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The Bull Wins a Round

There.  I’ve done it.  I have allowed work to consume me, chew me up and spit me out and make me physically and mentally ill.

Bull rider, mid air, upside down, with bull looking back rider in a dusty rodeo arena.

After enjoying an exciting 3 decade career with companies in Europe and the US serving the global telecommunication industry, the ever present, invisible enemy called stress has brought things to a jarring stop. 

A little over a year ago I developed IBS but didn’t take the hint.  A month ago my wife pointed out to me I had lost all interest and capacity for anything but work and recovering from it, and that included capacity for her.  I developed chest pains on Sunday nights, anticipating the week ahead.  Last week anxiety became an unwelcome daily companion as work and life overwhelmed me and I could no longer manage my way out of the trap I found myself in.  

I informed my boss and my teams of my struggles and while they jumped in to graciously provide relief,  I was beyond the tipping point.  I informed HR I would be taking advantage of the Employee Assistance Program and by late last week I let everyone know that I needed some urgent time off to reset.   By Saturday morning we had cleared the decks for a week off and by Monday afternoon, under advisement from my primary care physician, we made it 2 weeks.  Oh, and I have an appointment with a counselor.

How did I ever end up here?

I believed the lie that I thrived on stress. But we are not designed to be a flailing bull rider, clutching on, tossed and turned on the back of a beast rampaging aimlessly through the arena of life.  Despite having a head full of knowledge, an immeasurable library of literature and advice, and a strong faith to guide me, this week I find myself bucked to the dusty arena floor with a few bruises and even some fractures.

I have a couple of weeks to catch my breath, assess the damage, and with help, figure out how to get back in the saddle to ride again. It will need to be a slightly different journey with a new set of tools.  I am blessed with an amazing wife, family and friends who love me, a God who loves me even more, and an employer who cares enough to give me this space.

If life has got a hold of you instead of you having a grip on life, ease that baby over and get off that ride.  By the time that turns into a rampaging bull, getting off ain’t easy or painless.

Let Me Spend Your Stimulus Check

Stimulus checks for the COVID19 pandemic are starting to hit bank accounts and mailboxes all over the country and I want to spend them for you.

100 Dollar Bill with Medical Face Mask on

If you lost your job or business and have more needs than means, hang in there.  You are in the thoughts and prayers of more people rooting for you than you realize and we long for the recovery right along side you, for your sakes.

If you are one of the many others who are merely inconvenienced and trying to figure out how to work from cramped quarters, let me suggest how I would spend the check that you may well have mentally spent already.

Longing to have breakfast at your favorite diner again when this is all over?  Resolve to leave the waitress a $100 tip when you see her again.  She lost her job and is financially hurting by now.  So save that check.

Can’t wait to go back to your favorite restaurant.  The owner is probably working by themselves, after the heart wrenching decision to lay-off the team they love, feverishly trying to save their precious business on take-out orders from a fraction of the guests they used to serve each week.  Resolve to become a regular take-out customer now, and splurge, buy a bottle of wine even though you can get it cheaper in the store. Restauranteurs desperately need your orders today.  And save some of your check to go back as soon as they reopen and then give the waitress a $100 tip.  She was one of the first to loose her job.

Can’t wait for a professional repair job on that at-home-haircut you live-streamed on Facebook? Resolve to leave your barber or hair dresser a $100 tip when you see them again.  They have had no income for months.

You get the idea. It won’t be hard to come up with a good list of candidates for your generosity.

Lets spend those checks not for ourselves, but purposefully for those and on those who hurt the most. The people, the small and local businesses that we will miss dearly if they could not make a come-back.  Lets fire up the economic engine while also being a blessing.

That’s how I would spend your check ……and mine.

Hiking in Heaven

I believe God speaks to us and in my case He does so with a picture snapshot.  As I start to talk about the the picture, the story it has to tell starts to unfold.  The image is persistent and the story is always encouraging.

Female Hiker Standing On Toe With Man

Today we laid to rest Margaret Weagley, mother of four and grandmother to two generations that include my wife and kids.  She was also a dear grandmother to me.

