Sunday, May 2, 2010

QUOTE: When inspiration lights your vision and courage precedes relentless, unmitigated and continuing action; when you embody this and present this day in and day out, the sheer force of it can eventually change the world. -- EH

Here's a short and inspiring clip on leadership that I think you'll like.

QUOTE: Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant, there is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks. -- Johann Gottfried Von Herder

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Power of the Mind

If you can unravel this, who knows, maybe you'll be inspired to unscramble a few other of life's mysteries.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg.
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid aoccdrnig to rscheearch at
Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a
wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be
in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed
it wouthit a porbelm Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey
lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
QUOTE: At my age I do what Mark Twain did. I get my daily paper, look at the obituaries page and if I'm not there I carry on as usual. -- Partick Moore

Inspire Resolve

Goethe said, "He who has a firm will molds the world to himself."

I have seen again and again that the one who stands firm most often accomplishes the task they set out to achieve. One of the reasons I enjoy watching The Dog Whisperer, with Ceasar Millan, is that Ceasar never backs down. Even these big dogs with brains a quarter the size of ours figure out rather quickly that Ceasar will stand firm until he trains these dogs to do what he sets out to do.

I have seen vicious German Sheppard’s back themselves into a corner with nothing but a firm, assertive stance by Ceasar that the dogs recognized quickly as strength. Out of control Bull Mastiff’s usually in attack mode learn fast that they better not mess with Ceasar. He doesn’t use brute force either. Sometimes he will grab a dog and press it down to the ground, but this is the exception, not the rule. Ceasar embodies resolve.

Probably the best example of resolve for me occurred when I was ten or eleven years old and had gotten myself into some trouble at an amusement park. I had ignored a sign that said “DO NOT TOUCH THE GRASS” on a really slow and boring ride that glided past big bears and little raccoons playing banjo’s and singing really awful songs. When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I reached out to touch the grass. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately, the grass was fake, which I at the time thought was as lame as the ride.

Well, when the ride was supposed to come to a stop in front of the gate, the ride carrying me and my friend’s father, who weighed over 350 pounds, just kept on going. It eventually stopped about 50 yards away and the attendant unhooking the bar across other’s laps, ignored us. Eventually we managed to wiggle out of the ride and escape over the fence and back to my friend and his mother.

On our way to the next ride, though, we realized that we were being tracked down by two huge guys from security along with a manager and his assistant who soon found my friend’s parents sitting on a park bench. The manager began harassing my friend’s parents, saying that I had vandalized their ride. He told them to get out of the park.

Fortunately for me, Mr. and Mrs. Foort would have nothing of it. In fact, I will never forget the firm resolve Mrs. Foort showed that day when she, a 300 pound women, linked her arm around her husband’s and, with their 650 plus combined pounds set deeply in the bench, she locked her eyes on the manager's and said in a calm, firm and unforgettable tone of total resolve, “And who, prey tell, is going to move us?”

No one did and we remained at the park the rest of the day.

So next time you find something important that you must accomplish, be calm, be assertive and be firm in your words and action. Remember the Foorts. Don’t back down. Stand strong and see what happens. Circumstances you thought were hopeless might prove manageable. Remember, strong-willed people change the world.

10 Great Things to Inspire You

Have you realized yet that there are at least ten great things waiting out there today for you to discover and appreciate? In fact, if you just reflected on it for a moment, you could probably come up with ten right now.

For example, as I write this, it is 72 degrees with a warm breeze blowing, plenty of sunshine and the smell of freshly cut grass wafting though my backyard. I am off today with the cool, tapping sound of the keyboard making music as I write. My dogs are serenely sleeping on their pillows and my day is unencumbered with “have to’s.” I can work on my blog! I can go on a bike ride. I can call a friend. In other words, life is good. There is plenty to be grateful for and as the day goes on, I will be sure and count at least ten great things about being alive and living my life today. Can you?

If you’re having a bit of trouble coming up with ten great things and you need a bit of inspiration, then you may want to visit Neil Pasrichs’s site 1000 Awesome Things. Neil writes with a lift to his prose and he writes about things that will lift your spirit. What are some of his ideas? How about when a baby falls asleep on you, or dancing when you're home alone, or laughing so hard you start crying. If you like those, he's got 997 more.

So when you feel a little down, think of things that lift your spirit, that inspire you to enjoy life more, that help you realize how lucky you are to be alive. I bet you're feeling better already.
(Photo from

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Eliminating Poverty

One day when Muhammad Yunas visited Jobra, a small India village, he watched Sufia Begum, a 21-year-old villager craft a beautiful bamboo stool. She was poor, uneducated and had calloused fingers. He could not have guessed that seeing her would set in motion a cascade of events that would eventually change his life and the life of literally millions of people like Sufia who were entrenched in poverty.

Yunas asked Begum how much she earned. She told him that she borrowed 9 cents from the middle man and that after he collected his profit, she earned 2 cents a stool.

“My God,” Yunas thought, “for 9 cents she has become a slave.” Despite the beauty of her work, the fine craftsmanship, and the time she put into it, she had nothing to show for her work but calloused fingers and low esteem.

The next day Yunas and his students surveyed 43 villagers and discovered that they owed a grand sum of $27. Yunas said he could not take it anymore. He lifted the money before the villagers and told them they could liberate themselves. They could buy their own materials, cut out the middle man and pay him back whenever they could afford to. They all did and that moment launched a business concept that would lead Yunas, years later, to a Nobel prize.

Yunas founded the Grameen Bank and has since lent nearly $6 billion to 6 million Bangladeshis. Known as microcredit financing, small investors worldwide lend small sums of money to help a poor villager buy a goat whose milk they can sell to help sustain themselves and their families or to purchase a flock of hens whose eggs bring in money.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate poverty.

The Nobel Prize Committee said, "Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. " Microcredit helps.

This is how it works. The bank gives out small loans averaging around $200. Recipients are grouped together with four others and first two loans are handed out. Once a loan is repaid another in the group receives their loan. This encourages responsibility and 99% of the loans are repaid. This concept has spread and spurned development well beyond Bangladesh. In fact, the results have been staggering.

One man made the decisive difference when, in a moment of compassion, he shared his meager resources and helped changed the life course not only of himself, but also a group of struggling strangers. I wonder what moment of compassion lies ahead for us and whether we will have the wherewithal to follow through. I'm glad Muhammad Yunas did and so are millions of others whose lives and dignity have been restored through his efforts.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I have been thinking lately about genius, the kind that one in a million posses. How do we discover and cultivate that? Can we? Or is it strictly inherited?

Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, suggests that it takes a minimum of 10,000 practice hours to rise to the elite level. On the other hand, you have autistic savants who may discover their genius in a day. I am fascinated with both camps, the plodders who perfect their skill over time, and the uninitiated who unveil their talent in an instant. One group shows most of us how it’s done, while the other just amazes us in drop-jaw fashion.

German researchers back Gladwell's view. They studied violin players for decades and discovered that the elite practiced for more than 10,000 hours. The very fine but not quite elite accumulated, on average, around 4,000 hours during the same time frame. In other words, the finest players inevitably practiced way more than everyone else. Hard work consistently won the day.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen, two programmers who's skills are legendary, had the good fortune of going to a private school that offered computer programming way before just about anyone else. They also both lived near a university and practiced programming there, sometimes waking up at 3 in the morning and sneaking out of the house to program for several hours. By the time they dropped out of college, they, like the elite violin players, had put in their 10,000 hours.

