Saturday, August 8, 2009

Collaboration with Carson


I find it very comforting to know how collaborative human beings are. We enter this world completely alone on an individual journey and we leave completely alone on a similar individual journey. Between those two primal events, we live our lives.

During the course of our lives we are continuously affected by others. We travel along a path with specific people for the predominance of our lives, while others touch us for mere instances. The great part is that everyone creates an effect. My 4-year-old son has taught me to look at these effects differently.

Carson loves apple juice. My two older daughters loved grape juice at his age, but he’s been a fan of apple juice since he was a toddler. We are a frugal family so we buy juice in the frozen concentrate containers and make it ourselves in this really cool pitcher. The pitcher has a handle on the top of the cover that can be pulled up and pushed down in a plunger motion. The insert attached moves up and down inside the juice container creating a swirling affect and mixing the juice. It’s one of those great inventions I wish I had created.

Ever since Carson was big enough to hold the empty container, he’s wanted to make the juice himself. He pulls his stool up to the freezer door, pulls down a frozen juice container and sets it on the kitchen island to thaw. For the next 30 minutes he asks, “Is it ready yet Dad? Is it ready yet? Is it ready yet? How about now? Is it ready now?” He’s learning patience.

Once it’s ready, Carson puts the pitcher on the table and opens up the juice container. He pours the concentrate into the pitcher, and then fills the now empty juice container with water from the faucet. He dumps the water into the pitcher with the concentrate and repeats this until the pitcher is full.

“It’s done Dad; oh wait. It needs just a little more,” he states with excitement, his little eyes wide open and focused on the next bit of water trying to ensure he doesn’t spill any.

When the container is finally filled to his satisfaction, I put the top on that has the little plunger part. “Can I do it Dad?” Carson begs.

“You bet.” He pulls the plunger up and down watching the water and juice mix together with bubbles and splashes of golden light mixing as well.

I think the enjoyment of making the juice is more satisfying to him than actually drinking it. I enjoy the process and the time with him. But as he enjoys the achievement gaining responsibility and having fun, I enjoy the lesson.

As we pour the water from the juice container into the pitcher of juice, I watch the two components interact and mix. I notice that once the water from the container is poured into the pitcher, there is no way to separate the water out again. Surely, you can evaporate the water and see the remains like the old grade school science project of mixing sugar and water then letting it evaporate with a string in the mix. The string becomes caked with sugar once the water has evaporated.

What I mean is that you cannot pour the contents of the pitcher back into the juice container and get out the exact water molecules and only those molecules that you just poured into the pitcher. Once water from a cup is poured into other water, it cannot be separated. Even if you pour colored water into a clear water pitcher, you cannot extract the exact colored water again. You can see the separate colors but you cannot dip the cup back in and pull out only the colored water. It mixes instantaneously and cannot be extracted. That’s what collaboration and networking are about.

Throughout our lives we ‘mix’ with many people. We do this intentionally at times and seemingly by accident at other times. We never really know what that other person has to teach us, but whatever it is, we find that we are never the same again. We cannot be. Just like the water cannot be separated, we cannot pull out the lesson or the memory of that instance. We can avoid it, try to forget it, but our subconscious, powerful minds will store that and keep it with us. We cannot reach in and pull the memory out like we can delete the page from our computers. Learning to leverage the collaboration process is one mark of successful people.

As we mix with others, we can add too much of ourselves and try to dominate them. We can add too little and not provide the benefit they need and we have in abundance. We can mix the wrong way – too violently or too passively – causing the messages to be missed. Then there are the wonderful moments when we mix exquisitely with another and teach both an incredible lesson. I have been fortunate to mix just that way recently with many new teachers.

Every time I make juice or just pour a glass of water, I will think about all the people I will meet today who will become a part of my life. I will think about how I will become a part of their lives. And I’ll think about how I will win the lottery with how we will mix.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Savannah who?

