Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Essential Resolution for 2012

Did you know:

- The average American spends 8 hours a day in front of a “screen” per day which has doubled since 2005.

- The average American teen, sends and receives over 75 texts/day.

I am going to resolve to do what is essential.

I’m going to reduce the number of hours in front of “screens” including TV, computer, and cell phone.

I’m going to practice more deep breathing and create more stillness everyday.

I'm going to spend more time thinking, journaling, writing, mind mapping and doodling.

I’m going to do less talking and more listening, less judging and more understanding.

I’m going to work harder at making Sunday, a day of rest, unplug, connect with family and friends, read, walk/hike, ride my bike, and play Scrabble with my wife.

I am going to spend more time seizing the day.

See you on a park bench, a coffee cafe (without TV), French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Battery Park Book Exchange, on the trails, in a pew, in a living room (TV off)... !?

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better person." Benjamin Franklin

Note: Susan Cain had an OP-ED piece in the NY Times, 1/13/12, Rise of the New Groupthink for another perspective to this blog. See

Friday, December 9, 2011

Reduce The VUCAs in 2012

As 2011 draws to a close, individuals and organizations begin to plan for the New Year. 2011 has not been too kind to hopes, dreams and plans. VUCAs have been fiercely at work!

Back in the 1990’s, the military added the acronym, VUCA to its vocabulary. VUCA stands for:

- Volatility - change is coming at a faster pace and dealing with transition can be messy

- Uncertainty - our ability to predict the future is becoming less meaningful and trustworthy

- Complexity - is increasing including knowledge, communication channels and distraction leading to increased confusion

- Ambiguity - made up of assumptions, poor communications, fuzzy rules, false readings leading to fog

VUCA is code for acknowledging the root cause of stress, frustration, indecisiveness, bad behavior, poor performance, weak execution, short outcomes, and incomplete strategic plans.

As VUCA’s come upon us, the cry becomes, “I/we don’t have enough ___________!” Blame-storming ensues. Short cuts are taken. Ethics are ignored. Greed increases.

What do you do to minimize, reduce or eliminate VUCAs?

Make time. The time issue always becomes apparent when working with a group during an experiential initiative. The initiative that includes a time allotment, creates stress, generates anxiety and becomes an enemy to positive outcomes. Make time an ally! Use your resources more effectively by breaking groups into smaller groups to flush out fresh, unique ideas. Do not be quick to throw water on an idea that goes against your thinking or the current process. Instead of a “Yes, but...” try a “Yes, and...”

The Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared, it offers a clue to dealing with VUCA.

I notice most organizations or teams (as well as individuals) who go through a strategic planning process seldom discuss the “what ifs’...” as in:

  • What if a key member(s) of the team leaves or dies?
  • What if a natural disaster hits like hurricane, tornado or wildfire?
  • What if served with a lawsuit?
  • What if the economy tanks?
  • What if ___________________?

Simplify. Simplify stuff. Simply processes. Simplify lifestyles.

Lean into flexibility. The tree that bends in the wind will survive over the tree that is stiff and rigid.

I am reminded of Robert Fulghum’s epic piece, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Fulghum’s writing is a lesson in leadership and holds truths and wisdom to deal with VUCA’s. See

When you go out into the world, will you watch for traffic, hold hands and stick together?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear? Do You See What I See?

Note: The traditional Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear? was written and composed by Noel Regney and Gloria Baker back in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis as a plea for peace. Perhaps we should pause and reflect on the song’s message for our current need not only for peace in the world but for healing from turmoil and chaos of the times. Pause. Push back. Breathe. Meditate on what is really important.

Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear?

The season of Thanksgiving is melding into the season of Light. What I considered to be the most pure of our national holidays seems to be turning into a prep and fuel for one our darker sides, Black Friday, aka, Dark Friday.

Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear?

Dark Friday seems to be bigger and greedier than ever. Malls and big box stores are opening earlier and earlier. News reports an estimated 1 in 4 of us participated in Dark Friday. Retailers report the Dark Friday phenomenon (which now begins on Thanksgiving Day) as “so successful” and “so positive.” For our nation whose economy is built on consumption, this may seem like good news. “It’s a good move to try to get shoppers to spend sooner, before they run out of money,” says Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group. Yet, words like jammed, beeline, hoards, rowdy, frenzy, vengeance, storm, backlash, snap-up, tased and injuries appeared frequently in media reports about our behavior on Dark Friday.

Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear?

One comment I heard in a news report on “Dark Friday” was a shopper who was asked why he was participating in Dark Friday, “It’s traditional!” This maybe where the problem lies, some traditions need to be broken. Some habits need to be changed. Bad habits need to be replaced.

Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear?

The Dali Lama was asked what surprised him the most. “Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”

Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear?

Many question the motives behind Occupy Wall Street. Maybe OWS is the reaction to Michael Lewis’s, The Big Short or Andrew Ross Sorkin’s, Too Big To Fail. Both detail the toxic culture of Wall Street, taking advantage of unregulated greed and political “buy-ability.” Perhaps OWS is the seeding for our own Arab Spring. Maybe OWS is a call to live an examined life, a life of giving rather than getting. Just maybe OWS could be about changing Dark Friday into a day that reflects truly living.

Do you see what I see? Do you hear what I hear?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where is the Evidence?

I came across another one of those studies reporting what many of us already suspect or know, work productivity is not what it could be! This study from Towers Perrin ( says less than 25% of employees are putting their whole being into their work including their hands, their mind and their hearts. As the study points out, what brings people to the “work dance” is not what keeps people at the “work dance.”

To build a nurturing, sustaining, stimulating work culture, consider the following questions.

Do the leaders have a heart? Are leaders relational? Do leaders care about their people? How do leaders show compassion and empathy to their people? Describe the evidence.

Is the organization’s vision inspiring? Is the vision more than ROI? Does the vision engage its employees to bring their best to work, to do their best at work, to be their best at work? Share the evidence.

How is success defined? How do employees get to share in the organization’s success? What is the evidence?

Do employees know what is expected of them. Are there regular channels of feedback to the employee not only on how he/she is doing, how they are being, but how their supervisor or leader(s) are doing, how they are being? Where is the evidence?

Is the work environment safe, healthy and appealing to work, to grow and to learn in? What is the evidence?

How does the organization support employee’s mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well being? How can employees renew themselves in these areas during the work day? Is there evidence?

What are the incentives for employees to learn and grow? Can evidence be produced?

How is respect shown for others? What is the evidence?

How is the encouragement? Describe the ways of encouragement. Share the evidence.

What questions do you have to stimulate conversation towards creating a world-class nurturing work culture?

Friday, September 2, 2011

What Is The Impact of Fear?

NOTE: The mind-map was updated 9/3/11 after great, thoughtful, challenging comments were made. Continue to give me feedback!

During a recent team building advancement*, we got into a heavy discussion about how fear was impacting the team as well as affecting the culture of the organization in moving forward (something that is affecting our country as well). That has lead to the request of a design for another team building advancement* on exploring fear and learning how to reduce its negative impact.

Personally, I believe fear is the opposite of love. This thought has been an overarching concept in this mind-map.

When I design a program, workshop, presentation or advancement* I begin with a mind-map to get a visual of key components that might be in the design.

What are your thoughts, suggestions and ideas? Note, if you click on the photo above, it will get larger for easier viewing.

*Advancement. . . I do not like the word "retreat" as in, "We are going on a retreat to explore fear." Retreat is about going backwards. Advancement is about moving forward, learning and growing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

MIA at a Recent Health Fair

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a health fair for a division of a Fortune 500 company. This was an opportunity for their employees to learn more about creating a healthier lifestyle.

There was a booth manned by a local health food store promoting vitamins, herbal remedies and books on nutrition. (Got some samples of herbal sleep aids and protein powder.) A podiatrist was in another booth, who answered questions about foot care and foot problems. (I learned which running shoes were best for my feet!) Behind one of the booths were several nurses running tests and giving assessments. I found out that my body has 17.7% fat which falls into the excellent BMI range of 16 to 25. My blood pressure was 117 over 71 and my resting heart rate was 44 BPM. After a series of questions, they could only say, “Keep on doing what you are doing!”

