Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pep Talk: "A Path To Success"

Whenever blessed to present a live Pep Talk presentation, rarely do we not discuss the importance of embracing each and every day as the precious gift it truly is. If you don’t believe that statement, talk with a parent, spouse, friend or relative of victims from Newtown, Massachusetts. Life can change dramatically in an instant.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re really “day-to-day” in this journey. A dear friend’s world was recently rocked when his brother’s wife took her life and those of the couple’s two darling kids. Life. It’s what gets in the way of our best laid plans, right?

I love to share the story of a past speaking engagement where I was walking through the parking lot afterward. Lost in thought, reflecting back on the experience and wondering if those in attendance received some value from the encouraging words presented. The reflective state was interrupted with, “Hey Mark.”

Somewhat startled, I turned to see a man approaching with determination. I recognized him from the gathered throng. He did not look hostile. In fact, he had a big grin on his good-looking face. He thrust a hand my way and offered, “Mark, my name is Abe Vasquez. I really enjoyed your talk.”

I countered with, “Hey buddy, thanks. Nobody’s getting more from it than me. It challenges me to walk my talk.” The handsome man with a neatly trimmed beard, great tan and Arizona State baseball cap atop his noggin’ then asked, “Can I share with you what’s been my life’s mission statement for the past ten years or so?”

What this man then offered knocked my socks off. Perhaps you’ve heard it before, but it was a first for me. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s but a mystery, today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” Amen buddy!

I was thinking of that encounter recently while sitting in a volunteer orientation meeting at the Hospice of Saint John. The Lakewood, Colorado based non profit, for almost 40 years, has been providing end-of-life services for individuals and their families. Nobody’s getting out of here alive and the Hospice, founded by visionary priest and nurse Father Paul von Lobkowitz, has a mission to serve the dying with dignity and compassion. I feel called to play on that team and, along with four others, spent two days recently getting ready for our assignments.

The Reverend Dan Hettinger was addressing our group and talking about the last chapter. Hospice care is about the last chapter of life. HOSJ encourages others to traverse the final yards with dignity and compassion atop the priority list. Pretty cool if you ask me. My father died in hospice. It’s had a powerful effect. Hettinger made reference to a book he has recently written and his determination to make sure the final chapter of the book was the best. It was easy to see the similarities. The final chapter in a person’s life. Dying and then death for someone and its emotional, physical, spiritual and financial repercussions for others. It’s the passion of HOSJ staff and volunteers to try like heck to facilitate what Hettinger described as, “sacred moments.” As I sat there listening to this delightful man open our eyes to the responsibility before us, its meaning blasted deep into cranium:  There are no guarantees in life. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.

Victory would like to encourage each and everyone of you to take advantage of the present. Don’t waste another moment in bitterness toward another. Unwrap this gift of today and use it wisely in service to others. And while, at this particular moment, we might not be able to create “sacred” moments, we can sure have our reticular activating system on high alert, while interacting with others, for opportunities. You don’t know till ya try, right? Perhaps the moment might be memorable for its productivity, logic and fairness.

Can you imagine? What would this world look like for most folks if, when asked after an encounter with us, the moment seemed productive, logical and fair? Holy smokes bartender, another round for everybody at the bar, Victory’s buying!

Caring for others. It might be customers, family members, stakeholders, co-workers, staff, neighbors or somebody else, trying to create good experiences and approaching the mission in a productive, logical and fair manner? It seems like a path to success wherever roaming. It don’t know if you’d call it sacred but successful might be a good alternative.

Have a good week!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pep Talk: "Creating not Compromising"

It’s been a while since Billy Joel in the background accompanied a Pep Talk, but that’s the way it is. It’s a mid-February Sunday in the Mile High City, the body has been pushed, car washed and now it’s time to write about what’s been banging around the ol’  noggin for a few days.

