June, 2011

Jun 11

Hard Times in Life


Today is a bad day.

I am not depressed… just really sad.

The topic of the tattooed arm that we have been poking at the last few blogs is on hold for today.

Someone close died… very suddenly… if you get my jist.

A sudden death like this is new territory.  I have had people close to me die before but this is different.  It is tragic, disturbing, and meaningless on levels that you can’t explain unless you have experienced it.

Everyone close to the person is going through the reflective mental gymnastics of shoulda, coulda, woulda.

So you can see why my brain is out of order today.  To add to the saddness and the mental gymnastics that my brain has been going through, the family has asked me to conduct the Memorial Service.

I am a Christ follower with a strong faith, but I am not a minister.  I have never conducted a Memorial Service of any kind, especially one that has such painful implications and complexity.

So you can see why my head is preoccupied.

See you Monday.

Jun 11

Trapped by a Belief



Hello.  It’s good to have you pop in and visit for a while.

In the last blog I touched on one of the most powerful aspects of life… what we believe.  And as most of you know this is a continuation of a discussion about a picture of a quote tattooed to the upper arm of a girl.

One thing I have learned about beliefs is that you can’t learn enough about beliefs.  Beliefs direct our path and define our behaviors. 

Virtually every aspect of our lives is an extension of what we believe.  For example:

  • I sit in a chair because I believe it is going to hold me.
  • I vote a particular way because I believe one person is better than the other to lead the country.
  • I am not comfortable in social chit chat situations because I believe I am boring.
  • I wear old Converse All-Star shoes because I believe they look cool.  They’re also comfortable, I have other sneakers in my closet just as comfortable… but not as cool.

These beliefs I possess, may or may not in reality be true.  But, if I believe them to be true my behaviors follow.

Now here’s the interesting thing.  Some beliefs (probably the majority) are correct or at least ok, based on solid logic or information.  And most beliefs tend to revolve around your daily activities and don’t carry the weight of charting the course of our life.

But the scary thing is this, there are some beliefs we can possess that can be fundamentally in error and totally impact the course and quality of life.

As we talked about in the last blog, the sad reality is that people believe wrong messages… and live their life by those beliefs.

I ran across another quote that I found very interesting  I am not totally sure I believe it, but I find it thought provoking none-the-less.

“It takes a lot more energy to fail than to succeed, since it takes a lot of concentrated energy to hold on to beliefs that don’t work.”

- Jerry Gillies

Not only can beliefs be correct or incorrect, they also impact one another.  One stronger belief can override a lesser belief.

In the last blog I promised to unpack the topic of beliefs a bit more in today’s entry but I have faced a major dilemma – my raw inability to do justice to a topic as complex, important and powerful as the beliefs we hold. 

Side Note:  My head has been screaming, how in the world can I do justice to a topic of such enormity and importance?  What feeble insights can I provide?  Seriously!


My writing on this topic today is a perfect example of the power of belief and how actions follow beliefs.

Those of you who have hung out with me for a while know that this blog thing is something that I believe I am to do. 

My belief that I am to write this overrides my belief that my insights may be shallow and fall short of a worthy topic.

I have worked hard at being willing to test my beliefs.  I find that if they are based on truth… real truth, they can stand the test of scrutiny.

Testing our beliefs is no easy task.  But hopefully I have heightened your awareness so as to cause you to stop, tilt your head in question, and ponder a belief.

On Thursday I will continue with the last part of the tattooed quote.


Jun 11

To Believe or NOT to Believe… That is the Question


Howdy, glad to have you visit.

We continue the saga of the arm tattoo.  I am sure that when the picture was taken of the arm tattoo the person never dreamed that a series of blogs would be written.

Side Note: If you are just joining us or you haven’t visited in a while you really need to take a look at the picture.  After you see it you will understand why.

Just scroll down the page four blogs to the June 9th entry.


Dissecting the Arm Quote: (continued)

“Being told you are a worthless piece of shit and not believing it…


It’s interesting… every time I type and read this quote I am repulsed.

In my apparent small narrow world, it is hard for me to grasp that there are people who intentionally impose this destructive of a message on another person.  I know it’s true, but still hard to grasp because it is so foreign to me.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to crawl into that person’s head.  The hate, anger and blackness must be immense to spew such a vile message with the intent to destroy.  Baffling.

