To the Graduating Class of 2020…

Congratulations to the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, teachers and professors, school counselors, librarians, school aides, school coaches and trainers, school food service staff, school maintenance staff, school bus drivers, school administration staff, the school PTO, and the school’s community, for creating and maintaining fertile ground upon which the Class of 2020 could celebrate this day! You all did it! This day would not be possible without your hard work, your dedication, your commitment, your gifts, your talents, your passion, and your love doing your part to make this happen. We like to think the students were on the front lines of reaching this day, but it was all this incredible support from you who were really in the front lines paving the way, clearing the debris, helping to smooth the bumps, heal the wounds and just being there that made this day possible. You see, it does take a village to raise and graduate a child.

To the Graduating Class of 2020, forever to be known as the Great Pandemic Class, you got one of the greatest unexpected lessons of your life summed up in …

Life is not fair.
Life is hard.
You can’t always get what you want!

Do not waste these valuable lessons. Embrace their teachings. They will serve you well as you continue on in life. If you choose to accept and believe these truths, you will be further along in gaining wisdom for making you a more valuable part of this world and its future.

“Epidemics are a part of the cycle of life on this planet. The choice is how we respond … with greed and hatred and fear and ignorance … or with generosity, clarity, steadiness, and love?”    – Jack Kornfield

Did you learn that wearing a face-covering wasn’t about you, it was about others? Did you experience that the sum is greater than the parts as in if we all practice physical distancing, wear face coverings and wash our hands regularly (even when we don’t think we need to), we all stay healthy and all get out alive?

Did you notice that people don’t always act in rational ways, make a lot of assumptions, and jump to a lot of conclusions without taking time to research, study, or ask more questions?

Did you learn perception is not reality? If you hold onto your perception too tightly, you fail to let truth, facts, and evidence to the contrary in to correct you and take you to higher ground. After all, rigid thinking is far worse than being wrong.

Did you recognize that the right way many times is going to be the hard way? Let’s face it, loneliness is really persuasive, but the right way to fight this pandemic is to “stay-in-place,” and stay home. No one is immune to “quarantine fatigue.” Physical distancing and face coverings are vital to slowing the spread of the coronavirus regardless of what those in charge have decided.

Did you learn to accept uncertainty and stop trying to control things and others? Those who have dealt well with this pandemic have learned to let go and just be.

Did you learn to be more self-disciplined and to get away from all the screens, and get more exercise?

Speaking of being more self-disciplined, did you learn why it is important to create a savings account with at least six months of savings equal to your income for when the unexpected happens including loss of work?

Did you notice being in charge isn’t what it use to be and that humility, compassion, and integrity are essential to being in charge? Being in charge reveals character or a lack of character.

Did you learn the importance of patience, hitting your pause button, and asking yourself if you are contributing to the solution or adding to the problem of all things pandemic?

If you didn’t learn these important lessons, there is still time. Fail forward. Retake the class(es). Ask for help. Connect with others.

Finally, if you don’t like what is happening around you and if you believe those in charge have failed us, then make your voice heard. Speak up, call out inequalities, build longer tables instead of taller walls, and use your privilege to help the underprivileged. Most of all, vote and make sure all your friends and family vote.

How Do You Measure Physical Distance During This Pandemic?


“Social distancing” went into effect March 12, 2020 here in North Carolina. Immediately I was torn between the Police’s Don’t Stand So Close to Me and the Beatles’ Come Together! I prefer the term physical distancing over social distancing. Wearing face coverings added fear to social distancing. Physical distancing is an activity. Social distancing is an atttiude. Studies show our emotional health and well-being are dependent on relationships and physical touch. My attempt at demonstrating physical distance through key initiatives I facilitate was a lighthearted recall of a crucial component of experienced-base work –  connection. Connection leads to creating community, something we all hunger for. Social distancing seems like punishment, akin to solitary confinement. We do not need the added stress of “social distancing.” I draw from a great line from the movie Shall We Dance. “We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.” Social distancing says, “I won’t be a witness. Physical distance says, “I witness you and you are important. I’ll take care of myself so I can take care of you.”

Hi! I’m Corona Virus! Now That I Have Your Attention …

…there are a few things I hope you take away from my intrusion into your life!

Please don’t waste my visit while I am with you! Remember what Rahm Emanuel said?

