Do Good. Be Kind.

How are you holding up? It’s a question we should be asking everyone we know. I’m positive I never thought I’d live to see a situation where all of life as we know it was altered in a matter of days. So, how are you holding up?

I think this is more important to know than “how are you doing?” I’m sure even in the midst of all that is occurring we’d give folks a positive nod of “I’m good” whether that was the case or not. I hope you are holding up well even though we are surrounded by stress, anxiety and uncertainty because things seem to still be a bit unknown. There is an overwhelming wave of “information”, but most are starting to get numb to the barrage. We’re all yearning for distractions of some sort.

This Friday, I had one of those needed distractions and it changed me. Literally changed me.

As I ventured out to the end of my suburban driveway to check the mail, I turned around and a pretty substantial box was sitting on my front porch. The deliverer didn’t ring my doorbell or knock on the door to say something had arrived. In today’s climate, that’s very understandable. I was curious because I hadn’t ordered anything. I grabbed it and took it to my kitchen island eager to see what was inside.

When I opened the box, my jaw dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe all that was waiting inside !! There were two beautiful tie-dye shirts (which only adds to my collection), a mug, a notebook, some stickers, a button to wear and several Smarties candies. It was so cool and I was honestly speechless. Not only was the swag cool, the slogan grabbed me because I knew who it was from.

My friend, Chris Kurtz, started a company called Do Good. Be Kind. I’ve only connected with him, so far, online through Twitter. I was drawn to Chris because of his approach, his message and his general sense of being a positive and encouraging human. He sent me this care package because he thought that I fit his message and vibe as well. To say I was humbled wouldn’t be an accurate enough sentiment.

I instantly went out to the company’s website here and took in every aspect. I was floored to see how their efforts are touching schools, students and businesses. The message of “Do Good. Be Kind.” is not only needed now in a time of crisis, but it’s something we should live daily from now on. Think of it in the perspectives of your life at home, your community and your workplace.

Seriously, what would your company culture and HR look like if you lived the mantra of doing good every day with all of your efforts and interactions? How about if you were kind with every employee including those you find difficult?

Remember this always – HR is the ONLY profession where they get to work with every, single person within the organization.

With that knowledge imagine how fulfilled you, and those with whom you interact, would be because the foundation of your behavior is – Do Good. Be Kind. This next week I want you to go to Chris’ company’s site and look around to see how you can get connected yourself. Check out their incredible story, visit their shop and get some swag yourself that you can both display and share.

I’m grateful for everyone who is in HR and am thankful that we’re peers. Trust me in that I will continue to live this approach myself and know you will thrive if you do as well !!

Getting Together !!

As I write this, the entire world has changed. It’s unprecedented and has caused an environment of isolation in order to hopefully ensure safety in the long-term. Emotions range from anxiety and fear to confidence and hope. The whole situation has caused us to reevaluate how work is done and what we focus on in life in general.

I have to say that in the midst of this challenging time, I love that people are finding ways to get together even though it’s not in person. There are folks having virtual happy hours and coffee clubs. This is so encouraging because I’ve always been someone who believes that we are wired to be connected as people. This is true for everyone.

Cheers during our Zoom chat !!

Recently I joined a Zoom call with a group of friends who happen to also be in HR that have been daily connected for the past 3+ years. We have a GroupMe and talk every day. Every. Day. Even with that, we felt the need to see and hear each other. In moments we were laughing, telling stories and checking in on how we’re responding to everything going on around us. We talked for 1 1/2 hours !! It was magnificent in every possible way. We got to see each other’s houses even though we live all across the country. This made sense to get together because it’s what we’re used to.

The inaugural #HRPubQuiz !!

