Stupid things you care too much about…

  • Whose fault it is. When you really think about it, does it REALLY matter who is to blame? Is a scapegoat REALLY necessary?
  • Gossip about celebrities and sports figures. For that matter, ANY gossip. What REAL benefit do you gain from learning and/or talking about these people? Does it help you do your job better? Raise your kids better? Or do you covet what these people have? Here’s a hint….what they have and do has ABSOLUTELY no bearing on your life. None. NEXT!
  • Jealousy. Don’t worry about things you can’t control. This applies to relationships, possessions, income, net worth, job, intelligence, etc. MAKE it happen, don’t watch things happen!
  • Being right. Even if you can prove beyond a doubt that you were right, what have you gained? Not much. In fact, you have LOST the respect of the person you proved it to. You learn more through making mistakes than through success. Don’t waste your time being right.
  • Politics. I recently unsubscribed from a number of Facebook feeds that are news and politics related. I got tired of getting all riled up over people who were WRONG politically (that is, in my OPINION they were wrong). These did not contribute to my success in life nor my relationships. Why did I waste my time? A visit today with my wife’s grandma gave me a better perspective on why the relationships in my life are more valuable than politics. Give it some thought.
  • Trying to impress other people. Think about times where you have done this other than a job interview or a presentation for your boss. How’d that go for you? Most of the time, you end up embarrassing yourself, right? The “Look At Me” syndrome didn’t really impress others when you were a kid. Even more-so now. STOP IT!
  • Being Offended. Our US Constitution guarantees Freedom of Speech. Some people’s speech will offend you. It’s bound to happen. People are going to have different opinions than you do. If you’re offended, that’s fine. You don’t have a right to NOT be offended. And you don’t have the right to silence opposing views.
  • Stuff. Your identity in life is not determined by your stuff. Your value to the people who mean the most to you is not determined by your stuff. And if it is, you have more problems than I can help you with. To be a person of significance, don’t focus on your stuff. Focus on your people.
  • Hiding your flaws. Don’t waste your time and money. People will see your flaws, anyway. Your value to others will not diminish because of your flaws. Let me tell you something. Lean in and I will whisper something to you. The people you are hiding your flaws from also have flaws. And they are trying to hide them from you. Don’t waste your time. Spend your time being a person of value and quality.

More another time,


Burning Bridges

People who know me know that I am very open with the fact that I have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Not only do I not hide it, I go out of my way to make sure that I tell this to the people who I interact with frequently. It is an integral part of who I am as a person. In order to understand me, you first have to have a basic understanding of what ADD is and what it is not.

I learned that I have Adult ADD around 9-10 years ago. When I was finally clinically diagnosed with it by a Neurologist at the Marshfield Clinic, I did a good amount of reading on the subject. This was a real “A-HA!” moment for me. I finally had an explanation for many of my behaviors and my memories of my childhood. The daydreaming, the hyper-focusing (yes, sometimes it is not a deficit of attention, but a hyper-focus of attention. I think this helps explain my love of Chess), the forgetfulness, the constant unintentional multi-tasking, the inability to finish what I start, etc. I always tell people that ADD is not an excuse for certain behavior. Rather, it is an EXPLANATION of that behavior.

One of the first things that I did when Carrie and I started to seriously consider marriage was to tell her about my ADD and have her read a book called, “10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD” by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis (ISBN #1-57224-434-8 if you are interested). ADD adults tend to have a higher divorce rate than the normal population, so I felt it was important for her to understand me better by reading this book.

One of my weaknesses as an ADD adult is having too many choices. I ask Carrie where she would like to go for dinner. Rather than deciding, she will turn it back on me and say that we could go to place A, place B, place C, place D, or place E. I tend to get frustrated with this, because too many choices confuses me and I have problems figuring it all out. I have asked her to give me 2 or, at the most, 3 choices. And once I choose, please do NOT continue to give me choices!

I see this as a microcosm of people in general. We as a society have been conditioned to “leave all your options open” and not to “burn bridges.” I think we live in a society of too many choices! For the most part, people do all right with this, but I believe there are times where we should close some of our options and burn some of our bridges! We can be our own worst enemy here, because by leaving all these choices open, we complicate our life. We want to study a double major in college and, oh yes, we also have a double minor, too! We want to specialize in one area of study, but we also want to get certified in this other area, too!

