A brief introduction to what you’ll find here

You (or someone you know) might find my books helpful

Awakening: Inspirations & Motivations in Living Color is the first volume of the posts that combine my photographs with thoughts to inspire and motivate you as you begin your day on two categories. The first, People, focuses on the relationships we have that are usually the why of our motivation to grow. The Purpose and Process category, on the other hand, channels reflection on what our purpose is and what goals and habits we may need to propel us in living in alignment with that purpose.

More about Awakening

enCharge: Transform Your Life From Within Through Your Life Success Factors was released in 2020. Energy takes the path of least resistance, so it must be channeled to make the most of it. Similarly, by identifying your life success factors, you can identify, seize and create opportunities that will lead to a more fulfilling life.

More about enCharge

Proceeds from both books benefit the enCharge Purpose in Action Scholarship at the University of Wisconsin Law school. I founded the scholarship to assist law students with a demonstrated record of pursuing their purpose and whose purpose will be furthered by a legal education at the finest legal institution I know (and which is also my alma mater, so I might be biased). If you’d like to contribute to the scholarship fund, please contact me.

Bite sized thoughts

Sometimes we need a quick breath to slow down and think. The Instagram feed below features my own photos with a brief thought (and sometimes quotes from others) along with some comments that might give you something to think about. You can also check out the short SIP of the Day series on a separate page.

I've become intrigued with succulents during my visits to Arizona — in particular, the lithops or living stones. They blend in with the landscape, looking like stones, though they do bloom. I wondered if they could be grown indoors. Could they be mixed with other succulents? What kind of sun did they need?

All that wondering is fine but meaningless because I wasn't taking action. So I finally went online, did some research, bought some, and spent time last night making a mess as I created small succulent gardens. I realized this morning I didn't do enough research because lithops require much less water than the other succulents, so this may be a short experiment, but it's still better than just wondering.

Dreams are great. You can start to visualize what the future may look like. Gain clarity on what you really want or who you want to be. But it is useless (and perhaps even demotivating) unless it is coupled with action, discipline, planning and execution.

What actions can you take to add life to your dreams?

#dreams #action #plan #execute

When we start a new day, week, year, job, relationship, project, or whatever, we have high hopes. That things will be better. Or different. We come into the newness, though, with the shadow of our past. If we don't take the time to resolve issues and challenges, they will be a drag on our performance and hobble our ability to capitalize on what is new.

What issues do you need to resolve so that you can not just change but revolutionize your life today?

#resolution #revolution #dothework #change #growth

Spring seems to have come early here this year. Like flowers popping up through the ground, we also seek out the warmth of the sun, as at the start of our 5K yesterday when it was 26F (-3C) but we found patches of sunshine to warm ourselves.

Spring is imbued with a sense of the newness and the promise of growth, for plants and for us. But we have to take action for growth to happen. To move toward the light and away from the darkness that may have held us back in the past.

At this start of the new week, what are you moving toward? What can you leave behind? Who will you take with you on your journey?

#growth #sunshine #action #spring

I have a weakness for plants and bought this one that was labeled as "Shamrock plant." Which isn't at all correct, but with the clusters of three triangular leaves, you can see why the Oxalis triangularis is commonly called the false shamrock. Does what we call it matter? Perhaps not, if you just love have pretty greenery around your desk that you hope will keep you alert all day with the oxygen it is producing.

Labels are not benign, though. We apply them to help our brains create order and predictability in the world so we don't have to think so much. But when we're labeling people, we absolutely DO need to take time and think. Whether we're applying what we consider positive, negative or neutral labels, each person is unique and labels do them and us a disservice. Stereotypes are rarely accurate, just as first impressions are not always correct. When we use them, it prevents us from updating our mental models and from discovering all the nuances, peculiarities, and charms that others have to offer if we take time to get to know them.

Today, try to identify when you might be applying labels. And take a pause to see if you need a label or more understanding.

#labels #stereotypes #generalizations #pause #teaming #relationships #connection

I enjoy olives and they look so delicious on the trees. But have you ever tasted one of these tasty-looking things right from a tree? Yikes.

