Sunday, July 27, 2014

What is your MBA?

I have had a handful of conversations recently where the term "MBA" was used figuratively rather than in the traditional academic sense.  I thought that this would be a good topic to discuss.  

My question is: who has the better MBA, the hard knocks trial and error ass kicking entrepreneur or the (conventional and/or unconventional) student/professional going the academic route right out of college?

Out of coincidence, I just spoke with an MBA candidate last night.   He hasn't quite yet gotten through his undergrad economics degree and has another major along side it too, Philosophy.  He noted that the double major is important to rounding things off.  I do get this.  But he was already getting in the mindset of an MBA, the summer after his junior year.  He is under the impression that, without an MBA, the remarkable achievement of applying for, being accepted, attending and paying for 4 years of undergrad college might be flat; not good enough. Flat in the sense of his own marketability.  Flat in the sense of his own distinction towards his classmates and other employment candidates upon graduation.  I can't really argue this, but there is another way of looking at it.    

When I asked him what he wanted to do after all of this school he said: "I don't know, but first I gotta get my MBA and then I will figure out what I want to do". Case in point.

Since when did this become the standard?  And why such a gap between academic success and figuring out what students want to do--especially in business?  Is it practical to sink funds into what "could be" versus that which is necessary for the target of tangible result?  At what point does practicality weigh in for our graduating seniors.  Let's consider the ROI folks.

There indeed continues to be a lack of practicality driving conformity into our educational system.  Is there not so much more to learn from starting and/or participating in the start-up of a business rather than investing in a degree on the come.  Is there nothing of value in the trial and error, success and fail journey of being an entrepreneur?  I would argue that everything represented and covered in most MBA programs might equal or run about the same cost.  While this might sound a bit lofty, I am living proof of education for the sake of education and the incremental use of funds for the purpose of generating other funds.

And since I mentor a handful of graduating seniors who all want to discuss what they should do next, I typically always get answers like:  "I don't know, I may get my masters, after I pay my debt down".  

The average debt of a graduating senior at the end of 2013 was $29,000.00, this according to the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).  Seven out of 10 seniors graduated with student loan debt, and over a 5th of it owed to private lenders who charge higher interest rates. 

That said, the odds of getting a job are still in favor of the college graduate, CNN reported in 2012 that high school grads can expect unemployment rates of 17,9% compared to that of college grads at 7.7%.  I think these are awful figures and wouldn't attempt to spin it like CNN. While tuition rate increases seem to have tapered off, possibly due to future declining enrollments, if there is no return on this investment, nor any real and apparent tangible return in sight, is the debt worth it?  This is elementary.

I got my MBA by electing to go into business; by making mistakes and then work-shopping the results with others like me; business people with experiences similar to mine who have made similar mistakes like mine.  I got my MBA by going through a recession, by over investing in a housing market, by failing to provide my customers with increases while they were passing increases on to their customers, by going through an acquisition.  I got an MBA by experiencing the banking industry turn from a lending community to a checkbook facilitating community.  My MBA was written in the form of an Ode to the IRS (and that is a whole other story).

I am proud of my MBA.

Students, I am not knocking higher education, but consider your options.  Use some creativity, pay some dues instead of debt, and seek to emulate your heroes.  But don't fall victim to the debt by conformity.  Either way, get your MBA.  Which one is right for you?--ifyouknowwhatimtalkinbout.--rp

    

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Unplug your Function and Focus


A couple important things to reflect upon just after my most recent business group meeting.  I belong to a group called Vistage, which is a pretty high level entrepreneurial group of folks who act as board members for each others businesses.  It's really a good format and I enjoy it.  We work through lots of things and, as business owners, most of us have the same problems.  This group genuinely likes each other, so we have a wonderful time drilling down, helping each other where needed; usually the "been there, done that" reminders of similar situations that we can all relate.  I find this group most helpful, and am thankful and feel fortunate that I can participate.

