Monday, January 13, 2014

That’s All Folks!


“Life begins when a person first realizes how soon it will end.”

Marcelene Cox

I’ve Been Thinking. . . a lot lately about living.

Remember Looney Tunes?  Mel Blanc was the voice behind all the cartoon characters.  At the end of every Looney Tune Production Porky Pig would pop up with this send off, “That’s all folks!”  Porky’s message was, “The show is over.  It’s time to go home.”

When Mel Blanc died, guess what his family put on his tombstone?

“That’s all folks!”

When life is over on this earth, life on this earth is over.

There are three questions I frequently ask myself as a reminder not to say ‘that’s all folks,’ until it’s over.

Question One.  Am I living every minute to fullest?

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I just lived the length of it,” said Diane Ackerman.  “I want to have lived the width of it as well.”

Life is smattered with regrets of the past and fear of the future.  But the thing that stymies me the most is my periodic failure to follow through on good intentions.

I fully intend to live every minute of every day to the fullest.  Sometimes it just doesn’t turn out that way and I walk around looking like the picture on my driver’s license.  I feel a bit like the lady who was out for a walk one morning when she noticed a large tent being erected on the edge of town.  Asking one of the workers the purpose of the tent, she learned that a revival meeting was being held there that night.

She made her way into the tent that evening and found a seat about twelve rows back, right on the aisle.  She was impressed with the inspirational music, contemporary worship and high spirited preaching.  At the end of the service she responded to an alter call and made her way to the front and shouted, “Fill me Lord, Fill me.”

Those who knew her gossiping, backbiting and negative lifestyle were impressed with the change in her behavior.  However, within a few weeks she was right back to her old ways.

The next summer, the revival came back to town and she immediately made plans to attend.  At the end of the service, moved by the power of the evening, she made her way to the front and repeated her “Fill Me Lord!” declaration.  She assured her friends that this time they would see permanent change.  Within a short period she fell into her old behavior...even worse.  Her closest friends described her behavior as that of one being weaned on dill pickles - sour and bitter.

The scene repeated itself the third year.  Same event, same tent, same evangelist, same woman, and same response: “Fill me Lord, Fill me.”  Then she heard a coworker behind her whisper, “Please don’t do it Lord. . . she leaks.”

That’s a great illustration about human nature. We all tend to ‘leak a bit.’  The prescription for living every minute to the fullest involves a daily renewal to fulfilling our good intentions and minimizing the leakage.

Question Two.  Am I striving to become all I can be?

Shortly before his death, George Bernard Shaw was approached by a reporter who had followed his life and achievements.  “Mr. Shaw,” he said, “you have known and associated with a variety of famous people, royalty, artists, dignitaries, world renowned authors and educators.  If you could live your life over again and you could be anybody you’ve known, or any person from history, who would you choose to be?”

“I would choose,” replied Shaw, “to be the man George Bernard Shaw could have been, but never was.”

If you want to ignite that compelling desire to live life to the fullest, strive to become all you can be.  We are all created with an equal ability to become unequal.  It’s called potential.  Potential is maximized by dedicating yourself to becoming everything you are intended to be.

I am convinced we can change the quality of our world and the world around us by becoming a little bit better today than we were yesterday, and stretching ourselves tomorrow beyond where we are today.  However, I’m not na├»ve.  I’m well aware of the number of people who want to remain as they are.

They are the people who are only happy when they are unhappy.  They only have something to say when they can complain, and most of them only feel good when they feel bad. The world is full of people blaming the unevenness of the floor for their inability to dance.  They are unwilling to accept responsibility for advancing their life.

Abraham Maslow said, “If you settle for less than you can be, you will be unhappy for the rest of your life.”

I’m personally not interested in unhappiness or mediocrity so will continue to ask the question:  “Am I striving to become all I can be?”

Question three.  Is life an adventure?

Take it from someone who lost her sight and hearing when she was nineteen months old.  She became a wild rebellious, uncontrollable teenager who, under the guidance of a persistent and loving teacher, learned how to read and write.  She attended Radcliffe University and studied French as well as Greek, learned how to do term papers on her Braille typewriter and graduated to become a promoter of peace and a lobbyist for many causes.  Living in a world of silence and darkness, Helen Keller declared, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

I know there are problems, challenges, adversity and obstacles that rear their ugly heads, but life is not bad.  Life is life!  It includes the good as well as the bad. 

