Monday, April 30, 2012


Communication experts say most of what we hear, really hear, is communicated non-verbally. For example, only 7% of what we hear is words, 55% of what we hear comes through body language, and 38% comes through the tone of voice.
This is why email is such a tricky tool of communication. You cannot see people's faces or hear their tone of voice. It is so easy to misunderstand what people are saying or what they mean when all you have is black or white. A light-hearted comment can be taken as a critical remark, or vice versa.
When the communication is important, skip the email and look the person in the eye.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


If you are married, or are considering getting married, here is a piece of advice about communication.
Once a month sit down with your mate and talk about problems. Don't do it at home. Go somewhere you are not likely to run into anyone you know. Set aside a couple of hours.
I know what some of you are thinking: "No way am I going to do that. It will stir up problems." No, it won't. The issue is that problems are lurking all the time and at the worst possible times: when you are dressing for work, or trying to go to sleep at night. Trust me, when you avoid talking about problems, it does not mean they will go away.
Here is one more rule: Before you leave the session, clarify what decisions have been made and what issues were left unresolved.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Below the Surface

The Titanic, an ocean liner thought to be unsinkable, sank to the bottom of the frigid North Atlantic on April 14, 1912. More than 1500 people died. An iceberg penetrated the starboard side of the ship, destroying the ship's buoyancy, breaking it into two pieces, and sinking it.
Icebergs are formed when large chunks of ice break off from glaciers. They are dangerous because only one-ninth of most icebergs are visible above the surface. Ships can easily sail into icebergs without seeing them.
People are like icebergs. They have damages and disturbances lying below the surface. They look normal, but they are dangerous. Before you make covenant with a friend or a spouse, look carefully below the surface.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Treasures, Baggage or Garbage

Someone once suggested that everything in life can be placed in one of three categories: Treasures, baggage, or garbage.
Treasures are those things, experiences, and people which strengthen us. They add to our identity, security, and pleasure. They are the things we value most.
Baggage is those things we carry with us but are not essential to the journey. They have to do with externals rather than internals, desires instead of needs.
Garbage is the junk we are better off without. These are the things we should throw away, the relationships we ought to abandon.
Spend some time thinking about these three categories. What are the things and properties you would consider treasures, baggage, and garbage? The next time you experience a loss, ask yourself which category the loss represents. I think you'll discover there are not nearly as many treasures as you once thought.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Every now and then a thoughtful person asks me how I can possibly believe in a deity when so many bad things happen in our world.
They are always surprised when I tell them that I see the world as a gigantic poker game. Bad things happen because the Creator has dealt us all into the game. Think about the consequences of this: Every person who has ever lived, billions of them, playing their cards based on self-interest, jealousy, and greed. Many of the bad things which exist in our world are the result of how we have played the hands we have been dealt.
So what is the hope? It is that the One who dealt us into the game is holding the winning hand and, when He plays His hand, the scales of justice will be balanced. All my chips are bet on this hope.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hang On

I was half-way around the globe, on the Isle of Saaremaa, in a Baltic country called Estonia. As I walked down a street off the beaten path, I saw it - graffiti - written in English: "Life Sucks."
Whoever plastered those words on the side of the building was fluent in English, angry and disappointed with life, disrespectful of the property of others, and living on the edge of despair.
As I looked at the words, I wondered who he or she was. I wished I could have spent one hour with them to tell them not to give up on life.
Since I could never find the person who wrote the graffiti message, let me speak to one of you who are of the opinion that life sucks.
The good news is that even if things have not gone your way thus far, there is still time for them to improve. The sun came up this morning and you are still breathing, so there is still hope. Decide to hang on a little longer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Speak Kindly to Yourself

Those who study language tell us most people speak 150 to 200 words per minute. In contrast, research indicates our internal self-talk, the internal monologue we have within ourselves, runs at the rate of 1,300 words per minute. On the basis of sheer volume alone, your self-talk can have a powerful impact on your emotions. Negative self-talk can lead to low self-esteem.

The only way to control negative self-talk is to recognize it is happening, challenge it, and replace it with positive self-talk.

Don't allow yourself the luxury of saying hateful, condemning things to yourself. When you catch yourself doing it, become aware, change your mind, and choose to speak kindly to yourself.

Monday, April 23, 2012

King of the Hill

I grew up in Cedar Bayou, Texas, and our favorite recess game was King of the Hill. Here is how you played the game: You stand on top of a dirt mound and yell, "King of the Hill." All the boys would immediately dog-pile the newly crowned king. Folks would push, pull, and punch the king until he was dethroned.

Recess lasted only a few minutes, and usually several people stood on the top of the mound during the period. Glory was always short-lived.