Lately I have been centering myself on "unplugging".  Not in the sense that you would think, based on any of my previous musings; in the past I would tout the necessary reasons for getting the hell out of the business to recover outdoors; gain control of that which brought you to the point of near collapse.  I have been there so many times I can't even count.  But I didn't really benifit because of what was missing.  What I have learned in this past year in this group and with the help of my new partnership, I need to unplug in a different mannor.


Wapiti Adventure Entrepreneurs in Tucson, AZ
I spent a bunch of years advocating the "getting out" of the business to renew, re-charge, re-invent, re-animate.  We even started a business called Wapiti Adventures (just before the recession mind you).  This businesses catered to the needs of business owners, burnt toast folks, needing some "oxygen inspired thinking" (this was actually our tag line).  We had a great time with this and I hear that it is moving forward soon.  From a marketing perspective Wapiti was great.  And at the time, the company had cash to do all sorts of crazy entrepreneurial stuff. I am in the process of selling that business for virtually zero; the second in a year that I have shaken off of my shirt-tail.  I won't be putting another dime in to anything like that in the future.  Staying focused is a whole other topic.

Nope, the un-plugging that I am referring to is a much broader, more meaningful thing to me now that I have been exposed to some practical concepts with my new partnership and with my new group of fellow business owners.   Should I choose to adhere, I will join an elite group of folks who are just that much more successful in their businesses than the standard.  If I am successful, I will have performed for the two most important things in my work life; my clients and my employees. 

I will not work "in" the business.  I will work (and this is so cliche) "on" the business.  If  plugged-in to a function, whether it be Field Operations, Sales and Marketing, Human Resources, Finance or whatever, if I take a functional role in any of these areas, I will lose perspective.  Not to mention the fact that I am not really proficient in any of them to the extent that I can make a difference after years of doing whatever it is that I do. 

What I am proficient and/or need to be proficient in, is managing the continued improvement of these functional areas, and the relationship by which they interact with each other.   My "functional" role is to establish the appropriate partitions and perpetuate a transparent culture of priority  and continuous improvement.  It helps if you have a basic framework of performance management delivered by your HR department.  I am not smart enough to do that, so I surround myself with the best in this and all the functional areas.

This isn't new stuff, and certainly not considered ground breaking material.  But there is a real moment of clarity after a couple months forcing yourself to stay on the periphery--staying out there long enough to gain the perspective--that little dashboard in your head that visualizes a harmonious interaction of productivity--information flowing upward versus downward from you.  You must start a communication process necessary for everyone to understand their role and why the roles would likely change, evolve and or in some instances go away.  These concepts are found in the Rockefeller Habits and the Great Game of Business.  Google!

For me, I wasn't doing a very good job of communicating any thing other than the need to keep motivated, stay positive and good things would happen.  This worked for quite a while but we never broke out and got to the next level. For 13 years our company rose out of basically nothing into a business with credibility and poise.  But we all know that if we are not growing, not continuously improving, we are moving backwards, and that erodes capability and sustainability. 

If you are interested in more of this stuff, I'd be happy to share, simply drop me a line. 

Cheers!

R

 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ozark Trail Association Steps Out

I get inspired by interesting stories of interesting people and things.  Interesting being the key word here.  Interesting meaning those stories and the people in them centered on things a little off the beaten path, a little less conventional and, perhaps, a little misunderstood.  I am that way in part.  I prefer to apply myself in areas outside of the normal sequence of popular culture.  Because it's better.  But rather than get in to a discussion on that, I wanted to share something really cool that will more than likely take front stage for me in the upcoming years.

I was introduced to the Ozark Trail Association a couple of years ago when my buddy Jim Davis aka Team Trail Monster (TTM), and his wife, endurance Mountain Bike Champion, Wendy Davis, started blasting social media stuff about their involvement.  Jim and Wendy?--nope, not your typical folks.  They subscribe to a lifestyle centered on the outdoors, active living and in my opinion, the real pleasures of the outdoor experience.  They both have been members of Team Seagal and Jim an active member of GORC (Gateway Off-road Cyclists), that amazing trail building/access advocacy  responsible for the amazing multi-use trails all over St. Louis.  Missouri has some wonderful trails and GORC has been responsible for their renaissance.

