Thursday, September 28, 2006

My Conversation With Someone Who Had a Conversation With God

I had to chance on Sunday to preview the upcoming movie "Conversations With God," based on the book by Neale Donald Walsch. Not only did I get a sneak preview of the movie, but I got to meet Neale (I was in the front row, as you can tell by the picture)! It was an amazing encounter. Neale is as genuine, gentle, authentic, and kind in person as I knew he would be from watching him in The Secret and also in the movie Indigo.

Conversations With God - The Movie was produced by Stephen Simon, the producer of the Christopher Reeve movie Somewhere in Time and the Robin Williams movie What Dreams May Come. Stephen is also the co-founder of the Spiritual Cinema Circle, which actually inspired the production of the Conversations With God movie. My good friend Troy introduced me to the Spiritual Cinema network about a year and a half ago, and I've been getting movies in the mail each month since then. Stephen Simon is a friend of Troy's, and Stephen was at the movie premiere with Neale, so I got to meet them both.

If you're a movie fan like I am, please consider checking out the Spiritual Cinema Circle. You'll see movies there that might not make it to the big screen, but which have amazingly positive impact. Also please go see Conversations With God - The Movie if it comes to your area. Take the entire family for a welcome break from all the violence and fear that permeates most movies.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Personal Accountability and The 100% Factor

I have been so (happily) busy in September and, although I don't really have any extra time until the middle of October, I just wanted to tell you a little bit about my extraordinary month!

I've had the extreme fortune and opportunity to work with 12 different clients during the month of September, not counting the three meetings I've had to create upcoming engagements. I've learned so much from each of these clients as well (it really is true for me that I teach what I most need to learn).

In addition, three of those clients have purchased my new book The 100% Factor for their staffs, and I'll be speaking tonight and tomorrow night for another client (90 tonight and 50 tomorrow night) where I'll be able to sell my books before and after the presentation.

It's so strange to be a first-time author and to hear that people really do like my work. I can think it's good, but the true test comes when others let me know what they think.

I worked with one client on Monday. The owner/founder of this company purchased the books for her staff of about 10 people and I met with them Monday morning. I wasn't really sure what we were going to cover, but what we created in the space of about 90 minutes was truly amazing. Each of them had already read the book, so I started by asking them if the topic of a particular chapter had inspired any further dialogue for them. That's where the magic happened.

I think each of them had something come up for them based on the topic of a particular chapter. We talked about fear (fear of failure and fear of success) and change and the undercurrent of the entire conversation was personal accountability. At the end of each chapter of The 100% Factor is a reality checklist of four questions the readers - or in this case, the employees - could ask themselves to help them set up an action plan for the information from that chapter. It really asks readers to take what they've read and move it from knowledge to action.

By hearing their stories about where they are in their lives and careers, it really helped me see that I can learn as much from them as I hope they can learn from me and what they've read in my book. Together we were able to create game plans going forward for them individually and as a team. Because they were so candid and open, they formed their own accountability partnerships within their work team and now they have the freedom to ask each other to hold them accountable for where they want to go, not necessarily where they have been.

It was great to see them so eager to build their company, which is a 3-year-old entrepreneurial company that is growing and thriving, and, in the process, build themselves as well.

As each of those employees chooses a more powerful route along their chosen career paths, whether that is with this company or with another one someday, they are each making a huge impact on everyone they come into contact with, both inside and outside their work lives. When they - and everyone, really - choose to build their own capacities for all the tasks and situations in their lives, they will see what it feels like to live a full life. Full - 100% - doesn't mean overflowing and it doesn't mean half. It's that certain point where the world's deep hunger and their deep gladness meets, to paraphrase Frederick Buechner.

For any of us - and all of us - to be truly successful in the long run, is there any other way to do it?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Are You A Heavy Thinker?

This came across my inbox today and I just have to share it. I can relate!

This is from Jeff Staniforth, a metaphysical scientist who offers affirmations to help you help yourself.