Enough, already!

When I was in college, I wanted to be a double major in Instrumental Music Education (band) and also Vocal Music Education (choir). I figured I was “more marketable” with a double major. So off I went, working at my double major when I hit a roadblock. I was not progressing in my piano skills. If you read my most recent blog post here, you know what happened. The piano faculty gave me a letter at the end of my piano jury stating that they did not think that I would ever reach the level of proficiency needed to teach choir.

Since I was not able to keep all my options open, the piano faculty closed one of them for me. It was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Now I could focus on my Instrumental Music major and not end up like my classmate Paul, who spent 8 years in college pursuing a degree that I earned in 4 years, and he never did get his degree. He was one math class short when he finally dropped out. Paul went on to a career in radio broadcasting and passed away in 2006.

There comes a time in life when you should burn bridges. There is no way that one person can do it all, be it all, have it all. Some options in life are limited by resources; time, finances, distance. Others are limited by others. As I get older in life, I am more convinced that sometimes it is better to burn bridges in your life. That may be certain people that you need to just cut off from your life. That may be some activities that you should cut off from your life. Sometimes it is possessions.

In our times today, we have too many options. I recently came across this idea recently when I was on Facebook. I had found a former colleague on there, and added him to my friends list. He was someone who, even though we were on opposite sides of the spectrum of beliefs, I still enjoyed knowing.

Big mistake.

Within days, an event occurred that he had very strong feelings about. I had made a statement on Facebook that elicited a significant amount of dissent from several people, which I had anticipated. For the most part, I just read what they had to say. But this former colleague was on a crusade. He commented over and over to my post. He sent me private messages justifying his opinions. For the most part, I understood his side of the discussion, but I was unwilling to debate him either privately or publicly. I had seen that people were becoming very personal about this issue, and I did not want to alienate friends and family simply over this issue.

I did respond to one of his private messages, limiting my thoughts to the initial post that I had made. He continued to argue with me on not just that issue, but multiple other issues that were all related to this event that had occurred. Finally, I saw him post on his page that he was very passionate about this issue. He had friends who said that they would just agree to disagree, but he said that he could not do that. He said that if anyone disagreed with him on this issue, that they should just de-friend him on Facebook.

So I did what he asked me to do. I de-friended him.

Burned a bridge.

Besides…I had had enough. Like I said, I was not willing to get into a public debate about this, because I was not willing to risk severing other relationships over this issue. I did not feel the stakes were so high that entire relationships should be severed over it.

I also laid low for a while on Facebook, and hid myself from a few people until things calmed down. Someday I will unhide, but for now…..

Sometimes I think that Facebook can be more harmful than helpful. There are reasons why I moved on in life from one place to another, and sometimes I just don’t want to maintain certain relationships for whatever reason. It’s nothing personal….just too much! I sometimes feel like I spend so much time seeing what people are posting on Facebook that I don’t really pay much attention to the people that I am with at that time!

We as a society have too many options. I am now convinced that it is necessary to narrow down these options so I can focus on quality choices instead of a large quantity of choices.

Knowing Who You Are

Who are you? How do you identify yourself? Do you give your name? Do you give your occupation? How do you see yourself?

How you see yourself is CRUCIAL to your success in life. And it is just as crucial that you give considerable thought to who you are as a person. You MUST know who you are…your Identity.

Consider this: Suppose you identify yourself as a model (ok, just pretend for a moment). If you see yourself as a model, what do you concern yourself with? How you look, how you dress, your height, weight, complexion, hair, and every part of how you look. If you put on some weight or lose some weight, even a couple of pounds, it can have a HUGE effect on your self esteem. If you see a blemish, you focus all of your thoughts and efforts on erasing this blemish.

Big problem…day after day, you slowly get older. There are some things you can’t control as you get older. And you know that younger models tend to get hired more than older models. Your self-esteem goes down the tubes.

Or how about this? You are a world-class athlete. You work out every day, making sure that you are in shape. You train every day at your sport. You compete regularly at perform at a top level.

And then, you tear your ACL. Or you break your leg/arm/hand/wrist/ankle (choose one). Suddenly, immediately, you are out of competition for a year. Where’s your self-esteem now? Are you discouraged? Perhaps.

