Friday, October 28, 2011

Life's Unfair Balance

There is a lot of doom and gloom these days....struggling economy, protests, political muck raking, less than entertaining sporting events, over priced nights on the town. It seems the work day requires us to do more with less and when we try to break free our bank accounts are emptied. Not exactly a fair way of living: bust your butt, earn a few bucks and spend them all releasing stress....a steep price to pay for a headache.

If we are able to admit we may have to work harder than ever to earn less (and be OK with that) we might be on to something revolutionary! Life isn't fair, times are tough, and our only certainties are death and taxes. The landscape may not change any time soon. So you can sit at the bottom of the hill and cry or you can strap your boots on and start climbing the mountain.

With every task there is another, there are thousands waiting to fill your job, and you feel tied to the whipping post. The choice is pretty simple: get busy living, or get busy dying. Your Perception and your Attitude navigate your destiny.

In this time of uncertainty the following things remain indiscernibly true:
Hard Work Pays Off!
The 5 Best Words in the Human Language
Take a Breath

An Inarguable Truth
We are all looking for that idea, stock option, or widget that will catapult our wealth. There is only one sure answer: Hard Work! No matter what you do, if you grind it out for long hard hours, you will succeed! You can always work harder, you can always do more, your true potential is almost impossible to realize. It may take a month or a year or five years....but if you stick to it with unflappable determination: You Will Win!

Things that are out of your control may derail your progress. Someone may play dirty to take that promotion you wanted. There will be times when you trust the wrong person. Sometimes you take a chance and fail. Allow nothing to discourage you! If you keep working hard, success is eminent!

5 Words We All Want to Hear
I once worked for a person who saw my truest potential and pushed me every day to discover it. She liked me immensely but she would never let me know it. She felt responsible for my success and she would not allow me to under perform for even one day. When I finished at the top of the revenue report she met me at the bar at our awards banquet, put her hand on my shoulder and said....

I Am Proud Of You!

...I nearly cried. Those 5 words made 365 days of total effort completely worth it. Some employees want more money, others want gifts or travel vouchers, and there are those who like trophies. But, everyone wants to be told they have honored their post with the fullest of integrity!

Who Cares
I am a hyper-focused professional. I take advantage of every opportunity to improve and I take my work personally. Those who do less than I, and pass judgement, make me insane!

I once asked a really good friend (professional musician) to hear me out on an interpersonal struggle I was having at work. I explained the situation to her and she replied:
Who Cares.........!!!!!

Usually that reply would drive me nuts but in this case it made perfect sense. I was so focused on the mundane detail of a completely irrelevant point that I lost my focus of what was important. It was a shocking revelation. We often fret over things that are completely meaningless. In fact, most of the things that cause stress do nothing more than distract us from our actual goal. Sometimes you have to take a breath, blow it off and move on!

Week in and week out we learn that we often neglect what is important. We lose time with our children because we are pre-occupied trying to please someone at work. We are distracted at dinner with a loved one because our head is in our BlackBerry. We forget to tell Mom we love her...and then she is gone!

Time is fleeting, use it wisely! Nothing is too important!

Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mountain Top

I gave a speech at the wedding of a misunderstood friend. Some had questioned why this renegade was settling down. I explained that freedom is defined not by what you are running from but by what you are running to. As we grow up, the things we once feared become the very things that drive us: love, responsibility and an extended tribe. I heard Jesse Ventura say that he embraced being Governor with the ethos, "If not me then who". My friend grew up to be a great husband and father and the aforementioned professional wrestler ran the state of Minnesota in honorable fashion. Motivation is the process of what you do with your energy....eventually we all discover that it takes the same degree of energy to run from that it does to run to. In the time you waste avoiding your life's goals you could have achieved them.

Entitlement and Accountability are rival terms that strike us with the same degree of uncertainty. People don't like to be accountable to results...the connotation is motivation by fear. The aforementioned group may also be deemed entitled by seeking recognition for their every effort. We navigate a the tightrope of giving unto ourselves what we feel we deserve (entitlement). We also take a breath when the checklist is complete (accountability). In reality, neither of the previously mentioned forms of motivation are genuine. Short term effort for quick fix results do not serve to improve your personal process. Getting something done just to check it off a list is a means for senseless channeling of effort.

The real challenge should be to find that which you genuinely believe in, to ensure your every effort benefits what is truly important. Purpose, Constitution, and an ever-ascending Mountain Top - these things give a more grandiose reason to wake up in the morning.

