I Was Traveling on a Sunday

I was traveling on a Sunday.  My least favorite day to travel.  Not because it’s harder at the airport, but because I really don’t enjoy being away from my wife on a Sunday.  It’s just part of who I’ve become.  That probably started my “irritation” with others.

I’m sitting at my gate waiting for my flight when a lady sits down next to the person who was next to me.  Immediately she started talking to the woman next to me.  I sat there for several minutes, and I’m not sure the woman talking even took a breath.  It bothered me, but I couldn’t figure out why.  I just knew this was not what I wanted to hear.  So I got up and moved to another section of the waiting area.

When I boarded the plane, I sat on the aisle, as I usually do.  The talkative woman boarded and sat in the window seat in the row of seats across the aisle from me.  Her voice carried as she started talking to her seat mate.  I put my headphones in and thanked God that she didn’t sit next to me.  I was irritated again.

When we landed I pulled my headphones off and again, the lady was talking nonstop.  She was getting into some pretty personal details about a family member’s relationship with her husband.  I wondered how this lady could do that with a total stranger.  What was driving this need to talk so much and to tell such intimate details.  I wondered about the psychology behind her compulsive needs.  Then it dawned on me, that the real challenge was with me.

I had made a choice to let her conversation, that wasn’t with me at all, bother me.  I had made a choice to let an external force, who hadn’t even noticed me, irritate me.  What was wrong with me?

I have a friend that was my boss over 20 years ago, that I had not reached out to in over 10 years.  I had it in my mind that he was disappointed in me and really didn’t like me, so there was no reason to reach out.  When I finally got over my barriers, I called him and we talked for 90 minutes, just catching up.  There was no barrier, except the one I had created for myself.  Why do I do that?

In our practice, we have used several assessment tools to evaluate individual preferences.  These tools are helpful, but the real benefit is the debriefing sessions where you talk to the individuals about their results.  It turns into some pretty informative conversations.  We are having a safe conversation about the individual and their personal and business life.  The conversation can expose some pretty raw nerves.  Most feel they are not good enough.  They see “successful” people all around them and they feel like they can’t possibly do the same things.

I see it in myself, just as I see it in others.  When we look externally and we don’t see the internal component and the way our internal unskillful thoughts drive our actions, we can’t be successful.  We feel like a fraud.  The only way to overcome this is to spend the time understanding how our internal doubts create stress for us.  They create poor results and poor performance.

As I sat at dinner last evening, I was thinking about how I had let another person steal my energy, and I realized “I” had let another steal my energy.  I had let it bother me because it was a reflection of me.  I wouldn’t share those types of details with a stranger, but for her, it could have been a release.  It’s not my place to judge.  So let it go.  It’s a choice.  I’ve learned.

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Pushing From the Past

Early on a Sunday morning, the day ahead of me, I’m reflecting on my intentions.  I had someone say to me yesterday, “Are you pushing away from your past, or moving forward to your future?”  It’s a really interesting question, with several ways to interpret it.  Pushing away from your past can be interpreted as running away.  But it can also be a good thing.  If you are in danger, isn’t it good to run away?  Moving forward toward your future can be seen as setting goals and working toward them.  But there is a negative side to that as well.  Doesn’t having a focus on the goal, especially if it’s a focus at all costs, create stress?

I’m really not convinced the person who asked the question was looking at the depth of the words.  But the depth is there if you want it to be.  Maybe that is the message.  It’s a choice.  Do we look at where we’ve been or where we are going?  Do we choose for it to be a positive experience or a negative one?  The choice is truly ours.

My intention is to be present in every moment.  It’s to be mindful (past experiences that influence my views), aware (make skillful decisions based on being aware, not reactive), and ardent (future minded).  I want to make the right choices, not just react.  To do that, I need to understand where the stress comes from and how I can calm that stress before I react.

When I was younger, I had a very short fuse for my temper.  I really don’t know where it came from, but it was not good for me, or others.  It created issues in my personal and business life.  I would lose my temper on the baseball field and it always compounded into errors.  I would lose my temper at school and it would grow into poor relationships with my friends.  Maybe not a physical confrontation, but something verbally abusive.  In business, I could get angry with a customer and make a poor decision.  It wasn’t until I realized my actions had negative responses from others and only really hurt me, that I began to make the changes.  I recognized the root cause.  I recognized the triggers, and I pushed away from the past.

