Saturday, April 26, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 15 - Virtual Candles

Day 15 out was my 46th birthday. I am going to be honest that when I woke up in the morning, I thought that for many a year, when my birthday was on a workday, that I looked forward to going to the office and hearing “Happy Birthday” a bunch of times. And there were years when there were cakes, surprises, etc. It was a nice thing, once a year, to have this happen. On this day, there would be no office and since I was out of town speaking in New Orleans, probably not a lot of recognitions. Wow, was I wrong. First, Patti had leaked to one of the attendees of the conference where I was speaking that it was my birthday, so I got a nice cake and a great rendition of Happy Birthday. But more amazing were the virtual birthday wishes that I received on Facebook. Either through writing on my wall or sending me messages, I got way more best wishes than I would have if it was just about being in the office. My birthday this year may have been the “biggest” since my 40th. What this tells me are a few things. First, I probably have a greater need for affiliation than I recognize or admit. Second, that I have lots of great friends. Third, that technology today continues to bring us closer and closer. While writing on someone’s Facebook wall is the not hardest thing to do and certainly is easier than a card or a call, it still takes effort and the fact that people who would have never done so prior, use Facebook to reach out and wish you the best on your birthday is one of those things that just makes the world go around better. For sure, my little bit of the world felt better for my special day. Thank you to all who remembered and reached out. You made my day.

Friday, April 25, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 14 - Reunion

Today was about traveling to New Orleans to speak to a reunion of Pizza Hut Alumni who get together once a year for a learning conference. A number of the people attending worked for me or worked within my organization when I was at Pizza Hut in the mid 90’s. Today they all have done very well and are division heads, senior executives, consultants, recruiters, etc. They invited me earlier this year to be their keynote speaker. What is best about these kinds of things is the time you get to reconnect with people who you have not seen for a long time and to see their progression and successes. Business reunions are different, but the same, as high school reunions. At my 10th high school reunion, it was all about “what are you doing, where do you live, what car do you drive…how well did you do?”. At my 20th reunion, it was about, “How are you doing, how are your kids, what are you going to do next…how good (in terms of happiness) did you do?”. The same arc holds true at business reunions. Of course, there is always the “who ended up the best” kind of banter but after all of these years, we aren’t kids anymore and we have settled into ourselves and make decisions and moves regarding our jobs in terms of what is best for the long run, for the kids and the family, for the financial nest egg. Here is a place where when you say, “I am taking myself out of the game for awhile” that the response is a genuine congratulations and support. These are people who knew you when. Who saw you when you were giving everything you had to your job and to them as part of the company. Who cared about your success and you cared about theirs, a time when we were all “coming up” and who want nothing more than to share the end-game together. For those who don’t go to these things, and I was one of them before, reconsider next time. These are your friends and people who you once shared a foxhole. These “people reunions” are good for the being. They are good for the soul.

100 Business Days Out: Day 13 - Progressive No's

I have been helping a buddy of mine who is in the last throws of negotiations for a new job. He really wants it and he is working hard to make everything work for him and the new company so he can take the position and feel good about it. He is working through a set of progressive yeses to get the new gig. It’s an interesting juxtaposition as I counsel him to get to yes while I spend three or four calls a day now saying “no” and also trying to feel good about it. The market is hot for start-up CEOs who have some real experience behind them. Just on this 13th business day of being out, I received four calls about positions that at an earlier time would have been great jobs to go explore and talk about. But on this day, and in this time, my answer boils down to “no”. I’m not a no guy. I’ve always liked to keep an opportunity alive, play the "greatest option is having options" thing, and be sure that I was not missing out on something. But today I find myself shutting the doors and saying a prayer that if I missed the right thing because of needing the time away, that in the future, those opportunities and people will still be there and interested. I read an article recently that said that it’s just the opposite today. That when you take yourself out of the market for an extended time that it’s very hard to break back in and that there is a short shelf-life for out of the market CEOs. I guess, I will get to be a data point in the next study. Staying firm and sticking to my going dormant and climbing into the cocoon plan.