Once a year in the summer, my wife’s sister takes her 3 children on a 15-hour drive from Arkansas to Green Bay, Wisconsin to visit us. The family stays for about 2 weeks sharing time and fun with all of our kids. The event allows all 13 cousins to spend some quality time playing, camping, water skiing and generally getting reacquainted. For the adults, it’s a 2-week family reunion that provides a break from the Johnson’s absence before their whole family (including their dad) travel back for the Christmas holiday. This summer’s trip was no exception.


With all the fun and activities going on, I was provided some neat insight from one of the seemingly forgettable events. It happened during a routine phone conversation with my sister-in-law; a call that normally would be quickly dismissed as a humorous error.


While the four sisters in my wife’s family were making plans for the events we would all participate in, I was home getting my twin boys to sleep. A phone call interrupted the boys’ bottle time. I answered with the usual hello followed by, “I am great. How are you?” By the sound of her voice, I could tell the caller was my wife’s twin sister Kelly.


She quickly got to the point of the call stating, “We are planning for the week and want to know what Savannah’s schedule is.”


It was a seemingly simple and earnest question; however, neither of my daughters’ names are Savannah. Kelly had mistakenly called my house when she intended to call her other sister Brenda, who happens to be the mother of Savannah. Not a big deal. We had a quick laugh and ended the call. What continued to intrigue me for several days was the pattern of thought that my mind went through in an instant of hesitation after Kelly posted the question.


I first examined the name Savannah to determine if I had heard her correctly. Next I reviewed the voice to determine if I had mistaken Kelly for my wife Tracy. Finally, I reviewed why she might be asking me about Savannah before clarifying with her what she asked. That seems pretty normal and simple. Now review the details of what my mind went through all in the split-second hesitation between the acts of hearing “Savannah” and responding verbally to Kelly.


My mind raced through all the names of my children – Lauren, Megan, Carson, Aiden, Owen – and my wife’s name, Tracy. This was to determine if any of those names rhymed with Savannah. If they rhymed, maybe I misheard her. None of those names rhymed with or resembled Savannah, so I didn’t misinterpret the name.

Then I recalled other names stretching beyond my immediate family thinking that Kelly might know the group I generally meet with – Kevin, Rob, Emily, Carl, Natalie, but none of those names resembled Savannah either. Satisfied that I had confirmed I heard Kelly correctly, my focus switched to who was asking the question.

I replayed the recording of the question in my mind to verify whether this was Kelly asking or my wife, Tracy. (Why that was important, I don’t know. Some other part of my mind was in control.) It took about 2 reviews before I determined it was indeed Kelly.


I then looked for logical reasons as to why she would be asking me about someone else’s daughter. “Did she think I had talked with Brenda or James? Did she think my wife was home and I would turn and ask her the question? Did we talk about this earlier at her mother’s house?” No was the conclusion to each of the questions.

Satisfied that I had no logical reason for being asked this question, I asked, “Who?” And when Kelly repeated the name Savannah, I said who I was and Kelly realized her mistake. We had our quick laugh.


The insight I got was on how quickly our minds’ relational database zips through all possible scenarios trying to make reason of a situation; even one that is a clear mistake. It likely takes 10-12 seconds to read through all the possibilities, but our brains on auto-pilot will conclude the task almost instantaneously. The more amazing part is that it seems to happen in an involuntary way. I didn’t stop and ask myself all those questions as though I was in an interview. Some part of my brain just reacted – like one of those on-line search engines that just miraculously pops the correct result. It reinforced to me the incredible power our brains possess.


The question for me now is how can I better condition and use that power to continue helping others in a greater and greater manner?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Just Like Dad


This year’s 4th of July celebration for my family was incredible. Not only were we able to spend quality time with relatives, I was able to learn a great lesson from a 4-year-old boy who just happens to be my son.

We spend several weekends during the summer at my Mother-in-law’s cabin in the woods. Most weekends spent there are relaxing and fulfilling. This weekend was no different. We spent time working on the grounds and finishing a deck. We also spent a good amount of time relaxing on the deck and playing in the water. By the time Saturday night came around, all the kids were ready for fireworks. We had a good set of fireworks that surprised even the adults with some of the spectacular explosions. There were sparkling fountains, loud popping balls, colored smoke bombs, and rocket launches that burst into fiery colors in packs of 100. For a backyard show, it was pretty good.