Years after we left the playground, we continued to play King of the Hill. It was no longer about standing on top of a dirt mound. It was about competing in school, in relationships, in our professions.

There seems to be something hard-wired into the male soul that needs to compete and conquer. When will we realize this competition kills relationships?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Treated Unfairly?

Do you ever feel like you have been treated unfairly? If so, beware. These feelings can hurt you physically.

"The Journal of Epistemology and Community Health" just published an eleven-year study which reveals some alarming facts. The more people feel like they are experiencing an injustice, the more health difficulties they are likely to have.

For example, heart attacks and angina pectoris: Those who reported low levels of unfair treatment are 28% more likely to have a coronary event than the general population; those who reported moderate levels of unfairness treatment saw their risk rise to 36%; and those who say they have frequent experiences of unfair treatment are 55% more likely to have heart problems.

In addition, believing you are experiencing some sort of injustice raises your risk of depression, addictive disorders, and psychosis.

In other words, nothing good comes from nursing anger, resentment, and bitterness.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Whining and Complaining

My mother was a remarkable person. Her husband died when she was in her early thirties leaving her with three stair-step children. She struggled to make a living for her family. She never owned a home, never made more than $8,000 a year, and most of her bosses were incompetent.

But my mother never complained about anything. She never whined or said, "Poor me." Do you know that I never heard her say a negative thing about anyone? Now think about it. This woman worked around some pretty small people. There were people who picked at her, belittled her, criticized her, but no matter how they treated her, she remained loyal to them. I tried dozens of times to bait her into sharing with me her negative feelings about them, but I was never successful.

You, too, can give up whining and complaining.

Friday, April 20, 2012

No Problem is Unsolvable

George Danzig was once Chairman of the Department of Mathematics at Stanford University. There is an interesting story about his student days. It seems he had been up all night studying, took a nap early in the morning, and overslept the beginning of the test. He ran to class as quickly as possible and asked the professor if he could have a time extension to work on the test. The professor said, "Yes. Take the test and bring it back tomorrow morning."

George took the test home and worked on it the rest of the morning, the afternoon, the evening, and most of the night. There were only three mathematical problems on the test, but he could only work two of them.

When he turned in the test, he told the professor about his failure. "Sorry," responded the professor, "You didn't hear the instructions. Those three problems are ones Albert Einstein said were unsolvable, and you solved two of them. Congratulations."

No problem is unsolvable.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Love Your Neighbor

I read a true story about a woman who lived in the remote village of Victory, Vermont, a tiny hamlet without a store or a school. Its main claim to fame was that it had been the last town in Vermont to obtain electricity.

While earning a Master's degree, the woman commuted to the State University in Burlington, several hundred miles away. Each night as she came home, she would see an old man sitting by the side of the road near her house. He was always there, no matter how late the night or horrid the weather.

Curious about who the old man was, she inquired of a neighbor. The answer surprised her. He was a neighbor she barely knew who didn't like the idea of a young lady driving by herself on back roads late at night, and so he sat there until she passed each night. When he saw her tail-lights disappear around the bend, he went off to bed.

That's what it means to love your neighbor.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Be Grateful

Some of the most beautiful pearls of wisdom I have picked up through the years have come from check-out clerks.

I was purchasing a book the other day. As I handed the clerk my credit card, I asked, "How's your life?" Somewhat surprised by the question, she answered, "Sometimes it's good; sometimes it's not so good."

My response was immediate: "Well, I hope life is being good to you right now."

Her answer was especially memorable to me. She said, "Life is good right now, but even when it isn't good, it's good. If it were not for the difficult times, we would not appreciate the good times."

What a profound insight. She was right. It is the drought that helps us to appreciate the rain; the long hours of night which increases the joy of morning; the threat of loss that causes us to be grateful for what we have.

There is always a reason to be grateful.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Begin Living

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

William M. Lewis said, "The tragedy of life is not that it ends too soon, but that we wait so long to begin living."

James Baldwin, the author, wrote, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless it is faced."

Carol Sandburg, the poet, wrote, "Time is the real coin of the realm. Time is all you have, and only you determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."

John Schaar, "The future is not some place we are going, but one we create. The path is not found, but made."

Here is an anonymous quote, "Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Faith & Courage

I'm convinced most people could make one change which would result in a forty percent improvement in their lives. Think about it: one alteration in your thoughts, words, or actions, and suddenly a relationship, a habit, a business, or something else very important to you is dramatically improved. If you could make a forty percent difference by making a single change, why would you hold back?

The answer is most of us think we can't change. We're stuck. We know we should start doing this, or stop doing that, but we can't help ourselves. We've tried over and over in the past, and each time we've failed.

So what is the solution? Faith and courage.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

To Do List

Sometimes the most important decision we can make is to do less. Instead of adding to our to do list, we need to subtract things and prioritize. Here are a few suggestions for those of you who have undoable agendas.

