Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is Risen

Thank you, Jesus, for opening the door to Heaven.  And Happy Easter to all.  Today I'm celebrating the Resurrection with my family and my wife's extended family.  The snow is just about gone and the trees are starting to sprout new leaves.  Birds from many species are joining together in sweet songs and the temperature is warming up.  What a way to celebrate the most important day for all who believe in Jesus. Yes, He is risen!  Rejoice in this day and be glad in it.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

When You Need a Plan B

Are you one of those people who plans everything, right down to the last detail?  What happens when you have to call an audible because it's your wedding day and it's raining?  Or a blizzard hits on your busiest day ever?  I feel qualified to answer this because I'm blessed with a talent known as "Arranger."  If you happen to be around an arranger personality in the middle of chaos, the arranger is the one who remains calm.  Arrangers can make a plan B on a moment's notice.  Here are some signs you need a plan B in your life:
  1. You work in an environment where change happens daily.
  2. Doing things the same way every day bores you.
  3. Plan A is failing.
  4. You believe there is a better way to do things.
  5. The people around you are on the verge of a breakdown because everything is falling apart.
This gift for devising a plan B really helped me when my family desired to go in a different direction with our lives.  They relied on me to plot a new course.  We set out to sell our California home and relocate to the Midwest.  Our original plan was to drive our moving truck through Utah and Colorado.  Just before we were ready to leave, a major storm got in our way.  I already had a plan B formulating in my mind and we re-routed through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, avoiding the Winter storm.  I monitored the weather daily and made changes based on the changing weather conditions.  The trip turned out to be even more exciting because we really didn't know what to expect every morning when we woke up.

If you are ready for a plan B in your life, do your best to let go of plan A and don't look back.  Trust that there is a higher authority watching out for you.  If you are too stubborn and hold on to plan A too long, you will be missing an alternative that may be superior.  Let me know how your plan B is working out for you if you are trying something new in your life.   I will do my best to respond to your comments within 24 hours.

Friday, March 29, 2013

It's Friday... But Sunday's a Coming

*** Editor's Note:  If you are checking in for the next free chapter of The Caveman in the Mirror, click here to enter the Cyber-bistro, a gathering place for writers and readers who have a passion for stories.  If you like the place, make sure you click on the "join this site" button on the right margin to be eligible for giveaways.  I'm releasing one new chapter every Friday at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time, free for visitors and guests.  Visit Caveman Reflections Cyber-bistro for more information about the world's first virtual book, written in the kitchen and served hot off the grille while you are visiting.***

It's Friday... But Sunday's a Coming

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. ~ John 19:30

You may be wondering why people call it Good Friday if this is the day Jesus died on the Cross.  The best answer I can give is Good Friday is not the end of the story, even though Jesus said, "Tetelestai."  In Greek,  Tetelestai means "it is finished", "it is accomplished", "it is completed", or "it is fulfilled."  Tetelestai was written on business documents or receipts to indicate a bill was paid in full.

I believe dying for our sins is really Act I.  I like to call it: "it's Friday...but Sunday's a coming."  Easter Sunday is Act II.  And the climax to the story, Act III, is Jesus' return for all of us.  Here is a great video about Act I:

Thursday, March 28, 2013

10 Tips To Maximize Your Life

I have trouble with mediocrity.  Ever since I can remember, I always wanted to pursue excellence.  I love being around people who feel the same way, even if they are a long way from the top of the mountain or if they're not sure how to get there.  For me, helping others maximize their lives is my mission.  Here are ten tips to help you find your way:
  1. Pursue Jesus.  He is the ultimate example.  On this day, over 2,000 years ago, He was washing feet and breaking break with His followers.  He knew His darkest day was about to appear yet He took the time to be with His disciples and offer them comfort.  He will do the same for you.
  2. Surround yourself with people who are committed to maximizing their lives.  This is one of my greatest blessings, to be with people who want to make the world better.  They energize me.
  3. Recognize what your gifts are.  Yesterday's story was about discovering your top five talent themes.  If you missed the story, please click here.  There are very few people in this world who have your same top five talents in the same order as you.  These talents are what make you unique.  Once you recognize what these gifts are and you develop them, you are capable of making significant contributions to others.
  4. Teach the people around you how to recognize what their gifts are.  It's like a football team.  When you are together for the first time, nobody knows what to do.  The key is to get the people around you into the right positions based on their gifts.  This works for families, churches and any group with something to accomplish.
  5. Don't worry about your weaknesses.  There are people around you who can handle the areas you are struggling with.  If you spend too much time trying to do something you aren't created to do, you will never maximize your life.
  6. Focus on your strengths.  There is no one in this world who can do what you do best.  You are unique.  You already have everything you need to maximize your life.
  7. Seek out others who complement your talents.  Teams need to be fine tuned in order to reach maximum performance.  Experiment with different people to find the right combination.
  8. Never give up.  Jesus fell three times while carrying His Cross.  He got back up every time.  You need to do the same thing.  Don't let anything stop you.
  9. Be patient.  You have your entire life to figure out why you are here and to maximize your potential.
  10. Love what you do.  If you don't, you are doing the wrong things.  Make changes.  Find out what you love to do and do it.  
It's your turn to share how you are planning to maximize your life.  Please leave your comments below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why You Do the Things You Do

Are you still trying to figure yourself out?  Maybe your life is one giant jigsaw puzzle and some of the pieces are elusive.  If you find yourself worn out, unhappy, or just plain lost and you feel like you don't fit in, today's story may help you understand who you are and why you do the things you do.  It may also help you understand why others do the things they do.

