Is America Dead?

Not if we choose otherwise

beautiful-old-rural-bridges-fbWhat a couple days, huh?

A crazy election race followed by much anger, rioting, crass commentary, racist remarks…at least that’s what the press would have you believe.

Have those things occurred? Sure. But if you think that is the bulk of the reaction you’re allowing yourself to be fooled.

It’s funny how both sides in this election believe there is a conspiracy that involves collusion at the highest levels of industry, government, and the media, against their side. And sad how quickly each side want to call those on the other side idiots.

The question we need to ask is, “Why is the press, which seems to be the mouthpiece for the conspiracy at worst and at best solely interested in their own gain, so bent on dividing us?”

Yesterday I posted this on facebook:

Let’s be honest. We’re a nation divided.
We were a nation divided yesterday and we are a nation divided today.
NO political win was going to unite us.
NO political party was going to unite us.
NO legislation will unite us.
WE have to unite us.
Which bridge will you build today?

Within less than an hour I had positive interactions with friends from all across the spectrum:

  • Christian
  • Non-christian
  • Muslim
  • Atheist
  • White
  • Black
  • Hispanic
  • Asian
  • LGBT
  • Straight
  • Married
  • Single
  • Republican
  • Democrat
  • Voted for Hillary
  • Voted for Trump

THAT is America.

We’re not determined by who sits in the oval office.

One friend put his fears into gentler words:

Curt, we may have been a nation divided yesterday but for the first time I felt I was having honest conversations about race relations with many of the people I knew who are white.

Albeit painful for some that was a bridge being built but I fear many who bought into the idea of “make America great again” believe the theme means quieting such discussions because it does not fit that narrative. 

And my response to him was the same as my response to all who are angry about the outcome of the election or fearful for their future.

It isn’t about them, it is about us.

The conversations that have started must continue and WE are the ones who get to continue them.

To those who are angry, we feel your frustration.

To those who are excited about the new President, understand you would have been just as angry had the vote gone the other way.

To both sides, the other side aren’t idiots. But if you allow the common rhetoric to convince you they are then there is no hope for us as a country. We will split. We will come, eventually, to some sort of civil unrest on a national scale, and we will fail.

We don’t solve that be whom we elect. A government OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people has one important cornerstone that is being overlooked: The People.

If WE the PEOPLE come together instead of allowing ourselves to be divided we CAN make America great again. We are the ones who have to fight for us because we ARE stronger together. Legislation won’t get us there, parties won’t get us there, one president won’t get us there.

We will, one bridge at a time.

What bridges will you build today?

Why Your Friendship is More Important than Your Vote

A political commentary


There is no doubt about the fact that this election cycle has been one of the most divisive in quite some time. In my half century plus I can’t recall a campaign that created as much relational angst as this one.

And no matter which side you’re on I think we can agree on at least ONE thing.

Our relationships are more important than who wins this election.

Now, if you want to dig into me to sort out if I voted for your person and, as a result of my answer, want to end our friendship, so be it. I won’t come chasing you down.

It is obvious that folks on both sides think the OTHER side is blind.

And, to me at least, it is obvious that this is what the political establishment likes.


Because in a democracy the people have the power and when the people are as hatefully divided as we’re starting to become we abdicate that power.

As a software guy I have many times had to find a way to solve a business problem with the tools just weren’t built to work that way. We do that be getting a clear understanding of the goal then working towards it in a collaborative fashion.

So let me be clear about MY goal in this election and following.

I want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…and I’d like to pursue it with my friends.

And I’d like all Americans to have that same opportunity.

Now, if you’re about to tell me that this cannot happen unless…


It CAN happen if we sit down and discuss solutions instead of discussing people, problems or politics.

And to that end I’d like you to enjoy this musical interlude:

Chill, I’m out.



10 Pieces of Wisdom for 2016

2016blogThis year I will surpass the average age that men in my family have attained over the last 11 or 12 generations. There were some curve busters in there to be sure and now I hope to bust the curve in a more positive direction. That being said, in my own context, I am an old man.

Thus, as an old man, I offer up these ten bits of acquired wisdom for your 2016. I do not call them “pearls” for to you they may be old hat, or pieces of something quite different than semi precious stones. Nonetheless I hope that your New Year is a blessed one!

  1. Two things you must do everyday: Laugh out loud and exercise. There will be many days when you don’t want to do either but every day you do both will be a day that feels brighter, better and more hopeful. (Typing “LOL” multiple times doesn’t count as laughter OR exercise.)

  2. Invest in three new relationships: 1 person who can teach you something, 1 person whom you can teach, and 1 person who is just fun to hang with. This will stretch you more than any self-improvement class.

