Friday, March 17, 2006

She's Not Fat!

(click photo to enlarge)

"If you weren’t so fat you’d be married by now." "You keep eating like that and your boyfriend will need a pickup truck just to take you out for a movie." Ouch! These comments are not the kind of thing any woman would like to hear, much less from the men they live with.

Years ago my son came home after spending some time with one of the young ladies in his church youth group. He began to share his concerns about the low self-esteem his friend was exhibiting. "Dad, she is continually putting herself down. No matter what I say to encourage or compliment her, she doesn’t seem to accept it."

Young teenage girls are in the transition of a lifetime as they mature into womanhood. They are often extremely conscious of their appearance and their progress. They may not outwardly say it but many of them subconsciously are measuring themselves against the Hollywood portrayals of beauty and perfection. Their chemistry is like that of the roller coaster ride at an amusement park. They can be fine one minute and the next you’d be best to leave the room. They try on four outfits just to get ready for school. They spend countless hours working on perfecting hair and makeup. They constantly are aware of even the smallest of perceived flaws.

Upon further investigation, my son found out that this young lady with the constant negative self image had a bigger problem. Come to find out, much of what she thought of herself had been nurtured at home. She had a dad and a brother who enjoyed spending their free time teasing the only daughter in the house. At dinner time she’d be teased. On the way to church, she was teased. It didn’t matter when or where, it was common practice in that home to belittle the daughter.

I’m not the perfect dad but one thing I try to do is to be one of the most positive architects of my daughter’s self-esteem. Her brother has been programmed to also help with that. It's not easy sometimes but it's our job as men in this house to be the builders not destroyers of love and acceptance. It has been my journey through life to often use sarcasm or cutting remarks in my humor. The problem is, when it comes to my family, I don’t want them to find themselves on the other end of that verbal sword.

We have a rule in this house. Of all the places on earth, our home will be the safest place for any of us - spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Nobody is to spend unnecessary time fighting (not that we don’t get to fight once and awhile) over ridiculous issues. We are not to cut each other down and we are to go out of our way to lift each other up. (Unless it’s one of our comedy routines that we often practice on each other) Very few conversations leave out the words, "I love you," when hanging up our cell phones. We try to say it to our kids constantly and they say it back as well. I try to make sure my children don’t build their self esteem on things they can’t change. True worth and beauty is internal.

Unfortunately for this young lady, she will have a very difficult time in life, especially if she gets married. She’s been programmed to believe no man finds her attractive and even if she falls in love, she may constantly battle the belief that her husband truly loves her just as she is. Worse yet, she will probably become attracted to another man just like dear old dad. He’ll continue where dad left off and she’ll always find herself the butt of his humor.

The apostle Paul wrote that we are not to let the world conform us. He goes on to say we are to be transformed by the renewing of our thinking. . Conformed means outward pressure applied inwardly. Transformed is inward pressure applied outwardly. You can wear as many nice clothes as you can afford along with makeup and jewelry but, if inside you see a defective human being you won’t be happy. The most precious ground for nurturing beauty is on the inside. It’s not tilling the top soil with makeup, clothes, exercise, and hairdos. The real beauty is found from nurturing the deeper layers of our inward person. Many of us need to help renew some of the thinking that our daughters and sons exhibit.

Do me a favor today and apologize to the men, women, wife, daughters, and sons in your life for the times you’ve made them the butt of your jokes. If you don’t know how to apologize, just ask me. I have to do it all the time. Then I want you to make sure not a day goes by where you aren’t busy being the architect of your family’s positive self image. You’re the leader. LEAD!

I wrote the poem seen above while sitting in the parking lot of my bank. It just started coming to me as many of my random creative ideas do. Read it to your daughter(s) and constantly remind her that she's your princess.

Posting comments is welcome below.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Father & Son

Andy & Dad Boundary Waters (click to enlarge)

Time together

I remember the time I had to teach my son the consequences for something he had done. Andy was about 4 years old when he and his little neighborhood buddy were found running circles through our front and back yard. I couldn't figure out how they were able to accomplish this without going through our garage or house. Because there is an in-ground pool in the backyard, our fence had no gate. The only access was via our patio door or the garage.

I decided to investigate the situation and upon closer observation, I found the problem. Well, it was a problem for me. For Andy it was an opportunity. He and his friend had busted loose a few boards from the privacy fence and commenced to crawling through it as they escaped into the neighbor's yard. Now I had a dilemma on my hands. Do I scream, holler and get angry? Or, do I relax and think of a creative way to offer another of life's lessons? I chose the latter.

