Saturday, November 30, 2013

Word of the Day: Relentless

If someone asked you to choose ten words to describe yourself, what words would you choose?  Now, take that list and narrow it down to three.  Please do me a favor and email me your top three words or share your list in the comments section below.  Please place your number one word on top.  If you're having trouble coming up with an answer or you don't like your choices, maybe it's time to consider today's word of the day — relentless.  This is the word I adopted to describe who I am in just one word.  Here's why the word defines my sense of purpose in this world:
  1. A relentless person knows how important his or her job is.  This person understands the consequences of giving up and refuses to let that happen, no matter the personal cost.
  2. A relentless person sees how things can be, not as there are and will stop at nothing to paint that picture.
  3. A relentless person appears to have an energy source that is not of this world.  Some may call that source supernatural.
  4. A relentless person will never leave your side.
  5. A relentless person has unshakeable faith.
I look forward to reading your top three words you pick to describe yourself.  And if you choose relentless as your word of the day, I have a recommendation.  Why not adopt this word permanently?  Ask Jesus to give you this word.  He is the epitome of the word.  He is the word made flesh.  All you have to do is ask.  Have a great day.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fear Has a High Price Tag

It's Black Friday.  Many shoppers cut their Thanksgiving Day short so they could stand in line for the big discounts.  Unfortunately, they overlook the high prices they are paying for fear.  Do some comparison shopping and find out how high the price tag is for your own fear(s):
  1. Deferred decision making.  Maybe you are afraid of visiting the doctor or dentist because you don't want any bad news.  The longer you hide, the more dramatic your sticker shock will be.
  2. Lack of confidence.  This is being afraid of your own abilities.  You don't put your name in the hat for a possible promotion or volunteer for new assignments because you don't feel you're good enough.  The price tag for this fear is mediocrity.  You will end up leading a discounted life.
  3. Perfection Syndrome.  You don't try anything new because you're afraid to make a mistake or you fear someone else will catch you in the act of making a mistake.  Wisdom is never marked down.  You can't buy it below cost.  In order to advance in life, you need to stop trying to be perfect.  Perfection Syndrome will cost you dearly.  Successful people stock their shelves with mistakes.  They learn from their errors and advance in all their endeavors.
  4. Burying your head in the sand.  The only one blind when you do this is you.  The world can still see you.  Your creditors can still find you.  You need to learn to confront difficult situations with your head held high.  Learn how to defend yourself against the bullies in this world and they will lose their power over you.
  5. Fear of letting go.  How can you grasp something better in your life if you're holding on to a person, place or thing with a death grip?  Sometimes you just need to let go because what you're holding doesn't belong to you.  You will gain a sense of freedom when you learn to let go.  This is priceless.
If you really think about, what is it that motivates anyone to sacrifice a Holiday like Thanksgiving so they can go buy more stuff in the middle of the night?  I believe it has to do with fear of loss.  These midnight shoppers are afraid someone else will end up with the better deal.  And the store owners are afraid someone else will get the profits if they refuse to remain closed.  Yes, fear has a high price tag.  Stop paying that price today and discover peace in your life.  If you feel like adding to the conversation, please click the comment button below.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

This is the day the LORD has made

Happy Thanksgiving!  May your day be filled with abundant blessings.  I'm super excited for this day because I will be surrounded by my wife, all three of our children, and numerous family members from my wife's side of the family, including her Aunt Inez, to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Inez is like the fairy godmother who watches over all the younger family members.  During our time in California, Inez updated us with weekly handwritten letters about all the happenings in the Midwest.  The letters at Thanksgiving were always difficult for my wife because she was the only chicken who flew the coop.  After many years away from her family, she is re-united at last.  And the words from Psalm 118:24 have profound meaning on this Thanksgiving Day:

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Here's a partial list of reasons I'm filled with gratitude today:
  1. The sun is shining and the highs for today will be above freezing.
  2. My employer closes his doors on all major Holidays so we can be with our families.
  3. I understand God's plan for my life.
  4. I understand the meaning of love.
  5. I have everything I need.
  6. Jesus is my Lord and Savior.
  7. My cup is never empty.
  8. The half-time adjustments I made are working well in the 3rd quarter of my life and I'm finally learning how to get into the end zone.
  9. All three of our children are spreading their wings and learning how to soar like eagles.
  10. You are in my life.  I will always treasure the connection we have.  Although we may be separated geographically, we are able to share time together here on this blog.  I thank God for you.  Thank you for staying connected.
For those of you who are having trouble finding something to be thankful for today, I offer you my prayers.  I feel your pain.  Fix your eyes on Jesus and ask Him to comfort you.  He can heal even the deepest wounds.  And He made this day for you.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Happy Thanksgiving. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Pro Se Way

The jury is out on my decision to handle a personal legal matter the pro se way, that is, to represent myself in court.  I see my current situation as one more David vs. Goliath event in a series.  The slingshot is an effective weapon, especially when the giant is unaware of its full potential.  My experience with giants is that the bigger they are, the more difficulty they have with their vision.

