Nov 122014

Stubbed Out Cigarette

What is November 20th? It could be one of the most important days of your life — or the life of someone you love.  It could be the day you choose to join forces with others seeking to improve their health and stop smoking — even for just one day.

The American Cancer Society marks the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November each year by encouraging smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. By quitting — even for one day — smokers will be taking an important  and immediate step towards a healthier life.

Tobacco use is still one of the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the US, yet about  42 million Americans are still actively addicted.  That’s nearly 1 in 5 adults — almost 20% of our population.

As of 2010, there were also 13.2 million cigar smokers in the US, and 2.2 million who smoke tobacco in pipes — other dangerous and addictive forms of tobacco.

[Tweet “Isn’t 8 days long enough to make your plan?”]

And, in the face of more than $22 million spent on tobacco industry advertising every day, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that over 3000 people under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarettes.

As a former smoker I understand the frustration of wanting to quit and being afraid that I couldn’t.  It felt impossible and overwhelming…. until I learned there were immediate benefits.  Learning these made me feel a little more hopeful… and helped me to get through that first day.

[Tweet “Health improvement starts 20 minutes after the last cigarette.”]

Only 20 minutes after your last cigarette your heart rage and blood pressure drop.  And a mere twelve hours later? The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. (from

Know a smoker?  Share the love.  Quitting is possible, worth it and they are, too. Besides, how else are we going to strengthen the power of example for young people trying not to start?


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Nov 042014

Feeling a little down?  Like your star hasn’t risen high enough?  What about your kids? How are you doing with the idea of letting them bump into brick walls?  It’s hard, isn’t it?

As difficult as watching those we love solve their own problems, I think it’s a whole lot easier to fall on our faces with a loving family standing by.  Who else is going to remind us that  failure is an experience — not a person?

[Tweet “Who else is going to remind us: failure is an experience NOT a person.”]

 Achievers are resilient.  While it may look like they’re immune from life’s bumps and bruises, they’re not.  Resilient people have simply learned how to bounce back.

Brick wall

Brick wall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)










[Tweet “Resilient people have simply learned how to bounce back better.”]

Remember, Randy Pausch and The Last Lecture?  In it he said, “The brick walls are there for a reason.  The brick walls are not there to keep us out.  The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.  Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.  They’re there to stop the other people.”

When faced with a brick wall we often get so focusing on solving a specific problem that we blind ourselves to other solutions.  A brick wall can represent an opportunity to step back and begin again, even better.

Sometimes a lateral move will be enough to get us around the obstacle — but we can’t stand and stare, nose pressed against it, obsessed with “what’s wrong” and expect to see something different, can we?

[Tweet “We can’t stand there, obsessed with ‘what’s wrong’ & expect to see something different.”]

Here are a few examples of people who learned how to bounce:

  • Creative genius Walt Disney was once fired because he “had no good ideas.”
  • Music legend Elvis Presley was banned for the Grand Ole Opry after only  a single performance.  He was reportedly told, “You aint’ goin’ nowhere, son.”
  • The work of legendary children’s author Dr. Seuss was initially rejected by 27 different publishers.  His work has sold more than 600 million copies.
  • Vera Wang tried for a spot on the Olympic ice skating team and a stint as a writer before becoming a world-renown  designer.

When you let your kids develop problem-solving skills you’re giving them bricks.  Will they use them to build walls or dreams?


Oct 212014

Brandenburg Gate

When my “bonus son” visits each summer we spend a lot of time talking about everything from international politics to family traits. We tackle new experiences and drag out old family photos.  Since he lives so far away, he’s intrigued by family traits and similarities that crop up without living in the same household — or even on the same continent.  He’s both participant and observer,  trying on ideas and traits before claiming them as his own.

His Dad grew up imprinted with good luck and perfect timing, reinforced by a mother who affirmed it:  “You always land on your feet.” As a result, my partner seems to have spent his whole life expecting good outcomes and is rarely disappointed. His youngest son is intrigued by and attracted to this thought.

[Tweet “”He grew up imprinted with good luck & perfect timing…””]

“I’ll bet they thought I forgot….” said the message that came with the picture at the gate.

When Luis headed back to Berlin, he was asked to take this picture in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Despite the combined pressures of school and sports and social life he managed to get it done. I had forgotten that his aikido instructor asked for this picture… but when we Skyped this week he asked me to share it.

[Tweet “Despite the combined pressures of school, sports & social life he got it done.”]

“I know my friends Ryan and Maggie have their black belt tests and I wanted to share this for good luck.

Maybe they know the Brandenburg Gate has been an important symbol of victory for many years. It’s where we celebrate lots of things — most recently Germany’s reunification. It reminds me of aikido because it symbolizes both strength and of peace.

When I started aikido this past summer, everyone was very kind and helpful to me… but nobody more than Ryan and Maggie. They helped me understand a lot of things about various techniques but, even more important, some things about life. My Dad always says that everyone we meet is a teacher. This summer at the dojo made that very clear to me: there are “official teachers” but we get to learn from everyone. Ryan and Maggie went out of their way to show me the value of hard work, enthusiasm and fun while trying to be the very best I can be. Like the Gate, they represent both peace and strength.”

So, was he a procrastinating teen? Or does he, like his Dad, tend toward perfect timing?

I join him in wishing our friends the best of luck as they attempt this important milestone.

[Tweet “There are “official teachers” but we get to learn from everyone.”]