Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Secret of Barbie Will Change Your Life

Everyone knows Barbie. She was my childhood idol. I wanted to have long blonde hair like hers, a shape like hers, and shoes like hers. I'm still waiting for my pink convertable and dream home like hers too.

There are some special ironies about Barbie that could endear you to her forever. And, for some of you, you may have new found appreciation for Barbie's curves.

You see, "Barbie" was the creation of Ruth Handler. She and her husband Elliot, along with their friend Harold Matson began a company called Mattel. They combined their names together to form the name of their venture.

Originally Mattel made wooden picture frames. Elliot began fashioning doll houses from left over pieces of wood. Watching this business in transition and wanting to contribute, Ruth Handler decided to produce the first ever full-figure doll for little girls. Up to that point the only dolls on the market were baby dolls. Ruth felt that little girls should be comfortable with their changing physical bodies - and she wanted them to dream about exciting futures. She lovingly named the first doll "Barbie" after her daughter Barbara. (later a boy doll would be called Ken after Ruth's son)

Women's rights groups slammed Ruth's creation calling it offensive and disrespectful. The womanly shape shocked many who saw it as promiscuous. And yet, little girls LOVED the dolls - so much so that Mattel ranked in the top 500 American businesses within the first 5 years. Soon the dolls were the rage internationally as well. Young lassies would dress up the dolls, redress them, accessories them and play out real life adventures - girls dreamed about their future roles and identities through those dolls. Barbie had clothing for every season, sport and career, as well as campers, boats and housing. She was a huge success - a trendsetter.

But that's not the most interesting or inspiring part of the story. Certainly not the most ironic part of the story.

Years past and Elliot and Ruth Handler sold their very successful business. Ruth became ill. She had breast cancer. Now go figure the irony. The woman who made the first doll with breasts - had breast cancer.

Was it a curse for some energetic blasphemy against the female anatomy? Or was she just the person God needed to brave the topic?

Ruth Handler created a new product. She created one of the first prostetics for women recovering from masectomies. Her new company "Nearly Me" fashioned the first comfortable, natural-looking breast prostetics in familiar bra sizes. Her insights into what females needed for their own self-acceptance and self-esteem inspired "Barbie" - AND ironically breast prostetics.

Ruth passed away in 1991 of cancer. Barbie lives on. The next time you hear someone criticize Barbie and those womanly curves or presume that the visionary was shallow - share with them the real story and let them be inspired instead. The value of Barbie makes perfect sense to a woman who fears she has lost herself but ends up blessed by the same visionary's final creation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smack - Right In The Kisser

I read in "Traveling Light" - a book by Max Lucado - that he struggled with alcohol at a significant time in his ministry. THE Max Lucado. Yes, Pastor Max Lucado. Author, motivational speaker - yes, THAT Max Lucado. How ironic. A Pastor in need of an alter call.

And it seemed the whole world was in shock with the release of Mother Teresa's memoirs - shocked to read that Mother Teresa who lived a saintly life - struggled with her faith. Hmmm.

I also read about a 33 year-old master chef Grant Achatz - who had just won the "Oscar" of chefery so to speak - who just last year was diagnosed with Stage 4 tongue cancer. Irony? He went through chemo and radiation and in the process lost his TASTE BUDS. You're kidding right? No. He lost his taste buds. Could life have been more cruel? Smack! - right in the kisser.

So, I look at these stories and I ask myself how have these great people dealt with a situation - a crisis - in a way that still creates a legacy - they still move in the path of greatness - EVEN given the irony, the struggle, and the reality of their pain and position.

Here's the key. They kept going in spite of the irony of their circumstances.

Max Lucado kept speaking and writing and his books are personable and convicting. Mother Teresa kept giving and serving - her legacy is known around the globe. And our chef friend? He began using his other senses more, remembering what a "pinch" of this or a "dash" of that felt like in his hand rather than in his mouth, and he trained another chef to be his assistant - his "taster". And he STILL cooks. Quite literally in the face of his greatest challenge.

When you want to give up, when you think you've been hit in your weakest spot at your weakest moment and you fear you are finished - keep going. When life hits you - SMACK! - right in the kisser - don't give up - "taste and see that the Lord is good". Psalm 34:8

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

God Doesn't Need Your Bull@#&$!

I've got to confess. Sometimes my prayers sound like I'm trying to get out of a speeding ticket.

"Well God, you see, I was on my way to doing the right thing but then I noticed this one thing that I really wanted and so I wasn't really going to do anything bad, it just sort of happened, and then well, you know how that person is and . . . blah, blah, blah" - all B.S. really.

Have you done that? Have you been there? Wanting to do the right thing in your business but well, a little white lie creeps in, or you find yourself covering your assets with a bit of fabrication? Seeing a place where you should-a would-a could-a done the right thing but well, hey, we're human right?

As a Christian in business I do try to be ethical in the marketplace. I do try to be a good example. But I find there are moments when worldly ethics are on a sliding scale - are you with me? I'm not a blue collar worker, I'm not a white collar worker - I'm more of a gray color worker some days . . . many different shades of gray depending on where my morals are. Ugh. I'm not a killer or a thief, but I know better and I want more from myself.

I hear myself almost 3rd person and I know I'm just so full of excuses it's baffling. I know I'm not humbling myself - I'm just blah, blah, blah - and I know God knows it.

Today I came across some verses that made me want to rethink the line of bull that I often use with God.

Psalm 50:9-15
"I want no more bull from your barns . . . I want no more goats from your pens . . . I don't need the bulls you sacrifice . . . what I want instead is your true thanks . . . Trust me in your times of trouble and I will rescue you and you will give me the glory."

God doesn't want or need our bull. He just wants us to trust Him.

Next time you hear yourself giving God a bunch of bull - rambling on with rationalizations - just smile, laugh at yourself for a minute, and remember God doesn't need your bull.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Baal'ing On God

It had been three years of drought and a famine covered the land. The people had lost their crops and now their animals were dying with no grass to eat.

In their desperation the people didn't know where to turn. And that's when they Baal'ed on God.

When relief did not come as they thought it should, when the heavens appeared empty - and everything they saw around them was dying - the people stopped asking God to help them and began praying to the god of Baal.

Like rubbing a lucky penny or rabbit's foot, the people clung to their superstitions instead of their faith in the loving character of God. Don't we do that too? In times of hardship we devour the articles in the New York Times or Money Magazine. We diversify our portfolio to cover our assets - so to speak. We research a better interest rate and we buy gold boullion rather than high yield bonds. We cross ourselves and kiss our past trophies as a benediction on today's performance. We shout our intentions to the Universe and recite our affirmations in the mirror.

But do we spend time on our knees asking God to bring rain? How funny we are.

When the harvest doesn't come in the season we believe it should and day after day we're still walking the desert eating that boring manna - we Baal. Other things, other people, other advisors become our leaders and voices of reason - and we Baal on God.

Elijah stood in front of the people and ask the same question I'm asking you today -

"How long will you waiver between two opinions?" If the Lord is your God - then follow Him.
1 Kings 18:21

The Baal's of this world will always be the enticing fortune cookie. Open it up and get some good advice when things suck. Well friend, that's one way to do life. I'm telling you though, that human advice and that rabbit's foot hold little power next to a big God who loves you. He has a future for you. You individually and you collectively.

Wait. Wait for the real answers. Seek to know God's will in your business, in your finances, in your leadership - wait even when the rain doesn't seem to come fast enough. Read how God proved himself larger than life in 1 Kings 30-38. See how impotent Baal really was - then and now. Can't hold a flame next to God - pun intended.

God hears you. And He will never Baal on you. He's bigger than that. Wait on Him and He will show up in a big way. If the Lord is your God - follow Him.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Baring All

Attorney Gerry Spence says, "We were thrown into this world with nothing but our naked rumps and our raw little feelings. Almost immediately we were taught to cover both."

How often in relationships or business do we hide or deny our true emotions? Our gut tells us do NOT hire that person, do NOT make that investment, or do NOT take that responsibility . . . only to regret it later when we don't listen. Or, how often do we sense that one of our team members is struggling or needs a word of appreciation - and we hold back.

Our raw little feelings are more accurate than we may realize. At our heart of hearts we have more sense about what is really happening than we even have words to describe.

That's why you can't separate your feelings from your business - put your heart into it!

I've never regretted the times I've trusted my instinct - but I can count numerous times I wish I had. I've never regretted extending a word of sympathy or encouragement - but many times too late I've wished I spoke up and showed more kindness.

So today I'm going to challenge you to trust your gut - bare those feelings that are trying to give you information - they will set things right in your world.

And certainly don't miss the chance to tell someone you care. You may not get a do-over.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Run For Your Life!

This morning I was out running in my new white sneakers. I retired my old shoes after six years.

Now I know you more advanced runners out there have your mouths gaping open in disgust - six years? Yes, I've run in those beaters far longer than you're supposed to. But they were so comfortable I didn't want new ones!

Since the shoe swap my knees hurt less. I also bought new socks and the whole ensemble looks great. I'm proud of my purchase and I'm smiling as I lace up my new shoes. I'm paying more attention to my stepping as I notice that my feet hit the ground squarely now - as opposed to a distinct lack of tread in areas on my old shoes. Now I'm wondering why I didn't make that change long ago?

Just a pair of sneakers. Why didn't I value myself enough to just make the change that other experts advised years ago? It wasn't a big deal - but now I see it was a great change!

Are you holding back on a change that experts tell you will make all of the difference? Could be something big, could be small - but why wait?

"Run in such a way that you will win. . . I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step." 1 Corinthians 24-26

Boy, if all it takes to run with better results is being willing to invest in a new pair of sneakers - I wish I'd done it years ago.

Find the small changes you need to run the race better - and run as though your life depended on it. Because in big and small ways, it does!

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Ver llegar" Calmly Watch & Change

Hemingway describes the Spanish matador's plight - "Ver llegar" this way:

" . . . the ability to watch the bull come as he charges with no thought except to calmly see what he is doing and make the moves necessary to the maneuver you have in mind. To calmly watch the bull come is the most necessary and primarily difficult thing in bullfighting."

Life brings each of us problems and challenges - and they seem to stare us down, scoop deep into the ground, exhale venom and destruction, preparing our demise. Crisis and doom ready themselves in our direction.

Perhaps you are a tomato supplier in the midst of a salmonella outbreak, perhaps your skill set is no longer needed in your industry after 20 years, or perhaps you have a health crisis that seems unstoppable. It is painful - terrifying - and often debilitating as we see our future barreling towards us with no regard.

Our task, our plight, is to watch calmly - assess the oncoming beast in all its fury - and act.

We are each in the ring with a beast, an opponent, a enemy, a change, that exceeds our strength by 100 times. Surely it would crush us given the chance.

If we are wise and have the courage to look calmly - and change direction accordingly - we have the power to overcome unscathed. It is a sacred trust that the matador develops within himself. It is a confidence and a valor - one in which the matador places his very life. The power to look life right in the eyes and move WITH it to succeed.

"Ver llegar" - the greatest strength of the matador. Find it within yourself -

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Faint Not

Have you heard about "fainting" goats?

Sounds funny but these goats actually faint. They stiffen up and fall over. Out.

When they get overwhelmed, frightened, surprised, even overly excited, their legs stiffen up and they pass out. Poof!

Interestingly enough as the goats mature, they are able to better handle stress and they gradually learn to manage without going out cold. They begin to stiffen up and hobble along a bit, but they no longer plop over paralyzed.

Maturity, experience, wisdom . . . and pure exposure to tough things . . . and getting through it without dying even though you fear you may . . .

Each one of us is like those goats. We learn. We choose. We get scared and we still stand up to it. We do the right thing even though it hurts. We don't faint.

It's a matter of maturity in the face of what scares us the most.

Faint not friend.

* for more on fainting goats

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Drop Down and Give Me 20 Soldier

Some days life feels like a battlefield and you're in the trenches with bombs exploding. The noise can be deafening, the fear unnerving, and the intensity of the situation, surreal.

When it seems there is no refuge the best defense? Drop down and give me 20 soldier.

Twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes alone with your Bible and God. Period.

Whether your battlefield is your business, your finances, your parenting or your health, time spent with God and the best success book in history will make all the difference in your strength and tenacity. Twenty minutes to find the wisdom needed to make better decisions. Twenty minutes to put things in eternal perspective. Twenty minutes to be honest with yourself. Twenty minutes to forgive the trespasses against you. Twenty minutes to get a new vision of your future.

When you're in the greatest battles of your life - drop to your knees and give God your 20 soldier. The battle is already won.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lost In Translation

Recently I received an email that in its brevity made me question the emotion of the sender. Was this person angry with me? Hostile? Were they being funny or coy? Was I reading into the message something that wasn't really there at all?

In our busy communications, especially via emails, text messages and voicemails, things are often lost in translation and difficult to manage emotionally. Especially when business relationships (and personal) may hinge on individual words or commitments.

The devastating affects of this "lost in translation" reality became quite clear when I was in California and happened to drive passed a restaurant whose name compelled a mixed physical response - the name of the eating establishment? Phuket Thai. (pronounced like an American - "puke at thai?")

Obviously the owner of the restaurant WANTS business. WANTS people to come hungry. WANTS people to enjoy the food. WANTS people to remember the restaurant name. However, what is lost in translation may create a damaging gap in his business that he didn't see coming.

Trust me when I say, I have created huge gaps by some of my own blunderous, nausea-inspiring mis-communications. Unintentionally I have hurt people. I speak sadly as an individual with scars from the shrapnel of my own email fallout.

From my heart to yours, from someone who has often created huge communication disasters . . . if corresponce is significant, read your message from the receiver's perspective so as to accurately illicit the most positive response.

What can be lost in translation might tragically be what we want most.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Winning At Sales - It's All Emotional

Taking the bull by the horns in leadership can be dangerous. Sometimes people don't want to be led. Great leaders see the value in gaining the respect of their people. So do you have people's respect, or are you a leader wrestling with the bull?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In a purchasing situation customers avoid being bullied as well - nobody wants to be sold. Especially by a hesitant, desperate or aggravated salesperson.

However, rarely would a salesperson realize until far too late that they have been selling from these three positions. Only after repeated failures do many professionals question their technique.

Gerry Spence, a nationally recognized attorney says that instantly we each sort through billions of items of information, select what is relevant to our decision, and present that decision in the form of a feeling - either a negative or a positive one. I believe this. We humans purchase things, invest in things, follow things and run from things, by split-second responses based on emotion only.

If a salesperson or leader makes us afraid or skeptical that we are going to be harmed in any way, our physical bodies send a signal of fear, anxiety and frustration. Before we can even summon the words, "No thank you", our mental energies (and our wallets) are already blocks away.

To succeed at sales (and leadership as they are truly one and the same) salespeople ask big dollar questions:

How can a salesperson increase his average customer/sale ratio?
How can a salesperson keep the attention of the buyer?
How can a salesperson upsell the customer so they buy more?

Ahh, and there you have it. In those very questions is the reason so many sell with no passion. Because they fear the real answer and preoccupy themselves with "big dollar" questions. Successful selling and successful leadership doesn't come cheap and it doesn't come from those who focus on the buck.

One can never be successful in sales without truly caring about the customer. It is the caring that calms the fears, speaks to the anxieties, and listens to the frustrations - with the intent to protect the customer.

Same with leadership. Good leaders calm the fears, speak to the anxieties and listen to the frustrations - with the intent to protect those being led. Whether leading out as a parent, a manager, or a CEO.

Because on an emotional level - its all emotional. Just ask your child, your spouse, or your customer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Point of All Change

I looked into his eyes and I thought to myself, "I don't believe a word he's saying. He's not ready for change. Even though he hates his situation, every word coming out of his mouth is bologna."

The man in front of me had been in prison. He'd stolen money. He'd used drugs until his body ached. And this had been going on for years and years. Stealing, using, legal discipline, incarceration - and bologna.

Even with all of that reason to change, he wasn't there yet.

When people are "there" you see a fight in their eyes that is unflinching. With every bump and landmine they hang on to their resolution with white knuckles and a Rambo-like tenacity. There is no option but recovery. Period.

You can't make people get to that place. Parents, teachers, parole officers - you can't force it upon people, you can't debate them into the reasoning of it, and you can't bribe them. They have to get to that point of change all on their own.

Sometimes it is letting people down that gets them to that point of change, sometimes it is being sick and tired of being sick and tired, sometimes it is desperation, sometimes pure self-preservation. But once they are there, they're there and there is no holding back and there is visible evidence of change.

That is why when an addict tells me they are making baby steps to recovery I have to argue their sincerity and their will.

You don't make baby steps in recovery. Random, infantile steps will never get you up Mt. Everest. Addiction is a Mt. Everest. Cancer is a Mt. Everest. Debt and fear is a Mt. Everest.

As with many things in life, you cannot take baby steps to make monumental change in your life.

Monumental change requires mature INCREMENTAL steps. Focused, INCREMENTAL and chartable steps. Not nebulous, haphazard, naive steps.

In addiction, in business, in health and fitness, and in finances, if we want real change we must be able to plot our course on paper, outline our objectives in a timeline and hold ourselves accountable through sequential record keeping.

Zero alcohol in 30 days. Check.
Five AA Meetings in 7 days. Check.
45 minutes of cardio today. Check.
Saved $120 this month. Check.
Prayed and read The Word 20 minutes. Check.

There are qualifiers to the reality that supercedes "oh, but I really, really want to change".

As Yoda said to young Luke Skywalker - "there is no TRY".

The word "manifest" - comes from "manna" meaning "in hand" - is it concrete, solid, tangible change that is being manifested in your life, your daily routines, your actions?

Are you at the point of change in an area of your life? Are you manifesting change?

Are you making INCREMENTAL focused, chartable movement towards your goal no matter the landmines or . . . are you sheepishly downing a bologna sandwich?

Nobody can make change happen - nobody can compel you to that pivitol point of change. The great thing is - YOU can.

Monday, June 2, 2008

All Things Being Equal

"But it's NOT fair mom!" my kids say. And following in my parent's footsteps, and their parent's parents before them, I respond, "Life is not fair."

It's not. Have you noticed?

A saying comes to mind that is thrown around in conversations amongst adults - "All things being equal . . . " but they never are. Nothing is equal. Nothing is fair. I'm coming to accept that and there is a security in that insecurity.

You see, once you accept that life is NOT fair, that all things are NOT equal, you stop fighting so hard to make things fair and equal. You stop keeping up with the Jones' because it's ok that they have a boat and you don't. You stop comparing your child to your niece or nephew because you see your child is a star in his/her own way. And you stop asking "Why me?" when bad things happen.

All things aren't equal - and part of that is knowing that God sees us not as a mass of equal beings, but as unequal, special, unique people - all with different talents and skills and challenges. He also sees where you and I have big unique needs. And He fills them. Uniquely.

Thank God (literally). That means a lot more than things being equal.