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Monday, December 30, 2013

Curves

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and therefore a good time to look back on 2013 and reflect on all that happened over the past 12 months. For one thing I remember setting goals last New Year’s Eve (some people call them resolutions…I call them goals) and being really sincere about achieving them. However, I have to admit I failed at most of my goals, but fortunately not all of them.

I’m the type of person that enjoys setting goals and I think it’s because I love challenging myself. And actually, some of my goals were really fun ones. I set a goal to improve my batting average in baseball by 100 points. (That didn’t happen, not even close thanks to too many curve balls!) I also set a goal to play at least one round of golf with a score in the 70’s. (That didn’t happen either, but I did get an 80 several times.) Those are fun goals and even if you don’t achieve them, you have fun trying.

The more important goals though…the serious goals…are the ones that help us become better people both in our personal lives and business careers. Those are usually much harder to achieve. First, it’s not fun to admit to ourselves that we are not perfect. Second, self-improvement takes hard work, sacrifice and dedication. And third, we need to remember that life is always going to throw us a curve from time to time and that’s when we need to turn to God for help. We can’t do it alone but fortunately we are never alone. He walks with us every step of the way.

For me personally, I did set two serious goals this past year. One goal was to become a more patient person, to open the eyes of my heart and appreciate other people more fully. My second goal was to write another 52 Monday Messages with the purpose of inspiring people and perhaps drawing them nearer to God. I can’t say that I totally succeeded at achieving both goals because there were several times when I know I could have been more patient and there was one week late in the year when I failed to create a new Monday Message.

But that got me thinking…. I may not have fully succeeded with my important goals, but I certainly didn’t fail and I’ll tell you why. Life will always throw us some tough curves along the way but as long as we keep trying, we cannot fail. We only fail when we stop trying. So my New Year’s resolution is to keep trying to be a better person each and every day. That’s a curve ball I know I can hit!

There are times in our lives when God throws us a curve,
To intentionally make things unclear.
It’s always for growth or to help us to serve,
Or simply to draw us more near.
       ~ Pastor Michael Cummings

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's A Brighter Life

Have you ever wondered whether or not you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing? I mean, I’m just a light bulb salesman, so how important can that be? How can I make a difference…and is this what God intended for me to do when he planted my seed in this overgrown vineyard we call our world? How do we ever really know if we’re on the right path?
 
Last week I received an unusual email from a potential customer located really far away. Apparently they’re a company that specializes in making affordable toys for children and they had a difficult lighting problem. Their employees were struggling due to poor light levels in their main warehouse caused by the extreme height of the ceilings. As a lighting consultant, that’s a problem right up my alley so I emailed their Rep, “If you need a lighting problem solved…I can definitely do that! The only problem was that their facility was 3,300 miles away in a city called North Pole, Alaska.
 
When the Rep offered to pick up some of my travel expenses to their location, I was surprised but immediately said yes for two reasons. First, it seemed like a challenging lighting problem…and of course I love challenges. Second, a company that brightens the lives of children is definitely a company worth helping. So I packed my bags (and my foot-candle meter) and took off for the airport. The Rep suggested I stay at the Hotel North Pole, so I booked a room on line there for two nights.
Hotel North Pole - 449 N. Santa Claus Lane, North Pole, AK 99705
The next day the Rep, an older gray haired man named Nicolas Abraham, picked me up and drove me to their main warehouse. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the largest manufacturing complex I had ever seen, hundreds of thousands of square feet with super high ceilings. The light fixtures were so high I had to ride a huge forklift 50’ up to the ceiling to identify the lamp types. Once I had the information on the lamp types I knew I had a solution. They were using “wide 60 degree flood lamps” when what they really needed were “narrow 15 degree spot lamps” that would project light all the way to the floor of the facility. They were thrilled with my suggestion because they thought they needed expensive new fixtures, when in fact all they needed were different light bulbs.
 
Nicolas was so happy with my recommendation that he wanted me to meet the CEO. As we walked down a long hallway, I asked him how he got started in the business and he proceeded to tell me how he and his wife, Sarah, had tried for over 30 years to have a baby. When she finally got pregnant they were both fairly old and couldn’t believe it was finally happening. They considered it a miracle and thanked God over and over again for the blessing of their baby boy, whom they named Isaac to honor God. Nicolas told me he and his wife decided long ago that making and distributing affordable toys for needy children was their way to “give back” for all the blessings they had received. 
 
When we finally arrived at the CEO’s office, I was totally surprised by what I saw. An elderly woman dressed all in red greeted me with a huge smile. She was the friendliest, nicest, jolliest woman I had ever met. As she put her arms around me and gave me a huge hug, Nicolas said, “Meet my wife Sarah, the love of my life and co-founder of this company. You see, after God blessed us with our son, we decided to dedicate our lives to making children smile, especially those who don’t have much to smile about, so Sarah runs the manufacturing side of the business and I take care of distribution. Actually it requires the help of hundreds of employees, whom I call my “special elves” to handle distribution, but every year we make it happen.”
 