Let’s take a different example. Let’s say that, ever since the 8th grade, you wanted to be a school teacher. You worked hard ever since you were 14 in one particular area of study, achieving excellence at every level. You received top grades, local and state awards and honors all the way through high school. You worked very hard towards your double major. Suddenly, 2 years into your persuit of a double major, you receive a letter from one of the two departments where you are majoring that states that the professors got together and they do not think you will ever succeed at earning your major in their field. Furthermore, they feel that you should focus all your efforts at pursuing your other major and forget about continuing on in their department.

How would you feel? What would you do? How’s your self-esteem now?

That last scenario actually happened to me in college. I was pursuing a double major in vocal and instrumental music education. 2 years into my coursework, I received a letter from the piano faculty stating that they don’t feel that I will EVER pass my piano proficiency, and that I should pursue my instrumental music education major.

I was crushed. Devastated. I moped around for a while. Depressed about it. Then I decided the faculty was doing me a favor by giving me this letter. I would be able to focus on what I COULD accomplish instead of what I would NEVER be able to accomplish. They were just helping me to see what was plain to them, and in doing so, saved me a lot of time, wasted effort, and money. I took their advice.

I know that there are people that would have told me to beat the odds and go for it…that I should redouble my efforts and take another run at it. I probably could have, but I honestly always saw myself being a band director (since the 8th grade) and that my burning desire didn’t include being both a band and choir director. What mattered is how I saw myself for who I thought I was.

How you see yourself helps determine so many things. If you see yourself as a successful person, your odds of becoming that person are great. As the late Earl Nightingale said so many times, “We become what we THINK about.” We have all heard people say things like “garbage in/garbage out” and “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” All of these concepts start in the mind as an idea, and then the mind tells the body to put it into action. So it is doubly important to know who you are as a person before all this begins. So I will ask you again….

Who are you?

How do you identify yourself? Do you identify yourself by which family you are in? By your occupation? By how many children you have? By who your spouse is? By how tall, short, skinny, fat, healthy, unhealthy, well dressed, rich, poor, athletic, smart you are? Be careful here, because how you see yourself has a strong influence in how you live your life.

•If you identify yourself by your abilities, and you suddenly lose those abilities, then what?

•If you identify yourself by your looks, and they suddenly change, then what?

•If you identify yourself by your line of work, and suddenly lose your job or your entire carreer, then what?

•If you identify yourself by how wealthy you are and suddenly lose it all, then what?

•If you identify yourself by who you are married to, and suddenly find yourself divorced, then what?

•If you have your legs cut off, are you still you?

•If you have your hands or arms cut off, are you still you?

•If you go bankrupt, are you still you?

•Is your value to your spouse, your kids, your family, your friends determined by your ability to “perform” for those people?

•If you can’t “perform” those duties, will they stop being your spouse, kids, familiy, or friends?

These are very hard questions to answer, but the answers to these questions matter! That is why it is critical to know who you are! Here are some of the ways in which I know who I am:

I am a Child of God. (John 1:12)

I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I believe Jesus came to Earth to sacrifice his life so that my sins could be forgiven, and that he rose again 3 days later from the grave. All I had to do was accept his gift of forgiveness of my sins and his gift of eternal life with Him. By doing this, I became a Child of God. This fact will never change.

I am Carrie’s Husband.

On December 31st, 2008, I made a solemn vow to Carrie, God, and witnesses that, from this day forward, I will love, honor, and cherish Carrie until death do us part. I have this role for the rest of our life together. It is a daily pursuit and commitment of mine, and I take it very seriously. I have to fulfill this on a daily basis, as I have made a solemn vow and I will keep it. This fact will never change.

I am the Father of Elizabeth, Danielle, Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb.

It is my job to be a role model for my children regardless of my feelings. I set an example regularly for them, whether it be a good one or a bad one. Even though I do not live with them (they live with their mother and Elizabeth is on her own now), I need to remember that whatever I say or do needs to be worthy of that example. I know that I do not always give them a good example, but I need to continually strive to be the best example I can be. This fact will never change. I will always be their father forever.

Every day, I strive to live my life knowing these 3 things. I try to make my decisions with these facts in mind. Do I always succeed? No. But how I think, how I act, what my career is, all these things stem from how I see myself.

How do you see yourself? Do you know who you are?

