Mini Vacation

“Laughter is an instant vacation.”

(Milton Berle)


Happy Saturday friends!


Suggested Resources:

Milton Berle: An Autobiography (Milton Berle & Haskel with Frankel)

Laff It Off! (George Wallace & Dan Ewen)


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Laugh. A Lot.

“Keep laughing.  As long as you’re laughing you have hope.”

(Moe Howard)

Happy Saturday friends!


Suggested Resources:

The Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection

Moe Howard and the 3 Stooges: The Pictorial Biography of the Wildest Trio in the History of American Entertainment (Moe Howard)


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The Freak-Out Gene

Freak Out GeneA friend of mine got sick a few winters ago.  In his 50’s, career Army retired.  1st Sergeant.  Ranger Battalion for 6 years.  A remarkable guy and dear to our family.  I work with one of his sons, who is a chip off the old block and a close friend as well.

When my friend got sick, I was concerned.  It was serious enough that it put a retired Army Ranger in the hospital for a few days.  I asked the son about the father and he said that, though worried, his dad didn’t show it.  The son, one of our managers, is pretty good under pressure.  Just like his dad.  When asked by one of our colleagues if he was a mess because of his dad being in the hospital, the son said, “I guess [like dad] I didn’t inherit the freak-out gene.”

Man, I’ve had to chew on that one. Why? Because I’ve not been great under pressure.  Candidly, I’ve been lousy in the clutch.  But the example of my even-keeled Irish buddies has been inspiring and convicting.

As I’ve thought about this, I realized that when stresses mount, one does not have to freak out.  Cave.  Bolt.  Come apart.  But I’m learning that a good deal of my responses to the tensions of life have to do with what I think about and tell myself.  Right thinking and talk are one of the secrets to poise, grace under pressure.

It’s that simple and that powerful.

To be sure, we all face things much larger than we are.  That overwhelm.  That can sink the boat of the ablest mariner.  But there is in our society entirely too much male drama and meltdown.  It’s an effeminate thing that insults the high call and dignity of manhood.  Great military leaders in combat are as scared as those under them but they mask it and charge ahead.

What to do when stress comes?  Some hints:

  • Hit the gym rather than the bottle for relief.
  • Remind yourself that you are equal to the task and think positively.
  • Take a walk and reflect.  Often stresses overwhelm simply because we don’t take enough time to think through challenges and find creative solutions to meet them.
  • Pray.  And act.  Do both, not one or the other.
  • Ask yourself, “Will this matter in five days, five months or five years?” Perspective gives proper weight to problems.
  • Lead.  God help you, but whatever you do, stand up like a man and walk on.  You will astound people, because leaders are rare.

I’m learning.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  I hope you are too.

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Baby Steps On the Way to Success

baby-steps-big-dreamsOne of the most hilarious movies I ever seen—and a favorite of our family—is the 1991 motion picture, What About Bob?  This delightful film portrays the comical interactions of a successful and slightly neurotic psychotherapist, Leo Marvin  (Richard Dreyfuss), with his nerdy and phobic new client, Bob Wiley (Bill Murray).

The story features newly-published Dr. Marvin counseling his patients, especially the recent, irritating, and charming Bob–who is afraid of everything–that goals and growth can be accomplished by taking small actions toward their fulfillment.  In Bob’s case, small, bite-size actions are the key to overcoming his fears and neuroses.

Baby steps!

Bob succeeds in driving Leo Marvin to the brink and over.  In the process, Bob grows and Leo regresses.  Watch the film.

I’ve been thinking about goals and how to reach them over the past few years.  If you’re like me and over six billion other bipeds on this sphere we call Earth, you probably find the goals you pursue often appear like giant mountains or obstacle courses.  If you focus on the size of them, you may very well become discouraged and either suspend them or give them up altogether.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The Chinese philosopher Lao-Tze once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”  My wife often reminds me of the moral of Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”:   Slow and steady wins the race.  Plodding.  Patience.  Keep on keeping on.  You get the picture.

What to do:

  • Write down your goals.  This is the very first step. The success literature seems to be united on this point.  Why?  Committing goals to paper makes them more real.  Tangible.  The human mind is so conditioned that when a goal is made specific, the brain will kick into gear and come up with strategies to fulfill that goal.  Make short term, medium, and long-range goals. What are one hundred things you want to do and become before you die?  Write them down today.
  • Begin thinking of a baby steps process to meet them.  One of my colleagues at work runs half-marathons in the beautiful Adirondacks in our state.  She won a medal during one of them.  I asked her how she did it?  She told me she did it by a gradual process of progressive running, working up to twelve to thirteen miles.  She’s planning on running a full marathon.  I bet she’ll do it!  Lay out specific, easily digestible steps toward finishing the meal.  Little bites.  Baby steps.
  • Dream big.  Often we fail to reach goals because we make them too easy.  If you’re meant to ski Olympic size courses, you’ll not be happy staying on the bunny hill.  Set the bar high.

You were meant to win at life, not lose, or drown in boredom.  Do it!

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Learn To Laugh At Yourself

LightenUpThe best advice I ever received came from an eighty-four year old spitfire named Helen Easterly.  I met her in the summer of 1987.  We worked together amongst the Cree people of Northern Ontario.

Grandma Easterly—as she became known to me after she “adopted” me—had terminal cancer at the time.  Yet, she had more energy than gals sixty years her junior as she worked amongst the Cree children.  She had lived an adventurous life working all over the world as a missionary to kids.  She was vibrant, humorous and kinetic as she stared death in the face.

Some months later, I was about to get married.  Grandma Easterly sent Kath and I a very nice card with this advice:

“Don’t take yourselves too seriously.  Learn to laugh at yourselves.”

I have my share of faults and idiosyncrasies, just like you.  One of them is I tend to be way too serious.  About everything.  (Kath doesn’t have this problem.) Those who know me well are no doubt chuckling, You’re just now figuring that out?

Easy now.  Some of us are slow.

And thick.

So I thought I’d pass on a few tips to help my friends who slip on the same banana peel:

  • Listen to jazz.  Really.  Leonard Bernstein once said, “Jazz is real play.”  When I listen to jazz, I chill out. Always. Music affects the mood more than you can imagine.
  • Realize that you alone can’t fix the world.  You’re one in about seven billion inhabitants on this planet.  Do what you can where you can and then let it be.  If everybody just did a little in their own orbits, things would be a lot better in the world.
  • Exercise.  Free and legal high.  Endorphins.  You will feel better.  Trust me on this.
  • Watch films with Robin Williams or Bill Murray in them.  For tougher cases, break out the Three Stooges.
  • Read Dilbert.  Just do it.
  • Smile.  It’s proven that deliberately smiling makes you feel better, not just those who look at your mug.

Now lighten up!

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