no man is a failure who has friends

Today my daughter and I were walking out of a store . After we greeted the Salvation Army  bell ringers she turned to me and asked me who they were. I explained to her that many people are homeless or in great need. I assured her that it would never happen to us because of our friends and family (at least I pray it never does). But it got me thinking. Right now as the world continues to tremble under an economic climate not seen for decades and terms like fiscal cliff are in headlines everyday, we should consider how deep our friendships go as well as those we are connected to that are in need. It is one reason Clarences  note at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life really stood out to me this year: “Dear George: Remember no man is a failure who has friends. P.S. Thanks for the wings! -Love, Clarence.”

Merry Christmas

I also wanted to share a post I wrote two years ago this night called “Ten minutes ten years from now: The angel Clarence & measuring your influence success”. It still resonates with me today. In fact I go back to remind myself from time to time what I wrote there. Here is an excerpt:

“…….Kelly Craft asked a question last week that begins to answer this question. She asked what I would do if I had ten minutes to check in on things ten years into the future.”

continue reading …..




Where they’ve been, where they are & where they’re going

I have been working on this post in my head since before Thanksgiving.  This time of year as we come together with friends, co-workers and family, the stress of the season can really ramp up emotions. Often we don’t see these people for large gaps of time. We may see them every day. What we (and I fully include myself here) easily do is place an image of what the person used to be like, their values, personality, achievements and passions. Worse yet we hang onto their failures. We rarely allow room for what their life is like in the present or the dreams they are going after.

Instead of me writing more I’d like to try something different. My friend Melinda Lancaster shared a picture that summed up so much of this. It was a rare shot of a tree in three stages of season, all at once. Meldina and I marveled over how it was so symbolic of a person’s walk through life. We are all growing, learning, being pruned, failing and succeeding. In many ways, all at the same time. So, take a moment and think of a few people you will interact with at the next party, meeting or around the dinner table. Try and imagine their life as you observe the new buds, turning leaves, bare branches and even new fruit.

Tree in Seasons by

by Melinda Lancaster

Icarus Deception and V for Vulnerable Givaway

It has been a while since I did a book giveaway and you will not want to miss this one. Last spring I backed the higher level of Seth Godin’s Kickstarter project for publishing his latest book The Icarus Deception. You can basically call it his challenge to conventional publishing. He believes that it takes a community to successfully sell a book instead of a slick publishing campaign. Seth delivered a whole slew of rewards this past week and I want to give some of it away.

Giving The Icarus Deception away without a call to action just did not seem right. I don’t have a lot but as Theodore Roosevelt said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

So I thought I would share a bit about a group I am volunteering with as a writer. Two weeks ago I joined the Exodus Road as a storyteller. As part of a fleet of bloggers around the world, I will be telling stories about real life raids, those on the ground and many other interesting reports of what The Exodus Road and partners are doing to rescue women and children from sex slavery in SE Asia.

To do these efforts Exodus has to fund brothel raids. These raids require state of the art technology and support for the brave undercover operatives infiltrating locked brothels to rescue the victims. The raid funds will also pay for investigative work to document and prosecute those committing these crimes.

So here is how the giveaway works.

There will only be one person receiving the whole package that includes two copies of Icarus Deception (one to keep and hopefully one you will gift to someone has art the world needs to see), and one copy of V is for Vulnerable, a picture book written by Seth Godin and Illustrated by Hugh MacLeod.

To be entered into the contest all you have to do these two steps.

1. Share the raid funding site on the twitter using a link on Twitter, Facebook, pinterest or Google Plus. Here is the link

2. Post a comment here and make sure you leave a link where you shared it above.

(some have reported that Disqus comment system has not allowed them to comment. If that happens please send me a note at john at and I will post your entry. Make sure the subject in your email is “pick yourself”)

It is up to you whether you donate or not. But just think. What you and your community gives will free someone from slavery. Wow!

So far Exodus has had 348 teams’ Prosecutions to date, 622 victims saved By teams, 15 undercover operatives and 11 organizations supported. Now that is truly incredible.

Thanks and have fun. The contest will end Monday the 17th at midnight (Pacific Standard Time). I will then randomly pick the winner using a great unbiased third party service.  I will announce the winner on Monday the 17th. Also, I will ship free only to the continental US. If you are beyond that I will require payment to offset the cost.

The Ebb and Flow of Friendship

I used to be an aquatic scientist. The estuary was one of my favorite sites to work. Depending on the season the tide would bring in different species of fish and the fresh water from the river flow would make the place a dynamic meeting place between the ocean and land.

You never knew what you would get as we pulled in our seine nets to sample species. We guessed (based on the salinity, time of year and habitat) what would be around, but it was still a mystery.

Relationships are similar. In the ebb and flow over our lives, from childhood to our adult lives, we encounter new people, some becoming good friends and other just acquaintances. We make close friends when circumstances are favorable. Life has seasons and, often those friendships change as a result.

I used to feel bad when losing touch with a good friend. Recently we moved as a family from a a small town where we had established over fourteen years a strong network of friends. Social tools have helped us stay in contact with many of them, but it has also been important to make new friends where we are now. One difference I have come to realize during this transition is that when pressure is removed, we can just enjoy the ebb and flow of friendship.

We all go through seasons in life. As we grow older our list of friends grows. Something that is important to adopt is a “no pressure” stance. There will be times for collaborations, partnerships and alliances. There will be times that we will be critical in a the success of others. There will be times when we have exactly what is needed to help one another out. This week I saw a great quote from author and lawyer activist Bob Goff: “At some point we all end up standing at the bottom of a well looking up. Good friends make good ropes”

I have been the one in the well and I have been the one with the rope, both multiple times. As we hold our friendships valuable we also hold them loosely allowing each other to navigate life in a way that both allows for a deepening and broadening of our connections. It gives us freedom to create, love and inspire in the ebb and flow of friendship.



Connection equates to art.

Art requires connection by Hugh MacLeod

When we show up, it happens. When we risk failure and humiliation, it happens. When we pay attention, it happens. Art happens. Hugh MacLeod sent out this recent print in his newsletter. Art requires connection or it dies. Art happens when, as Seth Godin states in his latest book, ” we’re truly alive”.

I witnessed it this week when friends connected a mutual friend to solve a ranching problem involving cattle. For me, I have been flooded with incredible friends coming to my aid and asking me to share some of my own art as try to fund my next stage as an entrepreneur. Becky McCray did it this week when she connected to dozens of her readers who are learning what she and Barry J Moltz offer through their book Small Town Rules.

The gas attendant last night did it when she looked me in the eye and said, “how is your night going”….and actually meant it.

My son is doing it this weekend as he and his Lego League robotics team attempt to qualify for state. I think we can all learn something from the fresh, bold and untarnished spirits of 12 year-olds.

So how will it happen for you today?

Watching Others: Part 3 of how to connect

This past Sunday I finally sat down to watch the Pixar film Brave. During the film what I ended up watching most was my daughter’s face. When Princess Merida rode through the kingdom on her horse, my daughter let out a giggle and her face lit up. Deep inside something was truly touched watching the princess ride freely on her massive steed and climb cliffs and. For most of this year she has been fascinated by anything related to princesses. This has not been any ordinary disney induced phenomena either. She asks me questions like “Why do princess stories always have a villain?” or “Why are so movie princesses always blonde and white?”

I could easily miss this opportunity to speak into her life. At nine she seems to be soaking up so much from her mother’s life and influence. From me she wants to know my strength and love. She wants to know she is cared for and delighted in.

So I ended up watching her face and eyes on and off during the film. They were like clues into her heart and soul. I made note of them and tried to think of things to ask her later. And believe me those questions have to be good because it is hard to get her talking about anything.

So what does this have to do with connecting? It is no different with others in our lives. When we meet someone new we should be just as mindful. We connect best when we first watch and learn about the other person. We know the right questions to ask when we look for the cues into their story. We know their story only when we slow down enough to hear what they have to say or study their expressions. A persons smile or their eyes can tell you so much.

In the previous posts in this series I focused on getting over fear and being ourselves. But this one takes a dedicated effort beyond those first steps. It means that in our demand filled world we have to stop for a moment and make someone else the only one who matters.

Showing Up: Part 2 on how to connect with others

Chris Skaggs just being himself

I love a scene in the movie Braveheart right before the Battle of Sterling Bridge. It is a short exchange between William Wallace and his friend Stephen.

Stephen: Fine speech. Now what do we do?
William Wallace: Just be yourselves.

To be yourself, to show up in the full weight of who you really are is essential to making long lasting and powerful connections.  When that happens we offer so much. And even before we do business, become close friends or share much of anything we have given a gift of art. Seth Godin in his new book The Icarus Deception says it so well:

“Art isn’t pretty. Art isn’t painting. Art isn’t something you hang on the wall. Art is what we do when we’re truly alive.”

Here is an example. My friend Dennis Rivera is a photographer with an incredible eye for beauty. He shows up everyday on my Instagram stream with images that capture my heart and inspire me to show up in my own way. And it does not stop there. Others see his art and respond the same way. But Dennis is not just a great photographer he is also the kind of person you want running your customer engagement campaign. In his own words he is “the most vocal person arguing for the customer, the reader, the end-user”. He has the wit and charm that is needed to help others navigate customer needs. He shows up.

True connection creates art. We are meant to create it together. And it begins by showing up with yours. Others will follow in your wake.

This is a second post in a series on the basics of connecting with others. The first post was all about the fear flinch and killing it: Nine Cold Showers: The Connection Flinch

If you like this series you might also like these: Disruption and listening.

The Day After: Grab a Pint and Keep a Friend

Last night, as the votes were tallied, electoral votes awarded, and speeches were given,  I was reminded how diverse my friends are. The updates coming in from Facebook and my inner circle on Twitter  showed statements so wide ranging that I am pretty sure some of them would never sit at the same table and share a meal. Am I overstating this? I don’t think so. But does it have to be this way?

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

- Thomas Jefferson

One of my favorite political science professors in college was on loan from Oxford for a season. I really enjoyed his removed perspective on American politics. One book he assigned us has stayed with me all these years and has helped me understand the polarity of our country when it comes to presidential politics. But even more so I think it helps us see how this polarity can often harm one of our deepest assets, our connectedness.

In Visible Saints, Edmund S. Morgan unpacks the history behind the original formation of communities in the colonies. Decision making was initially structured around the religious organizations stemmed out of the Puritan establishments. Tests were created to determine an individual’s salvation and thus your ability to vote not just within the church but as a community member. This (not surprisingly) opened a whole myriad of problems. How do we determine a persons heart? But I don’t want to talk theology here. I do want to draw attention to the consequence of that system: division. And that division has only spawned deeper separation.
That same professor shared with me how he was amazed that in Europe he often found himself at odds with friends over politics. They would have lively discussions in the pub over pints and even red-faced arguments over issues. But then they would walk outside, embrace each other, and go home as close of friends as when they had arrived.
My hope is that politics aside, we can push past what separates and divides us, and be friends, countrymen, brothers and sisters.


Nine Cold Showers: The Connection Flinch

I’ve been taking cold showers for nine days in a row. No, it has nothing to do with libido. It has everything to do with flinching. I just finished Julien Smith’s book Flinch published by Project Domino. It had been sitting in my book stack for nearly a year. I could not have read it at a better time though.

As promised I have started a series of new posts on how to connect with others. You could easily argue that most of my writings in some way answer that question. What I discuss in this series is the essence behind making new and lasting connections. But we have to start someplace, and most of us flinch when it comes to being vulnerable and reaching out.

Flinch explores the phenomena behind our fears that keep us from achieving our goals. A boxer for example learns to not flinch in the face of being hit. The fighter also learns to use the opponents flinch against them by waiting to strike when it appears.

Smith takes the reader through exercises, first putting them back in touch with the flinch and then training them to use it when trying something intimidating or new.

Meeting someone for the first time has a whole set of associated dangers. Questions of inadequacy, acceptance (or worse rejection) and uncertainty come with every new introduction.

As I started the first exercise I paid close attention to what my reactions. Smith’s instructions were simple. Replace your regular comfortable warm shower every morning with icy cold ones….for five days. Not only that, skip the flinch by not letting the hesitation take hold. My first attempt was really difficult. All my muscles tensed up and I thought there was no way I could get to point of doing this without hesitation.

Around the fourth day I realized that something was beginning to shift. I was beginning to not flinch.

In another exercise Smith assigns he challenges the reader to go up to strangers and engage in any type of conversation. For me this is simple. For so many though it is worse than any possible assignment. Like the showers, the initial pain of sticking ones neck out and connecting really is small compared to the benefits of human relationships. But tell that to someone who just can’t bring themselves to actually say the first “hi”.

What I have noticed about the cold shower exercise is that it has changed something beyond my ability to dive into cold water until the pain subsides. I am becoming more deliberate in many of my actions. I am not hesitating when it comes to paying the bills or having the hardest conversations. I am learning to not let the flinch rule.

So if you are up for an assignment, here is a tweak to the one Smith gives when it comes to meeting new people. Make a list of five people you really want to connect with. They can be someone in your hometown or an influencer who lives on the other side of the world. They may be someone you have want to date or they could be a writer that has inspired you in some way. It does not matter. This next week reach out to those five. And when you are done with that list make another one. The first step in connecting with others is…. going first, even if you are facing the flinch.  I can’t wait to hear the stories that unfold.

Desire leads to connection

I was asked once again this week “How do you connect with people so easily?”. I think about the answer all the time, because I am asked at least twice a week.

Desire is an underlying reason. I am continually seeking out what I desire in life. Going one step further I am pursuing those desires. I have found is that I am drawn to others that are passionate about life and are living from their heart as well. Now I could go into what those desires are but really I think it has more to do with attraction. We feel inspired when we are around people who bring out the best in us. I make the most connections on the days that I am awake to my heart. The days that I allow myself to be driven by hope, life and desire are the days I meet the most interesting people.

This morning I watched a video that my two friends Joshua Gordon and Jim Gray shared. It brought back many desires that led me down this path of connection, writing and art. Watch it and pay attention to your reactions. They may answer some deep questions. And if you are asking yourself “How do I connect with others more?”, let those reactions take you on a journey. You may be surprised with the outcome.

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