Archive for Self-Talk

At a Loss for Words…in the Worst Sort of Way!

Microphone_AudienceThere I was, on the “big stage” at the Toastmasters District 3 Tall Tales contest. I began my speech by saying:

“Ladies and gentlemen, have you ever…”

Almost immediately, the little voice in my head kicked in and said, “That’s not what you’re supposed to say!” and my mind instantly went blank.

I could not remember the rest of my speech!

Three months prior, I decided to take a stab at competing in speech contests. This was my first experience being a contestant, because for several years, I either was not interested in competing or was ineligible because I was serving in Toastmasters leadership.

I made my way through each level of the contest process without missing a beat – from the club level, through the area and division levels, then finally the district (state) level. I managed to put together a great story (loosely based on a time in my past) and was able to present it well, adding elements to it at each level.

Everything seemed to be working well…until that moment on the big stage.

Thankfully, my “memory loss” happened during the microphone check, and not the actual speech. I still had about 2 hours before the contest began. The bad thing was…my speech seemed to be completely erased from my memory.

I was at a loss for words, in the worst sort of way!

In an instant, my mind started racing. That “little voice” chimed in…”What are you going to do?!?” I could feel the sense of panic start to set in. Thankfully, I remained mindful enough to realize what was going on internally, and was able to calm myself down rather quickly. I remembered a couple of specific items to check before removing the lapel microphone I was to use. Once I finished the test, I began the process of resurrecting and restoring the speech back into my memory, as well as giving myself a “pep talk.”

The wise words of a couple of my mentors came in very handy…”If you know the beginning and the ending of your speech, you will be able to fill the gap in between.”

They were right. My ending was easy to remember, because that was when I was using my prop. All I really needed to do was get my opening line right. I knew that if I could do that, everything else would fall into place. Hey, I lived the story I was telling…sort of. During the opening ceremony and part of the dinner I concentrated on my opening line. Occasionally, I would have a quick conversation with someone, then test myself to see if I could remember the line. I also kept telling myself, “You know this speech. You have given it dozens of times. Once you get past that first line, it will be smooth sailing!”

The next thing I knew, the contest was on, and it was my turn to speak. I was the fourth contestant out of a total of eight – the middle of the pack. My name and the title of the speech was called, and I shook the announcer’s hand as I made my way to the stage. This was the moment of truth. Will the right words come out of my mouth?

“Ladies and gentlemen, you might not believe this looking at me today, but at one time…I had hair!”

YES! My opening line was perfect! And just as predicted by my mentors, everything else fell into place. At the end of the night, I walked away with the third place trophy – pretty good for my first speech contest.

I still cannot explain why my brain seemed to lock up before that speech. It just “happened.” I can tell you that I learned some very valuable lessons that will stick with me for a long time. If you ever encounter a “loss for words” before your next presentation, remember:

  • First, and most important – panicking over the situation does you no good whatsoever. If I had fed into the panic that I initially felt, I would not have been able to think clearly enough to solve my dilemma, and my performance would have suffered greatly.


  • Keep talking to yourself in a positive manner. Just like panicking in a situation, negative self-talk does you no good, and can actually make things worse. Positive self-talk can help you keep your energy up, as well as help you focus on solutions, rather than blaming or degrading. It will make a big difference in the energy that you give out when you’re on stage. Your audience will sense your negative mood, no matter how you try to hide it!


  • Assuming that you know, and have practiced your material – if you know your opening line, and how you are going to end your speech…you can fill the gap in between. It may not be exactly word-for-word as you planned or practiced, but remember that your audience won’t know that. One of the things that I have learned that helps immensely is practicing impromptu speaking skills. Working on these skills helps to train your brain to think quickly and give you the ability to “fill in the gaps” in your presentation, if needed.


  • A bonus tip – I have found that visualizing portions of my speech helped make it easier to recall and remember. I created “snapshots” in my mind that would help jog my memory while I gave my speech. I would go from “snapshot to snapshot” as I progressed through the speech. If you are not a visual person, maybe you could think of certain keywords or feelings that will trigger your memory. Find out which method works for you, and give it a try!


