Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I have a secret

I have a secret that I've kept inside for a while.  I'm worried to tell you my secret, because if I spill the beans, your view of me would change.  It may change drastically. 

My secret is an opinion on something, an opinion that if revealed would be like your best friend revealing to you that your girlfriend is ugly, is no good for you, and that you should dump her on her butt.

My secret:
I think following sports is a waste of time. 

Before you kick me in the nuts, let me explain myself.
I know this goes against society, as people in the USA spend billions on direct TV, sport packages, season tickets, jerseys, and spend endless hours watching ESPN, listening to sports talk radio and reading only the sports section in the paper.
Don't get me wrong, sports are great for those who are playing them and I encourage everyone to play their favorite sport for as long as they possibly can and push themselves to achieve all they can.

The benefits of sports are unmatched.  There have been several studies that have proven the advantages sports can have on high school students' self-esteem, GPA and well being.  Its also been well documented that many life lessons can be learned through athletics.  I myself am passionate about playing and improving my game, which I think is good and healthy.

Being passionate about playing sports is one thing, but being passionate about following sports is completely different.

In a study performed in the psychology department at the University of Utah, professors discovered that depending on the outcome of a sporting event, a man's testosterone level will either go up or down depending on if the team they are following wins or loses.  Obviously testosterone levels can greatly affect a man's mood.  If the guy's team loses, they feel a little less manly.  But if the team they are following wins, they feel stronger, are more confident, and are in a better mood.

My question:  Why follow something where you have no control in the outcome of the game and subsequently your frame of mind?  I have friends who tell me they don't like to think about the Vikings 1998 NFC championship game loss to the Falcons, because it depresses them.  Losing a friend is depressing, but a football game (that took place 12 years ago), where they had no control in the outcome is not depressing!  Give me a break!

This isn't the main reason why I think following sports is a waste of time.  The main reason: There are SO many better things you could be doing with your life.

You could:
-Figure out what you are passionate about and find a way to make money off of your passion.
-Go play football with your son.
-Take the light rail into downtown with your family.
-Volunteer to help in your town or to mentor a kid.
-Talk to your spouse or even go on a date
-Read a book or two
-Learn a new language
-Give your parents a call on the phone

None of these suggestions above are perfect.  But they are better than sitting in front of the TV on a glorious Sunday afternoon in the fall.

I hope I don't sound like a hypocrite, because I do occasionally listen to the Twins on the radio, or go to a Gopher basketball game.  I admit, I admire what some of these athletes can do and enjoy watching that, but no longer will a win or loss determine how I feel for the rest of the day, week, or the next 12 years.

Just like a good friend tells you the truth even though it hurts, let me tell you this:  The professional sports you follow are a waste of time - you should dump them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Walmart Test

Have you ever walked down the aisles of Walmart (or any public place) and spotted someone you'd like to avoid?   Maybe that person is someone you don't get along with, or worse, someone who has treated you badly.  When confronted with this scenario what are you likely to do?

Do you-
A) Pretend that you don't see them and walk down another aisle.
B) Quickly jump into a clothes rack.
C) If you are with your kids, pinch one of them hard, causing them to cry really loud and you to turn into the consoling parent - assuring no conversation with anyone will happen.
D) Use your room clearing fart reflex.
E) Pleasantly say hello, and then under your breath curse the person and their family - "Oh I'm sorry, no I said, I hope you and your family go do well, not to hell!  Silly you!" 
F) Do you greet this person with a genuine smile and a sincere "How are you?  It's good to see you!"
The above is what I call "The Walmart Test" Its a test to see what your relationship with others is like.
Unfortunately I have probably used answer A far too much in my life.

Not too long ago I had a conflict with a person.  I don't like conflict, but this one blew up in my face.  A casual conversation went from pleasant to ugly in about 2.3 seconds.  I left the room with steam coming out of my ears, and could not shake the anger off for a couple of days.  If I ran into this person at Walmart, I'd be using answer A with him.

Funny thing is, two weeks before that incident, the pastor at our church (Mike Golay - he's pretty much awesome) gave a great sermon about being a Peacemaker.  He talked about the relationships that we have with others and if there is conflict with someone else you will not have peace until it is resolved.

So what do you do?

Take action, humble yourself, and apologize.   

Even if you are 95% right, be the bigger person and apologize.  I knew what I had to do.
It took me two weeks to get up the courage to face this person and apologize even though I felt I was 99% right.  My mind played out every scenario that could happen, and I must admit, I feared that it might not go well. 

But I did it anyway. 

Here's how it all went down.
I went into a room where I knew he would be and the first words that came out of my mouth were, "I'm here to apologize, I didn't do what I was supposed to do." And the very next thing he said was, "Oh you have nothing to apologize for, everything has turned out fine, you know next time I should probably be on the ball a little earlier".  We smiled, shook hands and went back to our work.  No more conflict in our interactions.

It was a thing of beauty!  And boy did I feel better after that conversation.

I realize that this conversation could have gone awry.  Does every peacemaking conversation turn out okay?  I can't guarantee that.  Some relationships may never heal.  But I can tell you this, it's worth a try.  Especially if the conflict is with a loved one. 

Thanks for reading!  We'll see you at Walmart!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

When in a slump

This post is coming out two days later than usual.  I'm in what baseball players call a slump.  I felt like I haven't had a hit in while.