I got Andy's attention along with his friend George and we gathered a couple of nails and a hammer. I also went into the house to retrieve my camera. Out to the scene of the crime we went as I informed Andy that busting holes in the fence is not the preferred way to be entertained. I told him he was to nail the boards back on but not until I took a picture. There he and George posed, like two innocent kids waiting to undo their misdeed. Their picture, one kid with the hammer the other with the evidence, was perfect.

The boys fixed the fence and later I had the picture developed so I could tape it up in Andrew's room. I informed him the picture was a reminder to not make the same mistakes his dad seems to often make. "Think before you act." The lesson wasn't about the fence but rather a bigger lesson about life. Our actions need to be thought through because life has consequences. Some are good and some are bad. Some we can undo and some we can't.

Soon Andy is turning 21-years-old and I'm proud to say that my son seems to have learned his lesson. Although he is often anxious as any young man to make his own decisions, he usually is careful enough to seek advice before he acts.

It takes time to grow up, time to teach, and it takes time to learn. Take some time today and find a creative way to teach a child another one of life's lessons. Being creative can also make it much more memorable. Remember, as men it's our job to make a positive impact on the next generation. I believe not enough of us are are taking our job seriously.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

My New Truck & A World Class Prince

1964 Ford F100 43,k original miles
A World Class Prince

"What kind of truck are you interested in?"... asked the stranger at my door last Thursday. I replied that I've got my eye on a 1964 Ford F100 that has 43,800 original miles. I found it on and it was sitting at a farm in North Dakota. My car had been for sale in my driveway for some time now and on the little sign in the rear window I'd indicated the reason for selling my car was that I wanted to buy a truck. Obviously this stranger had stopped to read my sign. I thought maybe he was going to ask to test-drive my '96 Lincoln Continental but that wasn't the case. He was interested in something else. One, he was going to proceed to tell me about a camper van and a pickup that he wanted me to consider buying. Second, he needed a friend and would turn out to be an unusual character and a world class prince.

While I wasn't interested in buying anything but the truck I'd found online, I was polite enough to practice my listening skills as this interesting, rather unkempt fellow, began to unfold more than just an opportunity to sell me something. While we stood and visited on my front step, another person interest in my car strolled up to the house with word that he was prepared to buy it then and there. I was anxious to make that happen since I'd been waiting a long time to find a buyer and knew the owner of my future prize pickup wouldn't wait forever for me to buy from him. The kindly older gentlemen sat quietly by as I made it clear to my '96 Lincoln Lotto Winner, that I wasn't interested in shaving off much of my asking price. We agreed to a $50 discount and the deal was done.

Before the older gentlemen left, he introduced himself as Chuck and informed me he would come back another day to strike up our conversation where we left off. This guy was very articulate which didn't match his appearance at all. I really didn't think much of his promise to come back nor did I believe he would. I had made it pretty clear that I had my heart set on this North Dakota truck. At the time I didn't realize it but this world class prince had no intention of fading into the backdrop of my neighborhood landscape. He was back two days later in his beat up old Mustang.

"JL, would you like to take a ride with me and go look at the truck I was telling you about?" Let's just say Chuck is persistent. "It won't take long and I'll have you back before you know it." I figured it wouldn't hurt to take a ride down to Northeast Minneapolis just in case this other truck was a hidden treasure. We all know somebody who knew someone that answered a newspaper ad for a '59 Chevy only to find when they got there was discovered a mint condition Corvette hidden under an old tarp in a barn. I wasn't going to miss out on my Corvette even if it came in the shape of an old truck.

Well, I couldn't get into the rusty Mustang until Chuck opened my door from the inside. There was no handle on the outside of my door. That was a switch for me. Usually when I'm being lured into a stranger's car, the door knob is missing on the inside and I begin to imagine my mug on the outside of a milk carton. This car was a real piece of junk. As the transmission literally slipped into gear, we backed out of my driveway and pointed Chucks wheels toward the South.

This is where the story gets interesting. From the time we left my driveway until we returned 40 minutes later, this world class prince never stopped to take a breath as he began to tell me the story of his life. As he chattered a mile-a-minute, my thoughts were, is this what I sound like when I don't know when to shut up? Regardless, it was going to be an interesting ride. The truck we went to see turned out to be more like a Corvair than a Corvette. However, Chuck himself turned out to be a classic old Cadillac.