I stood speechless for a long time. Finally I spoke up, “Nicolas, I am amazed at what you and your wife have accomplished. You two are just like a real life Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus. You must feel really good about the work you do, in fact, maybe I should start calling you Saint Nick.” Nicolas laughed and said, “Well, all I can say is…we do it out of love, therefore we love what we do. And I might add, with your help with our lighting….we can now do even more for the children!”
 
On the long flight home I kept thinking about what Nicolas said, “We love what we do.” It started to dawn on me that, I too - love what I do! Maybe it’s only light bulbs, but I really enjoy working with my fellow employees, plus our vendors give us great support and our customers are the best people you could ever meet. Maybe this truly is what I was meant to do on this earth, and maybe, just maybe, I am on the right path…which is to “brighten up” the lives of other people. I can definitely do that!
Nicolas and Sarah at home with Isaac
 Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing and giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.
~ Norman Wesley Brooks

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

I love golf so my wife recently bought us tickets to the Tiger Woods World Golf Challenge. So this weekend we traveled up to Sherwood Country Club to watch 18 of the world’s top golfers battle it out. It is an absolutely beautiful golf course surrounded by insanely expensive Victorian Mansions and 100 year old oak trees. As I watched the athletes make incredible golf shots on the perfectly manicured fairways and greens, it occurred to me that pro golfers remind me of Jesus. Okay….I know that sounds a little crazy… maybe even a little blasphemous... but let me explain.
 
First of all, what’s the difference between pro golfers and amateurs like me? I can sometimes hit my drives 300 yards, and occasionally make great approach shots and drain a long putt. The difference though….between a pro golfer and a beginner… is that pro golfers hit great shots about 95%-100% of the time, whereas a rookie only hits great shots about 10% -20% of the time.
 
Obviously if you want to get better at golf you have to practice and play more often. So over the last 5 years I have dedicated myself to practicing and playing more often and it has definitely paid off. At this point in time I am probably hitting great shots about 30%-40% of the time and my scores have improved tremendously. If I keep practicing and keep working hard at it, I know I can get better. I may never be as a good as a pro, but I can get definitely improve depending on how hard I work at it and how dedicated I am.
 
So that is why when I saw Rory McIlroy hit an absolutely perfect approach shot to within 12” of the pin, it reminded me of Jesus. Why….because the difference between Jesus and the rest of us is that Jesus was perfect 100% of the time and we are only perfect about 10%-20% of the time. But…like amateur golfers (or amateur Christians), if we practice being perfect, if we work hard at it every day and if we dedicate our lives to it…we can definitely improve!
 
I know I will never be able to live a perfect life on earth like Jesus did, but that’s okay, we’re not supposed to be perfect. What I do know is that I can improve every single day if I work at it. Think about it, just like in golf or any sport for that matter, if we were to practice being sin free several times a week and perhaps dedicate one day a week to trying to be absolutely perfect, we would definitely get better just like we do when we practice a sport. And if we love the Lord like we do our sports…what could be more important!

Rory McIlroy works on becoming perfect!
Practice doesn't make perfect.
Practice reduces the imperfection.
~ Toba Beta

Monday, December 2, 2013

Breath of Life

Last week we had two of our younger grandchildren staying over. Andie Rose is only 5 but she enjoys watching me work out and likes to be my “assistant”. She changes the weight slots on my gym machine for me and writes it down in my log. At one point she said, “Hey Grandpa, you forgot to breathe.” She’s heard me talk about how important proper breathing is and how you need to breathe out when you exert and she noticed I wasn’t doing it right. Apparently she takes her “assistant job” very seriously!
 
The reason Andie Rose is a good workout assistant is because she is the type of person who cares about others. And she reminds me of someone else who might well be the most caring and considerate person I have ever met. His name is Antony and he runs his own Personal Training business, which is a combination of physical fitness and physical therapy combined. You might even say it is partly a counseling business because you can’t go in in there and not come out feeling better both physically and mentally. Antony’s approach is unique because of his total commitment and concern for his clientele. He greets every woman with a kiss and every man with a hug and means it. He will look you right in the eye, ask you how you are doing, and then actually listen and care about what you say. He will call you to make sure you are coming in and then call you after your visit to see how you are feeling. I have never met anyone so committed to helping others who also enjoys it like Antony does. He has such a great time at his job. However, he will push you during training sessions. I remember him getting on me for not breathing properly and making me do extra lifts until I got them right. So I guess you could say he takes his “assistant job” seriously, just like Andie Rose does.
 
Having people like Andie Rose and Antony in my life is a real blessing. They are not only teaching me to breathe properly during a tough workout session, they are also reminding me how important it is to step back and take a breath during the tough times of my life as well. Let’s face it we all go through tough times, especially during the hectic holiday season. So if at times your life feels really crazy and difficult, just remember what Andie Rose and Antony are trying to teach us…slow down and make time to take a breath. And if you really want to enjoy life, help someone else learn how to slow down and breathe!