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

First, I need you to put my presence in perspective. The greatest virus in the world right now is not me, it’s you, your behavior and your response! Your behavior and your response toward me is life-changing. You have each other in your hands. The question you should constantly be asking yourself, “Is my behavior life-enhancing or life-endangering?” The way you treat each other impacts how you think of me, deal with me and overcome me!

I hope you have stopped taking so many things in life for granted. Yes, I have disrupted life as you know it. I have put a stop to busyness! Busyness is so overrated and non-essential. I have disrupted some habits. Some of those habits were good. Some of those habits not so good. I know you are addicted to “screens” and my presence has deepened that addiction, but I hope you will see the need to connect with people face-to-face when I’m not around.

I hope you are taking time to breathe and recognize what is really important, beginning with relationships. I notice you have been reaching out to people with whom you have not connected in a long time! How does that feel? Why did it take my presence to create these interactions?

Remember when your parents told you to wash your hands before you ate and when you used the bathroom? I hope my presence has brought attention to why this simple exercise is vitally important.

Those people who welcome you into the restaurant, take your order, create your food and serve it to you; those people who deliver your mail and packages; those people who stock the shelves and check you out at the grocery store; and those people who pick up the trash; those housekeepers, janitors, and environmental service personnel; those taxi and Lyft drivers;  … they make a difference in your life! They are important. They deserve your respect and appreciation! They need a liveable wage to serve you! They need healthcare. I hope you recognize healthcare is not a privilege or a benefit of your job but a right as a citizen not just of the United States but of planet earth!

Remember, I wasn’t a virus that started in the United States. I am a global epidemic. I know no borders or boundaries. No wall will keep me out! I’m like your smartphone. My components come from all over the world. I am globalization and it will take globalization to tame me!

Notice I don’t discriminate? I am inclusive and equitable in whom I touch. Your age, your social-economic status, your skin color, your politics, your religious beliefs, your physical ability, your fame … it does not matter to me. How about you? Are you inclusive? Do you practice equity? Do you live the Golden Rule?

While science is working hard to defeat me and overcome the nightmare I have created, I hope you will give science more credit for how it can positively impact your life. That dirty air you create, it harms the lungs as well as so many other things! You really ought to take it personally and recognize you do make a difference in other peoples’ lives, both positively and negatively. I suggest you think about this and consider making better choices.

I realize science and faith don’t always get a fair seat at the table. I am here to suggest you need to pay attention to both. I am here to remind you that uncertainty is a dominant force in the world. Both science and faith can help you deal with uncertainty. You need to work with each other and trust each other to deal with uncertainty. Anne Lamott said it best:

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. Faith also means reaching deeply within, for the sense one was born with, the sense, for example, to go for a walk.”

Finally, while the United States cherishes individuality, materialism, and less government, those three cherishes are not going to help defeat me. You are going to have to come together, share resources, and create nurturing communities. Your greed is going to be your demise. Your lack of good governance for the people and by the people will be wishful thinking, just a poster on the wall. If you think life is miserable right now, you ain’t seen nothing yet!



What Gives You Hope?*

Hope is a call for action! My hope is being tested. Is yours?

What gives me hope is the leadership from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. These leaders have been honest, transparent, responsive, and empathetic. They are communicating clearly and consistently. They do not sugar-coat the hard truths. They have created a vision out of this pandemic by naming priorities, calling on subject-matter experts for advice and following it, praising and thanking people for their hard, courageous work. They are not making promises they cannot keep. They are not worried about getting re-elected. They are worried about the here and now. They are focused on you and me. They inspire me to do and be better.

What gives me hope are the people we take for granted like the sanitation workers, the first responders, the grocery store employees, the postal service employees, and others who are on the frontline with the healthcare people, keeping society together while the rest of us work at home. They are making us rethink healthcare for all, the importance of a living wage, unemployment rights and labor rights as issues of ethics and integrity.

“Nobody looks good in their darkest hour. But it’s those hours that make us what we are.” – Karen Marie Moning

What gives me hope are people who are still wanting to get married and create a family during this pandemic. Love nurtures hope.

What gives me hope are people who are still planning to take that once in a lifetime trip, still planning to start their company, still planning to get their degree, still planning to write their book, still creating art, and still planning to play baseball! They see this pandemic as a speedbump to their plans and dreams.

What gives me hope are fight songs!

Finally, being an inclusive, ecumenical Christian working my way through the season of Lent, Easter gives me hope!

What gives you hope?

