Monday, December 29, 2008

The Giving Spirit Revisited / Wishes for 2009

I am seated at my desk this morning, awash in gratitude as I think about this Christmas season and what may be one of the most spiritually, mentally and emotionally profound Christmases that I have ever experienced.

Our Christmas this year, as always, has been focused on giving back, especially to people who themselves have little if anything to give to others.  In a time when the media is reporting financial gloom and doom, cutbacks in giving and other symptoms of the economic crisis as they like to call it, we have witnessed more giving this year than ever.

The program that we participated in for battered mothers and their children went way above expectations this year as friends collaborated with us to make a phenomenal difference.  The number we helped this year, either directly or through inspiring others to help on their own, is up 700% from last year.

We were blessed to have an opportunity to help feed the homeless, the lonely and the stranded over the holidays, cooking food on Christmas Eve and helping with the distribution on Christmas Day.

On Saturday, the local blood donor clinic was open and I was able to make a contribution that will save up to three lives.

All great stuff.

However, what took place in my heart was even more profound.

This Christmas, a number of events took place within close proximity that impacted me mentally and spiritually.

This season, I witnessed profound stories of personal giving - giving that was taking place under the radar to help take care of others during the season.  I witnessed last-minute miracles for good people as they struggled to make ends meet or worked diligently to help overcome sudden incidents of misfortune. 

So many people sent me emails expressing personal testimonials of receiving help at the last minute, just when they needed it.  We started referring to them in my house as "Jimmy Stewart endings" in reference to heart-moving, wipe-your-eyes, Hollywood style endings appropriate for the season. 

Get-togethers with family and friends were more powerful than ever this year as I took the time to really savor the feelings of goodwill that filled the air.

As if that wasn't enough, I was overcome with profound gratitude as friends and strangers from all around the world, including Europe, New York and other parts of the US, Canada and Australia reached out to us with open hearts when they read my blog about some of our current adventures (and misadventures) - found here if you would like to read it.

During the midnight Christmas Eve service, I found myself powerfully moved as the congregation sang Christmas carols, as the true meaning of the season seized my heart and overwhelmed me.

As I experienced all these feelings of gratitude, I didn't need to ask what it was all about - I knew all along.

For many years, my family and I have experienced what many know as the abundance of the season - unlimited food, unlimited gifts, etc.  However, for all of those years, I felt something was missing in all of this and I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

This year brought the perfect storm of events, generous, loving people, opportunities to share and opportunities to receive to help me discover what I was missing.

Despite my insistence in years gone by that I knew what the Christmas spirit was about, I think I was merely going through the motions, simply checking off the holiday obligations.  Make annual donations to various organizations - check.  Buy gifts for everyone - check.  Organize opportunities for giving to others - check.  Be happy during the season - check.  Check, check, check.

Looking back, I realized that it had gotten too mechanical.

This year, I savored every single action.  I savored every single project that I was involved in and I was grateful for the opportunity to do so.

I was also grateful for the opportunity to do it with others who really cared.

And so as I sat in church service on Sunday and listened to the Christmas carols being sung, I looked up and said a prayer of thanks to God - a prayer thanking Him for my friends, for complete strangers (met and unmet), for the opportunity to share with others, for the opportunity to be humble enough to receive from others and for the strength and courage to continue to follow our intention to make a difference in this world.

Contrary to what the media would like us to believe, the unselfish, giving spirit of people is alive and well.  We see what we choose to focus on.

A number of people came to mind as I sat there in gratitude.  While many came to mind, I will mention some of them here.  Things they have said or done in the last month or so have had a profound impact on me and my family and the sense of deep gratitude we are experiencing during this season.  There is always a danger of leaving people out but if I listed everyone that I was grateful for, the list would be very long (my LinkedIn network alone is up to 16.5 million people at the time I wrote this).  :-)

The people who come to mind include my family (of course), Andrew B., Roberto L., Jonathan S., John C., Jim L., Estean L., Hilary R., Tim S., Bruce MacN.,  Joseph S., Casey W., Gabriel M., Keith B., Don H., Gary J., Daryn K., Ken B., Mac P., Frances H., Marilyn B., Debra P., Peggy C., Lauren M., Iris P., Peter T., Gerald C., Barry G., Peter D., Doreen C., Peggy M., John G., Bret D., Evan G., Tim M., Lew M., Emily H., Jeremy R., Paul S., Deborah W., John Paul W., Gerry O., Ros O., Gina P., John L. (and the gang),  Marvin C., Alex T., Kevin F., Dave M., Ed N., Heather and Mark U., Bill G., Ray J., Larry F., Jackie H., Sharon C., Tony R., Steve B., Linda G., Cathy F., Paul L.,  Jenifer F., Nick S. and John M.

I am grateful for everyone in my life and grateful for their spirit of giving and sharing, their commitment to others and their passion to make a difference in the lives of people around them - even when it means sacrifice for themselves or a sense of swimming against the tide.

As 2009 draws near, we have a choice to make.  We can succumb to the sense of despair as the media would like us to embrace or we can choose to see phenomenal opportunity in everything and everyone around us.

There are incredible opportunities around us for growth, for sharing, for learning and for receiving with humility and gratitude  - phenomenal opportunities for each one of us to leave a legacy of hope and love to the generations that are coming behind us.

2009 will bring interesting challenge and opportunity for me and my family.  We are contemplating a number of programs in alignment with our purpose and passion, including children's education in North America and service to the needy overseas.

Whatever you decide to do in 2009, do it with passion, purpose and a sense of making a difference.  If you want it bad enough, you will be successful, regardless of the challenges you face.

Remember that you are not alone - you are surrounded by people who want to help you be successful.  Be open to their help just as you expect others to be open to yours.

Above all, keep your faith alive.  Whatever you believe God is, remember that in your darkest moments, faith in God will lead you to victory in your efforts to make a difference.

I wish each one of you, a phenomenal 2009 filled with personal victory, a fulfillment of purpose and a legacy that others will learn from and multiply, for the benefit of all.

Yours in service and servanthood.


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Giving Spirit

My family and I have experienced a few surprises this week that have given me pause for reflection.

A few clients have been a little tardy in paying me for one reason or another lately; an accounting mix up here, a transfer error there.

Nothing big or earth shattering. Life goes on in the abundant life we live.

A couple of days ago I was notified of a security compromise across my bank accounts, similar to the massive identify theft I experienced about 4 years ago. All of my cards and accounts have been turned off while they sort it out and since all of my accounts are in the US, I temporarily don't have access to much.

This is a major inconvenience, especially at this time of the year. However, the bank will get it all sorted out, we will laugh it off and life will go on.

This morning the heat in our house died. It's below freezing today so things will cool down a little as the day wears on.

Hmmmmm, I thought - how does one fix that problem when all of your plastic is turned off and your nearest bank branch is 2100 miles away?

Then I got a little frustrated and tossed a question out to no one in particular. Maybe I was asking God.

Why does this happen to my family when we have dedicated so much of our lives helping others, especially going really above and beyond this Christmas?

Then I was reminded of something. For as inconvenient and painful as this is for us, it will be of brief duration.

For many families out there this Christmas, this is a way of life for them.

There is no light at the end of their tunnel, at least as they see it. Or maybe there is a light at the end of their tunnel but in fact, it's a train headed toward them.

As that thought sank into my head, I was ashamed of my frustration.

My frustration evolved into an AHA moment as I realized that this sequence of unusually timed incidents is in fact a lesson for me.

What is the lesson? It is to help me REALLY understand the lives of the wonderful people we have helped this year. It is another reminder of how grateful we should be for everything we have. After all, we could lose it all in a moment.

Our inconvenience of a fleeting duration is a challenging way of life for some people. My challenge will pass - theirs will not without help.

So with that thought in mind, my frustration has evolved into gratitude - gratitude that I have much in my life to be thankful for and gratitude that I can overcome whatever I choose. I have my family and our passion and purpose around helping others - what else do we need?

Which brings me to the final lesson I learned out of all this.

There are a lot of people who need our help out there. No matter how much we do and how much we give, there is always room for a little more, especially at this time of year.

So if you will excuse me, I will light the gas fireplace to keep my family warm and I will find someone who REALLY needs help.

Maybe there is someone in your neighborhood who could use a little help as well.

To you and yours for a blessed holiday season, I extend deepest gratitude and thanks to all of you and all the things that you do. I wish you every success for 2009.

