ONE CALL, LESS THAN $1.00

I just made my (let me get out my calendar) **biannual** (albeit always random) trip to the dollar store.  The customers it attracted were as cheap and out of place as the products that lined the shelves.

photography of one us dollar banknotes
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I stood in line behind a woman that looked like Naomi Campbell, at least I think she looked like that – I couldn’t tell because she was roughly the weight of 3 head of cattle.  (You can check my no-nonsense weight loss program here!)

With no cart or basket, her hands tightly grasped the merchandise – none of which were critical to her existence – yet she blurted out, “There’s only one register open?  Somebody better call for backup!”  Apparently, she overlooked the fact that she was in the DOLLAR STORE…and there were only two people in front of her.”

marketing office working business
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

I glanced forward towards the cashier.  She was also not starved for food, an appearance she masked with massive fake eyelash lashes (employee discount?)

The woman behind me grabbed a vase that was left on the endcap.  “Oh, wow – it’s only plastic, I thought it was glass,”  She said.

And that was my moment of clarity, enough to remind me not to shop at the dollar store for some 730 days.  Let the counter begin.

THE CHALLENGE:  Maybe it’s time to make the call.  Not the call for more cashiers so you can buy more fake eyelashes, food, and imitation vases in less than half the time so you can then go to another store and consume more crap you don’t need.  Make the call to have less.  To be still.  To gain some self-awareness.  To be aware of those around you.  To be conscious of the world you live in.  Make the call to be productive.  Make the call to educate your mind.  Make the call to invigorate your body, and treat it like a temple taking pride in a healthy appearance and glowing countenance.   Make the call to not be impatient.  If you are stuck in a long line behind a slow cashier, use that time to learn, to reflect, to set goals, to brighten the day of someone behind you, to pick something up off the floor, to pray or meditate, to sing, to make a meaningful phone call or text.  In short, make the call to be productive and useful connecting with self, others, and your higher power.  The best part is, this call is free!

WINGS N’ THINGS

Long before the internet, there was this place called the library. If you wanted to gather information in a systematic fashion what would you use?  Google?  Nope!  Enter the prehistoric search engine, the Dewey Decimal System (Thank you Melvil, but I digress, a lot).

Going to the library was a must for me. I recall maxing out the 10 book limit on a regular basis.  My stack of books always came out of the “nature” genre, usually insects.

I was fascinated with bugs.  If I wasn’t reading about them, I was collecting specimens.  If I wasn’t collecting them, I was “conquering” them…usually with the bottom of my foot…or a magnifying glass (and a few other creative ways not worth mentioning – don’t judge – I was a boy).  Maybe that’s why my answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (An entomologist) never came to fruition.  (But I digress, again)

Have you ever noticed that ants take to the air for an opportunity to mate every time a summer heat wave strikes? After the “magic” happens, what next?  The male dies and the female abandons her wings.  What?!  What is wrong with Mother Nature?  Shouldn’t a new momma ant make herself as mobile as possible?  You know, explore the town, find the best neighborhood, maybe do a little shopping and perhaps raid a picnic?  Instead, she’s 100% committed.  She picks her nesting site and goes to work, never stopping until she dies.

THE CHALLENGE: Stop flying around.  You know what you want to be when you “grow up” right?  So do it.  Chew your wings off!  Dig in!  Do your thing!  Get to work and don’t stop.  The formula is that simple.  I already know that 99.9% of you reading this are going to look your wings in the mirror and tell yourself how you can’t live without them, and that you can’t lose them, at least not yet.  It’s a lie.  Don’t listen.

Hold the Salt

Business lore cannot decide who it wants to attribute the “salt test” to. Some say Thomas Edison, others Henry Ford, not to mention household names like General MacArthur and a host of others.

What is the “salt test” anyway? Essentially, the salt test was a simple method devised to examine the character and personality of a potential employee.

It looks like this… Henry Ford takes you out to dinner, a small price to pay since you’ve applied for a key position in the company. Ol’ Henry keeps an eagle eye on you as the server delivers your requested meal. Your mouth waters as you reach for the salt. (NO! DON’T DO IT!) You proceed to smother your food in that all white ionic compound otherwise known as common table salt. You take a taste. Mr. Ford asks how your food is. You smile and provide enthusiastic feedback, “Delicious!”

You continue your attempt to dazzle. But, it’s too late. You’ve forfeited the job.