Breathe in the breath of life, all the way to the bottom of your stomach.
Inhale peace and exhale chaos.
~ Tara Sutphen

Monday, November 25, 2013

Extraordinarily Thankful

Earlier this week I was with a couple of buddies when one of them said something interesting. He said, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because we get to be with people we love, hang out and eat good food, and watch football and we don’t gotta screw around buying stupid presents.” Okay, so his grammar wasn’t perfect, but he made a good point. The things we are most thankful for don’t come wrapped with a bow...and I find that kind of extraordinary.
 
For almost 40 years now I have gotten up early every day and jumped into a truck. I head out onto a freeway loaded with thousands of other 3,000 pound missiles driving 70+ miles per hour to get who knows where. I’ve seen some bad accidents and I’ve had a few mishaps (one that was life changing) but I have always made it home safe and sound. For that I am thankful… and I find it extraordinary.
 
During the week I end up at an office filled with people who are true heroes. I constantly watch the people I work with show up early, stay late and work as if they owned the business themselves. They are determined to provide a better life for their families and they don’t compromise their integrity to do it. I am honored to be on their team and thankful for their inspiration…and I find it extraordinary.
 
At the end of the day I come home to my own loving family. For years I was able to tuck my four children into bed, often carrying the youngest on my shoulders. Most nights I would say their prayers with them and then peak into their rooms after they fell asleep. Their faces always looked so precious and peaceful as I pulled their covers up and remembered how blessed I am to be called “Dad”. How a clumsy, forgetful, chump like me could ever be blessed with four such awesome children (and six grandchildren now) I don’t know, but I do know one thing, I am very thankful…and I find it extraordinary.
 
Even more surprising is how each and every night I get to end up in the arms of the most beautiful and loving wife a man could ever want. She is everything I ever dreamed of (and I dreamt a lot when I was young) and she deserves a much better looking man than me. But yet she tells me I am her prince and her warrior, and she makes me believe it. She makes me want to be the best I can be and for that I am very thankful…and I find it (and her) extraordinary.
 
For a few minutes each day I get to sit down with a really good book. It’s a book that was created by the One who created me and blessed me with my life on this earth. I am honored to hold that book in my hands so I try hard to focus on the words, soak in their meaning and learn how to live in a way that honors Him. To have a Creator who will patiently await my personal development is something I am definitely thankful for…and I find it extremely extraordinary.
 
Tomorrow morning I will do it again. I will get into the same truck, go to the same office, work with the same people, call on the same customers, read the same Bible and crawl into bed with the same woman. I couldn’t be more thankful for all of it and I don’t need a bow on any of it! Extraordinary!

Happy Thanksgiving!

If the only prayer you ever said in your whole
life was, "thank you," that would suffice.
~ Meister Eckhart
 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Moment's Notice

I admit it… I make a lot of mistakes! In fact, I am so far from perfect that sometimes you couldn’t locate me even with a GPS system. However, I don’t stress out about it because I try to learn from each mistake and if possible become a better man with each passing day. However, there is one mistake that I have made too many times. So I really need to work on it and with the Holidays fast approaching it is a mistake that a lot of people will make. It’s called being distracted…and it leads to the mistake of not “Living in the Moment”.

In today’s society, there are cell phones, I-pads and lap tops everywhere. So it’s really easy to get distracted and not pay attention to the real beauty of the world around us, which includes the people in our lives. I was at a restaurant last night and more than half of the people were on their cell phones, texting or emailing instead of focusing on the person right across the table. Don’t get me wrong, cell phones are awesome because they allow us to stay in touch with people quickly and easily. We just need to remember to put them away sometimes and focus on the beauty around us including the people in our lives, especially the ones right in front of us.

Living in the moment is all about taking notice of the world we live in. We can’t do anything about yesterday and tomorrow may never come but we can darn sure enjoy today if we focus on the moments that surround us. Here are 6 tips for “Living in the Moment”.

  1. Smile when you wake up. You can set the tone of appreciation and awareness for the next 24 hours by simply waking up and smiling
  2. Take notice of the world. No matter what you're doing, notice the moments that surround you, maybe it’s a bridge or a flower or the way the light filters through the sky.
  3. Minimize activities that dull your awareness of the moment. Choose times to turn off your cell phone, computer and TV. Do things that are active and that encourage you to look around and engage the world in that moment.
  4. Be otimistic. Whether you realize it or not, someone’s always watching, always listening. That means you're always performing, so "dance like nobody's watching" and dance well.
  5. Commit random, spontaneous acts of kindness. Whether it's donating a dollar to a charity, picking up litter, or simply complementing someone, keep alert in every moment of your day for some way in which you can make the world a better place.
  6. Be thankful for what is. When you find yourself wishing for something you don't have, or wishing your life could be different, start by being thankful for what is already in your life. This will bring you back to the present moment.
 

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Have Everything I Need

It’s funny the things that touch our hearts. I try to be a really tough, strong man that can handle any problem, lift any heavy box and slay any dragon that might come along…because according to society isn’t that what real men are supposed to be like? But the truth is, and I hate to admit it, but sometimes my heart is tugged so hard that the floodgates open and the tears just can’t be stopped. Last weekend was one of those moments.