As we finished our set, the neighbor across the street started his. We were somewhat humbled. His fireworks were like rockets shooting in the sky in this direction, then that direction ending with a big explosion of colors against the black sky. It was great to watch and I felt like I was back in town at an organized show. I took time to relax on Papa’s Deck and watch. I folded my hands behind my head, laid back on the deck and watched the color and sound show. Within in a few seconds, I felt a nudge on my side. I looked over and saw my son Carson laying next to me with his hands folded behind his head. He smiled at me and said, “Look Dad, I’m just like you.” Four simple words, “I’m just like you”, that brought back a sense of purpose to me. I felt a sense of pride and warmth as I thought about how my son wants to be like me. Isn’t that exactly what every dad wants? I picked him up, set him on my lap and watched more of the show with him. He watched the show, but I contemplated his words.

As much pride as I had, I also had anxiety. I started to think about my life and asked myself if I was living a life worthy of my son wanting to follow in my footsteps. Sure, he does now as a 4-year-old who just wants dad to play ball with him, take him golfing, get him snacks and hold him when he’s scared at night. When I set up the 10-foot pool in the backyard, I'm his hero. What happens as he grows and understands more about the world? Will he admire me when he’s 10 or 16? Will he still want to follow in dad’s footsteps? Better yet, will he still respect me and call me his hero, but know that I have taught him to follow his own path?

The questions for me became much clearer the longer I thought. The questions really are what do I have to continue to do and what do I need to change in order for my son and all my children to want to be “just like Dad?” I realized that a purposeful life is not just about fulfilling my dreams. It’s about helping those around me fulfill their dreams too. When I have a tough decision to make or wonder whether the current path is the correct one to follow, I can just ask whether my children will want to follow that path with me.


Let me know what your dreams are and let’s work together to fulfill them.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gravitational Pull


I am fortunate to be part of a group called Rise Above. We conduct seminars for unemployed community members helping them find hope along with building their practical skills around networking, resume writing, interviewing and financial management. The concept is to first create a positive outlook, and then use that to take effective actions toward obtaining the next opportunity/job/career.

At a recent planning meeting for the group, we sat back and took a look at what we are trying to accomplish – an introspection. We asked ourselves what each of us was getting from this group; what was in it for us. There were common benefits mentioned like building skills, increasing our network, helping others, creating a legacy among others. One that was mentioned by our financial expert struck me. She said she liked the way people in the community are being attracted to us seemingly because of the good we are trying to produce. For some reason, the description gravitational pull came to me and I had to write it down.

My understanding of Isaac Newton’s principles is that gravity is caused by a combination of mass and movement. Specifically, any mass that spins will create a boundary of force drawing other masses to it. In the case of Earth, its mass and movement create a force equal to 9.8 meters per second. I’m not sure Mr. Newton would agree with my definition of pulling people to us, but I hope he would appreciate it.

Newton might have all the physical aspects correct, but I believe he is missing the human behavioral elements. We as citizens of the world can create our own gravity or attractive force by taking positive action. I don’t know that I can measure the strength of the force we generate, but it seems reasonable to me that the greater the good, the more powerful the attractive force.

Our Rise Above team set a mission to positively affect 100,000 people. Since our start we have attracted to us business owners, CEOs, community leaders, university deans, public speakers, authors, health professionals, networking and marketing gurus and more from all types of industries. From them we have been inspired and educated. We have grown professionally and personally from understanding more about all aspects of the people who make up our community. Each has a great story and we love hearing the stories.

When we set that mission, we knew what it meant to affect 100,000 people. I don’t think any of us imagined the positive affect we would have on ourselves or that we ourselves would be included in that 100,000. Gravity has a new meaning for me and that meaning helps me win the lottery.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Believe In You


I am blessed in many ways in my life. I have a loving and healthy family; friends and colleagues who constantly expand my knowledge and challenge me; a home that provides just enough space to be together and to get away; a cottage up-north that my mother-in-law allows us to share; extended family members who are always willing to help out; a career that allows me to meet so many bright and engaging people. I’ve known about all of these for some time. What I didn’t know until recently was that I was also blessed in one of the greatest ways possible.

