Monday, November 30, 2015

Attitude of Gratitude 2015



Darren Hardy, the publisher of Success Magazine, Times bestselling author, and mentor-to-many, tells the story about writing, a journal of gratitude daily for one year.  The object of his gratitude was his wife.  After the year was up, he gave the journal as a gift to his wife.  I have a friend David that broadcasts messages twice a day, the first one is a positive message, insight or an accounting of his personal journey.  The second one is always a message of gratitude for something that he is thankful for on that day.  As Thanksgiving 2015 just past, it is worthwhile to highlight the importance of being thankful and letting the people around us know what we are grateful for.  In the law of attraction, if we want to gather feedback on the impacts we have on other peoples’ lives, we have to be willing, unsolicited, to thank others for the benefits or acts of kindness received from them or seen given to someone else.

That leaves it pretty open ended, doesn’t it?  We do not really want to be in the habit of handing out thank you’s, “Atta-boys”, and “Atta-girls” willy-nilly to everyone, especially if they are doing the things that they are supposed to be doing.  To be honest, we all like to receive them, but if the thank you’s, “Atta-boys”, and “Atta-girls” are given for every action taken, it can water down the impact or, like Pavlov’s dog, make us only look for ways to receive them.   There are cases where a letting someone know you are grateful for something shows that you paid attention or care.  Here are a few categories and examples that I keep in mind throughout the day:

1.    Spouses: Your spouse is the person that you have chosen to spend your life with.  If you cannot find words of gratitude for this person, above all others, you need to evaluate who your life partner is.  In my case, I am grateful each and every day that I have found Debbie as my life partner.  Debbie added balance to my life, provides a wonderful home and helped raise two fantastic children.  I just kissed my wife (yes, while writing this) and thanked her, for no other reason (at the moment) other than just being her.
2.    Family – First, as a child, no matter what our relationship with our parents is, we should all have at least one thing to be grateful for and that is the precious gift of life.  The more they provided for us, the more we have to be thankful.  Second, as a sibling, I have great memories growing up and continue to be very close with my brothers.  I am thankful to have grown up in such an amazing environment.  And lastly, as parents, a choice that we make, we should feel blessed to have children.  I am thankful for Gab and Bec being in our lives.  I am grateful to see them grow into the mature young women that they are becoming.  And, of course, I am thankful for the perfection that happens to be our rescue pet, Lucy Lou, which rounds out our little family (can you guess the guest editor this week?).

3.      Project teams / Work associates – As a project manager, a team member or a fellow worker, it is important to let the people we work with know when they do a good job.  While we expect every person we work with to carry their weight, when they step up, go an additional yard to complete something, it is important to let them know how well they did.  If not, it could be a disincentive in the future.  It can be as simple as an email thanking them (including management on the email), or, a dinner as a thank you for the extra time and effort spent.

4.     Social groups – Many of us are involved in social groups or organizations.  These tend to be voluntary in nature and as such, the time and effort that we provide, assist or help, comes from our free time.  Volunteers are sometimes a forgotten group of people that do not receive a thank you.  Being involved in a leadership role, I have heard people say they do not feel appreciated.  An article in the group’s newsletter, a word of appreciation for the help during a presentation or even a personal thank you goes a long way to validate their time spent.

5.       A Higher Power – For those that are faith-based, whether religiously or spiritually, gratitude is part of some liturgy.  We read it out of practice, say it by rote or chant in a group.  A moment out of the day where a heart-felt thought of gratitude helps us to tap into, for lack of a better, broader term, the Cosmos.

Finally, I am grateful to you, the readers.  Thank you for taking the time to read my Weekly Thoughts! 

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~ Melody Beattie

Monday, November 23, 2015

Our Love Affair with Our Phone



 “Commander, this is reconnaissance mission X-KL5, reporting from the inhabited third planet from the star Sol, which the local intelligent life forms refer to as Earth.”

“We read you loud and clear, Commander.  What is you report for today?”

