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Monday, October 29, 2018

No More Stinkin' Thinkin'

“You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.” Zig Ziglar

My blog this week continues the journey on the subject of influence. One of the voices that had influence on my life was Zig Ziglar. He was a man of impact.

I remember first hearing Zig speak at a seminar in San Francisco. His unusual speaking style was his trademark. His presentation content was absolutely inspiring. He was among the very best in motivational speakers. No one could leave the room without feeling a lot better about life and their future.

Little was I to know that within a few years, my radio work would take me to Texas. We attended a “megachurch” in downtown Dallas with a legendary preacher, W.A. Criswell. Before the church service, there was very large adult education class taught by…Zig Ziglar! I jumped in. Why not? A lot of his motivational material was used to draw in his audience, which averaged around 1,000 souls per week.

A good portion of Zig’s influence was his personal touch. Once a month, he would invite class newcomers to his home in Plano. Zig and his wife Jean would host an evening gathering where Zig would go a little deeper into his faith story. Before leaving, everyone attending received a copy of his book, Confessions of a Happy Christian.

His adult education class, his personal invitation to his home, his gifting a book, and his willingness to connect were all aimed at having influence. Not just positive thinking influence. Positive LIFE influence.

Last week, I focused my blog on two key thoughts on this topic of influence. First, you and I are not as original as we might think. Each of us is a composite of many sources of influence.

My second point posits the reality that much of what shaped who we are came from sources over which we had no control. The critical aspect of life growth is to make influence choices over what we DO have control. Those decisions affect our overall health, our impact on others, and our legacy.

We usually think of the people who influence us. But we forget how much all forms of media impact us. Making wise choices here requires discipline.

Part of my daily routine includes a 30-minute stationary bike ride—while listening to music. That is followed by approximately 30 minutes of “devotional time”—reading my Bible and praying. What I listen to and what I read helps shape my day. I choose that influence. It impacts my life.

Transparently, I’ve made and continue to make a lot of choices that are not working for my good. Those choices may also impact others. But I’m responsible for those choices and the consequences that follow.

You would be well served to take a closer examination of what most influences your life today. If you want to have more influence and impact, decide to modify your intake of the negatives. Choose to move in a new direction.

As Zig said, “You can make positive deposits in your own economy every day by reading and listening to positive, life-changing content, and by associating with encouraging and hope-building people.”

The Bible is a repository of help on life change and becoming a person of influence. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” (from The Message, referring to Galatians 5:22-23)

We’ll continue our influence journey next week. Meanwhile, let Zig impact your life today by avoiding any “stinkin’ thinkin.”

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Not Quite an Original

Today is my 67th birthday. As the old saying goes, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Birthdays are good for you. It’s been proven that those who have the most live the longest.

I’d like to claim that I’m an “original.” But that’s a stretch. And you are not that original either. I’ll explain.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a men’s group on the topic of influence. My preparation took me in a direction I did not expect. It led me on a journey to ask two questions: Who really am I? And…how did I become “Mark Elfstrand?”

The answers to those questions brought me to the broader realization of the many influences that have shaped my life. The person I am today has knowledge, an emotional and mental makeup, core values,  and beliefs that have relied greatly on the input of others. Some of those sources I chose. Others were chosen for me.

For example, I am the product of my two parents—Arthur and Alyce Elfstrand. Their families emigrated from Sweden and Norway. So I’m three fourths Swedish and one fourth Norwegian. I had no say in this DNA history. In fact, my design framework was from a greater source. King David understood this well. In Psalm 139, he wrote, “For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 (NIV)

My parents contributed a LOT to who I would become. Their influence echoes today. I also have two sisters. They influenced my growing up years. As did extended family, teachers, playmates, and others with whom I came in contact.

But wait! There’s more. I was influenced unsuspectingly by the many sources of media I consumed. All those top 40 songs on the radio made an impact on me. Television shows, too. Plus the plethora of reading material and pictures I consumed.

Without being fully aware, my internal guidance on morality and values took shape. And this brings me to my first enlightened reality. Who I am today is really a composite of a huge number of influences.

My opening seminar presentation on influence began with the premise that each of us is really a composite. As Merriam Webster would define the word, “made up of distinct parts or elements.” That’s a reality to grapple with in those two questions as to who I am and how I became “me.”

The followup premise is also important. Many of those influences in our lives we do not choose. Their input may be based on truth. Or not. They may have hurt us and left us as damaged goods. Or they may be the ticket of hope to drive us forward to a bright future.

Somewhere along the way, you and I have picked up ideas about right and wrong. Hopefully, we’ve been guided to healthy moral choices. We call that character development. My beliefs about morality were and are shaped by 66 books we call the Bible. I can thank my parents and many others for introducing me to the Scriptures.