Yours in service and servanthood.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Are We Living Life On Purpose?

I've been thinking today that more people are on purpose about talking about being on purpose then just plain old being on purpose.

We use lots of reasons for why this is the case:

  1. We are too busy at work
  2. We are too busy at home
  3. We have too many commitments dragging our kids around to sporting events (that we enrolled them in for the most part)
  4. We are waiting for the definition of our purpose to be handed to us
  5. We are waiting for the perfect opportunity, when we have more time, energy, money
  6. We are waiting to be at the empowerment level (knowledge, network, money) necessary for the opportunity
  7. We are waiting for the economy to get better
  8. We are waiting for the right time to tell others so that they won't be angry, embarrassed, disappointed, etc.
  9. We are waiting for more peace in the world
  10. We are waiting to move to a geographical area that is more open to such opportunities,
  11. Fill in your own reason here ______________.

That's a lot of waiting!

Many of the reasons we use to delay living a life on purpose are not because of external events.  They are based on choices we are making or have made in the past.

For many people, when you speak to them 5 or more years ago, now or in 5-10 years, you discover they are always in the same spot - they are just about to start living a life on purpose.   Living a life on purpose is almost within their reach, that magical carrot on a stick that will set them free.  They are reading the current "living on purpose du jour" book.  Interestingly enough, they have read every book of the genre and yet their purpose remains dormant or undiscovered.

They are so close to living their life on purpose that they can taste it and they try to convince you of it.  Maybe they are trying to convince themselves of it.

As we say in New York City - woulda, coulda, shoulda.

I don't have the heart to tell them that 10 or more years ago, they were saying the same thing.  Nor do I have the heart to say that in 10 years, they will be in the same place - waiting.

For many, their purpose will still be awaiting discovery well into the future, dangling enticingly in front of them as their end-of-days looms on the horizon.

Oh, the moments we miss.

Many look to latch on to others, with the hope that others will pick them up and carry them to their sense of purpose.  Those people have missed the point:

Their sense of purpose is THEIR own sense of purpose - not someone else's.

For every day we choose not to live a life on purpose, we miss out on many things, including:

  1. Enhanced personal fulfillment
  2. An opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, maybe even saving lives
  3. A chance to find financial freedom - you didn't really think you would find it working for someone else, did you?
  4. A chance to see the world - if that is where your purpose takes you
  5. An opportunity to learn new things, maybe to even be the best in the world at something and be recognized for it
  6. The potential to meet phenomenal people who will touch your mind and heart forever
  7. A chance to leave a legacy - to be remembered by others as someone who made a difference.

I think many of us need to make a choice, a choice that comes down to one of two things.

1. Do we want to stay where we are, wondering about how "someday we will be something", creating the potential for a lot of dreams that will be replaced by frustration or resentment over time?

2. Do we choose to lay out a plan for living our life on purpose, for seizing that which is important to us at any cost and through any struggle and just going for it?

97% of people who tell me that they are living their life on purpose are at the exact same place in their life that they were 10 years ago.  They will probably still be there in 10 years time.  They are also really good at New Year's Resolutions, pie-in-the-sky dreams and stuff of a similar nature.  They are the ones who start 10,000 be-all-and-end-all projects and finish none of them.

Don't be one of the 97%.

Don't hang out with a lot of them either, otherwise you will become one of them.  Save who you can and move on.

Be one of the 3% who stands up and says "My purpose in life is to do _____________.  I exist to make a difference in my family, community, company, country or world by doing _____________.  Today I find the people, knowledge and other resources to get there regardless of what others think.  I want it so badly that my spirit burns to make this happen.  When my end-of-days has come, I will be remembered for _____________.  If I were not here, the world would miss me because I offer _____________ to the world."

Seize this feeling, let it surround and permeate you and then go for it.

If you don't how, email me - I will give you the cranial defibrillator you need to make it happen.

There is a greater sense of urgency every day to make a difference - today it is your turn.

Do you want to live a life waiting for fulfillment ,  hoping someone else provides it, or do you want to own the process, struggles and all, knowing that on the other side of struggle is phenomenal fulfillment and amazing life experiences?

I know what you think you want.  Do you have the courage and desire to go for it?

Yours in service and servanthood.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Believe in You

I was reading an email from a friend last night who has incredible vision, passion and heart.  He has everything he needs to be successful - great ideas, an empowered network and a market that will continue to consume his services insatiably.

There is just one thing wrong - one thing that will delay his leap to greater impact on this earth and delay the fulfillment of his purpose.

Bob feels that no one supports the work that he is doing.  Every day he slogs away at manifesting what he believes to be his goals and his purpose.  Few people understand what he is working on as he is rather private and when he does come in contact with others, they are usually asking him for something instead of collaborating with him to manifest something that could benefit both of them as well as others.  There are many who think he should settle down to living a life as dictated by the masses but he believes his calling requires that he not live such a life.

He is losing his faith in his ability to make a difference - it's been a long ride of giving without being helped with his own purpose.

I keep telling him that he needs to make "the ask" more often, to reach out to others to help him manifest his purpose as he has helped so many others.  His response is that that is not his style, that he doesn't want to impose on anyone else. 

And so he waits for others to step up to help him.  There are many around him who know that he is waiting but they don't step up to help.

I wonder why there are so many examples of similar stalled opportunities out there, so many examples of unfulfilled purpose. 

We can all say that the person who is trying to create something owns responsibility for making the ask.  It is always easy to say that the other person is responsible.

However, just for a moment, let's pretend we have the responsibility and opportunity to make a difference.

Perhaps we feel we have nothing of value to offer to someone.

Maybe we feel that that person has it all figured out and so we leave them alone. 

Maybe we are too busy living the recklessly fast game we call Life.  We need to relax more - it's a game where no one gets out alive anyway.

Maybe we are too selfish, waiting for someone to help us FIRST or taking the position "when I have some spare time, I will help them".  How many times has spare time manifested in such situations - almost never.

Whatever, the reason, the person on the other end is wondering why no one steps up to help.

It's a lonely place for them - afraid to ask, don't know how or who to ask, too proud to ask, too humble to intrude ..... all the time frustrated that no one steps up.

I remember being in a similar place back in the mid 80's.  I was struck one day by the power of a song that I heard by Twisted Sister. 

Yes indeed, even the "big hair" bands of the 80's were capable of writing some pretty powerful poetry.

The song struck me because at the time, I was feeling pretty alone and misunderstood regarding my purpose.  The lyrics are at the bottom of this post for those who are interested.

I think that each one of us can name someone right now who has incredible passion and purpose to make a difference.  Many are incubating projects that we are aware of but in many cases, we never take the time to explore their passion. 

The scale of the difference they wish to make is irrelevant.

What is relevant are the dreams and visions of these people to make a difference - to leave a legacy.

It would be really cool and potentially profound if we could all suspend the notion of self for 24 hours.  During the next 24 hours, imagine if we reached out to those we know - family members, an associate, a child or a friend and said one thing.

I believe in you and I believe in the power of your potential and what you are doing.  How can I help you to make a difference?

Note that I didn't say "Can I help you?" which opens the door to a "no".  I said "How can I help you?" which opens the door to collaboration.

As Stanley Marcus once told Tim Sanders - "Everybody is generous during good times, but only generous people give during hard times."  Since one of the most valuable things you have to give is your time, now is a great opportunity to share your gift with others.

I wonder how many wonderful things could be manifested from just reaching out to someone and helping them realize their dreams.

Perhaps you would also unleash the power of some of your own dreams.

Yours in service and servanthood.


I Believe In You - by Twisted Sister

Why does no one seem to understand
That it's more than love I need
It's so hard to keep your faith alive
When nobody else believes

Oh I need someone there for me
Need someone who can see
Need someone to show me
Ohhhh, that they Are there to help me fight
If I fall, to set me right
Someone there to hold the light

Won't someone say
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you

It's so hard to do it all yourself
Fighting for your dreams alone
When the toy's upon the highest shelf
A child's tears soon become stone

Oh why does no one lend a hand
Why does no one understand
Why I need to make a stand

Ohhhh,it's so hard to carry on
When all your hope is gone
All your dreams have come undone
I need to hear

I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you

Why won't someone say these words
Are they really so absurd?
Must they always go unheard?
Ohhhh, if someone needed the light
I'd be there to help them fight

If they fell, I'd set them right
And then I'd say
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
I believe in you
Won't someone say I believe in you
I believe in you
Won't someone say I believe in you
I need to hear I believe in you
I believe in you

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Overcoming your demons

Over the past few years, a number of people have shared with me the notion of the demons that hold them down. The demons vary in attribution - not enough money, not smart enough, not connected enough, etc. No matter how much I tell them that the demons can be overcome, I am told that I don't understand because my life has been so easy.

