Good and Bad Choices

Every day we make numerous choices in deciding what course of action will make us happy. Making these choices is the pursuit of happiness that we often hear mentioned. The results of our choices are not all equal: we soon discover that choosing some pleasures leads not to happiness but to pain. But if we use our unique ability to recall past experiences, we learn to postpone immediate gratification and see what choices are really in our interest. It seems to me that learning self-control based on experience is essential to happiness.

I have focused on happiness and joy this month, and besides that lesson above, I have experienced the effect of negative self-talk. Added to these lessons, I believe that patience is a great virtue to have. By that, I mean my desires do not happen overnight.

I enjoyed boats and being at the ocean.  I went on a Windjammer cruise and liked the freedom of sailing. I grew up vacationing with my family on Cape Cod. My uncle had a sporting goods shop, and I would often be out in his boat yard washing the boats. So, a lot of influence is related to boats and the ocean.  I decided that happiness would be owning a sailboat. That did not happen overnight.  This was more like a journey than a single event.  During my journey, I had a lot of good and bad experiences and realized that if I wanted happiness, I should focus on the journey.

The journey should be full of positive self-talk and daily affirmations.  If I wanted to be sailing on the ocean, this was no small endeavor. I would visit marinas, take lessons in boating, and join boating groups.  There were many short-term goals before the boat became a reality.  Hindsight showed me that happiness was not the end goal, but was the journey after all.

The biggest barrier to my happiness and reaching my goal was negative self-talk.  Telling myself that there is no way that I will ever own a sailboat large enough to sail in the ocean. I do not believe you have to lie to yourself, but I can positively state my intentions.  Each morning I can review all the small steps I intend to take to realize my goal.  During the day, some of my intentions will get modified by life.  I have a choice in how I will modify my intention. Every day I have many competing goals, all looking for my attention.  I could be seeking a sailboat, a career, a relationship, and a resolution to some health issues all the same day.  A typical day on my journey is full of opportunities to reach my goals. When things do not work out as I like, filling my mind with negative self-talk does not promote happiness.


Can I Fake it Until I make it?

Let’s look a little closer at this “fake it to you make it” phrase. Saying they were just faking kind of tells your brain something about yourself, which is not so good. Once faking it becomes your default for dealing with feelings of fear, self-doubt, or whatever, you are on a slippery slope. So maybe we could clean it up a little bit and be more positive. From what I can find out, the phrase “fake it to you make it” is a play on a set of words in a song released in 1968. The song goes – I know I’m faking it. I’m not really making it, by Simon and Garfunkel. The term has picked up a lot of different variations and become very popular. So what should you do?

Focus on being more positive, not on faking it. Figure out what you need to do to accomplish the goal you want. So, what is one to do? All kinds of advice, but in my experience, being positive is the better approach. You could do something like try it, you may like it. Always thought that was a good one.

The beginning of this whole process is the definition of it. That’s the most important thing, I believe. What do you want out of life? What do you want to happen today? Here’s my story for today. I have some negative results from a blood test that I had done recently. I have trouble breathing, stamina issues, and balance issues. Several years ago, I had a diagnosis of muscular dystrophy with early respiratory failure. So now I get all these test results, and I can feel I’m having trouble breathing. I immediately go to the negative side and say okay, this is it. Everything the doctor said would happen is about to happen. The problem with that whole thing is that I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have another test today, and I have a doctor’s appointment. If I go on the assumption that it’s over. Very negative. Most of my day is shot. On the other hand, I could look at this and say that with more information, maybe I could figure out how to handle symptoms better. See what kind of challenge I can get today. Whatever it is, think of something more positive. You don’t know what is going to happen. So you might as well wish for something positive.

This whole discussion is about balance, in my opinion. My goal is to find joy, and happiness in my life. Going back to my doctor’s appointment. The doctor says my muscular dystrophy is progressing very slowly, just as we thought it would. That’s good news. I have lots of time to enjoy life as soon as I get out of this doctor’s office. On the other hand, if after my talk with the doctor, I ignore all the positive news, I say to myself, oh my gosh, he just proved I have a debilitating muscular disease. I now have tunnel vision and miss opportunities to find joy.