These tips may seem basic to some people. Some may even say they are common knowledge. However, I hope this serves as a good reminder. It’s easy to forget about this and panic in the “heat of the moment” just as I almost did that night. If you experience a challenge such as this, keep these suggestions in mind, and know that you will succeed!

Have you ever had an experience like this?

From your experience, what suggestions would you add to this list?

Get BIGGER by Surrounding Yourself with BIG People

“You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment (and the people in it*) that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things (and people*) helping you toward success, or are they holding you back?”

-W. Clement Stone (* – my additions)

When I was in my early teens, I started lifting weights. It was one of the few exercises I could do that wouldn’t trigger an asthma attack (I had exercise-induced asthma when I was younger). The DP weight set and bench came with manuals that included exercise guides that I used to teach myself the proper ways to lift weights. Over the years, I made marginal gains…nothing overly impressive.

Things changed several years ago when I befriended a guy named Jeff. Jeff was a big guy, built like a brick wall, because he was a serious and powerful weightlifter. Jeff was already at the level that I wanted to achieve. When the YMCA opened up in our county, we became members and started working out together.

Things changed when the environment, and the people in it, got bigger.

My workouts became more challenging because “bigger” people were now in my environment. Jeff and his friends were stronger, and had the capacity to move more weight. Because of that, I worked harder to keep up with them. I started making impressive gains as a result. In less than a year, my bench press went from 225 pounds to 300!

Having BIG people in my environment helped make me a bigger person!

As the quote above says, we are all products of our environment…and the people that are in it. If you are not satisfied with some aspect of your life, look around you:

  • Who are the people you choose to surround yourself with?

  • Are they BIG people who challenge you and help you improve? Or do they hold you back?

    • If you hang around leaders, you will become a leader.
    • If you hang around great communicators, you will become a great communicator.
    • If you hang around successful businesspeople, you will become successful in business.
    • If you hang around turkeys, well…gobble, gobble!
  • What can you do to make changes for the better?

Shortly after making that 300 pound bench press, I moved from North Carolina to Phoenix, Arizona. Because of the change in my environment and the people in it (or lack of people, in this case), my performance dropped. I eventually lost the ability to move the weight that I had before, because I no longer had that challenge and support. I knew that I had to make some changes. I had to add BIG people to my environment.

How to find BIG people to add to your environment

  • Join a supportive group or organization – You can go online and find a group such as Toastmasters or a Rotary club that is located near you. is also a great resource to find groups that can help you achieve success.
  • Find a mentor – Find someone who has already been where you are going and see if they are willing to mentor you along your journey to success. This can be someone from your work, school, church, a family friend, or someone from one of the organizations mentioned above. A mentor can provide that challenge and motivation because they are already operating on a higher level.

 Remember that this is a two-way street. Figure out what you can offer them in return for their mentorship.

  • Use information (books and technology) to help guide you – In addition to the above resources, or in case you live in a secluded area with little access to groups, you can find a lot of support in books and on the internet. You can be mentored by former world leaders, history makers, and thought leaders through their writings, articles, and videos.

 (In my opinion, for best results, I suggest a combination of all 3 avenues)

Through the use of technology, I was able to access a few mentors to help me improve my strength building and fitness skills (ironically, one of them is named Jeff). Thanks to the information and motivation they have provided, I have been able to work my way toward the level of strength that I achieved a few years ago!

Are there certain areas in your life that you want to improve?

Are you looking to enhance certain skills?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” I challenge you to take the steps above, and find BIG people to add to your environment. It will make a HUGE difference in your performance!Get BIGGER by Surrounding Yourself with BIG People

The Ugly Win

When Success Doesn’t “Feel” SuccessfulThe Ugly Win

In an earlier article, I wrote about the similarities between auto racing and leadership. This article will deal with an event that happens to both race teams, and leaders…or anyone who is working to achieve goals.

It’s called…the ugly win.

