Monday, January 30, 2017

Building a Personal Library

I used to dream about the day that I would have a library room in my house for all of the books that I read.  A place to showcase the accomplishment, tout my achievement and, of course, look impressive.  When I originally had this dream, I was not really a reader yet and pretty much only liked the idea of having a library.  Once I started working in New York and commuting in 1996, I began to read to better use the time while sitting on buses and subways back and forth to work.  Library books and crumpled paperback books would hardly fulfill the image I had in my head.  Add to that the fact that I have read only digital books for the past 5 years, that wall of books is now a thin iPad taking up almost no space on a shelf.

What I did not realize at the time, I really just wanted that impressive display.  As I have gotten older, I have come to realize the importance of reading, what that can mean to me personally and the pleasure of reading something I am excited about.  A few years ago, I took an informal survey to see how many books the room full of people read in a year, whether for continuing education, curiosity or for fun.  Keep in mind, my reference point was the number of books that I read and the books that Debbie read.  I was surprised at the results and how little people actually read.  At the time I did this survey, I had already been filled with sayings that leaders are readers and the benefits of an informal education.  In October 2015, the Pew Research Center published the finding that adults over 18 read an average of 12 books a year of the population surveyed.  The midpoint of the results was only 4, and 27% polled had not read a book (printed or audio) in that year.

The physical library was something, as a child, I was impressed with.  But as I aged and matured (OK, that last one might be suspect if you ask my girls), my mindset changed.  The library was to impress others.  I now read for myself.  I read to learn.  I read to educate myself.  I read to understand things better.  I read as an entrance into new areas of knowledge.  I read for fun.  Once I realized the reason I read, I no longer needed the physical library, because, at the end of the day, it would most likely only impress me.  There is an organization called R.I.F., Reading is Fundamental, “…the leading champion for children’s literacy through meaningful research, quality content and equal access to impact all kids with the power of reading.”  We should educated on the importance of reading, not the pain of reading books that are beyond our comprehension or pleasure.

Most importantly, each of us has to find the books that interest us, instead of what interests others. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Integrity – Is It Still a Valid Value?

Cambridge English Dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles,” and “wholeness and unity.”

I value integrity highly in my life.  We teach our children to have integrity.  Growing up I was taught the importance of living an honest life and having a set of good values.  Both of my parents were involved in community and charitable organizations.  One of my grandfathers was in sales and firmly believed in honesty and portraying an image that exemplified his belief system.  He used to tell the story of dressing in his suit to call upon meat packers.  This would be driving to what might, in appearance, seem a seedy section of the city, enter a building where bins of entrails (refuse) were being moved around and butchering was in progress.  Some of his associates laughed at him for dressing up.  He believed that he was there to sell, so he should dress the part, not walk in like he was from the meat processing line.  While his associates laughed, he was the one that was successful at his trade.  He was a man of integrity.

What has happened to integrity and honesty?  When have these values no longer become popular?  How do we as parents promote positive behavior in an environment where “fake news” is a thing?  As a project manager, if I were to communicate “fake updates” to management, I am certain that management would have some large, serious looking person escort me, with a box that was packed for me, to the exit door.

We recently went through an election cycle.  Gab and Bec had the opportunity for the first time to be involved, voice their opinion and participate in the Presidential election.  As a parent, I was excited for them, as I remember my first similar experience.  Living in a home with positive values, allowed them to use their freedom of choice to vote for the candidate they thought would best fill the roll.  Truth is, sometimes my candidate wins, and sometimes they lose.  We taught the girls that it is all right to be upset when you lose, but not to be sore losers.  Some of our elected officials have been sore losers (i.e., protesting outside an elected officials home…when they are not there), some of our elected officials are KNOWINGLY BREAKING THE LAW (i.e., sanctuary cities), and some even ignore the items on their campaigns they were elected for.  Yes, we can teach our youth the lack of integrity, the lack of honesty; but how do we reconcile the re-election of these individuals?  How do they remain outside the law?