In my 80+ years, I can remember so many times that I wasted thinking something bad is going to happen, but that never happened. Think of all the time I could have used creating something wonderful instead of shutting down. So here I am at 80+ years old, thinking positive thoughts. Today is going to be a great day. I know I am doing the fake-it routine, but that’s not necessarily true. What I’m saying is, I intend to have a great day today. This is not being dishonest, and that’s not faking it. This is merely me telling the universe – This is my intention for today.


What is your goal?

At one time, I owned a 27-foot sailboat named Sea Breeze.  I spent a lot of time on her, mostly cleaning and fixing. The sailboat was nice, and I sailed it around the Pimlico sound and in the Intercoastal Waterway.  That boat was also a lot of work.  As I got older, I wanted a trawler, and the Grand Banks was my dream boat.  No sails to deal with.  I never got that boat, but I always had the goal set.

I am going to suggest that my goal needed some adjustments. I learned two tricks of the trade over the years. The first one is to ask why at least three times, but no more than five. Say, for example, my goal is to buy a Trawler. Okay, why do I want that particular boat? It could be, I didn’t want to deal with the sails, or I just wanted to relax on a boat. My answer is I would like some freedom to enjoy the ocean air and travel to see the world. We’re getting closer. Why do I want those things? The answer is I want to enjoy life. What was my real goal? Enjoy life. Is getting a Grand Banks Trawler the only way that I can enjoy life? That requires some more thinking, and it turns out, at least in my case, it is not the only way I could enjoy life. I could buy a less expensive trawler.

Do I need a boat? I could take all those elements like smelling the sea air, looking at the ocean, enjoying a cup of coffee, etc. I could take all those things that I think I’m going to get from sitting on the deck of my trawler and do it another way. I could buy a condo at the beach. I could buy a motorhome and go to a campground. I could go on a Windjammer cruise. Lots of ways I could do that. The concern that I’m addressing here is that if I’m solely focused on a very specific goal, I don’t see all the other possibilities. I have focused on the wrong goal. To finish my trawler story, I went on several Windjammer cruises and let someone else do all the work.  I relaxed, took in the ocean air, had rum swizzles and sticky buns for breakfast, and saved some money.

Now another trick I’ve learned is that a lot of times, we are focused on the result and not the steps it would take to get there. Let me go back to my trawler, I wake up in the morning and say – world, my goal is a 37-foot Grand Banks trawler. Nothing happens during the day. I don’t have the trawler at the end of the day. After a couple of weeks of this, I get discouraged about what happened. It’s not realistic. Now let me back up. The result may be realistic, but my daily goal was not. What steps do I have to take to realize being the owner of a trawler? I could buy a lottery ticket. I can start my own business and make enough money to buy it. I could go to the bank and get a loan. None of these actions ensure that I will enjoy life.

Okay, lot of ideas, but not getting closer to my goal. What are the steps I have to take to get what I want? My goal is to enjoy life. That goal is much too broad. How would I recognize when I reached my goal? Did that give me what I wanted? Probably not. So, the goal can’t be too specific, but it should be easy to recognize. I changed my goal of an enjoyable life to add joy to my life every day. Now I can look at everything I do and ask, will this add joy to my life?   

So you can see all the way things are linked together. I will close out by saying I would keep it real, keep it positive, and keep smiling.


Perception is in control

Perception is the meaning we make of different information based on how we look at it. Other people perceive reality in different ways based on their interpretations. Perception is the basis for emotional intelligence and is very powerful.  When we were going through our series on emotional intelligence, we were driven by events.  Perception has a lot to do with interpreting events, but there is more to perception. We also use it to analyze and judge people.

Perception is not reality, but it can become a person’s reality because perception influences how we look at reality.  I have my reality, and you have yours. Have you ever thought of yourself as being very positive, and someone said to you – why are you so negative?  Hold on and tamp down that negative self-talk. My first reaction was, are you kidding me – and goes downhill from there. Remember our emotional intelligence class? This was my interpretation of an event. Your reality and their reality are not the same.  Don’t ignore it because there may be some good clues on how you can be better, but don’t let it steal your joy.