I attended a class to develop my business skills a few years ago.  The class was on thinking big.  It was an outstanding class and it broke me out of a cycle of short term, incremental growth and changed my business as usual mindset.  I immediately made dramatic changes.  My business partner and I, closed down our partnership and I reopened my business that I had put on hold.  I hired more people and trained them so that I could reach the aspirational goals that I had set.  I wanted to triple my business in two years.  I was pushing toward my future.

The downside to the push toward my future was that is almost put us out of business.  I was reacting, based on my experiences with a past company I had worked for.  The umbrella of a large company allowed me to experiment and gain accordingly.  My company didn’t have the cash flow to experiment.  Because I wasn’t mindful, and aware, I almost created a future without my company.  My push to the future wasn’t well thought out.  It was aspirational, which must happen, but it was also reactionary.  I must balance the need to grow with the ability to cash flow the business.

Today the business is healthy and growing.  We are cash flowing very well.  I have an opportunity to invest in the business to create, and touch additional people with a new and different product and solution.  I now need to be mindful of what happened in the past and be aware of balancing our future well-being with the risk that further investment could bring to the present business model.  I’m committed to doing the right thing for the company and for those that we can help.  I’m committed to pushing away from my past, and moving forward to our future.  It’s my choice.

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Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

Healthy mind, healthy body; healthy body, healthy mind; which comes first?  I’m in the best shape I’ve been in over the past decade.  I work out at least 4 times a week.  They are not workouts like I used to do in my 30’s, but they are not for the faint of heart.  I’ve lost 25 pounds since I went off the statins and blood pressure medicine the doctor prescribed, and started my workout routine.

I wasn’t in bad shape prior to the meds.  I was put on them because of family history, as a preventative measure against the possibility that I would have heart issues, based on my brother and father’s cause of death.  It sounds reasonable, but my body type and my mental and physical strengths are different.  The side effects were more challenging to me than the fear of a heart attack or stroke.

I took the medications faithfully for 10 years.  I still worked out, but the weight kept piling on, and as it did my mental energy lagged.  Then last spring I was talking with a friend of mine who suggested I quit cold turkey.  I had two pretty rough weeks, then it was like the sun came out after a rainy day.  I felt better and the weight started to fall off.  The more weight that came off, the more active I could be.

This is not an indictment on medications, or the doctors that prescribe them, or a litigious society that forces doctors to throw all possible cures at any possible symptom.  This is an indictment on my lack of self-awareness.   The downfall was gradual and I wasn’t even aware it was happening.  I really couldn’t identify the root cause of the issues.  I just continued a bad habit, that continued to drain me physically and mentally.

How often do we just do the same things over and over because that is the way we have always done it?  How often do we continue bad habits because they are comfortable?  Can we see the effects of these habits?  Daily, I’m keeping a journal about what I did the day before.  I break them out by things I did that were skillful and things I did that were not skillful.  The skillful actions show me where my intentions should lie.  The not so skillful actions show me what causes me stress.  It is amazing the patterns that I see develop when I read what I’ve written.  I’m making better decisions because of it.

I love my spin classes that are challenging me physically.  They are opening my mind as well.  I woke up this morning thinking about how they could attract more people into their classes and I will share it with the staff.  Mind or body; which comes first?  It doesn’t really matter does it?  They are both important and they work together.

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Recognizing that Feeling

DiVinci said “You can’t teach a man anything; you can only help him find what is within himself.”  I witnessed that firsthand this past week.  I was at my son’s house, along with the entire family.  My daughter and I were sitting at the table having coffee, when my son asked me to bring his golf clubs to St. Louis the next time we came up.  I shared that I was not his mule! Probably in a little stronger language.

I knew at the time that it was wrong to say and immediately I felt bad about it.  I’ve been working on controlling my temper, and for the most part, it is controlled.  But this time it was not.  What was the difference?  Why did I snap then?  What drove my unskillful behavior?

