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A mentor of mine once said, “Never evaluate your life looking forward, instead turn around and examine your progress from where you’ve come from.” As we reach the end of the year, our natural tendency is to evaluate progress, results, goals and dreams based on outcomes achieved during the calendar year. The ups and downs of this year give us the opportunity to evaluate our year and set future goals based on new measures. This year has been a great teacher and here are some important lessons I’ve learned: Instead of judging success on outcomes, measure accomplishments in adaptability.Instead of evaluating progress in distance, measure the journey by turns on the path.Instead of planning based on an imagined future, be guided by the next few steps.When measuring the successes and failures of this year, remember to include the flexibility, adjustments and loving care you’ve also provided along the way.If you’ve ever heard the quote, “A setback is a setup for a comeback,” then 2021 may become a year to remember!
In a year when everything around us has changed, most of us have become pretty good at adapting. This Thanksgiving will not be like any other holiday we have shared together. I say this because we have all been stretched to adapt and do nearly everything differently. We visit each other differently, we eat differently, and we even shop for groceries differently. But the thing is, Thanksgiving is about doing the same thing, the same way… every year. Can you remember the last time a friend or family member tried to put a new spin on a traditional dish? There was at least one person who didn’t respond well to this!No matter what changes this year, the one thing that shouldn’t change is the reason we celebrate this day together. We break bread together because we are thankful. We are thankful that we are friends, we are thankful we are family, and we are thankful that no matter what, we come together in the spirit of gratitude. Because no matter what we may do differently, we will do it differently together and that should never change.Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!
Bringing People To The Center Shortly after being forced out of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs bought a small computer manufacturer named Pixar. In 2000, he relocated the company to an abandoned factory. The original plan called for three buildings, with separate offices for computer scientists, animators, and the Pixar executives.Jobs immediately scrapped it. Instead of three buildings, he wanted a single vast space with an atrium at its center.As Pixar’s Ed Catmull explains, “The philosophy behind this design is that it’s good to put the most important function at the heart of the building. Well, what’s our most important function? It’s the interaction of our employees. That’s why Steve put a big empty space there. He wanted to create an open area for people to always be talking to each other.”Jobs saw separated offices as a design problem. He shifted the mailboxes to the atrium, then moved the meeting rooms, cafeteria, coffee bar, and gift shop to the center of the building. “The atrium initially might seem like a waste of space,” says director Brad Bird. “But Steve realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen.”Jobs insisted that the best creations occurred when people from disparate fields were connected, especially in an age of intellectual fragmentation.Steve Jobs knew his team could send a message throughout the Pixar building in a millisecond, but he created an environment that encouraged interaction. Intuitively we know Jobs is right. The content of any message can be sent and delivered around the world instantly. The context of the message is the part that helps people understand each other. For that, we still need the best communication technology ever conceived – human contact.
Many years ago a young couple with three sons bought a house in California out in the country. The previous owner, who spoke only Spanish, said something that made the couple think that gold could be found on the property. They told their sons, who began digging up the ground looking for wealth.After a few weeks much of the ground around the house had been turned over, and with no gold found, the father decided to plant some seeds: corn, tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. With his sons’ help, he grew so much that he went on to open a roadside stand to sell the extra produce for a little additional money.The boys kept digging, turning over the soil as they went deeper and deeper, allowing the couple to plant even more crops.This went on for several years. The vegetable stand prospered, and soon the couple had enough money to send all of their children to college.One day the original owner came by for a visit. He’d learned English, and he asked the couple how they’d gotten started in the vegetable business. When the husband reminded him about the gold, the first owner laughed.“I didn’t say there was gold in the soil,” he explained. “I said the soil was very rich.”And as things turned out, it was.It’s interesting how a misunderstanding can lead to good fortune, when hard work enters the equation.
Play Like You Don’t Know Better
What could you achieve if you didn’t place any limitations on yourself? Jazz pianist Art Tatum— called “the eighth wonder of the world” by Count Basie—is a perfect example of a man who knew no boundaries.Though blind, Tatum expressed an interest in the piano as a youngster. He listened to the music of Fats Waller and Lee Sims on the radio for hours, hoping that someday he would be able to perform as well as they did. Of course, that meant he’d have to learn to play, but unfortunately, like many families in the 1920’s, his had few resources to spend on music lessons. As Tatum neared adolescence, he devised his own method for learning the instrument.He persuaded friends to escort him to a local jazz club, where he was given permission to sit at the player piano. As the music played, Tatum kept his fingers hovering lightly over the falling keys, feeling his way through the songs. He practiced late into the night, as often as he could—in spite of his age, his schoolwork, and his part-time job. Learning to play piano in this manner was difficult, but not just because he was blind.What Tatum didn’t realize was that player piano rolls of that era were the result of two pianists playing together. He was learning to play with two hands what normally took four. As a result, he developed an incredible dexterity that enabled him to master the piano.Even though this story starts in the 1920’s, we are still amazed by Art Tatum’s skill and innovation one hundred years later. Art was unaware of his limitations. He did not know he was attempting the impossible; he just did the impossible. If it’s true that “necessity is the mother of invention,” then Art reminds us that not knowing something is sometimes the father of innovation.

