Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Holiday Season Has Begun!

The Jewish Holidays are once again upon us, meaning, at least from a spiritual sense, it is time for new beginnings.  Life can be funny in that the past week, I experienced two distinct starts – one at work and one spiritual. 

At work, we are introducing new user-friendly software, so this week I sat in a room of fellow employees learning the new software.  The older paradigm seemed to be, we need information, can you get it for us.  This method has been in place since I first joined the workforce 30+ years ago.  This meant myself, or someone else, having to extract the information in a usable format or create a report that our internal customers can use.  With the new product, we are empowering our finance community to easily develop their own reporting needs based on templates that do the “heavy lifting” behind the scenes; the end results are reports that become meaningful for reporting and analysis.

The end of last week we attended a Shabbat welcoming service.  The synagogue where I belong, like many other religious establishments, has the same basic service that my Grandfather used to enjoy when he came to this county in 1920.  Friday, the event was led by a young lady where she was in front of us with her guitar (accompanied by her husband on percussion), provided some spiritual guidance, educated us on options to enhance our experience and led in an interactive format.  This was not a performance, but a chance to do something different, to connect on a different level and mentally set us up for success.  With this new approach, this was empowering the congregation with a chance to participate in a way that is meaningful for them, whether standing, clapping or just singing.

There is a parallel in both the above examples.  The easy part is to present something new, the hard part is internalizing and making the changes required to do these things for ourselves.  Change means purposefully and meaningfully taking the action required to move forward, whether it is work related or spiritual alignment.  All of us, many times in our life, have opportunities placed before us; it is what we do with these opportunities that determines our successes.  In the Jewish world, we are celebrating the New Year, which means there are new opportunities and chances from which to benefit and improve ourselves. 

L’shana Tova!

Monday, September 18, 2017

“Tennessee, There Ain’t No Place I’d Rather Be…”

Music has been a pervasive part of my life…I have been playing an instrument since I was 9 years old, I was in the high School Marching, on radio in college and have played in a band my entire adult life.  Debbie and I still enjoy going to concerts (though less frequently than we would like), Bec is an avid music listener and Gab graduated with a Music Ed degree.  Yes, living near New York has provided exposure to music, but we have never been to Tennessee!  OK, I know that sounds like a non sequitur…

We recently were invited to a wedding in Nashville – a place where we have never been but were told it is a great place to go.  Besides helping to celebrate the marriage of our friend’s child, we decided it would be a good opportunity to go away, just the two of us on a weeklong vacation, spending time in Nashville and driving to spend a few days in Memphis.  The wedding was fantastic – dinner at the Parthenon (replica of the actual Parthenon with Athena watching over us), ceremony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and a great brunch.  Our initial reason for traveling to “The Volunteer State” was a success, and with all weddings, it is great to see the newlyweds looking so happy. 

During the trip, we went to:

  • The Johnny Cash Museum
  • The Musician’s Hall of Fame (GRAMMY Museum)
  • The Country Music Hall of Fame
  • Ryman Auditorium
  • Grand Ole Opry, featuring the Charlie Daniels Band
  • Afternoon Brewery Tour
  • Hear music on Broadway
  • Buy cowboy boots
  • Eat Nashville Hot Chicken at the famous Hattie B’s (worth the long line)
  • Graceland

  • Rock and Soul Museum
  • Sun Studios
  • The Peabody Hotel March of the Ducks
  • Rock Music Hall of Fame
  • Gibson Guitar Factory
  • Hour and a half ride on an authentic paddle boat on the Mississippi River
  • Distillery Tour
  • Eat a bunch of Nashville and Memphis BBQ
  • Hear music on Beale Street

 What we learned:

  • Nashville is the home of Country Music
  • Bluegrass started at the Ryman
  • The Grand Ole Opry is a stage / radio show that has been running since 1925
  • Johnny Cash has a HUGE list of accomplishments, overshadowing all other musicians
  • Memphis is home of the blues
  • Memphis is where the first Rock and Roll record was recorded (Rocket 88 with Ike Turner)
  • There is a lot see in the USA and it great to experience it!