The demons also vary in intensity and combination but whatever they are, they combine to hold people back from realizing their dreams and their purpose.

I would like to share a story of someone who gave me permission to share his life story with you. I will give this person the name "Sam" for the purposes of this illustration and it is one of many examples of how people can overcome their demons.

Sam's conception was an accident. His parents lived in a small, poor rural community and Sam definitely wasn't planned. His parents made a commitment to stay together and make it work. They moved a couple of times before eventually settling down in another rural town to begin their life together. Money didn't come easily to this family but the family made do.

In the early years, Sam was a thin child, spending time here and there in the local hospital for unexplainable reasons. On more than one occasion in his life (in childhood and adulthood), Sam was believed to be dying for one reason or another. His soft bones broke easily as well and he had more than his share of broken bones. His liver and kidneys have been the impetus of more than one painful / stressful trip to the hospital for unexplainable reasons throughout his life and it has been suggested more than once that they are failing for unknown reasons. A healthy model of a human being was not an attribute of Sam.

His early home years were crowded. He lived in a very small house that was basically one room with a false wall and a couple of dividers to provide the semblance of rooms. The commode was a steel pail and running water was defined as running to the well to draw water from it.

His parents were loving but not always patient. This created a "need to please" within Sam that at times became crippling.

In a house that was smaller than 20ft by 20ft, he lived with then two siblings and his parents for the first seven and a half years of his life.

Throughout his school life in this rural town, he was often the victim of bullies. This bullying continued from grade one all the way to when he finished high school. It was something that he endured and something that took a fair amount of time to overcome when his school years ended. The impact of bullying cannot be underestimated. As he would tell you, if you feel your child is being bullied, do something about it now. He avoided many school activities throughout his school life so that he could avoid being the victim of the people who chose to belittle him because of their own pain. Such avoidance caused him to miss many opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment.

Twice in his young life, including one time on the eve of his first holy communion, pedophiles tried to share their own pain on him. Both times they were unsuccessful. However, in both situations, it caused Sam to wonder - why is this happening to him? Why does God allow this to happen to him? Maybe God doesn't even exist.

When he graduated high school, he was painfully shy, an introvert who was even picked on in college for being a combination of being intelligent and too shy.

Sam has had two mini-strokes, in 1983 and 1990. The diagnosis - unknown cause so don't worry about it. He never told his family - it seemed unnecessary.

Sam is also legally blind in one eye.

The combination of his life events and genetics left him awkward, physically small in stature, an introvert who was afraid to speak to people, a person who generally wasn't happy with himself for many reasons and because of his small stature, introversion, timidity and growing up in a family that was not wealthy, his future didn't look terribly bright.

When we see people like Sam, we may feel pity for him or wonder "Where will he end up, if anywhere at all". After all, he has been damaged beyond repair - why should anyone try to help Sam? He is probably not worth saving anyway - what difference can he make in the world with these circumstances? We are probably better off turning our back on Sam and writing him off as another lost human being.

Maybe we are like Sam, with a collection of demons similar to or different than Sam's and we use these demons to hold us back.

Let me tell you something else about Sam.

Sam's real name is Harry.

I am Sam.

When I look back on the life that I lived as a young person, I feel like I am looking at the life of a different person.

People who know me now see me as an extrovert who is as at ease in front of 15,000 people in an auditorium as he is in an intimate conversation in a coffee shop.

I have created successful companies in New York, one of the most challenging environments in North America to be successful in (especially for a small town boy).

The small, sickly, child now stands 6'3" and weighs in at 220 pounds.

I am blessed with many gifts, many opportunities, many great memories, an incredible business network, a great family, many great friends and a strong faith in God.

If you had looked at me 25+ years ago, you would not have predicted such a life for me. I know I wouldn't have.

There may be someone else that you would not predict such a life for.

Perhaps that person is you.

Perhaps you are Sam.

There is something that you need to tell the person who is like "Sam".

If they dig down deep inside, they can find the spirit that calls them to be something in life.

If they want it bad enough, it is theirs for the taking.

If their faith is strong, what they desire can become their ultimate purpose and destiny.

Their past is their past. What determines the results of the rest of their life rests on how they convert the gifts they have into actions to make a difference.

As Stephen Covey wrote, help "Sam" answer these 4 questions:

  • What are you good at? That’s your mind. (Intellectual Quotient)
  • What do you love doing? That’s your heart. (Emotional Quotient)
  • What need can you serve? That’s the body. (Physical Quotient)
  • What is life asking of you? What gives your life meaning and purpose? What do you feel like you should be doing? In short, what is your conscience directing you to do? That is your spirit. (Spiritual Quotient)

We motivate ourselves, according to Dr. Covey, with the law of the 4 L's - to live, to love, to learn and to leave a legacy.

Seek how the answers to the 4 questions overlap the 4 L's and the resulting picture will become the purpose of "Sam's" life - or yours.

No demons in your life will be strong enough to prevent you from achieving your purpose at that point.

Demons hold no power in your life. No matter what demons you have, you can find someone who has overcome the same demon.

What does this tell you? That demons are merely those things which are meant to provide you with an opportunity to gain knowledge and strength and having gained them, provide a means of using them to find your purpose and to leave a legacy.

In service and servanthood.


PS   By popular request, I am sharing a photo of the house I referred to in the article.  Maybe it was 10x20 and not 20x20.  That's me and my Dad in the photo.

First house

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wanted to give to a good home - love

A group of us are in the process of putting the finishing touches on a Christmas-sharing project whereby we collect gifts for battered mothers and their children and donate them to a local women's center.  This center provides them to the mother who wraps the gifts and presents them to her children on Christmas Day.  We never meet the mothers or their children.  For their security and safety, their identities are obscured from us.

As we work through the logistics of organizing our piece of the drive again this year, I am struck by the phenomenal generosity of people even in these alleged times of "gloom, doom and despair".  The number of families and individuals that we will touch this year is triple that of last year's result.

Maybe this "giving to a good cause" is a simple manifestation of generosity. 


I think it is more than that.

I think it is love - pure, unadulterated, unselfish, no-strings-attached love. 

It is love for a fellow human being who has been through the wringer of life and needs a little help.

It is love for someone who is down on their luck and needs a helping hand to get back on their feet. 

It is love for someone who needs to know that someone out there cares for them. 

It is love for a child that we may never meet, who will grow up and express their love in their generosity to others.

It is love that, once planted, nurtured and growing in someone who needs it, will ultimately be passed on to someone else at some point.

My oldest son said something today that ordinarily would have been shrugged off as a funny comment but today had some poignancy to it.

He said that my ability and strong desire to navigate through humanity and network like crazy creeps him out.  After all, my LinkedIn network alone has 11 million people in it.  I laughed and said that it was my job to network with people, to increase the potential for success in the different projects that I am engaged in.

In thinking about this later and feeling overwhelmed with gratitude to all the wonderful people engaged in our projects (and for all the people engaged in similar projects), I got to thinking.

Maybe I justify being a consummate networker (I am called "the Link" in New York City) by saying I need to network in order to maximize the potential for success in my projects.

Maybe, just maybe, I am a consummate networker because it provides me with the honor and privilege of connecting with wonderful, generous, unselfish people in the world, giving them another outlet to express their gratitude and their love for others.


I do know this.  I have a reputation in New York City as being "the tough guy who gets stuff done with singular, maniacal focus".  So if my real purpose is to network so that we can create more opportunities for sharing and expressing our love for others, then we will have to keep my real purpose a secret. 

Just between you and I.

Yours in service and servanthood.


Monday, November 17, 2008

People I am Grateful For - The Nominees Are

Some time ago, my friend Tim Sanders, author of incredible books such as "Love is the Killer App", "The Likeability Factor" and his current phenomenal book "Saving the World at Work - What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference" suggested an idea that I still practice although today I intend to practice it in a different way.  On a side note, I will be blogging about Tim's books shortly, including his most recent one.