Earlier in the year as my customer engagement was ending and the start of a search for the next customer was starting, I talked to my wife about writing books. I had been talking about writing books and building a public speaking career for some time – likely since high school – but never really put full effort toward it. I had actually started several different books, but never finished them.

On this day, I mentioned to my wife again how this year I would finish 2 books and begin speaking about them. I told her how excited I was for that to happen in addition to my consulting career. As I talked about this, Tracy nodded her head and when I was finished, she said, “I know.”

It was a pretty simple gesture with few words, but it had immense impact. I paused a few seconds absorbing her words. I then told her how most people hearing my dreams and aspirations would roll their eyes and think, ‘Here he goes again.’ “But you,” I said, “actually believe in me.”

She replied, “I know that if you say it’s going to happen and really believe it will, it will.”

Since that day, I have completed the final version of my initial book, have been able to set up several speaking engagements to create pre-orders for my book and am within a few weeks of completing my second book. Certainly these were goals of mine before the conversation with my wife, but as we all know, setting goals and achieving them are 2 different things. The power of having one person believe in you gets you from setting to achieving.

Don’t underestimate the power you have to propel others. During these economic times, those struggling need us to continue believing in them and we need to continue believing in ourselves to overcome and create the next great economy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Seeing the New Economy in My Little Girl

I had the pleasure of watching my niece and my daughter complete their First Communion ceremonies this past weekend. The event is an important spiritual day in our family and faith traditions. Because of the importance it was both inspiring and comforting to watch the two girls display their maturity, confidence and control in following the programs.

A true sense of pride filled me as I watched my little girl walk with her hands held together in prayer around the church in the entrance processional. Another sense of joy along with a pang of separation filled me as I further watched her intently listen to the full mass; her eyes widening as Father Jack spoke directly to the communicants during his Homily.

The pang came from realizing again that my little girl won’t be my little girl much longer. Even though we continually tell her how she will always be our little girl, we know that we can’t stop her growing for one second. And that bittersweet want and ‘unwant’ of her moving down her own life path will only intensify. I thought about this as I watched her in her white dress and veil looking like a miniature bride. And then another sense came over me; a sense of wonder.

As I watched her and the rest of her class line up to take their first communion, I was struck with the realization that all of these young children are growing up. Not only are they growing up, but they represent the future participants of our economy. In fact, they are our future economy.

I watched their actions now more intently noticing the precision of their moves. I noticed how organized they were. I noticed how respectful they were. I noticed how well they followed instructions and moved in sequence to what was obviously a rehearsed ceremony. And when any one of them was confused, they looked immediately to their elder instructor for advice and guidance. Then it really hit me. They will be looking for us for advice and guidance as they build their economy.

If you are wondering what the future economy holds, watch these young children. Admire and praise them when they accomplish even these seemingly simple feats. To them it’s not simple. Then look into yourself and know that we owe it to them to build the world economy back on a solid foundation. When they look to us for advice and guidance, they should see the results not just hear the words. We can create lottery winnings for each of them through leadership by example with this economic recovery. It’s not just about us; it’s also about them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rising above the times



On Wednesday, April 1 our Rise Above The Times team completed our first seminar helping those who have been downsized or under-employed by these economic conditions. The purpose of our seminars is to provide some hope and inspiration, then give practical skills on networking, resume writing and interviewing. We end the seminar with a brief look at financial options. See our website for information: http://www.riseabovethetimes.com/.

The feedback we received from the 18 or so attendees was very positive. We received high marks for our speaking styles and the content; particularly around the networking topic. Each of us as speakers was able to bring our personal stories to the event. That really helped to make a connection with the audience.

As nice as it was to read the survey comments after the event, the best feedback possible came during one of the breaks. After 90 minutes we took our first break and I stood by the door talking with one of the attendees. Another attendee, a gentleman who had been unemployed for some time and was getting ready to sell his house, patted me on the back as he walked back into the conference room and said, “Thank you for what you are doing.”