From left to right
Steve Coats, Greg Echele, Ralph Pfrermmer, Matt Atnip and Jim Davis
 
Wendy is a writer, and I have hired her to do a couple things here and there.  So when she told her readers on her blog  about doing a story for the Ozark Trail Connector, an annual magazine of the association, I took interest.  After reading it I became a little more interested in what has now become an obsession, The OTA!

I had heard of the trail and the association, but never embarked on what the history the mission of the organization was.  Like others I know, I took for granted that it was a state agency or something, a trail funded by the State or Department of Natural Resources and that it was simply part of the Mark Twain National Forest trail system. It hadn't occurred to me the importance of this self supported non-profit organization and Natural Resource, until now.

Last night I met with some members of the board of the OTA including Steve Coates, President, Matt Atnip, Vice President, and board member, Greg Echelle.  Jim Davis felt it necessary to set things up because, on a recent day trip to the trail, my fifth in less than two weeks, I kept asking questions about the organization.  Questions about the history and how it started, what was most significant about it, what the mission was, where it was going, what the plan was to connect other parts of Missouri.  With every answer came another question.  I had more questions than he had the patience for, so Jim set up a meeting at The Wolf Public House in Ballwin.  The Wolf, known for its allegiance to outdoor activity and advocacy for active living, is where I hang out for good food, beverage and people of the like.

So I wanted to share this with you; what seems to be a new journey in the making, with a whole new topic to pontificate about.  I am so inspired by these people and the good work that they do, I have decided to get involved and help promote that which I think is Missouri's most incredible natural resource.  I'm jumping in with both feet with these folks, the board, the volunteers, the culture of outdoors people whose lives are enriched by the mission and story of a guy named John Roth.
John Roth (1959 - 2009)
Founder Ozark Trail Association
Take the time to read the story at the link provided.  And watch this video too.  You will hear much more from me on this.  Please feel free to get involved.  The TTM and I will be hosting a handful of hikes and rides, #getchasum.

**As I come to the end of my term as Chairman of the Board of the Endangered Wolf Center, it appears obvious the need to use my skills learned there to help another eco-focused non-profit organizations meet their goals.  The Endangered Wolf Center now sits on firm ground after some very tough years. In 2010 there was the possibility that the center would close.  I was helpful in providing a style of leadership necessary to stabilize and eventually attain sustainability.  Managing the crisis and persevering through this crisis has been a lesson in life that I won't forget.  And I am thankful for my colleagues in choosing me to help provide perspective. 

 



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lewis Greenberg Makes History


I ran into Lewis Greenberg the other day.  That's always a treat.  I was killing some time at the new Schnucks, the controversial Schnucks, in Ballwin.  It's a nice store, with lots of nice people, lots of Stepford wife looking women, that's what I was thinking anyway.  They shopped with their carts, while there husbands busily plotted to turn the west county scenery in to robots.  I grabbed a V8 and went upstairs where a meeting room and some tables are handy for doing what I was doing.  I brought a book with me, Breakfast with Bhuda

Now, that's one hell of a paragraph if you ask me.  Lewis, Schnucks for some chill time, Stepford wives and a book on Buddhism?  Needless to say I didn't open the book.  Lewis appeared from the stairwell and shouted my name from across the room.  No filter, never a filter with Lewis, remember.  I was happy to see him, noticed that he looked good, was in good spirits, cantankerous, but in good spirits. I smiled and motioned him over.  Lewis has always been respectful of my time. We got at it. 

I recommend that you follow the link above to get the Lewis Greenberg story. There are lots of stories that I have chronicled along the way. 