More next time,


Brett Favre’s Most Valuable Skill

Brett Favre is a Master at the game.  He plays with great skill, cunning, meticulous, well-planned-out game plan, and he plays with the end result in mind.

He knows that a well-timed move gets excellent results.  He knows how long to wait so that at just the right time…his play will have maximum effect.

He can look at the big picture and can see where his team is in relation to where the other team is and seems to make the right decision MOST of the time.

He ALSO is a pretty good football quarterback, too…..

I wasn’t referring to football, though.  I was referring to NEGOTIATING.  Brett Favre is a MASTER negotiator.  He understands a number of negotiating tactics and plays them well.  As I write this one, he is playing his favorite negotiating tactic.  It is one that he has practiced flawlessly to perfection.

You see, Brett Favre understands that people become more flexible in a negotiation when they are under time pressure.  He knows that training camp is going on, and that the time is short until the regular season will start.  The journalists are writing, debating, and discussing whether or not he will retire.  Yes, you can tell that it is the season for the NFL to get underway, because Brett’s texts are flying off to his teammates stating that he plans to retire, his agent can’t be found, and the Vikings are offering him more money to come back.

As Colin Cowherd stated on his radio show recently, it matters to the NFL if Brett Favre comes back.  Not just to the Vikings, but also to the Packers, Giants, Cowboys, Bears, Eagles, and every other team in the NFL.  And Brett Favre knows this.  He also knows what has worked for him in the past, and that is time pressure.  When people are bumped up against a deadline, they become more flexible in their negotiations as time goes on.  This even worked against him back in 2007 when he “retired” the first time.  He felt pressured to make a decision, and he did.  Then a few months later, he changed his mind and wanted to play, so he was traded to the New York Jets.

His latest episode, where his teammates were receiving text messages implying that he was calling it quits, netted him a reported offer of around $20 million for him to come back this year.  But if I remember right, he had a 2 year, $20 million deal that he signed last year.  So it seems to me that by him sending a few text messages to a few people, he basically gave himself a raise of several million dollars.  Those are pretty valuable text messages, if you ask me!  And all without doing any “formal” negotiating, too!  And yet, when asked on camera if this was about money, he stated that no, it wasn’t about money.  *wink wink* RIGHT!

I personally think that using time pressure to make the other side of a negotiation more flexible is not ethical.  However, you need to know that people do use this on you at times, and you need to be aware of it’s existance.  Children do this all the time, don’t they?  They’ll wait until the last possible minute (translation = ‘I forgot to tell you’) and then on a Monday morning as they are walking out the door to school, they tell you that they need money for school lunch, or a book order, or some kind of fee for an activity, and they tell you that they are late for school and “can I please just have it now?”

The Favre situation is a good example of this tactic.  While I really think that this is not ethical to use, I realize that others use it all the time.  Just being aware of it and planning for its use is the sign of a good negotiator.  And in a larger sense, we as humans are negotiating all the time in life.  The more you are aware of these types of things, the better you will handle them in life situations.

More next time,


Active Listening

In my day job, I work with the public. Many times I find myself engaged in conversation with people, both customers and co-workers. In these conversations, whether I am participating in them or observing them, I notice that people have a HUGE tendency to interrupt or ignore other people in the conversation….myself included.

One book I have enjoyed reading over the years is Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” In it, he includes a chapter on getting people to like you through listening to them. And yet, when I am in a public setting, I am amazed with the amount of people who don’t practice basic, fundamental conversational techniques! They just talk and talk and talk, thinking that they are somehow “influencing” other people. Many times, all they are doing is creating noise.

There’s an old cliche that says something like, “God gave you two ears and only one mouth. So you should listen twice as much as you speak.” When I was a teacher, I used to tell students that hearing involves the ears, but listening involves the brain, too!

I call this “Active Listening.” There are three key ideas that contribute to Active Listening.”

The first idea is very simple: Shut up! Let the other person get their ENTIRE idea out without interruption. An occasional well placed “uh huh” or an “ok” is acceptable at appropriate times, but other than that, just SHUT UP! Interrupting the other person is not necessary. Just don’t do it.

Secondly, look the other person in the eye. There is nothing that says “I’m not REALLY listening to you” like not looking the other person in the eye. It is your job as the listener to non-verbally tell the speaker that you are listening to them by looking them in the eye.