In the time it took to travel approximately 8 miles round trip, Chuck, this shabbily dressed rather frumpy old man, told me stories that were as far fetched as I'd ever thought I'd hear. From meeting and being hugged by Oprah to being Burt Lancaster's stunt double, I almost started laughing. "Why me Lord? What have I ever done to deserve this?" Chuck rattled on about the meetings he'd had with the Governor and there was the time he ran for public office in California and, don't let me forget the time he was on Jerry Springer. He had also been a regular on the Starsky & Hutch television series. To top things off, he had been one of the founding financiers in the 1960's for what is known today as Esprit. Supposedly this meant he is worth millions on paper. All of this coming from a man driving a beat up old Mustang and wearing the same clothes he'd worn two days earlier.

I've learned over the years that some people just need a friend and it's not my job to judge them unless I'm considering marrying their sister. We arrived back in my driveway and finished our conversation. Just before I got out, Chuck asked if I'd be a world class prince and loan him $5. Now you know where I got the term, world class prince. He used it on me. I said I'd be glad to give him $5 and he didn't have to worry about paying me back. I kind of felt sorry for him not to mention I considered his stories were worth at least $5.

Because we live in an amazing age of technology, I couldn't wait to get into my house and Google my new buddy. Either he was a great liar or...? I've done it before on other people I've met so I thought I'd try it again.

After I read three Googled pages full of websites on the accomplishments of Chuck Hollom, I really did start to laugh. Not at him but at myself. Nothing he had said to me had been made up. I'd seen his ID card for his membership in the Screen Actors Guild and an ID for the Vets Hospital where he'd recently been due to a stroke, so I knew he wasn't lying about his name. He told his stories so fast and with such detail that I remember thinking, "either this guy is a really good con artist or maybe some of this stuff is true." Because the stories all seemed so far fetched, I was leaning toward "con artist."

Why the old beat up Mustang? Why the shabby clothes? Why did he need to borrow money from me? I later told my wife that this man, born in 1941, was probably a lot like me only times ten. He was highly creative as an actor and obviously highly intelligent. He quoted famous people, movie scripts and classic novels as he spoke. Very passionate and smart. His mind never stopped whether it was telling me a story or trying to solve problems of world pollution or world hunger or where I might find another truck.

All of a sudden I felt a real kindred spirit with this stranger who was only a few years younger than my dad. All of a sudden I saw a man that was probably so brilliant and so talented that he had become worthless. Kinda the way I feel when I'm writing for my blog, or my unfinished book, rather than focusing on making money to buy groceries. That may sound strange to you but let me explain. Although I often don't feel highly intelligent, my test scores shown to me by the psychologist that tested me for ADHD and my IQ supposedly ranks me up there with the upper 2% of the world's population. My creative juices that won't give me a vacation for one minute also rank me up there with other creative crazies. Highly creative types with a high IQ either live with great success or they end up sleeping on the couch of a boyhood friend because they're homeless. That's where Chuck's life is at right now. Rarely do guys like Chuck fall into the dark abyss of mediocrity.

Chuck had been to the top and was now on the bottom. I know what it's like to wake up and look in the mirror and think that my life has unlimited potential then right behind me is the battle to follow through with ideas, manage mundane issues such as finances and try to remember the names of the people I just met five minutes ago. I struggle with feeling much smarter than my life seems to measure up to. I know what it's like to have a brain that won't quit thinking about problem solving for me and my friends or family. I forever have lived with the struggle to pay attention while you tell me about your dreams and wishes. In Chuck I saw how I might end up if I don't continue working on my own struggles. I've learned in the last few years that my success in life is going to be found by me depending on many of my friends when I need sanity.

When I feel directionless, as I often do, I go see John Murphy because he seems to always help me focus on a direction. When I need to experience stability I visit my friend Gordy Schmitz because to me he has a calming spirit about him that gives me that feeling of stability. When I need a laugh and to feel protected, I call Brad Winters because he's one of the funniest guys I know which is why I steal his jokes for my own act. He also can be trusted and I'd bet he would cut his own arm off before he'd betray my trust. When I need perspective, Dwight Denyes has been there to remind me of some of his experiences that often square me away. When I need encouragement, my brother Tim has never let me down and always believes in me. Bottom line, I've got about 50 other needs in my life that 50 other friends like yourselves help me fulfill, right down to who I play golf with when I want to feel good about my game.