According to the folks at Strengthsfinder, there are 34 different talent themes.  Click here to see the list of themes.  When you take the test, they reveal your top five talents and what they mean.  The more dominant you are in a particular theme, the greater the impact the theme has on your behavior or performance.  If you are interested in learning more about yourself,  take the test.  Click here for the link to Gallup Strengths Center.  The fee is only $9.99 to discover your top five talent themes.

I read the book and took this test in 2011.  The results helped me understand why I do the things I do. It's a waste of time to concentrate on improving your weaknesses.  You will find fulfillment when you work on developing your strengths.  And you will find harmony when you understand why the people around you do the things they do.

If you have taken this test before or plan to take the test, do me a favor.  Please share your five talents in the comments section and how you use those talents in your life.  My top five in order are Maximizer, Empathy, Strategic, Arranger and Developer.  This explains why I love writing daily stories.  This is my chance to help you on your journey.  Don't forget to leave a comment about your gifts and how you plan to implement them in your life.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to Reach International Readers

I found a way to reach international readers, no matter what language they speak.  This month's top ten countries outside of the United States are Germany, Sweden, France, Poland, United Kingdom, Russia, China, Ukraine, Spain and Mexico.  There are two reasons why my overseas visitors now account for 30% of my audience.  Just follow these suggestions to expand your international reach:
  1. Say it with pictures.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  It doesn't matter what language your readers speak.  If you have a quality picture at the top of your story, it will attract viewers from all over the world.
  2. Add a Google Translate widget.  I like the one I use because it shows flags for the individual countries and this tool makes it easy for international readers to connect.  You don't have to be a rocket scientist to install a widget.  Just follow the step-by-step instructions and your international readers will be able to read your stories in their native tongue.  Click here for help.
The one problem I identified with my new audience is that my international readers have no way to share feedback and add to the conversation.  There appears to be a solution:  install Google Translate to your comments section so your readers can comment in their own language.  I will be working on this for my blogs as soon as I have some free time.  I use Disqus to track my comments and it helps me keep in touch with my readers.  If you also use Disqus and want to install Google Translate to your comments section, here is the link.  Click here.

Please share what you are doing to reach out to international readers in the comments section below.  And if you happen to be reading this blog message in your own language, please come back soon and send me a message when I have Google Translate installed in the comments section.  I can't wait to hear from you.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Do You Trust Your Sources?

Every now and then when I read about a claim that appears ridiculous, I plug the headline into to verify its accuracy.  There was a story circulating about how Mr. Rogers wore a sweater to hide his military tattoos from his days in the special forces -- not true.  There's a claim circulating on FaceBook that the month of March has five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays and this only occurs once every 823 years -- false.  Readers are instructed to copy and paste the story or they will miss out on money.

Many of the same people who trust these sources are the same ones who deny my most trusted source, Jesus.  The longer I live, the more everything Jesus said and did makes sense.   My book research these last two years unearthed some amazing facts about my ancestors and I'm finding some connections to Jesus that boggle my mind.  The truth is we are all connected to the same source.  We are all children of God.  Even can't deny that statement.  And on Easter Sunday, His people all over the world will proclaim, "He is risen."  What do your sources tell you about this statement?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How I Found My Running Legs

I recall a fairy tale about a girl who was abducted by a killer.  She asked if she could tell a story first.  The smart young lady teased her captor by withholding the end and told him she would gladly finish the story the next day.  Her life was spared and she repeated her tactics every night, eventually winning the heart of her kidnapper.

We live in a society where we want instant gratification.  We become bored easily.  We don't like obstacles.  I found my running legs by learning creative ways to jump over all the hurdles on my race track.  This book project I'm working on is a solution to by own time constraint challenge:  How do I find the time for all my family activities, maintain a daily blog, write books, and work a full-time day job?  The answer is simple...
  1. Put my family first when it comes to the activities they care about.
  2. Re-arrange the editing phase so that it comes after blog readers comment on the raw chapters as they are released, one week at a time.  This is a big time saver.
  3. Use modern technology to write and share my books on-line in cyber-space.  This allows for easy editing and real-time virtual publishing.
  4. Cut out all the fluff.  If you keep a log about how you use your hours each day, you will find nooks and crannies that can be better utilized if you do some organizing.  I prefer to write one hour per day while my family is still sleeping.  My mind is alert and I avoid interruptions.
  5. Leave your audience wanting more.  Sure, I would love to have enough time to publish an entire book according to schedule.  However, this traditional method of book publishing leaves no crescendo, the kind you get when you tune in to a television show and they cut you off before something big happens, leaving you biting your nails until the next episode.  I want my readers to come back every day at the same time, 8:08 AM, to pick up where they left off yesterday.
You can find your running legs.  You can accomplish any important task if stay on the race track long enough.  Don't be afraid to go against conventional wisdom.  My family is happy I'm putting them first.  My readers are happy there is always a new chapter to look forward to.  And I'm happy because I finally found my running legs, one chapter at a time, on a course beyond where the pavement ends.  I'm a long distance runner who believes in fairy tales and happily-ever-afters.  How about you?  Do you have something to share about how you found your running legs?  Please add your thoughts below.

Click here to enter Caveman Reflections Cyber-bistro and read chapter two of The Caveman in the Mirror, released on Friday, March 22.


How I Found My Running Legs.  Click to Tweet

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Riding the Big Kahuna

Every day in my life, the waves seem to get bigger and bigger.  No, I'm not a surfer.  Yes, I'm a husband, parent, blogger and writer.  There are "waves of opportunity" that seem to approach in sets, just as real ocean waves do.  The challenge is to recognize the opportunity and ride the Big Kahuna without being crushed.

When I start to feel nervous about the tides changing, I think about the One I follow, the One who calms storms and walks on water.  When I think about Jesus, the Big Kahuna seems possible to ride.  I stop worrying about everything else and keep my eyes focused on Him.  Any accomplishment I achieve while riding the waves is credited to Jesus.

What is the Big Kahuna in your life?  Are you ready for it?  Who will you give the credit to when you come ashore after the ride of your life?  Take a look at the YouTube video and see if this is will inspire you to go on the ride of your life, no matter how big the waves...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Express Yourself

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.  But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” ~ John 10:3-5

The lamb pictured on the right just experienced his first moment of Spring after months in captivity.  He is not afraid to jump for joy and let the world know he is one happy creature.  I know this feeling very well.  This is what happens to me when I see my wife crack a smile because she is at peace or when one of my children shares something about their day that brings them joy.  I get this feeling when a blog visitor sends me an email to share how something I wrote made them feel good inside.

How many times during the day do you feel like jumping?  Or do you postpone this exhilaration to some future moment when you are finally free from captivity?  If this is the case, maybe you need to take a look at all the things in your life that make you feel like a prisoner.  Here are some ideas to consider:
  1. You fear what others will think if you express yourself.  Do you believe this lamb cares what others think?  He is happy and his joy will spread to anyone observing him.
  2. You are waiting for something in your life to change.  Happiness is not a 401k deposit to be withdrawn at retirement.  It's the moment you are in right now.  That smile you choose to put on your face shows you are content in this moment, a moment you will never have again.
  3. You don't like your current circumstances.  Why aren't you doing the things that make you jump for joy?  Write down every one of those excuses you have that are preventing you from being happy and then ask yourself what you need to do to escape that prison you are living in.  I bet if you really want to experience freedom, you can find a way to cross out every excuse on your sheet of paper.  There is no reason why you can't be happy right now.
  4. You forgot how to jump.  I know people like this.  They locked up their dreams for so long that they forgot how to be happy.  They decided to play it safe.  You don't see any expressions on their faces because they are empty inside.  Expressing yourself comes from releasing your passions.  Dreams never forget how to jump.  It's what they do.  Are you telling me that the lamb in the picture is smarter than you?
  5. You have nothing to believe in.  I remember this feeling very well.  This almost cost me my own life.  My world around me was crumbling and my faith was nearly shattered.  I let the troubles of this world get inside my head.  There is someone to believe in, someone who will be with you every day for the rest of your life.  He is Jesus, the Lamb of God.  He is calling you by name and wants you to follow Him.  The gate is wide open and your field of dreams is awaiting.  Are you ready to jump?  Go yourself.
For those of you following my virtual book project,  The Caveman in the Mirror,  chapter two is available for free today at the Cyber-bistro.  A new chapter is released every Friday.  This is my gift to you and all my blog readers.  Thanks for visiting.  Don't forget to express yourself in the comments section below or tweet about today's blog.  Click here to enter the Cyber-bistro and read chapter two.

Tweetables:  Express Yourself  (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Will somebody please pinch me?  I want to make sure I'm awake and not dreaming.  After 1,300+ consecutive days of blogging, I reached a new milestone yesterday on the first day of Spring -- 500 page views in a single day.  I didn't achieve this overnight.  Anything in life worth pursuing requires a long-term commitment.  I believe slow and steady wins the race.  For those of you who have something to share with the world, there has never been a better time to put on your running shoes and enter the race track.

This is a great time to acknowledge some special people in my life.  For those of you following my latest book project, The Caveman in the Mirror, here's an advance look at how the book credits will appear...

Top credit for this book goes to my mother, Gloria Delores Mulligan.  I would like to recognize her own faith journey, her daily commitment to prayer and church attendance, and her constant encouragement.  There were those few times growing up when she chased me and my unruly brothers around the house with a shoe in her hand, yelling "I don't mean maybe!"  It was hard to take her too seriously.  In my adult life, I look to her for guidance.  I trust her 100% and I trust the One she follows 100%.  She is one special lady.  That's her on the bicycle.

I would like to recognize my loving wife, Helen Marie, who holds my hand and keeps my heart warm, especially on cold winter nights in our new home state of Iowa.  She supports my calling to write daily and graciously gives me the moral support I need to accomplish all God asks of me.

To my children, Ryan, Nicole and Shane, I thank you for all the sacrifices you endure putting up with my writing deadlines.  Each of you inherited the writing gene prevalent in our family for countless generations.  I encourage you to nurture the talent you have within you and to write compelling stories with life lessons for future readers in the generations yet to come.

To my extended family, my ancestors and to the lost members of our family tree who have been recently found, thanks for sharing your lives with me.  Thank you, cousin John, for endorsing this book and for encouraging me to keep stretching out of my comfort zone.  A big shout out goes to cousin Mark, founder of Castaway Kids.  Thanks for bringing your music to my new home state and for being my first visitor after my relocation to Iowa from California.  I will keep encouraging my readers to send a couple of pesos your way in support of your charitable works south of the border.

To the Angels in the Outfield who believed in me when I wrote my first book, I say thank you.  You will always be in my heart.

And to those who are reading this book, I say thank you.  All of us in this world are filled with questions.  We each have our own journey and our own purpose.  Thanks for sharing the road with me and for taking the time to read this book.

***Editor's Note***

Click here to read chapter one from The Caveman in the Mirror.  Don't forget to bookmark it and come back every Friday for new chapters as they are released.  Chapter two will be posted at the Cyber-bistro at 8:08AM, Pacific Time, tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Forward

"And the day came when the risk (it took) to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~ Anaïs Nin

Today is the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  Russel, my snowman, is now about the size of a lizard.  His carrot nose and Brussels sprout lips are the last remnants of Winter in my front yard.  Mother Nature is introducing us to a warmer chapter in our lives here in the Midwest.

I'm super excited about Spring.  My family is the happiest I've ever seen.  A cousin from a lost branch of our family tree is planning to take a road trip and visit my family and me for the first time.    And in about 45 days I will be celebrating 100,000 page views on this blog.  There is so much to be grateful for.

