Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Come look!

Recently, my oldest son texted me pictures of a cabinet he is building for the home he and his wife are renovating.

During his childhood, I too built homes. I had him do things he could do at his age, picking up trash andsweeping, etc. He and hissister also wanted to help paint, so I gave each of them a brush and they painted,at least until it became more like work than play. Theypainted the lower wall where the kitchen cabinets would eventually cover, so there was no need for‘quality control’.They learned how to hold the brush,and a few fundamentals of painting.

My son’srenovation project has a ‘move – in’ deadlineloomingahead, and although the project is ahead of schedule, unforeseen delays can scuttle the plans, especially as he continues to do his day job and work with clientsand their projects.

He often has theirfive-year old daughterand three-year old son with him at what the kids have been calling,the “work house”. He installed the TV on the living room wall just above a large, built in cabinet he was in the process of building, so the kids would have something to do while he works.

Afterhe had nearly completed the cabinet, he stepped back into the room and snapped a picture of the cabinet to text to me, includingin the picture the two kids watching TV.Moments later, I called him,we discussed the cabinetand the overall project. He said everything was going well, but having the kids there slowed things down because of having to make sure they were engaged, safe, fed and took their naps. An example of his frustration from earlier that morning happened when he was going back and forth to the garage while building the cabinet.The three-year old would come into the garage saying, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, come look”. He would stop,follow him back to theliving room, acknowledge what he was pointing to on the TV, affirm his interest, and return to the garage. The three-yearold would sit back down in his chair. The frustration came because this cycle was repeated and again within a few minutes of each other, interrupting his work over and over.

Afterhe shared this example, I commented, “I know you need to get the work done, but keep in mind:he is only doing the same thing you are doing.” He said, “What do you mean?”. I replied, “you are texting me pictures, and calling me saying essentially the same thing:“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, come look”. There was a deep, thoughtful pause,followed by a chuckle of agreement. I said, “I hope one day he will be calling you, so you, too, can enjoy what I enjoy when you call or text me so I can celebrate you.”

I have the wonderful privilege of having four adult children and four grandchildren with another granddaughter on the way. Parenting can be very difficult, even exasperating, but remember: the parenting you do now will hopefully provide opportunities to celebrate later.

Principle Point: Ephesians 6:4

A Whack On the Side Of the Head (an exercise based on a simple question)

In my library, there is a tall, red book with large, yellow lettering called A Whack On The Side Of the Head by Roger von Oech, Ph.D.  It’s about creativity.

I occasionally pull a book off the shelf and scan through it.  I do this with some regularity, because it invigorates my thinking and prompts creativity. I’ve done this often with this book and it never fails to prompt creative thinking.

As a Dad, I was asked by my children when they were small, the incessant question of why? why? why?  Their curiosity and persistence were demanding. As an adult, it’s not a bad question to ask even now, but now I’ve added another question, prompted by A Whack On The Side Of the Head.  What if?

Are you curious? Do you let your emotions or past events keep you from pursuing a creative idea, or opportunity?

Recently, while in a coaching session, I asked, “Why do you have that feeling?”and the person had great difficulty responding.  In this case, the feeling and its influence was robbing them of their creativity, their relationships, and their productivity. Their first reaction was to place the blame on someone else, with their thought of, “they make me feel…” I asked, “do they?” As we peeled back the layers of the feeling, they discovered the source and realized they began to feel this feeling because of a particular event, and since that time they’ve been applying it to a wider and wider circle of activities and relationships. Unwittingly they were allowing one single event and their feeling about it to spread to other aspects of their life, family, work, and even their spiritual perspective.  I asked, “What will your life look like now, without allowing that feeling rule your decisions?”

Now…. back to the exercise in the book.  It suggests that you ask yourself a similar question.  What if…?

What if I had taken that job?
What if I had hired that person?
What if I had said yes.
What if I had said no.

You get the idea.

The “What if?” question has implications for you TODAY that could change your life forever.

How will you fill in the blank and change the course of your life TODAY?

Developing rapport through conversation

Coaching clients toward greater productivity, especially in developing new business and sales, or finding what motivates people toward success in their work and lives, brings to light that many people do not know how to begin and/or develop a conversation.

This process begins with building, or rebuilding rapport.

My clients often tell me how difficult it is for them to start or continue conversations with people, especially those that may be prospects in their business development.

What I’ve found to be typical is that they only ask one or two questions, then immediately move to the information about their product or service without “getting to know” the person they need to serve.

