You’ve Practiced – Now Do It!

I was thinking about my grandson today, wondering how he’s holding up in boot camp. A lot of memories started to flood in, and among them was his penchant for rehearsing conversations that may or may not ever take place. Do you know anybody like that? We’ve all done it at one time or another. But this kid takes it to a level of commitment I’ve never seen.

And I guess it’s good to think through what you plan on saying, especially if it’s something that may not be well-received. Like when you’re telling the boss you want a raise, or letting your wife know you’d rather not eat last night’s “special” dinner again this century. Get that one wrong, and you may not want to eat anything else she cooks for a while. I’m just saying.

But there comes a point where we can rehearse things so much, we never really get around to the real thing. And, even if we do, odds are nobody else was there for rehearsal, so they don’t know how the conversation is supposed to go anyway. You say something, and they think you want them to respond with whatever comes to mind, not some carefully scripted dialogue only you know.

In his book Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People, Rich Devos wrote “If you wait until you have all the knowledge and experience you think you need, you’ll never take a risk or achieve a goal.” My mom had another way of expressing that thought, but I won’t repeat it here. Her philosophy was don’t take up space in the outhouse if you’re just sitting there thinking about it.

When I was getting ready to begin my career in standup comedy, I read several books, watched a few live open mic shows, then wrote what I thought was the funniest five minutes of material in the history of show business. Then I set up a video camera in the basement and practiced. That alone should have deterred me from ever stepping onstage, but I never claimed to be a genius.

Still, there came that point where I had to turn off the camera, set aside my notes, and make a decision … do I call the club and get a spot on the show, or just sit here and dream about it? I made the call. Not only did I book myself in the next open mic show, I invited everybody I knew to come watch. I guess I figured there was no way I’d chicken out with that many witnesses.

That was the first of about 1500 shows for me and, after a while, I got pretty good at it. But it wasn’t until I stopped rehearsing every set word-for-word as I paced nervously outside the club that I finally learned to relax and enjoy it. And that’s when my audiences started to enjoy it as well. Sure, I missed a few lines and made some mistakes. But I was the only person in the room that even noticed.

There are things we need to rehearse, or learn to a certain degree of expertise, before we’re ready to share our newfound skill with the rest of the world. Flying a plane would be at the top of the list, along with wrestling alligators, performing a high-wire act, and defusing live bombs. Any one of those could really mess up your day if you aren’t up to the task.

But most other things in life are a bit more forgiving. Yet we still let the fear of being slightly imperfect keep us from taking the first step toward achieving our goals. As a teenage boy, I was hesitant to ask girls out. Not because they might not be interested in me, but because I was afraid of flubbing the words and ruining my one and only chance at happiness. Seriously???

And I see that scenario play out all the time. We know the things we need to do in order to achieve our goals, but we hold back waiting for the perfect opportunity, or the perfect conditions, or until we’ve rehearsed the perfect sales pitch. And, because nothing is ever perfect, we never even try.

Most times, the only thing standing in the way of our happiness is ourselves. We can achieve anything we want, but we have to first accept that the timing will never be just right, and we’ll have to work through some less than ideal conditions. From the back of the plane, the pilot’s expertise in navigating a thunderstorm is awesome. Only he knows how close we came to catastrophe.

It’s important to take time to learn new skills and practice what you’ve learned. But never let the fear of imperfection keep you from stepping into the ring. Any New Yorker will tell you the way to get to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice. But none of that matters if you never take the stage. That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

What’s Your Super Power?

Good morning! I hope you had a fantastic weekend.

For those of us in the US Midwest, it was a weekend of brutal weather. Our weather here wasn’t quite as bad as the forecasters had predicted, but it was still a mess. It started with a light drizzle most of the day Saturday, followed by ice, snow, and a 30-degree drop in temperature that froze everything in its path.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of a snowblower running outside. Our neighbor was out in single-digit temperatures clearing the sidewalk on our entire block. When he’d finished, he came back to clear our driveway, and up around the car. I didn’t even have time to make him a cup of hot cocoa before he was off to the next driveway.

