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Because I’m 50

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I’ve waited 50 years to for this moment. It took 50 years to reach a point of appreciation, understanding, acceptance and/or agreement with a variety of life lessons that I have been taught, told or experienced.

Sitting here this morning I realize that 50 is more than a birthday – it’s a platform, it’s a stage, it’s a milestone. In my opinion, reaching this milestone gives me the chronological credibility to share some lessons learned. Sure, I could have shared this at 49, but it just feels better sharing it at 50. For some, this will be news, for others it will be validation and for many more it’ll be comic relief.

So, here we go – what can I tell you about 50?

  1. I have to monitor my “Discretion Filter”. Things I used to think in my head, I just say it out loud in real-time.
  2. I have a bedtime again. When I was 35 I never said, “That’s past my bed time.” Going to an event in my 30’s I would ask, “When does it start?” Now I ask, “When does it end?” It has to be really special to keep me out past my bedtime.
  3. Hair stops growing where it should and starts growing where it shouldn’t. I don’t understand the functionality of hair in noses or on ears.
  4. Things that should stay soft get hard and things that should be hard start to get soft. I went to get a pedicure and my heels were rock hard. What did you think I was talking about?
  5. Hire a food taster. I swear someone is putting something in my food the older I get, because it’s now making me sick. Honey Buns never upset my stomach when I was in Middle School.
  6. I watch my children eating food that I wish I could eat again. Those teenage sons can eat anything and not gain an ounce of weight? Sometimes I just want to mush them in the face.
  7. The attractive young lady in the store makes eye contact, smiles and walks my way.  I secretly say to myself, “I still got it” – then she says, “Sir, aren’t you Doug’s dad?” I cuss under my breath and go home and mush my son in the face.
  8. You start drinking coffee for more than just the taste. Especially early in the morning. That’s all I’ll say here – if you’re over 50 you should understand.
  9. In my 30’s the only “Regular” I worried about was the gasoline in my car. (See #8 above to figure this out). Still don’t know? Ask someone over 50.
  10. Sometimes I go to the gym and sit in the locker room and just talk to people for an hour. Hey, at least I go to the gym.  All of you know that one dude that you never see working out, but he’s always in the locker room getting undressed and talking to everybody?? I bet he’s over 50.
  11. “Because I’m 50” is now the standard answer to justify whatever I want or do. But this only works on people 49 or below.

Happy Birthday to ME.

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Prioritizing My Priorities

“If everything is important, then nothing is important.” – I’m reminded of these famous words from Brian Mulroney as I stare at my To-Do list.  It appears I have much to do.  This is that moment when I’m tempted to get on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or heck even go the bathroom – anything except figure out what to do next.  Having a large to-do list is challenging enough, not knowing which to-do to do is even more challenging – they’re all important Mr. Mulroney.  Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest let me focus on what I’m able to do – I’m able to prioritize my priorities. Let’s see if this works.  As I look at my to-do list I’ve separated the items into four categories.

No Need To-Do: The title is sufficient. The first sign is when I look at the item an ask, “why am I doing this?”  There are some things I put on my list that just don’t need be on the list.  Don’t need to be done, don’t need to be monitored and surely I don’t need to grade my daily performance on their accomplishment or lack thereof.

Somebody Else’s To-Do:  I’ve found there are items on my to-do list that aren’t really mine.  I let someone else put their “monkey on my back.” For those of us who have a hard time saying no, our list gets filled very easily with these items.  Time to give those back to their rightful owner.

Like To-Do: These are usually items that fall in my comfort zone – this doesn’t mean these are all play items – there are work tasks that I like to do as well – they don’t require much effort and don’t cause much stress.  They add value to my peace of mind, but I have to be careful to not get too comfortable and forget to engage in the tasks that push my limits.

Need To-Do: These are the important matters, whether I like doing them or not, they must get done.  There’s normally a deadline approaching.  Procrastination and avoidance hovers over this portion of my list.  It’s about this time I turn to Social Media or the bathroom for a justifiable escape.

Have To-Do: These are usually my Like To-Do’s and Need To-Do’s that have been neglected.  Now I’ve reached a point where they have to be done, like yesterday.  This becomes a high-pressure, high-stress, drama-filled moment filled with hectic external activity and regret-filled internal thoughts of “would a” “could a” “should a”.

So I guess Mr. Mulroney is right, everything isn’t important.  Hopefully this will help me figure out what really is.  Try it for yourself and tell me if it helps you prioritize your priorities.

Make it a great one.

 

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The Power to Choose

I just hung up the phone after a conversation with a “loved one”. A loved one who has seemed to struggle with life for as long as I can remember. I’d like to say that my attempts to encourage & equip him resulted in some eye-opening epiphany for him, but they didn’t.

I ended the conversation reminding him that of all that’s happened, of all that’s been lost, of all that’s changed; the one thing he still has is the power to choose. It was a great reminder to myself and I’d like to share this reminder with you.

When given the choice, choose joy over anger.

When given the choice, choose love over hate.

When given the choice, choose hope over despair.

When given the choice, choose peace over turmoil.

