“I Remember When…” And Other Conversations With Your Kid

I remember when… When I was your age… This one time…

When I became a father, I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those guys always throwing personal flashbacks and memories on my kid.  I remember my own parents (and my friends’ parents) starting their sentences with “When I was your age…” or other similar phrases and watching my friends roll their eyes.  Naively, I thought I could avoid doing this.  What a stupid assumption on my part.

In fact, recently, I’ve caught myself using these lines (and derivatives of these lines) more often.  It could be several reasons; maybe because my daughter is approaching high school, or that I’ve picked up on a comment or question she had, or even the fact that I’m noticing stars of my generation showing up on current shows or movies she’s watching.  A few recent examples:

On finding new music: You have iTunes and the internet.  Immediate access.  We had MTV.  MTV doesn’t even have videos anymore.  The cool new break-dancing cuts?  You needed to know someone that had a cousin that had a friend living in the Bay Area so they could copy the mix onto your 60-minute blank cassette tape.  Total turnaround time: a week, if you were lucky.


Dance Routines: You know why you and your friends don’t have cool dance routines?  Because you don’t go to each other’s houses!  Every day after school, I would be hanging out at someone’s house playing basketball, raiding the refrigerator, or yes…practicing dance routines!  After a month of practice everyday, my friend Paul and I had two dance routines: “The Bird” and “Jungle Love.”  At every dance we went to, we would wait to channel our inner Morris Day and Jerome.

The history of stars: Jamie Gertz.  Patrick Dempsey.  Henry Winkler.  Molly Ringwald.  Robert Downey, Jr.  The list goes on and on.  Huge stars from back in the day.  My daughter is either: 1) discovering old TV shows or movies (like the John Hughes films); or 2) seeing these stars for the first time today.  My wife and I have fun giving her history lessons. (I had to show her pictures of a young, cool, James Spader.  She only knows the older, heavier James Spader in “The Office.”)


I’ve since changed my mind on the whole “I remember when” promise I made myself as a young dad.  My little jaunts back in time have been extremely valuable:

It gives my daughter a window into my history (not too much of a window, though!).  Instead of just seeing me as her father, she gets a feeling of how I was as a kid.

It gives us a chance to laugh.  Sharing a laugh with your kid is priceless.  It shows that you have a sense of humor and can laugh at yourself.

There are opportunities for lessons…without it sounding like a lesson.  How do lessons stick with us and how are they passed on over time?  Through stories.  And what better way to teach a lesson to your kid than telling them a personal story?

More importantly, it allows us to communicate.  Next to trust, communication is the biggest factor in solidifying our personal bonds.

Again, don’t overdo it.  Too much reminiscing will lead to the eye-rolling. Pick and choose your interactions and be mindful of the point you’re trying to get across.  As your kids get older, they’ll remember and cherish these conversations.

Speaking of music videos and instant access…I remember collecting six hours of music videos so I could learn and practice dance moves in my living room (this didn’t help, by the way).  It wasn’t easy.  We didn’t have cable TV so I had to painstakingly watch every music video show that came on and press record on the video recorder.  One of my all time favorites?  The Gap Band…Party Train!


Do you catch yourself reminiscing with your kid?

Post your comments below…

Where Art Thou, Creativity?

When I was younger, I loved comic books.  I loved collecting (Daredevil was my favorite), drawing, looking at, and writing comics.  I loved comics so much that I dreamed of one day making it a career.  In the 6th grade, I drew and wrote a comic book called “The Broads.”  It was a story about some of the more popular girls in school and how they became superheroes after school.  Writing this makes me cringe.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a clean comic with an actual superhero story, but having the characters be girls in your 6th grade class, I admit, is a little weird.  If I had written this comic today, I’m sure I would have been suspended or sent to the school counselor’s office.

The point is not about my comic book or my love for comics, but how that creative side disappeared as I became older.  I mean, think back to when you were younger. How many of us had creative loves or streaks that simply disappeared?  You played an instrument.  Wrote songs or poetry.  Created on a blank canvas using paint, watercolor, or charcoal.

Every time I watch my daughter draw, cut paper for crafts, or sing along while playing her ukulele, I’m reminded of how important creative thinking is.  Creativity, like a muscle, atrophies and becomes weak the less we use it.


What’s so important about creativity?  Plenty.  It keeps our minds sharp and malleable (this is especially critical as we grow older), can help us do things more efficiently, and can even be a source for that million-dollar idea (read about the creation of Post-It Notes, Polaroid, and Disneyland).