When we first moved to Ohio, I remember asking my dad how he found the energy to shovel his own walks. Funny, he was the same age I am now, but back then that seemed a lot older. And, as it turns out, he never did have to shovel. His neighbor, a much younger man, came by with a snowblower each morning and did it for him.

So, when I bought my snowblower I decided to pay it forward. We had a couple of elderly ladies living next-door, and when I went out to plow my own walks and driveway, I always did theirs as well. And when we moved into this house, I did the same for my neighbors. When my grandson was old enough to run the snowblower, he carried on the tradition.

But this year, my grandson is in boot camp and my snowblower decided to take the winter off. I have no idea why it won’t start, but I’ve had it for 20 years with nothing more than a few minor repairs, so I can’t complain. Still, I’m not used to being on the receiving end of neighborly kindness. I’d rather be out there with them.

And, the thing is, none of us ever do these things hoping somebody will pay it back. I’m sure my neighbor was only thinking of the job at hand, and the fact that it would make somebody else’s day better – the same as I did when I was the one out there plowing. We do it because we have the ability and, for some of us, the tools to make the job a whole lot easier.

When I was a young sailor, I learned to work on cars out of necessity – the cars I owned were older and needed occasional repairs, and I couldn’t afford a mechanic. Of course, back then, cars were a lot easier to work on. I remember dropping the engine out of my VW Beetle on the side of the road for a quick repair. A little over an hour later, we were on our way.

In the process of making that repair, I found a way to replace the generator without dropping the engine, something the repair manuals said just couldn’t be done. A couple of months later, a man I worked with asked if I could help him change the generator in his Beetle. I had the job done in fifteen minutes. He tried to pay me, but I told him to just pay it forward.

Over the years, I worked on a lot of cars that didn’t belong to me, and I never accepted pay for doing it. Because I always knew it could be my wife or daughters needing that help someday, and I hoped somebody would be kind enough to help them. That’s the way this whole thing works. And even if it never comes back to you, hopefully the person you helped will help somebody else.

We all have talents, certain skills that allow us to do jobs others can’t quite figure out. Maybe we have the tools they need to get the job done. Maybe we have a truck that can haul a refrigerator or a garage where they can do their own work. And maybe our only gift is the ability to hold somebody’s hand and help them through tough times.

We all need a little help from time to time, and so does everyone around us. That’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humanity. But we also have gifts of our own we can use to make somebody else’s day better. It’s our willingness to use those gifts that defines who we are.

When I can track down my neighbor, I’ll be sure to let him know just how much I appreciated his kindness. And next winter, maybe he’ll be the one to wake up to the sound of a neighbor clearing his walks. We do these things for one another, not out of a sense of obligation, but because we can. We do it because we care. And we do it because it just feels good.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

But the Label Said ‘Low Fat’!

What have you got planned for the weekend? I hope you’ll get out and do something really fun, or at least find some time to cuddle by the fire. Looks like that cuddling thing may be our best bet because, if the weatherman is right, we’re in for a brutal weekend. Snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures. Lovely.

For most of us, it also means a trip to the grocery store to re-stock all those healthy alternatives we’ve been consuming all year. Yeah, there may have been just a note of sarcasm in that. I think most of us go in with good intentions. Yet, when we get home, we can never seem to find all those good things we’d intended to pick up. The store must have been hiding them in the back.

I read an article yesterday that said eating healthier is the number one New Year’s resolution each year. And I read a couple of others that suggested exercising more and losing weight were at the top of the list. I guess it just depends who you ask. But it’s pretty evident that health and fitness weigh heavily (no pun intended) on our minds.

If that’s the case, why is obesity such a problem in this country? According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 39.8% of adults in the United States are obese. Not chubby, not overweight, but obese. And, the problem becomes more prevalent as we get older. So, not only are we big already, we’re getting bigger.