Anxiety, fear, or impatience are often at the root of the problem, but often it is simply that they don’t have a tool to help them know where to start and where to go in the flow of the conversation.

During an interview with a psychologist years ago as a radio host in the Washington, DC area, they suggested that a conversation is like a train engine with box cars. A conversation is one idea hooked to another; how you hook them together can be intentional, and yet also spontaneous.

First, you must want to hear what the other person has to say. As you listen and ask questions, you can drill deeper, or peel off layers of experience, perspective, emotions and values.

I often use the acronym FORM as a tool to help a client start and keep conversations going. This tool is effective even if they get lost or sidetracked and need to get back on track as they move toward their conversation’s goal. This goal may simply be finding out more about a person, or it may be to build rapport and trust to gain a business prospect.

Each letter is a prompt, and can be used in any order, but I suggest that you begin with F because most are willing to talk about where they are “From”. The conversation may begin with “Are you from this area, originally?” Then offer where you are from, and if there is common background that can be extended to weather, landmarks, current news or family, seize the information and build upon it for your next question, whether or not there is something in common.

I’ve found that others will follow your lead if you give a little information about yourself, and then ask a follow up question based on something they mentioned. The process looks like this: you begin with a question, they respond, you relate your experience or information, ask another question, and continue the cycle. Listen for common interests, feelings, and experiences, and use it for the basis of your next question. Keep it conversational, not as if you are interrogating them.

Secondly, a question about their “Occupation” or work, especially if they mentioned their move to the area was work related. This continues the flow. Here’s the key…. Listen to the facts, but also listen to their tone, because they may reveal pleasant or unpleasant feelings about the situation that may prompt the direction of your next question. Be careful to not jump too quickly to an emotional point because they may feel awkward about an emotional question too soon in your conversation.

If I find myself in a situation like that, I will often offer a similar feeling or experience, and shift to another, less emotional question, i.e., “after my dad passed away, we were open to a move. That’s when my company offered a transfer to this area. Pause, and then “So since you’ve been here, have you enjoyed any of the local landmarks?” If they have not, share one you like and offer others they may like.

The process of prompting conversation is to start it and “connect” the next thought to their comments, and ask a question based on what they have said.

This sounds rudimental, and it is, but most stop the conversation having asked only two questions, such as where are you “From” and what is your “Occupation”. It is possible to ask multiple questions within the F and O portions of the conversation, but most often the conversation stops because of anxiety or lack of direction.

The third, “R” is for “Recreation”, and is a part of common conversation, especially if a team jersey or accessory is being worn. It could also be a simple transition point as above in the ‘local landmark’ comment which could be the springboard to other attractions, sporting events, or local offerings that can continue a conversation and develop significant rapport.

Lastly, but of great importance is the “M“, which can be a prompt to talk about Motivation or Money.

This can provide the transition to the business portion of the conversation, or at a minimum the next step toward understanding their motivation or “Why” they may have an interest in your product and/or service.

Even though the word FORM only has four letters, I suggest that you set a goal to drill deeper by pursuing a minimum of five questions as you begin a conversation, and peel off the covering that will reveal interests, values, and motivation. You will experience greater rapport and trust.

I Don’t Feel Safe

“I don’t feel safe!” “I don’t feel safe!” my daughter, Carrington kept screaming (emphatically!) after being placed on the saddle of a horse at a vacation tourist attraction.

I dare say we have all felt like that before. We wanted something, we begged for it, we prayed and prepared, but when the moment arrives, we are just plain terrified!

We want something like she did; yet once we have it, or the possibility of having it, we get nervous and wonder if we have what it takes to manage it, or ourselves. What if it succeeds and overwhelms me, or what if it fails? What will I do then?

Carrington had seen a billboard showing a girl riding a horse with her hair blowing in the wind. She was about eight years old and had never been on a horse, or as far as I can remember near one, except maybe one of those tethered ponies at the fair where three or four ponies blindly follow one another in a controlled circle, appearing to be bored and almost asleep. It’s a huge step up from one of those plastic coin ponies in front of the grocery store, or a fair pony, to the horse on the billboard which was at least 12 to 15 hands high, and completely on its own to roam about wherever it chooses.

Once we arrived at the stables, and after a few brief instructions, the handler placed Carrington on the horse she was to ride, while the rest of us stood by preparing to mount our steeds. While still tied to the rail, the horse she was on slightly shifted its weight from left to right, and that is when the screaming began.