Then, yesterday I joined a chat that was predominantly made up of friends I’ve only “met” on social media from the UK. Selena Govier put out a call to have an HR Pub Quiz which she was going to run virtually. So, at 9:00pm GMT the quiz began with five rounds of ten questions. This was great because I got to see and hear the voices of friends I’ve only seen online !! The questions were tough because I’m in the US and don’t have a ton of knowledge of UK only trivia. It didn’t matter one bit because we also laughed and had fun sharing all of the answers. I scored a 22 out of 53 and was pretty geeked about that. Selena plans to have the #HRPubQuiz each week while we’re all at our homes.

Hanging with the State Line Crew !!

Once that wrapped up, another group of HR friends who identify as the #StateLineCrew had a chat as well. They are near the border between Illinois and Wisconsin, and the person putting the call together asked if I could join as a surprise. She also reached out to friends in Virginia and South Dakota to join in. We had another hour of rich conversation, laughter and some commiserating because that was a welcomed relief. It was a great reminder that HR folks don’t have a ton of people they can share with inside their organization because of the nature of the work we do.

No one really knows how long we’ll be apart from each other as this global crisis continues. So, take the time to get together virtually with your family, friends and co-workers. With technology there are no geographic boundaries to stop you. Put together a video chat or use social media forums to connect. Invite others and ask them to join in with you.

This is a time for us to make sure everyone is noticed and included. Having gatherings like this is worth your time because you’ll feel encouraged, connected and know that we’re in this together. Reach out !! I know I will be.

Hornets Nest !!

My wife and I are following a typical pattern that happens once your kids grow up and move out on their own. We’ve been in our home since 1991 and I’m very fond of it. I love the neighborhood, our yard and the house itself. Debbie and I were chatting and she said, “It’s time we either moved and downsized (the typical pattern) or remodel and update.” After some consideration of both options, we chose to remodel.

So, we’re going to update our kitchen and our family room. This is a major undertaking because it means we’ll be “living” in our basement for 6 to 8 weeks IF everything stays on schedule AND there are no surprises. Are you someone who watches the home improvement shows on HGTV? We are. Now, I know that it’s television and I’m sure things are staged and filmed in such a way to keep your attention, but it seems that some unknown challenge pops up that no one expected.

This past Saturday, we had our contractor start the work at hand by tearing down the drywall ceiling in our kitchen. Our house was built in 1977 and there are many lingering and dated features such as a stamped ceiling. The two young men made quick work of their task and had the ceiling down and cleaned up in about two hours. When they finished, their dad who leads this family owned business, shared with me what they found.

A picture of our unexpected “guests.”

The ceiling is filled with HVAC ducts, various pipes for plumbing and electrical components. We’re trying to see if we can relocate things to get the ceiling raised to match the rest of the house. As he was walking me through everything, he casually remarked, “Oh yeah, you have a large dormant hornets nest that we found in the soffit.” He, and the boys, didn’t seem fazed in the least. I’m sure they’ve seen all types of things. This was just like the HGTV shows !!

As with most things, finding the hidden hornets nest, reminded me of HR. Based on the size of what was uncovered, the hornets have been nestled in our wall for quite some time. We never have seen any hornets in the house or flying around. That didn’t make the discovery any less disturbing though.

In HR we have similar experiences. Hornets nests are well hidden and disguised within the mix of work environments. You may hear the buzz of something going on, but you’re not sure where the nest exists. A hornet or two may escape and sting you, but you don’t think a bigger problem could be present. When you do find the nest, chances are a swarm happens and a full-on attack occurs !! This isn’t good because your natural reaction is to overreact just to get the hornets off you. This is when senseless knee jerk policies and programs come to life.

You can help prevent the construction of hornets nests by two actions that may seem simple. They are, but the practice is not as easy.

Be Out with Your Employees

This isn’t “new”, but we find more excuses to avoid getting out among our people than we do in putting in intentional time to do this. The more you are out with the “hornets”, the more you’ll be in the know. People will be less likely to sting others when they know their HR person genuinely wants to know who they are and what’s going on in their lives. Stop feeling you are handcuffed by your work. People need to be your focus all the time, not in just reacting to situations.

