Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Best Advice is Free!

I just finished reading a LinkedIn Influencer post about someone explaining or justifying their exorbitant salary as an advisor. I can’t fathom someone paying me $20k to come to one board meeting or give me a percent of their company.  I had asked a teen to give advice to his younger twin brothers if he knew that he was going to die tonight. What he said is priceless and I’m guessing some clinical Pyshcatrist would have billed these eleven year old twin’s mom at least $200 or more. His amazing but simple wisdom was not to ignore any advice from your parents because you will regret it later in life.  My mom so often would tell me that the people around me that knew me the most and would help in life decision making boiled down to her, my dad and my grandparents.  

What I’m learning, sometimes at a high price tag, is that most of life’s critical decisions are best made with those who know you the best and don’t charge you for giving a little help. It’s easy for me at times to be put in a position of a consultant or expert on matters pertaining the practical side of doing community work with at risk youth. Too often my wisest counselors are not who you would expect but younger kids or teens who will speak what’s on their mind and not be concerned about the reaction of others.

I had asked on of my little guys what was his New Year’s Resolution. I was shocked to hear him express that he needed to stop disrespecting his mom and not talk back to her. I asked him why and he continued with sage like advice, she’s one of the few people that truly care about me so when I’m rude and crude to her she gets hurt and I eventually get into real trouble. I can’t fathom how many therapists or counselors he could have seen over a year that wouldn’t have come up with such concise advice that ultimately would work. Yes, at times mothers do know best contrary to the sitcom Father Knows Best.

I have learned more from my senior friends over the last decade when it comes to what really matters in life. Yes, I could pursue a life coach and set up numerous appointments spending a small fortune but in the end doubt whether the dribble that would come forth would come close to the pearls of wisdom from my close grandma friends. Maybe it’s time that Corporate America and the Federal Government pay more attention to the little kids and the grandmas.

I shouldn’t have to be paid a large sum of funds to volunteer on a board that pursues my passion in life. It should be a joy and a gift back to help others see that not everything in life is based upon a monetary reward. Imagine how many are growing up today making the erroneous assumption that they should get paid for doing their chores around the house.  My mom would always tell me that any job worth doing was worth doing well and the reward was in doing the job to the best of my ability.

So back to that LinkedIn Influencer post that made delineations about advisors that are both knowers and doers. I know that my mom and many other moms and grandmas truly know so much more than ever given credit. So what do we pay such exorbitant sums for consultants or advisors? My teen offered up the best advice to his twin brothers as a gift. 

Time for the rest of us to stand up against the false assumption that experience or wisdom comes with a price tag. Go talk to Grandma!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Conform or Live Outside the Box!

Fit in or stand out? Aspire to be just like that sports celeb or be yourself? I just texted an older teen and asked him to give advice to his younger twin brothers about life if he knew his days were up. I was pleasantly surprised to receive his answer, pay attention to the advice your parents give you because you’ll regret it if you don’t. Wow! If someone had asked me as a teen if I would have wanted to emulate my parents my initial joking reaction would have been somewhat anti-authority. Yes, I was born in the hippie generation where doing the opposite of the establishment was the norm.

One of my childhood favorite reads was clearly Dr. Seuss and his odd array of creatures and very different types of stories. I don’t think I could live without Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat or for those graduates from esteemed institutions there is always, Oh The Places You will Go! The point with Dr. Seuss is that he was a genius with imagination that fueled your view of life being an awesome adventure that always had surprises. The endings to most of his stories were good but always with a twist.

So it is so easy in today’s peer pressure driven culture to be a cookie cutter clone of everyone else. What would happen if you decided to be like some of Dr. Seuss’ characters and become your own type of Cat in the Hat or Horton the elephant? What is truly amazing is that no DNA is exactly the same or two fingerprints would ever match. Think about all of the snowflakes you cut out as a kindergartner and how different they always happened to be!

I know that one of the more difficult decisions in life is discovering who you want to become in life. I can remember getting into a discussion or maybe more an argument with a teen that will graduate from high school soon. She had aspired to be a lawyer and then a teacher and now she’s back to square one. My suggestion to consider the military went on deaf ears. Typically most change majors in college numerous times and in todays' shifting job market there is no such thing as a 30-year career.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that it is so much more fun and exciting to choose not to fit and just stand out. Who wants to look like everyone else? Maybe Dr. Seuss should be required reading for life! So here we come Cat in the Hat or Horton!! Watch out, I will go places, do things and see things that will be a surprise!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cancer - face it and live for today!