And Change is Not the Same As Failure

I consider myself to be fairly successful in life. I’ve worked hard, I’ve been smart, and I’ve pushed through when the going got tough. I know that success is not always a straight road and that along the way, there can be unexpected changes.

Three months ago, none of us would have guessed the extent to which all our lives have changed and reorganized. I still believe that success occurs when we learn something different and do something different.

Sure, I know that sometimes there are detours… but we need to keep going towards our destination, rather than turning back or quitting. I believe that failing at something is merely a setback, and that failing is not the same as quitting!

You might be familiar with the quote by Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, who said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

I think one of the greatest gifts we can give our friends and family members, including children, is the capacity to publicly endure difficult change. They witness our strength to persevere, so they aren’t allowed to quit… and they begin to recognize the capacity for resilience within themselves.

As I look back on the first half of 2020, I am satisfied that I’ve succeeded overall, but recognize that I’ve also failed a few times. I’ve learned things I didn’t know before and am a better person–and a better resource for you.

Rocky Marciano was one of the toughest fighters we have ever seen. He ended his career undefeated, but he didn’t end his career without being hit hard and knocked down. He won 49 fights. He was knocked down twice. He was powerful. He was relentless. He was a dominant force of nature. He was also unpredictable in a sport that demands unpredictability to succeed.

I’m going to be very honest with you: March and April felt a little like fighting Rocky Marciano; it was a bit hard for me. I don’t mind telling you that because I think it is important to admit when things are challenging. The real measure of character is revealed by asking: what do we do when we’re challenged?

Typically, I’d say that I try to rise to the occasion and come up with a plan for how I’m going to forge ahead. However, given the uncertainty we’ve all been feeling, I think that we all need to pause, reflect and get back up.

Why Pause, Reflect and Get Back Up?

For that … we need Rocky Marciano again. After one of his two knockdowns, he said, “I was on my face. I heard the count from one to 10. I kept telling myself that I had to get up, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t make myself move. It was the strangest feeling.” He paused, he felt the feeling of getting knocked down and then he got back up.

During these last few months, as many of us shifted our lives to working from home, schooling from home, eating at home, playing at home and we started with a plan. Most of those plans changed quickly and then quickly changed again. And then something wonderful happened. We pressed pause and got back up and many of us learned to live in the moment.

We started to improvise, substitute, innovate and adapt. We cooked with ingredients on hand. We stayed home and tried to flatten the curve. Life is noticeably slower in a surprisingly pleasant way.

So, when our opponent is tough, we get tougher and I remember to let my plans go and adapt to become stronger than my opponent, which I realize is often myself. This is what it means to be resilient. And perhaps it is resiliency that is the most important as we get up and continue on.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Maya Angelou

We are living in a time when other people need our help. As demands increase on your time, energy and resources, I’m wondering are you also taking the time to tend to yourself?

Taking care of myself doesn’t mean ‘me first.’ It means ‘me, too.” – L.R. Knost

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook.

Now more than ever, good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also essential to a good relationship with oneself and others.

Self-care means knowing who you are and having an awareness of your limits.

Self-care means recognizing when you are doing more than you are used to, and trying to figure out the best way to maintain your well-being so you can continue to be a resource for the people you care about.

During times like this, it is important we remain connected with the people who matter most. If there is any way I can help you, please let me know. I will make time to provide my skills and expertise to you in the best way possible. Or we can just connect.

On Valentine’s Day, I wonder how many ways do you have to say, “I Love You”?

Here are 11 different ways to say it and build a strong, connected and committed relationship:

  • I thank you.
  • Please forgive me.
  • I trust you.
  • Let me help.
  • I believe you.
  • I forgive you.
  • Yes, you’re right.
  • I’m so sorry.
  • Count on me.
  • I understand you.
  • Go for it!
And of course:
  • I love you.
Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year that we specifically set aside to celebrate love. Have a beautiful day with all the people you love!
Happy Valentine’s Day!