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Measuring Success: Significance or Just Staying Busy?

Posted by capcityspeakers on October 6, 2016

By Ron Culberson

Recently, I spoke at a conference in Indiana. I spent the morning with four hundred attendees and then closed their event with a keynote address. Afterwards, I worked on a writing project at Starbucks. Later, I ate dinner at a local restaurant and then returned to my hotel room where I watched an episode of Boardwalk Empire. I went to bed around 9:00 p.m. which, by the way, is not my typical-old-man bedtime but rather my way of avoiding travel fatigue.

This was a common day for me. And even though it was quite full, there was this nagging voice in my head that said, “You should have done something more significant.”

Do you ever experience this? Do you ever feel like you should have accomplished something more important during your day? Does sitting on the porch or watching an episode of House Hunters feel like you’re not making the most of your time?

This frequently happens to me. For some reason, my Success Meter is not calibrated properly. When I get to the end of my day, I often feel that I have not achieved success unless I accomplished something tangible like writing a new piece of material, booking a presentation, or finding a cure for ebola. I watch other people who appear really busy and seem to be accomplishing many things throughout their day and I don’t feel that I measure up. In fact, when I catch myself staring out the window at a stink bug trying to get in through the screen, I realize that I must be quite a slacker.

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My Mind Helps Me Sleep

Posted by capcityspeakers on May 5, 2016

by Ron Culberson

3-AM clock

It’s common for my wife to wake up around 3:00 a.m. and have a hard time getting back to sleep. This is not due to my snoring. While I may snore occasionally, I don’t snore that much or that loudly. And I’m not hanging all over her in some sort of romantic dream state. Usually, she can’t sleep because her mind wakes up at 3:00 a.m. and wants to play. This is an experience many people have.

I, on the other hand, have no trouble sleeping. I snooze on planes, trains, and automobiles, as well as in just about every recliner I’ve ever sat. My sleep tendencies are why I don’t like going to the movies. The soft reclining chairs and darkened room work like warm milk on me. And there is nothing worse than paying $12 for a movie ticket and then on the way home having to ask my wife what happened after the opening credits. So, needless to say, when I wake up at 3:00 a.m., I don’t typically have trouble getting back to sleep. And yet, my mind is just as active as my wife’s.

There is a lot of research being conducted to understand how our brains work. But what’s most important is figuring out how our particular brains work. We’re all different. And what I learned early in life is that I’m much better at using my imagination than I am at calming my mind. But either way, I don’t let it run wild.

I’ll show you what I mean.

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The Power of Expectations

Posted by capcityspeakers on January 5, 2016

by Ron Culberson


Recently, I traveled from Redmond, OR to Denver, CO. Three hours before I was to depart, I was notified that my first flight was delayed and that I would arrive in Denver 25 minutes late. However, I only had 45 minutes to make my next flight to DC. If everything went according to this revised schedule, I would be left with 20 minutes to sprint 40 gates and weave in and out of all the people who would be in no rush to get to their flight thusly would be moving slower than snails on medicinal marijuana. Plus, my carry-on bag was too big for the fun-size plane in Redmond so I had to gate check it. That meant I would have to wait patiently for the ground crew to offload it before I could hustle to my second flight. The itinerary looked much less complicated when I booked the flight a month earlier.

But such is the world of the frequent flyer. I’m very accustomed to these nuances as part of my regular travel routine. And honestly, I don’t typically get stressed out because it’s the nature of the beast. If every little mishap bothered me, I would probably lose my cool on every trip. And as a humorist who teaches stress management, it just ain’t cool to lose my cool.

But I did notice something interesting about my thought processes during the Redmond trip. I discovered that my thinking began to negatively influence my pre-flight experience.

Let me explain.

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Stepping Out of the Routine

Posted by capcityspeakers on March 12, 2013

by Ron Culberson

Many of us live in an world of regular routines and yet we have multiple opportunities to live in a world of new experiences. The familiar can limiting but the unfamiliar can open up many possibilities.

My daily exercise routine often takes the form of brisk walking through our neighborhood and then through an adjacent cemetery. The cemetery keep my cynicism in check as I am reminded of the whole above- and below-ground situation.

So, I take the same path every day because I like my routines – I like the familiar. However, the other day, my wife suggested we walk on the trail behind our neighborhood instead. Wives are good like that. Always pushing the envelope.

I know about these trails…sort of. I know about them the same way I know many of my neighbors. I know they exist but I don’t know their names, their professions, or what their hobbies are. Essentially, I don’t really know them.

So walking on the trail was a new experience for me.

The trail system is way more extensive than I imagined. The trails wind throughout the woods and in between neighborhoods. They cross the Sugarland Run stream frequently, and at times, you would swear you’re deep in the forest. Yet you’re only minutes from a major highway and a mere 20 miles from Washington, DC.

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for 16 years but never considered walking on the trails. Go figure. In my mind, the trails seemed mysterious and unknown while my neighborhood sidewalks and the cemetery were familiar and part of my daily routine. Yet, once I walked the trails, I realized how wonderfully therapeutic this new option was – and it was there all along.

Routines give us comfort because they are reliable and familiar. But when we’re locked into them, we’re avoiding new growth experiences.

The musical director for KA, one of Cirque du Soleil shows, spoke at a conference I attended. He said that when they’re discussing a new show and someone comes up with an idea, no one in the room ever says, “we can’t do that.” Instead, they say, “how can we make that happen?” Their normal way of thinking is to get out of the routine way of thinking. That’s pretty cool.

I like my routines and I suspect that I will hold onto many of them. Yet I am constantly reminded of the benefits of new experiences. So, with the help of my envelope-pushing wife, I will try to break out of my routines whenever I can.

All it took to walk these new trails was taking the first step. That seems doable.

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Giving IS Receiving

Posted by capcityspeakers on September 26, 2012

by Ronald Culberson

A retiring car dealer in Michigan gave each of his employees $1,000 for each year they worked at his 47-year-old car dealership.  As a way of thanking his employees, Howard Cooper gave each a cash payment when he sold his dealership – including one loyal long-term employee who received $46,000.

You can read the article and see a video here:  Retiring Car Dealer

I’m a big believer that giving is receiving.  By giving to others, whether it’s our time, money, or expertise, we receive a gift through the opportunity to share the blessings that we have received…or earned.

Sometimes, our society encourages us to get all we can get and hang onto it as long as we can.  I certainly want to have enough money to last through my lifetime and I want to be able to support my children should they need it.  But I don’t want to die with too much in “the bank” or I fear I will have missed opportunities to give along the way.

I love what Howard Cooper did.  Essentially, he said, “You helped me be successful and I want to thank you.”

To me, he Did it Well.  And he Made it Fun for his employees too!

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Now Doesn’t Last Forever

Posted by capcityspeakers on September 7, 2012

by Ron Culberson

It’s Thursday, and our week has been a flurry of activity. Our traditional end-of-the-summer meal was on Tuesday. My son and I played golf yesterday, and last night the whole family attended a baseball game. My wife is taking my daughter to a concert tonight.

You see, we’re frantically preparing to be empty nesters.

On Saturday, my son will join my daughter at college, and they will never again live at home full time. One of my friends says I may be mistaken on that last point.

The irony in my approach to parenting is that I’m always looking toward the future, and then when the future gets here, it catches me off-guard.

When my children were on formula, I couldn’t wait for them to drink regular milk. When they were still in diapers, I could’t wait for them to be potty-trained. And when we were chauffeuring them around to ballgames, band concerts, and Scouts, I couldn’t wait until they could drive.

Now that they’re drinking milk, fully potty-trained, and driving off to college, I finally got what I had hoped for — but it doesn’t feel as good as I expected. While all of these milestones were good, I think I missed something along the way by wishing for them to arrive sooner rather than later.

As Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, explains, “When we’re here and want to be somewhere else,” we’re missing what the present moment has to offer.

Yes, guilty as charged.

But I suspect I’m not alone when it comes to focusing on the future at the expense of the present. It’s easy to do when there are so many things to anticipate and worry about. So, even though I consider myself a work in progress, there are a couple of things I try to do to keep my focus on the moment.

First, when I feel myself reacting because my current situation is not what I think it should be, I remind myself that “it is what it is” and that if I can’t do anything to change it, I should find something to appreciate in it.

Second, when I find myself too focused on something in the future, I ask myself, “What am I missinghere by focusing on there?”

And last, I continually remind myself that while I should take responsibility for the things I can control, I should not feel responsible for the things I can’t control. For more information on this, consider the weather, other people’s opinions of me, and traffic.

When it comes to our empty nest, absence will make the heart grow fonder. And when it comes to life in general, I suspect that presence makes the heart grow richer.

Tonight, my son and I will cap off our evening with a visit to our favorite frozen yogurt shop. I plan to savor every bite… and every minute.

For more by Ron Culberson, MSW, CSP, click here.

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