Recognizing Joy

Yesterday I flew from Indianapolis to Atlanta and on to Austin.  While I was grumbling about the weird connections and worrying about the repercussions of the power outage in Atlanta, my row mate on the flight was having a different experience.  She was excited to be flying!  I didn’t have a chance to talk to her as we had another individual sitting between us, but her experience was noticeably different from mine.  I was making a choice to worry and be a little frustrated.  She was experiencing pure joy.

My initial thought was a little smug.  An amateur traveler for the holidays.  When I got out of my own thoughts and saw what I was doing, I decided to look at things differently.  She was smiling and dancing to the music she was playing through her headphones.  She was singing to herself, although the headphones made it a more of a community singing experience.  She was just fun to observe, and I could sense her energy.  She was also respectful of everyone.  She said please and thank you and was sincere about it.  She treated everyone politely.  

I was embarrassed by the judgmental thoughts I had.  Then I realized that I had skillfully caught myself doing an unskillful thing.  I corrected the way of thinking.  It’s a choice.  Our thoughts, lead to words, our words lead to actions.  Did I act unskillfully?  No, but I had the unskillful thoughts.  

Today I sat with a group or of personal trainers and membership team members for a health and lifestyle facility near my home.  A friend of mine is one of the owners and I want them to be a success. I had joined the facility and love working out there.  I had some thoughts on how they can create long term relationships and wanted to share it with them and they graciously offered to put a meeting together.  On the way to the meeting I spoke to my son who has done personal training in the past.  I asked him how he trained his team to engage with the client.  He shared that they need to understand the client’s goals, and not project their goals on the client.  He shared that the trainer may think the person needs to lose 70 pounds, but the client may have a goal to lose 20 pounds to get back to their college weight.  Understanding the client needs is critical to helping them achieve their goals, long term.  

As I thought back on the initial judgment that I had about my row mate on my flight, I thought that I was projecting my ideas on to her.  I felt everyone should be a little grumpy after a long day of working and a long flight home.  I projected my negativity onto a very happy young lady.  I was wrong.

In our dealings with customers, do we do the same thing?  Do we project our fears onto them?  My pricing is too high.  My offering isn’t good enough.  I won’t get this order.  It won’t come in this month.  Do we create barriers?  

I share stories of my mistakes in hopes it helps others not make the same mistakes.  I believe we create our own environment and we choose to see things as we want to.  It is a choice.  If we choose to see challenges, that is what we find.  If we choose to see success.  Really choose to see success, that is what we create.  

If I choose to see an amateur traveler and believe that she will have a negative affect on my flight, she will.  I’m happy to say I woke up to my poor choice and enjoyed the flight with someone who saw it as fun.  Pure joy!  I’m still learning.

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A lesson in leadership

I am the interim president for a foundation that supports our city’s law enforcement staff.  We support them with the safety net for expenses that the city doesn’t cover, such as injury or sickness or worse.  The foundation has been in place for over 5 years.  I’ve sat on this board for all but one year of it’s existence.  Every year I threaten to leave the board; not for leverage, but I believe that new faces and ideas are critical.  Otherwise we get locked into one view and we can develop blind spots.  Thus the term interim.

Our board is made up of business leaders with influence in the community.  The past president did a nice job of starting the foundation and enlisting the support of the community and finding an interesting mix of directors with diverse talents.  In August, she moved away and resigned the board.  I was asked to be president of the board, and I reluctantly accepted, with the caveat that I would be resigning the board in March, after our annual gala.  

Our past president loved the gala.  She loved the planning and all the behind the scenes work that went into supporting the event.  I, however, do not enjoy it as much.  So, we created several committees and named chairs of those committees to lead the efforts.  We hired outside expertise to help us logistically and we listened to others who have had successful fundraising events.  We have opened the talents of the board to be fully utilized.  The director’s response has been amazing.  The ideas are flowing, and the execution has been exceptional.  We have a long way to go and a short window to operate in, but I’m optimistic that it will be successful this year.  