Listen to Hear, Not to Solve

We are impatient. It doesn’t matter what role you fill or level in which you work. There is an invisible pull of time that keeps us from having meaningful conversations with others. Once we talk to people we tend to come up with a solution in about three words before any full message is even communicated. The majority of people just want to be heard. That’s all. They’re not looking for you to solve or fix them. Taking this approach will relieve so many potential nesting activities that it’s worth trying. You’ll be pleased when you do !!

So, I’m calling a professional exterminator to come to my house to remove our nest. He is sure to have expertise I don’t. Hopefully, he’ll also be able to find the source of where the critters came in my house. I’m hoping we don’t encounter any more surprises during our remodel. We’ll have to wait and see !!

The Music in You !!

This past weekend my wife and I were invited to a friend’s house. We’ve known this family for 20+ years and our children grew up together. It’s not uncommon for all of us to see each other from time to time, but this was a momentous occasion. Their oldest son, DJ, is a junior at Miami University majoring in Piano Performance. We were invited to come over to see a preview of his junior recital.

I was so geeked to be able to attend because I knew he had been working very hard to get ready for this show. This preview would give us a glimpse of his real performance that will occur next week. As we entered their house, we were given a program DJ had composed sharing his theme of the recital and the pieces he’d be playing. The theme is “In der Nacht” (At night) and had pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergei Prokofiev, Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann. The house was filled with family and friends who caught up on life, shared stories and our anticipation of the in-house concert we were about to witness.

DJ showing us his incredible talent !!

We all took a seat around a well-worn grand piano which engulfs the family room. As DJ came into the room, he set up a camera to videotape his performance and the room fell silent as he addressed us. He told us the inspiration of his recital theme and why he chose each musical piece. He encouraged us to read the descriptions he had written so we could try to hear the music as he did with its variation of emotion and the “stories” they each told. After he set the stage for his performance, he turned toward the keyboard, took a seat on the piano bench, stretched his arms and fingers, and then lightly placed his hands above the keys. He drew in a deep breath and let loose !!

You need to get some context about the difficulty and complexity of DJ’s recital. The first piece by Bach has seven movements alone. The Prokofiev piece is radically opposed in style and pace to the Bach suite. Beethoven’s sonata has two masterful sections, and the Schumann piece has eight sections. I followed the sheet music from the Schumann piece which is over 30 pages long. DJ had memorized the entire recital. The ENTIRE thing !! There wasn’t one piece of sheet music used. He played for 45 minutes and it was simply magnificent. When he finished the last piece, tears were streaming down my face.

DJ’s talent was evident. I can’t imagine how much practice occurred to get to the stage we witnessed. It had to be hours upon hours. I was touched about his performance for a few reasons. First and foremost, I was proud of him because I’ve been in his life since his birth. To see him reach this level of accomplishment was personally fulfilling. I was proud of him as were his parents and everyone who had gathered.

Secondly, his performance gave me a picture of looking at talent. You see I play the piano. I took lessons for eight years from Mrs. Lindemann. She was a dear older woman who taught me scales, notes and songs in the hope that I’d learn how to play proficiently. I can still “play” but I never reached the same expertise as DJ. I never had wanted to put in the time and dedication needed. I enjoy playing, but it’s more of a hobby for me.

That is how talent works. Both DJ and I can use that same 88 keys to make music. Where he can play Bach as it was written, I can play some songs from my youth that interested me from Billy Joel and various rock artists. The instrument is a common tool for us to use, but the type and level of our talent is vastly different. Each one of us has the ability to bring music out from pounding the keys to release the hammers upon the piano’s strings.

In organizations, we try to evaluate, measure and judge the talent of people. Instead of releasing their talent, we do our best to confine and restrict it in order to keep some misaligned semblance of order. What if we saw each of our employees as a keyboard just waiting to be played? What would happen if we allowed them to share their talent in the manner they did best? Can you imagine the incredible variety, creativity and ingenuity that could be released?

