Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Act Like You've Been There Before

Isaiah Mustafa is a name you may not know, but you probably know his face. He is the man on today's Old Spice commercials. You might also recognize him from his appearance in the film, Horrible Bosses.You may even remember he played in the 1997 Rose Bowl for the Arizona State Sun Devils and went on to play for the Titans, Raiders and Browns -- albeit on their practice squads. He recently was interviewed for a magazine article and shared some insights about the role his father and other male role models have played in his life.

He shared how his dad used to support the family as a limousine driver. He even dropped him off at school in a limousine once when he was in first grade; the other kids thought he was famous. His dad gave him a status in the school community, even if it was an accidental event.

Mustafa credited a football coach with some advice he still uses to live his life. The coach told him, "If you score a touchdown and do a crazy dance in the end zone, it tells a story. The story is that guy's never been there before. Instead, flip the ball to the ref, run back to the huddle and make your next play -- act like you've been there before."

It's interesting to watch all the dances, celebrations, leaps and taunts that NFL players exhibit after they sack a quarterback, intercept a pass or score a touchdown. As I view these gyrations, I appreciate the words of the wise coach who schooled his receiver, "Act like you've been there before." There is something to be said about the player who makes an excellent play and then calmly goes back to the huddle to do it all over again. The message is simple, but it comes through loud and clear: I've done it before and I'll do it again.

Perhaps this is a lesson we can pass on to our children: do you best, always. If you are a receiver, you are expected to make touchdowns. When you do, don't act like it's the first time you've seen the end zone. Instead, show others it's simply the last time you've scored, and there's plenty more where that came from.

In today's society we tend to think short term, focusing only on today's task. We often lose sight of the broader horizon and the knowledge that success comes with hard work and persistence. Maybe we can teach our children that the quiet dignity of a job well done is its own reward. Simple and understated, it makes the doer look like he regularly gets the job done right, and there should be no surprise he did it again.

On the other hand, there are those individuals who rarely get noticed for their unsung jobs. Let's hold the end-zone jigs and nutty dance moves for those rare times when a defensive player picks up the fumble and lumbers in to score.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Flowers for You

Recently a speaker posed a question to his audience: "Ladies, suppose your husband came home one day and held out a bouquet of flowers for you. What would you think?" Without hesitation and with one voice, the women in the crowd shouted, "What did you do now?"

Guys, are we really that predictable?

Now it isn't that men haven't ever given women gifts like flowers. We are guys and we can give gifts if we have to, especially during the dating process. When we meet that special lady we want to spend our life with, we draw upon resources buried deep down inside and perform that which will put us in good stead with our intended. We give her flowers, hold doors open, return phone calls and even write letters. That's right. We can do some pretty amazing things.

But somewhere after the "I dos" we seem to fall into a lackluster routine when it comes to wowing the lady of our dreams. We tend to lapse into a mentality that says, "I love you. I said it once. If it changes, I'll let you know." Oh, once in awhile we step up and give her a surprise. For example, when my first child was born I gave my wife a dozen roses; after number two came around I gave her a dozen daisies; after number three I gave her a potted plant, and after number four I went the plastic flower route -- just in case number five came along, I was covered. Yep, we can rise to the occasion when we have to.

I did hear of one man whose wife had terminal cancer. He dug gardens all over the backyard and planted flowers so that no matter what the season, she could look out and see blooms. He also made sure there was a bouquet of fresh flowers on the kitchen table every day for her. He did this for three years until she passed away. He refused to buy funeral flowers. He said he had given her the flowers when she could appreciate them. Though this may sound extreme, is it really? You decide.

Still, perhaps we can hit a happy medium?

How about this? After you read these few words, why not go out to the grocery store, buy a nice bouquet of cut flowers, bring them home and present them to your wife? Then let us know what she says. You can send us an e-mail at

Now if there is no wife, how about calling your mom, your sister, your aunt or some other woman in your life just because, and for no special reason. I bet that would be as unexpected as flowers.

Doing fun and unpredictable things for the women in our life lets them know what they mean to us.

And that's a good thing, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9/11 ... Plus Two Days

Last weekend I joined my brothers and sisters around the world in honoring the memory of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of 10 years ago. It was hard not to show emotion as family members were ushered into the Memorial to find, remember and honor their fallen family member. It was hard not to show emotion as the children read the names of the lost and added their personal comments and memories. It was hard not to show emotion as the bells tolled in the peaceful countryside of Pennsylvania as the heroes of Flight 93 were remembered. It was hard not to show emotion as I viewed the wreckage of the Pentagon. It was an emotional weekend.

