What Some Birds Taught Me About Friendship

Image courtesy of Joy Prichard Studios

Unexpected Friendship

My wife does an amazing job decorating our home.  Maybe too good of a job.  She changes colors and decorations with each holiday or season.  Admittedly, I’m often clueless about the passing months and her changes remind me just where we are in the year.


“A friend is someone who will sacrifice for you even when you don’t know it.” -Skip Prichard


This past spring she changed the wreaths on our front doors.  I suppose some birds took a look and thought they were inviting enough to build a nest.  When we opened the door one day, the mother bird flew off.  We realized there was a nest in the wreath and that changed everything.

Until those eggs hatched and the new birds were safely flying on their own, we would not use the front door.  For any reason.  Deliveries?  We’d just walk the packages around the house.  Visiting us?  “You can’t enter the front door,” we shout from a window, “Come through the garage!”  The air-conditioning repairmen who came to replace a faulty unit?  Well, they had to take some extra steps.

We were careful to watch the birds’ progress, but not disturb them.  We didn’t want to scare the mother bird off.  All through the spring we took pictures and waited.  Finally, one day they were all gone.

They never even knew we were there.

They didn’t know that we were going through all these inconveniences for their benefit.

What Moment Will Change Your Life?

A single moment can change your life.  A single decision can have a lasting impact.  A single relationship can define you in ways you would never expect.

That single moment happened in Laura Schroff’s life over 25 years ago.  She was a successful advertising executive living in Manhattan.  Her life was full and her schedule even more so.

Crossing 56th street one day, she heard a panhandler’s voice.  “Excuse me, lady, I’m really hungry.  Do you have any spare change?”  She dismissed the request, moving quickly through the intersection.

Somewhere in the middle of the intersection is where that moment happened for Laura.  That decision.  Where the relationship started.  Laura stopped, turned around and went back to meet the panhandler.  His name was Maurice, and he was only 11 years old.  She said she didn’t want to give him money, but she would buy him some food at McDonald’s.

For many, that would be it.  A single act of goodwill.  Not for Laura and Maurice.  The one meal became a weekly dinner for years.  Their relationship has continued to grow over the past twenty-five years.

Dan Rather on Leadership

A Life in the News

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Dan Rather on stage in New York.  It was a surreal moment for me.  After all, I grew up watching the network news trio of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings.  I had watched Dan Rather interview world leaders.  Tough interviews.  Now I would be interviewing him about his life, which he has chronicled in Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, a book I couldn’t put down.  And that’s a good thing because I read it several times along with everything else I could about Dan Rather before our interview.  I always prepare, but I definitely stepped it up knowing I was interviewing one of the world’s most prominent news anchors.

Years ago, I had casually met him once before in a hotel in Dallas.  He was covering a story, and I was attending a Board meeting.  I found myself in the elevator with the news legend.  We only spoke a few words and we were both off running in different directions.  I recalled his personal warmth but also could sense his intensity.

Before our on stage interview, we were to meet in the little green room backstage.  I was waiting when I heard his trademark baritone voice through the curtain.  He was very personable, humble and focused on everyone else.  At 80, he is as sharp as ever.  We started talking and I wish I had every minute on tape.  His firsthand account of modern history is riveting.  I asked him if we could sit down and turn on the camera for a few minutes before we jumped on stage.  He agreed.

Dan Rather worked for CBS for 44 years and anchored the CBS Evening News for 24 of those years.  At the same time, he appeared on 48 Hours and 60 Minutes II.  He currently anchors Dan Rather Reports on AXS TV.  Dan Rather has won numerous Emmy Awards for broadcast journalism and the Peabody Award.

In this backstage eleven-minute interview, we talked about the story that had the biggest impact on him, whether work-life balance was possible, how having rheumatic fever as a child shaped him, and finally his views on journalism today.

I started our talk with the discussion on the subject of leadership.  Having personally known so many presidents and world leaders, what would Dan Rather say were the characteristics of a leader?

Make an Appointment with Yourself

Image courtesy of istockphoto/donskarpo

Getting any time by myself seems to be impossible.  The pressures are just always there.  I never have an empty plate.  I never think, “What will I do today?”  My to-do lists are never ending.

To get that time, I have finally realized that I need to make an appointment with myself.  I have to get away.  When I do, I find that my performance everywhere goes up.

Here are 7 Steps for An Effective Appointment with yourself:

1.  Make an appointment with yourself.  Put it on the calendar and block the time.

2.  Have a specific goal in mind.  When you review your calendar for the upcoming week, your mind takes note of that upcoming appointment.  If you have a goal in mind, your subconscious begins to work on it for you.

Triathlete Chrissie Wellington on Achieving Your Goals

Chrissie Wellington is the greatest female endurance athlete on the planet.  She has won all thirteen Ironman competitions she has entered and four World Championships.  She smashes through world records with a margin that is so large it resets the definition of what is possible.

Her book A Life Without Limits isn’t only a book for sports enthusiasts and triathletes.  It’s written for anyone with the desire to achieve big goals.  Chrissie’s story of getting to the top of the Ironman competition is one sure to inspire everyone.

It doesn’t matter where you start.

Chrissie grew up liking sports, but her focus was more on her studies.

Her unlikely rise to the top of the sporting world started in her first job.  As what?

A government bureaucrat focused on international development.