If you follow any form of auto racing, you may have seen it at one time or another. The race is coming down to the final lap. The leader is doing well; the car is running good, and is still in good condition. All the sudden something happens – the leader gets out of control and crashes, or a part fails, causing damage to the car’s body or engine. Despite all that, the leader still manages to finish and win the race! They limp the car into the winner’s circle on its last leg, and start the celebration. Usually the first words out of the driver or car owner’s mouth is, “It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it!” Many times, any money that is earned from the race win goes to repair the car, and the team has a lot of work ahead in order to get ready for the next race.

Sometimes, it seems like we occasionally run into this type of situation when we are working to achieve goals in leadership, or in our personal lives. We may develop this “grand vision” of how things are going to turn out. This thinking may come from seeing other people’s success stories in the media. Through the magic of editing, it can seem like success comes perfect and easy for the person featured in the story. In actuality, we don’t see or hear about the imperfect journey to that successful point, or hear about the trials and thought processes that individual went through during that journey. Usually all we see is the finished product.

Take, for instance the picture below as an example…

The Ugly Win - Picture 1

This picture is of my wife and I right after reaching the summit of Humphrey’s Peak, which, at 12,633 feet, is the tallest point in Arizona. We achieved this goal a couple of months ago, and by all means, it was a success! At the time, it certainly didn’t “feel” like a success, though, despite the smiles in the picture.

This was a perfect example of an ugly win

What you don’t see in this picture are my legs, which were bleeding and wound up bruised from falling…not once, but twice…on the extremely rocky terrain in the tundra area (Yes, Arizona has a tundra!) that we encountered on the last mile of the hike. Somehow, I managed to lose my footing on the slick and shifting rocks, and fall. I absolutely hate it when I fall on a hike – thankfully, this happens only on rare occasions. Even though I was lucky to avoid serious injury, my legs took the brunt of the damage. Despite the smile on my face, I was in pain, out of breath (from the elevation), and ready to get off that mountain!

My wife was not fairing any better. She had gotten her feet tangled in some tree roots on the way up, and pulled her leg muscles. Our trip back down the mountain went very slowly, because we were both in so much pain.

Neither of us figured that working to achieve this goal would be so difficult and painful. We did everything we could to prepare – got ourselves prepared physically, gathered needed supplies, and read everything we could find about the trail. We knew in advance about the elevation change, that we would have less oxygen, the last mile would be rough and rocky, and that we would encounter a couple of “false summits” on the way to the top.

Hey, we’ve done this hiking thing a few times before, so we had an idea of what to expect, right?

Nothing prepared us for what we experienced

At the end of the hike when we finally reached the clearing at the bottom of the mountain, I stopped to take a picture of the mountain we had just climbed…

The Ugly Win - Picture 2


Despite the fact that the journey was a success, we sure didn’t feel like celebrating. In fact, it felt a little more like an ordeal than a success. The journey was much tougher than either one of us expected, and left us absolutely drained of energy.

Have you ever had the same type of experience? One that left you so drained of energy (physical or mental) that you were unable to really experience and celebrate your success?

Maybe you led a project that wound up with unexpected challenges, and with a lot of changes and hard work, became a success at the very last minute. Perhaps you finally finished negotiations on a deal with that “dream client” you have been aiming for, and it wound up being a longer and more challenging process than you imagined. Maybe like my wife and I, you finally achieved a physical goal after encountering setback after setback along the way.

It’s possible that because of the setbacks and the length of time, you lost the excitement that you initially had.

This is why it’s important to remember that wins may not come packaged the way we expect them to be. Our win may come with a wrecked car and a lot of work to be ready for the next race; aching, bloody legs and total exhaustion; or goals that are finally met after a long and challenging year.

No matter how the win comes, or the form it takes, remember that it is very important to celebrate those wins. Celebrate even the small victories on the way to the big goal. It will keep your energy up and help improve your momentum toward achieving that big goal. When you finally achieve that goal, celebrate the fact that the experience, knowledge, and insight that was gained through that difficult journey will help you evolve into a better leader, and a better person!

