There are two more days until Christmas. There are so many emotions that come to the surface during the holidays. For me it’s an amazing time to reflect on faith as well as being grateful. My best “present” each year is my daughter Melanie because she was born on Christmas Day 25 years ago this coming Tuesday !!
I also know that the holiday season can bring about a ton of mixed emotions that may not all be positive. I ache for those who struggle because there aren’t enough good words to try and help people through what they’re facing. When you have conversations, you want to help so desperately and offer possible solutions. Honestly, most people don’t want solutions, they want your presence.
As we come to the end of another phenomenal year, I am more and more thankful for the people in my life. This ranges from my family to my co-workers to the thousands (not an exaggeration) of HR and business connections that I cherish from SHRM, the global HR community and social media.
I can’t come up with the appropriate words to capture this sentiment of the value of connections. However, I can always rely on one of my favorite philosophers that I grew up with – Bill Watterson. Who’s he? He’s the genius creator of Calvin & Hobbes. So, I want to wish you all a phenomenal Christmas and holiday season and I’m sending you a “best present.”
Thanks for being a connection. Trust me, you matter to me and the lives of others !!
We’re in the midst of the holiday season. You can’t escape the endless string of Christmas music or the many, many television channels completely dedicated to Christmas movies. Every retail location is decorated to the hilt as well. You can’t escape it.
Now, I’m not complaining, and this isn’t a Grinch post railing against the commercialism of the holidays. I enjoy most facets of this season. Most. The one area where I struggle every year is shopping for others. I have never been a list person in any aspect of my life. That isn’t a cry for help and a need for more structure and organization. It’s just a fact. My amazing wife is a list person and it suits her well. So, when she asks for gift ideas for myself or my kids she gets an audible groan.
The whole idea of roaming from store to store and aisle to aisle gives me the shakes !! It’s not the thought of spending too much money on things. It’s because I do so much people watching that I don’t pay attention to the items that could be potential purchases. I’m not “focused” according to my family because they are much more apt to locate, compare and acquire. They can accomplish all of their shopping in a matter of hours. This is true whether they go out to stores or browse various internet sites.
This year I took a new approach. I changed my attitude about shopping and decided to keep an open mind about the experience. Instead of being filled with dread, I was positive because I included a “gift.” The gift was my time. I chose to intentionally be with my wife and enjoy every interaction and encounter. Ironically, this is how I approach most every day outside of the holiday season. Taking a simple shift in MY attitude made an incredible difference !!
For the first time since I can recall, I enjoyed shopping. The lists had beautiful lines running through completed purchases. Debbie and I laughed often and found some surprises outside of the list which filled me with glee. We were even able to get some people watching in. I was patient and kept my wife calm because she doesn’t like large crowds.
You see, giving Debbie my time on purpose meant more to her than anything written down on a list. It was a phenomenal reminder of how powerful giving someone else your time is. As the quote notes, your time is priceless because you can’t get it back !! It goes to the other person and then time moves on.
We all tend to feel that time is fleeting and that we never have enough. That just isn’t true. We get frustrated because we don’t have enough time for what WE want. Our self-centeredness dominates our daily activities and where we choose to spend our time. I’m not pointing fingers because this affects me as well.
This week, and this holiday season, shift your approach. Give your time to others. This will take more effort than you think it will. It’s not like you can just turn this off and on like a switch. Giving your time to others takes a concerted effort. I’d even recommend that you start looking at how you can give your time to others on a consistent basis throughout the year. Get ahead of the whole New Year’s resolution nonsense that is just around the corner.
Time is something we ALL possess !! Make it your gift.
This past week we celebrated Thanksgiving in the States. It is my favorite holiday because it is a chance to step back, reflect and give thanks for all that you have. We kept things low key as my immediate family gathered. It was wonderful to spend time and cook with my wife and two kids (adults). Everyone pitched in as we put our meal together and each person was responsible for a dish. After eating we watched a little football and then a new Christmas movie on Netflix.
