Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tragedy...and opportunity

Last weekend tragedy struck the family of a close friend of my 15 year-old daughter.  This friend's 18 year-old sister was driving her two brothers and younger sister home from a basketball game when she lost control of their car on the snow-covered highway, drifted into oncoming traffic, and were struck by an oncoming vehicle.  The two brothers, ages 7 and 10, were killed in this horrific accident.  (See the article here:
You don't have to know the family to imagine the deep pain and palpable grief. Two lives ended so early and so suddenly.  The parents, siblings, relatives and friends will undoubtedly feel the pain of these permanent scars for the rest of their lives.  Surely the pain will become less intense over time but they will never "get over it."  And even though it was clearly no one's fault this older sister, the driver, will likely be haunted by this for the rest of her life.

As we have imagined the terrible grief this family is going through, many tears have been shed in my home by all of us, most especially my daughter, as we all feel so badly for this close friend and his family who have lost these two little boys.

In all this pain a question occurred to me: What is it about death that wakes us up to life?

Underneath the hustle and bustle of life I think we all sense our mortality from time to time and fear the speed at which life moves.  When death hits directly, or even indirectly, we are often struck by the realization that  that death could have been our death, or the death of one of our own family members.  And clearly the physical separation of these two boys from their dear family must feel unbearable to those left behind but the additional burden of seeing the lives of two growing, fun-loving boys end as they were no doubt just starting to leave their mark on the world adds an unthinkably painful element to this surreal situation.

So, to somehow cope with the pain caused by this separation the loved ones left behind will do what they can for the rest of their time on the earth to remember and honor these lives ended much too soon.  This is a painful journey but with every painful trial there is an opportunity to learn and to grow.

I believe the most important thing we can learn from death and its related pain is that it is up to no one else but us to make the most of the minutes, hours, and days we have on earth.  And that every day really does matter. Herein lies the opportunity to live a fuller life. 

The truth is that we just don't know when our or anyone else's time will be up.  Given that uncertainty I believe we can attain a higher level of happiness and satisfaction while we do have time by trying harder to be our best, because we lost a loved one, because any day could be our last, and because we could be separated from the most important people in our life right when we least expect it.

For as much as tragedy wakes us up to the reality of our own fragile mortality and that of those we love, time does tend to dull the intensity of the feelings associated with the tragedy and we usually find ourselves inevitably slipping back to our previous life patterns and behavior.  Why do we do this?  If we would just remember how precious and short life really is I am convinced that we would be better able to make the lasting changes we know we need to make and I am sure that we would be more careful in how we treat others.  Our lives would be more about others than ourselves and more about doing things now rather than putting them off for a tomorrow that may never come.

Ultimately I am talking about living a life of generosity.  Being generous in making time to listen and engage with others, simply being kind to both loved ones and strangers--especially when it sometimes feels easier to be kind to the strangers--and taking time to enjoy and understand the journey of life by rebelling against life's hustle and bustle is our best insurance that when our time, or our loved one's time, does come we will be ready to leave the earth, or let them go, with few or no regrets.

Live life as though today were your last day and treat others as though it were theirs.  I think I owe it to the family who grieves the loss of their little boys to, today and always, make my space in this life a little brighter, a little nicer, a little better.  What better way to honor their too-short lives and their tragic passing?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Be Strong or Be Stagnant

Once you know who you are and who you want to become (sadly not always the same thing), daily life seems inevitably determined to derail you from achieving your destiny.  Be it self-doubt, inertia, complacency, etc. it seems that there is always some reason to stop trying to be our best.  We may never think of it this way but if we aren't aware that life's daily struggles (and I contend that they are daily!) can tear us down then we experience the natural tendency to give up on our efforts when things get hard. 

The antidote for this common situation is STRENGTH.  If we understand that life is and will always be hard then we can take action proactively to prepare for those moments that might weaken our resolve to fulfill our destiny and instead triumph over mediocrity, stagnation and weakness.

I hate the expression: "Hang in there!"  I believe that we are too full of potential as human beings and this life is too precious for us to simply hang in there on some rope, presumably near the end of it.  We are meant to thrive, not merely survive.  We are meant to experience the thrill of reaching new highs as we push ourselves, or rather pull ourselves up, and the profound perspective available only to those who are actually climbing the rope of life.

I believe that there are several key areas in our individual lives that if we focus our efforts we will find our ability to grow greatly enhanced and our lives richer and of greater worth to ourselves and those around us.  This is hard and precisely because it is hard most people will try and then give up.  That is why true greatness is increasingly rare.  That is why fewer and fewer people are living their best lives.  So, if we want to be our best I submit that the only way to do that is to focus all we can on balancing our lives and mental attitude around the following five elements of strength:

Mental Strength

Unplug your TV/YouTube/iTunes, etc. for a set time regularly and engage in something that stimulates your brain positively.  Call it a "digital fast." 

