Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Life Mixologist: Courage and Creativity Required"

Last day of Zone 5 Master Class! Thanks Mark McIntosh for stopping by with your always inspirational messages! We're gonna turn lemons into margaritas!!”

This simple dude from Missouri cherishes each moment when opportunity presents itself to deliver an encouraging Pep Talk about this game we call life. Recently, such an opportunity arose in Denver and drew the referenced testimonial, posted to Facebook, from one of the leaders of the staffing company.

Lemons into Margaritas. It was the title of my third book of inspirational short stories. The title came from an interview co-host Denise Plante and I did several years ago during time together hosting “Colorado & Company.” It’s a show Denise still hosts - my job was eliminated - on Denver’s NBC affiliate, Gannett-owned KUSA-TV. It’s a weekday morning show geared toward women and businesses that want viewers to purchase their products/services.

Anyway, one day two brothers appeared to promote their book, “Honeymoon With My Brother.” It’s the story of a man who had dated a women for ten years. For him, it was love at first sight. But for the female, the decade-long relationship had been a roller coaster. A successful businesswoman, career oriented and somewhat relationship phobic, had broken off the union more than once. Finally, after ten tumultuous calendar turns, the couple decided to marry.

Family and friends flew in from all over the world to California’s wine country. “They’re finally getting married!” was the rallying cry from those who gathered from near and far. Bliss was present everywhere. For a brief spell.

The night before the wedding, the bride-to-be’s feet turned cold. She called it off. Groom is devastated. Brother and best-man-to-be says, “The heck with her. We’ve got all these loved ones gathered, the party must go on!” Later, in an admitted inebriated state, jilted groom invites brother to visit Costa Rica for what was supposed to be a honeymoon getaway. It turned into a brother bonding journey triggering each to quit job and travel the world together for two years.

Boom! A book is born and dynamic duo hit the speaking/book-selling circuit. Through a good publicist, Franz and Kurt Wisner land on the set of “CoCo” to entertain Denise and your scribe with hilarious stories of their exploits.

For the guys, one particular moment stood out and spawned the title of this knucklehead’s third attempt to encourage others with stories of hope. At a book signing, an elderly woman, after receiving her copy, bores into Franz, the once-devastated man, this gem: “Sonny, you didn’t turn lemons into lemonade, you turned lemons into margaritas!”

Have your plans been waylaid? Home? Work? Elsewhere? It happens.
A staffing company heard the story as a reminder. It was too early in the day to raise anything but coffee, juice or water to toast this sober truth: Life hands us lemons, becomes shaken and stirred. Too often with rocks and salt. It requires courage and creativity as a mixologist.

Good luck this week!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pep Talk: "Stimulate and Develop"

What’s your favorite word? Ya know, when you mutter it, or you hear someone else recite it, warm and fuzzy feelings begin to permeate?

Encourage. That’s the one for this aging knucklehead. Defined as “To give hope and confidence to.” Can you imagine? What would this world look like if everybody was walking around with hope and confidence? Would it be any different than the scene we witness today - home, work and community?

Here’s an example.

The other day your scribe was wrapping up lunch at the Denver Rescue Mission’s “Crossing” facility. It’s a place where many of the men and women involved with Victory’s “A Stronger Cord” project currently work or live. It’s a frequent stop on the daily rounds, especially during lunch time. The food is good. Also, it’s a good time to discuss projects designed to encourage ASC participants to become more fitness-minded, dependable and productive folks who seek a stronger cord to families, jobs and communities. Our latest? A rugby team. Stand by.

Anyway, back to the story. This lucky dad to two wonderful kiddos was wrapping things up,  moving from table to table talking with New Life Program members, employees and anybody else who desires to connect, when a dude comes rushing from the kitchen.

He’s a friendly-looking chap with a neatly trimmed beard and pleasant demeanor. What he said next, knocked my socks off. “Mark, you probably don’t remember this but about five years ago I was imprisoned in Sterling, Colorado when you came to speak to us. I will never forget it.”