100 Business Days Out: Day 12 - Tool Tyranny

When I got my first “professional” job (defined as when I went to work for Pratt and Whitney in 1986) the tools I was given to work with were a desk phone, a new thing they were just rolling out called Octel Voice Messaging, and a desk. We were not given desktop PCs individually until the following year in 1987 when they rolled out this new thing call PROFS from IBM (now more called instant messaging) that was the precursor to email. We used PROFS for very important and high level things like finding out what time you wanted to go to lunch, flirting and sending barbs back and forth. Fast forward to 2008 and here I am on my own in my home office trying to manage my tools: two laptops (one Dell, one Mac), a two monitor set-up for my Dell, 100gig Iomega storage back-up for my Dell, 500gig Iomega storage back-up for my Mac, a Motorola V-Cast phone/PDA with active sync, two Plantronic wireless headsets, high-speed (Buffalo) wireless repeaters throughout the house, a Logitech webcam, and an Epson wireless scanner/fax/copier. What I have in my home office alone is more than the whole department that I worked in at Pratt and Whitney had at the time. And what do I also have that Pratt and Whitney had? Pratt and Whitney had Chuck, who was the IT expert and was bringing us into the new age. He was a mainframe guy but he was the guy who gave us our first desktop PCs, taught us how to use this newfangled voicemail thing, etc. And now I have my own Chuck. His name is Ryan. Ryan comes to the house and tunes the computers and network we run. (I forgot to mention that Patti has her own office too). So, we have come a long way. I do ask the question though as I monitor and assess the performance of my home network and tools….what happened to the simple days? I do know that with the move from simplicity to complexity it is one more thing to worry about, pay for, and do all you can to not fall behind the curve.

Monday, April 21, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 11 - Extensions

I am starting to like the long-weekend. When one doesn’t have to rush back to the office on Monday AM, then there is an extra day that can be added to the long-travel weekend, each and every time. What you get from this is you get to miss the traditional weekend air or car traffic. You also get to enjoy Sunday night like you may never had before. The Sunday night blahs and blues have virtually disappeared for me. There is no reason to begin to feel the Monday build-up and I have begun to schedule my meetings and such to not let myself feel that emotional tsunami that Monday many times brings. In a few weeks I have to travel to NYC on a Sunday for Monday meetings. I will try and characterize the difference I feel then but for now it is really nice to stay the extra hour with friends or the extra night on the weekend. Being sure I take advantage of these new found extensions is all part of this positive journey.

100 Business Days Out: Day 10 - 3:00AM Wake Up!

I was on the phone with my financial advisor late one evening. I posed to him a question that he answered, let me sleep on it and get back to you in the morning. The next morning when I talked to him, he said, “I was thinking about this when I woke up at 3:00AM”. For all those years, I thought only me and the President of the United States got woken up at 3:00AM (that’s a jab Senator Clinton) but I have talked to others and the 3:00AM wake-up might be way more pervasive than anyone is letting in. What is the 3:00AM wake-up? It goes like this…you have gone to bed with something heavy on your mind and as you fall asleep it is one of the last conscious thoughts you have. All is well until your mind starts working through the problem and your subconscious pops the thoughts back to your conscious level and bam! you all of a sudden are wide awake with that problem, thought, idea right there with you in the dark screaming for you to get up and go deal with it. You look over at the clock and it is (give or take an hour) 3:00AM. Now, if you respond to the call, you get up and get going and by 5:00AM you are wiped out and wasted for the day. But if you lay there and not respond, then you go over and over the same thoughts in your head for tossed and turning hour and finally in that hour you fall back to sleep and when you wake up you feel like you have to rush to get going. It’s a tough wake-up call. One that I have had probably thousands of times. I thought that for sure with removal of a daily job that the 3:00AM wake-up call would go away. It did for awhile but last night I got the call. This time it was my brain bringing up my insecurities and fears and trying to get me to get up and go do something with it. But, there is no short-term problem or idea to work out. It’s a long-term topic. I wasn’t going to do anything with this topic at 3:00AM. So, I forced myself, like I have done so many times, to go back to sleep. The difference was that when I got up on the morning, there was no rushing to deal with, there was no sense of urgency that said I must get it done pronto. It felt like the difference of drinking a cup of good green tea vs. a 20 ounce Diet Mountain Dew first thing in the AM. One is a gradual and humane way to enter the day. The other is like a baseball bat to the head. I like the former. So, the 3:00AM wake-up may never go away, but how one deals with it could make a difference in how one starts the day and carries on. It’s a good lesson to be learned.