Sorry, I got sidetracked from the positive lesson for us all to learn.  We have talked about the messages we all receive (“Being told you are…”); the types of messages we receive (“…a worthless piece of shit…”); and the decision point of what we do with those messages (“…and…”).

Today we look at the decision.  The decision of this person was NOT to believe the message.

Do you realize how difficult it is NOT to believe a repetitive negative message?

It’s sad but true; the nature of humans is to lend more weight to negative messages than to positive.  It is the way we are bent.

I am sure each one of you can bring to remembrance a critical statement someone made more easily than a positive statement.

Who knows, maybe I am the only sick person on this earth ship that focuses on the negative too quickly.  What I do for a living requires me to be in front of people in a training or facilitation role.  If the session has evaluation sheets you can imagine what I look at first.

As you can guess, all the evaluations are jammed pack with carefully crafted messages about how amazingly wonderful the session was and how they sat in awe of my incredible skills.  Of course there are the four or five evaluations that are covered with hearts, XOXOXO, and “I want to have your baby” sentiments.

Just kidding, just kidding.  Yes, I get compliments but I immediately go to the criticisms.  I like to say that I want to improve my skills… but it may be more of a morbid curiosity.

The point is, we naturally lean toward and gravitate to the negative.

Every one of us has a decision to make… a choice.  Do we believe the message?

The person with the tattoo made a decision.  A decision NOT to believe the message.

It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.

- Anthony Robbins


Side Note: I can’t believe I just used a Anthony Robbins quote.  I am literally sitting here with my mouth open in amazement.  But the quote is good and it fit.

I am sorry to all of you who are Anthony Robbins fans but… I just can’t stomach him.  I don’t know what it is but there is something about his teeth and smile that I find kind of spooky.  And loose the goatee.


Now here will be the real test.  When Anthony Robbins reads this blog, as I am sure he will, he will make a decision about what I said about him.

Since I am an internationally known blogist (I assume that is a word) and what I have to say is so piercingly accurate, he will probably crawl off in the corner for a good cry.

That is, unless he believes his own quote.  The messages and events don’t shape us… it’s what we decide to believe.

I will talk more about beliefs in the next blog on Monday.


Jun 11

Splitting Hares


Happy Monday… or whatever day you are reading this.

As you know I found a picture a week ago with a quote that was tattooed on the upper underarm of a girl.

The picture was provocative and disconcerting.  I was repulsed at first not wanting to look at the arm with the hairy arm pit and the shocking tattooed quote.

But the quote was compelling and thought provoking enough that I have been dissecting it segment by segment.

Shall we continue?  Oh lets.

Dissecting the Arm Quote: (continued)  

“Being told you are a worthless piece of shit and not believing it…

Now I don’t know about you but as I read the next part of the sentence (in blue) my eyes and head went immediately to the heart of quote, …not believing it…

But I had to slam on the mental breaks.  There is a simple word here that is easily overlooked but must not, MUST NOT be ignored.  The word is “AND”.

“Being told you are a worthless piece of shit and not believing it…”

This simple, easily ignored word is so powerful that it determines our future.  I am not exaggerating for effect… it literally determines our future.

This focus on the word “And” is not an attempt to split hairs on definition.

Side Note: I know, I know.  Using two cute rabbits and a puppy and a play on words was a cheap trick to get your attention.

And yes, it was a stretch to tie it in somehow.  But I did… kinda.


“And” follows virtually every single thing in our lives.  Every conversation, event, experience, or encounter has an “AND” that follows.

It is the conscious or unconscious pause that begs… no demands a response.

This is the point that charts our course.  We have no choice but to make a choice.

“And” is the question that usually we unknowingly answer, What do I do with this?

It is the point between situation and our response where we choose what we do and how we do it.

Let’s face it.  Most of the things during our day that we experience and our response that follows are so subtle that it is a seamless fluid motion under our conscious radar.

But we have to remember that this natural fluid motion is a result of the way we have been trained… during our youth by our families or by ourselves as we got older.

The training we received was either good and healthy ways to respond or… not so good.

Everyone of us have patterns or old programming in our lives where we don’t handle situations well.