  3. Commit to dialogue: Yes, I see the irony of typing this in a monologue.

  4. Learn to ask questions and fact check: it will make you better equipped for dialogue.

  5. For my young friends who are trying to decide is they are currently with the person they should marry: Do NOT ask yourself “Can I see myself with this person for the rest of my life?” This is the wrong question. You’ll always find some foible that distracts you from saying yes. Ask instead, “Can I see the rest of my life without this person in it?” Because if you choose someone else that will be your reality. If your answer to this second question is no, then odds are you’re with the right person.

  6. If you’re a Christian: Spend time everyday reading your Bible. This will be difficult, really difficult. For myself, if I don’t do it before I get out of bed in the morning I will almost assuredly miss a day and have to catch up. There are many plans out there that can help you do this and even 1 year Bibles that break it up for you. When you read don’t worry about getting something profound out of it every day. It isn’t about “the words” it is about The Word.

  7. If you’re not a Christian: Invest some time each day in developing a deeper understanding and commitment to whatever it is you do believe: meditation, the Koran, the Talmud, the Vedas, etc. The result will be either a consistency between what you say you believe and how you live it or a change in what you believe that results in a consistency with how you live it.

  8. Set one goal: I’m bad at goal setting, really bad. I find though that if I set just one that is a little bit of a stretch AND set three milestones that land between here and there I not only get a little better at goal setting but I also have something to look forward to and strive for on the journey.

  9. Remember that text has no tonality: Real conversation, whether in person or via phone / Skype / Facetime is ALWAYS clearer, more easily understood, and more enriching, than anything you type anywhere. Don’t believe me? Give me a call and we’ll discuss it.

  10. Ask yourself often what it means to love people: The word has become so diluted that it is often hard to distinguish between what it means to love your spouse or to love pizza. Supposedly Sanskrit has 96 words that mean love. I’m sure one covers love of a spouse and a different one covers love of pizza. There is very little, dare I say nothing, in life that is riskier but that will give more back to you than loving people.

May your loved ones be close and drawn closer, may the scope of your world grow larger in wonder and in purpose, and may your God, whomever or whatever you conceive him to be, bless you richly in the coming year.


Three Lessons from the Disney Coast to Coast Challenge

IMG_1579If you’re not familiar with the Disney Coast to Coast Challenge it is a pretty slick marketing scheme whereby Disney convinces you to run a minimum of a half marathon in Florida and one in California in the same calendar year in order to obtain the coveted Coast to Coast medal. Up until recently there were a couple options in Florida, the biggest  being in January and only one in California, that being over Labor Day weekend.

We’re pretty big Disney fans here in the Fletcher home and we have a lot of family memories at Disneyland in particular. The Coast to Coast medal, as you can see here, depicts Walt and Mickey holding hands, a representation of a statue that is in front of the castle at Disneyland. That statue has been “the meeting spot” for us since our boys were four and five. If you get separated in the park, you go to the meeting spot.  I mention this because it is a large part of what makes this medal special for me.

  • I first found out about the challenge about seven years ago. I had done a couple triathlons then but I’d never run anything longer than a 10K. (6 miles).
  • Six years ago I decided I would go for it and try to run a half marathon in each location.
  • Five years ago I missed the registration date.
  • Four years ago it wouldn’t work in our schedule.
  • Three years ago the half marathon was sold out by the tie I checked.
  • Two years ago I missed it again, it sells out fast.
  • Last year I was determined not to miss the registration and got to the web site in time, called my wife to confirm it was in the budget, and it sold out before we decided.

I was seriously disappointed! You see if you don’t get the January race in then running the one in California in September doesn’t matter. In a moment of crazy deep frustration I looked to see how much it cost to run the full marathon…after all we’d agreed we could budget for the half…and lo, it cost the same amount.

I signed up.

I would never have agreed to try a full marathon. I was pretty sure I could struggle through 13 miles but 26 was insane. And yet I wanted that Coast to Coast.

Before last year at this time I had only ever run 6 miles in a stretch and frequently said I wouldn’t run even THAT far unless I was being chased.. Since last October I have run three half marathons, including the one at Disneyland, and one full marathon, at Walt Disney World. I have run through the soles of three pairs of Vibram Five Fingers through hundreds of miles of training and I have convinced my wife to run HER first half marathon.

So what did I learn in the process?