With tears welling in his eyes, the man brought tears to mine when he muttered, “You got right into my face and told me how much you believed in me. That, despite my past, I could still bring great value to this world. I chose to believe you. Thanks for encouraging me.”

We hugged immediately. This man is now in culinary school and learning in the Rescue Mission kitchen. Someone had given this man hope and confidence his life still had value, to himself, others and community.

Never underestimate the power we can have to encourage others and offer hope and confidence.

Folks, we live in challenging times. As a nation, we need fresh ideas infusing America with hope and confidence to overcome what ails us. For example, relations between police departments and the communities they serve and educational practices that prepare future generations for leadership - to name two of the myriad of issues.

I was taught long ago, while earning a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri, “Don’t state the obvious.” However, fellow Americans, we have many fires burning that continue to divide us.

What to do? It can seem overwhelming. Let’s keep it simple. Whenever you can, pour hope and confidence into someone else that they can overcome obstacles.

What’s your favorite word? Why not, encourage? The verb is also defined as “To stimulate and develop.” For someone else, do it this week!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pep Talk: "Dreams Of New Frontiers"

It was the usual gathering of suspects for a Friday morning of cajoling one another to grow stronger in spirit, when something unusual happened. I cried.

Not that crying is forbidden for this aging knucklehead. It happens often. For instance, when beautiful and college-bound 18-year-old daughter recently posted a Facebook picture of her, long ago, in my lap? While a then younger father read a story to her pre-school class? Tears flowed and thoughts wandered to, “Where has time gone?”

But to be hanging with a bunch of dudes and begin to weep? Weird and unexpected. This statement opened the spigot: “A friend’s son suffered a knee injury that has threatened his promising hockey career. He’s struggling, the family is struggling and they could use our prayers.”

I thought of my mom. Now almost 80 years old, she still struggles to speak of the night our family was thrown into a similar world. Back in 1976, just a few days after signing a letter of intent to play football and baseball at the University of Missouri, and a few months before expecting to be an early-round selection in the baseball amateur draft, an accidental poke in the eye started a chain reaction of events that forever changed my dreams.

It happened on a basketball court in suburban Kansas City. Back in the mid 1970s, there was a movement away from wood floors to something akin to rubber over concrete. Against my noggin, quite easily, that rock-hard surface won the battle.

The poke led to a rapid drop in blood pressure, which led to fainting and crashing to the floor. I don’t remember, but have been told that I was lying there with blood oozing from my left ear, in seizure and awaiting an ambulance to rush me to a nearby hospital for emergency treatment. The laundry list of injuries: fractured skull, major concussion, shattering of cochlear bones of the inner ear that play a role in equilibrium and depth perception, tearing of rotator cuff muscles in the left (throwing)  shoulder and loss of hearing in the left ear.

A promising athletic career over, from a freak poke in the eye. To this day, your scribe cringes when someone competing in sports gets poked in the eye. If present and needed, I rush to help the person sit down before something crazy happens.

Life. It will poke us in the eye, right? We just never know when those “What the heck is going on around here?” moments appear and we crash. Physically, emotionally, spiritually or financially from illness, injury, divorce or job loss, to name just a few.

A standout player in junior hockey, one step from the National Hockey League, had dreams. No doubt his family shared them. Now, the future uncertain. It makes an old man cry. Lost dreams. We all have them.

This week, comfort those wondering what’s next. Pray it’s dreams of new frontiers, not nightmares for those untraveled.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pep Talk: "Not An Easy Chore"

An interesting byproduct of a project designed to unite isolated individuals with fitness-minded, dependable and productive Americans to sweat, bond and grow in a group workout? The audience it draws.

Unless just recently returned to America from a galactic getaway, most understand the challenges before our country. There are many, including a terrible trio Victory’s A Stronger Cord project is designed to address: isolation, obesity and stress. Folks, it’s time to sit down and tie our shoes. We’re tripping. ASC’s Knuckleheads try and accomplish that with their sweat, bond and grow philosophy. It starts with the workout but is much more. We’d love to warm up, work out and hang out with you.

