Monday, May 21, 2018

Bec Graduates!

Bec has graduated college!!! 

I was tempted to end on that one exciting line.  Our baby has joined the ranks of college alumnus.  While at this point, she is no longer truly a baby.  However, as my mother (who Bec is named after) often told my brothers and me, “No matter how old you are, you will always be my babies.”  In truth, Bec has developed into a young adult, makes decisions for herself and has a great future of her own device ahead of her.  We all have reached an important milestone – for Bec, it is an end to undergrad life and for us, the time in our lives where we have seen both of our children reach an important education level. 

As we were with Gab last year at this time, we are proud of Bec.  As parents, we do the thing we feel is best to see our children strive to reach their potential.  While the girls are still young, the path before them is exciting, full of hopes, dreams, and goals to obtain.  I love the parenting quote by Andy Andrews, “We’re not trying to raise good kids. We’re trying to raise kids who become great adults.”  Once our children finish their education, like little birds leaving the nest, we must let them learn to fly on their own.  Yes, we still want to wrap them in their arms, to keep them safe, to watch over them and to still provide unending advice.  Even though Gab has been on her own this past year, that still holds true.  As with the young chick, she could stand on her own, make her own decisions and (happy for us) still come to spend time at our home.

At the ceremony, the moment that she came down the aisle during the processional, I was filled with emotion.  As she stood in line, I yelled loudly for Bec, she saw us, posed for a picture and then sat down.  The speeches were good and meaningful, but we still waited with anticipation for the moment when each student was called up.  We cheered wildly when her name was announced.  But when the President of the school conferred the moment of graduating upon the former undergrad students, with the symbolic of moving the tassel on their caps from the right to left, I felt a few tears leak out of my eyes.  Our baby is now a graduate, having worked hard to reach this point a year ahead of schedule.  The important lesson is there – work hard for the things that you want, stay focused and strive for your goals.  I am soooo proud of Bec!  I am proud of both my daughters (yes, I am sitting here writing with my chest puffed out) and all they have accomplished! 

For Bec, this is an end to one chapter of her life.  And like reading a book, the page is turned and now begins the adventure ahead.  Congratulations!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Life Balance

Home Life / Family, Friends, Works, Religion, Volunteering, Hobbies, Down Time.  How well do we balance / juggle all of these activities?  And when do we have time to explore new interests?  I used to work for a company that during their year-end personnel review process, we were required to include (in our part) the Life / Work Balance, as it was important for that company that their employees valued life outside of their work life.  I have not seen that in the ensuing companies that I have worked for; yet we all talk about our families and our social activities at work and our families and business at social gatherings. 

When I joined the world of consulting, I was asked by a potential employer about my thoughts on travel.  Yes, I know, right off the bat traveling for work as a young man sounded glamorous.  Then he pointed out being away on weekends, time alone, etc. – the things that are less glamorous.  Gab was not even a year old at this point, but I was at a transition point in my career and looked towards the opportunity ahead.  Travel meant the potential of missing events in my children’s development.  As it ended up, while I did travel, I only had one long term assignment outside the area but was home for the weekends.  I missed a few “concerts” and Halloween parades, but tried to be around when I could.  There are events in our children’s lives that once they have done them, it is over and never to occur again.

Of course, on the flip side, is being able to provide for a family / household.  I have heard the stories about my grandfather, who as a salesman, used to drive over his designated region to meet with existing customers and find potential new customers.  This meant that he was on the road for weeks on end.  Prior to that, he owned a business, where he traveled in the early morning hours from his home in Brooklyn to his store on the Lower East Side, returning home late at night after closing.  My grandfather’s story is not unique.  Many people worked hard long hours to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of their families.  The father worked while the mother tended to house and home, sometimes with the help of a grandmother (for those of us old enough to remember the old fear the bubbie jokes).  Today we live a world of the two-family income, where balance of work / life is more important.

At the end of the day, I am and have been a big believer in parents’ responsibility to teach vital lessons to their children, from morals, to family traditions, to personal values.  In the workforce practice of outsourcing, there are some things, in a home, that cannot be outsourced.  Time with our spouses (or significant others) and our family should be something we plan for, and that we value the times together.  While we have due dates (which we do plan around) at work, what does not get finished today will be sitting at our desk tomorrow.  Watching our children grow, many events happen only once and  we might not get the chances tomorrow for what we can do with them today. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Inspiration Move Me Brightly

I was once taught in a seminar, by author and speaker Chris Widener, the difference between motivation and inspiration.  Motivation, he explained, was what we can bring onto ourselves or the general desire to do something; while inspiration is something that comes externally or being stimulated to do something.  His underlying point was that you cannot motivate someone else to do something, but you can inspire them to become motivated. 

I recently heard Rabbi Joseph Telushkin speak regarding thoughts on ethics.  I was inspired by his talk regarding the use of language and the meaning behind the words we use have an important impact.    This motivated me to start thinking about the words that I use and to educate myself better on this topic.  While I am generally an optimistic person, I have begun to notice whether or not the words I use communicate a positive message.  And it could be simple words or phrases I have always used.  For example, Zig Ziglar points out, in his recordings, that we refer to a traffic light as a stop light instead of a go light.  Chris Widener uses the example of waking up to an alarm (negative connotation) clock.  Rabbi Telushkin’s example was how we strive for deadlines, instead of due dates.

