Category: Action

03 Jan 2017

Are You Discouraged Going Into 2017?

Was 2016 a disappointing year for you?  Maybe you lost a loved one or separated from your spouse.  Perhaps you lost your job or your finances took a big hit.  Maybe it was an uneventful year and you just feel like you’ve fallen into a rut and are merely existing and have lost a zest for life.

Whatever the reason, you are stalled going into 2017 and even feel anxious about your future.  There were times in my life when I experienced great frustration.  I felt like I was putting in the hard work with no results.  I questioned my path and even lashed out at my loved ones as anger boiled in my gut, because life was not unfolding the way I hoped.  You may be feeling something similar right now and are not sure what to do next.  So, what do you do, when life has stalled and you become frustrated or depressed?

The remedy is to serve others.  I can’t explain what changes in your heart when you take your eyes off your own life and begin to focus on others, but you gain a new perspective on life when you shift your paradigm onto other people and look for ways to help them.

Clarity comes with service.  Experiencing the beauty of service cleanses your soul and allows you to look at life differently.  You forget your own problems as you focus on others, and you even gain a new-found appreciation for your own life as your eyes open to the greater pain others experience.  You even count your blessings as you realize that there is so much to be thankful for if you only took the time to notice.  Best-selling author, Dr. John C. Maxwell, calls this phenomenon, “the elevator principle”, which means that you cannot help to be uplifted as you lift others up in service.

Serving humanity distracts your mind from your problems and allows it to untangle your own obstacles, subconsciously, as you help others.  You become more creative and find hope again as you assist folks that may be hopeless in the moment.  It’s a beautiful thing, really, that to help yourself, you must help others first.

My start as a speaker began with the desire to inspire others to pursue their own dreams.  I communicated through this blog and at conferences and events across the country so that I may motivate and inspire others to not give up on life, and during that time, I discovered my own dream.  Now I get paid to serve people through my talks and presentations as a professional speaker.

If you’re stuck with little to look forward to in 2017, then why not start with one simple goal, help others.  Look for ways to serve someone this week and then the next.  Continue in that service and you will find that a healthy perspective will develop in your life.  Serve others and inspiration will find its way back into your own life.  I guarantee it!  Whom can you serve today?  Are you looking?

27 Dec 2016

How Do You Prepare For 2017?

I woke up from an afternoon nap and strolled to the kitchen to grab a soda.  It’s a daily ritual I have, to kick-off the second half of my day.  My body craves the caffeine infused carbonated drink to get me going so I may have the energy and focus to accomplish a full load of tasks and work waiting for me down in my office.  I open the refrigerator and stare at the bright can of soda waiting for me to consume it.  I sense the saliva forming in my mouth in anticipation of the sugary liquid hitting my taste buds.  I feel a headache brewing within my skull, demanding that I satisfy it with a jolt of caffeine.  It’s in this moment that I realize it’s time to give up soda.

We get caught up in acquiring things.  We collect pictures, artifacts, friends, but mostly we collect habits.  We fill our lives with them.  We numb our brains with entertainment “shows” that we must consume, so we stream them over our favorite mobile device and sacrifice time better spent elsewhere.  We hang on to bad relationships and form horrible eating habits.  Our lives become overflowing with garbage that we allow to penetrate our souls.

I’m no different.  I just finished a two-month binge watch of the entire six seasons of Game of Thrones.  I drink coffee in the morning and a soda in the afternoon.  I enjoy eating at Wendy’s and love my pizza.  I make unhealthy choices and allow them to creep into my daily routine, but it’s moments like I had a few weeks ago that I recognize it and become faced with a decision.  What’s more important to me?  Comfort or long term health.

We take our health for granted, but it eventually catches up to us and always wins, when we continue to make poor choices.  If not managed, our health will decline.  When asked, most folks list health as one of their top three priorities in life, yet we continue to make unhealthy decisions.

I’ve learned that it’s unhealthy to fill our lives with junk, whether it’s too much TV, social media browsing, or poor eating habits.  The answer is clear, eliminate.  A healthy life is a simple life, and a simple life starts with eliminating the excess junk we’ve allowed to collect in our lives.  I’m not suggesting a purge, but start somewhere small, like eliminating soda from your diet.  Why is this important?  I eliminated soda, because I felt like I “had” to consume it.  My body needed it to function properly.  I became dependent on it, which was a red flag and an indicator that I needed to get rid of it.