100 Business Days Out: Day 9 - Dreaming

A long time ago, in one of the magazines like Men’s Life, Esquire, Details, etc., I remember an author who had been laid-off and went traveling and he wrote about 50 days away with his wife and what it was like. I kept that article for a long time because one of the things he said started to happen to him after a few weeks was that he began dreaming again. I was fascinated and I wondered first, why we don’t dream as much when we are stressed and if one’s dreaming pattern would change if under less stress…or maybe when away from the workplace. I was skeptical. But, today, I am less skeptical than before. Because, what is happening to me is that I am starting to dream again. I have just begun to notice that I found myself remembering that I spent the night dreaming and on multiple topics. I’ve always been one who can go to sleep quickly (much to Patti’s chagrin) but I never could tell you that I dreamed (which, I have since learned that everyone does, but no everyone can remember) or if I did, I certainly couldn’t remember. Instead, I felt that my nights were full of working out problems and that my brain was rehearsing tomorrow’s script for the hard meeting, or working out how to make a problem go away, or just trying to come up with the next creative idea. So, subconsciously, I think, like the rest of life and priorities, I wouldn’t let myself dream freely. That would be wasting time or brainwaves. So, I must have been suppressing the real/fun dreams. But now I can take that governor off and let my dreams come freely. And that is what it is starting to feel like. Oh by the way, I still have the 3AM wake-up call (more about that tomorrow) but it’s now a different wake-up reason. Happy dreaming!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 8 - 5AM

Today was the first 5AM awake day since the last day at work. This was for fun as I got up for an early morning backpacking training session in the city at Mount Davidson. There is definitely something to getting up before the sun and being fully sweaty when the heat of the sun strikes your body. Whether I rise at the normal 5AM time or sleep in until I need to get up is another one of those discipline things that I am wrestling with. If I keep the 5AM regiment, I get lots done in the AM before Patti rises. But it also demands that I go to bed earlier. You don't really miss that much more by going to bed at 9pm but that extra hour to 10pm kind of feels like you are staying up past your bedtime....which is nice. I must admit that an extra hour to 90 minutes of sleep in the AM is nice too. Regardless, in this state, I have no excuse for not getting eight hours of sleep a night. If that is the "healthy" way then that is what I should do. If for nothing else, eight hours of rest is a good thing to make one feel more whole and complete. You do have to wonder why we cram so much into our day that we sacrifice our sleep that we are actually hurting the same productivity that we are searching for in the first place. So, whether I rise or go to bed earlier or later, that eight hours should be thought of as a privilege to obtain.

100 Business Days Out: Day 7 - Filling

Today turned out to be a day very filled. I have been pretty busy with a number of "left over" meetings that have come from the notice of the acquisition and close off of open items. I did a favor for a VC firm and sat in on a brainstorming meeting with a tech/music company. Patti asked me, "what are you doing today?". It was kind of fun to tell her that I was going to sit in on a meeting that at the end, people were going to ask me my POV and I would get to tell them what I think. She asked, "are you getting paid to do it?". I told her no. She didn't think it was such a good use of my time. But that's a bit of the difference for where my head is right now. The filling doesn't have to be for remuneration, the filling is okay for continued relevance and staying up to date. That feels like remuneration enough...for now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 6 - Routine...What Routine?

Monday AM for me starts on Sunday nights. Always has. not only mentally, but also just taking some time on Sunday night to sit down, look at my calendar, scope the week, think about what is important coming up, update the to-do list, etc. I did that this last Sunday night as always. The week is full. There is travel with Patti to Rhode Island on the back half and Monday and Tuesday were jammed packed days of meetings, etc. So, Monday AM should have been just like any other Monday AM...just fall into the routine. What was different was that my first set of meetings, in the city, didn't start until 12:30pm so the morning was mine. On Sunday night I thought I would manage Monday just like any other Monday. Get up early, do my devotional time, my running, etc. and be ready to hit email, etc. at the same time that I used to leave for the office (6:50AM). So, what happened that i didn't get up at 5:00AM but that snoozed to 6AM and by the time I finished everything else, it was 9:30AM, not 6:50AM....? Granted, I read the NY Times versus glance at it like in the past. I spent more time on my devotional time than hurrying through a few Bible chapters and not being able to remember what I read the next hour. I played with Louis, our french bulldog puppy, because he was up (which he never was in the past) and who can deny a puppy when they climb up in your lap? I wrote in my blog. And, when it came time for my run...I lengthened it a bit, because I was feeling good. Doesn't that all sound serene? The only downside was that I was out of my routine and because of that I felt "guilty". Weird huh? No one can tell me that we are not a product of our conditioning. When I was working I always felt guilty if I wasn't in the office by 7:30AM. I was the boss, no one was there (other than a few other early birds like me) but if I wasn't settled in and ready to go at 7:30AM, I felt like I was wasting my day. And, then I wonder why the blood pressure has crept up on me over the years. So, I guess I am a recovering "routine-aholic". I will revisit this topic in days to come to see if being free-form is any better...what time is it now? Darn, I'm behind already!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Randy Pausch - Make the most of "now" while we have it