Here’s three lessons I learned about achieving goals:

1. Don’t give up on your goals.

It would have been easy to give up on the idea of completing the Coast to Coast. Year after year it seemed to elude me. But I persevered because I had a emotional connection to what I wanted to accomplish and I didn’t give up on it. Circumstances will often conspire against you when you’re going after a goal, sometimes it requires a new strategy or a greater effort but many times it just requires that you soldier on and don’t give up.

2. Recruit a team to your dream.

Yeah, sounds cheesy, but it makes it easier to remember. My wife first got behind the idea of me running in Florida because I was going to try to do the impossible. Her support through the process and then the weekend was awesome. Even bigger though was her commitment to run with me in California. That meant we were training together for months. On days when I was too tired or too sore she’d pick me up, and vice versa. I also convinced my buddy Kurt to run with us in California after he’d done the half in Florida. The occasional check in via phone to see how training was going kept us honest too. Having a team sharing your goal with you provides the motivation to keep going in those times when your motivation lags.

3. Focus short to go long.

I REALLY learned this in the marathon. I couldn’t think about running 26 miles or mentally I would collapse. I COULD think about making the four or five miles between parks. I COULD focus on making a couple miles between water stations. In the months in between races we dealt with bad weather, multiple nagging injuries, and schedule conflicts any of which could have derailed us. By just focusing on the next opportunity to train, rather than worrying about how a miss might effect the big picture, we took the little steps that got us to the starting line ready to go on race day. Sure we set a goal time but our BIG goal was to finish a feel good about it and by focusing on the little goals along the way we accomplished that is stellar style.

By persevering over seven years, recruiting a team, and focusing short I finally achieved the dream. When they hung that medal around my neck I have to confess I got a little teary and man, did it feel good.


What goal do you have sitting on the shelf? How can you apply these strategies to achieve it?

Three Switches That Can Get You Off the Couch

switches 3This past Saturday I ran a 10k with a good friend helping him train for a half marathon coming up in May.

If you would have asked me a year ago to go run six miles for fun I would have told you you were insane. At that point 6 miles was the furthest I had ever run in one go in my life.

But in July last year I started training to run the Walt Disney World Marathon, which I did run in January.

How did THAT happen? How did I go from, “I will NEVER run a marathon!” to “I could do that again” ?

For me it all started with a medal.

Switch #1: A Worthy Reward

Disney has a marathon weekend in Florida (which includes a 1/2 marathon) in January and a 1/2 marathon weekend in Anaheim in August. If you run in both you get a very cool coast-to-coast medal. Those that know our family know we’re HUGE Disney fans…the parks in particular…and the medal depicts a statue of Walt and Mickey that has many memories for us from our trips to the parks. I have wanted that medal for five years.

But every year for five years I have dallied. Told myself I’d get around to registering for the January event but always getting around to it after the 1/2 marathon is sold out. Which has meant I have to wait until the following January to get in the cycle.

That happened again in 2013. I was bummed.

I stared at the now sold out 1/2 marathon in disbelief. I had missed it AGAIN! Then, and I still don’t know why I did this, I looked at the marathon and saw it was the same price. Hold on…you’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking.

Switch #2: A Fair Cost

Traveling to Florida is expensive and that expense had been one of the causes of my dallying year after year but now I had come to the doorstep of acceptance, ready to pay the piper, permission from my wife even! The cost was no greater for the full than for the 1/2 ?!?! I could still get the medal?!? I’LL DO IT.

Almost as soon as I had signed up I started to question my sanity. Twenty six miles is a long way. I had ridden my bike that far but never imagined traveling that far on foot. But I had done a could of short triathlons. I had used an app from Jeff Galloway to train myself up to a 10k and he did have a marathon app as well. Maybe it was doable?

Switch #3: A Motivating Plan

My thinking started like this:

  1. I don’t have to be fast, I just have to finish
  2. They require a 16 minute max pace, I can walk at about 14-15
  3. In my shorter runs I’ve been aiming for an 8 minute pace, this is twice as slow
  4. So it’s just a matter of not stopping

Breaking it down like that made this herculean task seem achievable. On top of that Jeff Galloway teaches a run-walk-run approach which means I didn’t have to think about running even a mile. I only had to think about running the next three minutes.

If you’ve been contemplating taking on an physical challenge such as running, biking, swimming, triathlon, climbing a 14er…whatever it is…look for ways to flip these three switches:

  1. Set a worthy reward out there…sometimes finishing isn’t quite enough, you need a tangible goodie.
  2. Compare the cost to something you DO consider reasonable. It’s helps remove that as an excuse.
  3. Come up with a plan that breaks down the big challenge into manageable bits. You may need help on this one. I’m glad I found Jeff Galloway’s plan.