A few select people were highly influential in my career and spiritual growth. My radio mentor would be Chuck Gratner. Spiritual mentor: Glenn Murray. A few teachers gave significant inspiration as well.

Just as I am not an “original” in the purest sense, I am also not my own. This is a shocking truth for some, although it is a spiritual reality. An abbreviated reading of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) reveals, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Study the larger passage for a deeper understanding.

I will be devoting a few more blogs to this subject of influence. My hope is to give you insight and awareness of how to be a more influential person in life. Others in your world will be grateful for your wisdom even if they don’t always thank you.

Now, back to the birthday cake.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Eeyore Theory

Question: What’s the definition of a pessimist? Answer: A pessimist is a well-informed optimist. Or as James Branch Cabell said, “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.”

A couple of years ago, the research firm surveyed people on the question, “Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?” Surprisingly, only 4% of respondents lined up with pessimists. Some 50% went with optimist. And 43% claimed to be somewhere in between.

Another way to consider your life outlook is to think of whether your glass is half full or half empty. The first traceable use of that phrase is found in a 1933 LA Times article. “Two men were looking at a bottle of milk. Said one with a groan, ‘The bottle is half empty.’ Said the other with a grin, ‘The bottle is half full.’ The first belonged to the courters of disasters, forever bemoaning their losses; the second to the invincibles who win by counting their blessings.”

Then there is the way Justice Brett Kavanaugh described his life perspective in his opening statement in the recent confirmation hearing. “I am an optimistic guy. I always try to be on the sunrise side of the mountain, to be optimistic about the day that is coming, but today, I have to say that I fear for the future.” I’m sure he had many days where pessimism was trying to take hold.

What about Eeyore—the friend of Winnie-the-Pooh? The old, grey, stuffed donkey definitely has an attitude problem. He is the poster critter for pessimism.

I mostly fall in the camp of the optimists. When I take on a project, I expect it to succeed. I wake up anticipating my 401K will improve. I’m usually up before sunrise so I can anticipate that side of the mountain.

But that may change. A 2013 Psychology Today article indicates that age can impact how we view the future. Young adults are usually overly optimistic—especially about the future. Research shows older adults usually become more realistic. As we age, we tend to become less optimistic about the future. Increasing fears of declining health or reduced economic opportunities can turn to pessimism.

In the workplace, are optimists or pessimists more productive? Note these study results quoted by “Research from New York University’s Gabriele Oettingen discovered that a little pessimism can improve productivity. Oettingen, who spent 20 years researching and testing her theory, found that optimism…didn’t help people reach their goals but instead got in the way.”

This was supported in an article from Fast Company titled, “This is how to harness your pessimism as a force for good.” The author is Art Markman, PhD, a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas. He writes that research on goal achievement advocates that specific plans are needed if you want to succeed. The pessimist might immediately be thinking of the things that could go wrong. Good! Use this thinking in helping to determine what steps are needed to deal with these negative possibilities. But don’t use the problems as an excuse. And don’t give up too quickly.

The Apostle Paul can give each of us a lesson in looking to the sunrise side of the mountain in spite of life’s difficulties. He wrote, “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea…I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers…I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27, NLT)

And yet, this bold evangelist would later write, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14, ESV)

If today you find yourself in the rut of pessimism, claw your way back out. Work on solutions. Seek advice. Build on short term successes.

And stay away from Eeyores.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information:

Monday, October 8, 2018

Alexa, We're not a Thing!

As I wrote the other day on a Facebook post, Alexa doesn’t know me. We’ve never had any kind of relationship. I’ve witnessed Alexa communicating with friends and family, but aside from that, we’re not connected in any way. Why? Alexa is way too personally invasive.

The latest from Amazon tell us that Alexa will somehow be involved in my microwave and even a wall clock. And before year’s end, Alexa will be able to confer in whispers—in case someone is sleeping nearby. Oh there’s more. And much more to come.

I don’t pretend to understand the technology involved here. As Wired magazine states, “Alexa evolved out of advances in an approach to artificial intelligence called machine learning, which Amazon used to train algorithms to recognize speech from across the room with surprising accuracy.” Earlier editions of the technology had some problems in the nuances of language. The more recent audio algorithms are getting better at tracking the subtleties of speech.

As noted, I’ve not jumped on this technology. No doubt it’s cool. Speak—and Alexa makes it happen. Again, from the Wired story, “There’s also evidence that some consumers are wary of advances in the ability of devices like the Echo to listen to them.” According to Werner Goertz, a research director at analyst Gartner, “The industry’s efforts have not been sufficient to remove this misapprehension.”

A while back I wrote about the significant increase of robots and how they will supplant some of the workforce in the days ahead. It seems Alexa is on the march to do some of that as well. This was documented in a recent New York Times story, “Hotel Workers Fret Over a New Rival: Alexa at the Front Desk.” Their fretting has turned into action. 

