Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Wall


2014 was a transformational year. I accomplished a lot of things I never though possible just 12 months ago. Most of these were personal challenges, lose weight, run some races, take a hike and a few others. I have covered most of these individual event already in this forum, but today I am reflecting on my wall tracker, seen above. For me, setting written goals is such a strong motivator. Sometime early in the year I decided I would dangle a carrot each month, and set some sort of goal for the month. Some were races, weight goals, individual mileage challenges,etc. 

Without a list of these in my face every day in my office, the tendency to straggle off the path would have been strong. None more string than my December goal, running a 10k. two weeks before the race, I fell training and hurt my ribs pretty badly. They may have been broken, maybe still are, but either way the ribs hurt bad. I could not train, could not breath, could not laugh or cough without a good deal of pain. Yes, I probably should have gone to a doctor. The final set piece for my 2014 tracker seemed to be slipping through my hand, and I felt like I had no control. I felt like everything I did all year was wasted, and I felt like quitting. This was upsetting,I have had such a great year, I did not want to end on a down note. This race was supposed to be my strongest run, and best race pace of my year. By the time the race came the personal record time I planned was definitely off the list, I was worried I would even be able to run at all. By race day, I said screw it, I am running, as long and as hard as I physically can run. If I have to walk or crawl, I am finishing this damn race. I ran my race, and did the best I could. The last two miles of the 6.2 mile race were excruciating, I could not breath without sharp pain, but I did not walk, I did not quit. I finished the 10K in 59:32, under one hour. The time is disappointing, but considering my condition it was great to beat an hour. It was nice to have a friend run with me, he could has left me behind early, but he stayed along for the run. 

What I need to consider is even in the face of some pain, and a much slower time than I wanted, the distance and time I did run were totally unthinkable just 8 months ago. To run around 9:30 min/mile with an injury is crazy to me. Injured December me, would have dusted April healthy me by several minutes per mile. This isn't to pump my running up, I have friends that would blow by my best pace times, but this helps me put end of my 2014 in perspective.

The point here is all week leading up to the December race, my brain was saying "don't run, you can't run, you're hurt, just quit." But each day I thought that, I came to work and saw the blank next to the December goal on my wall. I rested and tended to my rib injury as much as possible, and by the day before I knew I could do it, but all because I kept my goal visible. I will take a minute to reflect and be happy for 2014, but as the sage Eddie Vedder says "it makes much more sense to live in the present tense." I will wipe the 2014 goal tracker off the wall soon, and move on. My 2015 goals are being formed now, and will be up on the wall before new years eve.

If you want to make a change, start now, find your wall, start challenging yourself, and write your goals down. Your goals can be anything, write more, run more, laugh more, volunteer more. Look at them every day, and accept if you are off course, and celebrate if you exceed. You will surprise yourself what you can accomplish if you just take the leap

Monday, November 17, 2014

Humbled


There are times in life when you think you know someone, especially those very close to you like family.My Aunt Mary Lee, we call her ML, has been ever present in my life. ML has been one of my biggest supporters in my life, there with words of love an encouragement for my entire life. She is my Godmother and a Catholic Nun in the Ursuline Sisters. Over the years ML has never once forgotten about me on a holiday or special day. I know ML has been a teacher, and administrator and an anchor for the family, spending most of her career working at a church that generations of my family has been baptized, confirmed, married and buried .

Sometimes you can overlook the great work people do when you are not looking. Now, even as much as I have been around and enjoyed time with my aunt, the majority of her life she has spent on her own, with the Ursuline mission in her view. Recently, ML was awarded the Alumna of the year from her High School, Ursuline High School. I was happy to attend the mass and ceremony. During the ceremony the Alumni Association President gave a remarkable introduction for my Aunt. It was amazing to see how much impact ML has had on the community. When they read through her list of work, professional and charity, I was humbled. ML has spent her entire life, all of it, at the service of others. Not here and there charity work, or donations, but a lifetime of devotion and dedication. I cannot fathom more than 50 years of humbly serving God, the poor, the marginalized, students, families, abused women, children and just about any group of overlooked people. Simply stating my Aunt is a Nun is such an understatement. ML's counterpart award winner called my Aunt the "Queen of the East Side." This is a successful Doctor, making a living running a highly successful and profitable medical business, calling my Aunt the Queen. This made me laugh, it was like I was meeting a whole different side of ML.

During her thank you speech ML was entirely humbled. All she could speak to was her thankfulness for what Ursuline had given her and her lifelong service to the Catholic Church. She was taught to be of service. She thanked her parents and siblings for their support. She continues to grow in her faith even after 50 dedicated years. I have never seen my Aunt complain about not having a nice car, a great set of clothes, a house or apartment, jewelry or fancy electronics. She was made to serve.

I look at myself in this light and I am humbled. How many times do I let my self interest cloud things. How many times have I let a little materialism get in the way. How much of my time to I spend serving others? I am blessed with a bounty of love from my family, a family of my own, and a nice career. I have looked inside a bit since ML's celebration day, and looked at how I can serve more. Whether service to my kids, my wife, my workers, the opportunity is there to be more like the Queen of the East Side, and focus on service.

Are you made to serve?


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Those Moments


I wear my heart on my sleeve and I am proud of to do so. It does not take much in a movie or a song to get me sentimental. I had one of the most amazing weeks recently when it comes to moments, particularly revolving around my Fraternity. In a week period I buried a Fraternity Brother, traveled to Phoenix for Fraternity board meeting, returned home and conducted my annual Leadership School, culminating the week by Initiating my Father into my brother Matt's & my Fraternity.

At my Leadership school one of the Undergraduates asked an alumni "when you know you have one of those Phi Alpha moments?" I have a list so long I could not expose them all here today in this story. But, I have had so many that week it was clear how much the Fraternity has been a good part of my life. 

The week started with the news my friend Josh had passed suddenly at the early age of 33. He leaves a beautiful wife and 5 young children. Being a father myself, this is a crushing blow and reminder that I only rent my mortal coil from God, and have to make the most of each and every day I have on earth. Josh was a good man, a True Gentleman, and lit up every room he was in with smiles and laughter. Leading the Fraternity alumni at Josh's calling hours through the Burial Ritual was the single most difficult thing I have done in my volunteer life.

