Bula Network, LLC is my company. It’s where I coach and consult. And I podcast there, too.
I don’t yet own one of these T’s, but I hope to one day. I didn’t even know they existed until Monday. Somebody asked me – for the umpteenth time – what “bula” meant and after I explained it I Googled it for the ballizioneth time. I must have inadvertently hit the “image” choice in Google and I saw this t-shirt. Well, not the yellow version, but I had to post a picture of it yellow given my propensity to drive, wear, paint and do other things involving the color. How can you not love yellow?
My recent neck surgery taught me a few things. You knew it would. I’m a guy who is always in search of an epiphany. When epiphanies evade me, I’m willing to accept some seemingly insignificant life lesson. Those tend to come in droves. Epiphanies hide better than a wall outlet behind a big piece of furniture.
Today’s show is about resilience, optimism and having a sunny outlook. But it’s not about just having a nice disposition. It’s about the real values and benefits found in always being sunny (at least as much as you can). Some people seem to be born with a sunny disposition. Others, well, they seem to be born on the dark side of the moon.
I wonder why optimism is sometimes called blind. Why isn’t pessimism at least considered near-sighted?
My experience is that pessimism is just as blind – maybe blinder – than optimism. Think back when you were a kid. The monsters under your bed and in your closet. We accepted no evidence they didn’t exist. Our pessimism was blind as a bat, but we knew those monsters were there. Pull your head out from under the covers and you’d have your head ripped off. Everybody knows monsters don’t mess with kids under blankets. That’s just how monsters roll. From then until now we see danger and failure everywhere we look.
Oh, this is gonna be bad.”
On the flip side whenever we had a hankering to go build a fort we knew – beyond any shadow of a doubt – that it would turn out to be SPECTACULAR!! What’s up with that? The same infantile mind that knew imaginary monsters lurked in the dark also knew the fort would be a million tons of awesome. What happened? We grew up. We got jaded. The world changed us. It didn’t make us better. Sometimes it just made us bitter.
While writing this post on Monday, August 11, 2014 news broke that Robin Williams had been found dead at his own hand. Today is Wednesday and Robin is everywhere. He’s riding the big wave of today’s news’ cycle. Robin is today’s celebrity face of depression. I don’t pretend to understand it from any clinical or therapeutic perspective, but as a person who can be given to melancholy moments…I suppose I have some notion of the loneliness. Robin’s death must impact a podcast with the title, “It’s Always Sunny In Bula!”
I don’t suppose there’s anywhere that it’s always sunny. It reminds me of the Mark Knopfler song, “Why Worry.” Here are the lyrics:
Baby i see this world has made you sad
Some people can be bad
The things they do, the things they say
But baby I’ll wipe away those bitter tears
I’ll chase away those restless fears
That turn your blue skies into gray
Why worry, there should be laughter after pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now
Baby when i get down i turn to you
And you make sense of what i do
I know it isn’t hard to say
But baby just when this world seems mean and cold
Our love comes shining red and gold
And all the rest is by the way
Why worry, there should be laughter after pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now
Why Worry Lyrics
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
Still, most people worry. Some more than others. Some, unable to get out of bed. Others visit darker places than the rest of us. Darkness can wrap any of us up, bind us tight and swallow us down. Are any of us immune? I don’t much think so.
Sadness and despair visit all of us. Sometimes they camp out in the spare bedroom and stay for awhile. Other times they knock on the door, scream in our face then vanish off to spend more time perhaps with another.
At the grandest level, it comes from God. At the human level it comes from purpose. It’s always sunny in Bula isn’t about Fiji. It’s not about Bula Network either. It’s about why you live. Why you do what you do.
I’m a Christian. I obeyed Christ by being baptized for the forgiveness of my sins on July 17, 1968. And so it has been ever since. Mostly trying. Sometimes trying hard. Other times not giving it nearly the effort it deserves. But never doubting for a moment the validity of the creation story in Genesis. Nor wondering, “Why am I here?” I know the answer to that. And it may surprise that it’s the same for all of us. Nobody is anointed to some special calling or purpose. God created us in His image for His glory and honor. It doesn’t mean we all recognize it or understand it. It’s just how it is.
Beyond that, the rest is just details. Whether I involve myself in business, or art, or music, or education…well, that’s just the stuff I do to support myself and my family, to serve others and to influence people for good. At the heart of it all serving God. Colossians 3:23 tells us that when we serve men in whatever role we have – that passage speaks to servants or slaves – we’re really serving God. In the years of being a corporate steward, running businesses that I didn’t own, I was devoted to the men and women I served diligent to be a faithful steward of the responsibility bestowed on me. Most of them weren’t Christians, but I was. My obligations to God meant I had obligations to them.
All that matters because sunshine matters. Hope matters. And if I believed this life was all there was, then my view would be very different. Maybe. But there is life beyond this one. That changes everything.
So if you ask me of my hope, my optimism…it’s not based on global economics, national policy, technological trends or cultural shifts. It’s based on my belief that God is God and we’re here for His good pleasure. When we serve God He stands with us through the night.
Optimism matters. Sunshine does, too. Late Monday night Billy Crystal, longtime friend of Robin Williams, sent the most appropriate Tweet possible about the death of his friend, “No words.”
Sometimes we have to fight for sunny. I’m betting Billy Crystal is fighting today…along with many other people touched by the death of Robin Williams. Me? I’m doing my own bit of battling by watching Good Morning Vietnam again.
Your optimism makes a difference. I know. I’m a man who just endured some major surgery.
I arrived around 6:30AM last Monday. By 8AM I’m in pre-op and within half an hour I’m out. A few hours later I’m waking up without any memory of the helpful trauma. An hour later I’m walking the halls by the nurses station. No applause. No cheers. But I did get some encouragement. “Good. Keep it up.” Minutes later I’m back in my room when my nurse checks my vitals. I thank her for her service. She tells me it’s her job and she’s happy to do it. “I know,” I say, “but I also know some people can be really difficult when they’re not well, or when they’re in pain. I’m not one of those guys.”
She proceeds to tell me how important it is for patients to have a positive outlook about their recovery and improvement. We agree that people have the ability to will themselves to improve. Or endure the incurable.
Too bad it’s not as easy as just telling somebody, “Be sunny.” That’s like telling somebody to, “Get rich.” Lots of folks want to. They just don’t know how.
First, I think it requires faith, belief. People who lack sufficient belief in themselves and in the pursuit of a thing will be crushed. It won’t necessarily be due to their lack of ability. It’s likely going to result more from their lack of effort brought about by a “I don’t see any point” attitude.
The hospital patient who lays in bed bemoaning their pain isn’t going to put in the effort I did. I got my butt out of bed as soon as I could and never went back. In fact, I slept in the reclining chair in the room. Mostly because it was more comfortable, but also because I could more easily get up and down without any help. My heart was telling me, “This is your health. Take charge. Get better. Muscle through this because it won’t last long.”
I know that kind of self-talk isn’t enough for everybody. Some people need help…more help than just friends and family can offer.
Next, I think it takes a commitment. Sunny is hard. Hard takes a lot of work, but before any of us actually do work…we have to be committed and willing to do it.
When I was a kid I’d do some manual labor for my dad’s home construction company. The work began in my bedroom at some horrific hour. Dragging myself – or allowing somebody else to drag me out of bed – was job one. You may think, “Well, that’s not much commitment.” I’d argue you’re wrong. It’s exactly the commitment required. Maybe it’s minimal, but you have to get out of bed. I did. I always got out of bed. It was always hard. But it kept money in my pockets and my folks off my back. A win-win.
Don’t forget that it also requires dedication. By the time I got to the job site something else was necessary if I was going to make the day sunny. I had to actually perform. My commitment was demonstrated by just showing up. My dedication would be shown by contributing to the efforts that day.
I’ll applaud anybody for showing up, but not for just showing up. I know how hard it is to get out of bed. To me, that’s way harder than actually doing work once you get there. To arrive, then be slothful is way worse in my book. Better to not show up at all. Now you’ve added a burden to the work instead of contributing positively to it. You can’t possibly be sunny if you show up only to slack off.
Sunny takes dedication to get busy being productive once you arrive.
I think sunny also takes having a sense of accomplishment. Maybe you think of the mindless jobs of folks on an assembly line, but even those folks can find a sense of accomplishment in those repetitive tasks. That bolt on that bumper wouldn’t happen without them. It’s an accomplishment. An important accomplishment. If your truck was missing that bolt you’d be hacked. So would I.
Unfortunately there are lots of people who don’t view life like that. They’re constantly chasing some big thing because the little mundane, but necessary things just aren’t good enough to give them enough sunny. The problem isn’t their work. It’s their view of it.
Life isn’t filled daily with monumental, life changing accomplishments. It’s a phone call. An email. A sales call. A report. A website design. A logo created. Copy written. Tests run. Code written. Code tested. It’s the stuff we do a lot…every day. Even surgeons don’t do surgery every single day. Sure, on the days they do surgery you could argue they’re doing really big stuff. Ask them if it always feels like big stuff and you’ll likely be surprised at how routine it is. Because they’ve done it hundreds of times before.
Sunny requires us to view the bigger picture of our work and our life. We can see the overall contribution we’re making, even though at any moment in time it appears mundane.
Unless you’re in San Diego it’s not always sunny. Always sunny would be boring. We need some clouds and rain every now and again. It builds resilience. And it makes us appreciate sunny even more.
If it’s not currently sunny in your life, then have faith, commit, show some dedication and look for a sense of accomplishment. You’ll be in that yellow shirt in no time if you do.
Don’t give up on being sunny.
That’s her in the red dress. In the center of the picture. A location she deserves to occupy.
It’s been 39 years since we first dated. Here’s one of the first pictures of us as a couple. We had been on one date at this point. I was way cooler back then. 😉
We both claim instant love. And we’re not exaggerating. In about 3 years time we’d be married. This coming January 2nd it will have been 37 years. Like all old folks, we’ll talk your ears off about how time has flown. Speaking of ears, I once had enough hair to cover mine, but like time, my hair has flown.
But this isn’t about me. It’s about her. A girl with incredible character, integrity and industry. And determination. All the ingredients of virtuous girl hit my life in the summer of 1975 when that picture was taken. And it’s taboo in today’s world, but we were both virgins when we married because it was our conviction, our faith and our commitment.
She bore me a son in the summer of 1980, Ryan. This coming Sunday, he’ll turn 34. That’s him in that top picture standing to the right, with a little boy in his arms, Easton. It’s remarkable when your son has a son.
She bore me a daughter, Renae. That’s her standing in the sunshine to my right. Her two sons are those two ornery looking boys up front, standing next to their cousin, our only granddaughter. If she’s like her aunt Renae, the boys won’t have a chance during night time wrestling matches.
The years rock and roll. Our years have rocked just as much as they’ve rolled. Rhonda is a person mostly unfazed by whatever life presents. Not me. I agonize. Fret. Get melancholy. Strategize. Think. Think some more. Talk it out. Try to talk it out some more.
Meanwhile, in quiet solitude Rhonda just grinds it out.
She’s still the girl of my dreams, the mother of my kids and now the grandmother that any kid would love to have. It dawns on me that the power of a man finding a virtuous woman impacts an entire tribe. That’s my tribe in that top picture. And it’s why she’s at the center of it all.
I love her. And I’m proud that she loves me. Still.
A better title might be, “3 Steps To Help A Ninny Find Total Knowledge.” Honestly, I should think more about podcast titles. I hear TMZ is going to do an online course on how to feed our idiocy to be lured into compelling headlines. It’s only gonna be $27 so why not?
How do you answer a ninny who asks, “How do I do everything?”
“Poorly, I suspect.” I never yet met a high achieving ninny.
Yeah, okay. I know it’s not the answer they want, but I just don’t care.
About a month ago I encountered an inquisitive ADHD small business owner. He wanted to know everything about online marketing. It’s the big question among the ninny population.
I’m listening to a weekly habit. It’s a podcast entitled, Ask The Podcast Coach. It’s hosted by Dave Jackson, famed (okay, if you’re not into podcasting maybe he’s not so fame) podcast consultant. Jim Collison is his co-host. It’s a live call-in podcast (you can watch it on video thanks to Google Hangout). People can call in on a phone line or they can pose questions in the chat room.
Inevitably some ninny will call and ask the question every teacher, coach, etc. hates to hear. In Dave and Jim’s case, the show is about podcasting so the call in ninny asks, “Yeah, I’ve already got an 18 channel mixer and studio microphones. What do I need to do to podcast?”
Dave and Jim are both very polite, helpful guys. Just once I’d enjoy hearing them tell a person, “I’m sorry. You can’t possibly podcast with an 18 channel mixer.”
An eighteen channel mixer? For you non-audio types, an audio mixer is a device where you can have as many sources as you have channels. This podcast – the one you’re listening to right now – has my voice and a bit of music (can you count to two?). If I had a second person on here with me, I’d need another channel. We’re now up to 3. If I brought in Skype calls or phone calls, add one more channel. Now we’re up to 4. Honestly, most podcasters don’t need more channels than that. And very few use all of those. So when Dave and Jim get a podcaster who has no idea how to podcast, but they’ve already purchased an 18 channel mixer…well, they’re just telling the world, “I’m a ninny with NO idea what I’m doing.” Which results in the question of the hour, “Tell me everything I need to know. Right now.”
I’ve got an answer. Go to the nearest mirror. Look into it, Mr. 18-Channel Mixer I Don’t Yet Know How To Podcast, and repeat after me, “No one home!”
Dave and Jim attempt to handle the question with their usual aplomb and grace. The caller continually interrupts them though. Like a drunk hunting for the curb, the caller lifts his leg higher and higher hoping to land on the curb, but he can’t see it or feel it. He stumbles. He rambles. He wobbles. I’m hoping Dave or Jim – just one of them – will push him to the ground already. It’s frustrating to hear. I know ’cause I’ve fielded those kinds of questions myself. That’s why I registered a domain awhile back, Surrounded By Ninnies dot com.
If you need more ninnies in your life, just do a live question and answer podcast. I guarantee in your first show a ninny (or two) will show up. They don’t actually ask, “How do I do everything?” but that’s the essence of their question.
In the real world I do executive coaching and business consulting. Once in awhile somebody – usually somebody who finds out what I do – will say, “Man, you could probably help me. I want to get a website and so that online marketing stuff. Do you do that?”
Much like Dave and Jim’s caller, it morphs quickly into a “teach-me-everything-I-need-to-know-about-online-marketing” conversation. Like driving a Greyhound bus on an iced over road, we meander from one side of the road to the other. The ditches are calling. I’d rather be in the ditch than in this conversation. After he tells me he’s reading a “big thick book” on WordPress, I say, “You need to read that book. Then you should re-read it and take notes. When you’re finished, then you’ll be much better prepared to venture out into online marketing.”
He went away pleased. And I had a smile on my face, too. A good day for both of us.
Unlike Dave and Jim I don’t have a live audience. If I did, I’d likely drag it out just to make it more interesting. Mainly for myself.
For instance, I’ve had asked Mr. 18-Channel Mixer, “Give me a list of all the inputs of your 18 channels. I’d like to know what they’re all for.”
Years ago I learned the best way to deal with ninnies is to ask uncomfortable questions in response to their questions.
“How can I use Facebook in my business?” prompts my reply. “Facebook is so yesterday. Why do you want to use Facebook?” Then I wait for the puzzled look and lots of hem-hawing. Then I’ll tell them they need to use SnapChat (or any platform I know they’ve not heard of). Of course, that’ll prompt more questions giving me ammo to ask my own.
“Snapchat? What’s that?”
“Well, if you haven’t heard of SnapChat yet then you’re already too late. Nevermind. Have you heard of OingoBoyngo?” (yeah, I make up stuff…it’s all fun and games when you’re answering a ninny who doesn’t know better)
“No, what’s that?”
“Oh, nevermind. It’s probably not for you. Have you heard of Floogle?”
“How about ToadPress?”
“Well, I don’t think I’m gonna be able to help you yet. I’d suggest you go home and use Google. Have you heard of that?”
(By now they’re so pleased to have heard of something…or they’re insulted that you’re asking…either way, you win)
“Yes, I know Google.”
“Great. It’s good to know Google. Lots of people don’t know Google so you’re way ahead of the crowd. Just type in whatever you want to learn and dive in. You’ll have it figured out in no time. Six or seven years will go by fast.”
I feel like Colin looks after an encounter such as this. My whole goal is to make the ninny assume the Colin posture so I don’t have to.
What can we learn from this? Some important things actually.
When a ninny approaches, avoid eye contact.
Don’t let them speak first. If they do, you’re in trouble. Be proactive. But don’t ask them a question because ninnies are surprisingly nimble in thinking they know more than they do. You’ll never shut them up if you ask them a question right off the bat. Instead, blurt out something blatantly offensive or overly informative. “I’ve got raging diarrhea. I’ve got to find a bathroom FAST.” Then run away as fast as you can while holding your rear end.
If you’re more inclined to really help them, lie down until that urge passes. It won’t go well. Ninnies can’t be helped.
1. You must first break them, like a horse.
Horses that have never had a saddle or rider have to be broken. It’s ugly, dangerous work. If you value your spine, you should avoid it. Ninnies aren’t as physically dangerous. Unless, of course, you deem your sanity as a physical component of your life.
This first step is the hardest. It’s like herding cats to get the ninny to stay on point. They love to ask a question, then ask another one and another one before you can ever answer the first one. They dart all over the room. You’ve got to stop that.
I’ve found it helpful to occupy them. They need to be fully engaged if you’re make any headway. Else, you’re doomed to suffer the endless questioning known mostly to ninnies and 3 year old girls.
Don’t preach to them. Don’t exhort them to listen. I’ve tried both. They don’t work. Ever.
Here’s what does work. Tell them to get some paper and a pen so they can write down what you’re going to tell them. Refuse to proceed until they do. If you’re on the phone or Skype say, “Do you have a pen and paper in front of you? Let me know when you do.” Face-to-face, refuse to proceed until they have paper and pen ready.
Tell them, “Now write this down. Step one, only focus on one step at a time…your next step.”
A swift kick to the nuts will soften them up a bit, too. After they catch their breath ask, “Are you ready to listen now?” Don’t wait for a reply. Assume they’re trying to say, “Yes.”
2. Give them one very small action to take. Tell them only the very next step.
They want to know about everything. And they want to know the why about everything. Resist the temptation to feed their every desire. Instead, tell them, “I’m going to tell you the most important single thing you can do right now. At this stage NOTHING else matters. Morons jump ahead and refuse to focus on this one thing I’m about to tell you. You’re not a moron, are you?” Pause. Let them answer. They might affirm they are. In that case, you’ve saved yourself all the following steps. Simply say, “I don’t help morons. Good-bye.”
Let’s assume they won’t acknowledge that they’re a moron. Most won’t. Drive your point home, “Morons absolutely refuse to concentrate on this next one thing, but you’re going to really stop wandering around chasing everything and do what I’m going to tell you, right?” Again, pause. Let them answer. Nothing but a yes will do here, by the way.
Now, tell them just one thing to do, but be very specific. This can’t be something like, “Use Facebook.” It’s got to be more precise than that. More actionable.
Remember to make them write it down.
3. Rebuke them in advance for veering away from the very next step. Exhort them to make good on their promise to take action on the very next step.
Send them on their way. Encourage them to do that very next step. Don’t wait for them to pepper you with more questions. Just say, “Now, I know you’re thinking of a million other questions, but I’m not going to answer another question. Not one. Because those things don’t matter. All that matters now is for you to take the very next step. Did you write it down like I told you to?”
Hint: It’s ideal to have resources at your disposal regarding that first next step! YouTube videos are great. Website addresses. Anything. The goal is to get them out of here…far away from you. You’ve served them well. Now, it’s like Tom Petty sings, “It’s time to move on. It’s time to get going.”
P.S. I got in early to support the Podcast Movement via their Kickstarter campaign. I was obviously planning to attend Podcast Movement in Dallas, the weekend of August 16th. Dave Jackson will be there. I planned to sneak up behind him and give him a surprise.
But it may not happen thanks to surgery I just had this week. Cervical fusion. No, it’s not a new music format. For me it involved a plate, 6 screws (2 each for C5, C6 and C7). It went well and I didn’t even need pain meds after it was over. One night – one sleepless night – in the hospital and now I’m home. But I can’t drive until after the event so it’s kinda sketchy right now. Besides, I’m not sure I want to be The Guy In The Neck Brace.