These plodders seem to possess more than anything else the passion and drive to practice, practice, practice until they develop extraordinary skills. These aren’t folks who just show up half-heartedly or who burn both ends of the candle before quickly burning out. This group works until their genius is crafted and showcased. In fact, this group’s genius is their ability to generate consistent effort over a long time period that, ultimately, generates amazing results. Their genius, in other words, lies within and drives them to ultimately produce something extraordinary.

The second group, in contrast, has their genius, it seems, bestowed upon them. At four years old, the blind and autistic Derek Paravicini heard a piano and lunged toward it, and after he shoved the little girl from the stool who had been plucking out a sweet melody, he began hitting the keys with his fists, fingers, elbows, feet, forehead and nose. Without so much as a lesson, this impaired toddler banged out a remarkable version of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Years later, this young man, who cannot count to ten or even tie his shoe, can remember every piece of music he has ever heard, and can play it perfectly, uniquely and with great feeling.

Like Derek Paravicini, Daniel Tammet’s gift came to him and revealed itself when he was four. Daniel discovered numbers and his ability to calculate almost anything mathematical. He says he sees sparks going off in his head every time he sees a huge calculation and as the sparks take shape and crystallize he sees the solution. Ask him what 37 x 37 x 37 x 37 is and he will tell you. He sees pi as a landscape of shapes that mesmerize and inspire him. He loves it so much he learned and recited, without a single errot, the first 22,500 digits.

These folks are truly gifted. Their gift comes, not from choice and effort, but from something that has chosen them. This genius suggests to the rest of us that there may be something amazing within us, something innate, something inexplicable. Like Harry Potter who took a hit from Voldemort and survived, these geniuses cannot explain why or how they do what they do. It just comes to them. It just is. These remarkable folks are unwitting recipients who bear their gift as testaments to nature’s power and favoritism. Maybe not so ironically, these folks are often bestowed with an equal measure of disability. Nature seems to announce, in these cases, that one must pay for the given gift, not in dollars but in physical and mental misfortune. Balance achieved.

Whichever way genius appears, whether over time with much effort or instantly like a lightening strike, I, for one, am inspired by its mark. I appreciate its wonder and relish its product. Now, if only we can learn to discover and produce that genius within each of us, our world would be a wonderful world indeed.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How to Find Happiness

What if our true nature, our most authentic self, were blissfully happy? What if all those times we've been upset, down or agitated were just the result of mental constructs that we invented and accepted as real?

(photo by D. Sharon Pruitt)

And furthermore, what if we could adjust our thinking so that when we felt tense or upset we could change our story so that we felt really good again? This is what Dr. Srikumar Rao suggests in his new book, Are You Ready to Succeed?

It sounds like this could be a fun game. Think about it. Every time life throws you a curve, you swing in a more effective way. By effective, I mean in a way that creates less irritation and more joy. Your boss tells you he needs you to fly out to the West coast tomorrow and ease a crises. Your mind leaps into a frenzy of thoughts. You think about the preparation you’ll need to do while packing a tight suitcase all evening. You think about the cramped airplane, the lonely hotel, and, of course, the tension you’re likely to face when you confront the crises. You worry you will fail.

So what might Dr. Rao suggest?

He will probably tell you to come up with an alternate reality--one that you can believe. He’s not big into positive thinking, in part, because, he says, if you do not believe the platitudes you are telling yourself, then you are wasting your time saying them. In other words, he wouldn’t suggest you tell yourself that the trip will be a blast and that you will come back feeling energized because all that would be too unbelievable to you. What he might suggest, instead, is that you think about the trip as a challenge. Though it may not excite you, it could be a good chance to learn something new about how to better serve a customer. This, in turn, could be good for your career. If you begin to feel better as you apply the new thinking to the situation, then you, he says, are on your way to finding more peace and lasting happiness.

Martin Seligman, researcher and author on finding happiness suggests, ironically, that happiness comes not from inventing alternate stories as much as from minimizing the damage of a perceived negative event. Happy, well-adjusted people seem to have a knack for taking a universally stressful event and minimizing it. How do they specifically do that? According to Seligman, in one of three ways.

1. Happy people do not take whatever happens personally. They do not blame themselves. Stuff happens to all of us. Accidents happen. So do mistakes and events sometimes spiral out of our control. The pessimist says, “It’s my fault.” Not the optimist.

2. Happy people do not make an event pervasive. It does not have to effect every area of an optimist’s life. The spouse may leave or the stock market plunge. So what, they think. This is just one small facet of an otherwise happy life. The event is minimized. The pessimist, on the other hand, dwells on the event much more and thinks about it effecting every part of their life.

3. The optimist realizes the negative event is not permanent. It will all be over one day. Or as my father has been fond of saying for decades, “This too shall pass.” So far, he has never been wrong.

Just think about it for a moment. What if we had this amazing place inside us--full of joy--barricaded off by our own erroneous or at least ineffective thinking? And what if we could unleash some of that joy just by adjusting the stories we tell ourselves, by minimizing the worst parts, so that the joy inside us could bubble up instead of the toxic thoughts? Rao says, if we are willing to try this, we would, over time, find ourselves happier and more aligned with who we really are. That’s not bad. In fact, it might even change your life.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mayor Hazel McCallion

Where will you be when you're 88? Sleeping in the rocker on the front porch? Most hit their late 50's thinking hard about retirement, you know, travel, fishing, lazy days sitting in the park, grand kids and bananas. Not Hazel McCallion. That's Mayor Hazel McCallion to the rest of us. Hazel was elected over 30 years ago and continues to be elected by her constituency in Mississauga by the ever so close margin lately of 92%. 92% of her city's voters want her re-elected.

Did I mention she is 88, and that you are far more likely to spot her on a frozen lake swatting hockey pucks and knocking them in for goals than rocking and peeling bananas on some wrap-around attached to a brick nursing home?

I hope you'll feel a little inspired like I did when you watch this video about the Canadian mayor whose city is not only debt free but has money stocked away for economic downturns. Isn't that a novel concept! I'm ready to start a campaign for her presidency but I'm afraid the Mississauga people will skin my hide if I did, and well, citizenship could be a problem too.

That aside, Hazel proves that you're never too old to make a difference or to wake up, strap on some skates and take off down the ice with a hockey stick and a healthy desire to achieve some goals.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Inspiring Others

Have you seen the joy some people bring to their work? Years ago a young man in a New Jersey gas station cleaned my car windows with such vibrant energy that watching him lifted my spirits the rest of the day. A toll booth collector once greeted me with so much enthusiasm I wondered if he were a family member. Then, at my kid’s high school, the student athletes there greeted the introduction of a beloved custodial worker with such enthusiasm that I thought the standing ovation would not end. My son’s girl friend then, a 7-time state track champion, called him one of the most admired people in her life.

Some people just shine. It doesn't matter to them whether or not they excelled in school or graduated from college. They don't seem to care if they are rich or powerful or even attractive. They just positively impact people every day. These are ordinary folks who have extraordinary souls. They light the lives of nearly everyone around them and do it by exerting their own unique genius, their individual creativity, and their warmth is palpable. They inspire others.

Don’t you just love people like that? Wouldn't it be cool to be one of them? So what’s holding you back?

Brendan Foster inspired his town to stuff the food trucks, seven of them, and to contribute $95,000 to the local food bank, as his last dying wish. Just 11-years old, Brendan saw his wish fulfilled before he died of leukemia in 2008. He made an impact despite his troubles. If Brendan can, so can you.

Sometimes I wonder what I can do, whether or not I am capable of making a difference and then I think about Johnny, a grocery store bagger with Downs Syndrome, who inspires me anew. For it’s the caring people, the passionate ones, the ones who create a little extra in other’s lives who make this world the extraordinary place it is.

