Father-Daughter Dances

It was awesome, and then it was over as quickly as it began…


Call me biased since I have two daughters, but, the Father-Daughter dance is a great wedding tradition. It’s the “first chance” for Dad to dance with his daughter now that she’s married.

I’ve seen some solid dancing in Father-Daughter dances, but more often than not, they’re a bit slow. An opportunity for the father and daughter to have a nice chat about the events of the day while casually dancing around for a few minutes.

For Julianne’s wedding, a couple years ago, we unleashed a surprise. We interrupted the regularly-scheduled dance with some unusual songs and choreography:


The Circle of Trust for this surprise was five or six people, including Julianne and me. We worked out the songs, the timing, and the choreography a few weeks before her wedding. We enlisted Mike, a tech-savvy member of the Circle, to cut together the songs. We had all the pieces…except for rehearsal time. There are tons of details in any wedding, and the last couple weeks before the wedding are filled with them. Finding secret rehearsal time was a big challenge, but also half of the fun.

I remember our last rehearsal, at about 6am on Julianne’s wedding day. Everyone was sleeping when we made our final run-through (we had about 15 guests sleeping all over the house). There we were, dancing “quietly” in a crowded bedroom, making sure we knew all the moves and song changes.

I didn’t get much time to think about our dance for the rest of the day, until moments before we took the floor. As we started our dance, I wondered if I’d remember all the moves. Looking back, I have a better memory of our rehearsals than I do of our performance.

Fast-forward two years (just a week ago), and it’s time for Jennifer’s wedding. As soon as her engagement to Luke was official, we started talking about what we should do for the Father-Daughter dance. We could do something similar to Julianne’s, but that had already been done. We needed to take things up a notch. The perfect solution: a flash mob!

The logistics of a flash mob are a lot different than a secret set of dance steps shared by two people. We’d need to pick the songs, edit them, come up with choreography, recruit the members of the mob, train everyone on the dance steps, and rehearse as a group (would a group rehearsal even be feasible?) before the wedding. How would the mob assemble, how would they disperse?

The Circle of Trust would be huge! We had a group of about thirty-forty people in the Circle. Fortunately, the internet is perfect for communicating with such a big group.

Here’s the two flash mob training videos that we uploaded to YouTube about five days before the wedding (one for instructions, and the other a “live” demonstration):

Flash Mob Instruction Video: http://youtu.be/e-ZWXzvScAo

Flash Mob Demonstration Video: http://youtu.be/2cdLW_1LXEE

As the big day approached, we didn’t get an opportunity to rehearse. I did review the demonstration video a couple times. Our last chance for an actual rehearsal came the night before the wedding, at about 10:30pm. Five or six of us stepped outside into a grassy area and started up the song on Jennifer’s phone. We worked through the steps in one pass, and declared ourselves ready for the big dance.

With such a large Circle of Trust, greetings just before the wedding were filled with whispered questions about everyone’s readiness for the dance. “Did you get links to the videos?” “Did you rehearse?” “Are you going to rehearse just before the reception starts?” We were as ready as we could be.

Here’s the final product: http://youtu.be/3G89QiP8Qus

As you can see, our Circle grew into a Community of dancers. At least ten percent of the folks who jumped onto the dance floor had no idea this was a “planned” flash mob. They were just excited to join in the dancing. They didn’t know about the choreography, or the plans for dispersing at appointed times in the song. It didn’t matter. It added to the spontaneous energy and excitement of the dance/mob. I’m sure little Clyde was wondering what the heck was going on as everyone left the dance floor.

I remember looking up and seeing Jennifer’s smiling face, surrounded by friends and family who had joined our flash mob. It was awesome, and then it was over as quickly as it began.

Life’s journey is finite, but the memories and connections you can make on that journey are infinite.

Do you wanna dance?! Yeah!!


For Mother’s Day

Who thinks about you every day?


Who always roots for you, no matter what you try?

Who taught you the important lessons of life, long before your first day of school?

Who is proud of you, even on the days you may not be so proud of yourself?

Who hears what you’re saying, but knows from the tone of your voice, or the look in your eye, what you are really thinking?

Who knows the things that scare you, even better than you do?

Who makes your favorite meal, the one you had as a kid, the right way…every time?

Who thinks about you every day, even if you don’t make the time to call or visit?

If you are as fortunate as I am, the answer to each of these questions is easy. It’s your Mom.

A mother’s love is probably the most powerful force on the planet, and yet it can’t be measured. It is sustaining, and life-giving, and asks for nothing in return. It’s the secret ingredient in that special meal. The one that never tastes quite the same when you make it for yourself.

