Blog Post # 22 – Anti-Me

Super Bowl champion coach Bill Cowher once gave an interview to Sports Illustrated before the start of the football season.

The article included a photo of his face split down the middle, from top to bottom. Half a profile on each side.

In the interview, Cowher discussed how when he wakes up in the morning, he thinks about his day, his goals, what he wants to accomplish, etc. He would brainstorm on the many ways he could improve the Pittsburgh Steelers’ chances of returning to a Super Bowl.

Thinking about goals and tasks for the day are not particularly unusual activities.

But what struck me most in the interview is that Cowher would also envision each morning the “anti” Bill Cowher. A part of himself that did not want him to succeed, did not want to see the team thrive and was putting stumbling blocks in the path of the real Bill Cowher.

Cowher spent time every day dwelling on the parts of himself that wished to see him fail.

He did this so that he could turn the tables on “anti” Bill Cowher and outsmart, outwit and outperform his internal enemy.

This may sound a bit esoteric and woo-woo.

But I think we all have an anti-me. An anti-Jim.

Anti-Jim wants to see me fail. Wants to distract me with frivolous endeavors. Lull me into inaction with thoughts like “we are doing fine, no need to push” or “that can wait until tomorrow” or “let’s try this new latest life hack to solve all our problems with zero effort on our part.”

Anti-Jim works when I am asleep. Anti-Jim drops small and (sometimes) large hurdles in my way.

I envision Anti-Jim like a villain on the Superfriends or an enemy in the videogame of my life.

Sometimes I laugh at Anti-Jim – “oh, there’s Anti-Jim screwing with me again.”

Other times, Anti-Jim kicks my butt.

Having the awareness that Anti-Jim is out there, or more accurately, in there, at least lets me acknowledge the power of internal sabotage and positions me to keep Anti-Jim in his place one day at a time.

Blog Post # 21 – Setting Free

The truth.

It’s in there.

May be fuzzy.

Might take a fight to reach it.

But deep down there.

When we are quiet.



The truth is in there.

Beneath the hubbub.

Deep down, it’s there.

Trivialities abound.

Devices distract.

Tasks beckon.

All the while,

what is true rests in our gut.

Waiting to reconnect.

Always willing to play.

To provide direction.

To guide.

Our gut?

Our intuition?

Our soul?

The truth.

It may indeed set us free.

Do we have it backwards?

Maybe our job is different.

Setting free our truth.

Maybe that’s our job.

And thereby set us free.

Blog Post # 20 – While You See a Chance

When I was in high school, I had several foreign language choices: Latin, French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian.

I always thought that I might become a lawyer.  So I put Latin first, believing that exposure to the ancient language would help me in law school.

I can’t remember what my second choice was.

My third choice, I know, was Russian.  I know this because I later found out that if you listed Russian first, you got Russian.  Second, Russian.  Even third, Russian.

So there I was on the first day of high school listening to Mr. George Morris, speak to us in a very foreign tongue.  He wrote on the chalkboard in a different alphabet, the Cyrillic one.

I ended up studying Russian for seven years.  Not because I loved the language but simply because I had so much invested in it.  I joined the Russian club and I even went to Russian camp – a camp where Mr. Morris rented out a facility in Union, Missouri, and you had to speak nothing but Russian for 7 days.

As it turns out, this time period could not have been a better time to learn about Russia and the Soviet Union as the Communist regime was coming to an end.  The Cold War was waning and the nations of Eastern Europe were taking small steps towards democracy.

I mention all this as an introduction to one of my greatest regrets.

In the summer between my sophomore and junior year, Mr. Morris wrote a letter to my entire Russian class.  He had learned of a semester-long program in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.  This program was a language immersion program where participants would study the Serbo-Croatian-Bosnian culture and language overseas in Yugoslavia.

It wasn’t Russian (heck, they didn’t even use the Cyrillic alphabet in Yugoslavia) but it was close enough.