Life isn’t easy.  It was never meant to be.  O. Henry said, “Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.”  It takes a bit of grit and determination to face the sniffles head on, grasp them around the neck, and use them to create the adventure.

There are so many people who have given up and are just trying to get through each day (no adventure here).  We need to get tough on ourselves and life will be easier on us.  There is simply no reason for existing in a lifeless, boring, unfulfilled life.  Let life teach you.

Ask yourself:  “What will I take away from the experiences I had today?  What have I invested in today that will make a difference in my life and those around me?  Am I satisfied with marching in place or am I willing to pull up my boot straps, dig in my heels and take personal responsibility for the impact of life on me and the impact I have on life?

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be.  It’s the way it is.  The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”

Virginia Satir

 

Friday, December 20, 2013

No Vacancy!


“. . . and there was no room for them in the Inn.”

I’ve Been Thinking . . . about the “No Vacancy” sign that hung outside the Bethlehem hotel a few centuries ago.

Sunday, March 10, 2013 started out innocent enough.  I endured the adjustment of Daylight Savings Time overnight and still arose early to prepare myself for a flight from Palm Springs, California back to Omaha. 

It was a beautiful blue sky morning in the desert so I was shocked to see the number of people standing in the security line at the airport waiting to have their internal organs and luggage photographed.  Why would they want to leave?  Probably the same reason I was boarding a flight -- time to get back to work.

I was able to watch the first half of the Missouri Valley Conference basketball Championship on the airplane, listen to a 27 year old guy convince his wife he could make millions flipping real estate and watch a mother desperately attempt to comfort her screaming 2-year-old.  Denver is in our sights.  Television off.  Smooth landing.  Let the cattle rush begin to gates near and far. 

I switched airlines and therefore concourses for my final leg into Omaha.  '13' minutes before boarding, the gate agent announced a weather advisory delay into Omaha.  "Could be 5 minutes.  Could be five hours," she said (with a sense of humor).

I wasn't feeling it.  Not funny!  In fact, I stayed closed to the ticket counter, knowing the inevitable would happen -- sooner or later.  Every 15 minutes we received an update (thank you) telling us nothing had changed.  "Blizzard conditions existed in Omaha.  Visibility was 1/4 mile (that's not good).  Rumors surfaced that the Omaha airport was closing."

I sat close to the action, directly across from a young lady attempting to be the twenty something poster child for lip Botox.  Then it happened!

"Ladies and gentleman, Flight 6780 to Omaha is officially cancelled.  We are flying directly to Chicago." 

Chicago?  Holy guacamole!  Now what do I do?  Scramble to be first in line; that's what you do.  Markus (Southwest agent) tells me these are my options:

1.  Sleep at the Denver airport.  Take a 6:00 am flight to Kansas City, stay in the KC airport all day and arrive in Omaha 11:00 Monday night.  Not liking that one.

2.  Sleep over night at the Denver airport.  Take a 6:17a.m. flight to Phoenix and arrive in Omaha 4:30 Monday afternoon.  I'm now zero for two.

"I want my own bed!"

3.  Markus said my third option was to fly to Chicago and then back to Des Moines.  Arrive in Des Moines 11:00 p.m. Sunday night.  Tempting.  I could rent a car and be back in Omaha by 2:00 or 3:00 Monday morning.

"Let's do it!" I said.  I attempted a bit of a nap (unsuccessfully) on our 1 hour and 56 minute flight to Chicago, thus preparing me for the drive home from Des Moines.

Once inside Midway Airport, the ticket agent questioned my wisdom for deciding to fly into Des Moines.  Travel conditions had worsened in Iowa.  Yea!  I wanted to say, "Hey, your agent Markus told me that would be a good option. He even showed me evidence on radar of the storm not moving that direction."  But, I didn't!  She was a nice lady and I'm too tired to argue.

Maggie recommended I spend the night in the airport and catch the 6:00 a.m. flight back to Omaha.  "It happens all the time," she said comfortingly.

