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Monthly Archives: December 2011

I am adding to the throng of new year messages, ‘trying harder is not the path to success.’ Do you find that your resolutions fly in one year and out the other?  That’s because like me you have been trying too hard.  The trouble with trying is that it leaves open the option of failure. I want to encourage us not make resolutions but to make choices and back up those choices with a plan.  A man needs a plan.  He has to think about the matter, consider it, reflect on it, ruminate and mull over.  Remember this ladies, a man must have a plan.  Don’t ask where he wants to be in 2012 but ask where he wants to be in his twilight years, those times when the end times are approaching. Ecclesiastes 7:8 says, better is the end of a thing than its beginning. So let’s make New Year choices.

Stop giving yourself a get out clause.  How many times have you heard it said, “I am trying to give up”.  I am trying to give up, fill in the blank….cigarettes, binging on alcohol, porn, spending in my credit card, nagging my children, using my credit card, foods that make you fat, or meaningless spiritualism.  You can try all you want but until you make a choice to stop and then prove true to your word you’re self destructive, pitiful attempts to give value, worth and dignity to your short sorry life will continue to fail.  And just in case you are wondering why I am being so harsh on each of us be reminded that this year alone I have seen enough divorces and suicides to know that soft words make hard people and we need hard words to make soft people. I am seeking people who will accept tough words; words that are rooted in truth – bitter pills to swallow that provide effective treatment for our sickness.

You know those commitments you made that you didn’t keep? Those are lies.  Each of your words count, every single one.  When you say something half true, fail to keep you word or just obfuscate, those are lies.  Do you know why we tell lies? It’s because we are liars.  Do you see the nonsense that says, ‘we are all good people really?’  Introduce me to someone who isn’t a liar, you see, how can you? Then don’t be caught trying vainly to persuade yourself that he’s a good lad really. He’s wicked, so are you and so am I.  Get used to it, it’s the world you live in, look around and know we are no better.  Your life of vanity, self-esteem and over-indulgence of your comforts is leading to your eventual loneliness and destruction.  I am begging you in my New Year’s message to see the world as it is; broken by proud, corrupted, corruptible, greedy, and malicious people.

There is only one person who ever lived his life in complete obedience to its meaning and purpose, who never lied, stole or cursed and was found to be guiltless. Do you know what we did to him? We betrayed, abandoned, tortured and murdered him. Can you at the very least not be intrigued as to how a penniless, itinerant preacher has had such a profound effect on human history? Your life does have meaning and purpose that the world is desperate to keep you from.  For your sake and for the sake of those you love, be intrigued; choose 2012 to think about it.  The cosmic reality is that there’s far more to love than you or I could possibly imagine.

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It been a while since I’ve captured some coaching idea.  These came from Active Triathlete. What’s interesting is that much of the premise I disagree with. You don’t need excuse busters if you are already motivated. However, here are some practical ideas that while we may already know them, like having your gear out warming on the radiator, we don’t have them established in our routine. Now, if like me, you are getting out each day despite not following these ideas is there margin for improving your performance with these ideas. Given that performance is entirely psychological before it’s ever physical then I say yes, there is plenty of room for improvement:

“It’s funny isn’t it? In spite of all the admiration you receive for your dedication, discipline and commitment to training and racing in the summer, and despite your pride for living an active lifestyle, it can still be challenging to maintain day-to-day motivation for triathlon training in the winter.

It can also be confusing when you don’t feel like your normal self. On the inside you feel like you lack drive or you can’t find your mojo to get up and go. That’s when the excuses start to creep in.

So, here are 15 excuse busters to nudge you, push you, or inspire you to stay motivated and keep moving through the cold months

Excuse: “It’s too hard to get out of bed on cold, dark mornings.”

It’s true that temperature and light have direct impact on our body rhythms in the winter extremes. But there are simple things you can do to encourage yourself to leave the comfort of your warm bed.

Create heat. Adjust the thermostat timer to warm your home or bedroom before the alarm goes off. If the temperature outside the duvet is as enjoyable as inside, poof! the excuse is gone. Even better, put your workout clothes on the heater or radiator so they are toasty warm and ready for you when you climb out of bed.

Recreate early sunlight. Invest in a bedside lamp that simulates natural daylight. For example, the Phillips ‘Wake-up Light’, endorsed by the National Sleep Foundation, gradually increases the light and comes with built in clock and alarm. Starting your day with natural light will help activate your internal clock to get ready to take on the day.