I remember studying that letter for a long, long time.  Part of me really wanted to go.  Over the next few days, I pulled the letter out of my desk drawer several times and read through it again.

Ultimately, I took the safe route and stayed in America.  I continued the traditional path and didn’t take the risk of studying abroad.

I feared the possibility.  I was afraid of what might happen.  I took the safe, predictable route.

Who knows what I would have seen, what experiences I would have had and whom I might have met?

I was only 16 years old, so I am not going to be too hard on myself.  Everything happens for a reason and I love my life now exactly as it is.

But I did decide – long after I threw the invitation to Yugoslavia in the trash – that I didn’t want to fear the possibilities any more.

Now, for today, I follow the advice of Mr. Steve Winwood that while you see a chance, you take it.

Blog Post # 19 – Tickling & Tackling

I have a secret.

When I’ve had a hard day at the office, there is one thing that cheers me up almost immediately.

Would you like me to share it with you?

I certainly will.

But first let me say that this secret trick has a time limit.  It won’t work for me forever.

I can tell that the time is near when this trick won’t work for me any more.

Here it is.

If you find yourself in a sour mood, down in the dumps or frustrated, I suggest getting down on the floor with your kids.  That’s right, down on the floor in order to ….

Tickle.  And tackle.

When the boys were little, we would tackle and tickle all morning long.  I can remember the older boys jumping off the couch as high as they could before driving a knee into my thigh.  I would grab them, flip them on their back and tickle them unmercilessly.

We would wrestle, bounce, piledrive, tackle and pummel each other.  I would tickle them for so long that they would be on the verge of tears.

With my baby girl (who is almost 7), it’s a more gentle game.  More tickling than tackling.

The fun thing too is how she howls when she knows the tickle is about to come.  She gets more worked up as the claw of tickle approaches from on high than she does when she is actually being tickled.

When I’m down on the ground, all of my troubles fade away.

Giggles cure a lot of blues.

Pretty soon, my daughter will be too old for tickling and tackling.  And I will be sad.

I guess this is one of the reasons people look forward to grandchildren.


Blog Post # 18 – A Little Help

When you won the big case, she cheered.

When you got the award, he clapped the loudest.

When your name was in the newspaper, she bought 4 copies and clipped out the article.

The people we live with love us for who we are, not for what we achieve.

But the successes are heralded and make those we love proud.

So the awards are great, the accolades sublime.

We cannot forget, however, that sometimes all our partner or the people that we live with need us to do is …. empty the dishwasher, take out the trash or clean up after the kids.

Being consistent with the little help that we give to those that we love goes a long way towards strengthening relationships and minimizing resentments.

Daily support > award ceremonies every day of the week.

I think I’ll go make the kids some pancakes.

Blog Post # 17 – Man on the Tracks

Several years ago, on a Friday afternoon around 4:55 p.m., a man parked his car in the parking lot next to my law office.

He got out of his car and took about twenty steps to the intersection of Gore Avenue and the train tracks.

The man headed east on the train tracks.

About 300 feet or so down the tracks, just past the school my children attended in the old train station, an Amtrak train sped around the bend.

You can imagine the rest.

The man wasn’t lost.  Or, maybe he was.

Turns out it was a suicide.

If I recall correctly, the man had a wife.  And children.

I think about the man on Friday afternoons when I hear the Amtrak train come barrelling down the tracks.

What was he thinking?

Why couldn’t he have asked for help?

Were things really that bad?

Depression is a very, very real thing.  Not something to ignore.  

I can’t really imagine what was going through the mind of the man on the tracks.  Money problems, marital issues or health concerns?

Clearly, very despondent and without hope.  Not believing in the possibility of change.

I get it.  I understand and I in no way judge the man on the tracks.

But I have to have hope.  I have to believe that no matter how dark things get there is always a part of us that stays good, that wants to live and soar and thrive.  It might be a very small part of us, but it is there all the same.

I am sorry and sad for you, man on the tracks.  I hope you found peace.