Thanks for visiting.  I really appreciate all your support and encouragement.  These next two days I'm taking a break from my day job and will be busy writing the next chapters of The Caveman in the Mirror.  Remember to check back in on Friday at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time, to read chapter two.  Here's a link to chapter one in case you missed it on St. Patrick's Day.  Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tribe Building Tips For Unknown Writers

Hello.  My name is Michael.  I'm addicted to writing.  I hear voices in my head.  The only way I can make the voices shut up is to write about what they talk about when they wake me up in the middle of the night.  I decided to admit my addiction publicly 1,301 days ago when I abandoned my cave and formed an online support group, otherwise known as a blog.  It's more than a blog.  It's a tribe.  Many here follow me anonymously.  Others have shared their addictions in interviews, guest blogs and books.  The chronic type A personalities follow me at  Caveman Reflections Cyber-bistro, a blog I set up for writers who share their passion for writing with tribal members and visitors.

The best lesson I learned from blogging is that it helps you connect with others who share the same interests.  Here are some tribe building tips for unknown writers like me who would like to form their own support group:
  1. Don't be afraid to be yourself.  Your quirks are what make you unique.  Your followers respect authenticity.
  2. Be consistent.  I write seven days a week because it's the only way I can get the voices out of my head.  I publish at the same time, 8:08 AM, Pacific Time, so my readers know when to tune in.  Yesterday I forgot to hit the publish button before I departed for my day job and a loyal reader sent me a text to see if I was okay.
  3. Experiment.  There are no rules to follow when you design your own blog.  The choices I made were always based on the price tag.  I promised my wife I would not spend one penny on my addiction.  Everything you see on this blog is free.  Blogger is free.  All the widgets are free.  Createspace is free.  Hootsuite is free and it allows you to post tweets automatically.
  4. Communicate with your tribe in any language.  Google Translate widgets allow you to find new members all over the world, even if they don't speak your language.  Yes, they are free.  Here's a link to help you translate your blog and find international followers.
  5. Turn your addiction into a positive.  Use it to connect with others.  Build your own tribe.  I know there is no way for me to stop writing, especially with all the new free tools that keep popping up.  Instead of resisting my addiction, I'm embracing it.  I'm seeking others who share my interests.  The world may think we are a little strange.  I don't care what the world thinks.
The biggest challenge I face now is getting other members of my tribe to write a comment.  Most prefer to show their support in private emails.   That's okay.  As soon as some of my long-time tribal members post a comment, the real fun will begin.  Would you like to add to the conversation?  I would love to hear what you have to say.  Click on the comments section below.  If you prefer to keep your name private, you can post anonymously.  Thanks for stopping by.


Tribe Building Tips For Unknown Writers.  Click to Tweet.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Writing and Editing in a Virtual World

Insanity:  Doing things the same way over and over and expecting different results.

Writing insanity:  Trying new things and sharing them with the world before you know how to do them.

March Madness continues.  I went to work yesterday as Clark Kent, wearing a green dress shirt and a badge that says, "Luck of the Irish."  My mind kept wandering back to the bat cave.  I had no idea how the release of my first chapter was going because cell phones are not allowed at my day job while I'm on the clock.

I hustled back to my car at the end of my shift and jumped for joy when I saw the visitor count.  It was already over three hundred for the day -- a new record.  It's a good thing for my ego that I come from a large family.  They probably had a lot to do with the outcome.  Maybe I got a little lucky.  Could it be that dad whispered something into St. Peter's ear while they were gathered for green beer at the Heavenly Watering Hole yesterday?  Dad always favored the underdogs.  In the writing world, I often find myself in need of a prayer.

This book project is turning into a virtual experiment.  I never heard of a writer releasing his work one chapter at a time before he finished the entire book.  My dad would label this kind of violation of protocol as playing it by ear.  I'm composing without any sheet music.

Most writers, 99.9% of them, follow a template:  write the book, edit the book, rewrite the book, edit the book again, then publish the book.  Here's my strategy:

  1. Promote the book for two years before it is written.
  2. Write 1,300 blog stories to practice the art of writing.
  3. Invite the industry's brightest writers and editors to my blog built for writers and editors.
  4. Invite all my friends to become blog followers.
  5. Set up a countdown timer on my blogs to let people know when the book will be released.
  6. About six months before the release date, start writing the book.
  7. When the countdown timer hits zero, release the first chapter without any editing.
  8. Release one new chapter every Friday until the whole book is visible -- for free.
  9. When the feedback comes in from all the smart people, correct any errors or flaws they point out.
  10. Put a cover on the book once all the chapters are released and offer the e-book on the blog for .99 cents to anyone who wants a copy.  
Some of the professionals who are reading this may say I'm crazy.  Others may say I'm lucky.  The people who know me best will tell you I'm both crazy and lucky.  Blame it on the man sitting next to St. Peter arguing that St. Patrick's Day is not a day -- it's a month.  Yes, the March Madness continues.  And so does the luck.  Happy St. Patrick's Month!  Remember to come back on Friday for chapter two.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Houston, We Have Lift-off

On this St. Patrick's Day, twenty years ago, my wife grimaced in pain before her final push.  Then, a baby girl opened her eyes for the first time and viewed her new world.

On this day, eight years ago, my business partner and computer programmer, Steve, pushed the launch button on his newly invented and untested software for our fledgling company and we began our mission to bring to the world.  Word spread quickly there was a new sheriff in town and our team helped entrepreneurs in Utah and Las Vegas get their businesses off the ground.

My dad, Patrick Mulligan, presents an autographed copy of his first book, "The Bisbee Doll With The Purple Tongue."
On this day, two years ago, I followed in my dad's footsteps and independently published my first book, a memoir about my dad's last footsteps in this world.