There was a booth to help women understand mammograms. The Red Cross was there seeking blood donations. (We have a blood shortage in WNC!) I got a nice 10-minute shoulder massage from a licensed massage therapist. A dental group was promoting good teeth care. (I received a travel toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss.) A wellness center had a yoga instructor, a chiropractor, a pilates instructor and acupuncturist answering questions. An optometrist was sharing ideas on good eye care. (I received an eye glass cleaner cloth!) Two local hospitals were present sharing and explaining services they offered. (I dipped into their candy bowl!) An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider was there to offer information on all kinds of resources for work/life balance.

For my thinking, good health includes not only the physical, but the emotional, the mental and the spiritual.

What was MIA (missing in action) was a table or booth promoting “play.” I think we take ourselves too seriously. We have lost the value of play and its importance in our personal growth. Many organizations see “play” at work or a “fun-workplace” as unproductive and hurting the bottom line when actually it can do the opposite. Play can help reduce stress, increase creativity and stimulate innovation.

An organization teaching us how to communicate better was also absent. I believe in this age of distraction, we’ve lost the ability to communicate well. Good communication could lead to better relationships—which has to be healthier. I would expect this spot to include tips on healthy conflict resolution.

How about a leadership booth promoting death to micromanagement and overcoming workaholism? There would be major health benefits from these services!

There was no table promoting the art of collaboration. Learning how to work better together and building trust has positive health consequences not only for the individual but the culture of the workplace.

I would have liked to have seen someone sharing ideas on dealing with change. Dealing constructively with change and creating flow in transition could have great health benefits.

Finally, what about the benefits of spirituality and our health? Could some folks have been present to promote this? Could there have been a booth to challenge thinking and raise possibilities?

What are your ideas for being healthier? What are you doing to become healthier? What might the benefits be—to you, your family and your employer?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fantasy Team Selection

It’s time to create a fantasy football team according to the talking heads at ESPN. This is where you get to act like a general manager and create/manage a professional football team. You draft, trade and change your team to the rules of the league you are involved. There are over 20 million people playing fantasy football! Lots of people enjoying fantasizing!

I don’t do fantasy football for several reasons:

  • lack of interest
  • not willing to make time
  • real life football seems to have enough fantasy - witness the NFL lockout
  • I get confused with all the reality and fantasy stuff on television - the lines are getting blurry!

I’d love to create a fantasy United States congress! My fantasy congress would have term limits. Eight years maximum for congressmen/women and twelve years maximum for senators. People running for congress could only spend a certain amount of money to get into office and no money could come from special interests or political action committees. Congress members and their staffs would have to get health insurance just like the rest of America. Potential members of congress would have to demonstrate that he/she was principled, moral, trustworthy, courteous, of sound character, willing to sacrifice through deed and action and possessed a conscience. Most of all, my fantasy congress would have members who understood and practiced the art of compromise.

I’d love to create a fantasy Wall Street! My fantasy Wall Street would have organizations that were long-run oriented rather than short-term focused. To be a part of Wall Street, members would have to demonstrate accountability in everything as well as the product or service they delivered. Wall Street organizations would have financial practices that even someone with a sixth grade education could understand. Wall Street team members (especially CEOs) would have caps on salaries. Perhaps they could only earn 25 times what their lowest employee made rather than 900 times as some CEOs earn. CEOs and other key management people would be required to go undercover to see how their front line people worked.

My ultimate fantasy has to do with work teams. My fantasy work team would be made up of people who understood the difference between leadership and management. People with micromanagement tendencies would get coaching or would be asked to leave. Every member of the team would be given the opportunity to lead according to his/her gifts, talents, passions and strengths. Team members would be encouraged to take risks and stretch without fear of failure. They would be empowered not just in word but in action. There would be no stupid questions or stupid ideas. Each team member would be encouraged to grow. Trust would be unbelievably high leading to deeper respect, clearer communication and better understanding. Competition would morph into coopetition. Team members could openly share their weaknesses, pain and shame without fear of being ridiculed. When conflict arose, the team members would not triangulate but work constructively to resolve issues. Consequently, collaboration would flow and team members would be in the zone. Team members would not only be excited to come to work, but be willing to give their best. Change would be taken in stride and transitions would be smooth. Work/life balance would be so remarkable that stress would be healthy and team members would be seen as having a life beyond work.