The morning after the service, I left at the crack of dawn to travel to Phoenix (fitting) and participate with other men to help guide our Fraternity forward. This was a complete recharge to my batteries having just buried a friend. The men at this meeting are examples of leadership, friendship, intelligent planning and true Brothers. I am truly lucky to be exposed to the caliber of man that volunteers currently with my Fraternity. I am confident my son will have SAE there when he gets to college in 2031, and I am proud to talk about my Fraternity with my non-Greek friends and colleagues.

The Phoenix trip was followed immediately by my most busy and hectic Fraternity week leading up to my regions  Leadership School. Approximately 100 men from Northern Oho met up to work on being the best versions of ourselves we can be. Again the work the volunteer alumni, staff, and speakers did was inspiring. It was especially nice having my Brother Matt, up from Texas, participate as a breakout facilitator this year. I really think the men of my region are some of the best, and out Fraternity will be in good hands for decades.

The real moment to cap off the week was initiating my father Ralph McDonough. The local Chapter and National leaders approved a special non-student initiation for my Dad. He is the patriarch of a family the sports five SAE's already My brother Matt, me, our cousins Marc & Tom and my brother-in-law Ian. Our Dad is simply the best example of a True Gentleman I have ever known. Over the last 21 years, each time I recite the True Gentleman, all I think of is my Dad. Seeing my brother Matt Initiate our Dad, and getting to swear him in and pin his badge (315135) on him was the best moment.

So in one week, I had both the hardest and best moment of my Fraternity life. Tears of sadness and joy were shed all week. Truly a Phoenix week, a 33 year old friend entered Chapter Eternal, and my 73 year old father entered the Brotherhood. I would prefer just the good moments, but the bad ones also help define a heart. I am a lucky man to be able to have these moments, moments that define me as a man, a friend, a brother, a son, a husband and a father. I commit to working on being better at all these roles. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rest Your Head


I love Peter Gabriel's music even though I don't listen to it that often. He has tremendous skill in writing emotionally heavy, touching lyrics. This may be why I don't listen frequently, I need to be in the right space to enjoy. I recently threw his album New Blood on my iPhone, thinking it was about time to refresh some Gabriel tunes. This album is an orchestral remix of some of his greatest songs, not necessarily the most popular in every case. Not one of the cheesy "The Orchestrated Pink Floyd" style albums, where a random full orchestra plods through a close instrumental version of the songs. This album is created by Gabriel with a fresh take on vocals with orchestrations. Some versions on the album are breathtaking, some leave you wanting to listen to the original.

The songs Digging In The Dirt and Darkness are personal favorites, and the new versions on the album are perfect. Invoking emotions I can remember from the first listen in 1992 and 2002 respectively, and lending new meaning for where I am personally today. Timeless connection is the mark of a great song.

What hit me today was the song Don't Give Up.I always forget about this tune. The original is a beautiful rendition featuring Gabriel and Kate Bush. the New Blood version features Norwegian Ane Brun in Bush's spot. Legend has it that the song was inspired by a dreadful newspaper report about a woman jumping off an apartment building with her child or that it was inspired by thoughts of folks in depression while unemployed and supporting a family. The theme Don't Give Up fits both. Gabriel was also getting out of his own depression at the time he wrote the song, and he points to the support he received from friends and family. The song really needs a listen to feel the true beauty within. The message is so pure, do not give up. Find someone you can rest your head on in times of challenge. Conversely, be that person for someone else. Connect with your friends and family and make sure they know you are there, and you can lend support. Sometimes I think this is assumed, but when someone is in a bad spot, it can be hardest to remember you have friends and family that will help you. Connect with them and help them never give up.


Don't give up
You still have us
Don't give up
We don't need much of anything
Don't give up
'cause somewhere there's a place
Where we belong
Rest your head
You worry too much
It's going to be alright
When times get rough
You can fall back on us
Don't give up
Please don't give up

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Triple The Fun in 1:49


This past weekend I completed my first triathlon at the sprint distance. This is a three part race that featured 750 meters of swimming, 22K of cycling and a 5K run to the finish. For those stuck in English standard units this is approximately a 1/2 mile swim, 13.7 mile cycle and a 3.1 mile run. The race was really fun to participate in, the training was a nice break from my normal running routine.

Starting out I knew I could do any one the three events right away, separately. As my friend Greg indicated, I was wrong about the swimming. My first trip to the pool I was able to do 1.5 laps before stopping to catch my breath, then I did 1/2 lap at a time, stopping each iteration. Within four swims I was up to 18 laps straight, more than the distance for the triathlon, so that skill improved quickly. The running was not a worry at all, after all I ran at least 5K almost every morning this summer. More on the easy 5K in  a bit.

What I did not realize would be so hard was the cycling. Not necessarily riding 14 miles, but making time to train. The bike is the most time consuming of the three events, and I trained far to little in this skill. Now that I have my first triathlon under my belt, I will approach training entirely different the next time. Lots of cycling, a good weekly run, and 1-2 swims per week. The bike, while "only one third" of the race, is the biggest target for time improvement. My 16 minutes of swimming can be improved by maybe a couple minutes, same goes for the 5K, but the bike I could save 15 minutes or more with better training. I will also train going straight from the bike to running more. The feeling of this transition is weird, and not comfortable at first. Your legs feel 200 pounds each, and it take a decent stretch to get your legs under you properly. The first time I ran after a bike I thought I was going to eat the sidewalk.

Transitions are also a bigger part of the over all race than I thought they would be. The transition area is where you switch from the swim to your bike, and later drop the bike off and start running. I took my time the the transition area. Next time I will lay out my area a little bit better, and spend as little time in there as possible.

All said and done, I really like the triathlon competition. Like my friend TJ said, be careful, you will want to do more, he was right. I now want to do one more sprint tri in the spring/summer and significantly improve my time, Then double the distances and compete at the Olympic length race by next fall.

My biggest takeaway from the triathlon is never, ever let someone, or yourself tell you that you cannot accomplish something. I would have laughed a year ago if I was told I would finish a triathlon in 2014, but I did. Lots of work, lots of commitment and mostly I believed in myself. Now I am back to training for a couple more races in 2014, and my first half marathon in the spring.

Find your finish line, and get it!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stop Giving Up


Today I am surrounded by feelings to jump off the fitness train. I have a terrible head cold or allergy thing going on, making me feel generally off balance. I had an off track weekend, and do not want to go to my weigh in tonight. This is even after I woke up at 5:00a today and went to the pool for a personal record (PR) in the half mile swim. You would think that would keep me on the path, the many PR's I have set in fitness this year. I borrowed the fitness photo/phrase from above from coachjennmcd.com and it struck a chord. So did a friends Facebook post about how "getting fat doesn't take a day off, I can't either." He ended his post with #nomorebeingpudgy which made me laugh a bit.