By the way, my wife and I wound up celebrating our goal by having a nice breakfast in Flagstaff, and enjoying a nice, quiet day of rest and relaxation. And when we go by Humphrey’s Peak on our way to the Grand Canyon, we’ll celebrate the fact that we can say, “Yeah, we conquered that mountain. It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it!”


Get Back on the Horse – Part II

If you missed Part I of this article, click HERE.

Going for a ride!

Going for a ride!

Earlier in Part I, I described myself as a “gym rat” when I lived in North Carolina.  I lifted weights with friends almost every day.  We scheduled what body parts we would work on, and the exercises we would do every day.  We would improvise and change up the program for fun every now and then.  One of the guys in the group had been lifting for quite a while, and was quite strong.  I would challenge myself by secretly competing with him as we lifted, which is something that helped me immensely.

I was achieving my fitness goals, and was in the best shape of my life!

Then…things changed.

I picked up and moved to Arizona.  It was one of the biggest and best decisions that I have ever made, not just because I gained a wonderful partner in life…my wife Jill…I have also had some great experiences that might have never happened had I decided to stay in my hometown.

The downside to this was that I couldn’t take the gym or my friends with me.  The tools and support that I used to help achieve and maintain my fitness goals were gone.  The plan that I was using was solid as a rock, and I had no “contingency plan” to deal with changes such as this.  Yes, I did join a gym in Arizona, but it wasn’t the same, and after a couple of years of working out on-and-off, I began to falter…and eventually gave up.

I fell off the horse…in a BIG way!

Everything that I had worked so hard for disappeared, and before I knew it, my weight was the highest that it has ever been…255 pounds!  We had bought a home gym with an Olympic barbell set, plus an elliptical for cardio.  However, because I made the decision not to pick myself back up and “get back on the horse,” they just became dust collectors.

Me after falling off the horse...250+ lbs!

Me after falling off the horse…250+ lbs!


Why did this happen?

This leads us to what is probably the biggest reason that people give up on their goals:

Goals with no “Game Plan” – This happens when the individual creates the goal without really planning out the necessary steps to take in order to achieve the goal.  It’s like wanting to drive to the next town in a car without a steering wheel…you have everything but a way to guide you to your goal!

The game plan provides guidance toward goal achievement.  To effectively use a game plan, keep these points in mind:

  • The game plan needs to be flexible – Life is not perfect, and the path to achieving our goals will not be perfect either.  Sometimes what works one day stops working the next, or, we find something that works better.  A good phrase to remember is, “Keep your goals set in stone, and your plans set in sand.”
  • Remember, first things first – Be sure to prioritize what needs to be done in order to begin achieving your goal.  What is the first important step to take?  What step do I need to take after that?  And so on…  For example, if your house is a mess, what are the big things you can do to start cleaning it up?  After those tasks are done, what are the medial things?  Then, what small touches can you do to finish up?  It may help to sit down with a piece of paper and draw a “map” of the priorities that need to be taken care of on the pathway to achieving your goal.
  • Many pathways to the destination – It may help for you to sit down and have a brainstorming session to come up with as many ideas as you can that can help you achieve your goal.  Let the ideas flow without judgment.  After you have “flushed out” all of your ideas, evaluate their feasibility according to the tools and talents that are available to you.  Keep the ideas that you deem most effective.  The more pathways that you can create toward your goal, the better!  This creates a “contingency” system.

Back in the Saddle Again!

Using these points, I managed to get back on the “achieving and maintaining my goal weight ‘horse’” a couple of years ago.  I identified the priorities that I needed to focus on, which consisted of staying active and mindful eating.  The workout equipment was pulled out, cleaned up, and made ready to access easily.  My wife and I tried out other ways to get exercise other than lifting weights, and found out that we really enjoy hiking and biking.  There are several contingency plans in place so I can get physical activity in…and have the variety that wasn’t in place before!

On the eating side, I found an app on my phone that helps me keep track of what I eat via a points system.  I make it a point (pun intended) to not eat past my points, and if for some reason I am unable to exercise on a certain day, I make different choices that allow me to leave a few points on the table.