Grandma grew up in faith from a young age, and I believe she accepted Jesus as her savior and lived in an enduring relationship with Him.   While the testimonies of all who knew her will attest to an easy going, kind, and loving woman who left the people and the world she touched better for her presence, “the only way to the Father is through His Son Jesus Christ”.  The snapshot that kept coming back to sooth my grief this week was of her arrival in heaven.

Jesus came running to her and called her by name, “Welcome home, good and faithful Margaret”.  They embraced and they worshiped God together.  But I saw something over Jesus’ left shoulder.

Grandma’s lifelong love of the outdoors, camping, and exploring featured prominently in the stories that were shared these past few days.  As walking became more difficult in her later years, a ride through the countryside, often with no particular destination,  was a coveted escape.  The love of the outdoors was an indelible part of who she was and a legacy that will persist in her kids, grandkids, great grandkids and beyond.

Over Jesus’ shoulder I saw a handsome man , and dangling over his shoulder were a pair of leather hiking boots tied together at the laces.   He was shifting on his feet and bouncing on his toes, eagerly waiting to steal Grandma away.

When it was his turn he knelt down, helped her put on the boots and said, “We have so much to explore.”  And Grandma took off with her Bill and with a skip in their step they went hiking in heaven.   “There is ice cream at the top!”, he said.  And in heaven that may actually be true.

Dude! Are you wearing bracelets?

Kinda.  They are Bajan bangles and they remind me of a country and a people that I will love forever and that have inspired and shaped me from a very young age.

Wrist with silver bangles

In 1966 the nation of Barbados was born as it peacfully established it’s independence from England.  My parents, still child-free, thought it an adventurous gamble to vacation in this brand new island nation.  It was love at first sight and we would spend all but a couple of summers there over the next 20+ years.  We got to know the place like no tourist could, every nook and cranny of its mere 166 square miles, it’s wonderful people and vibrant culture, history and folklore, often spending a month or two there at a time.  Each year reconnecting with the people we got to know and love, from beach peddlers to government officials, authors and artists,  shop keepers and our favorite restauranteurs.  Barbados became a second home of sorts, more of a constant than the homes and countries we lived in the rest of the year over that same period of my life.

Bangles are a beautiful reminder of an ugly past.   As they gently jangle on a wrist they are a reminder of the shackles that bound the slaves working the sugar cane plantations for their British masters.   But Barbados is a place of joy and optimism, courage and empowerment.  Instead of rusty steel, bangles are silver.  Instead of one on each arm, two are worn on one.  Bangles are a celebration of freedom as they represent open handcuffs that not longer bind a free people.

I proudly wore my first bangles home but the innocence of a 2nd grader did not anticipate the ridicule he would face from his peers.  Luckily at that age attention spans were short but that wouldn’t be the case much longer.  My first of many moves to come, saw me face off anew as I entered 3rd grade in a new country and a new school.

Raf towered over me and my peers and was the well established king of the playground and fearsome bully.  He had coined a phrase he would use to incite regular group chants to torment me about my bangles.

When I was tempted to take off my bangles after months of ridicule, my father taught me a critical and formative life lesson.  “If something is important to you, ignore what others think, take a stance and persevere.”

Things came to a head between Raf I one day when we each each lead opposing teams in a capture the flag-like game.   An unrelated argument quickly shifted to me and my girly bangles.  A scene ensued not very different from the “Farkus Affair” in “A Christmas Story”, me playing the role of Ralphie.  When all was said and done I had taken my stance, Raf was dethroned as bully, and no one made fun of my bangles again.  Until…I changed school in 5th grade, and again in 6th grade and many more times to come.

Each time I faced it I became more determined and stronger and with each victory more self-confident.   Drawing on those experiences I have become an individualist in many ways and have become unwavering when it comes to integrity.  My bangles became a part of my identify, shaped me and gave me an experience to draw on for the rest of my life.

