Do You Have Light to Combat Your Darkness?

One morning, I wake early for a run before a full day I had planned with my family.  It’s important for me to exercise so that I can remain healthy and strong.  On this particular day, I lace up my shoes and venture out with a headlamp, because it’s still dark and foggy outside.

spooky dark forest

I start my run and I turn on my headlamp.   The light from it cuts through the darkness like a sharp knife through a heavy blanket.  I can only see a few feet in front of me and keep the light focused towards the ground so that I avoid obstacles such as rocks, walnuts, or ruts on the trail.  Eventually, I decide to turn off my headlamp and experience the darkness while I run.  I slow down and focus my steps and navigate blindly into the unknown with heightened senses.

Why Do We Love Our Dogs So Much?

I adore my yellow Labrador retriever, Stella.  Her companionship means a lot to me.  She lays at my feet while I relax and watch TV.  She wakes up early with me and is eager to run a few miles on the trails.  She curls up next to me by the fire.  She rarely leaves my side and adds so much value to my life.  Why do I love her so much?


One evening, before I went to bed I stared at my faithful pet, Stella.  She was curled up in her kennel and looked over at me once she sensed I was staring at her.  She didn’t move a muscle and simply gazed at me in silence.  In that moment, I realized why I cherish her companionship, she doesn’t talk.  More importantly, she doesn’t complain or put me down.  She’s not critical or says things to me that she apologizes for later.  She’s just present.  I’m always aware of her loving presence, and her constant silence is my gift.  I don’t need her opinions or advice, I value her faithful companionship without her judgement-filled words.

Stella is with my family during every milestone.  She’s around during birthdays, she helps my kids unwrap Christmas gifts.  Her fur soaks up our tears during times of sadness and she jumps for joy when she senses our happiness.  She’s always there, but never interrupting or arguing, she’s just present and happy to be a part of the family.

It’s in that moment, late that night, as I stare at my dog that I realize I could learn a lot from her.  Mainly, to shut my mouth and be content to be present for those that I love and care about the most.  I don’t always need to express my opinions, or make myself known through words and comments.  I just need to be present and to love those around me.  I might not always agree, but who cares?  Stella doesn’t seem to care and she lives a pretty stress-free life.

What if I lived more like Stella, talked less, became more present and just absorb and experience life’s little moments? Would I argue less with my loved ones?  Would I develop deeper, richer, and more satisfying relationships?  Would I learn more about my friends and family if I just kept my mouth shut?  I believe if Stella could speak she might reveal things about my family that would be huge revelations to us, because she spends hours simply observing us.  What advice would she give me on how I treat others, my nervous ticks, and the way I live my life?

I think I will learn from my pet and force myself to speak less and observe and listen more.  How about you?  Do you think you could be a better companion if you simply closed your mouth and became more content to be present with your loved ones?  Try it, I plan on it!

Are You Prepared to Navigate Your Storms?

When I was sixteen years old I flew a single engine prop plane, a Cessna 152, over my hometown in Anderson, Indiana.  I’ll always remember the exhilarating feeling of taking off, by myself, and climbing high into the air and leaving everything on the ground behind me.

Small single engine airplane flying in the gorgeous sunset sky

Sometimes I would fly through the clouds and would get disoriented with my direction and would have to take a deep breath and find the horizon in order to get my bearings and adjust the aircraft back on track.

On several occasions during my training flights, my flight instructor would put a “hood” over my head, a contraption that would block my view of the horizon and only allow me to view the instruments.  He would maneuver the plane into several hard banks enough times that I would lose my sense of direction.  He would continue the maneuvers until he was satisfied that I had no idea which way was up.  He made me keep the hood on as he gave the control of the aircraft back to me.  He denied my view the horizon and forced me to trust the aircraft’s instruments to stabilize it.  It was an unnerving exercise, because I would have to trust the instruments over my instincts.  My gut would tell me one thing, while the instruments were telling me something totally different.  The point of the exercise was to train me to trust the plane’s instruments when the view of the horizon was not available, a hard thing to accept, but achievable with discipline and coaching from my instructor.

You start your days with a clear view of the horizon.  There are times when you start the New Year with a clear plan and confidence that life will be great, but then a storm overwhelms you and you lose sight of the horizon.  You lose your way and spiral into despair and even depression when life doesn’t seem to be working out the way you expected.

Life Comes Down to Self-Awareness

Over the years I’ve witnessed people struggle.  I’ve struggled in several areas of my own life.  When I reflect on my struggles and the struggles of others, I’ve realized that it comes down to one simple concept, self-awareness.

Thrown Out Old Mirror Standing Against Wall

When I began my transition from the military, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my life.  I lived in Colorado Springs, the home of the US Olympic committee.  I’ve been involved in competitive sports my entire life to include the collegiate level.  I’ve always been enamored with the Olympic movement and respected any athlete or coach that found themselves participating at the Olympic level.