Henry Ford knows that premature salt application would indicate a person’s narrow thinking and inability to analyze fresh data. The action might also show a lack of appreciation for the host or a shortage of trust in the cook’s ability.

THE CHALLENGE: Leave the salt alone! Examine your self-talk. Do you season your language with negativity?

“I can’t”

“I’m too”

“Why bother?”

“I’ll never”

How much of this negative dialogue acts as premature seasoning?

When you meet people do you really listen? Do you learn their name? Do you care about what they are saying? Or, are you projecting your own judgements upon them?

As you go throughout the day, pay attention to how often a limited view is imposed on yourself or others. You may be surprised at the frequency at which we season our situations prematurely.

Shoot Blanks

What do most (if not all) books have in common?  A blank page defiled by the words “this page intentionally left blank.”

As if failure to declare this intention would result in a lawsuit.  But who really cares in the first place?

I’ve bookmarked, color coded, tabbed, and dog eared countless pages. But that blank page always goes without attention.  Maybe there is more to

be told on that singular page than any paragragraph in any book.  At least

one beckoning message is for us to “leave room.”

Our lives are filled with obligations and we saturate every crevice of every hour with trivial distractions! I bet one thing they are not filled with is bordom. Think about it, when was the last time you were genuinely bored? I’m not suggesting our time should be idled away. But it is worth asking, have we left any blank space – with intent?

“Boredom is good when in a creative rut, often you will find gift wrapped answers.” -Stephen King

THE CHALLENGE:  How many minutes of your day are intentionally left blank? No seriously, count them up.  Do you leave any room to just sit and think? Do you leave enough white space to find those gift wrapped answers? I dare you to stop reading this, unplug, and go experience boredom for a few minutes. String together some blank pages and note the tremendous influence it yields on the remainder of your “book.”

Survive the Ground

Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season contained a solid lesson.  Steelers hosted the Patriots and it came down to the wire.  Great games are always decided by a key play or two and this one was no different.  With less than a minute remaining in regulation, the Steelers’ tight end (Jesse James) caught what appeared to be a touchdown to secure the win.  Instead…they lost.

The NFL rulebook states that if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass he “must maintain control of the ball until afterhis initial contact with the ground.”  During the lengthy official review, it was deemed evident that James did not “survive the ground” and the touchdown was overturned.  Game over.

Survive the Ground

The sequence of these events reminded me of our goals and resolutions.  I started 2017 with some clear goals that would demand a lot of attention.  While some goals were achieved, others were virtually stillborn.

The first obstacle struck early in the year and I dropped the ball.  I didn’t anticipate variables like the Grim Reaper, traveling, moving, or new goals to surface along the way.  Of course, these are all excuses.  Excuses make the ball pop out.

“Good resolutions are a pleasant crop to sow. The seed springs up so readily, and the blossoms open so soon with such a brave show, especially at first. But when the time of flowers has passed, what as to the fruit?”

THE CHALLENGE:  A new year is upon us.  What do you intend to achieve?  Be a season ticket holder to the game of life.  This game is measured in years with no offseason and the stakes are much higher than a measly sporting event.  Remember, opposition will be knocking at your door.  Like it or not, you will make contact with the turf.  It is not enough to simply dream a goal, hope a goal, or even write down a goal.  You must internalize it.  It must excite you, you must dream about it, you must long for it… that is of course if you want to survive the ground.


Illustration by Ashley Goodall


Humps For Days

“Hey dad, what should I draw next?”

“Draw a camel.”

“Okay, how many humps do you want it to have?”

“Just one”

camel

Camel humps store fat (not water). These humps provide nourishment to the camel when food sources are low. When the fat reserves are utilized, the humps sag like deflated balloons. It takes two things to “re-inflate” the hump:

(1) Food

(2) Rest

Your dreams, your vision for what you REALLY WANT TO DO OR BECOME is like a camel hump. There are times when it is full and robust. There are times when it is drooping and appears like a wilted flower. A vision must be fed, then affirmed through appropriate action. A vision must be protected (like rhino horns). Achieving a vision doesn’t occur overnight, so take some rest. Allow time for your thoughts and efforts to digest. Dream, act, rest.  Dream, act, rest.  Dream, act, rest. It’s a constant cycle. If you are not where you want to be it is because one or more elements of this cycle have been neglected.

THE CHALLENGE:  Too many “humps” equates to mediocrity. Pick a single hump to focus on. After tending to all of life’s responsibilities, that’s about all we really have time for anyway. Now, go re-inflate your hump! Here are three way to do this…

(1) Go dream

(2) Go act

(3) Go rest

 

Photo by compassrose_04

Squirrel Cheeks

My grandad was a bird watcher, as am I.  My feeder attracts a ton of critters.  It’s like an oasis in the desert.  Our most common “beakless” visitor is the squirrel.

I noticed these little screwballs will stuff their cheeks for over an hour and then bury their treasure just a few feet away from the collection point.  I’m sure they have a good reason, but for today’s application – let’s call that behavior “shortsighted” or “senseless.”

squirrel

Don’t get me wrong, I love squirrels and we are a lot like them.  We fill up on knowledge and then data dump the first chance we get.  We scarcely get a few feet away from the fountain of knowledge and it is forgotten or esteemed as trash.  This is not even taking into account the amount of physical waste we produce (or the number of selfies that are taken to update profile pictures like a revolving door).  All this waste is like food in the squirrel’s mouth, there one minute and buried the next.  Our so-called “needs” are assuredly short lived!

But I digress, I’m not writing to save the planet.  I’m writing to save me and you from mediocrity.  I’m writing to increase self-awareness and turn stagnancy into motion, and procrastination into progression.  So…go ahead…be a squirrel!  Stuff your cheeks with life’s goodness, but do something with it!  Use it to fight for the starting job, but unlike the four legged fur balls, don’t drop your nuts!

Rather than take 10 photos today, go through 10 old ones, the ones you’ve already buried.  Are you ever going to “eat” those pictures?  If they are not in a frame or scrap book by now, will they ever be?  What real purpose are they serving?

Instead of buying a new book, read an old book.  A squirrel’s buried acorn may produce an oak tree, but the book on your shelf will only grow a layer of dust if you do not digest it.  Remember, everything you own – owns you!

“Facts are to the mind
what food is to the body.
On the due digestion
of the former
depend the strength
and wisdom of the one,
just as vigor and health
depend on the other.”

THE CHALLENGE: Pictured above is a small Moleskine notebook that I carry with me. It’s a collection of the best ideas and quotes that I’ve harvested as a result of diligent effort throughout the year.  It would be very easy to never read my notes.  It would be no sweat to set it on the shelf and crack it open only when boredom strikes.  Instead, I refer to it every day.  I keep it handy in digital format for a quick search when needed.  I used an audio recorder and put it into MP3 format.  Occasionally I display quotes inside my house or on dry erase boards.  Basically, I’m trying very hard to not “bury” this “cheek full” of wisdom.

You can do this too.  It can be school work, a family journal, professional knowledge, anything you need to place more focus on.  If you know there is some knowledge you undervalue, give this idea hack a try.  I speak from experience when I tell you that this action will increase your personal gratification.

Knee Jerk Reactions

It was a good day for the bees. After covering the hive with three buckets of beach sand, and with our training evolution complete, the time arrived for me to undo the damage and remove the barricade. Accompanied by a trusted friend (or partially insane, depending on how you view this scenario), we slowly removed the sand. I used a small shovel to explore the contents of the sand mound.

I expected to see signs of life.  Just yesterday we checked back to see how the sand was functioning and the bees managed to dig their way out! I marveled at their strength and ingenuity. I grossly underestimated mother nature.

Today was quite the opposite, at first. One dead bee, then another, then another. No sign of life. I was disappointed. Finally, we removed the traffic cone and I heard a buzz of fury. They were alive no doubt, hundreds of them! Without hesitation, my feet made a hasty “about face” and we ran away without looking back for a significant distance (thus proving our remaining sanity).  Not to mention, I may or may not have let out a high pitched shriek.

Have you ever zoned out at a traffic light? What happens? The car behind you lays on their horn and you snap back to reality. Maybe you feel angry at the driver(s) behind you. Perhaps you feel guilty for making them wait, or disappointed in yourself for not paying attention. Emotion inevitably fuels your reaction which makes your foot respond as if it were 10 pounds too heavy. You slam on the gas to compensate for lost time. Of course, nobody else follows suit, but in your mind, it feels right.

In life, because we are flawed human beings, we experience knee jerk reactions. We are very much like “stop-and-go” traffic. Our knee jerk reactions only occur when we fail to move with the flow of transit. This might be moving too fast, such as the case with the bees, or too slow, like taking a mental vacation to Jupiter at a red light.

THE CHALLENGE: Try to go with the flow. Stay in the mainstream. If you ever find yourself easily offended, check your pace. During rush hour traffic it doesn’t matter how fast your engine can “technically” run.  Your horsepower is limited to the cars around you (perhaps a Volkswagen to your left, and a Uhaul to your right).

In life, it often pays to lay off the gas and ease into traffic, instead of becoming a slingshot of emotion. Travel at a safe distance and watch out for speed traps. Stay steady, stay cool…it’s a long drive!

Photo by Anant Nath Sharma

Beating a dead horse, or mule, or whatever…

Mom…dad…aunt…dead, all this year.

What was it like on their deathbed? They all knew it was their time to go. Were they thinking about selfies? TV? How to discipline others? A mediocre lesson? Enemies? The business card they meant to give away?

ANSWER: Nope

They were thinking about the sum total of their lives. They were thinking about bricks! They were thinking about their pain (and thirst). Something happens on our death bed. We let go of all the stuff we thought was important.

A good friend once told me, “You only have to make it until you die.” This helps me stay cool, calm and collected. I try not to carry the “stuff” with me along the way. I can only control what I can control and eventually the clock hit’s zero.

“After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box.”
Proverb

Knowing what I will eventually become makes it easy to keep yellow flags in my pocket. It is also worth questioning if my perspective is even correct. I love children’s art! There is something so pure and authentic in EVERY single doodle they create. Often I would ask my young children, “What is that?” after they come running up to me to show me a masterpiece.

In the child’s mind, the picture doesn’t need any explanation. “It’s right there dad, duh…can’t you see it?” But sometimes I can only see what looks like scribbles. The child is not concerned with line, form, shape, value, color, and texture. They can only limit themselves to the expression of their idea, their way.

I wonder how often we view the world equivalent to a child’s artwork. How often do we impose our will upon others when trying to lead “the right way.” We might be making a ruckus in an attempt to lead others “our way” when in reality what we are waving around is childlike “artwork.” We might be saying, “Duh…it’s right there, can’t you see it?” But, did we present our vision with enough artistic elements? Did we use complimentary colors, formal balance, and proportion?

THE CHALLENGE: As a leader, know the rules. Know what is stated in black and white. This will give you the power to direct. It will provide a common framework for all to understand. Avoid being abstract when assigning tasks or giving orders. Be direct, be clear, be firm. The more you do this, the better you lead. The better you lead, the more bricks you make. The more bricks you make, the more satisfied you will feel when it’s your time to pass.

Photo by Kerry

Stay Humble

“Hey mom, we’re going for a walk?” I said. “Sure,” came the reply. We weren’t thinking about safety. After all, I had a friend with me, so why should anyone consider the fact that the lifeguards would be off duty in just 20 minutes? Or that we would step into the ocean right when high tide was in full fury?

Playing Russian roulette with mother nature nearly cost my life. The fierce undertow gripped my ankles like a creature under the bed. I didn’t stand a chance! After a prolonged struggle, I was desperate! I was 10 seconds from giving up when out of nowhere a monster wave turned me into a living surfboard. It was a thrilling ride, one of desperation. I knew it was my only hope. I let gravity pull me down hoping my toes could now get a taste of sand. I was in luck. The skirmish to get back to land was real. I had to fight for every inch. My body dropped to the beach as if it were a lifeless whale. I failed to look both ways. That was 23 years ago.

Today, I took my kids swimming in the ocean. They had fun jumping waves, that is, so long as they were less than waist deep. They were timid. I tried to coax them into deeper water. No such luck. But I’m convinced my aforementioned brush with death influenced how I raise them and contributed to their immense respect for nature’s power. Patience pays off and I know that in due time they will be ducking and dodging white crested ocean swells.

THE APPLICATION: We enter life naked and helpless. The ocean is a long time coming. We must learn how to crawl, then walk and maybe endure a little pain such as hot sand, cold water, rocks, and an occasional jelly fish sting. We need strength, energy, and endurance. Eventually, we may graduate to a boogie board, surfboard or wakeboard. From there it might be a jet ski, speed boat or cruise liner. But the one thing we never graduate to is trading limbs and lungs for fins and gills. Try as we may, fish we are not.

THE CHALLENGE: Stay humble. Born broke, die rich? Fine. You may own some boats, but the ocean will always own you! True riches are found in listening to nature’s sermons.

Photo by Dave