Tim suggested that every Monday, we brighten the days of three people by reaching out to them and expressing thanks for who they are and the difference they have made.

While I do this every Monday, I thought I would do it publicly today to encourage others to do the same.

As many of you know, I am eternally grateful for every experience in my Life (good and bad) and for every person who has played a role in my Life, whether it is a role of some measurable duration or the passing stranger who gave me a smile that brightened my day just when I needed it.

For all of you who are reading this, I thank you for providing the vivid color in the rich tapestry of Life that I am experiencing.  For my family, I am ALWAYS grateful to be so blessed.  I also thank God for providing me with the opportunity to learn and experience Life on an incredible level.

I am surrounded by incredible people who live to give, to provide to others who may not have the strength or the ability to provide for themselves.

So I am going to pick three of them right now and publicly thank them for their service and their friendship.  If you are not one of the three today, don't worry.  You have a place in my heart and there's lots of time to be promoted.  :-)

So in no particular order, the nominees are:

John Clause - Vice President of Development - World Vision (US)

I know this bio is slightly dated, but from the World Vision website:

John Clause is the Senior Director of the New York office (editor note: now VP of Development - Eastern Region) of World Vision. John oversees development, church relationships, and strategic programs in the New York City area, including World Vision's response to the September 11th disaster. John first joined World Vision in February 1997 as Director of Development for the Greater New York area, and served as Northeast US Development Manager from 1998-2001.

I know John personally as an incredible friend, as a man with a faith deeply rooted in God and a man called to serve humanity in any way he can.  He is an incredible model human being who gives selflessly around the clock.

Thank you, John, for your friendship and for your dedication to others.

If I may put in a shameless plug on John's behalf, there are great opportunities to make a difference in the life of a child this Christmas.  Check out the World Vision website to see how you can make a difference.

Jim Loscheider - Vice President of Donor Ministries - Samaritan's Purse

Samaritan's Purse is committed to making a difference in the lives of children all around the world.  Many of you participate in a program at this time of year known as Operation Christmas Child or as some call it, "the Christmas shoe box program".

Like John, Jim has dedicated his life to making a difference in the lives of children who are suffering from disease, neglect, malnutrition and disease.  He is an incredible friend with an incredible heart.  His deep faith calls him to serve others and he does with joy and gratitude.

His passion to make a difference and his sense of humility make him someone worth modeling.

I'd like to put a shameless plug in for his organization as well.  Christmas is a great time to make a difference in the lives of children around the world.  Check out the Samaritan's Purse website to see how you as an individual or as a group of friends can make a difference in the lives of children all around the world.

Charmaine Davidge and team - St. John's Status of Women Council and Women's Centre

The St. John's Status of Women Council and Women's Centre (SJSWC) is committed to helping women who are often the silent victims in today's society.  They support women and their children who have been the victims of abuse, battery and abandonment.  They help these women rediscover their sense of purpose and self-worth and provide assistance in finding the help they need to get back on their feet.

Female abuse is far more prevalent in western society than it should be and more than we care to admit.  Someone we know and love may be the victim of such abuse right now and we may not be aware of it.  Groups like the SJSWC are a voice for women and a pillar of strength for women who need help.

Charmaine and her team see things every day that would stagger us and yet their commitment and love for the women they serve keeps them moving forward.  They are model human beings who embrace the pain of others so that the pain may be eased - we should follow their model.

I'm sure each of you has a local women's shelter or center that would really appreciate your support and help this Christmas.  Help those who think they have been forgotten or are no longer loved and reach out to a center this Christmas.  Your heart will be glad that you did.

To John, Jim and Charmaine, I thank you for your friendship, your dedication and your unselfish service to others. 

We can learn much from your service.

In service and servanthood.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Keep Pushing Forward

The news these days seems pretty rough. The number of layoffs continue to rise. The stock market gains a trillion dollars one day and then loses it the next. People praise President-elect Obama one day as a sign of hope and then disregard him the next as having too much on his plate, therefore assuming he will fail. Hundreds of billions are being spent to save companies that made handsome profits for many years. We keep hearing that global warming is reaching a point of no-return (any minute now, according to some sources - I hope you didn't make plans for Saturday).

Some of the bad news even seems circular in reference. According to one media source I watched last night, large companies are citing lack of consumer confidence as the reason they are laying off large numbers of people. The same media source later said that citizens are citing the large layoffs as one of the main reasons they are losing confidence in the economy. This is a chicken and egg game with profound implications on the earth. The media's amazing talent at magnifying the downside of things is entrenching this even more.

Sounds like we're on our way to hell in a hand basket, as the expression goes.

I guess we might as well lay down, cover our heads and wait for the end to come.

Let's forget about our the future of the next generation - there's nothing worth saving for them anyway.

Our dreams and aspirations are pretty stupid too, aren't they? What a waste of time they are. How could we have been so foolish as to believe we could have accomplished anything at all?

All of those great intentions we had - woulda coulda shoulda as we say in New York. It was just as well that we didn't follow up on them. They were the silly follies of dreamers and infinite optimists.

In fact we've wasted our whole life doing stupid things and now it's too late to change anything. When we ask people around us, they agree with us so it must be true.

Why even bother anymore?

In fact, let's take it a step further.

Let's tell our kids that optimism and hope are a waste of time. Let's tell them to abandon their dreams.

Encourage them to focus on the mass media, to allow the life essence of hope to drain out of them.

If we all work together starting right now, we can finally iron out of everyone, the silly idea of a life of beauty, love and empowerment.

Stop for just a moment - let that sink in. Let's embrace and savor the feeling of despair and hopelessness together. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm - feels good, doesn't it?

Are you angry with me yet? Do you feel the energy rising in you to reject what I am telling you? Do you want to tell me how wrong I am when it comes to your life?

GOOD - now you have some energy flowing - let's talk!

My dear friend, Roberto Luberti, always interjected discussions that were "stuck" with what became know as "the famous but". When he saw people trying to sort things out, he would say "I agree with this, this and this but" and after the "but" would come the reasoning that guided us out of the morass we were in.

So, in honor of my friend, here's the famous but to the negativity I just placed before you.

When we hear these messages as I expressed above, whether from the mass media, associates, family, friends or whomever, take a stand and refute them with all of your energy. Resist them with more energy than they are being pushed upon you in the first place.

If you don't, your mind turns to mush and you actually begin to believe these thoughts of hopelessness for our future. You become one of a growing group of people who are totally lost, blowing in the wind and living a life without purpose. You will manifest these messages in your life because you chose to, not because you had to.

Fight this negative energy with all of your being.

Dare to stand up and say "You are wrong. Where you see despair, I see hope. Where you see failure, I see opportunity. Where you see hopelessness, I see hope."

Don't wait for others to create opportunity for you. Many of the people you are waiting on are the ones whose minds have become laden with despair, sadness, gloom and doom. They are filled with angst and feel most comfortable when they have company to make them feel better as they go down with the ship.

So turn off the mass media that sells the gloom and doom message. Tell people who want to share this with you that you only want to hear news of opportunity - you are now a "no complaint zone". "Bring me opportunity and solutions", you say.

Look at the world for what it is - a smorgasbord of opportunity in unlimited areas. You can be a billionaire basket weaver tomorrow if you take the time to find out what baskets people like and how to make, promote and distribute them as efficiently as possible.

Look at Life for what it is - an incredible miracle which we are all blessed to experience. Struggle strengthens us. It reminds us of our weaknesses and where we need to grow as individuals. It highlights things all around us that need to be improved or enhanced. Struggle and pain are our call to action to make a difference - not a signal to give up. History teaches us that we human beings are at our best when our backs are against the wall.

We are incredible miracles, filled with unlimited potential to have a profound impact on the world. Each of us has a gift that no other has and each of us can do at least one thing better than ANYONE else in the world.

Find that one thing, embrace it, nurture it, be proud of it and then use it to make a difference. Make it your purpose for being and change the world with it.

Others will look at you and say "I want to do what you do - I want to have the fire and passion that you have - how do I do it". Take the time to light the flame of passion in the spirit of that person and then keep moving. They will do the same for others when the opportunity arises.

Momentum, positive and negative, are within your grasp to generate in infinite levels.

What world do you want to live in? It's your choice - not someone else's.

Time is important. Every day you don't do this is another day you missed to manifest miracles.

I salute you and offer this toast to you.