I am so tired of starting over, because I have quit so many times. I have not quit this year though, eight months of working hard. I can't believe that after all this work, I could easily go off the rails, especially with the diet. Only a couple weeks away from my first triathlon, and I am still fighting daily to eat well. I need to set a PR for the eats. Record the most totally healthy days with all solid meals.

I guess what all my accomplishments have taught me, is like the picture says, I will not be starting over, because I will not give up this time. I will not let a couple bad days turn into a week of bad days, or a week off into totally off. I refuse to go back. I refuse it. I am not perfect, and still have weakness for good (bad) food, but those cravings will not stop this train. I have to get my eating under control, and stop cutting corners here and there. Not sure how yet, but tracking 100% of what I eat will be a good start. Football Saturdays and Sundays will be tough, but I need to figure this out starting today.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Lucky To Help


I have had a great run over the last few weeks with the levels of charity I have been able to give. In the last month, I have raised money for the St. Jude's hospitals, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, participated in a race for The United Way, and donated to the ALS Association along with the ice bucket challenge. These events have given me time to appreciate how lucky I have been in life. I have a good family, nice career, great friends, positive mentors and the list goes on. 

I truly believe that volunteerism is a key to happiness in life. Whether you can donate time, talent or treasure, there might not be a more worthy action than lifting up your fellow man. Simple actions, signs of respect, or a simple acknowledgement of a human can go a long way. 

All the things I list as my lucky points take up time, family, friends, work, but you can find a way to give of yourself to others. Look to your circle of influence, have you been affected by an illness, a loss or some sort of struggle? Likely, there is a group that works toward helping that situation. Whatever you do, share yourself, share your talents, give some treasure, loan some time. With technology, this can take just a few moments of your day, surely we all have a few spare moments. We are only here on Earth for a short while, help make someone else's time worth living.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Smile


Every day I walk through the halls in my office building. Sometime through my companies parts, sometimes through other companies parts. Coffee, lunch, bathroom or a visit to a colleague are the destinations normally. One thread that weaves its way through my walks is the lack of humanity. So few people make eye contact, nor one says hello, no one smiles.

Stare at the carpet, browse through the smart phone, read a paper; I just don't understand the total lack of connection in the workplace. I am not looking for deep friendships in the hallway, but a simple hello, or good morning would be nice. Some folks do not even break their trance when a good afternoon is thrown their way. I was just not raised that way.

I am sure nothing I write here today will change the world and get folks to share some kindness. What this will do is strengthen my resolve to be friendly. Make sure I am not cut off from other humans, make sure I keep my eyes up, face forward and smile. Maybe if I keep it up, the smile can spread, and I'll see a few more around the place.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Catching Up and a Possible Bad Apple


I have not abandoned my blog, but am dealing with getting caught up with work and life during a very busy time. Not helping the matter is the below image on my computer. I will get my longer hike post out there soon. Needless to say it was an awesome trip.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lucky

"I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they've got none."
-Pearl Jam

Tried to master the elusive "get a 3 and 1 yo to look at the camera" shot. I love the pic, and am truly lucky to get to be the father of these kids and a husband to J. Best Father's day ever on Put-In-Bay Inland, OH.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Valley

Blue Hen Falls

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) is located along the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. The park offers so much for the locals, from skiing, hiking, biking, running, concerts, nature centers, fishing, snow showing, cross country skiing, waterfalls, ledges, horse bridal trails, the list could go on and on. Over 20,000 acres of protected land for public use. Until recently, I have only scratched the surface on what is available for use, but since February I have been all over the park.

What a beautiful place.

Top of the Valley! Along the Buckeye Trail.

Even though the park is almost always full of people when I am there, especially on the more popular canal towpath, I think the CVNP is a hidden gem in NE Ohio. I have lived within an hour of the park most of my life and never knew all that was offered. More folks in the area should try out the bounty of offerings. Get your kids out there, let them experience nature, and see something that inspires. The picture above of the view from the top of the valley, was truly inspiring in person, the image only captures a portion of the spirit I felt.

I plan on getting my friends and family out to the CVNP as much as possible. Go out and see a small area of the forest where the sunlight fills a little nook like a cathedral, walk through a patch of cattails, feel like you are on top of Ohio.

I am spoiling the natural beauty for sure.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nine Days


I have been preparing for my hike for 5+ months solid now, non-stop focus and work. In nine days I will begin the trek, and I cannot believe the time has come. I am excited, nervous, ready, not ready; all these things wrapped up in one ball. I do not think I could have kept my job and family and physically prepared myself anymore than I have is such a condensed time period, yet I feel like I should have done more. I am easily in the best shape I have been in for the last 12-14 years, which took losing over 50 pounds. This trip will be amazing, and a sure physical and mental test of my strength and endurance. I cannot wait for the view from the first summit, it should be inspiring.

I am really thankfully to my friends Scott & Greg, who kindled the fire of inspiration that led to my transformation. I was utterly failing at setting and holding to basic good health and simple fitness goals, this trip got me more focused than I have been in years. The biggest thanks goes to my wife, who has supported my efforts without question for five months. J has manned the house, and managed the kids alone a lot while I was working out, running, or on long practice hikes. Thanks J, you are one of the biggest reasons I am doing this, to be healthy and strong for you and the kids for years to come. I love you.

So that is all for now, I hope to get a prep post or two in before the hike. I will surely have a lengthy post with pics following the hike. I may make two long posts, one for each day on the traverse.



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Friends, you and I will be


I was able to fly out to St. Louis this past weekend with my wife to a friend's wedding. The guy is a Fraternity brother, one that I have maintained contact with over the years. I have worked through fun times, tough times, and given advice to this gentleman. When I was engaged he traveled to my bachelor party, and my wedding, long drives for both, and the wedding was only a week after another brother's wedding. When my buddy asked if we would come out for his I didn't even blink before I said sure.

This is what makes a friend. Someone that doesn't think before the help you, they just do. Good friends do not need to talk all the time, or hang out all the time, but when they are together, it is like no time has passed. I am a lucky man to have a lot of people I call friends. I know there have been times where I probably have been a selfish friend, or even a bad one, but I try hard to improve and earn friendship. I was a lot lazier at being a friend as a younger man, I do not think I understood how rare lifelong friends are. The more I advance in my career, advance in age and get pulled in 100 directions by life and family the more I need friends. Friends are where you can go laugh, have a blast, forget about your struggles and just be yourself. Then you can split, and return refreshed to your normal routine.