But first…the back story. When I was young, about 12, I lived with my parents on a very small avocado ranch and often helped them with their grove. But our wealthy neighbor, Jack, had a huge ranch with nearly 50 acres of avocado trees. So every year around springtime the same four Mexican workers would show up at his ranch and work the groves for 9 months and then return back to Mexico with the money they had earned. I got to know them really well and Jack often let me work alongside them.
 
Manuel, Esteban, Jorge and Pancho were the hardest working men I had ever met. They would work 10-12 hours a day, every day except Sunday, and never complain. Pancho was my favorite because he spoke a little English and would often take time to teach me some Spanish. He was always smiling no matter how hot it was and always whistling while he worked. He had a huge hat that was his pride and joy and I remember he would take it off whenever he wanted to get my attention and teach me something really important. One day we were working in a very large tree pruning branches, when I slipped and fell. I landed on the edge of a saw and cut a huge gash in my hand. Before I knew it Pancho had wrapped his bandana around my hand and was carrying me down the road. I told him I was okay and could walk on my own (I didn’t want him to think I was a baby), but he stayed with me until we got to my house where my Mom could drive me to the doctor.


When my hand healed, I went back to work for the remainder of that summer. It was really hard work but Jack paid us $1.25 per hour and I felt like I was a “real man” when I worked alongside Pancho and his friends. I repaid Pancho’s kindness by hunting Quail, Dove and Rabbit which I would drop off at the little plywood shack where the four men stayed. Pancho even taught me how to skin a rabbit, but I didn’t have the guts to eat one, although I did eat the Quail and Dove, which were both pretty good!

Two years passed and I became very close friends with Pancho. He taught me about work ethic, honesty and sacrifice. In fact one of the things that amazed me most was the way he would never spend a dime on himself. He would save all the money he made at the ranch to take home to his family. There was a defining moment one day when Pancho and I were working together and Jack rolled up in his big fancy truck. Pancho whistled and said something in Spanish about the truck being beautiful. I agreed and told Pancho he should get a truck like that. Pancho laughed and said, “It’s not necessary, I have everything I need.” I didn’t fully understand at that time what he meant, but I thought about those words for a very long time.



The next spring rolled around and after school one day I went to Jack’s ranch to find Pancho. I was surprised to see only three men sitting next to the shack. I asked them how they were doing and then I asked them, “Donde esta mi amigo Pancho?” All three men were silent and just kept staring down at the ground. I asked them again, “Where’s Pancho?” Finally, Manuel spoke up and said, “Pancho was bitten by a snake and we had to bury him in the desert.” I couldn’t believe it and cried my eyes out all the way back home. I was devastated and never went back to Jack’s ranch that summer, but I also never forgot Pancho and everything he taught me.

Last weekend I went golfing with a couple of customers and of course I drove my new Ford F150 Truck that I had just purchased last month. When we were done golfing, there was an older Hispanic gentleman that jumped on my cart, rode with me over to my truck and cleaned my golf clubs for me. I gave him a tip and a sincere thank you but when I turned to leave, I heard him say, “Senor…excuse me. That is a beautiful truck. How much does a truck like that cost? It must be nice to have such a beautiful truck!”

I started telling him how I usually shop for trucks at Carmax to save money. He had a really nice smile and I guess I kind of felt sorry for him and wished I could just give him my truck on the spot. I know, crazy idea, but wouldn’t that be cool! Suddenly I stopped talking and became speechless when I noticed his name tag. I slowly turned around and climbed into my truck so he wouldn’t see my face. That golf course employee is probably still shaking his head wondering why some crazy golfer started crying for no reason when he asked about his truck. But maybe it’s because his name tag said “Pancho”.

 Sacrifice is a part of life and it's supposed to be.
It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to.
    ~ Mitch Albom

Monday, October 28, 2013

Heart on Fire

Halloween is coming up Thursday and everywhere you look there are stores selling costumes. It’s fun because for one day each year we get to put on a costume and be somebody or some “thing” that we are not.

It’s amazing how hiding behind a mask can sometimes help us break out of our shell. It gives us the courage to act differently than normal, perhaps with a bit more personality, more spirit, more flair. And although it’s fun to be different, the truth is….each and every one of us is already different because each and every one of us is already unique. We are not unique because we are flesh and blood with hair and hearts; animals have those features. What makes us unique is the stamp that God put’s on our lives when he plants us in this world to grow. We are formed one at a time, each person a separate and very special work of art.

In fact, I believe that part of what makes us unique is that every single person receives certain gifts when they are born. Some can sing, some can dance, some can change light bulbs (that’s me!) and some can cook. There are people with a passion for paperwork (accountants), those who love to make us laugh (comedians) and those who ignite our imaginations (writers). People being different is what makes life so interesting because imagine how boring the world would be if everyone looked, acted and thought the same.

