TICKING TIME BOMB

Seneca, the Roman philosopher left you a supernal gift. You might be thinking, “Oh yeah, I heard that quote before,” Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

No, no my friend. He left you far more than that!  He left you a book called, “On the Shortness of Life.”  You probably haven’t heard of it yet because you’re too busy celebrating a “holiday.”  Don’t worry, I’m here to help.  Do yourself a favor and pick this book up.  Read it and reread it, again and again.  It will soon become the most relevant text you’ve ever encountered.  It is perhaps the most important volume in my library.

I am endlessly fascinated at the rate in which we as humans squander our lives away. Look around you, how many people are playing a mind numbing game on their phone?  How many are feeding the social media monster or incessantly scrolling through the media’s click bait?

In America we filled our calendar with a bunch of; okay I’ll say it, CRAP! Look at all those “holidays” and “special events.”  Halloween, okay I can live with that.  Groundhog day?  Hmmm….okay maybe our fury friend can slip through the crack.  But we need to draw the line somewhere!  If Independence Day wasn’t enough fireworks for you, consider celebrating the following:

Administrative Professional’s Day: April 24
Armed Forces Day: MAY 18
National Bosses Day: OCT 16
United Nations Day: OCT 24
All Souls Day: NOV 2
Grandparents Day: SEP 8
Peace Day: SEP 21
Patriot Day: SEP 21

I suppose we need a special day for everyone and everything. Everyone gets a trophy!

THE CHALLENGE:  Stop!  Stop with all the nonsense!  Read the book mentioned above and strive to live on purpose and on time.  Live deliberately.  Take charge of the one and only life you were given.  Be honest with yourself and take an honest look at what you put on your “calendar”?  If you fill the days with nonsense, then the sum of your life will be nonsense.  If you fill it purpose and meaning and personal growth your life will be rich.  It’s up to you!

SCOOBY SNACKS

Mention “Scooby-Doo” to any 80s child and they will be hard pressed to not start humming the theme song to the cartoon centered around a brown talking dog motivated by “Scooby snacks.” If Scooby wasn’t enough entertainment, consider Snoopy, Odie, Droopy, Goofy, Muttley, Pluto, Brian Griffin, Deputy Dawg, Pongo, Huckleberry Hound, Mr. Peabody, Spunky, Spike and a host of others.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “most dogs look like their owners,” then you might just agree that humans tend to make their pets the center of the universe.  This blog alone has at least one guest appearance from my friendly fur ball named Cookie.

She recently took on a new, more suitable name, “Fatso Cookie.” It seems like just yesterday she was running 3-4 miles per day and could easily keep up on a six mile mountain trail trot.  Now, she’s scared of the winter weather and her main running buddy (yours truly) is halfway around the globe for 6 months.  She’s struggling to tiptoe a single mile.  C’mon dog!

My question to you is this, “how healthy is your dog?” I’m learning that dogs make great “mirrors” in more ways than one.  They might look like you sure, but why not dig a little deeper? (Just not in my backyard you mangy mutt!)  Dogs are likely to reflect our own health.  If you run, your dog runs.  If you hike, your dog hikes.  If you go to dog parks, I’m sure you let your pup accompany you (so you don’t look so strange.)

THE CHALLENGE: If your dog is 15 years old, you get a free pass today.  Otherwise, assess its level of activity.  If healthy – great!  Keep up the good work.  If you’re like me, you have some employment ahead of you.  Perhaps it’s time to cool it on the Scooby snacks.  Oreo cookies aren’t good for dogs, and they’re not good for you either.  Put down the chocolate truffle cheesecake and grab a leash.  Get off the couch and go play fetch.  When you throw a ball, race your dog – it’s a lot more fun, and you’ll both get in shape.  Perhaps try setting a goal to get your dog to run a mile, then two, then three, etc.  Who knows, maybe taking the pressure off of your own performance and projecting it onto your four-legged friend will work wonders.  You can even be like Scooby and pretend you’re running from a ghost.

DEFLATED PAY

As a native “New Englanda” it was especially easy for me to watch the entirety of Tom Brady’s career unfold. Season after season I wanted to quit being a spectator of the sport, and not because I don’t love football – I do.  Yet there is a longing to invest that time elsewhere.  I have been unsuccessful at shaking the game (cheesy pun, I know), I just can’t help but watch someone who has mastered their craft.  Even you haters out there can’t deny the fact that Tom’s records are unbelievable, and that’s not counting 6 super bowl wins.  Just to list a few:

  • Best touchdown to interception ratio in a single season: 28:2
  • Most games won by a quarterback: 237
  • Most Super Bowl appearances: 9
  • Most Super Bowl MVP awards: 4
  • Most passing yards in a Super Bowl: 505
  • Most playoff wins: 30
  • Most career passing yards, regular season and postseason: 81,683
  • Most career passing touchdowns, regular season and postseason: 590
  • Most Pro Bowl selections: 14 (tied)

While it is more important to master my own craft and set my own records, I always felt that there would be a lesson I could take away from the GOAT. The lesson I was looking for finally surfaced, “take a pay cut!”

