Sunday, July 26, 2015

I want to get to know you

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about a former naval academy grad who is writing full-time.

I am not the best

I went to Dave Booda’s site and subscribed to his Boodaism.

Dave is full of wisdom and insight about everyday living as an ordinary American.  How can you draw meaning from your work and life when you seemingly can’t be one of those uber-successful billionaires on TV?  We aren’t all Tony Stark of Ironman: rich, brilliant, confident, good looking, and seemingly invincible.  It’s okay, Dave shows you how to be cool as you are.

Dave is a better writer than I am.  He is clearer and more insightful in what he writes.

I don’t know much

Nor do I have some special knowledge that can help you.  James Clear.  He’s a local North Carolinian.  And on his site, James uses science to help you do more with less.  His insights can help you form habits to make you into a mean, lean, git ‘er done machine.

Nope, I don’t know much about scientification.

So, why do I bother writing?

If I had a special power

For one thing, I like writing.  And while my audience may be small, I am happy speaking to a small group of friends.  Plus, it’s therapeutic for me.  And if I had to dig a little deeper, I can say I enjoy hearing out a friend about her problem and doing something small to help.

For another, it’s like life.  Just ‘cause you’re no Shakespeare, doesn’t mean you should stop writing.  Just ‘cause you’re not Einstein doesn’t mean you should drop out of school (he did his best thinking while a patent office clerk, anyway).  You have to start somewhere.  And like the tortoise, if you keep going, you’ll reach the finish line.

But, if I had a special power, it’s helping a friend.  I’m a good advisor, a Spock to a Kirk.

And that brings me to say: I want to get to know you.

What’s on your mind?  What’s keeping you up at night these days?

If you think I could research and write about a topic of interest to you, would you please reply and let me know?  What can I do to help you?  What would you like to know more about?

As always, thank you for your time.

Check them out

Sunday, July 19, 2015

What would you do if your colleague's dad died?

I’m sure you’ve lost someone close to you.  Whether to time or to disease, no one is free from the grips of death.

In my book on 12 Steps on How to be Happy, I related a story about how a young, non-smoker friend passed away after a fight with lung cancer.  To me, that story was a reminder to say hello to those around you.  They may not always be around.

What would you do?

At my department, a co-worker was missing from work for a few days.  Through the grapevine, I learned that his dad had passed away.

It’s tragic.  He’s about my age.  And I’m visiting my parents this weekend in High Point, NC.  I have been sharing meals with my mom and dad this weekend.

If a friend’s unexpected death was a reminder to connect with those around you now, I wondered what exactly “to connect” means.  It’s one thing to feel sorry for someone and to empathize with them.  But, what can you do?

Do you leave a card with a message of condolence?

Do you bring some food to their house with kind words?

Do you give them a big hug with the conviction that life will go on?

What would you do?

It is so easy to get caught up in the daily business of our lives to pause and sympathize with someone who's life has suddenly been disrupted.  

If it had been your family who passed away, what words and actions would you like to receive from your friends and your colleagues?

What would you do?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Be the Best You Can Be - However Small

I previously reflected on the story of the tortoise and hare, and how incremental progress can accomplish big goals.  Just as with the post about small gestures with big impact, I want to be better about making small changes to be more effective and happy.

“Go to work every day and make getting better your North Star. Aim at that every day,” - Jim Collins

Reality vs. Fantasy

It’s fun to look for small things in my life to improve.  Why?  

Because, in the past, I often thought about big dreams, but realized looking back, I accomplished very little of those dreams.  When I was younger, I had no context to evaluate the link between planning and outcomes.  Now, looking back over the years, I can see the impact not only in my own life, but in the life of those I know.

More to point, I’d like to harness the power of building on success to continue to grow and develop.

(Fantasy v Reality - These used to popular on Facebook last year)

Two Bios - Bezos and LBJ

There are two stories that come to mind about this.  One is of Jeff Bezos, founder of  The other is of Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ).

There is a famous story of an early Amazon days.  The young and inexperienced CEO Jeff Bezos asked the famous business author Jim Collins for advice.  Bezos admitted in front of his team that he felt was was something “less than a Level 5 Leader.”

(“Level 5 leader” is a leader who has mastered and combined personal humility and will to being a great leader.  Jim Collins wrote many business classics like Good to Great and Built to Last.)

Collins advised Bezos:  “Go to work everyday and make getting better your North Star: Aim at that every day.”

One can argue, Bezos took the advice to heart, and has been doing better everyday for a long time now.


I came across another interesting example of taking small tasks seriously by another famous figure: LBJ.

