Water Shortage

Posted on Monday, January 7, 2008 at 05:05AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment

As I have mentioned, I live in Atlanta. The predominant news story coming out of Atlanta for months was the draught. Atlanta and Georgia have a water shortage. As it turned out, if not for significant rain at the end December, last year (2007) would have been Georgia’s driest year on record. Even with the last minute precip the record was only missed by tenths of a point.

My house came with a sprinkler system in the front yard. I added one to the back yard, shortly after moving in. But over the last two summers I’ve not even turned on the sprinklers (in 2006 because it rained so much and in 2007 because of an outdoor watering ban due to no rain). The sprinkler systems doesn’t look like a great investment at this point.

I recall former Georgia Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate, Mike Bowers, in a speech I attended 10 years ago, say that water was going to be one of Georgia’s biggest challenges in the future. Mr. Bowers was spot on with that prediction. This summer the unprecedented (at least in 53 years) water issue had all the politicians stirred up. The current Georgia governor, Sonny Purdue even made The Drudge Report when he organized a public prayer for rain outside the Capitol in Atlanta.

But the water shortage I’m referring to here today is not the one that makes the lakes and reservoirs low. It is,rather, the one that lowers your physical and mental performance. If I asked you right now how much water an adult should drink in a day; you are likely to answer: 8 cups or eight 8oz servings. And, in fact, The Mayo Clinic agrees (other medical authorities recommend more or less). And I heard a guy on NPR last week say the 8-cups-per-day recommendation is a myth. The truth is water intake requirements of each person’s body are not necessarily the same and are effected by health factors and exercise levels.

I have long espoused the benefits of water (drinking not yard irrigation). My strong belief that drinking a lot of water each day is important comes from personal experience, not from myths or research studies. I have learned that I feel better; I can exercise harder and longer; and I think more clearly when I drink lots of plain, straight water.

I am a runner, the kind of runner who does 3 or 4 miles 3 or 4 times per week. Only now I’m not that kind of runner. Lately I’ve been the kind of runner who does 6, 8, 10 mile runs. I am here to tell you that there is no way I could run 10 miles without drinking lots of water before I start and even more while I run. I know from experience that drinking lots of water makes me, not only able to run long distances, but to feel good while running, and to recover quickly after.

The other, even more important, reason to throw back the H2O is mental acuity. I tell my daughters that drinking water makes you smarter. And while that may not be technically correct, drinking water does give you access to your intelligence. Drinking lots of water lubricates your recall so that you can quickly pull up relevant information, and do it at the moment you need it. And, even more amazingly, it helps you to do real thinking (not just remembering, but creating). Like in preparation for a long run, to prepare for an important meeting or speech or presentation, I pound down the water before hand. It really does make a significant positive difference.

Get addicted to drinking lots of water. If we drink lots of water maybe we’ll get smart enough to figure a solution for the other water shortage.

Interested and Interesting

Posted on Friday, January 4, 2008 at 07:39AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment

I live in a large suburban subdivision. So when an acquaintance told me she and her husband were moving to my neighborhood, I didn’t know exactly into which house they would be moving. In our short, casual conversation all she said was that the house they bought was in the “old section”. Later, after the date she told me they would be moving had passed, I was running through the neighborhood. I ran down one of the original streets to have been developed. It occurred to me that this was probably where the couple had moved. So (just out of curiosity) as I ran, I looked for evidence in the yards and driveways that would tip me off as to which house they’d bought. I knew what kind of car the woman drove. I also knew the couple’s kids and grandkids and the cars they drove. So I figured I would see one of the people or vehicles.

Several times, over the course of a few months, I ran down that street. But I never saw anything that would identify the house. One day I was running in another part of the neighborhood; and I saw the husband standing out in a driveway. Then it hit me. The “old section” to which his wife had referred was the one near the back entrance, not the front entrance. After that I saw all the clues I’d expected to see on the other street (cars and kids and grandkids, out and about the yard). But the strange thing is that still, when I run down the other street (the street I thought for so long was theirs), even though I now know better, I keep thinking “which is their house?”

This caused me to realize that we get thoughts stuck in our minds. Even things we know to be erroneous, we continue, on some level, to believe. I’ve noticed this behavior in myself, but also in others. On quite a few occasions I have observed that once a person believes a thing, it is hard for him to let it go. Surely, being able to adapt and change is useful (if not essential). But, to varying degrees, we all fall short of doing it.

I noticed that many of the U.S. Founding Fathers and former Presidents lived to advanced ages. Even before modern medicine, when the life expectancy was in the 40’s, many of these men survived and thrived into their 80’s. I have a theory that the thing that enabled them to live long and prosper was a conviction to continue learning. Even among senior citizens I know today, some are sharp and lucid and others are unengaged and stuck in the past. I don’t know if empirical data would bear me out regarding continuous learning extending the length of life. But I know that it improves and extends the quality of life.

The willingness let go of outdated or discredited information and to absorb and assimilate new information keeps a person relevant. The inability to do so causes first a generation gap with younger people and then, eventually, obsolescence.

The world is ever changing, stay interested and interesting.