You have more control over your life than you think. When we looked at emotional intelligence, we learned that we could change our responses to events by changing how we interpret the event. We can also control how we feel and the joy in our life. Consider this chain of actions, I am old, so I am weaker, don’t remember things, or am no longer the cool dude I was. While some may be true, it does not have to be your perception. The chain continues: if I am all those things, I must be less appealing and probably not long for this world. This is like a self-fulfilling prophecy which is simply the outcome of a situation being influenced by our thinking, either positively or negatively.  Well, consider the last part of this definition, positively or negatively.  What if I concentrated on positive self-talk and positive perceptions?

I am going to change my chain of actions without ignoring reality.  My new chain is I am older and wiser. I have experienced eighty years of learning and have many stories to tell. With all this wisdom, I start each day with a positive thought and will not let anyone rain on my parade. I still have experiences waiting to be discovered and lessons to learn.

Most people have good intentions and, often, good advice, but they do not control your emotions.  If a single comment from someone upsets your day, imagine what your negative self-talk can do.


Are you Positive

When you started your day, who did you say you were?  Is that who you wanted to be? We have a choice. The bigger question is, does it make any difference? I believe It does make a difference. The same goes for how you say you feel, how the day will go, or what you can accomplish.  The more positive you can be, the more positive the results will be. The problem I had was that it did not sound authentic.  I can affect the future, but I cannot see it. If I don’t know for sure what the future will bring, then it may as well be positive. 

You want to be right, so whatever you think or say, you work on making it true.  The way I interpret events has a significant influence on my feelings and emotions. What I tell myself has a significant influence on my feelings and emotions.  If I choose a positive outlook, I will work on creating a joyous event.

When I woke up this morning, my legs hurt.  OK, I need to accept reality, but my interpretation of this event will impact my day. I decided to do two things. First, I had a full day or opportunity ready for me, and second, I am eager to start. This is where it gets tricky for me. What is it that I want to do?  To keep it positive, I want to be joyful.  I want to contribute to my legacy and bring joy to those around me. This all sounded artificial when I was first introduced to the idea.  Over time I gradually changed my thinking to focus on the positive.  Most of the research I read told me it would take about two months to reprogram my thoughts. I discovered that it started to expand once I accepted this new philosophy. 

I used mindfulness meditation to discover what I, and others, needed. I used positive and today-focused self-talk to change my ways.  If I thought, I should stop eating cookies, my brain said – great, sounds like a good idea but now let’s sample the cookie jar.  This became, I do not eat cookies.  Of course, your thoughts will be in turmoil for a while and say you are crazy – of course, you eat cookies. Hold the course, and you will establish that you do not eat cookies over time. This works for all our fears and negative thoughts. Want to be a great speaker, writer, or builder (fill in the blank with your purpose)? Then start the positive self-talk.  I would add that actions also need to be positive.  Want to be a writer, do what writers do.

When I was promoted to management, I was sent to management school. I remember many of the lessons learned, but one stands out.  Our class was dismissed for lunch, and when we got back together, the instructor asked us – how many of you went to the management dining room to eat. Only three out of the class said they did.  The instructor said he was surprised because he thought we were all managers. This was a setup, of course, to teach a valuable lesson. Want to be a public speaker? What do public speakers do? Want to have a life full of joy? What do joyous people do?

Circle back to where we started, what or whom do you want to be? If you want to be sick and tired, ready to end it all – That is who you will become. If you want to be full of joy, that is what will happen. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.


Wake up full of hope

You can do many things if you would stop the negative self-talk and start. You could make videos, buy a boat and sail around the world or write a best-selling novel. Whatever it is, you have to start. It is all about the journey through life. 

Well, they say to wake up with a smile and a positive attitude, and I agree that would probably be an excellent way to start your day. But for me, it was not as easy as I thought. I am a planner, and when I wake up, I have negative things on my mind. For example, this morning, I woke up with my legs hurting, I had trouble walking, the alarm on my ventilator was going off, I had difficulty breathing, and I thought about the biopsy scheduled. It is kind of hard to be optimistic with all this going on. But I kept thinking about the cause of my pessimistic worldview. I determined that I seem to be dwelling on the past, what is it that I forgot to do, and what is it that I should have done. Then I dwell on all that I have to do today. But the more I thought about this, the more I realized that the first step is simply acceptance. Figure out how to accept what my world is like. I have muscular dystrophy, which is causing leg pain and breathing issues. This is progressing. I already know that. But have I accepted that? I can’t change it, so I may as well accept it. It seems like a small step that changes your point of view when you wake up and your legs hurt. The biopsy is in the future.  What if I woke up thinking that something wonderful will happen?  