However, sometimes it takes a while to discover our spiritual gifts. I remember when I was young I didn’t think I had a talent for anything special, so I just took the first job that came along. I was really grateful that somebody took a chance on me and after working in the business for a while, I began to admire my boss for his hard work and the loving way he treated his employees. Eventually I began to dream of starting my own business and maybe doing the same thing for my employees. Thirty-three years later I still love running a business and consider it just one of the many wonderful gifts I have received from God.

Last week my daughter Nikki sent me a photo of her two youngest children. Andie Rose is 5 and Jack is 6 and they were both dressed up in really great Halloween costumes. But a few days later I received a second picture of Andie Rose, this time just dressed for a regular day and it hit me...this girl has a flair for fashion. Maybe it’s one of her spiritual gifts and if it is….it looks like she is realizing it at an early age!
 
Andie Rose - Future Fashion Designer

Once you find what ignites your heart…
then you can let the fire in your heart light your path.
~ Anonymous
 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Is Anyone Listening?

Do you ever wonder if you have any real friends, people who truly care about you? You know how you can tell who your real friends are? They’re the ones that listen to you.
 
Yesterday was the final game of the year for our Halo Baseball Club and it was awesome. We always play our final game in Angel Stadium against local MSBL teams for charity and even though I’ve played there many times before, I still get goose-bumps when I walk onto that field wearing an Angel’s uniform. The Scoreboard was lit up, the President and the Chairman of the Angels were playing on our team, there were “Former Angel Players” in the stands and there were even free hot dogs. What could be better than that!
 
I’ll tell you what’s better than that… all the solid friendships that we have formed in our club. It took me over twenty minutes to get from the Diamond Club down to the dugout just because I had to stop and shake so many hands and give bro-hugs to so many good friends. I had people ask me about my work, my family, my recent injuries, etc. and then stand there and actually listen and care about what I had to say. I saw it all over the field, ballplayers smiling, talking and most importantly, listening to each other. On the other hand, we have all met that one guy, you know the one who goes on about himself incessantly, trying to impress you with everything he has done and everyone he has met, talking the whole time about himself and never really listening in return. That is so sad because guys like that have no friends and the reason is simple, they don’t know how to be a friend. All you have to do to be a friend is care enough to listen.
 
In the third inning of the game I hit a ground ball and as I was crossing first base, I got hit in the face by an errant throw. It bloodied my mouth, gave me a fat lip and rattled my teeth, making it hard for me to talk for the rest of the game. Plus it didn’t help my looks any either, but it did help me in one way. Without being able to talk very well, I became an even better listener. Let’s face it we have two ears but only one mouth for a reason… we need to listen more than we need to talk.
 
If you’re a good listener then chances are you have a lot of friends. But if you don’t because you’re new to the area, recently divorced, suddenly laid off from your job or just feeling lonely or lost for any reason….remember that there is always one person who is willing to listen. He cares about everything we do and everything we say…and treasures every single word we utter like a precious jewel. God listens because He is our ultimate friend.


The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.
                                                  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh                                                             

 


Halo Baseball Club 50+ Team at the "Bud Kuhl Invitational 2013"
Back Row - John Carpino, Bill Phelps, Chris Dunn, Jerry Hirsch, Carlos and Rick Pianelli, Bill Torres
Front Row - Dennis Kuhl, Greg Lund, Bob Houska, Scott Halperin, Joe Thrailkill, Tony Mauer, Danny Taylor


Monday, October 14, 2013

Spirit of Fear - Part II

My Monday Message last week talked about how important it is to lose our “spirit of fear”. My point was that we need to climb out of our comfort zone once in a while and try something new, something different, something challenging. Well, I guess at least one person took my message to heart and really challenged himself. That would be my Father-in-Law....and he did it at age 72!
 
It was Friday morning last week when the three of us took time off work to drive out to Fontana. Now Fontana isn’t exactly a “garden spot” but there is one venue out there that is extremely impressive, the Auto Club Speedway. It’s a huge two-mile oval race track that hosts a wide variety of NASCAR racing events. My Father-In-Law, Tom, and my nephew, Shane, joined me for an amazing adventure. We arrived at 7:45am and were immediately issued professional NASCAR jump suits and ushered into a large training room where we spent several hours watching video and listening to an instructor explain the dangers of driving a full blown race car at speeds approaching 150 mph. The instructor explained that we would be on our own and in complete control of the car, with no instructor on board, so we had better pay attention to the training.
 
Auto Club Speedway in Fontana
After suiting up we headed over to Pit Road with about 50 other men. We were then fitted with helmets and ear buds so that an instructor would be able communicate with us while we were driving. We received more instructions about when to pass slower drivers and other crucial items, but the last instruction really got our attention. “If you want to go fast, really fast, then don’t slow down entering the turns. The turns are banked, so just keep it floored and hang on!” At that moment one of the professional drivers fired up his car and the roar of that 600 horsepower engine rattled every bone in my body. My adrenalin was really flowing and as the professional driver roared around the track at over 150 mph all of us on Pit Road wondered, How on earth are we going to be able to duplicate that feat?”
 
