He had four daughters.
Whom he’d given a lifetime of Valentine’s Day gifts.
Each year, each gift, communicated “I love you”.
One gift survived the passing of time.
It was among the least expensive.
Given decades ago.
But all four girls managed to keep
their red plastic heart pin, rimmed in gold foil.
Every subsequent Valentine’s Day, the pins were worn.
A memory, a reminder, a bond.
These plastic pins weigh maybe an ounce – but represent tons.
It’s often the simple joys in our life that mean the most.
Money can buy a lot of special gifts, but it can’t buy what those pins came to represent.

Papa is gone now.
But the pins, and more importantly the memories of a father’s love remain.


Note: The giver of the pins, and the receiver of so much love from his wife and daughters, was my father-in-law, Charles Martin. On this first Valentine’s Day without Charles, we all remember his life, his love and his example.

Super Bowl Inspiration

February 2, 2015 — Leave a comment

Kudos to Dove. Their Super Bowl commercial featuring dads was a breath of fresh air – and a reflection of how our dads shape our lives.

If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it <here>.

The ad reminds us that our dads:

Swing us into new experiences, steadied by their firm grip.
Come to our aid to wipe, whatever.
Catch us when we jump timidly into something new.
Rejoice as we grow up and move out.
Comfort us in our sorrows.
Rescue us when life hangs us out to dry.
Proudly witness our accomplishments.
Embrace us in arms that are always open to receive us back.

…and so much more.

Thanks Dad.

The Key to Learning

January 26, 2015 — 2 Comments
Image credit: Brady Beshear

Image credit: Brady Beshear

I recently attended an intense four days of learning – and I must say, it was some of the most focused (and fun) instruction that I’ve ever experienced!

The setting was the majestic rocky mountains, and the topic was snow skiing.

The format

The instructors were the best of the best. The lead instructor was an orthopedic surgeon whose main focus was to teach us the correct biomechanics required for great skiing.

Our group would meet for a couple of hours of classroom instruction, and then hit the slopes to apply what we’d learned. Then we’d repeat the classroom/skiing cycle in the afternoon.

The class had skiers of all levels, and we broke into different groups based on our abilities. Everyone was focused on getting to the next level, no matter their current capabilities.

Slope-side wisdom

On the first day, one of the instructors said something that still hangs in my consciousness. She said, “To learn something new, we must un-learn, or let go of some of our current thinking.”

As our time of learning and skiing progressed, it became evident that those who most readily shed their preconceived notions of skiing were the ones who improved the most!

The concept of un-learning to learn something new has a wider application than skiing. What got us to where we are now, most likely won’t take us where we want to go. That goes for sports, relationships, business, and life.

We must release what we know, to learn what we don’t.


What if I held tightly to all of the relationship “knowledge” that I brought into my marriage 28 years ago? I’ll admit, it’s kind of scary to consider the consequences, had I had refused to learn and mature in my quest to love Karen and grow our relationship.


Also, as I reflect on various business experiences through the years, I can see how much I learned from each company, each deal, each relationship. Curiously, most of my learning and growth happened during the most difficult periods.

The key to learning

Perhaps the key to our tomorrows is found in letting go of what we learned yesterday.

Maybe the step to the next level can only be taken when we shake off the weight of our current assumptions.

I believe that we can tap this “ski-slope wisdom” to develop any area of life.

What do you need to “un-learn” today?

The finish line

January 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

What can a high school swim meet teach us about life?  It turns out, a lot.

This weekend I witnessed an eye opening event at out daughter’s swim meet.

It was held near Dallas in a state-of-the-art natatorium. There were hundreds of swimmers competing in two end-on-end 25 meter pools – one for the girls and one for the boys.

Most events had several heats – and the officials ran everything like clockwork. Splits and finish times were automatically displayed on the digital wall boards.

The results were parsed down to the 100th of a second.

Then it happened.

I looked down at the girl’s pool and saw one lone girl on the starting block for a 500 meter heat.

The officials at these meets select the heats based on past performance, grouping similarly performing swimmers in the same heat.

This girl was apparently in a class by herself.

The race started and she dove in and started her 500 meter race. I’m still learning about swimming, but for the non-swimmer – 500 meters is a long race in competitive swimming. we’re talking 10 laps or 20 lengths of a 50 meter pool!

It became clear that no records would be set with this heat. In addition, the swimmer had failed to position her goggles over her eyes – they were sitting on her forehead.

Finally, the bell rang for the last lap of the race. Nine laps down, one to go.

And that’s when I began to hear it. A building applause for this courageous swimmer. As she swam her final strokes of the race, hundreds of people in the building applauded.

It was a smile, swallow hard and clap louder moment.

– and it’s not unlike what we’re up against every day.

You see, what the entire building of people recognized this weekend was there is more to life than coming in first place.

This is a clarion call for us ordinary people.

It’s not about the getting there faster than everyone else.

The components to meaning, and achievement and life are courage, perseverance, the spirit to try something new and the will to see it through to the end.