I took the bait.  I so wanted my own bed. . . but it wasn’t going to happen tonight.

A piece of toast for breakfast, a half of chocolate chip cookie for lunch and two bags of Southwest peanuts are sustaining me.  I order a 'delicious' airport meal and contemplate my condition. . .

I'm deserted, homeless, stranded and yes, totally out of control of the situation.  Just as I began feeling sorry for myself -- I remember the family of '7' ('5' adorable kids ages 7 and younger.  What are they thinking?) at the Denver airport who decided to drive back to Omaha rather than rebook.  I wonder how that's working out for them.

It’s time to consider what my options are for spending the night.  Time for a walk and a sleeping alternatives assessment. . .

They are setting up cots by the hundreds in the "C" Concourse.  Should I join this group of vagabonds or stay put with a dozen or so people who have found unusual ways to get comfortable in airport chairs.  It's not a pretty picture!  The sounds are strange as well.

I grabbed an airport issued pillow and blanky.  I think I'll try my own concoction of comfort by putting a few chairs together to form a make-shift bed.

At 11:57 a security guard informs me I need to move to the C Concourse ‘Cot Hotel’ as the Concourse I was in would be closed.

It’s at this moment I get a small glimpse of Mary and Joseph desperately attempting to find a hotel room where the Baby Jesus can be born.  “No Vacancy” was the message they heard over and over again.  I can attest; that is a desperate feeling. 

I choose my special designer cot in Concourse C, closed my eyes and for the next two hours I 'experience' the airport.  Here are my observations during the quiet night hours. . .

People make strange sounds when sleeping.  Airport construction goes on all night long ...with a sledge hammer.  The same automated, irritating announcements about smoking, baggage, and the moving walkway go on and on and on even when there aren't any people in an airport?  The same guy told me to cover my mouth when I sneeze and wash my hands every 15 minutes.  (Don't those people ever sleep?)  The space between our cots was the pathway for the cleaning crew and their carts.  The lights in an airport are never turned off.  Airport employees who work at night are really loud!  Airport music bangs through the concrete hallway all night long.  The temperature is turned down to a comfortable freezing point for raw meat.

What was it like inside that stable the first Christmas night?  What were the sights and sounds?  Did anyone understand or care about Joseph and Mary’s situation?  Did people just go on doing what they always did?

At 2:12 I consider staying up for one of my few all-nighters since being in college.  The next thing I know it is 3:10.  At 4:00 the security makes his rounds to let us know we need to move from the ‘cot hotel’ so they can prepare the concourse for the day.  I manage to get this 60 year old body out of 'bed' and check out of the cot hotel. . . refreshed from my 58 minute nap.

They tell me my 6:00 a.m. flight back to Omaha is on time.

Inside all the drama. . . Creighton wins the MVC Championship.  I'm alive and blessed.  Outside of a little loss of sleep (okay major), life is really good.  I have a new travel story to tell.  God is good!

In contrast, Jesus life never really returned to normal.  There was no 6:00 a.m. flight to take him home.  He experienced “No Vacancy” signs all of his life as he attempted to enter people’s hearts.  Still does.

It’s Christmas. 


Consider hanging a “Vacancy” sign so you can experience the full power of this special day.


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Do You Have What It Takes?



“The difference between the impossible and possible lies in a man’s determination.”

Tommy Lasorda

I’ve Been Thinking . . . about all the implications of this comment by Langston Hughes:  “I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching certain people separate themselves from the average -- the mediocre.  Careful evaluation of these folks reveals an irreplaceable spirit of tenacity.  Their determination evolves from a passionate desire to be all they can be, which helps them channel their energies toward their dreams.

Michael Jordan really wanted to play basketball.  Yet, as a sophomore at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, he failed to make the varsity team so settled for playing junior varsity.  Jordan was determined to develop his abilities and committed himself to working harder and improving every aspect of his game. 

“The starting point of all achievement,” wrote Napoleon Hill, “is desire.  Keep this constantly in mind.  Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat.”  Michael Jordan combined talent with desire and determination to become one of the truly great basketball players of all time.

Desire and determination create the “wantivation” to take you where you want to go, help you become what you were meant to be.  We are designed in such a way that when the fires of passion are fanned, impossibilities tend to drift away.  People with a desire to thrust themselves totally into their pursuits make it impossible for them to be an average person.