Today's post is about my opinions and beliefs.  Use it for your own entertainment purposes only.  If you're seeking legal advice, please consult an attorney.  Here's how I'm planning to use my slingshot in court and how I feel about my chances for a successful outcome:
  1. Learn everything I can about my opponent.  This is what great football coaches do when they're preparing for game day.  They study tapes, learn about all the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing players and look for patterns and tendencies.  In my situation, this includes reading transcripts from prior cases, reading news stories about violations of the law, and looking for patterns of behavior.
  2. Learn everything I can about the law in my new home state.  The key to avoiding penalty flags is to know all the rules of the courtroom.  The judge expects me to conduct myself at the same standards all attorneys must adhere to.
  3. Make sure my defense is so strong that the plaintiff will be unable to score any touchdowns.  This includes challenging my opponent's claim that he is entitled to sue me.
My opponent hired a top-notch law firm to litigate this case.  On paper, the odds appear to be against me.  In fact, my opponent wins 95 out of every 100 cases.  Upon closer inspection, I see a great opportunity to use my slingshot effectively.  Today I'm filing an answer to the summons and complaint.  95 defendants out of 100 fail to do this which leads to a default judgment for the plaintiff.  4 out of 5 of the remaining defendants handle their case the Pro Se way.  And 1% hire an attorney to represent them in court.

Should my case proceed to trial, I'm aware my opponent will attempt to intimidate me when we meet face-to-face before the trial begins.  He will flash his credentials.  I admit, they're impressive.  The senior partner is licensed to practice law in multiple states and owns multiple businesses.  He may even bring more than one attorney with him to try and rattle my nerves.  He has no idea the kind of fire I've been refined in.  He has no clue about the size of the giants who came before him, may they rest in peace.

I have two goals for this case.  The first is to win outright or convince the judge to dismiss this case with prejudice.  There will be no negotiating.  I'm all in.  The second goal is to self-publish a book about my experiences in the courtroom.  In my opinion, there are many similarities to self-publishing and doing things in court the Pro Se way.  What's your opinion?  Please email me or leave your comment below.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Are You Thankful For?

Another year is coming to a close.  I find it hard to believe Thanksgiving Day is just 48 hours away.  I look forward to spending the day with my wife, our three children, and numerous relatives from my wife's side of the family.  We have so much to be thankful for.  If you have a moment on Thanksgiving Day to check in, I will share more about what I'm thankful for.  Now it's your turn.  Would you mind sharing what you're thankful for in the comments section below?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Seize the Moment, Leave a Legacy

The outside temperature was 5º yesterday when I woke up.  My wife was already out of the house.  She was teaching a faith formation class to her 9th grade students.  I wrote my morning blog story and showered in time to join her at church.  The short walk gave me time to meditate on my life.  My thoughts were all about my family and the commitments each member is making.  It was also a day to honor our youngest son for completing a memorable football season.  Twelve coaches, most of them unpaid volunteers, lined up to shake hands with the players as they received their awards.  All the parents of the the twenty-four seniors on the team were asked to accompany their sons as they accepted their awards.

"Shane never missed a single practice," the head coach announced while we were going through the lineup.  "And he was never late.  We didn't really know much about him because he transferred in to the community and he was the new kid on the block.  We knew he would always be there and we could count on him."

The head coach got choked up when he shared stories about the players.  Clearly, he treated each one as members of his own family.  A banner hung above him inside the halls of the volunteer fire department which was turned into a banquet room for the evening.  It read:  Seize the Moment, Leave a Legacy.  Shane's coach talked about what those words chosen by the seniors on the team meant to him.  I thought about those words, too.  I thought about the commitment each player made to the team.  I thought about all the volunteer fire fighters who answer the call no matter what time it is to keep our community safe.  I wondered if these young men would become the next generation of volunteers on the football field or if they would lead Sunday school classes.  Perhaps some of them will sign up to be volunteer fire fighters for our community. Whatever these fine young men do, they will build on the commitments they made to be a part of an amazing team.  And I will never forget about the importance of seizing the moment and leaving a legacy.

What commitment are you going to make today that you will show up for no matter how hot or cold it is outside, how you feel, or how big the list of possible excuses happens to be?  Will you choose to seize the moment and leave a legacy?  The choice is yours.  It begins with your commitment.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

3 Stress Busters To Recharge Your Life

Doesn't the picture above look inviting?  If you're like me, you may be wondering how great it would feel to test out that hammock.  Here are three stress-buster ideas to help you recharge your life:
  1. Take power naps in the middle of the day.  One of the best features on my cell phone is the count-down timer.  Ideally, I like to set my timer for thirty minutes and then close my eyes in the middle of a busy day.  When the alarm goes off, I feel invigorated and ready to zip through the rest of the day.
  2. Schedule down time.  When I launched my own business with a group of partners, I dreamed of the "808 plan."  The idea was to work 80 days and take 8 days off.  When the recession hit, I drifted off-course and sacrificed my vacation time to put more time into the business.  This contributed to higher stress levels in my life.  This Thanksgiving Day the family will be together and I plan to introduce a modified version of the 808 plan consisting of a one week vacation every six months and two three-day getaways in between the vacations.  This is long overdue.
  3. Visualize your happy place.  If you don't have one already, use the picture above.  Close your eyes when you're on a short break and pretend you're visiting your happy place.  This idea was used by prisoners locked up in concentration camps.  They survived because they were able to see themselves outside their barbed-wire surroundings.
Follow the example of your own heart.  It takes a break after each beat.  When you exercise properly, your heart rate slows down and your heart works more efficiently.  And when you rest, your heart relaxes too.

Please share your own ideas for recharging your life.  What are your favorite stress busters?  I look forward to hearing from you and promise to respond to your suggestions within twenty-four hours.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Never Give Up Your Super Powers

Has the following situation ever happened to you?  You made a mistake.  You're sitting there figuring out how to correct your error and along comes a bully.  The bully tries to make you feel small in front of others.  You're already feeling embarrassed but this bully wants the whole world to know how weak you really are.  He picks on you to make himself feel bigger.  If you give up your super power and let him bully you, you will feel miserable the rest of your life.  What you may be unaware of is that you already have the super power within you to defeat your bully.   Here are some ideas:
  1. Hide the Kryptonite.  It doesn't belong to the bully in your life.  The only way the bully will take it away from you and use it against you is if you turn it over to him.
  2. Stand firm.  Give your adversary the Superman pose.  Yep.  Hands go on your hips and stand there like you're in a police lineup.  Make him think you have X-ray vision and don't be afraid to throw a counter-punch.
  3. Answer the call.  When the bully sends you an invitation to meet him on the playground, make sure you show up.  Your bully only has power when you run and hide.
  4. Learn how to defend yourself.  Every adversary has his own Kryptonite.  He makes himself look larger than life so you will cower.  Before recess time, make sure you go to the Principal's office and find out everything you can about what's in the bully's files.  Tell the principal that the law is very clear about your rights to go through the discovery process so you can stand up to the bully on the playground.
  5. Put away the Superman suit once you defeat the bully.  Yes, you have super powers.  No, you don't need to flash them all the time.  Blend in with the general population once you crush your enemy.  But keep the superman suit handy for the next time you may be summoned. 
I'm headed off to my day job.  When they call me for help, I'm quick to pull out my eyeglasses and respond.  The Clark Kent disguise is working really well.  I'm happy to lead an anonymous life in the midst of the cornfields.  Should anyone become suspicious of my super powers, I will tell them they have the wrong guy.  I'm just a story teller.  And if they try to find my Kryptonite I will respond this way..."what Kryptonite?"

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why Antagonists Are Necessary

If you dig deep enough you can find an antagonist lurking in the shadows of every successful individual you know.  Think about your favorite book or movie.  Consider all the heroes in your life.  Pick any character from the Bible.  What do they all have in common?  If you answered an antagonist, you're on the money.  Where would Rocky I, II, III, IV, V and Rocky Balboa be without someone else in the ring to confront?  What would have happened to David if he never met Goliath?

Yes, antagonists, as much as we hate them, are necessary.  Evil is necessary in order for us to recognize what is good.  Angels in Heaven are waiting for us to call out to our Father in Heaven.  My favorite is St. Michael, the Archangel.  Remember him?  He's the one who kicked Satan's butt right out of the Kingdom.  Satan is still licking His wounds.  He knows you are one of the replacements.  And He's going to do everything to stop you.  That's what this world is all about – standing up to your adversaries.  Just remember one thing about the fight you are in today.  Jesus already knows you will win.  Share that message with your friends who may be facing some tough opponents in their lives.  And please don't ever give up.

Do you have a comment to share about how you faced an antagonist in your life?  Please add to the conversation below.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Winning is a Habit

“Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while…you do them right all the time.” ~ Vince Lambardi

There is a special place in my heart for coaches.  And Vince Lambardi is at the top of my list of personal favorites.  These are the people I turn to when I'm seeking to raise my game.  What is it that made Vince so special?  Was is that cool hat he wore?  Was it that grin he displayed that told his opponents, "I'm going make our meeting on the field today memorable for you?"  Or perhaps it was what was going on in his heart that made him so special.

The best answer I offer today has to do with your habits.  They start with a belief in your mind that you can win in all situations.  Once you form that belief, the second step is to develop habits that allow you to win over and over.  You don't need a fancy hat.  You don't need a killer grin.  All you need is a set of habits that set you apart from the rest of the pack.  Your life is a football game.  The clock is running.  Now go out there and show the world what you're capable of.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Do Bloggers Have Freedom of Speech?

Disclaimer:  I claim to be a blogger, however, I'm not licensed to practice law.  Nothing I state in this blog or in any materials I publish should be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, seek help from an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your state.  If you wish to read about my opinions or my personal experience dealing with allegations made by others, this blog is here for entertainment purposes only.

Today's question is meant to provoke thought.  We live in a world where information is available instantly, thanks to a world-wide web of bloggers, photo journalists and others who publish their stories online.  My opinion is that there is a line we should always be aware of when publishing a blog story or any other content, especially when it involves publishing something that may cause harm to another individual.

A couple of days ago I read a compelling article published by a law professor about junk debt buyers.  Although the story was targeted to attorneys, I gleaned useful information to help me in a personal matter I'm dealing with.  I emailed him to thank him for his story and told him it will help me as I prepare a defense against a law firm who is pursuing an alleged debt.  He responded and asked where I live.  He shared some general ideas to explore in my state.  I wrote him back and promised to share the results of the lawsuit once an outcome is finalized.  I really have nothing to prove in my case; the burden of proof is always with the plaintiff and my opinion is that this debt collector lacks the evidence to support his allegations.  I will have to wait and see what the judge thinks.

The reason behind today's question comes from stories I read about a junk debt collector who is filing a claim for an alleged debt.  One of the strategies he uses when attempting to settle with the defendant(s) is a statement of confidentiality.  It appears these companies are afraid the facts of their cases may hurt future streams of income should anyone read about courtroom drama.

