Happy Labor Day 2015

From time to time events can trigger emotions and suddenly we find ourselves melancholy, yearning for yesterday, when all was better and less complex. I am not sure why looking in the rear view mirror of life makes things seem bigger and better than they really were, but still, that retrospection often brings with it a hunger and thirst for “those days.” The so called simplicity of those times, I suppose, drives us to remember differently. Our grandmother’s apple pie or our nana’s spaghetti were always better than any we might taste today. The favorite food or dish of our youth can never be prepared quite as well as it was when we were 12 or 13, even if the exact ingredients are included. The toys and tools that we played and worked with then seemed to last much longer than the “disposable goods” we use today. Whether true or not, our memories often make it so.

Not all that many years ago we lived as artisans and true craftsmen, and whether we worked with our hands to make shoes, print the news of the day, bake, build, or shoe a horse, we often sold our own wares from our own shops and took exceptional pride in what we did.  The doctors and attorneys of that day truly did “hang a shingle” near the front door emblazoned with their name, announcing to all that they were open for business, often providing their expertise and care for generations. Our names and reputations, whether stamped on our crafts or not, meant as much, if not more, to us as the “dollar” that we could demand for our efforts and labor.

Now, while many of us may still work to a certain extent with our hands, we sell our wares, and all too often our souls, to the highest bidder. Whether as an athlete or an inventor, many today still take pride in his or her accomplishment but frequently only to the extent that they can be paid more and more, and always more than the next guy. The entrepreneurial spirit has always been part of what made this country and many world communities what they are today. Someone with an idea or a creative concept, or in pursuit of a dream, could build a business or provide not only a much needed product or service but also employment for other laborers and builders. Much of that has changed today. While the same spirit of creativity may exist, the end game is often to build something as quickly as possible, issue an IPO, maybe completely sell their creation, strike it rich, retire or move on to another venture only to “rinse and repeat.” In our social media society and technological times, many of us seek out opportunities to, if not make a bundle of money quickly, at least find that Warholian 15 minutes of fame. We are often measured today not so much by who we are, but by how many Facebook “Friends” or “Likes” or Twitter followers we have, how many views our YouTube videos generate, no matter how mindless they are, or how many hits our websites produce. Perhaps nowhere is that more prevalent than in the politics of the day. The important matters of our time are reduced to sound bites and poured out into the ether for all to immediately see and never to be retracted. How sad it is that too many aim for the headlines rather than the impact on the lives of real people that their words or actions may actually have.

Now please do not misunderstand. I am a capitalist at heart and would wish all, myself included, could make more than a comfortable living to provide for and support their families, communities, or favorite charities. But in truth, the real capitalistic economy was controlled by Main street owners not Wall Street profiteers or the government. In today’s economy, Big Business and Big Government are strange bed fellows indeed. I am not suggesting that we roll back the clock and live in the past even if we could. Modern society has brought us wonderful things, including medical discoveries and cures that not only help us live longer but also enjoy a better life. The vast technological advances have helped many to control their work more rather that have their work control their lives. Because of these advances, many can now work from their homes and therefore choose where to live, rather than to have to live where they work, giving them far more family time. More time at home for many and less time navigating the asphalt jungle in between.

But I would wish for a society that was similar in ways to those times. For a time where the fruits of our labor was more in our control and accessible to us more easily, and we connected to the world around us. In the world today, one where the demands of the lives that we choose often require us to be constantly on the move, we rarely live any one place long enough to connect to our neighbors and communities. In a world where we are living online more and more, we shop and live there and never get to meet and know the owners and producers of the goods that we purchase. In a time where we find ourselves more and more in fear for our safety, we build bigger walls and gates around us, keep our curtains and blinds closed most of the time, and look at a stranger walking down our streets with suspicion rather than with welcome.

Now I recognize that I am generalizing a bit. Communities still exist where this level of sociality is lived day in and day out. But the trend is unmistakable. So on Labor Day 2015 let us be thankful for the blessing of work and the fruits of our labor. Let us look more and more for opportunities to buy from local artisans and owners. While thankful for the ease of life that technology has provided, let us find excuses to work with our hands. Let’s go plant a garden, even if only on a patio or balcony. Let each of us look for something to build or repair. Let us pull back the kitchen curtains more and get to know our neighbors better, say “hello” to a stranger, and be truly thankful for those whose labor blesses and enhances our lives.

