Saturday, January 28, 2012

Just Do It Like Phil The Groundhog

Every year on February 2nd, a groundhog from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania named Phil is the talk of the nation. Everyone wonders - did he see his shadow and return to his hole or not? If he does, we can expect six more weeks of winter. If not, he has predicted an early spring.

The groundhog named Phil is good at one thing; predicting when spring will arrive. He works for one day out of the year and the rest of the time he lives in the town library with his wife Phyllis; making more little woodchucks. I think they have more little ones than the Duggar family.  He’s the most famous prognosticating rodent in the world; portrayed in the 1993 comedy film Groundhog Day. There’s a whole website and organization. He’s also made a guest appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show and they even made a Beanie Baby to celebrate Groundhog’s Day.

The legend of Phil’s forecasting powers has its roots from Germany. Some of Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers were German immigrants and they continued a tradition of letting a rodent predict the arrival of spring. There was a large population of groundhogs (also called woodchucks) in the area so they chose this animal to make the prediction. Each year, Phil is given a sip of the mysterious Groundhog Elixir which magically lengthens his life for seven years so he’s been predicting the weather for 122 years. He doesn’t get it right every time but hey, he’s an improvement over most weathermen and he’s right 39% of the time which is better than most stockbrokers.

Well, no one is perfect and shouldn’t get too upset if they don’t come through the first time. Keep going and chalk it up to experience or learning. In basketball, you can’t be a perfectionist when you shoot the ball. The shoe maker Nike has the slogan “Just Do It” and Michael Jordon lived up to this slogan. He missed as many shots as he made but he took a lot of shots and made a lot of points. The thing to do is take the opportunity, be as accurate as you can, and give it your best shot.

I like Phil because he keeps coming back year after year even when he misses. There’s a lot we can learn from animals. Several years ago, some birds decided to make a nest inside an ornament on our back porch. These birds gave our whole family a lesson on good work habits as they planned out the building of their home with one purpose in mind; a place to raise their little ones until they were ready to fly on their own.

It’s too bad we can’t add to Phil’s work load; maybe prognosticating the economy or answering the age old question, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friendship and Lifting the Spirits of Those Around You

Being able to work together with others in a pleasant, courteous, and agreeable way is a very important trait in today's highly technical and specialized world. Things seem to run smoother when those you work with are in good moods. What are some ideas that can lift the spirit of those we are around on a daily basis like our co-workers, family members, and neighbors?

Like anything in life, it may take some research, practice, and hard work. One idea is to be on top of current events, news, and other readings that are uplifting. Another idea is to collect amazing facts of the world or nature; asking God to reveal these in order to share with others. Here are a few examples:  collect facts like how amazing the universe is like below:

  • Did you know that the sun travels 150 miles per second as it rotates around the galaxy yet it takes it millions of years to go all the way around?
  • Did you know that there are over 100 billion galaxies with each galaxy having billions of stars?

Regard each other as a national treasure because we are all brothers and sisters that should live in harmony with one another, building each other up, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We should dream big because we live in a big universe and God can handle big dreams.

The objective is to stimulate conversations that are uplifting; being a friend that is concerned about their co-worker, family member or neighbor. Click on the video link below:

Think about your day and how busy it is. There is so much time spent handling pressing problems or meeting some deadline when we should be focusing more on activities like preparation, planning, and relationship building. See each day as a gift of God with a limited amount of time. Be careful to live wisely and most of all realize that it is relationships that last forever and bring true happiness.  

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Thinkers and visionaries see old things in new ways; constantly preparing their minds to be observant and busy. They take on fresh amounts of information all the time, frequently producing new discoveries and conclusions. We can find many examples in history of people who had imaginative plans that have made us all more productive and efficient. It’s hard to understand how these people could think up some of these ideas. If you are like me, it’s humbling and the best we can do is to continue to ask questions, seek answers, and be teachable.

One thinker and visionary in 1948 named Walter Frederick Morrison gives us a good example of what can happen when people observe what’s going on around them and simply think of ways to invent products people will buy. Walter’s father was an inventor. In fact, his father invented the automobile sealed-beam headlight. After serving in World War II and being a prisoner of War in Stalag 13, Walter returned home to eventually be an inventor himself. He worked for the city of Los Angeles as a building inspector but in his spare time, he took action on an idea.

In 1948, flying saucers from outer space were beginning to capture people’s imagination so Walter decided to take his idea and try to turn it into a craze. He remembered as a boy collecting pie tins and throwing them; watching as the wind carried the pie tins long distances. Instead of tin, plastic was beginning to be used in many products so he perfected a pie tin built out of plastic that one could throw through the air like a flying saucer and a friend could catch on the other end.

In 1955, Wham-O bought the rights to his design and they looked for a catchy name to increase sales. They heard stories from people around the community of Bridgeport Connecticut of college students tossing around pie tins just like Walter did when he was younger. Many students attending New England colleges like Yale would purchase pies from a local bakery and save the pie tin; using them for hours of game and sport as they tossed them around to each other. The bakery was named Frisbie Baking Company, hence the toy we know today with the registered trademark name Frisbee. The company sold over one hundred million units before selling the toy to Mattel. Morrison received over $1 million in royalties for his invention.

I hope there is a lesson for you in this story. If you are older, you have all those years of experience to pull from. If you’re young, you have all that enthusiasm to get you going. You may have an idea just sitting in the back of your mind just waiting to be put to use. It’s not always easy but continued focus on the positives to clear out the negatives will help. Be inspired by stories like the story today of the inventor of the Frisbee who went through a difficult time in life as a prisoner of war. If a negative pops up, replace it with a positive to clean it up and keep going. Whatever age, identify your strengths and allow God to continue to form the great person you are. Know the truth about who you are – because God thinks you’re “AWESOME”. He’s been refining you over the years to fulfill the purpose for which He has for you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

That Little Extra

Someone is being served by a tuxedoed waiter a hot cup of coffee and yeast dumplings on silver trays today in Vienna because someone started a café called Hawelka a long time ago. It’s a cool 47 degrees outside but inside the warm sun is shining through the window as an aspiring writer starts his morning by reading the newspaper; looking forward to an awesome day after enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee.

Leopold and Josefine Hawelka started the Viennese coffeehouse in 1945. Since then, Café Hawelka has provided a warm haven for cold and hungry World War II refugees, and later a gathering place for intellectuals, students, and tourists. It’s been called “The Living Room” for those who travel to Vienna for business or pleasure.

Until Josefine’s death at age 91 in 2005, the couple worked up to 14 hour days at the Café. Leopold would serve a cup of steaming brew with a smile. He had a vigilant commitment to his guests and their welfare. The Café continues in operation under the leadership of their children with a sense of tradition and stories dating back to 1945. One story is that Leopold would get up before dawn, walking for two hours to the Vienna Woods and trudging back with a sack of firewood to keep the stove burning.

We can learn from the life of people like Leopold; what they did and how they went about each day to become successful. Leopold died in his sleep on December 29, 2011 at the age of 100. Building up and maintaining any business requires the dedication that Leopold has made known. Like a stream and the rock, the stream always wins not because of strength but by perseverance. Leopold went the extra mile to give service for many and the tradition continues as the Café provides great satisfaction and joy. Leopold’s life taught us that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.

What will you do to give that little extra today?