Go Stress Yourself!

I remember running a 10 mile race in the early 80's at just over 60 minutes – around a 6 minute pace – which for most runners is actually pretty darn fast. For me, it was an anomaly – a pace I didn’t normally run. And I paid dearly when we got home…uh in the bathroom…both ends…simultaneously… a bit tricky to say the least!

A few weeks ago Mitchell and I ran the Spartan Super at Blue Mountain in the Poconos. 8 miles up and down the mountain, crazy challenging obstacles along the way - even a spear throw! It was hot, sticky, and extremely grueling – physically and mentally. 

During the recent heat wave I ran most days in the late afternoon – hottest time of the day. One day I ran 5 miles at 4 pm with a heat index temp of 107. Nice.

Why do I share this? Because each of these experiences prepares me to win every day by choosing and overcoming stress.

I chose to put myself in each of these situations. Granted, in the beginning I was not aware of the benefit I’m sharing here. But as time has progressed, I believe choosing to stress myself has better prepared me to handle the stress of life – whether it’s patience needed behind a very slow driver or focus in times of financial risk. 

In his book, Spartan Up!, creator of the Spartan Race, Joe De Sena shared the value of deliberately stressing ourselves – yes, on purpose. Learning to deal with it teaches us we’re more than capable when it arises again. We don’t live in an age that requires us to hunt and fight to survive, not like our ancestors.  Without that forced daily stress, we are less capable managing the little things that challenge us every day. Hit a few hundred burpees in the morning, or kick out a few miles on the bike, swim some laps, push some weights – all that “stress” teaches our bodies what is and is not stress worthy. And it’s not just physical. Hit a Toast Masters meeting in the AM – yep, public speaking - and see how you handle the rest of the day. Cake walk.

Purposeful stress makes our daily experiences at work, life and play more palatable – because we’ve already overcome for the day. What’s another challenge? We’ve already pushed ourselves – and managed through. So unplanned stress becomes more of a challenge to overcome than a problem to fret about. We gain perspective and confidence in the unknown by overcoming in the known.  

So…go stress yourself! Just maybe stop a bit short of my first example above!


Years ago I had a client in the landscaping/hardscaping business. A great person who was and still is very good at his profession. If you’re looking for that beautiful outdoor living space, this was your guy!

But…catch his voicemail and you’d hardly be inspired.  Read this out loud:  “This is Frank, leave a message.” Frank is not his real name, by the way.  Now, those are just words. Let’s add the music and we’ll infer the body language – both of which account for 93% of the communication effect. Here’s the music – you just got up from a very deep sleep, possibly hung over and your name is Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. Go ahead, say the voicemail message again – but with the correct music and let’s add a little slurring: “This is Frank, leave a message”. Pretty awesome isn’t it!!??

No, not at all.

But that’s not even the worst of it. Frank is in the service business – one with highly emotional appeal. And this is a phone call, not an email. Think about it. Who calls people in today’s world? Yep – people who want something done now, right now, or people who like to connect personally in a way that email does not allow. Now, are either of these personality styles going to be inspired by Eeyore’s slurring message?

Definitely not all.

But Frank still had a relatively good business and, despite my suggestion, has not changed his voicemail.  Imagine if he did.  Good might lead to best.

What about your voice message? If I call and get your voicemail, what will I get? Is it even you or just some default message from the manufacturer? If it is you, is it inspiring, brief and does it leave the caller feeling better or worse for calling?

Check it now. If you have to, set it up – make sure people know they are in fact calling you. And if they know it’s you, be sure they feel you are at least slightly happy to hear from them, even if you’re not.

1 Percent

Beliefs drive behaviors, just like goals do.  Our beliefs tend to drive how we choose to see things and thereby create a heavy dose of influence as to why we are at odds with people with very different beliefs.  We just see things differently – rooted in our upbringing, environment, experiences and influences.

Presidential races…so much fun, or maybe not. Ever see a Facebook post by one side that changes the opinion of someone on the other side? Doubt it. Ever see someone verbally attack another person who is diametrically opposed in their beliefs on, say, some light-hearted stuff, like politics, religion, and climate change? Doubt it. 

Our son, Mitchell, came home from work the other day and told us about an interesting conversation he had with his boss. A good guy, by the way – they both have high respect for each other.  He and his boss were “discussing” something political – don’t know the specifics.  Generally speaking, I think they are actually on the same side, though Mitchell doesn’t necessarily see himself on a particular side. He is more inclined to learn from people, rather than debate people, with different views. But I’m not so sure his boss shares the same open-minded attitude. So Mitch, who is 17, respectfully offered this challenge to his boss:  

Go find someone with whom he is diametrically opposed in all major areas – if he’s right-leaning, look for someone left-leaning; if he’s a Democrat, look for a Republican; if he’s pro-life, look for someone who considers themselves to be pro-choice – you get the picture. Only, that’s not the challenge – pretty easy to find that. The challenge is to find the person, engage them and genuinely search to find one thing, just one, that they both share in common. Find the 1% and focus on that. Build a discussion around that.  Maybe they both like animals or enjoy seafood or perhaps enjoy a good microbrew. Maybe they share a birthday or TV interests or perhaps a sports team they follow. There’s always something.