Happy Labor Day!

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On The Road to Fredville

I just finished Fred 2.0, New Ideas On How To Keep Delivering Extraordinary Results by Mark Sandborn. Like it’s prequel, The Fred Factor, is a great read and packs a powerful message in it’s 170+ pages. I read Fred 2.0 as part of The 12 Books Group, a great online, author driven book group. If you were not one of the fortunate ones to read The Fred Factor when it came out a number of years ago, I would strongly encourage anyone who wants to be better at what they do, NO MATTER WHAT IT IS, to get and read them both. Both Fred books can be summed up by a quote in the last few pages of Mark Sanborn’s Fred 2.0. “Life isn’t always easy. But some things in life are simple – like taking care of each other. The essence of the Fred principle is exactly that: individuals who choose to be of service to another.” Being a Fred, in whatever you do, can be ever so simple and yet difficult at the same time if we don’t pay attention. Thanks to Mark Sanborn, we have a road map that will guide us to that end if we desire. I say it is far better to be a ‘Fred’ than a ‘Derf.’ But you have to read Fred 2.0 to understand the distinction.

The original Fred Factor is the story of the author’s mailman, Fred Shea, and how he took a very ordinary and routine job – delivering the mail – and performed it in an extraordinary way. Filled with examples of someone going far beyond the requirements of the job (or even life), the original Fred made a mark in a world of performance far too often unremarkable. Building on “The Four Basic Fred Principles” (Everyone makes a difference, it is all built on relationship, you can add value to everything, you can reinvent yourself continually) Fred 2.0 picks up where it left off and shares examples of people, organizations, and even government entities (not the typical Fred personified) taking and applying the Fred principles to make not just a difference in their work and life but even the world. The road map to a Fred-like life is found especially at the conclusion of most chapters where probing questions, action steps, challenges, and observations wrap up the section’s main points and conclusions. If a reader is sincerely interested in making a change, and then making a difference, in what they do, the way to such change is clearly outlined here.

A fun read for sure, but more importantly, Fred 2.0 is a very instructional book on how we can make the mundane, exceptional and turn the commonplace into the outstanding.

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Becoming Fearless through Creation

Being the Steve Chandler fan that I have become, I have just finished another of his books, Fearless: Creating the Courage to Change the Things You Can. This is another great Steve Chandler power read. His short story style chapters may appear soft enough but they are anything but. His principled message carry’s over from other of his works, that success is there for each of us that “want” it because, “knowledge of how to succeed is never what’s missing…What’s missing is the want to?” In fact, he has an audio program that I love called “The How To vs The Want To” which clearly lays out that when we say that we desire something but don’t “know how” to get it that we are putting our emphasis in the wrong place. In the era of Google and smart phones in so many pockets or purses the “how to” is always at our finger tips. It is the deep desire, purpose or “want to” that will get us to that place we say we seek. Fear freezes us into a life of mediocrity and action helps us break out. If we feel paralyzed by fear then the way through is action and “anyone…even I…can take action…And how do I get myself to take action? By taking it. Doing it! Doing it causes the doing of it.” The very action compelled by our “want to” leads to our overcoming the need to know “how to.”

Steve helps us also see that this is far more than the “Law of Attraction” at work as well. While he says that he likes to pull out the DVD of ‘The Secret’ and watch it occasionally, since it helps him to find the neutral place when he seems out of balance, or in his words, “it takes me up the ladder and over fear.” But he says that it is “only a first step. Step one is to get the picture.” Once we have a picture of what we want we must go to work for it is in the action that we find the pure genius of success and inspiration. While many of us have seen this before, his timely reminder of the similarity, and yet also the stark difference, between ‘creating’ and ‘reacting’ (same 8 letters) can help us see his point. He teaches the reader that once we have the picture then we have to get “in the game” or start to create. Or, again in his words, we “can’t build a birdhouse in (y)our back yard by picturing it….You wouldn’t want it to be that simple. Because you would lose the opportunity to participate in its creation.” To simply sit on the sidelines is not enough since “it’s the watchers who go insane, not the players. This is true in all life: Fans riot; players are fine.” So put down the remote and popcorn, and pick up the play book and glove and get in the game. Especially when the voice of fear peeks its ugly head up and stares at you. It’s conquering is in your action.