People with Goals Succeed

Posted on Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 05:58AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment

My Dad has always been an optimist in business. He is an entrepreneur who left a good job, at which he was excelling (top grossing salesman 5 years in a row), to start his own business. That first business failed. But, undaunted, and with lessons learned, he tried again and has a long string of successes on his resume to show for it. When I sent out the Earl Nightingale quote yesterday morning my Dad replied by reminding me that he had been profoundly impacted by Earl Nightingale early in his career. Earl Nightingale invented the motivational audio recording. As so often happens, he did not intend to start a whole new industry. He routinely used his gift of oratory to inspire his own employees. So, when Nightingale planned a long vacation, one of his managers implored him to record some inspirational words to keep the employees motivated in his absence. Thus, the motivational recording was created. Like my Dad, when I was just starting in business, I listened to motivational recordings (Dennis Waitley and Tom Peters among others). I recall that several of them were on a label called Nightingale-Conant – the label Earl Nightingale founded.

A subsequent e-mail from my Dad linked me to a biography of Nightingale, which included this quote:

“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going… It’s as simple as that.”

It occurred to me that a close reading of this quote reveals a hidden truth. It is true that people with goals succeed; it is not, however, necessarily true that people with goals achieve those goals. Nightingale did not say: “People with goals achieve their goals.” He said, “People with goals succeed.” In fact, like my Dad’s first entrepreneurial adventure, the original goal is often not achieved. The plan does not survive contact with reality. Yet, the setting of goals and, more importantly, the setting out on the trail to conquer them, does lead to success. Specific, measurable goals, that are aligned with core-beliefs and that are made public in order to garner accountability, do have a good chance of being achieved. But even goals which are not so well constructed, as Nightingale indicates, lead to success. And the best goals will achieve both the particular desired end and many tangential successes along the way.

We talked on Tuesday about goal-setting and that New Year’s Resolutions are just goals. It is well documented that one secret to success is being able to endure deviations from the path, set-backs, and missed targets. When a goal doesn’t pan-out, look at what good came from the effort then forget what is behind and focus on what is ahead. Press on toward a new goal.

Day 2 and Every Day

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 at 11:02AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment

And so, The New Year has begun.  It is day 2. 

It surprises me how little time in a year is new. There are 12 months in a year but by about day 12 The New Year becomes just the year. Our resolutions and re-invention schemes slip in urgency and slide down the priority list and January, February, March this or that is just another Monday or Thursday. There is only one New Year every 12 months but there are 365 (or 366) new days.  Each one providing an opportunity to do good and be good.

You were not put on this earth to exist from January to December. Each day is an opportunity to live out your reason for being here. Use yesterday’s artificial restart (January 1, 2008) as a wake up call to go in the direction of your destiny. Don’t just make resolutions; resolve to make a revolutionary change in your life for the good. By the way, even if your life is great it can be changed for the better. Neale Donald Walsch said: “The more you are, the more you can become, and the more you become, the more you can yet be.”

Take an inventory. Throw out or repair whatever is not working. Fuel and foster whatever is working. Find your reason for being, set your mind on positive goals and forge intentionally ahead.

Live so that your life makes a difference.

Clocks Calendars and Chaos

Posted on Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 08:28AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment

We, in the Western world, have collectively decided to recognize January 1 as the beginning of the year, thus creating an artificial, if well-accepted, new beginning every 12 months.

One day is really no different from any other except that we make it so. We assign days names and numbers so that we can track our trek through time. We created weeks and weekends and months and years to order and structure our reality. Without recognizing 365 different days in each year (plus February 29 this year) we could not order our existence in our own heads. And we could not coordinate our schedules and events with all the other people in our lives. If all we had to do was find food and shelter we would have no need of Sunday through Saturday. But because we aspire to more complex undertakings and we need interaction with other people; we created clocks and calendars.

I recently had an epiphany while reading the book “Flow”. The book’s premise is that the natural state of the human mind is chaos. It had never occurred to me that our default setting may be chaos. But, once I read the author’s assertions and pondered them, I realized the truth in his premise: If not given something on which to focus the mind does not simply rest. It focuses on our fears and neuroses.

Being an optimist, I like the passage of time. I am always expectant that the new day (and New Year) will bring good change. But good change is not automatic. We must intentionally focus our minds on something positive. I normally eschew New Years Resolutions; but I now think I’m wrong for doing so. The mind must have goals, lest it chaotically search for something on which to focus and find only negative things. Goals give it that positive focal point it needs. And Resolutions are just goals with a dressed-up name.

So, the clocks and calendars say it is a New Year; and the chaos theory says we need goals. Chart your course: Set positive, measurable goals that align with who you are and want to be. And create accountability by telling someone about them.

Happy New Year

(Note: goal-setting is a cool, useful (even essential) exercise. I encourage you to read more about it. There are several good goal-setting books and courses. I happen to like the Franklin-Covey stuff.)