If you are like me and have a heavy thinking problem, you might find some humor in this article. Or, if your problem is a serious one, you might not get the joke. Either way, read on!

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now
and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to
another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone - "to relax," I told myself - but I knew
it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me,
and finally I was thinking all the time.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment
don't mix, but I couldn't stop myself.

I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and

I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What
is it exactly we are doing here?"

Things weren't going so great at home either. One evening I had
turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life.
She spent that night at her mother's.

I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss
called me in. He said, "Skippy, I like you, and it hurts me to
say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you
don't stop thinking on the job, you'll have to find another job."
This gave me a lot to think about.

I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I
confessed, "I've been thinking..."

"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"

"But Honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much
as college professors, and college professors don't make any
money, so if you keep on thinking we won't have any~money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently, and she began to
cry. I'd had enough. "I'm going to the library," I snarled as I
stomped out the door.

I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche, with
NPR on the radio. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the
big glass doors... they didn't open. The library was closed.

To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me
that night.

As I sank to the ground clawing at the unfeeling glass,
whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye. "Friend, is
heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked. You probably
recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinker's
Anonymous poster.

Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never
miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational
video; last week it was "Porky's." Then we share experiences
about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.

I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life
just seemed... easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking.

-- Author Unknown

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A *Chance* Encounter

I was delivering a closing keynote at a conference in Medora, ND last week and happened to run into an acquaintance who has a coffee shop in Medora. We had a nice chat and she shared with me a story she used to share with her volleyball players when she was a coach at my alma mater, Concordia College.

Even 16 years later, it still gives me a lot to think about.

Here's Ben Stein's 1990 take on what was then, and still may be, going on with our youth and their attitude toward hard work.

Fable of the Lazy Teenager
Condensed from Business Month

"It takes a sense of history to have a sense of purpose"

One day last fall, I ran out of file folders and went to the local drugstore to buy more. I put a handful of folders on the counter and asked a clerk, in his late teens, how much they cost. "I don't know," he answered sullenly. "I guess a buck each."

"A dollar apiece?" I said. "That can't be right." The clerk shrugged.

Another clerk - an older Asian woman - told me the price was 12 cents apiece. I returned to the counter, where a teenage girl was now at the cash register. I counted the folders. "Twenty-three at 12 cents each," I said. "That's $2.76 before tax."

"You did that in your head?" she asked in amazement. "How can you do that?"

"It's magic," I said.

"Really?" she asked.

No modestly educated adult can fail to be upset by such an experience. While our children seem better-natured than ever, they are so ignorant that they terrify me. In a class of 60 juniors and seniors at a private college where I recently taught, not one student could consistently write a short paper without misspellings. Not one.

But this is just a tiny sliver of the problem. The ability to perform even the simplest computations is only a memory among many students I see, and their knowledge of world history or geography is zilch. Moreover, there is a chilling complacency about all this ignorance. The attitude was summed up by a friend's bright, lazy 16-year-old son, who explained why he preferred not to go to UCLA. "I don't want to have to compete with Asians," he said. "They work hard and know everything."

In fact, this young man will have to compete with Asians whether he wants to or not. He cannot live forever on the financial, material and human capital accumulated by his forebears. At some point soon, his intellectual laziness will seriously affect his way of life. It will also affect the safety, security and prosperity of the rest of us. A modern industrial state cannot function with a slothful, ignorant labor force. Planes will crash on carrier decks. Computers will jam. Cars will break down.

To drive this message home to such young Americans, I have a humble suggestion: a movie, or TV series, dramatizing just how difficult it was for this country to get where it is - and how easily it could all be lost. I offer the following fable:

As the story opens, our hero, Kevin Hanley 1990, a 17-year-old high school senior, is sulking in his room. His parents insist he study for his European history test. He wants to go shopping for headphones for his portable CD player. The book he is forced to read - The Wealth of Nations - puts him to sleep.