I got to know Randy when he came to EA for a semester on his sabbatical. I tried as hard as I could to recruit him come and take over EA's Education Program. I was also the guy who had to tell him that while he was there, that EA had made a donation to USC for $8MM. I ended up going to Carnegie-Mellon to meet with their President and Randy so that Randy didn't lose face there. Wow, am I glad that Randy didn't take the EA job. Last night I watched the Diane Sawyer special and have been following all of the articles, etc about his Last Lecture. The number of people he has touched really makes me think that Randy was put on the earth for this moment. Lives are being changed by him making one 90 minute lecture. Randy doesn't talk about whether or not God has His hand in this for him but it is easy to see that the good that comes from what Randy is going through is being used. A few weeks ago we received an email from one of our neighbors in Rhode Island who told us that her husband had been diagnosed with brain cancer. We went on the internet to try and determine how bad it was. It's bad. Last week we got an email directly from him and it was full of funny things that happened at the hospital, a positive attitude and a resolve that he, like Randy, was going to play the best hand that he was dealt and play it well. I am encouraged and amazed by the strength that we see in these people. They have made my life better by knowing them when they were healthy and maybe even more so in their difficult times. What a lesson for all of us in the times when we think we are down and out on our luck. And, when the times are good, it becomes even more important that we make the most of "now" while we have it.

100 Business Days Out: Day 5 - Explanations

Day 5 was spent at Purdue for the inauguration of France A. Cordova as the 11th President of Purdue. Tangentially, I find that very cool that the school has been around since 1869 and this is only their 11th President. I also take a little pride in being someone who has met over half of them. President Hovde, President Hanson, President Beering, President Jischke and President Cordova. I also met President Hicks (who presided twice as interim President) giving me my over half mark. Now, back to Day 5 and why it was a day of explanations. The day was filled with meetings, a panel I moderated, the inauguration itself, the inaugural ball, etc. Throughout the day, I was asked maybe 50 times how I was and what was going on with SNOCAP. So, I got my first real day of trying on the message of "I am not working". All in all, it was not a bad feeling and because of the continued, "oh, how I wish I could take a sabbatical" (which is a term no one other than a university or Silicon Valley uses), I felt okay with it all. I don't really warm to the term sabbatical for what I am doing. A sabbatical to me has a defined time line and usually is accompanied with a set of objectives to meet during that time. I can't say that I have either. And for sure, I don't have my elevator pitch of what I am doing with the time other than "trying to get quiet and listen to see what God might have to say about what I should do next". BTW, once I throw out that "see what God might have to say line", it's an easy litmus test for those who want to know more and those who find it time to bow out of the conversation. I can't say I blame them, we all do it. I mean really, how many times do you want to really stop and listen when someone answers, "I'm having a bad day, thank you". Enough explaining for one day. :)

100 Business Days Out: Day 4 - Drive Time

Day 4 was spent driving through Indiana. This was not that different for me from the past when I might have been somewhere and rather than take a flight that seemed unproductive I would hop in a car for a few hours versus fly. This day gave me three hours driving from Jeffersonville, IN (my hometown and Mother's home) to West Lafayette, IN (Purdue hometown). What was different about this drive time from the past was that in the past I would use this time to return phone calls and do phone business that I normally would not have other time to handle. This 3 hour drive was not that. for the most part (other than one call I got from a friend who needed job advice) this was time in the car, by myself, listening to the radio and thinking. When I am in the car by myself I play a game that my dad and I used to do. I tune through the AM dial trying to find the furthest distance AM radio station I can from the location I am currently driving. This time it was a station in San Antonio, TX. Clear as a bell. So, my 4th day out was all about drive time, or in this case, "non-drive" time. No driving need to do anything other than enjoy the ride.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 3 - Ringing

