Category Archives: Solving problems

Bad Habits Stick to You Like Leeches

“A change in bad habits leads to a change in life.”

Jenny Craig

My wife recently worked for several hours in the weedy and muddy part of our lake. When she finally came back to the house to clean up, she found a leech attached to her hand. She had not noticed it at first because it blended in with the other dirt and debris. Only when she washed her hands did she realize that a leech had dug in. She had no idea how long it was there but it left a mark when she pulled it off.

When we are out in the wild and woolly world living life, we come into contact with many people and many unique situations. We see how people handle stress and problems, how they treat other people, how they handle success. Gradually over time and without even realizing it, we sometimes begin to adopt a few of the things we have seen others do into the way we live our lives.

Often times these experiences provide us with a more balanced approach to living life. They help us navigate through issues previously unencountered. Sometimes however, we pick up a few bad habits along the way that also cling to us. They can contort themselves and seem to be absorbed right in to our very fabric. We do not notice them at first. They just quietly fit right into our lifestyles. Then one day we stand in the presence of someone we really respect, and we observe the manner in which they handle a situation, and all of a sudden this bad habit that has been silently making itself a new home in our person, stands out like a sore thumb. We are embarrassed. We are in disbelief. We are shocked. We know we need to change.

I think it is wise counsel to figuratively, wash our hands ever now and then…to be in the presence of someone we hold in high esteem and be aware of their character traits in an effort to do a self inventory or evaluation. We may find that there is a crafty little leech in the form of a bad habit that has attached itself to us. Getting rid of it may leave a small mark but leaving it uncontrolled may leave something much worse.

HighFive Your Life Principle

Check for bad habits like you would for leeches

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Sailin’ not Wailin’

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

William Arthur Ward

Recently, my brother in law took out our sailboat on Lake Ola on a windy day and got swamped! It was quite an adventure when we “rescued” him because when we got it flipped back over, it took off unmanned across the lake at breakneck speed. We helplessly watched as it rammed the shore just missing a dock…thank goodness!

Much has been written about the forces of wind as it relates to our lives. May I just reiterate how amazingly simple and true it is that with a small adjustment in rudder and sail, what was a hazardous situation becomes fun and exciting or what was a listless boring going nowhere trip becomes useful and fulfilling.

Sometimes when our lives are just not where we want them to be, we can make small adjustments that can make a world of difference in our satisfaction with life. We don’t need a new boat or a bigger sail …we just need to pay attention to the wind and make the small adjustments to change our course.

Admittedly, as an amateur sailor who seems to need to learn the ropes again each time I take our sailboat out, there are others who do a much better job because they understand how everything works. In our lives, there are also family and friends who may know the ropes just a little better than us and can add valuable wisdom and knowledge to help our situation if we are open to listening. Often times, the hardest time to learn is when we know just enough to think we know enough. The fine tuning adjustments needed in our lives may be right before our eyes but clouded by our pride.

img_0813Next time the winds of live seem about ready to capsize your boat, stop wailin’ and start sailin’. Learn the life skills to make adjustments and then hold on to your hat because the excitement of life will “blow you away”!

HighFive YourLife Principle

Make adjustments in your life to take advantage of the winds of life instead of fearing them.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share with your friends. If you would like to be notified of future blogs by Gary, please hit the “follow” button at the top of this blog. If you are using a smart phone the “follow” icon is sometimes at the bottom of the blog. You can also follow Gary as “lakeolaguy” on Instagram and Facebook.

I Think We Can All Eat and Drink at the Same Table

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”

Ronald Reagan

A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed. Nelson Mandela


Recently, I noticed a raccoon wading in the water at our home on Lake Ola in Tangerine, Florida. I grabbed my camera and as I focused in on him, I noticed there was a green heron right next to him. Each of them went about their business in close proximity and seemed to not be bothered by the other’s presence.