To accept, I must have some idea of what’s going on. Well, I have that since I’ve got specialists focused on me all saying the same thing, so I know what’s going on. If I can get to acceptance, I can eliminate many questions. For example, it doesn’t make sense to wake up and say I have no idea what is happening. I may not like it, but I know what is going on. Acceptance removes a whole bunch of wasted time and stuff like that, but you got to get there. I got there with the help of a therapist for about a year, which was good. I had a partner that supported me. That was good, and I learned mindfulness meditation.

This may be a confusing thought, but acceptance does not define all that you are. I am not just a person with muscular dystrophy.  In the support groups I have been part of, I met many people focused on their illnesses.  That is easy to do because it is always in your face.  But if that is all you are, your life quickly becomes focused on the negative. I believe you can accept what is and still believe that you are so much more. Who I am changed over time, and this is who I am today.

I am an 80-year-old man who has overcome more than most. I have had triple bypass heart surgery, knee replacement, and spine surgery. I am one lucky dude.  I met and formed a relationship that completes me. I have a family that cares about me. I like the sea, boating, and nature. I have my challenges trying to walk without falling, I am overweight, and I have this head drop going on. I still have a life better than many. We are all connected.

What about being focused on potential future problems that never happen? What if I run out of money, the biopsy was no fun, or the car won’t start?  None of these has happened yet. I am all for being prepared, but what if this will be a great day?

Most people don’t go through this until they have a significant event in their life. Of course, mine was the diagnosis of muscular dystrophy. The interesting point is that I had triple heart bypass surgery, which didn’t cause this shift to happen. It made me focus on life and slow down a little, but it didn’t have what they call an awakening effect. Muscular dystrophy is slow-moving and is in your face every day, and I think that’s why it became my major event. So, my awakening, as they call it, was not overnight. It was about four years of meditating, therapy, going to doctors, and getting second and third opinions. So now I’m kind of at acceptance. What’s the next step? The next step, in my view, is embracing life. What the heck does that mean? To me, embracing life involves figuring out what you want to do or why you’re here. However you want to express that.

Embracing life is not as easy as it may seem like anything else. First of all, it involves a change in most cases. Definitely, in my case, it requires change. The way I see it, I have a couple of ways I can go. I could wake up in the morning and be miserable and don’t know what to do. The next option is I am unhappy, but I’m afraid to make a change. In the third option, I’m not sure I’m doing what I want to do, so I will make a change.

I’ve always wanted to write, which I never did because I told myself I couldn’t write. While, of course, that’s not true. I could write, maybe not good. So I joined a group of new writers, and no big surprise, their number one item was to start writing. It does not make a difference whether it’s good or bad or anything else; start writing something. Once you start writing, you gradually improve. So my first writing was not so great, but I learned, and I redid it. It took me a few tries to get to the point where I was willing to show anybody what I wrote. What was the big problem? I was afraid of the feedback I might get. So I didn’t write publicly because I was worried people would read what I wrote, but the purpose of my writing was for people to read what I wrote. It took a while to get enough confidence to write my first blog. All that happened about a year ago: then I started getting better because I was getting feedback and I was noticing my own mistakes. Things went from there. So, the advice of the day is to do something. To make any difference, you have to start.


What came first?

Several people have asked me what the big deal is about having a strategic plan. I believe that you need a starting point before you start planning, a resource that documents your intentions and desires.  The strategic plan is a living document that changes over time based on your experiences. The starting point for a strategic plan is your values.  The conclusion of a strategic plan is your operating plan.

In the beginning, we started with a blank page. We may have been born with some internal values, but we are easily influenced.  As we grow, we have experiences, are introduced to a culture, accumulate family traditions, and are exposed to many beliefs and religions. We all eventually merge all these elements into a set of values that we will use to mold our life. With all these variables, I can say that what works for me does not always work for you. Our influences are all different.

