Monday, September 30, 2013

Are You Having Fun Yet?

Today contains 1,440 minutes.  Approximately seven billion hearts are beating all over the world.  Some are having fun and some aren't.  I believe the difference between the two groups comes down to one thing — choices.  Yes, no matter what your circumstances are today, you get to choose how you will spend your 1,440 minutes.  I chose to live the dream today.  Not tomorrow.  Not next month or next year.  Today.  Here are some choices I'm making to make sure I live the dream today:
  1. I'm posting this positive message on my personal blog.  My only cost is the time it takes to type the message and post it.  That's about thirty minutes.  I still have 1,410 minutes of my day left.  The measure of my happiness does not come from what I get but what I give. 
  2. I'm looking out the window during my commute.  Every day there is something different to look at.  Right now the leaves are changing color.  I have thirty minutes to soak it all in before I arrive at my day job.
  3. While I'm working I'm going to discover something new.  It may be a new way to handle my tasks.  It may be an opportunity to develop a creative idea.  I may learn something from a fellow employee.  I expect something good to happen while I'm working today during my 480 minutes on the job.
  4. My ride home will give me an opportunity to view an awesome sunset.  The dusk is never the same.  I will think about my family waiting to greet me when I get home while I'm driving home.
  5. Dinner time is sharing time.  My family will share what lessons they learned.  They will discuss the highs and lows of their day.  This is a precious moment.  Yes, it's a fun time.  We usually finish our day with a comedy on TV and then we get to bed early for eight hours of sleeping and dreaming.
I hope you decide to have fun today.  Live the dream.  And if you have a spare minute or two, please share what you are going to do today to have more fun in your life.  Thanks for your input.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Are Your Goals Gridlocked?

The best way to forecast how well someone will do on a job is to look at past performance.  The same is true with goals.  Some people are able to set goals and accomplish them.  Today's story is for those who can't break the gridlock.  No matter what they do, they hit a traffic jam.  The weight won't come off.  The retirement account won't grow.  The credit card debt won't shrink.  Here are some suggestions that may help:
  1. Don't sign up for a gym membership at the beginning of the New Year.  The gridlock will annoy you.  The long lines are from the same people every year who promise themselves this year will be different.  Within thirty days they will give up.  Instead of waiting until the new year to get in shape, start today.  No one is thinking about resolutions at this time of the year.  Why not get in shape when there's no gridlock at the gym?  You have 90 days to try this out before the gridlock.
  2. Invest in a fitness DVD.  My children discovered how quickly you can change your body without leaving your home.  Twenty minute workouts can transform your body in less than 30 days.
  3. Sign up for automatic investing.  The reason your retirement account is stagnant is because you pay everyone else before you pay yourself.  Is that expensive car payment really worth more than a healthy retirement account?  Instead of signing up for a lifetime of car payments, stop buying expensive new cars and use the money you save to make automatic monthly payments to your retirement account at the beginning of each month.
  4. Put up some speed bumps on your spending.  Your savings account is gridlocked because your debt load is in overdrive.  Decide today that you are going to lock up your credit cards.  If you can't pay cash for something, don't buy it.
  5. Focus on one goal at a time.  You may be gridlocked because you're trying to accomplish too many goals at the same time.  Decide today what the single most important goal is and then work on it for the next thirty days until it becomes a way of life.  On New Year's Day you can tell the world, I eliminated all the gridlock in my life."  Once the gridlock is broken, you will gain the confidence to work on all your other plans for the New Year.
What are you going to do today to break the gridlock in your life?  How will your life be better if you can work on your top goal for the next thirty days and make it a lifetime habit?  Please share your thoughts so you can be an inspiration to others.  Thanks for joining the conversation.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Why You Should Listen To Your Inner Voice

How often do you hear your inner voice?  What does it say?  Do you like what you hear?  I like to describe the inner voice using these words:

Inkling, urge, impulse, strong desire, longing, compulsion.

Your inner voice is an invitation.  It's a key to a door.  Your intuition tells you there's something behind that door that will help you understand who you are.  There's something about you that goes beyond the label you wear.  That label may be your political persuasion.  It may be your own religious denomination.  Your label could be the type of job you have.  Your inner voice tells you there is more than that.  You may need to peel away all the layers of the onion to get to that inner voice.  Here's why you should R.S.V.P. when you get the invitation:
  1. Your inner voice guides you to the person you really are.  There's a reason you're not satisfied with your current situation.  You became deaf.  You abandoned your dreams.  You told your passions they have no value or you don't have time for them.  You lost the most important part of yourself — your essence. Your inner voice will help you find it.
  2. Your inner voice knows you better than you know yourself.  If you listen, you will discover who you really are.
  3. You will never be truly happy until you make time to listen to your inner voice at regular intervals and respond.  Ten minutes of quiet time daily will give you the opportunity to discover how wise your inner voice is.
  4. Some day that inner voice will stop talking.  That's the day you die.  If you want to discover who you really are, you need to listen while your inner voice is still talking.  You need to take action while you still have time to make a difference.
  5. Your self-awareness increases the more you listen to your inner voice.  This increases self-confidence.  The more aware you are about how you fit into the world, the better you get at making wise choices.
What is your inner voice asking you to do today?  If you feel like sharing, please add your thoughts in the comments section.

Friday, September 27, 2013

10 Ideas to Make This Day Your Best Ever

Have you ever experienced a day when the world seems to be taking a dump on you?  I remember a beautiful day from my teenage years when I was driving my VW Super Beetle around town.  My sunroof was open and my windows were rolled down.  My stereo was blaring.  A giant bird flew directly above me and decided to express himself.  He left a nice exclamation mark all over me.  Yikes!  What a disaster.  How are you supposed to turn a crappy day like that into a happy day?  Here are some thoughts:
  1. Take a look around.  If you think you're the only one in this world who is having a bad hair day, just open your eyes.  You can complain about your misery or maybe lend a hand and help someone clean up the poop in their lives.
  2. Laugh.  I'm still laughing so hard from last night that my ribs are ready to break.  My wife performed with a group of football moms at a prep rally.  They were dressed like the people from Duck Dynasty.  The women were hamming it up and the crowd loved it.  Sorry, I'm not allowed to share the video.  Just use your imagination.
  3. Forgive.  I know some people close to me who are still clinging to some bad memories.  It's just not worth it.  If you want to make this your best day ever, clean up the poop from your past and throw it away.  That bird who dumped on me over thirty years ago died a long time ago.  I don't need to keep reliving that memory, except to maybe laugh a little.  Today is a great day to forgive all the people who "expressed themselves" all over you.
  4. Dance. Tonight I get the opportunity to attend a homecoming game with my wife.  While our son is out on the field doing what he loves, we will be in the stands dancing.  I learned some new moves last night at the pep rally.  Everyone in the stands participated.  We are going to be dancing all night.  It's fun.  That's what homecoming is all about.
  5. Keep in touch.  Contact someone from your past who made a difference in your life and tell them how much they mean to you.
  6. Say "I love you."  
  7. Do something nice for someone who has no ability to repay you and don't tell anybody.
  8. Say "thank you."
  9. Turn off the TV.
  10. Take a walk in the park.
Now it's your turn to add to the list.  Please share one idea you will use today to make this day your best ever.  Thank you for visiting.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Carrot and the Stick