Later that day, in a calmer scenario, my daughter asked me those very questions.  She pointed out that it was out of character for me to act that way and that she believed I was working on old files.

First, she was right to call me out, and I thanked her.  Secondly, it really is about old files.  I was assuming that my son was taking advantage of me, because I had experience that I was pulling from.  But that wasn’t entirely it either.

Earlier, he was giving me grief about being lazy because I had asked someone to pour me coffee.  That was the start of my inner anger.  It has been driven into me that hard work is the basis of all that is good in life.  Laziness is a sin.  For him to then ask me to do something for him….

Am I justified in my reaction?  Absolutely not!  It was my assumption that triggered my reaction.  Even if it was a situation where my son was in the wrong, what benefit is there from my angry reaction.  I learned from that situation.  When I started to feel the anger, I should have gotten up and walked away.  I really don’t need to know why; I just need to know to walk away when I feel it.

That is the beauty of self-awareness.  When you connect the mind and the body they work together to give you feedback.  The body can feel it before the mind can logically think through the action.  Skillful thoughts lead to skillful actions.  Recognition of physical feelings can stop non-skillful actions.

I’m very proud of my family.  We have true, authentic relationships and we can hold each other accountable.  My daughter is on her own path.  She is becoming a thoughtful young woman who is self-aware and practicing to be happy.  By asking me the questions about my behavior, my daughter helped me find something within myself.  My son is not the person that he was when he went off to college.  He is on his path, and growing in his own way.  With his deep and thoughtful input, we as a family, decided to put our values in writing.

Phillips Family Values:

Love yourself and each other unconditionally

Respect differences in thoughts and ideas

Bring honor to the family

Express gratitude for the generosity of others

Display generosity without expectation for return

Show kindness beyond expectations

Accountability to ourselves, the family, and our chosen endeavors

Use discernment to make wise choices

Open and honest communication with each other

With the strength of all, not one shall fall!

I review these values daily.  It helps me with my commitment to not only my family,  and to my friends, but to my clients and business partners as well.

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Cheering From The Sidelines

Several years ago I lost my brother to a heart attack.  I’ve written before about the impact he had on my life and yesterday, I was feeling pretty down.  I miss talking to him.  I miss his advice.  He had a way of giving advice that was just so logical, I wondered why I couldn’t think that way.  He had a huge impact on a turning point in my business career and my life.  I had interviewed with Black and Decker for a sales position.  It was in an underdeveloped territory and it was very close to a straight commission job.  I was on the fence on continuing the interview process until my brother asked me a simple question; “Do you know you don’t want the job?”   I continued the process, joined Black and Decker and it changed my life.  It built the foundation for what I do today.

Laura Heikes is a very gifted speaker and pastor at the Bee Creek United Methodist Church outside of Spicewood, TX.  One Sunday morning, she spoke about those cheering us from the sidelines and how it could affect our spiritual lives.  She spoke about how there are those who have gone before us and how they still are helping us, cheering us on.  It really made me think about those that have had a significant impact on my life and career.

There have been a few life changing, career changing events in my life.  In each one of those, it was the advice and coaching of someone close to me that guided me in the right direction.  If you participated in sports, or music, or theater, you know the value of a good coach/director/leader.  You needed that person to listen to you.  You needed the guidance they could provide from a different perspective, and different experience base.  You needed them to be firm with you when you strayed from the correct path.  Most importantly, you needed them to cheer you on, and encourage you.

In the business environment today we may get a little overwhelmed with all the negative news on business challenges, political bickering, and financial challenges.  Sometimes it becomes too much for us to handle on our own.  We need to rely on our coaches to help us keep the faith that we can succeed, even in challenging times.  Take a few minutes to think through an “on purpose” strategy to handle the negatives:

Identify who your coaches are or could be

  • They should be someone who cares about you personally and want you to win
  • They should have a different experience base or perspective than you

Set up a regular snapshot meeting to talk about life, business

  • Unplanned conversations lead to new ground
  • Regular meeting times keep you in touch

Listen to their perspective and wisdom

 

 

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