What is your fantasy team? How would you make your fantasy team into a reality team?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Formula(s) for Success

I’m a prolific snail-mail-handwritten-note-sender. I blame this on my mother! Growing up in the Carr home, it was a rule that when anyone did something for you ... give you a present, have you over for dinner, etc ... you hand wrote a thank you note within seven days. Needless to say, New Year’s Eve day was crunch time to write thank you notes for Christmas presents or you did not go out New Year’s Eve!

Note writing continued on when I got into sales after college. I’d write notes to customer’s not only thanking them for orders, but when I’d see articles about them in the newspaper, saw something that I thought might be of interest to them or just re-establish our connections. Many customers who told me they not only appreciated my notes and sometimes my mailing was more effective than my sales call! It was one of my unique differences from my competition.

Chapter 9, (Four-Mula for Success) in Ray Considine’s book The Great Brain Robbery, further justified my handwritten notes to clients and customers! Considine’s formula for sales success was do four things in four different areas everyday including write four orders, make four sales calls, make four phone calls and create four mailings. On the days when you didn’t make enough sales calls or write enough orders, you created more mailings and make more phone calls. Sixteen events took place everyday. It truly was a sales formula for success.

I have learned anything scarce is valuable like diamonds, gold and handwritten snail mail notes! Scarce things touch hearts and impact relationships. Successful, life-changing formulas are scare as well.

Awesome formulas are important recipes for life. Formulas build relationships not only among things, but among people. Formulas help us to communicate better. Formulas help solve problems. They stabilize and celebrate success. Formulas can be the secret to executing a successful strategic plan. Successful formulas impact an organization’s ROI. What get’s celebrated get repeated!

Some formulas for success I have discovered...

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s, The Leadership Challenge, is a formula for successful leadership.

Six Thinking Hats, by Edward DeBono, is a formula using six conversations of importance for clear thinking and discussions.

Harrison Owen, Open Space Technology, is a very natural formula for people to come together and quickly find workable solutions to complex problems.

Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Business Creativity written by Michael Michalko, has formulas to stimulate innovation.

Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of Team has a formula for building a team.

Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging contains a formula for creating community.

Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges, has a formula for dealing with change.

Finally, the Bible has all kinds of formulas for successful living including teaching us to love kindness, to seek justice and to be humble. It has a formula for being grateful for all circumstances and perhaps has the greatest formula for living with others, The Golden Rule.

What formula(s) are you usuing to creating a better life for yourself and those you serve?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Do You Have Time?

Time, time, time, see what's become of me

While I looked around

For my possibilities

I was so hard to please

Hazy Shade of Winter

Paul Simon, Bookends, 1968

Recently, I was asked to present a “time management” lunch and learn program. The program convener wanted me to cover the typical topics for more effective “time management” including the tried and true:

  • jumpstart your day ... get up an hour earlier
  • touch each piece of paper only once ... pass it on, file, scan or dispose
  • delegate and empower! (The challenge is knowing what to delegate and whom to empower!)
  • have a place for everything ... beware of stuff ... the more you have, the more space you need ... thus more to clean, repair and replace ... you can get more stuff, more money, but you can’t get more time
  • schedule appointments with yourself to get things done
  • perfectionism will drain you ... get over it
  • learn to say “NO”

When I inquired about the purpose and drive behind such a program, the response was vague. “It’s time! Rather than single some people out who need this training, we want to do a general training.”

“Time management” can be a sensitive topic. I’ve seen people become defensive and take “time-management” suggestions personally. Some come away feeling guilty and feeling like a victim. Some “blame-storm” others for their perceived weakness and shortcomings.

In response to sensitivity, we repackage “time management” into “time leadership,” “working smarter,” “resource management,” or “priority management” —billing these as a process to change old, bad habits with a new and improved twist! This only works if you have the will and perseverance to change. Like losing weight, tools and techniques are great, but what needs to change is behavior.

In Myers-Briggs Type Indicator language, this may be seen as an attempt by the Judgers (“J”) to get the Perceivers (“P”) into line! “J” teams and organizations are especially interested in getting all members on the “time management-agenda driven-checklist” way of work life.