I'm a big believer in the freedom of speech.  I will defend my right to share my personal stories here with every fiber of my being.  I will study the laws of my state to learn how to defend myself should anyone ever try to stop me from publishing daily stories.  How about you?  What is your opinion?  Do you believe bloggers have freedom of speech?  Please share your opinion in the comment section below.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Respond to Fear

Fear is afraid of one thing – that you will turn on the lights and discover he's been eliminated.  That's all you need.  Just turn on the light.  In case your unwilling to crawl out from under your blankets and turn the light on, allow me to offer an example from my personal life:

Once upon a time I lived a fairy tale life.  I married the woman of my dreams.  We bought a home on top of a mountain.  My wife gave birth to three amazing children.  We both had stable jobs.  Then I had my first experience with a ghost.  I call my fear a ghost because he haunted me the same way Scrooge was haunted in Charles Dickens's narrative.  At the time I didn't realize all I had to do was turn on the lights.

My ghost tried to scare me in the middle of the night.  Uncertainty crept into my life like the morning tide.  I made a decision to turn on the light.  I read the writing on the wall and realized the only way I could beat uncertainty, the ghost of Christmas future, was to become an entrepreneur.  I spent the next year of my life developing a top-secret plan.  I put a team together and we hired an attorney.  Not a cheap one.  Someone who was considered the best in the business.  Then we crafted our plan to leave our jobs and compete with one of the biggest companies in America.  Let's just say they sent a few ghosts from Christmas present.  We were ready.

When it came time to answer their bogus claims, we asked our attorney if it was okay to photocopy our seven middle fingers and file them in court.  He laughed.  We decided it was better to do things his way.  The only thing missing when we opened our doors for business was fear.  Every one of us decided it's better to live in the light.

It's time to return to the court room again.  My opponent may be surprised in his discovery process to learn I'm not afraid of ghosts from the past, present or future.  I rather enjoy getting out my microscope and studying his idiosyncrasies.

The next time a ghost tries to sneak up on you, remember to turn on the light.  Have a great day.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Speaking of Wisdom

Do you know what happens when you say His name?  I'm talking about Jesus.  An ancient doctor who followed Jesus wrote this:

  “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.  And so you will bear testimony to me.  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  Everyone will hate you because of me.  But not a hair of your head will perish.  Stand firm, and you will win life." ~ Luke 21:12-19

I heard these words yesterday while sitting with in the front row of my house of worship with my wife's aunt, sister, and cousin.  My wife and youngest son were out of town, accompanying their freshman students on a mini retreat where monks preached the same message I heard on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.  I felt like Jesus was speaking directly to me in my time of need.

Jesus is the source of my wisdom.  He gives me the words and wisdom that none of my adversaries are able to resist or contradict.  He inspires me to walk into a courtroom alone without an attorney to defend myself against my accusers.  Yes, I will bear testimony to Him all the days of my life.  And when judges ask, "what is the source of your wisdom?"  I will answer, "Jesus.  He is with me at every trial.  Because of Jesus, I stand firm and I win life."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Step 1 – When You're Swimming With Debt Collector Sharks: Don't Freak Out

The debt collector sharks smell blood in the water.  One of these species, a great white, filed a summons in an Iowa court claiming it has a right to collect on an old debt.  Cue the jaws music.  The situation reminds me of the first time I spotted a shark in the water while on a training swim in La Jolla with my cousin eighteen years ago.  He yelled, "don't freak out on me."

We stayed on course and got out of the water safely.  The incident prepared me to handle one more experience in San Francisco.  A ferry dropped me and 500 other swimmers off at Alcatraz Island and we swam back to shore.  I felt something bump me in the middle of the swim, most likely a seal.  I could feel my adrenaline surging through my body and I picked up my pace.  I thought to myself, maybe I shouldn't have eaten the shark dinner the night before the swim.  After one hour and fourteen minutes paddling through the 54º waters, I emerged unscathed.

The courtroom has many similarities to shark infested waters.  Debt collectors first show their fins with something called a summons.  They do this to make their presence known, hoping to scare you away so they can win something called a default judgment.  Approximately 95% of their cases are won because the defendant failed to stay in the water.  I can guarantee you I'm not in this category.  And I'm not freaking out.  Instead, I'm staying in the water, observing how the debt collector swims and eats.  Apparently, the great white chasing me enjoys preying on others by first buying old debt for about three cents on the dollar and then filing lawsuits.

Here is my plan to stay alive and escape the great white:
  1. Don't freak out.  Stay calm.  Breathe.
  2. Stay in the water.
  3. Study the feeding habits of my predator and identify all the weaknesses.
  4. File an answer to the the complaint in district court.
  5. Learn everything I can about the law concerning debt collections.
  6. Face my opponent in the courtroom and convince the judge that the blood-thirsty great white stalking me has no legal authority to devour me.
  7. Share my story.
Swimming in shark infested waters isn't for the timid.  Most people in my situation would have jumped out of the water and claimed bankruptcy.  I chose to stay in the water and face my creditors, one shark at a time.  Many accounts are marked, "settled."  Only a few great whites remain.  And I'm not freaking out.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why I'm Thankful For The Ambulance Chasers

Ambulance chaser:  A type of lawyer who ranks lower than a pile of excrement in terms of what he/she contributes to society.