Let me be clear, my thoughts are not directed specifically to one party or the other; for these issues sometimes occur between different factions within the same political party.  The lack of integrity in politics has been in existence for a long time.  Seems that as of lately, it has become fashionable to explicitly wear the lack of integrity on our sleeves, promote not working together (an attitude of us versus them is not successful thinking) and completely ignore the rule of law.  I will happily be unfashionable this season, but glad to keep my integrity intact.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Can We “See” Into the Future?

Do you remember when you bought your first house?  I remember trying to find a balance between what we wanted in a house versus what we were able to afford.  In a perfect world, we would have been searching and categorizing places by what we wanted.  The truth is the limiting factor was what we could afford.  Many people told us that you should not only look at the physical structure of the house, but you should be able to see the potential the house has for the future.  We were young, we were inexperienced, maybe even a bit na├»ve, because our focus was the dollars and somewhere we could be happy to live.  The one thing we did foresee was that this first house would be a starter home for us.  Beyond that, we only saw what was directly in front of us.

Not everyone can see into the future.  To see into the potential future, one has to be open to learn, experience, and yes, change.  There are times where it seems as if we cannot change to meet future challenges living “in today” (yes, today does matter).  Often I have talked with people, individually, in a group, formally or informally, where we seem to be stuck in the area where we are most comfortable, which is the place where we are at today.  I admit, I sometimes fall into this trap, and must be intentional in being forward looking.  I have found that:

  • You cannot listen to history to prepare for future (all the variables do not remain constant over time).  History stories serve to tell you how you arrived where you are at, but the past does not dictate the future.
  • You cannot romanticize today to prep for future.  We all spend some amount of time with our heads in the clouds, our minds forever working on “improving” our personal stories.
  • We need to listen, take realistic stock versus living in a purely dream world.  To move towards the future and expected goals, we have to take into account our environments, not to dictate what we do, but to be better able to navigate the waters around us.
  • We need to vision 5, 10, 20 years into the future and plan, mentor accordingly.  Focusing on a goal, writing that goal down, talking about the goal and taking the appropriate action(s) are the things that move us in the right direction.
  • We have to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes to see the potential impact.  Remember, we are not in this world alone, our paths are not solo flights and we can achieve more together than separately.

About 17 years ago, Debbie and I moved into our second home, where we were able to look at the house, the community and see what the future would hold for us.  What changed in those six years we were in the first house?  As we lived our lives, we started to gain perspective based on our different experiences, and, finding our way in the world.  For the first house, it was all about now, where we are today, what we wanted today and where we would be comfortable today.  In the short amount of years, we had two children and I lost a parent, experiences which opened our eyes to think about the future, in terms of what we have and how precious life can be.  For the second (and current) house, we needed to see the potential, we needed to see where the schools were headed, we needed to vision the community we want to participate in…we needed to plan forward, based on future needs.  Without “looking into the possible future,” in a short number of years, we would have been looking to move again.  Instead, we have slowly been shaping this house into the place we saw when we first arrived.  By seeing into the future, we are realizing the potential we first saw.

Monday, January 9, 2017

My Year in Review - 2016

I have never sat back and contemplated a previous year, which is funny.  Now that I think about it, at work after any project we finish, I do a “post-mortem” where I look for the lessons learned so that future projects are better.  In my personal life, I generally strive forward, and recognize a year has ended; however, my day-to-day activities generally are not annually based.  Having set a goal for 2016, striving towards that goal and being able to see the benefits, maybe it is time to sit back, contemplate the year, determine some positive and negative impacts on my life, decide how I did, identify some lessons learned and then focus on the year ahead.

A friend had recently asked me, “It’s been a while, Wayne, so how was your year?”  My initial response was that this year had some challenges.  The first thoughts I had were that 2016 saw the death of my aunt, where I had to learn firsthand, as executor, the process and legalities of “winding down” someone’s life; It is almost 8 months later and I am still working on this.  Next thought was having to deal with a mother-in-law in declining health - from health issues, to moving in with us, to finding a residence for her; my wife, 13 months later is still helping out.  These two things were always on our mind and had to be considerations for most of the other things we did during the year.  This is life and we met these challenges head on.

