Saturday, January 31, 2015

Do you usually think before you open your mouth?

I know that too often I will have one of those experiences where I truly wish I could take back what I just said. Yes, I confess to having ‘hoof and mouth’ disease. I just put my ‘foot into my mouth’ thinking that I was being funny or trying to get back at someone. It happens to all of us just as we are responding in haste to an e-mail to someone that the second after I hit send I have this sense of regret. Maybe I shouldn’t have said what I’ve said or that picture I so easily posted on Instagram or Facebook has become the laughing point for too many.

I was raised by a mom that at times could be too honest and too frank. I can remember as an adult trying to explain to my mom that being honest doesn’t necessarily mean that you tell someone that they are fat, too wrinkly or have the wrong hair color. The challenge today, different from the non-internet and cell phone day, is that once we e-mail or post something it is out in cyberspace forever. What I just said in anger can be used against me in the work place or even in court to get a restraining order against me. I had a close friend who almost went to jail for just joking around about guns and about shooting someone.

I’ve had too many experiences in life where I said something that given more time to consider I wouldn’t have ever opened my mouth! I so much appreciate this picture I posted from that helps unfold what should come out of my mouth if I’m going to actually say something. My mom use to always tell me if I didn’t have something nice to say that it’s best to say nothing at all! So if I step back and think about whether my speech is going to be kind, helpful, inspiring and is a real necessity then it’s best to ‘shut my trap’!

Some would say that it should be clear that because we have two ears and one mouth that we should be quicker to listen than pop off with our mouth.  Yet, it never fails that the person who does have issues with their speech is always the one to control a conversation or get up in front of a meeting to either boast, put someone down or just listen to themselves talk. It’s tragic to think of how many families have major fights over what would be deemed senseless ‘stuff’ when you look back over 20 years and realize what caused the division in the family is often forgotten.

Gossip, bragging or stretching the truth will ultimately hurt someone and eventually come back to ‘bite you’! So why open your mouth unless you are going to speak life into someone? Time to starting THINKING before you open your mouth!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bitter or Better?

What happens when you don’t deal with an issue at work, a spat with a neighbor or that disappointment with your kid? Too often we end up holding grudges that ultimately cause us to loose sleep, be irritable, act on edge and at times lose our temper for no reason? What happens when you don’t deal with anger or unresolved conflict? I don’t like to admit it to myself but I become someone I don’t like to be around. So why is it the case that so often most people don’t even consider the power of forgiveness but choose to hold a grudge?

I know that my mom was a proponent of saying, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Her point, which isn’t easy to do, was deal with it as best as possible. The difficult lesson is that the longer I put off my harsh feelings about someone the more difficult it becomes to make amends or discover the power of letting it. The reality for some is that we become prisoners of bitterness that cripples us emotionally, spiritually and creates health issues ultimately.

I live and work purposely in an under resourced neighborhood where the law of the land isn’t to hold grudges but to express your anger by getting even, hurting someone or taking something from the offender to make it right. The difficulty with this type of get a bigger stick mentality is that it doesn’t end until someone is in the hospital or the morgue! I continue to argue with teens and adults who believe that the only solution to someone attacking them is to hit back and not stop until you win.

The power of forgiveness isn’t that you fix the situation but that you let go of what happened understanding that getting even, hurting that person or bad mouthing them doesn’t accomplish anything. What is scary is that when you don’t forgive the person that hurt you then they continue to have power over you because you do hold a grudge and allow bitterness to spoil you. It’s amazing how one rotten egg will ruin a fancy dessert.

It’s always interesting to watch the reaction of someone who is trying to attack you when you simply just walk away or choose not to argue any more. I admit that it is difficult not to respond via social media, a text or an e-mail when someone has bad mouthed me or taken advantage of me. I have to admit that it might feel good to let it out but ultimately it doesn’t resolve anything but make a bad situation even worse. So how I deal with a grudge isn’t by getting even but by putting the incident into perspective of whether it really is all that important. Often I will discover that I’m crying over spilled milk.

Yes, there are occasions where someone has seriously harmed me and the path to wholeness isn’t straightforward nor easy. It helps to talk with a friend or someone older who has experienced something similar in life to give you the encouragement you need to keep going and not allow this situation to bring your life to a halt. The choice is yours and mine to carry this heavy ominous grudge around or to simply let go, move on and have a better day not being controlled by the bully or abusive person in your life!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What Defines YOU?

What defines you as a person? We live in an age where too often the value of an individual is lost either in the corporate bottom line or we are part of a team where winning could mean that an individual could be cut or in some settings be fired.  It could also be what brand owns or defines you. I confess to being partial to Apple products, Tom’s shoes and a small hipster company based out of San Francisco that makes an assortment of briefcases.

What’s happened to the over arching notion that all life has value regardless of how you scored on a specific test in high school, college or grad school. What is required to empower one person to get it will always be different from another person. So what has to happen for me or you to see that success in life has to better defined as how we treat each other in life circumstances rather than possessions or position in a company?

The opportunity is for the little person to discover that they have just as much potential or value as the almighty CEO of any high tech or social media company. It’s even more important for the average person to see that they can impact the world just as much as their favorite celeb or sport’s icon. It comes back to some rather simple principles that my mom and I’m sure other moms taught their kids at a very young age.