My Nephew is 25, and I’m twice his age, but Tom is 72. However, Tom doesn’t look it or act it and when he folded his 6’- 4” body in through the window of that #99 race car; I really had to admire his courage. There was no one else even close to his age attempting to tackle this challenge and when the day was over all three of us had overcome our fear and conquered something extremely dangerous. But Tom, more than anyone else, proved that fear wasn’t going to stop him or even slow him down...his top speed was over 147 mph!

Race Car Drivers - Shane (in blue) and Tom (in red)
 
Tom driving the #99 Carl Edwards Race Car

He has not learned the lesson of life
who does not every day surmount a fear.    
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson             

Monday, October 7, 2013

Spirit of Fear

Do you know what a “spirit of fear” is? It’s when you’re afraid to get off your butt and out of your comfort zone and try something different, something that scares you or challenges you. I hate to say it but I’ve been there more times than I care to admit.
 
I guess it’s okay to hang out in your comfort zone some of the time. In fact my favorite comfort zone is when I get to sit on the couch with my feet propped up, watch a baseball game and eat a great lunch that my wife made for me…. that’s like a little piece of heaven here on earth.
 
But we also need to challenge ourselves both mentally and physically for several reasons. For starters it’s one of the best ways to grow and become a better human being. Secondly, it’s rewarding and can lift your self-esteem and boost your confidence. If we never challenge ourselves we will never find out who we really are. For example, The first time I was asked to give a speech in front of a crowd was back in 1992. The banquet room was filled to capacity and I was filled with fear and wanted to bolt out the back door. Somehow I got through it and when the audience applauded after I finished, I felt like a million bucks. I have given quite a few speeches since that time and I still get scared, but because I got through the first one and realized I could do it. I now have a lot more confidence and can overcome that particular fear much easier.
 
Physical challenges are really important as well. When you challenge yourself physically you overcome your fear, which feels good, but there’s a second benefit. You also reap the reward of becoming stronger and more physically fit. It doesn’t matter whether you hike or bike, run or swim, play softball or baseball, or just workout. When you challenge yourself physically you feel better and look better. How cool is that! Recently I took up a new sport…Stand Up Paddle Boarding. One of the reasons I chose to try it is because I have always had a slight fear of the ocean because I’ve never been a good swimmer. But several weeks ago I took off from the shore on a paddleboard with my heart was beating through my chest and once I got out there and started paddling around it was awesome. You’re out there communing with nature, surrounded by seagulls and pelicans, controlling your own destiny, and yet at the same time getting a great workout for your body. What a great way to break out of my own personal “spirit of fear”.
 
A lot of people will only stick with what they know because they’re insecure about trying something new and failing or getting embarrassed. In my opinion, the only time you fail or should be embarrassed is when you don’t try!


For God has not given us a spirit of fear;
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
   ~ 2 Timothy 1:7



Monday, September 30, 2013

Second Womb

This weekend both my wife and one of my daughters had a birthday. My daughter turned 24 and is very young and beautiful, so lucky her. My wife turned 52 and she is also extremely young looking and beautiful…so lucky me! Their real beauty though is on the inside (where it counts) because of their good hearts and their sincere desire to help others.
 
My daughter lives up in San Luis Obispo. So we took a road trip to go see her and with two birthdays going on my wallet really took a beating. But I would have to say it was money well spent. To see the two of them together, smiling, laughing, and having fun was a real treat for me. And it got me thinking about birthdays in general and what it means to be born into this world.
 
When we are in our mother’s womb for nine months we are progressively developing. Our eyes begin to form, although we can’t really see. Our ears and our mouths start to form but we can’t yet hear or taste. Everything that happens in the womb is preparation for us to be ready to face the outside world. We need that time in the womb to grow and develop or we would not be able to survive in the real world.
 
Maybe it’s the same way once we begin our earthly lives. What if this earth is simply our second womb? Maybe everything that happens to us here on earth is simply a way for us to grow and develop so we can be prepared to move on to a more heavenly world. It’s hard to understand why bad things happen here on earth but maybe the really tough challenges, the broken bones and broken hearts, collapsed buildings and collapsed lungs, ruptured spleens and ruptured relationships…maybe all of it is just what we need in order to be prepared to be born into the next world, a world without pain, a world filled instead with love. Maybe we should celebrate every single day of our lives…not just our birthdays!

Just remember, once you're over the hill
you begin to pick up speed.
~ Charles Schulz
 

   
Brooke on her 24th Birthday
Debby on her 52nd Birthday
 
 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Perfect Foursome

Over the Labor Day Weekend I played in a memorial baseball tournament in Fullerton. We played four games in three days and it was great fun but it was also extremely hot and humid. Due to the heat (and okay, probably due to my age as well) I ended up injuring both of my Achilles tendons. It looks like I won’t be playing any more baseball for at least a month and I can’t even play golf, which is the other sport I really love. So that means last Thursday I had to miss playing in a charity golf tournament with my friend Paul, who by the way is also injured due to baseball, so neither one of us made it to the golf tournament. (I guess misery really does love company.)
 