While you’re at it, tilt your head slightly to the side and square your body towards them, pointing your toes in their direction. This is a clear non-verbal indicator that you are listening to them.

Thirdly, repeat their point back to them to demonstrate your understanding. It may be a question (So your main concern is ______?) or a statement (I would be frustrated too if _____ ____ happened to me). This will engage the other person in what is called a CONVERSATION (yes, my sarcasm was intended). I also will spark interest in the other person to continue on, as they will see your interest.

And a bonus point: Ask them questions about the topic. You will get other people to do most of the talking if you ask more questions. Get them to talk about their favorite subject…..themself. You will be amazed at how influential you will become when you just ask them about themself along with their main point.

I have a question for you. What is your best tactic/technique for listening to others? Post a comment below and let me know what you think!

More another time,


It’s called Commencement for a reason!

Tonight I attended my oldest daughter’s high school graduation.  I have attended many Commencement/Graduation ceremonies in my life.  I have conducted the band at 10 of them, participated in 2 of my own, been to my siblings’ ceremonies, but never in my life have I felt so nostalgic as I did this morning when I woke up.  It was such a different feeling for me.

I haven’t lived with my kids since January 2003 when their mother and I split up, so I haven’t had the influence on my kids’ lives that I would have wanted to, but I am trying to make more of an effort these days than I have in the past.  I guess we all go through unpleasant things in our lives that we wish we wouldn’t have gone through, but since we have, they become a part of who we are.  I do what I can, realizing that I can only do what I can with the lot I have in life right now.

Carrie and I arrived 75 minutes before the start of the ceremony tonight to make sure that we got a good seat.  We saw Elizabeth briefly before the ceremony and got a couple of pictures.  Then we got in to the school, got to our seat, and attended the ceremony.  Pictures were taken, students were recognized, diplomas were handed out, caps were thrown in the air, helium balloon blocked people’s views, air horns were blown at inappropriate times (all air horn noises are inappropriate in my opinion…), songs were sung, speeches were given, the band played 23 verses of “Pomp and Circumstance”, and the couple in front of us always seemed to know which way to lean to block Carrie from taking pictures of Elizabeth while the choir was singing.

Elizabeth and I at her Graduation After the ceremony, Carrie and I waited outside in the school’s parking lot for Elizabeth to come out, as it was HOT in the gym for the 2 hours we were in it.  Elizabeth finally came out and we talked for quite a while.  And I shared some of the things that I was thinking and feeling this morning at 5:15am about tonight’s Commencement ceremony.

I told her of the time when I had a piccolo player in my band who was so close to NOT graduating that she was meeting with her Family and Consumer Ed teacher on her last day of school to see if she was going to pass her final exam.  Pass the exam and she passed the class.  Pass the class and she graduated.  She passed the exam.

I told her of my brother’s comment to my mom when he was done with his commencement ceremony.  He came up to my (our) mom and told her, “Here you go, Mom.  Here’s YOUR diploma.”  He was referring to the kick in his butt that she gave him during high school.

Then I told Elizabeth this:

“Elizabeth (At The End Of Commencement), There’s a REASON why they call the ceremony ‘Commencement.’  Graduation does mark the end, but more importantly, it is the BEGINNING.  Commencement marks the beginning of your adult life.  Never again will you get a fresh start in life.  Right now you are an adult, you have no debt, you are moving to a new place and starting ALL OVER.  From here on, you create your new life.  This really IS a Commencement ceremony, because you are commencing with the rest of your life.  It’s kind of like having a baby.  When a baby is born, parents realize that it is not the end of something, but rather the BEGINNING.”

She looked a little confused by that last part, but that’s ok.  She’ll understand it when the time is right.

Enjoy commencing with your adult life, Elizabeth.  Make good choices, that it may go well with you.  Remember, this is the BEGINNING, not the end.  Never stop learning.

More another time,


What are you worried about?

I love the old saying that says, “Worry is like a rocking chair.  It gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.”  It’s a cute little cliche’, but it makes a very good point.

I frequently share with people this concept.  Don’t worry about things you can’t control.  Focus on the things that you CAN control.  Can you control other people?  For the most part, no.  Can you control what other people do?  No.  You may have INFLUENCE on others, but you can’t control what they do.  The only person you can control is….

So this is a very simple post today.  Don’t waste your energies worrying about what others may or may not do.  Do not worry about what may or may not happen in the future.  You can’t control it, so don’t worry about it.

