I have not seen it.

Blending well with others ain’t always an easy task. The old team is changing because of you. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The 42-year-old Dartmouth College graduate has been accepted. The show is thriving. When asked what is the key to five women voicing opinions but respecting differences and creating the fastest-growing show on television, Tyler offered: “We don’t always agree but we don’t beat each other up when we disagree.”

Amen to that. Her thoughts bore deep into cranium. She’s right about the value of, despite differences, “not beating each other up.” Dang, life’s tough enough ain’t it? We have kids to nurture, jobs to complete, physical, emotional and financial challenges to face. It can get messy. Tyler’s correct about not beating each other up. Simple to suggest, not so easy to execute, right? Do it anyway.

Walt Weiss’ hiring as the Colorado Rockies’ sixth manager in franchise history had been the major topic of discussion earlier in the day on Mile High Sports Radio. Along with co-host Eric Goodman, producer Josh Pennock and those listening and contributing to The Odd Couple: Afternoon Drive with Mac and Goodman, much time was spent on this interesting move. The 48-year-old was a standout player for Colorado, stayed involved with the organization in a variety of coaching/scouting/leadership roles since retiring and described himself, accurately I believe during our radio interview, as “scrappy.”

Weiss, throughout his 14-year-major league career usually played for winning teams and Hall of Fame managers like Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox. Weiss knows the wisdom of remaining unified and avoiding battles within - home, work and elsewhere. Just my opinion, but it seems damn tough to succeed anywhere in life - television show, baseball team, family, workplace - wherever - where we’re “beating each other up.”

Again, doesn’t mean we’re not gonna disagree but we gotta try like heck to respect each other. When, on the occasion, we get crossways with another, seek immediate restitution. Don’t let whatever ails, linger. Nobody wins.

Have a great week!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pep Talk: "Squirt Water Pistols!"

When was the last time you loaded a water pistol, hid behind a bush and squirted guests arriving at your home? When was the last time you tucked yourself behind a corner of the house, or office, jumped out and scared the wits out of a loved one or fellow employee? When was the last time you, dressed in pajamas, encouraged the kids to join a midnight bug hunt in the backyard? When was the last time you had ice cream for breakfast? When was the last time you, heaven forbid, acted childish?

Those thoughts were running through my mind as I drove home steering the car with my knees - just kidding - after a night of being a presenter at the Rocky Mountain Communities 2012 gala. The non-profit organization provides attractive and affordable communities and support services for more than 2,000 people in seven locations throughout Colorado.

On this night it was honoring Arthur McDermott with the Gordon Von Stroh Service to Community Award for McDermott’s outstanding commitment, passion and wisdom in support of affordable housing. Yours truly was honored to crash the party and exalt a dear friend who has always been supportive of my endeavors. The New Jersey-born,  but Colorado-rooted, father of five, grandfather of 12 and devoted hubby of lovely bride Margaret, possesses a positive spirit. However, I didn’t realize the level of playfulness present within the fit and handsome long-time caretaker of affordable housing. Margaret, in remarks about her hubby’s devotion to family, revealed the before-mentioned antics that sparked questions kicking off this week’s Pep Talk.

The word that kept running through cranium when thinking of a frequent breakfast companion was exuberant, defined as “abounding in vigor, vitality and high spirits.” That certainly describes the Rutgers University graduate. What about us?

Would anybody describe us as “abounding in vigor, vitality and high spirits?” If not, why?

Well for one good reason, life’s unexpected, and unwanted, twists and turns that leave us wondering, “What the heck is going on around here?” have a tendency to erode childlike playfulness don’t they? For some reason McDermott, despite many challenges - divorce and real estate crashes to name a few - has been able to persevere and remain exuberant. Admirable.

It ain’t easy to be consistently positive and upbeat when physical, emotional and financial adversities threaten our well being. When the storms of life come a callin’ - and they do - perhaps an effective strategy would be to rally with others in similar situations and encourage one another to be joyful for the blessings of life, optimistic about the future and courageous despite the past.

This week, despite what ails us, let’s focus on abounding in vigor, vitality and high spirits. Squirt water pistols! Spook somebody! Eat ice cream for breakfast! Live!

It sure has worked for Arthur McDermott. A packed ballroom of admirers is proof of that. It can work for us too.

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