This was the first week long vacation Debbie and I have taken together since before we became parents.  I have to be honest - it was great to spend time together, doing things together, and having fun together.  Any issues we have in our lives, we left at the gate before getting on the plane.  In the hustle and bustle of daily life, we sometimes have to steal time to spend together.  On vacation, aside from needing to rest and recharge, we had the whole time together worrying only about what do we want to do next.  And, for a couple that loves music, what better place to spend time but “…back in Tennessee…”

Monday, September 11, 2017

Do We Really See the Big Picture?

I was recently talking to a friend about the projects we are working on. While I was sitting down to talk, he had just getting off the phone where he was helping the person on the other end of the phone to understand what the priorities are.  He made it clear this was not a personal issue, but a business issue.  I commented on how well he handled the situation and the way he remained calm.  He explained that the person was very busy and just needed to be reminded of the priorities and the related timelines.  I responded that sometimes, depending where we are in the company and our positions, some people do not always see the big picture.  I remembered earlier in my career that I was not very clear on some of the tasks because my point of view was too limited and my managers did not always explain how what I was doing fit into the bigger picture.   It made me wonder if this is only a work thing...

Sometimes, I know there are things that I need to do around the home (all you need to do is look at the piles in my basement waiting for homes).  We all have little projects that need to be addressed, but are left undone.  While these little things are “things” that need to be finished, they manage to be put on hold.  Are they a priority?  Maybe.  Do they fit into the bigger picture of what we are striving towards on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis?  Probably not and are sometimes felt as a distraction – we ignore these chores almost like a planned procrastination.

The other night, I had a dream, which highlighted the fact that sometimes we are so “into the weeds” that we do not step back and take a broader view.  I was sitting in one of my girl’s classes, which was taking place outside on wrought iron patio furniture.  Even though I have written down and remember some of the details of the class; in general, the dream dealt with the students handing their work individually to the teacher who would then discuss and provide feedback.  Some of the comments / feedback were flat.  The best comments were reserved for where the student understood the cause and effect of some action they took, and, they were not judgmental about the action taken.  Cause and effect – the students understood why the action was taken, the immediate impact and the future effect.  They were able to grasp the bigger picture.

I remember before Gab and Bec went off to college, I reminded them of the bigger picture – the “why” they were going to college.  I then told them of my college experience.  I went off to the school of my choice and was excited to enter this exciting part of my life.  I was off to become an Accountant!  I found that once I was at school and out from under the protective bubble created by my parents, that there was a whole new world to experience – some of it positive and some of it less positive.  Being young, wide-eyed and curious, off I went to try new things.  Oh, boy, was I having fun…having seen Animal House a few years prior to going to college, I had in my mind what was waiting for me out there.  You see, the thing was, as much fun as I was having, was as much of a distraction from the reason why I was going to school. 

And now, I am a mature (OK, I can hear some of the giggles) adult, husband, father of two, part of a family and part of the larger community.  To be where I am currently in my life, I did have to have a view of what I wanted, at some prior point in my life, and where I needed to head.  Yes, there are always digressions and distractions, but stepping back always helps to refocus the course.  For the person that my friend was talking to, the gentle reminder he provided was the view of the bigger picture – he merely readjusted the rudder.  Sometimes, we all need that gentle nudge.

Monday, September 4, 2017

I Have Reached 200!

Since May, my family has gone through big milestones and life changes.  These were celebrated in the ways that were appropriate for each.  I think that, in general, we tend to focus on the Big Events in our lives and sometimes forget that the smaller milestones are important too.  On every journey, there are points that we should take the time to step back and appreciate where we are.  Compared to the previous steps, it might not seem we have traveled far, but if we compare to our starting point, you can see the progress.  I originally was going to let this milestone pass and not mention it; this is but a small point, but one I never thought about reaching.