And today I present to you the world's first virtual book, as it is written, one chapter at a time.  You are reading this book while I'm writing it.  You are part of the story.  The Caveman in the Mirror is unfolding before your eyes with one new chapter released every Friday, free to all blog it is written!

Here's what you can expect from me...
  1. One new chapter of The Caveman in the Mirror every Friday at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time, beginning Friday, March 22.
  2. Opportunities to win free paperback versions when you become a public follower of any of my three blogs.  Follow all three to maximize your chances to win.  All winners will be notified by email and will receive autographed copies once the virtual book is completed.
  3. A free e-book when you email me and notify me you told two friends about The Caveman in the Mirror.
  4. An opportunity to go behind the scenes and get to know me.  I will be releasing more videos in the future about my life as a writer.  For those who are interested, I will be setting up some virtual chat sessions in my Google Circles.
  5. A new blog message every day at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  The blog stories are intended to complement my published books.  Think of my blog as your backstage pass.
I would like to extend a Happy birthday to our daughter, Nicole, a happy 8th anniversary to my Zoom partners and a Happy St. Patrick's Day to all my Irish friends and family.  I also know of two Patty's who are celebrating birthdays today -- my cousin, Patty, and my high school classmate, Patty.  Happy birthday!

Houston, we have lift off.  Click here to enter Caveman Reflections Cyber-bistro and read chapter one of The Caveman in the Mirror.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why St. Patrick's Day is My Favorite Day of the Year

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  “Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with a promise—  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. ~ Ephesians 6:2-3

My dad's parents, Vic and Alice Mulligan, had ten children.  You would think they were showing their Irish side when they named my dad Patrick.  The real story is that my "grammy" was a prankster.  When she birthed twin boys on Christmas day,  she was thinking about all those Pat and Mike jokes that were popular in her day.  Rumor has it that when the brothers grew up, they made a bet to see which one would have a St. Patrick's Day baby.  All I can tell you is three of my sisters were born within ten days of St. Patrick's Day.  Dad lost the bet when cousin Patty appeared on the scene.  I never heard about this tale until my daughter was born on St. Patrick's Day, twenty years ago.  I prayed for this little miracle to bring honor to my dad.

This St. Patrick's Day marks the 8th anniversary of, a company I co-founded with a group of special partners I worked with for a number of years.  They agreed to run the company when I told them I wanted to leave California to be close to my wife's family.  Tomorrow I will raise my special Zoom beer mug and toast these great people.

This St. Patrick's Day marks the second anniversary of my first book, God's Black Sheep Squadron.  I'm also releasing the first chapter of my second book on St. Patrick's Day in honor of my dad, also a writer and independent publisher.  The cyber-bistro I created is a tribute to Mulligan's, a bar my dad started up when I was in high school.

Mulligan's is only a memory now.  The brick and mortar has been replaced with cyber-space seating.  Come join me at Caveman Reflections Cyber-bistro and toast my parents, my partners and my family on my favorite day of the year.  I would like to give an extra special toast to my mother who gracefully dealt with more than her fair share of shenanigans over the years.  Come back tomorrow and share a cyber-toast with me.

Friday, March 15, 2013

You Are In Charge Of Your Happy Place

Your happy place is a state of mind others may attempt to break into, like a thief in the night.  Be sure to keep the doors locked.  When misery knocks, don't answer.  Misery loves company.  He will turn your house upside down if you let him in.  Misery may invite you to the pity party.  Beware.  This is a trap.  Happy people have trouble staying happy when misery's friends dominate the conversations.

Here are some tips for guarding your happy place:
  1. Identify all the entry points to your happy place.   Your internet connections are at risk.  The employee break room can be dangerous.  High risk locations include places where negative people congregate.  Stay away.
  2. Your best defense is a smile.  Use it to disarm your attackers.
  3. Seek out positive people.  They will re-energize you if misery ever invades.  They will help you redecorate and restore your happy place to its original condition.
Guard the keys to your happy place with your life.  You are in charge.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spiritual Cleansing

He washed the feet of his followers.  He asked his cousin to baptize him, even though there was no need of a spiritual cleansing.  And Jesus spent a great deal of time in the company of people your mother wouldn't want you to bring home for dinner.  Why?  I think Jesus sees past the dirt.  He sees the potential.  Imagine yourself as the unclean person drawing water from the well when Jesus stops by for a drink...

The truth is you can't hide anything from Jesus.  He already knows everything about you.  He wants to introduce you to the Father.  Before you do that, it's a good idea to take a bath.  The best soap and water comes from the Holy Spirit.  Think of it as spending a day at the spa.  You can have everything on the menu.  Jesus is the One who will clean you up.  He will let you take home the white robe to help you remember you are a new creation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Paradox of Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ~ Matthew 5:9

How is it that the closest followers of Jesus experienced the most pain?  Take a look at these examples:
  1. Judas, one of the original twelve followers, committed suicide.
  2. James, son of Alpheus, was thrown down from the temple by church leaders and stoned.  A fuller's club was used to beat his brains out.
  3. Thomas was killed with a lance.
  4. Andrew was crucified.
  5. James, son of Zebedee, was put to death by Herod Agrippa I.
  6. Peter was crucified upside down.
  7. The Gospel writer, Paul, was likely tortured and beheaded by the emperor Nero.
Where is the peace?  And what about modern day followers all over the world who risk death by pursuing Jesus?  Do they have peace?

For me, the answer is depends on where you are looking.  If you only see what is on the outside, it appears there is no peace.  If you look into the hearts of those who follow Jesus, you will find no paradox of peace.  It's the kind of peace that says, "I love you and I'm willing to give up my life for you.  You can throw stones at me, strike me with a lance, crucify me upside down, torture me, or even chop off my head, but you cannot ever take away my peace."