To your purpose in changing the world and manifesting the incredible potential that you have. Don't take "no" for an answer, when you fall, stand up and keep moving forward, keep your eye on your purpose and surround yourself with others who feel the same way with the same level of passion.

What are you waiting for?

Yours in service and servanthood.


PS Pretty soon, I will be working with a group of people to conduct an experiment around helping people engage in a life of purpose and passion. We will be working through this experiment in the public domain and sharing the process to help others understand how to find their sense of purpose. I will let you know shortly where you can find this and how you can participate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

As I stood at a memorial service today for those who have served to protect our freedom, the skies suddenly opened up and near-torrential rains fell.  A cool wind whipped up as well and many people began to leave while the service continued.

As this happened, a thought crossed my mind.  The brave men and women whom we honor today put their life on the line (and many of them paid the ultimate sacrifice) suffering biting cold that went right through their meager clothing, rain that would saturate and ravage their spirit, disease and vermin that drew the life essence from their body, violence the likes that we could never imagine and hunger and thirst.  Somewhere mixed in all this, they witness miracles of bravery, love, humor and camaraderie.  The highs and lows could tear apart the minds of the average human being. 

The people who have served and who serve are not average human beings.

They serve for their family.

They serve because they are proud citizens.

They serve because they feel compelled to.

They serve so that others may enjoy a life of abundance and freedom.

They serve by choice.

They serve for the sake of complete strangers.

They serve for you and I, whether we are of the same generation or subsequent generations.

As people left the service early, I wondered how grateful we really are and how consistent and deep our gratitude runs.

Those who serve endure incredible hardship so that we may partake in the things that somehow we feel we have earned.

The truth is, we haven't really earned it.  They earned it for us, giving us the ultimate gift of love and sacrifice so that we may live a life of opportunity, hope, love and freedom.

As the rain fell upon us today, I couldn't help but think:

Perhaps the rain are the tears of God, lamenting over how we human beings, with all of our unlimited potential, still don't embrace with gratitude, the incredible gifts we have been given.

I once read a story of Rabbi Baal Shem-Tov, the founder of the modern Hasidic movement, who was overlooking his hometown with his students when the town was attacked by a group of Cossacks.  As the rabbi and his students watched, men, women and children in their town were slaughtered.  Looking up to the sky, the rabbi said "If only I were God".

One of his students asked "Master, if you were God, what would you do differently?".

Looking at his student, the rabbi replied "If I were God, I would do nothing differently.  If I were God, I would understand.".

Thank a veteran today for all that you have.  Who knows where our lives would be today without their sacrifice and the sacrifice of their families?

In service and servanthood.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

When Your Mind is Stuck ....

.... and you can't move forward or backward, what do you do?

I was reading a chapter of Devotional Classics the other day that seemed to profoundly capture the essence of the challenge that many people today seem mired in.

That challenge is:

I don't like who / where I am and I know I need to change but I seem unable to change my life.

I'd like to share an excerpt from that chapter in Devotional Classics, with the hope that it will encourage you to get "unstuck" from that which has ensnared you in your life.  The book is also highly recommended for those of you on a spiritual or philosophical journey.

The chapter summarizes St. Augustine's autobiography entitled Confessions.  St. Augustine lived from 354 to 430 AD and often struggled with the reasons why he was prevented from improving his lot in life, despite his acknowledgement that his life was stuck in a place that was totally unacceptable to him and he knew he should be capable of better.

The key points of the summary are worth reviewing from our own perspective of how well our lives are executed and how happy we are with the result.  How many of the following thoughts resonate with you?

1. Why is my mind a house divided?

When the mind commands a body part to move, accepting that the body is healthy, the body part moves.  Why then, is the will not honored when the brain chooses to take a particular action to produce a different result in Life? 

Since they should be one and the same (the mind and the will), one would think that moving a body part or changing an action or habit could be done with equal ease.

However, the fact that they are not equal in execution suggests that the mind's command of the will is not as deeply rooted as the command of the body and thus the will is not totally "bought in".  Why is this the case?

2. My mind is weighed down by habit

We are weighed down by so many bad habits and the "luggage of life" that it is easier to fall back on old, bad habits rather than do what we are trying to will ourselves to do.  If we were truly totally committed, we wouldn't need to be willing ourselves in the first place (since we would already be in a place of power).  Why is it so difficult to change bad habits?

3. I am torn by conflicting wills

We are torn between:

  • that which is easy or hard
  • that which is fun or challenging
  • that which is quick to provide results versus needing time to manifest
  • that which satisfies us versus that which pleases others or
  • that which produces something that satisfies the senses now versus something that bears fruit later. 

We often choose the easy, fast, more fun or more immediately satisfying choice, thus missing the opportunity for true life transformation.  What is the impact of such inner conflict?

4. The full force of my will never comes to bear

We struggle to make change in our lives because our mind is only "half in it", even though we claim or believe that we are totally committed to success.  While we know that we need to make particular choices in our life, we do not because of the previously noted points.  If the brain is divided because of habits or it is torn between immediate versus long term results, then the brain is not fully available and committed to transformation, providing minimal opportunity for such transformation to take place.  A half-engaged brain can take us very close to success but then what happens?

5. I am teetering on the cusp of success

Many times we hear of people who sabotaged themselves on the cusp of success.  It was because they finally brought themselves to a place of potential success but they could not bear to make the final decisions or take the final actions necessary to seal the transformational process.  Since the will was never fully engaged, the engaged part carried them close to the "goal line of victory" but the disengaged part of the brain eventually caught up and tackled the engaged portion to the ground.  This leaves people in a sense of limbo - they've come too far to go back but previous fears and habits are preventing them from getting up and pushing forward.  How did the old habits catch up and derail us from transformation?

6. I have too much brain chatter resulting in indecision

We've all heard of analysis paralysis, the need to overanalyze something (or everything for some people).  Many times people get into this mode because they fear making a decision (probably because they fear failure, fear what others think, etc).  See my blog entry here regarding why people are afraid to make decisions.

However, failing to choose will almost assuredly result in failure anyway.  The voices in our mind that tell us to dwell on the poor results of the past or the failure that will result in your future need to be stilled.  We need to encourage the voices of success to loudly trumpet the great results we are capable of.  If the voice of success, optimism and transformation are not encouraged, where will this leave you?

7. I am so close I can almost taste it, but ....

Similar to teetering on the cusp of success, victory is almost in your grasp.  However, there are voices inside your head, chastising you for taking so long to reach this point or telling you not to bother because failure is inevitable.  You know you should push through to the end but you cannot for some reason.  The weight of the journey has tired you but the weight of potential failure is crushing you.  Many people who fail, fail at this point.  However, given that you are this close to success, you have only one real question remaining.

8. What am I waiting for?

This led to St. Augustine's great question (great in my opinion):

Why not now?

How often do we keep saying some variation of:

  • "next week I will definitely do this"
  • "tomorrow is a brand new day, I will do better"
  • "I'll start with a clean slate and try again"
  • "just one more self improvement book and I am all set to go - things will be difference after book #150".   :-)

All of these excuses add up to the same thing:

Another opportunity for transformation has passed me by.


He / she stole my idea - I could have done that


I should have taken it when I had the chance - now I have regret that I didn't.

The authors of Devotional Classics suggest a great exercise that while simple, has the opportunity to be profound if repeated in frequency and scale.  I have revised the exercise as follows.

Resolve this week to bring one bad habit to an end.  By the end of the week, take steps to overcome one bad habit (no matter how small).

In addition, identify one good habit that would be powerful for you to have in your arsenal and begin executing this good habit when opportunity permits.

I would add to this, recalling something that Rick Warren once said.

It takes approximately 42 days for a habit to become programmed or unprogrammed in the brain so that it becomes second nature.

So once you have started to overcome a bad habit or program a good habit, be aware that for a while, such actions will feel foreign or may take some effort.

Do not become discouraged.  It will take time for bad habits to disappear and good habits to become entrenched in your psyche.  This is an investment in your life.  Given that you have 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60+ years of life remaining, spending this time reprogramming yourself is worth the effort.

Give this a try, starting small and being gentle and forgiving with yourself if you slip and fall into old practices.  With time and diligence, you will start manifesting a life of greater purpose.

Five books I recommend to help you with this process (of the many I could recommend) are:

Success Built to Last by Stewary Emory et al.

Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham

Know Can Do by Ken Blanchard

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Goals! How to Get Everything .... by Brian Tracy

The truth is that there are a LOT of great books out there.  However, the more time you spend reading "just one more book", the  more you realize you are justifying not making the decisions that can profoundly impact your life in a positive way.

You are a living miracle - live up to the obligation this brings.

Yours in service and servanthood.


Tribute to a Mentor

My mind has been quite full these days with a number of things:

  • Gratitude for my wonderful family
  • Gratitude for an incredible number of life experiences that I wouldn't trade for anything (the good and the bad)
  • Gratitude for unlimited opportunities
  • Thoughts on making a difference in the world, in whatever way one human being can
  • Sorting through some extra "stuff" that I have allowed to enter my life.

As I was sorting through my mixed feelings of gratitude, problem solving and a little brain overload, a question came to mind:

What would Richard have done in this situation?

Richard Giordanella was someone whom I was blessed to meet in the late 90's when I was CTO of a software company I co-founded in NYC.  My business partner at the time brought Richard in to provide counsel and guidance to a bunch of us young guys from Wall Street.  Richard brought many years of business experience to the table, sharing with us the sound business practices and disciplines that we needed for success.

More than anything else, Richard brought his heart.  In the years that I knew him, whenever he applied his deep experience to a business problem, he always kept people first and foremost, making sure that everyone was aware that in the end, our decisions affected people (even ones we never met).

This is the power of a real mentor.  A real mentor is someone who not only provides guidance when needed (whether asked for or not), but leaves an indelible mark on the person he is mentoring and on those whom the mentored person impacts, profoundly changing others forever.

If you don't have a mentor, I would strongly recommend that you find one who gives as unselfishly as Richard did.  Find a mentor who gives without asking, a mentor who is committed to your personal and professional growth and one who changes your life forever.

Richard did that for me.

I last saw Richard in early winter of 2007 as he valiantly fought cancer.  I stopped by to visit him at his home on the Upper West Side of New York and arrived within minutes of him having been taken to New York Presbyterian.  I went to the hospital, spent some time with him where we shared a deep conversation about personal matters, upon which he assured me we would get together as soon as he got out.

I never saw my mentor and friend again as he succumbed to the disease a week later.

Now I sit here sorting through "stuff" and I wonder:

What would Richard say to me?

Richard would say:

With all the great experiences you have had, this "stuff" is easy.  Focus on what is important, ignore and discard the rest and keep those who are important close to your heart.

Thank you, Richard.  You are right.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverbs 18:24

May all of you who read my blog be so blessed with such an incredible friend and mentor.  If you don't have one, make it a priority to find one.

May you be equally blessed to be considered such a mentor by others.

Yours in service and servanthood.



PS   There is a Chris de Burgh song that always reminds me of Richard.  I enclose the lyrics here - it is a powerful song.

Snows of New York

I can see you now by the light of the dawn,
And the sun is rising slow,
We have talked all night, and I can't talk anymore,
But I must stay and you must go;

You have always been such a good friend to me,
Through the thunder and the rain,
And when you're feeling lost in the snows of New York,
Lift your heart and think of me;

There are those who fail, there are those who fall,
There are those who will never win,
Then there are those who fight for the things they believe,
And these are men like you and me;

In my dream we walked, you and I to the shore,
Leaving footprints by the sea,
And when there was just one set of prints in the sand,
That was when you carried me;

You have always been such a good friend to me,
Through the thunder and the rain,
And when you're feeling lost in the snows of New York,
Lift your heart and think of me;

When you're feeling lost in the snows of New York,
Lift your heart and think of me,
Lift your heart and think of me.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bringing Focus Back to Purpose

I was sifting through my inbox last night and this morning and thought "How many of these things that I do are bringing me closer to my Life goals?"  As we all know, every choice in life brings us closer to or further away from our goals.  The decision to not make a choice between various options is in itself a choice and unless you are incredibly lucky, not a choice that consistently carries you closer to your ultimate purpose.

We move closer to our Life goals and Life purpose when we can visualize what we "want to be when we grow up" and take specific actions towards that vision.  Many of you who know me personally have seen the vision board I carry in my pocket, a constant reminder of my ultimate destination while I am here on Earth and my ultimate destination when my end-of-days has arrived.

However, as I sorted through the list of "asks" on my desk, all of which are quite noble and important to the requestor, I realized that most of them are not in congruence with my purpose.

When I accept too many of these, whether personal or professional requests, my efforts become diluted.  Since many are not in alignment with my passion, as a human being it is possible I won't put my best efforts into them or I may procrastinate heavily regarding them.  This is because they are not something I feel strongly about or my brain might just be overloaded with too many of them.

Many of these requests will have no impact on my life at all and in fact, will have little impact on the life of the requestor either.  Many times, people will lob stuff in your direction because they want you to solve it - the belief that "their want" should become "your desire".  However, when you push back on them to do it themselves, you find they don't want to do it either or it is not important enough for them to get at it right away.  How important was it at all if that is the case?

I was recently asked to help a client whose company was dying and discovered that my passion for success far outstripped their own.  They were in fact, indifferent to the success of their organization, which is why they asked me to save it.  When I came to that realization, I turned them down, pointing out that if they didn't care, why should I?  They didn't understand the question, saying I should want to help them because we were friends.  Imagine where our lives would be if we catered to that line every time!

While it feels noble to want to help everyone who comes to you looking for help, eventually by helping everyone except yourself, you burn out, awash in exhaustion, frustration and maybe even financial trouble while the people who loaded you up in the first place have moved on to find others to help them.

I'm not suggesting that you help no one or that you be cold and ruthless about who you help.  I'm suggesting that you be more discerning and discriminating in how much time you have for your own personal objectives and how much you have to give to others.  Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has some powerful tools to help you in this area.

You are most empowered to help people in the best way possible when you are strong mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally.  To get into and stay in that state takes a commitment to yourself as well as to others.

Sometimes saying no to someone is the best thing that could happen to them as it will either force them to find someone else who could put more passion in it than you (potentially producing a better result) or it forces them to justify their ask, possibly causing them to realize it wasn't that important in the first place.  Maybe after they have justified their ask, you may see an opportunity to align your purpose with their ask.  Everyone wins if that is the case.

If you give all of your time away, pretty soon you will be so spent that you will not offer any value to yourself or others.

Don't let this happen to you.  Keep your purpose squarely in front of you at all times.  Know when you have time to help great causes and great people and know when it is time to focus on your own purpose.

When the time for laser-life focus is upon you, don't be afraid to say no.  It may be the most empowering choice you made that day - for everybody!

As Paul wrote in Galatians 6:9-10 (my emphasis added)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people...

So, give when you can.  I teach everyone to give before getting.  However, sometimes you can't give at the moment and that is ok.  Don't let people convince you to feel guilty for such guilt may propel you to serve others incessantly until you fail completely.

Live your life - not theirs.  When you live your life, you can help others be successful (however you gauge success).  The reverse is not necessarily true or as fulfilling.

Now if you will excuse me, I've got to tell a bunch of people that I'm too busy right now.

In service and servanthood.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's Holding You Back?

When I was in elementary school, I was often taught a variation of this expression:

"If you want to be something in life, work hard and study hard".

I heard it from teachers, parents and others who felt that it was positive motivation.

Some of you heard variations such as:

"If you want to be like uncle Joe, your father, your mother, the President of the United States, etc, etc."

The brain, being the wonderful miracle that it is, sees one interesting element - the word "if".  The brain subconsciously jumps to an interesting conclusion - that being "something" is a future event and not a present reality and therefore, perhaps I am nothing at the moment (since I should be aspiring to be something in the future and not enjoying what I am right now).

Meanwhile, many children are cautioned to be careful of catastrophic results when experiencing life.  For example:

"Be careful playing in the street so that you are not run over and killed by a car".

"Don't talk to a stranger because they will kidnap you and you will never be returned to mommy or daddy".

"Don't play on the pier or you will fall over and drown".

"Don't go jumping on your bike - I don't need to be taking you to the hospital with a broken neck".

"Don't spend your money all at once because there's no more where that came from - do you think money grows on trees?"

Or the great favorite from this time of year:

"Don't eat apples that you get during Halloween.  Everyone knows that they have razor blades and straight pins in them that will kill you.  Somebody two blocks over died that way last year."