If you're in a leadership position, you have two styles of management to choose from — the carrot and the stick.  The challenge is to find the right balance to lead your family, your team and/or your employees.

One of my first experiences with the carrot and the stick was a summer job in Canada.  All first-year tennis coaches doubled as mentors for young campers.  We shared a cabin together.  Camp Manitou-wabing attracted campers from all over North America.  It was like visiting Disneyland.  Many of the kids thought otherwise.  They felt their parents were "dumping" them.  Some came from homes where the maids did all the cleaning.  What a culture shock it was to ask them to clean up their own cabin.  One of the kids in my cabin pulled out a wad of bills and attempted to bribe me to make his bed and do his chores.  The one thing these young campers wanted most was to get out of camp.  There was only one way — to win the cabin clean-up award.  Winners enjoyed a night at the movies away from camp.

The first week I huddled with my new kids.  We came up with a plan to divide up the chores.  One person was in charge of getting everyone out of bed.  Another was appointed supervisor.  I was not the supervisor.  I was not allowed to leave for breakfast until my area was inspected and approved by the supervisor.  Our cabin was located the furthest away from the mess hall.  Once I was cleared for dismissal, I strolled through the camp to get an early breakfast.  I could hear yelling and screaming from the other cabins.  I ate my breakfast in peace.  One by one, my kids joined me as soon as the supervisor released them.  At the end of the first week we got a perfect score and enjoyed watching Indiana Jones.  The other counselors told me I was lucky to get such a great group of kids.

It didn't matter who was in my cabin.  I watched Indian Jones all summer long, each week with a new set of campers.  Here are some lessons I learned about the carrot and the stick:
  1. The carrot and the stick are both powerful motivators.
  2. When everyone understands what his job or role is and they understand the rewards and the consequences of their actions, the work gets done.
  3. Great leaders know when to use the carrot and when to use the stick.
  4. If you aren't getting the results you're seeking with your group, take a look at how many times you're using the carrot vs. the stick and change the ratios.
  5. Be consistent.  No follow-through with your carrots and your sticks leads to poor morale.
How do you manage to get results through others?  Do you prefer the carrot or the stick?  Please add your ideas in the comments section below.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Tribute to the Oldest Living Member of the Mulligan Clan ~ Dr. Thomas F. Mulligan

Eight amazing people call him Dad.  One exceptional woman calls him husband.   And for over fifty years the word has called him doctor.  I'm proud to call him Uncle Tom.  He's the oldest living practicing orthodontist in the United States — and he's celebrating his 80th birthday!

What does one do to repay an uncle who invited him to tour his office on a school day and sent him home with free braces?  If you're a nephew who believes all debts must be repaid, you try your best to pay him back.  That's like arm wrestling a gorilla.  He gave me a tooth paste commercial smile and wanted nothing in return except one small request to pay it forward and help others in their time of need.  Dr. Mulligan writes books and lectures all over the world.  And the best lesson he taught me was about the "multiplier affect."  He didn't have to use words.  Only actions.  And I believe the best example he demonstrates is in the love department.  He's only four years shy of celebrating 60 years of marriage.  He has twenty-two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. That's what happens when you love someone — it multiplies. 

Uncle Tom displays this message on his website:

I have a feeling my uncle has influenced more than a single scrawny grade school kid who showed up in his office one day with crooked teeth and a few pimples.  Thank you, Uncle Tom.  Happy 80th birthday.  God bless you.

your nephew, Michael

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Life in a New Time Zone

Do you ever wonder if the time zone you're living is the best one for you and your family?  I was born in the Mountain Time Zone and lived there for over two decades.  Life was good.  One day I met a young lady from the Central Time Zone.  We fell in love.  We decided to try out a new time zone together and moved to the Pacific Time Zone after our honeymoon.  Life was good.  We settled in a small town in Southern California and lived there for a couple of decades.  We had three children.  We adopted a couple of pets.  Life was good.  One day my wife woke up and told me she had a yearning to move back to the Central Time Zone.  Life got interesting.  The children rebelled.  "If you move, I will go live with our cousins," declared one of them.  The straw poll at the dinner table appeared to favor the Pacific Time Zone by a 4-1 margin.  My wife visited the Central Time Zone during Spring Break.  Two of our children accompanied her.  When she came home she called for another family meeting.  Life got more interesting.  My wife worked the room better than Nancy Pelosi.  When the votes were tallied the Central Time Zone came out on top, 3-2.

What are families supposed to do when the votes are split?  I wasn't sure.  I prayed.  I searched my heart.  I poured over years of love letters my wife wrote me.  The underlying theme was that my wife missed her siblings.  She was ready for a new life.  I was feeling butterflies in my stomach.  The naysayers were out in full force.  "You will never survive in the Midwest," they said.  "One Winter and you'll be back."

The naysayers overlooked one thing — the power of love.  I  acquiesced.  The decision to move to a new time zone became unanimous.  We moved.  Each member of our family discovered something — life in a new time zone has its rewards.  All five of the transplants are thriving.  And I learned an important lesson:  life is good regardless of the time zone you live in.

If you ever changed time zones, how was your experience?  And if you're contemplating a move, how do you feel about it?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Are You Using All Your Players?