During the last week I have done the following:
-Forgot a meeting
-Missed a deadline
-Spent too much time online
-Watched depressing television (the evening news)
-Swallowed myself in pity
-Stopped drinking from good books and instead been drinking an extra glass of wine
-Repeated in my head, "maybe I'm not smart enough for this job"

Why is this downward spiral happening?  Maybe its because last week I had not one, but two instances where people told me they don't like the work I'm doing.  Maybe I'm using those negative people as a scapegoat for my slump.  Actually it's my own fault.  I shutdown my ability to do work that matters.

Steven Pressfield call this shutdown the "resistance."  The resistance is the little voice in your head that keeps your head down, and encourages you to follow instructions.  The resistance lives in fear and doesn't hesitate to shut us down at the first sign of possible derision or the first hint of conceivable putdowns. 

I'm finding that your mind is terribly powerful, more powerful than I imagined.  Your mind controls where you go.  Are you going to go up?  Or down?

So how do we overcome our slump?
  1. Don't feed the resistance.  This means control your thoughts.  If you think you're going to fail, you have a good chance of being a prophet.  Up above I wrote that I repeatedly thought,  "Maybe I'm not good enough to do my job".  You are what you think about. 
  2. Acknowledge the resistance - recognize that its there, and then we walk to the podium and do the work.  We acknowledge the resistance, so that we can ignore it.
  3. Write a blog post about overcoming a slump (seems to be working)
  4. Don't watch the evening news - (When is the last time you felt uplifted by the news?)
  5. Read good books that cause you to grow professionally and personally.
  6. Surround yourself by people that encourage you.  
Have any other good ideas?  I'd like to hear them.  Post your ideas in the comments section.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010


    The following is a true story that happened to my wife Autumn a week ago. I find it inspiring. I hope you do to.

    Autumn works as a waitress at the Shakopee Applebee’s. As a waitress, you meet all kinds of people. Most customers are forgotten once they walk out the door. A few are memorable for reasons you’d like to forget, but some customers can touch your heart. On a busy Saturday night, Autumn waited on a thin man who wore a graying beard and a gentle smile.

    Towards the end of the meal, Autumn asked if the man had saved any room for dessert, the man replied, “Oh I don’t need dessert, I make the best cheesecakes and I have some waiting for me at home.”

    “Really!? Said Autumn, “I love cheesecake. I’d like to taste some of your work!”

    “When is your next shift? Because I will to stop by and give you one of my famous cheesecakes.”

    Not knowing this man, Autumn felt a little uneasy, but since she wasn’t giving him her home address she accepted his generous offer and told him she worked Tuesday at 5:30. And then not giving it another thought, forgot about the man, figuring that she wouldn’t see him again.

    But then at 5:30 on Tuesday, while walking into work she saw the kind man in the parking lot – with the most delicious looking cheesecake she had ever seen. The cheesecake looked like a picture right out of a Martha Stewart magazine, with perfect graham cracker crust, and smooth creamy cheesecake. Along with the cheesecake were several containers of blueberries, cherries, and his homemade caramel sauce so the cute waitress could pick her favorite topping.

    “Do you have a few minutes? “ The man said.

    “Sure, I’m a couple of minutes early for work– Let’s go in and sit down.” Autumn said, her mouth watering over the cheesecake.

    “My name is Dave, I bake about 100 cheesecakes a year and give them away to different people. Many times people are skeptical with me, why would this guy give me a free cake, is it poisioned? What’s the catch?

    He continued, “You see, a couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and wasn’t’ given very long to live. I’m living on borrowed time now and making the most of it. I don’t have a family, or much money, but I love to see people smile and my cheesecake seems to do the trick. Like I said, I make the best cheesecake.”

    Autumn told me this story, and immediately I wanted to share it with everyone I know, because Dave is giving away his “art”. He knows that when you have a gift, when you share that gift with others you undoubtedly make a difference in their life.

    And that feels good.

    Later on in the week, I felt compelled to share Dave’s story with the faculty and staff at Le Sueur-Henderson schools. You see at LSH we are launching a new initiative. We want the staff and teachers to work on their strengths, on their art, so they can be better teachers and ultimately we have students who discover their strengths so they can achieve more than ever before.

    As part of a presentation I told Dave’s story in the high school auditorium Monday morning. His story is an example of sharing your art, and the joy it can bring to others, I hoped Dave’s story would inspire our schools to do great work.

    I had asked Dave if he would share his art with all of the faculty and staff. He agreed. At the conclusion of the presentation each teacher, administrator, and secretary had a piece of Dave’s cheesecake.

    Dave spent all weekend baking cheesecakes and topping. This may not seem like a big deal, but we found out after picking up the cheesecakes from him that he did so while feeling very weak and ill. He may not have very long to live.

    He did this for complete strangers. Because, as Dave said, “My work is not yet done.”

    Don’t’ wait to share your art. Go, make something happen! 

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    I need to get away from all this vacation!

    Spent the memorial weekend on sky blue waters, caught numerous fish, ate like a king, rested tired muscles, and loved on my wife and kids. It was a joy! Rest is necessary and good for the soul.

    Yet, I have projects at work that I'm itching to get back to. I love my job. Can't wait to start work in the morning.

    Doing work that you love, is much better than a love of work. Working on things you love, is where the passion is - where you go from good to great and where you start to make a difference. What's really sad, is working for the weekend.

    I hope you find yourself saying more of, "I made a difference today and it was awesome!" and less of, "TGIF".