I know that too often the golden rule has become the adage that those with the gold rule. (Is this why we listen to Warren Buffet, Bill Gates or Tim Cook?) Whereas most of us believe that how we treat each other should always be the way that we want to be treated. I had a rather interested scenario happen this last week with some new ASU interns that are from China observe youth from the hood playing basketball. My guy intern, who is a big guy that could crush any of my teens, asked, why do these teens all use the F word, asked me? I quickly called a few of the teen guys that had been playing basketball to give their response.

My new Chinese ASU intern looked at these teens as they shared how they expressed themselves when they get mad and frustrated with foul language. My intern’s response was why don’t these teens have better language skills? I explained later that all of these kids and teens come out of broken or misplaced settings where there are no dads and either single moms or grandmas who are raising them. I asked the intern where he got his morals or manners and clearly it was from his parents. Remember in China families only have one child.

It would be so easy for my new intern and others to look down on these foul-mouthed kids and teens and discount them from having any real importance. After listening to my new interns I was asked more questions by some staff at the rec center where we were playing games. The discussion still came back to what shapes a person’s life? Is it their DNA, their environment or their personal choices? I was put in the middle to solve the discussion and said it’s not either or but it’s both and when it comes to what makes a person tick ultimately.  My first point to my new intern and these close friends is that none of us choose our parents, environment or gene pool. This isn’t to excuse bad behavior or to make someone a superstar that has advantages over others.

The important point all must face is how do you want to define yourself as an individual? My intern drilled the guys with whether using the F bomb was their tag or should it be their ability to play basketball or excel in school or how they treat each other. We live in a crazy world where people are tweeting bomb threats, terrorist groups are beheading hostages and freedom of speech has seen people massacred in office complexes. What is going to define YOU?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Walk of Shame

My wife has helped a quite a few teens over the years get their driver’s license. As a parent I can attest to the fact that often the last person that should help a teen get practice driving is mom or dad. It is so easy to see real friction and fighting in the car become such an overwhelming issue that you could actually crash the car. This last week Anne helped one of our 20 somethings actually pass her test. This was such an awesome experience that the tester actually complimented Anne on being such a great mom to the gal. This gal was really nervous and doubted she could do it.

The real time of testing came when one of our older teens, who can actually drive rather well, bombed his test. His assumption or hope was that because of the instructor also being African American that it would be a slam-dunk on the driving test. Yet, the unfortunate reality for this young guy was that he couldn’t parallel park. Anne actually had him practice drive in our little mini-van before doing the test. As the tester lady had him attempt to parallel park he couldn’t get closer than a few feet away from the cones.

Now the time comes when you have to do the walk of shame. Yes, the last thing any guy wants to have to do is tell someone that they bombed their driving test. So as he approached Anne it was clear that skin color or good looks couldn’t get him his license. So the walk of shame hung over his day. I was quick to text back and say please tell him that I also bombed my first driving test for something just as silly. Yet, the reality is that it takes time to get over the walk of shame.

It is too easy to fixate on your present circumstance and make the false assumption that you can’t do better. Yet, the reality for me was that I took the test the next day and passed with a 100%. My hope is that this young man will dust off his ego and let go of the shame to take the test again this coming week. I know that he will pass or as they say ‘cut the mustard’ soon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

NO - isn't a bad word!

I just spent the last couple of hours talking with some college guys who have to make strategic decisions about life. This is more than what to wear or whether to get the Iphone 6 or 6 plus. The reality is that often you have to say NO to good things in order to do what is best in life. I often succumb to believing that being busy is a sign of both success and being spiritual in life. Yet, the outcome of being over booked is that you don’t have time for what is most important in life!

I laughed at one of my college guys who so much reminds me of myself. He 20 things happening all at once and still wanted to act as if he could be committed to helping me out in the summer with our program.  I gave him a fatherly rebuke and said he needed to list everything he did in the following week, which is way too much and then cut the list in half. I told him that he couldn’t do all of that well and ultimately he would miss out on what he is really suppose to do.

Another close friend and I got into a discussion about how you figure out what you are suppose to do with your life. I gave him my discussion on the bicameral mind or right vs. left brain types where some of us are naturally gifted with science/math brains and others are more gifted with humanities, English, writing and reading types of minds. The point wasn’t to say that you CAN’T attempt to do science but if you are better at reading or writing that it won’t come without a lot of hard work. So eventually you have to focus and choose to say no to things that are outside your skill set to be able to discover your ultimate passion in life.

I know that as a parent and at risk worker that it is so much easier not to say NO and just let stuff happens. Yet, most growth in life happens when you encounter difficult times and failure that force you to rethink what is it that you should really be doing.  I have watched myself and others end up in situations where you purposely put yourself in a circumstance where you are going to fail because you have ‘bit off too much’ or you’re attempting to do something that really isn’t you.  So the reality is that it is ok to fail and have someone at times say NO so that you can discover what you truly good at in life.

I was so fortunate to have parents who never told me I couldn’t attempt something at least once. Yes, I was able to persuade my dad to buy me my first electric guitar. My brother would give the story that I actually cried at the music store but regardless of the methodology I got my Stratocaster clone at 12. I believed for a period of time that being a rock god should be my life calling. Fortunately my dad’s influence, which was better than saying NO, helped me to pursue my real skill set of being someone that has a passion for doing community work that has both a science and philosophical education.

I’m around too many youth and adults that have always been told NO or that they aren’t capable because they aren’t superstars that have natural ability or talent. So there is a balance between never trying something because of your fear of failure and going overboard and truly believing that the world or God can go on without you!