A simple, sincere, unsolicited thank you let us know that all the hours of planning, scheduling and rehearsing; all the issues and mitigation plans were well worth it. With that one comment we all won a piece of the lottery and we look forward to winning more pieces over the next several months.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Burning Ditches

When I was a kid growing up in the country, my Dad had a tradition of sorts. He had us burn the ditches every spring.

We lived about ½ a mile from any neighbors, and our property was surrounded by fields, woods and a small river just past the fields. Our gravel driveway was about 200 yards long and a good portion of it had ditches on either side.

Every winter would pile snow into the ditches. Every spring thaw would form small lakes that eventually dried leaving matted down, dead weeds, grass and the like covering the ditches. On the first Saturday of spring where the sky was clear and the winds calm, we pulled out the shovels, rakes, garden hose, and matches. By early afternoon, trickles of smoke drifted to the sky, the scent of burnt grass filled the air and an ugly black covered the ditches.

Why burn them? I asked that question once. Dad said it was to get rid of all the dead, wasted grass and allow the ground to breathe again. With the ground able to breathe, new life would grow faster and fuller than before. And he was right. Within a few days, new life could be seen; within a week it was flourishing.

It seems to me that many of us need to burn some ditches too, only the ditches aren’t in the driveway, they’re in our minds. We’ve grown so accustomed to a particular lifestyle that was created with a particular job. With jobs being eliminated, it’s time to clear our minds of the same thoughts that we lived by for the past 10 years in order to see the new opportunities that are out there for us. Opportunities exist everywhere; we just need to get rid of some of the dead grass in order to see them.

To help with that, I am involved with a group called Rise Above that is putting on free seminars to help those who are unemployed. The goals are to help everyone find hope, see opportunities, develop resume writing, interviewing and networking skills in order build that next career. The seminars are at Rasmussen College in Green Bay and start on April 1. Look for more information and pass the word so we can make others feel like they've won the lottery.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feedback


My friend Carl Fisher authors a blog called Reflections. It is a very entertaining blog about his life adventures backpacking, training for another half-marathon, stock market impressions, etc. Because of his blog, I started mine.

He and I recently had a chance to talk and Carl gave me some feedback about my blog. He noted to me that although he enjoyed the writing, it was all about individuals. He suggested I write more about business experiences with Change Management. I initially refuted him arguing that individuals are the ones who make up businesses. Aren’t they? Then I remembered my own advice that I have been providing to customers – ensure that you build formal and informal feedback mechanisms into every change plan.

Whenever change occurs to an individual or an organization, resistance is created. The amount of resistance depends on many factors, but be sure, there is resistance to some degree. An effective change management plan does not eliminate the resistance; the plan effectively manages the resistance. Part of that plan must be feedback.

We can only plan so well based on our experiences and interpretations. We anticipate reactions and plan to manage them. But we don’t know every reaction until it occurs. Effectively establishing feedback channels allows us to receive information about the accuracy of our plans and adjust to the reaction of our business teams (or the opinions of our audience).

In my next blog, I’ll note the primary reasons I have discovered for teams not setting up feedback channels and some of their results. For now, think of each piece of feedback as a chunk of the lottery coming back to you. It helps you grow and serve your audience better.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who will attend my funeral?

One of the great concepts in this life is that we can learn something from everyone we meet. If we take the time to listen to everyone who enters our life, we will learn a world of information. Don’t wait for teachers only; allow everyone to be your teacher.

My brother-in-law recently became a teacher for me by relaying a simple story. He was attending a funeral for one of his relatives and began to reminisce about the funeral of our father-in-law 2 years ago. Our wives are twin sisters and their father, Chuck, passed away very unexpectedly in April of 2007.

As my brother-in-law thought back to that date in 2007, he realized how popular Chuck was by the number of people who attended his funeral. Chuck didn’t do anything special in his life to be popular and yet he did the most special thing possible. Chuck wasn’t a public figure, didn’t have millions of dollars, didn’t attend public events, didn’t socialize with the ‘in’ crowd and yet he had so many friends. The most special part of Chuck was his ability to accept and appreciate everyone he met for who they were.

