Archive for April, 2012


Life’s Simplest Joys…

“I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun.” –  Katharine Hepburn 1907-2003


The Power of Following Through

One of the things I noticed when reading through some of the stories of really successful people is the ability to follow through appropriately. Usually, there is some driving force that makes following through easier for some than others, but following through nonetheless put them over the top.

I was reminded of this during one of my chess games today with the retired expert, Mr. Inn. We were locked into one of those tense games, with a good flow to it. He made a mistake and I pounced a d he was under pressure for the middle game and deep into the end game after giving away a piece for free. But due to a late blunder on my part – I didn’t follow through correctly on my mating pattern – allowed him to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

So what does that have to do with following through? Well, on my end, had I not tried to be stubborn about my plan, and stepped back to reassess the position, I would have won convincingly. Mr. Inn however, kept his head on a swivel and was always looking for the chance to pounce on a mistake.

True, we often hear that we should power through things in order to achieve success. Show grit; take risks; be bold; rise above adversity, blah blah blah. But following through appropriately allows us to do all those things in an optimal way. It’s not just enough to have a plan. It’s not good enough not to crack under pressure. It’s also about the ability to follow through once a decision is made – whether to change a plan, make an adjustment or stay the course.

Sometimes things get in the way that can make it hard to follow-up in the manner that is required. Sometimes we are flat-out scared to follow through because we know exactly what the consequences are and just don’t want to deal with them. But, we often forget that we are more than capable of handling whatever comes our way. Many of those who are uber successful will tell you they had a goal or dream, turned it into attainable objectives and followed through by achieving those objectives. Yes, there were times of both failure and adversity, but it helped make them better, putting them closer to their goals.

Even those who like to cut corners to consume the glitz of success without all the “hard work” have to be good at following through – after all, they couldn’t be truly shady if they didn’t put action to thought to achieve their nefarious aims.

Fortunately for us all, the art of following through is a skill that can be learned over time. Practice does take perfect. Just as Mr. Inn is in my ear about studying seriously to go play in a tournament, so too must we all put in the work needed to develop the skill of following through.

The biggest thing that makes us human is our ability to learn. It’s either we learn to follow through appropriately, or people learn that we are not reliable or responsible for our actions.


Prosperity, Vice and Virtue

“Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.”Francis Bacon 1561-1626


Pride Fuels the Egotestical


That’s the word Mr. Inn uses to describe those people who either think that they are bigger and better than others by excessive showboating. Two people come to mind that fit this term well: Bobby Petrino and the guy was plays chess in the McDonald’s by my house. I’m not sure how entertaining it is to deal with folks like these, but I must admit they are a hot mess to handle whenever they cross your path.

Bobby Petrino is on the field, a very successful college football coach. In stops at Louisville and Arkansas, he has winning records, raising the profiles of both programs and bringing in coveted football dollars to both schools. He has a good grasp what it takes to develop college players and turn them into good pro prospects. But for all that success, he’s got a less than stellar side.

In his first year at Louisville, he met with a higher profile school about replacing their fired head coach – under the cover of secrecy no less. This was a major breach of contract which he denied vehemently. He was busted when airplane records blew the scandal wide open, to which he claimed to be a “young coach” in his mea culpa. Next, he left the Atlanta Falcons – a pro football franchise – for the University of Arkansas, in the middle of the NFL season! No word to the owner or players face to face – he taped a note to each of their lockers before he left in the middle of the night. Talk about being gutless in the face of one of the ultimate team sports!

To top it all off, he was fired from the University of Arkansas last week due to “conduct detrimental to the university”. He basically got into a motorcycle accident and lied to his bosses that a woman was with him on the bike. It turns out the woman was a 25-year-old member of his staff – Petrino is 51, married with 4 children – who he recently hired to help supervise eligibility of football players into his program. This was a woman that he was actually having an affair with as well!

The chess guy by McDonald’s was kinda hilarious for me, but in a sad way. He’s one of those types with the mouth always running – “look at me! look at me!”. You know the types: when they win you cannot hear enough of their mouth and when they lose they are either loudly silent or trying to still belittle you because you won.