Since starting this program a couple of years ago, I have been able to get back down to a healthy weight range, and maintain it.  I feel great, and because of this healthy lifestyle, my wife and I were able to hike the Grand Canyon from the north rim to the south rim in 15 hours…and plan to do it again in October 2014 with the goal of beating our time!

So, what are your goals for the coming year?  Use these tips to help you create a map to achieving those goals.  Remember – there is no such thing as perfection, and things will not always run smoothly.  Avoid the mindsets and behaviors mentioned in Part I.  And…

Make it a SUCCESSFUL Year!                     

Get Back on the Horse! -Part I

HAPPY 2014!

Get Back on the Horse!

Get Back on the Horse!

We are at the beginning of another New Year, with all the New Year’s resolutions, newly set goals, and the aspirations that accompany them.

Are you one of the millions of people who came up with a New Year’s resolution, or set up a goal to achieve this year?

Does it involve achieving a healthier weight?  Obtaining new and improved skills?  Creating a better lifestyle for you and your family?

Now, the important question…will you work towards achieving your goal, no matter what?

 The fact is that the majority of people who come up with a New Year’s resolution will never see it come to fruition.  The same goes for a lot of people who set goals.  They start out full of excitement and energy, ready to go.

Then after a while, the excitement wanes, or they experience difficulties, and they give up.

I used to see this all the time in the gym.  A few years before I moved to Arizona and wound up buying my own workout equipment, I was a “gym rat.”  We had a YMCA near my hometown in North Carolina where I would lift weights daily with some friends.  We would always dread when New Years came around, because the workout room would fill up with people working on their New Year’s resolution.  The space would be so crowded, we wouldn’t be able to get in a serious lifting session.  After two or three weeks though, things would be back to normal, and we had the space to use once again.

All the people that were excited about achieving their New Year’s resolution vanished!  They “fell off the horse,” gave up, and went back to the way things were.  It was interesting for us to watch.  It was almost entertaining…

…at least it was until I was the one that “fell off the horse.”

I’ll continue that story, and the lesson learned, in Part II…


There are several reasons (and excuses!) why people give up on their goals, and yes, I believe that some of the reasons are legitimate.  Here are three of the main reasons why I believe goals are never achieved.  The first two I will share with you now, and the third in Part II:

Fatalistic behavior – This happens when the individual makes a mistake on the journey to accomplishing their goals.  The fatalist says, “I tried and failed, so I might as well give up.”

  • A person may have a goal to achieve a healthy body weight by changing their eating habits.  After having a big, unhealthy meal at a celebration, which doesn’t happen often, they give up on their goal after assuming they have no self-control.  They let one “slip up” bring everything to a crashing halt.

In order to conquer fatalistic behavior, we have to come to the realization that we are human, and because of that, it is guaranteed that we will make mistakes.  What is most important is the action we take after the mistake has been made.  We can choose to learn from the mistake, improve, and continue our journey toward achieving the goal, or give up and continue to live in mediocrity.  There are tons of inspiring stories of people who made mistakes and still found success that you can find to help overcome fatalistic behavior.*

Perfectionist behavior – Everything has to be “just right” in order for the individual to begin working on achieving their goals, thus never really “getting on the horse” to begin with.  The perfectionist says, “Everything has to be perfect and in place – the time, the weather, the day, and more importantly…ME!”

  • An individual joins Toastmasters to learn how to become a better speaker.  They never volunteer to give a speech, and wind up quitting after a few months.  They give various reasons for not speaking, such as “the timing isn’t ‘perfect’,” “I don’t have the ‘perfect’ topic,” or “I haven’t ‘perfected’ my speech yet.”

Perfectionists never really “get on the horse” because they have a myriad of excuses: the time is never right, they are never ready, or there are clouds in the sky.  There is no such thing as perfection…even the most “perfect” diamond has a flaw somewhere!  Perfectionists need a good, and sometimes pushy(!) group of supporters to help them get started, provide useful and positive feedback to help them improve, and keep them moving forward.  Continually letting the individual experience the fact that the world won’t self-destruct because they did an imperfect job is very important, and can help them overcome the need for perfection.

