Month: September 2018

Focus On What Matters

This past week I was at Tim Horton’s.

Sitting across from me was a man that I did not know.Related image

The reason he and I were sitting at the same table is such a coincidence if you believe in such a thing.

I don’t believe in coincidences.

I was soon to find out that the reason for me meeting this man at a random table at Tim Horton’s would change my perspective on some of the things I considered important.

Jack would tell me about his situation.

He would tell me of the diagnosis. How they found cancer. He would give me Image result for cleveland clinic cancer centerdetails of his surgeries and of the treatments. The doctors removed one of the largest tumors recorded at the Cleveland Clinic from his colon. He would tell me he has been dealing with this for almost 5 years now. He has been told by the doctors that there was nothing more they could do. He has been told on at least 2 times that he only had a few months to live.

He recently had more tests run and again, the prognosis is not good. They will do another round of chemo and they will attack it as best as they can.

He has survived. He has overcome. He has lived.

But that isn’t Jack’s story, at least not all of it.

Jack’s story begins with a desire to write a book about his situation.

He has wanted to write a book called “Blessed With Cancer”. 

It is as important as life to him.

Sure, he wants to write this book for his wife and for his children to read in the future, but more importantly, he wants it for those that are walking the same path in life.

He wants to share his story of how he has survived. How he has overcome and more importantly how he has lived to those that are battling cancer.

He has tried to get his book published. Some publishers would tell him that the costs of putting this into a book form would be thousands of dollars. Others would tell him that it will be over a year away for it to be published in book form.

Jack doesn’t know if he has a year to give.

This is where I come into Jack’s story.

I am not sharing this to get any credit, to be recognized or to be seen in a better light.

I just know what Jack feels like when it comes to wanting to write a book and the process it takes to get it into book form. It’s brutal.

I have developed a publishing process to where I can get Jack’s book into book form at almost no cost to Jack or his family.

I can help him achieve his desire while he can enjoy the fulfillment of reaching a lifelong dream.

This is what I am going to do for Jack.

As Jack and I finished up our discussion and details that need to be completed to publish his book, I see that this book is something that he is living for. The compassion to tell his story and a desire to leave something that gives evidence that he was here.  A way to thank his doctors… his friends and most of all his TEST DPI FINALfamily.

Here is the front cover of the book I am publishing for him. I just submitted the book and it will be on Amazon in the next week or so. I am proud to have been part of his dream to publish a book.

The lessons to be learned in his story are evident long before a book gets published.

For me, I realize that in light of his story, many of the things I consider important… simply are not. Whether or not the Browns win another game or the Indians win a World Series is not important. It simply doesn’t matter.

I am reminded of a movie I watched many years ago.  It wasn’t a great movie by any standard, most of the movie I forgot about soon after it was over. However, there is one scene that I have never forgotten. In that movie, called “Meatballs”, Bill Murray is Image result for what matterscoaching a summer camp softball team. Just prior to the final game between his team of nerds and the super-jocks, Bill gives his team a pep talk, reminding them that whether they win or lose, it just doesn’t matter.

Most of the things we face in life really do not matter.  Not in the big picture of life. Our perspective will change when we face our mortality. When we face an uncertain future.

I am aware that we all have to face these things in life.

We have to play the cards we are dealt.

We need to focus on what matters.

What matters is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

What matters is showing up and doing the best you can.

What matters is your family.

What matters is stepping up to the plate and taking your best shot.

What matters is not letting your fear or your cancer define you.

What matters is living life until God calls you home.

It’s trying to squeeze out every last drop of life knowing that it is so precious.

So… when I see a man who has endured the last five years dealing with cancer and then he writes a book called “Blessed With Cancer”…  the game that the Browns won last week… just doesn’t matter.

Looking at Things in a Different Light

Never in my life did I think I’d learn a life lesson from a garage sale.

Once a year, some good friends of mine have a huge garage sale. This summer event was always one of the highlights of the year for them. They would always ask me if IImage result for dimly lit garage sale wanted to bring things over to sell and I always said no. But that year they were persistent and I finally decided that I was going to sell some “stuff” that was taking up space at my house. 

The garage sale was amazing… the driveway was lined with tables that were on display with all of the things they wanted to sell.  Lots of sunshine, and lots of foot traffic. It was nearly perfect – except for the garage.

The garage was dingy, even after we cleaned it. The lighting was gloomy – the paint, uninviting. It wasn’t a space you’d want to hang out in. Unfortunately, that was where all my “stuff” was laid out. The sale was so big we had no other choice but to fill the garage with all of the things that could not fit on the tables that were out front.