Am I saying that you should live carefree, not planning for the future?  Of course not!  That would be foolish.  Of course we need to plan for our futures.

What I am saying is to stop worrying about things you can’t control.  It’s a HUGE waste of energy.  You can’t control others and you can’t control the future.  Focus on what you CAN control.  You can control yourself, your reaction, your response, and your thoughts, words, and deeds.

Don’t be a rocking chair.

More next time,



At the end of this past July, my wife, Carrie, and I took a 4 day trip to Niagara Falls, NY. We called it our Honeymoon, as we didn’t really have one after we got married on New Year’s Eve.
Leading up to the trip, both Carrie and I were talking with our coworkers and friends about the trip. They all had suggestions about what to see and do. Many recommended that we take the boat tour. Most asked if we were going to the Canadian side of the Falls. Some suggested that we watch the movie of the history of the Falls.
Our trip was a relatively short one. We left from work on Thursday night, July 30th and were back on Monday night, August 3rd. We decided to drive, because we wanted the time together in the car, and we wanted control of where to go and when to go there.
We arrived at Niagara Falls, NY on Friday night around midnight. We were hoping to see the fireworks that they were putting on that night, but we missed it by a couple of hours. So we settled in to our hotel room and got ready for the big day on Saturday.
Don’t worry, this post is not a travelogue. I just wanted to give you the setting for the next part.

The American Falls

The American Falls

The next morning, we got up and ready to go. When we got to the park, the first place we wanted to go to was on the boat tour. We paused briefly in the park and listened to the sound of the Falls. We really got excited about seeing this Mighty Wonder. After all, we had not ever seen the Falls before. After listening to the sound of the Falls for a minute, we went to the ticket booth, gave them our tickets, and went to the observatory. Up the steps we went, listening to the Falls get louder and louder. It was an awesome feeling anticipating what we were about to see. We got our cameras ready and climbed the stairs.
We got to the top of the stairs and looked out over the fenced-in observatory. The first thing we saw was the American Falls. I just stood in amazement for a minute and gazed at it. Imagine hearing and seeing over 675,000 gallons of water per second pouring over a waterfall. It was truly awe-inspiring. I looked over the fence and saw all the people down below.

Me with Nut The Squirrel on the Boat Tour

Me with Nut The Squirrel on the Boat Tour

We took some pictures and then took the elevator down to the boat tour. Carrie had purchased some water-resistant cameras for us to take pictures with, so that our own cameras would not get ruined from the water. We put on our water ponchos that the staff there supplied to us and got in line to get on the boat.
When we went out on the boat, we got to see the American Falls close-up, followed by the Bridal Veil Falls, and finally the Horseshoe Falls. The close-up perspective was truly amazing. Being at the bottom of the various falls, we got to almost “feel” the power of these mighty waterfalls. I tried to imagine what that would actually feel like if I were under it. I am sure it would be crushing. As it was, we got pretty wet from all the mist, so the ponchos were great to have.

Carrie on the Boat Tour.  The American Falls are in the background.

Carrie on the Boat Tour. The American Falls are in the background.

Once we got back on shore, we dried off a little and rested and watched the American Falls again. Then we went to the theater to see the movie of the history of the Falls. It was a dramatization of several historical people and their experiences with the Falls. We learned about Blondin, the tightrope walker, Annie Taylor, who went over the Falls in a barrel, and a few other people who were trying to get into the history books.

Carrie and I riding the boat on the Erie Canal.

Carrie and I riding the boat on the Erie Canal.

After the movie, we took a side trip to Lockport, NY to ride a boat on the Erie Canal. On our way there, we discussed the possibility of taking a helicopter ride over the Falls. Carrie figured I wouldn’t go for it because it was rather expensive. But I figured that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not? So after the Erie Canal trip, we headed back to Niagara Falls and went on the helicopter tour.
The view from the helicopter was nothing short of amazing. This was the first helicopter ride for both of us, so we were also exhilarated from our first helicopter ride. We were taken up high to get a “big picture” perspective, and then we came in closer for several close-up views of the 3 different falls as well. The pilot really did a good job of giving us so many perspectives of the falls.

Carrie and I right after the helicopter ride.

Carrie and I right after the helicopter ride.