So maybe you don’t want to play air guitar in your room to Whitesnake (“Here I Go Again”) or buy  a ticket to Comicon (I made a promise to myself that I’d go again). That’s OK.  There are other ways you can start being more creative right now:

Ask Questions: Probably one of the easiest and most effective ways to rev up your creativity.  Why not?  What if?  Can it be done better?  Questions force our brains to reach deep to formulate answers.  Ask enough questions and you’ll find a creative solution.  Try this the next time at work when your boss or team is stumped.  You might end up being the hero.

Learn Different Things: It makes sense that we spend the most time on things that interest us.  But how about taking some time each day to read, watch, listen to, or do something different?  Exposing our mind to different things creates more neural pathways.  More neural pathways means a sharper, more creative-thinking brain.  For me, I’ll pick up something that I normally wouldn’t read or download a podcast on a subject I know absolutely nothing about.

Observe: Watch people.  See how different people act, talk, dress, and perform tasks.  By observing, we may be able to pick up things that can help us in our own lives.  We can see what works and what to avoid.  By observing, we can also learn and ask questions like, “Why did you do it that way?”

Born Artist

Associations: The term “square peg in round hole” has a negative connotation.  However, in creative thinking, any association is good – no matter how odd.  Putting things together in our mind that are unconventional, non-traditional, and downright weird makes our brain work.  Visualize and conceptualize things in a different way. For example, in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class, there are certain techniques that give me problems.  But thinking of a move differently, like “sliding into a base” or “pulling back a bow” helps me make that mind-body connection.  Remember Mr. Miyagi in “Karate Kid?” Wax-on.  Wax-off.  Now that’s a creative association.

Experiment: Finally, take your creativity out for a spin.  If you have an idea or a creative impulse to do and/or try something…do it!  Taking action sends signals to your brain that you like what it’s doing and to please provide you with more ideas.  And remember…there’s no such thing as failure in trying.  Like the inventor Thomas Edison said, he never failed…he only found things that didn’t work.

How do you practice creativity in your own life?
Post your answers below…

A Brief Visit With The Ghost Of Career Future

The worst days of those who enjoy what they do, are better than the best days of those who don’t.

– E. James Rohn


I ran into a long-time co-worker the other day.  She has a great position, excellent benefits, and is dutifully taking care of her family – paying the bills and putting her kids through college.  I remember having this very same conversation with her ten years ago:

 Me: “What are your plans?”

Her: “Nothing.  I’m not going anywhere.  I’m staying right here.”

Me: “What about retirement?”

Her: “I can’t.  Maybe in a few more years once my kids graduate from college.”

Me: “How about a new job or position in the company?”

Her: “Nah.  I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Then it hit me.  I was basically talking to myself in the future.

My friend is an honest, thoughtful, and responsible person who is taking care of her family like a good wife and mother is supposed to.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  What I see and hear though are the ghosts of career years passed.  I remember her telling me, at one point, how she wanted to work in law enforcement.  But now, her verbal and nonverbal cues scream comfort and, worse than that, resignation – resigned to the fact that this will be her final career stop until she either retires, her kids finish college, or God forbid, she is laid off.

Even though she’s older than me, we both come from a time where our career paths were pretty much laid out for you.  In fact, the running joke was when someone from management came and tapped you on the shoulder (literally) it was time to be promoted.  I always found this analogy funny because it sounded like some sort of mafia ritual.

But times have definitely changed.  There are now only a small percentage of companies that you can stay with your whole career while periodically getting the “tap on the shoulder.”  Looking back at that same conversation ten years ago, you know what I told myself then?

 “That won’t be me.”  Guess what?  That is exactly me.

the mirror that reveals the inside

So now what?  Do I feel sorry for myself?  Reminisce about “the good old days?”  Blame my parents, spouse, kid, environment?  No.  We can all begin where we’re at and:


As soon as you can, do whatever will move you towards your ideal work life – whether it’s sticking to the “9 to 5” world or starting your own business.  Start a niche blog about something you’re passionate about.  Develop (and sell) that product.  Write your book.  As for me – in addition to reading (and listening) to all the materials I could get my hands on about midlife change, career re-engineering, and life transitions – I started this blog and took a few online writing and career development seminars.  I had a magazine article published for the first time.  I started exploring other career options where I could leverage my strengths.  If you’re reading this and are currently (or have been) in the corporate world, you can relate to my story.  And for those of you starting out or are new in your respective careers, take this advice from someone already far into the corporate game:

The phenomenon of the “golden handcuffs” is very real.  The mind and body are naturally lazy and enjoy steady, predictable routines.  When you’re accustomed to a nice job, steady paycheck, and great benefits, your mind and body will fight you tooth and nail at the first sign of desired change.  The “handcuff” refers to that which keeps you bound and tied up – the job and all of your responsibilities (bills, children, mortgage, etc.)  If you know what you’re doing is not what you want to be doing, get out before you get locked down.