Both my brother-in-law and I began to do some self-analysis. We asked the questions who will attend my funeral and why? That led me to a great exercise. I created a list of those who I think will attend right now. I followed this with a list of whom I want to attend, but are not on the original list. Then I looked at the second list and started to document what would compel them to attend. Based on this list, I started a list of what I want to accomplish in the rest of my life in order to create this compelling need. What I ended up with was a purpose for my life.

By figuring out what would compel others to attend my funeral and the accomplishments I need to make in order to create that compelling need, I discovered the purpose for my life. And what could be more important than determining your purpose? Winning the lottery won’t tell me my purpose, but finding my purpose has helped me win the lottery.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Iterative Life II

My previous entry discussed the ability we have to use Ctrl Z (the undo button) and go back in time to make new decisions. As far as we know right now, we can’t actually go back in time (like Michael J Fox did in Back To The Future) and adjust our lives. However, we always have the ability to use our minds to go back to a previous time, review the options again with a new perspective and make a new decision. The way to do this can be very easy. You just need to take the time.

Each day take some time out to reflect back on your life. My friend Carl does a great job of this and writes a blog about it. You can use the time you have just before you fall asleep, just as you wake up, during your drive into the office or the time you spend in the shower; just take the time.

During that time, think back and visualize yourself in the last setting where you made a life-changing decision. Think about the process you used and the information you used to make the decision. Now bring with you all the knowledge you have gained between then and now. Look at all the options you had then and bring in all the new options you have discovered since. Now the whole world is open to you again and you can make a new decision on how to direct your life – your new life. The thinking back part is easy; the tough part is overcoming the fear and making the decision. That is for another time.

After my Mom enlightened me to this feature in the Free Cell game, I began to review my life and wonder what new decisions I could make. I also began to question where I had used this without even realizing it. Within a few weeks of writing this down in my journal, I met several people who did just that. I’ll give you their stories in future blogs.

Remember, every new opportunity we get in life is another lottery winning.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ctrl Z For Your Brain

These times are tough for most people – anyone who requires steady income to pay for the basic necessities of life. Many companies are downsizing or ‘right-sizing’. Whatever words you want to use, it still means many are losing their jobs and that steady income. To me this is just another form of change; drastic change maybe, but still change.

Most people have a difficult time with change because they can’t see a new future. Their minds continue to picture their world, as it was – same company, same role, same colleagues and same drive to work as they always had. A new view is needed in order to effectively drive forward or weather the storm; whichever you prefer.

My Mom helped me figure out a good process for this while playing a game. I was playing Free Cell on my laptop one day when she came over. I was stuck and ready to quit the game. She said I should use Control Z – hold down the Ctrl button and click Z.

“What’s that,” I asked. She said it was the undo button. WOW, an undo button!

“You mean I can go back, move by move until I feel good about starting again?”

“Yup!”

“Isn’t that cheating?”

“Why would they put it in the game if it was cheating?” she replied. Great point Mom!

Life’s not much different. We move through it making choices and ‘moves’ until we get stuck. Often we quit at that point feeling like a failure because we haven’t ‘won the game’. In reality, we can stay in the game by hitting Ctrl Z in our minds until we get back to a comfortable spot, and then make new decisions. The new decisions can now be made with all the lessons we learned while following the first path.

The opportunities that life provides us to use Ctrl Z and make new decisions based on all the lessons we have learned and the growth we have made are real blessings. They are not tragedies, failures or disappointments. They are another way we win the lottery.

I’ll detail more of my process around Ctrl Z in my next blog!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winning the Lottery with Theresa

As a Change Consultant I am very fortunate to meet many people at different customer sites. That is one of the benefits that helped convince me to make the career shift to consulting and I have not been disappointed. Everyone I meet has a wonderful story to tell and each teaches or reinforces something to me. One of the greatest reinforcement lessons I learned came in the past few months.