In chess and in life you face all kinds of challenges.  And if you want to achieve a successful outcome, you need to make sure everyone in the game is contributing.  Here are some ideas to consider:
  1. Everyone is significant.  Your children are similar to pawns on a chessboard.  Pawns can only move in one direction — forward.  If they don't advance, they remain pawns.  If they're willing to face their opponents and advance all the way to the end of the board, they become anything they want to be.  If they choose to remain idle, they forfeit their place on the board.
  2. Recognize the power of the queen.  In my household, the queen sits on a pedestal.  She watches over all the pawns.  She coordinates the other players.  The queen multitasks.  She can move quickly.  She knows what needs to be done.
  3. Each player has a role.  Every family has its own knights, bishops and rooks.  You need to understand the strengths of each player and develop them according to their own talents.  Some players are their strongest when they are teamed up with the right partner.  The more time you spend learning what each player is capable of, the stronger your family will be.  The same is true in the business world.  It pays to get to know everyone on your team.
Every day is a new day.  The board is never the same, however, the strategies for success are universal.  Make sure everyone understands the rules and they feel important.  Teach them to understand basic patterns so they can win in all circumstances.  Encourage them to get to the center of the board so they can be the most effective.

Please share how you rally your family to reach their goals.  If you're a chess player, what lessons can you share about the game that help you in the game of life?  Please respond in the comments section below.  Thank you.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How to Get Out of the Fog

Visibility is important for success.  The fog can roll in at any time.  It affects your ability to make wise choices.  The kind of fog I'm talking about is the fog that creeps into your life on days when you least expect it, like getting a lay-off notice or news about cancer.  You're cruising on the highway of life with your high-beams and suddenly you're blind.  How do you get out of the muck?

The best way to stay out of the fog is to avoid it.  Think of your life as a chess game.  The masters do one thing better than everyone else, they see more moves than their opponents see.  They see the traps and they see the best way out of the traps.  They coordinate all the players so the king is never blind-sided.  They wallow in the sunshine.  This can be you.  Here's how to get out of the fog:
  1. Change your vantage point.  You may have to climb a mountain or move to a new location.  Fog is usually in confined to isolated areas.  If you stay where you are, you will never be able to get a clear picture of all the opportunities in your life.
  2. Use your low-beams.  What I mean by this is change your focus.  Maybe you're so busy going straight ahead into the future that you don't see the opportunities or solutions that are close by.  
  3. Use all five of your senses.  Your hearing needs the surround-sound to be turned on.  Your vision should be like an NFL receiver who always knows where he is in relation to the football, the opponent and the field.  This "triple vision" will add points on your scoreboard.
  4. Keep moving.  Keep searching.  A new job is out there.  Science is advancing and new cures are discovered every day.  The more you expand your level of awareness, the more possibilities you will find.
  5. Stretch yourself.  Challenge yourself to see a little bit more every day.  Learn to see one more move on the chess board than your opponent.  It takes practice.  When you lose, start a new game.  Just don't give up, no matter how dense the fog may seem today.
What is going on in your life that makes everything appear foggy?  Please share what you do to get out of the fog.  I appreciate you adding to the conversation.  Just click the comment button below.  Thanks. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Learn How to Be Your Own Coach

Self-coaching is a challenging topic.  Most people need an outside person to mentor them because they don't have enough self-awareness to be their own coach.  When they make a mistake they don't know what to do to get back on track.  One of my tennis mentors introduced me to self-coaching by showing me how I can use mistakes to guide me.  Here's how it works:

There are only five "mistakes" in tennis.  Missing the ball completely when you swing your racket is the easiest mistake to fix.  You are either too close or too far away when you swing.  By paying attention to this, you can avoid missing the ball.  Great!  Now you eliminated one mistake.  You're down to four.  Here's how you coach yourself on the remaining four mistakes:

  1. Mistake #1:  Hitting the ball too far to the left.  If you're right-handed and you're hitting a forehand, you hit the ball too soon.  Next time, wait a little longer and the ball won't go so far to the left.
  2. Mistake #2:  Hitting the ball too far to the right.  This is due to waiting too long to swing.  To correct yourself, start swinging sooner.
  3. Mistake #3:  Hitting the ball in the net.  Your racket is tilted and pointing towards the ground.  All you need to do is tilt it upward slightly.
  4. Mistake #4:  Hitting the ball too far past the baseline.  Your racket it pointing towards the sky.  Simply tilt it downward.
Here's where self-coaching comes in.  Now that you're aware of the four mistakes every tennis player makes, all you need to do is use the feedback from your last mistake to correct yourself.  Good mistakes come from over-correction.  This means you made an adjustment but you over-corrected.  That's great news.  Keep correcting until the ball lands in the court.  It's all about timing and tilting.  You don't need anyone to coach you on this because your mistakes guide you and you already know from your last mistake that you either need to slow down your swing, speed up your swing or tilt your racket up or down.  That's it.

Everything in life comes down to mastering the basics.  First, figure out what those basics are.  Make it simple.  Then, use your mistakes to help you coach yourself.

Are you ready to be your own coach?  Let me know.  I would love to hear from you.  Maybe I'll see you on the courts.  Have a great day.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Your Invitation to Become Part of the Story

I'm searching for characters to add to my novel in progress.  It's an e-serial novel about a man who is searching for something but he's not sure what it is.  He's going through a transition in his personal life.  The people in the story aren't real — they're figments of my own imagination.  Should anyone close to me say, "hey Michael, is that me in your story?"  Here's my answer, "The characters in my novel are based on people I know and love.  I'm glad you see yourself in the story, however, you're imagining things.  None of my characters are real except for the guys in the first couple of chapters."

I'm a writer out on a limb.  The branch is shaky and the wind is blowing.  Why would I ask you to join me?  Because I'm looking for a way out.  I need a solution.  I won't find the answers all alone.   Thomas, the main character in the story, is embarking on a journey to find answers.  The answers are in the people he meets.  Who will step up and jump in to the the blank pages staring back at me?  Is it you?  Would you like to be a character in The Caveman in the Mirror?  It's simple.  All you have to do is click the link and start reading.  You can email me anytime and give me a name of your character and a description.  Share how you would like to meet Thomas and I will write you into the story.  Your character can be based on yourself or a version of yourself you would like to offer my readers.  Remember, I'm writing fiction so your character will be fictional and your true identity will remain a secret.

On behalf of Thomas, I thank you for sharing this story with your friends and for your willingness to join in the fun.  I'm on the adventure of a lifetime and it's great to know there are people out there who want to be a part of this mystery as it unfolds.  Your ideas are always welcome in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Handle Life When You're the Underdog

Do you hear the referee counting to ten?  You have two choices:  stay on the ground or get back up.  I prefer the latter.  Maybe that's why I always like to root for the underdog.  It takes courage to get up off the mat when life is peppering you with punch after punch.  I have good news.  Every time life throws a punch you have an opportunity to learn something.  Every time you get knocked down you get to look inside yourself and discover what you're really made of.