I played 4 games with him earlier in the evening. The first game I embarrassed him and he tried to belittle the win. He one the next two, running his mouth wildly. The final game ended in a draw, in which I had a commanding position and out of sheer boredom let him back into the game. Of course, instead of taking the situation as it was, he spent the next few minutes whopping and hollering how he got a draw. All I could do was shake my head at the ego running amok and then left.

I don’t think brazen begins to fully describe such an egotestical state in both cases. So how do you handle these folks? Truth is, nothing you do will really change their approach. They are good at what they do: taking the bits of knowledge that they have gained at grabbing success with the purposes of feeding their egos. The best way isn’t to beat them at their own game, but to hit them where it hurts – their pride.

In the case of Petrino, the Arkansas athletic director was smart. He knew the coach had a carpetbagger side and wrote into his contract the provision to fire him for “conduct detrimental to the school” and void his recently signed contract worth about US$4million per annum. In a cruel twist of karma, the school put Coach Petrino on paid leave, let him twist in the wind with speculation on his job status and then fired him…by a letter. His marriage is in tatters, his reputation gone and his career in football is now a source of ridicule. He has shown a carpetbagger’s ability to survive, but this is one hell road to recovery professionally, in his personal life and physically (neck and rib injuries) Coach Petrino now faces.

As for the chess guy at McDonald’s, he appears to have the scars of his personality if one looks closely. There is no need to bust his chops – he knows how to write enough checks with his mouth that his ass cannot cash. As we’ve seen, the universe does a very good job of keeping those type of egos in check. Still, it does make one sad because if we look past this approach both men are probably decent people. Most people will just type cast them and think that they are not worth the effort and try to crush them, which also feeds into the approach that they use. Not a good situation to be a part of either way.

Sometimes we just cannot get out of our own way and when pride goeth before a fall, the aftermath of the fall can be devastating to face. The best we can do is wish them well and learn from their actions so that we don’t make similar, yet preventable, missteps in our own journeys.



Avoiding The Divide and Conquer Tactic

“We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” – Ben Franklin 1706-90


High School High: Swimming Under Gates

I learned a few key lessons in high school that has stuck with me to this day. Two of which are: never swim a mile and a half just to swim a mile and adversity always lets you know who your friends really are.

Here’s one situation where those lessons hit home. In high school we used to have an all day sporting event – fittingly called “Sports Day”. It was still a regular school day and we were expected to attend, but there were no classes. The day was spent celebrating track and field achievements with races and all that jazz. The school was split into 6 “houses” based on colors: purple, orange, green, red, yellow and blue. Each house had a unique name – nearly all of which I have forgotten (Harrison I believe was the name for “Orange House”). Now, classrooms were often kept locked since teachers didn’t want students not interested in seeing the sporting events in the classes doing God-knows-what unsupervised. Still there were a few hangout spots that were allowed if you weren’t feeling the sporting vibe to chill at.

I enjoyed going to Sports Day because if you were lucky and able to sneak out of the school, it was a win-win, especially since you’d still get daily allowance from your parents. Now there were a few exit points but security was often on foot patrolling them; and with Mr. Roberts as principal, if you were caught you definitely faced a suspension. Still, it didn’t deter the thrill seekers who weren’t interested in trying their luck.

So while in the 10th grade I hatched a plan with a couple of friends who wanted to spend the late morning and early afternoon at a couple of the nearby shopping malls hanging out before hitting the video arcade. The point of escape we chose was the furthest exit gate at the front of the school. This gate was typically only opened for the morning drop off and afternoon pick up of students. Being a locale where it was tougher to police and traffic didn’t flow that way as much, keeping it closed was a smart move by administration.

The plan was simple enough – we noticed that there was room underneath the gate for one to slide under and out to freedom. We just needed to time the security guards in their patrols to escape. Adding to the difficulty was that there wasn’t much cover to hide – and Mr. Roberts could step out from the landing at the front of the admin building and have a clear unobstructed view to the gate we chose for our escape. He was notorious for popping out on the landing on a dime, and did so more often on days like Sports Day.

So we got the plan in motion by hanging out underneath one of the trees not too far from the gate. Security passed a few times but wasn’t really counting the number of guys playing football there. So we waited until the coast was clear and then one by one we made a beeline for the gate. It was to run like clockwork – one guy slides under the gate, and when he gets outside we toss the book bag over the gate to keep them clean – rinse and repeated twice more since three of us wanted to make the break. Of course with no cover the most vulnerable part is being either under the gate or tossing the book bags over so we were to do this at intervals.