Read (or write!) a book.  Write your ideas and thoughts in a journal or diary.  Take a class.  Practice a sport.  Learn a foreign language.  Meditate.

This life is loud and full of distractions that sap our mental energy and creativity.  Only as we actively attempt to claw back a little thinking time for ourselves can we ensure that our mental capacity will be able to influence the positive things we must regularly do to become our best.

A weak mind = A life of mediocrity

Spiritual Strength

Don't whine or be negative. Be honest and up-front in your dealings with people in your life.  Know who you are and don't fear being or becoming that person.  Each of us has a purpose in life and our job is to figure out what that is and go become that person. 

Protect your HEART, or SPIRIT, by letting it lead your actions. Wear it on your sleeve.  Your heart shows us and the world who you really are and who you want to become.  Listen to it and ACT!

Physical Strength

Eat right and work out every day.  I don't care how tired you might feel get up and move!  I am convinced that a strong body is an important key to a strong mind, heart, and spirit.  When you exercise control (pun intended) over your body you have achieved something difficult.  That achievement leads to increased confidence in other areas of your life: job, relationships, etc.

Have you EVER regretted exercising?  EVER??!!  I doubt it.  Yet how many times have you experienced the opposite emotion: "I regret not getting off my rear-end today and doing something physical?"  Only you have the power to avoid feeling that regret.


Put others' needs first.  We absolutely live in a "me first" society.  Focusing so much on our own needs and well-being leaves little room to care for others.  The common thought "If I listen to this person's problems then there won't be enough time for them to listen to mine," makes us all terrible listeners.  Terrible listeners make for shallow friends and shallow moments.  The emotional release that comes from truly being listened to by someone who "gets" you and takes the time to truly "hear" you is very powerful.  I hope you have someone to do that for you from time to time but for now, go be that person for someone else.  Your strength to listen will shine through and create dividends of strength for you for years to come.


Get out and stay out of debt.  Save more than you make and exercise restraint in spending.  The USA is the greatest market in the world and all the world's vendors know this.  While that makes for a dynamic and interesting economy it also means that we as consumers must constantly be on our guard from the regular assaults by the many low value products vying for our attention and hard-earned/much-taxed cash.

If we have actually learned anything from the most recent financial crisis and ongoing economic malaise we must change the way we handle our finances individually and as a country or we will be back on Depression's door before we know it.  Avoiding financial Armageddon personally and as a nation is really quite simple: 

1.  Stop getting into debt.  If you (we) can't pay for it with money you already have then don't buy it;
2.  Pay off debt.  Sure we live in ultra-low interest times but owing our creditors, be they some big New York Bank or the Chinese people, weakens our ability to do what we want when we want in the future;
3.  Put your money to work in projects, ideas, ventures, that will produce positive results.  It's not always easy to know what will pan out positively, and patience can often be the difference between profit and loss but follow your gut AND the advice of experienced people and you will increase your chances of success.

Financial strength has been the hardest area for me, and likely millions of others, to master and, sadly, it is only through very painful recent times that I think I, and hopefully many others, have finally figured out how to actually apply this simple, yet difficult, lesson of restraint and prudence.  The trick as to whether we have actually learned the lesson is to act DIFFERENTLY when faced with similar circumstances in the future.

So, when we get through a difficult period and the sun shines again on our financial fortune will you act differently and REMEMBER the hard-fought lesson and get it right this time??


Everyday is your chance to be strong.  You don't simply "get" strong you have to DO something to become strong.  Improving your strength in the above five elements of your life is critical to becoming your best.  It all starts with action and the alternative--a stagnant, uninteresting life--is simply not acceptable to those on the path to greatness.  Go get 'em!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Success with Our Non-Profit, Bridges To America!!

I am thrilled to report that earlier this month--and just in the nick of time--the Egbukonye Family was reunited in San Francisco via New York City

Many thanks to those of you who took the time and money to support this effort.  Candidly, we fell short of of raising the necessary funds to be able to get them here and Bridges to America is currently running in the red.  That said, given the urgency of getting Vivian, Destiny, and Duke here before their visas expired we had to do whatever we could to accomplish this amazing reunion quickly. 

Your ongoing support is needed.  Please pass this along to those you know who may be able to help.  We need to raise about $1,500 to erase the deficit and continue to help deserving families in need.

Pictures coming soon.

Mission accomplished...thank you!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Need Your Help--Live Generously

Please click here to visit my non-profit organization and help an African family fulfill the American Dream.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pain: Avoid It or Embrace It?

As I, like others, have faced the great pain of financial loss and insecurity, the anguish of lost trust in those close to me, the discomfort of rocky family relations, and the heartbreak of whip-saw setbacks after thinking I was back on track, it has become clear to me that pain can actually be a helpful element in creating lasting change.  