Today I will call a friend today, one that I have not heard from in a while. I am not sure who yet, but I am going to reach out and say hi. I have received enough love from friends, and I want to make sure I share the love today, and be a good friend to someone else.



Monday, May 12, 2014

Red Spots


Dub had a chemical reaction to some medicine he was taking, and developed a rash all over his body. When we first saw the red spots, were concerned it was something more contagious, but were relieved it was just a rash. This poor kid has had a much rougher first year and a half than his sister, but he is a tough little boy. A quick medicine change helped, and each day since he has looked a little better. 

Saturday I took him to an outdoor shopping center to walk around, get him some fresh air, and get J a Mother's Day gift. I was taken aback by the looks some folks gave my son, and their actions. First, I get it, you see a red spotted kid, and you think why would you have that sick kid out. But J and I are good parents, we would not take a kid in public that was in any way contagious. But the pointing, whispering, moving away from him, and looks at me like was the devil were bothersome. This is a reflection of where we are as people, assume the worst, cast judgment or assume I am an irresponsible parent. Now I know before I had kids, a screaming child in a public place would drive me crazy, and having kids has tempered my opinions on taking kids out a lot, but the general nastiness was surprising.

I know the day with Dub was a one day event, and hopefully rare, but this brings me to empathize with parents that have a child with a disability or physical uniqueness. The patience these folks must have with the negative public, casting judging eyes on their family, must be highly developed. Two hours of it and I was done, and ready to tell someone off. I respect the families that work through this daily, and pray to have some of their strength. I am sure their journey is not lightly walked, but I will commit to being more sensitive in my judgment of folks. And I will pray our world can have a little more love and understanding. 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Draft Night


The NFL draft begins today. For weeks and months, the sports networks have forecast, re-forecast, and revised the re-forecast of what they think each team will do. I will admit I get wrapped up in the talk early on, but tire of the unending discussion quite quickly. Alas, the day is here. Funny how much time and energy is wasted on something the great majority of folks have no influence over whatsoever. I am sure ray Farmer, new GM of the Browns, is a busy man right now, but the fans have no power over this event. I wish my brownies well, but really cannot get worked up or nervous today. Tomorrow I will awake a browns fan either way.

Instead of focusing time and energy of things you cannot control, focus on one thing you can. Treat each day like draft day. Spend some time thinking about the choices you plan on making in your life. Choices at work, at home, in your spiritual life or with your friends are all in play. These are things you can influence, that you can work on. Spend time today thinking what or who your #1 pick will be to tomorrow. Will you commit to spend more time with your kids? How about not snoozing in the morning, or clearing out and responding to all your voice mails and emails. Maybe you will be your own #1 pick, give yourself a break, or pick yourself up and try again. 

No matter what you do, spend your energy on things you can "do." Take action, make a plan, follow the plan. Work toward your sphere of influence, or just identify it. Leave the things you have no control over behind, and step forward. You can still be a Browns fan in the morning.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Turn Back Now


The sign above is a really bold indicator to folks walking past. A true clear indicator you are entering difficult terrain, and should not tread lightly. I will walk past this sign in June, weather permitting, and take on the challenge. More on my hike in the weeks to come, but today I ponder the absence of signs like this in everyday life.

How often do we tread into difficult projects, relationships or situations when a clear sign like this could help make decisions early? Would a sign like this stop you? Maybe progress is never made without walking past a few warning signs. I think preparation is key. Now, I do not think a person can be prepared for every single challenge or obstacle, for some will be truly surprises. But you can be open to change, embrace it when it presents itself. This is not an easy task. Heck even identifying that change is underway can be difficult.

So, how do you identify change? The sign will surely not be there telling you to tun around if unprepared. I think a routine assessment of where you are would help, mentally, physically and spiritually. The routine can be what you define, daily, weekly or otherwise, but take note of where you think you are at within these areas in your life. When you write, meditate or think on your routine, if you feel off in an area, look for your warning sign. Make sure you can identify the challenge, and either take it on, or prepare yourself to be able to tackle the change.

Do not always accept the status quo, do not fear change, prepare yourself to adapt, prepare yourself for tomorrow.


Friday, May 02, 2014

Can You Keep This Warm?


Walking into daycare this morning with my kids, my daughter reached up to grab my hand and said "can you keep this warm Daddy?" This melted my heart. I said sure, and held her hand as I carried baby bro in to school. I did not want to let go. Now I was in a bit of a rush this morning, because I snoozed too much and started my workout late. When C$ asked if I could take her to school, my response was "J do you need me to take them?" As I turned away, I realized how bad that made me feel, and I said I would take the kids.

Had I rushed out this morning I would have missed this moment. What a shame that would have been not to hear "can you keep this warm?" I always want to keep C's little hand warm. I am truly proud to be a father to a daughter, I learn something new everyday about girls hearts and minds.  I know when she's a teen, things will be different, but we have plenty of time to get there. I plan on keeping that hand warm, play outside , put ponytails in her dolls hair, build castles and always listen when she needs me. My hand will always be open.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Help Me Support The Kids of St Jude


Friends and Family,

J and I are blessed with two beautiful children, and cannot fathom how hard a child's deadly illness can be for a family to work through. Kids should not have to go through these struggles, but they do every day. The least I can do is use my 2014 fitness journey to raise some money for St. Jude.

I've committed to supporting the kids of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by participating as a St. Jude 
Warrior at a Warrior Dash race this August near Canton, OH. I want to raise $500. Will you help me?

Why?
  • Kids should be given a chance to live healthy lives
  • Your donation helps ensure no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude.
  • Your donation also helps St. Jude continue to change the way the world treats childhood cancer and other deadly diseases through pioneering research and lifesaving care.
  • Any size donation will help.
Please visit my St Jude Donation Page to make a donation.

Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hope, Understanding and Future


I attended a Habitat for Humanity charity dinner the other day. Sometime I can take the roof over my head for granted. Never in my life did I have to be concerned for a place to rest my head. There are a lot of good hard working people that do not have this luxury. HFH works to get affordable housing for families willing to work for it, and get them a reasonable loan for their home. I used to think the houses were given away, but I actually like the HFH system. The family has to work on their own home, either building for refurbishing the structure. Every member of the family has a time obligation, to tie in the ownership concept. Then the family has a 30 year loan through HFH they must pay like any other mortgage.