“I am trying to fit in, and have observed a few things.  These creatures come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, some of which designate their origins on the planet.  Age seems to be decided based on factors, such as smoothness of skin that they try to hide or modify, as if veneration is not looked for.  In this highly populated area, they call a city, I have figured out one commonality.  All bipeds seem to have on them a thin, rectangular device, which they are in constant contact with, and seem lost without.  I am not sure its use, if it is a life guide, a communicator, or control device.  Sometimes it is attached, via a wire, to their auditory appendage.  Other times, they stare at it constantly, or hold up for others to see as if it is a trophy…”

Wait…what is this fictional character talking about?  Is that our…cell phones / mobile devices?  Have we really become that dependent on them?  It certainly seems that way; in the last 10 years, our mobile devices have become integrated into our lives.  As with all technological advances, there are positives and negatives.  I think that I can almost categorize people by their phone usages:

The Meanderer:  This is the person that you are stuck walking behind.  They do not walk straight, but tend to meander back and forth across the sidewalk, as they are more focused on their mobile device than where they are going.

The Car Meanderer:  This is the same person as above, except this time, they are texting while driving.  Unfortunately, this version is dangerous to themselves, everyone on the road and their passengers.

I Only Need One Hand:  This is a guys only technique (I hope), where they engage their phones at the public urinal.  You hope they are not so distracted to forget to pass by the sink.

The Conductor:  These are the people that have no consideration for the crowded sidewalks, events, etc., that insist they have the right to swing their selfie sticks into position.  If they hit you, it is your fault.

The Public Blabberer:  This is the person, when you are sitting in a crowded bus, on the quiet car on the train, in the movie or any other public place that has to have a personal phone conversation for everyone to hear.  They must think they are in the cone of silence and have to cares as to whom they distract.

Below is a great picture, that went viral, showing how we are so tuned in to capture and record the world around us that we forget to take the time to live in the moment and enjoy life as it unfolds (notice the one lady enjoying the moment).  Most people will make excuses for their phone being at the ready position.  I remember, not long ago, when we did not have such conveniences.  We made it, we survived, and we enjoy the company of others (instead of skyping our local friends), stopped and smelled the roses (instead of looking them up on-line) and enjoyed telling stories / relating events (instead of posting our selfies). 

Please feel free to share the types of people you see and how do you categorize them.  Maybe even share a picture of them in action…

Monday, November 16, 2015

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks


Wayne, stay.

In the work place, what is one of the reasons we make changes?  To keep current - current with best practices, current with technology, and current with new thinking.  When Bob Dylan sang about “The Times They Are A-Changing,” his commentary was mostly social in aspect and highlighted the gap that existed between generations, the events over the past 15 years in the business world (globalization, Sarbanes-Oxley, mobility, etc.) have had a lasting impact on the work that we do.  As we get older, which is something we have to recognize, the actions we take, the thinking that we do and our interactions with others (i.e., social media), can easily broadcast what age category we belong to.  The fact of the matter is, this is true not only at work, but in our home lives as well.  Which brings me to the question, can you teach an old dog new tricks?

When we were younger, we were good at learning and using what we learned.  Let’s face it, after we graduate school and start working in earnest, we are still in a mode where we are happy to listen to others and take on the things that we need to know to move forward in life.  Same thing goes for outside the workplace as we begin to “move out” from our parent’s house and begin living life as an taking on bigger responsibilities.  Over time, we develop the habits that will carry us forward.  If we are diligent and focused, the habits, for the most part, will be positive.  If not, we will establish bad habits (including our vices).  To use a tree as an example, as a sapling, the young tree is flexible and able to bend with the breeze.  As the tree ages, its trunk thickens, becomes less flexible and is more likely during a windy storm to fall over.  We took a hike recently and noticed all of the big trees on their sides, not so the saplings.  As we gain in years, we become more fixed on what we do and tend not to be as flexible, both physically and in our actions.  For me, I have spent the past 17 years thinking in terms of project management, where projects tend to last months, have a beginning, a middle and an end.  At home, I leave all my work habits in the office, and have different ways of approaching things, with many beginnings, some middles and less ends.