An ambulance chaser came into my life a couple of days ago.  He thought he knew me.  I didn't make the same mistake about him.  Instead, I sacrificed my writing time to research everything about him and his business practices.  Those who know me understand how much fun I have when giants with multi-billion dollar checkbooks come after me.  Each one of these giants inspired me to sharpen my sling-shot skills.  And when I show up in court at the appointed time with my stones and my sling-shot I will be the one who confidently says "pro se," meaning a "self-represented party."  Most people in my situation would rather stay home than show up in court.  That allows the ambulance chasers to win a default judgement.  Here's my plan:
  1. Answer the complaint, one point at at time, admitting what is true and denying what is false.
  2. Show up in court at the appointed time and face my accuser.  
  3. Take really good notes about the saga for a future book.
  4. Ask for a trial with a jury of my peers.
  5. Publish the results.
I'm thankful for the ambulance chasers in my life for one reason.  They give me great material to write about.  Millions of people are going through the same real-life struggle I'm dealing with — how to defeat the debt monster.  And the ambulance chasers arrive at the scene of the accident looking for someone to sue so they can line their own pockets.  Maybe next time they will skip over the guy wielding a sling-shot, even though he's on a stretcher and his heart is barely beating.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fighting the Debt Monster

The debt monster is showing his fangs today.  I have a plan to defeat him.  He has a plan too.  Unfortunately, battling him requires time and resources.  I sacrificed my writing time this morning to prepare myself for his latest assault.  I will write more about this later.

If you find yourself battling against a giant today, don't give up.  See you tomorrow at 8:08.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Do You Have a Google+ Profile Page?

The three things that matter most when readers are searching for you on Google are location, location, location.  My name, Michael Mulligan, comes up 16,500,000 times in the search results.  So, if there are so many people out there who share my name, why am I showing up on the first page in a sea of Mulligans?  And why did Google pre-approve me for the name +MichaelMulligan this morning when there millions of other choices?  I believe the reason I was selected has to do with my choice to set up a Google+ profile page early in my writing career and post blog stories there every day.  Google loves consistency. That's all it takes.

Click here to see my profile page.  And if you don't have a Google+ profile page yet, get started today.  It's free.  Click here to get started.  Leave a comment if you have questions.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

When All Else Fails, Push the Reset Button

I'm a big fan of the reset button.  One of my business partners recommended it to me when I needed some parenting advice.  "Ask your son if he would like to move to Alaska," he said.

"Why Alaska?"  I responded.

"It's a reset button.  Your son will be in a new environment and he can figure out how he wants to move forward."

My son had the time of his life.  He made new friends.  He experienced one of the most beautiful places on earth.  His time in Alaska gave him an opportunity to reset his life.

I pushed the reset button in my personal life about two years ago.  My wife stood in front of me like Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune and did everything possible to get me to push the button.  I felt like a hypocrite.  Here I am telling my son how pushing the reset button can have a dramatic effect on his life and I'm refusing to take my own advice.

The lesson I learned is that the reset button helps you get unstuck.  Pushing the button means a fresh start.  Give it a try.  Let me know how it works out in your life. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Climatize Your Attitude Before the Storm Hits

Climatize:  to acclimate to a new environment.

The photo you see above reminds me of my younger days growing up in Arizona.  Dust storms suddenly appeared out of nowhere without any warning.  It also resembles the walls of smoke that ravaged our California neighborhood when a wildfire burned out of control, destroying many homes, including our next-door neighbor's.

There are other types of storms that wreak havoc on our personal lives, such as recessions, unemployment or job transfers.  The biggest lesson I learned for coping with unexpected change in my life has to do with attitude.  It's like a setting on your thermostat that you control, even when everything else in your life appears out of control.  Once you climatize your attitude, you can weather the storm.  Here are some steps you can take to adjust the settings on your attitude thermostat:
  1. Look for the silver lining in the clouds.  Your brain has the potential to see opportunity in every adversity.  For example, when you get the layoff notice, instead of thinking about how miserable your life is, think about all the new doors you can open.  Concentrate on the possibilities.  Visualize new parts of the country you can relocate to where your skills can be better utilized.
  2. Recognize your attitude plays a role in your success or failure.  The temperature in a room won't change unless the thermostat is on.  Your problems won't go away unless you adjust the control setting on your attitude.  You bring the heat or the cold.  It's your choice.
  3. Understand some people will be miserable because they refuse to climatize.  I prefer to be around people who are willing to make changes in their lives rather than complain about how hot or cold the weather is.  Negative people really don't want to change anything in their lives because they won't have anything to complain about if things actually improve.  Concentrate on climatizing your own world and stay away from the complainers.  Keep your attitude thermostat locked up and don't let them have the keys.
The weather outside is 14º degrees this morning.  We had our first snow storm last night.  Mother Nature did her best to warn me about her plans for the Winter.  My attitude is fully climatized.  My blood is getting thicker.  There is nothing like sitting in front of a warm fireplace to work on my writing projects during this time of year.  How about you?  Are you ready to climatize your attitude before the storm hits?  Let me know what you will do to get climatized.