I hate that we had to miss the golf tournament because they’re fun for several reasons. They’re fun because you get to take off work to attend, you’re in a beautiful environment spending time with friends, and you’re usually raising money for a good cause. The format for tournaments is also fun because typically your individual score doesn’t matter; it’s the best score on each hole or the total team score that matters. For example, I might hook my drive into the trees, take a drop and then punch it out into a sand trap, blade it out over the top of the green onto a hill and then chunk a chip past the flag, finishing up with a three putt for an awesome 8. But Paul, who is a much better golfer, might easily land the green in two and sink a birdie putt for a 3. Guess which score counts? The 3 of course! My awful 8 is quickly forgotten and our team does well on that hole. I basically get credit for someone else’s great effort just by being on the right team.
 
And that got me thinking…. If you believe in God you’re on the right team as well. And guess what? It’s a foursome in the most charitable of all tournaments...the tournament of life. Because of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, you don’t have to hit a perfect shot every day…chances are they will make one for you! (And all your bad shots are immediately forgiven as well.)

Good Friends on the Golf Course

They say that golf is like life, but don’t believe them.
Golf is much more complicated than that.
~ Gardner Dickinson
                                                                                 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Headaches

At our company we try extremely hard to give great service to every single customer. However, last week we failed on an order for one of our best customers. This particular customer (who I admire because of his great attitude and positive outlook) placed an order on a Friday for immediate delivery. Unfortunately the paperwork was accidentally misfiled into a “Pending Folder” instead of into our “Daily Deliveries Folder”. We did not discover the mistake until the following Monday which made the order very late and caused a major “headache” for our customer.

Nobody likes to make a mistake. But sometimes if you handle the situation properly, it can be a chance to shine and show people how much you truly care. As soon as I received his phone call I went to work researching the problem. My staff helped me to locate the missing paperwork and as soon as we did, we began filling his order and loading it into our Sales Manager’s car, who personally drove it over to the customer. Included with the delivery was a hand written apology that I wrote out personally along with a gift card to help offset the customer’s valuable lost time. I followed up with a phone call and found out the customer was extremely pleased with our rapid response and sincere apology. I also held a Sales Meeting at our office to review the problem with our entire staff and discuss ways to prevent it from happening again.

When it was all said and done, we had a stronger relationship with our customer. And because we made an effort to learn from our mistake, we were able to put procedures in place to help us prevent that type of problem from happening in the future; a win/win for all of us!

Learning from mistakes is crucial in business but it’s just as important in our personal lives. Obviously as human beings we are going to make mistakes and we are going to commit sins. It’s just part of our nature to be imperfect. But when we discover we have done something wrong we have a choice as to how we respond….and how we respond is what will ultimately define our character. The next time you make a mistake, see it as a chance to showcase your true character and chances are instead of a “headache” you will come out “ahead”.


The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
~ John Powell


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Lucky Bracelet

Something happened over Labor Day that reminded me that we can’t just have faith; we have to put our faith to work. And the lesson came from the most unlikely of sources, a seven year old little boy.

I played in a Memorial Tournament in Fullerton which our baseball club hosts to honor three of our teammates who have passed away. I arrived at the field early Saturday morning and noticed the manager of our team was already there. He immediately approached me in the dugout and said he wanted to share something with me. He told me about his seven year old son who attends a Christian preschool and how his son recently decided on his own…to share his love of the Lord with other people in a very unique way. With help from his parents the little boy had bracelets made with symbols on them that remind people about Jesus’s love for us. He then went on a field trip to Washington DC and handed out the bracelets to people in the street. That would be an impressive thing for an adult to do, let alone a seven year old little boy!

There was one bracelet left over and my manager said he wanted me to have it because of the way I share my faith through my Monday Messages. Needless to say I was honored to receive the bracelet and greatly impressed by the faithful actions of such a young boy. It reminded me that children have a way of seeing the world in a simple black and white way, not the gray and stressful way we adults see it. In fact, the bracelet itself was gray in color, which is a great reminder that although we live in a “gray” world, if we have faith, things are usually more black and white and simple.

Our team did well in the tournament winning two out three games, so we made it to the championship game on Monday, but it wasn’t easy. During the second game, the one we lost, we fell behind because we ran out of pitchers. In fact, I even had to pitch one inning which was stressful to say the least. As I took the mound, the field umpire approached me and told me I needed to take off my bracelet. As I took it off he asked me about it and what the symbols meant. I said, “It’s a reminder of Jesus and my new good luck charm.” The umpire nodded and said, “I don’t care what it is, you still gotta take it off!”