“I cannot do that, I do not have the discipline,” someone recently told me when I mentioned that I have been writing a blog for almost four years.  In fact, last week, I quietly composed my 200th consecutive weekly article.  He was right, it takes discipline to sit each day and put something on the page, no matter where I am and no matter what is going on in my life.  I always wanted to write, as a way of expressing myself, a means for creativity and outlet separate from the rigors of day-to-day activity.  One day I made the commitment to myself to follow through.  Therefore, to paraphrase Lao Tzu, my journey of 1,000 steps began with a single post.  This is something that I enjoy, so I do not have a goal for the number of articles or for how long I will keep writing.  Even when I think things are slow, there are still things to write about.  I guess the day I stop writing is the day I no longer have anything to say.

When I first started out, I wanted to make sure that I was going to be honest, use my own unique observations, share the belief that there is a lesson in almost everything we do, and that no matter how mundane our lives can get, there is always something to share and a lesson to learn.  Moreover, I do believe that I have bared my soul (OK, and sometimes visually), sometimes delving into the personal and sharing my family with you.  I have shared success, disappointments, gains and losses - they are all part of life and all have a lesson. 

While this milestone is about me, it is important to recognize that I could not do this all by myself.  My biggest thanks go to my family.  Debbie, Gab and Bec have had to live with my self-imposed deadlines, and provided the much needed editing.  Most importantly, though, is that I am thankful for them in my life, as they help to provide the rich stories that make up my life and constantly provide meaning in this adventure we live.  After all, I feel blessed to have a family to provide infinite lessons and stories to grow from.

Finally, I want to thank you, the reader, for providing an ear, sharing your thoughts and providing feedback.  Though I write for the pleasure I get from the action, I do enjoy hearing your thoughts and words.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Recasting History into our Own Image

“This is the way it happened…”  I could start any recounting of an event with that line, tell the story with a sense of strong conviction and if told enough times to enough people, gain a measure of credibility.  In the right circumstance, at the right time, told to a targeted audience, I could make other people believe my stories as the truth, even if I have distorted the facts.  To paraphrase the adage (or variant), “a lie told often enough becomes truth.”  I have always ascribed to the value that honesty is the best policy, so the chance of me not telling the truth is almost non-existent.  But, like myself, I am sure you have come across individuals that have altered “the truth” to serve their purpose.

I remember a few months after 9/11, driving at night to a client (this was when I was consulting) on the border of Virginia and Tennessee.  As I was flipping through the radio stations, I came across some local preacher talking about the Jewish conspiracy and the “fact” that the Jews were behind the attack.  He stated that all of the Jews were notified beforehand to leave the world trade center prior to the attack – obviously, he did not have the conversation with the Jewish spouses and children that lost family on that day.  There are the people that try to change history to say that the Holocaust never existed.  While the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, some survivors are still alive that can tell the true story.

There are plenty of bad time-periods in all of the nations across the world – whether it was slavery, ransacking, or general brutality.  These are events that makeup nations and, in some cases, have provided rich legends and historical accounts for where we are today.  The lessons they provide in pointing us to a better future are still pertinent today.  In an age of political correctness, pulling down statues, whether in this country (i.e., Robert E. Lee – people forget he served with distinction in the Mexican-American war and was the Superintendent of the US Military Academy, also known as West Point) or elsewhere (i.e., ISIS destroying ancient statues), the truth is still that – the truth.  In ancient times, if you fell out of favor with the leader of a nation, the punishment was having one’s name stricken from the books – in other words, they erased your name from history, altering the truth.

I understand that we all see life through the prism of our understanding and desires.  However, that does not account for the deliberate actions to alter the truth, whether it is placing a grave marker without interring a body (under a false guise), pulling down statues of heroes / explorers that had a small black mark against huge positive accomplishments or providing altered educational curriculum to unknowing students (i.e., some third world / terrorist countries).  Most important is to keep the truth, “warts and all.” 

We are taught that we should be givers (not takers), to help and educate others, as well as ourselves.  Those that alter the truth either do not have full knowledge (will not put out the effort or the time to learn), uses the opportunity to blame others by recasting the truth and, at the end of the day, uses the opportunity to selfishly manipulate the truth.  While we are all entitled to our opinions, based upon our perceptions of reality, we do not have the right to maliciously recast history in an effort to twist the truth so that it provides a different outcome.