I'm not saying that sound advice, especially things like caution when speaking to strangers, is a bad thing.  However, what many of these "rules" suggest is that if you try anything at all, the worst of all outcomes will befall you and that the world is a smorgasbord of life crippling / life ending traps.

So think about what this programming produces in your life.  Imagine a belief system similar to the following.

First of all, I am nothing.  I won't bother trying to be something because I won't achieve it.  The sooner I accept this, the less angst I will have in my life.

Secondly, if I dare believe that I am something, whatever I try will result in cataclysmic failure anyway so I will avoid the failure by not trying in the first place.  There's nothing more embarrassing in life than being a failure at something or disappointing others through my failure.

If I see someone else trying to make something out of their life, I will do what I can to save them from failure and embarrassment by convincing them to cease immediately, thereby saving them from inevitable disappointment. 

If I cannot stop them from striking out on their own, I will do what I can to discredit them in front of others, pointing out that clearly I am smarter because I wouldn't embark upon inevitable failure as they have.  When their failure comes, I will cherish it ("I tried to tell you but you wouldn't listen").

Where does this leave you?

I am nothing and failure will always result when I go out of my comfort zone or strive for something important to me.


I am safest when I live my life as others wish me to live it, even if it produces immense frustration and disappointment for me.  However, when people ask me if I am content, I will always say yes.

Sounds dreadful, doesn't it?  Most of us will deny that we experience this or live like this.

However, how similar does your childhood programming from many years ago seem to what you feel today?

"I won't start that new business - 4 out of 5 businesses fail anyway."

"It's a stupid idea - nobody will be interested."

"Am I really smart enough to do this - probably not."

"Will others be disappointed or disapproving of me if I try this?"

"I don't have enough money to accomplish this, so why bother trying since I will run out of money before I get successful and will end up bankrupt anyway?"

"I cannot succeed because I experienced _______ (insert life crippling event here) and everyone knows that if you experience ______, you cannot be successful."

"Somebody else is probably already doing it and doing it better, so why bother?"

"I don't want to be embarrassed when I fail (not if I fail but when I fail)."

No wonder we live in a world where people are afraid to engage their purpose and passion.  Most of us have been programmed to avoid it and while avoiding it, we watch with envy as other people escape this trap and seek to manifest their destiny.  As they do it, it reinforces our behavior that we are incapable of accomplishing the same results since they must be smarter, richer, more good looking, have more time on their hands, not be tied down by life commitments, not be tied down by debts, have a more supportive life partner, etc.

What a sad place that puts most of us - yearning to be what we want to be and what we are capable of and yet feeling unfulfilled because we can't seem to get to that which we believe to be our reason for being.

Most of us are living a lie.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been speaking to a number of people about a theme that is a particular favorite of mine:

"If you had unlimited time, energy and money, what would you be doing right now?"

Most people pick a career or vocation other than that which they are doing at that moment.  When I challenge them as to why they are not living this life now, they provide a rich diversity of reasons .... or should I say excuses.

There are some legitimate reasons but they aren't as plentiful as people want to believe.  The truth is that many reasons boil down to fear or the inability of people to believe that they are capable of manifesting their purpose (as noted in the original programing of the brain I described earlier), a variation of fear.

Last year, I blogged about living a life of passion (  In that article, I discussed the notion of overcoming the crippling beliefs that hold you back, to seek out that which you believe you are called to be on this beautiful planet and to instill a sense of urgency you need to embark upon a no-compromise plan towards fulfilling that destiny. 

You know what you don't like and what you feel that you can't do in life and can explain it with great passion.  How about finding what you want and need to do in your life, fuel it with the same passion level and observe the results that you achieve?

In other words, apply a cranial defibrillator (a defibrillator to your head) and get engaged in your life.  It's your life - not someone else's.  Love and embrace the miracle that you are and do something that leaves a legacy.

As you progress towards greater realities, take the time to share this concept with others and do what you can to empower them as well. 

Someone is waiting for your help right now.   Embrace your destiny.  You are too great a miracle to do anything other than fulfill your purpose.

Yours in service and servanthood.



PS   I read something the other day by Christian D. Larson, in a piece known as "Promise Yourself" or alternately, "The Optimist's Creed".

I'd like to share it with you.

Promise Yourself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature you meet.

To give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud word, but in great deeds.

To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wisdom from a child

I was mired in deep thinking the other night, working in my office as I navigated my way through a number of challenging assignments.

My middle child (all of four years old) was scribbling on a piece of paper, pretending to write as children often do in the early stages of their acquisition of writing skills.

As I stared at my notes spread out on my desk, he brought the piece of paper over to me and told me it was his newest book.

As I looked at the scribbles, I asked him what the title of his book was.

He replied "Everything is Love".

How could one disagree?

Yours in service and servanthood.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Confrontation - Not Always Bad

We spend a good bit of our life avoiding confrontation for a number of reasons, including but not limited to the following:

  • because we don't like confrontation (it makes us feel uncomfortable for reasons we can't put our finger on)
  • because we are too busy (even if the confrontation is in an area that is in alignment with our personal purpose and passion)
  • because we are afraid of downstream repercussions on us or people important to us
  • because we have selfish needs that will be compromised if we challenge what we or others  perceive to be wrong
  • because we let something go too long and having done so, to challenge it now may cause some people to say "so why do you care now?" or the more incriminating "You knew about this and did nothing?"
  • because we are told that challenging something is just not allowed (for reasons that no one can explain or justify)
  • because we or someone close to us may be guilty of something that a confrontation may expose
  • because someone has intimidated us into believing that if we confront that which we believe to be a problem, then a failure will result that is our fault for challenging the status quo ("it was all quiet until you showed up")
  • because we feel that we are not as competent as someone else and will lose the confrontation, so why waste the time
  • because the person to be challenged is known to be a bully and you are afraid to voice your concern, fearing the repercussions
  • because we assume someone else will rise up and defend a position that we are passionate about (and we get frustrated, wondering when the white knight will arrive)
  • because we live a life of indifference to fixing that which needs to be fixed.

The truth is that sometimes confrontation, when approached correctly, produces purity and security within an organization, process or relationship.  The reasons include the following:

  • Challenge  provides clarification on how an organization, process or relationship is run and should be run
  • Challenge provides opportunity to change – to improve how organizations, processes or relationships execute
  • Challenge provides opportunity for enhanced relationship building, internally and externally
  • Challenge purifies organizations, processes or relationships by encouraging appropriate "house cleaning"
  • Challenge produces respect in others through appropriate airing / sharing of concerns and realignment of mutual understanding
  • Challenge provides security through increased transparency and enhanced execution.

So, confrontation is not bad as long as:

  • The information is factual and presented in a non-emotional way
  • The problem is tackled and not the people associated with the problem
  • The process produces a better service, product offering or relationship as a result of the process
  • Transparency and accountability are enhanced
  • Everyone on all sides recognize that personal agendas should be put aside, since both sides are possibly in violent agreement on more of the opponent's position then they realize
  • Common goals for the greater good are established early and collaboration is used to work towards those common goals.

So, before avoiding a confrontation for one of the reasons listed above, ask yourself this question:

Is the reason for the confrontation one that involves doing the right thing for:

  • those who have been wronged and fear standing up for themselves (for any reason)
  • those who have no voice and have been wronged
  • the purpose of correcting a wrong that people are not aware of? 

If any of the above is true, if fixing it is important for reasons that you are in congruence with and if you are not serving a selfish personal agenda, then don't run from confrontation. 

Take a stand.  Do what most people won't do today so that you can do what most people can't do tomorrow.

Proper challenge can correct issues and enhance future execution if done fairly, factually and appropriately and if we recognize that each person involved is doing they best they can with the talents, strengths and knowledge that they have been blessed with.

Yours in service and servanthood.


PS 55,000 children died yesterday due to malnutrition.  55,000 more will die today for the same reason and another 55,000 will die tomorrow.  They need someone to take a stand for them if you happen to be looking for a great cause!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Living a Life of Enthusiasm

I have always been known as someone who lives a life of enthusiasm and have never been accused of not having enough passion for personal and professional projects.  People who live life enthusiastically engage others with their passion and vision and provide an excitement that is infectious, encouraging people to believe that they matter and can make a difference.

I came across this quote the other day and it resonated with me on a deep level.  The quote exemplifies my personal belief that we should fill every day with passion, purpose and enthusiasm.