I worked for a company that experienced similar challenges.  The company, on the surface, looked like a wonderful company that was a family.  My opinion and view changed in the short time I worked with them.  The past president was still working in an advisory role in the company.  He had saved the company from bankruptcy earlier in his career and the owner was, rightfully thankful.  He had given away his power to the individual and while the business had grown to $150 million, it was not growing any further.  If all decisions must funnel through one person, and all strategy is written by one person, it limits the ability of the company.  It also limits the use of talents of the team and can stifle creativity.  

I admit that I was at fault and felt like a victim when I was running a division of the company.  I built my own contrarian strategy and I acted as a rebel within the greater organization.  It was not healthy or skillful.  I also admit that the former president running a $150 million business the way he did was impressive.  I felt that there was much greater potential if he would have utilized the talents of his replacement, and the talents of the individuals the company had hired.  I believe his control was driven by skepticism.  He didn’t trust the other leaders in the organization.  

As a leader in my own company in the past 13 years, I’ve made some of the same mistakes.  I’ve tried to control too much of our future.  I have needed to trust my team to make the right decisions and do the right things to grow the business.  I’m certain that it has limited us in our ability to grow past our current level.  I believe we are a great company, but we can be more.  We can do more, and we can help more people be successful; clients and our internal team.  

The foundation board has clarified my thinking on this subject.  Watching the board step up and working well beyond what we previously thought we could do has been a lesson in leadership.  Hire great people, give them the tools to do the job, and get out of their way.   

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Hiding behind the glitter

I’ve become a “spin” fanatic.  I love the workout.  I love the music.  I love the energy and the vibe that it creates.  Plus, I keep in shape physically, and mentally.  I set my intentions each class.  They are usually the same.  Have fun!  Sweat! Get better at technique.  

I’ve find myself going to classes with the same two instructors.  I have nothing against the others, I’m just comfortable with Ali and Jessica.  They both are interesting in not only their style of teaching, but in the persona, that they share with us.  

Jessica is a former UT cheerleader and her day job is in marketing for a nonprofit. Ali is a former fitness model and a medical device marketing representative during the day.  When I say cheerleader and fitness model, the first thought most people have is beauty, not depth.  But they do have depth too.

Jessica is shy and reserved, but what she says when we are in class, has depth.  She talks about the spirituality of the ride.  She talks about intentions and asks why are you here?  Ali is also spiritual. She is constantly challenging us physically, but also mentally to stay in the moment.  

Most of my rides are with Ali, based on the time of day I can ride.  She is a woman who likes the glitter and likes for people to think she is a little crazy.  She might be, but there is more.  There is depth.  My belief is that the glitter is a façade to hide the depth.

When my daughter and I were having coffee after a class, Ali came up to us and invited me to ride in her class.  I shared that I had certain times of the day that I could ride.  I told her I write in the morning and it wasn’t conducive to riding in a 6:00 am ride.  

Fast forward to a conversation several months later when we had never mentioned my writing since our initial conversation at the coffee shop.  She and I were talking about mind and body being one and there is no difference between the mental and the physical.  She shared that I should know because I write about it.  She told me that was what meditation was all about.  How did she remember that I write, months after the short conversation?  She is very smart.

Why do some smart women feel the need to hide their brains?  Maybe it’s just my view, but I feel like Ali does that.  The glitter hides the depth.  Why would she do that?

I love to understand people’s story.  I want to know what drives them.  I want to know their intentions and goals and commitments. I want to help them succeed.  

I want diversity in our teams.  Not diversity for political correctness, but diversity for thinking differently and solving challenges creatively.  I want people who show their true selves, and don’t hide behind a façade of who they think others should see them as.

I had this conversation with Ali.  I wanted to understand why she hides her intelligence and depth.  She does not hide it anymore.  She has a following that understands that she does have depth.  She still likes the glitter, but she no longer hides behind it.  Or maybe it’s confirmation bias that I know she has depth and I look for it now.  It’s what I see.

In your business, do you take the time to see through the façade that your customers project?  Do you really know what motivates them?  Are you curious?  Knowing what motivates your customer and working with them to truly understand them allows you to be of service to them.  Ask the questions, and listen.  Take the time to get to truly know them.  It will make your life much more interesting.

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A Tribute To My Mother

My mother is 90 years old.  She still lives by herself on the family farm.  She has close friends and neighbors who live near her and they take care of her when we can’t.  I live a 10-hour drive from her.  She is fiercely independent.  Very sharp- and she works at it.  She reads daily and does puzzles.  She works in her yard and in her house.  But she is starting to slow down.