Monday, November 11, 2013

What You Should Do When Success Knocks On Your Door

For most people, success dresses like a stranger.  They don't recognize him through the peep hole.  He wears many disguises.  I have a stack of his calling cards filed away from previous encounters.  Here are some of his aliases:
  1. Job layoffs.
  2. Illness.
  3. Injuries.
  4. Poor economic conditions.
  5. Challenging bosses.
  6. Unemployment.
  7. Bad weather.
  8. Accidents.
  9. Poor forecasts for the future.
  10. Uncertainty.
The easy thing to do when the stranger from the school of hard knocks calls on you is to pretend no one is home and hide.  You feel safe under your blankets.  The problem with this choice is that you will be haunted by what could have been if you opened the door and let success come in, take off his coat and stay a while.  Every successful person I know chose to spend time with the stranger.  They learned a lesson that helped them become successful.  It's really simple — Adapt.

Successful people embrace the pink slip.  They make a decision to change careers, start new businesses or go back to school and learn about new opportunities.  When they get sick, they don't give up.  They make lifestyle changes to get healthy again.  The same thing with injuries.  They go to rehab and do what it takes to make their bodies stronger.  Successful people find a way to embrace the stranger knocking on the front door.  They refuse to give up.

Success knocked on my door so many times that I decided to prepare a guest room for him in my home.  I'm not afraid to invite him in because I know the more I get to know him the better I can learn to adapt to all his offerings.  Maybe this year I'll send him a Christmas card and thank him for all he taught me.  What about you?  Are you going to answer the door the next time success knocks?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why the Cyber-bistro Serves Serial Every Friday

Serial novels were the rage in the Victorian era.  Thanks to new technology, I believe they may be back on the menu for web readers with hungry appetites.  Here's how it works:
  1. Serial novels are published in segments or installments.  
  2. The author decides when to publish — weekly or monthly.
  3. As the story unfolds, readers share their serial with others and help the writer get discovered.
My favorite reading material in high school was cereal boxes.  Now I'm writing a serial novel that appears on cell phones, tablets and notebooks.  If Dickens were around to see this, he would be wondering, what the hell? 

What do you think about serial novels?  Have you checked out my e-serial novel at the Cyber-bistro?  I serve a new chapter every Friday at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  Click here to read a new chapter every Friday.  If you like what you see, you may want to email me and insert yourself into a future chapter. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

When Writing is Like Playing With Tinker Toys

Did you ever play with Tinker Toys when you were a kid?  That's what writing is like for me.  It's spilling out a carton of assorted pieces all over the floor and then figuring out how to build something.  The inventor of the game withheld instructions for assembly.  What are you supposed to do?  If you're a writer, you do one thing — tinker.  And if you tinker long enough, someday you may find yourself creating something the world has never seen before.

With the exception of my cousin, Mark Mulligan, a singer who drifted through my new home state last summer on a music tour,  I haven't seen my side of the family in over 18 months.  Most of them have no idea what I've been doing with my Tinker Toys.  Here's what I'm developing:
  1. Caveman Reflections... A Cyber-bistro.  This is a gathering place for readers, writers, publishers, editors, childhood friends, high school and college classmates, and friends from all over the world.  Every Friday I share a new chapter from my first novel, The Caveman in the Mirror.  Once I'm done tinkering, the novel will be available on  Click here to check out the Cyber-bistro.
  2. Free Lemonade Stories.  This is a collection of stories and interviews from people who inspire me.  Once my novel is complete, I plan to spend more time on this and turn this project into an E-book.  Click here to check it out.
  3. The Caveman in the Mirror.  This is the ultimate Tinker Toy — an interactive novel filled with characters who literally jump in to become a part of the story.  Thomas is on journey to find something.  He is a little on the delusional side.  That doesn't stop him from seeking his destiny.  Just like Tinker Toys, there is a lot of writing, cropping, re-writing, editing and more writing before the final version will be released.  I believe sharing free chapters every Friday gives readers an opportunity to join the journey and become part of the story.
I hope you make some time in your life to enjoy building something.  Tinker Toys work for me.  Give it a try.  It's fun.  See you tomorrow at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time.  Thanks for stopping by today.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Does Your Creativity Need a Carburetor?

When was the last time you looked under your hood and checked your carburetor — that odd-looking device that mixes your fuel with air so your creativity doesn't stall or run too rich?  Creativity doesn't need much gasoline to get great results.  It does need the correct amount of pressure to get your work in motion.  For me, it means setting up daily and weekly deadlines.  When the right amount of pressure is applied to my creativity, I get steady output.  If you're not happy with your results, try these pointers:
  1. Give your creativity some more air.  Maybe you're working trying too hard and you're forcing too much work through your pipes.  You need to breathe.  The key is to be efficient.  Take breaks.  Avoid burnout.
  2. Apply enough pressure to your work to give you some spark.  No deadlines = no output.  You know best how much pressure to apply to your projects to move them forward.  Just make sure you are in motion.  Experiment with your deadlines to find out what works best for you.
  3. Don't be afraid of the mountains.  I remember how I chugged along at some pretty slow speeds when climbing the mountains of California and Arizona in my rental truck while towing our family car.  The mountains were a part of the course, just like writing a novel is necessary if I'm ever going to master the art of writing.  Anyone attempting to create something eventually experiences a mountain climb that appears impossible.  All it takes is some adjusting when the outside air gets thin and the mountains are steep.
  4. Don't worry about the other drivers.  Everyone has their own pace.  Even the best writers started out sputtering.  If they are racing past you while you are still searching for the right mixture of fuel and air for your work, let them pass.  Work within your own limits and go at your own speed.
  5. Recognize your creativity is one-of-a-kind.  No one else in the world is capable of doing what you can do.  All you have to do is figure out how to maximize your output according to the specific gifts you have inside you.  Learn to be your own mechanic and experiment with your internal carburetor until you get it running properly.
What steps are you going to take to improve your creativity?  Please share your own ideas in the comments section below.  Thanks for making a pit stop today at my blog and for taking the time to help the other drivers by adding to the conversation.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How I Use Social Media To Connect With New Readers

