Category Archives: Patience

There’s a crack in the gutter where a flower grows…

Pandora is awesome.  I was listening to my Happy Radio channel the other day when this song called Hey, Hey, Hey came on.  It had a catchy tune, and some of the words seemed nice when I chose to listen closely.  It was my first time hearing it, but I knew it had been around a while.

Somewhere in the middle of the song I hear:

There’s a crack in the gutter where a flower grows

Reminding me that everything is possible
Yeah, reminding me that nothing is impossible
You gotta live for the one that you love you know
You gotta love for the life that you live you know

Singing hey, hey, hey
No matter how life is today
There’s just one thing that I got to say
I won’t let another moment slip away

That got my attention.

How many times have you seen a plant (sometimes a weed, but that’s really in the eye of the beholder) growing out of a crack in the sidewalk, or the gutter?  How about the tree that figures out how to grow from within a cracked boulder?

They’re not supposed to be there.  It should be impossible for them to grow.  Yet, there they are.  Thriving in the most inhospitable of environments.

Each of us have the same ability to overcome adversity.  To be the flower growing in the crack in the gutter.  To grow and thrive in our little corner of the world, making a small but important difference to those around us.

Life is a journey, and it can be a struggle.  But, it’s also a triumph, and an opportunity to make our mark in places nobody (including ourselves) would ever expect.

 

Here’s the whole song…and, yeah, it’s been around since 2010.  Only took me five years to notice it (not good for my hipster cred):  Hey, Hey, Hey

 

Discuss or Defend?

Discussing involves active listening.  Curiosity.  Openness.  It requires genuine interest in ideas, even if they contradict your own.

Defending involves taking and holding a position.  Looking for openings to argue against another idea.  Preparing your response, while you should be listening.

Discussing takes time.  Discussing requires courtesy, respect, and patience.  Defending, not so much.

Most discussions we see on TV, or hear on the radio, aren’t discussions at all.  They’re exercises in defending.  Questions and answers are metered out in an attempt to defend one position or another.

It’s often the same in a business setting.

The search for alignment, a conclusion, a decision, or an all-out victory often trumps everything else, including a meaningful exchange of ideas.

How often do you defend, instead of discuss?  Be honest.  We’re just discussing here…no need to get all defensive.

What if you went through an entire day without defending?  Think you could do it?

 

Years of Experience

knowledge-vs-experience

“I’ve been with this company for 35 years.”

“I’ve been in this industry since it started.”

“I remember when we used typewriters to fill out those forms.”

“I’ve forgotten more about this, than that new guy will ever know.”

“I’m not sure how things are supposed to work.  I just started a couple of years ago.”

“I hope they give me a raise soon.  I’m the only person who knows how to process all the claim types.”

“There’s no way someone will ever figure out how to replace me.  I wouldn’t even remember all the steps if I had to tell someone.  It’s automatic for me.”

Experience counts.  There’s no replacement for the lessons learned by doing, succeeding, failing, recovering, making it up as you go, reinventing, punting, switching directions, and trying again.

There’s no shortcut to learning how a business or industry ebbs and flows throughout a year, or through the ups and downs of the economic cycle.  A business that’s a no-brainer during the up-cycle can, and will, turn into a nightmare in a down-cycle.  A person who can lead a business through an entire up and down cycle can’t help but learn all the ins and outs of that business (and its industry).

But, what’s the true value of all that experience?  Nope, that’s not it…

The real value comes when you teach and mentor others.  It’s relatively easy to master something for yourself.  The real challenge, and deepest learning, is in teaching others.  Not just the raw facts and steps to something, but connecting and passing on the passion that you have and watching your “student” define their own passion about the topic.

Consider your years of experience doing something.  Maybe you’ve been in a particular job for twenty years.  Can you honestly say that you’ve had twenty real years of experience, or twenty one-year experiences?

What’s the difference?

The difference is whether you’ve merely stacked the same one-year experiences on top of one another, or built and connected a compounding level of expertise in your twenty years.  It means looking back at the (hopefully) countless people you’ve helped along the way to become the best versions of themselves.  It means that you’ve found ways to multiply yourself and your impact by working with, and teaching, others.

The school of hard knocks never issues a diploma, but it does yield a lifetime of experience.  That experience only counts if you take the time to pass it on to someone else.

 

 

Image Credit

The Truth about Grudges

It doesn’t take long in life for injustice to come your way.

Your mommy takes your toy away before you’re finished with it.  Injustice!  How do you deal with it?  Maybe you cry, or throw a hissy fit.  Chances are, since your attention span at 18 months is pretty short, you’ll forget about the injustice and get another toy.

Life isn’t fair, and neither are some people.  Things go wrong.  Plans get up-ended.  Promises aren’t always kept.  A friend or family member may offend us.  Someone we love may destroy themselves with addiction.  We might be the victim of a heinous crime.

Live long enough, and the injustices (both real and imaginary) will pile up.  What to do?  Crying may be appropriate.  And there’s nothing like the emotional release of a good hissy fit every now and then.  But, after that, then what?