This morning I arose before the sun peaked out amongst the clouds to get ready for skin cancer surgery. I have been tortured over the last 7 years with a variety of procedures that remove the non-life threatening type of skin cancer. I'm fortunate to only be irritated with this form of cancer. I know that as a youth and adult that I loved the sun and enjoyed, especially in college, being able to surf in the ocean. Contrary to my wife's preference I would love to lie out on a beach towel with the sand between my toes and get baked. I realized now that I should have used sun screen and my concrete or construction days would have been better with a shirt on my back than going topless.

I really don't like going to any doctor but have made the concession to visit my dermatologist twice a year. The burns and slices I receive to remove my skin cancer is truly nothing in comparison to the surgeries, chemo-treatments and medications that my mom took over almost a decade. I have little comprehension of how sick everyone feels who have to do chemo on a continual basis to attack the cancer that is taking over their body.

My Mohs procedure this morning wasn't a big deal to me but clearly the doctor doing the slicing wanted to convey that this could become serious if left unchecked. I had a Basal Cell Carcinoma site on my leg just below my knee. Because I have Psoriasis it isn't always easy to know what is skin cancer instead of a scaly spot. Never the less after a few injections my site was totally numb and the slice of the knife didn't pose a threat to my discomfort until later on today. I have lost track of whether I'm up to probably 20 slices or burns but somewhere in that arena.

I'm clearly thankful that my type of cancer at most will mean that I'll have to wear a T-Shirt on sunny days. Whereas, I watched my mom fight for her life over a period of three years. She had breast cancer and after surgery believed that she was in remission but after a couple of years the cancer returned in full force. I sadly remember the side effects of the chemo that she would get on a weekly basis. She would be left exhausted, sick to her stomach and incapable of eating for a day or so. My mom was my hero because she faced this with a determination and faith that touched my life.

I became my mom's advocate during this period and would commute to San Diego for her monthly visit with her Oncologist. I wanted to understand whether the treatment had any real impact on her cancer's progression. The reality was that her cancer wasn't DNA specific so the chemo didn't have any real impact. I ended up fighting with my dad and the doctor to stop the treatment if there wasn't any clear sign of remission taking place. I learned so much about compassion, loving someone who is dying and listening before expressing myself.

I know that cancer will touch most families and at some point you will be faced with an end of life decision. My mom and dad decided to stay in their tiny little house while my mom went through her last year of struggling with the cancer's progression and her getting sicker from the chemo. My consolation in the midst of her battle was that I was able to persuade her and my dad to stop treatment so she could be capable of seeing her son, my brother, graduate from the University of California at Santa Barbara with his PhD in Spanish.

It was a few months after this milestone in our family that she came to her last few weeks. It took some arm twisting and persuading to get my dad, who was emotionally exhausted at this point, to allow Hospice to make home visits to help my mom with pain meds. I will always remember my dad and I arguing about this and then after the nurses started to visit and give her morphine my dad would go off on me and ask why I hadn't told him sooner about this amazing help that Hospice provides.

Looking back my mom taught me how to face my own mortality. Every time I would see her she would always ask me if there was something I wanted to ask or say. She would go out of her way to tell me that she loved me and that she had no regrets in life. She was an amazing lady who cared for my dad as he watched his lady slowly deteriorate. I will always remember that phone call at 3 am on that Thursday morning. My dad was on a spiritual high because his lady had passed from this horrible battle with cancer to her heavenly home to experience real peace and wholeness.

Please don't be like me and go to the doctor, get the help, advice and multiple opinions before you decide about your course of treatment!  Life is truly a gift so guard it and enjoy it to the max!

Are you chasing after the wind? How do you get your focus back?

I can remember watching one of my dogs chasing after their tail until they literally seemed to collapse from exhaustion. We can laugh at foolish or silly things that others are doing but seldom admit that we too might be chasing after the wind as we pursue something that we know ultimately isn’t what’s best for us.  Yet, for whatever reason we really believe something that is too good to be true. I can remember my mom at times lecturing me on the benefit of working hard and keeping a job. She always reminded me that there wasn’t going to be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and that playing the Powerball was crazy stupid.  

I just heard on the radio how a single mom with a challenged child won over 88 million playing the odds. It’s incredible that she will have the means to give her handicapped child the benefits he or she deserves and allow her to not have to juggle multiple jobs or be ‘panhandling’ from friends.  Yet, the odds of another person in similar circumstances winning the lottery are a zillion to one. Yet, too many really believe that there is a short cut to success or gaining the resources to get that car, computer, house or whatever. So how does someone get their focus back after chasing after lesser things?

