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Monday, October 31, 2016

The Power of Praise

My wife and I like to go for long bike rides because it’s fun exercise and it also gives us a chance to talk and share our thoughts and ideas. Last week she told me about an article she read on building relationships with people and it stated there are five specific things that people react most strongly to. One of those things was praise (or the opposite - criticism), which got me thinking about last week…

On Friday I started work at 6am so that I could get off a little early and play 9 holes of golf. I walked on at Rancho San Joaquin and got paired up with a young man named Mike. He was super nice and a great golfer but when I asked him about his work, a big frown crossed his face. He said he has been working at a medical device company for 12 years and loves it. He had worked himself up to a supervisory position, but recently they got a new CEO who treats people badly. Mike says the CEO micro-manages everybody and is quick to criticize, so he has already started looking for a new job.

Over the weekend I went to a baseball practice with several of my Halo Baseball  teammates. I haven’t played a game in 4 months (due to a back issue) or practiced hardly at all, so it was really great to see my friends. These guys are awesome teammates. Every one of them acted happy to see me with huge hugs and high fives all around just for showing up. I only practiced for an hour but I constantly heard them yelling, “Great play, nice throw, that a ’boy” and more. As I got ready to leave my friend Gaston says, “Killer, I love turning double plays with you!” Trust me, I left with a big smile, feeling blessed and happy.

On Sunday my grandson Jack had a party to celebrate his 10th birthday. Earlier in the week his mom told me that he has a lot of tools and loves to build things, but he needed a cabinet or a workbench for all his stuff. A workbench is an unusual request for a birthday present but Jack is an unusual boy who is truly gifted mechanically. So Jack and I went shopping Sunday morning and picked out a garage cabinet with a wooden work bench top, a vise, and some pegboard to organize and display all his cool tools. We assembled the workbench, the vise and the pegboard with Jack doing most of the work and I couldn’t help but praise his efforts and the awesome result. In return, Jack gave me the best smile I have ever seen. What a nice gift… for me!

I actually learned the power of praise a long time ago and will often try to catch somebody “doing something right” at work and then praise them in front of the whole group. However, as great as praise is, I sometimes forget that criticism can be just as powerful. So the next time I am tempted to be critical, I am going to remember that I should offer praise whenever possible, and that it is always possible!
If you were paid 10 cents for every kind word you said to someone, 
but had to pay 10 cents for every unkind word, would you be rich or poor?
~ Jacob Mr. Braude

Monday, October 24, 2016

Transformative Moments

Halloween is coming up soon and with it the focus is on being scared. Being scared in a freaky Halloween way is fun, but being truly afraid is not. True fear is a bad thing that tends to hold us back and it can manifest itself it in a lot of different forms. For me, I’ve noticed that most of the time when I’m afraid, it’s because I’m worried about the outcome of something and therefore have self-doubt. I guess doubting yourself is normal at times, but it’s a choice that is never good and almost always impossible to overcome.

However, I recently read a story about the ingenious founder of that really helped to put self-doubt in the right perspective. Before Bob Parsons became a successful businessman, he was a Marine rifleman in Vietnam. The day he arrived in a combat zone - as a green replacement in a squad that had just lost five men in an ambush - he confronted the likelihood that he would not make it out alive. He sat down on the wall of the old French fort his unit occupied and “had what I believe was the only anxiety attack of my life,” he recalls. He finally overcame his terror by resolving to do the best job he could and be satisfied with it regardless of the outcome. It was a transformative moment that helped him to develop the discipline and courage needed to succeed as a businessman. “If you can accept the worst that can happen to you and live with it,” he says, “you become like a superman or superwoman, meaning you can do anything because your mind doesn’t get in your way.” Self-doubt will hold people back in life, but if you can accept the worst and still commit to doing the best job you can, you’ll find yourself accomplishing more than you’ve ever dreamed.