The easy thing to do is turn each injustice into a grudge.  That way, you can stack the latest grudge on top of the others you’re carrying.  If your grudges become disorganized, you can spend some quality time dwelling on them and get them reorganized.  If they get too heavy, enlisting the help of others to carry some of your grudges is always helpful.

The burden of a grudge is carried by the victim.  The perpetrator, whether real or not, carries no such burden.  The perpetrator may carry regret, but they feel none of the weight of your grudge.

In our quest to never forget the lessons of an injustice, we wrap these lessons inside the grudge.  It’s a package deal.

For this reason, letting go, forgiving, can seem impossible.  Forgiveness runs counter to our natural instincts.  But forgiveness is about much more than survival.  It’s about finding a way to thrive with a clear focus on the things in life that really matter.

Letting go of a grudge doesn’t mean ignoring the lesson.  It means freeing yourself from the weight that only you are carrying.

 

 

 

I don’t have time to think!

I heard this phrase the other day.  To be fair, the manager saying it was joking.  However, about fifteen minutes into our discussion, her phone buzzed and she (almost compulsively) checked it.  She looked up and apologized that she needed to respond.  It would only take a minute.

After finishing her response, she was back and totally focused on our discussion.  Where were we, anyway?  I wasn’t exactly sure, but I did write the following in my meeting notes:

I don’t have time to think, I’m too busy responding.

Have you fallen into this trap?  Are you so busy responding that you don’t have time to think?  Thinking takes time, energy, and discipline.  Responding requires only two of these resources.  Guess which one’s missing when all we do is respond.  Discipline.

Discipline is a choice.  Discipline helps us consciously think about the world as it comes at us.  Discipline provides the space to consider alternatives, and imagine new possibilities.  Discipline helps determine if a response is needed at all.

Happily Ever After

In fairy tales (and many books and movies), we spend most of the story learning how our happy couple meets and falls in love.  We learn about the challenges they must overcome in their quest to be together.  Suspense builds to a fever pitch as the forces of evil do everything in their power to keep this couple from fulfilling their destiny…togetherness forever.  If the story has a happy ending (and most do), they live happily ever after.  The End.

Real life is all about the happily ever after part.  It’s about what happens after the couple rides off into the sunset in their horse-drawn chariot, or charcoal grey Honda Civic.  Happily ever after requires curiosity and a spirit of adventure.  It’s nurtured by a willingness to work and grow together.  It requires the triumphs of success and the lessons of failure.  It requires faith, hope, and most of all, happiness.

Happiness doesn’t come from anywhere but within.  Couples (hopefully) learn quickly that their happiness (both individually, and as a couple) is driven by their thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

Our pathways alone bring neither happiness, nor sadness.  We bring these ourselves, wherever we go.

As my wife and I celebrate 25 years of Happily Ever After today, I am eternally grateful for the happiness she brings to our journey every day.

No One is “Just a…”

“I don’t know the answer, I’m just a temp.”

“I can’t authorize that refund, I’m just a cashier.”

“Clearly, nobody here cares what I think.  I’m just a worker bee.”

“I could probably help those wounded veterans, but I’m just a private citizen.  I’m sure there’s a government agency for that.”

“There’s no way I could ever do that job.  I’m just a high school graduate.”

Listen closely, and you’ll hear the “I’m just a…” phrase applied in many circumstances.  You may even use it yourself.  I’ve inflicted it on myself a time or two (or three).

Ownership is risky.  It requires personal responsibility, a willingness to step up, make hard choices, and be held accountable for your actions.  “I’m just a…” is a ticket to minimizing the expectations we place on ourselves.

The Dark Side

“Just a…” has an even darker side.  It can be used to limit the expectations we place on those around us:

  • “John’s a decent manager, but he’s really just a guy keeping the trains coming in on time.  I doubt he could step into anything new.”
  • “She’s just a summer intern, so I don’t expect her to light the world on fire for us.”
  • “He’s just a beginner, so we need to cut him some slack.”
  • “She’s just a kid.”
  • “He’s just a drug addict, so he will never amount to much.”

When expectations are minimized, minimized outcomes usually follow.

Applying the “just a…” phrase to anyone, including ourselves, ignores potential.  It ignores our ability to grow, change, improve, and amaze.

What Are You Saying?

When talking to your friends, family, employees, or anyone else, do you use encouraging words, or discouraging words?

The words and tone you choose matter.  They reflect, and impact, your attitude.  Your words are the window into your perspective on the world.

Choose discouraging words, and you actively create a discouraging environment for those around you.

Choose encouraging words, use encouraging questions, and guess what…you create an encouraging environment.

The power to create an encouraging environment, an encouraging attitude, is in your hands everyday.

Here’s an exercise for you.  Seek out three people to encourage today.  Encourage them with your words, your questions, and your actions.  Show them that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.  Be appreciative of their unique efforts and skills.  Actively consider how to help them be more successful in achieving their goals.  Repeat this exercise everyday.

Does this exercise make you uncomfortable?  If so, maybe you should be the first person you seek out to encourage.

