Misery Comes Easy… or…HOW to SURVIVE the WAL-MART HOLOCAUST!

Here’s your understatement of the day, and feel perfectly free to quote me on this:  I hate Wal-mart! (And just because I buy all of my groceries and half of my clothes from there I will never be made to admit otherwise!) One of my Facebook friends speculated that Dante must have been magically beamed into a southern Wal-mart during the post-holiday rush when he wrote about the indescribable horrors locked in the 9th level of hell.  Now admittedly, I haven’t read a lot of Dante but I do wholeheartedly agree with that assessment.

Ironically, today I want to share with you the story of the most productive and enjoyable trip to Wal-mart that I’ve ever had.  Yep, you heard me right… the best trip ever! And ironically, it all happened right smack dab in the middle of all of that post-holiday and winter-storm hubbub a couple of weeks back.

Now, the reason this particular visit went so well is very simple.  I resolved myself ahead of time not to let anything upset me—no matter what.  I’m serious!  No matter what!  That’s it—simple as that.  For just this one trip I would not allow myself to give in to the terror, rage and suicidal despair that usually overwhelm me before I even walk through the front door.  Grumpy salespeople, whining children and misdressed adults who wear their underwear on the outside of their jeans (and occasionally over their head) would NOT faze me this time!  No!  This time I was going to be patient, happy and cheerful throughout the entire Wal-mart shopping experience!  For the first time ever I was going to walk through the entrance with my head held high and make it through the check-out line without once feeling claustrophobic, sociophobic or potentially alcoholic.  This time I would not let this store conquer me, humiliate me or rob me of my dignity! I was going to BEAT the soul-eating monstrosity that is Wal-mart…AND I was going to do it with style!

How’d it go?  Well basically, it went like this: I high-fived the greeters on the way in the door… Juggled oranges on the produce aisle…  Directed traffic in the bread section. (I even borrowed a coach’s whistle and an orange vest from sporting goods to make the job easier.)…  I moon-walked to a Hip-Hop Dance game in the electronics section…  Raced a mean, freckle-faced kid with a nifty little girls training bike down that one oddly-wide aisle in the toy department…  Went buggy-tipping in housewares… Won $20 bucks betting with some elderly guy on whether or not I would swallow a live gold-fish in the pet section.  It was like my first day of Kindergarten all over again!

Okay…okay…I’m exaggerating about (some) of that.  It wasn’t quite that much fun.  But I must say the experience did go far better than usual.  First of all, there were a lot of people there.  In fact, there were so many that the buggy garage (‘cart station’ for readers above the Mason-Dixon line) was almost completely empty when I arrived.  Masses of people were squeezing through the queue of people lined up at the Red Box.  (And incase you didn’t know it DVD movies from Red Box are the new bread and milk.  When there’s a holiday or potential snow storm in the South then the masses can only be comforted by knowing that they have Red Box movie rentals on hand.  Obviously, power outages mean nothing to them.  Just having the movie in their possession is enough to provide them the comfort and peace of mind they need to get through.)

My first (voluntary) stop was at the deli.  And the folks at the deli counter were cheerful and helpful that day.  Okay, okay—I said I was going to tell the truth, right?  Here it goes then:  The deli lady filled me (and everyone else in line behind me) in on the fact that she was the only deli-person who showed up for work and she didn’t know what “they” (I’m assuming she means her managers) would do when she quit and went home.  Here was my golden opportunity to show some character.  I smiled, nodded and offered “uh huhs” in all the right places.  And even when she neglected to clean the meat-slicer’s blade (after cutting some nasty-looking 3rd string ham for the person before me) I tried to be cheerful and explain how lucky I was to have their “most dedicated employee” waiting on me.  Before it was over she was smiling and even threw a couple of extra slices of good pastrami on my pile after she had weighed it.

From there, I tried my best to look like I was at peace and happy as I transversed the aisles.  (This of course did earn me some nervous glances especially from mothers who quickly herded their kids up to their skirts as I passed.  After all, who in their ‘right mind’ would wear a goofy smile in Wal-mart if not a pedophile?)  When traffic got gummed up I just practiced some deep breathing and in an especially smooth and cheerful voice asked the folks around me if they knew whether it was a “pile up” or just a “fender-bender” up ahead.  I even got a couple of them to smirk and grunt when I pointed at the cereal aisle and mentioned that we probably wouldn’t starve to death in this apocalypse but finding a clean bathroom might pose a problem.

Honestly, being positive felt great!  In fact, it was so much so that I wanted to share it with everyone else in the store.  I decided that one of the most effective ways to do that (without being arrested of course) was to share a semi-flirtatious smile and wink at every female over age 65 that I passed.  (Okay, I included a few younger ones too…but I couldn’t be completely discriminatory could I?)  And boy did this earn me quite a few giggles and plenty of flattered return smiles for my trouble.  There was even one especially feisty little octogenarian who winked back—and of course, that really made my day!  Just try out this strategy for yourself next time you’re in line at the bank or in the waiting room at the dentist and see for yourself.  It’s an instant friend-maker!

However, the real character-test came when it was time to check out.  Here’s where you’re going to have trouble believing me though…  Here it goes: Believe it or not there was a cashier at every-single-register. (Yeah, I know….told you that you’d have trouble believing me didn’t I?)  But it didn’t matter because even though every lane was fully manned it still wasn’t near enough to handle the mass influx of patrons converging upon registers.  From the sheer density of the crowd, you would have sworn that either Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift were about to take center-stage atop the conveyors.  The lines snaked out and then hooked into the main aisle and then coiled into a hard right where they disappeared somewhere out in Women’s Clothes.  It was terrifying.

I’ll admit that when I saw this madness that I almost lost it.  A wave of fear, anxiety and utter frustration washed over my chest and rolled down into the pit of my stomach.  There’d be no way that a person could get through one of these lines in an even half-way reasonable amount of time!  I’d be for an hour—herded like a slaughter-house animal—packed shoulder to shoulder with the groaning, slobbering masses of undead that had once been the—ahem!—finer citizens of my county!  The thought was unbearable! Deep inside I felt a primal scream rising from deep inside.  No! Wait! I could do this!  I could push through to the end!  I would not let Wal-mart defeat me!  Not this time!

I took a deep breath and centered myself.  Carefully, I chose a line based on my assessment of all of the most relevant factors like: number of people, median buggy fullness, average estimate age, number of small kids present, etc.  Once I was certain that I had chosen the best line I staked my claim and pushed my cart up behind a particularly sour-faced middle-aged couple.  And that’s when it hit me that almost everyone else was wearing the exact same expression that these two had.  You could see the exhaustion, frayed nerves and irritability written all over their faces.  Some of them looked like they just might snap at any moment.  I remembered feeling that way—and it wasn’t that long ago.  All at once I felt sorry for them all.  They were trapped—imprisoned in a circle of emotional circle of hell far worse than Wal-mart.