As life has progressed and experience gathered, I’ve become kinda grumpy about something. When hearing folks talk about the beauty of compromise, I cringe a bit and offer, “Can we talk about creating?”

Ya know, those times in life when it just seems there’s no way out. “Irreconcilable Differences” is what, from a two-time participant, it’s called in the divorce world. Those moments, despite best intentions from all, things reach a point of no return when the best practice seems to be compromise. It has always felt like surrender to me.

It seems a far better approach would be to, what’s the old saying, “Keep friends close and enemies even closer?”, gather with those opposed and suggest, “We have to figure out a better way because nobody’s winning here.”

It ain’t easy. We might have to talk with folks we vowed to never utter a word. We might have to forgive and move on. We might have to muster the courage to ask for forgiveness. There are many barriers faced when encouraged to keep working together in achieving goals and overcoming challenges. Like the good sports teams we talk about weekday afternoons on The Odd Couple, the key seems everybody checks egos at the door, jumps into the foxhole as one heart beat and works like heck to emerge from the fray, while battered, better for the effort. Call it victorious if preferred. It seems to be a pretty effective strategy for dealing with the stuff life unexpectedly flings our way with no regard who’s gonna clean up the mess.

Just discovered a dear friend has a body riddled with cancer. I can’t wait to see her and hug a fellow gym rat. I like to joke with folks, but believe it’s the truth, that a “Sweat a day keeps the doctor away.” I’m usually sweat soaked at the end of each workout but this beautiful woman would always give me a hug. She’s got big challenges ahead. Bless you Val.

Anyway, back to the story. Life’s somber reminders to its uncertain fragility. We have issues, challenges and obstacles. The question becomes, will we tackle those annoyances with a spirit of compromise or create? I offer two case studies promoting the latter.

The first is a love story. This guy is in the deep inner circle I’m blessed to have as brothers from another mother. We chat every few weeks or so. Usually with the man with a hearty laugh that’s used often, driving somewhere in support a daughter’s promising water polo career while this simple dude from Missouri driving to support daughter’s promising volleyball pursuit. Separated by distance - Colorado and California - but totally connected to one another. We like to joke, “I’d step in front of a train for you!” We mean it.

This graduate of UCLA, University of Chicago grad school and Wall Street is married to my son’s mother. I was the lead off hitter and Timothy Barton is hitting in the three-hole for the talented television news anchor who was once my wife and gave me an incredible gift: A talented 23-year-old son who is building a nice career in Los Angeles in  the competitive entertainment industry through hard work.

Timothy Barton helped raise Kyle. I will forever be grateful to him for caring for my son like I would care for his daughter. I cherish checking in with him. At some point, we’ll ultimately start singing love songs to one another. I croon Stevie Wonder’s hit, I Just Called To Say I Love You and he’ll counter in similar fashion with the Nat King Cole version of Unforgettable.

I know, we’re weird, get over it.

Dad and Stepdad. United in the effort to raise kids responsibly. I know that ain’t easy either. But we win and so do the kids. Create don’t compromise. Same strategy works for challenges within a business, business district, athletic team, non profit, community or where else roaming. Conflict is part of life. We all know that. What’s unknown is how we’ll deal with it. Student or victim of the experience. Choose the former. It’s a tough struggle, peril is present, and takes everybody, charging from the before-mentioned foxhole, to understand the mission. In this case, loving and mentoring kids through the challenges divorce brings to their lives.

I’m a lucky guy to have a dude who embraced creating, not compromising. The same must be said for the successful businessman who is married to my daughter’s mother. Marriage number two hit the skids but I sure hit the jackpot with the man chosen as successor. We don’t have the goofy relationship Timothy and I have but it’s solid based upon respect for one another in our roles as mentors. My daughter has a very good step father. I’m very thankful 

The point is this. When stuck in a tough situation, as quickly as possible, sit down with the perceived “enemy” and brainstorm about being committed to achieving goals and overcoming challenges. It keeps us locked on creating not compromising. Rarely is that a bad thing.

