|There is an old saying from Margaret Atwood which says, “You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.” The reason I send you a story, like this, each month is because stories remind us of who we are. I hope you find a piece of yourself in this story:Once upon a time, two brothers were venturing from town to town. Along the way, they saw an old man with a white beard carrying a heavy sack over his shoulder. The old man stopped and asked the boys where they were headed. When he found out, he told them, “I want to help you.” He put a hand in his pocket and pulled out a handful of golden coins. “Which one of you wants these?” he asked.“I want them,” replied the big brother immediately.The old man then put a hand in his other pocket and pulled out a precious gem, shining like the sun, and asked again, “And who wants to have this gem?”“I want it,” the big brother answered hastily. The old man gave him the coins and the gem.Then the old man put down his sack and said, “Now who is going to help me carry this sack to the village?”The big brother said nothing. But the little brother pulled up his sleeves and bent down to help him.The old man smiled and said, “Take it with you, my boy, along with everything that is inside.”“No,” said the younger brother. “It’s not mine.”“Take it.. take it.” said the old man. “It’s my gift to you.”The little brother opened the sack, and what did he see? The bag was filled with gold coins and precious gemstones. He stood up to thank the old man, but he was nowhere to be found.Whether you are the big brother – who is assertive and leaps toward opportunity, or the little brother – who believes in hard work, or the old man – who remembers to be fair and generous, I hope you find the best of who you are in this story.|
|The Speed of Love|
Do you ever wonder what happened to the lost art of writing love letters? Or what about ‘mixtapes’ that were the equivalents of musical love letters, painstakingly compiled and delivered with adoration? As Valentine’s Day approaches, I started thinking about these things.Technology has changed the way we communicate and express love. For hundreds of years, the speed of communication stayed fairly constant. From smoke signals to the Pony Express, our ability to improve communication was based on speeding up the delivery of our message. But then in 1988, the internet was born and in the early 90’s, it changed the way we communicate distinctly and significantly… forever!Why write a love letter when we can tell someone “I Love You,” and share that sentiment anywhere in the world, in milliseconds? What used to take a sailor at sea, weeks or months to send or receive a message, can now be blasted through Facebook, Instagram or TikTok at the speed of light.But speed will never replace heart-felt sentiments. And maybe that’s why we get excited when we get a handwritten, stamped card in the mail. Someone took the time – to select or make the card, write a note, put a stamp on it, and finally mail it – to tell you how they feel. And maybe we need more of that these days.Happy Valentine’s Day and remember to tell the people you care about that you love them, even with the simplest technology – your words.
|A young apprentice approached the town baker asking to learn the art of baking bread. He promised to work hard and follow instructions precisely. The baker happily accepted the young apprentice.The baker began by saying, “First, we must prepare our baking room and assemble our ingredients. Today, we will be using ingredients from each of the four elements: wheat from the earth, yeast from the air, and water and salt from the sea. The fourth element of fire will transform these ordinary ingredients and produce something entirely wonderful and new – a rich crusty loaf of bread, which is far grander than any of the ingredients alone.”The apprentice followed instructions and even worked ahead preparing the area, cleaning without the slightest break. At one point even thinking the old baker may have taken a few too many breaks.The two had worked from dawn until dusk, the apprentice was exhausted but finally, it was time to take the bread out of the oven. The apprentice noticed his loaf did not rise and expand like the baker’s. “Why is my loaf heavy and flat, and yours is light and airy? I used the same flour, the same water and the same yeast as you, yet your bread is so different from mine.”The baker said, “I used one more ingredient than you – time! While you were working ahead, I was taking time to relax. But the time was not only for me, it was also for the dough. Only when given undisturbed time will the gas bubbles form inside the dough, which produces both flavor and texture.”It is equally important to work hard and relax, in order to transform into something greater than we expect.|
|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.