There are a number of key elements that allowed Tom Brady to be so good for so long. It was a perfect storm.  A perfect coach quarterback combination, a perfect competitor to get overlooked in the draft, a perfect time to enter the game as a starter, a perfect combination of winning teammates, a perfect division of teams that couldn’t sustain winning seasons, etc. etc.

Nobody knows for sure what would have happened if Tom left the Patriots to chase the money. My guess is some more winning.  Why?  Because winners win.  However, I believe it would not have reached the level of success sustained with a single team, a single owner, and a single head coach.

Instead, Tom restructured his contracts multiple times leaving an estimated $60 million (low end) on the table. You might be thinking, “That’s easy to do when you are already financially free for life.”  True, I’ll give you that.  But is there a lesson here for us?  What does a pay cut mean to you and me?

Remember the fly in the movie “A Bug’s Life?” He said it best, “I only got 24 hours to live and I aint gunna spend it here!”  This is a lesson I haven’t fully learned.  Mortality has an expiration date.  If we were acutely aware of our limited time on earth, we’d be more judicious with our time.  We would do what matters most.  We’d be more than willing to take a pay cut.

Everyone (at one point or another) takes a pay cut, even if that point is death. But no matter how high you climb the corporate ladder, there is still room for growth.  No matter how big you grow your business, you can still expand, or at least start another business.  Whatever level people stop at, they accept a pay cut.

Once you’ve met the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter – how much more do you need? What would happen if you were more like Tom Brady and gave your special talent the “hometown discount?”  How good can you get if you stop playing for money and start playing for the love of the game?

THE CHALLENGE: I understand in life you have to “Do what you have to do, so you can eventually do what you want to do.”  If you’ve been in this position for awhile, maybe now is the time to go all in.  If the promotion comes, take it…but don’t chase it.  If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.  If you only had 24 hours to live, would you take a pay cut?  What records would you set?  What statistics would your fans appreciate?  How many times would you win the big game?

THE COTTON HARVEST

At a recent Black History month celebration I was privileged to hear a wonderful speaker relate a few stories from his life and the cultural changes he has observed in the work place over the years.

He shared a story of Grandma taking the grandkids to a plantation to pick cotton. While family history is not my focus today, this is brilliant from a genealogical standpoint.  Generational teachings aside, I believe there is a lesson for all of us from this loving grandmother.

I have never harvested cotton. I don’t know what it is like and I most certainly don’t pretend to know what it is like to be a slave or to suffer the burden of bondage from a taskmaster.  Fortunately though, I’ve been fertilized by some “high grade manure.”  I have had a chance to carry out tasks that are both unpleasant and beyond the threshold of comfort for most Americans.  In every job there is a “rectal exam” – something not very glamorous – something you’d rather not do.  These jobs contain valuable lessons – usually in hindsight.  Today, I’m referring to such tasks as cotton picking.

I believe when it comes to being great at something , when it comes to being your very best, there are times when you must drive yourself. Your goals must become the taskmaster.  Your goal must morph into a living breathing thing, so strict and without feeling that it compels your body to obey your very will.  In other words, you force yourself to pick the day’s cotton.

THE CHALLENGE: What is your “cotton?”  Is it hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock?  Avoiding a phone call or email?  Proper diet and exercise?  Loving more?  Forgiving?  Being taken advantage of?  Or is it simply mastering your craft?  Identify an area in your life that you want to improve but continually procrastinate.  Now, implement the following immediately:  STOP BEING SO NICE TO YOURSELF!  DEMAND MORE.  DEMAND BETTER.  DEMAND RESULTS.  Stop giving yourself another chance or another tomorrow.  Start picking cotton!  There is a lot of acreage on whatever plantation you are avoiding.  Get out and get to work.  Get blisters.  Get sunburned.  Get lashed.  Get hungry.  Get thirsty.  Get fatigue.  Do this and you will get stronger.  Get progress.  Get results.  Get paid.  Get healthy.  Get happy.  Get what your heart desires!

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.”

Digging for Cables

In most situations, I’m a quiet guy. Somehow my dad nicknamed me “chatterbox” as child. The safety of my own home is probably the only time I lived up to such a name.

To this day I still hear people around me say, “watch out for the quiet ones, once they snap they’ll kill you.” Can’t say I’ve ever lived up to that.

In part however, I think there is some truth to the idea that the quiet folks tend to have a little more “clack” to their thunder, a little more “cold calculation” as words erupt like lava from a once stagnant volcano.

But it’s not just the quiet ones we need to be wary of. I think we ALL have an underground cable that if split will electrocute whomever dared to grasp the shovel.

I’m saddened with how quickly people go digging for cables. They long for contention and discord as if severed relationships were the rule and not the exception. They speak truth with no restrain, intent to hurt, intent to cause damage.

THE CHALLENGE: Brutal honesty (even if a skewed opinion) is often the shovel that will get you zapped. Brutal honesty has merit, but lacks sustainability. In dealing with those around you, look for the signs posted “warning, underground cable.” Stay away, dig somewhere else. Every personality has some territory that can be explored freely. Use tact. Use love.

As for your own cables, keep your signs posted. Avoid rust and decay. Sometimes we victimize ourselves when boundaries aren’t declared early and firmly.

Photo by: Ira