Mom, thank you for making me the man I am today. I don’t say it enough, but know that I love you and feel the warmth of your love wrapped around me every day.


Photo credit:  ProFlowers.com


Diary of a Competitive Stairclimber

I lasted about three floors before going past my personal “red line.”

I’ve been a competitive stairclimber for about five years. This means I train on a StairMaster pretty much year-round for one or two stairclimb races each year. Races generally start on the ground floor of a skyscraper, and end at the helipad. The Willis Tower race (formerly Sears Tower, in Chicago) finishes on the 103rd floor, where they have crazy observation windows that allow you to step out into “space” outside of the building. [Note to self: next time I compete in the Willis Tower climb, don’t spend the prior day tourist walking with Janet all over Downtown Chicago. Do that after the race!]

Like most sports, there are elite competitors, and then, everyone else. Elite climbers make it to the top in amazing time, often climbing a floor every 8-9 seconds. I’m usually in the top 15-20% of my age group (40-49), with a 12-14 seconds-per-floor pace. Unfortunately, I can’t say my lack of speed is an age thing, since more than a few of the elite climbers are in their mid-40’s.

During my first stairclimb race I was lucky enough to get passed by an elite climber. He had raced earlier in the day, and was taking a “leisurely” training run during my race wave. I took note of his technique as we approached the 40th floor of a 63-floor climb. He took two steps at a time, pulling himself up hand-over-hand on the handrail. He made it look pretty easy as he passed, so I gave it a try.

It was definitely much faster, and got my upper body into the climb. It also meant more muscle groups would need oxygen. I lasted about three floors before going past my personal “red line.” I was forced to stop and catch my breath, before soldiering on with the standard one-step-at-a-time method. I had seen the secret, and knew I’d have to train differently to prepare for the two-at-a-time technique.

People have asked me how I’m able to climb without hurting my knees. Climbing stairs is great for your knees, lower back, and hamstrings. It’s a low-impact, heavily aerobic exercise. We only climb, and never descend. That’s what elevators are for. Climbing creates long and stretching strides, focusing the work onto your muscles and soft tissue, and away from your joints.

Which brings us to today. My fifth year climbing the Aon Tower in Los Angeles, benefitting the American Lung Association. After the question about knees, the next question is some variation of, “Doesn’t it get boring, just climbing stairs? What are you thinking about during a race?” I suppose it’s the same things other endurance athletes think about during their races.

To definitively answer this question, here’s a brain dump of what I was thinking earlier today as I “raced:”

Only three runners in front of me to start. Ten second intervals.

“Good luck on your first race. Do you want to start in front, or behind?” Steven answers that he will take off behind me. I put in my earbuds and fire up my iTunes StairList (thanks to Jennifer for creating this list many years ago).

Ten seconds to start. Remember that I am starting on the 20 minute mark.

I love the quiet just before the start. Go!

Save Ferris! Nice choice, Jennifer!

The start is different than previous years. We entered a different door and hit stairs immediately.

No rhythm for the first 3 or 4 floors, until we get into the main stairwell.

Fifth floor. First person passed.

Two steps at a time. Nice rhythm.

The first ten floors are always the hardest, even though I just did about 20 floors of warm-up before the race.

Tenth floor. Steven is right behind me. Awesome! How cool is it that my son-in-law is running this race with me! He’s gained ten seconds on me already. Stud!

Move to the outside! Why do slower climbers never move to the outside like the instructions say? There goes my nice rhythm.

Back on track. Water stop!

“Sorry, we ran out of cups.” Well, that’s a real mind-f***. It sure is dry in this stairwell! I take a quick swig of water from my hand.

That’s not a very sanitary thing to do. 100’s of climbers are touching these rails, sweating on them, and you just took a swig of water from your hand after using those same rails.

16th floor! Where’s Steven? He must have slowed up.

18th floor! Focus on two-at-a-time.

I wish I hadn’t forgotten my gloves. I’d have better grip on these handrails.

Nice mandolin. Perfect time for a little string quartet music. Nice choice again, Jennifer.

21st floor. One-third done. I wonder how my pace is. I’ve passed a bunch of people.

It would be great if the stairwell would change direction. Turning left over and over is making me dizzy.

Deep breaths. Focus on two-at-a-time. This is comfortable. Passing more people.

30th floor. Nice cheering section. Is that a clapping toy? Cool. It sure is dry in this stairwell. My lungs are burning!

Water stop! Amazing what one Dixie cup of water does. Quick back stretch.

Two-at-a-time. Steady pace.

Takin Care of Business. BTO! Rock on!

1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Two-at-a-time still working!

45th floor. This thing is almost over. Look at that crowd of people ahead…all in pink shirts. That’s a big team!