You see, just a few weeks before in school, she was taught to say “I don’t feel safe” if, for some reason, an unfamiliar situation was presented to her. So, in fact, she was doing what she was taught to do. But she had asked to do this…no, that’s not right either — she had pestered me over and over for days, many times a day, to go to this riding stable so she could ride a horse because it seemed exciting and romantic.

As I said, the horse was just shifting its weight. But then, as it had done countless times before, it headed toward the corral which was only 30 feet away. There it would join the other horses who were already in formation prepared for the ultra-slow parade that was about to begin. So, just when I thought the screaming of “I don’t feel safe!” was at its peak, I was so wrong.

As ten or more people stood waiting to board their rides, hearing this commotion and watching this little girl with her little purse slung over her shoulder begin this endless repetitive rant, they broke into laughter. Carrington was completely unaware of what was going on because as far as she was concerned, she was in the throes of a life threatening situation. Of course the horse continued to slowly lumber toward the open gate of the corral to take its place in the line. All the while she was screaming “I don’t feel safe! I don’t feel safe! I don’t feel safe!”

She wanted off as soon as I rode to her side on my lumbering steed.

My perspective was this. This will prove to be one of those “life lessons” that doesn’t come along too often. So, I looked into her terrified face and firmly called her name “Carrington!” She looked at me, and I said “this is what you have been dreaming of all week, this is your idea. Stop screaming, hold on to the horn of the saddle, the horse will do the rest. You are safe. I will ride behind you, you will be fine.”

Fast forward to when she was a teenager and asked for riding lessons. Not only did she begin riding, she later began to help others learn to ride and overcome their fears.

An owner of thoroughbreds who knew her from the riding stable called and asked if she would provide daily exercise for his horses. This led to a situation where one of the horses brushed her off his back by running into the trees, expressing his presumed control. She walked across the field and back to the barn where the horse had returned. She mounted the horse and rode him thoroughly, until he knew who was in control.

Recently she was asked to return to her alma mater, Lee University, to be the keynote speaker at a leadership conference. I can’t help but think that one of the lessons that has permeated her leadership ability has to do with when you don’t feel safe, you muster courage and overcome the challenge. This response to fear will provide confidence for your current and future endeavors.

Where do you not feel safe? What is the challenge or situation that you are encountering where you want to scream “Get me out of here!” “Get me off this horse!”, “I don’t feel safe!!!”

Take stock of the moment and what you will learn from it. What confidence will come from the growth resulting from facing your fear?

I asked a fellow coach of top executives what he consistently considered as a challenge across the range of leaders he coached. He said, “Each one must overcome their fears, and they all have some level of fear”, no matter who they are.

Don’t believe in your fear more than you do in YOU. You were created to overcome.

Consider this:

1) What is at the root of my fear?
2) What good thing/s might come from this?
3) Who can offer insight and perspective?
4) What can I do to immediately confront this fear?

A Remembrance of my Father

“Awful” and “Awesome” are two words that, to an extremely limited degree, capture the thoughts and emotions I felt at the moment of my father’s passing. The official time of death is recorded at the hospital at 17:03 (3:03pm), but I was there in the moment, along with my wife Patty, when we saw his spirit, personality and life leave us an hour earlier. 2:04 pm.

100 years, 8 months and 20 days. That’s a long time to live. When you live beyond the average life span of 75.9 years for an American male, it is even more impressive. When it’s your parent you are cradling as you watch the last few seconds of their life, those numbers become irrelevant.

Sunday afternoon. June 2, 2013. Patty and I had returned from attending church and from picking up dad’s lunch about 1:00pm. He had not been able to attend church since December due to a dry cough, gout and swelling in his feet. We called on the way home so he could give us his order for lunch. Sometimes it was Red Lobster; but today, his other favorite, Arby’s Jr. Roast Beef with curly fries, along with the reminder “make sure they put in lots of sauce.”

Our kitchen table was next to his lounge chair which faced the TV and the rest of the room. We were able to check on him throughout his meal; he seemed normal, just busy eating. After Patty and I finished, we talked with him as he sat in his lounge chair with his tray in his lap finishing his lunch. We cleaned up the table and asked if he was finished. His appetite had been a little low for a while, but today he had eaten his entire meal, curly fries and all.

