A Lady Named Giselle

NYC 2012 031
A couple of months ago I met a lady named Giselle. It was a chance meeting. She was the physical therapist assigned to my mom who is embarking on the journey of knee replacement surgery. As I sat with my mom during the interview, Giselle asked about my dad who passed away in January of 2009. This information must have been in my mom's records. She seemed genuinely concerned as she reviewed my mom's history. After a brief pause she explained that she had lost her mom three weeks prior.

A chapter opened.

Giselle spoke much of her mom. She mentioned her mom's career achievements, how much her father loved her and how sudden she passed after being diagnosed with cancer. I just listened, as I remembered my own words after my dad's passing. I felt like I was watching a movie of my own life.

Giselle then surprised me by asking about my own journey through grief. I explained to her that my dad's passing looked nothing like what I thought it would have. I was one of those people who believed they could prepare for the fateful day. Consequently, I experienced what the Valley really looked like from my own experience. A cruel teacher at times.

I went on to tell her that after his funeral, it felt like the earth (at least where my dad existed inside of me) was scorched. As if some great fire had consumed all that I knew. But with all of that, a shoot of green appeared from that charred ground. I wasn't paying much attention and I was consumed by who was lost. I'm sure she understood the process of looking for the face and presence of someone you love. I told her that in that place, over time, gave way to what began looking more and more like a flower. As more time passed the flower bloomed into something like I'd never seen before. The most beautiful flower where Charles once was.

I told Giselle that my little story was my best attempt at describing my process of dealing with my dad's passing. Funny thing was, I'd never told anyone that story until that day and time. Amazing how life unfolds. Amazing.

5 Things I Haven’t Forgotten


The following are 5 things I haven't forgotten along the way of my travels:

  1. It will be my life that will be measured in eternity.  God won't be spending 60% of his time with me asking about my career and money choices.  It'll be a part of the conversation, just not as big as it often can be in this world.  
  2. Relationships are hard work.  In America, we have this obsession with ease and pleasure.  In some areas this is totally appropriate.  In a relationship (you fill in the blank) ease and pleasure come as a result of the hard work.  It's hard work because anything worth your time should require something big from you.
  3. I can't fix or save anybody.  All I can do is offer with encouragement and kindness.  The choice to do something is totally out of my control.  After watching many of my family members experience the affects of alcohol and drug abuse, I know this well.
  4. Change is a part of life and you'd better be prepared to face ridicule for embracing it.  I never had as much peace as when I was in the box that many had grown comfortable with.  Some of this is people getting used to change, but the remainder is from the "crowd."  I now understand that the two are intertwined.
  5. I don't have to have all the answers.

Learning How to Get Shot

Note: I'm conscious of all the talk around guns in the U.S. As you will see, guns in this post are used as a metaphor. 

Learning how to get shot has been one of the best things to ever happen to me.

I was chatting with an entrepreneur a couple of weeks ago and we got into the subject of failed ventures/experiments. I told him that after a few failures, you begin to learn how to try again with better information and understanding. We agreed and smiled as if we both were remembering the "one" that should have gotten traction.

He went onto tell me about a conference he attended, where he met a man in the training business. He was no ordinary trainer. This man trained soldiers in multiple areas, but the one that leaped out at me was the area of combat. Specifically, teaching soldiers how to get shot. Teaching them how to get shot? How about not getting shot?

Here's the deal. This entrepreneur was a part of the British Special Forces and had been shot multiple times in the line of duty. Where things happen lightening quick, you can understand the importance of this art. He retold the story of how he was wounded, but the very interesting part was around how humans respond to trauma. 

When harmed we go into shock.

Going into shock hinders our ability to heal and keep going. This entrepreneur teaches soldiers how to keep going if for some reason they're shot. The mission doesn't end because of a wound. The mission continues and should. See the connection? Like soldiers, we need to keep going.

As our conversation came to a close I reviewed my own history and I thought about how many times I've been "shot." Many times, as many of you know. I felt good. Not because I enjoyed the failed experiment or that wanted to see if I could take the hit, but because these events have shaped me and prepared me for what's to come-good and bad. This is truly when life is like Hebrew (have to read it backwards to understand it).

The Process of Remaking a Man

Kid playing

As I noted earlier in the week, this post is coming to shed some light on a long journey. The journey about the process of remaking a man. That man would be me.

It's been quite a process, this remaking dance.

I was out running a few mornings back and was listening to the Rush song Subdivisions. The following lyric held my mind as body continued to move:

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights…

I'm still running and Coldplay's Viva La Vida appears on my iPod. This verse freezes me once again:

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

As I was heading home I remembered a former boss. I hated him. He wasn't very kind, would embarrass me publicly and easily looked passed me. But he kept me because I made him and the organization money. It was a bad situation to be knee-deep in. But I was, with things moving fast and no time to step back.