It’s time we gave our people the tools they need in order for them to share the music locked in each one of them. They all have a recital ready to perform. They know each note and their contributions will range from the majesty of the most complex classical composition to the simplest banging out of Chopsticks. Each song that comes forth is needed in order for the good work of organizations to perform and move forward.

This week pull up a bench in front of the proverbial keyboards in your workplace and encourage everyone to sit down and start playing. Release the talent that is all around you. When you do, you’ll see that you’ve been surrounded by virtuosos this entire time !!

Just to give you a taste of the recital I heard, here’s a video of another pianist playing the Prokofiev sonata DJ shared. Enjoy !!

Recharge Your Battery !!

This past Friday morning I was up early and headed out to my car in the garage. As I turned the key in the ignition, all I heard was a click, click, click. I let out an audible sigh because I knew my battery was dead. This was not how I wanted to start my day !! However, we’re often thrown curves and something unexpected sends us off course from what we had planned to do.

So, I pulled the release lever inside my car to get under the hood. I have changed many batteries over the years. It’s not “fun” and there’s always the possibility that you’ll drop a small piece needed to fasten everything in place deep into the bowels of the engine. When I had the hood propped up, I stood there dumbfounded staring at where I thought the battery would be. Instead, I saw a large silver box with a black plastic cover. On the left side of this contraption there were four bundles of wires attached. I honestly didn’t know what it was.

I got out my owners manual for my 2017 Chevy Equinox thinking I could figure things out. I was wrong. I was even more confused because I couldn’t find the information I needed. The next step was to find a video on You Tube, which all the kids already do, but I’m older and didn’t think of this first. I found an instructional video on how to remove the computer sitting on top of the battery. There were several other steps to remove fasteners, a piece of plastic fascia before you could uncover the battery.

I thought I had everything mastered. I was informed now and knew the steps. I went to my basement to gather the needed tools to extricate the dead battery. I even got a headlamp so I could shed light on my operation. It didn’t work. I couldn’t remove the computer or the cover on it. My frustration took over and I let out more than an audible sigh. Thankfully my wife was still home so we carpooled in her car. I dropped her at her workplace and went to my office using her car. My Equinox was sitting quietly in my garage taunting me and my inability to change a battery.

On Saturday, we put the car in neutral and my wife helped me get the car out onto our driveway which is thankfully flat. I called AAA for roadside assistance (at my house), and waited for help to arrive. A little over an hour later, I got a call on my cell phone to let me know that AAA was “on the scene” and ready to fix my predicament. When I went outside to greet my mechanically adept friend, I was stunned once again.

Out from his tow truck stepped Ed. I knew that from the patch sewn on his uniform shirt. He was an older man who wore a Vietnam Veteran ball cap signifying he served in the military during the Vietnam War. He was so warm and gracious. He laughed when he saw the computer sitting on top of my battery and quipped, “They keep making these things harder and harder don’t they?” I agreed and explained that even though I watched a video, nothing seemed to work. He reassured me that everything would be fine.

The reason I was stunned was that Ed was now in his 70’s and was the same age as my biological dad. My dad passed away in 1968 when I was four years old and he was merely twenty-six. He served four tours in the battlefields of Vietnam. Here I was standing by someone who could have been my dad, and we were doing a dad/son thing by working on my car. I never got to do things like this with my dad, and I struggled not to tear up in front of this stranger.

I stayed out with him and lent a hand where I could. He deftly removed the computer by removing a bolt I didn’t notice (and wasn’t on the video.) Together we removed the dead battery and put a new one in place. While we worked together, I asked him about his time in the army and he shared some great stories. He was still very proud that he had served. After jumping in to the car and making sure it started, I paid him for the battery and his labor, shook his hand and wished him well. It was the best 45 minutes of my day !!