How The System Works

Posted on Monday, December 3, 2007 at 07:36PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment

I am a greeter at our church. I stand out in front of the building and say “good morning” and shake hands as people arrive on Sunday morning. A job, incidentally, which seems less of a good choice the further into winter we get. Each Sunday, before going to our assigned posts, we greeters have a meeting. Last Sunday morning, at that meeting, the head greeter told a story about how a particular individual had told him that he was not getting “fed” (emotionally) by the church. This made the head greeter realize that some people don’t understand how the system works.

Many years ago I read a book by M. Scott Peck in which he wrote when he and his wife were a young, first-married couple they were concerned because they didn’t have any friends. I related to that because, when I read it, I didn’t have any real friends. Peck went on to write that he and his wife (in later life) had more friends than they could even maintain. Fortunately, I also, am blessed, now, abundantly with friendships. And, what I realized was that the quantity and even the quality of your friendships are a barometer of your own personal development. If you want to have a friend, be a friend. And the degree to which you can be selfless enough to be a friend, in large part, determines how many and how good your friendship are.

A little girl went to the mailbox each day with her mom. And she noticed that often, amongst the junk mail and bills, there would be envelopes that her mom was excited to get. They were letters from friends. One day the little girl asked why she never got any letters. Her mom said, “Honey, the best way to get letters is to send letters.” Of course, now its e-mails and texts, but still, the best way to get mail is to send mail.

One of the best known American quotes is John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Ask not what a friend can do for you. Ask what you can do for a friend. Ask not what your church, your community, your family members can do for you. Ask what you can do. How the system works is that only when you serve and give and do for others do you get the blessings for which you long.

Happy Birthday Mr Churchill

Posted on Friday, November 30, 2007 at 08:34AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments2 Comments

Today is Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill’s birthday, better known, of course, as simply Winston Churchill. I have a connection with Churchill that relates, not with the day he was born, but with the day he died. Winston Churchill lived 90 years and 2 months and died on January 24, 1965 – my birthday.

Because of our shared date I have studied Winston Churchill quite a bit. As much as anyone who ever lived, Churchill used his nine decades on earth to change the course of history. I have told the following story before (and it is highlighted in Jim Collins seminal business book “Good to Great”). But it bears repeating.

In May 1940 the Nazis had virtually overrun France, and it would soon fall to Nazi control. The British knew that the Nazi’s were coming for them next. They also knew that they didn’t have the military force or the resources to fend off a Nazi invasion. The U.S. Ambassador to England told Washington that Britain was finished.

Living in the United States today it is hard for us to imagine what the British must have felt. Their country, which had dominated the world for centuries, was about to be conquered by a ruthless enemy. The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain’s, idea of defense was to pacify the Germans. Because of his doomed appeasement strategy, Chamberlain was soon forced to resign. Thus clearing the stage for Churchill.

On May 10th King George VI, who still had governmental authority back then, called Winston Churchill to Buckingham Palace and asked him to form a government (in the British system that means he appointed Churchill Prime Minister of England). Churchill went home that night and wrote in his journal. Now, keep in mind, Churchill had just been given the daunting responsibility of saving his country from almost sure defeat by an awesomely powerful adversary. And he wrote: “Conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I have the authority to give directions over the whole scene.” He was so confident in his abilities, his destiny, and the destiny of England, that he was not apprehensive or terrified by this enormous burden. He was relieved.

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young Churchill
Though, by the time Churchill assumed command, Britain was broke and beleaguered, he took a posture, not just of offense, but of a fierce attacking lion. Winston understood war. He had fought on the front lines and had been a POW in his early years. He later invented the military tank and pioneered the use of aircraft for military purposes. But he also understood politics and people. He did two things that, more than anything else, saved England and the world. First, he went on the radio and rallied the British people. At a time when the Nazis were bombing London, the Prime Minister told his people that Britain would “never, never, never give in.” He told them it was better to die than surrender. And second, he, with personality, intellect and savvy, convinced U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to underwrite England’s war effort (the U.S. would not actually be in the fight until later). churchill.jpg

Had Winston Churchill not saved England from falling to the Nazis, Hitler’s plan to rule the whole world may well have come to fruition. And you and I would now be living under brutal totalitarianism instead of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

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That V is for Victory not peace

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Mr. Churchill.

Einstein Couldn't Drive

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 10:33AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

Once when Albert Einstein’s personal assistant was asked why Einstein did not drive a car, she replied: “Operating an automobile is far too complicated for Dr. Einstein.”

For Dr. Einstein, driving was hard and physics was easy. Unlike Einstein, for me, and a lot of people, it’s the opposite. Like the wild-haired professor, though, I’m pretty sure we are each, individually born with brains which are predisposed to learn some things more easily than others.

In addition to being able to drive a car, I’ve always been able to differentiate and identify one car from another. I can remember, from a young age, looking out the window of my parents’ car and noticing the differences in the vehicles around us. I once commented on a passing car and my dad said, “That’s a Cadillac.” Some time later, when another Cadillac passed, I said, “that’s a Cadillac.” Because I was very young, my dad and mom were astonished that I had identified a car on site. Later in life I honed this innate talent into being able to identify specific year models and trim packages, in addition to the makes of cars.