Gaining Perspective On Our Problems

Years ago I watched a middle school cross country runner limp along in last place. As she approached I saw she was sobbing. When she got close enough, I called her over and asked her what was wrong. She wiped her tears and between sniffles said that she was embarrassed and upset that she was in last place. She had let down her parents, her coach and her teammates. What’s more, she was in so much pain she did not think she could finish the race.

I believe we all have felt something like this at one time or another in our lives. We have all felt that we have disappointed someone and have grieved over it. We have all had times so difficult we wondered if we could continue. I know I have. When I looked into this little girl’s eyes I glimpsed the depth of her sadness and wanted to help.

Fortunately, I knew something she didn’t know. I knew it really didn’t matter whether she came in first place or last in a middle school cross country meet. I knew it mattered more that she was there building character by giving her best. I knew that this was just one tiny event in a lifetime of attempts and that sometimes she would not succeed that way she wanted to. Failures, just like successes teach us a lot about ourselves. That’s life. What I didn’t know was how to make that point to her quickly, succinctly, without speaking platitudes that most kids don’t want to hear anyway.

So I told her to look at the giant oak trees that surrounded the course. I said these trees had been here for one hundred years and that they would still be standing a hundred years from now, whether she came in first or last place. The oak trees did not care what place she came in. She could run if she wanted to, or she could stop running. All is as it should be.

I don’t think she expected that from a lone spectator just observing from the sidelines. Almost instantly, after glancing around her she wiped her face, took a deep breath, dropped her chin and finished the race in last place but no longer sobbing. She had overcome her tiny view, and in my book had gained more that day than the winner did.

How many times have we got caught up in our tiny problems? They felt so big at the time, but in the big view were really rather small. When you think of the earth from the view of outer space and see how small it looks, our problems seem minuscule by comparison. To go a step further, we are just one planet among billions in one galaxy of millions and that each of us is just one being on our own tiny planet. What's more, we live in a speck of time that has spanned eons. Somehow it puts our “big” problems into perspective. They are all tiny. Not without meaning to us, but small, really small in this life system that surrounds and supports us.

So next time you face a “really big problem” take a moment to think that whether you solve it or not, the oceans will still be here, the sun will still shine and the millions of galaxy’s will stretch on beyond what any of us can really comprehend. Once you gain that perspective, you may find your problem not only inconsequential, but entirely solvable as well.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Doing the Best You Could

Jack Rutledge remembers what Alabama's Coach Bryant said to his football players in an effort to draw out the best in each and every one of them prior to beating their opponent on the last play of a hard fought game.

Face Fear and Do It Anyway

Eleanor Roosevelt once said,“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

What is it you think you cannot do? What is it that you have dreamed of but feel incapable of accomplishing? What is it that seems just beyond your reach but may be worth reaching for?

Most of us, if we are totally honest with ourselves, can answer that question. In fact, the difference between living a life of vitality versus one of apathy may come down to this; Are you pursuing the impossible? I don’t mean trying to slam through brick walls just because they are there. I mean are you pursuing something just beyond your reach that you value, that feels meaningful to you, that makes a valued contribution? If not, then your life is unexciting, and dare I be so blunt, dull.

Jeremy Russie, 36, could relate. He was a college English teacher pursuing a PhD and soon realized he was bored. He had been an army paratrooper a few years earlier and missed the adrenalin rush. He wanted to do something that excited him, something that plucked his interest and challenged his talents. He dropped out of the PhD program and leapt into an 18-month registered nurses degree. Soon after he was hired to work in a pediatric cardiac unit. He has been happy ever since.

All of us need to be challenged and challenges come from two places: within or without. They come in one of two ways: voluntarily or involuntarily. To create a vital life, one filled with vigor and joy, you must voluntarily elicit something important, something daring from within. Challenges may be thrust on you, of course, but if you do not come to terms with it internally, if you do not make it your own and face it your own way, then it does not count. It may strengthen your soul, but it will not fill you with the enlivening energy you need to live a vital life.

So do not wait for something to drop in your lap. Don’t expect your dreams to materialize out of thin air. Why? Because part of building your mental health means proactively creating your life. You ought to choose it. We all need to flex our initiative muscles--to face the fear and do it anyway.

So here’s the fun part. What is it you need to do, regardless of the fear level? Is it a career switch? Maybe you want to serve your community or volunteer somewhere. Do you want to go on a trip overseas, somewhere you’ve never been before? Maybe you want to go back to school and it fills you with terror? Maybe you need to patch up a relationship and shake every time you pick up the phone to apologize. Whatever it is, you gain courage by facing the horror and surviving it. You build strength by looking at your doubts and doing the impossible anyway. You lay the groundwork for meeting future success by pressing on today. Don Miguel Ruiz said that “our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive--the risk to be alive and to express what we really are.”

Choosing to face what we think we cannot do, but must do, means expressing who we are despite the fear, despite the doubt and despite the time and work required to see it through. In doing that, if we are bold enough to do so, we ignite our lives and express who we really are; and that’s a risk worth taking.

Nature's Force In Me

Just as the powerful Niagra Falls has a right to roar in wonder
So do I
Just as the sky-popping Andes have the right to stand with majestic force
So do I
Just as the massive hurricanes have the right to flex their strength
So do I
Just as the peregrine falcon has the right to dive full-force toward a single-minded goal
So do I
Just as the Colorado river has the right to bust over rocks and to pour its powerful, pulsating rapids toward a basin of peace
So do I
Just as the wildebeest of Africa have the right to gather their herd and to stampede in an instinctual frenzy away from fear and apathy
So do I
Just as the brilliant sun has the right to radiate rapturous light for all who see
So do I

I have the inherent right to radiate my light, to beat MY drum and to sing MY song, “Here AM I--Majestic like the Andes, Decisive like the Falcon, and Brilliant like the Sun… Here am I -- a power to reckon with, a force of nature, my true nature

For I am this, a power of a power, whose force expresses itself uninhibited in all the universe

And since IT expresses in all forms, in all wisdom, and with all power…

Then as an expression of THAT



Saturday, April 3, 2010

Re-channel Your Excuses

We all have reasons for failing. Naturally, we blame our past. Our parents failed us. Our schools ruined us. Our friends betrayed us. We are the product of our environment or our genes. In short, it's not our fault. Pretty convenient, huh?

Yet, what if this instant we dropped all our reasons, our excuses, and just lived as if everything we did or did not do was our choice? What if we decided that, despite everything that ever happened to us, we were ultimately responsible for it?

Aren't we?

I'm not suggesting that the past cannot be a strong influence. It can be. It is. However, what if we lived excuse free? What if we believed that ultimately we alone shaped our decisions? What if we believed that and lived that? How would our life change?

I challenge you to stop yourself the moment you limit yourself with a reason why you didn't do something, or why you did do something you should not have done. Just accept resonsibilty and correct it. Live your life passionately focused on doing whatever it is you believe is most important. Accomplish that excuse free and see what happens.

That's what Daniel Beaty encourages in this intense and powerful recitation about making a difference despite one's past.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How Four Minutes Changed Jason McElwain's Life

Maybe you saw this one. You probably did, but every time I watch it, I am inspired once again.

Jason McElwain, a young man diagnosed with autism, loved basketball. He loved it so much that his Greece Athena High School coach, Jim Johnson, agreed to allow Jason to join the a team manager. It wasn't until the last game of the season, the division championship, that Coach Johnson suggested Jason suit up and sit on the bench. Jason was thrilled.

I work at a school with autistic kids. I have gotten to know a few of them. If you know anything about autism, you know that autistic kids have an extremely tough time responding appropriately to people. They have a tough time playing and cooperating with other kids and, consequently, do not make many friends. The ones I have taught will sometimes burst out crying for no apparent reason. Temper tantrums are common. Many cower at everyday noises, bright lights or a gentle touch.