When given the choice,  choose healing over hurting.

When given the choice, choose relationships over stuff.

And by the way, we’re always given the choice.

Choose well my friends, choose well.

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Can People Change?

This post is dedicated to the leaders, managers, parents, significant others & anyone else who spends time looking at someone in your circle of influence pondering the question, “Why won’t they change?”

We all have an area of our life that could use a little adjustment, modification, or improvement.  We’re also surrounded by others who could use a little adjustment, modification, or improvement – A Change!!!

Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, and resources focusing on the change that someone else needs to make.  A change, I might add, that the other person frequently denies the need for or doesn’t value.

I am proponent of change.  I believe in change.  Change is possible.

But there are two facts about change I’ve learned:

1. People can change.

2. You can’t change them.

For what it’s worth, I suggest we spend time addressing and navigating the areas of our own lives that need change and let others be responsible for addressing and navigating their own change.

Remember, people can change, but you can’t change them.

 

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The Courage to Encourage

We all need encouragement, a little push, or a little reminder that we can do it (See Watty Piper’s “The Little Engine That Could”). Knowing that someone believes in us enough to encourage us can be the motivating factor that keeps us going when we feel like quitting. I salute all the encouragers in the world, the people that cheer for others, the people that are fans of the underdog, the people that don’t give up on others because they can still see greatness in them.

I do however have a word of caution for the encouragers – be aware of the line between encouraging someone & enabling* them. It can be a fine line, a subtle line, and most importantly, it can be a moving line.

Here are some differences between encouraging & enabling:

Encouraging = Interdependent.
Enabling = Co-dependent.

Encouragement = You have to want it for yourself more than I do.
Enabling = I want it for you more than you want it for yourself.

Encouragement = I advise, but you decide (you own the decision).
Enabling = I advise AND I decide (I own the decision).

Encouragement = You face the consequences of your decisions.
Enabling = I protect you from the consequences of your decision.

As leaders of families, organizations & communities we must have the courage to cultivate a culture of encouragement. A culture of enabling will always destroy families, organizations, & communities.

*Enabling in this context refers to the process by which we contribute to the negative behaviors of others by failing to recognize a problem, set appropriate boundaries, establish expectations & enforce consequences.

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Things Don’t Just Happen

One of the greatest challenges of parenthood is teaching your children self-responsibility as it pertains to the relationship between what they do and what they get. Children have a canny ability to “not know” how things happened, especially if the result is undesirable. All of my children have demonstrated this ability at one time or another.

There was the time Douglas “lost” his brothers USC sweatshirt. Even though he borrowed it without asking his brother and loaned it to a friend (w/o his brothers permission) and then forgot go back to the friend to get it. He didn’t know how it happened – I do.

Things don’t just happen.

There was the time Dex went to a church conference in California. I couldn’t afford the full expense of the trip, but Dex ended up in California anyway. How??? He called family & friends and asked for their support – they believed in him & his enthusiasm and they supported him. Some people said they didn’t know how it happened – I do.

Things don’t just happen.

The Leadership Lesson my children taught me was:

Every effect is preceded by a cause.
Every consequence is preceded by a choice.
Every result is preceded by an action.
Every output is preceded by an input.

THINGS DON’T JUST HAPPEN.

We have the power to make things happen, whether we know how they happen or not.

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Clean and Free to Lead

Darius’ room is clean!!!  Yeah!! Great news.  Cue up the band.  OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let me regroup.  You may be wondering what my 13 year old son’s clean room has to do with leadership.  Ahhh, well I’m glad you asked.

This has been a struggle for a “minute” and by minute I mean a long time.  At times I’ve felt more like a prison guard or drill instructor than a dad.  We’ve explored the continuum of disciplinary alternatives and nothing seemed to stick – the change was never sustainable.  Many friends and others told me to let it go, he’s 13, it is what it is.  And I’ll admit for a time I did let it go – just close the door.  As long as nothing crawls out (including odors)  and he’s still able to get out unscathed I let it go.  After all there are worst issues we could be dealing with, right?

Well we both realized this “clean room thing” was a point of stress in our relationship.  I set an expectation, he wasn’t meeting it, I wasn’t enforcing it and we weren’t syncing like we want to because the big elephant in the room (no pun intended but there could have been one in there) was hanging over our heads.  So our daily and nightly routine became a series of my demands for him to clean his room, his half attempts at cleaning the room, my checking the room, his 2nd half attempt at cleaning the room, my yelling, his “sad face”, and on and on and on.

What a cycle, we had to break it.

One day, Darius and I had a conversation about sports.   He wanted to try out for the football team, so we began discussing football and the discipline and commitment required to be a great player.  We talked about practice and preparation and the blood and sweat great players shed when no one’s watching to make them better on game day.  We talked about the dedication and consistency of great players who did what others wouldn’t, who showed up when others didn’t, who kept going when others quit.  We talked about how great players accept responsibility for themselves and recognize they’re accountable to their team. Darius was getting “geeked” (that’s what the kids say) and I was getting “hyped” (that’s what old school says).  He was ready to do it.  I was ready to do it.  What a moment.  Wait a minute — then it hit me, we needed to have a conversation like this around cleaning the room.