I wore them until my early 20s.  I was a software programming desk jockey now and in this new season of life at a keyboard, they just weren’t practical anymore.

A few weeks ago my wife found my bangles tucked away with some memorabilia.  I put them on. “Maybe just for the weekend”, I thought.  But I haven’t taken them off yet and I am not sure I will.  20 years of life has a way of  dinging your armor.   While my past pales in comparison,  just like the Bajans, I can use a reminder of my freedom to refuel  my joy and optimism, courage and empowerment.

What nuggets from your life’s journey do you have that still spur you on each day?

Jockeys Don’t Play Basketball

This weekend we hosted some friends for a few days that we hadn’t seen in 2 years. When their 15 year old son walked in and surprised us with his now towering 6’2 height, “Do you play basketball?” quickly rolled off someone’s lips. Obviously not all tall people play basketball, but this young man did indeed and got me thinking.

Wilt Chamberlain & Willy Shoemaker leaning back to back in white dress suits

Tall people play basketball, jockeys are short featherweights, and the sherpas of the himalayas with their unique oxygen processing physiology truck up and down Mount Everest like a porter does the steps of the Trump Plaza.

We all want to experience success and naturally gravitate to our areas of strength, which is why jockeys race high performance horses and don’t play world class basketball. Could Wilt Chamberlain be taught how to race a horse? Sure. Could Willy Shoemaker have been a passionate and capable basketball player? Of course. Would either top athlete be able to perform at the pinnacle of the other’s sport given the same passion, training and focus on skills development they applied to their own? Highly improbable.

There is a broader concept at play here than physical stature that applies to all of our jobs and roles. Gallup Management Journal describes the “Do What I Do Best” concept from the book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently as follows, “Full human potential is realized only when people are in a position to use their talents and strengths. Great performance is found when an individual’s natural talents fit his or her role.”

To experience success and fulfillment and to deliver high value peak performance on a sustained basis to our organizations, we must have the opportunity to “Do What We Do Best” most of the time. Many a staff management training corroborates this as they exhort us to focus on drawing out people’s strengths rather than trying to train out people’s weaknesses.

Based on extensive research the book found that mismatching people and roles is the rule rather than the exception. This means many among us are experiencing the frustration of expending inordinate amount of unproductive effort, not experiencing fulfillment nor adding the value they could at their full potential in the right role.

Are things just not clicking? Does it feel like you are constantly swimming upstream? Are you frustrated and burned out?

In Failing ForwardJohn C. Maxwell stresses that failing does not make you a failure but provides you with a valuable learning opportunity.

If you don’t jump out of bed each day, energized by what you are doing then maybe you are a jockey trying to do a lay-up or maybe you need to switch your horse for a basketball court?

How are you doing?

Book References

Moved and rebuilt!

Sorry about the extended absence. In June 2010 I changed jobs and while headed for and ramping up on this new adventure I lost some traction and then my blog was irrecoverably corrupted. The clock had been ticking on my “friend hosted” model, so things were really conspiring to move my blog. To add insult to injury, my domain expired in the midst of all this and I had quite the challenge getting it transferred back to me.

But the stars have aligned and with a couple of late nights and reorienting me in my CSS customizations, I have humpty dumpty cobbled together again. Unfortunately I lost a bunch of the later posts I wrote and all comments, but here’s a new beginning.

Thank you for your patience. Watch for a new post soon.

A Ticket to Ride

This is a guest post I wrote on my Pastor’s blog for the teaching series “New Thru 30”.

There is a wonderful Gospel song performed by Cissy Houston on the Divas of Gospel album called "Glory Train" (Spooner/Penn).

railway engine

"All aboard the Glory Train
Step forth, don’t remain
Don’t stand there shackled by your sin
Just get on board and let the Glory begin"

"All Aboard" reminds me of those black and white movies, where dramatic scenes play out between a handsome man in a tweed suit and fedora and an beautiful young lady with silk gloves and elegant hat.  A cloud of steam billowing from the locomotive, while the whistle and the conductor’s final call amplifies the drama with time pressure.