And that’s when it hit me.

I heard a saying recently that goes “Misery comes easy.  It’s happiness that you have to work for.” And as I was standing there in line that day this phrase just kept repeating itself over and over in my head.  All around me these miserable people were so focused on where they ‘needed to be’ or what they ‘could’ (theoretically) ‘be doing’.  No matter what they purchased that day at Wal-mart they had paid for it with lost time—time that can never be redeemed or relived.  The moment that they got home it would fade from their memory and they would forget that they had even lived it.

The problem is that most of the time we’re not willing to “work for” happiness.  They say that the average person spends an average of five years of their life waiting in line for something.  I wonder how many people reach the end of their lives wishing that they could somehow redeem those five years.  I bet that most of them would even be willing to spend that time waiting in line at Wal-mart—and I bet they’d make the most of it too!  They’d probably get to know everyone in line, tell jokes and share a smile and wink with everyone that crossed their path irregardless of their age.

Final Note:  While waiting the 45 minutes in the check-out line I came up with a good business idea.  Well, maybe that’s a stretch.  It would be more like a quick way to make some cash before getting kicked out of the store.  (Hey, I had to do something during that long wait—plus my mind works ‘hyper-creatively’.)  Here it goes:  During the busiest shopping days of the year come into Wal-mart and fill a buggy up with everything you can—so much stuff that items are literally trying to fall out when you walk—so full that when you get into the check-out lane for your long wait that no one who looks at your cart would want to get behind you.  In fact, you want it so full that they would gladly wait behind five other shoppers in a different line.  Then—just before you reach the register—turn around and announce to masses of people that you’ll give up your place in line for $20.  Switch out and get back in another line.  If you’re lucky you might make $40-60 before the police show up with pepper spray, tasers and batons. 😉

Now, of course I’m not really suggesting that anyone do that!  However interestingly, when I shared that idea with some of the sour-faced folks waiting in line beside me I received some genuine smiles…which is the entire reason I thought of such a crazy plan to start with.  In my experience a good, sharp sense of humor is one of the greatest weapons that we can ever wield when we’re going through things that are simply out of our control.  And that’s especially true for surviving the Wal-mart Holocaust.

Until next time…

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Finding Your REAL Priorities are NOT HARD…under the right circumstances

It was going to be one of those days—I just didn’t know it yet.

As usual, I rolled out of bed between 4 and 5 A.M. and stumbled through the house turning on the lights, firing up the computer and hitting the ‘start’ switch on the coffee pot.  While these various gadgets began their daily ritualistic alchemies, I plodded off to the bathroom with all of the enthusiasm of a shuffling, mumbling extra on AMC’s series The Walking Dead.  By the time I arrive my brain has barely stopped trying to convince my body to call off this whole sordid waking-up business ‘on account of sheep’ and just crawl back under the warm covers next to Lady B.  Even when I flip on the bathroom light there is still nothing—absolutely, positively nothing to let me know that there is anything out of the ordinary happening.  Yet, unbeknownst to me, I’m knee deep in one of those good old-fashioned character-building trials—it’s just that (cognitively speaking) I’m running a little late to the party.

Anyway to continue my story, the sheep don’t win.  Mainly this is because at this point of the morning the only real concern that can possibly trump the siren-like call of the blankets is my aching bladder.  There’s an old saying that says if your wife calls then you can easily run and hide…but when nature calls you will (at least eventually) answer.  I’m both a big water drinker and a heavy sleeper so at this point in the morning my bladder can be as persuasive as a slick-talking insurance salesman at a rich man’s funeral.  So, while I’m distracted with tending to all of the pressing royal business I’m clueless to the real crisis that is at hand.  It’s not until I reach down and push that little magic lever on the toilet that it finally dawns on me that t-r-o-u-b-l-e has come to visit the Bowers homestead yet again.  I don’t even have to lift the lid to look inside; the flat metallic ‘click!’ tells me everything that I need to know.

The water is out.  Again.

Smack dab in the midst of this realization is when all of the pitiable self-analyzation starts…  And yes, there’s audible commentary.  (For details on what kind of commentary see my last post.)  IF I had only realized that the water was out THEN I certainly could have made different choices…  Because trust me when you share a bathroom and the toilet is not working (especially on a work/school day) it’s a lot like buying a ticket to an amusement park only to find out that the main attraction is closed for repairs.  There’s about to be a lot of moaning, groaning and general unhappiness and when all that’s over I’ll still have to wake the rest of the family up and let them in what’s going on so the cycle can begin again.  Joy.

Now why am I telling you about this?  What do my water ills possibly have to do with character?  Well trust me, when you get four busy people trying to prepare for their day with no water at all in the house—there’s going to be some character either displayed or lost somewhere!

I guess now we’ve come to the part of the story where I need to explain WHY we didn’t have any water.  See, we’re on County Water and evidently the section of water line at the end of my driveway was already here when the fine folks from the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock.  Truthfully, I’m not completely convinced that it wasn’t already here when dinosaurs roamed the earth but I’ve yet to call the Discovery Channel and get one of their experts to weigh in on the subject.  Never-the-less the pipe is understatingly old and 2-3 times a year it decides to channel its inner ‘Old-Faithful’ somewhere in the dark hours between midnight and dawn.  It’s a high pressure line so it doesn’t take any time for it to create a river or white-capped rapids rolling across the road in front of our house.  Now incidentally, since we live on a major state highway this sometimes makes for fantastic entertainment because every time an unsuspecting speeder plows through it the reminds me of the splash on the log flume at Six-Flags.  And I’m really beginning to think that I should charge admission because I’ve seen splashes that go higher than the roof of my house.  It’s the most entertaining speed bump I’ve ever seen.

Eventually though, the County shows up with trucks, shovels and men and within a matter of an hour or two they’ve got the pipe patched up.  But don’t worry that’s right when the real adventure begins.  Usually within just minutes of reburying the pipe and turning the pressure back on the line explodes again—most of the time in a spot just a few inches from the patch.  Sometimes it even happens while they’re still there, but most of the time it sadistically waits till right after they’ve loaded their tools, piled in the truck and headed back to home base with blissful thoughts of dry clothes and sudsy drinks.