I was one of millions that watched the documentary made by Jules and Gedeon Naudet, two brothers who started out documenting the "coming of age" of a young New York firefighter and ended up documenting American Airlines Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The film also included scenes from inside the North Tower lobby when the South Tower collapsed. The scenes were graphic reminders of the magnitude of destruction that happened on that day.

The filmmakers remarked how they were trying to document the journey from boy into man as they followed the life of a single firefighter. They expected the journey to last many months but, instead, the boy grew into a man in one very long, very tragic day.

It dawned on me that many of us have grown because of the circumstances we face. We have faced natural disasters: fire, floods, hurricanes, tornados, blizzards and all other manner of natural disasters. These calamities have tested our courage, will, resources and faith. We have been victims of crime and violence that lead us to thoughts of revenge and retribution. We have heard doctors share a diagnosis -- either for us or our loved ones. The doctor calmly sets out a course of treatment, looks us in the eyes and ends with the words, "We can't guarantee results." The words "courageous" and "hero" have been used many times in the last few days and with good reason. I would apply those words to all of us who have faced the trials that life hands out, as well.

It also occurred to me how the truly courageous man is the one who lives his life with integrity and transparency. He resists the changing winds of popular culture and the fickle nonsense of public opinion; he seeks a steady course. In so doing, he leads his family, performs his work and influences his community with word and deeds that strengthen and build up. His life inspires others -- not because he's a well-known national hero -- but because of the courageous life he lives every day -- with his wife, with his children and when he's alone.

What the courageous man gives contributes to the benefit of everyone he knows. He makes a difference, and the world is better for it.

Thank you for your courage and heroism.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lessons Learned Bowling

With more than 100 million bowlers in some 90 countries -- 2.6 million of those in the United States alone -- bowling is certainly one of the world's most popular sports. Tracing its long history down through the centuries, the earliest form of bowling balls and pins found thus far come from an ancient Egyptian boy's tomb. Today's bowling interest can be traced back to the movie Grease 2. This 1982 film was responsible for a new generation of youth bowlers, which has fueled the increase of bowlers since then. Another more recent boost for the sport came when Wii introduced a modern version of virtual bowling in its gaming system. Wii bowling is enjoyed by game players aged 2 through 92; it even inspires players to try their hand at the real deal.

I rolled my first strike when I was eight years old when my class went on a field trip to the local bowling alley. It was in the fifth frame, and I've been hooked on the game ever since. I started league play when I was in sixth grade, joining a father-son league with my dad. I graduated to a mixed couple's league in high school, on to a men's team in college and, finally, a Friday night league with the guys. Over the years I have learned some valuable life lessons at the bowling alley:

1. Boundaries count. Stepping over the foul line will activate a buzzer and announce to the world that one committed a foul. There is no "wiggle room" here. Once the boundary is crossed, the penalty is assessed. Too often in life we try to wiggle out of the consequences of crossing the boundary and breaking the rules.

2. It is about the team. No matter how good or bad I scored, it took a team to win the championship. Each one of the championship teams I was a member of had one thing in common: it was a team win. Over the span of the season, each member took his or her turn leading the way. Too often the emphasis is placed on the individual, not the team.

3. It is not how hard you throw the ball, but how accurate you are. I've watched bowlers hurl a lightweight ball down the alley as hard as they could, only to erratically hit the pins or dump it in the gutter. I've also watched kids push the ball down the lane with two hands and get a strike. It is all about how accurately the ball hits the pins. Too often in life, problems are approached with a heavy hand, when a light and precise touch is what is needed.

4. Shoes have to slide. If a bowling shoe sticks and doesn't slide on the approach, the bowler risks serious injury. In life too sometimes we need to slide and not worry about the steps.

5. It is my privilege to be the dad of a man who has bowled a perfect game. That's 12 strikes in a row, and it ain't easy. I am proud of his accomplishment, for it takes concentration, skill and patience to bowl a perfect game. I am also proud of him as he demonstrates the same qualities of concentration, skill and patience as he leads his family and raises his son.

Who would have thought all those hours spent in the alley would have paid off?