Hand cuffs and coins as security concept

Find your sweet spot.  On the flip-side, if you really love what you’re doing, consider yourself very fortunate.  I’ve seen career discontent survey rates as high as 50%.  The key to finding work that you are passionate about is to intersect your values, strengths, personality type, and interests.  For this, you will need to grab a notebook, find a quiet spot, and take some time to map this whole thing out.  This one-hour (or however long it takes) exercise will pay dividends in helping you determine exactly what you want to do (or point you in the right direction).

Experiment with it.  There’s no need to completely jump ship from your job.  There might be opportunities within the company that are a better fit for you.  Have a conversation with the manager of another department.  See if you know anyone from a different division, take them to lunch, and pick their brain.  You might even be able to find volunteer or internship opportunities in your area of interest.  This is a great win-win opportunity.  You get the experience and the business gets the free help.

Don’t be afraid to fail.  Look, you might get that opportunity to try a new position and find out that: 1) it wasn’t what you thought it would be; 2) it really wasn’t a very good fit; and 3) the job really sucks.  Congratulations!  You can compare yourself to Thomas Edison and his legendary thousands of failures.  You didn’t fail…you just found something that didn’t work.  Like Jay-Z says, “On to the next one…”

One of the characteristics of a midlife crisis is waking up one day and feeling like you’ve squandered all of your years in a job you did not love.  You didn’t become that ballerina, NAVY Seal, or professional baseball player.  The beautiful thing about life, though, is it gives us choices.  Yesterday’s dream career might be gone (or the shelf life expired), but you can always find (and pursue) that new career dream today.

How do you define career happiness? 

Post your comments below…

My Inner Introvert Is In Beast Mode

I was having dinner with my wife and asked the waitress for a glass of water with lemon.  The waitress looked at me quizzically and returned a few minutes later with a huge glass of sliced lemons.  My wife turned to me and said, “See, you’re too quiet.”

I recently read Susan Cain’s bestselling book, “Quiet, which intertwines her life as an introvert with the history, psychology, and cultural implications of being an introvert.  I was thinking about “Quiet” the past few weeks.  In several recent conversations (actually, most of my life) people have said to me, “You’re so quiet.” and “I didn’t even know you were here.”  I recently volunteered for a big work initiative and was reminded (again) of how little I speak.

No doubt, I am a full-on introvert and have always exhibited introvert qualities: conservative, self-aware, observant, quiet.  But like Susan Cain, my introvert self gets a little frustrated and irritated when these qualities are looked upon as negative.  In other words, you should speak more, be louder, and overall be more visible.  When I hear these things, my inner introvert wants to go into beast mode.


Western culture celebrates being outgoing, loud, and assertive.  So when it comes to the quieter individual, questions like “What’s wrong?” or “Is something bothering you?” usually comes up.  Cain also points out that being neither loud nor outgoing sometimes gets confused for lack of leadership and productivity (inferring that quieter individuals don’t add as much or can’t be leaders).  This makes sense.  If you’re an introvert and have ever sat in a meeting where team leaders or decision-makers are chosen, the more boisterous individuals take over and are usually selected.

So for introverts reading this, I completely understand your frustration. And for you extroverts, keep these things in mind before you jump to your extrovert conclusions:

I like to eat lunch alone.  I’m not antisocial and I’m not some kind of social outcast.  In fact, I enjoy eating with co-workers – sometimes.  This alone time allows me to sit in silence and recharge from all of the social interaction I had earlier.  For introverts, think of this as interval training.  We operate best when some down time follows our social interactions.  For extroverts, this would be the complete opposite, where they would require some kind of social interaction after a long period of silence or being alone.

I don’t need to be speak all the time.  I talk when I need to say something.  Big misconception – being an introvert does not mean someone is shy (timid, hesitant, or afraid).  It simply means they pick and choose their spots to speak – after some introspection.  In other words, you won’t find introverts spouting off or “shooting from the hip.”  In fact, when introverts speak, people usually stop and take notice because they do speak less often.

I prefer to kick it with a few people…not work a whole room.  Social butterflies we are definitely not.  Icebreaker activities are like kryptonite for introverts.  Introverts excel in small group interactions.  In large parties or big gatherings, forget it.  In these situations, you’ll find me with a few friends and a beer.  Of course we’re happy to meet new people but you will never see us working the room.

