Little Lessons

Do Something Good Right Now

Posted by Mark Fallon

Nov 2, 2018 5:01:00 AM

overhead bins
“You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The flight was packed. The already small seats felt even smaller. The overhead bins were jammed to maximum capacity. But we pulled away from the jetway on time.

Then came the announcement. Due to weather, all flights have been delayed at least 45 minutes. The pilot was going to move the plane close to the runway, so we could take off as soon as a slot opened up. An hour later, we left Logan Airport.

Air traffic control wasn’t overreacting about the weather. It was one of the bumpiest flights in years.

Read More

Topics: help, kindness, change, good

Quiet, Yet Powerful Voices

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 13, 2017 5:00:00 AM

scales.jpg
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai

It seems that every day, the volume of our conversations gets louder. Headlines using words like “destroy”, “disaster” and “debacle”. Facebook rants with all capital letters, curses, and multiple exclamation points. Twitter threads that go on for more than 20 entries, revealing the ineffectiveness of the 140-character limit.

And that’s just about sports.

Read More

Topics: change, optimism, passion, reactions

Sincerely Positive

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 6, 2017 5:03:00 AM

sunrise_run.jpg

“Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” – Voltaire

It’s not the best of times. Hurricanes and flooding destroying homes on islands and on the mainland. Dozens killed and hundreds injured in a horrific attack on concertgoers. The opioid crisis continues unabated. Tense international disputes involving nuclear weapons. Divisive domestic political fights on a wide range of issues.

And those are just the topics dominating the headlines.

Often lost in the storms are the private struggles of so many people. Parents raising children amidst an uncertain future. Adult children caring for aging parents suffering from mental and physical impairments. People quietly grappling with problems only their loved ones understand.

In each of these stories we encounter heroes. People showing up with boats, supplies and food. Strangers throwing themselves on top of others, offering their own body as a shield from the bullets. Survivors using their status to raise awareness and funds. Individuals who decide to get out of bed, and push through another day of challenges.

Life is tough and difficult and beautiful and precious.

Read More

Topics: optimism, attitude, change, inspiration

Switching Things Up

Posted by Mark Fallon

Aug 11, 2017 5:00:00 AM

coffee cup deck.jpg“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

About 10 years ago, I began running marathons. One of the elements of training is the weekly “long run”. For me, a long run is between 12 and 20 miles. That translates into 2 to 3 and a half hours of running. Now that I’m 55, those runs can take a lot out of me.

Until recently, I almost always completed my long runs on Sunday. I often travel on Mondays, so I had a built-in rest day on my calendar. I’d leave the house around 6:00 on Sunday morning, returning around 9:00. After refueling, stretching and recovering, it would be close to noon. That meant it was time to start reviewing my calendar and packing for the week.

Read More

Topics: inspiration, change, attitude

Didn’t See That Coming

Posted by Mark Fallon

Apr 7, 2017 5:00:00 AM

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

uphill_trail.jpgLike so many people in today’s world, I seem to have more responsibilities than time. Work involves not only writing deadlines and multiple projects, but a hectic travel schedule. Last month, I worked in 7 states, including 4 of the 8 states that begin with the letter “M”. Not a personal record, but close.

I maintain my momentum – and my sanity – through planning. Project plans for clients and my company. Sales plans for prospects. Publishing plans for my two blogs. Running plans for my health. Every week, I spend some time looking at all those plans with a calendar. Ideas may be limitless, but our time on earth is finite.

The week begins with a sense of confidence that I can meet the challenges ahead. Meetings set, flights scheduled and hotel rooms booked. All systems go. Until...

Read More

Topics: change, goals, planning

What Will You Do Today?

Posted by Mark Fallon

Jan 20, 2017 4:00:00 AM

“I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the years’.” - Henry Moore

alone.jpgWe’re just over 2 weeks into the new year. Many of us began 2017 with resolutions to make changes in our lives. The goal may have been physical, intellectual or emotional. In most cases, we defined our intent with measurable activity to mark our progress.

Unfortunately, surveys show that more than a third of us will abandon our resolutions after just 2 weeks. Over the course of the year, less than 10% of us will achieve our goals. Only to start the cycle again next December 31st.