Over the next two days, hundreds of people shopped the sale, buying dozens of items. But through it all, the garage remained untouched. I didn’t even see anyone lingering around them. It was so strange to me. I would have thought Related imagethey’d have been among the first things to go.

I was puzzled, but I began to reconcile myself to the thought that they just weren’t going to sell.

Towards the end of Day 2, the tables out front began to look picked over, so we decided to move things around. We cleared out the garage, pulling everything out into the sunshine and on the tables out front.

And that’s when it happened.

Not even minutes after we moved my “stuff” to the new location, a young couple stopped, looked at each item carefully and then chose one to buy a few. Within thirty minutes, more things sold. And then another – and another. In less than two hours, shoppers had bought all of my stuff.Image result for garage sale

It blew me away. They went from worst to first in the blink of an eye! Really? Why?

They were no less valuable or capable – no less good – in that garage. Yet hundreds of shoppers just passed them by. They overlooked them, distracted by what they felt in the ugliness – eager to get back out where it was sunny and bright.

The shoppers needed the opportunity to see my “stuff” in a different light. And once they did, it made all the difference. They saw the value and they wanted it.

There’s so much to learn here. On the surface, of course, it’s a lesson that presentation matters more than we think. If we want to sell something – if we want to sell ourselves, it’s up to us to present well. We can’t expect people to buy in – even if it’s a no-brainer – until we do.

But there’s something more valuable here.

The thing that has stuck with me is how resigned I was that it was over. I was totally convinced that my items weren’t going anywhere. I’d accepted it. I mean, if they were, it would have happened already. There had been plenty of opportunities, but no interest. So, I was absolutely shocked to see them succeed so easily after such a small tweak. I mean, I literally picked them up and moved them 20 feet.

But with that one small change, what was unlikely became possible – and what was possible became reality.

Where else could that be true for you and me?

Is our fate sealed, or is life waiting for us to not have our minds quite so made up?

Is it possible that a simple change could have a profound effect?

What if we took a look at things in a different light?

Change1Perhaps our work could be more fulfilling.

And our friendships, more meaningful.

What if our marriages could be saved and even thrive?

What if we could make a great impact on the world around us?

Maybe we already do and just don’t see it.

Is your mind already made up?

Are you convinced of the outcome?

Do you know what you know?

Are you sure?

Looking at things in a different light might make all the difference in the world.

And I Won’t Forget

Image result for 9/11

What kind of world would it be now?

Everything was going to change.

For awhile it did.

We were just getting familiar with “high speed” internet.

Social media and the keyboards we hide behind didn’t exist yet. Our cell phones were dumb.

Our TV’s were fat and we were all maybe a little thinner.

There were no planes in the sky. There was a slight breeze and I remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t sleep well that night. The fear of protecting my wife and my family kept me up most of the night.

I still can’t sleep some nights wondering how I can protect my wife and my growing family. My kids are now grown and starting families of the own.

Our TV’s are now thinner and we’re all a little bigger.

Our cell phones are smart now and we hide behind keyboards on social media and say horrible things to one another.

Actually, we don’t even hide behind keyboards anymore.

Now we shout our beliefs so loud that our targets can’t even hear us.

And I think back to this picture

And I won’t forget how for a moment we all pressed pause…

To love our neighbor as ourselves. To open doors and show kindness.

To hold those we love a little bit tighter.

The world changed that day.

And I won’t forget.

Lessons Learned by Losing

I’ve had the fortune of coaching a few teams in my life.

I coached boy’s varsity for a few years, but coaching girls basketball was my favorite.
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Some teams were very talented… some were not. At the end of my head-coaching career, I had a win / loss record of 75-38.  There was a span in my coaching career where I had 28 straight regular season wins.

Sounds impressive doesn’t it?

It isn’t.   

I also experienced losing 14 straight games too. The experience of the victories are much more fun, but 25 years after I retired as a head coach, I have appreciated and applied the lessons I learned by losing much more. 

I don’t claim to be an expert. More than once I’ve thought I built a winner and had to go back and re-evaluate. Here’s what I know – I love building teams and I love coaching them once they’re built.

My favorite team ever was the one that taught me the most about leadership. 

I’d love to tell you more about them.

After I graduated from high school, I did not have any money to go to college and I was going to sit out a year before I started school. The girl’s varsity head coaching position was going to become vacant. The current head coach was moving toImage result for Girls Varsity Basketball Michigan and the school was going to be left without a head coach.  I was available and the principal of the school asked me if I could take the team for that season.

I accepted.