The following day we continued our family tradition by putting up Christmas decorations throughout the house as well as lights in the front yard. This time always brings the four of us together and helps us break out of the crazy pace we all seem to follow. The break was needed for all of us.
Now, I know this isn’t “unique” to many situations that happened this past week. Most of the people that I regularly talk to, or hang out with, were fortunate to have similar Thanksgiving gatherings. I was reminded, however, about the power of being thankful for what I have . . . not what I lack.
Too often our days are filled with all that’s “missing” or desired. Few people ever seem content with how life, work and relationships are going. There seems to be a missing component somehow. If someone is grateful, or satisfied, with how things are going, others seem sarcastic, doubtful or challenging. You may even hear someone retort that if you’re not always going after more and more, then you’re actually slipping behind.
To be honest, this negative mindset is exhausting to me. I ache when I hear that people are struggling. I also understand that there are tangible and legitimate mountains that people face every day in regards to all facets of life. I’m not naive. However, I choose to be grateful in the midst of all situations that I face. This runs against the grain of how most people face each day, but I’m good with that.
To help in launching a counter movement to what society has to offer, I choose to encourage others, connect others and let others know that I am thankful for who they are. This simple approach is daunting because every comment is often met with resistance. The key is to keep moving forward and be persistent. I truly believe that being genuinely consistent in this approach breaks through in the end.
This week take note of all that you currently have in your life regardless of your circumstances. I’m sure that you’ll find a mix of friends, family and connections all within reach. Tell them that you’re grateful for them and how they impact your life. Don’t let it pass by as an assumption. Make a call. Write a note. Send a text. Whatever it takes, let them know how much they matter to you and others. Who knows? It may be just the spark they needed.
There is always some level of risk when you delve into the world of politics. I’m cool with that because this is a topic that is critical in my opinion. Now, take a deep breath before you read on. This isn’t a post that is for or against any candidate or issue. I don’t know how to do that objectively because everyone has different views, beliefs and affiliations.
One thing I hope we all can agree on is this . . . voting.
I believe in voting so much because I know the power that casting your ballot has. I’ve been able to vote over the past 30+ years and I’ve never missed the opportunity. Not once. It didn’t matter to me if the issues were “insignificant” to most. It was important to me to vote. This included ballots for local school levies (and my kids are grown), emergency services levies, local political offices to be filled, etc. My parents instilled this behavior in me, and they both have been personally active their entire life. In fact, my Mom still works the polls and she just turned 80.
There are a few observations that I do want to mention that I see as obstacles for people participating. The first is the unending negativity that comes at us from every forum, platform and form of media. You never hear what a person can do or desires to do. You only hear how horrible their opposition is. Amazing that we are asked to make choices on who is less awful. If you know me at all, I’m not a negative person and don’t understand it. It takes some time and effort to look past the barrage of crud to see where people and/or issues stand, but it’s worth it to be educated and informed.
Secondly, when people say that they “don’t have the time” I shake my head. Millions of people have no problem voting often for their favorite reality show characters on a variety of shows each week. We can make time to vote for entertainment choices, but not on candidates that may shape policy for years to come. It doesn’t make sense. I know that voting makes us drive out of our way on our normal commute, and that it doesn’t “fit” our regular schedule. However, it’s worth being put out.
I’ve seen local school levies pass by less than ten votes. I’ve seen people get into office more because people chose not to show up to the polls than to actually receive votes. I’d rather see people be active in making a choice than to see someone take office just because voting was inconvenient.
This week I encourage you to go to the polls and choose. I understand that we live in challenging, divergent and even divisive times. One thing you can do to affect this takes only a few minutes.
Today is a very meaningful day for many families. Memorial Day is when we remember those who lost their lives in military service. My biological dad served in the Vietnam War. He was different than many people who were drafted. He voluntarily enlisted in the Army. It was his best option after high school.
