Monday, October 16, 2017

On 26 Years of Marriage

Someone once asked, “What is the secret to a successful marriage?”  I do not remember if I answered immediately or not; but I am sure I realized that it is not one secret action to make it so.  I have known Debbie for 28+ years and at the end of the week, we will be married 26 years.  At this point, it is hard to recall a time in my adult life without her.  Yes, occasionally something will come up in conversation from the gap between college and meeting Debbie, but not often.  I am quite OK with my entire adult life being fully intertwined with Debbie.

As my anniversary approaches, it is a good time to reflect upon our lives together and, in a way, answer the question I was asked.  For me, I find that our successful includes, but is not limited to:

  • Being able to have shared experiences
  • Best travel partner
  • Raising children together
  • Supporting each other in bad times
  • Supporting each other in good times
  • Working together when faced with difficult decisions
  • Realizing that sometimes the sum of the parts is better / stronger than the individual parts
  • We are a team that works together
  • Love helps a lot, but is not the only thing
  • Spending time with my best friend
  • We are always there for each other
  • Having a shoulder to cry on, when needed
  • Realizing that we are different
  • Being able to share with each other, no matter how trivial it might be
  • Getting instant feedback
  • Knowing that sometimes we can do things separately
  • Appreciating each other’s activities
  • Creating memories together
  • Knowing that when we come home, we have each other and we are not alone
  • Looking forward to many more happy years ahead

Is marriage easy?  Like anything else, as the old adage goes, you get out what you put in.  Whenever you have someone else involved, you have to be considerate of them, include them in your activities and help support them.  That does take work and effort…at times.  After 26 fantastic years together, these types of things have become part of what we do; and it is not always fun and games.  When rough patches hit, we face them and we do that together.  As Debbie has said to me, “we are a team,” and I, personally, could not have asked for a better teammate!

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Art of Public Speaking

I make no bones about it – I like to speak in front of an audience.  In a group, however, I am generally quiet…unless I am feeling very comfortable.  I know many people, that one-on-one, or in a small group, have no problems speaking, being open and honest and providing opinions.  Stand them in the front of the room (even behind the protection of a lectern) and everything falls apart.  I get it, I understand it and recognize that most people would rather undergo something painful against their bodies in lieu of speaking to an audience.  The ability to stand in front of a crowd, while seemingly natural to some people, is for most a learned skill.

I am a member of Toastmasters, which helps people to feel comfortable to speak in front of other people and provide leadership training.  Needless to say, I am a big fan and even though I enjoyed being on the stage prior to joining, the skills that I have learned and practiced over the past few years have enhanced my oration abilities.  On the way to earning an advanced speaker status, I had to give a 40 minute seminar.  As part of the seminar, I led the group in ways to improve their speaking experience in two ways, how we use our bodies and how we use our voices.  When we talk to our friends, most people will gesture.  If we are talking to someone (especially on the phone), based on their vocal usage, we can tell what they are feeling.  Too many times, I have watched speaker grasp the lectern with two hands and proceed to speak in a monotone voice, making them look uncomfortable and unpleasant to listen to.  Yes, there is a bit of theatrics that goes with public speaking!  Remember, the goal is get across some message (your reason for speaking), stay on point of the topic (i.e., 2 or 3 points supporting one thought), keep your audience’s attention and /or provide some measure of entertainment, so that afterwards they remember the message.

I need to spend a few lines on keeping on topic.  When we read a story, there is a basic format of beginning, middle and end.  When I first worked as a consultant, some 20+ years ago, my project manager, Charlie, made me present to the client and gave me the simple advice, go out and tell them our story.  I am not a natural storyteller, but the advice has stuck with me, so that when I present, there is always a beginning, middle and end (purpose, options / supporting info, conclusion).  Public speaking is no different.  If you want your audience to follow your message and have a chance of remembering your words, have an easy to follow beginning, middle and end.  Too many times, I feel that people speak just to hear themselves speak (yes, this happens at meetings too).  Unfortunately, even people that speak publicly are not always self aware of what they say, the message, nor how to “craft” a speech, or realize that sometimes a good message can be delivered in 7 to 10 minutes.

I recently had the opportunity to watch two people speak – one a novice and one seasoned at speaking to an audience.  Both of them had a beginning, middle and end, both asked for an action to occur and both did a great job.  One of the speakers asked if I could tell that they were nervous.  I responded that you looked up, engaged your audience and spoke slow and clear, and, you looked calm and comfortable.  Unless you are sweating profusely, have a weird waver in your voice or use some unusual gesturing, your audience will not know you are nervous.  I have a small confession – the truth is that I am always a little nervous before I speak, but I turn my nervousness into the energy I use to help deliver the message. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Love My Family!

I have always been close with my brothers.  We are close with our father.  We grew up close and I believe that this has had a major impact on how I am as a husband and father - I am close with my wife and close with my children.  My children are close with each other.  We are always there to help and support each other.  As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel in Dublin where I traveled for work.  It is a great feeling knowing that when I return, I will be happy to be back with Debbie (my partner in life), and look forward to seeing the girls as they are both home this (past) weekend.

October is a month for us to celebrate closeness and our love for each other.  As it ends up, October is a special month – this ends up being the month, where not only I got married, but the month in which the four living Zeiler men got married.  This is the month where we became betrothed to our loved ones and increased the Zeiler family.

I have found marriage, love and closeness a special intertwining thing, in that if you truly love someone, you move from an “I” to a “We”, and you strive to become better than you were.  You see, I believe, that true love makes us stronger, gives us the ability to face things we would otherwise avoid and teaches us to bind ourselves together into a unit.  I know of some that struggle with this and have been less than successful.  Love and marriage are not about self or for selfish gains: but what we collectively do for each other.  For example, if Almira Gulch (fictitious name), married only to have someone tend to her child, made their spouse sell off his assets and then tossed him out of her house and marriage - This would be a marriage for selfish gain, an inability to understand the bigger picture of what a couple and family mean and completely using another person.  Unfortunately, not all Almiras recognize this, becoming jealous of what others have and that is sad.

As I finish my ruminations for the week, I am sitting in the Dublin Airport, waiting for the boarding call (yes, I am sipping a final Guinness).  As always, when I travel sans family, I am looking forward to the return home, to being home with Debbie, to seeing my family and returning to those that I am close to.  I know I will see my whole family this weekend and look forward to the time spent together…as a family.

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…”