One afternoon, I learned of a job opening at the US Olympic Headquarters.  It involved drug testing and participating in the drug testing policy of our Olympic athletes.  I thought this might be a perfect opportunity for me to insert myself into the Olympic process.  I submitted an application and even secured an interview with the hiring committee.  I was excited to get on the phone with four other US Olympic Committee executives and was confident I could win them over; however, the interview only lasted five minutes, once the committee realized I never competed at the Olympic level.  It was embarrassing as they politely thanked me for my time and notified me that I was not qualified for the position since I never competed in the Olympics.  In my excitement to be a part of something I respected, I failed to even realize the basic requirement of being a former Olympian to even hold the position.  I lacked self-awareness.

I’ve worked with people who lacked self-awareness.  They thought they knew more than they did, they felt they were qualified to offer an opinion when they weren’t and they embarrassed themselves by pushing their opinions into a situation that didn’t belong. Unfortunately, I’ve done this on several occasions, especially when I was younger and trying to make my mark.  I’ve applied for job positions that I wasn’t qualified for, because I was confident I could do the job anyway.  I’ve said things in meetings that I had no right saying, because I thought I had the experience and credentials to back it up, when I didn’t.  I’ve been arrogant and foolish at different points in my life and I’ve paid the price.

The Power of Connections

It would be nice to only associate with people I like.  Life would be much easier if I could just get along with everyone I encounter, but alas, this is painfully not the case, in many instances.

Bordeaux puppy dog playing with bengal kitten. isolated

Relating with some people can be very challenging for me.  It would be easy for me to walk away from a relationship then to stick it out and endure the uncomfortable interactions I encounter with some people in my network.

I’ve learned over the years to appreciate all relationships, good and challenging, for each relationship represents a powerful connection that is necessary for me to grow and thrive.  The truth is that my most challenging relationships are the most important to me, because it forces me to reassess my paradigms and reconsider my position on things.

I don’t give my easy relationships a second thought, because their comfortable.  Life is good with those type of relationships, but they don’t force me to grow.  If I hang out with only like-minded people, the people that agree with me, then I can find myself in a comfort zone and then a rut. 

Your Words Matter

The old saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is ridiculous.  Your words matter and what you say about or towards others can have a tremendous impact on their journey.

young woman covering the mouth of her mate

My sister, Kim, taught me this lesson in my early 20s when she pulled me aside one day.  “You need to watch what you say, Erick, your words matter.”

I thought she was being a little over dramatic when she scolded me back then, but her statement stuck with me and over time I learned to appreciate her advice.  Our words do matter and what we say about each other and to each other sticks to our souls.

Everyone Wants to be Noticed

I’ve been told that I’m a positive person.  That’s always surprised me, because I don’t see myself as a positive person.  I have my ups and downs, like everyone else, and I can be just as grumpy and negative as the next person.  Recently I discovered why some feel I’m positive, and it’s so obvious that I’m baffled that I never realized it earlier.  I notice people, it’s that simple.

Woman's eye

Many years ago, while I was in high school, my parents received a letter from my physical education teacher.  He noted that I was very accommodating to my classmates, especially to the less popular ones, and the ones with special needs.  My mother teared up when she read the note, and I became embarrassed.  I still remember the feeling of being noticed by my teacher.  It made me feel fantastic about myself and increased my respect towards him.

I don’t think I did anything special by associating with my classmates, but my teacher recognized it and noticed me and took the time to edify me to my parents.  He singled me out and encouraged me.

There’s No Tragedy in Focus

I love the Olympics.  Every four years I’m thrilled to watch the world’s best athletes converge and compete at the highest level for the ultimate prize of being crowned Olympic champion and the right to be called “the best in the world.”

nager natation jeux olympiques visage athlte bonnet respirer

What fascinates me; however, is when an athlete falls short of winning a medal and misses the podium.  The announcers and fans sound disappointed and lament that a particular athlete spent his/her entire life preparing for that Olympic moment and will return home empty handed.  Their words and tone make it sound as if anything short of Olympic gold is utter failure, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I’m honored that the staff at the Missouri River Energy Services asked me to come and speak to their delegation on the importance of building an effective Key Accounts Program.


Date: September 21, 2016
Event: Missouri River Energy Services "Tech Days"
Topic: The Importance of Key Accounts
Sponsor: Missouri River Energy Services
Location: Sioux Falls, SD
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

If you would like to hire me to speak at your event, click My Speaking Page

Life Takes Time

When I ran for the first time with my dad in 1981, I had no idea that decision would impact and shape my life.  I just wanted to gain my dad’s approval and be more like him.  Dad was a runner, so I ran too.

Running in the country

I didn’t achieve success early when I ran, in fact I quit for a couple of years, because I wasn’t sure I liked running.  I thought running was about my race times, medals, and finishing in first place, when in fact, I was learning so much more.  I was learning life lessons that I’m now passing onto my kids.

I’ve learned so much from the sport of running, and the greatest lesson is that life takes time.  It took seven years of training before I won my first major race, Indiana Boys’ Cross-Country Semi-State my sophomore year.

I wasn’t a productive and effective runner in college until my senior year at West Point, after three long years of injury and frustration.  I’ve tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the Boston Marathon the past three years, but I know if I keep trying, eventually I will qualify, because if I’ve learned anything from running, it’s that LIFE TAKES TIME.