"All aboard the Glory Train
There’s a journey ensuing, so much to gain
You’re standing at the crossroads, will you turn back
Or will you ride the Saviors train down the Glory track"

There’s drama playing out in each of our lives that has eternal implications, with time pressure pushing us to the decision point.  When Jesus gave his life for us at Calvary we were each handed a ticket to ride with Him for eternity. 

"The Holy Spirit, conductor of souls
Just follow Him, if you’re ready to go
You qualify, so come as you are
Get onboard, the Glory car"

He didn’t call a select few, He said "ALL Aboard".    We all qualify because we have that ticket in our pocket.  We don’t need to clean up and look the part like the actors from those black and white movies of yore to ride this train.  You have a ticket, so come as you are.

Just as the conductor won’t chase you down the platform and drag you onto the train, our Lord is waiting for you to use the ticket He gave you at Calvary.  He is waiting for your knock and eager to see you walk through the door. (2 Peter 3:9)   

Are you standing on the platform watching the train?  Waiting?  For what?  The whistle has blown and the final call went out.  Time is running out and you need to act. (Psalm 39:4)  The Conductor doesn’t want to see anyone left on the platform with a ticket for His train when it leaves the station.  

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ or aren’t sure, go to the Conductor of Souls and hand Him your ticket today.  He desperately wants to welcome you aboard.  Will you use your ticket today? (Romans 3:22-24) 

"Get onboard the love express
turn your back on your past, it’s time to confess
Whatever you do, you gotta lay down your pride
Let the Lord God take you on a real good ride"

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
Matthew 7:7-8 (NASB)

Ask, seek, knock.  Receive, find, enter. 

Take action today. (Joshua 24:15)

Not Unemployed

Recently I irreverently joked that my recent job change has left me temporarily “unemployed”.  Conviction came knocking on my conscious.

iStock_000008193624XSmall I have not felt the rejection of the losing lot in a lay-off.

I have not experienced the humility of learning I was not all that I thought I was cracked up to be.

I have not had to process the consequences of political fall-out or suffered the injustice only the scapegoat knows.

I made a choice!

I do not have to get up each morning searching, calling, writing, striving.

I do not have to face the mailbox, inbox and voicemail each day.

I do not have to work up new hope that today is the day.

I have a new start date!

I do not have to worry about paying the bills, putting food on the table, getting sick, or losing the house.

I have not had to wipe out my savings accounts and retirement nest egg.

I do not have to humble myself to ask for help and don’t have to say “no” to my wife and kids.

In 3 weeks there will be a check!

I do not have to accept “anything that pays the bills” or look “below grade” and prove myself again.

The new job is good!

If you are unemployed, I can not begin to compare my temporary-unpaid-vacation-by-choice to your hardship.  I stand amazed at your get-up-and-go, your strength, your courage and your perseverance.   I pray for God’s generous provision for your needs while He prepares you and the job He will bless you with in His time.

Next Level Presentations

It is easy to create boring, unimaginative and ineffective presentations.  Just do a quick Google search and you will find a plethora of advice, resources and great blog posts on improving your presentation skills.

Snoozer_426x282In this post I wanted to collect a few of my favorite resources in one place for both myself and others to reference.

MS Powerpoint

This is the favorite go-to presentation tool of many.  Feel free to Google on this one but definitely check out these three articles:

As you will quickly see, Michael Hyatts is one of my favorite bloggers on presentation tips, (and other topics like leadership).  Check out his post on How Not to Use Powerpoint.

Maybe not everyone will agree with all of Seth Godin’s whitepaper conclusions called “Really Bad Power Point” but it’s a great read to get you thinking about your presentations.

Alternatives to MS Powerpoint

Michael Hyatt is a raving Mac fan and his post My Current Presentation Tools focuses on Mac tools.  It’s an interesting post for non-Mac users too, as it shows how professional, effective and creative presentations involve more that just a few bullets in a slideshow tool.