While we had been eating, he had the sound almost off on the TV. Afterwards, Patty and I went to sit on the couch and as he was flipping through the channels, he stopped on a tennis game. He turned the sound up and asked me “Who’s the champion?” looking toward the TV. I said “Roger Federer”. There was a close up as he was about to serve so I said, “there he is, that’s him”. Then with a mischievous tone and the slightest grin, Dad said, “So I guess, since he’s the champion, he thinks he’s always supposed to win?” Turning to look back at the TV, I said “Well, right now Federer is at two, and his opponent Simon, is at five”. As I turned to look back toward him (he was only a few feet away in his chair), I began saying, “So the champion is actually…” It was then that we heard deep inhales and exhales, his lips fluttering. I noticed that he was looking far beyond me, as if he was focused on something a million miles away. I spoke up more loudly, as I had often done because of his difficulty hearing. I said, “Dad!” with no response. Again I said “Dad!” with more emphasis, trying to get his attention. Then saying “Dad! look at me!” I moved in closer, tapped him on the leg, then the arm, with no reaction.

I cupped his face in my hands as his gaze deepened. He began to stiffen as his arms simultaneously moved upward and into “x” across his chest, not as if he was in pain, it was just physical tension. His blue eyes grayed, and his complexion began to turn throughout his face. He became gaunt as his jaw dropped and his upper false teeth released into his open relaxed mouth. This made his appearance look even more surrealistic and skeletal in appearance. I repeated “Dad, Dad, Dad, look at me”. I looked to my right toward Patty, who at the sound of his deep exhale and flutter of his lips had begun calling 911. Just before they picked up, I looked at her and said, “This is it, he’s leaving”.

The operator answered at 2:04. Dad’s head became limp in my hands and his arms, legs and his body relaxed. He was gone. It was our awesome privilege to be there in that moment. Awful, but awesome at the same time.

Later Patty would tell me that when I looked at her, she could see in my face “disbelief, fear, and acceptance, all in one look”. The operator answered and told us to get him on the floor and begin compressions. The fire station was just a block from our home, so we could hear the sirens as I grasped him by the front of his jacket and shirt, and as Patty held the back of his head, we began to move him from his chair to the floor.

Within moments there were EMS personnel in our family room working to revive him. Our mistake was, we should have been prepared with a DNR (do not resuscitate) posted on our refrigerator. Two police officers were there as well. One of them asked what my relationship was. I said “I’m his son”. He asked my name, and Dad’s name and birth date. When I said, “He’s 100 years old, his birth date is September 13, 1912”, the officer said “he’s had a long life”. I replied, “And a good life.”

They worked on him for approximately 30 minutes. Monitors, shots, someone calling, “clear”. One man was compressing a breathing bag, while someone was doing compressions, alternating with someone every few minutes, while the lieutenant kneeling at Dad’s feet gave directions and counted down until the next man took his turn. Patty and I stood off to the side, watching. A very surreal experience. Then the lieutenant gave us an update and said they were going to prepare him for transport to the hospital.

While we sat in the car waiting for them to prepare Dad in the ambulance, I called my sister Linda who was traveling in Arizona. I said “I don’t have good news.” “Dad is gone”. She exclaimed, “No” and started to cry. I told her we were waiting to follow the ambulance, and that I would call here once we arrived at the hospital.

There were at least eight personnel in the emergency room along with the doctor when we arrived. Dr. Rader told us the status and asked if I needed to call anyone to get agreement as to how long they should continue to pursue trying to revive him. Patty and I stepped to the end of the hallway, called Linda, gave her the update, and agreed that it was time to tell them to stop.

When we stepped back into the room, the doctor showed us the sonogram. He pointed out that dad’s heart was not beating, and that one of the valves was fluttering, but that his heart was not moving any blood to his brain or lungs, and that he was not breathing.

I looked at him and said “Doctor, he’s 100 years old. You can call the time.” I don’t know who called it, I just remember they said, “time of death 17:03”. When I heard that number, I knew that was the official time, but I knew that we saw him go an hour earlier at 2:04.

The details above are just facts.

The power and impact of the moment, as I have thought about it, was that I was having an encounter with my own mortality as I watched my father pass. For whatever reason, I was not affected in the same way when my mother passed about 13 years ago from Parkinson’s disease. Her final moments were much more difficult and dramatic, and lasted about 30 minutes or more.

It’s presumption, but maybe it’s because this was my last living parent. For more than a week afterwards, I would awaken at about 4:00 am reliving that moment that lasted just a few seconds, but is imbedded forever in my memory.

He was here with us, then, he was gone. For each of us, it will be the same.

As a minister, I have presided over many funerals. I have been with families when they have encountered this moment in their lives, but none had the impact this did.

One year later:

Patty and I often say, “if Dad were here he would…say…do…react, ask”, in only the way he could. We miss his humor, and the quirky way he would do some things. Just the other night, we laughed at the idea of his watching an entire movie or TV program until about ten minutes before it was over. He would suddenly stand up and go to bed, not waiting for the show to finish. He had finished watching, and that was all that mattered.

Dad taught us the little things. As I was putting a broom away recently, I remembered when Dad told me to stand the broom on the handle and not on the straw end. He said this keeps the straw straight. If stood on the straw, the straw will bend over time and make it difficult to use.

There are so many things I do the way I do them because he taught me to do it that way. He taught me to think outside of the box. Those around me call me MacGyver after the TV character because of the unorthodox ways I may solve a problem. I owe that to my dad because he taught me to look around and find the solution with what was at hand or think of things that could be applied differently to solve the problem. Thanks, Dad.

There are so many things to say about him, including ways he would say certain words. If a word ended in “a” (and there are a lot of them), he would pronounce it with an “er” sound. For example: Tamper, the city in Florida (Tampa). This frustrated and sometimes embarrassed me as a teen and as an adult, until one day while living with me in his 90’s, he mentioned that his 3rd grade teacher (which was the level of his entire formal education), broke a pointing stick across his body because he mispronounced the word “it”. Instead he said “hit”, so she hit him. So he said he’d always had a problem saying some words. You can only imagine how I felt in that moment. Despite his limited formal education, Dad operated multiple businesses and supported our family comfortably, and served with distinction in WW11 receiving among other recognitions, a Bronze Star. Thank you, Dad. You have our utmost respect.

He was a man who had a personal relation with his Lord, reading daily and praying throughout the day. In fact one of the most profound legacies he has left me is that when he began every prayer as far back as I can recall, he always began his prayer by saying, “Kind, heavenly Father”. His perspective of God has helped to shape my relationship and understanding of God and his love for me and others.

We never heard or saw prejudice of any kind toward anyone. Integrity was a priority for dad as well. I worked with him in various businesses and interactions with people. I never heard him speak ill of anyone or do anything that could be judged as untrustworthy. To this day, I will not stop to use a restroom at a service station or elsewhere without buying something because dad said “you owe the business owner for access and water. If it wasn’t there, you couldn’t have used it.”

He could not have been a more devoted husband to our mother Juanita, or a father to us. He could be stern and directive, but you always knew that he loved you and would be there no matter what. He was loyal, faithful, and always teaching us how to do things and why. He could also be mischievously funny when you least expected. We saw his love and affection for our mother when we were young and as adults. For over 15 years, he cared for her every need as she declined in health in her 70’s with Parkinson disease.

When I was about 12 years old, he taught me to conquer fear by swimming over the water of Lithia Springs, south of Tampa. The water was so cold, and the force of the pressure constantly pushed you away from the cavernous opening of the spring. It was absolutely clear, so you could see how deep it was. Once he thought I was capable, he swam with me to the boil and stayed there fighting the current until I made it across. Later that day he said, now you can do it on your own, and I did.

Dad was a farmer, mechanic, builder, and barber, among other things. He always knew where his tools were and took care of them. When I was a kid he reminded me constantly to clean the tools I use and put them back where they belong. Once I left a hand saw on the grass over night. He found it as he was leaving for work the next morning. He laid it on the dining table on top of unfolded new paper so I couldn’t miss it when I ate breakfast that morning. When I saw it I shuddered, thinking he would be angry.

When he came home that night, I saw him look for it in the barn. I had polished the wooden handle, used steel wool to remove the rust and then oiled it until it shimmered. To this day, I clean and put tools away where they belong. He never said one word to me about the incident. He taught me that it is better sometimes not to say anything, just reveal that you know, and respect the results. Oh yeah, and to put my tools away. And I do.

We watched as he declined in health after he turned 100 years old. He would complain about his loss of energy, and aching joints among other things. A significant lasting lesson, again taught by example, was that he might be in pain but he would walk about a mile almost every day in spite of discomfort. He pressed through it and kept moving. I would say to him, “Well dad, when you are as old as you are it’s expected that your energy level will be low and you will have aches and pains”. His response? “I may be old but I shouldn’t feel this way.” He would not let his age or his condition define him. Only a few months before he passed, he suggested that he and I start a business. An ice cream shop. His favorite? Vanilla.

Not enough can be said. Thanks Dad. We really miss you.

Oh, and by the way. The answer to dad’s question, “So I guess, since he’s the champion he thinks he’s always supposed to win?” The answer is “Yes, that’s why he’s a champion”.

Remembering our champion on this Father’s Day.

Love Does Not Envy

Often it’s easier to see a negative than a positive.

As I wrote in my last blog, “Love is Patient and Kind” is a positive statement about what love is, as stated in verse four, of first Corinthians chapter thirteen.

Somewhere I’ve heard it said, “Love surpasses great generosity of things and self, and is supreme in its position and particular in its display.”

Let’s take a look at a few “Don’ts” about love, or what love is not.

Verse five of the same chapter says “Love does not Envy”. It’s a phrase you don’t expect to see when you’re being encouraged to love.

You might say, “How could I possibly envy the person I love?”

As I have coached and counseled couples, I’ve found that envy can be concealed and difficult to recognize.

It has been said that jealousy is how you feel about another’s possessions/qualities, but envy is flush with emotion and displeased at seeing a person have it. In other words, you’re thinking, “I’m not just upset because I don’t have WHAT you have, I’m upset because YOU have it.” The focus has moved from a thing to a person.

Tensions arise in a relationship and present as bitterness, jealousy, frustration with one another, or a lack of fulfillment. These underlying feelings may be coming to the surface, born from envy.

Envy is an insidious emotion. It could start because someone gets a raise or promotion and you haven’t, or it can come by comparing their positive history, to a negative history such as tragedy or abuse. I’ve seen friends; travel and other life experiences become sources of envy for some couples.

If you find yourself letting your thoughts linger or focus on something your spouse or significant other has that you don’t have, and you begin feeling negative toward them, you must arrest that thinking. Tell a trusted and supportive friend or counselor, and protect your relationship.

Love rejoices for and with your spouse because they have what they have, and because they have decided to share their life with you.

You have a history to be shared and a future to build. Enjoy it together.

Solutions
1. Be aware of lingering thoughts
2. Arrest negative thinking
3. Talk to a trusted person who supports your marriage
4. Celebrate your positive history
5. Maintain open communication
6. Use the Ten Step Conflict Resolution Tool (provided in my pre-marital and marital counseling sessions)

Fulcrums

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world.” – Archimedes

While listening to a training disc recently, it came to mind that we use fulcrums throughout our lives for work and play, like children on a playground having fun on a “see saw” and like carpenters using fulcrums to pull nails.

The power is determined by the placement of the pivot and its relationship to the handle, and its length.

There are mental pivots, or fulcrums, that help us do tasks, or help relationships to be more fun, deeper, effective and productive.

When I was in elementary school, I didn’t enjoy memorizing my “times tables”, but little did I know how much I would use them later. This is a simple example of a fulcrum when used later in life would give me the power to determine if there were enough chairs in a room to accommodate participants for an important meeting.

I thank Mr. Powers, my shop teacher, for placing another powerful fulcrum in my tool box. This tool helped to get my creative juices flowing.

During the first week of classes, Mr. Powers gave us a plain white sheet of paper and directed us to scribble on it by making swirling and straight lines covering the page. Next we were to select three shapes within the scribbles, and shade them in. Then we were to scale up or down in size the shape as we transferred it onto graphing paper. Finally, we were to cut out the resulting shape and use it as a pattern to create a wooden ornament for a necklace.

I didn’t understand until much later: he was actually teaching a process to prompt and actualize creativity and problem solving, especially when you’re stuck and don’t know where to begin.

Using a simple and playful device gives your brain a rest and frees it from circling a problem over and over again.

Years later, I read a book titled, A Whack On The Side Of the Head by Roger von Oech, Ph.D (Warner 1983). The book’s focus is the process of recognizing how to remove roadblocks to creativity, and inspire problem solving and innovation.

I have reviewed this book a dozen times or more since first reading it. I’m reminded to not be too serious and to be playful with ideas. It suggests that you put yourself in mentally stimulating situations and look for different points of view. Also, you can learn to remove roadblocks to creativity, and discover ways to inspire innovation.

Do your answers prompt innovative ways to think and discover?

What are a few things that empower, excite and refresh you? Be intentional. Use them TODAY.

Solutions:

Be intentional, and open to serendipity.
Pursue an unorthodox approach.
Expect innovative thoughts.
Prompt the process: scribble and color shapes, bounce a ball, make and launch a paper airplane, vacuum a floor,
mow the lawn, or read something unrelated.
Take a walk (Philosopher Francis Schaffer walked back and forth thinking and listening until his floor had a
worn path in it).
Browse in a library.
Respect and record your ideas.
Talk to someone about the topic. Listen for emotions, not only content. Ask why they feel strongly. Positives or negatives provide a broader perspective.

Each of these ideas will provide a new angle of view, clarity, and more questions.

Transitions

Our 17 year old started his senior year in high school, got his provisional license, started a new job at a café and inherited his grandfathers 2001 Buick Century, all within two months. Today he had a moment of transition while standing in the kitchen preparing to go to work. He picked up the lanyard holding a door key he has worn since grade school. In his other hand, he was holding the key ring to the car. I watched him pause, look at both and make a decision to move the key ring from the lanyard to the car keys.

He didn’t realize I saw him. I spoke up and said, “A big moment isn’t it? Leaving something from childhood and moving toward being an adult?” He looked at me and with a big smile, said “Uh huh”, and thoughtfully nodded yes.

Often the larger transitions in life are marked by small indicators.

At work, maybe you’ve been given an opportunity to show your abilities, accepting challenges and responsibilities, preparing you for promotion. Maybe the promotion has already come, and now you’re in the same place our son was, when you realize that you have a lot to learn, new expectations and responsibilities. You’re entrusted with the keys; you’re wearing a shirt without your name on the front; your office is larger, your desk is different; you push a different floor button on the elevator; people report to you, or some other indication that things have changed.

Stop and take it in. Take a moment to recognize what it took to get there, and appreciate those who helped you prepare for the challenge.

What moment have you had similar to this that required learning something new? Maybe you took on a challenge at work, a new hobby, or did something at home that was unfamiliar to you? Did you stop and realize the small things that were indicators of your growth? Those small things like the lanyard and key ring, the award pin, a plaque, or the photos with people indicate transitions, and the new levels of confidence.

My father recently passed away at 100 years old. For 30 or so years, while talking to strangers, friends, family (including me), he would almost always turn to his WWII experiences, starting with the phrase, “when I was in the army we…” or “during the war, we…” During one of our conversations, I interrupted and asked “why do you so often recall your military experiences?” He paused for a very brief moment and said, “That’s when a boy, became a man”.

As my sister and I were going through his things after he passed, we found his Honorable Discharge, and other memorabilia. What we didn’t know until our Congressional Representative called about honoring Dad for his service was that he earned the “Bronze Star” for an act of bravery. Oddly, he never spoke of it, or his other awards. We also found his business and professional licenses for more than 30 years in an envelope along with other items tucked into a small, worn cigar box. But what we found, and what touched us the most among his things, was that he kept a stack of Father’s Day cards he’d received from us. I think he realized that each card indicated changes and growth, and he also accepted his changes that influenced our lives and those we influence. Each card, each year, embodied a brief message of transition, success and legacy.

Life’s transitions are important and often significant to our present, future, and past.

Transition solutions:

  • Respect and treasure the moment.
  • Determine if memorabilia should be kept.
  • Decide: is this a private or public moment, or both?
  • Stop, take a deep breath, and let it settle in.
  • Be “it”. It’s who you’ve ‘become’.
  • Ask others about their transition. Listen for emotions (values) and information (what, who, and why)

Especially for Managers and Leaders:

  • Respect the changes others experience.
  • Allow for transition. It takes time for the shoe to fit well. Let the new person know it takes time, 5 weeks +/-, and remind them of this during the process. This will help depressurize and take the stress off the learning curve for them.
  • Remember, perspective changes in “ah-ha” moments. It can’t happen until it happens.
  • Ask if they are familiar with, and then explain vocabulary or acronyms. Recall your feelings of not knowing meanings and titles in the new environment.
  • Acknowledgement reduces stress, increases productivity, loyalty, and builds team spirit. (Others know, understand, and I’m not alone).
  • Tell your transition “story”. “I know how I felt when I…”. (Caution: don’t use “I know how you feel”. Their feelings may be different that yours were).

A Stack of Sticks (What You See is What You Get)

​I was once asked by a millionaire businessman, “Randy, what do you think about when you’re not thinking about anything?” At first, I thought his question was humorous, but the more I considered it, I realized he was on to something.

We are what we think, and we are becoming what we intentionally or unintentionally think about. When my wife Patty sees me sitting quietly, she will sometimes ask “What are you thinking about?” When I retrace my thoughts, I realize how random and seemingly disconnected they are. Sometimes just for fun, I will recount the thoughts randomly streaming through my mind. It’s then that I will realize that I was heading toward some goal, project, task, or maybe our relationship, our children or grandchildren.

The key to this process is recognizing that we all have this “down time” when we are thinking, without thinking what we are thinking about. It seems convoluted, and in a way it is, but usually the initial thought is brought about by something we see or hear. It may be someone in a crowd, a billboard, TV show, a song, or something on a talk radio program. Each of these are unintentional prompts, but yet, we control them because it was our choice to tune in, view or focus on something.

What if you intentionally choose to watch, listen, read or, even more profound, choose to be around people who are more like what you want to be?

I have heard it said that our income in the future will be the average of the five people we are around most often. Think about that. Who do you hang around?

The influence of what you hear and see from the people you choose to be with are either influencing you to grow, or not. Wow! That can be encouraging. Or troubling.

Now, to the stack of sticks. While our pastor recently told the Biblical account from Genesis chapter 30, I was reminded about being intentional, and the impact of what we see daily.

The account is basically a love story with a lot of pursuit, deception, and tenacious persistence. Jacob, the guy who finally wins the beauty, makes a deal with her dad to tend his flocks. He also agrees to keep the spotted animals, and give her father the solid colored ones which are of greater value.

Jacob used a breeding strategy that would not be understood until thousands of years later.

We now know that his strategy of putting dark colored sticks with some of the bark removed, exposing the lighter colored stem, may have affected the animals’ visual attraction.

Jacob sets up the multi-colored sticks where the animals gathered to eat and drink. The solid and spotted animals are attracted to the other animals that already have the stick-like, multi-colored appearance, and happily mate with them. This increased the multi-colored animals available to mate in Jacobs flock. Hence, his flocks greatly increased and he became wealthy.

Solutions to prompt new thinking:

  1. Place three items, notes, or other prompts in obvious places that will influence positive change, creativity, and productivity.
  2. Listen to a music selection today that would not be typical.
  3. Contact three people this week who will have a positive influence on your perspective, insight, vocabulary, skill, or attitude
  4. Select a time and place to intentionally think, listen and see differently.
  5. Read Genesis 30:25-43

Based on a few choices, your life can begin to change TODAY.

How’s Your Integrity?

​Integrity is frequently challenged in our work, home, and relationships of all kinds. When we break the barriers of our values, we set ourselves up for emotional pain and loss. We can rapidly drive though life without assessing our values and choices, and the impact on ourselves and others.

A few years ago, I was asked to attend a seminar at the Sonoma Raceway complex in Sonoma, California. I was to hear about the introduction of a high end car, and then return to Maryland and train the sales staff at a local dealership.

The most thrilling part of the experience was the high speed drive on the speedway. Helmet on and motor revved, I crossed in front of the grandstand at 120 miles per hour, a limit that was set due to the non-racing tires. After you pass the grandstand, then it’s all about negotiating the hairpin curves, a short straight away, rises in the track, and more curves, then back to the grandstand at full speed, ending with one more lap. It was exhilarating to say the least.

You can imagine my anxiety was high, driving at those speeds in someone else’s new $40,000.00+ car.

Whether you’re on a race track or in your personal vehicle going to the market, you don’t normally think about all the parts that make your travel possible.

Most of us think of integrity as “being on the up and up”, honesty or being authentic. The definition applied in this scenario is, “when all the parts fit together and perform as designed”.

Rarely do we identify the parts of our life and values, and whether they are performing well together.

As an example, if you are asked to do something in your work that is against your moral code and values, you will not be comfortable in your work, or elsewhere. Even though it was done at work, you carry it around in you, as if a piece of you is chipped or broken. In order for you to get back into full working order, or have integrity, you must be reconciled to your values and expectations of yourself.

In an automobile, one of its most complex systems is the transmission, which transfers power into motion. When I saw the cutaway of the high performance transmission in the car I had just driven, I was amazed at the overwhelming number of intricate gears and rods. If any one of its parts is broken, and the system looses integrity, it not only may stop working, but potentially produce catastrophic failure.

How’s your integrity?

Do you need to change gears and get back to your values so that your performance and relationships are all working with integrity?

Solutions: Integrity: “when all the parts fit together, and perform as designed”

  1. List the major parts of your life: Family, Work, Relationships, Health, Spiritual, Recreation, Finances, etc.
  2. Break one down into its smaller parts: (i.e. Health: food, exercise, rest, etc.)
  3. What needs to be adjusted, repaired, replaced or begun?
  4. Envision your life with the change/s in place.
  5. Set a date, time, and place to begin.
  6. If any part of the process can be done now, and I mean immediately, then do it TODAY!
  7. Celebrate success, even if it’s small (i.e.: play the sound track to the animated movie “Cars” Real Gone, and do a victory lap!)