Up to that point I had played really well, but with my lucky bracelet in my pocket, instead of on my wrist, I pitched poorly and gave up several runs. We lost that game, but after shaking hands with the other team I was surprised to see that same umpire approaching me. He said kind of sheepishly that he was sorry for making me take off the bracelet and asked again about the symbols on it. So I told him the story of the seven year old boy who made bracelets so that he could share his faith with others. I think that umpire was as touched by the story as I was and although we lost that game, I felt like I had gained something far more important - a chance to copy the brave actions of a seven year old and share my faith!

What does it profit us, if we have faith, but do not have works?
~ James 2:14
The meaning of the Symbols
He came, was crucified, buried, rose and will come again someday!

 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Forever Touched

There are certain people in this world who touch our lives in a special way and ultimately change who we become. Perhaps we have known them for a long time or perhaps only for a moment. But God places them in our lives for a reason and their purpose can be profound.

Betsy White was one of those special people who touched my life in a very profound way. When I first met Betsy in the mid 1980’s she was a Senior Property Manager for the Irvine Office Company, managing some of the nicest, most expensive high rise office buildings in all of Southern California. Her office itself was extraordinarily beautiful overlooking Fashion Island in Newport Beach. On the other hand, I was a long haired, 25 year old kid, who just started his own business selling lighting supplies out of the back of a pickup truck. We could not have been more opposite in our career positions, she at the top of her field and me just starting out.

It was intimidating just to enter the building where Betsy worked. I felt out of place among the high class movers and shakers of the Commercial Property Management world, but when I sat down for my first meeting with Betsy, it was a magical moment. She never stopped smiling! She was warm, funny and engaging. She treated me like I was more important than she was; allowing me to tell her all about my company and products, never interrupting me, never rushing me or acting like she was too busy or too important to listen. By the time I left the building, I actually felt like I was somebody special. That was just one of the gifts that Betsy gave to people. She made everyone around her feel special.

The other gift Betsy gave me was the inspiration to create my Monday Messages. Betsy was the original “Monday Message” person, although she didn’t call it that. What she did back in those days was to fax a funny cartoon every Monday to every vendor she dealt with. She told me she knew her vendors had a tough job keeping all of her buildings operating at such a high level and she knew it was stressful, so she wanted everyone who worked with her to start their week out with a laugh.

Whenever I think about Betsy.… I smile because I can picture her in her custom built wheelchair, wheeling over to her fax machine one more time to send out another goofy cartoon on Monday mornings. You would have never known she was sick with Multiple Sclerosis because she never mentioned it, never complained and never stopped smiling. When I heard she had passed away it tore my heart out.  I sat down and cried but I knew she wouldn’t want that. So I tried my best to smile and remember how she touched my life and made a struggling young salesman feel like he was the king of the world. Betsy, if you’re reading this please know that you touched my life and this week’s message, as well as every other message I have ever sent out, was inspired by your wonderful example!

 

Whether or not we realize it each of us has within us
the ability to set some kind of example for others.
Knowing this would you rather be the one known
for encouraging others, or the one who inadvertently
discouraged those around you?
~ Thomas Kinkade

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hunger Games

Recently I went to the hospital to get an upper endoscopy performed on my throat and stomach. The procedure itself isn’t so bad because they put you to sleep while they do it; the bad part is you have to fast beforehand. By the time I got home and was finally able to eat, I had gone nearly 24 hours without food or juice of any kind. It was an uncomfortable feeling to go without food, but not a strange one. I have been hungry before.
 
When I was 17 and still in High School, I was living on my own. My Dad had retired from the Marine Corps and he and my Mom moved to San Francisco where he landed a new job. I stayed behind to finish High School and lived in a small plywood shack on a neighbor’s ranch. I worked part time for the Rancher earning just enough to get by, but at one point the rancher went on a long vacation so there was no work for me and therefore no money. I got by for a few days eating english muffins and peanut butter, but that quickly ran out. I wrangled myself dinner with a friend’s family one night but I was embarrassed about my situation and too proud to ask for any additional help.
 
What little money I had I used to fill up my car, so I had a full tank of gas but an empty stomach. It felt really bad to be hungry and I became desperate so I drove into town one evening remembering that a kid in one of my classes worked at the local KFC restaurant. I waited until closing time and then asked if I could help him clean up in return for some food. He asked me why I didn’t just go home to eat and I explained about the shack and running out of muffins and I think he took pity on me because he allowed me to come by every evening for the next few weeks and help him close in exchange for a couple pieces of chicken.
 
I believe that short period of hunger really helped to shape my life. It forced me to become a stronger more resourceful person at a very young age. I also learned about the kindness of strangers and how good it feels to help others. I guess all of us have times in our lives when we are on God’s anvil because he is busy shaping us….and if we let Him shape us properly we will not only become stronger people, we will also become more compassionate for others in the same situation. Not only do I never want to go hungry again, I don’t want others to go hungry either.

Before looking for something to eat and drink,
we should look for someone to eat and drink with.
              ~ Epicurus
This poor guy has been waiting way too long
for someone to eat and drink with!
Note: If you are interested in helping feed the hungry and homeless...go to  http://www.sco-oc.org/  which is home page for The South County Outreach and check out their upcoming event called "Hungry Bowls".