David Cottell, author of Monday Morning Leadership, says it’s impossible to manage time. He suggests we learn to manage our attention. Maximize momentum by maximizing your attention. Everyone has time, but not everyone has the same attention.

Any form of managing one’s attention must begin with a personal vision. Your vision helps you to create your future and includes: one’s core values and beliefs (guiding principles); one’s purpose (why are you here?); a personal mission including goals, timeline and deadline. Design key initiatives and create metrics to achieve one’s mission. Without this in place, “time management” workshops miss a fundamental purpose ... to help execute one’s vision and the organization’s vision.

What get’s your attention?

What keeps your attention?

How much attention do you need for sleep?

How much attention do you need for exercise?

How much attention do you need for work to attend meetings, complete projects, and build relationships?

How much attention do you need to live your purpose?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Clean Sweep* and Me

I read Tim Russert's Big Russ and Me back in 2004. The following was a review I wrote and sent to Russert shortly after reading his book. That lead to my father being included in his next book, Wisdom of Our Fathers, page 35. Like my father, Tim Russert died way too soon.

“Ideas are important and words matter. What they know you can learn. But what you know, they will never learn. Remember: None of these guys has ever worked on a garbage truck.” Page 261

This was advice that Daniel Patrick Moynihan gave Russert when he was working for the senator. Big Russ & Me is a reminder that street sense, common sense and doing the right thing are fundamental to a successful life. Having a father as a role model of these truths not only helps to make each of us to become successful but also is the hallmark of our father’s life success.

Big Russ & Me was full of flashbacks to memories of my father and reminded me of the love and compassion he gave me. The greatest education comes from life’s experiences not from a college education. To be able to apply these lessons is to make a better life, a successful life.

Russert shares stories of growing up in South Buffalo, New York. Big Russ worked two jobs to provide for his family, setting a strong work ethic. Big Russ on details: you need for a firm handshake, remember names, walk your talk, put your garbage out with care and attention to make it easier on others, do honest work for honest pay and be on time.

The one big difference between my father and Big Russ was security and opportunity. Big Russ sought security. My father sought opportunity. I did not realize how much risk my father had taken back in the ‘60’s when he bought a small business. As he told me, “I’d rather be the head of a herring than the tail of a whale!” Working side by side with my father after getting my college degree was every bit as much of an education as my college experience.

My father made real sacrifices. He taught me how to delegate, how to forgive, how to fail forward, how to tell a good joke and how to practice humility. “He lived his life by the grace of daily obligations.” Page 74

Like Big Russ, my father always bought peanuts before going to the ballgame. I still make it a practice today. A small ritual to pay tribute to times we spent together.

Like Big Russ, my father had a very strong sense of who he was. He, too, had no interest in stepping out of character and becoming someone he wasn’t. (Page 218). I remember a favorite line my father use to say, “If you don’t like my peaches, then don’t shake my tree.”

Russert recalls other great teachers in his life including Moynihan. I too reflect on the great teachers in my life and pause to celebrate what they gave to me, especially their greatest gift - time. Some of those great teachers included: Mrs. Schreiber, my petite, tough as nails high school Latin teacher who taught me the importance of practice; Dr. Fonaro, my college anthropology professor, who taught me to continuously challenge my thinking; and Dave Wise, my high school math teacher, who taught me that learning could be fun.

There is an exercise that I do with groups that underscores this. I ask people to write down the names of last year’s richest person, the MVP of last year’s world series, the winner of the Miss America contest, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Oscar award winner and Pulitzer Prize winner. Most people are lucky if they can name two of the six. Then I ask the people to write down the name of a teacher who taught them something worthwhile, someone with whom they enjoy spending time, and someone who helped them during a difficult time, a hero, and a someone who inspired him/her. Most people get a name for each of these. The reason is obvious. People who touch our hearts are the people we not only remember but hold close.

Russert’s religious faith is an important part of his life. I, too, identify with Russert on the importance of my religious faith. Russert has met the Pope. The Pope’s motto is Totus Tuus – Latin for Totally Yours. Totus Tuss could have been my father's motto as well. I wonder what kind of world this would be if each of us dedicated our lives to being and practicing Totus Tuus?

