Thursday, August 30, 2012

Have You Forgotten...?

As we kiss the summer sun goodbye, we tighten the reigns on the horse called motivation. There are goals to be met, quotas to be attained, and people to be directed. The sun deck gives way to snow plows, the short sleeves are traded for sweaters, and we immerse ourselves in the back stretch of another successful year. For some, it is a time to make up for the work they missed during the summer months, others keep grinding....and there are those who ponder their professional existence.

Do you love your job? is not only possible to love your job, it is mandatory. I am not talking about satisfaction, I am talking about living your professional mission. You spend most of your waking hours at work, if you don't love what you do, you are cheating yourself.

Have you become apathetic?

...are you the person on the team that thinks everything is played out? Do you tell others, "it's just a job". Eliminating emotion from work is essential, but apathy is nothing more than a form of cowardice.

You know you don't want to be that person!

...The practice of pretending you are "too cool for school" is a result of the fact that you tried and failed. Instead of getting back on your horse, you stayed on the porch and rolled your eyes at those who were part of the charge.

It's Time to Get Your Groove Back!

Your Company Doesn't Matter
At any given point you can look at your company directives and call them detached from reality. No matter where you go, there will be people who you see through. Products will fail, you will lose based on things that are out of your control, and you may be passed over for a promotion because the boss' son graduated from college.

It's very easy to concentrate on what is not working....and to let the world defeat you!

You can say you tried being a team player and all is it got you was more work and distraction from your personal development. Life works that way! You will not fail if you never try nor will you grow if you do not accept the challenge that the world is bigger than yourself.

Celebrate People
I was once told by my Vice President not to get too close to my team....worst advice ever!

People are complex. Our thought process tends to take us away from our physical presence...and then we do stupid things. So if you are "in the moment", you are going to be annoyed if I didn't have my $5 bill in hand before I ordered. Deal with it!

I get it: you are smart, you are prepared, and you try hard. Therefore, you reserve the right to expect everyone to live up to your standard of excellence.

Ask yourself this: has your standard of excellence done any GOOD for anyone else?

...or is your preparation driven by your personal right of entitlement?

The easy thing is to surround yourself with people who validate your sense of entitlement. It is more difficult to step out and be challenged. Are you sitting on the porch because you know more than everyone or have you learned all you feel you are capable of and care not to reveal your vulnerability?

"...Have You Forgotten How to Love Yourself..." - Mark Kozelek

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, August 24, 2012

Don't Stop Believing

I am a Believer!

I have faith in things bigger than myself. I celebrate the ability of the underdog. I am certain that anything is possible. I have performed things people have told me were impossible. Maybe I am a sucker but I refuse to validate the pessimism that causes losers to shake their heads at those who try. I don't believe that any day is worth living when met with the slightest consideration of inability. To the contrary, you have the opportunity in every new day to change the world! It's pie in the sky stuff and I live it every day.

This last week has been flooded with stories of our sports idols cheating. Prompting "I told you so" rhetoric from those who tried and failed....and even greater eyebrow raising from those who never even tried. Those of us who stood up and cheered the achievements of another only to find out that they were disingenuous can't help but feel cheated. That moment we high fived our son after a home run taken from us....and tomorrow we'll get back to living our lives.

Here's how it really works....YOU and your own judge, jury, and executioner! Regardless of our occupation, we face choices and challenges. All of us want to perform well and we all fail at some point...we own it, our fears subside, and we endure to play another day.

You know those who take short cuts: they are consistently looking over their shoulder, they toss and turn in bed, when challenged to explain their success the story doesn't serve the number. I assure you that a cheater faces a lifetime of moments alone with their guilt far more daunting than our moments of disappointment. Once you cross that line, you can never return to your true glory. You are no longer a father, son, or have categorized yourself with a scarlet letter that only you have to live with forever.

Why The Thought Never Crossed My Mind
I live in the Bay Area, we cheered our faces off for Barry Bonds for years. I never gave it two seconds of thought. Until my son was born. Suddenly, I was confronted with the reality of the story I would tell of the nights I spent at the ballpark watching home runs fly into McCovey Cove.

The response was pretty simple: My life has been magically transformed by sports, music, and the love I have for your mother. There is magic in all of it that makes Champions of mere mortals. The only thing that matters is what's behind door #3. My son never talked to Barry Bond but he knows me! The mysticism of our heroes need remain so....Our real heroes leave before we wake up and rip off the tie in time to take us to soccer practice.

The Real Test
We are all judged by the people we work for. It is an indefensible reality of our existence.

The only test that matters passing is the way you feel when you look into your children's eyes at the end of the day. Tis better to build a shack on the reality of effort than to cheat to build your daughter a mansion.

Jobs will come and go and you will get profoundly upset about things that do not matter. I have never seen a gravestone encompassing an insult. Every choice is your own and no job is too important. We all have the ability to dress up our failures, but none of us can fool ourselves.

When the credits run their course we have only ourselves to answer to.

So I will conclude this post as I did my last:
You have 29,200 days on this have you done so far?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Summers Fading Shimmer

Today, kids are moving into their college dorms, some are starting their first day of class, and a few others are enchanting their last week in their hometown. I remember this experience so vividly. That point of transition in life when you are caught between leaving the past behind and doing your utmost to hold on to it. In a word: Romantic!

I remember my final weekend in the great state of Michigan. 30 of us traveled to a concert in Clarkston before saying our goodbyes. Looking back, there was an accelerated maturity about my group of friends. We were all headed in separate directions so we savored that last day in the sun.

I loved my friends and family, but I couldn't wait to move on. With a hangover, I boarded a plane across the country. Looking back before closing the blind, I most likely shed a quick tear, and headed into the day dream that landed me in the next place.

I am a fortunate person, in that, I have been able to maximize every day in my life. I have lived in several places and have found symphony among them. My wedding day was one of the most rewarding of my life. My best friends from 4 different areas shared an instant camaraderie, proving that people are genuinely good. We all believe in similar things, and mostly, we just want to be happy!

I had the pleasure of sitting in a room with a man on one of his last days on earth. It was early in the morning and he was watching the sun rise out of his hospital window. Realizing that we was discovering his moment of peace in this world, I tried not to make a sound, and sat in the corner. After about ten minutes of watching him watch his final day come to life he said, "Thank You". I did not have to ask for validation of his comment, I knew. He was pleased that I didn't complicate his last sunrise with words.....

Dear Readers, I need not remind you that this life is fleeting! Let's assume you might have 29,200 days on this earth. Think about how many times you have flipped the calendar and ask yourself:

How Have I Done So Far?

I have never met a CEO who didn't tell me that he/she wished they could have missed that board meeting to see their daughter's piano recital. Nor have I met a perennial under-achiever who hadn't come to the realization that they spent too much time planning for life while it passed them by.

You should read as much as possible, but that doesn't give you a reason to be a pompous intellectual.You should work really hard, but that doesn't give you the right to insult a man for having clean fingernails. If you try as hard as you can to be the best person possible nothing is too important. We covet only the things we should have paid more attention to.

So let's try this...with every day, look yourself in the mirror and say:
Today Is The Day!

...I'm nearly half way to 29,200 and I have a lot of catching up to do!

If you still have a foot in your hometown I would suggest kissing the girl you have always loved, telling your friends of their specific meaning in your life, and letting your parents know how proud you are of them. You've got it from here....

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Sammy

Hey Champ -
I wrote a blog for your sister on her birthday, so I figured I should do the same for you! I can't believe you are 7 years old...the days are long, but the years go by quickly. I just want you to know that I couldn't be more proud of you and everything you represent as a young person. When I used to think about who my son would be I always envisioned your precise image....the same for your mother and sister. We are fortunate in so many ways!

Did you know you were born on Mom and Dad's first wedding anniversary? We were driving into the city and you decided to turn our dinner at Aqua into a visit to the birthing ward at Alta Bates Medical Center. My best friend, Bob, was in the back seems as though he has been there for all the big is important to have good pals!

The things you say amaze me. I guess you got your mother's brain. I was never more proud than when you punched that kid who was acting up at a party. No one else (including the parents) were willing to put him in his place, so you did. I guess you got your father's sense of pride.

As a Salesman, every day is filled with uncertainty. The one thing I can rely on is you and your sister greeting me at the end of each day. I told your sister that I wished she would never grow a day older, I wish differently for you.....

You are my man in the trenches. I need you to protect your sister. My sister did that for me and every time I see her, I feel a sense of calm, as if everything is alright in the world. Part of being a Big Brother is honoring the title....that means sometimes you have to be willing to upset your sister to protect her well being. I will always explain your actions for you!

You are a thoughtful young man. I thought becoming a father that I would sacrifice my personal freedom to protect yours. You have proven that theory wrong! You always ask how things are going in my world. That is very thoughtful of you.

I know it has been hard being the Coach's son at times but you will understand when you have a child. Part of being a Leader is holding those most close to you to a higher standard.

I see the way your friends admire you, just know that is because you are a kind young man. Don't get too full of yourself, always look out for the slightest of your friends, and be OK with making unpopular decisions. Those who take short cuts always get eaten by wolves on the shady path.

It has been said that a man is judged by the legacy he leaves behind. It is safe to say I have had a triumphant life!

I Love You Sammy!

You can continue to make the easy things hard because you never fail to make the tough parts easy!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Youth of Today

Last weekend I had the opportunity to serve as faculty and presenter at Phi Delta Theta's Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute (KELI) in Oxford, Ohio. This event brings 500 student leaders from across America and Canada to our fraternity headquarters. Our goal: to exemplify the benefit of Greek Life for the leaders of tomorrow.

I have said a hundred times in this blog that the stereotypes of Generation Y are unfair. My experience in Oxford validated this presumption. The issue with developing young people in the workplace is not the young people but the people who have been tasked with leading them. Fraternities are no longer social clubs but organizations focused on developing potential. Our staff took on the challenge of motivating the leaders of tomorrow and they soaked it up!

3 distinct goals were conveyed by the young men selected to attend this event:
  • Building and Expanding a Network of Opportunity
  • Validating a Foundation for Positive Decision Making
  • Assisting and Protecting the Community
250,000 Friends
Making connections has never been easier. The young people who attended the KELI were bumping i-phones in an effort to share ideas. Where once a few quality contacts would emerge from a student conference, now thousands of contacts are made in one day. Instead of having one-off conversations in silos, young people are now opening an enterprise of thought leadership, aimed at expanding their organizations and keeping their membership safe.

I saw not a single person I would characterize as entitled. I interacted with hundreds of young people who are empowered and motivated to help one another.

The Most Important Aspect of Leadership
The world's best leaders possess a common characteristic: the ability to make hard decisions. The progress of any organization is predicated upon the character of its culture. Fraternity leaders are no longer willing to allow a bad apple to spoil the bunch. Young people are learning to make hard decisions that cast aside he/she who attempts to destroy an organization with irresponsible behavior. The beer guzzling show off is now met with rolled eyes instead of cheers....the lack of validation of the "show off culture" will ultimately save lives.

In professional organizations we face a similar challenge: how do we silence the squeaky wheel? If we learn that intolerance of negligence is an expectation, the bad apples spoil quickly. If we are no longer willing to empower distractions, progress is an automated process.

The Fund-Raising Epidemic
What is going on here...? College kids would rather bring toys to under-privileged children than to run naked through campus? Young people possess the passion to help to the extent that they would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support a cause? Now, the Greek letters worn across the chest of young people represent hope (not over-privileged dysfunction).

In my time as a fraternity man, I learned a lot of hard lessons at the expense of my misdirected life goals. I intended to use my experience to express to young people "what not to do". I didn't need to. The gentlemen who attended the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute all wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves. What they already knew was that "animal house culture" can only lead to things that will cost them dearly. I am impressed that my stories of misfortune were met with empathy - as if the young people were saying, "man, you guys were stupid back then".

The beauty in offering to help others is the benefit you receive from the practice. Indeed, I gained more from my students than I was able to teach them.

I have never been more reassured that the future of our country is in good hands!

The senior members of the professional world who dismiss the fast paced exuberance of the young people might want to seek to understand the purpose behind the energy. A train is coming and it is heading in the right direction. Hop on or you'll be sitting by yourself wondering why no one is listening to your advice.

"We are young so let's set the world on fire" - Nate Ruess

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Inside Out Culture

Our old friend Kevin Sheridan returned to present to our team last week. Kevin, the author of Building a Magnetic Culture and HR Solutions Guru, has spent the better part of his career developing Employee Engagement surveys. The man has workplace statistics to back up his work:
  • 1 in 25 people quit their job on their first day
  • 51% of employees plan to leave their current job when the economy improves
  • Engaged Employees are 3.5 times more likely to stay with their current employer
  • The engagement rate for employees of 20+ years tenure is 86%
First, there was Employee Rewards, then Employee Engagement, and now Company Culture.

Our degree of engagement is predicated by the people around us. If every day is met with unnecessary information, our progress will be distracted. So, how do you know if you are distracting your co-workers from their path to Engagement? A few key things to remember:
  • Your ego has nothing to do with your success
  • There is a direct correlation between brand engagement and employee engagement
  • Positive thinking produces positive results 
I know you're crying on the inside
Are you more interested in producing results or having your opinion validated? Too often team meetings are spent pondering rivaling opinions instead of developing ideas.

If you spend the majority of your time in internal meetings - you are losing the engagement battle!

If your internal meetings are filled with self-promotion (instead of building strategic differences) - you are losing the engagement battle!

Concentrate on what matters: people, products, and performance!

Customer facing reveals your culture
"we may be threw with the past, but the past isn't threw with us"

Disengagement is worn like a cheap suit. Indecision is a result of past failures. Your inability to address your customers concerns directly exposes your lack of trust in your products, your people, and their ability to perform.

What we produce (and its relevance in the marketplace) creates our brand. If our customers feel mistrusted our external reputation will infiltrate our organizational culture.

The unlikely power of assumption
There is a long storied tradition in the workplace that assumptions do not produce results. But, it helps to believe in what you do. If you go into the marketplace with the assumption that you will fail, you will! If your attitude tends towards what IS possible, you will succeed.

People are kind by nature so they will lend you a shoulder to cry upon. At some point you have to quit crying and make it work.

No company has a 100% engaged culture. We all make mistakes, there is dishonesty for the sake of self-preservation in the workplace, and sometimes our products fail. In the end, employee engagement is driven by quality work.

If you create something that makes other companies better, allow your employees to utilize their strengths, and are consistently able to embrace will cultivate an engaged culture.

Sometimes we cannot over-think it: concentrate on doing great work and ignore the chatter.

Don't Forget to Remember!