Ask your doctor about losing weight, and the first thing they’ll talk about is diet and exercise. If you’re looking for the silver bullet that’ll make the pounds magically disappear, that’s as good as it gets. Granted, some people opt for surgery, and in some cases that may be the appropriate treatment. But, regardless of how we lose weight, unless we change our habits, it’ll come right back.

And that all begins at the dinner table. Nutritionists suggest we spend most of our time in the grocery store on the outer perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce, lean meats (and some not so lean meats), seafood, and dairy products. It’s also where you’ll find the bakery, so be careful. You might want to skip that section altogether.

But, aside from a few healthy products like beans and whole grains, the middle of the store is where you find all the junk that got us in this shape to begin with. Unless you get all your meals from a fast-food restaurant, in which case we need to have an entirely different conversation.

There are exceptions to every rule, and stores have learned to mix in some of the good stuff with all that other junk, because one of marketing’s best-known secrets is that if you can get a customer in front of a product, you have a better chance of selling it. If the sign over the aisle said “Junk food” we’d walk right on past. So, they mix in a couple of good things to get you on that aisle.

Be careful of deceptive packaging as well. Low-fat usually means extra sugar. Sugar-free means they’ve added a bunch of other stuff you don’t want. And don’t even get me started on terms such as “light”, “healthy”, or “reduced calorie.” Read the labels, and then compare them to the full-bodied stuff. You’ll probably find one is just about as bad as the other.

And here’s another suggestion – when you read the labels, look for words you can’t pronounce or that don’t look like anything that comes from a farm. If those words dominate the list of ingredients, you may want to pass. Also, ingredients are listed in order of magnitude – the first thing you see is the primary ingredient, usually flour or sugar. Something to keep in mind.

It’s no secret that obesity is a leading cause of health problems. If we want to improve our health, we need to maintain a healthy weight. But it doesn’t end there. To achieve optimal health, we have to give our body more of the nutrients it needs and a lot less of the rest. That all begins with the food we eat. Supplements help fill in the gaps, but a handful of vitamins and a Big Mac won’t cut it.

So, if you’ve resolved to lose some weight or improve your health, pay attention to what you’re bringing home from the store this weekend. Eating healthier isn’t hard and, contrary to what some will say, it’s no more expensive. It’s just a matter of making healthy choices. You already know what you need to do – just do it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Think Happy, Be Happy

Yesterday at work, I was asked to help a new teammate get some things set up on her computer and show her how to navigate some of the programs and collaboration sites we use. Having just come back from five weeks of convalescent leave, it was a good refresher for me as well. You know the old phrase – use it or lose it.

I was able to get her pointed in the right direction, but I have little doubt she walked away thinking, “He’s certainly no expert.” Okay, no argument here. But I remember the first few days on the job, feeling completely lost, and how grateful I was for any help at all. And as we begin using what we’ve learned, it’s easy to find those areas where we still need a little more help.

One of life’s greatest truths is that we never stop learning. Hopefully we’re learning something useful, but as long as our brain is accepting input, all of that input is stored away for future use. Not some of it, or even most of it … all of it. So, it’s important to be careful what goes in. If you seek knowledge from unreliable sources, that’s pretty much what you can expect in return.

As a technical writer, I had a sign over my desk – “Garbage in, gospel out.” It was a constant reminder that, to the person on the receiving end of my work, it was their primary source of truth. If I told them to torque a set of bolts down to 22 foot-pounds in a certain sequence, they did it without question. And, since I was writing aircraft maintenance manuals, there was a lot at stake.

The same is true when we’re talking to family, friends, and co-workers about pretty much anything. Everything they say goes in the ears, and right straight to the brain. There’s no filter and no fact-checker – just a straight path to the part of our brain that stores information for later recall. And, much like a computer, the brain will spit that information back out exactly as it went in.

Yet sometimes, the information we’re receiving may contradict something that’s already stored in the brain. Maybe we have an opinion of our own, or something we’ve experienced in the past suggests another reality. So, the brain has to sift through those thoughts and combine it all together. At that point, the best we can hope for is a plausible average.