I prepared myself for what I knew was our protocol for having a conversation.  And that's all it took, a memory of what works best with Lewis, a process that anyone must go through in order to have a meaningful conversation.  A process that anyone must go through, if you want to extract the goodness out of a person so filled with the desire to do some major ass kickin stuff. 

I love that about him, to be quite honest.  He is in ass kicking mode 24/7 and once he decides to go for the jugular, he turns on the super turbo ass kicking laser bomb.  There is no filter, you better have your act together.  And if you don't, he will tell you, in the way that everyone understands, that you are an idiot.  He is 100% authentic, all of the time.

I miss knowing Lewis like I once did.  Back when I had the restaurant over on Clayton.  It wasn't really all that long ago.  What I remember taking most from our friendship was the influence on the way I appreciate art and culture.  He gave me that gift.  Lewis taught me everything I know about it.  So much so that I incorporate art and culture in to everything I do now.  Everything has storytelling, everything has a connection to something else.  I learned this from him.  He convinced me that people in my (our) town suffered from what he calls, cultural depravity, and that his calling was to express himself with the Holocaust Revisited display and with his 1st amendment rights.  I think everyone is hip to Lewis's calling. 

As a student, or a friend, or an apprentice, if you will, I went about carving out a space for him in the restaurant--a random spillage of art and images, photos, streamers and artifacts.  My stuff was on the theme of active living, but it was purposed a little bit like Lewis's house.  It was a journey equipping the Wolf with cool stuff.  I put pictures of Lewis up too, paintings that he has from his collection.  Because I was once asked by my neighbor:  "Why do you even let him in the place?"  I said: "You know, I not only let him in the place, but he is memorialized and, he is the only one who may bring his bicycle inside".  I hung a sticker covered Kestrel in the window for 4 years in his honor of being a cyclist.   

I didn't expect people to understand, nor did I care.  Lewis brought joy to the way I went about expressing myself to the customers. And the customers liked the place.  It's less interesting to have less interesting things around you.  I have a bit of a  track record of doing interesting things, and meeting and hosting interesting people. It got a little sticky from time to time.  Once Lewis interrupted a group of business men in prayer.  Lewis says he is an atheist Jew.  So something set him off and I had to shuttle him out.  This happened from time to time, but I didn't mind. 

The Wolf has changed, Bob Biribin and family are making it theirs now and I am really happy about that.  I am still there just about every day.  Because I love the people there.  Bob has amazing food and I eat healthier because he and his wife have a great eye for "real food" and better beer.  Less about me, the Wolf now is, and all of the Lewis artifacts are gone.  But the spirit and history of expression will always be there in my opinion.  And even though we changed the name of the place to The Wolf Public House from Lone Wolf.  People still call the place Lone Wolf.  Tell that to the Isle of Capri.

So why did I highlight Lewis Greenberg, the one so controversial, the one often jailed, the one often casted out from businesses and events throughout the city, for just being him?  Why did I choose to dedicate space in the restaurant to his art?-- which, if you haven't seen it, you should?

It's pretty simple, the dude has been running from the torch bearers for quite a while now and I wanted to give him some room to breathe.  I also wanted to let him know that he is appreciated as a human being, not some sort of side show hunchback.  I wanted to show the community, those with the slightest sliver of open mind to get to meet him.  I wanted to show them exactly what they were missing or sure what they did not want.  Because there was a percentage of people who "get Lewis", and I wanted to make sure that those friendships were kindled. 

No, mot everyone adores Lewis.  I would bet that  the local police draw straws when getting the calls from folks who think he is out of hand, dangerous, troubled.  One thing for sure, the more they come, the more the art evolves.  The closer the torches get, the brighter the glow upon his rooftop.  This has been what is most interesting to me.  You see, the community, by way of their own involvement, by way of their dislike and mis-understanding of things, by way of their own cultural depravity, have contributed to his art.  And Lewis, who's canvas appears each morning when he opens his eyes, begins another day by being him in a community that, like it or not, is enriched by his presence. At least some folks think so.