Having goals can be helpful. Quitting smoking, learning a language, reestablishing contacts with friends – these are all worthy endeavors. When we make continuous personal growth a focus, we open the door to new opportunities. When we achieve our aspirations, it’s usually accompanied by a feeling of happiness.

So why do we give up?

The most common reason for unfulfilled resolutions is that we’ve set unreasonable expectations. Changing a behavior – any behavior – is difficult. We’re often so focused on the result, that we underestimate the effort it will take to get there. The path is steeper and filled with more obstacles than we anticipated. We stumble. And fall.

In most cases, we get up after the first fall. But then there’s a second. And a third. Bruised and hurt, we begin to doubt ourselves and our abilities. From there, it’s just a short distance to questioning our goal. So we quit.

There’s another path. We can ignore the missteps of yesterday. We start the day asking, “What’s the one positive thing I can do today?” Maybe it’s taking a walk. Maybe it’s shutting down social media for 15 minutes, and reading a book. Maybe it’s sending a card or letter to someone in your life.

No master plan. No great gestures. Just simple steps forward. There will be times when unforeseen circumstances get in the way of accomplishing your daily goal. That’s okay, because there’s tomorrow. Of course, tomorrow you may even choose a different goal. That’s good too.

What’s important is to make a conscious decision to do something. Anything. The intent provides meaning, and meaning transforms a simple activity into a purposeful action. Over time, the small actions build up into a transformative power. Often unrecognizable while the change is taking place.

Life is a long, wonderful, uncharted adventure. We’ll achieve some goals, fail at some, and even abandon others. We don’t know what unanticipated challenges await us. We can’t predict the future. But we can answer one question – What will we do today?

Read More

Topics: goals, change

Taking Action

Posted by Mark Fallon

Sep 2, 2016 5:00:00 AM

"You are what you do, not what you say you'll do." - Carl Jung

folded_flag.jpgThe regular drudge of the daily news somehow seems to be worse than it was before. The current political campaigns seem to have sunk to a level never experienced before. The number of bombings, attacks and battles seem to be worse than anything humanity has perpetuated before.

Of course, none of this is true. Newspaper publishers, media magnates and online news purveyors have always led with the “worst news” first. Top of the page and blaring headlines. Why? Because “bad news sells”. People tune in to hear about disasters, not decency.

American political history is full of rogues and egomaniacs. While the current candidates trade barbs, they’re amateurs when compared to the Founding Fathers. The literate – and personal – insults between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson during the election of 1800 would have today’s commentators questioning the candidates’ competency to hold any office.

Terrorist attacks killed approximately 28,000 people last year. A truly horrific number. In 1917, there were one million casualties in the Battle of the Somme. Another million people were killed in the Korean War. There were at least 500,000 deaths during the Vietnam War, including 58,315 Americans.

It’s been worse. Much worse.

Yet, that probably doesn’t make anyone feel better about today. Especially when your news and social media feeds are filled with more reminders of what’s wrong. Friends and strangers alike complaining that all is lost, and that we’re helpless in the face of so much calamity.

This weekend, hidden in a story of a millionaire philanthropist, was the story of Dr. Jim O’Connell. For more than 30 years, Dr. O’Connell has dedicated his life to helping the homeless of Boston. Clinics, programs and personally taking a van out on the streets at night; providing food and clothing to people sleeping in alleys and gutters. Dr. O’Connell knows that he won’t – that he can’t – solve the homelessness problem. But he can get them clean socks.

A group of people on Facebook, separated by thousands of miles, but connected by a love of marathons. A member loses her mother, and another faces emergency surgery. People who’ve never met in person, come together to raise money and send flowers. Expressing love and support for someone in need.

A local veteran passes away. His fellow members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars gather at the visitation. In formation in front of the casket, there’s a reading from the Manual of Ceremonies. Taps is played while the veterans render a salute. On behalf of a grateful nation, the American Flag is presented to his widow. His family, and the community, is reassured that this veteran’s faithful service has not been forgotten.

A pair of clean socks. A basket of flowers. A hand salute.

Seemingly small deeds in the grand scheme of the world. Acts that don’t require much money or power. Something that anyone of us could do on any given day. Certainly these actions don’t make a difference or change the world.

Except they do.

