June 2, 2010

I’m what you would call a non-traditional student. About three months ago, I decided to go back to school. I graduated with my Associate Degree back in 1998, and it hasn’t taken me where I want to get to. It seems a Bachelors degree is required for many of the jobs I wish I had. For the better part of a decade, I came up with excuses not to go back to school; some were valid and others were baloney (or ‘bologna’ for those my more traditional readers). So when I accepted the job I currently have and learned they offered full tuition reimbursement, I thought it would be foolish not to go back. I mean, that’s leaving money on the table, right? So I’m back in school taking classes. And it’s not that hard. The most difficult part of the whole thing was deciding to go.

One of my favorite movies of all time is ‘Apollo 13’. I watch it several times a month, usually as I’m going to bed. It fascinates me that a movie that we all know the ending of before we saw it the first time, can be so tense and dramatic. Anyway, one of my favorite lines comes from this film. Lovell, along with everyone else on the planet, had just watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. He’s outside, looking up at the moon, and talking to his wife. He says, “From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it’s not a miracle, we just decided to go.”

I think there are many things in our lives that we could do if we just decide to. I wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed because I was scared that something might be too hard. Where would we be if we decided to do things that were hard? That were scary? That required more work than we’ve put forth in the past? Better off than we are, I think.



April 2, 2010

“Our big moments — where we can change the world — come because so many other people have helped us, and luck has come to us. But our small moments, when no one is watching and no one cares and the only thing that makes us try again is an unreasonable belief that we can get what we want for ourselves — those are the triumphs that we do all by ourselves.”

Isn’t that so true? The author, Penelope Trunk, is making the point in her post that sometimes the biggest triumphs in life come from simply getting out of bed when you have no reason to believe anything good will happen. Check out her blog, Brazen Careerist. It’s in the Blogroll.


March 17, 2010

I was reading  Steve Pavlina’s blog on Personal Development (It’s in the blogroll to the right). He had a post that went along very well with my previous post on setting SMART goals. He has a different take on it, and I found it amusing. He breaks down setting goals to making an order at the Universal Restaurant. The premise is that to make a change in your life, you have to make an order. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast! He equates people who set goals like “I want a romantic partner!”  to people who walk into a restaurant and shout “I’m hungry! I want some food!” The unspecific goal/request will result in you getting either a) nothing, or b)something, but not what you wanted.

To set goals for change, order like you’re standing in front of the Soup Nazi:

“When you set goals and intentions, place an order. Don’t ask, “Please can I…?” Simply order, much like you would in a restaurant. Say, “I’ll have the …” Then expect to receive what you order.

Don’t be timid or cowardly or uncertain. Just state your order, and expect to get it. If you screw this up, no soup for you.

Take as much time as you want to decide what to order, but when you place your order, accept what you ordered, and know that you’re going to receive it. You may have some buyer’s remorse if it’s not as good as you hoped, but that’s okay. Receive it anyway. There will always be other meals, other orders. Not everything you receive will taste like ambrosia.

Be specific in asking for what you want.”

Take a look at the post. It’s certainly worth mulling over for a few minutes. If you could get exactly what you asked for, how would you ask?


March 11, 2010

Thoughts from Invictus:

 One of the most electrifying speeches Nelson Mandela gave was not given from a podium. There was no lectern. Mandela stood, not in front of thousands of like-minded supporters, but in front of a judge, at his own trial. Mandela was being tried on two counts – inciting persons to strike (stay home) illegally and leaving the country without a passport. This speech became known as his “Black man in a white court” speech. In it, he rails against racialism [sic] and discrimination. At this time, Nelson Mandela was the head of the African National Congress (ANC)’s armed wing, ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’, which translates ‘Spear of the Nation’. He was addressing the white court, but also spoke to the apartheid leaders of South Africa and his own followers.  Mandela was found guilty and sentenced to prison, where he served 27 years. During his captivity, Mandela maintained his status as head of the ANC, and the face of the anti-apartheid movement. He used this time to formulate a strategy of how to bring peace to his nation- a revolution achieved through discussion, not war. He learned about the Afrikaner (white South African minority) culture and past times. He used this knowledge and the relationships he fostered with guards, wardens, and political leaders to start a dialog that would change his nation’s future. My aim is to look at several of the strategies Mandela used to bring about change, and see how we can use them to make changes we see as necessary.  

The first thing Nelson Mandela did was establish a clear understanding of what is was he wanted to see changed. Is his situation, he wanted to see the end of apartheid. To be clear, he did not want to see the whites run out the country, or even out of government. What he aspired to was a democratically elected government, regardless of the color of the skin. See, Mandela was against racism and discrimination, whether that was a white man telling a black man where they could go (blacks had pass books to gain admission to white areas, only if they worked there), or a black man telling a white man if he can serve in government. The first step in generating change is defining the problem: “What needs to be changed?” If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you expect to get there? Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Mandela’s goal was all of these. So when you set goals for yourself, for something you want to change, be SMART. Don’t say you want to lose weight. How much weight do you want to lose? Why? By When? Don’t say you want a new job. What job? What salary? Where? By when? By being SMART, you can measure and hold yourself accountable.

So what SMART goals are you setting for yourself? Let me know in the comments!


March 10, 2010

Big Ben is in trouble again. For those of you outside of Pittsburgh, I’m not talking about the clock across the pond. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion, finds himself under pressure again, but not from a blitzing DB. For the second time in as many years, Roethlisberger is being accused of sexual assault. The first case is in civil court currently, and no charges have been filed in the most recent case in Georgia. While Big Ben remains innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law, one thing is for certain: he is 100% guilty of poor judgment.

As a professional athlete, Ben Roethlisberger is  the face of his franchise, and the face of the city of Pittsburgh. Unanimously adored because of his blue-collar style of play, the Steel City embraced Ben’s gritty facade. But a series of errors in judgment has tarnished Ben’s once stainless reputation.

There comes a time when you no longer get the benefit of the doubt. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is guilty of bad choices, and everyone has been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time before. If you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time repeatedly, the problem may be you.  You might be the common denominator of all the troubles in your life. You forfeit the benefit of the doubt when you put yourself in bad situations, regardless of whether you commit a crime. You lose credibility. You lose believability.

Should Ben be released? Fined? Suspended? That’s for commissioners and owners and coaches to decide. Should he be mentored by the likes of Tony dungy? Probably. What I can decide is whether my kids will wear a Roethlisberger jersey. For sure, they will not.


March 10, 2010

Newton had it right. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. But what about people? I think the same is true: unless acted on by on outside force, people tend to keep doing what they’ve been doing. We keep going where we’ve been going. We keep thinking what we’ve been thinking.  

A lot of people have a lot to say about change. Harold Wilson once said “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”  W. Edwards Demming said “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” Change is necessary. We can talk about the fittest surviving, but isn’t it really the ones most able to adapt to a changing environment that prosper most? That is what I want to focus on in this blog: change. How can we institute change in ourselves? In the companies we work in? In the churches we attend? In our homes? I’ll probably get off topic quite frequently. Change is such a broad topic that allows for a variety of topics.

I’m reading a book by John Carlin called Invictus. Despite the picture on the front of the book, or the previews of the movie with the same name, this is not a sports story. Rugby is used as a vehicle to tell a story of change: how Nelson Mandela brought together two races in the sharply divided nation of South Africa to end apartheid. I’m fascinated by how Mandela uses a game to peacefully bring about one of the largest transfers of power in history. I hope to glean some strategies for change to pass along in future posts.