That may be why Jason was never given the chance to be part of the Athena basketball team. That and the fact that even by his own admission, Jason McElwain was not a remarkable basketball player. So, with a pretty safe 20-point lead, Johnson decided to do something that would change the course of his life and the life of his young player. In fact, the impact, he would later learn, would be phenomenal. Coach Johnson decided to send Jason McElwain into the game with 4:19 to go.

Jason promptly showed why he had been team manager. He missed his first two shots, the first an air-ball and the second and easy layup. Johnson felt so bad that he buried his head in his hands and prayed for God's help. God must have heard and liked, no scratch that, LOVED his request. How do I know? Jason made the next three shots, all three-pointers, and the crowd went wild, absolutely berserk. Then he hit three more, along with a two-point shot. In just barely 4 minutes and 20 points later, Jason became his team's high scorer and the instant hero, not only at his little school, but world-wide. Maybe you saw him on Oprah or with then President George Bush. Maybe you've seen him with Magic, or with one on the NBA stars, or with Indianapolis Colts quarterback, Payton Manning. Everyone, it seems, likes hanging out with a sensation, even the stars themselves.

So, you may wonder, what ever happened to Jason McElwain. Four years have passed and everyone agrees, Jason has grown more confident, more sure of himself. Interesting enough, Jason says, as reported by CBS Evening News, it was not the shots in that game that made all the difference, but the acceptance and support he felt that night.

I think you'll applaud him too when you watch the clip embedded below.

Hurdling Over Hassles

Have you ever thought, "I want a better life?"

It all seemed so much easier once..., in the womb. Now life's full of annoyances, inconveniences, hassles and struggles. How can we expect to be happy with all that frustration? And that's just the first layer.

Today I was noticing all the things I had to complain about. I woke up with my nose stuffed up from a cold. One of my dogs is sick and threw up for the seventh and eighth time last night. I woke up at 5 am to take care of him, though he may need an emergency vet visit later today. I think he ate the weed killer I spread yesterday. Who knows? The other dog peed on the floor. Of course, both wanted attention at the same time, and I didn't feel like giving it then. I had more important things to do, like getting to the grocery store to pick up breakfast and a mop.

So, did the hassles stop when I jumped into the car? No. I glanced into the mirror and saw I had not shaved nor combed my unruly hair. Then I realized I couldn't see though the car windows. The cold night had frosted them. I rolled the windows up and down hoping to clear them but that didn't work, so I had to get outside and wipe them down. After I missed a couple of traffic lights I always make, I got to the grocery store and grabbed a small cart in the parking lot and wheeled in from outside. I soon realized the handle was way too cold, and felt fortunate to discover a warm handled cart inside.

Quickly though, my good fortune turned (and I mean that literally) when I realized that the warmer cart consistently pulled hard right. I thought at first I had developed an equilibrium problem. In addition, my right arm, working hard to keep the cart straight, began to ache. Was I having a stroke? In fact, I nearly knocked down a poor women using a cane. A left-handed bowler would have liked the hook action and the spare gained by knocking the cane (and Grandma) over. Everyone else would have been appalled. Fortunately, I kept yanking left and just missed her. The Kroger staff thought I had a really bad tic problem. No one suspected the cart. I just lowered my head and weaved it down the next aisle.

Okay, so this is a typical weekend day. Things did not go exactly as planned. Hassles abound. Today it was the cart and dogs. Tomorrow the cable will go out before the final-four game, and the sick dog will feel well enough to dig a hole halfway to China in the back yard. Life happens. You're going to get a headache, even a migraine once in a while. You are going to be yelled at by some mean-spirited women who didn't like your knee in her back when you sat your long body into a cramped theater seat and realized too late that sitting normal would have required you to buy two $70 tickets so that you could (semi) comfortably drape your legs over the chair in front of you. You still might have knocked into the patron two rows forward.

What else? Your car window will stick, just as you are pulling up to the drive-in window. The guy at the window will yell at you to come inside to pick up your meatball sub. You will hit your head for the twenty-third time on the too-low car ceiling as you step out and have to ask someone to read you the twenty-third psalm right then before you lose consciousness and die.

This is life. It just is.

And that's my point. If you really believe your life will or should be hassle free, then please start a travel agency with low-price tickets back to the alien world you came from. We'd all like to travel there. Today. However, if you plan to stay here on earth, you will have a highly predictable amount of hassles that come and go randomly pretty much every day. You will also be hit with some more difficult ones. Hang in there. Face them with agility.

What do I mean, "Face them with agility?" I guess what I'm saying is that you can face these pretty much unpredictable-predictable hassles in a couple ways. One is to get upset, to blame, complain or throw a tantrum (inside or out--it doesn't really matter), or you can leap over them without really breaking stride. I mean, think about it. Say you're a hurdler coach and your best runner decides he or she is just going to plow into the hurdles and then make a big fuss when he or she halts to a painful stop. What do you tell him? Aren't you going to show him how to sail over the hurdle with speed, power and agility. Aren't you going to tell him to take a few steps and sail over the next one and the next one all the way to the finish line? Because there are going to be hurdles to spring over or to trip over, depending on your agility level. Here's a hassle, sail over it. Here's another, now leap. Drive forward, go. No whining, no complaining, no "woe is me," and no outbursts--just calm, assertive power. Pure mental agility. Your serenity still intact. Your life smooth and dynamic. Wow! Blissful,isn't it?

I'm impressed. Others will be too. The first level conquered, the level of natural, expected hassles hurdled like a pro. Once this happens, you will be ready to take on level two, the hassles you have created and have sustained despite thinking they were not your fault. You will pour your energy into tearing down those brick walls later. For now, just enjoy the predictable-unpredictable hurdles that are sure to come your way spontaneously, no matter what. Expect them. Note them when you see them. They make life a little more interesting. Then leap over them like an Olympic athlete. No big deal. Everyone, including you, will be glad you did.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Facing Adversity

All of us must face adversity. All of us will be challenged. We will all go through difficult times, and each one of us will respond. The question is not when, but how? How will you respond to adversity when it is thrust in your face? What will you do? Will you face it with great courage? Will you call up your inner resources? Who, outside yourself, will you look to for guidance and inspiration? I gain a little courage each time I think about three shinning examples and what they have to say about standing up to hardship. Though each one faced a different challenge, each approached their unique circumstances with conviction and fortitude. Each one rose above their ordeal, and earned the right, at least in my mind, to serve as role models for the rest of us, because each responded powerfully to trials that most of us can hardly imagine.

One such women was born in 1880 and earned her B.A. degree from Radcliffe. How many women back then did that? She went on to publish 12 books and lectured all over the world. Through her travels she met every US President from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson and was friends with the likes of Alexander Graham Bell, Charlie Chaplin, and Mark Twain. When someone in Japan introduced her to the Akita, a Japanese dog known for its loyalty and courage, she introduced the breed to the United States.

She also fought as a political activist for women's rights, pacifism, and birth control. She was an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities. She lived with power and conviction and inspired people to action. She lived a remarkable life. What makes her even more remarkable was that she could not see, nor hear. Both blind and deaf, Helen Keller rose above her circumstances, ones thrust upon her before she was two years old, to make a significant mark on the world.
How did she do it? How did she live through hardship that life tossed her with an elegance and strength that I can barely imagine. Helen Keller explained her approach simply.

"Look the world straight in the face."

