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Archive for March, 2011

Running out of gas…

Tonight I had the opportunity to officiate three men’s recreational league basketball games. That means that the players are grown men usually between the ages of 18-50. Yes, I actually believe there was another 50 year old, besides me, running up and down the court. A few times I had a funny flashback to 1991, when I played my last rec league games.

The men I played with 20 years ago were, like me, ex jocks who usually played one to two times per week. And thus we thought we were doing pretty well for guys our age. Tonight, I got a glimpse at what it really looks like when your body is not doing what your mind is yelling to do. Granted, the men today are a bit bigger in height and weight than my contemporaries’…thanks in part to their eating habits and a preponderance to play more games on video than real ones. I think that I am actually in better shape than many of those men who are at least 15 years my junior. Their energy gas tank was just about empty…

As I also reflect as we approach the end of the first quarter of 2011, I wonder how much is left in the proverbial gas tank of the American working citizens…

How can we continue to allow the oil companies to push through the ceiling of our budgets, gasoline prices that have now spilled over $4.00 per gallon? I daily hear friends and colleagues share horror stories about the cost to fill up their automobiles. One even said it took one hundred dollars to accomplish that…for his BMW. Are you kidding me?

Fortunately, in a basketball game there are bench personnel who can substitute for those players on the floor who have “run out of gas.” What is the plan to provide substitute relief for the American people? If it is true that Exxon/Mobil made more than $10 Billion dollars in 2010, and yet paid no federal taxes…what is their motivation to make less money? Somehow I feel another Enron or Wall Street implosion looming on the horizon.

Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of taking time between quarters, like in a basketball game, in order to strategize our plan for the second quarter. But yet, we must do something to get the attention of those who would call themselves our leaders. Maybe it is time to take to the streets…walking, biking, carpooling, and riding mass transit. Whatever it takes to get the powers-that-be to take notice of our collective pain. Otherwise, just like those players I saw tonight, we will all be left with the dreams of what used to be…and nothing left to finish the game we truly love to play. The Game of Life.

Peace.

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Moving forward in a neutral economy.

We see the headlines, hear the pundits and follow the Tweets…and so many of them assess the current state of affairs as dismal. It is a fact that the economy is not growing as expected. The spending by consumers has slowed to a crawl. Gasoline is $4 dollars a gallon and Japan is reeling from a catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor contamination. And the financial institutions, to whom much was given, have yet to begin their redistribution of that taxpayer gift…

So, we then must wonder what it is that we must do to make some sort of progress in our own financial houses. Do we sit and wait on President Obama to execute a bailout for consumers? Will Congress push the banks to make real loans to real businesses? How do the wealthy make ends meet in this time of financial uncertainty?

For myself, and thousands of others, this is a time of phenomenal opportunity. We are those “crazies” who believe that owning a business is the key to (1) financial freedom, and (2) having our minds and energies focused upon something we can control, versus the doom-and-gloom headlines.

We are using this time to reflect upon those long-lost dreams about what we would do if we were young again; open that boutique, travel to another country, grab that video camera and start taping…we all have those desires embedded deep inside ourselves. This is a perfect time for you to reinvest in your dreams.

One thing that I am doing is reconnecting with friends and colleagues with whom I have lost touch. The phenomenon of Face Book is helping me, and others, to “catch up” on what we have missed over the past 10, 20, even 30 years. It is also introducing my work as an Internet marketing specialist to people who had no idea what I do for my livelihood. My YouTube channel provides an outlet to share my video work.

So, take a few minutes today and consider what it is you really want to do…for the next week, a month from now, even next year. You might be surprised to find that it can be a source of enjoyment, and if creative enough, a source of revenue that will keep you out of the “can’t find a job” market.

Peace.

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Songs in the Key of Love…

I attended an old-school gospel concert hosted by Cheryl Ward Ministries this afternoon in Oakland, California and was moved to tears by a number of the songs that were performed. The Lucy Kinchen chorale led off the event and shared some of the Negro Spirituals that many of us heard as children, but are less popular today. They told of the struggles to maintain human dignity in the face of slavery’s inhumane oppression. How they were going to see heaven one day and be at peace.

The surprise to some in attendance was the ethnic make up of the choir. Women outnumbered the men, as is usually the case. But is was the fact that there were Caucasians, Asians, Latinos and Blacks…a beautiful palette of colors sharing a message that is uniquely African-American, but now one for the world to savor. Oh how they sang…

We were later treated, after an unscheduled intermission, to the foot-tapping gospel renderings of Gene Viale, one of the vocalists who grew up in the James Cleveland gospel choirs of the 60’s and 70’s. His ability to work the storyline and its message through song is truly a gift from God. My heart felt the joy he obviously expresses in each song. And my feet never stopped tapping with the beat of his Accompanist, singer-songwriter, Charlene Moore. They gave us more than we had bargained or paid for.

The musical genius of our generation, Stevie Wonder, produced an album in 1976, Songs in the Key of Life. It is still one of his more profound assessments into the challenges we all face as we journey this road called life. My favorite song is still “As”, but it is the “Love’s in Need of Love Today” that this concert gave me reason to reflect upon.

Our world is moving so fast, and sometimes it seems we get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily activities that we lose sight of the most important aspect of what we are to be about each day. Our work and moneymaking endeavors have somehow taken priority over the care and nurturing of relationships; family, close friends, the elderly and children. Can we take time to show love to those in need of love? Today?