Check out Prezi for very neat non-linear presentation tool with a definite wow factor.  Make sure you check out some of the sample presentations.

Other Great Resources

Another great post by Michael Hyatt is My Favorite Presentation Resources.  It contains some of the same resources in this post and many more on everything related to presenting.  Make sure you check out the Presentation Zen web site he and many others on this topic refer to.

Don’t forget about the site http://www.slideshare.net/ a free web site that allows you to share MS Powerpoint, MS Word and Adobe PDF documents with geographically dispersed meeting attendees.

I am a great fan of Microsoft Visio for creating certain graphical elements to include in presentations.  It’s not the greatest tool, but I have become adept with it and it is a standard tool available on most business laptops.

Tools like The Brain and Tinderbox are other interesting tools for non-linear thought organization.  They can be used for presentation but are not as snazzy as Prezi and are not as focused on presentation as they are for organization and documentation.  These are more powerful and creative variations and expand on the more traditional Mindmapping tools like FreeMind, MindJet and Buzan’s own iMindMap.

Books

Three excellent books on how to go from boring and traditional to a more creative and effective presentation level:

If you really want to go off the deep end on visual thinking, design thinking, the brain, etc…, check out a few of the selections on Dave Gray’s Reading list.

Now Get Going

Grab some of these new resources and get going on your next more engaging, more creative, and more effective presentation.

To get your creative juices flowing on out of the box thinking when you present, check out Roy Disney’s Org Chart.

Do you have any great resources that are not listed or reference?  Please share them in a comment.

Politicians Think You Are an Idiot!

Ok.  Me too.  They think you and I are idiots.

As local and state leaders respond to the budgetary impact of the economy induced tax base erosion, their opinion of their constituents intellect is becoming abundantly clear.Idiot_300x400 Here is the politicians favorite budget plan being exercised across the country right now:

  1. Propose draconian cuts to non-negotiables
  2. Let fear, uncertainty & doubt stew a while
  3. Wait until they [the idiots] beg for raised taxes to save their precious programs
  4. Preserve their [the politicians] precious programs & lack of accountability

Case in point.  Listening to my favorite news radio station  WHAM 1180 the other day, I heard that because Kindergarden is not a part of the state’s minimal education requirement, it was being recommended that this would be a good place to cut costs.

Outrage?  No.  It’s a trick!  Part of the “favorite budget plan”.  

Personal safety – another great fear trigger.  Put police departments on the target list.  I think threats to baby seals, fuzzy kittens, cute dolphins and of course the whales are on the list too.  That’ll surely get some public passion behind the “No, not that! Please tax me instead!” strategy.

Reggea band Steele Pulse in one of their songs aptly refers to politicians as “Politricksters”!

What about the obvious?  Like, spending less than your make.  Why is that never a part of the repertoire?

Interesting discovery #1 -  When our senior leadership team goes to a full day off-site, email traffic (a.k.a work for the troops) slows to a trickle.  Not just e-mails from the attendees at the off-site, but from everyone else below the top of the work generation pyramid.  I call it the multiplication effect

Interesting observation #2 -  Give someone 6 weeks to do something and they will take 6 weeks.  Give someone 3 weeks to do the same task and most of the time they will find a way to still get it done without significant compromise in the end result including quality.   Constraints spur creativity and efficiency.

So lets demand that our government leaders do more with less and get creative, nimble and efficient.  Don’t give them the easy way out by letting them trick us out of more of our hard earned cash to cover their inefficient bureaucratic status quo.

Here’s a cost savings initiative voter on both sides of the aisle can get behind:

Redesign the government to operate with 33% fewer politicians (and related administrators, staff, capital and operational expense that comes with them), while delivering the same services.

Don’t tell us all the reasons why it won’t work!  Tell us what it will take to make it work! 

Watch the multiplication effect when they get out of their own way and are forced to focus on output rather than input.

It’s possible and besides, who ever thought “we need more politicians” any way? 

Watch out for the Politricksters.

Don’t let them shift the burden of fixing the problems they create and perpetuate to you!

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