As you begin to think about 2017 and how to get started, why not begin with your health?  If you got everything you wanted this year, but declined in health at the end of it, would you be satisfied?  Who cares if you’re doing well at work, but have high blood pressure, are stressed out, and generally unhappy with your life.  Identify something that’s become a habit for you and ask yourself a fundamental question, “Is this good or bad for my health?” or “How does this help me?” and if you cannot find a good answer, then maybe it’s time to eliminate it.

Just start with one thing for now and stick with it, no matter what!  Eliminate that one thing that is holding you back to better health and you will find that it will strengthen your resolve and will lead to stronger discipline that will allow you to tackle bigger issues down the road.

Eliminating soda was just a small part of my life, but a big decision that’s empowered me.  It’s given me hope that I can tackle bigger things that will strengthen my body, sharpen my mind, and protect my soul.  Soda has not touched my lips in over three weeks and I feel fantastic!  How about you?  What’s the one thing that you could eliminate going into 2017?  I’m excited for your future, now go eliminate something!

15 Nov 2016

Sometimes All You Need Is A Semicolon

I recently had great conversation with a colleague, Denise.  She’s in the process of earning her degree in Computer Science.  She works full time and is forced to complete her homework for three classes late into the night, often sacrificing sleep as she finishes up her studies at 2:00 am.

I asked her if she liked coding and programming, at which she quickly replied, “I hate it!” I was taken aback by her response, since she was majoring in Computer Science, I assumed she would love to work with code.

“I will sit and stare at the endless lines of code and try and figure out what I’m doing wrong.” She continued.  “My brain feels like mush and I get so frustrated when I can’t figure out what I’m missing.”  She shook her head and crossed her arms and frowned as she recalled many frustrating nights being stuck on a particular software code that wasn’t working out for her.

“Finally, I would contact my instructor and he would advise me to shut off my computer, walk away and allow my brain to slow down.   I would take a break and then get back to the project.  My instructor would then ask me, ‘Denise, do you see it?’”  She dramatically slapped her hand on her forehead, her eyes widened as she recalled her memory of the interaction with your instructor.

“Damn!  I forgot a semicolon!”  Her eyes narrowed and she smiled at me. “Once I put in that stupid semicolon, that stupid program would work.  It was that simple!”

The semicolon is one of the most underutilized grammatical tools in the English language AND in life.  A semicolon is used to indicate a pause in a sentence.  It’s used to join two independent statements within a sentence, but becomes necessary because although the clauses are independent from each other, they are also related to some degree and must be joined together.  The semicolon serves a critical purpose that is often overlooked.

Our lives play out like grand stories.  Just like a great novel steeped with captivating prose, our lives are made up pivotal events like key sentences in a novel.  These events are independent of each other, but also related.  We cannot simply engage our present situation without acknowledging our past and preparing for the future.  The semicolon is the key to make the code work in a software program or a sentence flow on paper and for our lives to make sense as we struggle to connect our experiences.

So what can we learn from the semicolon and how can we apply it our lives today?  The semicolon is a pause, a chance for us to catch our breath and to absorb our experiences.  Unlike a period; however, it doesn’t mark the end.  By applying the power of the semicolon, we understand that a pause is necessary, but acknowledge that there is more to come and this particular journey in our life is not over.

It’s okay to pause and gather your thoughts, but it’s not okay to give up or start over, or fail to appreciate where you came from.  We’ve made mistakes and we’ve made bad choices, but it’s a part of us, so acknowledge it.  We must learn from our mistakes and experiences and find the courage to keep moving.

Sometimes, like Denise, we get stuck.  We bang our heads against a particular problem or obstacle, when all we really need to do is pause, reflect, collect our thoughts and approach our situation from a different mindset.  We may be on the right path, we just need a break.  A simple semicolon or pause may be the breakthrough we need.  What area of your life are you struggling with right now?  Is it time to plug in a semicolon?

04 Oct 2016

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.

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.

Like my flight instructor taught me, you have to learn to trust your “instruments” if you plan to make it through the storms of life.  So what are life’s instruments that will guide you through the storms?