Lewis mentioned that his son was set to come and visit soon with his grandchildren.  This was quite the sparkle. 

He has a new piece on his garage door, in case anyone disputes the fact that his theme is Holocaust related.  Its a massive Auschwitz image.  You cannot miss it and there is no chance of not figuring it out.  The photo is also on his business card.  I recommend you go over there after patronizing the Schuncks store in Ballwin, the one that filled the auditorium at city hall in opposition with the same folks who want him jailed for his art.

ifyouknowhatimtalkinbout.     

Friday, November 2, 2012

From Crisis to Sustainability: The Story of the Endangered Wolf Center Recovery-Part 1

Part 1--Advancemet by Association

If you know me, or have read this blog, you might guess that I get pulled into all sorts of projects that have to do with somebody else's business or organizational endeavor, particularly in the non-profit world.  That's what's fun about being entrepreneurial. And I am always flattered when asked to help on any project, even though I approach things lately with a kind of  "careful hand I dole" philosophy, in light of my recent journey.  This in relationship to my resources, influence and yes, money, from time to time.  While I have never professed to have great knowledge of how non-profit organizations work, I have recently gained perspective on how they struggle to find and maintain sustainability.  This is a story of my education on the topic, and the use of common business acumen necessary to gain a perspective, make adjustments and deploy a crisis strategy.  Please enjoy...

For several years I have been involved with and supported a myriad of local charities ranging from the MS Society, Trailnet, the Arthritis Foundation, The YMCA, The Boy Scouts, multiple Higher Education and Private High Schools and their functions. I really cannot remember all but there have been many.  My connection to all of them?--food, beverage, event management and logistics pertaining to active living and cultural events. I have experience in all that stuff by way of the business that I started back in 2000, Pfoodman.

To come clean on how we got Pfoodman on the map (reference able by assorted business journal articles positioned through google and social media) is to say that it was our shtick to guerrilla market" the company into prominence.  It made sense, especially in the early years, for lack of any other means to promote the vision and the brand, Pfoodman. Guerrilla marketing was an early and cheap means of promotion. I first immersed myself in it, then later became an expert.  Along side this I embraced the early days of social media to try and get an edge on things.  I got started in the mid 90's with planting images and active living results from my competitive cycling days on the Internet, started posting on message boards, relevant information leading back to a commodity.  It would be four years before I would introduce Pfoodman to the market place as an on-site catering management business with significant social platforming; wellness, active living and community stewardship. 

It wasn't easy, and there really was no road map, template or safety net.  For lack of any other storytelling, I used these platforms as a means to get in front of people, to connect to tribes of people with healthier mindsets, like minded people with good jobs at influential business and institutions.   I plotted to get my company name and logo next to other significant logos of substance.  Businesses like Anheuser Busch, Charter, THF Realty, Emerson, Bank of America (insert big St. Louis blue-blood type companies here).  My silver bullet:  the in-kind donations of catering for bike rides, walks, runs, races and music events.  Since I sell food and wanted to develop relationships in the community as being a community steward, it worked.  Food is easy to give away.  By giving "real food" away, it was as if we were speaking the language to these groups.

Through the years, and with an unsteady hand of choosing the right organizations to align with, Pfoodman was able to forge deep relationships with significant clients who understand the need to resonate quality, in our case, the "real food" services that helped our clients create their own distinction.   A residual take away was the fact that there were indeed individuals and businesses outside of our market that would think of us as "good partners" in community stewardship, because we have always been there for what the community thinks is important.  It's one big popularity contest.  That's all.

In a perfect world, this sort of marketing would need to have a proven ROI from time time; a measurable advancement of the business with key performance indicators.  But its really isn't measurable.   Perhaps it is not meant to be, when in the tribal relationship building business.  It is a broadcast of goodwill that implants the goodness of the platform within a consumer who may or may not be ever be a customer.  It's later, much later, that good things come.