Both of these photos were taken last night at sunset.  I shot the one on the left from my balcony and a friend of a friend captured the same shot from her front yard in Maryland.  We both posted our pictures on FaceBook at the same time.  Our common friend commented on the similarities.  She posted, "It's cool to think we can be out here in MD and you out there in IA and see the same thing. Love it."  

That was only one part of the connection.  I asked my friend about a park located in Rockville, Maryland that was inspired by Mattie Stepanek, a poet who published five best sellers by the age of thirteen.  Mattie's mother told me about the park when I interviewed her for a blog story.  My friend replied, "it's only about a half hour away."

I asked Chris to take a picture of the park and send it to me.  Visiting this park is on my bucket list.  Although I've never been to Maryland, my main character, Thomas, will be there soon in a future chapter.  I have Chris to thank for inspiring me.  She helped me connect the dots in my story line.  I plan to have Thomas stop at Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park and meet Mattie's mother in an upcoming chapter.  Thomas will learn some things about Mattie that help him on his journey to find the caveman who keeps appearing to him in the mirror.  If you are interested in reading the manuscript as I'm writing it, click here.

Today's blog is designed to help you understand how you can use social media to connect with new readers.  Here are three ideas I used today:
  1. Facebook.  It's as easy as posting a picture at sunset.  When friends comment, you start a dialogue and others jump in.
  2. Links.  Readers who click on today's links are directed to my other blogs.  I weaved the links into the story to entice readers to follow my novel as I'm writing it and to introduce my next writing project, "Free Lemonade Stories."  The links are subtle, yet they draw new readers and help me connect with them.
  3. Twitter and Google+.  As soon as this blog story is published at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time, I will post links to the blog from my Twitter and Google+ accounts.  My hope is that the caption and the photos will attract people who are interested in expanding their social media presence.  And if they like what they see, maybe they will come back again for more stories. 
Do you have any ideas to add to the story?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Has Your Resilience Ever Been Tested?

Life is not about how fast you run or how high you climb but how well you bounce. ~ Vivian Komori

Shortly before Mulligan's was shut down, my dad asked me to tend bar on a quiet Sunday while he ran some errands.  A woman walked in and sat down.  She complained about a fight she had with her boyfriend.  Five minutes later, he walked in and started shouting at her.  I politely asked him to leave her alone.  He ignored me and pulled his girlfriend by the hair.  I got between them and peeled the mans hands off of the woman. I pushed him toward the front door.  He was drunk.  Every time I pushed him, he stumbled backwards.  Once he reached the door, I heaved into him with all my might and he ended up laying on his back outside the bar.  My heart was pounding.  I pointed my finger at him and yelled, "Don't ever come here again!"

Once I got inside, J.T., the night bartender who was watching over me asked, "do you know who that man is?"

"No," I replied.

"He was in prison for murder,"  he said.

When my dad returned, the other patrons shared the story about what happened.  I wondered if the murderer would return and finish me off.  In a way, I really didn't care.  I was getting tired of all the trials in my life.  I had to make a decision.  Do I find a way to bounce back or do I give up?  That's when I discovered what resilience really means — it's all about the bouncing.  That's how I transitioned from a scrawny bouncer at Mulligan's who stood up to a convicted murderer and became the person I am today, a resilient husband, parent, and writer who has been tested to my limits and keeps on bouncing. 

Has your resilience ever been tested?  Did you pass the test?  Please share what you learned about resilience in the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Thank You Note To Our Son

The Cinderella season for our son's football season came to a close last night.  My wife and I were in the stands last night watching our son's team battle an undefeated team.  For two quarters the game was scoreless.  His team fought the hard fight.  Final score, 14-0.  It was a tough loss.  This team believed they could win it all.  They were stopped in round two of the playoffs.

This message is for my son.  Anyone who has ever been in his shoes is welcome to read on...

Dear son,

Your mom and I are so proud of you.  You and your team-mates had a dream.  Every morning you went out on the practice field and lived that dream.  You practiced until there was nothing left inside of you and you left everything on the field.  You may think your dream ended last night when time expired on the clock.  I disagree.  Here's why:
  1. Your football season may be over but a new season is just beginning.  Everything you learned on the football field will prepare you for your next season.  Just like football, life has quarters.
  2. Your next season starts right now.  Your wrestling team-mates will be eagerly awaiting all the football players who will be joining them in the next several days.  It's time to dream new dreams with them while still carrying the memories of this amazing football season you just completed.
  3. The game clock of your life is still in the early quarters.  There is so much for you to look forward to.  One of the best experiences you will ever have is when you have a family of your own and you get to be in the stands supporting your children.  That's what you have given your mother and me, an opportunity to cheer for you in all your endeavors.  Thank you for that.
Hold your head up high, son.  Your team dreamed big.  You will have those memories for the rest of your life.  Way to go!