Part II of this article will cover the third category, which is extremely critical in goal-setting…and is often times overlooked.  The reason that I “fell off the horse” in the beginning story has to do with what resides in this category.

I will give you “the rest of the story” in Part II, as well as the lessons that I learned…and continue to learn.  Stay tuned!


* a good resource for inspirational stories is Joyce Meyer’s book, “Never Give Up!: Relentless Determination to Overcome Life’s Challenges” on the Self-Talk Products page!  Get it today!

Perception, Reactions, and Your Big Move

For this week’s Communicate and Lead blog entry, I came across a great article from Brian Kim that really spoke to me the other day, because perception plays a huge part in how we interact with the world around us.

I want to share with you.



When an article is posted about a famous person doing something that’s

out of the ordinary (not necessarily a bad thing but something that’s

unexpected in terms of a life decision) and you scroll down to read the

comments, you’ll see a variety of reactions.


“Good for him!”


“Is he insane?”


“Why’s he doing that? He doesn’t have to do that.”


“What a waste of time.”


“I applaud him for doing something outside the box.”


“More people should do things like that.”


“Why is he doing something new? He should stick to what he knows.”



Why are there so many different reactions?


Because everybody’s reaction is based on their own life perception.

And what stops people from making a big move is fearing what other people’s

reactions are going to be.

They want the reaction to be good. They want it to be a certain way.

But that reaction is out of their control.

Other people’s reactions are based on their own relative life experience.

People are going to think what they’re going to think.

You can’t let that be a deciding factor in whether or not to make a big move.

Make Your Big Move!

Make Your Big Move!

Take the “But” Out of Your Communication

Avoid building a "wall" in your communication!

Avoid building a “wall” in your communication!

There is one little word that has a lot of power.

It has the power to stop good ideas in their tracks.

It has the power to build a wall between you and the person you are communicating with.

It has the power to hold you back when you use it against yourself.

That word is…




Perhaps you have had some experience with this word.  Maybe you use it often when communicating with others:

“This is a great idea, Jeff, but I don’t think we will be able to use it.”

“I would love to be able to help you out with the project, Margie, but I just don’t have the time.”


Maybe you have used it in your communication with yourself:

“I wish I could start working on achieving my goal weight, but I’m just too tired to exercise when I get home from work.”

“I would like to go to that weekend seminar, but I don’t have the money for it.”


How do these statements sound to you?  Imagine for a minute that someone was saying them to you.  How would you feel?  Negative?  Defeated?  Annoyed?

There are alternative words and phrases that you can substitute in place of the word but that are more positive, and leave the door open to possibilities and ideas.  With a little bit of thought and training, you will be able to take the “but” out of your communication in no time!

Here are some alternatives to get you going:

  • If, then – “You brought up a great idea for the project, Jeff.  If we are able to get past a couple of hurdles, then I believe we will be able to implement it.”

Unlike the statement above, Jeff’s idea is not totally “shut down” in this statement.  It does acknowledge that there may be a challenge, which could prompt Jeff to make a revision that will improve his idea, and the project overall.

  • Maybe – “My apologies, Margie.  At the moment, I just don’t have the time to commit to such a large role.  Maybe there is another way I can help in a smaller capacity.”

If you really want to help Margie and don’t have the time, this leaves the door open to being able to help her without the tremendous time commitment she is requiring.  If you aren’t interested in helping her on the project, just change the second statement to “Maybe I can assist with a future project.”

  • Ask a question“What little thing can I do today that will put me on the road to achieving my goal weight?” or “Would it be better for me to work out in the morning, when I feel more energetic?”

Asking questions, especially in your self-talk, can take your mind off your current circumstances, and prompt it to come up with ideas.  In this case, instead of thinking about how tired you are, you come up with ideas, such as walking around the block, or changing your daily routine.

Practicing this daily can help you form new habits.

  • Perhaps – “I would like to go to the weekend seminar.  Perhaps one of my friends would like to go with me, and split the cost.” or “Perhaps I can save my money, and attend the seminar next time it is scheduled”

Like asking a question above, perhaps guides the mind to alternatives that may help you with a solution to the challenge.