Have a good week!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pep Talk: "Tikkun Olam"

Never before had gorging on a hot dog slathered in chili, cold slaw, cheddar cheese and onions, crunchy onion rings and a cold beer been so nutritious - for my soul.

That was the thought rumbling through this old jock’s noggin’ as I sat at Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs on Denver’s near east side and listened to a friend describe something he learned long ago.

Tikkun olam.

Attorney Ken Fellman was the buddy doing the educating. And to think, he bought lunch too! It was a Friday, late January, noontime in the Mile High City. It had also been a good week for Victory Productions in fulfilling its mission to encourage others to achieve goals and overcome challenges. Forgive me for starting the weekend celebration a tad early. I try to make that the exception rather than the rule, promise.

As we caught up on life, the former mayor of Arvada, Colorado, a northwest Denver suburb, was describing the foundation of his Jewish faith: Tikkun olam. A Hebrew phrase meaning, “heal the world.” Basically it states it’s our collective responsibility - you, me and everybody else - to heal, transform and repair the world.

That’s a big job.

A big job that starts with each and everyone of us and our little corner of the globe. We could make a conscious decision right now, in our sphere of influence, to focus on healing, transforming and repairing prickly issues - home, work and elsewhere, right?

The history of the phrase dates back to Isaac Luria, born, 1534, in Jerusalem. While still a child, the man credited with heavily influencing the Kaballah school of thought, lost his father and was raised by a rich uncle, a tax collector in Cairo, Egypt. At the tender age of 15, perhaps not so tender an age 500 years ago, the young man married a cousin. Because of his financial security, Luria didn’t work and continued studying under what were considered the best and brightest Jewish teachers, including rabbi scholars.

By the time he was 22, Luria had become a recluse. He retreated to the banks of the Nile, meditated constantly, rarely spoke and only visited with family on the Shabbat. There’s a few people in this world, my two kids and darling girlfriend among them, that probably wish your humble correspondent would adopt some of Luria’s behaviors - go away and leave us alone.

Healing the world ain’t an easy task. There’s a whole lot of bickering going on, always has been, about exactly how to accomplish what many would consider an impossible task. It seems from the daily news, perhaps, there’s many who want anything but peace and harmony to prevail.

The heck with those folks, let’s try anyway. Look around right now, where in our lives could we take steps toward healing fractures in relationships with family, friends and foes?

A recent Pep Talk spoke of the personal angst concerning a long-time friend and the sudden, and bewildering, collapse of a relationship this simple dude from Missouri thought would last a lifetime. I’d sure love a little tikkun olam to appear there. 

Each week on The Odd Couple  sports talk radio show we have a segment, “Excellent Moves” that showcases others performing good works. In my book, that’s healing the world. Kudos to the Denver Public Schools Transportation Department. Over the holidays, the transportation team came up with the cool idea to stuff a school bus full of winter apparel: coats, hats, gloves, socks and underwear to benefit the Denver Children’s Advocacy Center.

The non profit’s mission is to prevent abuse, strengthen families and restore childhoods. In short, healing and repairing.

DPS employees, from multiple departments, helped more than 100 district students and families stay warm through the winter months. Denver Public Schools Transportation Department, excellent move! Tikkun olam.

Each and every day there are tons of examples of healing and repair to exalt. Sadly, we don’t hear much about them since the media likes to dwell on the negative. We should focus more of the nightly news on examples of good works in our communities. Who knows, maybe the notoriety would have a residual effect and inspire others to act in similar fashion? I’m not saying ignore matters of public safety but really, some of the stories featured prominently leave me wondering, “Is that news?”

This week, wherever roaming, let’s make headlines with our devotion to tikkun olam. Never growing weary of doing good for others. Service above self. Practice random acts of kindness. Call it what you want. From any language, religion or region of the globe. The action required to accomplish this noble endeavor shares the same spirit. A spirit against which, there is no law: caring for others.