In 2005, a coup was set in motion and I was a willing agent. Made friends with the devil for short time and he got what was coming. I rejoiced at his removal. Never thought about his struggle or his family or his grappling with a job search. I thought justice had been served.

What the hell was I doing?

Close to a year later I was on the receiving end of what my former boss got. Just rewards you might think. Maybe so. In the end, my life would never be the same again. 

And here's why:

I've chronicled in this blog a lot about my journey. Sometimes in bits and pieces, sometimes in focused light. Maybe I've made this clear, but I needed to be remade. I needed a new operating system.

God gave me an operating system when I was much younger and I chose to add and take away. I guess I felt the pressure to do it my way. You know, feeling like God could use some help. A little more salt, please. The reality was rooted in my deep fear that in the end I was ultimately on my own. This was a lie I felt was true, due to the circumstances (family, society, career, business, whatever).

Ironically, I moved to a space where God could find me vulnerable with no exits. It was not my plan to do this I fully believe that my story is rooted in God wanting to catch me and transform me. That reality is bigger than entrepreneurship, writing a book, material success, and all the other bragging rights we often crave. What happened to me is not unlike what many a man and women have faced at one time or another.

Some have asked, and wondered without speaking, why my last seven years has been such a struggle, a desert. I wish I had an answer that could wrap everything in a box with red ribbon. My story is not that story. My story resembles people like Nebuchadnezzar, Paul, or maybe you. Men and women who have to go through a remake that is humbling, painful, frustrating, confusing, and in the end beautiful.

So I don't know if I will make money online, be a top 10 blog, write a best-selling book, or create the next "killer app." I am certain I becoming more of a man who's working on becoming what God intended. The other has its place. One thing is clear to me though, I am dancing with my Epic life instead of looking out there and wondering what it feels like.

Dancing is nice.


What I Wanted, What I Got, What I Did

This re-post from 2009 is designed to give you some context for a post coming later in the week.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

– Shakespeare

As I wrote some time ago, I have been doing more thinking than writing lately.  One of the things I've been pondering is the idea of what one wants from life-specifically what I've wanted.

I've also been thinking about what I've gotten, and what I did in response to the result.

The following are some specifics:

  1. I wanted my dad to be around longer for me to fully appreciate our relationship.  Regardless, he passed on unexpectedly and a large comma was placed in my life.  I am relying on the vision God gave me to work through this time.  A type of vision that says: "I don't know how this all will work out, but I trust, even in my deepest blues, that it will."
  2. I wanted a linear path in my entrepreneur pursuits.  It has been anything but linear.  I have rolled with it and learned to embrace my disappointments as I do my successes.  Most importantly, things don't need to look like I thought they would in order to be the "right thing."
  3. I wanted certain people to stick with me.  Those that took off were only with me for the ride.  As a result, I redefined what friendship really means.
  4. I wanted a great career.  I lost my career and found my life.  I am most grateful for this…I can breathe.
  5. I wanted to get everything right with my family.  In the last three years, I've gotten much wrong. I  learned  that needing forgiveness creates the art of forgiving.

5 Questions with Dr. Mark Goulston and Dr. John Ullmen, Authors of Real Influence

Had the pleasure of connecting with Dr. Mark Goulston and Dr. John Ullmen,
authors of Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In
about their new book and more. Some really great insights from two great thought leaders. Enjoy!

The book is
ripe with practical ideas, could you unwrap the concept of "their
there" and why it's important in the arena of influence?

MG: "Your here" is your agenda and in this distrustful world everyone
expects people to have one and so everyone either has their guard up or is
primed to put their guard up at the first sign of you trying to foist your
agenda on them. 

JU: Focusing and remaining focused on "their there" or where the
other person is coming from and helping them to see and get to where they want
to go and way beyond that, where they could go is one of the keys to real
influence. In fact, the most influential people from our lives were influential
because they saw a potential in us that we couldn't see.

We here in
the U.S. live in a very self-focused culture. What are some ways to transcend
this state?

MG: Think of someone and what they did who stood up for you when you couldn't
and/or stood by you in a crisis and refused to let you fail and/or stood up to
you in private and pushed you to do something you didn't think you could or
stopped you from doing something foolish that would have hurt you or your

JU: Good point Mark.  What was that
person's effect on you? Probably amazing. 
What would be the best way to honor them? Probably by doing onto others
what they did onto you.  What would be
the effect on people around you? Probably the same as that special person's
effect was on you… huge. Plus you might even like yourself or be proud of
yourself more.

What will the
solo/individual contributor find most practical in the book?