Think about the last time you were backed into a corner.  How did you feel on the inside?  Did you notice your heart rate increasing?  That's your creativity waking up.  Your brain wants to avoid pain and it's calling on all your resources to figure out a way to stand up to your enemy.  Remember this:  life isn't singling you out.  Everybody has challenges.  Losers believe there is no way to win.  Winners believe life is divided into a series of rounds.  Each round is a lesson.  As long as you're willing to keep getting up you have an opportunity to raise your hands in victory.

I've been in the arena a long time.  Some may wonder, how does this guy keep getting back up?  Shouldn't he be dead by now?  Others say, "this guy definitely looks like an underdog.  I can relate to him.  He believes he can win no matter how many punches life throws at him."

There is no enemy who can defeat you.  I don't care how big he is.  All you have to do is keep fighting.  Remember who you are, who created you and why you're here.  And fight.  Do this every day.  Don't give up.  Keep learning.  I'm cheering for you.  Please share who your biggest opponent is and how you plan to defeat him.  I look forward to reading your comments.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Social Are Your Social Media Sites?

Pretend for a moment you're a visitor at your own social media site.  Do you feel welcome?  Or is your experience more like being on an alien planet? I believe hospitality is often overlooked because we're so busy filling our sites with stuff we forget to see things from our reader's perspective.  Why should a visitor return if they can't navigate your site?

I reviewed my both my blogs yesterday and gave myself a failing grade.  I failed in the hospitality department.  My biggest mistake was failing to have a "welcome" button for new readers to click.  It's like having a front door with no doorbell.  Visitors are lost even before they enter.

Here's are some changes I made to make my sites more welcoming:
  1. Install a door bell.  Make sure your welcome button is visible.
  2. Answer the door when they click the button.  When readers click the welcome button, answer the door with a photo of yourself and a brief message introducing yourself.
  3. Share a little bit about your background.  Readers want to get to know you.  This is their first impression.  Make sure your photo shows you smiling.  Tell them why you're hosting your blog or web-site.  Share what inspired you. 
  4. Set up a link to the "family room."  That's what Socalmulligan808 is — a place for my readers to get to know me on a personal level.  If you host more than one social media site, make sure you include links back to your personal blog so your visitors have an opportunity to to meet the real you.
  5. Ask your friends for feedback.  Once your make-over is complete, post a message on your FaceBook page inviting your friends to ring the door bell and evaluate your renovations.  They will let you know if you're on the right track.
Would you like to try out the door bell at my writers blog?  Please let me know if you feel welcome at the Cyber-bistro.  Click here to ring the door bell.  I would love to check out your blog or social media site.  Please leave directions to your site in the comments section so I can visit.  My hope is that you come back often and keep in touch.  Thanks for stopping by today.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

12 Things Successful People Do Differently

I found the gem you see above today's story while doing some research.  It pretty much summarizes how I live my life.  There are three points that really resonate with me at this time in my life:  #8, #10 and #12.  Here's what I'm doing to improve in these three areas:
  • Make small, continuous improvements.  Big changes are the result of doing the little things better.  Every day I ask myself, is this the best way to complete this task?  I challenge myself to find a better way.  The time I save helps me focus on the other areas of my life that need more attention.
  • Maintain a positive outlook while learning from mistakes.  It's really easy to get down when you're working on a new project and it's not going well.  The mistakes help you discover what doesn't work.  This is useful information if you stay positive and believe you will eventually succeed as long you don't give up.
  • Maintain balance in your life.  My children are following in my footsteps.  They are committed to success.  They know the price tag and they're willing to pay it.  Like me, they're learning that life is not all about work.  Our oldest is working two jobs while going to college full-time.  Our second-oldest is holding down three jobs while attending university, also full-time.  I did the same thing.  The challenge is to know when to slow down.  For me, that means setting up a date night.  There is nothing better for me than watching our children doing the things they love, like busting through the offensive line late in the game to sack the quarterback for a ten-yard loss.
Okay, I shared the three areas of my life I'm working on.  Now it's your turn.  Please share one of the twelve points you believe needs more attention.  I would like to know how you feel improving this area of your life will benefit you.  Please respond in the comments section like this:

I'm working on #1, creating and pursuing S.M.A.R.T. goals because this will help me lose ten pounds by 12/31/13.  I will benefit from this because I will gain confidence and I will feel better about myself. 

Follow the arrow and click on the comment button to add to the conversation.  Thanks for sharing.

Monday, September 16, 2013

7 Signs Your Comfort Zone is Hurting You

One of my cousins celebrated her 50th birthday by jumping out of an airplane.  Her instructor asked her, "What was the best part of your experience?"

"The free fall," she replied.

"And the scariest part?"

"The free fall."

My cousin discovered something most of us don't know — the magic happens when we take a step (or a dive) outside the comfort zone.  Here are seven signs your comfort zone is hurting you:
  1. You can't remember the last time you felt the adrenalin rushing through your body.
  2. You can't remember the last time you attempted to learn a new skill.
  3. Your heart has never been broken.
  4. You are afraid of what others will think if they see you fail.
  5. When you try something new and you fall down, you decide the "something new" isn't for you.
  6. Risk is not part of your vocabulary.
  7. Fear is your best friend and he doesn't want you to make new friends.
I'm guilty of comfort zone living.  Most of the scars on my body are from my childhood.  Do you remember those days when you built go-carts without brakes?  I do.  What about those times when your teacher asked you to stand up in front of the class and give a report about all the things you did over the summer?  Is your comfort zone so comfortable now that you lost something — a part of yourself that loved to play outside in the rain?  Was your summer so uneventful that you fear standing up in front of others because you have nothing to report?

It's not too late.  The place where the magic happens will always be there.  All you have to do is unlock the door and go outside.  Visit the playground where magic happens and dreams come true.  That's where I live.  Some day my Maker will ask me, "what was the best part about your life on earth?"

I will answer, "the playground."

And when He asks, "what was the scariest part?"  I will answer, "the playground."

Are you ready to visit the place where the magic happens?  Let me know.  Please share your ideas in the comments section below.  I hope to meet you on the playground.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Do First Impressions Matter in Cyber-space?