Tune your alarm. Rather than a normal, annoying alarm clock, use your iPod or similar device to play specific songs that get you going. It doesn’t need to be your techno dance mix but something that lifts your mood and energy will do wonders for your ability to get out of bed on the first try.

Find a friend. Find someone who will commit to joining you in the morning for walks or workouts, and hold you accountable for showing up. Knowing someone is waiting for you to share the pain of the early darkness might be just the stimulus you need to throw back the covers and get out of the house.

Excuse: “I may be out of bed but I still don’t want to go outside.”

It’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle of excuses that destroy momentum and kill motivation to be active. Use these ideas to boost your mood from the get go.

Put your head under water. Rather than clinging to the comfort of your favorite housecoat while shuffling to the kitchen for a coffee, make a beeline to the shower. The water will wake you. Getting dressed right away also will help get you past the urge to lounge lazily over your latte.

Dress the part. The truth is there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing choices. Is it time to upgrade to proper winter performance gear? If you’ve balked at the cost of higher-priced winter hats, gloves, tights, tops or jackets for outdoor activity, just ask anyone who’s used them: The price is easily offset by the increase in enjoyment, comfort and enthusiasm that helps counteract the cold. If you already have some, maybe it’s time to treat yourself to a new piece. A new base layer or trail running shoes might be the bribe you need to head outdoors on a regular basis

Keep it simple, stupid (K.I.S.S.).  The best way to overcome our excuses is to not create them in the first place. The more things that need to fall into place in order to get to the gym on time, the more likely we are to find a reason not to go. If you have to drive too far in the snow or ride a cold subway across town, you’re creating extra hurdles that will attract excuses.

Keep it simple: go for a 25-minute run around the office block at lunch, do three laps of your neighborhood first thing, or switch things up at the gym by using only the cardio machines you don’t have to wait for. You’ll finish a quality workout with less hassle and at a pace that feels rewarding.

Warm up indoors. Do some jumping jacks, leg lifts or pushups in your living room before heading out. Not only will it get your heart rate going and your blood circulating, it will make it very difficult to slide back into bed. Excuses be gone!

Tap into technology. Proclaiming your intention to workout each day on Facebook, Twitter, your blog or online community (e.g. Nike+) can strengthen your commitment, even if it is to avoid the embarrassment and guilt of not following through.

Excuse: “I can’t find the same passion or fire to do it regularly.”

What drives you in the summer is probably different from what motivates you in winter. When there’s not a big race on the horizon, what fuels your daily ambition?

See the big picture. Find, or make your own 12-week calendar from January to March. Put it on one page and post it somewhere you’ll see it every day (bedroom wall or office desk) . When you look at all three months together you realize how fast it’s going to go.

Use this to plan and track your workouts and the winter events you’d like to participate in. Winter can seem long but if you focus on the big picture, you’ll see the spring thaw is just around the corner. With it looming that close, you’ll be more motivated to get fit and ready for the first race of the year.

Use mini-goals for major rewards. Set small targets that lead to higher intensity, focus and discipline to stay on track each day. Perhaps the number of miles this week, the number of workouts over the next seven days, or steady improvements in strength gains on the bench press. For maximum motivation, always write your goals down, making them specific and measurable, and track progress so you can reward yourself for the results.

Create your own challenge. Speak to the gym manager and together devise new and motivating challenges for members. If your health club doesn’t do an indoor triathlon or duathlon, take charge and make it happen. Not only does it keep you fit but it helps build your commitment to train and create camaraderie with other members.

Remember what works for you. If you find yourself suitably motivated in the summer, what specifically created that motivation: Targets? Goals? Friends? Coach? Competition? The great outdoors? How can you tap into the driving force and the feeling it creates in the summer and replicate something similar now?

Turn from student to teacher. If you’re an experienced athlete, now is a great time to offer your knowledge to someone who could use extra guidance to get into the sport. Is there someone you know that has hinted at trying a triathlon? Become their mentor. Just be sure to ease them into it and go at their pace, not yours. You’ll find that sharing your enthusiasm with someone else also gives you enthusiasm to fuel your own workouts.