Everybody knows that one of the first rules of keeping peace in the family is to not discuss politics and religion at the dinner table. If only two people at the table enjoy a good debate, then everyone else becomes uncomfortable. If only one person is a good debater, then the other will not enjoy the joust. Once a normal person is outflanked by someone who has prepared better or simply understands the topic more thoroughly, the other person has nowhere to go but to dip into his/her emotions. Once you begin to defend your point of view with your emotions, it becomes personal and the wonderful meal that was prepared for you loses it savor.

The best debates, the ones that benefit everyone in the room, are done by people who respect each other and genuinely desire the best for the other side even though they may be as different as a raccoon and a bird. That respect can be built around a dinner table where interests are shared and people begin to know each other better. Each of us has his own story of struggle…of failure and success…of quitting and persevering…of pain and joy…and we see everyone’s life through the lens of our own lives. Once we understand the life of everyone around the table more, we build respect and a desire for their well being. We also begin to feel that those around the table feel the same way about us.

In this environment, you can allow yourself to be vulnerable because you know that the other side wants the best for you. Once those at the table become vulnerable, your discussion about God or politics or any other controversial issue, can be done without any endgame in mind other than the desire to be unified, not in your opinions of the affairs of the world but in your respect for and understanding of each other…and that is the basis for peaceful progress.

So, add an extra chair and welcome those you love and don’t yet love to dinner. If you do it right, you may actually enjoy the meal!

HighFive your Life Principle

The more that we eat and drink at the same dinner table, the better off our families and our world will be…if we follow the golden rule to genuinely attempt to love and respect our neighbors as ourselves.

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NBA Squirrel

img_5246I enjoy watching the birds at the bird feeder but I especially enjoy the battle with the squirrels. Over the years I have tried multiple devices and stratagem to keep them off. Today, a brave and very athletic squirrel found a way. He was very impressive and must have leapt 5 times his height. His one-handed form looked like an NBA jam!img_5251img_5252 He won the battle,  but later, I won the war. I raised it just a few inches higher and the poor boy just couldn’t reach it as hard as he tried.

img_5272If you look into the bushes on the last picture you can see the bird laughing too (don’t worry…Mr Squirrel gets plenty of natural food too).

HighFive Your Life Principle: There are generally multiple ways to solve a problem. When it all seems impossible, take a step back and look at the problem with different eyes. New ideas will come to you as you strive to solve the problem with an open mind. I am sure that the day will come when that squirrel will be back in my feeder because he always finds another way.

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Country Genius, Country Dummy

“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”
Elbert Hubbard

IMG_1821aSometimes having a little country in you creates a genius and sometimes it creates a dummy. I recently bought a smoker/grill from Lowes and it was too heavy for me to load into my truck. It took four men to get it loaded and I was not sure how I was going to get it out of my truck but I “figured” (country boy strategic thinking) that I would figure it out once I got home (country boy lazy thinking).

I had my shoulder and both hips replaced last year and a recent hernia operation and I am not supposed to lift more than 50 pounds. Even if I had been my old self, I could not have lifted it. My wife, as strong as she is, was also recovering from surgery and I would have hated to lose her under a several hundred pound grill. I guess I could have asked her 80 plus year old mother that lives next door to give me a hand but.…

But no, having grown up in Kissimmee, I learned that a rope and an oak tree limb can be good for more than just a sack swing.  I rigged a hoist over a huge oak limb but the only thing I had strong enough to pull on it was the truck that the grill was sitting in. So we tied the ropes to the truck and slowly pulled forward sliding the grill as we went until it was hanging in mid air. With only a little effort, I was able to slowly drop the grill to the ground. My wife was amazed it worked and I was a country genius for a brief moment.

Then she asked me how much it cost. Once again I became a country dummy.

I can’t think of everything…but I “figure” (country boy no brain activity) that she shouldn’t be able to either. My mistake.