How's that feel? Have a stare down with adversity. Don't blink. Don't back down. Face it like a champion. Helen Keller sure did. What a fighting spirit she had. I mean, how can you not respect a women who could not see, nor hear but who managed to not just survive, which would have been admirable enough given her circumstances, but who, despite the weight of her adversity, made a remarkable contribution to the world. Helen Keller stands as a shining beacon for all who are lost in pity, or overwhelmed with life’s mayhem.

Another one I have always admired, who when faced with unimaginable hardship, did not back down. In time, Victor Frankl marveled us all with his attitude, perseverance and sheer accomplishment. At 37 he was shoved into a Nazi concentration camp where he watched and felt, first-hand, the unspeakable brutally doled out there. Somehow through this horror Victor managed to not only survive but to grow stronger. How did he do it despite watching his wife taken from him and later murdered? How did he do it despite seeing his parents ripped from their home and slain by the same regime that was abusing him? How did he survive so elegantly despite living in such sordid conditions, where rats ate more than the prisoners, where he lived in naked humiliation, where each day he or dozens of his cellmates could be gassed?

Victor said he learned through watching his fellow prisoners suffer. Some, he noticed, suffered better than others. He discovered that those who found meaning in suffering suffered better. He himself found meaning by imagining that he would one day be freed and that he would speak to large audiences about what he had learned from the horrid conditions. That vision, he said, helped to keep him alive.
He also tended to his inner spiritual beliefs and held firmly to them, because they offered him strength and the knowledge that they were the one thing the Nazi's could not destroy.

Maybe most importantly, Victor had a revelation on a long, hard march through the dark night into the icy wind, where he stumbled over rocks and trudged through large puddles with the butt of a rifle pounding his back, always keeping him moving despite the bitter pain of aching, cold feet and sheer hunger and exhaustion. He remembered his beloved wife, Tilly.

When he did, he said, "A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire... I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, ... when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment."

That revelation sustained him through three years of otherwise unbearable torments until the American‘s liberated him. Once liberated, Victor Frankl returned to Vienna and founded Logotherapy and wrote his world-famous book, Man's Search for Meaning. Shaped by his experiences in the concentration camps, he described what he saw and learned there. He taught the world how to not only face horror but to live productively and meaningfully after enduring it. Victor lived more than 50 years after he was freed and wrote 32 books, lectured and taught all over the world and earned 29 honorary doctorial degrees. Thank goodness for Victor Frankl.

Where Victor Frankl was thrown into adversity, this next women volunteered for it. Mother Teresa volunteered and dedicated nearly her entire adult life to living among and serving the world's poor. She started her journey in Calcutta's slums, where she begged for food and supplies just to survive. She felt tremendous loneliness and experienced grave doubts then about what she had done, but she did not give up. She once wrote, "Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard."

Later, in 1950 she began a small order that ministered to the sick, crippled, naked, blind, homeless, unwanted and shunned members of society. Today more than 4000 nuns run similar charity center world-wide. In 1952 Mother Teresa opened her first home for the dying and helped people who had lived like animals to die with dignity and love. Soon after she opened a home for lepers (Hansen's Disease), which she is probably best known, and in 1955 she opened a home for orphans. The order eventually attracted recruits and funds and by the 1960's had opened houses all over India, and later throughout the globe.

How did she do this without falling apart? Mother Teresa believed she was doing God's will, that she was pursuing her highest calling and despite the hardship, she felt compelled to serve. She once said, "We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing."

She followed her heart and grew strong and capable by heeding it’s calling. Despite the hardship and the squalor she lived in, she fought lovingly for those who did not know how or feel deserving of doing so for themselves. She became strong by giving her life to the weak. What a remarkable example of what we can accomplish with an ironclad will and a heart open and tender enough to lead us to our calling, no matter how difficult or painful.

I am amazed by what we can, with resolve and vision, endure. There’s no way around it. We are all going to be challenged in life, and we will all respond. The question is how. If we are willing, if our resolve is strong, we can respond with strength, meaning, spiritual fortitude and with love. This is our highest calling and largest challenge. Fortunately, those who have gone before us have not only shown us that we can succeed, but also how.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Discovering Value

Michelangelo said, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." I once knew a great teacher who did this with the most pained students. He would reach into their hearts and see their wonder, the wonder they themselves missed, and elegantly call it out of them. So appreciative were that that years later they would track him down just to thank him for his kind efforts. What do you see in others? Angels? Wonder? Genius? What do you see in yourself?

I read recently about a woman in New York who found a Rufino Tamayo painting in the garbage that was expected to sell for around a million dollars. Anyone of us can look around and see wasteland. Our newpapers report the worst in human nature everyday. I hear compliants and criticism all the time, but what interests and excites me the most are the unheralded heroes who look for the treasure in others. I like to hear and read about the guy who sees the kid who cannot read and teaches him how, or the gal who sees the potential in another and reflects it back so that the other can see it in themself. This is what makes us feel most valued as human beings. This, in turn, raises our community value, by creating goodwill, and it's hard to put a pricetag on that.

Of course, seeing the value in others isn't always easy. We have to sometimes see potential that has not yet been developed. We have to see the value that is possible with encouragement and small advancing steps. We have to see like Kyle MacDonald did when he saw a little red paperclip and with it a house. Sound crazy? Not to Kyle. He got onto e-bay and traded his little red paperclip for a fish pen. He quickly swapped the pen for a smiley face door knob, and the door knob for a camping stove. The camping stove he traded for a generator and that for a keg of beer and a party, then the keg for a snow mobile. Through some publicity he generated, his trades grew increasingly larger until after just 14 trades he owned a house.

Now, how many of us would see a tiny red paperclip and think we could do that? He said that along the way he had a great time, met some really neat people and helped some of them achieve their dreams, while he achieved his. If he could achieve all this with an almost worthless paperclip, and, of course, a valuable idea, solid follow-through, a whole lot of enthusiasm and good fun, what, I wonder, could he do with, say, a roll of duct tape? In the end, he donated his house to charity and the tiny town that embraced him. Later they made him honorary mayer, while he made scores of friends and some remarkable lifetime memories.

So, if Michelangelo can see angels in hunks of rock, a woman a million dollar painting in a garbage heap, and Kyle MacDonald a house in a paperclip, what do you see around you? That's the question I have been asking myself today and the truth is, I am beginning to realize that there might be a lot more there than first meets the eye. I am beginning to realize, too, that the potential I am beginning to see in others also exists in me. In fact, uncovering that treasure could be the greatest discovery of all.

One Red Paperclip on 20/20

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Your Life's Slogan

What if your entire life, all your thoughts, your communication, actions, interactions, pursuits, and demands could be condensed into a single message? What would it be? What would your significant friends, co-workers and family say? What would they declare was your most prominent life statement? Would the two be aligned?

Every big organization has a single message called a slogan. Think about it. IBM: We Make IT happen. Airbus: Setting the Standard. Dell Computer: Get More Out of Now. American Express: Do More and, of course, Nike’s unforgettable slogan “Just Do It.“ You may not know it, but we are all walking billboards, and I’m not talking about Aunt Millie’s backside. Each of us displays a prominent message.

If you don’t believe me, then try this. Think of someone in your life. This could be a parent, a friend, a co-worker, an acquaintance, or even someone you watch, occasionally, on TV. What message do they most prominently display? I am thinking now of someone in my organization. She displays this message, “You must meet organizational rules, no matter how inane.“ Another one I know communicates “Kindness Matters.” She is gentle with everyone, including herself. Another shows me how to “Live Life with Gusto!“ Still another walks around displaying a rickety sign that pretty much says, “Life Sucks!” With each person, one message leaps out at me. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what message you are advertising everyday? Wouldn’t it behoove all of us to chose a message that resonated with our heart and then present that to the world? Wouldn’t it be truly grand to then live that message everyday?