I’m sure Ed had no idea he had recharged my battery as a person. Here I was frustrated with my circumstances not knowing that this lovely older veteran would rekindle fond memories. It reminded me how easy it is to start each day feeling the weight of our situation to the point that we will miss something great right in front of us.

How are YOU doing? Are the realities of life feeling like a burden you can’t shake? Keep in mind that each person you encounter may have those same sinking feelings. The question is -What are you doing to recharge your battery?

We can’t be successful or effective if we are mired in muck. Everyone has challenges. They may be small or massive. It’s hard to say. However, we need to remember we have the chance to be like Ed. By something as simple as showing up, you may make a positive difference in someone’s life.

This week as you head to work I hope you take time to get recharged if you need to. At the same time, I hope you see the opportunities which are sure to come to be the catalyst to recharge someone else. Be encouraged and then be cognizant enough to encourage others. Make a difference and embrace the chance to bring energy and a positive experience to others !!

Runnin’ Down YOUR Dream !!

This Sunday something happened that hasn’t happened for an entire month. The sun came out. Now, I know the sun is always present, but it hasn’t shown itself in Greater Cincinnati during the month of January. Seeing sunlight was a welcome break from the never ending gloom of gray skies. As I was driving to church, I had the Tom Petty radio station blaring on Sirius XM. This is one of may favorites channels which I listen to often.

As I was enjoying the bright blue skies and warm touch of the sunlight, the song “Runnin’ Down a Dream” started playing. It captured the moment perfectly as the first few lyrics started to be sung . . .

“It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down, I had the radio on, I was drivin'”

Listening to this song made my thoughts wander which is a very common occurrence for me. I was taking time to reflect to see if I was someone who ran down my dreams. I think I have. Most everything that has happened throughout my life has led to exciting and adventurous outcomes.

If you don’t know me, I’m a fairly content person. I tend to go with the flow of things. When bumps occur, I ride them out and do my best to remain genuinely positive. This has been my approach to all aspects of my life since I can remember. It’s odd to share this because people don’t think people can be positive and encouraging in this day and age. When I hear those that choose to think differently than I do, I try to get to know them and hear them out. I may not agree with their perspective and outlook, but I’ll do my best to encourage them if they’re open to it.

So, when it comes to dreams, I guess I frame it like this. I like looking forward and pursuing different opportunities knowing that some will work out and others will not. In the past I wanted to become a public speaker, and now I’m fortunate to get to present at events across the globe. I thought it would be great to write a book, and now I’m close to having my second one published. I hoped to have a wife and family, and I’ve now been married over 30 years and I’m getting to see my kids start to figure out life and pursue dreams of their own.

My mind kept wandering and I thought of others who I’m fortunate to have in my life. They are a mix of people who have been successful in a variety of ways along with those who seem to get hung up on obstacle after obstacle. Every person is at a different place on this continuum.

I want to be supportive and encouraging for each of my friends and connections without giving them absolutes. Sure, I have my thoughts and am willing to share advice, but that’s what it is – advice. I’ve never been comfortable giving people a distinct path which much be followed to the letter. Life isn’t like that. It’s full of twists, turns, mountain tops and valleys. Each person’s path is as unique as they are as people.

I think Tom Petty captured my approach in his lyrics in this song. Life is a mystery. We would love for every moment of every day to be concrete and have little variability. But, life won’t conform to set patterns and is constantly unpredictable. Since that’s the reality of each day, the choice we have left is how we will move. We can either move forward, refuse to move, move sideways, or even backwards. There are countless maneuvers we can take.

Take note of the other phrase in Petty’s lyrics. “Going wherever it leads . . . ” Can you do that? Are you willing to step out not knowing what the next step will lead to? You see the mysteries of life are going to continue to present themselves. Having dreams and things to look forward to give us a brighter outlook on the lives we currently lead. Instead of being filled with worry and discontent, try to embrace the chance to go wherever life takes you.

