Monday, February 19, 2018

Building Bridges

High Bridge, 1929 - Louis Lozowick

Over the last couple of years, as we have been driving back and forth to visit the girls at school, we had the unique pleasure of watching them build the replacement to the Tappan Zee bridge, a large familiar structure that spans the Hudson River.  You know that there had to be a lot of people involved, a lot of planning and a lot of communication.  Any project, whether large or small, needs to have the leaders develop the means by which relationships are developed and maintained.  In any group that pulls together to become a team, needs to build the necessary bridges to best lead towards success.  In fact, even a pair of people must develop a proper relationship to meet shared goals.  It is important to note how we treat peers, fellow workers, family, friends and casual acquaintances.

I was picked up, after recently visiting my brother in Florida, by an Uber driver.  As we were pulling away to head towards the airport, he noticed that the previous passenger had left her cell phone.  He commented that she was traveling with two other friends and she would probably call.  Sure enough, the cell rang.  While I could not hear exactly, the previous passenger blamed the situation on the driver, demanded her phone be returned immediately and said she could not live without her phone.  The driver did the right thing and said he had a customer and would return it afterwards.  She was not happy and treated the innocent man poorly.  I do not know what happened after I got out of the car, but it would be understandable if the driver took his time returning the phone.  There are some lessons that can be learned from this experience: Double check for your belongings when you leave a space (plane, car, hotel), to take responsibility for your actions, and most importantly, to learn to build relationships to ensure better communication and service. 

I know people who can build a relationship well using their phones as a primary means of communicating.  These are general people in sales or customer service.  I know people who can build relationships well by being face-to-face.  I work in the Project Management world, so for me a phone call is a great way to follow up, but the best means, for me, is being with the people I work with.  There is no better way to build understanding, communicate intentions and make a connection then being there with them.  When you are face-to-face, you can watch their body language and their facial expressions, which in some cases tell a different story than from a phone call, text message or email. 

As a Project Manager, it is important to remember that we always work in teams.  We may lead the team; we may be part of the team or even take on a role within the team.  This is a team; or group effort.  Along similar lines, while Debbie and I were recently out to dinner, a young man, with his girlfriend next to him, asked us if you compromise in marriage.  Debbie answered, “All the time,” and I responded “It is a team effort.”  While we both have our own opinions and ideas, a team of two is similar to a team of many.  Thoughts should be shared, different thinking should be vetted against one another, and diverse experiences should be brought forth.  If I were to surround myself with a pack of Waynes, I potentially could wander down a path which would lead me from my better potential.  Relationships are important in working together, challenging our thoughts and providing better outcomes.  Building bridges are an important part of striving towards our goals and achieving success.

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were:
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were.

Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.” ~ John Donne

Monday, February 12, 2018

Are we Willing to Sacrifice / Change for What We Want?

“I made the decision, it was my choice, so it falls on me to follow through.”  This single sentence can apply to any endeavor any of us might undertake.  I do not care if this is a newfangled diet, a new enrollment at the gym, a new skill, or even, a new attitude.  Years ago, I read the “Shannara Chronicles”, written by Terry Brooks; and am now enjoying watching the TV rendition.  In the story, the Druid Allanon, makes the point that “magic comes with a cost.”  So too does change, and in some cases, so does the inability to change.  I cannot hope to snap my fingers and transform myself in some way, shape or form.  Granted, it would be fantastic to wiggle my nose and have that buff, beach ready body (no graphics on this will be provided).  There is a cost obtaining that.

For a period in my life, I was engaged in Network Marketing.  With the right company, this is a great way to engage in becoming an entrepreneur.  The process is simple (but not easy) – you have to (1) be all in on the company and product line, (2) be 100% committed, (3) be will to be fully accountable for your actions and (4) follow without question your mentor.  One of the people I worked with did these things and put his business ahead of personal social events (i.e., he missed family weddings).  The “proof is in the pudding,” within the past year, he attained a higher level in the company, saw the benefits of his hard work and is financially successful.  I did points (1) and (3), but found out that I could not be 100% committed and did not want to listen to my mentors.  I tried, but this was something that I was not willing to make the sacrifice for.

We can take those same four points, with slight modifications, and apply them to any area in our lives.  I make no bones about me picking up the banjo.  I am all in on the product (I bought a banjo), committed to learning (while in Australia, my friend noted that my downtime was watching banjo lessons), fully accountable and listening to my video mentors (set aside time to practice).  Being able to introduce the banjo to the band was a sign of commitment, furthering my experiences and of course, the band members not laughing at me, but coming up with potential songs to utilize the banjo sound.  My sacrifice was using my spare time to practice.  Anything that we deem worthwhile, that we feel we can have an impact on, or believe in strong enough, we can make those personal adjustments to attain.

As we get older, many people downsize and with a move towards a fixed income.  Consequently, this leads toward living a simpler lifestyle.  I have seen this with family and the parents of friends.  Truth is, as I get older, these thoughts are starting to make themselves known in the back of my mind.  There are two realistic options, either sacrifice / plan now for our tomorrows, or, be willing to sacrifice the comforts of our household and lifestyle to survive while we continue to roam the earth.  

Monday, February 5, 2018

Does Success Mean Different Things to Different People?

When I was young, the image of success was a portrait of JP Morgan.  Not sure why, but the fact that he had a vest, a tie pin and a pocket watch with the chain across the front of the vest, seemed to me what looked like success.  I know growing up, some people thought success was being able to own a specific car.  As a young adult, success for me was being able to provide a home, feed my family and the ability to ensure my children’s education. 

I can list a series of people that have had, and continue to have, extremely well in running / owning business and in turn made some serious amounts of money.  The same can be said for certain athletes.  I can probably list a bunch of professions and the same initial comment would hold true.  The only potential difference would be the absolute value of the money.  While we would all like to be an Andrew Carnegie, a Richard Branson or a Michael Jordan, the truth is that they are the exceptions, not the rule.  I believe that the definition of success is unique to each of us, what our personal goals are, how we deal with the situations before each of us and where we ultimately want to end up.  While it would be great to spend a day in the shoes of the aforementioned people, I personally would not know what to do with unlimited money (but would have fun figuring it out), how to live on a palatial estate (seems lonely, but would have same awesome band parties and places for people to crash), or managing a different social life (but would be able to afford personal assistants). 

Looking at my grandfather, his father came to America to provide a better life for his family than they had back in their little village of Skalat, where persecution was not unusual.  Even though my great grandfather only had his family here with him a short time before he died, he was successful at accomplishing his goals and changing the path for his family.  While in Hong Kong, I learned over the years, that many families have maids from the Philippines:  they tend to the household, babysit the children and in most cases, cook for the families they live with.  They are paid an amount, that by US standards we would think as low wages.  However, most of the maids are successful, in that based on the standard of living differences between Hong Kong and the Philippines, they can provide support to their families (which remain in the Philippines) in terms of housing and schooling, then retire to a comfortable lifestyle. 

We are taught to use money as a barometer for success.  That is an absolute measurement about one potential facet of our lives, one that is constantly being hammered home to us through media, like the Housewives of _______ (fill in the blank), any Kardashian show, realtor shows on selling mansions, etc.; having massive amounts of money equals success.  I remember as a kid, the only show that stood out showing wealth was the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  The truth of the matter is that it would be great to have to never worry about money, but to realize that, it takes hard work (i.e., adding value to others), commitment and living a lifestyle that matches what we can afford.  I remember my grandfather telling me that it was important to work hard early in life and reap the benefits as you get older, because if you do it the other way around, you become too old have the strength and fortitude to work hard later in life.  Coming from a small village, being a part of the massive immigration in the early 1900’s, living in a tenement house, and working hard to provide for his family and live the American dream, his words still ring true today.