I was contracted by a local organization mainly to help implement two projects. As part of the transition of these projects to me by the current project manager, I was told that one of the team members on the project had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year. Likely, she would continue to be off intermittently while receiving treatments. I was told further that this person had such great spirit that most people wouldn’t even know about her diagnosis. That was absolutely true.

In the first few meetings with the project team, I completely forgot about this information. I was routinely meeting with Theresa and Scott, the primary business leads, and occasionally with the IT group. The only thing I noticed was that Theresa had a flair for wearing great hats.

Everyday she came in with a different hat on. Each matched her outfit perfectly. Whether it was a beret, cloche, fedora, floppy brim, medium brim or a simple baseball cap, she always wore them with style. Her hats became part of her ensemble like her wedding ring – they just fit, as did she. I was shocked to find out she was the one with cancer; now the hats made more sense. Just as Theresa likely did with everything in her life, she made a seeming necessity fit routinely, yet stylishly within her makeup.

As I was introduced to more employees at the customer site, I began to notice that many of them had their workstations decorated with a deep ‘homey’ touch. Each was unique in color, style and d├ęcor, but all felt more like walking into a living room than an office cubicle. I wasn’t surprised when I was told Theresa had decorated them. She made me feel at home whether it was with her decorations or her warm, open personality. It only made sense that she made cubicles feel like home.

In the 4 months that I worked with Theresa, I never caught a hint of sorrow, self-pity, doubt or anger. She accepted her challenge and portrayed a person of full health, ready to live a great life for 50 more years. Even though we knew the toll her treatments had to be taking on her, she never flinched. She showed up at the office everyday with spunk, drive, full of vitality, ready to take on the world. No one would have thought less of her had she let her goals lapse, but that’s not Theresa. She simply added recovery to her set of goals and moved forward.

I found out recently that Theresa’s last exam revealed a new situation and the news was not good; not good for me and all the others who know her. I’m confident that this next journey for Theresa will be met with the same passion and zest that she has shown me these past 4 months.

For me, my journey with her ends much too soon. She reinforced for me so strongly the need to love life, to attack it with vigor, yet at the same time, care for it as gently as I would my baby boys. Life can be an endless journey of opportunities and achievements or as fleeting as the presence of lilac in Spring. Either way, it is precious and without comparison – just like Theresa. I went beyond winning the lottery when I met this lady with the hat.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Lottery Winnings from the Super Bowl

Another Super Bowl Sunday has passed with the usual gathering of family and friends, tons of food and the excitement of an oh-so-close victory. This year was a little different for me because I won the lottery while the game was being played. Winning had nothing to do with the game itself or any pools I participated in (which were for entertainment purposes only). The lottery came in a lesson.

As part of my consulting for change management, I promote the wonderful old saying; “you learn something new every day.” My version has an added point “…and you reinforce something every day.” In my world, most of the time, if you learn something today, but forget it tomorrow, it served little purpose. But to learn something new each day and reinforce something each day, those learnings eventually become habits. Habits then are run more by your subconscious mind leaving your conscious mind free to learn even more. Super Bowl Sunday reinforced a lesson to me.

My Mother-In-Law, like everyone else who attended the party, brought over a dish that started with the first letter of her first name. Her name is Carol, so she brought chili. She has two recipes and both are great. Her problem this day was that she was missing cumin for her recipe. She called me and I assured her that we had some and pulled what I thought was cumin out of the spice cupboard.

When she arrived, she looked suspicious at the unmarked container of ground spice. She then caught a bit of the fragrance and immediately told me she thought this was ground cloves and not cumin. I assured her several times that I had never purchased cloves in my life, so this had to be cumin. She reluctantly added it to the chili, but the smell of the chili provided even stronger evidence for her case. The more she expressed her belief about the cloves, the more I resisted and built on my argument against it.

As it turned out, she was 100% right. The ‘cumin’ wasn’t cumin. Although the chili was still good, it wasn’t her great chili. But the chili itself was not the issue, my attitude was.

I teach my children never to say something is certain unless it really is; otherwise, state, “I think…” Even if you are certain, it’s often better to state “I think” first. Those two little words make your statements more acceptable to others. In my mind, each time you are ‘certain’, but are wrong, you tear down at your credibility and build up your know-it-all reputation. And no one likes a know-it-all. I acted like a know-it-all.