You have seven seconds to make a great first impression when you meet someone face-to-face.  And if you're lucky — 3 seconds in cyber-space.  Twitter peeps don't have time for long introductions.  Messages are capped out at 140 characters for a reason, time is precious.  Here are some lessons I learned about making a great first impression in your tweets, your blogs, your website, or anywhere else where people are meeting you online:
  1. Pictures attract.  Your readers decide in one second if they like your photo.  One second matters.  If you don't have a photo at the top of your message, you lose.
  2. Headlines are the bait on a hook.  They need sparkle and glitter.  Show your readers you are clever, well-dressed and professional.  They may not see you, however, they form a mental picture of you based on what they see in your work.  The headline is the first impression.
  3. Show them you care.  This happens in the first sentence of your message.  The first sentence is pivotal.  If your reader makes it this far, you're on your way to a long-term relationship.  They decided they like you and they are ready to move forward.  Congratulations.
  4. Remember to ask questions.  Readers are searching for solutions.  They want to gain knowledge.  I believe the question mark is like an upside-down hook.  The right question used in a tweet or as a caption for a blog message will make your hook irresistible.
  5. Don't forget the handshake.  The best first impressions are made when your reader connects with you.  Invite them to shake hands with you.  This is as simple as posting a "subscribe by email" button or a twitter follow button in a prominent location on your page.  Another way to connect is to leave a question at the end of your message.  This lets your readers know you care because you are wanting to hear what they have to say.  If they like you, they will leave a comment.
Did this story help you?  If you have any ideas to add to the conversation, please respond in the comments section below.  You can follow me on twitter by clicking here.  Have a great day.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What Does Cyber-chocolate Taste Like?

Have you ever been to a chocolate factory?  I never got a chance but I did see Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  A poor boy wins a ticket to tour behind the scenes of one of the most amazing places on earth.  The appeal of a chocolate factory guided tour is getting really close to the chocolate.  And maybe, just maybe, the tour guide may offer some free samples.  Yummy!

My writers blog, Caveman Reflections, is like a cyber-chocolate factory.  The place never closes.  I bake stories.  Visitors are welcome to come into the kitchen for guided tours.   Wouldn't it be fun to dive into one of the pools of chocolate and go for a swim?  Even though you can't really eat cyber-chocolate, your senses may be tantalized to the point you want to jump in and become part of my latest novel.  Tasteless?  Maybe.  Eccentric?  Definitely.  What will people think when they see you floating around in my chocolate stories?  Warning:  There's no lifeguard on duty.  There are no rules here.  I'm challenging the status quo with my quirky ways.  Harriet Beecher Stowe summarizes it best:  "Every man had his own quirks and twists."  I'm so twisted I look like a pretzel.

If you are worried what others may think about your visits to my cyber-chocolate factory, you don't have to tell them you're a patron.  You can stay anonymous.  If you feel like sharing your blog experience, please post a comment below about how the cyber-chocolate tastes.  And if you like being smothered in chocolate, maybe you should send me an email and request to be added as a character in my novel.   Your name will be changed to keep your identity secret.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Hope you like the chocolate.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Novel Ideas Capture New Readers

Did you ever imagine in your wildest dreams you would read books on your cell phone?  How about using your watch to talk to your friends?  Those Dick Tracy two-way wrist watches first shown in comic strips in the 1940's are no longer Sci-Fi — they're our reality.  I'm super excited to tap into all this new technology so we can improve the way we connect.  Here are some ideas to ponder if you're interested in capturing new readers:
  1. Consider what ideas you have to share with others.  What are you good at?  Cooking?  Traveling?  Time management? Parenting?  Decide what message you would like to share with others.
  2. Decide where you want to place your message.  No, it doesn't need to be in a paper-back book.  Yes, it can be somewhere in cyber-space, like a blog, a FaceBook page, or an e-book you publish on-line. 
  3. Set up a twitter account and start connecting.  There are thousands of people out there who are already utilizing the new technology.  Follow them.  Read their messages.  Ask them for advice.  Post your own ideas in short Twitter messages to attract your own followers.
I'm six months into my first novel.  I'm breaking all the rules.  It's like inviting my audience to a chocolate factory.  Readers get to see the chocolate as I'm making it.  They get to sample it for free.  I'm letting them inside my factory before anything is boxed up and sent to the editing room.  It's fun.  Visitors are encouraged to help me make the chocolate.  I invite them to become part of the story.  Do you want to visit the chocolate factory?  Click here to enter.

What ideas do you have that you would like to share with the world?  Please add to the conversation in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dashing Through the Prose

All the world's a stage...and one man in his time plays many parts, Shakespeare wrote.  His words chisel away at my own misconceptions about my life as a writer.  Even Shakespeare would be amazed how fast the stage is changing, especially in the writing world.  I feel like a swimmer in choppy waters fighting against the undertow.  My knees are bloody from scraping against the rigid rules of grammar and punctuation in the coral below.  The sharks smell blood in the water.  Will I ever learn to play the part of a writer?

Yesterday I found the answer — in an important stroke — the dash.  To the outsider it may appear insignificant.  For me, it's like changing from a dog paddle to the breast stroke.  There is great joy knowing the dash is at my fingertips.  I can access it anytime on my MacBook Pro by pressing Shift—Option—Dash (that key to the right of the number 0).  Here's a great example of what the dash means to me, from Linda Ellis:

Yes, Mr. Shakespeare, all the world's a stage.  Even though I fumble with my lines at times, I'm confident about one thing — I will use my dash to add life to my story.  I will learn to play my part to the fullest of my ability.  How about you?  Are you ready to go dashing through the prose?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below — please share your dash.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rhythm of Life

Can you hear the music Mother Nature conducts?  Each movement has its own ebbs and flows.  I never paid much attention because it's hard to recognize the changes in the seasons when you're growing up in the Arizona desert.  It's the same way in Southern California where I spent twenty-three years of my adult life.  Autumn is Nature's crescendo.  It's the exclamation point at the end of a long and sustained period of growth.  I love autumn.  It helps me identify where I am on the sheet music.  If you find yourself missing the beat, here are some thoughts to consider:
  1. Each day is an opportunity to experience something special.  Some days are set aside for learning and exploring.  Others are for pruning or cutting.  Winter days are for rest.  They help you regroup and prepare for the days ahead when you will surge forward in periods of sustained growth.
  2. Nature doesn't complain about the seasons.  Each one is designed to compliment or contrast what's ahead.  There can be no high tide without the low tide.  There can be no Spring without Winter.
  3. Each season of life is necessary.  Each season has something to offer.  It's better to be a part of the rhythm than to fight it.  
Some of the places on your sheet music are reserved for rest.  Make sure you use those periods to recuperate so you are ready when the beat picks up.  Get enough sleep so you can be your best when you're awake.  Have a great day.  Don't forget to add your own ideas about the rhythm of your life in the comments section below.  What is your favorite season and why?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Are You Smarter Than an Orangutan?