Now for the obvious question: Why doesn’t the County just replace the brittle, old water line?  I know that the likely excuses would be ‘budget’ or ‘manpower’ but it seems like it would be a lot easier and less expensive on everyone to simply invest an afternoon laying a new pipe.  But regardless of how things appear from the outside the powers-that-be deem that for the time being it’s better to just keep patching the tired, old pipe.  Maybe they’re waiting on the pipe fairy to magically transform their shovel-jockies into a crack team of super plumbers or maybe hoping there’ll be a sudden, unexplainable streak of lottery winners among the county’s residents.  (Which they can in turn unceremoniously fleece for taxes… Ok, Michael stop!)  Either way, they’re waiting for ships that will never come in.

Here’s our Character-Quest thought/question of the day:  Do we do the same thing sometimes?  Are there important aspects of our lives that we treat with that same kind of reckless neglect that the County treats the waterline in front of my house?  Do we sometimes thoughtlessly adopt a “let’s slap a patch on it” mentality with our problems and hope that they will just go away on their own?

One of the most compelling bits of wisdom that I’ve ever read says that “through idleness of hands the roof leaks”. [a]  What this is essentially saying is that it’s important for us to be PROACTIVE in maintaining important aspects of our lives…identifying problems and taking care of them before they get out of hand.  Just like physically the shingles on a roof wear out, an untended garden will grow weeds and an unpainted fence will decay—emotionally our relationships, our habits and our self-discipline will suffer if neglected.  The longer we put off proper maintenance the more labor intensive and difficult repairs become.

Quick side story: I had a friend that installed a new window-mounted air-conditioning unit in the back room of his house.  He left it running night and day and bragged all summer about how it kept things cool.  One day, as Fall was settling in, it came time to turn the air off and he went back in the room for the first time.  He quickly found out that the A/C unit hadn’t drained properly and had been steady dripping water into the wall and leaking it across the flimsy particle board under the carpet.  He made this discovery when upon approach to the unit the rotted wood gave way and he fell to his knee through the floor!  The lesson is: that being ignorant or negligent of our ‘rotting floors’ i.e. problem areas in life doesn’t make them go away.  In fact, it will almost always makes them worse and often unrepairable.

Character-wise one of the most important things that we can ever do is to sit down and discover what our real priorities in life are.  Chances are we’ll find that they’re a lot different than the areas that we’re currently emphasizing…we just don’t realize it yet.  We’re cognitively in sleep mode and oblivious to any problem. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who incidentally was one of the smartest men on the planet, said: “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least”. This means that in order to become effective in the absolutely critical areas of our lives then we (A) have to know what they are (B) have to consciously put in the necessary work for it and (C) identify the ways of thinking and activities that try to prevent us from doing so.  In other words, it’s also important to identify those things which “matter least”.  For instance, we won’t be on our deathbed looking back wishing that we would have spent more time at the office, watching TV or surfing the internet.  We’ll wish that we would have spent as much time as possible with the most important people of our lives or at least pursuing activities that develop/refine us as human beings.

Prioritizing our lives requires profound courage.  That’s why we typically put it off for so long.  We sit around hoping that we’ll magically win the lottery or things somehow will “become more convenient” for us to make critical changes in the way we eat, sleep and treat one another.  In fact, one of the most purely destructive and self-sabotaging beliefs that we can ever have is to believe that one day somebody or something is going to “show up” on the scene and magically solve all of our problems for us.  Waiting for our “ship to come in” leads to a lukewarm, apathetic state of mind that ultimately consumes us from within!  Such a mindset is a cancer of true character because it keeps us from putting in the necessary discipline and work needed to overcome the challenges presented to us by our human nature and impulses!  It gives our human nature an “excuse” for being complacent and doing nothing!  Such thinking must be rooted out of our thinking and destroyed by any means necessary if we ever want to live the lives that we are meant to live!

Some of the most important areas of our lives that we put off are:

  • Our Health – It takes money or effort to buy/grow good food and discipline to neglect convenience choices.  It takes good time management and sacrifice to exercise as we need to.
  • Our Relationships – especially long distance or damaged ones with parents, siblings and old friends.  And while we’re at it email and social networking is only part of the answer to staying in touch with others.  Too often it can become a “patch” if we try to replace personal visits and phone calls.
  • Educational / Skill Development – You can plant the seeds of Character through knowledge but it is watered through action.  Passive activities don’t help us to develop and hone ourselves and our abilities.

In the end, seek the things in life that truly matter and then make them your priority.  Don’t wait till life sends you circumstances that make you do it.  (Sickness, loss of a loved one or any life-changing difficulty)  It’s EASY to find your priorities when this happens but by then it may be too late to effectively take advantage of it. Some opportunities never roll around twice.  So the lesson here today is: Be Proactive.

I think that I’m going to start working on my own proactiveness by sending a copy of this article to the powers-that-be at the County Water Authority.  Maybe—just maybe—it will inspire someone there to replace this old water line.  However, in the mean time I guess that I’ll keeping an extra bucket of flushing water in the bathroom and maybe collect a little scrap wood to build an admissions booth to sell tickets to the log-flume at the end of my drive.

Until next time…

[a] Ecclesiastes 10:18

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Coping with the ‘HUMAN ELEMENT’: A Layman’s Guide for Dealing with Imperfect People

Our family’s small business has several important computer systems, but there’s only one of them that has the distinction of being called the “Main Computer”. (To get an idea how important this system is you should mentally queue an angelic choir hitting a sustained inspirational note when I say “Main Computer”.)   And believe it or not, it’s not my personal system or even the souped-up one that handles our company’s payroll and accounting.  No, the Main Computer—our most critical system—is the one that receives and prints out the digital blueprint inquiries that we receive from our customers.  In other words, it’s the heart which pumps that vital lifeblood of cash into our business.  If the Main Computer stops doing its job then eventually all of our other computers (including the fancy one up in accounting) will do the same.  Needless to say, we do whatever it takes to keep this system running in prime shape.  This includes premium virus protection, firewall and a slew of diagnostic software etc.

Unfortunately, as we recently found out, sometimes all the premium software in the world is not enough protection when you get a ‘human element’ involved.

The other morning the Main Computer’s trusty Internet Security Suite relayed a message that said something to this affect:  “Hello, I’m a nasty hard-drive eating virus.  IF you’d like me to suck the bits outta your bytes until your fancy-dancy system operates with all of the computing efficiency as a glorified Etch-A-Sketch then just click ‘OK’.”  Of course the Security Suite’s anti-virus (I call her Aunt V after Aunt B of Andy Griffith fame) voices her skepticism with a small, red-lettered message that the visitor “has been recognized as a high-risk infectious program” and suggests in her quiet unassuming, grandmotherly style that we decline this invitation.

In other words, up to this point everything is working just as it should.  Now, enter that human element we discussed earlier.