I have a friend that often states if you give someone something for free; they will not appreciate that something, and not be invested. This is the exact model HFH works against, no freebie houses. During the banquet a HFH mother spoke about what HFH and having a safe home for her family to grow up in meant to her. She used three words to describe the HFH home ownership experience. Hope, Understanding and Future. What a graceful summary of a home. Couldn't we all use a little more hope, understanding and a better future? I have several outlets of influence between work, my family and my volunteer life. This week I want to focus on providing a proverbial home for someone, and lending some hope, practicing a little more understanding, and walk toward a better future with someone.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Be a Lighthouse



We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won't need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don't fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine.

― Dwight L. Moody

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let her fold the shirt



Last week my little daughter wanted to help me with the laundry folding badly. To set the stage, I am a fairly retentive clothes folder. I have a specific pattern that gets shirts to lie flat, and look crisp out of the drawer. In some other life I must had had extensive retail clothes sales training. So I let C$ folder some t-shirts while I put the rest away. She mimicked me well, laying out the shirt, and attempted to fold them down the lines I did. What ended up happening was pretty much a white T ball. But, she was so proud of that ball. I was not allowed to put the shirt in the drawer either, she had too. I loved watching her do this; it was high on the cute meter. I did however make a mental note to go back and re-fold the shirts she worked on, three in all, the right way.

The weekend was very busy from the get go, and I totally forgot the t-shirt folding. This morning, I woke and worked out, and grabbed a shower. This is a fairly routine start to my day. Then, when I was dressing I opened the sock/T drawer, and had the happiest surprise. I was pleased as punch to see the little ball of a white T still sitting in my drawer. This made my morning. I am so glad I did not re-fold the shirts. I know I like to have things a certain way, but I cannot expect this from just a little kid. If you re-fold too much in life, to please yourself, you might just miss out on a wrinkled ball of love sitting waiting for you in your drawer.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday


This has been a really long week. Work travel can really be a drag, and I do not travel all that much compared to some of my friends. I miss J,C&C a lot when I am on the road, and had some great quality time last night with them. I am really glad it is Friday, even though we have a fairly busy weekend.

The picture above is a mock-up of a potential Browns draft pick. Not my pick for the #4 overall, but he is interesting. A bunch of folks today left work a little early to see the movie Draft Day. I have absolutely no interest in this film at all. None, zip, zero. The city of Cleveland sports team take enough, without some second rate Hollywood picture taking another swipe at us. the movie does not look all that good, I do hear it makes the city look good, which is nice. I just prefer the actual draft day drama the Browns are knee deep in this year. And this is not Major League, that was a comedy, a lighthearted look at the sad state of the Indians (just before the great 90's ball they played). No self-respecting Browns fan should go see this movie in my opinion. Why would we watch out team being made to look so bad, that only a movie miracle could fix? This film is just too close to home for such a perennially bad franchise. I will go see the city look great in Captain America: TWS instead, and hope Ray Farmer can make Kevin Costner look dumb in May.

Go Browns.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Three Big Toes


There are lots of manly ways to hurt your toe.The dreaded turf toe is a common football injury. It always sound a bit of a "weak" injury when it causes players to miss games. I have turf toe right now, and I no longer think it is a joke. My problem is I do not have a good story. I was walking up stairs, with my hands full, and missed a step, with everything but my big toe. As I stepped up with all my weight on one lone big toe...ouchies. I dropped like a sack of potatoes. No macho sports story for me, just the inability to hit a step with my foot.

The big toe is overlooked for it's importance to your everyday, all day activity. Absolutely everything you do on two feet rely on the big toe. I have broken a pinky-toe with less irritation to my daily routine.  

What is your big toe at work, or at home? What is that one person or little service you take for granted every day and do not show appreciation for? I do not have an extra big toe to swap out the injured one. Make sure you look for your "big toes" in your daily life, and thank them. I am sure you have some irreplaceable people that could use your appreciation..


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Scouting



I am a proud Eagle Scout. There are four things I mainly attribute to for who I am as a man today. My family, the Church, Boy Scouts and my Fraternity. A lot of guys have a sports coach in there, but I never really had that great coach I looked up to or used as a mentor (not including my Dad). I'm writing today because another one of my Scout Masters passed on this week. George Grim had a stroke and died, leaving my Dad as the only long serving Scout Master I had as a kid left.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are a target of a lot of negative things; media attacks for membership policies, constant jokes about molestation, and general "nerd" jokes. They are actually very similar to the Catholic Church in this way. But, I will always defend the BSA because the good far outweighs the bad. It is not even close. As a boy and young man, my Scout Masters helped instill so many good things in me I cannot count. Good citizenship, confidence, survival skills, problem solving, teamwork, leadership, goal setting, community service, friendship, love of the outdoors, my somewhat obsessive love of knots, doing a good turn daily, and on and on. To this day I strive to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. This is the Scout Law.

The men who spent their free time volunteering to instill these things in a young boy should be honored. George Grim, along with Paul Luke, Bill Chester, Dallas Heston, Ralph McDonough and many others should all be commended for their great work and dedication. I hope I have lived a life worthy of my Eagle Scout badge, and will recommit myself to the Scout Oath today in their honor.

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

And for Mr. Grim, I will look to the West, and sing that song you would always sing on camp-outs at night to your beloved West Virginia home. I hope you have been taken home down that country road.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Emotional Bank Account


I am a firm believer in trust and the emotional bank account. A brief explanation; you act with honesty and kindness over time, to develop trust and mutual respect with individuals. Then if the time comes that you may have a disagreement, you have a trust already existing, and assume positive intent from the other person while working on the issue together. I know this can sometimes be a nice concept, but difficult to practice. I normally choose the more positive high road when possible.

Last night a longtime friend and mentor blasted open what I thought was a well invested bank account. I was asked about a procedural issue, not my personal opinion, and offered advice I would give any of my volunteer constituents. The response I received was emotional, personal and not colored with any positives directed at me. I was basically called a "company man" and accused of scraping out all humanity from the situation. This hurt me very badly. The comments hurt because of the source and the 20+ year relationship I have with the individual, one I consider a close friend. To immediately go to the "company man" card was really inflammatory. I wanted to say, "have you paid attention to who I have been for twenty years, and do you think I would change overnight?" I was really hot over the comments, and probably was the cause for J to play on her iPad all night, since I was blowing off steam about the event. I ended the discussion on fairly friendly notes between my friend an me, but I am still bothered by the interaction.