Some last words from the author; “Fearless means you’re not just watching. Not just imagining. Not just picturing and attracting. But you are actually doing things. You’re in the game. Fearless means that you yourself are building the birdhouse.”

So ‘Google’ if you must, the plans for your “birdhouse”, whatever it may be, but then begin each morning with the picture in mind to create the masterpiece of your choosing then pick up the brush and start painting. My focus has sharpened through the action called creation.

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Laser Surgery For The Mind

I have just finished Steve Chandler’s classic book, Reinventing Yourself, and what a powerful read. If there is ANYPLACE in your life when you feel stuck or dissatisfied, then Steve Chandler can help you to a new place. If life is good but you would like it to be better, this book can take you there too. If you feel the world crushing in around you, “Reinventing Yourself” can help you build support walls and dig out. If you are looking for a “feel good” read though, then this won’t help. Steve Chandler, in another of the great books that he has either authored or co-authored, can, if you wish, perform laser surgery on your mental and emotional eyes and help you see life as an “owner” or “victor” and not a “victim.” It is so interesting that the words ‘victim’ and ‘victor’ are spelled so similarly but their meanings so different.

The greatest differences often exist in our lives depending from which perspective we choose to see, and it is our choice, and from which paradigm we elect to exercise our judgments and decisions. Dr Dennis Deaton has done pioneering work in the field of ‘visioneering’ and “owner” versus “victim” studies and writings. Steve Chandler, a student of Dr Deaton, has taken these studies to new heights. Too many of us live, far too often, in a world of fear and self-pity. Steve Chandler’s book can help you move from fear to action (where all good work is done) and from self-pity to confidence. A quote early in the book sets the tone for what is in store. He writes, “Owners of the spirit are beautiful losers. They risk all. They are losers because they have lost all fear of embarrassment. They have lost all inhibition. They have lost all concern for what other people might think.” The far contrast of that is where too many of us live our lives. We are losers in many ways, because we have lost the ability to act, almost always out of fear, fear of what others think, and even fear of success. We don’t feel like doing something so we wait for the moment when the “feel like” will arrive, not understanding that action will create that feeling. We can’t figure out what do do with our lives, so we wait to discover that great “purpose” for why we are on the earth, missing the point that the discovery of purpose lies in action, in doing what needs to be done and not just what we think that we want to do. Inspiration comes as we act,or after we act, or as I like to say, “Inspiration; The other side of action.” Even our language betrays us as we struggle in the land of “can’t and should” rather than prospering in the land of “can and do.”

So “reader beware.” If you are happy where you are, wherever that may be, then don’t get and read this book. But if there is even a small part of your life that you feel needs to change, then you must read “Reinventing Yourself” by Steve Chandler. But don’t be surprised if one morning as you read that you find yourself emotionally and mentally stripped bare, the cocoon of comfort, even miserable comfort, removed waiting for the beauty of the butterfly to emerge. It can happen. If you desire it to happen to you then get his book and read it.

A profound thanks to @stevechandler and @drdennisdeaton for their great work in this area of personal growth and development and mind management.

Posted in Life Purpose and Mission | Leave a comment

Start With Why

I am reading a book now by Simon Sinek called, Start With Why and I am very intrigued by what seems to me to be so patently obvious yet so unpracticed. I am reading this as part of the ’12 Books’ group, “the biggest business book group and the only author-led book group in the world.” It is a great group and if you love to read then I would encourage you to check it out. We read a book a month and then engage in online discussions before having the opportunity at the end of the month to engage in an online discussion with the author. I have read some incredible books so far this year and met some amazing authors in the process. The online discussion for this month’s book lead some to discuss the small versus large company focus on the why’s of what they do and I added the following to the chat this morning. It will make more sense if you have read the book or understand it premise, so get it and read it. 