It happened again yesterday.  I was so engrossed in another early morning blog story I barely heard my wife speaking to me.  Imagine an orangutan holding onto to a small stick.  He licks the stick and shoves it into a hole in the ground in search of some delicious ants to eat.  While he's focused on breakfast, the Mrs. walks up to him and asks, "honey, do you think you can bake the tilapia for dinner tonight?  Some black beans would go great with it."

Remember, the orangutan loves his ants.  He also loves his wife.  The problem is when the orangutan is fixated on his breakfast, he only half-hears his wife.  He thinks he heard her say, "What do you think about tilapia with black beans for dinner?  I can bake it when I get home for work."

He kisses his wife and answers, "That sounds great to me.  Have a great day at work.  I love you."

Mr. Orangutan enjoys the rest of his day in solitude.  He takes a mid-day nap to digest his feast.  When he wakes up, he turns on the TV and finds two other orangutans hitting a ball back and forth.  He notices one of the orangutans is left-handed, just like him.  The rallies are hypnotic.  One point goes back and forth 54 times before the leftie misses.  This is more fun than hunting for ants, the husband thinks.  He's back in his trance.  The hours drift away.

While lounging deep within his cave, he hears a disturbance.  The Mrs. is home from work.  "Why are these dishes still in the sink?"  He hears her question bouncing off the walls.  He cowers.  "Where's the tilapia?" she asks.  More echoes descend all the way to the basement.

"I thought you told me you were baking the tilapia," he answers.

It's probably not the best time to tell the Mrs. that the US Open is on TV or that your favorite football team is on national TV tonight and you invited the baby orangutans over for a party -- especially when she walks in with a movie she picked out from the Red Box on her way home from a full day at the office.

This scene makes me think of the TV show, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?  I wonder, am I smarter than an orangutan?  The real question is, do I love my wife enough to recognize the times when I fail to give her my full attention and listen... really listen?  The answer is "yes."

Today is a clean slate.  I have another day off from my day job.  I'm going to clean my cave from top to bottom, install some curtains in our daughter's room, prepare a delicious dinner for my wife and watch The Queen to cap off the day.  And the next time my wife reaches out to me while I'm hunting for ants, I promise to put the stick down and listen to her every word.  It's the small things in a relationship that add up to big things.

Would you like to add to the conversation?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What It's Like to Live "Out-there"

Unconventional.  That's the word I use to describe what it's like to live "Out-there," a place far away from where normal people reside.  No, my circuit's not dead.  I simply choose to ignore the pleas from loved ones who want to talk me down from the edge of the cliff.  I enjoy living on the fringe.  This is where I belong.

Here are some examples of what "normal" people say:
  1. It's okay to borrow money.
  2. You should trade in your used cars regularly before they depreciate too much.
  3. Car payments are unavoidable.
  4. I don't need an emergency savings account, that's what credit cards are for.
  5. Debt is good, it helps your credit rating.
Here's what I say:
  1. If you're paying bank fees, you're paying too much.
  2. If you invest in your own hair clippers, you can save $150+ per year on hair cuts.
  3. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches taste better when you invest the money you save from not eating out.
  4. The best cars on the market are the ones other drivers fully depreciate.
  5. There is life after cutting the cable on your TV.  My cable TV died during a big US Open tennis match and I ended up watching the match on my laptop.  All I need to do now is convince my family we don't need cable TV.
  6. Mortgages are temporary.
  7. You don't need a credit rating if you live debt free and pay cash for everything.
  8. There is always enough time to get important things done when you prioritize.
  9. There is no obstacle too big to stop you from becoming the person you were born to become.
  10. If you want to change your future, stop living in the past and work on changing your present.
It turns out I'm not all alone.  Two of my adult children are in college.  The oldest is working two jobs while attending school full-time.  One of his employers reimburses him for tuition when his grades are at least a "B."  He runs half-marathons in the morning while most people are still sleeping.  My daughter, also a full-time student, interviewed for her third part-time job last week.  Her prospective employer asked, "You're a full-time student with two jobs, why do you want to work here?"

"I'm ambitious," she replied.

"You're hired," he said.

Ground control will do their best to reach my children and try to convince them their dreams are far-fetched.  Banks will try to persuade them it's better to concentrate on school and take advantage of student loans so they don't have to work so hard.  My children can't hear them.  Neither can my cousin who is celebrating his birthday today.  Like me, he enjoys living "out there."  He was the first member of my family to prove you can escape from Alcatraz, even when the world says it's  impossible.  These are the people in my life who inspire me to live "out there."  Happy birthday, cousin.  Someday we will show the world what happens when two "out there" Mulligans team up for some competitive doubles in our age group.

Are you ready to live "out there"?  What changes are you ready to make to help you reach your personal goals?  Please share in the comments section below.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Unlock the Front Door to the Mind of a Writer