I had a friend who did this up until his untimely death. He always inspired me. After each interaction, every conversation my spirits felt lifted. His message was “I am Going to Inspire You,“ and that was the gift he bestowed upon his friends. Extremely creative, a talented artist, an all-around good guy, he always motivated me to want to be a better person, a better father, someone who made a difference in this world. Of course he did a million other things too, but at his core, radiating through his every pore, ringing true through every sentence, ingrained in every tone, and communicated through every gesture was the genuine and very moving message of inspiration.

Just think, if you knew what your core message to the world was, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to decide what you wanted to pursue, what you invested your time and energy to? Wouldn’t it be more clear what career path looked most attractive and which ones did not? Wouldn’t it be easier to avoid the endless web of distractions that await all of us who are confused about who we are and what we want to be in relation to others?

So if you are having difficulty deciding what your next “big thing,” will be, I suggest you begin by looking at who you are at your core, then find something, anything that aligns with it. Jump in and see what happens. That way you’ll learn whether or not the activity really does align with your core slogan. You may discover that it does not quite fit or that your slogan needs some revision. That’s good too. Keep refining, until you find yourself…in your life’s message. Once you do, you will live your life better focused, more clear, and less distracted. In short, you will feel a sense of fulfillment that you may not have felt before. What’s even better, you’ll not only accomplish more, you’ll accomplish more of what is truly important to you. So stop carrying around that billboard with eyes half shut. Look up and revise it if you need to. Then go live your life, aligned with your core message and focused with clarity on what matters. Do that and I guarantee you, you will feel inspired.

Friday, March 19, 2010

How To Generate Power

Imagine you are born to a poor farmer in a rural villiage north of Malawi, Africa. You are the only boy in a family of six sisters. You know one thing. You possess basically one skill. You raise maize. In addition, imagine that you are surrounded by 60 families in your small community and that all of them are simple farmers too, poor, uneducated and able to do thing; farm. Furthermore, imagine that your family cannot afford to send you to school, so you must drop out. Imagine that even with all this weighing you down, you must face yet another calamity. A famine strikes your country, your crops dry up, and after five months you, your family and your community are literally starving to death. Oh yeah, and you are just fourteen years old. Remember, you are not from a priveledged class. You do not attend motivational seminars. You have never cruised the Internet, because you do not have a computer. In fact, your villiage does not even have high-speed cable. You are just poor, hungry, isolated, and uneducated. What do you do?

I cannot say what you would do. Most would fret or cry or complain or just lie down and die. Some would pray, beg, borrow or steal. Others might blame or solicit the government or declare war to ultimately pillage and command control. Violence seems like an almost natural reaction in times like these. What would you do?

For William Kamkwamba this was no imaginiative exercise. This was his life. It could have been his death. What did this young man, determined to help his family, do? He looked around and instead of bemoaning what his villiage did not have, instead of decrying his fate, William Kamkwamba looked around and noticed something. He noticed that his villiage had wind. That's where it all started. His villiage had a nice breeze, constant and strong and he wondered if he could harness it.

Though his language skills were poor, he went to the library and began looking at science books when he came across a picture of a windmill. Intrigued, he read a little further and learned that a windmill could harness the wind and generate power, so he determined he would build one. He studied the pictures. He did not complain that he had no money, no materials, no support. He trudged down to the scrap yard. There he scrounged up a tractor fan, a shock absorber, a bike frame, PVC pipe, PCV blades, and a small bicycle generator. When he told his mother what he was planning to do, she told him, just like everyone else, that he was crazy.

Undeterred, he began building anyway. Two months later he had built his first working windmill. The first anyone he knew had ever seen. He uncovered a light bulb, a circut breaker and a light switch. One day he generated enough electricty to play the radio. His family stood amazed as they listened to an African Regee song generated by their son's ingenuity and resolve. When he built a second windmill for irrigation, families began to line up at his door. They, he said, would not go away. Then came the reporters, and his first airplane ride to America, and his first hotel, and the chance to go to school, to get the education he always dreamed of. In America he spoke to windmill experts. More importantly, he generated hope in a dying village. He instilled in their shared memories a new way out of hardship. He inspired faith in the human spirit and highlighted what one person can do when determined, curious, positive and resourceful. He inspired change and saved lives.

So imagine you could instill within your heart William Kamkwamba's spirit. Imagine you could breathe in his qualities of resolve, resourcefulness and the power to press on confidently despite prevailing doubt. Now think for a moment. Imagine what you would do. Imagine what you could accomplish. Imagine how your world would change.

Now let's take this one step further. Stop imagining for a moment and realize that you can. You really can call up that strength within you, because it is already there, just as it was and still is in William Kamkwamba. You have the natural resources, just as he did, to generate hope, love and power. You can. You really can. And that change you were imagining earlier, be honest, is it really more dire than what William Kamkwamba faced? Do you really, in this great country of ours, possess fewer resources, greater hunger, or less hope? If not, then go ahead and challenge yourself to make the change you desire. Stride toward resolution. If it's worthy of your attention and you have the power to transform it, then begin today, so that you can march on with your head up, your shoulders back and your heart fully engaged. You can. You really can.

Scott Adams--Dilbert

Scott Adams is best known for his Dilbert comic strips depicting the idiocy of corporate management in the bureaucratic world of big organizations. His cartoons are published in over 60 countries worldwide and syndicated in more than 2000 newspapers. For years Adams has created a cartoon a day, and more recently, about nine a week to keep up with the demand.

For a guy who graduated valedictorian and later earned an MBA from the University of California at Berkley, you might think that coming up with great ideas everyday would be a pretty tough assignment. I mean the smart ones are usually, well, smart, but not all that creative. At least not the ones I know. The creative ones usually join the band and cut their core classes to attend rock concerts or to crash parties. They join acting troupes and take art classes, not business calculus and COBOL.

So when things got boring at the bank where Adams worked, you might think he would daydream about stock derivatives or something. Instead, he did what a lot of us would do. He doodled. His doodling evolved into vague cartoons and then solid characters that resembled in a most unflattering way, his boss and co-workers. In other words, while most of us might sit around those crazy meetings thinking about the growing crack in our bedroom ceiling, Adams dreamed of launching a cartoon career. While his associates talked about shrinking the deficit and padding their pockets, Adams drew characters poking fun at his corporate partners. In 1988 he sold his work to United Feature Syndicate, who published Dilbert in about 50 papers the following year.

So what sets Adams apart from other cartoonists beside his incisive, and almost universally appealing humor? Adams suffers from focal dystonia, a debilitating muscle and nerve condition that causes his hand to cramp up and tremor and spasm so severely that he cannot draw. For years he struggled with this condition, and even tried to draw his cartoons left-handed. This did not work. When his left hand began to draw, his right hand would begin to convulse and spasm. If this were not enough, he later developed spasmodic dysphonia, a vocal condition that rendered him unable to speak for three years. This "incurable" condition was eventually cured through surgery to rewire nerve connections to the cords.

Through it all, Adams prevailed. Through pain and perseverance, he continued to produce what some have called the most honest and revealing insight into organizational tomfoolery ever written. And he continues to pursue his dream today using computer technology and mind-over-matter tactics to trick his brain into acting "normal." He could have quit but he kept going, and a lot of people worldwide are sure glad he did.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

--William Ernest Henley

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

QUOTE: As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it.
--Mahatma Gandhi

What is Inspiration?

What is inspiration? For some it is a spark so bright, so important, so insightful that after it strikes, life takes on an entirely new meaning. I have known friends who in a moment's instant have set out on an entirely new life path. It's as if they were plodding along on a dark night when suddenly a lightening flash streaked across the sky and illuminated the mountaintop they had been looking for all along. Seeing clearly, in that instant, they then strode on with renewed confidence.