Now if that unpleasant, mouth-puckering taste were your first experience with olives, I'm guessing you might not want to have one ever again. But you'd learn quickly that with a little (or a lot) of care and processing they can be delicious, so you might be willing to change your mind and try again.

Many first impressions are like that. Something looks great but leave a bad taste in our mouth. That may apply to people, places, products, services or anywhere else we encounter something new or novel. We frequently give up, even though we would hope that someone would give us a second chance if their first impression of us weren't what we'd hope. You know, get to know us better. See the real us. Understand we had things going on that first time. Because we are so much more interesting and important than raw olives.

How are you giving others the grace of a second chance? How are you willing to entertain that you might be wrong? Isn't it worth a shot to find something or someone amazing?

#tryagain #firstimpressions #grace #secondchance #willingtobewrong

SIP of the Day #63 – The weather of life

We have an aloe garden that has become a succulent jungle. About a year ago, I dug some of them out and planted them in a couple of areas where other plants had died. Not perhaps the best omen, but what did I have to lose?

As you can see, while some of the plants looks a bit scraggly, they are nevertheless thriving and blooming. Despite being grounded where they were, they were resilient enough to grow new roots and ground themselves in the new area and flourish.

It's good for us to be grounded in who we are — for example, our values. But to be resilient, we need to be able to quickly grow new roots and settle in wherever life takes us (even as our efforts and goals move us ever closer to where we want to be). Being uprooted is as stressful as it is to the aloe plants, but when we have a growth mindset, we can move forward and start over again as soon as we hit the ground.

Are you letting yourself stay rooted instead of seeking opportunity? How can you develop resilience that allows you to take a risk to try something new?

#roots #grounded #grounding #resilience #planted

After the recent snow, I noticed this upright tree with relatively smooth bark with these tiny stripes of snow. Somehow, a flake found a hold, and then another joined and they managed to stay there as the wind formed them. It seems unlikely to be able to place flakes in these precarious places, yet they did it.

There are a lot of really intimidating and scary things in life. Opportunities abound, yet we often remain rooted in a place what seems more safe, more certain. We'd rather stay where we than risk jumping and missing the mark. But we also then miss the chance to stick the landing and the rush of accomplishment, adrenaline and achievement that comes with it. And let's not overlook that if you see a possible destination, rest assured that someone else will to and will get there. As you look on (probably jealously) from that platform of safety that starts to feel more like an anchor preventing you from moving.

What risk can you take today? Start small, and your small successes will propel you to further growth and achievement.

#risk #action #anchor #stuck

As I was wandering around as the snow melted, I came across several frozen puddles (and yes, I was breaking the icy crust because I still find that fun). What I noticed was that some of them had leaves that were at the very bottom but leaves in other puddles were suspended in the water/ice.

When significant barriers and challenges pop up in our lives, it's natural to feel frozen as we try to figure out what is going on. The state of being frozen, though, results in the inability to move. To be like those leaves stuck at the bottom of the puddle. If we reframe the situation as being suspended, we recognize that we are in a temporary state AND that we have support that is keeping us where we are. That allows us to rely on that support, get our bearings, plan, and then move ahead when circumstances change. And perhaps even use it to build excitement for what's next like the suspense of being on the edge of one's seat.

If you're feeling frozen in a situation, what support can you rely on? How can you adopt the mindset of this being temporary and begin planning for what comes next?

#frozen #suspense #reframe #support #futurefocus

Our winter has been relatively mild, to the point that crocuses opened a couple weeks ago and daffodils are rising well over a month earlier than usual. They apparently just felt the timing was right.

Then we (finally) got snow last night. Not a lot, but it was heavy with ice. But the daffodils are bouncing back and just shrugging it off. They've seen plenty of snow before, they haven't started blooming yet, so they're just going to protect their buds and keep on growing.