You’re stressing me out with your 100-miles-an-hour stream-of-consciousness speaking.  Introverts are patient and need time to reflect on and assess ideas.  When working in a group setting, this can be seen as anti-social or not being engaged, when in fact we’re completely engaged.  It’s just that I’m still trying to process the first idea the group came up with…and now we’re on idea number ten.


My inner introvert feels better now.  He’s had a chance to sit down in a nice quiet place, think about what he wants to say, and put it down via a favorite introvert activity – writing.

So before you jump to conclusions at work, in the gym, or while serving sliced lemons in a huge glass, remember the innate tendencies of your introvert friends.  More than likely, there’s nothing wrong with us (and if there was, it might be a while before we speak up to tell you).  In fact, we’re probably enjoying your company while taking everything in.  That’s just how we’re made.

What challenges have you faced as an introvert and how do you deal with them?

Post your comments below…

Assumption Is Making An A$$ Of Me

Steven Seagal is one of my favorite action-movie heroes of all time.  In Under Siege 2, the head terrorist asks one of his henchmen if they actually saw Casey Ryback’s body (Seagal) after being shot by a sniper.  The henchman replies “no” and that he “assumed”…then SLAP!  The head terrorist slaps him across the face and says “Assumption is the mother of all F@%#-ups!”

I’ve been assuming a lot lately.  Maybe because I’m getting older, more impatient, trying to fill in the blanks faster…whatever it is, I’ve been way off on my assumptions lately.

Assumption: Something taken for granted or accepted as true without proof; a supposition.

In the past two weeks, I told my wife two minor but funny things that were way off-base.

For some reason we were talking about Hall and Oates.  One of our goals is to eventually catch a Hall and Oates concert.  I told her (in my informed and know-it-all voice) that a concert would probably not happen anytime soon because Hall and Oates were involved in an altercation.  Well, we come to find out it was Hall and Oates all right…but not the singing duo!  Seriously though, what are the chances that two guys off the street involved in a fight share the same names as a legendary singing duo?


Then during Sunday breakfast, I was reading an article about Cote de Pablo, who plays special agent Ziva David on CBS’s NCIS.  Again, in my informed and know-it-all voice, I told my wife that Cote de Pablo was a former Mossad officer.  WRONG AGAIN.  Pablo plays a former Mossad officer on the show.  What, de Pablo doesn’t sound Jewish?

These are funny little examples, but they still bothered me.  In these two instances, my wife actually called me on it.  No big deal – we both got good laughs.  But what if it had been something really important, like a critical project at work or something having to do with me or my family’s health?  Would I ignore instructions, presume I had enough information, or proceed without obtaining the full story?  In other words, would I make an ass of myself?

I’m not talking about analysis paralysis where it takes you two weeks to decide on the perfect vacation spot (although I’ve done that, too).  I’m talking about jumping to conclusions and acting out without having all of the pertinent information and/or critical facts.  When I see tragedies like someone falling off a cliff because they ignored the “Do Not Enter” sign or freezing to death because they got lost in the mountains by driving through a fenced-off area, I think, is it because they assumed everything would be OK?

More often than not, though, we’re not talking about life-or-death consequences.  But assumptions can still lead us down the path of embarassment.  So how do we avoid making assumptions?

Double-check your facts: Sounds simple enough.  But in today’s world where speed is everything and we need stuff right now, double-checking only slows down the process – or so we think.  Be disciplined enough to stop and review the facts again if you’re not sure.  Chances are the extra time you take won’t affect anything.  Re-read or review the information.

Listen to your voice: You know, the one that says, “This doesn’t sound or feel right.”  Chances are your intuition is 100% right.  I should have listened to my intuition before signing the contract for a brand new truck – at 19% APR.  Again, another example of assuming everything is OK. (I mean, the dealer wouldn’t try to rip off a college kid, right?)


Ask and Clarify: Pride usually prevents us from these two things.  The classic example is men not asking for directions when clearly lost.  If you don’t fully understand what is being presented to you, no one is going to think you’re stupid for asking.  I remember working on a project all day at work only to find I did it all wrong.  I wasted eight hours of time and effort on something that could have been resolved in five minutes – if only I would have asked.

What’s the risk?  No one’s going to get hurt because I was wrong on Hall and Oates and Cote de Pablo.  However, there are potentially serious consequences involved when it comes to certain things like medication or even personal safety.  So before assuming “I’ve taken this type of medication before, I can take double the dosage” or “This doesn’t look like the safest neighborhood to take a shortcut in but I’m in a hurry” determine the risk-reward.

When was the last time you made a bad assumption?

Post your comments below.