My father was a Staff Sargent who went into combat with other men. My mom told me that he didn’t talk about warfare much and she never pressed him to do it. He would share about friends and fellow soldiers who laid down their lives with empathy and sadness. He loved his men, and from what I’ve learned, they had a great relationship with him as well.
My dad fought in the battle of Da Nang and was wounded. The day before the battle, Agent Orange was used to clear the foliage. His unit was the one that went in first to any conflict. After he was shot, he couldn’t be removed from the field of battle for 24 hours. So, he lied motionless with a massive wound to his neck and was exposed to the residue of the chemicals laid down earlier. Shortly after the battle, my dad developed cancer. He had non hodgkin’s lymphoma and he died a few short months later. That was 1968 and I was four years old.
Please understand that I’m not upset. I am very proud of my father and that he served his country. Do I wish I could have had him grow old with me and see what has happened over the past 50 years? Of course. However, I believe that life happens the way it was designed. I’m fortunate that he fell in love with my mom and that I was born. He helped give me life. That never goes away.
A few weeks ago I was home visiting my parents (my mom got remarried to my dad and he’s awesome !! They’ve been going on 42 years of marriage themselves.) They’re getting to the stage of life where they’re parsing out things to my brother and I to make sure that they stay in the family. My mom said, “I have a box of your dad’s things that I want you to have.” I wasn’t sure what that meant. She told me it was back in the den and I retrieved a fire proof box that was packed full. I was anxious to see what was inside, but waited until I returned home.
When I couldn’t wait any longer, I carefully opened the box. Inside was more information and memories of my father than I had ever known. There are military records, pictures, and patches from his military uniforms. I had some patches from him in the past that sit in a shadow box in my family room.
There was one other treasure in the box. There were hand written letters that my dad wrote to my mom when he was away from her. They were simple and full of love. It was like hearing his voice. They were conversational and poignant. Tears streamed down my face as I took in every word. Fifty years later I was sitting together in my house with my dad.
On Memorial Day, remember and be thankful. We are all able to enjoy the lives we have today because there are those who served and sacrificed. This box reminded me of the gift of my father’s life who is still touching others long after he has gone.
I hope that I can live my life in a way that honors who he was and what he did. Have a great Memorial Day !!
This past weekend my amazing daughter accomplished something 21 years in the making !! (if you start from Kindergarten) She earned her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy from the University of Indianapolis. To say that my wife and I are proud would be a gross understatement.
I know there are many families who are celebrating the graduations of their children from high schools and colleges all over the world. It’s a milestone that still gives me chills to see people reach any level of education. There are countless hours of studying, research papers, projects and presentations. Each one seems daunting at the time they’re due for both the student and their parents. So, I want to wish a hearty congratulations for everyone celebrating graduations this Spring and Summer. Make sure to enjoy them.
Now, back to my daughter Melanie . . .
There were 52 people in her class who earned their Doctorate this weekend, and they are all part of the inaugural doctoral class at UIndy. There were many proud parents, spouses, partners, children and extended family. It was wonderful because we don’t have enough times in our days where there is only positive energy. You didn’t hear one complaint. Instead, you could hear an audible sigh of relief from everyone involved.
We have been so fortunate over the academic portion of Melanie’s life. She has been at the top of her class ever since she began school. She never faltered and pressed herself to succeed. My wife and I expected both of our kids to perform, but left it to them to do the work and get the results they’ve earned. She continued excelling throughout high school, undergraduate and throughout her graduate studies. She ended up with a 3.93 GPA out of 4.00 in her doctoral program. (I know, slacker. She left .07 on the table !!)
More than any academic achievement, we’re proud of who our daughter is as a young woman. She is someone who has a strong faith and a heart for others. She has served people in many different arenas around the world including Ghana and many inner cities throughout the U.S. She attracts others like a magnet and is a close friend to many. You’ll find her to be selfless and yet self-aware and confident. She’s also fiercely funny and a joy to be around. My wife and I often heard from teachers, friends and their families how much they enjoy having Melanie around.
Remember how I said I was proud ??
We’re most impressed by what a great human Melanie has become. She is positive and does her best to bring life and light to all she encounters. You can’t ask much more than that from your children.
Now, like all of those other graduates, she steps out to take her next step. The difference this time is that she won’t be going to another school. She’ll soon be sitting for her boards and then will enter the workforce somewhere. I’m geeked that she’ll be in a field where she’s taking care of humans because that is what she was made to do.
There were many tears shed and they glistened on my face at every event I attended. It’s hard to believe that 24 plus years ago I held this beautiful little girl born on Christmas Day. And, from now on, I get to call her Dr.
This past weekend I traveled back to my hometown for a sobering event. The father of a dear friend of mine from high school passed away. I know this isn’t unique to any of us because we will all face the loss of those who are close to us at some time or another. I relished the opportunity to go back to my hometown because it’s like going inside a Norman Rockwell painting. Seriously.
I grew up in Ada, Ohio which has 5,600ish residents. It’s the type of place where everyone knows everyone and has for generations. I went to a school where every grade, Kindergarten through 12th Grade, was in one building (and still is). Walking into the Ada Baptist Church was like walking back in time. I immediately saw dear friends that I unfortunately hadn’t seen for anywhere from between 10 to 30 plus years. However, it was like we never missed a beat.
After a beautiful service and celebration of my friend’s father, we all gathered in the Fellowhip Hall for a meal and a chance to catch up. I immediately hooked up with my High School classmates and we asked about what has happened since we last saw each other. Then, we shared memories and laughed. We laughed so hard and so long, my ribs ached and my head hurt. It was magnificent !!
The time flew by and we didn’t want it to end. We all exchanged our contact information and agreed to get together again soon because we all agreed that we had waited far too long. It was bittersweet to leave the church and head back into my regular life. I did get to hang out with my brother and parents for a few more precious hours before I headed home.
As my wife and I headed back towards our home two hours away, I reflected on the day. I was thankful that she was so incredibly supportive and allowed me to reconnect with my mates. It made me also realize something that I had overlooked way too often.
The people in our lives on purpose. (Even if it’s only for a small slice of time.)
We walk through each day caught up in endless distractions all begging for our attention. Most of those, by the way, we seek out even though we complain about them. There are tons of people who move in and out of our days. Do you take the time to notice them? Or, do you take them for granted because they serve some functional role that is yet another cog in your day?
You’re missing out on so much because it isn’t a mistake that these folks are in your life. That includes your family, your friends, your co-workers and the folks you encounter when you go to various places. As HR professionals, we need to wake people up so that they stop running to keep up with everything to intentionally connect with the humans all around them.
This is an opportunity for us to lead in our organizations. It shouldn’t take a significant life event or business calamity to bring people together.
I know that I was fortunate to grow up in a quaint town with an amazing family. To have friends that I still can hang out with is also a blessing. I don’t think this has to be an exception. I think it can be your norm.
This week pause, stop and breathe. Then, reflect on someone in your life that you may have drifted from that you’d like to see how their life is going. I know they’d appreciate it, and so would you.
Understand that others are in your life on purpose !!
Treat people this way and see how your life begins to enrich and grow. I hope you’ll get a chance to share great memories and new experiences as well !!
There’s a very cool place that is a five minute drive from my house called Station Road Farm. Many towns have a place like this where you can buy flowers, produce, mulch, pumpkins, etc. It is a popular location because it’s a farm that seems to have been dropped in the middle of a suburb. This has been a favorite shopping option for my family for years. It gave me a chance to keep close to my roots because I grew up on or near a farm for most of my youth, and my kids got to have a quasi-farm experience.
I remember on my relative’s farms that there were always animals. There would be multiple dogs and cats that just seemed to come with the whole environment. So, when we visited Station Road Farm, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the same thing. When my kids were very young, we were making a visit to pick up tomatoes and corn when they were distracted by new kittens roaming around the property. The cashier was very observant and she looked down to my daughter and said, “The kittens are free to a good home. Would you like to take one?” My daughter got those big eyes that kids get when they want something, and she cooed, “Can we Dad?” We didn’t have any pets at home, and I couldn’t say no to those eyes. I said, “If you see one that comes up to you, I’ll think about it.”
As if divine providence was upon her, a small yellow kitten started wrapping itself around and around my daughter’s legs. She squealed and said, “Dad, look !!” We drove back home and picked up my wife and son and brought them back to see the kitten. They loved him too. That was the day Bailey came home with us. We weren’t prepared and had nothing needed to take care of a new pet. So, we made a trip to the store and bought everything we needed – and then some.
That was 14 years ago. He has been a wonderful part of our family who had some very unique qualities. Every night when the kids came home from school, or Debbie and I came home from work, he was at the door to greet us. Every. Night. He also loved playing fetch by chasing a small rainbow striped ball up and down our basement steps forever. Bailey was never a lap cat, but he was ever present. If we were in a room, he was there with us. He always knew where we were and he did his rounds to check on everyone to make sure things were good.
This weekend Bailey passed. We fondly shared stories of his life. There were visits to elementary school for Show & Tell with both kids. Then there was the time of how he survived a thunderstorm when he fell out through a screen on our second floor and stayed on a small strip of the roof soaked and mewing until we pulled him in. He begged at the table and was a fan of lunch meat and licking tuna cans clean. Everyone is biased about having the “best” pet ever, but I would say that Bailey was the best fit for our family. I don’t think there’s any better description that fits him. I’m so thankful he chose to wrap around my daughter’s legs.
I know that I normally write about how to make HR better, but we need to remember that our lives are so much more than our chosen occupation. We have so little actual time truly interacting with people even though we feel it consumes every waking moment of our time at work.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the encounters and interactions you have with people, I challenge you to cherish them instead. People pass in and out of our lives daily. Instead of letting them pass you by, be intentional and connect with them. Who knows, you may be the exact connection they needed at the exact time they needed it.
Value others. Celebrate their lives and the time you have with them. Never take it for granted and be thankful for the time you have.
Thanks Bailey for being a vital member of the Browne family !!
This past week I lost a dear friend. His name is Jay.
His passing wasn’t expected. He was driving home after work when debris came through his windshield and killed him instantly. The news was as staggering as the way he passed. It doesn’t seem possible that a peer is gone. Life isn’t supposed to progress this way. We had hoped to grow old together and spend time with our families, children and (hopefully) grandchildren.
Fortunately, I was able to travel out of town to participate in his visitation and funeral service. That meant the world to me because Jay was one of my closest friends on the planet. I was one of the people asked to share at his service and it was the most challenging speech I’ve ever given. I’ve been fortunate to speak in front of thousands of people at a time, and that was easier than this.
When I was putting my remarks together, there were tears mixed with laughter. Jay was one of the smartest people I’ve every known – literally. He was a PhD scientist who did research to try to help cure cancer. He was a model husband and father who loved them with his life, his time and his focus. He only ever said kind and positive things about them. Jay and I could “nerd out” together while enjoying conversations ranging from the genius of Monty Python to the deep meaning of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and movies.
Our families literally grew up together through the birth of our kids until now some 20+ years. We’ve laughed together, worshiped together, camped together and shared many other experiences. I saw Jay every week for the 13 years we lived in the same city. His job took him to Illinois and finally Wisconsin, but we never grew apart.
The greatest thing I can share about Jay is that he made an eternal impact on my life. Now that he’s gone, I feel that impact even more. Jay literally took in every aspect of life. He didn’t miss a thing. He was very observant and it was a joy to be with him on hikes out on a trail because you’d experience the fullness of nature instead of hurrying to get your number of steps in.
Jay also did this with the people in his life. He never missed a person and made sure to get to know you and interact with you. Ironically, he was a quiet, humble man who would meet you with ease versus bravado. He listened to your stories and laughed often !!