"Every memorable act in the history of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm. Nothing great was ever achieved without it because it gives any challenge or any occupation, no matter how frightening or difficult, a new meaning. Without enthusiasm you are doomed to a life of mediocrity but with it you can accomplish miracles."

Og Mandino - 1923-1996, Speaker and Author of The Greatest Salesman in the World

Many people I interact with every day are not living a life of enthusiasm.  They have flatlined in either their personal or professional life and are in fact, living a life of indifference.

This indifference manifests in a number of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Lack of desire for professional success, not doing what it takes to manifest such success.
  • Not investing in personal relationships, including with children and life partners and not doing what it takes to make the most of every moment with them.
  • Not taking a chance on following their heart to seek the purpose of their life and going for it. 
  • Being consumed by fear of what someone else will think of something they say, do, or believe.
  • Preferring to control and direct something (and limiting their result) rather than collaborating and promoting the same project and manifesting the greatest result possible.
  • Refusing to be open minded to thoughts and ideas of others because their ego doesn't permit them to entertain the thoughts of other people.
  • Cutting corners when trying to understand people instead of investing into why they do what they do, thereby potentially destroying relationships instead of building them.
  • Deliberating constantly but never acting on the same thought.

I am fascinated, intrigued and saddened by the number of people who want something to manifest in their life, yet they live a life of indifference or lack of enthusiasm about the phenomenal opportunities all around them.

We can name people and organizations that exhibit one or more of these concepts every day.  Would someone else include us on this list?

People who exhibit these attributes are proving Einstein's definition of insanity perfectly - to do the same thing over and over and yet expect a different result.

Are you living a life of passion and enthusiasm or are you living a life of indifference? 

Do you believe in a life of unlimited possibilities or do you think it would be nice to have such a life but it is impossible to manifest?

Are you focused on collaborating for success or would you rather keep it to your self, with a good chance that you will manifest much less or nothing at all? 

Do you associate with other people who think of endless possibilities or do you prefer to be the king of the heap of a bunch of people who also believe they are incapable of manifesting purpose and passion.

Are you able to submerge ego so that life lessons have room to enter your mind and help you grow?

When people are with you, do they tell you that you fill them with excitement and enthusiasm for life?

Think about living a life filled with gratitude for being alive, for being able to make a difference to others and for collaborating for success (however you measure it).

Isn't it more fun to be passionate about everything than being indifferent?  Passion and enthusiasm is infectious and all things being equal, will push you to heights that others can only dream of.  It will attract others of equal passion, providing tremendous opportunities for collaboration.

How much passion do you have for this incredible process called Life?  Take it to a new level and witness the incredible difference it makes to your life and the lives of those around you.

In service and servanthood.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Doing Things Right the First Time

This weekend, I started a new phase in my life as I began formally studying theology at Queen's College. It is an exciting time for me as my life continues to morph, as Bob Buford describes, from success to significance, migrating from being just a Wall Streeter to something else as yet defined.

Two of my new friends that I met in class this week are a senior pastor and his wife from a local evangelical church. They honored my family with an invitation to attend their worship services this week, which we gratefully accepted.

Pastor Milley gave a powerful sermon on encouragement and in the course of doing so, quoted a poem by Louise Fletcher Tarkington entitled "The Land of Beginning Again". His message and the specific quote were so powerful that I had to go find the poem and read it in its entirety.

The poem is a powerful piece that speaks to the importance of doing the best that we can at all times and not relying on opportunity to "make things right" after we nonchalantly choose poorly in our initial interactions with others. This poem also reminds us to be grateful for all that we have and that when we look back upon times of struggle, we will see much to be grateful for, even if we didn't see it then.

I am including the poem in this blog post. As you read it, I ask you to reflect on your own life and ask yourself - "Am I doing the best possible job right now with the gifts I have been given?" If you are like me, no matter how hard you try, there is room for improvement. When one thinks of the classic elements of stewardship: time, talent and treasure, ask yourself if you are using these gifts for maximum impact or are you grumbling that others are not making a difference fast enough for your liking. Why wait for others when you could be making a difference right now?

If we want to expedite making a difference in this great world, perhaps we need to do it ourselves and inspire others to act, rather than just wait for someone to step up (all the while disappointing us with their delayed action when we have no right to be disappointed).

Think about how you might begin this process of improvement right now as you contemplate this beautiful piece.

Yours in service and servanthood.


The Land of Beginning Again

I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat by the door
And never be put on again.

I wish we could come on it all unaware
Like the hunter who finds a lost trail
And I wish that the one whom our blindness has done
The greatest injustice of all
Could be at the gates like an old friend that waits
For the comrade he's gladdest to hail.

We would find all the things we intended to do
But forgot, and remembered too late;
Little praises unspoken, little promises broken
And all of the thousand and one
Little duties neglected that might have perfected
The day for one less fortunate.

It wouldn't be possible not to be kind
In the Land of Beginning Again
And the ones we misjudged and the ones whom we grudged
Their moments of victory then
Would find in the grasp of our loving handclasp
More than penitent lips could explain.

For what had been hardest we'd know had been best
And what had seemed loss would be gain
For there isn't a sting that will not take a wing
When we've faced it and laughed it away,
And I think that the laughter is most what we're after
In the Land of Beginning Again.

So I wish that there were some wondered place
Called the Land of Beginning Again
Where all our mistakes and all our heartaches
And all of our selfish grief
Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door

And never be put on again.

Louise Fletcher Tarkington

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

How Will You Remember Me .....

.... and how will I remember you?

When our end of days has come, will we remember each other:

  • for having given our best for our families, providing for their current and future needs as best as we can?
  • for taking care of ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, knowing that many people rely on us (including many we will never meet)?
  • for having gone above and beyond for our employers (or our own companies if we are at the top)?
  • for doing our best to empower our employees and professional peers, enabling them to plug their passion, purpose, skills, strengths and talents into their work, to produce the best result possible?
  • for accepting that we all make mistakes?

Will we applaud each other:

  • for being role models for our greatest investment of all - our children?
  • for investing in our community, our state or province and our country, taking responsibility for the good and the bad and working together to fix that which needs fixing while enhancing that which is already great?
  • for seeing the positive in everyone?
  • for making a difference in this world, for those who are starving, thirsty, sick, impoverished, destitute, homeless or challenged in other ways?
  • for taking care of those we don't know and may never meet?
  • for random acts of kindness, the kind that inspire others to make a difference?
  • for keeping the Earth in mind as we do what we can to take care of the miraculous life raft that carries us through this incredible universe?

Will we think fondly of each other:

  • for doing our best to keep our outlook on life (and the outlook of others) on the positive side, especially when times get tough?
  • for reaching out to someone, not only when they need it but often times in anticipation that they would appreciate some unrequested support?
  • for doing our best to love everyone, even those that anger us, drive us crazy or disappoint us (recognizing that we do the same to others)?
  • for filling our days with positive action to make a difference and not just wishful thinking that we will get to it someday?
  • for dropping a coin in the cup of a beggar, someone who may be a descendant of yours or mine?
  • for going for the brass ring, seizing a life of excitement, challenge, risk and fulfillment and not just a life of indifference and unrealized dreams?

Will we be proud of each other:

  • for being who we want to be and not what others want us to be?
  • for being brave and courageous in our quest to find and fulfill our purpose and passion on Earth?
  • for taking a stand for what we believe to be right?
  • for standing firm in our faith and our beliefs, no matter what the odds?
  • for being known as someone that could always be counted on?
  • for being the person who always brought sunshine into someone's day instead of darkness?
  • for living a life of humility and service to others?

Will we support each other:

  • for being the cheerleader who always encouraged others to be and do the best that they can?
  • for laughing loudly(and often)?
  • for crying when we need to and not being embarrassed by it?
  • for promoting a sense of urgency around appreciating everything that Life offers?
  • For cutting people a little slack when we see they are doing their best?
  • For providing guidance when people could use a little direction?
  • for loving ourselves and recognizing that we are a product of our genetics, our life experiences, our faith, our calling and God's Purpose for us - we are living miracles who are to love and be loved unconditionally?
  • for not being afraid to say "I love you" to anyone and mean it?

Will we be grateful for ourselves, for others and for the incredible experiences of Life (instead of judging Life as a collection of good and bad)?

The game of Life is the one game where no one gets out alive.

At some point, one of us will stand before a memorial to the other.

How are you being remembered?


"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love." - 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NKJV)