Monday, August 29, 2016

You May Not Remember Me…

“Wayne, I know you, even though you may not remember me,” he said as he walked up to me.

“Uh, oh,” I thought to myself, “What have I done now?”  I cannot begin to tell you the thoughts that ran through my mind upon hearing those words…

Let me take a step back.

We are planning a project for 2017 to upgrade our ERP system, the last upgrade was 2008, about 4 software versions ago.  When I was a consultant, a number of years ago, it was easy to learn about the progress on software as part of our business.  As a corporate employee, I find that I do not have the same direct access to that same information.  As part of the planning process, it made sense to get up to speed on what is new and attend an annual conference.  This would provide an opportunity to talk to people, listen and learn from everyone’s different experiences, and the chance for some personal and business development.

Aside from various classes to provide functional training, discussion groups to share thoughts on our individual projects and information sessions on upcoming product enhancements, there is a large vendor exhibition section.  In the exhibition, we have a chance to meet potential vendors, ask about their products and services, and, of course, have an opportunity to “schmooze”.  When I walked into the exhibition room, there were already a few hundred people there. This is the first time I have been to this annual event and, naturally, wondered if I might bump into anyone I knew from my consulting days, aside from the vendors I currently deal with.  Generally, I space out in crowds, feeling slightly overwhelmed.  As I walked around, I stopped in front of one of the booths and was greeted by one of the women working there.  We talked a few minutes about their product, then I asked a semi-technical question, at which point, she turned to flag down the expert.

“Wayne, I know you, even though you may not remember me,” he said as he walked up to me smiling.

My mind begins to swirl…trying to remember.  As with all of us, my life has many chapters, some, which I remember well, and others, which I remember less well.  As he relates his story, I realize that he definitely knew me.  Slowly, it came back to me and I did remember working together on a project at Merck (after they purchased Medco), prior to my leaving that company.  That was a little over 20 years ago.

Once again, I was reminded, that even in a short period of time, we have the ability to impact other people.  Whether in word or in action, everything we do, every day of our lives, can touch someone else, no matter how big or how small the time spent together.  Later that night, when we happened to meet up again, he asked me if when he said he knew was I scared first.  I admitted, yes a little, it was a bit freaky for me to not remember someone that knew so much about me.  I also admitted that after we talked I felted humbled that he remembered me. 

The thing that made the impression?  He said it was talking about the way that I communicated with my brother Brian, who was going to school in California, and how I felt this was the thing of the future…email.  While we all use email today, 20 years ago, typing out memos and manually distributing was the norm.  Outside of work, it was writing out “old fashioned” letters and sending them using the good old post office.  The email service that I was using was WebCrawler, which was less than a year old at the time.  Email has become so engrained in our lives, we sometimes forget that there was a time before it existed.  As my wife said to me after I retold this story, “You were cutting edge!”  Maybe…

The trip, overall, was a success, both in terms of business and personal development.  As surprised as I was, it was great to see someone I (sorry) forgot about and catch up.  It was great to catch up with other people that I used to know and meet new people and connections.  Lesson learned - Always remember to wear a smile, come with a good attitude, be open to ideas and be careful what you say and do, as you know who you might run into.

Monday, August 22, 2016

When Did My Daughters Grow Up?

 “I have to say, when I saw your girls, they were comfortable and happy traveling together,” said a friend of ours that happened to recently bump into Gab and Bec in the middle of a large market in Barcelona, Spain.

“Hold on, Wayne,” you are thinking, “Did you say Barcelona, Spain?”

A few months ago, our younger daughter, Bec, decided that she wanted to volunteer overseas and travel.  She is a Travel – Tourism and Hospitality Management major, so this would be a great experience.  This was not like booking a flight to Florida and staying with relatives.  This was handling international flights, booking transfers and setting up various housing in multiple countries.  Her travel companion was her older sister, Gab, who was excited about a chance for the two of them to do something great together before her senior year at college and then starting work.

Most of our daughter’s travels have been with us, as a family.  Two years ago, Bec did a two week exchange program in Germany – a well planned trip through an organization.  Earlier this year, Gab went to Israel on a Birthright trip – a well planned trip through an organization.  One month in Europe together – a well planned trip by Bec.  Except for some minimal advisement (and encouragement), this was planned completely by Bec.  This was not a trip to spend time partying through Europe, but an opportunity to see different countries, experience life as a local and to enjoy the different cultures.  The girls’ objective was to travel inexpensively and see as much as possible.