I started using these (and other) alternatives to replace the word but” a few years ago after challenging myself to use more positive words when I speak with others, and in my self-talk.  Even though there have been a few “slip-ups” every now and then (hey, I’m human!), I find that with a little work, it has become an easy habit to keep.  It’s a great way to improve the communication and rapport with those around you, and with yourself!

I’m issuing a challenge to YOU!

I challenge you to “Take the ‘But’ Out of Your Communication!”

For 30 days, think about how you respond to those around you, and how you talk to yourself.  If your response includes the word but, think of a way to re-phrase it, so it is positive, leaving the door open for ideas and solutions.  If you need to, keep track of your word usage in a journal, have a trusted friend remind you, or record yourself…whatever works for you.  Be aware that there may be some challenges, and you may have a “slip-up.”  If that happens, remember the lessons from this previous blog article, go easy on yourself, and move forward.

Once the 30 days are over…do it again!  You have everything to gain from the experience!

Will you accept the challenge???

Embrace Your “Inner John Wayne!”

My nephew Grayson doing his John Wayne impression.

My nephew Grayson doing his John Wayne impression.

I’m a big fan of John Wayne and his movies.

If a John Wayne movie is being shown on one of the classic movie channels, you can bet that I will be watching it!

Just the mention of the name John Wayne brings the mental picture of a rough, tough; take no B.S. cowboy to mind.  That’s just the kind of characters John Wayne played.  Those characters gave him a persona that made him a legend.

John Wayne’s characters seemed to have a bit of “swagger” to them.  They were smart, self-confident, and self-assured.  They would make a decision and stick with it, and if there was any question, they would seek wise counsel.

I like to think that I have some of that John Wayne “character” in me.  As a matter of fact, I tend to think that all of us have an inner John Wayne.  Our inner John Wayne has that same swagger as his characters – they are smart, tough, take no B.S., seek wise counsel, and are decisive.

Sometimes though, we keep our inner John Wayne pushed back in the corner, when it should be out helping us be more effective as leaders!

It happened with me a while back.

I attended an organizational event as a leadership representative.  While the event was being planned, the person who was supposed to be the master of ceremonies found out that they would be out-of-town for work that week.  Arrangements were made for their assistant to fill in, and everyone prepared over the course of the week for their role in the event.

That evening, a few minutes before the event was about to begin, a highly respected, very experienced member in the organization approached us and proposed a sizeable change in the program…suggesting that I take over as master of ceremonies in place of the assistant.  A conversation ensued, and instead of saying that we will stick with the plan, I agreed with the experienced member.  A few minutes later, I realized that I had just shoved my inner John Wayne into the corner!

After realizing what I had done, and that we still had a few minutes left before the start of the event, I spoke with the assistant, and we resumed with our previous plan.  The event wound up a success…people were entertained, and lessons were learned.  The assistant gained some great experience as a master of ceremonies that they would have missed if I stepped in as suggested.

I came away with a question to think (and eventually write) about:

Why do we sometimes push our “inner John Wayne” into a corner, and not allow it to help us be more effective?

I believe the answer really depends on our individual experiences from the past.  Our experiences condition us to believe, act, and think in certain ways.  They come from a variety of environments and events that can include:

  • Family
  • Community and social environment (friends)
  • School
  • Work
  • Religious
  • High-stress environment or traumatic events


While thinking about this, I realized that some of my past experiences in these environments trained me to think and believe that someone whom I perceive has more authority and experience always knows best…an assumption that isn’t always true.

If you have that inner John Wayne that keeps getting pushed into a corner when it should be out helping you be more effective, ask yourself these questions:

  • What belief or conditioning is causing me to not be more assertive, decisive, and effective?
  • How much better would my life be if I utilized my inner John Wayne more often?  How much more effective would I be with my family, work, or life?
  • What small step can I take TODAY to release and utilize my inner John Wayne?  What step can I take tomorrow…the next day?


Go ahead Pilgrim, let the John Wayne in you out, and let it help you be more effective!