Anyway, back to the story. Bringing this idea to the marketplace has led to some interesting conversations with leaders of government, non profit, business, faith-based and others. All laboring to crack the code and reduce our nation’s overabundance of isolated, unfit and stressed folks. We are everywhere. From missions to mansions and Main streets. All colors.

Many folks are employed to try and figure this out. We need to. Quickly. A lot of money is spent desperately seeking winning game plans to address our growing societal challenge. The battle has drawn many. Recently, one offered their philosophy to life.

It blew me away for its simplicity and brilliance. 

“I have always tried to tackle this thing called life in this sequence,” suggested the philanthropic-minded public policy wonk. “Listen to others, think about the discussion and then act on what idea materializes.” Listen. Think. Act.

Just me, but makes a lot of sense. I must admit to being guilty many times of not following that wise counsel. This aging jock, too often, places “Act” before “Think.” I’ll listen to something, form an idea and go flying off the gang plank before really thinking it through. I like to joke with folks, “There’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity.” I’ve crossed it often in almost 57 years of wandering this planet. It’s great to have the guts to go for it but sometimes, upon reflection, we ponder this question, “What the heck was I thinking?”

However, a challenge to “think” coming before “act” is, “How long do we think about  whatever we’re thinking about before we decide to act?” Are we going to analyze something to death before having the guts to throw caution to the wind and jump into the great unknown of possibilities or pratfalls? Chase a dream?

We could debate that topic till the cows come home but this much is irrefutable. This “Listen, think and act” philosophy has served the man, who delivered it, quite well in a successful career, at various levels and areas, in public service.

It’s always good to listen. It’s how we learn. The main competition seems to be for second place, between think and act. In harmony, how to unleash the strengths of each.

Not an easy chore. Good luck this week!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Folks Who Inspire: Angie!"

It’s a bitterly cold final day of February in the Mile High City. Billy Joel’s on in the background while this knucklehead is communicating with others via email. Hunkered down.

One of the emails was to an incredible woman involved with A Stronger Cord. She is the leader of its attempt to coax women in the Denver Rescue Mission’s STAR program to give our workouts a shot. Ya know, that call to “Cast fear aside and allow wonderment to win” moments in life.

The email being sent was in thanks this spiritual warrior for creating a flyer to hand out to folks wanting to learn more about this movement. ASC’s mission is to unite isolated folks with fitness-minded, dependable and productive Americans to sweat, bond and grow in a group workout. The testimonials emerging have been incredible. We thank everybody for your moral and financial support!

Anyway, back to the story. It’s a Saturday noontime, darling wife has scooted off to the grocery and I’m trying to mind my own business in the basement. I’m feelin’ kinda warm and fuzzy about things. I love send emails saying “Thanks!” Just me. Giving credit where credit is due to another human for their wonderful contribution to ASC’s mission. Feels good.

The Knuckleheads of ASC are trying to encourage Americans to sample a movement to become more fitness-minded, dependable and productive folks who seek a stronger cord to families, jobs and communities. Anybody got a better idea?

The email’s text concluded with, “admiring the spirit and appreciating the talents” of the recipient. I paused before clicking to send. Began to marinate a bit on “admire spirit” and “appreciate talents.”

Can you imagine? If we all, when others are asked of us, would have someone respond, “I admire that person’s spirit and respect their talents.” Wow. Holy smokes. Just me, but it seems there’s too many of us in a world removed from “admiring another’s spirit and appreciating another’s talents.” Perhaps we’re too divided?

In addition, it seems for us to get to the level on “admiring another’s spirit and appreciating another’s talents” it would be wise to spend a little more time together. Ya know, bond. I was on an elevator the other day when a dude entered while yakking on the phone. He never even looked over. I was ready to grin at him but never got the chance.

Too admire others’ spirit and appreciate their talents takes an investment in time and energy. America, are we ready to at least try? We’d love to see you at an ASC workout soon. Workout schedule is on ASC website, This much is guaranteed. You’ll get in better shape, build new relationships and participate in community service. 

And meet incredible folks like Angie, who inspire me, and let’s hope you, to live a life where tombstone talk of us centers on admiring our spirit and appreciating our talents.

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