In the last 20 years, technology has changed drastically and the incremental advances occur more quickly.  Some of the strategies in the workplace have changed.  17 years ago, for example, I was introduced to Rapid Application Development (RAD) to speed up development and to shift time from planning activities to iterative development.  Many years ago, I attended a Project Management training class where they showed a movie, which had a huge impact on how I approached projects.  The movie was called the 4-hour House (http://network.projectmanagers.net/video/4-hour-house-short) and it showed the importance of taking the time to plan-out projects before actually starting (even included a practice / UAT process).  Due to the planning efforts, the house finished under schedule and set a world record.  Today, Agile Management has changed the focus from planning to providing small incremental deliverables and has been adopted by many businesses.  In fact, a friend of mine who is a certified SCRUM Master, says the practices are adaptable in her activities outside of work.  New practices, new ideas, and new thoughts.  I am not ready to become “one o’ dem ole guys” quite yet.  Short planning and deliverable cycles are a philosophy that I can leverage at work and at home!  Here’s to this old dog happily learning new tricks…

Monday, November 9, 2015

Clean Up



A few months back, I wrote about the stuff that we have, the stuff that we keep, and the stuff that magically appears in our homes.  Stuff is something also known as clutter.  In thinking about it, I began to realize that all of my references were related to physical, tangible items.  Does the same also exist in our brains?  Do we have mental clutter?  I know that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies and allow “things” to come into our consciousness that can ultimately distract us, decrease our productivity and lose our personal focus.  Some thought leaders talk about being careful what you mentally intake as it could impact your actions (the old adage of garbage in, garbage out).  It is easy to refrain from watching the news (usually negative information), certain TV shows (mindless entertainment), and, it is easy enough to avoid reading gossip magazines (do we really need to know the sketchy side of celebrity lives?).

Can we keep our focus on 100% of the time?  I realistically do not think so.  Well, maybe if we lived in a bubble, but that is not the case.  We are, for the most part, a social, interactive species.  That means that we are constantly in environments that pull at our attention, provide ongoing opportunities, or, attack us with positive / negative stimulation.  Nik Wallenda, from the famous family of high wire walkers The Flying Wallendas, said, “I've trained all my life not to be distracted by distractions.”  While we can easily say, “Yeah, but he has to focus, it can cost him his life,” how different is that from focusing on achieving our own personal goals, providing for our families, or giving back to our communities?  If our relative time on this earth is short and there are many distractions in front of us, opportunities to succeed can be missed, overlooked or forgotten.  To see the chance and miss it is something we all have to live with.  Jim Rohn sums it up, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.”

Life is a journey to enjoy, but sometimes, we fall into the trap of spending too much time as the spectator.  Once we do that, we lose control of steering the direction we are headed.  Even if we read the books, listen to the audios and advice of others, and, generally “know better”, there are times and conditions that arise to pull our focus away.  Yes, it is easier just to sit back and enjoy the ride…I have to admit that sometimes it is easier to sit back and let others do the work.  Sometimes, it is more convenient to be the passenger and let someone else take you somewhere.  Sometimes, after many years of doing the same things repeatedly, it is easy to let someone pick up the task.  Once we cede control, we might have trouble taking the lead again.  Here’s to clearing out the distraction of mind.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Beard



Over the course of my adult life, I have had a moustache (did not really look good), a ponytail (did Locks of Love with my daughter), a full beard (which never grew in full) and, at various times, a goatee (lot of maintenance).  This last time that I dabbled in facial growth was to be in solidarity with a friend whose fiancé wanted him to be clean-shaven for their wedding.  Along with another friend, we realized that his beard was really a part of him and we agreed that we should all have beards for the wedding.  While we might have envisioned ourselves as modern Three Musketeers, our threesome names were more along the lines of Moe, Larry and Curly.

I am not really sure why I grew the beard the previous time.  It might have something to do with the loss of the longer hair.  I reached a point in my life where I wanted to look a little more grown up, a little more responsible, and nearing the 50 year mark in my life, look more my age.  I not only got rid of the facial hair, but also cut my hair shorter and began to look more professional.  Beards, or moustaches, are not unusual today in business, but, I am not 100% certain it was for me.  Maybe it is a rebel thing?  Maybe it is out of curiosity?  Maybe it is just because I can? 

Truth be told, while most people seem to either not mind the goatee, or like my family, do not like my beard.  My brothers have asked me many times “why try to cultivate something on your face that grows so freely on your behind?” and other less appropriate commentaries.  Debbie says it looks “nice” but do not get too close.  On visiting day, both Gab and Bec said, “You still got that thing?”  Every day, I either have to trim the whole thing, shape it when I shave or cut away errant hairs (which as I get older, I begin to realize hair growth in places I do not want anyway).  It is time, to once again, make the decision that as my beard sings the refrain from The Clash song, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

What is your opinion on whether or not I should keep it?  Find out next week what I decided to do…