Happy Father's Day, Dad, I miss you. I think of you everyday. A large part of who I am and where I am is due to you. Thank you for an incredible gift that I hope and pray I'm paying forward!

* Back when CB radios were the rage, my father had one and used the handle "Clean Sweep."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

To the Graduates of 2011: Bad Advice

To the graduates of 2011, as you enter the next stage of your life, the future looks grim. Our credit cards are maxed out. Unemployment is hovering near 9%. Greed still seems to rule. My advice...disregard the bad advice.

Learn to be independent...bad advice. Sorry to tell you, but each one of us is connected. Our growth, our well-being, our success is dependent on working well, playing well, interacting well with others. Our success is shared. Learn to become interdependent. Learn to be a contributor to communities. Show others you can be trusted. Be responsible. Learn it is not all about you.

Be successful so you can be fulfilled...bad advice. Make sure your definition of success is worthy and meaningful. Make sure your definition of success is not measured in acquiring but in making a difference in other people’s lives. Remember, when you die, you will not be remembered for what you acquired, the positions you held or the awards on your wall but in the difference you made in the lives of others.

Pursue happiness...bad advice. I suggest you pursue serving others. Pursue solving problems. Pursue making the world a better place for everyone. Pursue a relationship with God. The pursuit will be hard. The pursuit will be frustrating. The pursuit will leave you bloody, scarred and changed. The pursuit will give you happiness.

There are unlimited possibilities...bad advice. This is synonymous with "you can be anything you want to be." The possibilities are out there, but you need to create them, work for them, challenge them and yourself. The possibilities will not come to you. You need to go them. This requires work. It may be a struggle.

Do what you like. Go live your passion...bad advice. My father continuously reminded me, “It’s not doing what you like, it’s liking what you do.” In other words, you have to find your purpose. Your purpose may not be clear. It’s not inside you, it’s outside you. Perhaps your purpose will be found with your grandmother in a retirement home. You discover that she and her companions are not well-cared for. You find purpose in changing that. You are paying a traffic fine and while you sit in the courtroom you realize there are certain injustices. You feel called to make a difference. It’s trash day. You see a lot of waste. You are disgusted by the lack of recycling. You are called to take action. Open your eyes. Ask questions. Dabble. It may come to you early in life. It may not come until late in life. It may change at midlife. Your purpose is a big lump of clay to be worked on.

We are here for you...bad advice. Unfortunately, today’s youth are supervised, coached, looked-over, watched, guided, protected way too much. Parents step in to battle problems and issues, to serve and protect. A perceived unfair teacher gives a child a grade lower than expected, mommy intervenes. A coach disciplines a player, a parent throws a fit. A child is short on money and has overspent her allowance, daddy gives her more. We are enabling a society of dependents. Because life is not fair, it is the greatest teacher to be experienced. To get in the way of life is to create bulging tummies, mushy minds, small hearts, soft hands, fragile egos and spoiled brats. Learn not to be afraid to get your hands dirty and calloused. View blisters as badges of courage. See black-eyes as teachable moments. Learn that shame is a part of everyone’s life. Deal with your shame in a healthy manner.

As you go forth, my advice to you, apply sun screen. Grab a towel for the sweat. Bring an empty composition book and pen to take notes, write down lessons learned and journal your frustrations. Refer to this. Wear comfortable, close-toed shoes. Avoid junk food except for special occasions. Drink more water and less soda. Go to bed early, greet the sunrise. Get off the sofa and away from the “screen.” Turn off your phone, take in the silence daily. Give more. Take less. Learn to "be" rather than to "do."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying!

Bonnie Ware, a nurse who has served those who were in the last stages of life, learned a lot from her patients.

In her blog, Inspiration and Chai, she blogs, Regrets of the Dying. She found there were five common regrets.

1. There were regrets of not living their life authentically. They had lived their life according to the expectations of others. Do you know your purpose? Are you living your purpose or are you living someone else's purpose?

2. There were regrets of working so much that they missed things that really mattered like their children's sports events, school activities and accomplishments of their significant others. Most of us say what is important in our lives... God, our significant others, our children, our friends, but are we being there for them? Are you living your priorities?