How in the world could I win the lottery from ruining someone’s chili? I won by learning and reinforcing something every day. I reinforced 2 lessons on Super Bowl Sunday. The first is that my children will always learn more from my actions than they will from my words – live what you teach your children. I didn’t do that, but I will remember to. The second was the lesson I try to teach them every day; never make being right more important than the truth. I allowed my arrogance to continue to argue a point that was wrong. Oh yeah, I got up Monday morning, looked deeper into the cupboard and found the cumin and it didn’t look anything like the container I thought. Lessons are greater than money any day.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lottery Winnings January 30

Two weeks ago my 8-year-old daughter made a present for me. She loves to color, draw and paint, so gifts of that nature from her are pretty common. This time, her creation was a bit different.

Just before school on a Friday, she sat in the dining room for what I thought was study time. A little while later, she came out with the first draft of her gift. It was a piece of paper with a cloud drawn in the center. Inside the cloud were the words, “This is your dream.” She had written it in pen and used little star stickers to dot the i’s. The remaining stars were used to decorate around the cloud. As a proud father, I praised her for her work and set it aside thinking she was done, but she wasn’t.

After school, she sat in the dining room again, finishing her creation. When she was done, she brought it to me showing me the cloud again. Then she flipped it over to reveal her real creation. It was a set of stickers and pictures cut out of a magazine – a piano, football, go-cart, vacation, new car, graduation cap and more – creating a collage of all the things I cherish. She said that I could look at this each day to remember my dreams. She had created her first vision board.

This past week after I had shown the rest of the family her present, my 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son both went to the dining room and created their own versions of a vision board. If we can achieve half of what they listed, we will have easily won the lottery again. More importantly, if they can all continue the practice of visualizing their dreams, then making them real, they will win the lottery over and over again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I won the lottery on Jan. 23

A very close relative of mine, who I also consider a good friend, has recently made some poor choices. Having gone through a very difficult divorce, he chose to use alcohol to make up for his loss. After many, many months of this, legal actions were taken against him and he is now spending 3 months on house arrest.

After having to spend the first week in jail getting out only to go to work, I think he would consider his house arrest as having won the lottery. Still, anytime your world is confined and constricted it isn’t easy. The loneliness and isolation take a toll on your mental, physical and emotional states.

He and I have agreed to video tape his experience. We will use this to log his emotions and mental state throughout this process, and then help others make the right choice before they end up in the same situation. Look for more information on this in my future Blogs.

I have also won the lottery through his struggles. He has been a huge inspiration for me during this time. Where I never received a DUI nor considered myself as having a drinking problem, I still drank most weekends. I wasted morning time being tired from drinking the night before. I wasted money on bottles of wine and 12-packs of beer. I sacrificed health for the perceived benefits of relaxation and good times. I am now in my third week of being alcohol-free. I have more energy, think more clearly, spend even more quality time with my children and have lost weight without changing other items in my diet or adjusting my exercise program. I just won the lottery again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I just won the lottery...

For years, my wife and I have been buying lottery tickets. We understand that the chances of winning the lottery are supposed to be more remote than getting struck by lightning -- which has never happened to me. Still, we buy because the impact of winning far exceeds the cost of $1; and the joy we experience just thinking about winning is well worth the dollar.

We have never used this as future income when setting up our budget. We generally only dream about what we would do with the winnings on rare occasions when we wonder how our expenses got so high this month, but we buy.

It dawned on us a few months back that we had already won the lottery. No, we didn't win Lotto or Powerball or Megabucks or even a scratch-off card. What we won and continue to win are all the treasures that are in our life now -- 5 kids including twin babies, a nice house, great friends and continued wonderful business ideas.

Each week we win the lottery in the opportunities that present themselves to us to gain more success, to achieve more and to teach more. It is our responsibility to take hold of those opportunities and make them ours. Those are the real lotteries.

I will be writing weekly to let you know how I "won the lottery" this week with great relationships, new ideas, new products and services. I hope you'll join me.