John Havlicek (my basketball hero as a kid) literally thrust himself into every game he played in 16 years with the Boston Celtics.  Hustle, grit, guts, self sacrifice, and determination earned him the nickname “Mr. Perpetual Motion.”

Dan Gable earned an incredible reputation in the wrestling world.  As a student and wrestler at Iowa State, Dan won two national titles and lost only one match.  Prior to the 1972 Olympic Games, Gable became a target of the Russian Olympic wrestling team.  Ironically, this team had pushed Gable to raise the bar on his performance and now they were looking for a wrestler who could defeat him.

Prior to the games, Gable tore the cartilage in his left knee.  Rather than submitting himself to surgery, he opted to alter his wrestling style and score on his opponents in new, creative ways.  In his first match, he experienced a cut over one eye requiring seven stitches but his desire to compete and determination to excel carried him to the medal stand to experience the elation of receiving the gold medal.

“The human spirit is never finished when it is defeated,” believes Ben Stein.  “It is finished when it surrenders.”  Dan Gable knew that.  He refused to surrender and those of us who followed his wrestling coaching career at the University of Iowa understand his passion for instilling that same spirit in his wrestlers. 

I watched Jim Marshall display incredible desire and determination as one of the most indestructible linemen in professional football.  He was an inspiration for the Minnesota Viking’s “purple people eaters” as he gave 110%, starting in 282 consecutive games and playing defensive end with an unquenchable desire until he was forty-two.

I hope you’re getting a sense of what separates successful people and others.  It’s not a matter of strength.  Knowledge has minimal impact.  Heredity is insignificant.  Desire compounded by a determination to excel often separates winners from losers.  David Ambrose believed:  “If you have a will to win, you have achieved half your success; if you don’t, you have achieved half your failure.”  The desire and determination to do -- creates the ability to do. 

In case you haven’t noticed, the world isn’t coming to your door with your every heartfelt desire being delivered to you on a silver platter.  You may even get the feeling at times that the world has little interest in your success.  Some of you might even feel pulled down about the time you’re reaching another rung on the ladder.  In fact, Edgar W. Howe suggested, “If you succeed in life, you must do it in spite of the effort of others to pull you down.”

How badly do you want to achieve your potential?  How committed are you to do whatever it takes to accomplish your dreams?  Do you have the courage to step out in a direction others might consider ridiculous?  How hungry are you to experience success?  These questions aren’t for the faint-hearted.  Answering these questions in the affirmative will require you to ante up and place your bets based on the intensity of your desire and determination to accept full responsibility for your future.

“If you don’t get what you want, it is a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price.”

Rudyard Kipling


Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy

“The only way to find happiness is to understand that happiness is not out there.  It’s in here.”

Marshall Goldsmith

I’ve Been Thinking . . . about happiness. 

I’ve also been asking myself some pointed questions about my own happiness like; Are you happy with who, what and where you are today?  Are you having fun?  Are you enjoying your relationships?  Are you optimistic about your future?  Are you living life to the fullest?

If the answer is yes, why?  Probably the choices I’m making. 

If the answer is no, why not?  Probably the choices I’m making.

For most people, there is a tendency to search for something or sometime or someone to empower our pursuit of happiness. ‘When . . . then’ is their happiness formula.  Unfortunately, going through life waiting for the ‘when . . .  then’ moment to occur causes us to miss the wonderful adventure available to us today.

Remember the comedy film Cool Runnings?  It is about the first Jamaican bobsled team to go to the Olympics.  John Candy plays a former American gold medalist who is chosen to coach the Jamaican team.  The players grow to like their American leader and affectionately dub him “Sled-god.”

As the movie progresses, the coach’s dark past surfaces and begins to haunt him.  In an Olympics following his gold medal performance, he broke the rules by weighting the U.S. sled, bringing disgrace on himself and his team.

One of the Jamaican bobsledders was perplexed why anyone who had already won a gold medal would cheat.  He nervously approached the coach and asked him to explain.

“I had to win,” the coach said.  “I learned something.  If you are not happy without a gold medal, you won’t be happy with it.”