We may not have "able to withstand icy snow" encoded in our DNA like the daffodils, but we do have the ability to create habits and mindsets that allow us to absorb what life throws at us, shrug it off (albeit slowly or painfully, sometimes) and get back on track. The hard work of creating that foundation comes long before life's challenges arise. It's the time spent working out of the limelight, not unlike the bulbs preparing for growth underground.

It's never too soon to create that foundation so that even when you might try something a bit sooner than is warranted, it becomes just another day rather than a significant setback.

#setback #challenges #foundation #support #habits #hardwork #resilience

I gained a better appreciation for bridges on a recent visit to Chicago. Their construction allowed the city to grow beyond the Loop, creating more opportunities for life and work. They required careful planning of pedestrian, vehicular (and horse) and marine traffic and took years to design and build.

To get to the next stage of growth, we often need bridges to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Those bridges could be building relationships with others, learning new information or skills, or developing supportive habits, to name a few. But none of these magically materialize. We have to pause, see the gap, make a plan, and take action to close the distance.

What bridge do you need to begin building? What's on the other side to motivate you to keep going?

#bridges #relationships #motivation #goals #hardwork #learning #habits

Even though it's not advised, I confess to feeding deer in our woods. There's a group of four who I can now recognize and differentiate and I love to see them wander toward me when I approach with the feed container. We have a routine. But I was away for a long weekend and when I went out there yesterday, they were nowhere to be found. They stopped waiting on me because they have other needs and priorities.

In our growth journeys, it's tempting to wait for/on others. I'll wait to see if she recognizes my work. I'll wait for him to change. I'll wait to see if I get that promotion. I'll wait to see if someone asks for my help on the big project. I'll wait for things to slow down. I'll wait for my lucky break.

While there is virtue in patience with our selves and our own progress, waiting on things that are beyond our control is usually a choice to delay growth. Other people are focused on their own issues. You need to focus on yours. So instead of taking a back seat to the agendas of others, take action for your own.

#action #priorities #dontwait #moveforward #futurefocus

Comparison to other individuals is (as I may mention more than you'd like) usually futile and often demotivating. But when we're having a difficult time, facing resistance or feel like we are failing, comparing our position to other CIRCUMSTANCES, may help us find the grit we need to keep going. The keys are focusing on the general rather than the personal, an "at least" mindset and gratitude.

When we compare ourselves against other people, we inevitably make judgments about that person or ourselves. Nothing positive comes out of that — we either arrogantly think we are better and try to push someone else down, or we feel inferior or pushed down ourselves. When we compare our specific circumstances to general circumstances, there's comparison but not the type of judgment that comes when we're talking about people. We acknowledge our situation, know it could be better, but realize it could certainly be worse. I lost a promotion, but at least I have a job. I lost a job, but at least I have a supportive spouse and family. I'm sick, but at least I'm alive. You get the idea.

And what this comparison can do is create gratitude due to the gap between where we are and what could be worse. That gratitude can fuel us to keep going. All is not lost. We have things going for us. We've got this. Let's dig in and move forward.

#grit #gratitude #comparison #nojudgment

The keychain on my "vacation keys" is a gift from a colleague. Each time I look at those keys, I am reminded of her. (And also of a great time visiting home design stores in Milan with my wife.) I also have a watch I bought while living in Europe to celebrate surviving a difficult patch I went through there there. When I wear it (usually on days when I anticipate a rough day ahead), I can look at it and remind myself of what I have been through before and that I'll get through this as well.

While these are not talismans in the dictionary sense of being good luck or warding off evil, at the same time they are, because being reminded of people who matter and our successes put us in a mental state where we're usually able to create our own luck.

What do you have that reminds you of your successes? People who care about you? People who YOU care about? Your values? Your goals? How can you use them to to create a positive mindset for success today?

#talisman #whatmatters #reminders #success #growth #teaming #relationships #futurefocus

I was fascinated as I watched this woman walking down the street casually carrying a lamp. I wondered what the story was. Lives nearby and bought something online from another consumer? Practicing some sort of balancing while walking? Who knows. But I saw something different and it made me pause. And stare.

While it varies among cultures, in the States we tend to think of staring as undesirable, especially if others are staring at us. It's uncomfortable. Why are they doing it? Did I do something wrong?

Often, though, it is recognition that you have taken the courage to do something out of the ordinary. Whether that's walking down the street with a lamp, wearing a different type of ensemble, posting your first blog, starting a new business, or going to the gym to get in shape, you have taken action. People will notice. Many will stare in fascination and curiosity. And those who stare without a positive intent are often simply frustrated that they lack courage to follow their own dreams. Because we rarely stare at something that isn't changing.

What will you have the courage to do to garner the stares of others this week?

#staring #courage #action #change #growth

I was back at Newark's Terminal A this morning. Recall that it is brand new. So I was surprised to see this signage at TSA. And trying to remember the last time I have seen someone concerned about camera film. Is this something that is just required by TSA? A challenge to see if any of us were paying attention at 5:30 AM? No idea. But doesn't seem like it is particularly helpful to the overwhelming majority of passengers.

Often we do things because that's how we have always done them, whether a personal habit, a process at work, or putting up the same literal signs as the past many decades. They were good ideas once. Maybe they still are. But unless we take a step back from time to time (I'd recommend at least twice per year) and see if they're still serving us, we may end up wasting a lot of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere.

Is there something you've been doing habitually for more than a year? Are you getting the return you wanted from that investment of time? If not, perhaps it's time to switch things up.

#habits #routine #challenge #statusquotrap

In my continued experiment to see if running is right for me, I completed my first 5K race of the year last weekend. My goal was the same as the first 5K last year — to not stop running, to finish and, preferably, not come in last place — with the addition of also trying to enjoy the scenery.

In the excitement of the race, it was hard to remember to run MY race. To focus on those goals. To not be distracted by what everyone else was doing. To not compare. To not pick up my pace too soon. To not beat myself up when people kept passing me. But instead remain focused on being the best that I could be that particular day.

In life, we may not always be "competing" against others as in a race, but comparison to others who seem to be doing better than us can be demotivating. We feel like we're falling behind, failing. We beat ourselves up for not being as good, as fast, as strong, as … whatever… as someone else.

If we run our own race, though, we only compare our performance against our past performance and our future desires. This allows us to refocus and redouble our efforts to do better the next time. It has the effect of motivating us rather than finding ourselves wanting when compared to someone else.

How are you running your race? How are you showing up consistently for your own improved performance? What's your last PR and your next goal? Lace up!

#running #race #competition #motivation

I was at the Desert Botanical Garden early enough to see the sun begin to highlight the amazing sculptures of Rotraut. Many of them have glittering bits that shine as the sun sets upon them. The bits were there before the sun came up, but they couldn't be seen and appreciated. They didn't have an impact.

Those glittery bits are like talent in a way. We can have all the talent in the world, but it doesn't really matter if we don't do anything with it. If we don't put in the hard work to focus and apply the talent. To share the talent with others. And to eventually have the sunshine of opportunity shine upon us. No one benefits from hiding their talents or preventing others from growing.

How will you work to hone your talents and seek opportunities to use them? How will you create space for the talents of others to develop?

#talent #hardwork #opportunity #teaming

SIP of the Day #61 – Sometimes we have to remove things to make room for new growth.

#trees #saplings #growth #choices #gethelp

I don't know what happened to this cactus, but it seems to have had a lumpy start to life, then tried to set down fresh roots as it focused in a new direction. Because it was somehow able to see that what came before didn't necessarily define what came next.

When we think about our lives, we can sabotage our future by using words like "always" or "never." Absolute words like that are based on our experience in the past, usually negative. When we say them, we are (perhaps unwittingly) indicating that we expect that they will continue into the future. We hobble ourselves with that negative impression rather than letting the past stay there and looking unencumbered to what the future may hold. Follow the example of the odd-looking cactus that has the courage to make its own way.

What absolute terms do you find yourself saying? What may they indicate you should consider letting go or reframing?

#letgo #futurefocus #absolutes #growth #thepastisdone