However, as time consuming as these were, they did not define Wayne in 2016.  I set out with a personal development goal, which I have shared, relating to transforming myself – I did not let the above issues distract me, or become an excuse, for not eating healthier and exercising.  As a result of this goal, I feel better about myself, through achieving something I set out to do, taking better care of myself and being happy with the results.  During the year, we added a new member to the family by taking in my mother-in-law’s dog, Sadie, who had virtually no previous training and was not housebroken.  By working with her, she is a better disciplined dog and fully housebroken.  Yes, Lucy Lou now has a younger sister that wants to do everything she does.

As a parent, our girls have definitely made us proud!  This year saw the first time our daughters planned, organized and booked their own trip to Europe.  This was a one-month trip, including volunteering and sightseeing; they had an amazing adventure.  Having grown up close with my brothers, I am so happy that the girls were close before the trip and even closer afterwards.  This was a true sign that our children are no longer children.  Academically, they have both have done better than I did.  Gab has successfully completed her student teaching and will graduate in May; and, Bec has not only done well in her sophomore year, but is about to transition into a Junior (she will graduate in three years).  Go, girls!

In reflection, it was a good year.  There were many things to be grateful for, many positive highlights, including my wife, Debbie, where together we were able to celebrate 25 years of marriage.  Feeling good about 2016, I look forward to what may come my in 2017.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Accountability: Year End Goal Checkup

It has been 12 months since I put my goal online and became accountable to you on my progress.  I have to confess, while earlier in my life, I had targets and objects in terms of family and work that took years, this is the first time that I actively made a personal one-year goal.  I have had enough authors, speakers and mentors tell me that if you are diligent, focused and set your mind on something, you can accomplish whatever you want.  I was also once told (or read) that treating goals like steps and staring at the very top step make the goal daunting, so only look to take the first step.  Am I sometimes distracted?  Yes.  Are there tests to my will power?  Yes.  Do I miss any of the sacrifices that I made?  Yes.  A lifetime of sandwiches, pasta dishes, and assorted “fun” are hard to walk away from.  However, over time, as my new norm in eating became my daily diet, I no longer crave some foods.

OK, enough small talk; down to business!  The goal was to transform myself through diet and exercise.  The goal had to be measurable and here are the results:

  • Weight – Lost 14 pounds
  • Body Fat Percentage (using skinfold calipers) – Decreased by 7%, previous categorized as “Acceptable” to “Athletes,” a two level improvement
  • Waist – Lost 4.5 inches
  • Hips – Lost 1.75 inches

And, of course, the “proof is in the pudding,” so here is the LAST time (maybe) I will share these types of photos with you (for 2016):

Debbie said to me a few months ago, that my pants looked terrible on me.  My first reaction was claiming that my belts were too big and I needed new ones.  No – based on the numbers and pictures above, my pants should be too big for me.  The truth is that after wearing the same group of pants for many, many years…it was time to donate them (or throw out) and buy some new pants that fit me better.  I had worn pleats because they were stylish and trimming, now I can wear non-pleated pants.  Over the past few months, as I started to update my clothing, I realized that I felt better about myself.  I never felt bad about myself, but just felt better.  I am eating healthier, I am managing my weight and for the first time in my life, I am exercising.  I learned a truth taught by many – if you focus on the end results you want, it is easier to do the things you need to, to achieve them. 

During the year, I was asked, “How long are you going to be on this diet?” or “You really going to the gym?”  With a regimen of two eggs a day, I was asked if I was concerned about my cholesterol levels.  When I had my physical, all of my numbers were good.  The changes that I made were not meant to be temporary, but meant to be a way of life.  Being healthy is not a fad, but a lifestyle.  Deciding to be intentional in my actions has lead to healthier habits.  As someone who talks about change, writes about change, helps enact change, I can now show that I have lived change.  The changes were eating, appearance, clothing and even my glasses (after 7 plus years).  On that level, this has been a very positive year. 

Choose the goals that you really want to achieve.  Make them meaningful, make them measurable and make them personal.  Once you do that, I believe that you can and will achieve great things.

A happy, healthy and prosperous year to you and your families!