If you are not happy without the ‘sometime,’ ‘someone,’ or ‘something,’ you won’t be happy with it.  Happiness is an internal tug of war that can be won or lost at your choosing.  Unhappiness comes without an investment but you won’t like the interest it pays.  It takes energy, commitment and solid choices to be happy.  The dividends are well worth the investment.

In my happy moments, these three “A” principles are solidly at work:

  1. Attitude of Gratitude.  My happiness is not determined by what’s happening to me but rather what is happening in me.  When I am grateful for every moment of everyday my happiness quotient is pretty healthy.  I challenge you to find just one happy, ungrateful person – impossible.  Be an optimist.  Regardless of your circumstances, choose to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

  1. Align your Purpose and Passions.  When your daily activities are a reflection of your life’s purpose and the activities you are passionate about, happiness naturally surfaces.  Look around you.  Happy people are investing their lives in a purpose that really matters to them.  Unhappy people are often ‘wandering generalities.’  Happiness is a consequence for pursuing something meaningful.

  1. Activate Happiness Activators.  What?  That’s right, do the things that bring about happiness.  Smile.  Laugh.  Do something to make someone else happy.  Believe in God.  Build a close relationship.  Let go of the ‘poor me’ mentality. Speak happy.  It’s all about activating the simple “as-if” principle.  If you want to be happier, act as-if you’re happy and soon the behavior creates the emotion.

Don’t wait for happiness to find you.  Happiness is largely a choice.  If you want it, work at it.

“To be happy is easy enough if we give ourselves, forgive others, and live with thanksgiving.  No self-centered person, no ungrateful soul can ever be happy.  Life is giving, not getting.

Joseph Fort Newton

Monday, October 21, 2013

Dig Deep To Surface Your Courage


You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”

 Eleanor Roosevelt

I’ve Been Thinking . . . that compared to some other people; I have the courage of the lion in the Wizard of Oz.

Courage is nothing more than simply doing what you are afraid to do.  Simple to say.  More difficult to do.  Maybe this true story of incredible courage will help.

In 1978 Roger Reynolds finished his fourth Boston Marathon in intense pain.  Running with one leg shorter than the other, Reynolds trained fifteen miles every morning.  According to a story by Bill Shaw in the Indianapolis Monthly, Roger’s real passion wasn’t even running, it was skydiving.

Before telling you the rest of Roger’s incredible story, keep in mind this comment from Brian Tracy:  “Fears diminish and lose their power over you as you confront them.  Every time you back away from a fear situation, the fear grows and becomes more powerful.”

Now back to the story.  In 1974, at age twenty-one, Roger was a Green Beret and a member of the U.S. Army parachute team, the “Golden Knights.”  He was, as they say, rough, tough, and ready.

It was April and the team had arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia, to perform at the Dogwood Festival.  Despite the overcast day, the team leader decided to go ahead with the performance.  Roger would be doing the dangerous “cut-a-way” stunt where he would intentionally collapse the first chute to thrill the crowd and then at the last minute open his second chute and land safely to the crowd’s wild applause.  This would be Roger’s 959th jump.

The plane bounced around in the cloudy turbulence as Roger jumped out of the plane at 2000 feet.  Moments later he was descending at more than a hundred miles an hour when he discovered his chute was tangled and not slowing him down.  He had committed the cardinal parachute sin that morning - he hadn’t checked his chutes.

Roger reassured himself that it was OK as he pulled the cord for the second chute to release.  However, the second chute tangled in the first, leaving him to slam into the earth below breaking every bone on his left side.

The doctors predicted he would die, and if he survived, he would certainly never walk again.

Sixteen months later Roger painfully walked out of the hospital with a cane.  Physically, he was fifty pounds lighter.  Mentally, he was determined to overcome the nightmares his hospital stay had produced.

While in the hospital Roger had studied for his pilot’s exam and shortly after his release, climbed into a plane and earned his pilot’s license.  One challenge down.

Next, he drove back to Indiana to an area where he had learned to parachute as a kid.  All those closest to him thought he was crazy.  Surely he would permanently damage his weak body or kill himself.  But Roger ignored their advice and prepared for a confrontation with fear.