I call her daily.  We talk about the same things each day.  The weather, her kittens, the mail she gets, family, and her health.  She is very comfortable with where she is in life.  And what a fascinating life she has lived.

She was born in 1927.  She was the middle child, with an older brother and a younger sister.  The older brother was my Uncle Carl.  A great man who is one of the major influences of my life.  Her sister was always my favorite aunt.  She married a man who was an Air Force lifer and she traveled the world.  My Aunt Rosie was always interesting and fun.  My mother was the one who stayed close to home. She was terribly, painfully shy.  

She met my dad when they were in high school. He was the handsome stranger who moved in to Abilene, KS from exotic California for his senior year in high school.  He was interested in this shy, recluse from the farm.  

At age 6 my mother lost her father to a farming accident.  This was in 1933, in the depth of the great depression.  There was no safety net.  My grandmother and the 3 kids had to move in with her father.  They lived in the house my mother lives in today.  They all shared one bedroom.  It was the same room my brother and I shared growing up.  

An interesting side note; on my grandfather’s death bed, my uncle promised him that he would stay with my grandmother and take care of her.  He did that until she died.  He was a man of his word.  A superman in my eyes.  He became the man of the house, taking care of his mother and sisters from 8 years old through the rest of his life.

Back to my mother.  My parents were married a few years later, after my dad did a stint in the Air Force.  They settled into a rural house with some land.  My dad wanted to be a farmer, although he had no experience.  They borrowed money and bought dairy cows.  However, during a thunderstorm the cows were all gathered on a hill and they were hit and killed by lightning.  All of them.  The source of income was gone, but the debt was not.  My parents would not declare bankruptcy.  We paid our debts.  My dad went to work at a sheet metal shop during the day and farmed at night.  

They were getting back on their feet when my dad started having convulsions.  He would fall to the floor and begin shaking and convulsing.  The first time it happened my mother stuck her fingers in his mouth and held his tongue so he wouldn’t swallow it.  She needed stitches afterward.  Who would think of that?

My dad had a cyst on his brain and needed several surgeries, that he never fully recovered from.  Because of this, he was declared physically disabled.  And this shy, young woman, was now the head of the family.  She took on the farm in a time when women didn’t do that.  They still really don’t.  She had to make the decisions, which she hated.  She had to do the farm work.  And the community rallied around us.  But we were hanging by a thread.  

We survived.  There were three kids in our family.  All with very different aptitudes and skills.  All three earned their college degrees and all three moved away leaving my mother by herself.  She never remarried after my dad died.  She just took care of people.  She was a hospice volunteer.  She worked at an assisted living home.  She had a few gentlemen friends, and they all had a pattern of health issues.  She took care of them until they passed.  

I love my mother.  She drove me nuts through the years.  She has no clue what I do, or why people would hire our company.  She can’t relate to what I do at all and she let’s me know it.  But she never missed a game from any sport I played.  She always had great meals on the table for us.  She always had clean clothes for us.  Maybe she was in the survival mode, but she never showed it to us.  She wasn’t the most nurturing, hugging, loving mother.  It may have been “You’ve got work to do!” when I wanted to sleep in.  But she loved us in her way and what I am today, what I do today, is a direct reflection of her influence.   I’m going to call her now,

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Routines and good habits

My life is pretty simple.  I have a routine that I follow in most situations.  When I wake up in the morning at pretty much the same time, I go through my routine of taking my vitamins, feeding the dog, starting coffee, and waking up my wife.  When I travel on an airplane, I follow my routine of putting my bags in the overhead, sitting near the front of the plane, pulling out my headphones and glasses, and connecting to the Wi-Fi on the plane so I can work.  When I get to my hotel room, I have another routine I follow.

Routines can be great.  They are comfortable and I can do things without giving them a great deal of thought.  They can reduce stress.  But I have bad routines as well.  My bad habits create stress, but because they are habits, they feel comfortable.  

Giving thought to each decision we make can feel like a lot of work.  But if you have an end goal in mind, it is truly work?  

I had a friend ask me what I’ve learned from my failures.  It was a thought provoking question.  I struggled with it.  I’ve had three separate, distinct phases of my business.  I could say that each change was made due to a failure.  But I really don’t see them as failures.  I learned from each phase and it caused me to move to the next phase.  

As someone with a strong appetite for risk, there truly isn’t failure.  With a goal of how I want to see my life at the end, I believe everything I do is working to reach that end goal.  How can there be failures?  The mistakes I make are just preparation for the next move.

Make no mistake here; I screw up!  I just can’t dwell on it.  I can’t allow a mistake to continue to fester and compound.  I have to move on.  The way I do that is to focus on the learning.  To focus on making a skillful decision that moves toward lower stress.  I do that through creating a good habit.

I wrote about my morning routine.  I didn’t share my best part of the routine.  I journal what I did the day before in the form of what I did that was skillful and what I did that was not.  By doing that, I can visualize how to create skillful thoughts and actions so that one day, I’ll have difficulty writing down the not so skillful actions.  That is part of my life goal.

What are your bad habits that you enjoy?  What are your good habits that you don’t enjoy?  Those are the two most important and difficult types of habits to work with.  In your business are there things that are time wasters that are fun to do?  How do you break that routine?  

The only way to truly change a bad habit or routine is to replace it with a positive one.  I have a difficult time not popping into email on a regular, frequent basis.  It breaks my concentration and it makes it difficult to get back on track.  It kills my productivity.  I’ve not conquered it yet, but I’m working on it.  I’m working to focus, and working to stop multi-tasking.  I have set the intention.  Now I just must recognize when I’m doing it and replace it with a more productive focus.  I’m still learning.

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You Saved Me

I was sitting on my patio with a friend of mine and we were catching up, like long term friends who hadn’t seen each other in some time.  To my surprise, he said to me, “You saved me”.  I really didn’t know what to say.  It caught me completely by surprise.  So I asked him how I had done that.  He said he was in a dark place after a major life changing event.  Not suicidal, but in a dark and lonely place, and I kept calling and talking to him.  I encouraged him and told him he was going to be just fine.  

I had no idea that was happening.  I remember the calls and the conversations about changing from a caterpillar to a butterfly and we were both just blobs of goo in the transformation, but I had no idea of the impact he felt.  I was just being a friend.  He is like a brother to me.  I truly believed what I was saying, and I truly believed he was going to be fine.  And he is doing great now.

I was reflecting on the conversation and I had to ask myself why it surprised me so that he said that.  Was it because guys don’t share like that?  Was it because I didn’t think through the actions I was taking?  Probably a little of both, I concluded.  

I journal daily.  I write down what I did that was skillful, and what I did that wasn’t skillful.  Sometimes the non- skillful outnumbers the skillful and sometimes it’s the other way around.  I use a by line in my company logo that is “Intuitive to Intentional™” and I believe it summed up my actions.  Intuitively I reached out to a friend who needed support, but I wasn’t intentionally trying to “save” him.  I’m not that vain.

Generosity is when you offer something with no expectation of getting anything in return. Is it still generosity when you aren’t aware that you are even offering something?  Is generosity in business the same as generosity in your personal life?

In our practice we offer that we need to understand our customer’s and our team’s needs.  We need to understand where they are and meet them where they are.  We need to care about the outcome so that we both can enjoy the benefits together.  In our business and personal lives, we often give to get.  If we focus on our benefit (money or prestige) over generosity, it’s a pretty shallow existence with only short term happiness.  I’m not suggesting we give away our products or services.  I’m suggesting to truly have long term happy relationships with your customers and your coworkers, you have to be generous.  You have to give without the expectation of getting.  

I worked with a sales person for one of our clients last week.  He was truly outstanding.  He offered information and insights to his customers that really had nothing to do with his business.  Those insights were generous, but I’m certain he will also earn credibility with his customers that will lead to a long term, mutually beneficial relationship.  

It works the same way internally in your company.  Look at meetings as a visual of how that could work.  Do you show up on time, come prepared, and add value to the group in way that people trust?  That is generosity.  That is offering up your gifts, without expectation of return.  But the return comes.

I’m not perfect.  Far from it.  But daily, I’m working on being skillful and generous and grateful.  With those intentions, sometimes I am fortunate enough to help “save” someone.  What a great feeling.  I’m still learning.

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