Why did Chuck come by my house to sell me a truck? He probably didn't know it but what he really wanted was another friend. Someone he could tell his story to and in doing so remind himself that his accomplishments outweigh his defeats. Some people such as myself do tend to talk too much but there's usually an underlying reason. Even if I was a bit skeptical of Chuck, for him it was probably very therapeutic to just hear himself speak of his past successes.

Since our ride in his junker, Chuck's been back to my house for one more visit. That time we went for a ride in my "new" old truck to visit a friend of his who runs a muffler shop. Chuck loved my '64 Ford F100 and understood why I was so insistent on getting it. However, he thought the muffler might be bad. I explained the exhaust was all new but we went for the ride anyway. Turns out the truck is loud because it's equipped with high performance glass packs. For $130 I can get a quieted ride if the day ever comes I want one. Chuck and I had a great ride back to my house and again I heard more stories. It wasn't difficult to listen because I felt like I was needed. He was truly a world class prince who just needed to hear his own story out loud. I understood completely.

Oh, one more thing. When I need a friend to keep me company because I'm planning to take an overnight train ride to Fargo to buy an old pickup, I call Dale Hagenson because he's the kind of friend that's always up for an adventure. The train leaves at 11:10 P.M. and arrives in Fargo, $34 and 4 hours later. "Eddie, (nickname for Dale) don't tick off that mean train lady. She's been drinking."

MY best to all of you my friends. Keep your friendships alive. We need each other from time to time even if it's just to hear ourselves talk. And Chuck Hollom, if you ever find this blog, just know that I think you're a world class prince.

Father - Daughter - The word no.

About being a father.

When I hug her,
I hope I remember
to let her go.

Dad’s tell you things you don’t want to hear. They help you grow up by coaching at a distance while you make small mistakes. They stand by your side when those mistakes are too big to carry alone. They stand in front of you when they’re hoping you’ll avoid a wrong turn. More importantly, they are hoping you discover your unlimited potential.

In her new book, Overcoming Underearning, Barbara Stanny tells her story concerning financial mistakes. Her journey began when a divorce left her with the discovery of a lost fortune and an overwhelming million dollar IRS bill. Barbara is the daughter of Richard Bloch, the founder of H&R Block. Her exhusband had mismanaged her fortune with illegal scams and investments. Now she stood facing a million dollar tax bill and nothing to pay it with.When she went to her father for help and to ask for a loan, her father did something few of us dads would do. He said no.

How does a father who loves his daughter say no to her when she’s in a crisis? He had at one time told her that she would never have to worry about money because she had a trust fund. He had also said not to worry because a "man" would always take care of her. Now here she was appealing to the only trusted man left in her life and he was seemingly abandoning her.Why was this supposedly loving father reacting this way? Maybe it’s because he knew something about his daughter that she needed to discover for herself.

Without explaining the entire book to you, it is one of the best books I’ve ever read on finances, career changes, and vision. It’s not a "how-to" book as much as it is a "how it could be if you only believed in yourself" book. It’s more the psychology behind our beliefs concerning money.

Barbara explains that she ended up changing her life and taking care of that tax bill on her own. What she learned about herself and money was only secondary to her story, in my opinion. The real gem is hidden in the introduction. After her father refused to help her with the loan, Barbara was furious. However, she also writes, "I realize now that his refusal was the best thing he could’ve done for me."

In a round about way, her father’s cliche remark that "a man will take care of you" actually came true. Her dad stood back and realized that his daughter needed to dig deeper into her soul and find her own potential. By not helping her financially, he changed her life for the better. This best selling author of Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money, Secrets of Six Figure Women, and Overcoming Underearning, now has more money than she ever thought possible. And to top it off, she knows what a loving father looks like. He’s the kind of man that learns to let go so daddy’s little girl can find her potential.

Remember guys; you are the only college class your children will attend that teaches them what a father and husband look like. When it comes to our daughters we love to say yes. However, don’t forget the word "no" can also have a positive impact.

The Ostbye & Anderson Reputation

The Rep & The Reputation

So there I am getting ready to tee off on the first hole at Rush Creek, one of Minnesota's finest golf courses. Of the three other gentlemen I've been shuffled in with, only one is a familiar face. The other two are sales reps for the client I was working for. We all know, or at least most of us do, how nerve racking that first tee-box can be. The world is watching and no matter how skillful or awful you are at golf, it's a crap shoot on the first tee.