  1. A written plan – I’m amazed at how many people I encounter that have no written plan for their life.  In essence they have no horizon at all.  I once read this quote, “A goal without a plan is simply a dream”.  I know many dreamers and I also know several disappointed people that lead their lives without a plan.  What is the vision for your life?  What are your short term and long term goals? How are you going to get there?  What resources do you need?  These are all questions that you must answer and then write down.  Build your horizon before you take off.
  1. A review process – A time for reflection is necessary to assess life, especially during storms. I believe a weekly, quarterly, and annual review is a must.  Set aside time every week, I do this on Friday’s, to reflect on the week and plan for next week.  Take time every quarter to take a deep breath and review what is working and what needs to change to keep on track.  Finally, take time away from the daily grind of life once a year to review and reset your goals.  I do this between Christmas and New Year’s.  I spend the entire week reflecting, planning, and recharging.
  1. Health checkup – Take time to check your health. Check your weight, your blood pressure, cholesterol, and depending on your sex and age, other critical areas to ensure you are healthy.  I don’t like it, but I force myself to get full blood work done by my doctor to make sure the major areas of my body are working properly.  I assess my weight, fitness, and eating habits and make adjustments to ensure I remain healthy and vibrant.  It’s hard to endure a storm if your health is failing.
  1. Mentorship – Time with a mentor is a must. This is a person you respect and are willing to be vulnerable with during meetings.  This person will have a totally different view of your life and can warn you if you are going in a wrong direction and can guide you back on path.  I recommend meeting with someone quarterly.  Allow this person to ask you hard questions and be willing to listen to this person’s answers.  Give your mentor the freedom to be honest and help you become aware of your blind spots and ways to navigate the obstacles you’re struggling with in your life.
  1. Support group – Life isn’t fair. There are times when things happen to you that cannot be explained and it hurts.  Having a group of friends and family to support you during these times is critical for long-term health and mental stability.  It’s okay to mourn a loss of a job, a friendship, or your health, but never mourn those losses alone.  Make sure you have an inner circle that you can turn to when the storm becomes unbearable.

Storms are inevitable and you must be ready to react and adjust during times of strife.  The actions you take during tough times should be measured and deliberate and based on facts.  The decisions you must make during your storms won’t be easy, but your chances of success will be much greater if you have well calibrated instruments that you trust.  Are you flying blind?

13 Sep 2016

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.

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.

Self-awareness is fully understanding a situation and your place in it.  It means knowing when to speak up and when to remain quiet, to offer an opinion or to accept valid criticism.  It means knowing your place and accepting your role in that moment.  Life is about picking your moments.  Those that are self-aware pick their moments wisely, and when they do, they do it with passion and perseverance.

I’m not saying you can’t take risks.  That’s very much a part of life too, but even in risk taking, there is self-awareness.  The difference is simple. Self-aware people take a risk fully understanding the consequences and are willing to accept them if they fail.  The foolish jump into a risky situation not understanding what’s at stake and are mortified at the consequences when they fail.  Don’t bee foolish, but strive to be self-aware.

Here are ten character traits of self-aware people, how many apply to you?

  1. Goal setting. Self-aware people have purpose and their actions are calculated and deliberate.
  2. Strengths focused. They understand their strengths.  Self-aware people know their weaknesses, but embrace their strengths.  Rather than focus on their weaknesses, they leverage their strengths to achieve success.
  3. Advice seekers. Self-aware people are not loners.  They’re good net-workers.  They understand their limitations and surround themselves with people that make up for those weaknesses.
  4. Focused. Self-aware people specialize, they don’t generalize.  Thy’re busy, but not on things that don’t make a difference.  They choose their tasks wisely.
  5. No complaints. People who are self-aware rarely whine about life, because they’re too busy finding solutions.  They don’t fill their days with things they can’t control, but instead focus on tasks where they can make a difference.
  6. Add value. They constantly seek ways to uplift and enhance people around them and improve their situations.  They invest in others; they don’t take away from others.
  7. Perspective.  They have healthy perspectives in life.  They understand the greater purpose and are not often swayed by the moment.
  8. Humble.  They know how big the world is and how so much depends on a team and not one individual.  They seek help, but not credit for accomplishments.  They’re always quick to acknowledge others for successes.
  9. Momentum.  Self-aware people understand the power of momentum, which is why they never stop moving towards their goals.
  10. Faith.  They have faith in a higher power, something greater than them.  They don’t try to take on the world alone or with their flawed relationships.  They ultimately understand that putting their hopes and dreams in their Creator is the only path to ultimate success.

Becoming self-aware is a worthy goal that we all should strive for in life.  Self-awareness is not easy, but possible if we simply slow down enough to recognize the main principles in life that make our journey meaningful and worth it in the end.  How many of the character traits apply to you?  Are you self-aware enough to admit how many you truly lack and are you willing to grow?