In a coming post I’ll talk about the race experience itself but for the moment:

What challenge have you been considering for way too long? What is your biggest obstacle?




Winnings, Endings, and a New Respect

playoffsI started playing football when I was 10 and had the good fortune to play all the way through college and a little bit beyond. That’s why I both love and hate the playoffs.

You see when a football season ended I always had a terrible ache in my gut. Whether it was the season in middle school when we one only one game, the year we lost in the NCAA Division II semi finals, or the time we won the Ukrainian National Championship, season over, same nasty feeling.

So for the last two weeks I have had that same feeling, several ties over, Saturday and Sunday.

This past weekend was one of the worst. I went in to the weekend with high hopes only to exit the weekend with just 1 out of 4 of my hoped for winners emerging triumphant and yes, the Broncos loss was the hardest to take.

In terms of those losses let me just say this: I can’t stand playing conservative offense at the end of the game with the lead. If you keep the ball the other team cannot possibly score. I also don’t like playing some skanky prevent defense. If your regular defense has you in the lead after 59:30 why change it? Ok, done with that.

If you think about it this internal sinking of the gut at seasons end isn’t really meant to be. I mean, look at where we started out. Adam and Eve, in the garden, tree of life available for the eating, eternity in our grasp. We could have lived without endings, without regrets, without the sinking gut.

Sure we still would have invented football, probably early on, and there still would have been winners and losers but every game would have been hard enough fought and scheduled with enough chance at a replay that we’d have always felt we had done our best and that the better team had truly won. Sheesh, we might not have even needed referees if you think about it!!

Unfortunately though endings and regrets are a part of the human condition. I think God gives us the grace to live through them but I think he also gives us the gut check to remind us that one day we won’t have to any longer.

Which brings me to my new respect.

I used to really, I mean reallllly, dislike Ray Lewis. There was all that legal craziness when he came into the league, he always seemed a little too cocky and he always seemed to beat the guys I was rooting for. But I have to say Ray has mellowed with age. The guy is a completely class act from what I’ve seen over this, his last season. I even find myself thinking that it wouldn’t be all bad if the Ravens win the Super Bowl. (I will however be rooting for the NFC this year.)

I don’t know Mr. Lewis so I can’t say for sure what’s gone on with him but he does sound a little like Tebow in his praise for the Lord. Funny how people jump all over Tim but just nod and smile at Ray. I guess they’ve seen him thump enough heads. I hope I can finish my race with the same amount of grace Ray seems to be exuding as he finishes this one.

I also hope the 49ers win the Super Bowl and that Alex Smith has to come in on the final drive…but that’s a different story.

What do you think of Ray Lewis’ run into the end of his final season?



13 Things You Should Do in 2013

I spent the past week with family in California and was traveling most of the day yesterday or I would have posted my annual to-do list before now.

Here are my 13 suggested things to do to make 2013 even better than 2012:


1. For every “improvement” resolution you’ve made make two “enhancement” resolutions.
People always try to resolve to get better at something they didn’t do well in the last year, or to try to get better at something they don’t do well. Research shows we improve faster when we focus on areas of strength rather than weakness. So for every weakness you’re trying to beat in 2013 pick two strengths you’ll work to get develop even more.

2. Don’t look back with regret without taking a step to use regret for good.
Every time you look back, sigh, and think, “I wish I would have…” or “I should have…” you have to finish the statement with “…and so today I am going to…”

3. Write down three stories, about you, from your childhood.
Your kids, or your nieces and nephews, or your neighbors kids will love them. Start the title of each story with “The Adventure of the _______________” and fill in the blank.

4. Re-read a favorite book from your younger years.
Different places in life bring different reactions to stories. Try on an old friend this year.

5. Memorize something.
It could be a poem, a story, a passage of scripture, a longish joke…you’ll be surprised how it comes in handy to have a new piece in the database.

6. Watch classic film.
They’re classics for a reason, usually because the story and characters span the test of time. Pick one you’ve never seen before.

7. Laugh with people more often than you laugh at them.
This will be difficult for me.  🙂

8. Commit at least one act of astonishing generosity.
This could be as simple as paying for the person behind you in line at the Starbucks drive-thru or giving away a car you don’t drive much any more.

9. Establish a new tradition.
They all started somewhere.

10. Give someone a  chance to express their opinion.
This should really be someone whose opinion does not agree with yours. Let them explain and rather than debating listen to their point of view. It might not change YOUR point of view but at keast you’ll understand the “other side” a bit better.

11. Try a different diet for at least a week.
I tried going vegetarian for a week once and it lasted 6 months.

12. Have three conversations as though you were a regular character on a reality tv show.
Try one at work, one with friends, and one with family. Don’t tell them what you’re doing.