No formal experience… I was only a year or so older than the girls I was coaching.

What were they thinking? What was I thinking? I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

The first portion of the year the girls struggled. I knew there was talent but they just never found a rhythm. We were losing. Something had to change.

First of all… this particular group never played as a team. 

It started with me. I had to come up with a plan. I decided to meet with each player and tell them their “roll” on the team. Too many of them wanted to the “high-scorer” and that was not possible. I told them very clearly what I expected from them. I then evaluated what kind of athletes we had and realized most of the girls also played soccer. They were aggressive. They were well conditioned. We just struggled to score.

So we pressed.Image result for basketball goal

We pressed a lot.

By the end of that season we had different versions of a press, traps and half-court defenses in our game plan. That was my favorite team. They fought. They competed. They started winning.

When they got tired we subbed and the bench crew would fight and compete too. We had a team goal to force the other team to burn all of their timeouts trying to figure out how to beat our press. During a timeout, we would change it up on them. With beat teams that were more talented than we were, we had a really good season.

I then found myself struggling with giving up coaching to go back to college. I am not saying I did not go to school in the fall because I wanted to remain the head coach.  It was just a benefit of sitting out another year. I started to consider of not going to college at all.

The next season, we didn’t change the team from the first year to the second. We just figured out how to put the team in a better position to succeed. We evaluated what we knew were our strengths and then pushed every ounce of energy we had into letting them maximize those strengths. Each player had a role and an understanding of what was expected of them. The goals were clear. It was a joy to watch and a joy to coach. We were undefeated the first half of the year.Image result for old school bus

On a ride home on the bus after one of our early season victories over a rival, I turned around and watched the girls talking and celebrating their victory. They pushed themselves as a team to become more than what they were.  I suddenly realized that I needed to push myself for the same goal. I secretly made the decision to get busy pushing myself to become more than I was. I committed to go to school in January. I had to find a way to tell the girls.

I was heart-broken at the prospect of leaving this group of successful girls. They showed me what a team can do if they work hard together. I clearly remember the practice when I broke the news to them. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I told them to stay together as a team and focus on the goals that were set for that season.

In just a few weeks they would face the toughest challenge of the season. I would not be there to coach them. They would play Mansfield, and that school was about three times bigger than we were. We had no business having them on our schedule.
Image result for liberty university

I had to leave them and move to Lynchburg, Virginia. 

I was so sad about that. A few weeks later, someone on my floor of the dorm knocked on my door and said that I had a call. I thought it was my mom, so I went to the phone and picked it up the receiver.  On the line were all the girl’s from the team. They had just upset Mansfield and they wanted to call me and let me know that they won. They were all thanking me for what I taught them.  

I hung up the phone when it was time for them to get back on the bus and go home to their families.

Once more victorious.

I cried for the next hour.   That happened 38 years ago and I’ve never told anyone that before.

In a way… I am still coaching.  I still have my team at work. The principles I use are still the same ones that I used when I was a 19-year-old inexperienced kid all those years ago.

I did not learn these at college… I learned them when I lost those games early in my career.

I now share the lessons that I learned from losing and have applied to my whole career as a coach, a teacher, a principal and manager.

  1. Evaluate Today – One of the first things you must do is see where you are today. What’s the health of the overall team? How is the culture? Is this team positioned for success or frustrated by lack of production? Before you can begin to assemble the game plan, you have to take an honest look at where you are today.
  2. Know Your Personnel – You have to get to know your players or those you will lead. What motivates them? What drives them? Which ones will need the most coaching and which ones are naturally gifted? Will you need to add more to the team and if so, how will they fit into the culture?
  3. Cast The Vision – Before you can move forward with a game plan, you have to set the sights of the team on the bigger picture. Success will take every single person understanding their role and embracing it. If they can’t see the vision, they can’t give all they have to it. This is one of the most difficult parts of getting momentum started. Don’t get stuck here but take the time necessary to get 100% support of the greatest goal.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice – We spent hours learning new presses and defensive schemes. It didn’t come easy. This is the frustration phase but when you break through, the momentum really starts going. Your team at work is no different. Once you’ve set the process, work the plan over and over and over again. Take the time necessary to make sure everyone “get’s it.” Remind them of the vision. Practice some more. Corporate teams and basketball teams are no different. The process must be clear and the execution is critical.
  5. Enjoy Game Day – When game day comes, bring the energy your team needs before you even take the field, open the doors, gather in the meeting room. “From the Jump” as I used to tell our girls. We had goals within the game (burning timeouts) and would celebrate the success of achieving it. Then we’d do it again. There were days when some players just didn’t have it. We picked them up and someone else stepped in. You won’t always fire on all cylinders but each time is an opportunity for someone else to shine. Enjoy game day. Enjoy the wins and learn from the losses.
  6. When it’s All Over Keep The Relationships – To this day, I still keep up on the careers of most, if not all of the former players. While the games were fun, the relationships are what mattered. Something special happens when you work together to achieve your goals. If done well, you’ll still be friends long after you’ve parted ways.