I see an elite runner as I turn. He’s not close enough to pass yet, but he will be in another floor. Just doing a training run…two-at-a-time, of course. There he goes. Stud!

50th floor. Mark Anthony. Not my favorite song right about now. A bit too slow. Two-at-a-time is still working! Awesome. Only 13 more floors!

52nd floor. My lungs are burning. They named this race right. Fight for Air!

Last water stop before the finish. Big crowd here. Only ten floors to go.

1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Two-at-a-time still working! Not as fast as the elite guy. I’ll just have to train at a higher level. He’s gone.

59th floor. Only four to go. Two-at-a-time working! Move to the outside! What’s the deal? A whole bunch of people all of a sudden. I wonder if I can get past all of them in four floors.

1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4. Turn, 2-3. 1-2-3-4.

Color change. 61st floor! New direction on the stairwell. Push to the finish!

Last turn. Bright sunlight. Here comes the roof!

Stay focused. Push to the finish. Man, my lungs are burning!

Finish line! Clock minute is 34. What was my start minute? Oh yeah, 20. 14 minutes. Dang it. Slower than last year. Hey, that’s Garth Brooks. The song is almost over.

What a view! First time I can remember it being clear and bright at the finish of this race. Look how clear the Hollywood Sign is.

Next event is in late-September. The US Bank building in Los Angeles. It’s about 75 floors. That event has always conflicted with something else. I plan to climb it this year. Time to ramp up my training. More StairMaster, more trail running, more rope climb, more squats, less ice cream (hey, let’s not get crazy!).

Bring it on!



View from the helipad

Searching for Utopia

That elusive place or time where everything is perfect…


In Utopia, everyone is an ally. There’s no struggle to determine who will lead, and who will follow. There is no disagreement or dissention among the inhabitants. The definition of what’s important is known and accepted by all. All roles and activities in Utopia are complementary, and synchronized perfectly. Each person knows their role and is happy and content to remain in that role. There is no envy in Utopia. There are no outside influencers with contrary ideas. There are no existential threats to Utopia. In Utopia, there is no competition. Humans live and work in complete harmony and happiness.

Cue the sound of a record scratching!

Put at least three humans together, and watch the non-Utopian dynamics unfold.

The group may be focused on delivering food to the homeless, winning a pick-up basketball game, planning a party, or running a Fortune 500 company. It doesn’t matter whether there are three members in the group, three hundred, or three thousand. The realities of human nature prevent Utopian agreement and synchronicity among the participants. It’s a good thing. Imagine how few new discoveries would happen if everyone were trapped in Utopia.

And yet, many spend their lives searching for it. That elusive place or time where everything is perfect. They bounce from one relationship to another, from one city to another, from one company to another…never quite finding their version of Utopia. A deepening sense of urgency, even profound disappointment, creeps into their subconscious as their fruitless search continues.

Utopia isn’t a place, a time, or a group. It’s what you make for yourself and those you love. It’s how you treat others. It’s how you treat yourself. Utopia is where you are each day, if you get out the way and allow yourself to enjoy it.

One could argue that this view of personal Utopia is, in a word, Utopian, and therefore impossible.

That may be true, and this argument will continue long after my time on the planet.

In the meantime, I’ll focus on enjoying my Utopia while others continue their search.


Photo Credit:  Diane Anderson

Why Oreos and Steaks Matter

I personally never saw the benefit of splitting my Oreos in half, and eating the middle first…

A kid’ll eat the middle of an Oreo cookie, and save the chocolate cookie outside for last…

I personally never saw the benefit of splitting my Oreos in half, and eating the middle first.  Seems like a lot of work.  In fact, the middle is boring without the chocolate cookie, in my humble opinion.

If dissecting the cookie isn’t the best, what’s the best way to eat an Oreo?

If you bite into an Oreo, it’s a challenge to not drop crumbs all over the place.  The cleanest and most effective way to eat an Oreo is in one bite.  Just pop the whole cookie in your mouth and let the taste celebration begin.  To add to the party, take a small sip of milk and let all that flavor mix around as you chew.  Enjoy.

The ideal number of Oreos to eat in one sitting is four…each with one bite, and each with a healthy sip of milk.  Oreo purists will argue that the ideal number is an entire column (purists know what a column is in this context), but that’s a bit much for me.  You’ll have some milk left in the glass after your four cookies, and that’s useful for rinsing everything out of your teeth as you contemplate the goodness of your Oreos.

I always thought it would be fun to eat a few Oreos before a dental hygienist appointment.  I wonder if anyone has actually gone through with this idea.

Steak.  It’s what’s for dinner.

For vegetarians, I apologize in advance…

The smell of steaks on the grill is a little slice of Heaven.  There’s something about the smell of a barbeque grill that permeates a neighborhood.  If your neighbor is cooking steaks, you know it, and you wish you were cooking your own.

Some of the best steakhouses age their beef for thirty, even sixty days.  They say that the longer the aging process, the more tender the meat will be.  I’m not quite so patient.  I’ll give it about three days of aging in the fridge before cooking.

I’ve tried many cuts of beef.  My favorite is the rib eye.  Rub a little olive oil on each side, and then season with Mansmith’s.  Grill it low and slow, about ten minutes on each side for the perfect medium-rare tenderness.  Let the meat rest for a few minutes, and then enjoy with a baked potato and some steamed or sautéed asparagus.  Talk about good eats!

I like nearly every food I’ve tried, except olives and horseradish.  A few favorites come to mind…Salmon.  Eggplant parmesan.  Hot apple pie (with ice cream).  Saag paneer.  Unagi.  Lasagna.  Date shakes.  Vegetarian lamb.  Chocolate chip ice cream.  Chili.  Oatmeal cookies.  Fried chicken.  Carrot cake.  Cornish pasties.  Bacon!

Food is much more than the sustenance we need to live.  It’s more than nutritional value (or lack thereof).  Foods have history.  Many are at the heart of our family traditions.

One thing all foods across the world have in common:  they are best when shared with the people we love.

Explore.  Taste.  Savor.  Share.  Love.  Enjoy!

Unmaking an Oreo:  http://youtu.be/cJyGoGPXTj4

#tbt – Throwback Thursdays

Each #tbt post gives us a glimpse of potential yet to be fulfilled…

It’s fun to see how long (and not grey) our friend’s hair was twenty or thirty years ago…especially if that person has little or no hair now (like me).  It’s neat to see our faces before years of experience (and sun damage) have made their mark.  The clothing styles are always good for a laugh…nice OP shorts, Magnum!

#tbt posts provide a window into who we were, and the things we thought were important.  As we look at a #tbt photo, we know how things turn out for this “stranger” in the picture.  The person in that old photo has years of decisions to make, countless lessons to learn, and many hearts to touch.  Each #tbt post gives us a glimpse of potential yet to be fulfilled.

Look in the mirror.  You get to see your future #tbt photo every day.

What potential do you have that has yet to be fulfilled?  Whose hearts will you touch?  Will you make sound decisions?  What will you learn along the way?  None of us know for certain.

One thing is certain.  Many of the things that seem important today won’t be so important in twenty or thirty years.


Your humble writer, on his wedding day in July, 1988.

Start Anywhere!

Nike’s Just Do It™ slogan was born in an advertising agency meeting in 1988…

According to Wikipedia, Nike’s Just Do It™ slogan was born in an advertising agency meeting in 1988.

For Nike, these words helped propel the company from $877 million in revenue in 1988 to $9.2 billion by 1998.  In 2013, Nike’s revenue was $25.3 billion.

Three simple words.

Of course, it isn’t the words alone.  It’s the call to action implied in these words:

  • Want to run a marathon?  Just do it!
  • Want to run a triathlon?  Just do it!
  • Want to play tennis?  Just do it!
  • Want to learn to oil paint?  Just do it!
  • Want to write?  Just do it!
  • Want to race motorcycles?  Just do it!
  • Want to develop an iPhone app?  Just do it!
  • Want to explore the world?  How about China (where I am this week)?  Just do it!
  • Want to hike the Appalachian Trail?  Just do it!
  • Want to own your own business?  Just do it!
  • Want to try living in New York City (in the winter!)?  Just do it!
  • Want to start a charity to help wounded veterans?  Just do it!
  • Want to build your own house?  How about a tree house?  Just do it!

Three simple words.

Not to be outdone, and to inspire not only Apple employees, but customers they didn’t yet have, Apple came up with a two-word slogan in 1997:  Think Different™.

Two words, grammar error notwithstanding.  Again, it isn’t the words, but the call to action.  If you want to create a new and interesting future, Think Different today.

Think Different.  Just Do It.

To these, I’d add two more words:

Start Anywhere!

Think Different.  Just Do It.  Start Anywhere!

How about two more:  Start today!

What’s Your Personal Net Promoter Score?

Consistent excellence (awesomeness) drives higher NPS…

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.  He is not dependent on us.  We are dependent on him.  He is not an interruption to our work.  He is the purpose of it.  He is not an outsider to our business.  He is a part of it.  We are not doing him a favour by serving him.  He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.