“I am intrigued by what seems to me to be so obvious in what I have read so far. I have always loved the quote attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how” and I can see the parallel in what I am reading. I think that the ‘why’ is, in some ways, even more important in the small business world. I don’t think that I know of any successful entrepreneurs who did not first start with the ‘why’ and then figured out the ‘how’ and the ‘what.’ Who wakes up one morning and says, “I want to work 18 hour days, 7 days a week, and maybe even take on a fair amount of personal debt before I make any money.” Yet, many will awake to a strong ‘why’ whether it is to respond to a social or community need, a family crisis, or a simple song of the heart and then do all of the other things mentioned above, the ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’, to achieve their ‘why.’ Where they sometimes struggle is when, over time and even unconsciously, the original ‘why’ is subordinated to the ‘what’ or the ‘how’ and they lose their way. Though the ‘why’ is not enough either. Some can elucidate a ‘why’ but they are unable to get the ‘how’ and ‘what’ to line up. Anyway, very fascinating reading. I think that I especially love the premise of starting with why because early in my sales career I had a trainer who called me to a three year old because I asked too many ‘why’ questions. I learned to quit asking her questions though I feel more vindicated now as I read this work. Thank you @simonsinek.”

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Punch Fear In The Face

I love to read and recently learned of a new book by Jon Acuff, an author whose work I have read and enjoyed before. The title “Start: Punch Fear in the Face” made we want to get it and read it all the sooner. His work is humorous and yet it finds its mark in our real life stories. It was toward the end of the book, after he wrote about “Starting” perhaps a hundred times (maybe an exaggeration), in his ‘What Now?’ chapter that he hit me over the head with the title and first sentence. He wrote, “Action always beats intention. Anyone can dream. It’s the doing that is such a hassle” that I knew that I needed to start writing again. So I have reviewed the book and will include it below. Now, if you find your life average and uninspired, no matter what you do, because it is not about having a fancy title but rather about living with passion and purpose, then get this book and read it and mark it up and join me and others as we “Punch Fear In The Face.”

My review…

The subtitle of this book caught my attention more than the actual title. Who does not want to “Punch Fear in the Face” if they are being really honest about themselves? I know that I certainly do! However, the author, Jon Acuff, argues that wherever you find yourselves in life today, if “average” is what you are and being “average” is not where you want to be, then it is never too late to “Start” to become “awesome.” What happens on each page of the book is an outline of action that will walk you through the five stages that we all historically have had to pass on the road from average to awesome. The stages, Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting and Guiding, were originally tide to a chronological age, but the book illustrates how they are stages we can work through no matter our current age or station in life. Shortcuts are not allowed and action always trumps intention, but do not doubt your ability to transcend an average life, if you wish, and become truly awesome. But you must “Start” or remain forever average. A great book for sure and the author liberally interjects humor and personal experience to make a very good read, a very enjoyable one as well.

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Starting Today

I had reserved comments about the horrible event in Connecticut on Friday until I received an email from a friend yesterday morning, and in reading it I knew what at least I could do or say. My response to my friend follows….

“As I have gone to Facebook and a few other social media sites it is interesting the outpouring of comments. While the event yesterday is tragic in proportions unimaginable for those not involved directly it also reminds me that all of the comments, the many expressions of outrage, and the plenteous pontifications by those in so called authority, nothing will change unless we as individuals first change. Government may inflict itself more upon us, society will certainly condemn those who enact such evils, and we can smugly express our personal outrage, but unless “we” – you and I and our neighbors and beyond – change, we will continue the ever escalating slide toward a place that I certainly don’t wish to be. So today I am going to change – myself. However I will need others – my friends and family especially – to hold me accountable.

  • Starting today I will be a more kind and patient husband, father, brother and friend.
  • Starting today I will not let suffering that I can change go unrelieved.
  • Starting today I will not let evil (yes there is evil in the world) that I can influence to good go unattended.
  • Starting today I will be “my brothers keeper” and recognize my brother as the stranger on the street who may benefit by my smile and greeting.
  • Starting today I will be more deliberate, observant and present in my interactions with my co-workers and not be so caught up in the routine of a daily schedule that a needed but unexpressed call for help is not seen, observed and given it’s due attention.
  • Staring today I will be more loving and “love my neighbor as myself” and know that if I cannot love 100, to paraphrase Mother Teresa’s quote about feeding one if you cannot feed 100, I will at least love the one who is my neighbor. Of course, someone once asked, “who is my neighbor” and a great sermon followed.

I cannot change what happened yesterday but I can change what happens today, at least in my range of influence, and know that if enough of us demand this of ourselves, and don’t look for someone else to fix this, what a tidal wave of good must follow.

At least that is my plan but I will need the help of others to keep me accountable.”

Posted in Be an Instrument for Change, Random Acts... | Leave a comment