While a young man in college, LBJ took a temporary teaching job in Cotulla, Texas to earn money to pay for his tuition at San Marcos.  The school was for Mexican students whose parents were mostly workers for the white business owners in that southern corner of Texas.  Other teachers took the job with disdain, and treated Mexican children like something less than people who needed education.

Not so Lyndon Johnson.  He put his heart and soul into the school, getting to work before anyone and leaving after everyone left.  Where the school had no extracurricular activities, he devised new ones and connected with nearby schools to give the kids something to do.  Where the children had no transportation to get to events, he’d call on parents with cars (only few had cars) to get the kids to places.

What struck me was that he did all of this not only because he cared about the job and the kids (he did), but because he understood getting a stellar recommendation from this small gig would help him land other positions thereafter.

What You Can Do

You might be working on a boring task right now in a job that feels static.  Just as LBJ did, understand that how you approach a small task will define the opportunities you are given later.  (In the Bible, there’s a story in the book of Matthew about servants to whom talents are given to invest and grow.  In this story, Jesus rebukes the lazy servant who hid the one talent and did nothing with that talent.)

Or, you might be excited about the challenging task you have.  But, you’re stressed because the goal seems insurmountable.  You understand that this big challenge is like finishing a marathon.  You will complete the 26.2 mile-long race one step at a time.  One step.

Focus on getting better everyday.

Further Reading

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Remembering Independence

A Little History

Happy Fourth of July to everyone!  And if you’re not American, then you’ll note that we are celebrating the independence day of United States of America.

Those who enjoy history, may recall that the day that the continental congress representing thirteen colonies declared their independence from the British crown.  (And yes, it was also a blockbuster movie starring Will Smith.)

I happen to live in one of the thirteen colonies, North Carolina.  I’m visiting my parents just outside of Greensboro.  Greensboro was named after general Nathaneal Greene.  Greene was one of George Washington’s major generals, and drove Britain’s Lord Cornwallis out of Carolinas into Virginia [thanks Wikipedia].


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A Little Fresh Spirit in Life

The lesson that I can take away today is that there’s value in independent thinking, even though doing so may end up upsetting the powers.  You know from your experience that once you get used to something, you tend to go on an auto-pilot.  The technical term for this is sensory or neural adaptation.  Foreign things are foreign only the first time.  Once you start seeing something new again and again, or smell that smell every day, you get used to things.  

It’s a simple concept.  In a way, this biological reality is the cornerstone of forming habits.  As you know, habits can be good or bad.

When you get used to doing your work well, or you get used to getting something from others, you might be excited and grateful at first.  But, after a while, you begin to take things for granted.  Or perhaps you started a new role, and attacked problems with fresh eyes.  But, after losing yourself in the details for a while, you lose independence of thought.

You become part of the problem.

How can you keep your mind sharp and fresh?  Well, here are a few things to remember:
  • Change your setting - Something as simple as standing up or taking your papers to a different desk could stimulate new thoughts.
  • Take your vacations - I still can’t believe some people don’t take vacations.  Get away from your desk a while.  Your company will still be there when you get back.
  • Take a walk - One of my favorite techniques.  Whether it’s walking or using the opposite hand to write (try left handed doodling if you’re a right-hander).  The unusual act will stimulate new thoughts.  Even random thoughts are a positive.
  • Practice opposites - Like anything, you get good at being a contrarian by practicing it.  When you come up with a new idea, don’t stop there.  Play the devil’s advocate and try to come up with reasons why the idea is not a good one.
  • Empathize - If you’re working with a team, then pause to think about what your counterparts are thinking.  It will help you get out of your head, and enhance how you communicate.

Okay, so fresh thinking may not have stopped the War of Independence.  But, I suspect it will help you stay more focused and more energetic in your endeavors.

A Little Family Time

That said, as I was wrapping up my mundane finance work Friday afternoon, I saw how everyone seemed to file out early.  They were thinking about the family and friends they were going to see for this holiday.

If you’re like me, then I’m sure you’ve noticed that things “feel” different around holiday time.  You and others around you become more relaxed.  You take work a little less seriously and think about the fun trip you have planned, or look forward to the grill you’ll break out with family and friends.

And that’s the most important thing.  Why did our Founding Fathers declare their independence?  So, you can enjoy a cold beer and admire your green lawn with friends?  Damn right.

Of all the things that you could get used to and take for granted, remember not to take your family and friends for granted.  Take a fresh look at each time you see them and remember how important they are.

Happy July Fourth!