The equipment was carefully checked - twice.  At three thousand feet Roger exited the plane and left behind a fear that could have crippled him for life.  The jump was successful as he carefully landed on his good leg, at the relief of his friends anxiously watching.

That’s when the physical conditioning began to rebuild his body.  Running produced unbearable pain.  Little by little he extended the distance but still felt excruciating pain.  Then in 1978, without anyone’s knowledge, he traveled to Boston to compete in his first marathon.  Although he participated as an unofficial entrant, Roger finished the race.  Another fear had been confronted and overcome.

For Roger Reynolds, pain became a way of life, but fear was overcome by facing it head on.

Many people discover when coming face to face with their fear, that their fear of fear was the only real fear.  As Logan Pearsall Smith put it, “What is more mortifying than to feel you have missed the plum for want of courage to shake the tree?”

Keep leaning against your fear.  In turn you will produce the intestinal fortitude to keep on forging ahead.  Courage will surface to assist you in acting in spite of your fear. 

Courage is the ability to acknowledge fear and work through it on the way to your dreams and goals.  Courage isn’t having the strength to go on - it’s going on in spite of the fact you don’t have the strength.  When defeat or despair knocks at your door and you answer with the courage of Roger Reynolds, you’ll find nothing there that you can’t overcome.

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

Harper Lee
"To Kill A Mockingbird”

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Grab Hold of Life - Let Go of Excuses


“The person who is good at excuse-making is seldom good at anything else.”

Ben Franklin

I’ve been thinking . . . about making excuses.

Two men were out playing golf on Sunday morning.  At the sound of church bells in the distance, one man said to the other, “Wow!  It’s Sunday morning, and we are out here playing golf instead of going to church.”

“I couldn’t go to church anyway,” his partner replied.  “My wife is sick today.”

The exercise of making excuses is not new to our generation.  We can trace this popular, diversionary technique back to the first story of Adam and Eve.  And close by, in the Book of Leviticus, we find a sacred custom called the “escaped goat.”

When the problems and trials of the people became overwhelming, a healthy male goat was brought to the temple.  In a formal ceremony, the high priest of the tribe placed his hands on the head of the goat and read the list of problems.  This process transferred the agonies and anxieties onto the goat, and the goat was sent away into the pasture, taking the troubles with him.

Things haven’t changed much in 4000 years.  Now people use a less formal process of placing blame for their problems on something or someone else.  Although the term scapegoating is still popular, I prefer a phrase that seems more appropriate:  Excusiology.

We are becoming a society filled with Professional Excusiologists.  The seemingly popular thing to do is to retreat from responsibility and exert incredible energy attempting to explain away our failures, mistakes, inadequacies and general lack of success.

There are essentially two approaches to life.  Doers and excusers.  The quality of your life is determined by which decision you make.  Study the lives of successful people and you’ll discover all the excuses made by mediocre performers are non-existent.  “Ninety-nine percent of failures,” said George Washington Carver, “come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

How is it possible for a major league pitcher to be bounced seven times from baseball because of drug offenses and then be readmitted?  He got his lifetime banishment over-turned when his attorneys submitted evidence that he suffered from a hyperactive condition that contributed to his cocaine addiction.

Then there was a 60-year-old woman who had a fetish for setting forest fires.  After lighting one up in the Shasta Trinity National Forest in California, she simply explained she just wanted to help her son, a seasonal firefighter.  The firefighters, you see, get extra pay when they fight fires.  “She wanted him to be able to fight a lot of fires and make extra money,” said Mark Reina, an investigator for the California Department of Forestry.

An Oregon man attempted to kill his ex-wife.  He was then acquitted on the grounds that he suffered from “depression - suicide syndrome,” whose victims deliberately commit poorly planned crimes with the unconscious goal of being caught or killed.  If I understand correctly, this guy didn’t really want to shoot his wife; he wanted the police to shoot him.  So, he went free.

A fired Northwestern University professor was arrested for collecting his mother’s social security checks for six years after her death.  He blamed “extreme procrastination behavior” caused by depression.

Here is the epitome of excusiology.  Attorneys for Dan White, who murdered San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, argued the crime was the result of emotional stress linked to White’s junk food binges.  White was acquitted of murder and convicted on a lesser charge of manslaughter due to his “Twinkie Syndrome.”