In his book "Delivering Happiness", Tony Hsieh explores his path to success: Purpose, Passion and Profits. Tony advises that we find the thing we believe in and to pursue it with unflappable intent. If you genuinely care about a cause, the money comes naturally. Conversely, if money is all that drives you, you will never be satisfied.

Purpose is the foundation of decision making. With every idea you have, every partnership you pursue, every person you invite into your life; the question of matching intent should be explored. Are you presenting to your team because you believe in a new directive or do you just want to prove your worth? Are you courting that large company because they are a good partner for your organization or do you just want to prove you can close a large deal? Is that new friend really someone you enjoy being around or do you want something they have?

Last week we laughed at the idea of terms like Integrity and Accountability being company core values.
These terms seemed a little too high and mighty to be business terms. Constitution might be a more appropriate term in describing your personal motivation.

What is at the core of you and are you able to make it part of your professional life?

Do you enjoy serving the people you work for? Do you believe in your products and services? Are you empowered to mention if you feel otherwise? Are there parts of your Saturday in your Monday?

The Ever-Ascending Mountain Top
Entitlement comes from our intrinsic human need to have our effort rewarded. After the hunt we want food to bring back to camp. You work out to earn a burger. You hustle through the morning shift to earn a smoke break. This transactional motivation does nothing but fulfill short term checks and balances. It's a push/pull existence with only 2 certainties: a pay check & death!

What if with every achievement you sought not a pat on the back but more responsibility? What if the end result was not a conclusion but a new beginning? What if you quit smoking and gave up greasy food because the diminishing returns left you feeling purposeless.

I left you with a lot to ponder. I sit beside you in digesting these thoughts. It is very difficult not to get caught up in the rat perform, receive praise and assume you have the appropriate direction. We all ponder the valued time we have on this earth and if any of it means anything. Next time you ponder your existence, do something about it.

You owe it to yourself to maximize every opportunity before you with your fullest effort and genuine intent. You should be empowered to ignore the insignificant. Your every action should be set in motion by your place in the sun surrounded by those who matter to you. Once you start climbing the mountain you will be surprised how much stamina you possess!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Culture Shift

A few years back, I adopted the practice of waking up ridiculously early. I found I was unable to manage my busy life so I decided to do something about it. Where many start their day in traffic jams, I speed through empty streets. I spend the first 2 hours of my day alone in a coffee shop. By the time the others are arriving, I am gone, on to start my day ahead of everyone else. I put the headphones on, fire up the lap top and hyper-focus. One day, someone interrupted me....

If you understand the "calm before the storm" logic behind my morning mission, you can guess I cherish the time alone and wish not to be engaged in disruptions. But, one morning the Manager of the coffee shop asked me to remove my headphones. He told me he wanted to buy me a cup of coffee for my loyalty to his shop. I accepted. He then told me it would cost me one conversation a week - "I want to bounce a few ideas off you, I'll buy you a cup of coffee every time I do". He didn't know the nature of my degree or my profession, he just needed someone to listen (when no other customers were around). I accepted.

A week became a month and a month a year. We became friends. We connected really well. Like a good bartender, he knew how to ignite my trust. Like a good patron, I knew how to listen. He was hell bent on succeeding, so was I. We was full of ideas, so was I. Neither of us had any apprehension about sharing our thoughts with one another. There was no judgement or formality between was 2 people drinking coffee while everyone else was asleep.

Over time, I came to discover that this guy was having conversations with a lot of his customers. He was also engaging his employees. He didn't seem to care about posting promotional materials, he didn't worry about his new hires industry experience, he wasn't hung up on quick fix rebates. He was creating a culture. I could have chosen 10 different coffee shops, his felt like home.

When he quit so did the staff of extraordinary people he had hired. The promotional material went up and the regulars kept to themselves - the culture was dead.

We talk a lot about culture in today's work world. It can be cultivated by one person. Some times one person makes a difference. That person who inspires others to work hard with positive intent, that person that is inviting of your input of how to make things better, that person that is willing to step away from their work to understand what it means to his/her customers.

We get so caught up in systematic efficiency, marketing strategy, and the right way to manage our employees; that we forget that we are people among people. Some times you have to use your I-phone to actually call someone. Some times you have to stop pretending you know everything and ask for input from others. Some times you have to buy someone a cup of coffee, step away from the lap top and share your experience.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Crime of Emotion

Much has been made of the post game spat between two football coaches this last weekend. Jim Schwartz felt disrespected because Jim Harbaugh shook his hand with too much force after the game. I am from Michigan and I hate the 49ers, so it would be my natural inclination to side with Coach Schwartz - not in this case.