As a musician, I have not hidden the fact that I am in the process of teaching myself the banjo.  I have spent time listening to the great Earl Scruggs.  His breakthrough techniques elevated the instrument.  And then, I saw Bela Fleck…He provided inspiration to this fledgling banjo picker when I watched him play Chick Corea’s “Spain” (great piece on its own).  I was motivated in that the banjo, while a great rhythm instrument, can be used as a lead one as well.  Even just seeing talented musicians provides motivation for me regarding on how one can extend one’s ability to create something new (which is why I like improv).  We had a chance to see the Andy Statman Trio this past week.  Andy is a phenomenal clarinet and mandolin player (yes, I did tell him I might have to learn the mandolin next), but when coupled with drummer Larry Eagle and upright bass player Jim Whitney, the three easily produce great music, to inspire aspiring musicians.

Between Rabbi Telushkin and the Andy Statman Trio, there was a lot of inspiration flowing my way this week.  It is up to me, however, to transform that which excited me into motivation to action a takeaway for myself.  What has inspired you this past week?  Month?  Year?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Lighting the Fire Under One’s A**

When we “put our best foot forward”, do we take a stand on our purpose or just waver our foot in the air struck by indecision in what we envision?  This is a hard question to ask, and in many cases, to face.  All of us have things that we believe in, things we wish to pursue, and things we wish to accomplish.  While there are many studies and thought leaders who will point out that fear will hold a person back from taking action, we often come across individuals who have a passion for what they strive for.

As a project manager, I occasionally deal with passionate people – the one’s whose goals are on the line, the people who want to ensure changes occur and, on the flip side, those who want to stick by what they currently do.  Being involved in a volunteer leadership position, these are the people that are passionate about the future, those who bring new ideas to the table and again, on the flip-side, those who want to stick by what they are familiar with.  In my personal life, these would be the people who champion causes, pursue career ideals, strive for strong family and relationships, and yes, those that protect what they have.  Even the most cool, calm collected person must be passionate about something.  There should be a fire that drives them from day-to-day.  We have all met people that seemingly have no desire, but to live out the day, that suddenly excel in something – something they have found a passion for.

Easiest example, which we have all experienced, is vacation time.  You have waited years to go on that one special trip, to go to that place that you have dreamed about going to, to act out the plans you have worked on.  The daily routine of life has a chance to be put on hold.  As the day comes closer, you wake up quicker in the morning with the expectation of the departure date.  You seemingly zip through the work that needs to be accomplished.  You talk about the upcoming excursions and all activities, and somehow life is aligned to making this happen.  A passion has been ignited, which leads to enthusiasm and motivation which otherwise might be dormant.  It is a HUGE natural rush! 

Here's to finding the things that ignite one’s passion, leading to the ability to achieve greater things and, of course, finding the drive to make things happen!

Monday, April 23, 2018

I Could Have Been…

After David Cassidy died, his daughter revealed that his last words were, “so much wasted time.”  Darren Hardy tells the story of his father’s friend, one that pursued building a real estate fortune, where during his final visit in the hospital before the man died, he said, “I missed the point.”  Then there is the story about a man who was asked at the end of his life if he had any regrets and his answer was, “I wish I was the man I was meant to be.”

When the end of our days come, will we stand on that final doorstep, looking back at what we have left behind, feeling regret for passing up opportunities leading to non-accomplishments, or be satisfied with the output of our actions, personal dreams and goals that will define our lives to the loved ones we leave behind?  While morbid in thinking of what our final moments and thoughts are going to be, as I get older, I am beginning to think that I would rather start to answer those questions now, as opposed to later.  Many years ago, when I struck out in my own business, one of the answers I gave for doing so was that I did not want to one day look back and say, “I had the opportunity to do this and did not.”  We all know people who have said, “I could have done…”, or “I was approached with something that could have become…” 

While I think that we spend part of our time and brain power to figuring out what other peoples’ expectations of us are, we need to spend time on our own expectations, which means we need to identify our own potentials.  We have all met people in our lives, whether casual acquaintances, family, friends or celebrities, that were talented, but crashed and burned.  For example, we used to know a guitarist who was extremely talented and was able to position himself into playing with a real touring band.  However, he was a heroin addict who lost that extremely lucrative gig.  I realize that drug addiction is an illness, but there are still choices that we make that either put us in front of harm’s way or help us to avoid the pitfalls that can trap us.  The last time I heard about him, he celebrated a positive success by falling off the wagon.

In Charles Dicken’s classic story, A Christmas Carol (whether you have read the book, seen any variation of the movie, or refer to the Mr. McGoo special), Ebenezer Scrooge had the opportunity to witness his own eulogy.  If we had a chance to watch those final words being spoken, would they be the words that you would want / expect to hear?  Will they reflect words that state that we lived up to our potential?  Or just went with the flow?  While Scrooge is a fictitious character, he recognized his failing, saw the impact of his ways, realized his potential and made the necessary changes to achieve a better outcome.  While we live and breathe, we all have the opportunity to live meaningful lives and to write the stories that future generations will tell.  This way when we stand before that last exit door, we can step through knowing that our time here was worthwhile.