After the helicopter ride, we went to supper at the Top of the Falls Restaurant, where we had dinner on their deck. Overlooking the deck was a great view of the Horseshoe Falls. It was a fantastic setting to a very romantic dinner. After dinner, we went down to the Horseshoe Falls to see them up close at night. There are several lights that are shown on the falls at night from the Canadian side, which are powered by generators that are powered by the rapids.
The next day, we went to a few places we hadn’t seen yet. We went to the spot between the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls and were able to look over the edge. We saw the small Bridal Veil Falls pouring it’s water on people down below who had on the familiar blue ponchos. Then we walked over to the Horseshoe Falls for one last look, this time in the daylight. Shortly after, we headed for home.

All 3 Falls.  My view from the front seat of the helicopter.

All 3 Falls. My view from the front seat of the helicopter.

I’ve thought alot about our short time at Niagara Falls, and how it compares to life. We all have our own unique perspective in life. There are alot of things that can influence how we view situations in life. For instance, if we saw a car accident, we may feel sorry for the people involved. But if we discover that one of our own friends was involved in the accident, we have a much different perspective about that particular accident. If we are at a store and the person in front of us in line is slowing down the line because of a “price check”, we will have a different perspective than if WE are the one holding up the line for a “price check,” right?
When we are dealing with other people, we need to do a better job of seeing situations from the other people’s perspective if we are to come to a win-win situation. People don’t want the same things, do they? If you are in a dispute with someone, be sure to see the situation from the other person’s perspective, because they almost never want the same thing that you want. When some of my friends suggested that we see the Falls from the Canadian side, were we seeing the same Niagara Falls? When we were in the boat, were we seeing the same Niagara Falls as we were seeing from the Helicopter? Of course we were! But the feeling from the helicopter was a different feeling than that of getting wet in the boat, where we were at the bottom of the falls. It was a different type of exhilaration. And it was a different feeling than it was while we were having dinner, too. We were viewing the same falls, but our perspective was different.
So remember that the next time you are dealing with other people. We don’t all have the same perspective at the same time. Learn to see situations from the other person’s perspective as well as your own. It will go well with you if you do.
More another time,

Your #1 Key To Success…

My daughter, Elizabeth, has been visiting colleges lately to help her decide where she should go for her degree.  I don’t always get much time to spend with her, as she does not live with me.  I am divorced and remarried, and she lives with her mother.  So when we talk, a lot of times it is in a car travelling to and fro.

Elizabeth has some very clear ideas on how her life will go once she gets her bachelor’s degree.  I won’t detail that here, as it is not relevant to my topic.  But suffice to say, she is very idealistic.  She wants to make the very BEST decision in choosing the right college/university for herself.  I support her in that endeavor.  Earlier today, I took her to one of the local universities for a visit.  Next week, I will be taking her to another university.  Sometimes, though, as her father, I feel the need to give her some advice regarding the future.  What she does with it is up to her, but I feel that it is my responsibility to at least tell her my thoughts.

On one of our trips in the car, I was listening to her ideas about what she wants to do for a living.  I was once a school band teacher, and she also wants to pursue music.  She seemed concerned about all of the details of her plans working out, and was hopeful that she could get her ideal job right out of college.  I commented during the conversation.

“Elizabeth, let me tell you something that I’ve learned in life.  Your success in life will largely be determined by 1 thing.  Yes, there will be many areas that need to come into place, but this one thing will LARGELY determine your success in life.  And that thing is…”

What would you tell her?

“….your ability to manage people.”

You see, whatever you do in life, whether you are a mechanic, a teacher, a salesperson, a construction worker, a truck driver, whether you stock shelves or pick up trash or work in government or WHATEVER you do, your success in life is LARGELY determined by your ability to influence and manage people.

Think about it.  Everything you want in life is presently owned or controlled by someone else.  Doesn’t it make sense to spend some time figuring out how to get it?  If you will take the time to learn, as Dale Carnegie put it, how to win friends and influence people, you will have mastered the #1 key to success in life.

Yes, you need to be skilled in your chosen line of work.  Yes, you may need training, or a college degree, or even a Ph.D. to be able to “do” your chosen profession.  But if you are not good with people, your success in life will be limited.  The most successful people in the world tend to be those who manage people well.