Undisciplined talent may take the stage and flash brightly for a moment, but it is the glow of the courageous, perseverant “one-person-heat” folks that will illuminate this world with purpose and lasting achievement.



January 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

How did you fail today?

It may be one of the best dinner-time questions we can ask our children.

It may be one of the best questions we can ask ourselves.

Edison had a different view of setbacks:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

-Thomas A. Edison

Perhaps we need to shift our thinking about setbacks. Perhaps we need to celebrate them, learn from them, and recognize them as the signposts on the way to success.

I’ve learned that the blessings of wonder, growth and fulfillment most often lie just outside my comfort zone.

Our journey beyond the known, beyond the comfortable, will come with some setbacks.  In fact, our setbacks will confirm that we’re doing something right!

Let’s begin this week, this year, with a new perspective on failure.



What if?

December 29, 2014 — Leave a comment

What if-

It’s that time of year, when we look back at this year and wonder “What happened?” and we look forward to next year and ask “What if…?”

What if.
Did ever a more hopeful word pair exist?

As children, we use those two words a lot.
What if I could fly?
What if we could go to the circus?
What if we could go back in time?
What if we could go into the future?
What if I could be the President?
What if my costume could transform me into a super hero?
What if we could go there?
What if we could do that?
What if we could be …?

This adult is asking that question again.
What if I could get and stay in great shape?
What if I could achieve more?
What if I could be more present?
What if I could spend more time with my family?
What if I could deepen my spiritual walk?
What if I could make better food choices?
What if I could learn more?
What if I could write more?
What if I could give more?
What if I could listen better?
What if I could be a better friend?

Asking “What if…?” is the first step toward identifying the dreams that will become reality.

What are your “What ifs” for the coming year?

The Gift

December 22, 2014 — Leave a comment


A holiday centered around gifts.

No, around a gift, The Gift.

It was undeserved.

It was self-initiated.

It was personal.

It was sourced from Love.

It was sufficient.


May we move from understanding,

to knowing,

to receiving,

to embracing the Gift of Christmas.


Small Things

December 15, 2014 — 2 Comments
artist paint brushes

Image credit – John Ward/creative commons

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
~Vincent Van Gogh

The cathedral rises to its grandeur, one stone at a time.
The company achieves success one customer after another.
Today’s workout is a critical part of a healthy tomorrow.
Your small act of kindness today is a brushstroke of your masterpiece entitled “Life”.

The small things that you do today, when repeated, will determine the scale and meaning of your future.

What small thing will you do today?

Fall Color

December 8, 2014 — 1 Comment


I was riding my mountain bike this weekend when I stopped to take the above picture. I was struck with the brilliant splash of red that punctuated the drab surroundings.

This little sapling is responding to the changing seasons and the impending cold of winter with a dramatic display of color.

Is it possible for you and me to create our own splash of color in the midst our life experiences?

Can we choose to live our lives in such a way that we too, create an arresting image of beauty such that others stop and take note?

I believe that we can.

We live in a world that likes to focus on the dead dry leaves that blanket the ground around us. What if we decide to respond differently to the changes and pressures around us? What if we choose to view changes and challenges as opportunities?

Everyone can impact their world with beauty when they choose to see:

a closed door — as guidance toward a better suited opportunity.
a failed attempt — as a step toward discovering what will work.
a strained relationship — as an opportunity to deepen communication and understanding.
a new challenge — as a doorway to undiscovered skills and experiences.

This I know: Messieurs Change & Challenge will come calling on us all.

How we respond to these visitors will largely define the impact that we’ll have on the world around us!


Image credit: Creative Commons

Have you ever had a faucet start dripping, even when turned off? I’ve heard that some people even wait months before finally getting such faucets repaired! (ouch)  In the mean time, countless gallons of water slipped past their intended use.

Life can be a lot like a dripping faucet. We have such potential, such a capacity for success, but we let life’s little drips siphon away our effectiveness.

Every person can become more effective by addressing three common ‘drips’ in their life.

What we see

Taking a minute to check our messages on our phone, or Facebook, or twitter, is not, in and of itself, bad. But often minutes grow into hours, and this casual activity becomes all-consuming.

Even checking email, presumably to stay on top of work, can become a habitual interruption of otherwise effective times of work, or necessary times of rest.

What we eat

Snacking is a “drip” that keeps popping up in my life. A nibble here, a nibble there. A fist of snacks, just one more cookie, and a second portion at meals all add up to some substantial “waist”.

What we do

I’m always more productive when I exercise. It’s one of those things that seems to be a no-brainer. Just do it, right?

But many of us have to fight the magnetic pull of a sedentary life. Every day we don’t get moving physically is like a drip, a drip that will eventually limit our options and dampen our effectiveness.

Stop the drip

Most of the challenges in our lives are the daily ones. The choices we make as we check our phones, stand in front of the refrigerator, and plan our days.

Here’s a tip on how to start making better choices.   Envision the choices you make today being replicated each and every day for an entire year. The importance of each choice becomes clearer when we multiply that choice by 365 days in a year.

One drop of water is not our problem, it’s the cumulative effect of our daily choices that needs our attention.

What drips need your attention today?