And that’s okay, if your goal in life is to be average. But if you want to step it up a notch, you have to actively seek out information that raises the average. You need more of the good, and less of the bad. Keep doing that, and all that garbage starts getting pushed to the bottom. Then, when you need to tap into your bank of knowledge, your brain will pull the good stuff from the top.

And you can’t find that positive input in negative situations. There’s a reason a lot of companies will simply let an employee go when they resign, instead of letting them hang around another two weeks. Because misery loves company, and people are only too happy to share their “wisdom” with anybody who will listen. Before long, several others are questioning their own satisfaction.

But people love sharing their successes as well. Have you ever seen a woman wear an engagement ring at work for a week before anybody notices? Never. You’ll know as soon as she walks into the office, because she’ll be showing it off to everybody she knows. And, for good reason. That is definitely something to celebrate.

Hang around happy people, and after a while your brain starts to produce happy thoughts. Hang around successful people and you start thinking like a successful person. Sure, there will be some who question your motives or make a few unflattering assumptions regarding the color of your nose. But whose opinion counts the most? Theirs, or the person you’re hoping to emulate?

Fill your brain with positive thoughts. Read some inspirational books, listen to some motivational speakers, and spend a little more time with people who are achieving their dreams. That doesn’t mean you can’t hang around your old friends. But, if they’re not raising the average of positivity in your brain, spend more time with people who do.

You can’t plant weeds and expect to grow roses. And, even when you’ve planted the best seeds, you still have to nurture them on a regular basis if you want to produce something of beauty. The weeds will always be there, doing their level best to take over. It’s a constant struggle, but if you keep your focus on the good, sooner or later it’ll rise to the top. It always does.

That’s all for now. Be safe and have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Awesome Dream! What’s Your Plan?

Good morning, and happy Hump Day! I hope your day is off to a great start.

The week is almost half over. Depending on your perspective, that could be cause for celebration or trepidation. If you did your Monday resolutions and set some goals for the week, you may be facing the reality that you’ve fallen a little behind and now it’s time to catch up. Or you could just be working for the weekend, in which case your goal is getting closer simply by virtue of the calendar.

We all have goals. And this is the time of year when we tend to think about them a lot. That doesn’t mean we actually do anything about them, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Sure, if you’re doing something helpful for somebody else or giving them a gift. But if it’s a goal you hope to actually accomplish, it may take a little more than noble intent.

And that’s where a lot of us fall down. It’s not necessarily that we aren’t willing to do the work. We’re industrious and hard-working. We just sometimes lack the creativity to think outside the box. We want to accomplish a goal, but can’t we just do it by repeating the same thing we’ve been doing all these years?

Let me ask you a question. Let’s say one of your goals is to take your family on a Hawaiian vacation. You say yes, your spouse says yes, everybody says yes. Except the bank. And sadly enough, that’s where most dreams die.

But let’s say your CEO made you a deal. “Give me an extra 7 hours a week for the next year. Break them up any way you want, but you have to give me an honest 7 hours a week. Do that for a year, and I’ll pay for your vacation. First class tickets, a resort hotel, all expenses paid.” Would you do it?

Absolutely! If you’d known it was that easy to get to Hawaii, you’d have done it years ago, right? You can ask your CEO to make that deal, but odds are it’s not going to happen. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it.

So, why not put in those 7 hours a week doing something for yourself? That’s one hour a day. If you knew how to spend those 7 hours, you could pay for your own vacation at the end of a year. And next year, you could go back and do it again. Except this time, instead of just sightseeing and lounging around on the beach, maybe you could be looking at real estate.

All too often, we don’t even try because we aren’t willing to spend a little time figuring out how we could actually do it. We know it’ll take work, and work is something we do all day anyway. An extra hour is no big deal. But what kind of work? What can we do that won’t require a huge investment in money or time, but can really make a difference?