For when we care for others we can heal the world. Let’s do it this week, next week, forever!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pep Talk: "It's a Home Run"

There are moments in life when you have to go for it. Throw caution to the wind and jump. Run to daylight. Call it what you want, but there are those moments in life when we’re called. The question becomes, will we answer?

What follows is an example, I hope, saying, “Heck ya!”

All this came crashing into cranium after hanging up the phone from a conversation with Sharon Cooper of the Hospice of Saint John. I had just dropped precious princess for her final driver instruction tuneup in preparation for an approaching 16th birthday. The much-desired freedom from parents. We can all relate, right?

Anyway, back to a conversation, with Cooper, about a place with a spirt to adore and my pending interview to volunteer at a community founded back in 1977. Father Paul von Lobkowitz is a guy after my heart. He allowed courage and wonderment to win in creating the hospice with a mission to ensure the dying were treated with dignity and compassion. Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and compassion, don’t they?

The second oldest free-standing hospice in the United States, the Hospice of Saint John has built a reputation of unparalleled excellence in skilled, compassionate care, providing service regardless of age, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or the ability to pay for care. Honorable indeed.
I’m just a simple dude from Missouri and had never heard of Father Paul von Lobkowitz and went to the cyberworld and learned something very cool about a man from England who come to Colorado and said, “Hey, when people are in the final moments of life we must care for them.”
I wanna play on the team with that guy, thus the volunteering. My goodness, am I blessed. I anticipate the stories will be fascinating with lots of joy, regret and a bunch in between. Its founder had a philosophy, least my opinion, to admire. Here’s a bit of it from a Google search that unearthed information about The Holy Orthodox Church Bishop who also founded Orden von Lobkowitz in 2002. Its mission also warms my marrow. I hope it has a similar effect on you. Here it is:
“Despite the religious background of our founding father, the Order exists to fill the need for an inclusive secular Order that promotes and sustains charitable works that will help advance culture and society. The OvL is descended from an ancient Christian tradition but has a very modern purpose.”
I’ve been called a lot of things in life, smart sometimes, but it sure does make sense, at least to me, to be connected with groups promoting charitable works helping advance culture and society, In the sports talk radio world, the reasonable and sane Odd Couple banter, when discussing such a winning proposition, would be shouting to the rooftops, “That’s a home run!”
Let’s try like heck this week to hit home runs when it comes to getting involved with a group promoting charitable works helping advance culture and society. They are everywhere. Service clubs like Kiwanis, chambers of commerce like Glendale, Colorado, wonderful final resting spots for the dying like Hospice of Saint John. Look around folks, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with groups - Mile High City and beyond - fostering goodwill and trying like heck to advance culture and society.
But it takes time and effort. Simple, not easy.
No, that darn thing called life comes a calling too. Yea, we hear the call for our lives but then the unexpected and unwanted shows up demanding attention. It sucks. That’s where we must somehow, someway find the strength to persevere. Remember, you’re not alone and connect with folks sharing similar experiences and encourage one another to turn lemons, heck with lemonade, into sweet and savory margaritas. Sorry, couldn’t resist. 
Back to the point. Most of us have good intentions, like contributing to efforts promoting the advancement of goodwill, culture and society but stuff happens that throws us off track. Keep doing it anyway, ride the storm out when physically able.
As courtesy to Eric Goodman, who, like many, wonders where in the heck I’m coming from sometimes, I offer a sports twist to the Pep Talk weekly message so it’s appropriate for discussion on our radio show. Thanks to a reminder from a guy who started a hospice intent on caring for all in their dying days, I would say to my partner, “Teams consistently exuding compassion and dignity toward its members usually are successful.” Ironically, my opinion, it’s a winning strategy in just about every endeavor imagined - home, work and elsewhere.
It’s a home run. Let’s try and slug a few this week!

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