Monday, November 4, 2013

Are You Ready To Put On Your Game Face?

Our youngest son is wearing his game face today.  His football team is playing against an undefeated team tonight in the second round of the high school football playoffs.  I think he enjoys being the underdog.  His coach told the team that tonight's opponent is already looking past them and preparing for round three.  It makes me think of Rodney Dangerfield telling the world, "I don't get no respect!"

Your game face says a lot about you.  Your body language also plays a role.  It doesn't matter how big your giants are.  It doesn't matter if they are undefeated.  What matters is how you prepare yourself mentally and physically for the battlefield of life.

I would like to thank one of my team-mates at my day job who traded a day off with her husband today so I could share the playoff experience with my wife.  We will be rooting for the underdogs.  They are the ones wearing their game faces.  Make sure you have yours on today, especially if you're going against a Goliath.  And don't forget to tuck your slingshot away in your back pocket.  Show the world you mean business.  Go get 'em.

Would you like to share a time in your life when you put on your game face?  Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

3 Men on a Cross

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, "Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!" But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  "And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong."  And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!"  And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." ~ Luke 23:39-43

The best teachers are the ones who are willing to teach no matter how challenging their current situation may be.  I believe the reason Jesus was crucified with two others at the same time was for our sake.  He wanted to offer hope that it is never too late to turn to Him, even when you find yourself at the end of your rope.

Which one of the three men on the cross do you identify with?  Is it the one who refuses to take responsibility for his actions or is it the one who knows he should be punished but turns to Jesus and says, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom."

I don't know what trials you are going through right now.  Maybe you feel like you're the one nailed to a cross and you are suffering.  No matter how tough your life may be, be comforted that Jesus remembers who you are — a child of God.  Your day will come when you will be with Him in Paradise.  Let your life be a lesson.  What do you want to teach today?  What you say will be meaningful.  And what you do will be even more meaningful.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My Silliest Writing Episode

It happened yesterday morning.  My eyes were closed and I was on my back in my comfy bed on a chilly morning.  Raindrops were tapping on my bedroom window.  My MacBook Pro was propped open at a 45º angle on top of my bended knees, eagerly awaiting crisp new words for the morning's blog story.  My mind drifted into a sleepy state.  That's when creativity attacked me like a thief in the night.  I felt a powerful jab on my head.  When my eyes popped open, over-sized letters from my keyboard were staring at me from close-up.  I was the victim of a Mac attack.   My laptop pounced on me and landed a punch right between my eyes.

I had one of those Dr. Smith moments from Lost in Space.  I could hear my brain yelling, "Oh the pain."  The blow struck me about a quarter inch above my eye glasses and left a horizontal gash, connecting my eyebrows and transforming them into a uni-brow just like Bernie from Sesame Street.  Still stunned from the surprise attack, I wiped my forehead and noticed blotches of blood on my fingertips.

What am I going to do? I thought.  How am I going to explain this at my day job?  I stopped the bleeding from my flesh wound and wrote my story for the day before hitting the showers.  That's when I decided to turn tragedy into today's blog.  That's what writers do — they paint pictures of their characters in the silliest situations for entertainment purposes.  I hope you enjoy this little ditty.

Friday, November 1, 2013

What Grade Do You Give Yourself?

Don't worry.  You don't have to share your answers.  This is for your benefit only.  Today is an opportunity to look in the mirror and do a self-evaluation.  Some of you may be asking, "what are the parameters?"  That's up to you.  If you need help grading yourself, here are some additional questions to consider:
  1. Do you have any idea why you're here on this planet?
  2. Are you developing the gifts you have to help you accomplish all the things you wish to do with your life?
  3. What grade to you give yourself for the progress you made so far?
  4. What do you think you can do to raise your grade?
  5. Are you satisfied with your report card?
I believe people who have trouble grading themselves also struggle with the question about why they are here.  Once you figure it out, the other questions are easier to answer.  Be careful about how critical you are when you're looking in the mirror.  If you spend too much time critiquing your flaws, you will never get anything done.  Your work is not supposed to be perfect.  If you spend your whole life trying to be perfect, you will end up with a failing grade.  And if you rate yourself below average, you're probably doing much better than you give yourself credit for.  Let me give you an example that hits close to home...

My mother often repeated to me she felt she was failing as a parent.  Raising six kids was no easy task.  It got even more difficult after my parents divorced.  Even though my mother felt she was failing, she never gave up on us.  She prayed for us daily.  She still prays for us daily.  She figured out a long time ago her children aren't perfect.  We're not supposed to be.  Neither is she.  My mom taught me that it's okay to fail as long as you keep trying.  Failure is the building block you need to create a better life.  Your grades only matter if you use them as a progress report to help you become the person you are created to be.

I don't know too many mothers who save their children's report cards from Kindergarten, especially when it reads: I think he can do better.  My mom handed over my report card to me as if it were some sort of Olympic torch I'm supposed to run with until I cross the finish line.  Sorry mom, I read it and shred it.  But I didn't torch the lesson.  Mrs. Kaboose was right.  I can do better.  And I will.  Every day.  I give my mom an A+ for her perseverance.

Whatever grade you give yourself today, keep in mind there is always room for extra credit, even if your life happens to be an A+.  Share your gifts with others and keep learning.  Have a great day.