It was a great challenge. And in fact, when he shared this with me, it made me think of a John Maxwell Principle he offers in his book called Winning with People. It’s called The 101% Principle: Find the 1% we agree on and give it 100% of our effort.

Wow. Mitchell has never read a Maxwell book, yet he nailed a Maxwell leadership principle completely on his own.

Maybe we should accept this challenge, particularly in this time of heated Presidential debate.

Find the 1% and build on that.

Buncher or Folder

Do you use a napkin when you eat, especially something like pizza? Are you eating right now, or did you just finish up? Look at your napkin now or maybe at the finish of your next (messy) meal. This, of course, is assuming you used it. My kids are doled out napkins, and they look the same after dinner as they did before dinner! My wife and I, we use ours.

As we were finishing up a great dinner one night, I noticed that my wife’s napkin was all bunched up. I looked at mine and saw that it was folded up. Hmm… Then at the next dinner I noticed the same thing – Amy bunched and I folded. Over the last year or so, it’s always been the same and thus we’ve become known, to each other and to our kids, as The Buncher (Amy) and The Folder (me).  

What’s strange is…anyone who knows us – like our kids – would most definitely categorize us as the opposite!

Amy would most certainly be The Folder- she’s organized, focused and a high-level planner, also fun, spontaneous and enthusiastic. Some of those oppose the others, but it all seems to work out – in some sort of magical, organized and fluid way. Ultimately she is the administrative genius in our home – clearly a Folder, right?

I tend to be the quick-acting, detail fighting, get-to-it kind of guy; yet I can and do plan and organize – just with far less natural effort and definitely with less precision. Clearly The Buncher, right?

Maybe we’re all a little more complicated than our classic labeling might suggest.  As an Authorized DiSC Partner, I’ve always been cautious of any superficial approach to understanding each person’s individual assessment. For example, Amy is an I-S style – enthusiastic, steady and supportive. Without going into too much detail – the surface approach or labeling would not necessarily suggest she is be a Buncher.

Perhaps the next time I meet a Buncher, I might not quickly define them as such; maybe I’ll look a little deeper. That Buncher just might be the most organized and streamlined person I’ve met. Next to Amy, of course.

What about you? Buncher or Folder?

Feel the Fear

Our daughter Madison is fearless. Well, no one’s entirely fearless and that might be dangerous anyway. But in general, this kid, who is now 22 years old, is pretty much fearless. Was that way as a child and is still that way now. And I admire it. So does my wife.

We’ve got snakes. She catches them.

Ever seen wolf spiders – yeah, the big guys! She’ll snag ‘em and used to “play” with them, too!  She always did and probably always will. Praying Mantis’s, crayfish, maybe even Hellgrammites (though we’ve never tested that) – no match for this girl!

And much more important, Madi’s not afraid of people either. Never was. She’s in the millennial generation – the texting generation – and yet, no problem getting on the phone and dealing with a “person” – to order pizza, schedule a doctor visit, call the mechanic, or deal with financial aid – none of it intimidates her. I’m not even big on that last one! She’ll talk with a stranger as quickly as the neighbors, she’ll hold any baby, she’ll get to know everyone at the nursing home, and she’ll make fast friends with any special needs child she meets.

Generally speaking, we know they’re relatively harmless situations (bugs included) – most of them that is. Yet, to many of us, they can all be pretty scary. Why? What do all of these things have in common? I believe it’s about a lack of control – fear of the unknown.  Most of us have a low tolerance for ambiguity. Yet that’s where the fun is. And the learning. And the growth.

My personal lesson is to become more like Madi. I want to be me, but work through my “silly” fears by emulating her tolerance for uncertainty. Perhaps she’s just less about herself and more about them – the people, and yes, the bugs! And that keeps her mind focused correctly.

Maybe that is the secret. To be others focused. The more we’re focused on others, the less we’re focused on us. And perhaps, at that level, we’ll be less intimidated by the ambiguity. After all, intimidation is internal and about how we might be perceived. Won’t have that if we’re not thinking about us.

By the way, if you need a creepy crawly removed from your house, give Madi a call. She’ll take care of it, and no one, not even the spider, will die!