On this particular morning one of my well-meaning albeit technologically challenged co-workers determined that Aunt V was just being hurtful and that as a modern, ‘equal-opportunity business’ we should accept ALL files irregardless of where they come from and what other people’s fickle opinions of them happen to be.  So quickly he quickly hits ‘OK’ and welcomes the virus into the Main Computer with a hug and handshake.

Needless to say it wasn’t long before the phone in my office was ringing.  One of the harsh realities of managing a business is that usually by the time you hear about a problem the damage is already done.  That was certainly the case here.  I’ll give you two guesses about who spends the next day and a half restoring, reloading and reconfiguring the Main Computer with the stress of knowing that every moment that the system was down the more money was being wasted.  Yep—bet you only needed one.

Now, in case you didn’t know, the human body (as amazing as it is) is completely unequipped to passively deal with stress.  However, there is a natural “overflow system” that can very actively vent excess tension. Of course I’m talking about the mouth.  Now admittedly, there are some people who have a very high tolerance of frustration and stress.  They seem to possess the supernatural ability to handle aggravation long enough to at least make it back to the privacy of their own home before they start flopping around on the floor kicking and screaming.  But I’ll be honest—that ain’t me.  I blame a lot of it on my Dad.  Though the years have milded him considerably, my Dad is simply not wired to hold onto any anger or frustration.  And trust me—you don’t want any young children or old ladies around when it vents because Dad is also a master at what us southern folk call the fine art of “cussing”.  He can wield a four-letter expletive with the precision and skill of a samurai warrior wielding a katana.  For him cussing seems almost therapeutic—like he’s scratching some burning, hard to reach itch.  It works so well that, frankly, it makes me a little jealous of him because I was raised by momma to keep my tongue as close to a PG-rating as possible.

In the case of fixing the Main Computer all of the screaming, cussing and fit-having in the world would be useless though.  So I resorted to the first runner up (and my personal favorite) of all vocal vices: complaining.  Now, where Dad is a master of cussing…I am the undisputed heavy-weight champion of complaining.  I bet I’ve got everyone in the readership schooled when it comes to armchair-analyzing what exactly is wrong in a given situation and passionately bringing it to light.  The problem is that complaining only works as therapy if there’s someone there who will listen to you.  Remember the old saying that misery loves company?  It’s true.  You have to be able to pass that aggravation on.  If you can’t then it just recycles and compounds.  If unchecked then the complainer quickly finds themselves what momma used to call “in a stew”.  And basically that means that the stressful energy has broken all of the rational laws of thermodynamics and has become self-perpetuating.  I’ve been in stews so bad before that if scientists would have known and could have somehow harnessed their energy then America would no longer be dependant on fossil fuels.

Wisely, everyone left the room and shut the doors as I began the restoration process on the Main Computer.  (You’d think that they knew me or something.)  Seeing that my need to verbally vent my frustration was going to go unanswered (and because I didn’t want to risk ‘getting in a stew’) I resolved to spend the long hours of reloads and reboots doing something more constructive: reflecting and thinking.  Yeah okay, to be completely honest I did do a little bit of complaining to anyone who was compassionate enough to bring me coffee or transfer a phone call during the arduous process.  But finding no real satisfaction in it I stopped trying to complain at all (queue that angelic choir again) and decided to just put myself in the present moment and enjoy the process.  And what do you know—eventually all of the constructive thinking really paid off.

Somewhere in the long hours between reformatting the hard-drive and downloading ten-thousand Microsoft Windows updates I came to a profound realization: Our mind is in a lot of ways just like the computer system that I was restoring.  All of us have a choice of what thoughts that we allow in and which ones we don’t. How many times do we as human beings have a negative thought or feeling “pop-up” on our emotional screen and just hit ‘OK’ to allow it in?  My good-friend and colleague who allowed the file-eating monster loose inside the Main Computer did not have the training or skill to make the right choice and in the end the entire company suffered.  Likewise, I wonder if sometimes we can be ‘emotionally ignorant’ and inadvertently allow destructive forces to ravage every aspect of our lives.   And just like a nasty computer virus those negative attitudes can easily spread to others and cause profound (and sometimes irreparable) damage to our closest relationships.

One of the most important parts of developing character is conditioning our self to respond appropriately to negative thoughts, feelings and attitudes when they arise.  There was a time when our culture put a greater emphasis on teaching people how to deal with negative emotions but, sadly, it is an art that has almost faded completely away.  So many people have no idea what to do when anger, fear or even desire pops up on their screens.  Many rely on drugs or other forms of evasion to keep their feelings at bay while others just allow those feelings to take root and grow until they themselves are emotionally unstable.  (It’s not funny but just in the two days I’ve worked on this article I’ve talked to one person who almost went to jail for pulling a knife on someone and two who have started prescription meds for anxiety.)

Personally, I believe part of the answer might come from cultivating a strong inner Aunt V.  And I think that at times she does need to be warm and grandmotherly, especially when dealing with other people and their feelings.  But I think at other times she should be a camo-wearing, bayonet-wielding special forces operative that can identify negative thoughts and slit their throats before they can even get their gun out of their holster.  To build that kind of inner awareness takes a lot of time/patience and a bunch of “want to”.  There is a passage in the book of Proverbs that says “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”  In other words the battles that we fight on the inside are the toughest battles that can be fought in this life.  A person who can overcome themselves is the greatest warrior of all.

One of the most helpful things that we can do is to remind ourselves constantly of the big picture.  We have to be allowing of mistakes from our selves and from others because as long as the ‘human element’ is involved then they are going to happen.  The only crime that can happen is if we make it worse or perpetuate it by reacting to it wrong.

In the end, I got the Main Computer back up and going—and guess what?  It’s working better than ever!  Part of this is because I took the extra time during the restoration process to reorganize and streamline the way we would work on it.  I updated the drivers and reconfigured many settings to help everyone do their job faster and more efficiently.  In all likelihood, if I would have just allowed myself to stay in a bad frame of mind I probably would have never gone to all of that extra trouble.  I probably would have just dismissed doing anything extra as “useless” because “no one around here can take care of anything anyway”.  I’m glad I made the better choice.  In the days since the restoration ordeal everyone is not only pleased with the changes but they seem to be going to great effort to learn more about using it properly and keeping it safe.

So, in the end the company gets a smoother-running system, my colleagues feel like they have more of an ownership in the company’s assets and I get a CQ article—all from one simple choice to face someone else’s mistake with a little bit better attitude than I normally would.  (Queue that angelic choir to hit one final inspirational crescendo.) Boy, it almost makes me wish that everyone around me would make mistakes more often… What? I said almost!

Until next time…

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S.O.S. – Save our Sinuses

We’re going to go a little off topic this week and discuss an important health-related scourge…the dreaded sinus infection.  And honestly, I feel pretty justified doing that because sinus infections make for very miserable, unproductive days (and nights for that matter).  Personally, I have genetically challenged sinuses that are prone to clog up without warning.  And if I don’t take immediate action then you can rest assured that trouble will quickly ensue. And trust me, there’s nothing more aggravating than waking up at 5 AM feeling like your alarm-clock is working your head over with a phone book.  It’s sort of like having an ice-cream headache but without the sweetness and absolutely none of the fun.  You’re pretty sure that somewhere in the middle of the night someone filled your head with something with a consistency between wet cement and silly putty.  And even though you slept all night it feels like you might have moonlighted in the Roman salt mines instead.

Yep believe me; I know the scenario pretty well.  This is partially because constricted sinuses run in my family.  I remember my mother getting them so bad that it would put her down and even make her cry—and we’re talking about a woman who was tough enough to never miss a day of work while undergoing chemotherapy treatments.  I too have suffered from my fair share of sinus infections.  I’ve had enough that it’s prompted me to do a lot of research and try a lot of “remedies” first hand.  The result has been a lot less misery

Most people treat sinus infections wrong or they assume that they have a cold or the flu.  They do the best they can to treat it with whatever they can.  But too often they choose methods that actually prevent them from getting better and draw out their misery for weeks.  Today, I’m going to change the way most of you look at your nostrils and even your whole respiratory system.  From henceforth, you’ll know what to look for and how to identify potential sinus problems before they occur, and what’s more, you’ll know how preempt them before they take hold.

Common Sense

The first thing that you need to know is that your body was designed to maintain vigorous health.  But wait!  If that’s true why are so many people today on medications like antacids, allergy medicine, blood pressure pills, etc.  It seems that common sense should tell us that something is terribly wrong.  Well, like the old saying goes “common sense just ain’t too common”. Most people just accept pill-popping as a way of life.  They assume (or are told by advertisers) that these pills are the best way of solving their health problems.  Again, common sense should warrant that we question the incentives of these advertisers.  Do drug-companies or even pharmacies really care if we get better?  After all, when we take their pills (which are formulated to relieve symptoms rather than strike at the root cause of our illness) the symptoms get better.  But they know that when we stop taking them then those symptoms will return and pretty soon we’ll be in the check-out line buying more pills.  Yeah, they have an incentive all right…an incentive to sell their product.

Now wait, in a few weeks we have an entire feature article on maintaining overall health and we can listen to me beat the ‘old gray’ pharmaceutical ‘mare’ from my soapbox then.  However, today we must talk about one of the major principles that will be included in that article simply because it is fundamental to our understanding of good health including the treatment and prevention of sinus infections. That principle is basically this: The human body was created to be a very strong and adaptable biological machine and it is equipped with everything needed to survive most everything that can be thrown at it over the course of seventy or more years.  Therefore, our basic approach for our discussion today is this: It is better to strengthen and augment the body’s God-given natural systems than it is to try to circumvent or try to suppress them.

Again, that seems to be so common sense that it’s anti-climactic.  However, I challenge you to go study the top ten OTC and prescription medications and see what philosophy that they use.  In almost all cases they work against or unnaturally alter your body’s systems.  Like we said though, common sense ain’t so common at all.

Why do we HAVE sinuses anyway?  How do they work?

Just yesterday one of my employees came into my office and asked me about getting rid of a “cold”.  I asked him his symptoms, when it started, what he was taking etc.  What he told me is a very common and familiar story.  About a month ago, when the weather and temperature started changing he developed the sniffles.  This runny nose annoyed him because he works outside and with his hands and couldn’t stop to blow his nose often.  So he went and bought some over-the-counter anti-histamine (Sudafed) and that fixed him up for several days.  But then he started waking up to a stuffy head and tired as if he had not rested.  This of course told him that he “must have a cold coming on”.  For several successive days the stuff coming out of his head went from clear to milky-white to yellow and finally to green.  By the time it reached this point he had a lot of sinus pressure and pain and was in general misery, especially in the early mornings.  Of course, by the time he came to talk to me he was in so much pain that he wanted to go to the doctor for antibiotics but didn’t have the money.  He knew that I knew “some of those old-time herb remedies” and wondered if I could help him.

“I’m going to help you the best way possible” I replied to him. “I’m going to educate you.  And when I’m done telling you what’s really going on in your sinuses—how common sense it is—then you’ll wonder why you never figured it out for yourself.”

Here’s what I said.

Your sinuses are for all purposes a temperature regulator—a glorified heat pump.  It helps buffer the temperature of air that you breathe in with the body’s internal temperature.  Guess when the time of year with the biggest difference between these two temperatures is.  That’s right—November through April!  So during this period our sinuses go through constant temperature extremes as we walk into and out of the warm indoors to the cold outdoors and then back in again.  To protect themselves from these extremes the sinuses naturally armor coat themselves with a layer of warm and sticky mucus.  Yeah, it sounds nasty but trust me—mucus is the multi-purpose lubricant for a lot of the body’s systems.  A good comparison would be to consider mucus as doing for your body what oil does for your car engine.  Both lubricate, circulate and coat and protect the body/engine’s most vital parts to keep them in operation.  As a primary rule with both oil and mucus—you must (a) have enough (b) keep them clean.  If either one of these criteria are not met then very serious problems will ensue because something is going to break down!  However, unlike motor oil, mucus is self-changing and can keep itself clean as long as it has the raw materials to do so.  This is how it works: When you breathe in you’re also take in lots of dust and particles including viruses and bacteria.  Mucus is super-sticky so those things stick to it in the nose/sinus cavity rather than being carried deeper into the body—sort of like flypaper.  The body then naturally pushes mucus from the nose and expels the invaders.

Everything works fine with the ‘runny nose system” because your body can produce pints of replacement mucus in no time flat to keep things fresh and clean.  As long as we keep our nose clean by coughing/blowing and up our water intake (mucus is 95% water and the rest is easily accessible lipids and proteins) then all inspired infectants will eventually filter out.  BUT if we stop or slow this process where the sinus mucus can’t replenish itself then it allows those infectants to build up in our sinus cavities which will result in a painful sinus infection! As long as you can keep the body replenishing its mucus coating then the body will always clear out any invaders. Period.

Where 99% of us mess up

Here’s where our Character-Quest lesson of the day comes in.  Most of us when we’re suffering seek symptom relief rather than doing some reflection and seeking out what the root cause of our sickness is.  We’ve been conditioned by the media and through peer pressure that being sick is a “normal” part of life.  Instead of doing common sense things like getting extra rest and having the self-discipline to change our diet a little during the winter months to prevent sinus problems they tell us that we can still do whatever is right in our own eyes and that there is a pill available to keep us from paying the penalty.  It’s a lie that is doing a lot more harm than good to all of society.  There are fifty kinds of “cold medicine” on store shelves—they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t work, right?  WRONG!  They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t sell!  Drug companies know this so they are constantly spending untold billions of dollars to make sure that their ads are everywhere that you look.  They want it to seem like the cold and flu are common place.  They’re not.  In fact, most of the “colds” and “flu” that your families and co-workers have are secondary infections caused from the body not being able to replenish mucus as we have described above!

Anti-histamines drastically slow down our mucus replenishment throughout our respiratory systems.  This does provide temporary symptom relief.  However, that relief is short lived because the system quickly “gums up” and causes infectants to get stuck throughout our respiratory system. Pretty soon our heads and chest are filled with yellow and green goo.  By the way, clear mucus is good.  It means your body is efficiently keeping itself cleaned out.  Mucus turns white when the mucus is filled with white blood cells.  White mucus is a tell-tell sign that our body is fighting (and winning) a war on a microscopic level.  Extra care should be taken to help your body at this stage.  We’ll have some helpful tips for you before the end of this article.  But when you see the mucus turn yellow (or much worse) green then you have badly infected sinuses and your immune system is losing the battle.  There is no easy/pretty way out at that point.  The key to sinus infections is preventing them or at the least giving the body the weaponry that it needs to win the battle at the critical stage.

Once you understand that your nose has to run a little in the winter in order to keep germs washed out then entire business of sinus infections becomes common sense again.  By seeking symptom relief most of us inadvertently gum up this vitally important system.  The key to preventing and fixing it has to do with strengthening and augmenting our body’s mucus production.

So what do we do?

That’s easy.  Apply some of that not-so-common common-sense!  When cold weather or drastically shifting temperatures are in the forecast just up your pure water intake (64 oz is a good bar to aim for) and eat lots of hot, light-colored, healthy soups.  Do this at the first sign of “the sniffles” or if you have a lot of drainage regardless of temperature or time of year.  Upping your water intake is the most effective course of action you can ever take when facing sinus problem or the cold or flu because the body uses it to flush out out the invaders.

Hands down the very, very best herb that I’ve ever seen for helping at this very early stage is Ginger-root ingested on an empty stomach first thing after rising.  Ginger has all kinds of great stuff for helping give your body the leverage it needs to win the battle.  It is also conveniently available in tablet form though I often take the raw root.  (Note: In my opinion homemade ginger tea may be too weak.  Think ‘blunt force trauma’ in the battle over your sinuses.)

Raw garlic is another great alternative though it may come with a smelly price.  A couple of cloves over the course of a day creates an unfriendly environment for most germs (and any other vampires that might be sapping your energy) plus it has a boatload of helpful medicinal chemicals.

Oriental mushrooms like shiitake or reshi are also terrific immune system builders.  They also contain a wealth of smart-bomb chemicals that work by giving your immune system extra leverage.

I often make what I have come to call “Healing Hands Soup” when I sense my body’s functions becoming taxed.  This has organic chicken broth / chicken, onions, garlic, mushrooms, shredded cabbage, celery, graded ginger and black pepper with a dash of apple-cider vinegar and orange juice.  (Some crushed tomatoes and noodles are optional)  It is a big hit with the family.  Even my kids will ask for it if they start feeling bad.

A tea made of the spice thyme is very effective at loosening congestion in the sinuses or chest. (Italian Seasoning which has thyme and oregano works well too!  Think of it as spaghetti without the tomatoes.)  If your nose is stuffy in the morning try a warm cup of this to get your nose running again.

In addition to dietary things REST and (more importantly) RELAXATION are critical.  The number one reason most of us get sick is because we are over-taxing our immune systems and in most cases the primary tax-collector is stress.  When we feel a sickness or tiredness coming on then we should make a point to relax very deeply.  This means more than just stay home from work…it means turn the TV off and take a hot bath, give yourself a massage and practice active relaxation.  Make it where the only thing your body has to do is fight off offending invaders and you’ll go a long way towards shortening the duration of your suffering.

A final recommendation is to use a sea-salt solution to kill any stuck bacteria.  This method is good if the sinuses start to reach that yellow mucous phase.  I use sea-salt, pure water and a little of the original Listerine and run it deep in my nostrils with a Q-tip.  Once there’s plenty in there I sniff it up in my sinus cavities.  I have yet to see a sinus infection that couldn’t be beat within a day or two of doing this 2-3 or more times a day.  A little more extreme but vastly effective is a neti-pot, which will help saturate your sinuses with the saline solution.

Learning to Listen to our Body

Will Rogers said “Always drink upstream from the herd”.  I hope that this short article has helped you to drink from a little cleaner section of the stream than the misguided masses.  The important lesson we’ve emphasized today is to simply assist the body at doing what it is already designed to do then we can quickly and effectively overcome sickness.  By learning to listen and work with our body we get to know ourselves much better and overall become healthier and more balanced.

Our sinuses and mucus system in particular are vital for keeping our body clean.  I personally think that there is a higher lesson to be learned in that.  We are healthiest and thus cleanest when we give continual attention to helping these systems work.  Maybe the body is giving us a pattern about how to deal with mental, emotional and spiritual issues as well.  Just maybe—if we learn to listen and observe the way our system was designed then we might find an encoded message from its Designer that reveals a method for accomplishing much, much more.

Until next time…


(For more information on the value and use of the Neti-pot check out the latest post in Caitlin MacKenna’s Natural Remedies Blog HERE.)

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CQ in Daily Life 11/11/10: The REAL Problem with CHEATERS

(Today I begin a new aspect of The CQ Project called CQ in Daily Life.  These are not polished CQ articles but are quick snippets pertaining to life.  I hope you enjoy!)

Those of us who’ve earned our business degree within the past decade have sat through countless lectures, multiple films and (in some cases) entire courses on Business Ethics.  And we owe it all to a company called ENRON.  For months after the ENRON scandal some folks debated how to punish those who were involved while others pushed to find ways to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. And before the dust had settled many of the biggest firms in the country were vowing to only hire graduates from business schools who offered formal ethical training as a part of their degree program.  And thus the ethics ‘gold-rush’ began.  All at once universities across the country responded by scrambling together some semblance of a coherent ethics course to cram into their existing programs.  I was in my first year of the business program when Business Ethics was added to my curriculum.  And I vividly remember the first day of the course because we were issued nothing more than a flimsy paperback textbook (that still cost us the equivalent to a monthly mortgage payment) and some photo-copied Harvard Case Studies to study, write papers and take tests on.  We were told that these little scraps of paper and class discussions would help mold us into the type of graduates that companies of the future really wanted.

Yeah right.