27 Annoying Minutes At Target

Usually shopping at Target is a pleasant experience.  I like Target.  It’s convenient.  I mean, where else can I pick up t-shirts, almond milk, dog treats, and hummus, all in one spot?  They usually have a clean store with workers scurrying about making sure the shelves are organized.  But this past Saturday was different.  Maybe the nasty tasting pho I had for lunch already set me off in the wrong direction (seriously, it takes some work to mess up a bowl of pho), or maybe it was a perfect storm of people I ran into in the store.

For the twenty-something girl at the customer return counterit’s a place where there are a lot of customers (hence the name customer return counter).  The line of people standing there probably don’t want to hear about how you haven’t had a raise in two years or how stupid so-and-so was late from coming back from his lunch break.  There’s probably a few hundred thousand people in America right now who would gladly trade places with you and not complain that so-and-so was taking a longer-than-expected lunch break.

For F-bomb dudedropping the f-bomb in front of your girlfriend (“Hell yeah I killed that F’ing vodka!”) does not make you look cool or tough.  It makes you look like a tool.  Like my high school math teacher, Mrs. Herndon, used to say, cursing makes you sound like you’re uneducated and don’t have the intelligence (or vocabulary) to express yourself (or complete your sentences).

young ill man with scarf coughing isolated over white background

To phlegmy-hacker man…You know this guy, the one who sounds like he’s going to hock a lougey only to end up swallowing it because there’s no place to spit – unlike the pool at 24-Hour Fitness (but that’s a different story, for another time).  A few things…

1) That sound makes people sick.  You’re better off blowing your nose one time…really hard.

2) They teach pre-schoolers and kindergartners to cough into their bent arm.  Now, no one can buy the “Flight” DVD that you were looking at because you just hacked and sprayed all over it.

3) Stay at home next time.

And finally, the kicker…seriously.  Three teens (two girls and one boy):

president Lincoln face on the five dollar bill
Girl 1: “Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln….I’m so sick of F&*^)ng Lincoln!”
Girl 2: “I know!  It’s so F%#@*ng annoying!”

Girl 1:  “Really!  What’s the big deal?  What did he do, anyways?”

This was pretty sad.  I mean, you don’t need to be Ken Burns or be an AP History student, but at least have some kind of appreciation for American history.  I actually debated whether or not to say something.  Then I realized…what was I going to say?  Visualizing this exchange, it kept playing out like some kind of SNL skit.  One of those skits where Will Ferrell comes out and says something completely inappropriate.  I decided against it…chalking it up to being “young and dumb.”  Maybe one day they’ll get it…hopefully.

When was the last time you were annoyed in a store?  
Post your comments below…

How To Have A Difficult Conversation In Five Steps

I used to sit next to this lady (I’ll call her Janice) at work.  Janice had a subordinate (I’ll call him Rob).  I used to cringe every time Rob would come to her desk.  For some reason, Janice was just flat-out mean to this guy.  You could hear it in her voice and see it in her body language.  It got to a point where Rob would look like an abused dog when he came around; head hung low, shoulders drooping, posture hunched forward.  I think this clear sign of domination only made matters worse.  When I would see Rob in the hall, I wanted to stop him and say, “Dude, why don’t you say something?”

Having difficult conversations is something very few of us look forward to.  I know I don’t.  In fact, I’m pretty much downright non-confrontational.  I have a long fuse and am pretty patient.  This can be a blessing and a curse.  Where people might explode with impatient rage, I’m usually pretty calm.  The problem is, if we don’t have that conversation to tell someone STOP!, will we end up like Rob?  For example, despite your sweaty palms, pounding heart, and shortness of breath, could you:

Tell one of your friends that his jokes are inappropriate and unacceptable?

Confront your manager and tell him (or her) that their management decisions are killing your department’s morale?

Sit down with one of your in-laws and tell them that their frequent visits are a little too frequent?

Wild Goats Fighting

Not as easy as it sounds.  In fact, I’d venture to say that, like Rob, we are more likely to brush it off and saying something like, “I’m used to it” or “That’s just the way it is.”  But does it have to be?

Not to sound like Dr. Phil (the real Dr. Phil), but people treat us in accordance with the way we allow ourselves to be treated.  It’s why bullies continue to walk over their victims, why people take advantage of you, and why Rob always looks like an animal in one of those sad ASPCA commercials.  So how do we put a stop to this behavior?  By having a difficult conversation.

Identify the why: What’s the purpose of this conversation?  Get to the point and don’t beat around the bush.  This can be done professionally and tactfully.  Just don’t string it out and lose your target’s attention by starting off with, “Uhh, uh, umm.”  Maybe something more like, “Janice, I’d like to talk to you about our working relationship and how you’ve been treating me lately.”