When they were in Paris, they got to see the Eiffel Tower and raved about the gardens at Versailles.  In Athens, they saw the acclaimed 6 women statues from the Acropolis at the Acropolis museum.  Fell in love with the architecture of Gaudi, went to see the Sagrada Familia, where construction on this visionary church started in 1882 and is planned on being completed in 2026.  They walked the streets of Amsterdam.  They even hiked to Cape St. Vincent, where back when the world was considered flat, being the most south west point in Europe, was known as the end of the world.  They stayed in youth hostels, AirBnB, a hotel and a private home. 

Some life lesson they learned along the way:

  • You can make things happen on your own if you are willing to invest the time
  • You will hit rough patches along the way, but if you stick to your goals, you can work through them
  • It is a big world out there, with many things to experience and different people to meet
  • Making friends in other countries is cool

Some things I think we, as parents, learned:

  • They are no longer children
  • They have the ability to survive on their own, even if they do not fully know the language of the countries they visit
  • They have each other, to share life experiences, to be able to lean on each and care for one another

A great trip and a great experience.  A one entire month adventure together, on their own.  As a parent, I am happy for their adventure, and happy that they returned safely.  Most amazing, the girls have grown together.  They proved themselves as adventurers, willing to experience things on their own.   In that way, our children have progressed on to young adults.  As parents, we could not be prouder of their accomplishments. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Smile, Everything is Fine

“Captain, the dinghy is taking on water.”

“No, it is not, we are fine,” said the captain standing tall and confident.

“But there is water around your foot,” said the concerned passenger.

“That is just a mere bit of moisture, nothing to concern yourself with.”

“Captain, we sprung another leak…”

“No we didn’t, all is going as planned,” the captain said more resolutely.

“I can help by patching the holes,” a helpful passenger spoke up.

“I have already consulted myself and all will move forward as per my thoughts…”

My mind was wondering a bit…as I regained focus, I realized that I was just imagining a scene from a famous English comedy troupe that never occurred.  I was back in the meeting I was attending for the last hour or so. Lately, I feel as if this type of scenario is playing out around me in many different areas of my life.  At what point do we believe so strongly in what we say and do that we lose sight of what our true circumstances are? 

The real question is, at what point do we place the blinders over our own eyes, believe only in what we want to hear and see only through a narrow filter?  When I was younger (as in my twenties), I thought that only “old” people (those that are now my age) became locked in their ways.  By the time I was in my thirties, I met some young twenty-something year olds that were against any change – including a changing market place that would make what they do obsolete within two years of that point.  They saw it, complained about it, pointed fingers at it, but not once did they change what they were doing.  Ultimately, they found themselves out of work and needing to retrain themselves.  Getting “stuck” happens at any age. 

Change is constant.  I recently saw in a presentation a graphic that showed the acceptance rate of new technologies to reach 50,000,000 people:

  • The telephone – 75 years
  • The radio – 38 years
  • The television – 13 years
  • The internet – 4 years
  • Facebook – 3.5 years
  • Pokeman Go! – 19 days

19 days?!?  A relatively dinky game got quicker acceptance then the “technologies” that we currently live and rely upon.  The Point of the presentation was that change is rapid and, by example, businesses will be impacted.  Ex-Cisco CEO, John Chambers, said at his last Cisco Live event in front of 25,000 people, "Forty percent of businesses in this room, unfortunately, will not exist in a meaningful way in 10 years."  Change, in this case, is the move to the digital world.  Or, in some words, disruptive technologies.

Can we then apply the same thinking to other areas?  The answer is yes.  Change affects all of our lives.  The digital revolution is in all parts of our life.  Disruptive technologies can be disruptive social interactions, disruptive educational techniques, etc.  This means that we had best be prepared to look for those seemingly little leaks in the dinghy we all float through life in, because if we don’t, we might very well go down with the ship.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Bear and The Fork

Early one morning, the young bear slowly made his way through the woods.  Being young, and it being early, the young bear was ready for breakfast.  Not being fully awake yet, the young bear walked slowly through the woods with his eyes not fully open.

“Are you out looking for honey?” asked one of his little friends.