The term sportsmanship is like the omni-present company Core Value of Integrity. Both are high and mighty terms that govern behavior to the most gradiose court. As if to say it is esstential to consider the tradition of the sport/business when any decision is made or action takes place. Give Me a Break!

Jim Schwartz was not upset because the integrity of the coaching hierarchy was corrupted - he was upset because he lost. It may not have been in good taste for Coach Harbaugh to jump up and down like a school girl when he won - but can you blame him for his inability to hide his excitement? Both guys are in leadership positions on team's that used to suck and are now good. These teams are good because their leaders have asked more of their teams and have proven they were willing to put the work in with them. Proving the old addage that hard work pays off!

It's pretty simple: You Should Be Humble in Victory and Accountable in Defeat

Today talk radio shows will have jammed phones occupied by people who never played football eager to weigh in with their opinion of the coaches confrontation. Beyond the actions of these individuals in this particular post-game fracas, there are lessons in
personal integrity to ponder:
1. Celebration Is Not An Act of Disrespect!
2. Losing is an Unfotunate Part of Life!
3. Own Your Actions!

Get Some
I coach a soccer team of 6 year olds - we are very good! When I see these young people take what is being taught and apply it, my purpose on this earth is further validated. Am I a jerk for celebrating the achievement of these wonderful little people? Is it bad that I can't help throwing my hands up in encouragement for my place in this world and the legacy I have been lucky enough to be part of? Other coaches will occasionally look over at me with disappointment - they are disappointed that they are losing.

It is not arrogant to is an acknowledgement of our human existence. When the emotion turns off, your life is put on pause. Don't be afraid to celebrate because the other guy doesn't have what you earned!

Losing Sucks
No person has ever won every competition they ever entered. Even The Great Cael Sanderson must have come up short in a spelling bee somewhere along the line. It is bitterly unfortunate, but losing is part of life. I love nothing more than winning, but I have learned a great deal more from my losses. In order to elevate yourself as a person and a professional, you have to try things that may be beyond your perceived skill set. When you bump yourself up a level you stand to lose. Better to get on the elevator than to stay on the first floor.

If you are willing to try everything you stand to learn a lot. If you wish to try nothing at the risk of failure you may never lose....or learn anything.

...another ominous core value...this one slightly more applicable.

The aforementioned coaches eventually owned their actions stating that they got caught up in the competitive moment. I am always disappointed when a public figure cannot be honest in light of their actions. If Tiger Woods held a press conference admitting that he lived his life in a bubble and lost control of his discipline when his father died, do you think he would have been more easily forgiven? The hardest thing to do is own your actions. There is hope to benefit from in unfortunate results if you can simply admit you are not perfect. It's also the right thing to do!

When the game is over you might see the other coach at the grocery store, on the playground or at church. Will you be looked upon favorably when no one else is watching? If you lose a deal and are graceful in defeat, that prospect will leave their door open for you. If someone betrays your trust, and you give them another chance, you allow them an opportunity to benefit from a loss.

Let's save accountability and integrity for tax season and the jury at the pearly gates. Until then, just try to do the right thing!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, October 10, 2011

Get Grounded

I had a great little getaway to the coast with the family this weekend. I told a friend about it this morning and he said - "wow, I want to see pictures". I didn't have any. I almost felt defensive that my description of the Central California Coast did not quench his intrigue. His defacto response may have been a way to avoid conversation...if I had emailed him a photo album he could breeze through it and interpret for himself if he would ever visit. This is a sign of the times....send me something, I'll look it over, and we can discuss later if I see anything worth talking about.

He to whom I told of my vacation aside, the traveler himself can get caught up in a need for documentation. People tweet their activities from poolside in Hawaii, they compile unlimited photos to prove they had fun on the family vacation, they load the facebook page with visual proof that they are enjoying life....and you are not! Yes, it may be said that our need for documentation is not in memorial of a joyous time but justification of the money spent to put smiles on our faces.

Think about the greatest times in your life. Do you have pictures of them or are the memories permanently ingrained in your mind?

The immediacy of technology has destroyed our ability to enjoy ourselves! We take time away from our loved ones to put our head in our phone. We miss irreplaceable moments with our children because we are busy texting about them.

I would challenge that we need to get grounded!

We need to put away the handheld and participate in our life's memories. We need to get away from the lap top and truly enjoy a little time off. We need to stop taking vacations for the sake of visual content.