Each of us has areas in which we learn easily and quickly – subjects on which we absorb data and understand nuances almost effortlessly. For some people its sports, knowing all the players on all the teams, and the stats and standings. For other people its mathematics. For others its fashion or marketing or politics or finance or gardening. For some its music or art. You name it.

Also, as much as we may not enjoy it, we can learn stuff outside of our wheelhouse. If you think about it, driving a car (like Einstein’s assistant said) is complicated. But somehow, even those of us without a pre-disposed talent for it, drive. With the exception of people who live in the few largest cities, most of us don’t have the luxury of not being “able” to operate a car. We have to locomote ourselves from one place to another; and so, even people who don’t have a propensity for it, have learned to drive.

There are an inestimable number of things in this world you or I don’t know and so an infinite number of opportunities to continue learning. And there is no question that we should continue to push ourselves to learn more. If you want to know whether you’ve learned everything for which you were put on this earth. If you’re still here, you haven’t. So the question becomes: Should we push ourselves in the areas of our gifts or should we expend time and energy in efforts to expand our horizons?

Dr. Einstein had no necessity to learn to drive. So he chose to invest his considerable, but finite, mental resources into physics. Similarly, Tiger Woods and Bill Gates became the best by focusing totally on development within their gift sets. But for non-superstars, being well-rounded may pay more dividends.

I guess it comes down to choosing between vertical and horizontal growth. And, obviously, it’s not all of one and none of the other; it’s a mixture. The proportions are the choice. And I have no idea what they should be. You decide.  

Is There Really Any Reason to be Thankful

Posted on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 05:34AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

Considering the economy, the stock market, oil and gas prices, the mortgage meltdown and housing market, terrorism, the war, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, the state of healthcare, immigration, traffic (air and ground), and even a drought where I live (Atlanta), is there really any reason to be thankful?

I woke up this morning. I got out of bed. If you did the same then we both have something for which to be thankful. Add freedom and hope to the list and your cup runneth over. Anything else is really just gravy. There are many, many places in the world where not even these most basic blessings would be yours.

I am willing to speculate, though, that you have a few more reasons to be thankful: Faith, family, friends, fitness, finances. Maybe you don’t feel good about all of these, but if even one is going well, you are blessed. And just as it is your good fortune to live in America (I don’t believe I have any readers living in other countries), it is your good fortune to live at this time in history. Every one of us, likely, turned on the electric light, and the indoor-plumbed water, in our heated homes, this morning.

And if you shook a friend’s hand, hugged your kid, or talked with your spouse today, you are blessed with abundance immeasurable.

Even the New York Times cannot bury all the reasons to be thankful under their doom and gloom bread and butter. I could not believe it. I went to NYTimes.com yesterday and there were 3 positive headlines on the front page. Amazing.

Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs says that once we humans satisfy the basic need (survival) we begin focusing on higher level things. If we are not being hunted by a wild animal, we start thinking about water. If we have water, we start thinking about food. If we have food, we start thinking about shelter. And if we have any of these in abundance, we stop thinking about them at all. We just assume they will be there. An unavoidable byproduct of satisfying a need is that we very quickly take it for granted.

Be thankful that you can afford to take for granted a lot of comfort, convenience, and camaraderie in your life. But don’t feel guilty about taking it for granted. God intended for us to look ahead to the next challenge. Just remember that there are a lot of things underpinning your life and times for which to be thankful.

Fit Into Your Future

Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 05:52AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

Yesterday I asked the question “Who are you?” Today I want to follow that with another question: Who do you want to be? Of course you cannot be whomever or whatever you want. Well, I happen to think that you can. But, for the sake of argument, let’s just say you can’t. But, still, the act of wanting an outcome in your life is a very powerful predictor of realizing that outcome. You are what you think about all day long (Thoreau). So you should probably think about what you want to think about and not just go about your life thinking about random stuff. In other words, focus.

I have found, in my own life, that focusing on an especially specific goal is not very fruitful. I almost never achieve specific targets I’ve set. However, I have found, and maybe this is the same for you, that setting a goal for who I want to be does yield results. Desiring a specific circumstance to evolve does not often cause that circumstance. But desiring to improve myself, desiring to be better at the things I do, desiring to be a better person does often cause that desire to be realized.

The other question to ask yourself is “Who am I willing to be?” It is not lack of volition but abundance of resistance that often thwarts our dreams. We sometimes suffer from a lack of vision but more commonly we suffer from an inability to grow into our vision. I have always found God and man alike willing to help me achieve in this world. It is I who am unwilling to give up my preconceived notions and comforting habits in order to be transformed into someone who fits into a future that would bring fulfillment.

Who are you? Who do you want to be? Who are you willing to be?

Every Millisecond

Posted on Monday, November 19, 2007 at 05:25AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment

Who are you?

That’s it.      Spend the rest of today thinking about it.

Who are you? Do you think it’s obvious or easy? I bet if you do, you’re wrong. It is a question the answer to which is as complex, layered, and nuanced as any imaginable. You may or may not have participated in adventures or experienced extraordinary things, but you have had, for these many years of your existence, a running brain – a mind that works 24/7. And it has been building the you you now are, continuously.