–Mahatma Gandhi

By now, you’ve probably heard the term Net Promoter Score (NPS).  It’s a system that focuses on the answer to one simple question:

On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is not likely and 10 is very likely, would you recommend this company/product/service to a friend or colleague?

That’s it.  One question that sums up a customer’s entire experience…and also measures their loyalty.  A person who responds with a 9 or 10 is a promoter, 7’s and 8’s are passive, and 1-6 is a detractor.

Promoters are not only loyal buyers, but they go out of their way to spread the good news about a company they like.

Passives are just that, passive.  Their loyalty is weak…a fair-weather friend.  They can be swayed easily to switch to another company if an alternative presents itself.

Detractors will go out of their way to spread bad news about a company.  They’ve had a bad experience, and are happy to tell everyone about it.

Thousands of companies monitor their NPS.  Perennially high NPS companies include Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom, USAA, Amazon, and Trader Joe’s.  Each invests time, energy, and money to deliver excellence, above all else, to their customers.

Consistent excellence (awesomeness) drives higher NPS.

How much time are you investing in your personal NPS?  Are you paying attention to the impact you have on those around you?  Are you consistently delivering excellence to those you care about the most?

How would the people you serve (family, friends, co-workers, employees, managers, strangers) answer this question about you:

On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is not likely, and 10 is very likely, would you recommend ______your name here_______ to a friend or colleague?

More importantly, how do you answer this question about yourself?

Beyond the No Wake Zone

True adventure happens out past the buoys…


I get seasick easily, especially on sailboats (and fighter jets).  I’ve been on a few sailing trips.  They all had one thing in common.  Once we’re outside the no wake zone, my nausea starts.  Things go downhill from there until my head is buried under a towel and I try to sleep until we get to dry land.  Needless to say, I avoid sailing trips.

I don’t have a problem on cruise ships, except in rough seas.  Cruise ships are engineered to deliver a smooth ride for their passengers.  Most swells go unnoticed.  Passengers wake up in a new port almost every day, and the food and entertainment are usually spectacular.

Harbor cruises work for me.  I can handle cruising around inside the no wake zone, looking at all of the boats in their slips, the nice homes on the shoreline, and passing other boats as they make their way out to sea.  Christmas time, with all the lights and decorations is the best.  It’s relaxing and safe.  There are no swells to cause nausea and seasickness.

Every sailor knows the opportunity for new discovery lies beyond the no wake zone.  True adventure happens out past the buoys, past the breakwater, and out in the wind and waves.  Riding around in the harbor, or lazily enjoying a multi-course dinner on a cruise ship are fun and sometimes exotic.  But, neither compare to the adventure of plying the seas in a forty-foot sailboat, with your hand on the tiller.

What about the risks?  Staying on shore has risks.  Cruise ships certainly carry risk (and sometimes, viruses).  We may take comfort that others are managing our risks for us, but nothing is risk free.  Storms and rough seas will hit, no matter who drives the boat.  Understanding the risks, planning and preparing for them, and facing our challenges head-on is the only consistent winning strategy…at sea, and in life.

What about seasickness?  I remember talking with a sailor in Tahiti.  We had flown in for a vacation, and met my mother-, and father-in-law, who were sailing their boat across the South Pacific.  The sailor was a friend of theirs.  I mentioned my problem with seasickness, and how it would prevent me from making such a voyage.

He laughed and said, “The seasickness usually passes after three days at sea.  After that, it’s an adventure of a lifetime.”

He was right.

The Candy Store

Imagine you’re a candy lover…

Imagine you’re a candy lover.  You like all types of candy.  Actually, that’s not so hard to imagine for most of us.

Imagine you’re placed inside a candy store.  Every type of candy is there.  All of your favorites, and some that you’ve always wanted to try, are right there for you.  New flavors arrive all the time.

You get to have as much candy as you want.  No worries about calories, sugar content, cavities, or the inevitable sugar crash.  Just great candy, and it’s all yours.

Two rules:

  • you only get thirty minutes
  • you can’t take any of the candy with you

I’ve come to view life as that candy store…especially since I’ve been in here for at least fifteen of my minutes.

Here are seven things I’ve learned about the candy store, so far:

  1. It’s important to get the lay of the land before grabbing handfuls of candy.
  2. The best flavors are the most subtle, and often take time to enjoy.
  3. Some candy flavors mix well, others, not so much.
  4. I’ll never be able to taste all of the candy in the store, and that’s okay.
  5. There are just about as many sour candies as there are sweet.  The sour ones help me appreciate the sweet flavors even more.
  6. Most of the candy melts in your hand if you hold on to it for too long.
  7. The best candy, whether sweet or sour, is the candy that you share with those you love.
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