Month: November 2014

Let’s Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is upon us and we are gearing up to celebrate. This has always been one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, our family shared Thanksgiving each year with another family in Denver. We would drive the 450 miles one year, and they would drive the next. That tradition held on for about 25 years (I think) and it was a wonderful extended family experience, although they are not technically related. That tradition has faded away with the kids having grown up, been married, had kids, etc. Now, there are too many moving parts to make it work reliably. I still have many fond memories, though.

What Are You Thankful For?

I believe gratitude is one of the most helpful emotions we have. I find when I am grateful for my life, I give others a lot more grace, I am happier, and I can deal with challenges much more easily. Although I am not very good at remembering that fact on a daily basis (like I wish I would), Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on giving thanks.

I very thankful for my family and how we have built into each other and stayed together. We can discuss difficult topics and (usually) come out pretty much unscathed. We know we are truly there for each other, even in those contentious times.

I thought about creating a long list here about all the things I am grateful for, but I will spare you. I think it doesn’t matter what you are thankful for, as much as it matters that you are thankful at all. Henry Cloud book, talks at length about this subject in his book, The Law of Happiness. I recommend reading it.

What You Going To Do With That?

I mentioned gratitude being a “useful” emotion. I wanted to expand on how I use it.

  • Curing Depression. When I get in those long standing down times and everything is wrong with everything, gratitude can be the cure. Although it is tough to remember to do it, when I take time to be thankful in those times, my outlook on life is much improved. In engineering, there is a saying, “When you are up to your neck in alligators, it is hard to remember to drain the swamp.” If that is the case for you, find a friend to help.
  • Creating Patience. When I am frustrated with some person, I stop and think about what I like about them. Why am I thankful they are here, right now? If I can be thankful about their existence, then the things they do to frustrate me are not really that big of a deal.
  • Ignoring Problems. Much like the patience thing with people, being thankful for my life situation helps me to ignore the problems I perceive. When I can be thankful for the house we live in, it is easier to ignore the cracked tile in the bathroom…at least for a while. For me, hyper focus on those little problems lead me to a negative attitude, so I try to ignore them for a time.

While I think all the range of human emotions have value, gratitude is one that creates quick and consistent results.

Your Next Move

Take the time as you walk through the day, the weekend, and this life to be thankful for things.

Be thankful for the people around you and how they have made you better.

Be thankful for the “stuff” in your life and how life is better as a result.

Be thankful for you and how you are changing the world for the better.

Thanks For The Push

So…I write a blog now. Of course, if you are reading this, it is not news to you.

I have been writing this blog since July. I made a commitment to post one blog per week for a year. Some weeks that is easy and the thoughts flow smoothly. Some weeks it is a dreadful task that keeps getting pushed later and later in the week as I avoid it.

Why Do I Write?

I started this blog under duress. I was convinced I didn’t have anything useful to say. Even if I had something to say, surely nobody would be interested in listening. While that may be true, I have found there is value to writing anyway.

  • I get clarity. When I have an idea for a blog and I start writing, I often discover I don’t really know what I think about that idea. At least not well enough to say it out loud. Sometimes that results in putting the blog on hold until I get clear. More often some time soul searching brings that clarity and then I put it on paper.
  • I am building a library. If you are around me for very long, you will realize I have a story for nearly everything. Many of them are actually true. By writing those down, I believe I am extending those stories across audiences and across time.
  • It is a catharsis. I often write something I feel strongly about. That expression is often freeing and gives me a creative outlet. I notice a sense of peace and accomplishment when I am ready to publish.

Who Got Me Here?

Like I mentioned above, I did not just wake up one day and decide to write the blog. It was quite the opposite. People had been asking me to write for a while and I resisted. They eventually wore me down. I wanted to mention a few of them here and how they encouraged me. In no particular order…

  • Steve Caton is a friend here at Church Community Builder who has been writing our corporate blog for years now. He encouraged me to believe my thoughts were interesting to people and that I would enjoy it. I want to lead like Steve when I grow up.
  • Kevin Knebl is a friend who has taught me to focus on relationships and adding value to others, even in this environment of high technology and pressure to perform. He told me to get started and “do your pushups”. I want to love like Kevin when I grow up.
  • Jon Plotner is friend here at work who balances people and processes better than most. He is insightful in the ways he cares for people’s feelings.Jon did much of the original work getting the technology sorted out, since he saw me using that as an excuse to delay. I want to care like Jon when I grow up.
  • Ben Stroup is a writer I met several years ago. We talked about how to write. How much to write each day, how long a post should be, why people read some posts and not others, and how to disrupt the market. I want to be as insightful as Ben when I grow up.

There are many other folks who have moved me along on this journey, and held my feet to the fire.I appreciate everyone of you who reads the blog, who comments on it, or who leans on me to keep going. You are all very encouraging to me.

Your Next Move

Is there something out there people are pushing you to do? If they truly are friends looking out for your best interest, let them push you to get started.

Are You Ready?