* Featured image: Ian Wilkinson and Ishmael updated the iconic mural in the River Arts District, Asheville, NC.

I Am Angry…And Hopeful

It is incredible how something so unseen, and tasteless can have such a significant impact on our lives … the Coronavirus, COVID-19. We know so little about this virus, except that it can live on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. We have no vaccine but we do recognize it’s more contagious than the flu, and it seems to have a greater negative impact on older adults.

I am angry at our government leaders and their enablers in dealing with this pandemic. The government was unresponsive to this emerging global crisis. On February 28th, POTUS 45 called COVID-19 a hoax. COVID-19 had been in America for well over a month, but full-scale testing is just beginning. Potus 45 declared a national emergency on Friday, March 13th, but said, “I don’t take responsibility at all,” Trump said in response to a question about the lack of tests.

There has been more interest in a buzzing economy and getting re-elected than in the health and well being of citizens. We are not only experiencing a health epidemic but a failed leadership epidemic.

Crisis reveals character. It does not build character.

“In a crisis, the only asset you have is your credibility.” – Paul Volcker, former American Economist and Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Credibility is the currency of leadership. Credibility is founded on trust, expertise, and vitality.

This is the second pandemic in my life. HIV/AIDS was the first, and it seemed far less troublesome and worrisome than COVID-19. That pandemic touched my life as I lost my brother-in-law to AIDS back in 1988. Cancer is still a threat. People are dying from drug overdoses and car accidents. Heart attacks have not stopped. People continue to be wounded and die from gunshots.

I am angry with those who have let fear dictate their behavior, such as hoarding.

I am angry at people who have lost the ability to listen to different points of view and not take it personally. I am angry at those who are unwilling to compromise and act with compassion as well as civility.

This virus is causing us to isolate and so many things seem to have come to a halt: personal trips, conferences, concerts, and sporting events. Going out to eat or going to the movies is off-limits. Even going to the YMCA for exercise may not be a good idea. This has all come fast, and it’s left many of us stunned. We’ve not experienced this in our lifetime. Economists are predicting this will be more than a recession. The economy will grind to a halt. It’s like being the middle of strange land without a map or paths forward. This is a time of full-scale VUCAs…Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity/Chaos, and Ambiguity.

Our lives are in one another’s hands. You may save the life of someone you will never meet by just washing your hands. While we are to refrain from touching, we can use our hearts to reach out to one another by the actions we take and the words we say.

Here are the silver linings I am trying to lean into to overcome my anger:

I yearn for the day after 9/11 when we were more compassionate to one another. I am working to be a 9/12 person. I am going to let people merge on the highway. I am going to hold doors open, I am looking for more ways to lend a hand to those in need. We owe it to ourselves and each other to be better.

The Sabbath is a day of rest and unplugging. It is a time to self-reflect, meditate, and build community within our homes and then with others. It is time to nurture our souls.

I am reacting to this pandemic as a huge Sabbath. I see this virus and the process of dealing with it as an opportunity to learn. I believe COVID-19 can push our reset button to be more inclusive and understanding. I also think this virus can help us create constructive conversations about affordable healthcare for all, especially the 27.5 million who are uninsured.

I look forward to looking back on the pandemic and feeling good about the breakthroughs and connections we made. I look forward to better leadership. I am hopeful.


Why Does Money Cost So Much?

Financial peace isn’t the acquisition of stuff. It’s learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can’t win until you do this.  – Dave Ramsey

When it comes to money, we are not taught the meaning and value of money, let alone how to acquire and manage it well. I did not learn this from my parents. They were not good money managers. Furthermore, managing money was not taught to me in school. It was not taught to me in church. Fortunately, I had an excellent accounting firm for our business that taught me about P&Ls and budgeting!

What I have come to know is that the way I use money is a reflection of my core values and principles. I learned later in life a couple of crucial lessons when it comes to money.

I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater. Of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.  – Steve Martin

What you value shows up in what you purchase. One of the most significant issues I find in my coaching work is that many people aren’t clear about what they value, thus they are not living their values, hence no budget, they get into debt. Many believe values are what organizations need and create. Knowing and living core values begins with individuals. These are the first two things I challenge my coaching clients: What do they stand for? What don’t they stand for? When you are clear on this, coaching begins and a better life happens for the individual. 

Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants. – Epictetus

Focus on needs rather than wants. That means: I need to make sure I’m not trying to keep up with the Jones. I am not in competition with anyone else. I don’t compare myself to others, especially with bigger homes, 2nd homes, nicer trips, etc. I am not trying to impress anyone else. I am not trying to meet anyone else’s expectations. When someone gets something big, new, or shiny, I celebrate it for them and check my “wish I had…” at the door.

I am mindful of how marketing, trends, and fads impact me. I don’t go to the grocery store hungry! Being a regular at Haywood Street makes me aware of what I need rather than what I want. I am rich in comparison to many at Haywood, and yet many of them have a more abundant spirit than I do. When you live within your needs rather than wants it is much easier to stick with a budget and pay off the monthly credit card bill.

The four most expensive words in the English language are, ‘This time it’s different.’  – Sir John Templeton

What you permit, you promote. What you purchase, you promote. If I buy bottled water, I promote harm to the environment. When I travel, I carry a water bottle and fill it with tap water. I love good coffee, and I buy Counter Culture. I brew two cups in the morning. I drink one cup at home; the second cup goes into my thermos for later. I figure it costs me $0.35/cup versus $2 + tip for a cup of coffee at the local cafe. I do drink coffee at coffee cafes, but it’s a treat, not a staple. I eat leftovers for lunch most days rather than spend money on lunch, which is a savings of $6 to $12. We cut the cord to cable several years ago, saving about $50/month. We couldn’t begin to watch 150+ channels so why pay for that? Second, there are plenty of other screen distractions!

What are you promoting by what you permit and purchase?

What’s in your savings account?

According to a recent study, 40% of Americans would struggle to come up with $400 for an unexpected expense. If you are one of them, what could you be doing differently to have this emergency $400?

Money experts believe you should have enough money in your emergency fund to cover at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses. If you don’t have this, what could you do to establish and maintain this fund?

It’s great to value money, but begin with core values!

Does Your Organization Have a Culture of Leadership?

Eighteen participants completed the 11-week City of Asheville, NC, Culture of Leadership. The 2-day Art of Leadership workshop helped to develop their leadership with guidance from the five practices of exemplary leadership from Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge. Participants went online to take the MBTI. The feedback revealed how their preferences impacted their ability to lead others. A key outcome is better self-management. The 2-day Teams Are Verbs workshop explored the six critical questions Patrick Lencioni asks in his best selling, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business. (page 77)  There were additional class days on strategic planning, project management, and the lean process. Watch a short YouTube video summary.

My Word for 2020…

Each year I pick a word (or a word picks me!) rather than a resolution to focus on. I have learned from experience, resolutions come and go as evidenced by how crowded the gym will be in January and then uncrowded in February! Discovering a word and focusing on that word is sticky and becomes a trigger like a habit. A word tends to stimulate my thinking around situations, conversations, and interactions. A word helps me make a connection with what I am reading and learning. A word becomes a bridge to possibilities, opportunities and the door to curiosity.

My word for 2019 was “community” as in move from being a part of a group to being a part of “community.” Helping create and build community has been a part of my ‘on purpose.’ A true community is a place of inclusion and where people can be vulnerable while feeling safe. I ended 2019 forming a small diverse, equitable, and inclusive community of half white men and half MOC.

My word for 2020 is light. With all the disinformation, misinformation, and alternative facts, “fake news,” I’m going to be more intentional in finding the light. I also want light to help me look at situations and events with fresh eyes, to help me be more curious and to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Robert Fulghum, a storyteller’s storyteller and author of It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On Ittells of time taking a seminar on Greek culture on the island of Crete lead by Dr. Alexander Papaderous. During the close of the last day, Papaderous asked the class, “Are there any questions?”

Fulghum responds, “Dr. Papaderous, what is the meaning of life?”

After some silence and an intense gaze at Fulghum, he says, “I will answer your question.”

Out of his wallet, he pulled a small round mirror about the size of a quarter. He told the story of being a child during WWII and finding pieces of a mirror from a wrecked German motorcycle. He took the largest piece of mirror and scratched into its round shape and used it as a toy to reflect light into dark places. As Papaderous grew he came to realize the mirror was a metaphor for the purpose of his life…to “reflect light into the dark places in the hearts of men and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.” (pages 175-177)

I’m going to seek the light, share it and shine it in the dark places in 2020.

If You Want to “Seize the Day,” Then You Need To…

Since 1989, I have been studying what it means to “Seize the Day.” Watch my YouTube PechaKucha presentation to see and hear what I’ve learned and what I try to practice!