That's not to say that the flash resolved every issue. In fact, knowing where to go and setting out towards it sometimes creates some tough challenges. In other words, after inspiration strikes, the real work begins. In Fredrich August Kekule von Stradonitz's well-known dream a snake latched onto its tail and "As if by a flash of lightning" he awoke with the realization that he had discovered the Benzene molecule. He then spent an immense amount of time working out the details.

I once had a flash of inspiration while thinking about writing a novel which propelled me through more than two solid years of writing. Unlike J.K. Rowling whose flash led to seven monoliths, the last of which sold some 44 million copies, mine led to an early burial on a closet shelf. Of course, that's not to suggest I wasted my time writing it. If money were the true gage to what is worthwhile, then people like Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi wasted decades. For me hours passed in minutes while I sat totally entranced by this world I had created. I felt calmer writing it, more alive. I felt like I had unearthed a long lost treasure.

So inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes through years of effort followed by one trans formative moment and other times totally unexpected and completely serendipitous. This is what happened to a friend of mine who, while lying in a grassy field as a young girl, felt her spirit lift and expand and in that moment felt herself merge with everything around her. That moment changed her and her inspiration blended with her life. From that moment one, when she helped another she helped herself. While others fought battles, she worked toward harmony and became the advocate to those who could not defend themselves. Her fear of death faded away after inspiration struck in a big way.

Most of us, though, are inspired by smaller flashes. We feel the joy and don't know what to do with it. We just bask in it for a while and then get on with the monotony of our daily life. In other words, it feels good, but nothing really changes. Sometimes inspiration is like that. These small flashes lift our spirit, creating an inner buoyancy. There's no clear mandate, just a lightness of being that releases us from life's drudgery. Put a chain of these together and your life, while not completely transformed, will feel pretty good.

Whether a lightening strike or a candle of illumination, whether life transforming or not, our heart is always lifted and warmed by inspiration's visit. So be watchful. Be open. Be ready for the flash and when it comes, be prepared to do the work that may lie just around the bend.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Light Your Dream

What does it take to inspire dreams? More specifically, what would it take to spark your own inner longing, to set ablaze your personal torch? I have seen a lot of duty-bound people in my life who would rather live by someone else's rules than live what they long for. You have met them too. They have a grayness about them, a dull likeness to others that belies that glowing spark you know is in there somewhere and totally unique. Why is that? Why do some of us chase marketing mandates rather than the promises our own hearts make? Why do some of us follow the maps others have given us rather than our own inner guidance system?

I wish I knew the answers to those questions. I suspect security has a lot to do with it. Wanting to please others may play its part. One great thing, though, about inspiration is that no matter how it is sparked, it ultimately lights a fire within us. Even when we are inspired by another, we are not moved by a mandate. We feel compelled because something inside us moves us. Inspiration calls us to something higher, something better, something that cannot be appraised by someone else, because it is not their's. We alone own it.

Now it is possible that you may simply be looking for inspiration for inspiration's sake, but more than likely you're looking to set a new course, to feel inspired to do something you have never done before and fear you may not be ready or courageous enough to do. Maybe you want to step away from a job you have held for sometime and pursue a secret and "silly" dream you have held for even longer. Maybe you want to sail off to a foreign country or end a relationship that has run its course. Maybe you want to begin a hobby or join a community organization that values your service. Maybe you just need the strength to get through one more day. Whatever your longing, or need for inspiration, you can find it within yourself. In fact, you probably have at least an inkling already of what it is you want to be inspired to become, or to do. Begin today taking a step toward that. Do a little research. Make a single phone call. Show up there. Begin boldly and you may inspire yourself or be inspired by someone you talk to.

That's the way inspiration often works. Begin and then discover the inner spark. Strike the match, and if you need to, strike it again and again until eventually the flame bursts forth. Or as one fine inspirational friend used to constantly tell me, "Ed, do something. Just begin." Then once you have the match lit, it's up to you to lay it where it might light a few logs and set the inner fireplace ablaze. Once you do that, once you see the fire's light and feel its warmth, you'll wonder why you didn't begin earlier. Or as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

Les Brown shares one of his dreams and motivates his audience to achieve their's.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

When Your Life Is Flat

The ordinary does not inspire. The extraordinary does. Yet most live lives entrenched in the quiet, bland and somewhat mechanical grind of daily living. Why is that? Do we really expect to find inspiration living dull, repetitive lives? What's going on here?

I'm going to blame the brain--that pattern machine designed to create efficiency so we can free our mind to think about other things. Why else would we consistently brush our teeth starting with the upper left incisors before working around to the lower right side or always pull on our stocks with the left foot before the right? Why is it that we have to wash the dishes our way and even get a little testy when someone suggests otherwise? This, despite there being at least fifty different ways to clean a pot. The brain is to blame. The brain nudges us into autopilot to free up thinking room for more important tasks, like wondering whether we will ever achieve world peace or why Tiger can't keep his balls in his bag.

I mean, can you imagine having to continually monitor your breathing or to keep thinking "I have to lift, thrust and plant my right foot and then my left one" every step you take? How crazy would that be! The brain gets you on with your daily life without burning up every brain cell in the ol' bread basket. We can all celebrate that. It's miraculous...except when it's not.

Sometimes this incredible brain and its need to perpetuate patterns begins to dominate. Repetitive, ordinary and bland--but efficient--ways to accomplish everyday tasks start to take over our lives. We wake up at 5:58 AM every morning even without the alarm, shower for eight minutes, dress in ten, work all day with two fifteen minute breaks, eat in thirty minutes, drink our 64 ounces, read the paper from front to back, complete the 42 question crossword puzzle and then go to bed at 10:15 sharp. Most of this done with little or no attention to the task at hand. Let's face it, our pattern obsessive brain has taken over and our life feels flat.

Sometimes this "flatness" goes on for years before you address it. What should you do about it? I believe I have the answer.

Disrupt your life.

I mean it. Intentionally disrupt the patterns a bit. Begin to create new ruts. Start easy. Take a new route to the grocery store. Then up the anti. Go to a different grocery store. Buy something you never bought before. Plan an entirely new recipe. Become a vegetarian. That will disrupt things. That's just the beginning. Redo your hair, rearrange your house, join a cult. Just kidding. It would be far better to start a cult! Okay, don't get carried away. You may, though, want to join a new organization or pursue a hobby.

While you're at it, change your thinking too. Notice how repetitive your thoughts have become. When your mother calls to say, "Uncle Harry is at it again. He's wearing Polka-dot suspenders with his swimming trunks, and flashing the peace sign at every republican he passes," don't shake your head and ask, as you usually do, if Uncle Harry is related to Pee-Wee Herman. Say something different. Tell your mom that you're going to buy your uncle some grip tight trunks guaranteed to keep him from exposing more flab than a pregnant rhinoceros. Tell your mother that you admire Uncle Harry's chutzpa, you just wished his suspenders were ruby red.

Oh yeah, the brain will be confused for a bit, but then, just when you got it on the ropes, go in for the sucker punch. Look for something beyond ordinary, something extraordinary, magnificent, or even holy. We've all heard about the "weird guy down the street" who flew off to India to seek a guru or about the gal who abandoned her family for one of the Chippendale's, or about the guy who emptied his IRA account to buy a Lamborghini. These folks are seeking inspiration. They probably don't realize yet that the real breath-taking wonder they want lies all around them and that there are more marvelous, not to mention less destructive, ways to bring depth, texture and color back into their life. They just want the blandness to go away. Who can blame them.