One thing I did upon my change, which was a mistake I will have to live with, was to direct all my calls to my cell phone. When I updated my contacts, which is about 3800 people, I gave them all my cell phone number as my point of contact going forward. I think I have made a mistake. On Wednesday my cell phone rang somewhere around 40 times. And like clockwork most of those calls came in while I was on the phone with someone else. I also got three in the night while I was on east coast time. Not unusual for that to happen other than I now get on my cell phone the calls that people would normally leave on your office phone voicemail at night when they really don't want to talk to you. I also can’t tell for people who I don’t have their numbers in my contact list, who is who, so I end up taking all the calls. That is a bad thing. I’ve picked up calls from a reporter at the NY Times (which might have been better to not pick up), headhunters who I don’t really need to talk to right now and could better be managed over email, etc. It’s not that I don’t like talking to people, in fact, it is just the opposite when you have no outward calls to make, but when you set it up like I have, the phone returns to being very arrogant, interrupting at the worst of times. Where’s the two-line cell phone? One line for personal, one line for business…with different rings for each? Someone get working on that. In the meantime, I gotta get back to my voice mail and see who all those calls were from last night. :)

100 Business Days Out: Day 2 - Little Lost and a Little Rushed

Tuesday I traveled to the Midwest to see my family and get ready for a speaking engagement on Friday at Purdue. It was an uneventful day other than again it is the little things that I have gotten used to that now are not there that throw me off. For 20 years I have always traveled with a printed itinerary that, as I used to tell me assistants when they were preparing them for me, would treat me like I am stupid. If I needed to take 10 steps to the right before turning left, I wanted it written down for me so I could mindlessly follow the directions. I thought it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t have one as I had planned and made my own trip arrangements, but I gotta tell you, the number of times that I put my bag down to pull out the folder to find out what time the flight left, what rental car company, confirmation numbers, etc., was a pain. I couldn’t have created one if I wanted to since I don’t have my new printer hooked up at home yet (it is expected any day now…I have learned how to track packages on FedEx), but let me tell you, this little change had me feeling lost throughout the day. And, when I feel lost, I feel rushed. And I hate being rushed. Again, a little change that "got me" for the day.

100 Business Days Out: Day 1 - Discombobulated

Monday was not that different than a usual Monday in that I got up and got ready for a day of phone calls, meetings, etc. What did throw me off for the day was that as I am transitioning between Outlook inboxes, calendars, contacts, home office, etc. that I almost missed a meeting in Palo Alto at 2pm. I didn’t see that I had it until noon and I scrambled from there on. It was just enough of a scramble to give me the feeling that I am discombobulated…which for me is not a feeling that I am used to. And not one that I like. It will be the little things for awhile that I have to get used to.

Friday, April 4, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Preamble

Come Monday April 7th, 2008 I become, in a self-imposed way , unemployed. After the last 2.5 years as the CEO of SNOCAP, the acquisition of SNOCAP is complete and it is time for me to take some time away to figure out what I "should" do next. I have decided that I need to have some real quiet and focused time to listen and see if I can hear what should be next. Since this is self-imposed time off most people say, "how lucky and how easy this will be". I agree wholeheartedly that this is an extremely fortunate position to be in and I can only thank the Good Lord for giving me the resources to be able to be in this enviable position. I especially feel this way when I see the number of unemployed skyrocketing and thinking what it must be like to be out of work and concerned about the care of family and self. So, I enter this phase of life in the most humble of manners. All of this said, this will be a big change for me. I know I am not the first to go through it and won't be the last, but seldom do I read or hear from others what it feels like day to day to go from 100mph in the work world to a cold-turkey dead stop. For me, who has worked nearly continuously (always having a job or knowing where the next one was coming from and starting) since I was 15 years old (that would be 30 years ago) I am imagining that I can explore and search through the division of my work and self-worth and to test the adage that you are who you are when no one is looking. So, for the next 100 business days, I am going to try and capture my feelings and emotions as I go into what will surely feel like some sort of withdrawal and detox. I only hope that I can be honest with myself so that at the end of the period I will have learned more about myself and what it was that has driven me for so long and more importantly what it is that should be the drivers going forward. If you have comments along the way, please do let me know. Thanks for taking the journey with me. Rusty