So one friend went through successfully; I tossed him his book bag and dove under the gate. I made it through cleanly and the last guy tossed over two bags – mine and his successfully. Now as the last guy underneath the gate, some strong level of paranoia gripped him and halfway through, he chickened out and backed out. We were F-U-R-I-O-U-S! Here’s why – our school was in the middle of a residential block with an active neighborhood watch. Now when you see two students at 11:30am on a school day hanging out near the school but not IN school, somebody is liable to pick the phone up and call administration. We were stuck there out in the open for 15 minutes because he had his book bag. We couldn’t toss it back because the security came back and decided to linger by the gate for a long time, forcing us to duck out of view.

Fortunately for my friend and me, a passerby headed to the school was kind enough to take the third guy’s bag and give it back to him – while not blowing the whistle on us. We snuck out successfully and that was the last year that happened. Apparently word got back to admin and security was camped out at that spot the rest of my days in high school. We also most beat him up the next day because not only did he flake on us, but when he realized he flaked for no good reason he nearly blew the whistle on us out to admin out of envy. Talk about a real louse!

The big moral of the story remains: never swim a mile and a half just to swim a mile. Go full speed when trying to accomplish a task, goal or dream – or don’t do it all. Being half-assed in anything only tends to create more full-blown problems.


Worry and The Future

“If I worry too much about my future, my future will become what I worry about the most.”


The Need For a Sequel…?

My latest stressful project at the 9-5 involves coordinating a video project. Basically, the young people have chosen the topic of self-esteem and have been busy generating a script. With production a few weeks away, I can take a moment to reflect on how this project has given me a deeper appreciation for the movie making process. While I now look at movies in a whole different light, it still doesn’t change the views I have on the current rash of sequels by Hollywood. That’s why I was shaking my head recently when I heard that Anchorman 2 and Dumb and Dumber 2 are currently in the works.

Yes, a good movie is often like a well cooked meal or a fine bottle of liquor – the right blend of ingredients always hits the spot.

Still, it takes a lot to make a movie a smash success. There are many good movies out there that aren’t box office hits. That’s the one thing I’ve come to appreciate getting ready for this project – the box office hits tend to follow a proven formula while still finding ways to bend the rules creatively. I guess even though we all can buy into those stereotypical archetypes, we definitely applaud a good production when we see one.

Primarily because the expectations raised by the success of the first project, it is such a daunting task in making a sequel, much less a successful one. Even with a blueprint in place there are no guarantees how the final product will be received.

I cannot completely knock ALL Hollywood sequels though. Yes, some are just money-making ventures through and through – See the Pirates of the Caribbean and Saw series  – but others share the same DNA as another common movie trend: the remake. Yes, they are just different takes on an existing idea in the search to push the boundaries of storytelling and tapping into the range of human emotions. When they get it right though, it is really good stuff.

We deal with remakes and sequels all the time off the screen. Reconnecting with an ex or a friend who did us some harm, or reuniting with a family member who had disappeared from our lives for various reasons are some of the more common examples. But just like in the pre-production stage in the movie project, we often have to take a moment to reevaluate the situation.

Do I want to do this again? Can I stand them hurting me another time? Have they really learned their lesson? What are my expectations now? Is this someone I really want in my life again at this point in time?

See, movie production folks have to ask the tough questions because they KNOW what it takes to make a movie, much less a successful sequel or remake. But unlike in show business, we may have to use different formulas when deciding on how to approach our personal sequels. We may lean more towards hope and the good feelings of what we choose to dwell on from the first go around with this person than to look at the cold reality that lies before us. Sometimes “that ship has passed” with the person or job or dream we have in mind; then it becomes how to put it into perspective to move forward. Sometimes we try to give people second chances and it works out well – other times it just made things worse.

The inherent beauty in both filmmaking and life is that not everything that’s done by the book comes out just right. Maybe the formula that we need to decide if a sequel in our lives is worth undertaking is to use this one:

No two situations are alike; each scenario must be treated in its own accord and evaluated on its own merit.

If we truly put in the work, we can tell with greater certainty whether the sequel we face is worth the undertaking.