I'm offering you a key today.  It belongs to the front door of my mind.  If you decide to use it, you will gain entry to my creative process.  Consider it a back-stage pass.  My motivation for doing this is to bring our relationship to a new level.  Let's begin the tour:
  1. Room #1:  My personal blog.  This is the command and control center for all my writing.  The archive section on the right houses over 1,400 daily stories.  I start all my mornings in the room.  A new visitor checks in about every six minutes, twenty-four hours a day, every day.  I write messages designed to inspire others to be their best.
  2. Room #2:  My books.  The first one, "God's Black Sheep Squadron,"  is a memoir.  I sent the files over to after they were edited by my critique group.  The story is about re-uniting with my dad during his thirty-five day battle with terminal cancer.  The biggest challenge I encountered was dealing with memories from the past.  The second biggest challenge was dealing with loved ones once the old wounds were opened up.  The lesson I learned is that it's better to write fiction based on real-life experiences than it is to expose loved ones.  My second book, "The Caveman in the Mirror," is about a man who searches for connections to his past.  The story is unveiled, one chapter at a time, every Friday morning.  Readers are invited to insert themselves into the story if they want to become part of the journey.  Once all the chapters are released, I plan to edit it and release a paper-back version at
  3. Room #3:  My other blogs.  Caveman Reflections is set up as a cyber-bistro.  It's the main hub for serving up new chapters from my latest book.  Visitors can add comments or participate in the story if they want to join the adventure.  Once the book is published, I will be inviting other writers and publishers to stop in and offer guest blogs.  Free Lemonade Stories is a blog about people who inspire others.  It will become the foundation for my third book.
  4. Room #4:  My social media room.  I use my FaceBook page to keep in touch with family and friends.  It's great for sending out birthday and anniversary wishes.  My Google+ page allows me to connect in a more organized format.  The only challenge is that it is not as widely used as Facebook.  I like it because it allows me to connect with people who want to get to know me on a deeper level.  I sign in to my Twitter account every morning to send a Tweet about my latest blog story.  Since Twitter limits the message to 140 characters, I log into to Hootsuite first to compose my Twitter message.  I insert the blog title in the "add a link" section and then shrink it so it uses less characters.  This gives my twitter followers a chance to retweet it and still have room to add to the message.  If you would like to follow me on Twitter, click on and search for @socalmulligan.  I will be happy to follow you back.
  5. Room #5:  My creative center.  This room looks more like a sandbox.  I love this room.  I imagine new worlds and new ways of doing things, like writing books.  This room is always changing.  There are really no specific rules.  I challenge myself to find new ways to present my ideas.  I see myself creating more interactive books and adding video clips inside the chapters.  The idea is to make it easier for readers to connect.  I'm excited about what's ahead.
  6. Room #6:  The library.  This is more of a cyber-space room than a brick and mortar room because most of my research is done on-line.  I like to visit this room once a day to learn something new that will help me be a better writer.
  7. Room #7:  The mail room.  I use Disqus to keep track of all the conversations going on all around me.  Every time a reader comments, I'm notified by email.  I visit this room once a day to reply to every comment, unless it is spam.
This concludes our tour today.  Please keep the key and come back any time.  The most important person here is you.  I value your feedback and promise to be here every day.  Please share what you would like to see in the future.  I hope you use your key often.  Thanks for stopping by today.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Day Job Becomes Dream Job

Rejection in the writing world occurs more often than the common cold.  I suffered my greatest setback when I opened my email over a year ago.  The news was more stinging than a flu shot.  The search committee has chosen another candidate for the position you applied for.  Dreams of writing full-time fizzled.  I felt deflated.  My writing friends were 1,800 miles away.  I visited the local library.  "Are there any other writers who live in the area?"  I asked.

"You're the first one," the librarian replied.

I was hoping to find someone to share my pain with.  The writers I left behind in California were so encouraging.  It was like going to a support group.  They were excited when I shared my plans for my new life in the Midwest.  This is a nightmare, I thought.  What am I going to do now that I've been rejected by the committee?

The answer was in the next phone call.  "We would like you to come in for your third interview, Michael.  Are you available?"

One week later, I was hired.  "We like anonymity, Michael.  You can do whatever you like on your free time, however, please keep your work life separate from your private life.  We don't like to call attention to ourselves,"  my new boss told me.  There are only a couple of people at my day job who know I love to write.  And they don't even know I volunteered to work as the reporter for our location.  Drum roll, please...

My boss told me the home office called yesterday to verify the facts of the first story I submitted for publication.  "Your story will be published in two months," she told me.  In an instant my day job turned into my dream job.  Another manager walked up to me and said, "I hear you're our new reporter.  Are you a writer?"

"Yes," I answered.  "Writing is my dream job."

I'm still pinching myself that my first submission at my day job will be published in our companies' national publication.  That's what happens when you fight through the rejection -- your strikeouts turn into home runs, your day job becomes a dream job.

Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt the sting of rejection?  How did you handle it?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Reach Out and Cyber-touch Someone

Today I'm saluting my international readers.  Thanks to Google Translator, readers can follow these stories in their own language.  It's never been easier to "reach out and cyber-touch someone."  My next project is to find a way to let readers add comments in their own language that can be universally translated by other readers around the world.

For those of you who wish to expand your audience, here's a link I used to install Google Translate with flags on my blog:

I found a way to be notified by email anytime a reader adds a comment.  The system I use is Disqus.  It's easy to install and it's free.  If you would like to make it easier to keep track of your comments, click here to learn how to install Disqus. 

If you are outside the United States and are using Google translate to read this blog, please email me and let me know what kind of stories you would like to read in the future.  You can send the email in your own language and I will use Google Translate to view it in English.  Click here to reach me.

What are your plans for communicating with readers who speak foreign languages?  Maybe you have a suggestion to help me improve my comments section so foreign readers can participate.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Top 20 Lessons From My Friends and Family

There are two ways to learn.  The first method involves trial and error.  The second method is less painful because others teach you how to avoid the same mistakes they made.   I'm thankful for all the people in my life who inspire me daily.  Consider this list a Reader's Digest version of important lessons from my friends, family and others who play a role in my growth.  Enjoy...
  1. Grandma Mary:  "Save a portion of your earnings.  We paid cash for our home during the Great Depression because we managed to save money, even in tough times."
  2. Grammy Alice:  "Laugh.  Tell jokes.  Always be cheerful."
  3. Grandpa Victor:  "Get an education."
  4. Granddad Victor:  "Don't ever stop learning."
  5. Dad:  "Embrace new technology."
  6. Mom:  "Stay in touch the old fashioned way:  face-to-face."
  7. Cousin JM:  "Acknowledge, move on."
  8. My siblings:  "Never give up."
  9. "S'nora":  "Learn new languages."
  10. My daughter:  "When you fall off the horse, get back on the horse."
  11. My sons:  "Exercise."
  12. My wife:  She brings this verse to life... "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
  13. Captain Kirk:  "There is no such thing as a no-win scenario."
  14. Mr. Spock:  "Live long and prosper."
  15. My business partners.  William Wallace summarizes them best: 
    "I am William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen,
    here in defiance of tyranny! You have come to fight as free men. And
    free man you are! What will you do without freedom? Will you fight?"
    "Two thousand against ten?" - the veteran shouted. "No! We will
    run - and live!"
    "Yes!" Wallace shouted back. "Fight and you may die. Run and you
    will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now,
    would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for
    one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell
    our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take
    our freedom!" 
  16. My Kindergarten teacher:  "I think he can do better."  Note to mom:  Thanks for saving this report card for 40 years!  I'm using #7 for this one.
  17. Theodore Roosevelt:  “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 
  18. Tommy Shaw of Styx:  "You see the world through your cynical eyes
    You're a troubled young man I can tell
    You've got it all in the palm of your hand
    But your hand's wet with sweat and your head needs a rest
    And you're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
    You're killing yourself if you don't believe it
    Why must you be such an angry young man
    When your future looks quite bright to me
    And how can there be such a sinister plan
    That could hide such a lamb, such a caring young man
    And you're fooling yourself if you don't believe it
    You're killing yourself if you don't believe it
    Get up, get back on your feet
    You're the one they can't beat and you know it
    Come on, let's see what you've got
    Just take your best shot and don't blow it"
  19. Mother Teresa:  “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” 
  20. Jesus:  "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." ~ John 14:6
Feel free to add to the list in the comments section below.  Please share who inspires you and what lesson(s) they teach you.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