And we think about that as we sit in front of the TV wishing we knew how to get to Hawaii. After a day or two, the dream begins to fade and we’re right back where we started. If you’re lucky, maybe there’s a show on TV where you can watch other people sitting on that beach as they contemplate a few real estate deals. I guess they already put in their 7 hours.

Having a dream is the first step. Translating that dream into a goal is next, because until we quantify that dream and give it a timeline, it’s just wishful thinking. But, even with a goal, nothing can really happen unless we have a plan and put that plan into action.

If your goal for this week was to lose two pounds, you probably gave some thought as to how you could do it. Exercise a little, cut out sugary drinks, yogurt smoothies for breakfast, and skip the afternoon snacks. That may be enough to get the job done. Either way, it’s a plan. You can try it for a few weeks, see how it’s working, and make adjustments from there.

Getting to Hawaii is no different. You just need a plan. And sometimes, that means keeping your eyes open to possibilities you never thought of. It means turning off the TV long enough to focus on ways to make it happen. And it means you may have to do something you’re not already doing, because what you’ve done so far hasn’t worked. If it had, you’d be dreaming of something better.

There’s not much you can’t accomplish in this world if you have a dream, a goal, and a plan. All it takes is an open mind, belief in yourself, and a little imagination. The rest is just work.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Keep Your Fire Alive

It seems every week, there’s a new fad on social media. First it was “filters”, where you could take a selfie and give yourself a puppy’s nose and a bunny ears. Then it was GIFs … “tell me about the first time we met using a short animation of anything but you.” Or something like that. My expertise in social media is pretty much limited to what I’m doing at the moment – writing really long posts.

The latest gimmick appears to be a twist on “throwback Thursdays” – posting your original profile picture alongside a current picture to see if time and nature have given you anything to brag about. Most of the entries I’ve seen are pretty impressive, though I did see one today showing Keith Richards in 1919 and again in 2019. I know it’s genuine, because they both look exactly the same.

But something I’ve noticed is that, in almost every instance, the current pictures are a lot more attractive and flattering than the old ones. And it’s not because of makeup, or weight loss, or Photoshop. For the most part, the people in these pictures have not only aged gracefully, it’s obvious they were too busy enjoying life to worry about the effects of time.

And, knowing these people on a personal level, there’s not a doubt in my mind. They’re happy, vibrant, confident, and generally the type who go out of their way to make somebody else’s day better. They’re the ones who never have to sit alone in the lunchroom. People walking past stop to say hi because of how they make you feel. They’re the kind of people we want to be around.

Now, to be fair, we don’t all age so well. Let’s just say there’s a reason I haven’t posted my own before and after pictures. But that doesn’t mean we’re any less happy or pleasant or fun to be around. Okay, my wife’s eyes just did a full 360, but you get the point. Physical appearance doesn’t always tell the whole story. Still, when there’s enough sunshine inside, some of it is bound to show through.

And it’s no surprise that these are the people we’re drawn to the most. Not because of their looks, but because of their inner radiance. There’s just something about them that we often can’t describe, but we know from the moment we first meet them that this is somebody we want to get to know better.

Is it a coincidence that positive people tend to radiate a little more sunshine from across the room? Can you tell by looking at somebody whether they’re upbeat or negative? Well, to an extent. It’s not in a pretty face or an attractive figure. Sure, those things may get your attention for a second, but it’s that inner glow that draws us to them.

You can see it in their smile. You can see it in the sparkle of their eyes. You can see it in their demeanor, in the way they interact with friends, even in the way they toss something into the trash. Some people are just happier and more fun to be around than others. Even on a bad day, they’re still pretty good.

I’m not saying a positive attitude will keep you looking young for the next ten or twenty years. In my case, that ship already sailed. But I do believe the characteristics we find most attractive in a person’s visual appearance just get better with age when they face life with a sense of hope, compassion, and happiness.