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A Plane, A Headset, and Sunglasses Do Not A Pilot Make

“This above all; to thine own self be true.”
William Shakespeare

Recently, I had the opportunity to go up in a small plane and learn to fly. It was exhilarating. I held the joystick on takeoff and controlled the plane for much of the time in the air. I took the plane in a gradual decent for the approach to the airport and landing. I wore a headset and sunglasses and if you would have seen me from afar, you would have thought I was a pilot.

photo (30)

However, if you would have been seated in the cockpit with me you would have seen a totally different story. Instead of a relaxed grip on the joystick, my hands were white knuckled. Every muscle in my body was tense as I tried to control the flight of the plane. Between looking at the instruments and looking at my surroundings, it was easy to get disoriented and forget what I was supposed to be observing.

The headset provided a noise reduction device so the outside sound of the plane’s motor was muffled and we could hear each other talk. However, when it came to the control tower giving directions, I wanted nothing to do with it. It was in a different language as we were told which runway to take to get to the runway where we would take off. The letters and numbers and identifying directional signs for the plane and runway were said so quickly and then repeated back with such accuracy, I felt like if it has been left up to me I would have had the plane doing doughnuts in the grass until the plane ran out of gas and somebody hauled the plane back to the hanger and me to the hospital.

When we came in for our final approach to land, the wind started to buffet the plane. The trees below got closer and closer and my knuckles got whiter and whiter. I finally at about 500 feet, asked the flight instructor to take back the controls…I had zero confidence in my ability to keep us out of the 6:00 news headlines.

The experience was one that I will never forget and one day I hope to go back and get additional flight instructions to see if it is something that I could enjoy. One thing for sure, just because I’m in a plane and dressed like a pilot, it does not make me a pilot.

This concept applies in almost every aspect of our lives

* Just because I have a son, does not make me a father.
* Just because I have a wife, does not make me a husband.
* Just because I was born a male, does not make me a man.
* Just because I can say Amen, doesn’t make me a believer.
* Just because I do good things does not make me a good man.
* Just because I am alive does not mean I am living.

For every title you can wear, there is a deeper role to learn and earn. Just like the pilot who needs to practice and practice and study to fly safely, we need to learn our duty in the area of our responsibilities and perform it well every day.

I understand that the number one cause of plane crashes is pilot error. Live your life so that the titles you carry mean more than just a group of letters that make up words. You are in charge. Make sure that pilot error is not in your life’s flight plan.

It’s Raining Moss (Four areas of your life where solving symptoms instead of problems can take a real toll)

“We live in a time when the words impossible and unsolvable are not longer part of the scientific community’s vocabulary. Each day we move closer to trials that will not just minimize the symptoms of disease and injury but eliminate them.”

Christopher Reeve

After every storm we know without fail, that we will need to go through our yard and pick up the moss and sticks that blew down. On seven and a half acres, this can end up being quite a bit of moss as you can see in the picture below.


No matter how clean we make the yard, if there is another storm the next day, we have to start all over. You would think that eventually there would be no moss left. But after one look at the trees in our yard, you realize that we would be nuts to expect any other outcome. Of course more moss is going to fall!


Common sense would dictate that if I really wanted to not have to pick up moss on the ground after a storm, I would need to somehow get it cleaned out of the trees. That is not an easy process but it can be done. Even though it is expensive and time-consuming, I think that everyone would agree that it is the required strategy, if I want to be rid of the moss in my yard once and for all. That is the only way I can solve the problem instead of just treating the symptom.

Are you a problem solver or a symptom solver…or a little of both? Below are four areas of your life where solving symptoms instead of problems can take a real toll.

 Are you in a relationship that continues to hurt all the time?

Almost all of us have had our heart-broken a time or two. If not for that there would be no money in writing songs. Love for someone else and being loved in return is the natural place most of us seek to be. Once you find your true love, you can begin to build a life together. Because people are different, it is also natural to have disagreements along the way. That is normal. However, it is not normal, nor should it be tolerated, to constantly feel hurt and pain in your relationship. In a healthy relationship, your companion shows their love for you constantly despite your daily disagreements. You know you are loved and the amount of pain you feel pales in comparison to the love you feel.