I shot this picture on my way to my day job yesterday.  It gives new meaning to the song "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."  I love the ingenuity this Iowa farmer demonstrates.  Billboard prices on a busy interstate start at about $1,000 a month in the Midwest.  This farmer can use his sign revenue to expand his farm business, pay off his mortgage or retire early.

Does this farmer inspire you?  Maybe you are sitting on a gold mine and you haven't discovered it yet.  Take a look around and tap into your creativity.  I have a few ideas simmering in my mind.  If one of them pays off, I'm going to visit this farmer and thank him for opening my eyes.  How about you?  Do you feel inspired?  Please add your comments below.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How Your Choices Determine Your Destiny

The fatalists in our world argue man has no power to influence the future.  You don't have to look too far to see how poor choices affect families, neighborhoods, communities, even entire countries.  We are not robots.  Every choice we make, good or bad, influences our future.

I believe the most significant choice you make is about love.  The absence of love in your heart is what leads to dissension, hatred, violence and war.  When you choose not to love, you are choosing to live in Hell.  That is your destiny.

What happens when you choose love?  If you choose to love others, even the ones who annoy you so much you wish they were out of your life forever, your future is changed.  Your world is no longer filled with enemies.  You see the potential in others rather than their shortcomings.

The truth is you are loved perfectly.  You may not feel it because the world you live in is filled with so much pain and hardship.  The bad in this world exists because each person is created with the freedom to make choices.  Those who choose not to love others or love God contribute to the chaos.

I decided to love God with every fiber of my being.  I also decided to love others.  I know my destiny.  No matter how hard the other side tries to discourage me, I believe the following Bible verse summarizes it best:   

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. ~ Romans 8:38

Do you believe the choices you make determine your destiny?  Do you believe love plays a role?  What will you do today that will influence your future course?  Please share your answers in the comments section below.

Monday, September 2, 2013

How Do You Celebrate Labor Day?

Like turning pages in your favorite book, Labor Day symbolizes the end of the Summer chapter and the beginning of Autumn.  This year I'm planning a drive to the Mississippi River to photograph the leaves in their brilliant Fall colors.  I will be spending more family time in the Amana Colonies where Autumn is the highlight of the year.  Today is the perfect day to host a family barbecue.  I'm firing up the Weber grille to make cheeseburgers.  My wife will be baking oatmeal cranberry cookies for dessert.  We're celebrating the progress we're making in our quest to become debt free.  It seems ironic that we're commemorating our jobs on a day we're both paid to be away from work, however, this Labor Day feels extra special.  How wonderful it is to be with all three of our adult children to savor this amazing day. 

How will you celebrate this Labor Day?  Do you have any special plans for Autumn?  Please share in the comments section below.  Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How To Change Your Deadbeat Status

Deadbeat:  A person who tries to evade paying debts.

"I'm not a deadbeat," I told the creditor on the phone.

"When can I expect a payment?" he retorted.  This question was repeated daily for 90 consecutive days.   "My situation hasn't changed since we spoke yesterday," I often told my new friends.  "Can you at least wait thirty days before you contact me again?"

"Sorry.  These are robocalls.  The calls are made automatically every day until you pay."

In order to protect my sanity, I changed tactics.  I referred all my unpaid creditors to my home phone line and left the answering machine on.  I told them I wasn't allowed to receive calls at work.  One creditor left this message... I've attempted to reach you 168 times without a response.  It's imperative that you call me immediately about a very important matter.

My wife and I struggled with our downfall.  We watched our 800+ credit score fade away into the sunset.  In our efforts to save our home, we ignored the creditors who were lower on our priority list.  We called our bank before we missed our first payment to ask for help.

"Sorry.   You aren't late and you've never missed a payment.  We can't help you."

The system was broken.  The banks were afraid our credit lines were too large.  They closed down our available credit lines to protect themselves before we suffered our first delinquency.  The house of cards was primed for a painful fall.  In the midst of our challenges, I insisted "I'm not a deadbeat."

The most powerful weapon in my arsenal was the threat of bankruptcy.  My mortgage company realized I had nothing to lose.  They changed their tune and finally agreed to a short sale as the foreclosure date grew closer.  One of my creditors offered a lump-sum settlement for less than the amount owed and we agreed.  Other creditors argued we were selective about who we paid.  They were right.   We didn't have the income to repay everyone at the same time.  Here is the plan we put in place to change our deadbeat status:
  1. We found the perfect realtors to represent us in our California short sale.  Our realtor became our liaison with our mortgage company.  We put together financial statements and letters documenting our loss of income to strengthen our case for a short sale.
  2. We sold most of our furniture to our new buyers and used the money to pay for our relocation to the Midwest.
  3. We made a plan to repay our creditors, one at a time.  
  4. We pay cash for everything.
  5. We found a seller willing to take a chance on us with seller financing.  In order to decrease his risk position, we cashed out a retirement fund and offered it as a down payment.  We added a provision to the contract that allows him to take the house back and keep the down payment if we are ever late.
  6. We found great full-time jobs.  My wife took on a second part-time job.  Our kids all got jobs.
  7. We keep our attitudes positive.
  8. We cut out all unnecessary spending.
  9. We reached out to a new lender who does in-house financing for people in circumstances like ours and formed a relationship.  He provided us with a checklist we can work on so we can eventually refinance our seller-financed mortgage.
  10. We never labeled ourselves as deadbeats.
We have peace in our home.  We have a plan to pay off our home in 7.5 years.  Once our creditors are paid off, we will accelerate our payments to our retirement accounts.   This is our plan to rid ourselves of the deadbeat label forever.

What status in your life are you changing?  What specific plans are you making to change your status?  Please share your answers in the comments section below.