Some time ago, my wife and I were getting ready for a date night. I was ready and thought we might leave a bit early. I asked, “Are you ready?” The answer was not what I expected…”Yes, I just need to get dressed.” Wait, that means yes? I am sure that was an isolated case in our modern human existence, so I didn’t worry too much about it.

How Do You Define “Ready”?

I think of ready implying I have nothing preventing me from moving to the next thing, whether it be date night, a long road trip, a business opportunity, whatever. Others define ready more loosely, like they are in the right frame of mind to start the activities that would make them ready eventually.

I recently was talking to an associate at work about a project status, and their response was something like, “It’s good to go, we just need to code it.” Being a software project, it seemed to me the “coding” part was no small feat. My own internal dialogue was, “well, then it’s not really good to go then is it.” We clearly had different definitions for the same word.

How to Get Ready Faster

If you are one of those folks who always seems to be not-quite-ready, here are a few tips to getting ready faster.

  • Stay Organized. The more organized we are in life and business, the less time it takes to get our stuff together. On a personal level, I know where my keys and wallet are stored in the house, so I don’t have to take any time finding them before I can be ready. In business, I spend a fair bit of time reading and researching trends to be ready for the future. Then, when an opportunity comes up I can honestly say, “I have thought about that, I am ready to move.” Organization creates speed.
  • Live with Less. Recently, I took some folks to the airport for a one week trip to Hawaii. One couple got in the truck with two bags, a carry-on suitcase and a small handbag. The other couple got in the truck with five bags. Two large check-in-only-at-the-weight-limit suitcases, two carry-on bags, and a handbag. Two very different approaches to the same trip. I contend one couple was able to move faster at every change point in the trip. Check in at the airport, go through security, get on the airplane, get in the rental car, pack to go home, etc. Less to manage is an accelerator.
  • Have a Checklist. A couple of years ago, we had a major forest fire here in Colorado Springs. That scary event prompted us to create “Go Bags” for each member of the family containing some food, water, and survival supplies. Attached to each bag is a checklist instructing that member of the family what they are to do and get before we drive away in an emergency. Since we took time to get organized, and decided how little we could get by with, the checklist allows us to perform in a stressful moment without processing delays. Checklists create precision under pressure.
  • Your Next Move

    Next time you are talking to someone about being ready, first make sure you are on the same page about what ready means. In the mean time, get organized, minimize your needs, and create a checklist for what is really important.

That’s Not Awesome

It seems everywhere I go these days, I am hearing, “That’s Awesome!” I am a huge fan of encouragement and excitement. I am even a fan of hyperbole from time to time. When I looked it up, I found the definition to the word:

Awesome: extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.

Maybe I am just hard to please (probably), and I feel like the things we are praising with Awesome just aren’t. Do they really inspire awe? Do those everyday events truly cause a stunned silence, a wonderment, a reverence for the moment? Not likely.

Choose the right word

One of the things I feel strongly about is using words correctly. Very possibly, this relates to the fact that my parents are well educated and my mother is an educator. She taught in the school system for many years, then brought her practice home to teach kids who were struggling. It was pretty inspiring to see the droves of kids over the years come in struggling and leave triumphant.

I think there are two aspects to using words properly.

  • Only use words you understand. In the Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” I believe using a word incorrectly is worse than not knowing the best word to use. If you don’t know that “just right” word, string a few others together to convey your meaning.
  • Learn more words. I love to learn new things and there are many times I start with the attitude, “there must be a word for this.” Most of the time that is true and I can find it on Google or through friends that are smarter than I. If you want to learn more words as a habit, start with A Word A Day. Today’s word is Mata Hari, in case you were wondering.

Experience Awe

Although this sounds like a diatribe on word usage, what inspired me to write this was the actual experience of awe. I felt it and realized I couldn’t call it “awesome” even though it truly was. It just didn’t seem to pack the punch I wanted it to. There will come a day I will write about that awe-inspiring event, but in the meantime here are a few places you might look for awe.

  • Nature. Our God has created a pretty amazing world. Go look at it with the intent of being amazed and inspired. Whether that be the vastness of the plains, the size of the mountains, or the delicacy of a flower.
  • Transparency. When people really open up and share their heart it is, well, awesome. To see someone push past the fear and awkwardness and expose themselves to you is to see their beauty and power in a way rarely seen. When that happens, be fully present even if it is uncomfortable.
  • Greatness. When someone does something great, enjoy it. There is no need to judge them, or yourself, for their activity. Just revel in it. I enjoy watching sports for this reason. Last week, we attended a high school football game and saw a truly great pass and catch. It was amazing to watch these young men push their bodies to new levels of performance. Granted that play was by the other team and they scored against us, but there is no reason that should diminish my appreciation for the act itself.

Your Next Move

Since this blog has two thrusts, you have two action items this week!

First, pay very close attention to the words you use. Do they convey your meaning precisely? If not, use a different word, even if that means you have to go find it first.

Second, spend some time looking for things that are truly AWESOME…and get absorbed in that moment. Those times leave an indelible mark on your soul.

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