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So Let It Be Written

However, as it is written: "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" -- the things God has prepared for those who love him. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9

The first time I watched The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner, I felt the Bible was coming to life.  The Pharaoh's favorite line in the movie was, "so let it be written, so let it be done."  Moses repeated those words to Pharaoh in their final confrontation before the last of the ten plagues.  After fleeing Egypt with his people, Moses ascended Mt. Sinai and received God's written word.

I met a woman yesterday from Mexico City who is opening a new Mexican food restaurant in Wellman, Iowa.  It's close enough to check out when my wife and I have a date night.

"What is the name of your place?" I asked Melitza, the new owner.

"Paz en la Tormenta," she replied.  She was with a couple of friends who volunteered a translation.

"Don't tell me, let's see if I can figure it out." I pondered for a moment and asked, "is it 'Peace in the storm'?"

The new owner appeared stunned.  "Yes," she answered.  "I asked God to give me a name for my restaurant and this is what he gave me.  My customers love it."

Melitza has no idea I'm a writer.  Like her, I ask God to give me the words for the book I'm writing.  I'm releasing it, one chapter at a time, as it is written.  You will be able to read the first chapter for free here on this blog on Sunday, March 17.  I hear God's voice in my head bellowing, "so let it be written."  Is this why my hair now looks like Charlton Heston in the picture above?  I have only seen a tiny glimpse of what is ahead, about as much as one grain of sand in the desert.  Only God knows the future.  I hear His voice and respond, "so let it be written, so let it be done."

Monday, March 11, 2013

Evidence of God's Grace

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ~ John 10:3

My life looks more like a fairy tale than a story book.  The latest chapter is a thriller.  The only way to explain what is happening is to look at the evidence of God's Grace.  This is the Reader's Digest version of the last year:
  1. The banks approved our California short sale during the worst economic times we have seen since the Great Depression.
  2. We sold most of our possessions at a favorable price before our relocation to Iowa.
  3. Some Iowa friends offered their home to us while they were vacationing for the Winter.
  4. My tennis friends from California gave me a care package that had exactly what we needed to move across country.
  5. A California friend donated his air force jacket when he discovered I didn't have the right attire for Midwest winters.
  6. Despite damage to my credit, we found a builder willing to work with us.  He sold us our dream home with terms that fit our needs.
  7. Our down payment for our Iowa home appeared out of thin air when my wife received notice she was eligible to cash out her retirement after she left her job.  The check arrived just in time to close escrow.
  8. A new employer arrived the same month we moved to our new hometown and interviewed me the day after I applied for a marketing job.  I am now part of a team of caring, compassionate employees who want to make a difference in the community we serve.
  9. All three of our children are discovering their passions.
  10. We have enough daily bread...that is enough resources to get through each day, enough friends who care about our well being, enough Divine assistance to get through any obstacle, and enough Faith, Hope, and Love to live happily ever after.  This is the fairy tale God wrote long before I was born.
The best lesson I learned is that I was the antagonist in my own story.  God's grace was always there.  He is a patient God.  As I look back at the past year of my life, the evidence of God's grace is overwhelming.  His timing is perfect.  He knows my name.  He knows your name.  We are not the antagonists, we are His people.  We are a part of His story.  There is no end.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

How To Know When You're On The Right Path

Buckle your seat belts.  The ride ahead is going to get bumpy.  I have been on this road a long time and I can assure you of one thing:  the closer you get to Jesus, the more challenging the obstacles.  Stay on the road.  Keep moving forward.  Resist the temptation to make a U-turn.

Here are 7 signs you're on the right path:
  1. You will be misunderstood.
  2. You will be attacked, sometimes by the people you are closest to.
  3. You will be told it's impossible to move forward.
  4. Others will do everything in their power to convince you Jesus is not God.
  5. You will experience frequent storms.
  6. You will see things others cannot see.
  7. You will be abandoned by the world.
All I can say to you is follow all seven of these road signs.  Everything will make sense at the end of your journey.  There are no shortcuts.  This is intentional.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Secret Hiding Places Where Your Regrets Live

Kaboom!  That's the sound of all my regrets blowing up.  I hunted them down, one by one, in all their hiding places.  They lived in the dark shadows of my past and in the corner of my mind.  They were well-trained snipers who knew my vulnerabilities.  I cut off their supply lines and forced them out of their entrenched positions.  Once out in the open, my regrets were powerless.  I bound them up and tossed a hand grenade on them.  They are gone.  Forever.  I'm free.

Do you have regrets in your life that haunt you?  Here are some tips for removing them:
  1. Acknowledge you have regrets.  They are like termites.  You may not be able to see them, however, if you inspect your home, you will find evidence they are destroying your living space.
  2. Decide you want to exterminate your regrets -- every last one of them.  If even one regret is left behind, it will breed and you will have a re-infestation.
  3. Use overwhelming force.  Regrets are powerless once you stand up to them.  Be confident.  Be bold.  Show your regrets how strong you are and how willing you are to stand up to them.
  4. Remember who you are, what you have, and what you are capable of no matter who you were, what you had, or what you failed to do.
  5. Be thankful.  Regrets can't stand to be around happy people.  A daily dose of gratitude is as powerful as a hand grenade although not as dramatic.  We Mulligans have been known to be more on the dramatic side.  Besides, I like the sound of "Kaboom."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Are Your Dreams in a Timeout?