Your career, the choices you make in your family and the people you bring into your life should be those who move you forward. People that embrace your dreams and do what they can to lift you up towards seeing them come true.

If you want to write a book or start a blog, then find those who have done those things and talk with them about what their experience was. If you want to travel to places unknown to you but familiar to others, reach out to them to see those places through their eyes and then take steps to get to them yourself one day. If you want to become a public speaker, an executive or leader in your company, or active in some professional or civic group, seek out others who have paved the way before you.

Remember, you are not doing life alone. You are among those who want to hear your dreams and see them come to fruition. I don’t know what your dream is, but it’s time for you to claim it, pursue it and see where it leads !!

Friends

This weekend the weather was a mix of clouds, mist, sleet and brisk winds. Everything was wet everywhere you looked. The wind made it feel colder than the actual temperature. This isn’t a blog post about the weather in West Chester, Ohio. These are the conditions I was facing when I went to visit my best friend Fred. He was moving this weekend from his current house to a new one that had just been completed. He and his wife were downsizing and moving into a ranch house which will most likely be their final home. Fred and Karen have been retired for quite a few years.

The move was invigorating because Fred and Karen were both excited to get their things moved and into their new abode. There were members of Fred’s family who came to assist with everything along with a young HR peer who is being mentored by Fred. If you’ve read my book, you’ll know all about Fred. He’s not only my best friend, but he’s my mentor. We chat at least once a week and try to see each other every two weeks. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years now, and he is an important part of my life.

The reason he’s important is that he’s my friend. Every once in awhile a post will be out on the internet that questions whether or not you can have friends at work. I personally think you can, but it is challenging especially for HR pros. It isn’t that HR folks aren’t friendly, it’s just that our roles deal with so much sensitive information that it’s difficult to develop many friendships. We can’t afford to get too close to many other employees.

We still need friends though. HR can be a very lonely profession because we don’t have close relationships. Therefore, we need to look outside of our workplaces. Trust me. One of the primary reasons I’ve stayed in HR is due to the friendships I’ve developed throughout my career. I’m fortunate to have friends around the globe who are in this field. I reach out to them often to check in and ask how they’re doing. If you’re kind enough to be friends with me, I will make sure that we’re intentionally connected.

One of those global friends is Michael Carty who is from the UK. He and I share many interests including music, art and blogging. He penned an incredible post about the recent passing of Terry Jones who was famously part of the comic troupe Monty Python. Jones’ best friend was Michael Palin, a fellow Python. In an interview after Jones’ passing, Palin says that he’ll miss having a pint at the pub with his dear friend. They were professionals who had learned to become friends. (The interview is very touching. Make sure to read Michael’s post and watch the short clip.)

Being active in social media has opened the ability to connect and develop friendships as well. You can “meet” and interact now without having to be in the same place. These platforms can be far more than a place to generate content and have people focus just on you. The amount of likes and follows are inconsequential compared to the relationships you can make. These people will become your community.

The friends I’ve been able to make are there for me personally far more than they are professionally. Yes, they are great resources of information when I need it, but most of our conversations are about life. Those are more deep and rich. I cherish each one I have.

So, let me ask you this. Do you have friends who happen to be in HR? I hope you do. I hope you have someone you can call when you need to move, need to share your thoughts and concerns, or need to grab a pint. This week evaluate where you are in regard to this. I know there are tons of great humans who would welcome the chance to foster and establish friendships with you. Reach out and make this happen. You’ll be glad you did !!

Make Your Work Art !!

This week one of my musical heroes passed away. Neil Peart was the drummer and lyricist of the legendary progressive rock band Rush. Whenever you admit that you’re a fan of Rush, you get mixed reactions. There are those who are die hard fans, and then there are those on the exact opposite side of the spectrum. There is very little middle ground. I’m cool with that. I’m on the die hard side. In fact, there are a group of my HR compatriots who post a Rush tune every week as part of #RushSaturday on Twitter. We have been posting well known hits, deep cuts and covers from popular artists as well as local acts.