Even when you sleep, your mind dreams. And not only does it work 24/7; it processes at a speed not even approachable by the fastest computer. Thus, all of those days of all of those weeks of all of those years have been filled from get to go, beginning to end, non-stop with thinking (of one kind or another). Even in the moments when you wait for the Lord in stillness, your mind is busy beating your heart, digesting your food, growing your hair, regulating your temperature, replacing every cell in your body, systematically, with new. Who are you? Well, whoever you are, you are being created, ongoing, every millisecond, since your conception.

So it is not obvious or easy. Who you are encompasses every memory, every experience, every aspiration, every thought, every prayer, every interaction you have ever had. Even the ones you’ve forgotten and even the ones you’ve forgotten that you’ve forgotten.

Who are you? I’ve got no way of knowing. But, I would purpose to you that you have a way of knowing (though it may not be easy to get at) and that you should expend the effort to know. Of course, this might take some fact-facing and mirror-looking. And it will not be done in a day or ever. It is a process that should be continuously pursued, and worth every millisecond.

Did You Wake Up This Morning?

Posted on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 11:20AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

Each day you wake up and get out of bed. Maybe you are not a morning person and you hate this part of the day. Maybe, like me, you are a morning person and you relish this time. Either way, I’ll bet you (like me) take the fact that you woke up and got up for granted. There has been a lot written and said about being grateful. Go to the “Self-help” section of a bookstore or flip through the radio or television channels on Sunday morning. There are a plethora of authors and preachers admonishing the readers, viewers, and listeners to be grateful. But are we?

Is your life better today than it was four years ago? That is a famous statement made to the American people watching on television by Ronald Reagan while debating Jimmy Carter in 1980. Think about it now. Is your life better than it was a few years ago? It should be. Maybe a naysayer would argue that, since we are all continuously getting older, we are not getting better. I would say that your mind, spirit, and situation should always be getting better.

Maybe you made some mistakes in your past. We all did. But where you are right now should be better than your past. And, even if its not, your future should definitely be better than your now. Of course, you will have to abandon those self-destructive thoughts you’re harboring. A thing not so easily accomplished in the light of total honesty, but well worth the effort (albeit considerable).

Make it your goal today to be more calm, confident, and competent tomorrow, then tomorrow, more so the next day and so on. Note: The goal is not to be more wealthy or successful. It is to be more joyful and peaceful.

If you want to know whether your mission on earth is finished or not: If you’re still alive, its not.

Thank God you woke up this morning.

Fanatic

Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 04:25AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments1 Comment

I attended a high school soccer quarter-final game a couple of weeks ago. At which I had the misfortune of sitting next to a fan for the other team. Her cheering for the opponent wasn’t the problem. In fact, even if she had been pulling for my team, I would have been almost as unhappy at having to listen to her. To her credit, she was knowledgeable about the game and obviously a devoted follower of her team. But I have to think that the term fanatic (from which “fan” is derived) fit this crazy woman perfectly.

Good coaches know that during a game is not the time to try to verbally orchestrate each move each player makes (strategy, yes. play-by-play, no). This fanatic never learned as much. She continuously yelled, in an impressively loud and obnoxiously shrill voice, specific commands to each and every player, by name. It was as if she was playing a life-sized, voice-activated video game. She was obviously under the impression that, absent her sideline quarterbacking, her team’s members would not know what to do next.

(Note for people not familiar with soccer: Soccer is a continuously and swiftly moving thing. By the time someone could manage to yell out some instruction from the sidelines, the only moment in which that instruction could have been useful is far in the past.)

I know from coaching youth soccer for many years that it is great fun to stand on the sidelines and bark out play-by-play commands. It is great fun for the coach (or fan), but not for the players. I have received some coaching certification training along the way. I had one particular instructor who impressed upon us coaches that virtually all coaching should be done at practice, not at games! If you are trying to modify player behavior in a game, you’re fighting and loosing battle. In fact, it is counter-productive. Soccer is not only fast-moving but so imbued with tension that, for the players, being yelled at is rarely anything but distracting. There has been a great deal said and written about being in “the zone” or “the groove” or “the flow”. Let me tell you, having a coach or fan yell incessantly at you does nothing so much as it disrupts the flow.

I would bet that if the players at whom this woman was yelling, were asked, they would say that she is a lunatic and drives them to the same fate.

The one exception is to loudly compliment players and teams on smart or well-executed plays. This kind of fanaticism adds fuel to the flow. Other than that, shut up and enjoy the game. Don’t make it about you by your oratory. Appreciate the skill and effort of the players.

About Half

Posted on Monday, October 29, 2007 at 02:47PM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

Many years ago I heard Wayne Dyer say: “No matter what you do about half the people are gonna like you and about half are not”. That was a big revelation for me. I was raised to believe that you should strive to be liked by everyone. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to be liked by everyone. I spent even more time and energy worrying about not being liked by everyone.

Internalizing the concept that it’s okay for some people (even half of them) to not like you is tough.

And it’s important, I think, to guard against actively giving people reason to dislike you. It may be more accurate to say about half the people are bound to disagree with you. It may not be true that the “anti” half disagree with, rather than dislike you; but it is easier to accept.

One of the interesting things about this is that in trying to win over the half that aren’t for you, you may very well run off some of the half that is (or was) for you. In fact just demonstrating behavior that is so needy as to attempt to be liked by everyone will turn off a significant number of people.

Some will condemn you for being too nice/soft/wimpy others will condemn you for being too mean/tough/inflexible. (Let me interject that we are talking about likes and dislikes that arise from policy and personality not from bigotry.) At your work, in your community, even in church (maybe especially in church), and certainly in politics, there will be disagreements between honest, decent people. Taking a stand on this issue or that will separate you from certain people and not taking a stand will cause people not to respect (read like) you.

Let’s reemphasize: No matter what you do…!

Sound Proof

Posted on Friday, October 26, 2007 at 09:28AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | Comments6 Comments

Loud music, yelling, slamming doors, they are all obnoxious. And they are all therapeutic. I am a big fan of listening to my music loud. When my wife and I first got married we lived in an apartment. She came home from work one day and complained that she could hear my music from the parking lot (our apartment was upstairs and on the opposite side from the parking lot). I just read an article about a hotel chain that is differentiating itself from competitors by building properties with foam-filled block and thick wallboard, in order to dampen the travel of sound waves from room to room. My apartment neighbors would have appreciated that. Fortunately for them, I moved to a house a couple of months later.

We like and benefit from sound in the form of music. From the deep thumping bass at one end of the continuum to the clear, crisp, high, rapid-fire, guitar notes at the other, from Revelry to Taps, from the gong that starts AC/DC’s “Hells Bells”, to church bells, from a whining harmonica to haunting bag pipes, classical, rock, country, blues, jazz, sound as music affects and impacts us.

We all know intuitively that singing aloud is enjoyable. I read recently that singing is a natural anti-depressant. Admittedly, one of the reasons I like to turn my volume knob to 11 is that my singing only sounds good if the stereo speakers are burying my voice beneath the correct tones and timing.

Sounds other than music are important too. I believe in self-control. I don’t respect people who yell and slam doors reflexively. But I do think, in the right circumstance and mood, these behaviors are healing (maybe even necessary). I am not sure it is ever justifiable to yell at another person (though a case could be made), but the vocal release of frustration that just yelling (at no one) provides is beneficial. Likewise, slamming a door hard and loud is like throwing open a pressure valve. It uncorks us.

At least part of the reason that we like mechanical things is the sounds they make. I grew up loving muscle cars with their deep, ¾ cam, glass-packed exhaust note. Now the kids like screaming, sewing-machine-sounding street racers. I can understand that too; because I loved the 2-stroke yell of my Yamaha 175, as a kid. The motorcycle sound that lights my sonic fire now is Harley’s low, slow rumble at idle and, of course, that mallet-pounded-timpani burst when the throttle is rolled back (I don’t ride, just listen).

The space shuttle Discovery docked with the International Space Station yesterday. The sound of a space shuttle liftoff is something I’d like to experience. I bet that blast of noise and vibration powers right through ya.

Silence is essential and the key, I think, to becoming aware of oneness with God. But sound has a place and a role in our lives. It is important to us. We need it.

Consuming Commitment

Posted on Monday, October 22, 2007 at 04:52AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

When I was a kid my grandfather’s house was on Niskey Lake. My brother and I used to enjoy going to his house. That’s where we had our first experiences with fishing and canoeing. I remember feeling like I was moving, while actually standing still on the stone sea wall (a sensory illusion created by the breeze blowing ripples across the lake). I don’t know how many fish we caught there; but it was several. For whatever reason, my brother continued to enjoy fishing, as we grew up, and even still. I did not.

Over the summer my family went on vacation in the North Carolina mountains with some friends. We stayed in a house on a small lake, about the size of Niskey Lake. My friend brought fishing poles and gear. He showed my daughters how to fish. They loved it. Each girl caught fish. I hung out at the dock some, to be around my kids. I even baited a couple of hooks and took a fish off the hook for one of the girls.

At one point my friend was frustrated that bait-fish were not hitting the worm on his line. He reeled in the line and held the pole so that the hooked worm hung at eye level. As the worm dangled in front of his face he said, “Get out there and do your job!” (A job, not incidentally, in which success is achieved by being consumed)

I once knew a man who grew up in his family’s business in California – a nationally-known business which bore his family’s name. He rose to president of the company. It did very well. But, at forty-something, in a shocking move, he left the company and changed jobs and industries. Though successful, he didn’t have a passion for the family business. And, to his credit, defied inertia and expectations and got out.

Most people are like that worm. They work at jobs they don’t like. They are hooked by accumulation of experience in a field, hooked by accumulation of contacts in an industry, hooked by accumulation of seniority and benefits at a company, hooked by the good opinion of family and friends, but, like the worm, not at all enthusiastic about getting out there and doing their jobs.

The worm really didn’t have a choice. But you and I have a choice. Choose to do what you love, because, if you are going to be successful (in the best connotation of the word), you, like the worm, have to be consumed. And you’ll never accomplish that level of commitment without loving what you do.

