Archive for the ‘Motivation’ category

The secret to harmonious teamwork

August 21, 2017


Why do personal conflicts escalate so quickly with non-profit volunteers?  Why do factions form like tribal alliances on Survivor?  What’s the secret to harmonious teamwork?

I was asked to facilitate a mid-year review and planning meeting for a group of 15 active volunteers who rescue German Shepherds in Northern California. As each person introduced themselves along with a short success story, one thing became very clear: they are ALL extremely passionate about saving dogs.

Like any volunteer organization, they have occasional miscommunications and disagreements, a minority of the people doing the majority of the work, and shared responsibilities that often have fuzzy lines of definition.  Yet as each one of them spoke, it was so clear that the one mission… the one shared value of saving dogs… was far more important than any petty squabbles over how it got done.

As the leader of that meeting, my goal was to make sure everyone was heard and respected for their opinion and they were. By the end of the meeting, we came away with renewed enthusiasm and agreement on a harmonious action plan to save more dogs.

Afterwards, I couldn’t help thinking about the state of our country. Harmonious teamwork is at an all-time low.  Leaders deserve some blame but it’s easy to blame the leaders. Heck, I could have just blamed the rescue organization president for failings of individuals and the process, but that would have been a very short and unproductive meeting, right?

I know the country is more complicated than a dog rescue group, and there are many more values than just one.  But come on, can’t we agree on SOME values that everyone can rally around?  Democrats and Republicans both want national security, a robust economy, community safety, the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. <Insert your priority here.>

No single political party has a monopoly on shared values. These are American values that everyone can rally around. What I see now is a whole bunch of people who care a whole lot about the country… but are not being heard and respected by the other “volunteers.” We are blaming and labeling instead of listening and respecting.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT talking about cozying up to extremists from the far right or the far left. Fascists and anarchists get way too much air time as it is. I’m talking to you, the vast majority of citizens who are capable of reasoned thought and compromise.

Some of those who read this will already have their defensive comment ready to cut and paste.  Some will maybe stop and think for a moment, but eventually retreat to the safety of their chosen tribe. Some of you will actually take the risk to reach across the chasm and have a real conversation with your “opponent” about a shared value and then figure out how to move forward to make things better.

You may dismiss me as a pie in the sky optimist. Yeah… you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. The secret to harmonious teamwork is NOT to divide the team. The secret is to listen with respect and work together.

Oh… and if you want to foster or adopt a German Shepherd, I highly recommend Golden State German Shepherd Rescue. Peace, my friends.



A Short Message on Mother’s Day

May 14, 2017


Being a mom’s not a job, it’s more like a mission

For some it’s an accident, for some a decision

Whatever the reason, the reason it’s rough

Is that you never believe you are doing enough

For these kids who at first need your help every day

But eventually don’t want you to get in their way

Then they become self-sufficient outside of your nest

Pat yourself on the back, hey you passed the test!

But it doesn’t feel finished, your love still flows

And you wait for a call, yeah that’s how it goes

So for all of you kids, yeah I’m talking to you

I have a suggestion for a great thing to do

Call her on Mother’s day and then set a reminder

To call her again next week because you will find her

Surprised in the most pleasant and wonderful way

Just talk to her even if there’s not much to say

You may be self-sufficient as a daughter or son

But to a mother her mission is never done

At the limit of your strength, fight on

April 18, 2017


We saw warning signs at mile seven. Jeff was already beginning to feel tightness in his legs. Due to ongoing chemo treatments, he was only able to do up to a 15-mile run in his training. Brad and I looked at each other and realized it was going to be a long day for Jeff. Our mission was to help him get to the Boston Marathon finish line.

Thanks to Jeff, Brad, Ramona, family and friends, we had raised over $38,000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. This further fueled Jeff’s determination to finish this dream race.  But honestly, I wasn’t sure how we were going to pull this one off.

The mother of all marathons was an amazing event. We took in the sights and sounds of the friendly people in the tiny towns. We talked to Doug Flutie, who was running for his Autism foundation. We saluted veterans running with US flags, and a German man who had run 208 marathons. We got attacked by the Wellesley kissing bandits and cheered on by college kids who MAYBE had a little too much to drink.

As we approached the 15-mile mark, Brad and I kept the dialogue going with Jeff. As I’ve learned in past races, your longest training run can create an artificial limit in your mind. Though Jeff had pain, some dizziness and even nausea, he remained focused. Each water and walk break was brief and he insisted that we keep going when I suggested extra walks.

I broadcasted on Facebook Live and read the comments out loud so we all knew the love was flowing from back home and across the world. It was a temporary but welcome distraction from pain.

Then I heard Jeff say out loud, “Go away. Just go away. You’re not going to stop me now.”  He was talking to the pain and fatigue, refusing to let it override his body and mind.

As we started up Heartbreak Hill, he wanted to run but he stopped suddenly in the middle of the street. “Oh crap, my right quad is starting to give out.”

We had done the math and wanted to keep a pace to beat a 6-hour total finishing time, but I convinced Jeff that it was better to walk up the remaining uphills and take advantage of the downhills to make up some time. His body was overheated and under stress, but his heart refused to break.

Brad counted down each mile and kept us steady at a 13-minute mile pace.
7 miles.
6 miles.
5 miles. That’s doable.
4 miles. We are really doing this.
3 miles. Thank you, God.
2 miles…

There is nothing like supportive applause from the roadside crowd, I did my best to reignite the Boston faithful so late in the day. Each cheer brought a shot of adrenaline like a cool breeze on a hot day. It kept us believing.

We rounded the last corner and saw that historic finish line in the distance. And when they announced our names, Brad and I raised Jeff’s arms in triumph as we have done in every race… but this one was historic in another way.  I have never seen a more gutsy display of focus, determination and sheer will to cross a finish line.

I couldn’t help crying as we hugged. I had been prepared to carry Jeff across the finish line if I had to, but I didn’t have to.  Every time I thought he had hit his limit that day, he decided to fight on.

That’s a choice we all have when we hit a limiting belief in our lives. There’s a reserve deep down inside us. It’s fueled by love and support, and ignited by courage.

Jeff, you really showed me something amazing yesterday. There is no limit to your strength.  Thank you, brother.

*** Donation site is still open, thank you!

Pollyanna Pundit Predicts Pervasive Pandemonium

July 19, 2016


Early politicians had it SO easy. They literally stood up on a stump and gave a rousing speech to a couple hundred people, and reporters without a strong bias one way or the other reassembled it the best they could for actual “news” papers. It would take a few months for the story to reach the rest of the country and there was no critical blowback because readers did not have their own printing presses.

Instead, citizens discussed the issues facing their city, state and country in bars, places of worship and actual, not electronic, town halls. The trolls yelling insults from the back of the room were few and inconsequential. I’m sure they had spirited debate but didn’t shoot people over them, and the mainstreamers likely listened to others’ opinions before deciding how to vote.

Eloquent, positive and inspirational words travelled farther and faster than mudslinging, perhaps because people were looking for vision and strength in potential leaders… and could see past the rhetoric and dirty tricks. I don’t know it as a fact, but I imagine people even switched parties occasionally depending on the strength of the candidates and the most pressing issues of the time.

And now we’re doing this.


A simple gesture

June 17, 2016


Dads live with doubt. Even when you see your kids out of the nest and pursuing their dreams on their own, you wonder if you did your best as a parent. Those days my two kids were born were the most thrilling days of my life, and I am so thankful I had 18 years to watch each of them grow into adulthood.

As Father’s day rolls around each year, I am grateful that my dad and step-dad are both still alive and kicking. And I reflect on my own role as a proud father. I made plenty of mistakes in my life and I didn’t always get my priorities straight. Live and learn, they say. But I worked hard and played hard with my kids, and continue to love them and hope for the best for them. Honestly, Father’s Day is an emotional day for me.

So this morning, as I was paying my bill at Perko’s after an awesome Toastmasters meeting, Don the manager said he was paying for my breakfast as a gift for Father’s Day. I tried to refuse, but he said “No, I really appreciate you and the club coming here. And I know you’re a dad because I hear you bragging about your kids all the time.”

For a rather talkative guy, I stood there speechless. I don’t know exactly what it was about that particular moment, but Don’s simple gesture meant the world to me. My eyes got misty. I wished him a Happy Father’s Day and walked slowly to my car with a big smile on my face.

Simple gestures do not cost much… in this case, only 8.99 plus tax. But the value was immeasurable to me. When the feeling hits you to extend a simple gesture of kindness to someone else, go for it.

That ripple may become a tidal wave of goodwill.

Got your back

April 24, 2016


I have watched many gunfights in movies. I have played Halo with my son and his teenage friends. But nothing prepared me for what it would really feel like in a war zone. It was my first time playing paintball and I was asking a lot of questions.

“How many shots do I have in this gun?” I asked the girl at the counter. She replied with a routine and politically correct response, “It’s not a gun, it’s a marker.”

I smiled in disbelief. “What? We’re going to be throwing Sharpies at each other?”

She was not amused. She handed me my oversized goggles and a yellow bandana to tie around my neck. She said, “You’re a first timer aren’t you?”

“Yeah but I shot BB guns a lot when I was kid. I’ll be alright.” She stifled a laugh and moved on to the next player. I walked away singing “I’m a paint ball wizard, there has to be a twist. Paint ball wizard. Just. Will. Not. Get. Hit.”

As soon as the air horn sounded our team was on the move, up the hill through the rocky and tree-covered terrain. I was no dummy. I ran toward the tallest and widest boulder I could find and flattened my back against it. I learned this move watching movies. I got this.

I could hear every short breath inside my mask as I peeked around the massive rock. That’s when I saw the jawbreaker-sized yellow projectile hurling at high speed right at my face. I closed my eyes as I heard the smack of the impact… fortunately on the edge of the rock, not my face. Yellow paint sprayed into the air as I snapped back to my hiding place. 5 minutes ago I was singing and laughing. Now I was 100% focused.

It’s just like when life throws several challenges at you all at once. You get laser-focused on what you need to do to survive.

The soldiers on the other team had my full attention, and I peeked out again from the rock to scan the field of battle for threats. My pulse raced from the adrenaline surge, and then I got this very unsettling feeling. I was scanning 180 degrees of my field of vision to the front, but what if they were sneaking up behind me?

I quickly looked over my shoulder, and there with his back against the same rock was Philip, a veteran player who was covering the other 180 degrees behind me. He literally had my back. And just like that… I relaxed and returned my focus to what lied beyond the rocks in front.

An hour later I walked away from that field of battle with a few bruised ribs and a lot of leftover paint pellets. But more importantly, I had a new sense of appreciation for real soldiers on real battlefields, and a renewed sense of what it means to have someone watching your back. Someone who cares enough to cover you no matter what.

Whether it’s a weekend paint ball game, a challenge at work or a relationship struggle, I am so grateful for the inner circle of good friends who look out for me. And any time they are under fire, they can count on me to defend them without question as well.

Who’s got your back?

Promises, promises

December 7, 2015

2016bWho wants to join me in getting a one month jump on the new year by posting your goals now? This approach helps me focus, and making it public holds me accountable. I also publicly celebrate wins and rededicate my efforts to complete goals I fell short on.

In no particular order, here are my top personal goals for 2016:

  • Help my brother Jeff achieve his goal of raising $20,000 for MMRF as he and wife Ramona climb Mount Kilimanjaro on January 24. You can be part of helping him complete this dream by giving $25 or more at this link. There will be a short film created on their trek and I will share it first with all donors.
  • Complete the Death Ride. Last year I finished 80 of the 129 miles and 3 of the 5 mountain passes. I did not train enough or start early enough in the morning to finish it all. I can overcome both of these setbacks in 2016, and I’m looking for training buddies for high altitude training trips in May/June.
  • Achieve excellence in my job. This IS a measurable goal… my manager can give me an “Excellent” rating on my annual review. More than that I’m going to broaden the scope of the internal talk show I produce and host; learn how to edit video with Premiere and After Effects; and leave a positive and memorable impression with all the executives, engineers and communications professionals I serve.
  • Return to regular blogging. Short Stories with a Point has continued to be an outlet for stories that matter in my life and I really appreciate the dialogue with those of you who comment. I’m shifting the direction a bit to include “business” stories that will be included in my next book. Please let me know what you think!

Focus brings consistency, and consistency leads to results. Every big goal I have achieved in the last seven years began with a public promise. What will you promise yourself to do in 2016?

Jeff and Ramona’s donation page