The great thing about music, like any art form, generates emotion. It should. I love having discussions and disagreements about music. I’m sure there are many acts and genres I enjoy that others do not and vice versa. If music brings forth passion, then you’ve made a genuine connection. I am passionate about the entire catalog Rush has produced. Every song.

One of the amazing attributes of Neil Peart was his anonymity. That is almost unheard of in the rock and roll world. You find most people who become musicians in rock band seek notoriety, fame and especially visibility. There are countless stories of rock stars who live very public lives often riddled with bad choices. Peart was the complete opposite of the stereotypical rock star throughout his entire career. I admire that.

He was an accomplished author of several books, and he and his band mates were finally elected to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 which was 45 years after Rush had formed. You never heard him complain about not being recognized with accolades. He was about his music. For him, his work was his art. Many consider him one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, rock drummer of all time.

Peart’s example of allowing his work to do the talking for who he was, in part, is something that is worth emulating. When I think about those whom I look up to in the world of work are similar to this rock legend. They are artists in what they do on a daily basis who rarely call attention to themselves. They appreciate acknowledgement of their contributions, but they aren’t seeking to be someone in the spotlight. Organizations are filled with reliable, consistent performers who make their work seem effortless. At the same time, people go to these reliable folks because they are known for their phenomenal work.

Too often, companies look to the bright and shiny employees because they call for attention. In fact, you’ll hear about making sure that focus is placed on “high potentials” (or hi-pos). I despise this term and this approach. It is laden with favoritism and an unbalanced sense of those who are politically astute because they spend much of their time trying to take the stage whenever possible. I understand that there are people who exhibit stronger performance and even show genuine leadership capabilities. I would venture to bet though that the ones who will be truly successful are the ones who are genuine, humble and seem to make their efforts . . . reliable first.

It’s time we make sure that we are cognizant of ALL of our employees !! We are surrounded by people who make their work art on a daily basis. When you step back to do this, you’ll find that they have been worthy of your attention because of how they approach their work. These artists seek to contribute, add value and let their work speak for itself.

This week, broaden your vision and notice your people on purpose. You’ll see that they’ve been making beautiful music every day !!

RIP Neil Peart. I’m grateful for you, your music and how you shared your gift.

Take It In !!

This past week I celebrated another trip around the sun and became another year older. I find that I now look at each new year as a time to reflect. This is something newer for me and something I wish I would do more. For instance, I have now been alive 30 years longer than my biological father was. That is staggering to me !! I’m fortunate that I am still walking this planet, but sometimes wonder what life would have looked like had he lived as well. I’m sure it would have been completely different and I wouldn’t be writing a weekly blog, just as one example.

My kids and wife are an amazing and significant component in my life. Now that I’m older, I tend not to get any “things” as birthday gifts. I’m grateful that I get time with them far more than any material object. Debbie, my incredible wife, did get me something that will have incredible value – a set of experiences. She got me some tickets to Xavier University basketball games – my fave college basketball team – and some tickets to see part of the “Whose Line is is Anyway?” cast perform an improv comedy show. I can’t wait to go to these events. She made the gift even more meaningful by saying that I can take others with me to some of the games because she knows I’m a massive extrovert.

The reflection that has hit hard this year is this – You need to enjoy the experiences in your life !! Every. Day.

You need to be honest about this. You rarely take in what’s going on around you. We’ve been programmed to stay focused on whatever task is laid out in front of us. This isn’t only related to work. It is how we approach every aspect of our lives. We miss the majority of any event or encounter, and that’s a shame.

Don’t believe me? Tomorrow when you go to work watch how others interact with each other. Greetings are cursory and polite as everyone rushes to what they want to get to. No one seems to notice or care. Conversations are curt, concise and matter of fact. You will hear most people share some personal stories, but to say that both parties are “present” during the interaction would be startling. We feel the invisible push to move on. The vast majority of our daily experiences are more like a series of pass-by movements. There are short pauses in the rush of pass-bys, but they are limited on purpose.