Kevin dreams it is 1835 and he is his own great-great-great-grandfather at 17, a peasant in County Kerry, Ireland. He lives in a sod hut and sleeps next to a hog. He is always hungry and must scrounge for food. His greatest wish is to learn to read and write so he might get a job as a clerk. With steady wages, he would be able to feed himself and help his famly. But Hanley's poverty allows no leisure for such luxuries as going to school. Without education and money, he is powerless. His only hope lies in his children. If they are educated, they will have a better life.

Our fable fast forwards, and Kevin Hanley 1990 is now his own great-grandfather, Kevin Hanley 1928. He, too, is 17 years old, and he works in a steel mill in Pittsburgh. His father emigrated from Ireland and helped build the New York City subways. Kevin Hanley 1928 is far better off than either his father or his grandfather. He can read and write, which means he can follow the instructions for operating an open-hearth furnace. His wages are incomparably better than anything his ancestors had in Ireland.

Even so, Kevin Hanley 1928 believes real hope lies in the future generations and knows that education is the key. He had to go to work before he could finish high school. His son will finish so that he won't have to work in a factory.

Next Kevin Hanley 1990 dreams that he is Kevin Hanley 1945, his own grandfather, fighting on Iwo Jima against a most tenacious foe, the Japanese army. He is always hot, always hungry, always scared. One night in a foxhole, he tells a buddy why he is there: "So my son and his son can live in peace and security. When I get back, I'll work hard and send my boy to college so he can live by his brains instead of his back."

Then Kevin Hanley 1990 is his own father, Kevin Hanley 1966, who studies all the time so he can get into college and law school. He lives in a tract house in a new development. He has never seen anything but peace and plenty. He tells his girlfriend that when he has a son, he won't make him study all the time, as his father makes him.

At that point Kevin Hanley 1990 wakes up, shaken by his dream. He is relieved to be away from Ireland and Iwo Jima and the steel mill. He goes back to sleep.

When he dreams again, he is his own son, Kevin Hanley 2020. He lives in a virtual stockade. There is gunfire all day and all night. His whole generation forgot why there even was law, so there is none. People pay no attention to politics, and government offers no services to the working class.

Kevin 2020's father, who is of course Kevin 1990 himself, works as a janitor in a factory owned by the Japanese. Kevin 2020 is a porter in a hotel for wealthy Europeans and Asians. Public education stops at the sixth grade. There is no tax base to pay for decent schools. Americans have long since stopped demanding good education for their children. Asians dominate American life. The rest are either drones for foreign investors - who consider Americans inherently stupid and lazy, fit only for manual labor - or criminals who supply drugs to the numbed workers.

Fast foward to Kevin 2050 who has no useful skills. Machines built in Japan and Taiwan do all the complex work, and there is little menial work to be done. Without education, without discipline, he cannot command even a subsistence wage. He lives by rifling through trash piles.

In a word, he lives much as Kevin Hanley 1835 did in Ireland. But Kevin Hanley 2050 gets a break. He is befriended by a visiting Japanese anthropologist studying the decline of America. The man explains to Kevin that when a man has no money, education can supply the human capital necesary to start acquiring financial capital. Hard work, education, saving and discipline can do anything. "This is how we rose from the ashes after you defeated us in a war about a hundred years ago."

"America beat Japan in war?" asks Kevin 2050. He is astounded. It seems as impossible as Brazil defeating the United States would sound in 1990. Kevin 2050 vows that if he ever has children, he will make sure they work and study and learn and discipline themselves. "To be able to make a living by one's mind instead of by stealing," he says. "That would be a miracle."

When Kevin 1990 wakes up, next to him is his copy of The Wealth of Nations. He opens it at random and reads: "A man without the proper use of the intellectual faculties of a man is, if possible, more contemptible than even a coward and seems to be mutilated and deformed in a still more essential part of the character of human nature."

Kevin's father walks in. "All right, son," he says. "Let's go look at that stereo stuff."

