Drawing Assumptions Can Kill Ya!

How many times in the last 3 months did you think or begin a sentence with “well I assumed that…”. You know you have you used this phrase or one like it quite a few times. Like a lot of the drivel that comes out of our mouths assumptions can lead to a complete breakdown of communication. Assumptions can lead to profiling, stereotyping, hatred, and even death. Ask the parents of Trayvon Martin whether or not that’s true.

I think it’s about time that we wake up to the realities of 2013. Our country and our lives are undergoing sweeping changes that go far beyond the irrational hatred Jihadists have for America. We have a black man who is president and within the next 3 elections will probably have a woman elected as president. I’m pretty sure that will drive a lot of the remaining chauvinistic, old white guys stark raving mad. To whom I would say-your day has come and gone.

Caucasians will soon be in the minority. More and more gay couples will be raising children. The stream of immigrants will continue because America remains a land of opportunity. The color and gender of our politicians will continue to change hopefully bringing across the aisle common sense back to DC. This is reality without putting any spin on the facts. This is not the 1950’s when every day was pretty much like the previous one and identical to the one that followed. There is a generation of people who say that they would like those days back. That decade represented certainty, consistency, safety, and freedom from most activities that caused people to question who they were and what they believed in.

Let’s not wander too far from the gist of this post-assumptions can do you in. Assumptions are dangerous because they close off options, they narrow how we perceive life and people, they limit beliefs and personal growth. Let’s face it, George Zimmerman would have been better off staying home instead of prowling the neighborhood looking for trouble that wasn’t there. Or if he saw Trayvon he could have said, “hey man I love skittles. Can I have one?” A black guy in a hoodie does not represent a sure thing for trouble. Hey a white guy in a hoodie could mean trouble. Who the hell knows. Best not assume.

About the only thing you can assume is that change will occur. After the massacre in Colorado can you walk into a movie theater and not look around at people wondering if any of them are planning any mayhem? Shouldn’t we all be more alert to the fact that there are nutbags walking around who are mentally wrong? They are out there but that does not mean the person with over the top tats is one of them. I’m not a huge fan of environments that change often and harshly any better than the next person but change is a reality. For the sake of sanity and living a long life here’s a few suggestions.  Don’t assume; treat all people the way you want to be treated; prepare to react to any situation you are in because it could change immediately; enjoy the infusion of diversity; listen hard to other opinions.

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The End!

Pick up any shrink or self-help book and my guess is that before page 50 the author will tell you to “stay in the present”. I could not agree more. However! I’ll go back to my father for an example of someone who never lived in the past, present or future. To tell you the truth I’m not sure what he thought about, what he planned for, how he enjoyed life. Clearly, he never thought of the end. Even after he retired he still got dressed for work everyday. What the hell did my mother think when he showed up at the breakfast table in a white shirt, tie and suit coat! (Probably Show Me The Money)

I remember looking into my dad’s eyes as he was dying. I remember distinctly wondering what he was thinking about. His eyes seemed to carry the message I’m glad it’s over big guy, I’m tired. Or maybe he was wondering how he was going to fill the car up since he was flat broke.

OK, enough preamble. Regardless of your present age you need to carve time out of your life and begin to think about the end of your life or more accurately what will your financial, emotional, and mental outlook be when you are close to the expiration date on living. Downer subject, huh? I don’t think so. There are no life do-overs so why not look back as life begins the last act and have the smile on your face that indicates “I did good”!

I don’t mean to turn this into bullet point mania but these thoughts are worth pondering:

  1. What do you really like to do? What turns your crank, so to speak?
  2. Do you do enough of that on a daily basis?
  3. How do you like to have fun? Will you always have time to do that down the road?
  4. How much money do you need to save now so you can enjoy life down the road.
  5. Are you a big company person, small company person, own your own company person?
  6. How do your strengths and weaknesses help and/or hinder you?
  7. What will your last thought(s) be right before you know that your time is up? (Might want to put this one first.)
  8. Are there specific objectives you want to achieve in your life?
  9. How do you want to impact your kids?
  10. Is there some action, document, thought you want to leave with your family?
  11. Who are you?

Consider this an exercise about successful living on your way to your expiration date. And since none of us know when that will be shouldn’t you be thinking about all these things N-O-W?

Update On My Hero

If you’ve followed my meandering thoughts on a regular basis or, assuming you are new, traveled back in time to June 2009 you’ll know that our daughter gave birth to a one pound thirteen ounce boy. On top of being at the bottom of his weight class Jackson also had a level 4 brain bleed. Trust me, neither of these things present an optimistic chance for much of a life. The doctors offered to disconnect Jackson if his parents wanted that outcome. The answer was a resounding NO!

That’s when Jackson took over. Whether or not you believe in miracles Jackson and the rest of us did. I won’t go through all the nitty gritty from those pressure-packed, prayer-filled times. Jackson just turned 4 on Sunday. For the first time ever he said Mommy and Go. (Way to give a gift to the family little dude!) He refers to his maternal grandmother as Nene (No not the Hawaiian goose) and me as Bapa. Give him a ball or anything else he can throw and look out. He likes to torture his 18 month brother with loud piercing screams that send Logan into tears of fear.

Because of his weakened right side Jackson scoots where he wants to go. He wears a lot of pants out but on the bright side he doesn’t wear out any shoes. He’s got a temper, a sense of humor, a good appetite, an immense love for his family. Kids at his school are drawn to him like a bee to honey. Jackson has a smile that makes people happy. Can he be naughty? Yep, but he’s four after all and doesn’t that go with the territory?

I am absolutely sure that someday Jackson will walk and speak sentences. I know that. I have never seen a more determined little person in my life. He absolutely understands what we are saying to him and around him. Somewhere in the brain that is firing on all cylinders he is figuring out how to do things. The beautiful part of Jackson is that he has no time limit on those efforts. The rest of us would be driving ourselves loony tunes trying to achieve the next plateau and getting pissed because we were not moving fast enough. I think that Jackson understands progress and time better than we do.

Why is Jackson my hero? He loves without conditions. His determination knows no limits. He gives more joy that all the toys in all the Christmases since the beginning of time. He is an angel in disguise. Four years ago he said “eff you” to the doctors. He taught me about God and the true meaning of miracles. I and the rest of his posse love this little person and we always will. What a kid!

Join The 10% Who Do

Jim Rohn was a business philosopher who brought insight to ordinary events, people and principles. According to Mr. Rohn 90% of the people on the planet are not worth following. So, what exactly does that mean? I think Jim and I are on the same page so here is my version of the 90% you do not want to follow. Since I’m weary of looking for the percent sign let’s just say the majority.

The majority of people will say “I should do it” instead of “I’ll make that happen”. No, I am not splitting hairs. Should and will are as different as night is from day. Should implies perhaps I will or it’s on my to-do list or I have to quit procrastinating and get that done; it is by its nature wishy-washy. The word “will” is assertive, it’s can-do, it’s immediate, it’s confident, it’s brimming with “completion”. People who use the word will are people worth following. The will-users sense that time is not on their side, they know that they have priorities in their life, they realize that if they don’t do ______ someone else will get to it first and that will really piss them off! Some people want to excel and they are disappointed when they do not achieve that, for whatever reason.

So, how do you know which person is in a perpetual position of striving and which person is waiting for the moons to align before they make their move? Listen to how they say things. When my daughter and son-in-law had a one pound ten ounce baby boy she turned to her husband and said “we will be Jackson’s advocates”. There was an exclamation point after that statement! Every doctor and nurse in the NICU knew that Jackson’s parents and in particular his mother were to be reckoned with. In other words, do not screw with our kid or there will be hell to pay.

Our son interviewed for a job with a company that he was returning to after an employment misadventure. The CEO asked how badly he wanted to come back. Our son said, “I’ll do anything and if that means cleaning bathrooms I’ll do it”. That is commitment! The point here is not to paint glowing pictures of our kids. The point is these are prime examples of people who you would like to follow, they are the ten percenters who instinctively know what they have to do and say to move toward a goal.

Also watch how people say things. Do they look you in the eye while they talk with conviction? People who look you in the eye while they speak are good people to follow. They are confident but not arrogant, chances are good they want to get a read from your eyes relative to what they are saying, they understand how to communicate and they do not have fear. I’m not going to waffle on these two characteristics. People who have them are the people who lead others, they assume responsibility and in fact they cherish responsibility. They are worth following!

Jim Rohn’s suggestion was to “walk away from the 90% who don’t and join the 10% who do”. There is a lot of room under the don’t umbrella but not much under the do umbrella. Find the “dos”.

Facts Tell, Stories Sell

I remember my first selling position at a pharmaceutical company in 1973. They were data crazy! We spent two weeks at their corporate offices learning every detail of the products. By the end of the two weeks I was having nightmares about ways to treat vaginal infections and obesity. So, what do you think they wanted us to do when we got in front of a doctor? Yep, give data and more data and more data. Pile it on baby! Facts about the product were what they wanted the physicians to believe so they would write prescriptions for their products. On the surface of it I guess it made sense. If someone heard the word Vanobid enough times they would think of it when prescribing. No wonder I got fired after 18 months!

No one ever taught me that stories “sell” until I got into a higher stakes sales position and later a sales management position. A person (prospect) making a seven-figure income does not want to listen to a yokel talk about the dimensions of a product or how it’s made. Okay, sure they want to know that stuff but they want that information romanced. Like this maybe. Years ago I was talking with a surgeon and he said, “I gotta tell ya, your product is no different from the other guy’s product.” (Wrong scalpel breath!) I responded with, “If I had a buck for every time I heard that I’d be driving your car. I know why you said that. It looks the same, feels the same, and probably smells the same. We found out something really interesting though when a couple of our engineer nerds starting testing the material for strength. Imagine two guys sitting at the bench munching on some awful looking health food trying to pull the material apart using every tool available. Can you picture that? Well, the material resisted every attempt to rip it apart. That started the marketing nerds thinking about how that characteristic could help you during surgery…..”

That sale closed! The surgeon was intrigued by the story. He also loved the reference to “nerds” because he was one going through med school, a fact that he had previously mentioned to me. What if I had responded with, “well doctor, our product really is different and here’s why….” Guess what? Every other nimrod trying to sell similar products is saying the same thing! That approach does not get the job done-consistently. The facts approach does not create spark. It leaves people yawning and looking at their watch, wondering when the march of factoids will be over.

I gave a talk not long ago to a group of people struggling with alcoholism, a disease I am very familiar with. I did not go down the factoid highway although Lord knows there are enough of those to wile away the hours. I told several stories of other ex-sots including my own, a tale which is particularly unhinged. Am I the second coming of Dr. Bob? Not remotely close. But the people in the room were nodding because the stories were similar to theirs plus they could identify with them. They were not alone. If some other guy could beat alcohol they could too.

Become story tellers! Communication is more interesting and people remember stories.

Memorial Day

Memories of horrendous events rarely fade. Example. The day that I stopped participating in the Vietnam war was the day I saw a Vietnamese Captain walk up to his counterpart in the North Vietnamese regular army and hand that person $5,000 in U.S. currency. I happen to be present (100 yards to the rear) for that exchange. I asked the Captain what just went down. He said, “me want to protect people from war.” Translated this meant that he paid off the NV person  to not carry the war forward into his district.

Things changed for me that day. I was planning to make a career of the Army. I liked the discipline, the camaraderie, the tactics, the technology, even the danger of the military. Talk about viewing life through rose-colored glasses! Of course in those days I also saw a reason for the U.S. to be in Vietnam and I thought we were ultimately helping to keep a “people” free. Very noble of me don’t you think? What happened that day was one of those life-lessons you get free of charge. The money exchange was how the war operated, at least in the town of BoDuc on the Cambodian border.  

The memory came back to me when I read several emails from men I trained with in 1969. We graduated from OCS as second lieutenants; we were naive and thought none of us would ever die or be wounded. Then I read the names of those who did die during combat, one of whom my wife and I introduced to her best friend in late 1969. They fell in love. One wonders how that might have worked out.

I was proud to serve in the Army from 1968 to 1971 in spite of the fact that I was sent there by politicians who were FUBARed. Brother were they ever! I came home physically unscathed and mentally about 80% OK. The bad dreams lasted a while but thanks to the nearness of my wife they went away. To all the men who served in that god forsaken hell hole of a country-thanks for your commitment. To the families of all those who died the memory of your fathers, sons, and spouses lives on with all of us. They won’t be forgotten.

To all soldiers in all the wars who have served and returned and to those who never returned-thank you for your service. Your commitment has kept the United States strong.

Think About Your Bad Habits-Now!

On February 13, 2013 my wife and I were given the scare of our lives. We were sitting across from each other at our kitchen table. My spouse was addressing Valentine Day cards to our grandchildren. Cath seemed confused. She kept saying that she only had three envelopes and needed four. She finally got that sorted out (she always had four) when she asked me how to spell one of our grandkids’ names. My antennae went up. I told her and then watched as she tried to write the name. It was a mess!

She put down her pen, looked at me and slurred, “I can’t do this”. Eight minutes passed from the time she was shuffling envelopes. I got up and said we’re going to the hospital to which my wife said, “I need my socks”. (Only a woman would say that!) I thought about it and said, “no, I’m going to call 911. Sit down and do not move.” The ambulance arrived seven minutes later. I knew what the problem was but the EMT confirmed it-my wife was having a stroke. She is 67 years old.

The first thing I thought of was that 67-year-old people do not have strokes. If my wife was thinking clearly I’m pretty sure she would have thought the same thing. The ambulance arrived at the ER within 30 minutes of when the first symptoms appeared. At 50 minutes the neuro physician asked my wife and I if we were familiar with tPA-Tissue Plasminogen Activator. I was because of my years in the medical sales world. Bottom line is that the drug (tPA) was in my wife’s blood stream within 60 minutes of her first symptoms. In order for the drug to work effectively it has to be in the stoke victim’s bloodstream with three plus hours. Basically the sooner the better.

I won’t bore you with the details of the next 4 days. The good news was that my wife walked out of the hospital on February 17th, 2013 with hardly any sign that she had a stroke. No slurred speech, droopy mouth, limp, weakness. Other than large amounts of fatigue and a slower pace to her activity Cath resumed life. The best quote of the week came from her neuro doc who said, “You are a poster child for tPA”. He also said in a less friendly manner, “you’ll be signing your death certificate if you ever look at another cigarette”!

My wife and I figure that God gave her a death-defying wake up call. He gave her a second chance to spend more time with her family and friends, among several thousand other life events. The message, for sure, was clear-lose the habits that brought you to the brink of the RIP sign. Stop smoking and exercise. Thanks Big Guy, I owe You one.