Once we develop a belief system, we look for reinforcement showing what we believe is right. As this bond grows, it becomes more challenging to modify your belief. A conflict may show up as we move to another culture of venture into a business. We are now faced with having to decide to change. We should be looking for information to expand our belief system while we remain aware of our existing belief system.  The concept is to accept small changes that can improve your outlook, not a wholesale replacement.

When writing a strategic plan, you combine your existing belief system, skills, and resources to form a purpose or mission. That can be for a business or a life.  Once you start to execute a strategic plan, you will be exposed to new experiences and beliefs that can suggest improvements to your plan.

The key that I take away from this is to keep an open mind. Seek new skills and experiences. Don’t be reluctant to ask for help or share your plan with others. This will create additional sources for information.  Stay focused on your plan.  Accept advice as information, not a directive.  


Fake News

After several audits proved that the election results were correct, a group in Arizona raised 6 million dollars to have their team audit the ballots. This four-week audit stretched into several months as they redid the audit several times. That was crazy, but what got me was an interview with a high-ranking state official. He was almost in tears, saying, I can’t stand this. I still do not know who won this election, he said. While this is crazy, the concern is more extensive than one state election.

The news is full of controversy over fake news, Facebook, Instagram, and wild conspiracy theories. It’s enough to drive me crazy. Ever wonder how did that happen? So I thought that this morning what if I wrote a blog post that said the sky is green. As long as I say that’s my belief or my opinion, perfectly fine. No problem. So now I go one step further, and I research to see if any others believe that, or if there’s another test or a study or anything. Sure enough, if I search long enough and hard enough, I’ll find someone or a test that supports my theory. So now I will write an entry in my blog and say I found a test that shows that I was right. The sky is green. And I refer to the test. Okay, still no problem if that was an actual test. But I notice that nobody else believes that.

Now I get upset, and I get emotional, and I start embellishing a little bit. I write a blog to say, millions of people have noticed that the sky is green. This is probably fake news right there. I made that up, but I am so emotional about the issue that I want people to believe me. So, I start this conspiracy theory or rumor. Not only is the sky green, but millions of people believe this, and I am just shocked that I don’t see this on the news more often. Eventually, I started getting people on my webpage writing comments saying they have noticed that or think the skies are a bit green. My readership grows and next thing you know, I have many people believing that the sky is green, not blue. So the problem that I see is that if you get emotional about an issue and start creating your own news writing fake stories, that is a problem.

I’m not sure why it is so difficult for these companies like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, whatever. Why they can’t discover that there’s an entry out there telling a false story and either put a disclaimer on it or take it down. Same thing with politics. Same thing with whatever topic you want to choose, like sports is another good example. Sounds like a simple solution, but for some reason, it is challenging for these big companies to determine that what was just posted on their site is totally fake.


My Truth and Your Truth

We learn first by experimenting because we haven’t learned how to trust yet. Eventually, we discover learning that way is painful, and we learn about trust, usually from our parents. Our trust is built on relationships with people and organizations. As we trust people, we listen to them and believe that what they are saying is true. We start to accept that truth as our own. Over time we will modify that truth based on our experience, but the base is developed through the relationship. First, it is with family, then school, and finally work.  Along the way, we add in church, groups, and news.

We again rely on trust and believe what we see and what we hear is true and start to accept. As we discover conflicts between our truths, we work it out based on who we trust the most and what makes logical sense. I have been in situations where someone will say something so far removed from what I believe to be true that I am amazed.

The problem we have today is information overload. At least I am discovering many conflicts and having a more difficult time reconciling those conflicts. As I was growing up, I was in a Christian environment. My baseline for truth was Christian values. That set of values was reconciled as I grew older, and I saw that they were the correct way for me to live. Now I begin to see conflicts and question what it all means. There are sources that I have learned not to trust based on the evidence available.  Even that is becoming a challenge with video accounts being altered. Firsthand knowledge is hard to fake.  If the evidence is a news story, I tend to look for multiple, different accounts.

So how do you sort this all out? One of the things I do is I see actual events happening. Not hearsay, not someone’s opinion, but actual events. I use that to determine if people are telling the truth, or if they should be trusted. As I discover more and more conflicts with the actual event. I mark that source as no longer being truthful. It is somewhat surprising to me to see politicians saying things that conflict with the public record, not hearsay or someone’s opinion, but actual filming of the event. That can be verified by multiple reports of the event. It’s not clear why they think they can do this, but the result is something we are now calling fake news. This is growing to be a large amount, and the noise factor is quite confusing.  The problem I see is that there are some that have never built a truthful base through trust.  If the only source of information they receive is through a single source, they build a truth based on that.  There is limited potential to correct or expand their truth.

One example I was exposed to was from a seminary course I took.  I was always interested in Christian values and history and wanted to see how this all developed.  The first course I was required to take before exploring the New Testament was a world religion course.  Each professor was a representative of a different religion. The idea was that we should be exposed to all the religions before we narrowed our focus. I was surprised to see how similar all these religions were. I was more surprised to see how, over time, all the religions were biased by the experiences and perceptions of the people practicing these religions.  In my opinion, there is generally a small set of facts or real events and an extensive set of different interpretations and perceptions of what they mean.

The same is happening today. A simple event will generate many diverse perceptions in a short time. Those perceptions will be used to fortify beliefs. It is enough confusion to influence my decision to get a cup of coffee and go meditate on the deck. My father would say that he yearned for return to a simpler life, and that was back in the 60s.  Now I know what he meant.  

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at


Let’s Revisit Teams

Our last entry started a discussion on teams, so this week I am starting a series about team dynamics. A team is a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal. Teams typically have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort, which allows each member to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Team members like to feel like they are a valuable member of the team, and each has a perceived and real assignment within the team. Ideally, the perceived and real match.  When that all works its magic.

The primary difference I see between regular teams and High-Performance teams is how ridged they stick to the rules. High-Performance Teams have well-defined goals that are in agreement with the overall expectations or vision for the team. This is often not the case, and a team is just a gathering of skills to get a job done. Just as important as the mission of the team is the culture of the team. High-Performance Team members identify with the team and are proud of it. Members place the team first and know that team effort is key to overall success. They celebrate the accomplishments of the team and recognize the contributions of members. This is different than regular teams. Notice that a High-Performance team celebrates the team’s success but only recognize contributions. 

High-Performance Teams are constantly learning and continuously improving. True transparency allows a team to quickly adapt to unexpected events. Each member knows what is important and each member is committed to action. They are clear about what results they are committed to and they review and measure results frequently. They quickly resolve conflicts and move forward. A key element of the culture is the realization that trust is an essential ingredient. They communicate openly. They believe in a feedback culture, actively giving and seeking feedback. Many times I have seen teams that are not like this, especially in “professional” groups where each member is seeking success and recognition for themselves.

Sometimes ego gets in the way. Since all the members have knowledge of all elements of the mission assigned, sometimes a member will expand their role beyond their assignment. Gradually they start to take over roles. I have found teams that were really one active member with a lot of assistants. It is no longer a team. As this happens, members become disenfranchised and dropout. It was not unusual to find members waiting for orders and doing nothing. The team starts to lose synergy, and effectiveness drops. The perceived or real leader pushes harder for control, and the team dissolves.

It is the job of the leader to make sure that all members are participants, and it is the team that gets external recognition. Both overzealous and nonparticipants should be removed or reassigned from the team.  That is why I see skilled people pulled from teams. They can be valuable assets, just not team players.

I believe that becoming a leader is a journey.  You start as an employee. If you know how you will have a job is a saying that I remember from college. As an employee, you would have skills, and you would understand the job.  As you excel in the job, you get promoted to a management position. A manager understands the business plan, has a common purpose, good communication skills, and maturity.  The saying that goes with this would be if you know why you will be the boss. 

That brings us to leadership. If you can see the future, you will be the leader. That means you understand the strategic plan. A leader will have team spirit, passion, and empathy. Team spirit is when you really feel invested in reaching a goal together and are there to support each other.  Passion is a feeling of intense enthusiasm towards the vision expressed in the strategic plan and the mission of the team. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference.

The leaders will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of your business, team, or even a country.  The managers control resources and will have a direct impact on the efficiency of your business. While leaders and managers impact all aspects of your business, the skill level and attitude of your employees or staff will have a direct impact on your return-on-investment.

Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at