What did they do wrong, those childhood dreams of yours?  They are the stuff legends are made of.  Do you not believe what they can accomplish before time expires?  I know what it's like to be the nervous coach in a game that appears to be out of control.  My dreams were committing too many penalties.  I got tired of all the false starts and broken plays so I put my dreams on the bench and played it safe.  My wife and children begged me to let those dreams out of their timeout.  I listened.  Then I sent my dreams out onto the field and turned them loose.  Here's what I learned:
  1. Wise coaches find a way to utilize the talents of every player, even the unbridled dream that challenges conventional play.
  2. Dreams inspire others.  They attract fans.  They break records.  They find a way to get in the end zone no matter how tough the opponent.
  3. You can't win the game when your dreams are sitting on the bench.  Trust them.  Embrace them.  They belong on the field and you know it.  Stop listening to your critics and listen to your heart.
Are you ready for the timeout to be over?  It's never too late.  I'm really glad I huddled with my team at half-time and listened to what they had to say.  From now on, my dreams will stay in the game.  No more timeouts.  They are my most valuable players.  They are game changers.  If you don't believe me, just ask my wife and children.  They believe.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How Do You Feel When You're Outside Your Comfort Zone

The ambidextrous snowman you see with me and my buddy, Wilson, is named Russel.  He was born when I scooped all the snow off my driveway and piled it up near the street.  My wife and youngest son added the finishing touches including slices of apples, brussel sprouts for the mouth, a carrot and a scarf.  He seemed to come to life once I added the tennis rackets for his arms.  At a temperature of 24º, Russel showed off his cool personality once he sported the sunglasses.  The only problem with my new friend is that he will be out of his comfort zone soon and begin melting when the Spring weather moves in.  It reminds me of what happens when we humans face new challenges.

The good news is that you are not made of snow.  You are capable of adapting to all kinds of situations as long as you don't let your attitude freeze up.  Here are some lessons I learned from my relocation to Iowa from California:
  1. The further outside your comfort zone you go, the more opportunities you have to discover what you're really made of.
  2. Experience doesn't come from doing the same things over and over, it comes from trying new things, meeting new people, and embracing new challenges.
  3. You can't lead others outside their comfort zone if you aren't willing to venture outside yours.
  4. It's normal to feel different emotions, like fear, when you stretch yourself.  What matters is that you are willing to grow even though you have those feelings.
  5. You may stay in your comfort zone if you hold on to things, however, they become anchors and they hold you back from all the joys awaiting you on the high seas.
Wherever you are today, I hope you challenge yourself to go outside your comfort zone.  Just avoid taking snowmen to the indoor tennis courts with you.  That's a little too far to go, even if they happen to be ambidextrous and you're in need of a doubles partner.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What Will Your Legacy Be?

My curiosity for discovering my heritage dates back to the early years of married life.  Over twenty years ago, my father-in-law spent hours driving me around to all the local cemeteries so we could go on a treasure hunt for my wife's ancestors.  Word spread quickly about my jaunts to graveyards and the town thought I was a little off-the-wall.

Two decades later, I'm still tracing our roots.  I have fallen in love with the community I now call home.  It's as if our ancestors summoned us here from their graves.  They left behind a legacy that I will pass on to our children.  That gift is the desire to leave behind a better world for the next generation.  I found much evidence of this when I unearthed some early writings from my ancestors.  They have a gift for storytelling.

I believe my legacy will be the collection of stories I'm penning daily, now read internationally.  Each of us is connected.  I can't wait to share more in my next book, inspired by past generations.  Don't forget to come back on March 17 to read the first chapter of The Caveman in the Mirror.  May it inspire you to ponder what your legacy will be.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Am Alive

"I am alive," marine helicopter pilot, major Bryan Forney gratefully acknowledged from the burn ICU after being shot down while on a mission in Thailand on February 20, 2013.  No one was killed, however, Bryan suffered serious injury and will undergo skin graft surgeries every four to five days.  He will be restricted to ICU for the next two months.  His biggest risk is controlling infections and he will be separated from his three children until it is safe for him to come out of ICU.

Bryan and his wife, Jenny, were fellow parishioners at my church in Ramona, California, before he was deployed to Okinawa.  He suffered 3rd degree burns over 54% of his body.  Outpatient rehab will be necessary for about two years, once he is released from ICU.
Bryan and Jenny Forney

We have a long road ahead, his wife wrote in an email, but one that we are grateful to be on together.  This young family has the support of the marines, the Semper Fi Fund and countless prayer warriors who care about them.  The last thing I said to Bryan before he was deployed was, "You will be in my prayers."  The family is receiving prayers from all over the world and Jenny says, "I am seeing a miracle unfold right before my eyes."

Please keep Bryan and his family in your prayers.  Here is a link to Bryan's FaceBook page for anyone interested in showing support for Bryan and his family on his road to recovery.  Please share the road with him.  Take a moment and click the like button once you are on his site.  May God bless you and your family, Bryan.  I'm sending you a big "Hooah" from Iowa.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Coping Strategies For Deadlines

There's a reason why some people call me "last-minute Mulligan."  One year when I was working on my taxes I requested two extensions before hiring a tax accountant just prior to the final deadline.  He worked overtime to get my taxes filed without penalties.  When he showed me his log filled with thousands of customers, I was his last client for the tax year.

My next book was originally scheduled for release on March 17.  I will be releasing the first chapter on that day even though there are still chapters to complete.  If you find yourself stressed out due to challenging deadlines in your life, here are some coping strategies to minimize your discomfort:
  1. Stop treating deadlines as enemies.  They are there to help move you along without too much wandering.  Make friends with your deadlines.  Use them as tools to keep your inbox from getting too overcrowded.
  2. Tell your inner self you are great at handling deadlines.  Your brain listens to your self-talk and responds.  The more you tell yourself you are improving with your ability to handle deadlines, the more your brain reacts.
  3. Ask for help.  My wife is a great organizer.  She organizes our filing systems so I can access important information without wasting any time.
  4. Focus on your priorities.  Last year I made a decision to stay on top of the most important things in my life.  I gave my boss a schedule of all my son's wrestling matches and requested those days off before the season started.  I kept great records of my moving expenses during my move to Iowa.
  5. Block time for important tasks.  For me, this means going to my writing cave for hours at a time when my family is at work or school.  I don't let anything else distract me.  That means keeping my cell phone on vibrate and in another room.  
I'm celebrating my first year of getting a tax refund before the end of February.  There were hurdles, like the government's last-minute changes to the tax forms that slowed the process down.  I applied the five steps above to complete my taxes well ahead of the April 15th deadline.  My two college kids rejoiced that their financial aid forms were already sent off.  And I find myself more relaxed than ever.