13. Laugh more…out loud.
I do this when I run and it always seems to lighten the load for at least a couple hundred yards.

What would you add to the list?

What Would You Do IF…?

What would you do today if the world were really ending tomorrow?

It’s probably a good thing the Mayans are no longer around. I think they’d feel quite mocked, although I am certain their capital would be surrounded by press trucks, their leading elders would all be fielding interview questions, and their cultural norms would be the subject of much scrutiny.

While there are a few folks who seem to be hedging their bets I haven’t had anyone offer up their cars, homes or credit cards for me to use here in the last 24 hours. So I think it is safe to say most of us don’t believe.

But what if it were all coming to an end tomorrow?

Is there a food you have always wanted to try?

Is there a movie you’ve wanted to see?

Is there one last Angry Birds achievement to beat?

Is there a boss you’ve wanted badly to tell off?

Is there one last beer to drink in order to finish the Old Chicago World Beer Tour?

Is there someone you’ve always wanted to kiss?

Is there someplace you’ve always wanted to travel?

Is there a flight that gets there today?

Is there someone in your life who needs to know how much you really love them?

Is there someone who you need to share your faith with one last time?

Is there someone from whom you need to ask forgiveness?

Is there someone you need to forgive?

Maybe the gift of the Mayans is not the knowledge that the calendar ends. Maybe the gift of the Mayans is a reminder that we should live our lives as though tomorrow IS the end of the world. Maybe the novel idea of living with daily intentionality, with fatalistic purpose, or with a sense of urgency is one worth considering.

If today were truly the end of days then what would each of us do?
Would we drink and dance, confess our love, or go one last time to the zoo?
Would we take a risk?
Would we roll the dice?
Would we bury our heads ‘neath the sheets?
What would YOU do given 24 hours to be sure that your life was complete

What are you going to do with your last day? four years on

It seems strange to me that tomorrow marks the four year anniversary of this blog. In honor of this auspicious marker and in tribute to the tenacity that it has taken to sustain the effort for four years I’d like to re-post a bit of what I was thinking on election day 2008:

I woke up this morning with the full understanding that today is going to be one of those historic milestone days. We’ll all, no doubt, be glad to be rid of the election campaign messaging whether we’re glad with the outcome of the actual election or not.
It struck me this morning that the overwhelming majority of people I have heard comment on the election “on the street” have all had an underlying theme to their comments…

They’re all voting against something rather than for something.

Most of those I’ve heard in support of Senator Obama have said they’re voting for “change”. One of the major thrusts of his campaign has been that voting for the Republican candidate, no matter who it would have turned out to be, would be a vote for what we have now and thus a vote for “change” is a vote AGAINST what we have now.

In the same way many of the folks I have heard in support of Senator McCain have said that they could never vote in favor of the “socialist agendas” or the “more government” policies of the Dems. Thus, they too are choosing to vote AGAINST something.

Neither conversation have had much to say about what they LIKE about the party or person they’re voting for but a LOT to say about what they DON’T like about the opposition.

Doesn’t this start to feel like our only option is to choose the “lesser of two evils”?

Sure it winds up being painted up much prettier than that but that’s what it boils down to in the end. And, in the end, that is sad.
Sad that there are large numbers of folks voting today to make sure the “other guy” or the “other way of thinking” doesn’t get in.
Sad because it will serve to only further the divide between competing ideologies.
Sad because there will be those who are happy that the others are sad.

If it is true that “a house divided against itself cannot stand” then how much longer have we got as a nation?

No matter what your political persuasion is…
No matter how you voted today…
No matter what your core beliefs…
I like to challenge you to become an agent of change by bringing about reconciliation, community, and relationship.
Cheesy? perhaps…
..perhaps not.

Four years later on I’m not sure we’re doing much better.

Change won’t happen at the political level.

It will only happen at the individual level.

What are YOU doing to help bring about positive change?

How can we each build personal bridges to slow the political rift that is widening in our nation?

Why All the Changes?

For those who have been following my blog for awhile the changes may seem to have come out of left field. Over the last few months I have had the chance to speak to audiences literally across the country about creating better customer experiences.

In support of those conversations I’ve decided to update the ol’ blog a bit and give it a tighter more professional feel. The object here is that while it is still a personal blog it can now better serve a corporate audience as well.

Perhaps the most significant operational change is that I now can provide a way for you to subscribe to either the entire content set OR to just a specific category. I appreciate those who’ve been following over the years and look forward to continuing to provide interesting thought fodder.