A candle is at its brightest after some of the wax has begun to melt. Halfway through its life, it begins to show signs of age. Wax drippings, like facial wrinkles, cover its outward appearance. But inside, where it counts the most, the surface is smooth and warm, and no matter how much wax drips down the side, it gives off that same warm glow to the very end.

For those who have posted their old and new pictures online, let me just say you’re more attractive now than ever. And it’s not because of luck, or because God loves you more than anyone else. It’s because you choose to be. Our skin may wrinkle, our bellies may grow, and our hair may lose its youthful luster. But that inner radiance still shines through for all to see.

We’re all aging, from the moment we’re born until the very end. And the day will come when your latest photo shows the inevitable signs of age. But it can never extinguish that inner fire as long as you choose to keep it alive. So, keep that fire burning. You never know how many more candles you may light along the way.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Normal is Good – But You Can’t Stay Here Forever

Most of us spend our lives doing pretty much the same thing day after day, to the point that it just becomes routine. And if anything comes along to upset that routine, we tolerate it for the time being … and in the case of fun things like holidays or vacations, we really enjoy it … but in the end, we’re just happy to get back to that routine.

I’ve often wondered why we’re always in such a hurry to get back to normal, especially when “normal” is usually something less than what we would like it to be. That’s not to say we’re unhappy with our everyday life, or at least I hope not. But there’s a difference between being happy and wanting something more.

No matter how well things are going, there are things we’d all like to make a little better – a relationship we’d like to improve, a new skill we want to learn, a stronger family, a newer car, whatever. The day we stop wanting these things is the day we stop trying. And when we stop trying, we begin to lose what we had.

Throughout life, we’re constantly moving. Nobody wants to stagnate. And thankfully, that’s just not possible, even in nature. When a body of water isn’t moving, we say it’s stagnant. But the truth is, it’s just sitting there getting more repulsive by the day. Moss and bacteria continue to grow, the smell gets worse, until one day it becomes so consumed with the slime that it ceases to exist.

We’re pretty much the same. Every day, we’re changing. We face new challenges, we adapt to new situations, we tackle new opportunities. Avoiding those changes doesn’t mean we cease to grow. It just means we grow in the wrong direction. We start backsliding until we hit a point of critical mass, where we either have to start moving forward or just cease to exist.

That doesn’t mean we die. It just means we stop living. There’s a huge difference. Because to live is to grow and thrive, to face those challenges and tackle new opportunities. And, because we’re not insects, there has to be an element of happiness along the way. But happiness alone doesn’t mean we’re growing. It just means we’re enjoying that temporary situation in which we live today.

Notice I said temporary – because no matter where you are in life, it’s never permanent. You can enjoy it or lament it today, but tomorrow it will change. The change may not be anything dramatic. In fact, you may not even notice it on a day to day basis. But, over time, it will become more and more distinct.

Hopefully most of those changes are for the better. I’ve seen people go both ways. And, after a while, that becomes their new “normal.” Not only the situation, but the general trend. Newton taught us that a body in motion tends to remain in motion. And we’re no different. If we start sliding backward, we generally continue in that direction until something changes.

That’s why it’s important to be continually moving forward. It’s okay to enjoy “normal” as long as we don’t hang around too long. Sooner or later, we’ll wear out our welcome and be forced to move again. And here’s the thing – it’s just as easy (and likely) to move back as it is to move forward. And vice-versa.

If we never allow ourselves to come to a complete standstill, odds are we’ll keep moving in the same direction. So, make sure you’re moving forward. Enjoy what you’ve worked for, make the most of your current situation, and do your best to be happy. But don’t let that sense of contentment trick you into thinking you’ve reached the ultimate destination. It’s still out there, waiting to be found.

Change is inevitable, and as long as we continue to draw air into our lungs, we’re never really sitting still. Make sure you’re moving in the direction you want and, if not, don’t just hit the brakes. Do a Hollywood-style screeching tire turnaround and start moving the other way.

Normal may feel comfortable. It may even fool us into a sense of complete satisfaction. But unless we’re willing to step beyond normal, we’ll never know how much better things can be.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved