#7Songs – Poems

I remember when my high school friend, Jamie Miller, drove up to the Mello Creme donut store where we used to hang out. As he rolled his window down music I had never heard emanated from his tape deck. He was geeked and said, “Steve, have you listened to The Wall yet?”

“What? What’s The Wall ??”

“It’s simply the BEST album I’ve ever heard !! It’s by Pink Floyd. Dude you have to get this. It’s freakin’ incredible.”

He then sped out and drove off. I was intrigued and I saved up my money because this was a double album. I didn’t want to get the cassette tape, I wanted the vinyl. After I bought the set, I consumed it. I listened to the entire thing over and over.

When the movie came out, I was one of the first to see it on the big screen and it blew my mind. I had never seen anything like it. During college I hosted an annual movie night where we’d play the best VHS tapes of the day with two exceptions. Every year we included Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Wall. My friends and I could sing every single word of the movie and never miss. This brings me to song #4 . . .

#4 – Nobody Home by Pink Floyd

Nobody Home Pink FloydIf you haven’t listened to a Pink Floyd album, then you’re missing out on the layers upon layers of sound, movement and lyrics. You’ll hear little phrases dropped in odd places, and this song captures them all. It also caught my attention because of the opening line that is lightly screamed before the song truly begins.

“I’ve got a little black book with me poems in !!”

You see, I’ve been an aspiring writer for most of my life. I have poetry that I wrote through high school and college. They captured my deepest thoughts and feelings and were a way to get things out. I kept them to myself and filled a few journals with them. Writing has a powerful way of allowing you to stretch, communicate and create.

Pink Floyd did this with this song, and honestly with all of their music !! (in my opinion) The lyrics of Nobody Home are more free flowing with little rhyming. I love it because it tells a story with random thoughts that are running through the mind of the main character of the rock opera.

I have that happen often. Random thoughts are just trying to come together and be expressed. I’ve been writing poems each week for years now as part of my HR network, so I still have the opportunity to create. I think people would enjoy what they do in their lives more if they took the time to be creative. I hope to take this up a level and compose a book. We’ll have to see. I think when I take the time to put it together, this will be playing in the background !!

 

#7Songs – Thank You

Have you ever taken a personality assessment? As an HR practitioner, I’ve taken a ton of them. I enjoy doing it and the outcome is the same every time. I’m a fierce extrovert !! I don’t even come close to the median of any extroversion scale. It’s honestly how I’ve been ever since I was very young. There are more challenges to being extroverted than you would think. One of those is finding someone who will deal with you and how you’re wired.

Meet my wife. She’s taken those same assessments and we are exactly the opposite. I wouldn’t call her a “fierce” introvert at all. I’d categorize her as a sound and grounded introvert which I find to be perfection. She caught my attention over a quarter of a century ago when she went way outside her comfort zone and asked me out !! Honestly, she took the first step to bring us together, and I’ve been thankful ever since.

Song #3 – Thank You by Led Zeppelin

I’ve always consider Led Zeppelin the quintessential rock band. There are few acts that I would classify as legendary, but Zeppelin qualifies. Many people are familiar with their hits, but few take in their whole catalog. One of the facets of the majority of my music collection is that I tend to own an artist’s entire catalog of albums. You run the risk of finding a few clunkers when you do this, but you also get to see the entire spectrum of their work.

My favorite song of theirs came from Led Zeppelin II – their second album. It’s a beautiful love song that you wouldn’t expect. It doesn’t reflect the massive, driving rock laced with  incredible vocals, lead guitar and crushing drums that capture the essence of Led Zeppelin.

Thank You ZeppelinIt’s my favorite because the lyrics of the song describe the love I have for my wife. She’s the one person on the planet who accepts me for who I am. That makes her the best partner I could have ever asked for. Now, mind you, I love her for who she is as well. We fill in the gaps in each other’s strengths and that makes for an incredible bond. When I was fortunate enough to have Debbie say “Yes” and agree to marry me, I asked her if we could have this song be our first dance.

She loved the song, but felt that Led Zeppelin may be a bit of a stretch for those that came to our wedding. I reluctantly succumbed, and we ended up using a love song from 1989 – the year we wed. The Zeppelin song has lasted just like our marriage, and it will last forever. Here’s why. Take a look at these lyrics and then click on the video and enjoy !!

“If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When the mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me.”

 

#7Songs – Not Bad at All !!

College is a time when you “grow up.” It was my first time away from home for any extended period of time and I was the only person from my town to attend Ohio University. I went there not knowing a single person. Now, you need to know that I graduated in a high school class of 73 people, and just joined a university that had 17,000 people attending at that time !! I suffered a major culture shock, but fell in love with everything the school had to offer.

JC Penney StereoMy sophomore year, I became a Resident Assistant (an RA). I was practicing HR even back then but didn’t know it. As an RA, you get a single room which meant you had a room that normally held two students all to yourself. I saved up money and purchased a JC Penney MCS Stereo System !!

It “looked” cool, but it wasn’t. Several students in the dorm had massive stereo systems with components, equalizers, woofers, etc. They could shake the building when they were turned on. Almost every day you could hear the low hum of systems just waiting to blast out music.

I started my album collection in college and EVERY Friday I would come back from classes and a full week and pull out an EP to play this song . . .

#2 – Bad (Live) by U2 from Wide Awake in America

Almost everyone has a band that they can say defined their generation and U2 is that band for me. I know that they are a group that people either adore or don’t. There really isn’t a middle ground.

I saw this song performed on a HBO special in the dorm late one night from one of their concerts and I was transfixed. I had never seen someone sing so passionately. Bono was dripping in sweat and the crowd hung on every word he sang. The Edge played the guitar in a way I had never heard before and Larry Mullen Jr. and Adam Clayton provided the solid drums and bass to keep things incredibly tight.

After a full week it felt cleansing to pull this EP out of it’s sleeve and gently put the vinyl on my stereo. I played it so incredibly loud that I could hear nothing else. As the RA, I was supposed to keep things “in line”, but I wasn’t much of a rule follower even back then. I saw U2 as a group that was changing music and I saw myself in them because I too was changing and wanted to see things change even more.

I would absolutely love to meet the band someday (another bucket list item). I continue to love everything they do, and my interest in them only grew from the time I had this EP. After I served as the chair of the Ohio SHRM State Conference, the committee was gracious enough to get me a signed copy of their Joshua Tree album. I’d like to think that I’d thank them for providing that release every Friday.

In fact, I think I’ll go dust off that EP and slap it on my turntable once again . . .

#7Songs !!

Recently, my good friend Michael Carty published a blog series noting his seven favorite songs. He was inspired by two other great friends – Tim Scott and Tony Jackson who did similar posts. These three are just a few of many friends who are music lovers. I think it’s great because music is something that brings most people together. We may have some commonality, but the wonderful thing about music is the diversity of thought and taste.

A few years ago, a few of us even started the hashtag #HRMusicShare on Twitter. We use it to share what we’re listening to as well as music related links and/or videos. It’s a great outlet that reminds us that we all have many facets in our lives, and that we’re not about work and HR only !!

The idea of #7songs is to list your favorite songs over seven days. Now, I’m sure that the songs I list may not be your faves, and that’s fine. I think it’s fascinating to hear people’s opinions because we are so passionate about what we listen to. Please note that this isn’t a series about favorite groups or artists. I could never get down to seven and trying to even pick these seven was a challenge !!

So, here we go . . .

Song #1: Barcelona by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe

I don’t know about you, but music moves me emotionally. I have music playing every minute I’m at work and also during my commute. Every once in awhile I hear something that literally brings me to tears. This song does that. Every. Time.

I’m not kidding. It is an incredibly beautiful piece that I first heard during the Barelona Summer Olympics and I loved it. I forgot about it until I was playing the 3 CD (yes, I own CD’s and vinyl !!) set of Queen’s greatest hits. When it came on, I wept. Hearing Freddie Mercury sing reminded me of how amazing he was !!

Freddie Mercury was the iconic “front man” of rock and roll. He was artistic, charismatic and incredibly gifted. The first time I heard Bohemian Rhapsody from Queen I couldn’t believe what I was hearing !! No one sang like Mercury (and few have since).

If you were in a band, what would you do? I’d love to be the front man !! To stand in front of an audience and rally them with your music would rock. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in front of thousands of screaming fans performing at Wembley Stadium. A great front man can get a crowd worked up, but they can also bring them to silence just by talking to them quietly.

I may never get a chance to be the front man for a rock band, but it’s a great bucket list dream !! I do get the opportunity to speak at HR events and I never take it lightly. It’s an awesome responsibility and gets me close to my bucket list.

This song captures the brilliance of Mercury and show the depth of his talent to be able to sing with an accomplished operatic soprano. He fits right in. When you listen to it, replay it and listen again. I’ll be joining you and be assured that the tears will well up !!

The Wisdom of Tide Pools !!

I am a big fan of Social Media. I use most of the well known forums liked Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. I dabble in Instagram and Pinterest, and am always interested in watching other platforms to see what they offer. I think they’re an incredible way to communicate with people globally and they provide avenues to connect that we didn’t have in the past.

I know there’s a negative side to Social Media and the way I look at it is just like all areas of life. If you want to find the dark side of something, you’re sure to find it. I choose not to – ever. I use the great wisdom of Eric Idle from Monty Python – “Always look on the bright side of life !!” (double exclamation points are my addition, always wanted to be a Python)

The biggest challenge for me is taking note of how I use my time on Social Media. It’s easy to get bombarded with friend requests, likes, invitations, retweets, etc. It can grab your attention and take it away from other things. Let me share a story . . .

This past week I was on vacation with my family in San Diego. It was our first time there and we rented a condo that sat up high enough on a hill to see the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean. We took in the phenomenal San Diego Zoo our first full day and I took tons of pictures of the animals and the park. The second day we went to Coronado Island and the beach. Again, incredible and tons of pics. I felt compelled to post a few !! The third day we ventured to Cabrillo National Monument which is a National Park.

Tide PoolWe decided to see the tide pools before the monument, lookout and light house. To get to the tide pools, you hike up and down the cliffs alongside the Pacific as the waves do their best to erode the shoreline every few seconds. It was physically challenging, but I wouldn’t have missed it. The views were panoramic and inspiring. We took our time and were careful as we worked our way over to the area where the pools were formed inside a rock ledge. As the kids and my wife were taking pics of their own, I leaned over one of the pools and said to my wife, “Debbie, you have to see this !! It’s beautiful !!”

And . . . then I slipped and slid down into the tide pool. I panicked and tried to push off the bottom, but never felt it. I was up to my chest (and I’m 6’4″) when I grabbed hold and pulled myself out of the tide pool. The kids yelled “Phone !! Camera !!” I yanked them out of my cargo shorts, but they were blank, black rectangles. My “swim” took less than 30 seconds.

I was safe but drenched. Everyone around asked if I was okay, and I was thankful I was. I’ve seen many posts from my friends about the need to be unplugged from Social Media and I agree with them. I’ve taken breaks, but I’ve never had one taken for me. It seems that my slip broke the chain I didn’t know I had.

When we got back on the trail to see the rest of the National Park, Debbie reminded me that I lost a phone and camera, but she could have lost me. I was only a few feet from dropping down into the ocean. A sober reminder.

The break was what I needed because it was life before Social Media and technology. The rest of the trip was better than the beginning !! We saw one of my past Eagle Scouts who is training with his brother at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista to try and make the Archery Team for the 2016 games in Rio. We climbed the California Tower at the San Diego Museum of Man and saw the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park, and we enjoyed delightful food and picturesque sunrises and sunsets.

I was missing the reason that I post, blog, tweet, etc. in the first place and that’s the people in my life. I learned a great lesson from that tide pool. It’s not the technology that’s a problem, it’s how I choose to use it.

I plan to take this lesson to heart from now on.

 

Fly Like An Eagle !!

This post isn’t a tribute to the incredible Steve Miller Band, but I may have to do that at a later time !! No, this week I’m straying from the world of HR to pay tribute to my son, Josh.

Josh as Eagle ScoutMy son became an Eagle Scout on Tuesday !! There really aren’t words that capture how proud I am of him. He has been in Scouts for almost 12 years and I was fortunate enough to travel along with him. It’s hard to picture that the little first grader who started as a Tiger Cub Scout is now a young man who will surely change the world !!

There are so many things that I love about Josh which made his Scouting experience unique and singular. My son is a free thinker who looks at the world as if it were an endless landscape. He took merit badges that others didn’t because he wanted to track things that interested him. He was disappointed that he wasn’t able to get the Truck Transportation badge before reaching Eagle. He really wanted to do this !!

Josh is smart, creative and has a sharp sense of humor. He often encouraged the other scouts in the Troop to look at things differently and try different experiences. He’s becoming a confident speaker in front of his peers and in front of crowds. It’s great to see him continue to develop and grow.

He didn’t settle on his project either. He wanted to do something that made an impact and would help many, so he decided to build a 12′ x 12′ shed for a local Animal Shelter. It was the largest project anyone in the Troop has ever attempted. He not only was successful, with the help of many of our scouts and adults from the Troop, but he also raised the most money ever for an Eagle Scout project. I’m not surprised that Josh wanted to “go big” because that’s how he sees life.

He faced a challenge that most Scouts don’t face while they work their way through ranks. His Dad was the Scoutmaster of the Troop at the same time he was moving up. Josh and I are very close. He would deny that if you asked him because our personalities are so similar. At times we are oil and water, but that never stood in his way. I can proudly say that Josh was able to develop relationships and become a strong individual even with me in the Scoutmaster role.

The other thing that I just have to say for him and about him (because we’ve talked about this) is that my son is a great example of why we shouldn’t stereotype and generalize his generation !! He is a fierce millennial and hates it when my generation (and others) say things about how his generation won’t be successful.

Did you know that only 4% of boys who start scouting become an Eagle Scout? His accomplishment has absolutely nothing to do with his age, and everything to do with his character and work ethic !!

He’s about to literally “fly” from our house as he heads to college in the Fall. It won’t be the same to not have him here to go to weekly Troop meetings on Monday night or go on another camping adventure or a national event like going with him to Sea Base. He’s not set on a firm major yet in college, but I have no doubt that he will be successful in all he does just like he was in earning this honor.

I can’t wait to see what he will do and who he will become. It will be an adventure I’m sure !!

Oh, yeah. I needed to close with this . . .

 

Be Full !!

As I type this post, I have to admit I’m spent. It’s a good feeling to be honest, but it’s also exhausting. I brought this upon myself. You see, I had the opportunity to spend the entire day out in the sun working in my yard. It was the first time since Winter and I loved it !!

I don’t know how you’ve been feeling lately, but feeling completely wiped out clears one’s head. Do you notice what most people say when you ask them how things are? The vast majority of them say, “I’m busy.” There’s never really a definition of what that means other than they apparently have a ton of things on their mind or taking up the majority of their focus.

Now, I know it’s just a word, but when I hear that people are “busy,” I hear a negative tone behind it. It seems that when you’re busy you have things that “have” to get done even though you may not enjoy doing them. Being busy also implies that you are overwhelmed and feel that others don’t share your sentiment. It’s the feeling that no one could be as busy as you are !! Having this approach is a bit daunting. The reason for it being daunting is that EVERYONE is busy !!

Full GlassA few years ago, I changed my answer when people asked me how I was. If you ask me, my answer is – “I’m full !!”  It’s true. I am. I take the chance to fill my life up every single day with things that are positive, challenging and interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that fill up my life that I’d like to change. I get upset too often and frustrated more than I should. I watch too much TV and don’t eat as well as I should. Those are facts that I can work on. They could be things that pull you down, but they don’t have to be.

To be honest, I think I could even add a few more things in to make my life even more full. You aren’t any different. Your life is full too !! The question you have to ask yourself is – Do you like what your life is filled with ??

The same is true for HR. Most HR folks I know always share how busy they are. When I hear this I can sense frustration and angst that surrounds their view of what they do. The thing that people don’t see is that if you keep the “busy” mentality, you’ll never enjoy HR because you’ll always be chasing after the things you don’t enjoy doing.

It’s time for you to become full instead !! Take the time to review what you’re doing and strip away those things that pull you down. I understand that all work has it’s purpose. How you approach it is key !! Get full and see how your day goes instead.

The next time someone asks you how you are . . . tell them you’re full !!

As You Wish.

Tomorrow I am celebrating a true milestone in my life, and the life of another.  My amazing wife Debbie and I will have been married 25 years !!  It’s incredible to think that we have literally been married for half of our lives (so far).

So, if you will allow me, I’d like to step away from penning an HR post to share our story . . .

I moved to Cincinnati back in 1986 after graduating from Ohio University.  I only knew a small handful of people in town and had no social circle.  One day at work a flyer came across my desk for Young Friends of the Zoo. This was a group of young adults from all over Greater Cincinnati that met to volunteer at the world famous Cincinnati Zoo.  It sounded interesting so I gave it a try.

At the first meeting I attended, the leaders of the meeting were looking for a Chair for the Beastly Ball – the group’s largest fundraiser.  I have never been one to shy away from things, so I volunteered to chair the event. The group was a bit shocked I stepped up without being “known,” but they gave me a shot.  The Ball was a huge costume party and we transformed an empty warehouse into an Egyptian tomb.

Every meeting I stood up and introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Steve Browne, chair of the Beastly Ball.  I need your help to make this happen and I’ll be around to see all of you during the meeting.”  The extrovert in me was glowing, and my future wife would make sure to leave the meeting or shuffle around so as to not meet me on purpose.  She thought that I was too over the top and brash to want to intentionally meet everyone.

We had several work nights to make the decorations for the Egyptian tomb, and Debbie was there every time.  One night she came over to me (after having avoided me for months mind you) and she asked what I was doing that weekend.  I said, “Nothing.” (because I’ve always been good with words).  And she responded with the best line of all time – “Want to do nothing together?”  I was floored and said, “YES !!” immediately.

As You WishOur first date was a movie, The Princess Bride. We had no idea that we were seeing a movie about true love and saw this merely as a first date.  In this classic film, the main character Wesley, always responds to Princess Buttercup with “as you wish” regardless of what she asks.  We loved every moment of the movie and felt connected from that point on.

Fast forward about one year and Debbie and I were going to the monthly Young Friends of the Zoo meeting yet again. I asked her to come a little early and meet at the King Cheetah area.  It was there that I proposed to her because the King Cheetah is one of the few animals who mate for life.  It just felt right to do.  She fortunately said, “Yes” and here we are 25 years later.

Debbie is the perfect balance for me.  She is the organized, introverted, brilliant, loving and sensible side that I lack.  I am thankful for every moment that I’ve had with her.  She is an amazing wife, mother and partner who stepped out of her comfort zone to connect with me.

We come across people every day who can impact our lives.  They may be reaching out to see how they can connect.  Are you paying attention to this?  You never know, you may find someone who will be with you for the rest of your life !!

So, now, I look forward to what will truly be a new adventure as we move towards our next milestone.  We are more of the exception in today’s society by being married for 25 years and I dig that.  We have found true love just like the movie and, I get to be Wesley, now and forever, who will look to Debbie to respond “as you wish” !!

A Little Piece of My Heart !!

This week has been one of transition.  My mother-in-law passed away at the age of 77 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.  Also, a dear friend of mine, who I sang alongside in our church choir, passed away gracefully at the age of 89.  I doubt that few who read this blog know these two great people who impacted my life in tangible, meaningful ways.  I am thankful that I can celebrate their lives and what they meant to me.

These two people also had an impact on my amazing wife, Debbie.  I don’t mention her much on social forums because she’d prefer to be in the background.  You see, she is a perfect reflection of the quote from Jerry Maguire – she completes me.  She and I are almost complete polar opposites and everything I do poorly, she does well.  I don’t know how my life would look without her.  I don’t think it would be nearly as positive and great as it is because she so gracefully and effortlessly fills the voids and blind spots I have.

The majority of the people who touch our lives are more like my wife, my mother-in law and my friend from church.  They are meaningful to us individually and the sphere of who they’re connected to varies greatly.  Even though I may be personally connected to them, I may not be connected to the other amazing people who they know and interact with.

I want to take the time this week to share something that you may not know.  Just like these three wonderful people – you have a piece of my heart !!

Too often, we downplay the impact EVERY single person in our lives has.  We keep thinking that people only make an impact if they have visibility, notoriety or celebrity.  Sadly, many people keep chasing those shallow attributes of our society thinking it will give more substance and meaning to their lives.

Piece of My HeartYou need to know that YOU matter – at least to me.  I don’t take any interaction I have with any person lightly.  It may be the one and only time we ever cross paths.  That matters.  I may not personally see how this affects either your life or mine.  But, I know that because you came across my path and in my life – you impacted me and made a difference.

I don’t view life in the manner that most people do.  To me, the “humans” are key because my life is not defined by my profession.  It’s just what I happen to do.

The losses I experienced this week reminded me that I don’t take enough time to let people who are in my life know how much I value them.  I guess I assume they know, but that is a missed opportunity.  This is something so critical to all of us as people to communicate how people touch our lives.

Make sure to notice everyone you come across this week !!  Don’t ignore, brush off or move past some ONE to some THING you think is more important.

I don’t take our connection lightly.  The fact that you would take the time to read this blog as well as connect in person and/or socially drives me and fuels my passion for people more than you know !!

I’m glad you are a piece of my heart !!  I know that I am better because of it !!

Image Courtesy of Deviantart.com

Those Who Serve !!

Today is Memorial Day and I was fortunate enough to spend it with my parents and my brother’s family. As we all get older, it’s harder and harder to get all of the kids (now young adults) together with everyone.  We were able to grill out, share stories, see how fortunate we are to have such great kids.  I cherish my family and this day, more than most, makes this even more true.

You see, one person wasn’t able to be at our gathering, my biological father.  My dad, John Browne, was a veteran of the US Army.  He served during the Vietnam War and went on four tours during his service.  The Army was really the only choice at the time for my dad.  He was an average high school student and the Army was a way to have a career and develop skills to use later in life.  He entered as a private and rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant.  He ended up being a highly decorated person for his bravery, valor and leadership of his troops during the war.

Dad PicIf you notice, I keep noting these things in the past tense.  My dad passed away in 1968 after losing a battle to Hodgkin’s Disease cancer at the age of 26. It’s amazing to me that he survived the difficulty of battle only to lose to a disease.

I’ve heard that my dad was caring, gregarious and had a deep laugh that came out easily and often.  He was a dedicated friend and loving husband and father.  I was only four years old when dad died.  I have a handful of memories of him, but wish I had more time to have been with him.  From what I’ve been told, he and I are very similar !!  We look the same, have the same voice and I guess I even walk like him.  When I laugh (which is often), my family has said, “That’s just like John.”  I’m sure he loved life and lived it to the fullest !!

One other thing that gives me pride . . .

My dad volunteered to be in the Army.  Just when the draft was going to come into full force and be a dividing factor in our country’s history, my dad chose to serve.  He knew that he could be called to be in harm’s way, and he signed up anyway.

Today, there are thousands of men and women who are just like my dad.  They weren’t drafted into service.  They chose to serve, and they continue to do so in both times and circumstances of war as well as humanitarian efforts around the world.  We are so comfortable in our day-to-day lives that we take for granted these folks who protect our freedom.  That’s a shame and something none of us should take for granted.

Without these thousands of people willing to step in and serve, I wouldn’t be having a picnic with my family this Memorial Day.  So, I wanted to say “Thank You” to all the people of the Armed Services – not just on this day, but every day.  When you see someone in uniform, thank them in person.  They deserve this and so much more !!

I hope you join me in being thankful for those who serve !!