Illustrate your feelings: I don’t mean break down and cry or scream at the top of your lungs.  Letting the other person know about how you feel places context around the situation: “When you joke around like that, it makes me feel uncomfortable.  I think the things you’re saying are disrespectful and hurtful.  I know I wouldn’t want someone talking about me in that way.”

Remain open-minded: Remember, conversation is a two-way street.  Open-mindedness actually means understanding what’s driving the other person’s behavior.  Could it be problems at home, pressure from the corporate higher-ups, or simply being oblivious?  The answer might surprise you.  I always keep this in mind by remembering Wayne Dyer’s story about a father and his kids on the subway.  The kids were running around, being unruly.  The passengers were growing irritated and angry with the father, thinking he was being extremely inconsiderate for not checking his kids.  When confronted, the out-of-it father apologized by saying that they were coming from the hospital…where his wife just passed away.  OK, so maybe your conversation may not be that extreme.  But always keep in mind, there’s another side of the story.

Listen: This goes without saying.  Whatever emotions you may have (anger, sadness, disappointment, etc.) they may cloud your ability to focus and listen to what the other person is saying.  Without listening, you’re already losing half the battle.  In order for this conversation to work, you’re going to have to temporarily suppress your emotions and just listen.

Resolve, Agree, and Move Forward: Finally, find the resolution and move forward.  In Rob’s case, he gets to the root cause of the problem (maybe Janice doesn’t like the way he just pops in unannounced at her desk).  He agrees to schedule meetings or IM her to see if she’s free and she agrees to watch her tone of voice, attitude, and body language.  With a common understanding and working agreement, they can both move forward and course-correct when needed.

Where in your life do you need to have a difficult conversation?

Colin Kaepernick And The Beauty Of Opportunity

“Many an opportunity is lost because a man is out looking for four-leaf clovers.”

– Anonymous


I’m writing this post on Superbowl Sunday, what many people consider to be an unofficial American holiday.  Right now there are millions of people barbecuing, pouring ice into coolers, and straightening chairs in front of their 70-inch flatscreen HDTV’s in preparation for the big game.  This is especially true here in Northern California, home of the San Francisco 49ers.

If this were a rock concert or big movie premiere, the star attraction would be Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the 49ers.  For those who don’t follow football, Kaepernick’s story reads like a Hollywood movie script.  A second-round draft pick local boy (Turlock, CA) takes over for the starting quarterback after said quarterback suffers a concussion.  Local boy explodes onto the national scene and ultimately leads his team to the pinnacle of pro sports – the Superbowl.  What a great story and lesson in making the most of one’s opportunity.

Opportunity: A favorable juncture of circumstances.  A good chance for advancement or opportunity.

I’ve read that there is no such thing as luck, and that the real equation for “luck” is:

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck


Traditionally, when you think of luck, you think of good things happening out of the blue.  You find a $100-bill on the ground.  You win $500 on the Wheel of Fortune slot machine.  Your family wins a trip to Disneyland at your kids’ school raffle.  Sure, these are signs of luck.  But I like the Colin Kaepernick type of luck which is preparing and then maximizing your opportunity for a great outcome.

With luck, there’s an implication that we have nothing to do with the good that happens.  However, when we take the time to prepare and take advantage of opportunities, I think luck comes more frequently and our chances for success increases greatly.  Think if Kaepernick was not prepared.  What if instead of spending endless hours watching tape, working out, and studying the playbook, he resigned himself to being a scrub back-up quarterback with no shot of starting for an NFL team.  Instead, he sacrificed, put in the work, prepared, and made the most of his situation to propel himself (and his team) to sport’s biggest stage.

I’m sure you’ve seen this in your own life as well.

I have a friend who was passed over (actually, blown off) for a managerial position.  He handled it like a true professional.  No whining.  No bitching.  No backstabbing.  Instead, he went straight back to work doing the best he could.  He prepared.  Several months later, a new VP came in.  When my friend’s manager left (the prior VP who gave him the runaround), the new VP was so impressed with my friend’s attitude and work ethic, he promoted him immediately.

wall and opened to sky door on a white background

So how can we capitalize on our own opportunities and make our own Kaepernick-like luck?

Know Your Destination: What does your idea of success look like, both personally and professionally?  When we know our destination, whatever  it may be (be debt-free, make X amount of money per year, coach my child’s little league team, etc.), we are able to make decisions consistent with that vision.  Our mind goes to work (both consciously and unconsciously) looking for ways to fill these desires.