Now it's time to finish my book and share it with you.  I'm locking myself in the cave for the next two days off from my day job to work on The Caveman in the Mirror.  Don't forget to check back on March 17th to read the first chapter.

Editor's note:  Today's blog was completed with one minute to spare on my 8:08 AM deadline.  How ironic!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

3 Qualities of Great Leaders

Anyone can improve their leadership skills if they have the desire and they are willing to make the changes necessary.  I have been fortunate to get to know some amazing individuals who are amazing leaders.  Here are three qualities of great leaders:
  1. Charisma.  They don't force others to follow them, they get others to want to be around them.  They take the time to find out what motivates each person they are in contact with.  Once they discover what others want in their lives, they find a way to connect their goals with the task at hand.  Followers are eager to help out because they see what's in it for them.
  2. Energy.  Every great leader I know has this special quality.  They never appear tired or weary.  They find a way to stay positive on challenging days.  They eat right and exercise.  They rest before they get tired.  They are sparky all the time, no matter how heavy their workload.
  3. Empathy.  They care about others.  They connect with people at all levels.  They get to know what the people around them are thinking.  They are experts at communicating, especially listening.  They are masters at body language and use this to dig deep in their conversations.
You don't have to become a great leader overnight.  Take small steps first.  Decide today to get to know the people around you.  Find out what they want in life.  Listen to them.  Remember their names.  A little empathy goes a long ways.

If you find yourself getting tired, make sure you are taking a 15 minute break every two hours throughout your day.  Cut out all the foods from your diet that drain your energy.  Get consistent with your sleep and don't cheat yourself.  Your body needs time to rebuild every night.  If you wake up too early or go to bed too late, your energy levels will drop.

Charisma comes from being comfortable with who you are and with others.  Relax and be yourself.  Be attentive.  Smile.  Maintain a positive attitude.  Make an effort to do this every day.  Before you know it, you will become like a magnet and others will want to follow your lead.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How Do You Get Directions To Heaven?

My oldest son's new best friend is Siri.  She is so good at answering his questions about the weather, where to eat, and how to get directions that she almost appears human.  I overheard my son tell her, "Siri, I love you."

Siri answered something like, "love is a many splendored thing."

I give Siri a lot of credit.  She wakes my son up on time to get to work or school and she maintains a pleasant voice.  She is a delightful companion.  There is only one thing the cell phone app can't do...give directions to Heaven.

Earlier this week I heard someone joke about why they call it a highway to Hell and a stairway to Heaven... the highway to Hell is overcrowded and the stairs are empty.

If you want to get to Heaven, don't ask Siri for directions.  Don't ask the people on the highway to Hell.  Ask Jesus.  Here's the answer you can expect:
  1. The number of miles necessary to reach Heaven are customized just for you.
  2. Jesus will give you everything you need to reach your destination.  Just take it one day at a time and don't get ahead of yourself.
  3. Expect to find washed out bridges, unpaved roads, and other detours along the way.  There aren't very many workers maintaining the road to Heaven.
  4. As tempting as the highway to Hell may appear, it leads to a dead end.
  5. Jesus will never leave you stranded.  He is your constant companion and He promises to be with you, especially when you need to take a detour.
Have a great day.  And if you want a great workout, try the stairs today.

Friday, March 1, 2013

March Madness With Mulligan

Wilson Mulligan makes new friends on St. Patrick's Day, 2011.
The idea of turning a one day celebration like Valentine's Day into a whole month of romance didn't originate with me; I stole it from my dad.  Patrick Mulligan was the king of St. Patrick's Day parties and he transformed the one day a year when everybody wants to be Irish into 31 days of March Madness.  In his honor, I'm celebrating St. Patrick's Day beginning today through the end of the month.  Would you like to join the party?  Here are some ways you can be a part of March Madness with Mulligan:

Visit my cyber-bistro A bunch of my writer buddies hang out here along with a few tennis friends from California and some of my classmates from high school.  Don't forget to say hello to my rock star cousin, now celebrating 2 million page views on YouTube with his band, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers.  Click here to see the van session that made them world famous.  You don't have to be a writer to join the fun, however, if you have an inkling that you have a writing gene, you are welcome to submit a guest post for cyber-guest Friday.  Cyber-guest Friday started at Mulligan's Bar in the 70's when dad founded the POETS Society, brick and mortar style.  Patrons met every Friday to share prose and a few cold ones.

Add a brick to the Yellow Brick Road.  Click here to add your favorite quote at the cyber-bistro.  The first brick is dedicated to a high school classmate who is no longer with us.  She always knew how to make others laugh and her brick includes a video I put together to honor her amazing life.  To my high school classmates who knew Nancy, click here for the link to her tribute.

Sign up for free giveaways.  Some of you who signed up early are already winners.  I'm giving away more autographed copies during March Madness.  All you need to do is become a cyber-bistro V.I.P.  If you have a Google, Twitter or Yahoo account, just click here to join the party.  I will post the names of all the winners once the book is officially released.  Chapter one will be available on St. Patrick's Day and new chapters will be available for free every Friday.

Here's a little Irish blessing to help you get your March Madness off to a great start...

An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.