I am left this morning with a review of why things got to that point. Am I too sensitive? Was the comment just an emotional blast that I took too seriously? I do not know, but I will commit to talking with my friend about how it made me feel. I will remain committed to my emotional bank account system, the plan has worked well most of the time, so no need to withdrawn my deposits. Look over the obscuring clouds, follow the light, and be a leader of positivity.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Time

Joe Satriani's Time Machine album cover.
March 19, 2014. Wow. Time is flying.

My kids are getting so big, J is busy at work and with the family. I have been very busy travelling for work, working with my volunteer efforts. Baseball spring training is here, March Madness starts this weekend. I just do not know how 2014 has gone so fast. Is there any way to slow it down, to get in the time I need to refresh and stay focused on the most important things in my life, my family?

I am sure this is a conundrum every parent faces. I cancelled some tentative plans today to make sure I am home. I have to be able to realize one day I cannot be everywhere all the time. J told me today she felt like she won because I chose her over an alumni event. That made me upset, a clear indicator I have been over scheduled. J is very generous and understanding with my volunteer life, and I never want to abuse the time sharing trust she has. I do not have the time machine, nor do I have an answer today, but I will stay more aware of the compounding affect my time away from home has on CC&J.

My plan: Slow it down, review appointments in person with J, spend time with just J, sit on the floor and play as much as possible with C&C, treasure each tuck-in I do for C&C. Be thankful.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Battery


Never travel without your batteries fully charged. I had a low phone charge this morning, even though I thought I charged overnight, and my noise canecelling headphones died on the first leg of my trip. What makes that more annoying is I bought expensive airport shop batteries just a couple weeks ago, and left them at home. So I will now buy expensive airport batteries again. This is a bit irritating. Luckily I can read without tech or listen to music with regular headphones, so no real issues, just some first world problems. 

What I am reminded of is to make sure my batteries are charged. Not the phone, iPad, laptop, headphones or any other consumer electronic, but me, my mind and body. I normally get around 6-7 hours of sleep, which is barely enough. I drag in the morning, and work out most days before I get my workday moving. But what can I do to truly recharge my batteries. With two small kids this is a constant challenge. I do find that exercise and good eating help a whole lot. They don't make my morning drag that much more peppy, but throughout the day I have a lot less lag. But aside from the physical battery I need to focus on the mental and emotional ones. 

How can I make certain the mind and spirit are charged? Learning and challenging myself help a lot. It sounds silly but watching the new Cosmos show last night engaged my brain, and excited the child inside and his love of learning. As a kid I wanted to be an astronomer, I loved learning about the sun and stars. Not sure when that stopped, or when I diverted, but I felt like a kid watching this program. I forgot how much I love this stuff. Hopefully the show stay on the great path it seems to be on, and maybe I can dust off the star map and show my kid some things this summer.

I am also spending this Lenten season refocusing my connection to my faith. This is a  forty day period to spend denying myself any harmful or destructive behaviors, and making sure my faith stays a central part of my life.

In all there aspects of keeping my battery charged, mind, body and spirit, I am glad I can take my family along with me. They are really the charging station for me, that is my battery core. With my wife and kids along for the trip, my battery will always need charged, but I we'll always have the reasons to stay on right next to me.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Lurking in the Shadows


The photo above is from my dry erase wall in my office. I leave it there as a daily reminder. Over-thinking and worrying about details can get in the way sometimes, especially when relationships are involved. In life there is a large sphere of things you do not, and con never control. Within that big zone, there is a smaller sphere that you have total control over what you can affect. The key is expanding your green circle, so you minimize the gap of what you cannot control.

My firm's former president had a saying about to looking into the shadows to see what is going on in them. People whispering and working against the team goal. He emphasizes walking toward the light, and helping folks walk along with you.

These two concepts are very similar. There will always be folks in the shadows, complaining, pointing out problems without any solutions. You cannot control this, and you should not focus on correcting it either. If people are not strong enough to bring their questions or problems into the light, they cannot be taken to credibly. Maybe work on the trust issues first, and see if that can help. I will never turn someone away that wants to discuss differences, or bring forth issues. But I will not focus on what is going on in the shadows either. Moving forward in the light will be my path, and hopefully I can bring some people along for the ride. The more you increase your affecting circle, the more light you shed. The more light you shed, the smaller the shadows.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Friday, February 28, 2014

Future Days


My morning drive into work is normally filled with talk radio, sports or comedy. I enjoy the chatter, and laugh a few times and get my sports news. I have not been into my music in a while, probably because I have not played any guitar in a long time. Pretty much no guitar since the kids. This week I have been getting into my playlists and mixing them up to get a fresh groove moving. The change worked wonders. On SiriusXM I found a great Zeppelin live track, a new (old) song by someone I have never heard of, the Lee Michaels version of Stormy Monday. Wow, I am not a keyboard/organ guy, but this song rocked. Then I listened to some of the New Pearl Jam album Lightning Bolt. Skipping through to some of my high energy favorites I landed on the albums finale Future Days. Full disclosure, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  I have listened to this song many times, but today it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Here is the picture, adult male, driving alone, getting all choked up driving in to the office. I'm sure it would look funny from an outside perspective. The song is a well written gaze upon a relationship, and the state of being before and during. It speaks to the ability to see the future and believe in the future. Like my last post, looking forward is not always easy. Having faith in the unknown future is even harder. Today I want to focus on the future, see what I believe will be true. I can do this at work, my faith, my volunteer life, in my family life.  In the worst of time keep your eyes forward, in the best of times enjoy the moment and plan the next. Better days are ahead all around!

"I believe and I believe ‘cause I can see
Our future days, days of you and me

When The hurricanes and cyclones rage
When winds turn dirt into dust

When floods they came and the tides they raised, ever closer became us"
- Pearl Jam

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Focus on Cash

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.

― Johnny Cash

I am not a big country music fan but I do like Johnny Cash, especially his final albums and revival on American Recordings in the 1990; and 2000's. Cash has certain introspection in his writing, and in the covers that really show who he was as a person. He lived a hard life, ruined marriages, got lost in drugs and alcohol, killed his career, and found the Light. My wife sent over the quote above today and it really hit home. No one, not one person has never had a single regret in life, even if a small one. But as Cash points out, failures are what you build upon. The final sentence in the statement is the most important. How does one learn from mistakes, and never devote any energy to thinking back about it?