See where Mark is speaking next
Read More

Topics: optimism, change, support, love

The Journey Continues

Posted by Mark Fallon

Aug 12, 2016 5:00:00 AM

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

alone.jpgA recent episode of "CBS Sunday Morning" included a story profiling several elite athletes – Dottie Gray, Dixon Hemphill and Orville Rogers. They’re known for winning gold medals and setting records at almost every track meet they enter. However, these runners won’t be competing in the Rio Olympics, as they’re 90, 91 and 98 years old.

Reporter Lee Cowan explained, for these runners, “There is no finish line, just the next race.” They’ll each continue to run races as long as they can. Any thoughts of quitting are shut out by a determination to hang in there.

The story resonated with me on several levels. First, I’m a runner. While I’m not setting any records, I love lacing up my shoes for early morning runs, whether at home or on the road. And I still get excited toeing the start line, even though my only competition is the timing clock.

More importantly, I’m now in my mid-50s, almost 50% older than the median age in the United States. The next marathon I run won’t be my fastest. Those days are over. But I can follow Dottie’s, Dixon’s and Orville’s examples – continue to train, sign up for a race, and do my best.

Their most important examples are about much more than running. It’s about a positive outlook on life and how to approach goals. At a time when most people choose to stop, they’re moving forward. They enjoy the paths they’ve on. They even seem amazed and amused by their own successes.

These are attributes we should all embrace. No matter how old we are, the journey goes on. Not just in our careers or other pursuits, but in our lives. We don’t know where the end lies, but it’s in front of us, not behind.

What’s the current destination of your journey? Is it where you want to go? Or do you want to head someplace else? Is there a challenge you want to chase? Is there a new dream you want to bring to reality?

If you want to change direction, or try something new, then now is the time. You have to decide to take a chance, and take that first step. You can make excuses for not pursuing your passion, or decide to make the attempt. The choice is yours. And that’s true whether you’re 34, or 54, or 74.

As Dottie says, “No matter how old you are, you’re never too old to start.”

(You can see the story on the CBS Sunday Morning YouTube channel).


Read More

Topics: goals, change, dreams

Becoming Who You Are

Posted by Mark Fallon

Jul 29, 2016 5:00:00 AM

The old adage is true, “Actions speak louder than words.”

boat_lake.jpgMost people have a good idea of how they’re perceived by others. Reputations are important, and we work hard to preserve our good name. For example, we want co-workers to consider us hardworking, honest and dependable. Similarly, we want friends and family to know that we care about them and that they’re important to us.

We may even have desires of change and self-improvement. Maybe it’s getting a new job or a promotion at work. It could be improving our health or continuing our education. It may be deeper, dealing with spiritual growth and renewal.

Wanting a good reputation and planning to improve ourselves are good intentions. But those intentions are only so many words until you answer the question – “What am I doing about it?”

No one knows what’s going on in our minds and our hearts. Even what our spouse or significant other knows is based on what we’re willing to share. All people can know, and all they can judge us by, is what we do.

Behavior is the public manifestation of who we are. While a single action (losing your temper, making a mistake) doesn’t define someone, patterns of behavior (constant outbursts, carelessness) do. And we need to become more aware of our actions and how they define who we are.

To increase that awareness, there’s a simple, but not easy, exercise of self-examination. The exercise only has five steps. But each step requires you to look inward, and be completely honest with yourself.

Step 1 – write a description of yourself. The best form is a list, starting with your job, age, marital or romantic status, education and level of happiness. Include comments on your personal and professional roles in life, your ethics, health and appearance (I know, we’re all good-looking). List your good qualities and those qualities that may need improving.

In Step 2, you’re going to create another description of yourself, with a notable distinction. In this step, create a description of the person you want to be. Look at the list from Step 1, and consider what you want to improve. Do you want to have the same job? Do you want to change your health? Do you want to change your romantic status? Do you like where you live?

This is not about changing for the sake of change. If you’re happy with certain areas of your life, don’t change them. If you like your job, there’s no need to get a new one. If you like where you live, don’t move. This isn’t about measuring up to anyone else’s ideas or ideals. This is about you and what you want for yourself. Be honest.

Now on to Step 3, which is slightly harder than the first two. Review your day-to-day activity. Divide your actions into two lists: one that includes actions that are consistent with how you see yourself and support your goals, and another list that includes those activities that conflict with your self-image and your goals.