Make up your mind not to do the same old things in the same old way.

Focus on what counts most, first. In other words, let some urgent things wait.

Put promises to yourself and your family near the top of your agenda.

Take breaks and give yourself space to be renewed, refreshed, and re-energized.

Decide what you need to say no to, and say no without feeling guilty or apologizing.

Do not add to your agenda unless you drop something else.

Delegate something to someone else who can do it eighty percent as well as you can.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Not long ago I was engaged in a conversation with a young businessman. I asked, "What is your goal in life?"

He answered: "I want to be rich."

I felt sorry for him. Money is a good end result, but it is an inadequate life goal.

So let me ask you. "What is your goal in life?" Or to put it in other ways: "How do you want the last chapter of your life to read? What is the point of your life? What do you want to be true of you personally, professionally, relationally, financially, spiritually before you die?"

Think deeply about it. If you don't know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?

Put your mission for life in brief, crystal-clear words. Then start down the road to your destiny, making this mission your magnificent obsession.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Unmovable Mountain

What do you do when you are faced with a problem that seems unsolvable, a mountain which appears unmovable?

Here are some suggestions:

First, gather around you a small handful of wise people who do not believe anything is impossible. Tell them the problem, and ask for their help. I've often said most of us fail because we never learn to say the four magic words: "I need your help."

Second, brainstorm. Let them help you look for solutions you've never considered. Consider new combinations to old solutions. Refuse to believe there is not a solution somewhere.

Third, take bite-sized chunks. Chop the chosen solution into short steps and put one foot in front of another until you solve the problem.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Secrets. It's our secrets that make us sick and keep us sick.

Therapists say that the people who come to them for long periods of time often withhold the very information that is most needed to help them. They are ashamed to tell their secrets, even to the person they are paying to help them.

Do you want to get well? I have three practical, but difficult, suggestions:

First, make a list of the secrets you have never discussed in complete honesty with anyone. Dig deep into your subconscious and ferret out your darkest thoughts.

Second, find someone who you really trust and tell him/her your secrets. Don't be afraid. A problem shared is a problem helped.

Third, give the person you trust the right to ask you hard questions about how you are doing with this area of difficulty. Ask them to hold you responsible.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


When I was a freshman in college, I was on the basketball team. The fellow who played ahead of me fouled out. The coach signaled and called my name to take his place. I was terrified. The game was tied and the clock was about to run out.

The ball came off our offensive basket, and I tipped it in. We won the game. My teammates mobbed me. A photographer took a picture of it, and it made the front page of the local paper the next morning. I was a hero.

But I didn’t do anything. The real hero was the fellow who fouled out. He was the one who had kept us in the game all night.

When the world treats you like a hero, don’t forget you could not have achieved it without the efforts of others.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

He's a Nice Guy

Yesterday I visited a friend at his office. I stopped and asked the security person near the elevator what floor his office was on. When I mentioned my friend's name, the attendant said, "He's a nice guy."

I've been thinking about his comment ever since: He's a nice guy. My friend had made a good impression on someone whom he had no reason to try to impress.

My observation is that the way a person treats folks they do not have to try to impress - waitresses, custodians, security people, and the like - says a lot about them. If you are kind to people you don't have to impress in order to get along in life, you are a nice person. If you are unkind to these people, you are not a nice person.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I apologize

I had an older friend who died several years ago. What he told me is something that made a lasting impression on me. My friend had an aversion to religion. He respected me, but he wanted nothing to do with church - any church.

One day he told me his story. He had been part of the Allied command in Europe during World War II. It was at a time when Benito Mussolini was in control of Italy and the Allied bombers were pounding the country. The Vatican sent a message to his command saying, "Do not bomb the Vatican. We are the Holy City. If you must bomb, bomb somewhere else."

My friend, who had grown up in the church, was shocked and offended. He told me, "I expected them to send us a note saying, 'If you must bomb somewhere, bomb us. We are the Holy City. We can survive anything.'" He went on to say, "It is a sick kind of faith that shelters the holy and lets the world go to hell." I agree.

If you've ever been hurt by hypocritical religions proper, I apologize.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Warts and All

Mirrors lie. Cameras are more likely to tell us the truth. Think about it.

Have you ever noticed that it is less painful to look in the mirror than to look at a close-up photo taken when you were unaware? You know, one of those candid, untouched pictures. For most of us, looking at a photo is far more painful than looking in a mirror.

The reason is that we can fool the mirror. We can move around until we find a complimentary vantage point. Yes, we see the bumps, the wrinkles, the bulges, the imperfections, but we can minimize the damage by adjusting the angle at which we look at ourselves.