We began to transition from football to room cleaning, but we kept talking about the same principles; discipline, commitment, practice, preparation, consistency, dedication, responsibility etc….  And then there was this epiphany – it clicked, I saw it in his eyes.  He realized the room was about his character, his responsibility, his image.  Darius was TeachABLE.

Darius stayed up that night and cleaned his room.  The best it’s ever looked.  Now here’s the great part – Darius walks in my room a couple of days later and says, “Dad, I feel free. I feel good, because you can’t say anything to me about my room being clean – it’s clean.  I handled my business. This is nice.”

What a revelation.  Darius is free because he handled his business.  The distraction of the dirty room was gone.  He was able to focus on more important things. I could see the confidence in his eyes.  He did what he was ABLE to do and he’s reaping the rewards.

What about you? What about me?  What business do we need to handle? What do we need to clean?  It may not be our room, but it may be our heart, it may be our task list, it may be our mind, it may be our reputation,  it may be our attitude, it may be our speech.   If being clean can make a 13 y/o feel free, imagine what it can do for you and me.  Let’s clean up our mess and free ourselves to lead.

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A SustainABLE Pace

It’s a beast.  It’s a “grown folks” race. It’s rough.  It’s all the way around the track.  It ain’t no joke.

These are just a few of the phrases used to describe the 400meter race in Track and Field, and I agree with all of them.  More importantly, my 13 year old son Darius (Big D), agrees as well – this weekend he competed in the event at the 2013 USATF Junior Olympic Regionals – not bad for his first year running the event.

Did he win? – No

Did he place? – No

Did he finish? – Yes

Was he disappointed? – Sure

Did he learn some lessons? – No doubt

Here’s one lesson worth sharing with all of us: Run Your Race to Sustain Your Pace.

The runners that excel at the 400 have identified and mastered a sustainABLE pace.  They start strong, they stay strong, and they finish strong.  They know they can’t expend all of their energy in the first 200 or 300 meters because then they’ll have nothing to finish the last 100 meters with.  They come out in a burst of speed, they settle in to their “zone” and then they keep a “little something” in their tank so they have that extra gear to kick in when they need it.

Runners that haven’t identified and mastered a sustainABLE pace come out as fast as they can and continue to run as fast as they can, running at one speed (as fast as they can), and usually around the 200 meter mark you can see them visibly  begin to slow down – their mind is saying “run, keep moving”, but their body is saying, “I have nothing left to give you.” As they slow down, you see all the runners pass them by on their way to the finish line. Their pace wasn’t sustainABLE.

Let’s all remember this lesson as we start our day and our week.  Is our pace sustainABLE?  Do we start out strong and energetic, but lose energy and focus before the end of the day.  Remember the goal isn’t to just finish your day, finish your project, or finish the week.  The goal is to finish strong.  Check your pace.  Are you trying to do too much, too soon?  How long can you sustain this pace?  Just like the track athletes, you have to “run your race” – just because someone else can go at a certain pace, doesn’t mean you can or you should. Start your day with a burst, settle in to your zone, and kick in the extra gear when you need it.  Start Strong, Stay Strong, Finish Strong.

Have a great day – see you at the finish line.

Thanks Big D, for giving me permission to share your story.  Daddy’s proud of you.

Oh, by the way, will he be back? – Absolutely!!!!

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The Perfect Upgrade

 

Never underestimate the ability of humans to over-complicate a task or a project in the name of  “perfection”.  Trust me, I know from experience.

Perfect is not reality and reality is not perfect.  Much of the stagnation, hesitation, and delay in my life comes from this need or thought of being perfect:

  • I want to write a blog, but I can’t find the perfect opening sentence.
  • Let’s host a conference, but we can’t find the perfect time or the perfect venue.
  • Start a weekly podcast?? Sure, as soon as I find the perfect microphone and equipment that projects my perfect voice. (Oh wait a minute; I gotta perfect my voice first)
  • Write and submit that article to Forbes…working on it for 3 months now – it’s not perfect yet.

My good friend Amos Disasa reminded me that I need to practice what I preach.  I teach others how to be vulnerable, take risks, and “fail forward”; but I’m playing it safe and seeking guarantees before I take a chance.  In Amos’ words, “So that’s why your website looks the way it does and that’s why you’re not driving traffic to yourself, trying to wait til it’s perfect?” OUCH  – yeah that one hurt.

Bottom line, in my attempt to make things “perfect” all I’ve really done is missed opportunities.

There’s a lesson we all can learn from the technology and communications industry.  Not only do they recognize their products aren’t perfect, they’re bold enough to say this is version 1.0, 2.0, and so-on.  And we the consumer have been conditioned to not expect perfection – hence we’re all prepared for the “upgrade.”

Well from today forward, I reject the notion of perfection, I embrace mistakes, I take chances, I am Vulnerable, I learn lessons, and I am always ready to upgrade.

How about you?  Are you vulnerable enough to take a chance?  Hey, if it’s not perfect, you can always upgrade.

 

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