So when your life needs a little inspiration, make a change. Disrupt the patterns and look for the extraordinary, whatever that is to you. Your brain will be glad for the disruption, eventually. Your spirit will be aroused and possibly ecstatic. Best of all, your flat life will be enriched with a few mountain views.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maybe You Can

Have you ever told yourself "I can't do that" and listed the reasons why? Has someone ever told you that you couldn't do or be something because you lacked a certain quality? Have you ever taken stock of your life and thought that something you really wanted was impossible? I know I have, and I also know that there are others who felt the same way and marched on despite their doubts and who, in the end, accomplished the "impossible." Why not look to them for inspiration when your dream seems plagued with doubts?

One such man, Jim Abbott, was born without a right hand. Now I know what some of you are thinking. So what, he's missing a right hand. There's a lot of things you can do without a right hand. There's research, academics, business, politics, and a host of other fields open to someone bright and dedicated to success. I agree. A single handicap should not define an entire life.

There are too many other things a physically challenged person can accomplish, but Jim wasn't born to just accomplish, he was born to inspire. He did not dream of simply working a desk job. He did not dream of selling vacuums door to door or flowers on the street corner. He wanted to be an athlete. Okay, not just an athlete, but a very, very fine athlete, and that's what he aimed for despite having only one hand.

So what sport did he choose? I don't know about you, but I would have avoided all "two-handed" sports. One handed sports, okay, fine. I could bowl, for instance, play ping-pong, or run long distance. I certainly would not have pursued star quarterback on my high school football team, or even dreamed of leading my team to the state finals like Jim did. I doubt any of my advisors would have suggested to a one-handed kid that he ought to pursue a career in baseball where every other player used two hands to field and throw the ball. Yet despite his doubters, Jim plowed ahead anyway.

And plow ahead he did. The University of Michigan, impressed by his baseball pitching ability, offered Jim a baseball scholarship. There, he led the Wolverines to two Big Ten titles. He also won the prestigious Golden Spikes Award, which recognized him as college baseball's most outstanding athlete.

That's not all. In 1988 Jim led the US baseball team to a gold medal, and then played for the California Angels. In 1993 he threw a no-hitter for the New York Yankees. He did all this with just one hand.

So next time you decide you really want to accomplish something that seems "impossible," think of Jim Abbott. Suit yourself up with his attitude. And who knows, maybe you will not only achieve your dreams, but also inspire others the way he did.


Here's some wise and inspiring words from the creator of the Peanut's cartoons, Charles Schulz.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.

4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for
best actor and actress.

6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The facts are, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.

6. Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.


The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.

"Don't worry about the world coming to an end today ...... It's already tomorrow in Australia."

----- Charles Schulz-----

Friday, March 12, 2010

QUOTE: Inspiration is the torch that sets the heart aflame -- EH

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Little Humor

From comes a funny story about a bereaved widow and a misguided email message.


An Illinois man who left the snow-filled streets of Chicago for a vacation in Florida. His wife was on a business trip and was planning to meet him there the next day. When he reached his hotel, he decided to send his wife a quick email.

Unfortunately, when typing her address, he missed one letter, and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher's wife whose husband had passed away only the day before. When the grieving widow checked her email, she took one look at the monitor, let out a piercing scream, and fell to the floor in a dead faint.

At the sound, her family rushed into the room and saw this note on the screen:

Dearest Wife,
Just got checked in. Everything prepared for your arrival tomorrow.

P.S. Sure is hot down here.

Ten Things That Block Inspiration

1. Complacency: Being ho-hum about pretty much everything.

2. Anger: If you hate everything and everybody you're not going to be inspired.

3. Burn-out: It's hard to get inspired when you're tired.

4. Dogma: When you believe you know the truth, why would you need inspiration?

5. Self Doubt: If you do not trust that you may be inspired, you won't be.

6. Bad Attitude: An upbeat attitude draws inspiration to it. A negative one locks it out.

7. Negative Thinking: The only thing this brings is trouble.

8. Cynicism: the arch enemy

9. Anxiety: How many anxious inspired people do you know?

10. Depression: The sure sign that things are hopeless

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who Do You Inspire?

Who do you inspire? Who do you uplift, exalt or enliven? Who looks to you for the inspiration you seek? In whose life do you make a difference?

We all can inspire others. We have all felt the impact of a kind word, a sympathetic look, or a contagious laugh that lifts our spirits and the spirits of others. In this video Byrd Baggett tells us how attitude can impact our lives through the words and actions of his dear mother. Through sharing his story we all have the chance to feel inspired.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Today is it. Today is our gift, our fortune, our opportunity. Today we have been granted this magnificent possibility to live the highest truth of our being, to reach for our deepest wisdom, to lift the spirits of our fellow journeyers and to revive our resolve in our most challenging moments. We will either become stronger, more courageous, more compassionate, and more alive or we will not. We will either strengthen our indomitable will, raise our higher consciousness, and seek wisdom or we won't. Today we can be the change we seek in the world. Today we can model peace, sincerity, cooperation and leadership. Today we can stride confidently toward our destiny. Today we can begin moving that mountain one shovel stroke at a time. Today we will either live with vitality and passion or choose not to. Today we will, if we choose, stand firm in the belief that what we do can and will make a difference. Today is it. Only today. It's our choice.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who Inspires You?

Who inspires you? Who, when in his or her presence, do you feel lighter, more courageous, more alive, more true, more motivated, more yourself and more than yourself? Who, when you hear them speak, do you feel more soulful, more willing to serve, more joyous and more aligned with your highest nature and your deepest calling? Who, when you read about their life, do you know best what you want to be? Who lifts your spirit? Who rally's your power and vanquishes your fear? Whomever that is, wherever he or she is, go there. Be with that. Honor that part of yourself, everyday. Cherish that. Nurture that. Most importantly, live that truth that inspires you and see where it takes you. See what you do as a result and watch who follows you when you become the inspiration that inspires you.

Martin Luther King embodied Inspiration

Sunday, February 28, 2010


QUOTE: "I count myselt in nothing else so happy as in a soul rememb'ring my good friends."
- William Shakespeare

What could be more inspiring, more enriching, and more enjoyable than reveling in the company of close friends? Yet in our fast-paced, mobile society finding friendship can seem a daunting task. No sooner do you begin a friendship, it seems, when one of your lives change and you go off in separate directions, never to connect again. In Jeffery Zaslow's book, “The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship” (Gotham), he tells the story of 11 women, all childhood friends, who though scattered all over America now, managed to nurture their endearing friendships though both good times and crises.

When one of the women discovered she had breast cancer, she reached out to her childhood friends who sent emails, talked for long hours, sent cards and gifts and showered their love and concern in the most personal and compassionte ways they could. One woman who had lost her own child to luekemia sent a hand woven cap to assure her friend would keep warm during the treatments when she lost all her hair. In an interesting study of 3,000 nurses who had breast cancer, women without close friends were four times more likely to die from the diease than those with 10 or more friends.

In another study done by the Gallop Organization and several leading researchers, they found that employees who have no close friends at work had only a one in 12 chance of feeling enaged in their job. However, if an employee had their best friends working beside them, they were seven times more likely to feel engaged at work.

Friends do so much more than support us during hard times. They help give meaning and direction to our lives. They enlighten us, accept us for who we are, contribute in unique ways that no one else can, and bring to us a sense of contentment that we can hardly understand much less explain.

If you want to feel inspired, be a friend. Reach out to others and others will reach back to you.
Love and appreciate them for who they are, faults and all, and you will experience the power that true and enduring friendship offers you. Maybe more importantly, you will offer another human being the solace of knowing that they are cared for, appreciated and loved by you. That's powerful too.