Step out of the ordinary. Months of in-season intensity and pushing your limits will tire the best of us. Do you need a physical break from what you’ve always done to give your body time to recover and heal?”

Here’s Adrian’s post script; motivation doesn’t last.  You can read this be all fired up, hear a motivational talk, be fired up, engage with the best in the business coach or athlete and be fired up but it doesn’t last.  The truth is that you need to change if you want things to change.  Currently your life is a confusing mess, you have frustration at home and at work because you are the common theme. Wherever you go these problems strangely accompany you.  I tell you this because I love you my friend, join the dots up, for Christ’s sake see that unless you change things will not change.  This is something I am equipped to speak about so do not hesitate to get in touch.

These are useful thoughts taken from an article published in a US Military professional Journal:

“Sir, do you love me?”  When a crusty old sergeant asked me that question ten years ago I had no response.  I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not come close to making it clear to him.  He wanted me to understand myself, and at the time I didn’t.  If we cannot explain what we believe and what we stand for, it is most likely that we stand for nothing, and believe whatever is most popular that week.  I know many people who have very strong beliefs but few who can explain what they are.  What good is it to say George Bush / Bill Clinton is bad if you cannot explain why?  If you cannot explain why abortion is bad, or homosexuals should not get married, or the Bible is fiction, then you are probably spouting the same rhetoric that your circle of friends picked up from your favorite television news show.  For me, that is simply no way to live.  I have to understand why I am who I am, and for that reason this paper is a welcome nudge towards putting my beliefs, and more importantly the reasons behind those beliefs, on paper.

In all of our lives there are a few seminal events or concepts that shape who we are.  It has taken me the better part of twelve years to identify those events in my life.  These few events direct our moral compass, and identify to us what is right and what is wrong.  In my life there are five things that have directed me.

1.  Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, where I attended my first four years of college, is very similar to the military academies.  Freshmen are not necessarily treated well.  The sophomores are the enforcers of the law.  They are tasked with maintaining a very strict discipline, usually using a creative variety of physical exercises to keep us poor freshmen in line.  With every drop of sweat, you would hear someone mention Fish Day.  Fish Day was that magical day, late in the second semester, when freshmen and sophomores would change places for twenty-four hours.  The anticipation was like Christmas to a five-year old.  We counted down the days, all the while making plans for the inventive ways we would wring the sweat out of our oppressors.  The night before Fish Day we all stayed up late, polishing and creasing, absolutely positive that our uniforms would be fault-less.  We knew we could find something to bust the sophomores on.  Nothing was going to get us in trouble on Fish Day.

When that morning finally arrived, we prowled the halls thirty minutes early in eager anticipation of that moment when we could yell “fall out!” and finally gain our revenge.  When the first yell went up and all the sophomore’s doors opened we were in for quite a shock.  They were in no way prepared for inspection.  I remember one inventive individual who spent the morning inspection time facing the wall with his uniform on backward.  He simply refused to move, and we were forbidden to touch him.  Another showed up wearing nothing but a tube sock with a tennis ball in the end of it, held in place with a rubber band.  I will not go into detail as to where he wore it.  The Juniors were of course all over us, yelling and screaming, “Get these idiots in line, do your job, you want to lead you better do it now!”  It went on like that all day.  I remember seeing several freshmen crying outright at the absolute futility and frustration.  That was a pretty miserable day, but in retrospect, it was hilarious.

When evening formation arrived, the sophomores were, for the first time that day, perfect soldiers.  We could find no fault with any of them.  It was perhaps a bit crude but a very effective lesson to those who were willing to learn:  we only lead because they let us.

A subordinate always has a choice.  The consequences may be unpleasant, such as unemployment or in the case of the military perhaps confinement, but there is always that choice.  As I have risen to managerial positions through the years the lesson learned that day has always stayed with me.  I try to never forget that my soldiers follow me of their own free will.  I must, with my actions and attitudes, and not with threats of punishment, inspire them to follow my direction.

2.  “Sir, do you love me?”  These are not at all the words an aggressive, hard-charging young captain wants to hear from his senior enlisted advisor, especially if it is from a forty year-old man getting ready to retire.  I responded in the only way a combat arms officer could:

“What the hell are you talking about?  You know the rules, don’t ask, don’t tell.  How could you question me like that?”

“I am just asking a question, sir.  Do you love me?”