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open: DUH!  I know, but this is a lot harder than it sounds.  We’re creatures of habit.  Our brain looks for the path of least resistance.  Without purposeful thoughts and direction, we unknowingly turn our autopilot switch “on.”  Wake up.  Eat breakfast.  Get kids ready for school.  Go to work.  Pick up kids.  Eat dinner.  Watch TV.  REPEAT.  In knowing your destination and actively looking out for opportunities, we help our brain filter the millions of distractions that come our way each day.  A few years ago, when I was thinking of buying an iPad, I didn’t really notice the number of people carrying these things around.  Once I started planning my purchase, it seemed like everyone I saw owned one.  In the same way, your mind will subconsciously help you with what you’re looking for.

Prepare: Whatever it is you want, you need to prepare for it.  If it’s losing weight, starting your own business, being a better spouse, do what you need to prepare.  Read books.  Watch You Tube videos on the subject.  Download podcasts.  Read blogs.  By preparing, we can step up in confidence and,

Say Yes: You can study and prepare all you want, but in the end it’s all about the action we take.  When there’s a good opportunity to fill your desired vision, take it!  Remember, there’s no such thing as failure…only learning experiences.  Have an opportunity to get away on a couple’s vacation? Take it!  One of the coaches asks you if you can help out at practice?  Take it!  The boss asks if you can volunteer for a project?  Take it!  If it’s consistent with your vision, put your preparation into action.

99% of us will never know what it’s like to play in the Superbowl (that’s OK with me because I shudder when I think of being hit by a Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis).  But we can take a lesson out of Colin Kaepernick’s playbook – that awesome and special things can happen when we prepare and take advantage of the opportunities presented to us.

How do you make your own luck?

Super Bowl Tickets, Pythons, and 5 Ways to Better Decision-Making

Would you have sex for a Super Bowl ticket (with a stranger)?  This is what one guy wants in exchange for his highly coveted Super Bowl XLVII ticket.

Or how about swallowing dozens of giant cockroaches for a free python?

Then how about drinking a few gallons of water for a Nintendo Wii?

Guaranteed someone will take the guy up on the tickets.  As far as the python and Wii, unfortunately the individuals who both said “yes” to these challenges subsequently died.

Why do we make decisions like this?


For the most part, I’m a pretty risk-averse person.  I tend to over-think things before actually making a decision.  This can be good or bad depending on the situation and possible outcomes.  This isn’t to say I’m not prone to impulsive decisions either:

When I was 13, I stood in line with my best friend for more than six hours to watch the first showing of Return of the Jedi (hey, I was only 13).

In high school, some friends thought it would be fun to go out “egging.”  The homeowner and several of their friends caught me and another friend.  Thankfully the police rolled by.  Put it this way, they had no plans on calling the police.

In college, my car broke down.  I went to the Toyota dealership “just to look” and, several hours later, walked away the proud owner of a brand new Toyota truck…at a bargain 19% APR.

As a full-grown man, I left work and drove an hour just to get an autograph and picture taken with my favorite bodybuilder of all time – Lee Labrada.


Maybe if we were C3PO, our decision-making would be rational with a high probability of success.  Unfortunately, sometimes we let our emotions hijack the rational side of our brain that says STOP.  It’s the same emotion that tells us it’ll be fun to go out egging, eat huge roaches, or flood our body with water.

So how can we make better decisions?

Define the Problem: What exactly are you trying to accomplish?  By defining the problem, our mind automatically starts to search for solutions and alternatives.  Can’t afford a Wii?  Maybe you can get a temporary part-time job or a loan from a family member.  I need a car but do I need one today?  Maybe I can get a ride or take public transportation for now until I figure things out (instead of buying a brand new car at 19% APR).

Determine the Risk: The two who tragically died performing those stunts probably didn’t think there’d be that much risk involved.  I mean, it’s a contest, right?  And a business wouldn’t have this contest if there was real danger involved.  This is where you need to be disciplined enough to call on your left brain for analysis.  In determining the risk, you’ll need…

Sufficient Information: Getting enough information to make a decision is critical.  Granted, you may not be able to obtain all the necessary information, but you should get enough to be comfortable.  Sufficient information allows us to assess any dangers involved and helps us properly prepare to support a positive outcome.

Avoid Peer Pressure or Overconfidence: Probably two of the biggest reasons for poor decision-making.  Having your friends in your ear screaming “do it sissy!” probably doesn’t help when you’re about to undertake something of significant risk (think college fraternity hazing rituals and binge-drinking).  Overconfidence is your ego telling you you’re capable of doing things (when you really aren’t) – like swimming in the ocean when you can hardly swim a lap at the YMCA pool.