I don’t know your patterns, I just know mine.  I don’t know how you take things that happen in your daily life.

How do you tend to react to things?

  • Take things personally
  • Get defensive
  • Easily angered
  • Sarcastic and put down others
  • Critical
  • Become passive
  • Arrogant and superior
  • Automatically assume worst
  • Add your own


I don’t know what your response is but I do know this.  “And” is our point of freedom.  It is the freedom to choose our response to any given incident in our lives.  It is not easy making other choices but we are not doomed.

The girl with the tattooed arm made a choice about the message she received in her life.

On Thursday we will take a deeper dive into what we decide to believe.


Jun 11

Bound or Free


Welcome back.

Today we are continuing the tattoo saga that we started last Thursday.  As I told the readers in Monday’s blog, much of what I say today won’t have the same impact unless you have read the blog titled More Than Meets the Eye.  If you haven’t already, I hope you check it out.

OK, here we go, jumping into the deep end of the pool.

Messages, we are bombarded with messages.  On Monday we talked about the multitude of messages that are center to our development as a person, especially as a young child.

These early messages (positive or negative) create the framework for who we are, what we do, and what we believe about ourselves.

Dissecting the Arm Quote:

“Being told you are a worthless piece of shit…

Brutal huh?  It felt yucky just typing it.  At first I thought of toning it down by writing s#!@.  But writing it that way robbed the raw impetus of the message.

Can you imagine being impaled with a message like this throughout your life?  Unfortunately, I’m sure many of you know what it feels like.  It may not be this exact message but one just as vile… and damaging.

As you think about your life, think about the messages that have seeped through the walls of your subconscious that have impacted who you are today.

A good way to decode the blur of messages is to look at your self talk… what you say about yourself in your head.  Or examine your behaviors.  Behaviors are the physical manifestations of your beliefs.

There are two phrases I have used that capture the essence of what I am saying.

“Actions follow beliefs.”

“We look for evidence to validate our beliefs.”


You may not have been targeted with a piercing message as brutal as the one above.  But we all have had negative messages that keep us from experiencing the fullness of life.

These negative beliefs may be subtle, but toxic none-the-less.

Messages may be things like…

-         you’re not capable

-         not lovable

-         inadequate

-         weak

-         your opinion or ideas aren’t worth much

-         not likable

-         add your own


Negative messages we have received, and believed, become a reality that entombs us.   This trap keeps us from a full vibrant life.

But here’s the good news.  We are not doomed to live a life that is forever encapsulated in a straitjacket that restricts freedom.

To be honest, freedom does require some work on our part because most likely our actions have become aligned with the negative messages received.

Now we get to the tricky part.

There are some messages we need to ignore and release… put them in their place.  But there are some messages we need to hear.  These messages are those that provide direction on how to wiggle our way free from the confines that trap.

We will poke at this a bit more on Monday.

See you then.


Jun 11

No Bitter Pill


Hi there.  I didn’t know for sure you would visit me today after the last blog entry.

Kudos, pretty daring.

Over the next three or four blog entries I plan to dissect the statement tattooed on the person’s upper underarm pictured in last Thursday’s blog.

Important Note: If you didn’t read Thursday’s blog and see the picture I just referred too, these entries will make little sense.

Go ahead a scroll down the page to the blog.  The picture alone is a grabber.


For those of you who read the blog I can just hear the collective groan from many of you out there.  You’re probably thinking, Ugggh!  I don’t want anything heavy or uncomfortable.  Just give me cotton candy for the brain.  Something light, sweet with an occasional hint of flavor to let me know I’m eating something.

Well, this is a bit meatier than cotton candy.  But stick with me because I believe the statement has a lot to say to all of us… good stuff… important stuff… if we are willing to step back and look.

Don’t worry, this will not be a bitter pill to swallow, chewy but not bitter… not this week anyway.

Dissecting the Arm Quote:

“Being told you are…”

During our entire life we are getting messages.  From our first moment at birth to our last moment of life there are messages being sent to us.

Side Note: We also send messages but that is for a blog of another time.  Our focus this go round are the messages to us.


This message thing sounds relatively straight forward and simplistic at first glance, but not at all.

Messages come from all directions in a multitude of shapes and sizes, subtle to blatant, verbal and non-verbal.

We cannot underestimate the power of messages.  They, in reality, are invisible hands from a variety of sculptors.  These hands shape and form us as people.  This is especially true when we are very young, impressionable and moldable.

In a short period of time the shapes and molds begin to harden us into the people we are… for better… or for worse.

These messages we have received influence the course of our life and impacts life decisions.

You will notice that up to this point I haven’t qualified the messages in terms of being positive or negative.  My initial point is that we send and receive messages all the time and they shape us.

The fact is, we have all (to varying degrees) had a mix of positive messages and sadly, negative.

Positive messages build and strengthen.  If a person hears and sees messages that identify and reinforce a particular gifting (e.g. athletics or academics) then the likelihood that they will pursue these areas are natural.

These positive messages build, strengthen and free us while negative messages trap and undermine us as people.

Those of you who are familiar with the arm quote know that on Thursday we will talk about negative messages and the trap that creates.

See you on Thursday.

Jun 11

More Than Meets the Eye


Yes, I know.  The picture above is disturbing, even repulsive.

I am sure many of you found it offensive and harsh, as did I at first glance.

If something is initially abrasive or offensive our natural instinct is to make a quick judgment and immediately separate oneself from the person or thing that offends.

Side Note: Maybe your separation from the irritant is to stop reading today’s blog because it makes you uncomfortable.


Let’s face it, none of us likes our world to be disturbed.  We work hard to make our lives to be as pleasant as possible and to run smoothly.  This is a human innate default and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

But the reality is, regardless of how much we desire a life smooth and pleasant; abrasiveness, harshness, and discomfort have an important role in making our lives complete.

In fact, it is the abrasive things that smooth and polish our lives.

Chicago author and humorist Finley Peter Dunne (July 10, 1867 — April 24, 1936) felt compelled to write the following statement.

“Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”


John Kenneth Galbraith in the “London Guardian”, July 8, 1989 put it another way.

“In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.”


Humm… does this mean that we are to intentionally bring affliction and discomfort on people who are comfortable in their ways, maybe, maybe not.

It is easy to see the rationale for afflicting comfortable people who’s ways are in error.

But what about afflicting those people who are comfortable and are not in error?  I believe there is a case to be made for afflicting these people under the right circumstances.  There are times when those you love and care about are trapped in a soft prison of comfort keeping them from a fuller, richer life.

If there is an appropriate occasion to be the purveyor of affliction, it should be neither casual nor self-serving.

Now, just so you know, I didn’t place the picture on this page for the purpose of causing you affliction or discomfort.  That was not my intent or calling for the day.

I posted it because upon a second deeper look I found this picture to be particularly striking, personally provocative… and somehow strangely compelling.

This simple picture has a lot to say… lots.

The phrase on the arm is an actual tattoo, not a quote made with a marker for the purposes of making an artistic statement.

The statement brash, vulgar, yet oddly insightful.

A tattoopainful, permanent, virtually irreversible.

On the upper underarm a tender place, yet hidden, odd.

Yes this picture has a lot to say.

To your chagrin I’m sure, I feel the need to unpack all of this a bit more on Monday.

Hopefully you will join me even though it may be a bit uncomfortable.

Humm… this discomfort may help polish you up a bit.


Jun 11

Foot on the Neck


Yep… Monday again.

Mondays seem to come around more often and more quickly these days.

I turn around or look up and all of a sudden it’s Monday.  Most of the time Mondays seem to catch me flat footed and I feel the brunt of its force more so than the other days of the week.

So this morning I am picking myself up off my ass after catching Monday’s blow.  I know some of you are bothered because I used the word ass instead of rear end or bum.

It’s not a word I throw around too often, but ass is so much more descriptive.

Saying Monday knocked me on my bum sounds so gentle and… and… civilized, as if Monday would apologize for the inconvenience.

Monday: “Oh excuse me mate, I didn’t mean to bump into you this week.  I am so sorry.  Please allow me help you up and dust you off.”

But no, this Monday “sucker punched” me, laughed as I went down, and held it’s heel on my neck.  I stayed there a while this morning until I wiggled around and freed myself from under its grimy foot.

So here I am writing away and taking care of the weekly duties and slowly building up momentum to get the week rolling.