A resource that can help you unleash your inner John Wayne is the book Get Out of Your Own Way: Overcoming Self-Defeating Behavior by Mark Goulston, M.D., and Phillip Goldberg.  You can find it and other wonderful resources on the Self-Talk Products page, or by clicking on the picture below.


The Test of Strength


“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Tug of War.

Tug of War.

I remember being in school, and one of the games we would play every now and then would be the Test of Strength.  This usually consisted of something along the lines of arm wrestling, leg wrestling, tug-of-war, or a game called British Bulldog, where the object of the game was that the members of one team were to “plow” through the opposing team without being picked up off the ground by one of their members.  If a member of the advancing team was picked up off the ground, the team lost the member.

These games were often challenging…they weren’t called “Test of Strength” games for nothing!  However, as time went by, strength would build up – not only physical strength, but mental strength and cunning.  If you were not strong enough to beat the other person (or team) physically, you would figure out how to beat them mentally.  A lot of times the person who won was not always the biggest and strongest person, but the one that made better choices.

Tests of Strength show up throughout our lives in different ways.  They could be in the form of challenges at work, our marriage and family life, personal life, or even challenges with our health.  The choices we make when we deal with these Tests of Strength can help build us up, or tear us down.

I came across a video of a young lady who is going through one of the biggest Tests of Strength that I can imagine.  Even though she is small and “weak,” the choices that she made in dealing with her challenges in life have made her stronger than anyone I can think of.

Take a moment to watch this video.  It’s 12 minutes long, but is very inspiring and well worth the time!

Making the Impossible, Possible.

“The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking.”

-Robert H. Schuller – Televangelist, Pastor and Author

What do you say to yourself when you face a new challenge?

The "Dreaded" Overhead Ladder!

The “Dreaded” Overhead Ladder!

“That’s impossible!” or “It is possible!”

One statement closes the door to possibility.  The other leaves the door wide open.

When I read the quote above and the first few lines that I typed, I reflected on times in my past when I said one of those two statements to myself.

I remembered when I was a kid, out of shape and suffering from frequent asthma attacks, watching the other kids run around, climbing the monkey bars…and especially climbing across the overhead ladder.  I remember seeing this and saying to myself, “That’s impossible!”

When I was a teenager, I started trying to drive a car with a manual transmission.  The first few times I would try to start off, the car would buck, sputter, and stop.  I remember being frustrated, and saying to myself…again…”That’s impossible!”

Just a few years ago, when I visited Arizona (before finally moving here), I did what most visitors to the “Grand Canyon State” do, and visited the Grand Canyon.  As I walked along the south rim, I looked over the majestic…DEEP…AND WIDE canyon, I recall saying to myself, “I couldn’t imagine myself hiking down into, or even across the canyon…That’s impossible!”

I was correct on all counts!  It was impossible.  The doors stayed closed as long as I kept that mindset!

Once I changed my thinking to imagine the possibilities, doors started opening:

  • When I made the decision to believe it was possible, I kept practicing and building up my strength…and finally made it across the overhead ladder!
  • That same decision helped me get over my frustration with a manual transmission.  I still drive a car with a manual transmission, and actually prefer it over an automatic.
  • If you read one of my past blog articles, you know that my wife and I accomplished hiking the Grand Canyon from the north rim to the south rim…in one day.

None of it would have happened if I had kept the “That’s impossible!” mindset.

–       Do I still have times when the “That’s impossible!” mindset comes up?  Of course!  However, I have realized that I am still a “work in progress.”  Those thoughts will still come up…I just need to be sure to identify those limiting thoughts, work to change them, and prove them wrong!

–       Are there some things out there that are really impossible to accomplish?  Sure.  I’m still grounded and realistic enough to know that there are some things that I will not be able to do…and I’m okay with that!

What about you?

Are there things you would like to do, but keep saying to yourself “That’s impossible”?

What would you do is you changed your mindset and self-talk?

Are you ready to walk through some open doors?

It’s up to you!


"It is Possible!"

“It is Possible!”