Listen to Intuition: Call it sixth sense, the voice inside, or guardian angel, your intuition will tell you if something is no good.  It’s the warning system that floods your entire body and manifests itself through a racing heart, constricted breathing, and an overall sense of unease (like fight or flight).  Your intuition is pretty much always right.  It’s usually our ego and peer pressure that shuts it down.

Despite following all of these steps, things can still go badly.  That’s OK though.  Mistakes, bad decisions, disappointments, and failures are all part of the learning process.  In fact, no matter the outcome, it serves as a reference point from which to draw upon in the future…which will ultimately help us become better decision-makers.

How do you avoid making poor decisions?

Five Tips For The Informal Mentor

When I hear the word “mentor,” I immediately think of Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, Richie Cunningham and The Fonz, or Daniel-San and Mr. Miyagi – older, more experienced individuals teaching young whippersnappers the way of life.  I also think of how many individuals and businesses set up formal mentoring relationships.  Meet at such and such a time for coffee or lunch.  Discuss topics for a half hour.  Obtain assignment to read a book or answer personal development questions.    Rinse and repeat.

A mentor is defined as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher” and “an influential senior sponsor or supporter.”  But sometimes, informally, you become the unsaid or unwritten mentor; the person who people turn to for guidance, advice, or answers.  This usually happens by default.  You’re the most experienced person in the department or you’ve been with the company the longest.  Being an informal mentor is a good thing.  It means that people like, respect, and trust you enough to look to you for direction and assistance.


With newer and less experienced individuals coming in and out of our department, I’ve found myself playing the role of informal mentor.  Inevitably (or maybe right now), you might be in this position as well.  Here are five things to keep in mind as you dispense your sage advice:

Give Freely: I’ve worked with individuals who were conspiracy theorists or were always thinking there’s an “angle.”  Why is this person coming to me for advice?  Why are they asking me how to do something?  Do they want my job?  Are they trying to make me look bad?  STOP.  There’s not always an ulterior motive to people’s behavior.  Maybe someone is coming to you for help…because they need your help.  Giving unselfishly of yourself builds trust, strengthens team bonds, and adds to your reputation as the go-to guy (translation: valuable to the company).  There’s also the karma aspect of giving.  What goes around usually comes back around.  Like Zig Ziglar says, “You can have anything you want if you just help others get what they want.”

Show Them Landmines and Shortcuts: At the heart of mentoring is wisdom.  In other words, the value of saving someone time, pain, effort, or embarrassment by sharing what you’ve experienced or what you know.  My last manager was a company history book.  He was known for spinning great company stories.  A lot of people kind of just blew these stories off as reminiscing about the past or unfocused detours (which they could be at times – especially when there was an agenda to get to).  However, these stories had great pieces of advice on how to navigate the company.  In the same way (maybe without the 15 -minute story attached, although there’s a time and place for that, too), light the path for the person you’re trying to help.  Show them how to do something properly, who or what to avoid, who to seek out, or how to be more efficient.


Be Honest: If you can’t be honest, then the mentoring doesn’t work.  Like any good relationship, the foundation is built on trust.  Trust is gained through honesty.  Now, there’s honest and brutally honest.  Depending on how you operate and whom you’re helping, this is something you’ll have to gauge for yourself.  Some people aren’t built mentally to withstand a no-holds-barred assessment: “Who taught you how to write?  Did your thirteen-year-old daughter write this?”  Others have no patience for sugar-coating.  My informal mentor would take a red pen to my reports so much I thought someone had bled on the paper.  We eventually just referred to it as “red-penning” a report.  At first I was both irritated and embarrassed.  He could have easily just done a few edits here and there.  Instead, he basically firebombed the entire report.  Looking back several years later, it was the best thing he could have done for me – giving honest feedback.

Allow for wins and losses: In other words, let them learn.  You’re all adults so I’m not going to use the parent-child analogy.  But when mentoring someone, let him or her do the job.  A lot of times we want to stay in control.  Maybe because we don’t want to look bad, there are time constraints, or we don’t want to see others screw up; but failure is part of the learning process.  I would have never learned to write a good report if I didn’t get red-penned.  On the flip side, let them experience victory as well.  Nothing builds a person’s confidence more than being successful at something they’ve never done before; running a meeting, making a big presentation, or completing a well-received report.

Give Yourself Props: For those who don’t like to pat themselves on the back or give themselves credit, it’s OK to do this once in a while.  By unselfishly giving of your time and experience, you’re: 1) helping someone get better; 2) improving the company; and 3) strengthening your team.  It’s also an indication of your value to the company and all of the years of hard work, learning, and experience you bring on a daily basis.  You may not be The Fonz or Yoda yet, but it’s something to be proud of today.

How do you mentor others?