Earlier this week 200 business students at the University of Central Florida were caught cheating on a test using stolen test-bank answers.  Not one or two isolated students—not a group of five or six friends working together…  Two-hundred business students!  Students (mind you) who’ve all taken their Business Ethics course from shiny hardcover textbooks in elaborately planned curriculum!

A lot of the articles that I’m reading today are talking about how to punish these students.  Others are pushing for better security for test bank questions.  But truthfully, neither of these are the real answer to the problem of dishonesty on the university or (for that matter) the corporate level.  The real answer lies early in life in the home and in the family unit.  I’m not saying that students shouldn’t be required to take a course in business ethics—in fact I think that it’s a great idea.  However, by the time they’re in college such information should (ideally) only be a review of the moral principles that they’ve already learned at home. By the time college-aged young men and women take these courses they’ve already cemented in the basic concepts of right and wrong that they’ll hold for their entire life.  It also doesn’t help that today’s college students were raised in an age where society claims that it wants moral / ethical people yet reinforces Machiavellian-style principles through its media and entertainment.  It’s a very damning schizophrenia and one that we’re starting to pay a heavy price for.

I heard the argument from one blogger that technology was to blame for the cheating incident—that kids today were “too smart” and can “easily beat the system” because of their savvy tech-skills.  That’s dumb.  Technology is no more to blame for these students cheating than McDonald’s is for obesity in America or Smith & Wesson for the country’s crime rate. The REAL problem is a lack of fundamental character values like self-discipline and honesty being taught to our kids as individuals.

Frankly, I have no sympathy for them.  For me (and everyone else who’s ever busted their behinds in college to actually learn the material) what these students have done is an insult of the highest degree.  Its not innovation.  Its not a case of working ‘smarter not harder’.  Its theft…plain and simple.  My question is: WHY are these students even being given the option of staying in the business program?  Doesn’t the  University of Central Florida care about its reputation or the reputation of their alumni?  If any of us at Clayton State University would have done anything remotely similar to these students then we’d have been out on the curb with marks on our transcripts so big that we’d have to re-enroll in kindergarten to ever get it removed!  We would NEVER been allowed to enroll in another business program anywhere in the country!  There are some areas in life where a hard line has to be drawn and examples have to be made!  To keep its reputation a business school should never choose enrollment dollars over integrity…not if it ever wants its students to succeed in an already competitive job market.

I’m proud to see that the cheaters were caught by some of their peers who wouldn’t tolerate such gross dishonesty.  These honest students chose NOT to sit back and watch their school’s reputation (and thus their own) become tarnished by scandal.  See, eventually cheaters get caught.  And sooner or later those students who cheated would have done so again…only the next time it would be with corporate time/dollars rather than just test points.  If I were a corporate recruiter today I would be very interested in considering the 400 honest students for employment.  After all, they possessed the means and opportunity to take the self-serving, easy-route in a rigorous upper-level business course–even against tremendous peer pressure but possessed the personal integrity and self-discipline not to.  Those students really have what corporate America–no ALL of America needs right now: true character.

I salute them.  And I really hope that their school does the right thing and takes out the trash.  If not, maybe these students can at least transfer to an institution that would.


11/12/10 – This morning I made some revisions in the above article because I wanted to clarify how terrible dishonesty is in the business environment.  Unknown to me on last night’s The Apprentice Donald Trump deals with a similar situation.  Listen to his words carefully as he draws the comparison between what’s been wrong in corporate America for the last few years in relation to cheating.

Click HERE to watch the four minute short film.

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There’s no better gymnasium for building/developing character than in our closest relationships.  Our mate, best friend, parents and kids constitute all of the necessary training equipment that we need to give our patience, tactfulness and resolve a mind-blowing workout that makes P-90X look like kindergarten recess.  (Don’t believe me? You’ve clearly never had teenagers! Or spouses! Or parents! Or siblings…you get the idea, right?)  In this life it doesn’t take long to realize that true friendship—true love—is a full-contact sport.  And guess what? That’s precisely what it’s supposed to be!

Unfortunately, in our fast-paced society it’s easy for even the closest relationships to get stuffed in a corner sprouting clothes-hangers and dust bunnies along with that treadmill and Bowflex.  The problem is that a relationship gathers garbage that’s a lot more hazardous than dust.  Let me put it this way, you can probably put off hitting the gym until after the first of the year, but you had better work on your closest relationships NOW or you’ll wake up tomorrow only to find that they’re not so close anymore!

Today, I want to share with you one of the most important principles for maintaining (or rebuilding) strong relationships with the key people in your life.  If applied correctly and consistently this principle works wonders in any relationship including our customers, neighbors, classmates and co-workers.  However, it works especially well with those you love and are closest to…or for that matter someone that you want to be closer to.

How Big is your Bank Account?  (Nope—not that one!)

Have you ever wondered why couples get short-tempered with each other?  Or why they reach a point in their relationship where they can’t talk about certain subjects without automatically getting into a fight?  The answer is that their “Emotional Bank Account” has become overdrawn.  Let me explain.

In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen R. Covey describes an Emotional Bank Account as “a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.” [a]  If we are constantly making deposits through kindness, honesty, courtesy and thoughtfulness then the relationship’s account becomes rich and even builds up a reserve.  When this reserve is high then we have a little more margin in our relationships for misunderstandings or emotionally touchy issues.  No one feels threatened and everyone feels better about working towards a solution.

However, when we don’t make regular deposits in our relationship’s account or choose to make withdrawals through dishonesty, discourtesy and selfishness then we find that we have no margin left with the other person.  That’s when conversation topics become touchy and attitudes flare over seemingly insignificant things.  Marriages and relationships whose account is in this condition do not survive when the really big challenges come.

The Best Deposits

Dr. Covey goes on to explain that the BEST deposits that we can make are ones that the other person will see VALUE in.  This requires being open and sensitive to their desires and needs above our own. For example, if we are a baseball fan but our spouse is not, then it might not be a good idea to buy them tickets to the Braves season opener as a way of apologizing for a fight.  The gesture may be well-intentioned but it will never have the right perceived value to our spouse.  In fact, they’ll probably believe that we’re trying to please ourselves rather than them.  And guess what, they’d be right!  So, the first and most important deposit that we can make in the emotional bank account is to try to sincerely understand the other person.  This requires us to “walk a mile in their moccasins” and opens us up to see the world from their perspective.  Then we can understand how to say or do things that are of REAL value for them.  (This is not to say that they always are right.  Understanding what they are thinking is not an exercise in right and wrong but in awareness.)

The second is to be attentive to the “small things” in the relationship.  Little courtesies and kindnesses go a long way!  This is especially effective when we become good at understanding the other person’s desires and needs.  Anytime that we act upon someone’s preferences, especially if it is unexpected, then they feel cared about.