Looking back on my life I can see there were many times that I was truly scared. Like when I had to give a speech in front of hundreds of people at the Bren Center, or when I quit my job to start my own company, or when I asked my wife if she would marry me, or when I was up to bat in the bottom of the 10th inning in a championship baseball game, or when I stood up at Church to share my story of faith with the congregation, or when my Dad was dying from cancer and I knew no matter what I would never be able to fill his shoes. When I think back about each one of those scary times, I realize that I often focused on my faith and asked God for his help… and He never once turned me down! I realize now that God believed in me whether I did or not. After reading Bob Parsons story I had a transformative moment myself. Why would I ever choose to doubt myself, when God has never once chosen to doubt me!  

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.
~ General Lewis William Walt, Vietnam War Veteran 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Trust the Little Things

I admit it, sometimes I let “little things” annoy me and get me frustrated. You know what I’m talking about. You’re late for a meeting and the car in front of you is going really slow for no apparent reason. The checker at the grocery store tosses your groceries into little plastic bags like they are footballs. The waitress at the restaurant brings you water but never comes back to take your order, so you have to ask a bus boy if she passed away or something. Little things that somehow creep into our everyday lives like centipedes on steroids. It can be really frustrating, leaving us constantly asking… why is this happening to me?

I was talking with a friend the other day who is a grandmother to three small children. She told me about a little thing that happened to her last week that was really frustrating… at first. She had volunteered to take her three small grandchildren to Disneyland. Her plan was to meet up at the entrance with another friend who had a small child so they could spend the day together. On the way to Disneyland her GPS pointed her to an unfamiliar street. She got nervous, pulled over and put the address back into the GPS again to double check it. It gave her the same unfamiliar route but she decided to take it anyway, although the fear of getting lost or parking in the wrong area was creeping into her thoughts in a big way. Sure enough the route took her to a long term parking lot that required a shuttle to actually get to the entrance to the theme park. She was already late to meet up with her friend, the kids were getting restless and unhappy in the back seat, and she was parking in a “foreign land” instead of “Disneyland”.

As you can imagine, with three small children to deal with her frustration level was pretty high as she got the three kids out of the car.  That is until she noticed a familiar face just three spaces away. Here friend had accidentally taken the same route and ended up in the same parking structure at the exact same time.

You can call it a coincidence or you can call it a miracle… Or you can simply decide that perhaps the reason that God doesn’t always give us the answers to the “whys” in our lives is because sometimes we don’t have the capacity to understand the answer. Maybe that’s a good reason to relax and trust that things, even the little things, will always work out.
Disneyland Entrance (circa 1965)

In learning to trust God, we must accept that we may not know 

all the answers, but we do know who knows the answers.
 ~ Max Lucado 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Just Saying

I am a huge sports fan so there’s no better time of the year than October. The NBA has preseason games, the NHL starts in mid-October, baseball playoff games are being hotly contested and the National Football League, America’s most popular sport, is going strong with more games played on more days than ever before.

Watching sports, especially Football on Sunday afternoon, brings back a lot of good memories for me. It was usually the one day of the week that my father and I could truly relax and sit on the couch together and do some serious bonding over our love of sports. There would always be lots of snacks to be had, plus great smells coming from the kitchen thanks to my Mom. Even now when I hear the sound of a Football game on the TV it brings a smile to my face and a growl to my stomach.

But I have two questions.
First question…. What could be more American than watching football with your Dad? In fact, when they played the star spangled banner on TV, my dad - a United States Marine - would stand and always salute the flag. I loved that about him and greatly respected him, so you can bet whenever I am at home or at a game, I will always stand with my hand over my heart out of deep respect and love for our great country.
Second question… When have two wrongs ever created a right? In fact, I remember my Dad quoting that old cliché many times when I acted up as a kid. So, in my opinion, two wrongs will never make a right.

I guess you know by now what I ‘m referring to, athletes protesting in a questionable manner. Trust me, I know our country isn’t perfect and that bad things do happen to good people sometimes. (As a matter of fact, I wrote about that in my last Monday Message.) But when there’s a problem that needs to be solved, I don’t agree that disrespecting our Flag, our Country, our Military, or our Police is the right way to solve that or any other problem. I’m no genius so I don’t have a brilliant solution for this particular problem - where innocent people are being killed on both sides - but I do have a suggestion. Why not work to bring people together, all races, all ethnicities, and all types of occupations… instead of creating a divisive atmosphere that tears them apart. If there’s a problem that needs to be solved, then I agree, we should draw attention to it and focus on finding a solution. That seems to me like it would be a lot more productive than protesting in a disrespectful manner.

Like I said, I don’t have a brilliant solution, but I do have an idea. First off, I know you’re not supposed to leave your hat on during the national anthem, but what if a football player (or any high profile athlete) donned a policeman’s cap during the national anthem to show support for the police? And then the next week, wore an Army beret to show support for our military, and then the next week a Fireman’s helmet to show support for our Fire Fighters, and the next week a Hard Hat in support of construction workers, etc. When you’re in a high profile position, what you do and what you say can have a lot of influence. So I’m “Just saying…”
I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. 
And I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.
~ Abraham Lincoln 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Just A Moment

I had a second back procedure done two weeks ago hoping for better results. The doctor spent a lot of time trying to remove a cyst from my spine, explaining afterwards that it was in a really difficult, tight location. Immediately afterwards the pain was mostly gone and it felt like I was walking on air.

In fact, I felt so good I decided to go to a baseball practice over the weekend. I mostly wanted to see my friends, but I also wanted to test out my body and see if I was able to move around good enough to play catch, take some grounders and/or hopefully swing a bat. It was so great to see my baseball buddies because I haven’t played a game in over 4 months and I’ve missed those guys terribly. But as soon as I started practicing, I was like a kid in a candy store, grinning from ear to ear as I caught fly balls in the outfield and then hit fly balls to the outfield. Just to be able to run around on a baseball diamond and smell the green grass was absolutely magical for me. I didn’t realize I missed it so much.

After practice I was excited to spend time catching up with my friends, but I was shocked by what I heard. I thought I was the only one having a medical issue but to my surprise and sadness, almost everyone there was dealing with a really difficult problem. One friend had a brain tumor several years ago, and unfortunately it has now come back. Another friend needs an operation on both of his eyes but found out his insurance won’t cover the high cost of the procedure. A third friend has an internal issue that is causing him a great deal of pain but he doesn’t have any insurance so he can only try over the counter herbs, which aren’t really helping. And a fourth friend couldn’t make the practice because he had to have neck surgery.

I realize I’m 61 years old, so I am bound to have some medical issues. But most of my friends are not that old, they’re only in their forties or early fifties, so why are so many bad things happening to them right now? Why are these guys, all of whom are outstanding, honest, hardworking family men, having to suffer so much? I guess the basic question is, why do bad things happen to good people? All the way home that question kept burning through my brain… and hurting my heart.

When I got home I offered up a prayer for myself and my friends. I obviously prayed for healing but I also prayed for understanding, that no matter what happens here on earth we are able to handle it by focusing on the positive and remembering that are time here is short, that we are truly only here for “just a moment”. I guess it was good to pray for understanding because within a few more days my back and leg pain came roaring back.

I'm not a minister or a bible scholar or even all that smart, so I can't tell you why we have to suffer during our time here on earth. But when I think about the blessings I have been given and the ultimate blessing of life everlasting, it helps me to maintain the right perspective. Especially if I look at it this way... I can be sick for "just a moment". I can have pain for "just a moment". I can be lonely for "just a moment".  I can struggle for "just a moment". Why? Because it's not about me anyway... and it's certainly not about now!

Life is like a tree and its root is faith. 
Once we tend to the root, the tree as a whole will be healthy.
 ~ Deepak Chopra