"Sorry, Pop," Kevin 1990 says. "I have to study."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Radio Show Moves to 11 a.m. (Central)

For anyone out there who wants to follow my radio show, aptly titled "You Already Know This Stuff," we've changed to Sunday at 11 a.m. central at

Today's show was about a topic we all know something about: Fear. We talked about what might be holding us back - real fear or irrational fear. I read a couple of articles from Ezine Articles (one was mine). One of those is "What's Fear Have To Do With It?" and one is one I wrote there called "Leap And The Net (Or Someone's Arms) Will Appear."

I also found some really great songs to share related to the theme. Here was today's play list:

Rhythm of Life - Christina Applegate & Denis O'Hare from Sweet Charity
On A Clear Day - Barbra Streisand
Strength, Courage & Wisdom - India.Arie
It's In Every One Of Us - Dennis DeYoung

I read from Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie about how we spend so much time de-geniusing kids in school and keeping them fearful of being what they really know themselves to be. Then I played

Flowers Are Red - Harry Chapin
Dare To Be Different - Cheryl Hill

Then I talked about someone we all know who had dreams of being courageous and knew exactly what he would do if he had courage. Then I played

If I Were The King of the Forest - Lion, from Wizard of Oz
Candle Song - Jon Anderson
Live Like You Were Dying - Tim McGraw

And the show ended with a really great song by Jana Stanfield called "If I Were Brave." Click here to learn more about Jana.

Next week we'll talk about change and we'll have some music and inspiration to support listeners in getting beyond their preconceived notions about change and why it doesn't stick. Tune in and let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

What Do You Want?

I just returned yesterday from delivering a closing keynote at a conference in Medora, ND, and this was one of the questions I gave the group as we were wrapping up.

This question has been with me since I watched The Secret and I can't seem to stop thinking about it.

In a way it should be rather simple, shouldn't it? Like Joe Vitale says in The Secret: it should be as simple as going through a cosmic catalog and picking out all the "stuff" - everything from new cars to life experiences - you want to have for yourself and your life.

But I understand more now how important it is to be as clear as possible about the answer to that question, because it needs to go beyond mere wanting in order for us to experience transformation. A simple process, yes, but maybe not so easy.

I always give my audiences these four questions to help them focus on the results they want for their lives:

1) What do you want?
2) What are you doing to get it?
3) How is it working?
4) What might you do differently?

But recently I've begun altering question 1 for myself, and am sharing it with audiences through my own experiences. When I can get more focused on first what I want, in response to question 1, I then alter the question to become "What do I intend?" and then work through the following questions. Even more powerful for me is "What do I commit to?" because it causes me to be much more intentional in my own life.

I'm reminded of the original question "What do you want?" because I've become more curious about how other people in my space might answer that question for themselves. Throughout my entire life, when I think about it, I've had many occasions during seemingly random or chance encounters with people I sometimes don't even know, I've felt like I have the statement "Tell me all your troubles" tattooed on my forehead. I'm sure that's why I've been drawn to the coaching field - it seems to come rather naturally to me.

But where I used to be much more passive in my listening - I was good at just reflecting and almost found myself as an enabling listener - I find that I can't stay in that space anymore. When people begin telling me their troubles, my mind immediately switches to the question "What do you want?" When people feel the need to dump, what do they really want from the listener? Do they really want to get to a different place or do they want company in their misery?

I have a friend who had a sign on the wall of his office that said "Misery has got to stop loving company" and I can't forget that. It's true.

What do we want as it relates to our troubles, our woes, our heartaches? I know from my own experience how much more fulfilling life is when I can get to the point where I'm ready to get over the reasons that have gotten me stuck in the first place, and am ready to move on. Wallowing in my victimhood and pity party doesn't move me or anyone else forward. After all, as Marianne Williamson says, "We've got a planet to save."

So consider exactly what it is you want - then that you intend - and then that you commit to for your life. What is the payoff you get for staying where you are? What is the cost? That may be the first step on a brand new path.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Fire Fighter or Fire Starter?

I just finished a presentation today for our local Chamber of Commerce and from the feedback we got, it seems it was very well received. I'm curious about other people's responses to the topic, so please feel free to join in.