I don’t think that I am too different than most of you.  This journey of life we are all on has those times that stimulate and motivate and then times that seem to drain us.

It is my experience that there may be times when there is a definitive reason for a draining day but generally it is a mish mash of stuff that seems to have no rhyme or reason.  It’s just the nature of life.

I found a quote that fits well with the topic.

“Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

.-  Joshua J. Marine


Imagine a life where there were no difficulties.  Would that be a good thing?

“Struggle” has two amazing positives to consider.

First, it forces us to move beyond where we are, step out, take action.   Unfortunately discomfort of the present tends to be a greater motivator than opportunities of the future.

Secondly, the struggle makes us stronger.  The resistances of life solidify those things that are important.  It also strengthens the internal fiber to stand and pursue the hard path to good things instead of yielding to the easier roads in life.

Although I am a bit bruised from the morning struggle, I am feeling pretty good about this Monday after all.

I guess it is time for me to take my foot off Monday’s neck and let it go about its business.  Watch out… Monday has a few more people on its list to “sucker punch” today.

Hope to see you Thursday.

Jun 11

The Parades Over – What Next?


Welcome back, good to see you again.

In the last blog entry I shared Part One of our Memorial Day experience with some guests from Austria and the UK.

My wife and I wanted to have our visitors experience a typical Memorial Day in America – parade, Memorial Ceremony and a cook-out with hamburgers and hot dogs.

I wrote on Tuesday about our wonderful community parade.  Albeit simple, short and humble, it’s still wonderful.

I mentioned that as tradition has it, all the parade spectators dutifully fold in behind the procession and follow it to the village green for the Memorial Day Ceremony.

Up to this point our guests were totally enamored by the experience.  The parade, flags, the people and the energy was a spectacle of Americana and patriotism at its best.

They seemed particularly impressed by the number of people who came out for the event.  They shared that parades are rare in the UK and most surprising to me was that they indicated that the people in the villages seldom (or, if at all) come together as a community group.

I knew they were enjoying the parade but I wondered how will our foreign visitors would view the Memorial Day Ceremony memorializing those in the military who lost their lives serving their country; particularly those who lost their life in war.

The Memorial Day Ceremony

It was a Norman Rockwell setting.

The parade had spilled all of its followers on to the village green and our little community band was assembled on the Bandstand.  Then the ceremony began.

The Ceremony:

  • Greeting to get everyone’s attention – which was a chore
  • Prayer
  • Raising of the flag in the center of the green with bugle playing To the Colors
  • Singing of our National Anthem
  • Reading of the winning essay on Memorial Day by the Junior High student
  • Mayor saying a few words and reading the Gettysburg Address (I had to explain to our friends the significance of the speech and that it was from Abraham Lincoln)
  • Laying of a wreath at the flag pole
  • Playing of Taps while the flag was lowered to half mast
  • Singing of God Bless America was the finale


It was the perfect tribute.  The ceremony did not glorify war or promote a military machine, but celebrated those who served their country and sacrificed their life.

Walking back to the house after the ceremony our guests expressed genuine appreciation and respect for the ceremony and the holiday in general.

Then I instinctively said something that I had never thought of before but fully believe.  I shared that the two holidays that are the best descriptors of the American spirit and psyche were Thanksgiving and Memorial Day.

I should have stopped at this brilliant articulation of who we are as a country.  I should have remembered that when one gets full of themselves, then “stupid” is lurking close by.

My brilliant monologue continued by stating that these two holidays mentioned are better descriptors of who we are than even the 4th of July when we celebrate our independence from… huh… (awkward moment).  They laughed.

Our UK friends were impressed by the patriotism and indicated that it was not very prevalent where they are from.  One of them was remarkably transparent (for a Brit) and somber when he hypothesized that he thought their country was ashamed of its Imperial past.

I felt somewhat bad for him so I gently took him to task.  I shared my genuine respect and fondness for the UK and told him that “yes” there were significant negatives to their former Imperialism, but substantial good came from that period also.

I continued by saying that someone could point to some negative aspects of the US military presence in the world but the good must be celebrated.

No country is perfect.  But I was even more proud to be an American after spending Memorial Day with friends from across the pond.

See you Monday.