Check in at a Marriott hotel in China and you might well find no front desk person at check in. Ms. Te’o-Gibney, a 53-year-old grandmother of seven, worries, “It seems they know they will be eliminating our jobs.” This has inspired thousands of Marriott workers to authorize a strike, along with demands for higher wages and workplace safety. The union has asked for “procedures to protect workers affected by new technologies and the innovations they spur.”

Is Alexa now a workplace enemy? One concierge at the San Jose Marriott, raises the concern over an agreement with Amazon that would deploy Echo devices in Marriott hotel rooms that could make her position pointless. As she says, “Alexa might do my job in the future.” Other hotel chains are moving on this as well.

Plus, other new trends and technologies are impacting the hotel workplace. As the Times article illustrates “There are automatic dishwashers on the market; machines to flip burgers and mix cocktails; robots to deliver room service or help guests book a restaurant reservation."

As the saying goes, “But wait! There’s more!!” Uber and Lyft usage has reduced the tips of hotel doormen. A food-delivery app has done the same to the tips bellhops previously received. And let’s be honest…a lot of customers likely enjoy the savings.

How does the hotel business justify an increasingly non-human service environment? A statement from a Marriott spokeswoman defended the move as “personalizing the guest experience and enhancing the stay.” And frankly, Alexa can be so sweet when she wants to.

If all our website transactions are recorded somewhere—somehow, could the same happen with Alexa conversations? What about recording only what Alexa hears? Could it be used in legal action against users?

The Bible says, “The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble; the conversation of good people keeps them out of it. Well-spoken words bring satisfaction; well-done work has its own reward.” (Proverbs 12:13-14, The Message)

That is a good reminder.

Meanwhile, I already have a female voice who listens and checks my speech. My wife.

Alexa gets way too close for my taste. Like I said, we're not a thing.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information:

Monday, October 1, 2018

Take It Easy

My guess is that all of your work weeks are not alike. Mine aren’t. Some have more demands on my time. Others have more important decisions. And occasionally there are more stress-filled weeks where a weekend cannot arrive fast enough.

I had a few more stress-filled days last week. I could hardly take my eyes off the television coverage of the Kavanaugh/Ford testimonies on Thursday. It was almost impossible to get other work done. The follow up on Friday kept my attention focused as this issue as well.

It’s better for us not to get too close to engaging in that which causes our blood pressure to rise or stress to take hold. For me, that can happen watching my favorite football teams. Or while watching or engaging in hot political discussion. Like I said, I was ready for the weekend.

It’s long been a practice of mine to do my best at avoiding “work” on Sundays. This is not an absolute, but close. Those overly driven folk who tell us they work “seven days a week” misstate the obvious. They work ALL the time. I think it’s a dangerous way to live.

Having one day set aside for rest is a spiritual discipline. My conviction comes from an interpretation of the Ten Commandments. Specifically, the fourth commandment found in Exodus 20:8-11. The instruction was to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Verse 11 adds, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (NIV)

I’m sure the people of Israel originally loved this idea. Their slavery conditions under the Egyptians placed enormous burdens on them. Who knows if they got much of a break.

Obviously, God knew that a commandment was needed because, at some point, the love of work would steal that rest God intended. It’s clear that is true today.

Shedding light on this issue is a well written piece in titled, “Let’s bring back the Sabbath as a radical act against the always-on economy.” The author, William R. Black, is a historian of American religion and culture. As he notes, being an advocate for acting on this commandment “smacks of obsolete puritanism.” It seems like a noble idea, but unrealistic.

Dr. Black, who now teaches at Western Kentucky University, surmises: “When taken seriously, the Sabbath has the power to restructure not only the calendar but also the entire political economy. In place of an economy built upon the profit motive–the ever-present need for more, in fact the need for there to never be enough–the Sabbath puts forward an economy built upon the belief that there is enough.”

Those two sentences reinforce my topic from last week’s blog. We need a mindset shift in appreciating a Sabbath. Otherwise, we keep focused on a steady treadmill to keep up or get further ahead.

As Dr. Black correctly asserts, “The Sabbath was desacralised into the weekend, and this desacralisation paved the way for the disappearance of the weekend altogether. The decline of good full-time work and the rise of the gig economy mean that we must relentlessly hustle and never rest. Why haven’t you answered that email? Couldn’t you be doing something more productive with your time? Bring your phone with you to the bathroom so you can at least keep busy.”

The lesson to be learned today is to accept the premise offered by Dr. Black. Observing a day of rest should be viewed in the spiritual light that God is our provider. Push back on the need for more that drives us out of rest. Find one day a week to put work aside…and take it easy.

P.S.  I wish I could get that Eagles song out of my head.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: