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Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Oliver in Us

Is it worth the waiting for
If we live til 84
All we ever get is gruel

Every day we say our prayer
Will they change the bill of fare
Still we get the same old gruel...

We all close our eyes and imagine:
Food, glorious food....
Hot sausage and mustard
While we're in the mood
Cold candy and custard

Food, glorious food
We're tempted to try it
Three banquets a day
Our favorite diet

Oh food, wonderful
Food, marvelous
Food, glorious food

For the Olivers in us
For what you are about to receive,
May the Lord make you truly thankful


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Playing It Safe

"See a penny, pick it up. All day long you'll have good luck!"

For years I've been collecting pennies, taking them to the bank and getting rewarded for the discipline of stooping over. Maybe it earns me a night out on the town. A new pair of jeans. Or the chance to dump them all onto the floor simply to stack them in neat stacks of ten, count and discover how much I've saved.

If you were to ask me about playing the lottery or gambling, I'd say it's a waste of money. But then came the chance to visit Vegas and play the penny slots. Again, I pondered letting money just slip through my hands. For what did I know about gambling?

I am not a card counter, nor do I really understand how to strategize about winning. But with the slot machine, there couldn't be strategy, right? It's just about luck. And hearing the whir of the spins. Watching the lights flash while in play. Hoping to land that moment when bells ring and coins pile onto the floor.

Yep, I decided to take the chance to play the slots. The step I was willing to take is saying YES to the 1 cent machines. But first I separated the coins in our jars and baskets into penny and silver piles. I counted them, bagged them into a freezer-sized ziplock and stuck it into our carry-on so they never left my sight.

My partner Kim told me perhaps it would be easier to manage if we took them to the bank, changed the coins into bills and stuck them into our wallets.

"But then we'd just have to change them back when playing the slot machines."

I couldn't wait to feed them one cent at a time into the machines, pull down the lever and spin the fruit. I didn't want to waste our time having a cashier convert them for us.


Slot machines aren't quite made that way any more. They accept singles, fives, tens and twenties. No pennies. And now that I've learned how to place bets on them, per spin and lines of play, I see why. A spin isn't really worth just a penny. Not unless you're playing to waste your money. To make it worth your while, I learned, you must play several lines of fruit at a time, and bet at least a penny (usually more) per line. But it took me quite awhile to risk spending my money that way before learning how to play.

Playing it safe, whether with slot machines, business, relationships or life, just leaves me wanting more. Sometimes playing it safe is avoiding setting limits. Just letting life come at us and deciding then and there what to do. The irony is that is the most risky way to approach life - without thinking things through. Without creating a strategy. Without taking it seriously.

Just as slot machines have evolved to let people take risks after having determined their own limits, we as humans have evolved to handle more than we usually allow ourselves. We too often avoid the challenge we're so equipped to handle - conversations, stellar performances, physical or mental endurance - because we choose to Play It Safe.

What would other people say if they knew we took such a risk?

Life brings us opportunities every day. Just like with pennies, if we ignore picking up the opportunity, then we are sending signals to the universe that we are unaccepting of gifts being brought our way. When we say NO to things that are manageable, we eventually feel the need to say YES to things that aren't.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

20 Behaviors that Limit Success

Behaviors we may have once revered as key to success are now seen as those which lock us out of career opportunities.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thou Shalt Test Thyself

Test thyself.
Ever wonder what happened to this commandment? Before Moses went up the mountain, he heard it directly from God.

"Test Thyself".

"What? Is someone talking to me? No way. I must be hearing things."

"Come back here. Test thyself," God repeated.

"Huh? Is that bush on fire? Oh my God, I need to get out of here!

"Moses, test thyself. Stay put and listen to me."


"Lead my people," was the command. "Tell Pharaoh to let my people go."

"What?" Moses responded. "I'm afraid of talking."

"Are you questioning me?" God continued.

"No, but God, I don't like to talk. I'm afraid."

"Look at what you're doing right now. You're standing up to me. What could be more terrifying than standing up to God?"

And God continued...

"Don't you know there are things you can do that you've not yet even tried? You've been skirting around the issue lately. You keep crying out in frustration for the sake of other Israelites who are being mistreated, yet you run away hiding, afraid to let any of the Egyptians know it. Do you think only they have power? You aren't testing yourself."

"But I wouldn't know what to say."

"You're doing a mighty fine job of holding up the conversation right now, Moses. I think you've passed the test. What could be more important and awe-inspiring than talking to me, the great I AM?"

You'd think of all commandments, Moses would have written this one down first. Thou Shalt Test Thyself.

Hundreds of years later, Jesus repeated the command, our Great Commission - Love One Another. Revealing it in the parable of the Good Samaritan and others, as well as to his disciples when instructing them on how to go out into the world, he essentially said, Test Thyself.

Yet all we focus on is the identified TEN commandments. Eight of which tell us what NOT to do, and two commandments that reveal very passive actions (I know, it's an oxymoron): Honor thy parents and Keep the Sabbath. Where is our Active sense of stepping up to the bush in these commandments?

Did Moses forget the very first commandment he was given before he even went up the mountain? Is this why he dropped the original set of tablets -because he didn't want us all to be in the position to test ourselves?

It's easy to see that today we stay focused on protecting ourselves - avoiding the courageous, the uncomfortable, the conflict. Consequently, when we protect ourselves, when we avoid, we live to regret. And God knows we don't want to live with ourselves when we regret.

So Test Thyself. Physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, humbly, professionally, personally, any way we are nudged to become a living example of what is possible when we step up to the burning bush. 

Confidently, discovering when we need help, we will ask for it. Confidently, using our character, our heart and our mind we will experience full use of our abilities. Confidently, realizing that when we make an error - because we will - we will know how to handle it.

Thou Shalt Test Thyself. Today, tomorrow and the next day. Because we are not alone. And we are commanded.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Too Much to Say

My barometer that measures how many words is too much is sharper when I am listening to somebody than when I am the one speaking. If I'm listening to someone who has talked for too long, my fingers start reaching for something to do, my breath goes deeper, and sometimes I even hold my breath. Fairly consistently, my body naturally tells me when someone has had too much to say.

But when talking, well, that's another story. I get in the groove of what I'm sharing and quickly shift from focusing on the listener to instead focusing on me, especially on what comes next to mind. If I have already shared a new perspective or concept, I must add the details that adequately support it, and of course after that, I would offer stories that bring it to life.

All to the complete delight of my audience. Or so I think. Only too late do I notice someone has started making a distracting noise (coughed, slid a chair, interrupted or begun playing with their phone). Yet, at this point I am annoyed at their interruption, not seeing their obvious desire to move on.

Certainly their barometer has reacted much too quickly! How intolerant. How insensitive. Don't they get it?

Obviously, in these cases, I have had too much to say. And with that, I will conclude this post.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

8, 10, 16, 24/7

Some people really love what they do.

They start out watching and reading up on their interests. They collect things that demonstrate what these interests are. For me at one time, this was frogs. Not sure why, yet sometime in my junior high years, I began with a single ceramic frog. Soon it evolved into stuffed frogs, photos of frogs, even jewelr. And although I had begun to grow out of this interest, others thought of me and thought of frogs. So I emersed myself into the fad.

That wasn't a full time focus. I had other interests - sports, reading, biking and soon it became theatre. In time I found myself fantasizing, as many teens do, about making my interests a full-time focus. But in reality, I saw little chance of commiting to any of the above, even theatre. That took energy, and I was much too passive.

Today, as I observe folks in their professional lives, I notice the full-time focus of one thing commonly - technology. Since technology used to be the phone, when I was growing up, I shyed away. It required too much investment of my energy in keeping someone else entertained. Today, technology has shifted to keeping the entertaining to SELF.

Email, Ipods, Blackberries, facebook, linkedin, YouTube, twitter, all tend to replace technology, even when we're at work. Yes, it happened. The line was erased between work and play as we gradually focused on the fun and entertaining. Now the lines are erased between work and life itself.

We so easily shift from 8 hour days to 10, or longer as we get caught up in one form of social media or another. We can't turn off and get further distracted. We claim the need to connect and stay connected, for work related reasons. Slowly we see our lives get away from us. Even though we rationalize that we are adding life to work.

I guess the ultimate question is, how do we feel at the end of the day? Do we still love what we do or are we enamored with our toys?