Blog Post # 16 – What We Say We Want

We say we want to be more physically fit.  

But we hit the snooze bar and skip the gym.

We say we want to eat more healthily.

But when the waitress comes, we order the french fries.

We say we worked hard and put in an 11 hour day.

But we really spent a good chunk of the day posting on Facebook and surfing the web.

We say we want to spend more time with our kids.

But when we are with them, we play around with our little electronic device.

We say we want to save more money and build an emergency fund.

But when we “have” to have something, out comes the plastic.

We say we want to read more and to keep expanding our mind.

But when House of Cards drops, we are all in.

This is us.

Too often living in the space between what we say we want and what we actually do.


Blog Post # 15 – Small Victories

Grand declarations of future changes rarely do me much good.

I often get excited about a new project, only to have the excitement wane and my interest in said project diminish significantly.

Interestingly, the declaration and excitement frequently stem from an overall frustration about the topic at hand.

Example – if I have been lazy and lounging around for an extended period of time, I will make some crazy declaration that I am going to run every day for a month.  I will run a few days, get a bit sore and tired and then forget about my prior declarations.

For me, the greatest changes come about when I make a minor tweak as opposed to wholesale (yet short lived) change.

Getting up a bit earlier to give myself time to focus.

Walking around the block at work in order to clear my head.

Tracking the spending I do each day instead of swearing off trying to craft the most elaborate budget ever.

Small victories tend to stack up and that is where I find my greatest successes.  

If I am not willing to make a small change today, I most likely won’t stick to the enormous change that I have professed to make.

Today, let me search for the small tweak, the little change, the minor improvement.

If I improve a little bit today and a little bit more tomorrow, change will materialize.


It may not come as quickly as I like, but it will be a lot more sustainable.  This I know to be true.

Blog Post # 14 – Paying Attention


Is it real?  Is it attainable?  Is it the best way to get things done?

I’m beginning to think that the answer to these questions is no.

We live in a world now where many, many things vie for our attention.

Look here.  No, look over there.  Hey, what’s that thing that I was supposed to do last night?

We try to keep it up.  We try to get it all done – on time and under budget.

We open our 12th web browser so we don’t miss what’s happening on Facebook.

We check our email while talking on the phone with a client.

Dr. Ned Hallowell, a leading expert on paying attention, explains that the most precious resource that any of us has is attention.  Every day, we have to decide what to focus on.

Lately, I’ve been trying to pay attention to how I pay attention.  And I have come to believe that the truth is that I can only get one thing done at a time.

That I get more done when I do things one at a time.

Steady, slow (and focused) wins the race.

In a world clamoring for our eyeballs, our ears, our minds, this can be tough.

But I think this approach is what works best for me.  How about you?

Blog Post # 13 – If You Aren’t Nice

“None of this matters if you aren’t nice.”

A gentle reminder that we use from time to time at our house.

Working extra hours and making more money doesn’t matter if you aren’t nice.

Volunteering to coach the kids’ baseball team after a long day at work doesn’t really matter if you aren’t nice when you come home.

If you aren’t nice, it doesn’t really matter how big the house is, how special you try to make the birthday celebration or how many errands you run.

Grammatically, this reminder may be less than stellar.

But it gets the job done.

When we lose our temper, say an unkind word or sarcastically roll our eyes, it can instantly wipe out whatever good will we have built with the people that we love.

Sadly, that’s all that it takes sometimes to devalue – in an instant – the goodwill or love that we have built up in our partner, our kids or our co-workers.

Everybody loses their temper sometimes.  It is impossible to be nice 100% of the time.

But we can pause for a split second before saying or doing something that is not particularly nice.

That split second could make the difference between how the person that we are interacting with feels about us and about themselves.  

And if we are nice, we probably don’t have to work as hard, make as much money or have that big house.  The people that are important to us won’t care about that.  

They will just be happy that we were nice.  

And that’s what they will remember.