Life’s Been Good to Me, So Far

dad_NHRA_2013

Songs have an almost magical way of transporting us back to another time.  One song in particular makes me think of my dad…Joe Walsh’s, “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far.”  Every time I hear it, I’m about eleven years old, very early in the morning, on the way to Escape Country.  This song is playing on the radio.  I know my mom and brother were there too, but when it comes to this song, my memory only conjures up my dad.

Escape Country is long gone.  In the ‘70’s, Escape Country was a motorcycle riding park in Orange County, located about ten miles from Cook’s Corner.  I’m pretty sure Dove Canyon is built mostly where Escape Country used to be.

“I have a mansion, forget the price

Ain’t never been there they tell me it’s nice”

My dad has a way of focusing on the task at hand, while having fun.  In this case, his task was being the president of the Hilltoppers Motorcycle Club, and this was our annual Gran Prix race weekend at Escape Country.  A series of 60-90 minute races with various motorcycle sizes and rider skill levels, ranging from mini-bikes to 500cc’s, and beginner to expert.

“My Maserati does 185

I lost my license now I don’t drive”

The president of the club has overall responsibility for the race, and works with everyone else in the club to create the best possible racing experience for the racers. On race days, one of my dad’s specific jobs was to line up each race at the start.  I was amazed by the way my dad was able to keep everything straight.  How did he know which bikes went where?  It was always noisy, dusty, and confusing to me.  And yet, he’d refer to a small piece of paper, look at the numbers on the bikes and immediately know where they were supposed to go.  I remember he’d often carry a wooden stake to use as a pointer.  He might as well have been an orchestra conductor in my eyes.

“I’m making records my fans they can’t wait

They write me letters tell me I’m great”

These were dead-engine, Le Mans-style starts.  The bikes were on one side of the track, and the racers were lined-up on the other side.  When my dad dropped the banner (which I helped raise and lower), the racers would run across the track, jump on their bikes, hope they started on the first kick, and, in a cloud of dust and rocks, they’d be racing down into the first turn.

“So I got me an office gold records on the wall

Just leave a message maybe I’ll call”

My dad took the time to watch about the first five minutes of each race, and then he was focused on preparing the start for the next race.  This meant re-making the white lines to delineate the starting positions.  I remember one of my jobs was to mark off the distance between the lines.  I know now that he probably didn’t need my help, but at the time, I was a key part of the process.

“Lucky I’m sane after all I’ve been through

Everybody says I’m cool (He’s cool)”

Amazingly, my dad always seemed to wrap up the start-line preparations with fifteen to twenty minutes to spare before the next race was to start.  This was enough time to jump on his bike and ride to various spots, checking-in with other members of the club to get a status from them.  We didn’t have radios or cell phones back then, so communications happened the old fashioned way:  face-to-face.  He also had time to watch a bit more racing, and then back to the starting area to coordinate the newly arriving racers for the next race.

“I go to parties sometimes until four

It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door”

My job during the down time?  Riding over to the sign-up area on our Honda Trail 50 to get the piece of paper with numbers that he used as the basis for setting up the next race.  Sometimes, while at sign-up, I’d get involved in helping the sign-up crew for a few minutes before returning to the starting area.  Again, I was a key part of the process.

“They say I’m lazy but it takes all my time

Everybody says Oh yeah (Oh yeah)”

When the last race of the weekend ended, the work was far from over.  Course markings, ribbons, barricades, banners, and everything else that we’d put up in preparation for the race had to be taken down.  Most of the items would be reused in following years, so the put-away process was almost as important as the put-up process.  I wanted nothing more than to help.  I wanted to be like my dad.  Doing anything other than working toward the goal of finishing the job never entered my mind.  I was part of my dad’s team and that is all that mattered.

“It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame 


Everybody’s so different I haven’t changed”

Thank you, Dad, for always making me a key part of the process.  Thank you for always trusting me to be at your side.  Thank you for always knowing I could do the things you asked of me.  Thank you for having confidence in me, even if I wasn’t so sure.  Thank you for making me a valuable part of your team.

“I keep on going, guess I’ll never know why 


Life’s been good to me so far”   

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  I love you.

Scrambled Eggs or Omelets?

2011-09-22-Omelet4

Scrambling eggs is easy:

Whip a couple of eggs in a bowl

Pour the mixture in a heated pan, preferably over melted butter

Stir randomly until the eggs are cooked

Less stirring equals larger egg pieces.  More stirring equals smaller egg pieces.

Enjoy with Cholula.

What about omelets?  A little more complicated:

Determine what you want in your omelet

Slice-up and/or pre-cook (sauté) the filling ingredients

Whip a couple of eggs in a bowl

Pour the egg mixture in a heated pan

Let the egg mixture sit in the pan until mostly cooked

Flip

Add your filling ingredients

Fold the egg over the ingredients

Enjoy with Cholula.

The main ingredient (the humble egg) is the same for both.  The process you choose determines the outcome.

Scrambled eggs require very little planning.  The variation in outcome is based upon the amount of mixing during the cooking cycle.

Omelets require planning, decision making, preparation, patience, and finesse.  They also require practice, and the acceptance of potential failure.

If your omelets consistently come out scrambled, the egg isn’t the problem.