This was the essence of my charitable marketing strategy at Pfoodman and the supporting businesses that we founded, including The Wolf Public House--Its "cause marketing", or "strategic philanthropy" as my blue blood friends call it. It's nothing new.

Please enjoy a quote that I think appropriately captures my experience with this sort of thing.   It is probably important to realize that I really didn't have a clue as to where it would take me, nor whether or not I had the money to play in the sandbox...

"I am not sure I want to be called a strategic philanthropist any more than I want to be called broke"--Ralph Pfremmer.

Cont.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Smoke Free Deity

Don’t get me wrong, I would enjoy the visits regardless of the smell, the headache, the coating of smoke that stays with me up until my next shower.  And I am not judging you even though I am known to tell it like it is.  You mean that much to me.  All the people from my past are important to me like that, regardless of what they do.    
What does bother me is that I can tell you don’t seem to be feeling entirely as well as you could; that you have a cough, a gravel sound to your voice and that your breathing is more labored than that of someone else your age, a non-smoker.  I could hear you breathe, your coughing, labored clearing of your throat from time to time.   I could also sense a kind of nervousness over the matter.  I don’t blame you.  I remember vocalizing my own frustrations over smoking when I still smoked.  As you said yourself.  It sucks.
It is indeed silly that anyone would continue smoking  knowing that it has been proven time and time again that it is truly a death of a thousand cuts; the real damage being the reduction of quality of life when you will want it the most; taking a walk, riding a bike, running with your kids and/or grandkids.  Bottom line, your overall energy level is now set to decrease from what’s considered normal for you (if you can remember normal).   I have been worried for you and the others for quite a while, now that you have been a smoker for more than half of your life, perhaps it’s really more like two thirds of your life.  I’m sorry if this comes across a little strong.  I suppose I have license to do this because I was a smoker once too—before I became something else.
It was back in 1999. For me it was the fact that some old habits really caught up with me and it was necessary to change things up, this after a four day hospital visit.
It was really quite embarrassing, even though a lot of people didn’t know what was going on with me back then.  I had had chronic bronchitis for months, a terrible cough that wouldn’t go away, I smoked too much, drank too much and worked too much, and I ate like hell. I was unhappy and seeking comfort in all of the wrong ways.  That’s pretty much what I had been doing since I was 16 years old.
I picked up the indulgent lifestyle over years in the restaurant and bar business, by watching those closest to me; my parents and their friends, my bosses, my co-workers.  They were all my heroes, my good-time heroes.  A hero was anyone I could hang around that would do the same thing and not give me shit about it. It was mine and the others “culture” to indulge like that.  Me and my good-time hero folks subscribing to the same value pool.  Me, I smoked Marlborough Reds.
The hospital stay was a result of playing poker all night while I should have been in bed. I felt a fever coming on but blew it off. When I finally made it home that night, I laid down on the couch only to wake up with a temperature of 105 and a severe ringing in my ears. I couldn’t move and I had to call a friend to help me get out of the house and in to the emergency room.  I had pneumonia and was admitted into the hospital.
I felt pretty bad.  In addition to the lung infection, I had, yes, a hangover, and I was feeling pretty sorry for myself due to what I knew (deeply) could have been avoided. Taking responsibility was a little tough because it was my own choice to over indulge all those years, all of it, over time, my consequence.  I lost my hearing in my right ear for 6 months due to some other middle ear issue related to the infection that I had also blown off for months.
~~~
So this is where things got a little weird.  Right there in the hospital room while I was struggling to find an excuse for being in as bad a shape as I was at 38 years old.  And don’t judge me on this either.  But I swear, an Angel appeared—not shittin.  