Three Bigger Questions:
Are you engaging in meaningful conversation?
Do you know how to craft a story?
Have you taken time to say I Love You?

It's Great to Hear Your Voice
How often do messages get misinterpreted via email or in social media forums. Words can be taken out of context, we say things hiding behind a computer that we wouldn't say to someone's face, our emotions get the best of us. Unfortunately, the Internet is written in ink. We can never take back what is documented.

We have gotten to the point that it is more convenient to email a customer and wait until tomorrow to address the real issue...that doesn't make it go away. When a co-worker has had a long day, it is very difficult to feel their troubles through a computer screen.

Good old conversation is the only way to ensure we are making communicative progress. It's never easy to confront the elephant in the room but elephant's eat the notes that you try to leave at their feet!

Story Telling
Peter Guber has received great accolades for his book Tell To Win. The general premise is that people have a better grasp for products and services when told to them in dramatic terms. I will always remember your presentation if you deliver it in the context of a personal experience that makes sense to me.

Drama aside, a lot of us simply have lost our ability to talk to people. After a day at the computer, we spew words at people without considering the setting in which our story takes place. Every day, I hear people talking to one another in insulting terms (even though they have good intentions).

Stop being defensive, stop pretending you know everything, and step out of your digital sanctuary.

I & Love & You
The Avett Brothers once proclaimed in song that the three words that are hardest to say are: I & Love & You! Ain't that the truth! Nowadays if we really need to tell someone we love them we can send them an email or write a cheesy facebook tribute. This way we get the emotion out of the way without truly having to engage in it.

As hard as it may be you need to hug your Mom, grab her by the cheeks, and tell her you love her! It might get weird for a minute but these are the things that genuinely matter!

The question that looms like a cheap chandelier:
Has Convenience Replaced All That Is Sacred?

Can we not visit the beach without taking a picture of the sunset. Can we not watch our children play without sharing the image with the world. Have we forgotten how to Love because it always requires editing?

Social Media rules! God bless Steve Jobs for giving us the I-phone! Thank goodness computers have helped us achieve more in less time!

More important than all of it, are the people we walk past every day....neglecting to say hi because we are texting them from across the room.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011


After I completed my freshman year of high school I was asked to move from Beautiful Southern California to Michigan. My Dad had been promoted (again) and this caused me to depart my friends, the girl I loved, and a skateboard move to Michigan. The aforementioned factors flashed through my mind when my Dad called us in the kitchen to make the announcement. Selfishly, I told my Dad to say "no" to the promotion. For the first (and only) time in my life, I saw my Dad cry. I instantly grabbed his hand and said I would pack my bags. My sister stayed at USC and my Mom, Dad and I headed to the Mid-West.

One might assume this a tough transition but on the first day I arrived I met a few kids who appreciated my grace on a skateboard. They were humble, full of compliments and supportive. In short time, I found another girl to love and some of the best people I've ever met. The transition was, in all honesty, simple!

As we settled into our new home, my new friends became part of the family. I sent my sister pictures of the snow and my Dad's mid-western roots gained the respect of his new co-workers. All seemed to be well....until my Mom got the cancer.

My Dad was never home, my Sister was half a country away, I was navigating a new high school in a new land....but I took it in stride. Looking back, I didn't stress out about it in the slightest, maybe because I knew everything would be OK.

This is the apt (but not appropriate) way to describe it: Cancer is a Motherfucker! With my new driver's license, I earned the privilege of driving my Mom to Ann Arbor for Chemotherapy. The drives to the hospital were filled with the diversion of laughter. The drives home were different.

Observing the movie 50/50 was not easy. Things resurface: The smell of hospital rooms, the taste of hospital food, and the discontent of seeing one's heroes fallibility. This film is an extraordinary recounting of time spent with someone going through treatment. The key word being: treatment. We have come a long way! More so, the film revealed the value of true friendship, a parent's plight, and the recognition of one's mortality. It is a heart wrenching reflection of what is genuinely important.

As time goes by, the finish line gets closer. If you have good friends, a family who cares and the right care; the sprint becomes a marathon. Having spent time with someone facing the finish line, I know that time is fleeting and every moment is important:
Tell people you love them
Appreciate your friends
Try not to be annoyed by your family

My Mom turned 72 a few months back. Not everyone is so lucky!

The Great Matt Skiko is fighting the disease that took our friend and CEO Charlie Fina last year:

Help if you can. Tell your friends and family that you love them.

Dear Readers, I tell you with great certainty that these days are desperately precious! Live them with every ounce of love you can muster!

Don't Forget to Remember!