Focus is one answer. If you have something to stay focused on you can avoid looking back. The simple analogy is just walking. If you do not focus forward, you will eventually stumble into something. By facing forward, you see where you are walking, and leave the rest behind. I have read a lot of business books, that encourage identifying the days goals. I do not always follow these lessons. The goal setting can be simple or complex, but write down some daily goals, and achieve them. Your plan will develop, your scope may change, but you will be facing forward. I have been laser focused on my personal plan for about four weeks now, and I feel very productive. We all have failure, we all want to be better. I want to stay on the path I am on, close the door more often, and give my energy, time and space to the best things in my life. Focus on today, tomorrow is never promised.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Cupcake Time


I am traveling coast to coast, almost, today. Nothing worse than leaving so early in the day that I miss seeing my kids in the morning. I did get to hug J before I left, mostly since I woke here up getting ready at 4 am. I hated to leave the family for this trip, this kids are just over the flu, and so is J. She's a real trooper with the kids when she is not feeling well, way more strong than me. When I'm not well, I turtle up and zone out until I'm better.  So thanks J for again manning the ship without me, our family is glued together by you.

Lots of things to work on over the next 48 hours. Work opportunities, volunteer decisions and continued focus on my health. I am strengthened by my family in all aspects of my life. Today C$ gets a cupcake for a well earned personal achievement, five straight poops on the potty without an accident. This is huge. Seeing the pics of C&C getting psyched for CUPCAKE TIME while I was sitting alone in an airport were heartwarming. What a sense of scope these kids have. They do not know the big cupcake trip is a five minute journey for J. But this little trip means the world to the kids. 

This is a great analogy to life. Little actions can have big outcomes. Smile at people that serve you, make eye contact so they know you respect them. Take a minute to thank someone. Give your spouse a hug when they do not expect one. Let a coworker know you have seen them really working hard on a project and appreciate the effort. You never know when that small gesture could make a real difference to someone. Give someone their own cupcake time today.


Friday, February 14, 2014

My Valentine Boy

Today is a very difficult day for me. For the last few years I have not been able to write anything but a brief note of remembrance. In 2010 my wife and I entered parenthood in one of the most difficult ways. J's water broke early and we delivered our son JDM on Valentines Day, he did not survive. Getting to meet him for a brief moment was a true blessing, but it was the hardest thing I have ever done. This has been the most difficult and evolving day over the last several years. While I am saddened at what could have been for my boy, we have been given two absolutely beautiful children since that day. Each year we are removed form JDM's birthday, the pain is a little less, never gone but less. 

I know we should not feel guilty about celebrating with our kids. It was fun to drop Valentines in bags for other kids at daycare this morning. CG even got a special Valentine from her friend, the same kid she made a special one for. This relationship will be cause for writing in 13 years I'm sure. I guess I am learning the transition from the straight grief I have experienced, to a better balanced state of celebrating with my kids, and remembering our first. I do pray every single day for JDM with his brother and sister. They don't understand who he is yet, but they know he's always in the family prayers.

Like the heart tree above, my heart is blessed to have many pieces that fill up my life. One piece was just a little smaller, just a little less tangible than the others. I will never let go of the experience JDM gave me. I will never stop loving and praying for him. I will make sure that C&C always know how much I love them and appreciate the opportunity to be their father. One day I'll meet JDM, and we'll be able to chat about all the thing we missed out on together. I the meantime, I will celebrate what I have in the best way I know.

Just Breathe by Pearl Jam

Yes, I understand that every life must end, uh-huh
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh
Oh I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they've got none

Stay with me...
Let's just breathe...

Practiced all my sins, never gonna let me win, uh-huh
Under everything, just another human being, uh-huh
I don't wanna hurt, there's so much in this world to make me bleed

Stay with me
You're all I see...

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me

As I come clean...
I wonder everyday, as I look upon your face, uh-huh
Everything you gave
And nothing you would save, oh no

Nothing you would take
Everything you gave...

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
And I come clean, ah...

Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Hold me til I die
Meet you on the other side...


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mountain Conquers Man


I have been working very hard to prepare for my trip to New Hampshire in June. This morning I felt like a failure during my workout. I know failure is a strong word, but I questioned myself a few time during my session, and almost hurled once or twice. I am always a strong supporter for other peoples challenges and aspirations, and often lend good motivational words. My problem is I never lend these to myself, I am very hard on myself. I do not have a great ability to go easy on me, and look at the bright side. So today I am forcing myself to put on some shades, relax, look at the sun and be happy I worked out at all.

There are some positives, I am struggling to focus on, but here goes. I woke up early, dragged my butt down stairs and worked out. I went after the workout harder than the last week. I slowed to the moderate routine a few times, but made sure I finished each exercise at full intensity, or at least my closest approximation of full. Lastly, I did not stop.

My head got in my way a few times, but that is where I need the most work. Sir Edmund Hilary's quote above has been framed on my wall since college. His quote could not have rung more true to me than when I finished this morning. I was totally gassed and did not want to walk upstairs to get ready for work or take out the garbage. I sat for several minutes just collecting myself, sort of pissed that I felt the conquered by "the mountain."

Take some time today to assess if you are doing everything you can for your goals. Are you getting in your own way? Is fear of failure stopping your from starting something new? Right now I am accepting the fact I worked out as hard as I could today as a win, and not being too hard on myself. Today is only a day, but if you run, walk or inch toward a goal now, you are beating everyone on the couch not trying at all.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

TJ

Just a great quote today:
Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."
― Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

My Success



I spent some time thinking about my definition of success, and was underwhelmed with my results. I fall into very standard thoughts on success, and confuse it with goal setting and completion. Certainly completing a goal is a step to success, but this should not defines what makes you successful.

True success should be a higher ordeal.

I want to achieve a lot of goals in my life. Good job, provide for the family, fitness goals, volunteer goals and some hobbies. But these are all goals, and achieving them cannot define my success. I want to be successful at family. I want to be successful at helping others reach higher than they thought they could. I want to be successful in my faith. I want to be a success at personal growth and improvement. I want to be a success at happy.