His life is a reminder and an example for me and for others. In today’s world everyone seems to be consumed with politics and taking sides or the misadventures of celebrities we will probably never meet in person. I would challenge you to get out of these constant distractions and look at the people you encounter every. day.
That is where we can leave a mark. You see, you leave an impact every time to you interact with others. You just need to choose if that will be a positive impact or a negative one. Either way, it will happen. I choose to be like Jay and pour into the lives of all the people who cross my path. Intentionally meeting them and seeing who they are and what their life is like. It matters.
One of the final experiences I had in person with Jay that left an impact on us both was seeing U2 live in Chicago at Soldier’s Field with two more best friends. We took in every note and sang every lyric. It was another lifelong memory as every one was with Jay. He loved U2 just as we all did, and still do.
I’ll leave you with one of their songs, Grace, which has a lyric which says “Grace finds goodness in everything.”
That was Jay. I loved my friend and miss him immensely. I know we’ll see each other again some day, and it will be just as wonderful as it has been for all these years.
I am very fortunate to be a father. I mean that. This is something that I wanted to become at some point in my life. I am also very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by an extended family where I saw strong fatherhood models both from their personal example and how they loved their spouse and their children.
In today’s society, fatherhood has a tarnished image. Most of this is honestly earned because of those who haven’t been able to be a model father. Please note that this post isn’t in any way meant to exemplify one father versus another. Parenting is not easy. It never has been. No one gives you an “owners manual” once you are blessed to be able to have children in your family.
Most dads I know have followed the example of being men who work hard and often too long. They are trying to provide for their families, but their extended hours often eat into time that could have been spent with their kids. Kids may not understand the sacrifice that is being made while it is happening, but I hope they do see it as they grow older.
My wife and I have two kids who are now adults. As I type this, I’m being a “dad” who is off at a conference for HR which is my chosen profession. I will be out of town and away from them on Father’s Day. My entire family is incredibly supportive of me professionally, and they always have been. Now, get ready for an amazing story . . .
Outside of our house we had a dwarf evergreen in our front flowerbed. It was there when we moved in back in 1991. We enjoyed it as part of our landscaping and gave us some “curb appeal.” I was told by a friend who is a landscaper that it would never grow much because of the type of evergreen it was. He was wrong.
This small tree grew more and more every year. The tree became a prime background for family pictures. My wife and I stood in front of it as did my parents and friends who visited. It also was a great tree to decorate with lights every Christmas season and when the snow fell on it with the lights twinkling through, it was beautiful.
When our daughter Melanie was born, we took pictures of the three of us in front of the tree. As our son Josh came along we now had a family of four and the tree had grown along with our family. The biggest tradition we had was taking the kids picture in front of the pine on the first day of school each year. We did this from Kindergarten through their Senior year in High School. As the kids grew, so did the tree. They were never taller than the pine that wouldn’t grow, and we had to use a step ladder to get lights all the way to the top each year after awhile.
Recently, the tree began to die and become browned and brittle. We decided just this Spring to take it down. It was an emotional day because of so many memories.
Now to today . . .
As I settled in my room and began to unpack my clothes and get ready for the conference, I saw three envelopes with cards and a small white bag with green tissue paper covering some odd shapes. The cards were for Father’s Day. As I opened them, tears streamed down my face. The cards were hilarious and filled with handwritten notes that made me laugh through my tears. I then pulled out the tissue paper and unwrapped it to find this . . .
My “adults” had taken the trunk of the pine and cut two sections off to make this as my Father’s Day present. The ornament is our family initial for “Browne” and the other is a picture of them in front of the tree at Easter. Speechless.
This Father’s Day hug a Dad. The majority of them are doing the best they can. Yes, they work hard and put in long hours. They all hope that over the years they have planted seeds in their kids to leave a legacy and some deep roots of faith and family. They’re the tree that is the background of their family’s pictures.