I know my daughter reads my blog.  I remember one time she came to me and said something like, “Dad. I read your blog.  Wow!  I didn’t know you were so….intellectual!”  Spoken as a true teenager.  So, Elizabeth, just remember:  People are more important than things.  Yes, learn your profession well.  Get your degree.  But make sure you take some time to learn how to win friends and influence people, and you will go far.

More next time,



Hello, Problem Solver!

Have you ever had someone come up to you, angry, and just ready to “let you have it”?  In your place of work, have you ever encountered people who are upset with an issue and verbally attack you personally, even though you did not create the problem, are not part of the problem, and were not even aware of the problem 5 seconds prior to them approaching you?

As I have mentioned before, I taught school for 13 years and have been in sales professionally for 6 years.  Being in these two professions for as long as I have has taught me some valuable lessons.  People have problems.  And as long as people have problems, people will blame others for their problems.  And as long as people blame others for their problems, people will blame YOU for their problems.  And yet, you did not create the problem, you were not aware of the problem, but you may have to end up solving the problem.

[private_free]As much as this will happen, you need to remember the following principle:  In MOST of the cases (I usually say 99.9% of them, but I have no factual data to back up that statement), it’s nothing personal.  There could be an issue at your work that someone is angry about.  You did not create the problem.  You did not know the problem existed.  You weren’t even there that day.  But suddenly, others are expecting YOU to solve it.  Just remember…it’s nothing personal.  It’s not about you.  And you need to keep telling yourself that, because others may MAKE it about you.  Here are some things that will help you solve these types of problems:

  1. First of all, remember that the chances are excellent that you personally did not create this problem.  I encounter this kind of thing on a daily basis.  I work in retail at Alltel, and almost every day, a customer will come into the store, complain to me about their bill, and wonder out loud (sometimes VERY “out loud”) what “YOU” (meaning me) are going to do about it!  I realize in my own mind that I probably didn’t create this problem, and so I don’t take it personally.  I CAN’T take it personally, or I will be a basket case!
  2. Next, focus on issues, not emotions.  Sometimes, people get very emotional about problems/issues that arise.  Whenever you get people together in public, problems/issues WILL arise.  It’s inevitable.  You, as the “Problem Solver” need to focus on the issues to come to a solution.  Don’t allow anger to get ahold of you.  Slow down and be calm.  Then, focus on the issue, not the person, not the anger, not the name calling, not the foul language, etc.  The more you stick to the issues, the better it will be for you.  Remember, it’s not personal (see #1).  Also remember that the key to solving the problem is to focus on it.  Focus on the emotions and the problem will not go away.  Focus on the problem and the emotions WILL go away.
  3. Avoid all Hot Potatoes.  Do not allow the other person to give you their hot potato.  Test all “hot potato” issues IMMEDIATELY for validity.  If you wait to do this, then the other person will assume that it is now YOUR hot potato.  Ask for some kind of verification right away.

Then, once you have your mindset in place, follow these steps:

  1. Ask something like, “What exactly would you like me to do for you?”  Have them establish in your mind what they want.  Don’t just assume that you know what they want by the initial conversation.  Ask!  I am amazed how many times people don’t get to the real issues of a problem because they don’t ask the other person/people this question.  Maybe you really CAN do exactly what they want.  Maybe you can reach a compromise.  But you won’t know if you don’t ask.  Also, make sure you establish in THEIR mind what it is you CAN do for them.  This helps create a win-win situation for both of you.
  2. Gather as much information about the situation as you can.  You can’t make an informed decision without information.  Find out exactly what happened, even if you may not like what you find out.  Ask questions, research the topic, look for whatever information you need to make a decision.  Just establishing what everyone wants won’t be enough.  Get as much background information as possible BEFORE giving your thoughts and opinions.
  3. Propose a solution where BOTH parties can win.  There does NOT have to be a winner and a loser in every situation.  Many times, both sides won’t even want the same thing.  Part of finding a compromise where both sides can come out winners is realizing that not everyone wants the same things.  People are different.  We all have different needs, desires, and we don’t necessarily need or want the same thing.  Working for a solution for both sides makes everyone feel good and makes everyone willing to work together again.

I realize that these are very basic concepts, and are not really in much detail.  If you want to study this topic further, I would recommend that you study Roger Dawson’s “The Secrets to Power Negotiating”.  Check it out on

More another time,