I have also observed many people struggle with their own unique painful circumstances and am convinced that those who actually embrace the pain as a catalyst to make change (not just because it's soooo much fun!) are much better able to rise above it quickly and become better human beings.  I am not sure I can think of anything more wasteful than enduring a painful experience and choosing to NOT grow from it!

I strongly believe that we are best able to handle the inevitable waves of change and pain that life crashes over us if we understand and accept the hardness of life as a given from the start.

Naturally, our bodies, minds, and spirits do not like pain and it is human nature to try and avoid it.  The problem is that change--especially the worthwhile kind--almost always has some sort of pain associated with it.  Unfortunately, if we do not recognize the pain we are feeling and deal with it—head-on—then we miss a huge opportunity to make the changes that propel us forward.  

Unfortunately, in contrast to the gut-wrenching effort it sometimes takes to deal with our pain head-on, our society has developed multiple tempting means of “coping” with pain that nearly always prove destructive in the short and long-term.  When I say "coping," I mean creating numbness that masks the pain in an unconscious, wasteful attempt to avoid it.  We can bring on that numbness with all sorts of destructive behavior that usually turn into lifelong habits: drinking, drugs, physical, verbal or sexual abuse where we try and transfer our pain to someone else, pornography, and eating disorders (including overeating.)

Remembering that our painful moments are life’s unique gift to us to discover and show the world (at least ourselves) who we truly are can be extremely helpful in rejecting these negative coping traps.  How we react when faced with painful circumstances is how we should measure our greatness.  You may have heard the saying that “trials build real character.”  I prefer the perspective that “trials reveal real character.”  If we develop an attitude of confidence that we can and a desire to endure and overcome trials we become less afraid of pain and change.  Then when we are inevitably faced with trials our character will not just reveal itself, it will grow and we will be ready for the next trial.  (Hopefully with a rest break in between though that is certainly not guaranteed!)

Measuring the greatness of our character when things are easy (like during a rest break) is like measuring the greatness of an athlete during warm-ups.  This is obviously not correct. An athlete’s greatness can only be measured during the height of competition with sweat, blood and tears flowing freely as maximum effort is made to beat a worthy competitor.

So, like an athlete rises to the fight when things get most painful, steel yourself and avoid the urge to take the thumb-sucking fetal position.  Pay attention to the experience and embrace the trial.  Ready yourself for the chance to jump to the next level.  For the greatest triumphs always follow the most painful lows.

Sometimes it may be difficult to recognize that we are merely “coping” rather than embracing pain.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you comfortable in your discomfort?
  • If you are in a dead-end job, relationship, or habitual behavior do you kid yourself that things aren’t that bad? 
  • Do you mask the discomfort with drugs, food, or other dysfunctional behavior?

We simply don’t have enough earth minutes to let moments of pain—chances to change—pass us by.  On my business card for Bridges To Your Best I added the phrase “Today could be your day.”  I don’t mean that maybe something lucky will happen to you today and your life will get magically better.  I mean that you can make today your day.  I have learned time and time again that luck comes when preparation meets opportunity.  We can’t always control when opportunity will come but we can control our preparation. 

These moments of pain that we all are faced with are our best chances to prepare ourselves for the opportunities that are sure to come.  Just remember that often opportunity disguises itself as a painful trial.  With that knowledge you stand a much better chance of benefitting from it if you actively embrace it rather than passively avoiding it.

Good luck.  Or rather: Be Ready!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

One Step at a Time

Dane completed his epic 202-mile run nearly two weeks ago in Washington D.C.  It was a great adventure for me and my wife despite major lack of sleep, getting what sleep we could in the car, eating fast food, etc.

Since returning home, I have reflected on what Dane accomplished and am once again amazed at what you can do when you simply put one foot in front of the other. I think we all understand the virtue of taking on life's challenges one step at a time but, just as in Dane's run, sometimes the road is dark and a little scary and after thousands of steps the prospect of taking even one more little step can be physically and mentally overwhelming.

As I watched Dane navigate the low points of his run it was instructive to me to watch the human spirit in action.  Often we all face the natural desire to quit or lower the bar when things get difficult.  But if we have developed a strong desire for excellence and an ability to dream big we can marshall the strength to keep us on course and fulfill our destiny.

Dane's run was an adventure not that different from life.  Some people actually asked me what place he came in.  He started 24 hours earlier than the rest of the teams running so it's really not a relevant question but I am struck by the way we as humans keep score.  The question seemed to imply that if he didn't finish near the lead then his accomplishment might mean less.  How about "I just navigated a 202 mile run in 50 hours!" as an indicator of success?  Do you ever worry that we might be judged by others (or ourselves) not by whether we finished the "run" of life but by what place we took? (e.g., the size of our bank account or home, the shape of our body, the number of awards on our wall, etc.)