I told you that my win/loss record isn’t that impressive. Why? Because my philosophy of winning and losing is this… if my team does what I ask it to do and they do the job they were given… the victories belong to them and the losses belong to me.

I lost 38 games in my head coaching career.

These losses belong to me. The wins to them.

This is still how I approach my work in the corporate setting… it still works.

My job as a manager is to make my team successful… give them the acknowledgment and the victories. The failures/losses go back and belong to me.

How did I learn this?

In one of the most memorable games of my career, we got beat by a rival team in the tournament championImage result for scoreboard 49-48ship game by 1 point on a layup with just seconds to go in the game. Our best player made an errant pass and the other team scored off that steal with 3-seconds to go in the game. I called time-out and I was frustrated and said something I regret to this very day… I looked at her and said, “If we lose this game it is all your fault.”

The fans sitting behind the bench heard me say this, even more embarrasing, her parents heard it as well.  I had never said something like that before in my life. 

This girl had scored 40 points and left everything on the court… she just made a mistake.

That loss belongs to me.

Why? Because for 31 minutes and 57 seconds, I could have coached differently that could have given the girls a better path to victory.

I have learned more from my losses than I ever have with victories.

Find the strategy that fits the team you have.

As a leader, manager or coach… apply the principles above, win or lose.

Then put on the full court press.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” —Ronald Reagan

When You Can’t Find Your “Passion”

Can I be honest with you? 

The very last thing I want to do right now is write an inspirational post about finding your “passion”.

I’m tired.

About the only thing I feel passionate about is being tired.

I’ve been a little cranky and sad for a few days for no good reason. I’m behind on some writing on my next book that I wished I had finished. 

So, tonight I facImage result for losing your passione this blank page. 

I know I’m meant to fill it with encouraging words that I just don’t have today.

Nothing creates burnout faster than losing your passion.

I guess I could lie to you.

I could put on a happy face and borrow from inspiration I’ve felt at another time. I could pull out and re-write an old article I wrote and love, or I could repeat some version of what someone else has said. I could paint you a rainbow and hide the part of me I don’t want to give voice to. I could suppress what I’m feeling.

Or I could be a real person.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I sure wish I could see the cracks in the people around me – especially those who are out in front, claiming to have the answers I need.

Sometimes I think the best thing they could do is admit that taking their own advice isn’t always easy. 

How refreshing it would be to see a break in their relentless smiles for a moment. I think it would help me more to know that they struggle sometimes than to hear their “3 Steps For Getting Over Your Problems”.

So here I am – facing my own “problem”. I am struggling to find the passion I normally have about writing. I will admit that taking my own advice isn’t easy.

The truth is… I know the right things to think and say. I know what I’m supposed to do. I understand what’s good for me. But the truth is, right now, I just don’t want to do it.

Now, I’m not one to embrace a funk for long. I’ll get past this quickly – probably even by the time I post this. And because I know that, I was really tempted to lie to you and to hide from you. But if I share the best of me with you, if I ask you to rally around my words, if I call you to boldness and authenticity, then it feels right to be bold and authentic in return… even when I don’t want to be.

So what’s the lesson here? 

Well… maybe there doesn’t need to be one. Maybe it’s enough just to drop the facade with one another, to admit that we don’t always wanna practice what we preach. But I started this post privately asking myself, “How do I do this when nothing in me wants to?”. 

And I think that maybe I’ve stumbled onto 3 steps, whether I wanted to or not.

What do you do when you can’t find your “passion”?

Step 1 – Be a real person. Put away your rainbow and admit your weakness.

Step 2 – Allow yourself the freedom to gripe for a moment. You don’t have to turn in your optimist card, and you just might do some good in the process.

Step 3 – That thing you want to punt?  Go do it anyway.

Image result for find your passionLife is harder sometimes than we let on. 

It gets especially tough if you’re daring to do something big and bold. 

Sometimes, the pressure to perform perfectly will shut you down. When it does, we need to remind ourselves to refer to steps 1-3 above. 

And when we’re done,  we need to go take a walk with someone we love… and find our smile again and maybe we’ll find our “passion” once again.