Cameras, on the other hand, refuse to protect us from the truth. They expose us. They show us as we really are - warts and all.

We all need a friend who is more like a camera than a mirror - someone we cannot fool-– someone who truly knows us.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hands in Your Own Pockets

A few months ago, I heard the rebroadcast of an expert's testimony before a Congressional Committee. The Committee was receiving testimony about Global Warming.

The expert began his testimony in this way: "Gentlemen and Gentleladies, it is a privilege to be here today. It is ironic we are discussing Global Warming on one of the coldest days in the history of Washington, D.C. In fact, it is so cold that as I walked around this town I noticed you Congressmen have your hands in your own pockets."

The Congressional Committee didn't laugh, but I did. If you don't think that's funny, you are not a taxpayer yet.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Don't Squat With Your Spurs on

Here are more of my favorite quotes:

Richard Bash said, "Here is the test to find out whether your mission on earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't."

Tug McGraw, the baseball pitcher, said, "Ninety percent of my money I intend to spend on wild women, booze, and good times; the other ten percent I will spend foolishly."

Ann Landers: "Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful."

Damon Runyon wrote, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."

Jay Brotherton said, "True riches consist not in the extent of our possessions, but in the fewness of our wants."

Edgar Bergen said, "Hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance."

And an old cowboy proverb: "Don't squat with your spurs on."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Never Eat Yellow Snow

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"Give a man a fish and he will have food for a day; teach him to fish and he will go missing for the weekend." That one is anonymous.

Robert Strauss said, "Life is like wrestling with a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired - you quit when the gorilla gets tired."

Here is an Alaskan proverb: "Never eat yellow snow."

Yogi Berra said, "When you come to the fork in the road, take it."

Dennis Wholey wrote, "Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are good is like expecting a bull not to charge because you are a vegetarian."

How about this one: "The shortest distance between two points is under construction."

A Sierra Leone proverb: "Don't tell the man carrying you that he stinks."

And a word from Chef Julia Childs: "If you use enough butter, anything is good.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lessons Learned

Did you know that the great mistakes of your life can be teachers - the means by which you correct your errors?

Try as you may, you are not likely to live an error-free life. Sooner or later you are going to mess up. How you respond to these faux pas determines your future. You can either learn from your mistakes and correct them, or you can go on repeating your errors.

Do you know the definition of insanity? It is when a person does the same thing over and over and expects a different result.

I know people who have been through terrible divorces, learned lessons from their failures, and are now in happy, mutually satisfying marriages.

I know people who served time in prison, learned from their mistakes, and are now law-abiding, productive citizens.

For some people, there are no mistakes in life - only lessons learned.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Focus on Positives

A group of social scientists recently completed some interesting research. They videotaped a match between two bowling teams.

After the match, they showed Team One a videotape in which all the team's mistakes had been removed. During the review, the researchers focused only on the strengths of the players and the things they had done right. They did not show them their mistakes.

Team Two, however, was shown an edited video which contained only the mistakes they had made. During the review with Team Two, the researchers offered helpful suggestions on how to improve their performance.

After receiving the feedback, there was a rematch between the two teams. Guess which team made the greatest improvement? Team One, the group receiving only positive feed-back, improved 100percent more than Team Two.

The next time you give feedback to someone - as a manager, a parent, a friend - remember to focus on positives rather than negatives.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Present Moment

When William Gladstone was Prime Minister of Great Britain, the son of a dear friend came to him for career counseling. Gladstone asked the young man what his intentions were. He replied, "First, I plan to complete my studies at Oxford."
"What then?" answered Sir Gladstone.
"Well," the young man continued, "I plan to study the law and become a barrister."
"What then?" said the Prime Minister.
"Well, I hope to rise within the party and land a cabinet level post. Perhaps even become the Prime Minister like you one day."
"And then what?" said the Prime Minister.
The young man hesitated and then answered, "Well, I suppose I will retire and then die."
"Yes, and what then?" replied the Prime Minister.
The puzzled student answered, "I've never thought beyond death."
The Prime Minister leaned forward and said, "Young man, go home and think through your life with the end in mind. Then this present moment will take on new meaning."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Single Women

Have you noticed how many single women there are? Believe it or not, for the first time in U.S. history, single adult women outnumber married women. That's right. Singleness is now the new norm for adult women. Marriage for women is the exception rather than the rule.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this paradigm shift. Today women do not need husbands to support them financially. Worlds of women are educated, sophisticated, professional, and independent, fully able to make a living for themselves.

So women are marrying later, and giving up on marriage sooner. Two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women.

But there are still needs women have that can only be met through covenant relationships: the needs for closeness, intimacy, emotional validation, and security. According to the experts, single women can be happy without a man, but married women tend to be happier than single women.