My head is down. It's a little windy and cool that day. I'm talking to myself as I usually do. I take my club back and with every neuron in my body I try to keep my eye on that ball until it splats against my club mallet and hopefully dribbles forward. That day I was my average self and at least kept it in play.

We're not even to the first green and my cart buddy is telling me what it is he does for our mutual client that is hosting this event. I'm listening, as I always attempt to do, while hoping to retain some of the conversation long enough to not appear ignorant when I nod my head or verbalize a response. Ostbye & Anderson are jewelry manufacturers that have been around a long, long time. Since 1920 to be exact. They have a national and international list of clientele and if you've ever had to empty your wallet to buy a diamond ring, necklace, or bracelet, you've probably seen something that came from their company.

Why was I hanging with these folks? I was hired to consult and produce a roll-out campaign for the Mark Michael Collection and the sales rep in my cart was there to get his first introduction to the print collateral and marketing campaign that we'd prepared for this product launch. On top of that, we were getting to spend a breezy afternoon looking for our little white ball and hoping nobody was falling down laughing at our final score.

Now, out of the blue comes information that I did not solicit which is why I'm writing about Ostbye & Anderson today. I've never forgotten the conversation with this sales rep even though it was last summer and my memory often fails me even just trying to find where I parked my car last.

My cart buddy began to tell me of the reputation that Ostbye & Anderson has in comparison to other companies he represents. What I learned that day was, there would be something even more important to the success of the Mark Michael Jewelry Collection than my clever ads, brochures, commercials, or the individual ring designs. What this manufacturer had was the trust and respect of industry insiders. What this company had was a genuine fan club and I felt like I was meeting it's president. The public doesn't think about it but the Mark Michael Collection wouldn't be available to anyone if those responsible for it's manufacturing weren't trusted and respected.

Have you ever been asked to perform a task for someone you didn't respect or trust? I remember one of my first jobs in high school was to work for the local Volkswagen dealer. I performed new and used car prep and once in awhile I had to go pick up or deliver a car. My boss was a first class jerk. He never handed out compliments nor recognized an "extra mile" effort put forth on my part. He even refused to pay me for an afternoon assignment when he sent me to another city to pick up a vehicle and bring it to the dealership. The guy was a moron. As a result of this guy treating me poorly, I did somethings I shouldn't have just prior to quitting that job. I don't want to admit my childish ways to everybody but lets just say there was going to be a string of new cars sold that had some sort of hidden defect with the rear window defrost. Unfortunately for him, my response didn't help his bottom line or customer service index. I wasn't very nice but neither was he.

If you're like me, there have been times that you've either earned and deserved respect as a businessman or employee, or there've been times you've totally destroyed it. I've always wanted and striven to earn it. Whether or not I've been very good at it or consistent, I'll probably never know. This client of mine was obviously good at it. People don't usually volunteer extra information when striking up a conversation with a complete stranger but that's what this sales rep was doing with me that day.

What was the reputation that Ostbye had that other companies didn't? Supposedly, they pay their bills on time. Supposedly, they cut their reps some slack when mistakes are made on the reps part or God forbid one of them is robbed. Reps in the jewelry business do live a dangerous life. In other words, Ostbye & Anderson treats people the way they want to be treated. Isn't that a novel idea? With several thousand clients all over the United States and Europe, in a business that is always changing and very competitive, this behind-the-scenes business has figured out something more important than paying me for a clever ad or brochure. They've invested in "RESPECT." The net result is, they receive trust and loyalty in return.

My friend, all the marketing in the world, along with the bells and whistles of clever advertising, will not fix a company that people can't respect. It made me feel good to know that there was more to Ostbye & Anderson than just a belief in my consulting and creative work. They actually believed in their people. You don't get far in life just using people. You get far when you believe in them and you show it by respecting them.

They respected me even though many of you who know me, know it's a crap shoot. My creative brain can be my best friend or my worst nightmare. They paid me on time and they honored my boundaries or lack of them. That doesn't happen very often in my world. I'm presently consulting with another company, Woodmaster Foundations, Inc., that have been just as respectful and trusting.

The next time you're wondering how to increase sales, find new customers, or come up with another clever advertising campaign, maybe you'd be wiser to first address the issues of your reputation. Nothing beats a great fan club. Everything after that is a bonus.

My best to all.