None of the things I want to be a success at are easily identifiable tasks. They are a compilation of a lifetime of tasks and goals. My plan in 2014 is to keep setting goals, but make sure they align in some way with my definition of success. Goals and tasks are good, and can bridge you to success, but you need to know what your success is going to be so you can be one.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Success


The definition of success in the United States is a widely contested notion. Last night the losing quarterback in the NFL Super Bowl was crushed online for being a failure. Joke after joke was posted, some were pretty funny, some just mean. Peyton Manning is one of the most successful players in the history of the NFL. I am not a major fan, nor a hater, but he is pretty darn good. I know in Cleveland we would celebrate a player half as good as Manning as a hero. Following the story last night,  as told by regular folks, only the final champion can be successful. And, I am sure Manning's goal this year was winning the Super Bowl, not just participating.

This makes me think what I consider success to be. Do I see myself as successful today? This is not something I think about often. I spend most of my time in smaller chunks of goal tracking. I think for an exercise this week I will ponder my definition of success. Do I focus on what others think of me in my formula? More importantly, what will I do with the definition I develop?

Lots of questions this week, without many answers, but this is just what's on my mind today. I will make sure I follow up with my answers.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There and Back Again


Like Bilbo Baggins in the book The Hobbit or There and Back Again, I will hike to the misty mountain! Unlike Baggins, I hope to encounter exactly zero trolls or dragons along the way. Queue up the Led Zeppelin songs Misty Mountain Hop and Ramble On while you read this post for for atmosphere.

This summer I am taking on a challenge like I have not done in years. A group of friends and I are taking a two day hike over a portion of the Presidential Traverse in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We will backpack twenty miles over the two day period, almost thirteen miles in day one. On the surface this is not the biggest distance challenge, but when you consider the details the journey is daunting. The hike will include almost 8,000 feet of elevation changes over some very difficult terrain. Also featured are drastic weather patterns. We hike in June, and the weather at the start will be seasonal around 70-80F, but on the Mount Washington, the average low can 30-40F degrees. A possible 50 degree swing during the day one hike. The most challenging portion of the hike will be the first four miles, non-stop uphill for 4,000 feet of elevation, and average of 1,000 uphill per mile.

 When I take an accounting of my current state of readiness, and where I need to be to accomplish this journey, I know I am not ready today. I have a lot of things to accomplish just to prepare for the trip; weight loss, cardio improvement, selecting gear, plotting my maps and strength training just to name a few. Goals are easy to talk about and set, but difficult to achieve for some reason. I believe that if a goal is not planned out with enough detail, or created in small enough chunks, chances of failure increase. Over the last few years I have run a decent amount of 5k races, and adventure races, each with varying degrees of prep and greatly varying levels of success. I am taking this year on with a renewed attitude, to not half-ass my preparation, and make sincere progress.  With five months to prepare, I am breaking down each goal, to weekly challenges and progress points. And I will hold myself accountable through a few different methods, this blog will be just one. Feel free to check in on my preparation.

As you look at your 2014 and set goals I encourage you all to do a couple things. Write goals down, this is critical. This way you cannot forget or ignore the task. Next, pick a completion date. This could be a random timeline you give yourself, on an actual date a project is due, or a race is scheduled. Set progress points to write down along the way. Don't lose a day, a week or a month thinking I will just start tomorrow. Start today. Share your progress with a spouse or friend, it always helps when someone else can ask you how things are moving, or encourage you to keep moving forward. If you miss targets, or fail to achieve your goal, make sure you review what went wrong and use the lesson for the next time. This is a great reason to document your process, to make things harder to forget and lose the opportunity to improve your plan.

Whether you are building a tree-house, running a marathon, changing career or climbing a mountain, make goal setting and tracking a part of your 2014. You will be surprised in what you can achieve, and learn a little about yourself along the way.

Monday, January 27, 2014

One Candle


“It is better to light just one little candle,
Than to stumble in the dark!
Better far that you light ust one little candle,
All you need's a tiny spark!”

This weekend I was at the baptism of a friend’s first child. The presiding Deacon had a great homily, and uses a song One Candle from a show called The Christopher’s. The songs message can cross into many parts of life; a snippet is above.

The message at the baptism was a call to all people present, to not let just the parents and Godparents be the candle of Christ’s love. You see, if one person lights a candle in the dark, you can see a small area, but if many people light a candle you can fill a room. It’s a simple, beautiful concept.

This concept can also be adopted for charity, fitness, kindness, work, neighbors, sports, just about anything. If you see someone struggling at work, try to mentor them. If you know someone dealing with a personal issue, try to comfort them. Have a lot of extra winter clothes you do not wear? Donate them now. Encourage someone trying to lose weight to make a healthy choice at lunch, or hit the gym. Have a few extra dollars or hours, try to donate them. Go shovel a neighbor’s driveway. Listen to your children, even the seemingly unimportant chatter. All these simple actions are lighting a candle for somebody.


This week I commit to lighting a candle. I am not sure for who or how yet, but I want to step outside of my routine and shed some light that was not in the world this week. Just a little extra light might be the difference for someone in stumbling in the dark.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Change


Change is hard. Change is scary. Change is unpopular. A change takes hard work. Change can take a long time. There are a lot of terms that can describe change, many are not pleasant ones. Leadership involves change from time to time. The question I ask myself is what makes the idea of change so difficult? Why do leaders often face such strong opposition from folks when implementing change? When do you know if a change is needed? All questions hard to know the answer.

What I have come to understand is if you believe in a good goal, and have vision to achieve that goal, the choices become easier to see. Having conviction to stand up and makes the best decision will not always be popular. Time will tell if you we right or wrong. In the meantime if you made the decision with a heart and a commitment to do the right thing, you can relax. The point is to live and make choices with a purpose. Do not waffle to keep everyone happy; do not cave to a vocal minority. Certainly, be respectful and open minded to others opinions, but stay focused on your reasoning.

I have seen the same results in every personality/leadership training I have taken in my career. It normally goes something like this: "You are a person that likes to interact with others, often become the center of a room, I can tend toward dominating conversations and people’s perceptions of you matter." This makes decisions difficult to make at times, I do not want to anger others with my ideas or opinions. I am working on changing this approach. Not that I will personally change, but I actively work to listen more, pay attention to other ideas and slow down what I want and consider the whole picture first.

A bit of a ramble today, but I'm working through a lot of changes now, personal, volunteer, family and professional. Staying focused on the right goals and staying tuned to my natural tendencies will help. I have changes to make, and will stay committed to doing so with compassion, cooperation while staying true to the best ideals.


No matter what you have to change; health, work, programs, relationships...be a leader today.