I consider myself someone who consciously makes time to focus on others, and I have to constantly remind myself to be present in conversations. I have to fight the urge to follow distractions which are always tugging at me. I feel this is true with most people. I don’t think that this has to be the case. I know that we have time to be present when we interact with others throughout each experience we have.

Now that Debbie and I are empty nesters, we are doing more activities as a couple. We’re relearning what it’s like to spend time together just as a pair. We aren’t committed to running to this event or another for either of our kids who are now grown. So, we go out to dinner or make dinner together after a full day of work. We’ll go to the gym and also go to a movie in a theater (we’re old school like that.) Whatever we’re doing, I’ve decided that I am going to be present and take in every second we’re together. I don’t want to miss something because I’m yearning to get to the “next thing.”

I want to be like the two young kids I saw at the grocery store this weekend. They had pulled two of the bags you use to put produce in and were throwing them into the air. The bags would puff out and float slowly back and forth toward the floor. The kids would squeal, catch their bag and throw it back into the air. They were exuberant and present in the moment while their mother was trying to get her shopping done. Instead of chiding the kids, she laughed along with them and commented how beautiful the new “toy” they had created was.

The new year is still young. You can change your approach to how you embrace every day, and in turn, every person you meet. Slow down and take it in. Everything. Every. Single. Thing. You’ll be astonished how much more you’ll enjoy life !!

What Do You Think ??

This past week I renewed the domain name for my blog. To me it’s a milestone because in January I’ll be starting my 9th year of blogging. The site was actually a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law !! I remember when I opened the small envelope she had given me. I read the message on the paper inside and wept. I was touched by her gift.

I asked her why she decided to establish a blog site for me. She replied, “I think people want to hear what you have to say.”

I was floored by that. Why in the world would others willingly read my thoughts and ideas? It seemed to be a pretty big leap to share on a regular basis with the hope that you’d develop an audience. She reminded me that this was already occurring because of the presentations I had been giving at conferences.

I am still so grateful that she had a vision for something that I have truly enjoyed. I look forward to sitting down every Sunday to jot down ideas, thoughts, encouragement and a message to let others know they have value in who they are and what they do. In fact, my wife asks me every Sunday, “Did you write your blog yet?” It’s become part of the fabric of my life.

I wanted to give you this background to ask you some questions . . .

What do you think? Really. How do you learn from others? Do you take time to do this, or are you comfortable with what you already know?

You see I love to learn from others !! I regularly read several blogs daily. I also make sure to listen to various podcasts as I make my commute to and from work. I also travel to several pizzerias as part of my job so I have time to listen to the thoughts of others.

I don’t want to sit still and stay put mentally. There are far too many people who have fascinating ideas and concepts to share. When I get a chance to read the perspectives of others, I try to take away key nuggets even if I disagree with their approach. It’s important to see the world from all angles. I don’t want to ever want to be in a position where I’m not well versed in different aspects of life, thought and views on HR and the workplace. You can never know enough. I think it’s critical for us to continue to take in information so that we remain current, informed and relevant.

I do have one value that I stick to when participating in the forum of blogging or sharing on podcasts where I’m asked to be a guest. I will use the gateway I’ve been given to be positive. Please don’t ever misconstrue this as not willing to be intentional or take on issues. I just feel that it’s far too easy to be negative and tear others down. Being positive is something that I hope to continue because I’d rather see light pierce the darkness and give others a viable alternative to what they may hear/see on social media.

If you’re not regularly learning from others, I’d encourage you to give yourself a “gift” this holiday season. Find blogs, podcasts and speakers who you can learn from. Start making this a habit so that continuous learning isn’t some aspirational wish, it’s how you choose to improve yourself and the others around you.