You may try to change yourself to make your partner “like you more”. Most of these “changes” are just treating symptoms and not addressing the deeper problems. If you are not feeling the love you are most likely not treating the problem. Love in a relationship is based on trust and forgiveness. It is based on respect and awe. It is based on caring and concern. It is based on the ability for you to love yourself and be proud of the contribution that you are making to the relationship and to society. You should not feel constant pain and misery. Stop flailing trying to solve symptoms and consider getting some professional help for the both of you. Life is too short to not feel the support and love from your partner despite the everyday differences that will occur.

Are you in a job or line of work that does not bring you joy?

Most of your adult life will be spent going to work. Sometimes you hear your friends say they love their work and others say they can’t wait to move on. How do you feel about what you do? If you are content then congratulations is due. If you are not but instead find yourself complaining and griping often, what are you doing about it?

Many will fight around the edges of the problem. Their solutions may include asking for a raise. Others may find security in the job and, though unhappy, they are too afraid to give up what they have. Others may complain to other employees or their bosses to try to affect changes in their workplace. There is nothing wrong with trying to improve your present working conditions. However, are you in the line of work that gives you joy?

Should you consider going back to school or learning a new language? Should you start networking more or stand before an intimidating creditor seeking funds to start a new business? Should you believe in yourself more when no one else gives a hoot. Since you will most likely spend a massive amount of your time left on earth in your profession, shouldn’t you take this problem solving seriously instead of dancing around with the symptoms?

Are you overweight or otherwise living an unhealthy lifestyle?

Maybe it does not seem fair to go here as it makes most of us uncomfortable to discuss our little love handles. However, many of us spend our adult lives going from one diet to another or starting a new exercise plan…all in an effort to feel and look our best. We have plans for this and programs for that. We have pills and supplements and books and lifts and procedures and tints and spas and….need I go on?

Living a healthy lifestyle requires few if any programs if we are a problem solver. It doesn’t even require discipline. It requires and active lifestyle where food is a bothersome stop in your journey instead of a destination you plug in to your body’s GPS system with a scheduled stop every four hours. Your body needs energy to accomplish what you want to do so your mind forces you to replenish your nutrients in order for you to continue moving mountains. Food becomes a silent partner instead of a pleading lover.

I know this zone exists because I have seen people who live there. How do you get to this place? I am not sure but one component I know is that to get there, you need to get busy with your life..get active…replace the love of food with the love of what you are accomplishing. I do not know the rest of the way but I hope to one day.

 Are you living beyond your means?

When you balance your checkbook are you happy with what you see? One key indicator of a symptom solver is that they live beyond their means. For some reason, they can’t see what everyone else sees…that you can’t afford to make “that” purchase. Their main enabler is their credit card and they solve the symptoms by making the minimum payments required each month.

Eventually this style of living is unsustainable and will lead to other problems. It affects relationships and health. It forces a person to go to their employer to ask for a raise, not because they deserve it, but because they have no other way to get out of debt.

A problem solver would see the overall situation and know not to put unnecessary strain on the family. The problem solver would have already moved on and not wasted another minute considering the purchase because the future is not hard to predict when you live beyond your means.


Are there any constant negatives that seem to keep happening around you? Are there things that keep occurring that seem to always bring you down and cause you heartache and grief? If there are, you may find that you are a symptom solver instead of a problem solver.

Take a look around you and see if there is any moss in the trees above you. If there is, can you remove it? You may have to make some tough choices that really get to the heart of the problems around you…some moss laden limbs may have to be cut off…some hard to reach moss patches may have to be sprayed by a professional. Solving a problem requires more thoughts and courage than solving a symptom. It may require more time and money. It may require more faith, guts and discipline.

Ultimately however, when you solve a problem it is gone. Your life has less baggage and issues. Your will find that your joy will be more full and that your sense of accomplishment more complete. Don’t get mad at the moss that needs to be picked up every day. Figure it out. Go to the source. Solve the problem.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share with your friends. If you would like to be notified of future blogs by Gary, please hit the “follow” button at the top of this blog. If you are using a smart phone the “follow” icon is sometimes at the bottom of the blog.