For example, what if in Step 2, you included your desire to get a new job. What do you do every day to get toward that goal? Have you updated your resume? Do you check out the “Help Wanted” section of your newspaper? Do you regularly visit an online service like Monster.com?

Or, if you said you wanted to be healthier, do your actions support that? Do you find excuses not to exercise? Do you smoke? Do you drink too much too often?

Again, be honest! There are many things that may come between you and your goals. Some may be out of your control – the economy, a disability, genetics, or your financial situation – just to name a few. But there are many more things that are in your control. What can you change to support your goals?

This leads to Step 4, the hardest step – changing your behavior. Easy to say. Easy to write. Very difficult to do. But things will not change, and you will never become the person you can be, unless you take responsibility and take action.

Most of our actions are based on ingrained habits, and habits are hard to break. Changing behavior requires will, determination and support. The desire to change must be real, not superficial. There will be setbacks and obstacles to overcome. And while we must take responsibilities for our own actions, we can all use a little help now and then.

Don’t expect immediate results. It took years for you to acquire your habits. It will take a while to consistently do something different. Take small steps, but steps that move toward your goals.

Step 5 – repeat Steps 1 to 4 – often. Our jobs, our families and other responsibilities take up most of our thoughts and time. It’s easy to slip back into bad behavior or put off actions because of other priorities. Set aside some time each month to reflect on who you are, on whom you want to be, and on how your actions impact those ideals.

There’s no easy road to self-improvement. Remember that your personal growth is a never-ending journey. Take a moment now and then to make sure that you’re on the right path.

Read More

Topics: change, growth

Finding the Answer Within

Posted by Mark Fallon

Oct 23, 2015 5:00:00 AM

“When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

Changing by looking withinThe Earth is hurtling through space at over 66,000 miles per hour, while spinning on its axis at 1,040 miles per hour. Even if we live to be 100, our lifespan will be nearly immeasurable against a universe that’s almost 14 billion years old. We’re only one out of 7 billion people who inhabit the planet.

It’s easy to feel out of control.

It's not only when looking our place in the universe. In our everyday lives, we can often feel overwhelmed by events. The situation seems hopeless, and we can’t see a way to make things better. We try to find a way to change the circumstances, but seem to run out of options.

The answer lies by making the easiest and the most difficult change – in ourselves. It’s the easiest, because we’re in control of our actions and thoughts. It’s the most difficult, because most of the time, we already think we’re right or that there’s no need to change. It’s taken us a lifetime to reach this point, why take a different point of view? Why go through a challenging transformation, when the status quo works well enough?

However, not far from the surface of our pride, we know that everything isn’t “working well enough”. If everything was good, then we wouldn’t be facing this predicament. There’s no magic solution to the problem. We recognize that the responsibility lies solely within ourselves.

In 1987, I entered active duty in the US Army as a lieutenant. An airborne-qualified Infantry officer. I was following in the footsteps of men I admired, serving in the combat arms. My goal was to lead the best and toughest soldiers the world had seen. I had the arrogant confidence that comes with youth.

Then a training accident changed my plans and hospital visits replaced field exercises. Instead of serving as a platoon leader, I was working at the division headquarters. At the same time, the doctors tried to fix me with braces, casts and physical therapy. After a few years of these attempts, the Army decided that I was too broken to continue serving, and I was a civilian again. Much sooner than anticipated.

In early 1990, the “Thank you for your service” attitude towards veterans hadn’t yet emerged. Despite having a master’s degree, most interviewing managers or recruiters couldn’t relate to my background. After months of failure and frustration, a friend helped me get a job as a “barback”, or bartender’s assistant, at a restaurant. I was grateful for the opportunity.

What was I to do? I couldn’t heal myself or alter the Army’s physical standards. I wasn’t going to be able to change the image most of society had about the military and veterans, especially ones with disabilities. There was only one option left – change myself – my dreams, my goals, my ideas about service, and my definition of success.

In the decades since, there have been more challenges and more opportunities. Sometimes, I was able to influence the situation and alter the circumstances. However, most times, I had to look internally, and modify my thoughts and my behavior.

The world is a wonderful, terrifying, dangerous and amazing place. We’ll encounter problems that we couldn’t foresee and conditions we can’t change. Even with the love and support of those around us, we can’t see a way out.

Perhaps the answer lies within.

See where Mark is speaking next

Read More

Topics: success, goals, change