First off, it was not the type of angel you’re thinking about.  Not while you are sitting there reading this thinking I’ve gotten religion and now I’m spouting off about finding some type of God and stuff.  That’s alright by me, btw.  But that is not what this is about.   Because you see, this Angel, well she was this cool hippie type of chick, a real free spirit; dressed in tie-dye and a hemp rope choker around her neck, with dreadlocks down to her ass. She smelled of clove or curry or something like that.  I thought she was going to give me flowers.  She wasn’t exactly what I considered your stereotypical nurse, but she was a nurse indeed.  She was earthy and cool like a flea market soap peddler.  This Angel was going incognito as my nurse (and to be quite honest, she would have been my angel of choice for sure).  This was a much, much better personification of devine intervention for me.  The free spirit hippie Angel was just what I needed. 

Since I couldn’t breathe very well due to the infection, I got really paranoid and anxious when not being able to get comfortable.  I was having an all out panic attack right there in front of her in the first five minutes of her visit. Instead of hitting me with some super-powered Angel nurse stuff, or a pill or shot to take the edge off, she stood there shaking her head, measuring me up; not what I expected.  She gave me some calming exercises, some hippie type of yoga Angel breathing stuff. And it worked. She taught me some relaxation techniques that left me centering myself a bit. 
As the next few days went by, she took interest as to why I was so pissed off at myself, and I eventually came clean. I told her that I was basically a mess and had hit the bottom as it related to my health; I had lost my quality of life completely at barely 40 years old. I kept my indulgence hidden pretty well back in those days.  A lot of us do. The hippie Angel said that she noticed bad energy upon my admittance and was drawn in to try and get me centered and on track with what I was truly capable of becoming.   We spent the next four days like guru and student, questions and answers on how to “be”.  Why not?

When I was released, there was nobody to take me home, so the hippie Angel gave me a ride in the wheelchair to a cab waiting at curbside pick-up. I didn’t know what to say.  I hadn’t expected an enlightenment; not your typical hospital experience.  I felt a bit sad because I had grown to seek the comfort of her influence, basically a mirror with a new image of what could “be”.  For the first time in my life I had really taken a good look at myself.  I had been confronted in an unconventional way, while faced with some very significant health issues.  And that without this person, my hippie Angel, whom I had never met and would surely never see again, I might not have overcome the fear of dealing with the truth.
The truth—that I was not supposed to be in that situation, and that I was not supposed to be the person that I had become.  The Fear—that I would fail at becoming better; that I was supposed to end up that way.
Before I got in the car she whispered two things to me. 

The first: “Get up now, and walk”.   

Oh, I walked alright, and kept walking until I could run.  I quit smoking, (laid off the booze for a while too),  dropped a ton of weight and started a new journey, a new way of thinking, a focus on what I thought I could become; an athlete, a speaker, a successful businessman, a father, a writer, a singer, a thinker.  I am still working on the possibilities—what I could become, because that is a hell of a lot more exciting than the alternative.  The elixir, helping people, being honest towards fear and the fear of others who struggle with the truth a bit.  We are not all quite there yet, some of us further along than others.  There are renewals to consider as well.  This I know.

The second: a quote that I live by...

“A man is but the product of his thoughts - what he thinks, he becomes”. - Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi

I had certainly become the product of my thoughts at the hallmark of my previous existence…kind of pathetic if you don't mind me sayin.  Just less than 40 years old, lying in the hospital bed barely able to breathe… I wasn’t all that thrilled with what I had become.  I needed to change things up and I suppose that by choosing (or being chosen) by just-the-right deity was key in determining my launching point.  Yup, that hippie Angel, she sure changed things up for me.

I know this whole thing is kind of cheesy, lofty and surreal, and I know my story may not mean Jack squat in comparison to whatever you have going on with your smoking or whatever else you think hinders your quality of life. I suppose I can see a little in you that the hippie Angel saw in me? 

So what I am saying is this, after all this talk about "becoming",  if I have to dress up in tie dye, wear some goofy Jesus sandals, grow a beard and live on a bus to get you to quit smoking.  Well…then I would do it.

“I would become that”. - rp