JU: The solo/individual will find a 4 step way to truly win friends and influence
everyone, that works 100 % of the time if you apply it.

How does
listening help our efforts to influence?

JU: Ask yourself, "When was the last time I felt someone: got my situation
(I mean really got my situation); got me in my situation (my fears, dread,
dreams and possibilities) and got not just where I wanted to be, but where I
could be that would be profitable, successful, meaningful and fulfilling.
" We're guessing, "Doesn't happen to often."  That is the power of listening to influence

Could someone
apply the concepts found in the book to their personal lives?

MG: In a word… absolutely.  Just think
of the people who helped you become the best you could be and who will be among
the top handful of people you are most grateful to at the end of your
life.  What if you became that to the
people in your personal life? Imagine the possibilities.


About The Authors MARK GOULSTON, M.D., is a business psychiatrist,
consultant, Chairman and Cofounder of Heartfelt Leadership, and the  author
of the bestselling Just Listen and Get Out Of Your Own Way.  He also
writes a Tribune syndicated career column; blogs for Fast Company, Business
Insider, Huffington Post, and Psychology Today; and is featured frequently in
major media, including the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review,
Fortune, Newsweek, CNN, NPR, and Fox News. He lives in Los Angeles.  JOHN
ULLMEN, Ph.D., is an acclaimed executive coach whose clients include dozens of
leading international firms.  He oversees MotivationRules.com, conducts
popular feedback-based seminars on influence in organizations, and teaches at
the UCLA Anderson School of Management.  He lives in Los Angeles.

The Moment

I know many are in goal-setting overload right now and as a follow-up to Tuesday's post, I'm going to chime in. Just not in a way you might expect. Here goes:

Don't set any goals for 2013.

The reason is quite simple. Until you have a moment, the moment, setting goals is more wishful thinking. You may feel better that you created a list or have a feeling of temporary validation, but it will fade. Trust me.

In my own journey I have found myself confronted with "the moment" multiple times, even when I didn't want to. The moment is a place and time where there's no more BS and there is the appearence of a crossroads. Sometimes it's life and death, sometimes it's a place where I've been humbled. Either way, the bridge was burned and change was waiting just beyond the flames and embers.

In 2004, my dad had an aortic aneurysm. It was caught in time and they operated to quickly address a very dangerous condition. My dad didn't tolerate anesthetic very well, so his recovery from surgeries could be dicey. On the day of the surgery, my mom called me at work to tell me that he wasn't coming out of the post-surgery anesthetic well and the doctors were concerned. 

I went to the hospital that day "put out." I wondered how bad could it really be. You see, I was in a place of prosocuting my dad for his past sins. And I thought this was just another situation to get through. Besides, his sins were the real issues.

I entered his hospital room and found myself surprised and disarmed. He looked so fragile and vulnerable. Not the man I grew up watching. The moment had come. I felt like God was right next to me whispering "it's time to rest your case and forgive." The moment. That set forth a process of learning how to forgive and accept forgiveness. My dad passed away 5 years later.

You should also know that I spent time setting goals around my relationship with my dad in the preceding years. Multiple years of resolving and planning. You know the drill, "I will have breakfast once-a-month, I will go to a baseball game, I will invite him to, the list goes on. I never did it because there was never a moment.

I have learned some valuable lessons in the last few years. Two of the most important ones are the need for the moment and that I don't have to wait for the moment to come to me. The latter implies that you can humble yourself and look at your life soberly and make the move. Regardless, without out the moment goals rarely stick.

You want them to stick.

How to Manage Your Health Simply

Learning how to keep things simple is a desire we all can relate to. Whether it's containing the to-do list or not allowing the good things of life crowd out the great, we know simplicity is the best way to live.

I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal over the holidays and got me thinking about our seemingly endless pursuit of improvement. In the healthcare arena you have to applaud. It might save your life or mine! This post is not about slamming improvements in healthcare or otherwise, but to make you aware of the best improvements you can make that may trump science.

  1. Research the power of habits and how you can build good ones just like you can build bad ones. If you get this, clarity will want to take up residence in your life.
  2. Seriously consider what you put into your body and make sure it's as pure and healthy as possible. Not calling you to pursue perfection, just a daily consideration (your choices, your perspective on food). Don't think of what you can't have, think of the gift of your life.
  3. Get moving. Exercise is not about losing weight, looking like a model or having the best 5K time. Those things are by-products/results of the work. Yes, work! Again, don't think of what you will lose (time is an often used excuse). Focus on the gift of your life. As Dr. Michael Martin once told me, "God made our bodies to move."
  4. Manage your stress. Stress is not a question of if, it is a question of now. I use Yoga, I pray, I use self-talk to protect from giving in. Our lack of discipline in managing our stress is driving us over the edge.
  5. Create and manage your health plan. And, yes, that means not blindly doing or accepting what a physician/practitioner tells you to do. Educate, reflect and act. It's your life and no one else has been given the responsibility to manage it.