In this fast-paced world we have, understandably, come to expect fast results and love to keep score.  We are hit daily with clever marketing and real-life examples of quick-fixes, instant answers, and rankings. While I appreciate scientific and technological advances as much as the next non-Luddite we must be careful to not apply "quick-fix" ideas or external judgements to the most important parts of life such as building character and accomplishing our life's dreams.  These pursuits are by nature most difficult and are only accomplished through consistent, steady effort.  Like Dane, we may fall on the trail and want to give up sometimes but if we have prepared ourselves by focusing on character development and doing what matters most, I know that we can find the strength to persevere and stay the course.

It bears repeating (daily!) that becoming our best is much less like a sprint and much more like a 202-mile run.  That means we have to be honest and clear with ourselves that worthwile things take time.  There is no substitute for time and yet the clock is always ticking.  So, if we make the most of each day our results may not be immediate but we can be assured that they will be lasting.

Lastly, don't stop dreaming big simply because we are afraid (or know!) the road will be hard.  We all have different trails to run, or even walk, but the important thing is that we find ours and stay on it.  To stay in our warm emotional/mental bed when the cold winds of life are blowing is essentially tantamount to choosing a life of mediocrity.  No one is on this earth to be mediocre, no one.
I have started BRIDGES because I have gone through (and will continue to) the unpleasant but ultimately rewarding pain of getting out of my comfortable psychological bed, facing the paralyzing freeze of my problems, and moving down my life's path anyway.  I believe my mission now is to share these inspiring principles of BRIDGES I have discovered and provide the motivation for you to move forward so we both can achieve excellence and be a force for good in a world already full of mediocrity and complacency.

We will both do this one determined step at a time.

Stay tuned...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bold...or Crazy?!!

There is a fine line between bold and crazy.  I believe strongly that boldness catalyzes greatness.  If you are going to change your life you really, at some point at least, have to "go big or go home," and only the bold go big.  You do have to use the grey matter between your ears to ensure that you don't cross the line to crazyville and destroy your chance of living to be bold another day.  However, too many of us worry that our bold ideas are actually closer to crazy ideas and we pull back from chances to breakout and become great.

Through my wife's business, Asea (, I had the privilege of meeting an extraordinary athlete last fall at the Top of Utah Marathon Expo.  Dane Rauschenberg accomplished the amazing feat of running 52 official marathons in 52 consecutive weeks during 2006.  I had read about him in Runner's World and when I saw him signing books across from my wife's booth I had to meet him.  Thankfully, I did.

Since that time, through a sponsorship of his efforts at both the Atlanta and Honolulu Marathons, my wife and I have spent lots of time with Dane and watched him interact with hundreds of fellow runners and fans.  Often when people hear what Dane has accomplished I am intrigued by the skeptical shaking of the head or the comment: "Are you crazy?!"  That's probably a fair reaction and I can't guarantee that I didn't do the same when I first read about "52."

Today, to his great credit and as a testament to who he is, Dane is ratcheting up the boldness big time.  He will be running a 202 mile relay race known as the American Odyssey Relay ( solo! My wife and I will be there to support him and cheer him on and are excited to see how Dane will do.  He knows how very hard and painful this will be and I am sure this will take everything he has to cross the finish line in Washington DC on Saturday.  202 miles in about 48 hours! Obviously this will be a tremendous physical challenge that would exhaust most of us just thinking about it.  But I believe that the greater challenge will be of the heart and mind and that is where you and I can be as bold as Dane.

I don't know if Dane will finish this event (and he would admit his own doubts) but I do know that he is and the people around him are better for his boldness.  To be able to get himself to a place where he thinks that he can and actually wants to achieve this extraordinary feat is truly inspirational to me.  Whether he finishes or not is not the point.  The point is that Dane is exhibiting the exact kind of boldness that drives greatness. 
No matter what our "race" may be at this time or in the future I believe that we will face nothing that cannot be overcome (or at least managed well) with a healthy dose of boldness.  Let others call us crazy and try and hold us back from being our best.  That type of reaction, while not exactly helpful, is likely confirmation that we are on the right track.

Dane's attempt may seem crazy to some and for most it would be crazy to try but we each have something inside of us driving us to do something extraordinary--some battle, some effort, some dream.  The question is: Are we listening?  Do we say: "That's crazy!" and ignore the thought or do we believe that only the bold excel and act on it? 

Being extraordinary requires the almost constant ability to adapt and change to the stuff of life.  Change is hard but I believe that boldness--the true conviction to be amazing--is the key to overcoming the "hardness" of change and achieving one's very best.

I don't know where Dane will be at noon on Saturday--hopefully resting near the finish line in DC with a smile on his face--but I do know for sure that he can't accomplish this extraordinary run if he wasn't bold enough to start the race in the first place.

Go Dane!