Pure Altruism

Posted on Friday, October 19, 2007 at 06:45AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

There was an episode of the television show M*A*S*H in which David Ogden Stiers’ character, Charles Winchester, stealthily delivers chocolates to an orphanage on Christmas Eve. This practice, he later explains, is a family tradition. And it is of the utmost importance to the tradition that the Winchesters not be known to be the orphans’ chocolate benefactors, because to receive credit for the act of charity would taint its purity.

Is altruism, charity, or benevolence ever pure? Is there such a thing as doing an act of kindness solely for the doing of it? Jesus warned against making a spectacle of oneself by conspicuously praying in public, just to be seen praying (Matthew 6:5-8). By the same principle, the most egregious example of what I’m putting forth here would be to extend charity in a flamboyant attempt to show off. Most of us are far too secure, sincere, and couth to be so flagrantly self-serving. So let’s look at a more subtle scenario.

As the story goes, When a famous psychologist (could have been Freud ) was asked what course of treatment a depressed person should follow. He did not give the expected answer of “see a psychologist”. Instead he said, “Go find someone worse off than you and help them.” This advice illustrates what we already know: even if no one sees you do good, you still get a benefit – an internal, emotional benefit.

It is natural and right that helping others helps us. So where is the line? When is benevolence for the receiver and when is it for the giver? The practical answer is that there is not a clear line. It is always for both. It is undeniable that doing good works makes one feel good. But is that right? Is it really purely altruistic if you get a payoff from doing it?

If the only pure act of kindness is one that is exclusively for the benefit of the receiver, then how can we, as the giver, produce such a pure act? I don’t know the answer. We’ve all heard the old saying: “This is gonna hurt me worse than it hurts you.” The converse would be: “This is gonna help me more than it helps you.” I happen to think the system is designed so that, paradoxically, the less you are motivated by getting from your giving, the more you get. But I still wonder if “pure altruism” is possible.

Albert's Year

Posted on Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 04:20AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

I can vividly remember sitting in my desk in the 4th grade at Chapel Hill Elementary School, staring out the window and daydreaming. I was daydreaming about how I wanted my life to be. Daydreaming about making good grades (without studying), being a great athlete (without practicing), being popular (without trying), being rich (without working), knowing peace (without prayer). I sought to subvert the process – to jump over the slow, thankless drudgery and get straight to the reward. I had this idea that there was a secret, wormhole-like way to get everything I wanted without doing everything I didn’t.

Albert Fert (France) and Peter Gruenberg (Germany) received the Nobel Prize for 743337-1083750-thumbnail.jpg
Albert Einstein 1905
Physics yesterday. Another Albert and German won the same prize in 1921. Albert Einstein won the Nobel, somewhat belatedly, for theories he published in 1905. In fact 1905 is known as Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis – (roughly translated) the Miracle Year.

Virtually all major scientific breakthroughs are accomplished when a very smart person ingests and digests (mentally) all the research that has gone before in a given field and then adds his or her incremental contribution to the cumulative knowledge. It is something akin to adding one page to the top of a stack of books. Most of everything that is known about a given subject has accumulated through the work of many, many people over many, many years. The person who gets today’s prize is just laying another stone along the path.

The Annus Mirabilis is so named because, without adding incrementally to what came before, without benefit from the stack of books, without walking along the path of stones laid by predecessors, Einstein changed everything in the world of physics. It was as if he just pulled his General and Special Theories of Relativity right out of the air, a feat so spectacular and inconceivable that a great case can be made for direct divine intervention. Of course, an equally good case can be made for extraterrestrial alien intervention, too (a la the pyramids). But I digress.

Einstein’s Miracle Year is romanticized even today by people in and out of science because it is one of the most conspicuous examples of thwarting the natural law of incremental gain (that is: anything worth achieving takes time and failure and perseverance, in addition to talent). The Miracle Year is making good grades without studying, being a great athlete without practicing, being popular without trying, being rich without working and being at peace without prayer.  

But, we must not be sucked in by Albert’s 1905. The reality, the truth, still is that in (almost) every situation and circumstance, in every case and field of endeavor, it is only laying stone after stone, one at a time, that accomplishes anything. Study, practice, try, work, pray. The good news is that we can access a miraculous phenomenon, in two parts – not unlike the General and Special Theories.

Part 1: The stone-laying is itself rewarding. The axiom that is as old as it is true: It’s the journey as much as the destination.

Part 2: Once we become proficient at stone-laying, accomplishments and successes will appear, unexpected, along the way.

Cardboard Box - part II

Posted on Friday, October 5, 2007 at 05:44AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment

My older daughter was in kindergarten. In her class the teacher asked the 5-year-old students for prayer requests (Christian school). My daughter came home from school one day and told us that she had requested her class pray that her cat would come home. The days dragged into a week, then two, then three. The cat didn’t come back. And I was Clark%20Feb%202005.JPGsure, by this time, that he wasn’t coming back. I figured he was either dead or had adopted some other family. My daughter is persistent (even relentless at times). Each day she asked her class to pray that her cat would return. I worried. I was afraid that, when he didn’t come back, her faith in the power of prayer would be diminished.