The goal is to do as much as you can to minimize your use of the healthcare system, beyond what is preventative in nature.

Who Are You Marketing To?

I've been at this entrepreneur (risk-taker) thing for awhile-even before I knew it consciously. The learning never stops. I had a couple of great conversations today around marketing and the target of those intentions. Driving away from those conversations, I thought about who I'm marketing to. Maybe the question is appropriate for you as well.

Who are you marketing to?

My intentions with marketing may be different than you. Are you marketing yourself to a prospective employer type? Are you marketing yourself to a prospective client? Regardless, it pays to know. I know you may now be thinking I deserve the big "duh." Stick with me.

In the early days of Epic Living I put significant time into knowing who my target audience was. It was a noble effort, but it lacked the sobering understanding needed in the final analysis. Quite frankly, this lack of sobering understanding tripped me up. In other words, failure upon failure. Here's what I discovered some time ago:

I'm not marketing to me.

This reality is crucial. No matter how excited I was about a product or service or how much I thought what I was offering would change the world, I was a poor example of who would buy and follow. The deception lies in a belief that my excitement and applause represented the "whole" needed to sustain my ideas. The dirty little secret is often I didn't want to hear that my "great" idea was only interesting to a few. Ouch!

My friend, Craig Lerner of Involve, always follows my announcement of a new idea with a question. The question, so what? Yep, so what. So what if it does this, does that, saves starving children, and on and on. He's not trying to shoot my dream down, he's putting me through the sobering understanding thing. He has helped me immensely, even when I didn't want to hear it. You need a Craig Lerner.

So where does that leave us? Here are some key take-aways to consider, and remember, this is based on my experience

  • Does anyone really care enough about what you offer to keep coming back? Yea, I know you may be a master closer, but after you let go of the vice grip, are they really a fan?
  • Is what you offer sustainable, solve a problem and have real demand? Sustainable in that it can be reproduced and used repeatedly. Solving a problem speaks for itself. Demand is that essential "it" quality that makes people pay a premium. Not because you sold them, but because there's true value present.
  • Is it simple? Most people (customers, employers, partners, etc.) have compressed attention spans and don't want to spend minutes trying to figure things out.
  • Have you real data to support what you do? Real data is not data you spin in-order to get a result you desperately want.
  • Are willing to set your hopes and dreams aside so that the integrity can emerge? I respect leaders who know that certain ideas stink or need another time and space to work. This is difficult, very difficult.

The Value Proposition

Welcome to 2013! In today's post I'm focusing on the value proposition. Not in relation to your investments or sales process, but your epic life. Don't turn away. Reading this may be the most important thing you do all year. Not because I'm such a great thinker or writer, but because your life is worth more than you can imagine. Sounds cliche doesn't it. Your awkward smile and feeling of embarrassment that you haven't paid enough attention to life's rhythm is hanging on your sleeve.

I watch people intently-live and written. I gauge their behavior and their words. I want to see if they really are as "whole" as they portray themselves to be. My review isn't to judge or make light, but to see if I've been given the opportunity to focus on helping them move to a place of Epic (their movie, their symphony, their happiness) Living. In many ways my blood runs with a sense of how their story unfolds.

We are in great danger.

I told a friend and fellow-pilgrim some time ago, that I've seen this recurring vision of a large building with an office full of people. On any given day I see a band of mercenaries planting bombs and traps for the people going in and out everyday. I have some experience with bombs and traps. I used to set them. How's that for irony? If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know my story. In the end, my calling and mission is to save as many as possible. And, yes, I've been called and construed as one of the "crazy ones." 

At this point in your story, I would like you to consider how the value proposition can create great odds for success. It will not be easy and it will create a crossroads, just a friendly warning.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Turn off the world (the marketing, the people, the employers, etc.) before you begin this process. By the way, the world will not like this. If you ignore my warning here, you'll go into a form of mental slavery. Someone or something else will sieze control.
  2. I'm giving you 5 diamonds worth millions, the rarest of the rare. Each one represents what you value most in life. Things like God, family, a cause, friends, career, etc. Choose wisely here.
  3. Now, the condition of me giving you the diamonds is you must take care of and keep the value of the diamonds growing at an annual 10% clip each year. Every day in the given year will be the measuring stick. The take-away is, you must take care of your diamonds every day.
  4. If you fail in number 3, you lose your life.
  5. As an added bonus, I will stay with you during the year to help you with perspective and give feedback. I will only do this when you ask. It's your life after-all.

Intersted in this value proposition? You should be, you're already invested.