Posts Tagged ‘Giving’

Oklahoma Tornado SurvivorIn the midst of tragic events like this week’s tornado destruction in Oklahoma, there is always much that tugs at the heart.  We ache for the families of those who have lost loved ones.  We shake our heads in disbelief at the sight of the destruction, most of us unable to comprehend what it is like to have all of one’s belongings gone in a moment.  Those with small children hold their kids a little tighter before putting them to bed, shedding tears of compassion for those unable to hold their children any more.  We feel a little guilty that our lives go on with relative ease as so many others struggle to literally and figuratively pick up the pieces.

What can we do?  We can pray for those impacted.  We can give financially to help meet their current and future needs.  Some can go and give of their time and energy to demonstrate love and compassion for fellow human beings.  It won’t restore life that is lost or heal broken hearts, but it is the best we can do when events of this magnitude happen.

We can also rejoice in small victories – in lives spared in the midst of the rubble, in unusual circumstances that kept some people from where they would normally have been at that time that would have resulted in more injury or death, and in the touching stories that bring a lump in the throat such as when a woman’s beloved dog is found alive (pictured above).  We can be thankful that so many instinctively start helping others tirelessly.  We can be glad that in a nation where serious divisions exist, there is still a basic human compassion that overflows from the majority in times like this.

If your neighbor hurts, it matters not what political, philosophical, religious or social differences you have.   It only matters that someone is in need and you can do something about it.

Who is my neighbor?  Today, a lot of people in Oklahoma are my neighbors, even though I’m in Louisville.  They’re your neighbors, too.  Love them and show them you care in every way that you can.

American IdolMy wife and I have enjoyed watching American Idol for years.  I missed the first season, but have been a big fan since then.  Now that we’re into the phase where America votes weekly on who remains, I thought it might be nice to reflect on some of the many lessons that can come from watching this show.  Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. People aren’t always as talented as they think they are.  The early episodes of every season are proof of this.  Some are just painful to hear.  William Hung, anyone?

2. Talent can be found in unexpected places.  I’m not talking geography here since people travel all over the country to these auditions.  I’m referring to the fact that a booming voice might come out of a soft-spoken, unkempt, homeless person nobody would ever suspect as a good singer.  File this one under “can’t judge a book by its cover.”

3. You need social skills in addition to talent.  The contestant who has a great voice but who can’t get along with others, also fails to connect with the voting public, and eventually loses.  It’s not just about you and your talent; it’s about living in the context of a community and relationships, and that’s a whole different ballgame.

4. Only the strong survive.  I feel for the singers who get matched up in group week with people they can’t relate to or with people who don’t want to do their fair share.  That week requires everyone to work hard – all night if needed, and those who slack off tend not to progress to the next round.

5. Never assume you’re safe.  How many singers through the years have been surprisingly eliminated early in the voting, most likely because people didn’t bother to vote for them since they considered them safe?  Assume nothing.

6. Your vote counts.  Or, more accurately this season, your 50 votes count.  If you don’t vote, don’t gripe about the results.  Do your duty and vote if you care about an outcome.

7. Not everyone who judges you is worthy of doing so.  While the four judges this year had sole authority to determine the top twenty, they may or may not have made the right calls.  They may not be representative of what America wants.  They may have hidden agendas and criteria we never hear about that impacts their decisions.  Do I personally really care about anything Nicki Minaj ever thinks or says?  No.  But she’s paid the big bucks to sit there looking dumb and sounding dumber, so whether she is worthy or not isn’t the point now.  Contestants will still be impacted by her comments for good or bad.

8. Give it your all.  When singers play it safe and just blend in with other so-so performances, that doesn’t cut it.  You need to give it your heart and soul and know that you left it all on the stage.  The final results may be in others’ hands, but you can at least know you did your best.  There is great satisfaction in that.

9. Always keep learning and improving.  Whatever your current skill level, there is room for improvement, so do what it takes to learn and grow and reach your goals.

10. Make friends along the way.  Nobody wants to be around others whom they fear would willingly stab them in the back to get ahead.  Don’t be such a person.  Be the one who takes the time to notice and befriend others as you go.  Praise the members of the band.

11. Climbing a ladder isn’t a lifestyle.  There is more to life than just trying to get somewhere else in the future.  It’s about experiencing the present, too.  You climb ladders for a short while so you can do something else at the end of that ladder.  Know when to step off the ladder and do other things.

12. It’s OK not to get the most votes.  If there are 10,000 people trying out and only one can win, does that mean 9,999 are losers?  No!  It just means that the system is set up to give a greater reward to one person.  Many contestants go on to very successful careers without winning the competition.  You get to define success in your life.  Don’t let others do that for you.

13. Fame and fortune comes at a cost.  Some have the personal character, wisdom and right people nearby to handle fame and fortune.  Some give in to its temptations and flame out early.  If you think you’ll be the one making all the calls about what happens with your life at the level of stardom these singers seek, you’re wrong.  There are trade-offs your dreams didn’t envision.

14. Enjoy the ride.  We know that some things can’t last forever.  That’s OK.  Be thankful that it happened as long as it did.

15. Give back.  You didn’t get where you are completely by yourself.  Parents, friends, teachers, even bitter enemies all worked to help shape you into the person you are, as did your own dogged determination.  Others are invested in you with their lives.  Give back to them.

I’m sure I’ve missed some obvious lessons that my fellow American Idol fans can think of.  What are they?  Tell me in a comment.

p.s. – If you haven’t figured it out by now, the lessons above don’t apply just to a singing competition.

Deposits Withdrawals

image from

Today’s blog post is about dog training, but about much more than that.  I’ve been a fan of the dog trainer Eric Letendre for several years, reading his books, watching his videos, and eagerly reading his daily emails about the subject.  (If you’re curious, check out his book The Amazing Dog Training Man’s Ultimate Guide to Dogs or his website or YouTube channel.)

His email from a few days ago rang true as good advice not just for dog training, but for relationships in general, so I want to share it with you.  The email recalls a chapter in his book where he wrote about “how the relationship is like a checking account.  Every time you do something positive with your dog, you are making a deposit into the account.  Every time you do something negative to your dog, you are making a withdrawal.  In order for the relationship to stay positive, happy and healthy, you have to be making more deposits into the account.  Too many withdrawals without enough deposits will result in a relationship that will go negative.”


Beyond the relationship you have with your pets, think about the relationships you have with key people in your life – spouse, family members, coworkers, neighbors, friends, acquaintances.  Think about the best of those relationships.  Aren’t they the ones where there is more thought to giving than taking?  Don’t you get tired of being around people who always want something from you, but never give in return?  Don’t you want to free yourself from being around those who inject nothing but negativity into your life?  Don’t you want to be with those who give and who are positive?  I do.

If a relationship with someone has soured in your life, try to analyze it from the deposit/withdrawal perspective.  If you are making more positive deposits in the lives of others, chances are good they will not think twice about the occasional withdrawal you need to make.  But be careful about always being the one to withdraw, or you may just find others wanting to withdraw from the relationship.

Make more deposits than withdrawals, and as the image above says, know when to close the account.

Put Others FirstAs I read many goals others are setting for 2013, I am struck by the number of them that relate to people loving themselves more, putting themselves first, focusing on “me” time, etc.  I have very mixed emotions about such goals.

On the one hand, I can certainly see the importance of taking care of oneself, of engaging in healthy behaviors and setting a variety of personal goals that address some aspect of one’s body, mind or spirit.  I will set goals in each of those areas myself, and share them with you in a few days.  But where I wonder about the health of a goal is in actually making the goal putting oneself first.  I realize most may do that whether it’s a stated goal or not, but I can’t get past the apparent self-centeredness of it.

Perhaps for people who have been repeatedly taken advantage of by others for years, a focus on taking control of their lives is appropriate.  In other circumstances, though, is it appropriate to say that your goal for 2013 is to put yourself first?

When I look around me at the people I admire, at the ones who have impacted my life the most, at those whose example is worth imitating, none of them are people I would describe as putting themselves first.  They always seem to be giving to others sacrificially, thinking less often of themselves than of those around them, doing without material things and experiences in this life so that others can benefit.  Aren’t such people greater examples of what the best of humanity looks like compared to those who think primarily of themselves?

We live in a selfish world with no shortage of a “me first” attitude.  As we suffer the consequences of societal deterioration through crime, violence, failed relationships and more, do we need more people committed to putting themselves first, ahead of all others?  I don’t think so.  Yes, we must take care of ourselves, of course, but not to the exclusion of intentionally taking care of others as well.

Leap year lesson #362 is Put others first in 2013.

Driver Oriol Servia, Jeff Ross & Humana CEO Mike McCallister

Driver Oriol Servia, Jeff Ross & Humana CEO Mike McCallister

I participated in an unusual and enjoyable charitable event today.  Indianapolis 500 race car driver Oriol Servia spent time at our company headquarters raising funds for the organization Racing for Kids.

There were two ways to participate and contribute.  One was to donate $15 in order to have your photo taken while standing by one of the two Indy cars there with Servia on one side of you and our company CEO on the other.  That’s the route I took (pictured here).  The other option was to donate $100 in exchange for a very fast but once-in-a-lifetime ride around our block in downtown Louisville in the other Indy car driven by Servia.  There was no shortage of men and women waiting in line to pay $100 for that one-minute experience.

People ask you and me for donations all the time, from homeless people on the street to unsolicited phone calls, mail, email, churches, plus a host of others on TV and various media.  Today’s experience made me think about the approach solicitors take to request donations.

How often has someone tried to get you to give by making you feel guilty?  How often has some story (of questionable authenticity) been told to tug at your heart and drain your wallet?  How many times have you heard the same old tired sermons trying to use a few verses out of context to guilt you into giving a certain percentage of your income only to that church?  How effective are the above methods with you?

Contrast that with today’s example where people were lining up to pay $15 for a 15-second photo or $100 for a ride around the block.  People wanted to give today and even signed up in advance to do so, myself included.

Think about that the next time you solicit funds.  I’ll give a pass to the homeless person on style and wow-factor points.  As for the rest of us, it looks like we can still learn a thing or two about effective fund-raising.

Leap year lesson #345 is Make people want to give.