The classic has to be the man who sued himself for getting drunk and violating his civil rights.  He was serving twenty-three years at the Indian Creek Correctional Center in Chesapeake, Virginia for breaking and entering, plus grand larceny. 
According to the Houston Chronicle, he submitted a handwritten suit which said:  “I partook of alcoholic beverages in 1993.  As a result, I caused myself to violate my religious beliefs.  This was done by going out and getting arrested, which caused me to be in prison.  For violating my religious beliefs, I want to pay myself $5 million, but I ask the state to pay it since I can’t work and am a ward of the state.”

Fortunately Judge Rebecca Smith didn’t see things quite the same way and immediately dismissed the suit.  She called the whole situation “ludicrous.”  That’s almost an understatement.

Bern Williams summarized the modern trend of irresponsibility in the Reader’s Digest: “If Adam and Eve were alive today, they would probably sue the snake.”  And why not, it is easier than saying, “It was my fault.  I take full responsibility.”

The simple truth is: people who make excuses a way of life, accomplish little to take credit for, and life will continue to seem unfair.  Excusiology is a dead end way of to live. 

John Wooden was on of the greatest basketball coaches of all time.  Wooden led his UCLA Bruins to a record-breaking number of NCAA basketball championships, and gained the respect of players and spectators alike.  One of his memorable motivating statements admonished players to take responsibility for their actions, “Nobody is a real loser – until they start blaming somebody else.”

Someone once said, “The person who blames himself hasn’t begun their education.  And the person who blames no one has finished their education.”

I walked by the office of an English professor who must have believed that philosophy as well.  An 11 x 14 inch sign read:  “Cut the Crap.  Results - Not Excuses.”  A huge step toward putting life into your living is letting go of excuses.  Consider the following examples of people who accepted responsibility for their situations:

Hector Camacho scored a technical knock-out over Sugar Ray Leonard in his attempted comeback out of retirement.  Though Leonard’s camp seized upon an injury he suffered to his right calf a month before the fight, Sugar Ray down-played the excuses.  “Please, please, I say to all the journalists - do not write this is the reason I lost,” he said.  “I lost to a better man.”

Center-fielder, Duke Snider, and the feared hitter, Willie McCovey, were charged with tax evasion.  Facing a possible prison term and large fine, they had this to say:  “We’re wrong.”

Former Clinton Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers, was arrested in Washington, D.C. for driving under the influence.  Myers’ response?  “It’s tremendously embarrassing to make a mistake.  I think drinking and driving is a really bad thing . . . I wasn’t thinking and there’s no excuse for that.”

Remember when actor Hugh Grant was arrested with a Hollywood hooker.  Before millions of Tonight Show viewers, Grant silenced the tabloid hounds.  “I know what’s a good thing and what’s a bad thing,” he said.  “It was a bad thing and there you have it.”  No excuses.  No psychological theories.  Just a simple admission that he made a poor decision.

Listen to people and you’ll discover people failing to live life to the fullest by filling their lives with a life-threatening disease.  It’s called excusiology.  They are in dire need of a vaccine inoculation called responsibility to re-energize their lives.

Choosing to take responsibility separates the doers and complainers, achievers and excusers.  The more successful a person, the less inclined they are to make excuses.  People who just exist are quick to explain why they haven’t grown, why they don’t accomplish much, and all the reasons why they can’t improve their position in life.

Brian Tracy makes a great point.  “Continually making excuses and trying to explain away your faults, your problems, and your deficiencies, instead of accepting full responsibility for your life and doing something to change it, are one of the critical factors that can hold you back from achieving your full potential as a human being.”

Recognize any excuses you are using.  Let go of the alibis, rationalizations, and justifications you have endorsed for not getting out of life all the happiness and success you desire.

“Some men have thousands of reasons why they cannot do what they want to,” said Willis R. Whitney, “when all they need is one reason why they can.”

The simple truth is:  You can’t progress beyond where you are until excuses are replaced with action that will make a difference in how your life works out.

We can all start today to develop a winning lifestyle by letting go of excuses and embracing our personal responsibility.

“The reason people blame things on previous generations is that there’s only one other choice.”