“Yes.  I am tired, but my tummy is wide awake.”

“I was up early and have made my tummy happy already,” the friend responded.  “I will see you later.”

The bear continued on his way, thinking about nothing but his breakfast, until he came to a fork in the path.  The young bear stopped in his tracks.  He was tired, hungry and now slightly confused.  “Which way do I go?” thought the young bear. 

“Are you lost?” asked an older bear that had come up from behind.

“I do not remember which path to take,” the young replied.

“Everyone is going down this path, where we always go.  I am headed that way now.  Will you follow?”

The young bear looked down the one path and the dirt lane that the older bear was headed towards.   The other path was covered in slightly trodden grass.  Being young, the bear though that he should just listen to the older bear and follow the path everyone takes.  But, curiosity got the better of him.  He realized that he could see what was ahead on the less trodden grass way and if there was nothing, he could always return and go the other way.

The older bear saw out of the corner of her eye the young bear’s decision to go the other way.  “I always thought that bear was slightly off.  He is taking the wrong path and he will be back. ”

Often enough we follow the path laid out before us, forgetting that someone once took that first step along the less trodden grass.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Am I Ready to Live in Florida?

Debbie and I were in Florida tending to my aunt’s estate.  The weather was hot and humid…OK, not much different from back home.  My aunt’s condo is a large three-bedroom home, with a parking space right outside the door.  This is a big enough living space to be very comfortable (no room for the band though).  My aunt chose a great community, everyone was friendly and they have many great social activities planned every month.  For someone that could not sit still, she chose well.

Coming from the New York area, life is quick paced.  Walking to and from the subway, it is easy to identify the tourists (sorry, but this is true).  We recently saw on an episode of Chopped, the final two competitors, one from New York and one from California.  The judges commented on the focus of the chefs, the one from California moved slower and laid back, while the one from New York moved quicker and was accomplishing more things in the same time.  This encapsulated the differences between the coasts.  However, I realize, by watching my own father that the older you become, the slower you move – that is a fact (for most people) of aging.  Coupled with a more relaxed southern environment, as one ages, the pace works.  However, at this point in my life, this pace is a hard adjustment.

Let me share one example (yes, there are more) and that was going to the movies.  We went to a 23-screen theater.  As we walked up, there were two short ticket lines, one with about four people in line and one with only a couple.  Naturally, we took the shorter line.  First, there were hellos from the couple, not to us, but to the lady behind the glass.  Next, there was a discussion about the ticket prices (clearly posted).  Next, the man took out all of his money and began to rearrange and sort them…still no movie selected or payment occurred.  They pick a movie and then have a discussion on the different times showing.  Finally, he hands the money to the lady behind the glass.  I cannot believe this.  The ticket person double counts the change slowly, then hands the change back.  “Wait,” says the man, “One more thing.”  I cannot image what the one more thing is…and, as it happens, would never guess it.  He proceeds to take out his comb and takes three minutes to comb his hair in the reflection of the glass.  I am seething inside and Debbie is standing behind me laughing away.  My ticket transaction took less time than the hair combing.  Onto the concession line, where there are four buyers ahead of us.  There are three people behind the counter to service the line.  After a five-second discussion on what we wanted, Debbie heads off to the bathroom.  I notice that there is a couple towards the right side of the counter having a discussion with the seller…no concession items in front of them.  Debbie comes back; only one new customer moved up…I might be missing the beginning of the movie.  The couple, on the right, finally ordered one frosty looking drink and now is deciding on item number two.  They are calling for the next person in line, but they are not paying attention. I am trying to stay calm…”They sell beer here, do you need one to relax,” Debbie asks.  Finally, after 15 minutes waiting in line, it is our turn, we step up and I give my order.  The popcorn is being hand loaded by a small scoop.  I ask for extra salt and Debbie asks for butter on the side.  The response is a confused look. 

I am not ready for Florida!  I like to visit Florida.  I like to vacation in Florida.  But for now, I am not moving to Florida.  When the day comes that I move at a slower pace, when I am in no rush, and when my one or two activities are my ENTIRE day, I will think about the move to Florida.  I do not think that I suffer from a Peter Pan complex, but it is still good to think, feel and act young.  There might become a time in my life where the move will fit our life style, including the people and the family around us.  But for now, we are staying in New Jersey.