Put aside your iPad, laptop or iPhone for 30 minutes and make a phone call to that person whom you have had on your mind…chances are they have been thinking of you as well. Then we may get to feel what Brother Stevie had in his mind…when he penned those classic songs: I Wish, Living for the City, Have A Talk With God, Knocks Me Off My Feet, Pastime Paradise, Contusion, Ordinary Pain, Isn’t She Lovely…

Don’t be surprised when you find yourself humming and singing one of these songs as you feel the connection once more with us…your Sisters and Brothers in the choir singing in the key of LOVE.

Peace.

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Who Do You THINK You Are?

Most of us born before 1965 can remember that statement/question being asked, often in a not-too-friendly manner. It usually came out of frustration when someone wanted to remind you to stay in your place. This week I have a new focus for that statement.

I recently had lunch with a friend I had not seen in a few years. Once we got past the customary queries regarding our families, local sports teams and the problems with the local worship community, we settled into a debate on how men of our age are faring in this challenging job market.

My friend has worked with a couple of large financial institutions, a non-profit organization and even sits on a board of another community organization. But somehow he has been unemployed for almost a year.

Then when I prodded him about why he is not getting something of value monetarily from these affiliations, even an occasional consulting assignment, he said the words that locked me into him for the remainder of the lunch. He said he’d rather have a good paying job with an organization rather than a few consulting gigs…really?

Since then I have sought to understand how men of our “maturity” can believe that we will get a fair shot at any job openings where the choice is between us and a person half our age and likely, willing to work for half our well-deserved compensation.

American companies, it has been reported this week, are awash in cash…and the stock market is on a steady incline. Yet, no mid-level management openings are being created. Maybe it is a case of you-show-me-yours-then-I-will-show-you-mine…someone has to make a move. First.

As more and more intellectuals are proving, our thoughts truly are powerful instruments. They feed us the words that shape our actions, and inevitably, our destiny. Have you heard someone say something that is obviously the opposite of who they are and what they have espoused as their “life purpose?” Which is the truth?

By the end of our lunch as we were saying our goodbyes, he was about to say the same thing regarding getting a job versus entrepreneurship, and he caught himself…and said, I guess I should change my thinking. Yep. Another mind now prepped for the new marketplace paradigm, which is here to stay.

Now, who do you think you are?

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Is This The End of The Line…

In these days of now having the option to scan and check out our own groceries at the supermarket, it is often a surprise to see that line is considerably longer than any other at the front of the store. One day I happened to think that I had gotten lucky as I saw only a few shoppers in the line. So, I moved into a position where I saw no one else standing…only to be informed that where I was now standing was just a break in the line. The actual end of the line was back there.

Back there was about 20 shoppers behind me. Who knew? I had seen an opening and made my move, presuming that timing was on my side. Alas, as I survey the current financial and business landscape in the United States, I ask you the question, “Is this the end of the line?”

One of the local grocery chains used to have a policy of “Three’s a crowd”, which simply meant that when there were more than three shoppers waiting in line to checkout, a manager would announce that on the intercom system, and another employee would open up a checkout station. What happened to that type of response to the needs of people spending their hard-earned money with a business?

Using this grocery shopping analogy, I wonder how much longer it will take before the financial institutions realize that it is time to respond to the immediate needs of their constituents. Or even gas stations. There was a time when they were called service stations. But they did away with any service back in the late ‘70’s and early 1980’s.

Some of us can recall when we would get our windshields cleaned, oil checked and tire pressure inspected. They must have known that we would trade a perceived saving of money for a service we would no longer receive. Is that still true today?

Where is the end of the line? Maybe we will have to be pushed even farther away from real customer service before it is painful enough for us to respond in the only way that a consumer-driven society will recognize; by pulling away and not purchasing their products and/or services. Are you willing to change your thoughts and habits to effect a change for yourself? For your children?

In the meantime, I hate to tell you this…but I am not the last one in this line. See that woman back there in the parking lot, she is the end of the line…

Peace.

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Checking the YES Box…

The other day I went to a new massage therapy professional. His session was a gift to me from a friend/colleague. When I called the office to get the correct address I was told to come a few minutes before my appointment time in order to complete a new client questionnaire. No problem. A piece of cake. Just like the good old days….Right?

Now you know the way this goes…a litany of questions with yes and no as the options. Do I have any history of heart disease, high blood pressure, back injury, arthritis, etc. And that is when it began to unfold…Sitting in that chair with the form on the clipboard, halfway through the questions. I have answered YES to more of the questions than ever before in my life.

Granted, I am blessed with reasonably good health. I even like to boast that I have never spent a night in a hospital since I left it 56 years ago…but here I am now looking at a form that I used to check the no boxes without thinking. And here I have to admit to myself that YES, this now applies to me.

What do we do with that? How does it make us feel when we now have a chronic illness? A disease that will alter how we approach each new day. The most that I do is take ibuprofen to muffle the pain that Uncle Arthur is wreaking in my fingers and toes…

Will you join me in the journey as we gracefully grow older together? Let’s take heed to our bodies each day…eating 2-3 helpings of fruit, drinking 4-6 glasses of water and moving. And no, going to the bathroom is not considered effective healthy movement. Go for a walk. Dance to the music in your iPod. Heck, play a Wii fit game with your grandkids and break a sweat. Do something that will raise your heart rate above “just enough to survive.”

So that the next time you are in that office and completing the new patient form, your no’s will once again outnumber your yeses…

Peace.

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