By this time I was beginning to be a bit flustered.

“I take good care of my soldiers, you know that.  You can change the subject or you can walk back to the office, sergeant.  I have had enough.”

Ten years after the fact I can still hear the steel jaws close on the trap he had set for me.

“But sir, if you don’t love me, how can you lead me?”

Ten years later and I have still not found a way to contact him, just to say thanks.  I will have to make that happen this year.

I try to love my soldiers like I love my children, understanding that needs and wants are two different priorities.  With my kids I try to give them room to grow and make mistakes while always staying close enough to ensure the inevitable mistakes are not too serious.  I treat soldiers with the same concept, just a different maturity level.   I do not give them what they do not need, like extra days off or trips in early from field exercises.  I try to give them clear standards, a clear objective and a clear understanding of rewards and consequences then get out of the way and let them do their thing.  It is amazing what an average man can accomplish when he feels like he has the authority to make a decision, the resources to do his job and the freedom to make a mistake.  My success is testimony to that; I’ve been blessed with some outstanding leaders over the years, and more importantly some outstanding subordinates.

More importantly, my soldiers know that their careers are as important to me as mine is, not because of what I say but because of the things I try and do.  Taking a soldier from an exercise where he is desperately needed and sending him to school, always following through on awards that have been submitted, and taking the time to coach, not just direct, means more than any volumes of flowery prose ever could.  If I love them first, they will follow me anywhere.  If I do not love them, I cannot lead them.

3.  Once upon a time, in a desert environment somewhere in central California, a captain (eight years experience), a major (fourteen years experience) and a colonel (twenty one years experience) pored over a map, trying to ferret out a solution to a particularly thorny problem.  The young radio-man (8 months experience) was close enough to see the map and to hear our discussions, but he was far too junior to even consider speaking in that august meeting.  A couple of times he tried to interrupt, but was quickly put in his place.  At the end of that young soldier’s shift, as he was being replaced by an equally young and inexperienced soldier, he was over- heard to say “They never build obstacles all the way to the wall.  Nobody has checked.  We can just bypass.  They sure are making this look difficult.”  We all heard, and in the same instant, we all realized that young soldier was right.  It was deceptively simple, unquestionably secure, and it would be effective.  All of our combined years of experience were outdone by one individual who listened, thought about it, and found the best solution.  All that time the brain trust was unwilling to listen to a quick comment from him.  It was a bit humbling to all except that soldier.  The colonel gave him brigade coin, a highly prized reward for a job well done.  We all learned we should have listened.  Nobody is too junior to be intelligent.

I once heard cooperation defined as “everyone doing what I say”.  For some, demonstrating leadership means standing on a podium and expounding on the veracity of the instructions they have meted out.  For others it means setting a goal then listening to others explain what they can achieve in support of that goal.  The second way requires giving up on the delusions of grandeur, recognizing that two heads really are better than one, and just listening.  It is absolutely amazing what you can learn if you can just shut up and listen.  Learn about your subordinates; learn what makes them tick, about the challenges of their jobs that might impact achievement, about the personality of the unit as a whole.  There is a time to give clear, concise guidance and to be clear that there is no room for variance.  That time is almost always after a few precious moments spent with mouth firmly closed, listening to those who will be required to execute that guidance.  You never know, maybe that youngest soldier might have the best idea at the table.

4.  When you are in command, you must command!  That seems obvious but my experience shows that it really is not.  We all have worked for alleged leaders who simply could not be coaxed into making a firm decision.  All decisions, especially the difficult ones, are put off again and again until time overtakes them.  We have also worked for men who always made clear the five W’s: what, when, where, who, and why.  Everyone in those commands could focus on tasks instead of wondering what direction the unit is heading.  Once again, give clear guidance then get out of the way and it is amazing what people can accomplish.  I wish I had a neat little story to go along with this fourth point, but it is more of a compilation of experiences and observation than anything else.  None the less, it fits into the theme of this document because it is definitely part of what makes me tick.  My decisions are not always the right ones, but rarely does anyone wonder what they are.