A month after we moved into the new house I had to go on a business trip out of town. I was in a hotel room; sound asleep, after traveling during the day and attending a dinner that evening, when I heard a very unpleasant sound: a phone ringing. At first, I didn’t even know what that awful noise was. But in the time it takes a phone to ring a couple of times, I determined the source of the ringing (my cell phone) and had the presence of mind to realize that a phone call in the middle of the night (3:00am) cannot be good.

Fortunately, I was wrong. A phone call in the middle of the night can be good. It was my wife. It was day 30 since the cat disappeared. And he was back. Well, not all back. He was only carrying about half the weight he left with and was missing some skin (on his nose), probably from a fight. But, all in all, he was in good condition. My wife said he just showed up on the front porch. And, in a repeat of 7 years prior, the dog (same dog) was barking uncontrollably, hair standing on end, at a different glass front door of a different house but at the same cat.

The cats and the dog predated our children. We got the 3 animals, in different months of the same year (1994). We didn’t get our daughters until 1995 and 1998 respectively. The dog, a beagle mix (a breed renowned for loving everyone) adjusted instantly to the human babies. The cats…not so much. Cats are nocturnal anyway and the addition of screaming, stinking, and (later), crawling babies made them all to happy to stay hidden by day and to only come out after dark. In fact, the cats only socialized with my wife and me. Most visitors to our homes, like our kids, never saw them. This brings up an interesting thing about kids. I said my daughter prayed for her cat to come back. But the cat never had anything to do with her (much to her chagrin).

My daughter’s faith in prayer was not diminished. It was amplified. In a lot of ways the cat that left, the cat that she’d prayed would return, did not come back. Instead, the cat she wished he had been showed up in his stead. Not only did the cat come home (answered prayers); he had a totally different demeanor (minor miracle). He loved the kids. He followed them around. He slept in their beds. He purred as they petted him. DSC04723.JPGAnd he still does. The female cat died in September of 2004, after living a long, happy life. And the big male, who was gone for 30 days, lives still – happy, healthy, and (since his return in 2001) sociable. He and the dog even get along.

There are (at least) two morals to this story. One, I’ve already pointed out: prayer works. The other is a lesson my entrepreneurial friends know well: Some time spent in the abyss makes you a better cat (or person). Jesus had his 40 days in the desert; Churchill had his “Wilderness Years”; Reagan had the Carter term; my cat had August 2001. And all were made stronger and better by the tough times. Indeed, I have come to believe that realizing your potential necessarily involves this kind of experience.  

A Cardboard Box

Posted on Thursday, October 4, 2007 at 05:01AM by Registered CommenterLon Langston | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

On a cold night in December of 1994 my dog started barking at the front door, a normal occurrence. But this time it was different. Her voice had that inflection of urgency in it. The hair on her back popped up into a Mohawk. Each bark lifted her front feet off the tile. With some trepidation, I went to the door and looked out (without opening it). I wanted to know what was out there before I removed the barrier between us and it. I didn’t want whatever was outside in; and I didn’t want my dog out. I flipped on the porch light and peered through the glass…nothing. The area on the other side of the door was well lit and the glass large and clear; but I couldn’t spy anything unusual.

Then I looked down. There, on the wooden floor of the porch, to the left of the front door, was a box – a cardboard box. I opened the door, not enthusiastically, and investigated. Inside the box were two kittens. About the same time I realized it was kittens so did my dog. She flew out the door, bounced off my leg in her haste, and tore into the box with much sound and fury. Dog and cats went everywhere. By this time my wife was on the porch, as well. The 5 of us (2 cats, 1 dog, my wife, and me) exited the porch in 5 different directions. The cats (unwittingly) put a great move on the pursuing hound – they split up and ran for two separate trees.

When the fur stopped flying there were 2 cats in 2 trees in my front yard and my dog was oscillating between the trunks, barking ceaselessly, as my wife and I stood dazed, looking on. Somehow (I don’t recall the details) my wife and I managed to capture and contain the dog and pry the kittens off the pine trees.

We got an old heating pad from the back of the cabinet, under the sink, in the upstairs hall bath; and put it in the cardboard cat box, which we left on the front porch. With the immediate situation in control, we went to bed, telling ourselves we would find the cats homes in the next few days and be done with them.

After some amount of time passed (I don’t know how long) we decided we would keep one cat for ourselves and only give away one. Some more time passed, we did not make much of an effort to give away any cats. Within a short time both felines (a male and a female) were comfortably living in climate-controlled luxury as our permanent pets.

Seven years later we moved from that house to another. The first or second day in the new house the male cat escaped. All of their lives these cats lived indoors until, maybe 743337-1069458-thumbnail.jpgtraumatized by the move, the one left the comfort of the house and took off into the night. When he did not return the next day, we mounted a search. My wife, daughters, and I went from house to house calling “kitty kitty” and asking the neighbors if they’d seen him. We even had a mug shot of the cat to flash our new neighbors (not that cats are particularly unique in appearance). 

to be continued