Equal in importance to the first and second deposits is the third: Keeping your commitments no matter the cost.  Trust is only built after we have followed through on our promises and commitments, especially in those “small things” mentioned above.  If you prove through consistent action that your word is your bond then you’ll never have to tell anyone again because they’ll be able to perceive it from your actions.  Nothing can undermine a good relationship quicker than a lack of trust built through broken promises!  But of course, realistically, life doesn’t always go according to plan and sometimes we can’t keep our commitments.  In these times it’s important to be forthcoming and explain to the other person why we are unable to follow through.  Nine times out of ten if we’ve already built up a track record of keeping our commitments then the other person will understand even if they are disappointed.

Another deposit that goes a long way in our relationships is to demonstrate impeccable personal integrity.  If we’re always criticizing the faults of others when they’re not around then it’s reasonable for our listeners to believe that we’d probably do the same to them.  People instinctively build up defensive walls in any relationship where one side constantly focuses on the mistakes or shortcomings of others.  However, if someone sees that we’ll go out of our way to ‘think the best’ of others (especially in areas where they’ve fallen short or have made mistakes) and are patient, kind and forgiving of others then they’ll naturally feel more comfortable and be more open with us.  They will perceive us as someone who is worthy of trust.

Deposits = Timeless Principle

Making deposits boils down to the timeless principle known as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Dr. Covey points out that these are not as much specific actions as they are a demonstration of our willingness to fully understand and work with others.  People often pretend to be tough but on the inside they are really just as tender and vulnerable as we are.  They just want to “feel” understood and appreciated.  This requires us to put our ego and pride to the side and really get to know the other partner intimately and make deposits that would count for them specifically.

Did you know that in biblical times that the number one job of a newly married man was to spend a year making his wife happy?  I’m not kidding!  For an entire year a newlywed man was not allowed to serve in military, business or civic duties.  He had to spend that entire first year setting up and establishing a household that could endure for a lifetime.  Most important among these duties was to learn and discover the likes, dislikes and preferences of his new bride.  The biblical law only specified one stipulation: that he was to “cheer her up” or “make her happy”. [b]

Can you imagine having a full year with nothing more important to do than getting to know your mate and make steady deposits in their Emotional Bank Account?  Can you imagine how strong of a family you could build on such a foundation?  Wouldn’t that help out so much with some of life’s inevitable pushes and pulls that try most normal relationships to the breaking point.  Unfortunately, we don’t have a comparable rule in our society today, and our rate of divorce shows it.  Today, it’s up to us to be proactive in order to apply that type of effort to our marriages. But the investment is well worth it and its dividends never quit paying off!


Each of us can improve our closest relationships right now by applying the Emotional Bank Account Principle.  This is true even if the relationship has become strained or damaged.  It just requires a firm commitment to make continual deposits even if the other person is not committed or doesn’t initially respond favorably.  It takes time and consistency to get back on track when a relationship has “gone into the red”.  The film Fireproof provides an excellent example of the type of sacrifice and commitment that it takes to repair a relationship that is under strain.  I highly recommended for couples to watch, especially if their experiencing some problems in their relationship. One thing that the film brilliantly depicts is that the motivation for ‘fixing’ the relationship problems can’t be for ones SELF…it must be solely for the good of their partner!  Love is outgoing and out-flowing only.  However, by continually making those little deposits day after day fruit will ultimately be bared.  But you’ve got to make them when they’re not reciprocated, when their not appreciated and even when their not acknowledged.  You’ve got to deposit into the emotional bank account until the other person no longer feels that it’s in the red…and even then you’ve to keep making them.  But even the biggest mountain is no match for a steady, gentle stream and a little time.

Next Time

This article is the first in a series of related articles that will focus on building strong relationships.  In our next article we’ll focus specifically on a practical, straightforward way for finding what deposits to make in someone’s Emotional Bank Account.  And we’ll even learn the art ‘reading people’ from a very successful steakhouse server…how does that tie in to relationships?  You’ll be surprised!  Trust me, you don’t want to miss it!

Until next time…

[a] Covey, Stephen R. – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – ebook pg 93

[b] Deuteronomy 24:5

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Our Own Personal Dance

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the TV show Dancing with the Stars.  And (believe it or not) it’s not just because of Lacey, Cheryl and Anna’s choice of outfits each week.  (Though admittedly, that is a very nice perk.)  To me, ballroom dancing possesses a grace and elegance that embodies the very concept of human excellence.  A dancer has to execute precisely timed movements PLUS somehow coordinate those moves with a partner.  (For those of us who barely have enough poise to walk in a straight line this is akin to magic.)  When it’s done right, observing two beautiful ballroom dancers is like watching the sun rise over the Atlantic, the spring migration of wild geese or hearing the London Philharmonic perform Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. But when it’s done wrong—well, let’s just say that it’s more like watching Laurel and Hardy kung-fu fight the Three Stooges.

The thing that most impresses me about DWTS is that it allows us to see some of entertainment’s biggest icons set their egos aside in order learn something that is brand new to them and profoundly challenging.  There’s a lot of sweat, tears and sacrifice that goes into learning the routine and still juggling their already busy lives of concert tours, filming and product endorsements.  It gives us the chance to see them as real people rather than mere personas.  Frankly, I can’t think of any other show where star power is being used so effectively to demonstrate the principles of hard work and self-discipline.  I call it Sesame Street for us big kids.

In many ways our own personal character quest is a lot like Dancing with the Stars.  Just like all of the celebrities who appear on the show, you and I have chosen to add a particularly difficult challenge to our already hectic lives and schedules.  And believe me—it’s a LOT harder to juggle real-world jobs and families than it is to coordinate tour dates and charity appearances.  In the months since The Character-Quest Project began I’ve been encouraged to learn some of the ways that our readers are challenging themselves.  Among our readership we have several aspiring musicians who have found the courage to push themselves to the next level of performance and mastery.  We’ve got some future best-selling authors who are finally getting around to the business of writing and actually submitting work to publishers.  There are numerous folks who have decided to further their formal education and go back to school.  It’s been really inspiring to hear all of these stories.  I’m proud of every one of you who have taken up the challenge to find your unique talents and purpose in life and have begun the work of pushing yourself to the next level.

So, what is YOUR Character Quest?  I’m so inspired by all of the feedback I’ve received from my heart-to-heart article The Incident a couple of weeks ago that I would like to open the floor up here at CQ Project to hear your story.  You will notice a new link on our menu above called What’s Your CQ? Please click on it and share your story with our readers.  Ultimately, I’d like to build up a community of Character-Questers who can inspire and encourage each other.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!  Until next time!


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