5.  As we grow up we all gain basic understanding of right and wrong.  There are some vague questions that may be open to debate, but by and large we all have at least a very similar concept.  Murder and stealing are wrong, helping others is right.  We all know the difference between right and wrong.  Consequences have no impact on what is right; they just give us an excuse to justify our wrong behavior.  Right is always right, and wrong is always wrong.  This concept is only vaguely related to legal and illegal, or profit and loss.  Most would justify stealing if it was for a worthy cause; to pay for a much-needed surgery, or to get just enough gas to get home on a freezing night.  Most would choose to ignore theft if the consequences are insignificant, like stealing a two-penny piece of gum.  That does not make theft right, but it might make it justified.

This is a subject I have struggled with as a soldier.  Killing others is undeniably wrong even though there are times when it is justified.  That does not make it right, it just justifies doing something wrong.  I am ok with that.  The rules bent in my time in the military would fill libraries and I have always justified going against regulations by saying that I was simply cutting through red tape in the name of getting things done.  To me, it has been from time to time acceptable to do something wrong, even though I clearly understand going in that it is wrong.  Right is always right, and wrong is always wrong.  Ignore consequences, decide which, then decide if wrong is justified.

This has gone into much more than just what I believe.  This is who I am, and why.  These beliefs guide all the decisions I make, in and out of uniform.  This explains how I want to live my life.  It is much easier to hit a target if you know what that target is, and that is the biggest reason I have wanted to put these thoughts on paper.  If we cannot clearly state our beliefs, we are definitely not living by them.    From time to time I will fail my soldiers in some way, I will justify a wrong thing that should not be justified, I will fail to listen or to love my soldiers.  I will never live perfectly according to any standard, but if I set a clear standard for myself, I will get much closer than if I am just shooting in the dark.

The picture helps me think about the dangers of potential.  You see we have been brought up in an era with potential as foremost.  It was weaved into the narrative of almost every school report, our employers like to remind us of our individual potential, and our spiritual guides in Nuts, GQ, OK, FeMail or Bella seek to convince us that we have the potential to be all we want to be. I just dropped by to tell you it’s all nonsense.

Let me share with you something that helps to keep the followers of my blog to a minimum:  “Dry your eyes cupcake you are not a princess, you are far from awesome and the only appointment you can be guaranteed not to miss is your appointment with death!”  That’s right we are all going to die and far sooner than we imagine.  My Father was born in 1923, at 87 you would have thought that death would seem rather close to him but you’ll be pleased to know that he carries on living and ignoring his impending appointment with destiny.  This is a double edged sword for while it enables him to carry on living without being morbid it also has the risk of ignoring what awaits.

Now if we came from nothing and are going to nothing then no worries, however, if several billion Christians are anywhere near the mark, that it’s appointed once for man to die and then face judgement (Hebrews 9:27), it might be worth doing some cross-referencing.  Are you sure the ‘goo, to zoo, to you,’ theories of evolution are all they are cracked up to be by our liberal pluralist education establishment?  If beards, elbow patches and membership of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) is your primary trusted source then I have to wonder who the sane one is in this dialogue!

You see one of the root words of potential is potent.  The potency of something is its aroma.  The essence of something will be potent, apparent, you will be able to detect it without ambiguity.  Potential therefore is not speculative, it is evidential.  Those beautiful women in the picture have the potential to be accomplished models, maybe, who knows, highly successful models.  Potential can be crippling if it causes someone to strive beyond their natural ability or worse still miss their gifts and talents chasing worldly inspired dreams.  You see you and I do have a specific purpose. Whether your life be brief or extended into a ripe old age, that meaning and purpose is mapped out, but you need to be able to map read and for that you need to meet the map maker who is the author and perfecter of the faith that will allow you to appreciate what you are living for.

Picture taken a the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya.

The advantage of keeping a blog can be it reveals some of the hidden person. That should be important to a perspective employer who wants to discover the person behind the mask of your CV and carefully rehearsed interview techniques.

I am a particular fan of interviewing spouses of those applying for jobs.  Given that the technology has yet to emerge where our thought bubbles can be revealed then the spouse can be the next best thing.  Would you be comfortable with your wife or husband being interviewed, not with you present, to find out his or her views on your suitability for a particular post?

What if the conversation with your prospective employer was undertaken with a lie detector, where no subject too intimate or off limits, would you still be comfortable?  think about it, if not why not?  How would you have to change the approach to your relationships, your attitudes and your behaviour to reach the place where you are comfortable with your spouse sharing his or her insights to your person and character?  Are you prepared to make that change? What’s the wise thing to do?