3. There were regrets for not sharing feelings and speaking up. When was the last time you had a conversation with someone about love? When was the time you said, "I love you?"

When was the last time you had a conversation about your fear? When was the last time you shared your vulnerability, your hurt, your pain... your shame?

4. When people were dying they were visited by friends. There were regrets that they had not spent more time connecting with friends and nurturing relationships. We all complain there is never enough time. The greater challenge is accounting where we spend our time and focusing on what is really meaningful. Who do you need to reconnect with? Where do you need to build a bridge? With whom do you need to deepen a relationship?

5. There were regrets of not choosing to be happier. They were regrets of not laughing more and of taking life too seriously. The happiest people I know are those who are full of gratitude, those who are serving and helping others and those, those who are living a life of abundance rather than a life of scarcity.

There is a scene in the movie Shawshank Redemption where Andy and Red are sitting in the prison courtyard. Andy realizes he is not going get justice and leave prison. Red asks Andy what he is going to do. Andy tells Red it boils down to, "You either get busy living or get busy dying."

What do you choose?

See Bonnie Ware's blog at

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Different Bird of Prey

I got word in early January of this year that my cousin’s son, Nate, was to become an Eagle Scout.

I wrote and congratulated him. To be a Boy Scout is rare. There are less than 3 million Boy Scouts in the United States out of potential of 20 plus million. Out those 3 million Boy Scouts, only 2% or 60,000 will reach the rank of Eagle Scout.

Only 2 million young men have become Eagle Scouts since its beginning in 1911.

Why don’t more Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts? I think there are several reasons. The success and growth of Scouting and becoming an Eagle Scout is due to inspiring leaders who are interested in youth. It takes a major commitment to be an effective Scout leader. There maybe a shortage of such leaders.

It also takes interested and supportive parents. With two parents working in many households or single heads of households, this can be a challenge.

Second, Scouting is about the outdoors. Let’s face it, many of us spend over 90% of our time in a “built” environment. The outdoors is an uncomfortable place to many.

Third, today’s youth have so many activities to choose from including sports, music, clubs and other youth programs. Scouting competes with many other possibilities.

Fourth, being a Boy Scout let alone an Eagle Scout may be seen as “uncool.” President Gerald Ford, our 38th President and an Eagle Scout, once was publicly criticized for being “too much of a Boy Scout.” President Ford went back and reviewed the Scout Oath and Scout Law. He said, “ If these are not the goals of the people of the United States want their president to live up to, then I must draw this conclusion: Either you have the wrong man or I have the wrong country, and I don’t believe either is so.”

Fifth, to become an Eagle Scout requires a tremendous amount of perseverance and self-discipline. An Eagle Scout has 5.5 years to work through five ranks, earn 21 merit badges, serve as a leader and complete a service project. As many Scouts approach the age of 16, driving and dating become a distraction to completing the Eagle Award.

I wrote Nate, I had some bad news for him...becoming an Eagle Scout is not the end, but the beginning. I told him he’d chosen to live the Scout Oath, Scout Law and Scout Motto and be a role model to others. It is an awesome responsibility. I suggested he not take it lightly. The world needs leaders and his work in becoming an Eagle Scout is a true foundation in his leadership formation.

Eagle Scouts do not achieve this award by themselves. I asked Nate to make sure he sat down with his mother and father look them in the eye and say "THANK YOU" for their support for being there for him, for believing in him, for helping him achieve this award. Most of all, thank them for being Eagle Scout parents and loving him to be an Eagle. Nate did it, but they were in the background! A second round of thank you’s are in order to his Scoutmaster and those who helped him with merit badges, those he has lead and those who helped him with his service project.

Scouting runs deep in our family. Nate’s Great Grandfather Privette and Grandfather Privette were professional Scouters. I came into the possession of a small hand carved wooden statue of a Scout that belonged to my Grandfather, Nate’s Great Grandfather. I am not sure if my Grandfather carved it or if it a friend of his carved it. It has been sitting on my bookshelf near my reading chair. I have looked at it many times and imagined all kinds of things. I am passing it onto Nate.

The rest of my thoughts are in a short YouTube clip I created for Nate. See