The title of the presentation was "Are You A Fire Fighter or a Fire Starter? Ideas For Bringing the Spark to Work." The title kind of gives away the intent for the presentation, which is to give participants a new way to think of their roles within their organizations, whether as leaders, managers, employees, or anything in between.

I found it interesting to think about the ways we use terms related to "FIRE" at work. We want people to be "FIRED" up, but if they're too fired up, we "FIRE" them. When we get thrown into a new situation without proper instruction, we say we undergo a trial by “FIRE.” We’re supposed to be cautious even in relationships, whether at work or outside of work, so we don’t get “BURNED.”

Is it any wonder that as bosses and managers we find most of our time spent on putting out fires? We’ve been conditioned to keep things manageable … to promote the status quo, where we think we may have some semblance of control.

But when we have a few moments to think about what’s going on in those organizations we’ve so carefully tended, we might find there is very little spark there. Like a dry forest, a “dry” workplace can cause workers to be cautious about any new idea that might “spark” something beyond the status quo.

If we find that we've become conditioned to be fire fighters, we may find that we are instinctively looking for ways to douse the spark of ideas and passion at work. If we have spark, we may have fire … and the fire may burn out of control. But if we’re so focused on putting out fires before they become blazes, we may be missing the best opportunity to engage others in bringing their ideas and creativity to work.

Fire Fighters at work might find themselves in one of the following categories:
Fire Drill Sergeants: those who plan for the worst and look for it at every turn. Their motto might be “better safe than sorry.”
Wet Blankets – those who douse the fun by slowly killing the joy – “Well sure you could do it that way, but wouldn’t you really rather go the tried and true route?”
Flame Retardants – those who make it very difficult to sustain a spark and fan the flame because they just know it won’t work. “We tried that once back in ’85 – remember what a disaster that was?”
Fire Extinguishers – those whose job it is to squelch any activity that might lead to a new idea. “That’s not the way we do it around here.”

Of course, we do have two kinds of Fire Starters, too. The Sparklers, who provide the positive energy; and the Arsonists, who provoke gossip and stir the pot, not always in a positive way. The biggest distinction between these two is intention.

Quint Studer points out that in the earliest civilizations, Fire Starters were people who kept the flame alive. This was important, because if they were successful, the people lived. If they weren’t, the people died. Fire Starters make a difference. They are keepers of the flame. They fan the flame. They burn bright and carry the flame (or carry the torch). Fire Starters feel a connection with their purpose, they do worthwhile work, and make a difference regardless of their status. The find themselves inspired from within, not motivated from outside.

This video provided me some great inspiration as I prepared the presentation today. Even though we didn't start the fire, the fire does go on and on.

What do you think? Fire Fighter or Fire Starter? How might we support each other in keeping the sparks alive without creating a blow torch effect (as someone asked during today's session)? I'd love to hear your comments!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Live Your Capacity

What's the distinction between potential and capacity? Potential is somewhere in the future and capacity is right here - right now.

That's the premise behind my new book: The 100% Factor: Living Your Capacity. If we're living in someday, we're only living a part of our total capacity. This book will inspire people at any stage of their lives to consider the opportunities they can create when they re-examine their capacity - and become mindful about how much of that capacity they choose to bring - to work, to relationships, to families.

I'm grateful to have endorsements from Lance Secretan, Steve Farber, Gail Blanke, Bob Ash, Phil Gerbyshak, Kim Fletcher, Maryanna Young, Susie Ekberg, and Lora J Adrianse. Please visit their websites to find out more about them.

Each chapter of my book deals with various aspects of our lives we might consider in determining our capacity. The chapter topics are: The Past, Fear, Change, Authenticity, Decisions, Communication, Capacity, Knowledge, Relationships, Prejudice, Accountability, Effort, Skepticism, Passion, Creativity & Courage, and Presence.

Click here for more information or to order the book. You can also find it on Amazon, although they are waiting to get more pre-orders before they order them in quantity from me.

I'm considering starting another blog to talk about the chapters in the book, so watch here for more details!