I know that change for anyone is a major decision that requires letting go of the past and allowing a better future to become possible. The difficulty is that too often we become obsessed with things that are good but not what’s really important. It’s so easy to allow the urgent to consume our emotional energy and then not be ready to pursue the great things that are at our doorstep.  I admit that my vision can be clouded by the fads of today and forget that too often the adages that mom or grandpa preached are still true today.

Distractions are a normal part of life and what determines who is able to rise above the noise of the street goes back to being able to focus on what really counts. I’m around a lot of teens and adults who have never had much in terms of material possessions. So it is so easy to believe that if I had those nice new pair of Air Jordans my life would be so incredible. Yet, after spending $300 I come to the realization that my life isn’t any better, my friend’s list or connections haven’t grown and now I’m broke.

How often do individuals change jobs or consider different careers without having a reason that goes beyond hedonism or materialism. Is it possible to ever be content in life with less instead of having more or having less responsibility at work to have more time at home? I confess to my addiction to the latest Apple product. So is my life really going to be any better if I rush out and get the latest iWatch or upgrade my laptop or iPad to the newer version? Clearly my present lineup is more than adequate for the next year or so.  I can have double vision so easily and be confused about the needs of the world around me where I become paralyzed thinking that I have to be the next Mother Teresa or Bill Gates, instead of being me.

My mom would always tell me to open my eyes and really take in the world around me.  So I admit that it’s too easy to miss the incredible sunrise, sunset or more importantly the family member, friend or neighbor who needs a smile, a hug and a listening ear. I applaud Mr. Covey in his push to help men especially see that on our death beds we are definitely not going to think how our lives would have been so much better if we had stayed at the office until 8 or 9 each night. All of our busyness will come back to be a wake up call that life has to more than chasing after the latest fad and more so the good instead of the great or best things in life. Relationships I believe become the path to having the right things in life catch you. It’s always through my wife, a close friend or one of my adult kids that I always learn the most and can be humbled to realize that too often I’m chasing after the wind!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Another teen is murdered and we have to ask why and how can this be stopped?

This last week another teen was murdered during a drive by in South Phoenix. The gal was 16 and clearly had come to Phoenix to do better with her life circumstances and see amazing things happen. Instead she has now become a statistic for some researcher to talk about the impact of gang violence. Why would anyone bring a gun and shoot someone in another vehicle as it drove by? Doesn’t anyone fear the consequences of such an action? Doesn’t life have any value at all? Does getting even or making a point overrule another person’s existence?

I tire of seeing all of the RIP’s on Facebook. Reality check, that person who you post their picture is dead because of a revengeful hideous act of violence. What’s going on in today’s society that life no longer has any value?  The consequences of such actions seem to not stop many from doing this type of senseless violence. The obsession of video games and violent movies seem to give us a false sense that when someone is shot they can start over and everything will be ok. Just visit the trauma unit at any of the local hospitals and you will see the look on doctors and nurses as they attempt to bring someone back to life after this type of shooting.

My mom would always tell me that two wrongs never make a right. That violence always begets violence and that some times the best thing to do is to walk away and not respond. I struggle with the response of most when I tell them that once you quit fighting back that the violence can stop. If you choose to pick up a weapon or get a bigger friend the situation will only end up with someone going to the county morgue.

There was another teen with the same first name that was killed a couple of years ago because she was at a house party. There was a fight between different individuals that saw someone drive by and unload an automatic gun in the midst of those standing outside. The teen that was killed wasn’t the one that was the intended target. My wife happened to be on call that weekend at the Trauma Center as the chaplain where she saw first hand the teens that were shot. It was devastating to see the result of anger in the form of this shooting. 

What has to happen in order for this type of revengeful murders to stop? There aren’t any simple solutions but clearly this has to start at home. We have to reinstall in kids, teens, families and ourselves that all life has value. We can’t allow the revengeful mindset to go unchecked. Yes, it isn’t easy to take a risk to call the police, open our eyes and remember what happens. If you or I don’t do something then this rampant evil will continue.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. (Love this quote from Edmund Burke.) It’s time that we stop watching from the sidelines and choose to get involved with being a positive force in our society where we choose to make a difference in our family, neighborhood and city. I don’t want to see any more RIP’s on Facebook or texts!