Doug Larson

Monday, September 9, 2013

Conquer Chronic Complaining


“Do not listen to those who weep and complain, for their disease is contagious.”

Og Mandino

I’ve Been Thinking. . . about an energy-sucking, productivity squelching, useless epidemic.

I’m sure my conclusion isn’t scientifically defendable but my informal research has revealed that complaining is rapidly becoming one of American’s favorite past times.  The subtle, yet profound results of this habitual behavior are not pretty.

In the Australian Bush Country there is a little plant called the “Sundew.”  It has a slender stem and tiny round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid.  The Sundew has attractive clusters of harmless, inviting red, white and pink blossoms.

Beware; the leaves are deceivingly deadly!  The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug or insect that touches it.  As the insect struggles to get free, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it.  This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim.

The leaves of negativity, moaning, groaning, complaining, ‘awful’izing, self-pity parties, and ‘must’erizing  appear harmless.  But they are deadly traps waiting to snuff the life from of their victims.

I don’t know why it is so inviting, but indulging in this fast growing hobby is often justified as merely pointing out “life’s reality or the current state of the world.” 

Really?  Seriously?   Chronic Complainers are toxic!  Moaning and murmuring can rapidly consume the energy, creativity, fun and productivity out of any group.

Whining, the expression of disappointment, dissatisfaction, and disagreement, offers no hope of contentment yet the continual expression of misery has a mysterious appeal.  Chronic complainers generally complain about the same things to the same people in the same way in the same tone day after day after day.

Health and wealth (normally the lack of it), bosses and spouses, politicians and situations, sleep deprivation and people frustration; are all objects of our complaints.  Actually, we complain about everything that doesn’t meet our definition of the way things should be.

Heaven forbid anyone offer advice, ideas or solutions to our topic of complaint.  When people agree or support our position, there is an irresistible feeling of satisfaction that someone is willing to acknowledge our pain and discontent.  Yet, that is often the encouragement we need to complain to someone else and hope they embrace our tribulation.

I may not appear empathetic with the popularity of venting.  You’re right.  I’ve become allergic to the appeal of bemoaning our circumstances while they are ripe for our energetic intervention.

Are there problems, injustices, irritations, and unfairness?  Absolutely!  So, what do we do about them?  Assume responsibility for those things we can control, stop blaming others or feeling sorry for ourselves when things don’t go as we wish and move on. . .

I know life is supposed to happen exactly the way we want it to; perfectly aligned with our expectations.  Everything should happen the way we want it to or think it should.  Good luck with that expectation.  People are imperfect.  Life is erratic.  Stuff happens!

Ironically, those who complain the most produce the most to complain about.  Complaining is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.    I guarantee you the more you grumble, the more you will have to grumble about.  You get what you focus on.  It’s a natural law of life that the more I dwell on the negative, the more negative I attract to me.

So. . . if you are intent on producing more to grumble about, master the art of complaining.  However, before you intentionally start down that path, reconsider!  Complaining is addictive.  You may soon see everything through ‘ain’t that awful’ lenses.  It is practically an irreversible addiction to shed.

Here’s another serious consideration.  Complainers attract complainers.  If you want to spend your life with negative, energy sucking, unhappy people. . . well, you know what to do.  Join the complainer clique who thrives on being suspicious, critical and fault-finding of everyone and everything around them. 

The perfect antidote to complaining is to adjust your view of reality.  Realize and accept the fact that problems, pet peeves and irritations will always exist.  So, what’s the answer?

Suggestion one.  Avoid being a problem-finder.  Become intent on being a problem-solver.  Complaining is an exhaustible waste of energy.  Looking for solutions to issues generates creativity, energy and passion – a pretty powerful combination.

Suggestion two.  Limit the time you spend with chronic complainers.  Most of them aren’t interested in your cheery, spirited, proactive disposition.  Carefully decide the type of people with whom you want to invest your time.

Suggestion three.  Nurture your appreciative, grateful and optimistic nature.  Find the good in life and people.  Make positivity a habit.

These three relatively straightforward lifestyle adjustments can help you conquer chronic complaining.

 “If you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised by how well things can work out... Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won't make us happier.”

Randy Pausch
The Last Lecture