Thursday, July 31, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 82 - Small Things

I remain amazed at how when your brain has room in it (like when you aren't stressed, aren't up against a deadline, or aren't all-consumed with one thing) that you can see the small things in life. Of course they are there all the time but the perspective is different when the foreground never lets you see in to the background. What brought me to this today was the realization that tonight at 9:00pm that it was dark. How could that be when just yesterday, it seemed, it was still light at 9:30pm. The days are getting shorter already which means that the summer is passing and that we will be heading home in less than a month. Even the light is starting to change with the mornings becoming a little crisper. It's hard to see the small changes in life when we let them speed past us. When we slow it down, we can start to see the increments that make up the bigger picture. And when we can do that, then we can start to appreciate and make the most of the here and now. How many times do we blink and the day is gone? We say, where did the day go? Meetings blend from one to another and conversations we had in the morning seem like distant memories by the end of the day. If I learn anything from this time away and out, is that turnning down the speed of a day by a notch or two is well worth it. Taking a moment or two from the day to stop and reflect makes the day much more clear. Marking time by things we want to remember and appreciate is just a better way. I mark this day as a bit shorter than yesterday and a little longer than tomorrow, which means I have to make even more of tomorrow than today, one small thing after another.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 81 - Word from Home

Today I felt the call from home reaching out. I had two phone conversations with friends/associates back home and also friends of ours from home who have been vacationing on the east coast with their family in Mystic (about 20 minutes from here) stopped by for lunch. All of the conversations centered around things that were happening back home with work, other friends, activities, charities. etc. My friend Jeff Brown as we got off the phone, said, "sure wish you were coming back home sooner". I was touched and was recognizing the call from home being more deeply centered in me that I imagined. When you live in an area where you don't have family, you don't have children, and your work doesn't hold you there, you make the decision to live somewhere because of the environment, yes, but also more importantly because of the people who you have in your lives. For me, this would be the friends I have cultivated from jobs, charitable organizations, my church, my running, and a few others who we have met along the way. As it is in life, a few are really close friends and others are more acquaintances, but they, in totality, remain an anchoring element for us to live in the Bay Area. This past week I got a call from one of the closest friends we have letting us know that they were going to be leaving the Bay Area to follow a job in Boston. It's a great job and the right career move so it is hard to fault them for this, but this word from home was not a good one as it removed a piece of the tethering to the Bay Area for us. So today was a good day to hear and see others from home and to hear the words wanting us to come home soon. Home is where the heart is, that is true but home is also where those who are in your heart are. So, for me because the grea friends I have, the return to home is one that I can greatly anticipate and look forward.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 80 - Become v. Do

As part of the journey I am on, I have been diving deeper into the advancement of my spiritual life. I felt that going into this "dormant" period that this was an awesome opportunity to spend more time reading my Bible, praying and studying. As part of my study time I picked up the book; Experiencing God by Blackaby. It's a daily workbook format that takes you through a set of learnings that open your eyes to how you are living and how to find the will of God in your life. The lesson unit I am in now has to do with how do you know when God might be speaking to you and today there was a profound statement that I read that I think applies to lots of things in our lives. The statement was: "God cares about what you become, not what you do". As I meditated and contemplated that thought, it struck me that this truth carries over into all facets of our lives, including our work life. As I refelct on the successes or failures in my work, the successes were really rooted in how things got done and what we as a team or I as an individual became from the experience, not in just what got done. In fact, when only focused on what could get done, typically what happened was that the process got messed up and the "how" got forgotten and there were negative ramifications. As I spend this time that I have, working towards what I can become as a fulfilled and whole human being it is true that this is far more important than what it is that I "do". This seems an important lesson for all of us that we must daily remember for what we "become" is built on a series of events, responses and actions that we take....daily. And like anything that is built over time, each and every step along the way is just as important as the overall result. Such are the lives we live and what can or won't become.

Monday, July 28, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 79 - Randy Pausch

The day after Tim Russert died, I stopped and reflected on him. The same should be done for Randy Pausch after his death on Friday. I never knew Tim Russert, although I felt like I did on TV. When he died unexpectedly, it came as a shock to the country (and world) and tributes poured in from all over. His death sent waves through me and others that I know as we have talked about him a number of times since his death. I did know Randy Pausch. I was a part of the team who brought him to EA where he spent his last sabbatical time doing research for us on what would be the best course curriculum on how to teach someone to make videogames. In his "Last Lecture" he mentions about how after a few days at EA someone came in and told him that EA had made a decision to make a large donation to another university to fund their game development program (USC). That person was me. I remember distinctly how Randy handled that conversation. He was not happy. He was mad. But he was not angry. What I mean about that difference was that he channeled his emotions and immediately began putting to work what he could do to make the situation different. In a manner of minutes he had planned how he and I should go meet with the President of Carnegie-Mellon for me to explain the situation (the situation being that we/he didn't want to be pulled back to CMU because the university officials would think that he is wasting his time at EA) and what EA could still do with CMU in the future. Later we did take that trip and it was a good meeting and one that did lead to other ventures with CMU and EA, and saved face for Randy. What was so striking to me when I first say Randy's Last Lecture (and the subsequent global outpouring that he received) was that he approached his death just like he did our meeting of bad news. He got mad, not angry, and then accepted it and channeled the energy into doing something better to change the course. In his death (or last celebration days of life) he touched many many people around the world. People who never knew him, but felt like they did now. He was a remarkable man. And, like Tim Russert, for how human understanding of how things are supposed to work, was taken too soon. But, one never knows what they are put here for and sometimes may never know. For like Tim and Randy, it is in their deaths that so many others have learned so much and will likely live their own lives to a fuller degree because of the way they closed the last chapter of their own lives. Both premature, but both chocked full of life lessons and examples for others to follow long after they are gone. Thank you Randy Pausch for being who you were. I am better and proud to have known you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 78 - One Way Ticket?

Today I met a neighbor here in Quonnie. Great guy who I would say is in his late 50's maybe early 60's. Looks physically like he could be in his early 50's. As I learned a little bit about him, I found out that he retired from being a CEO in 1995 and never looked back. He sits on a few private company boards and does some private equity work. He splits the year here in Rhode Island with his home in Florida. He asked me point blank, "what are your plans?". I was ready for it as I know I still don't have a good answer. But, as I listened to him talk about how he manages his life and interests, it did make me think about whether or not I really do need a round-trip ticket back into the work world or am I okay holding on to the one-way ticket out for awhile? My talk with another friend a week plus or so (I mentioned this in an earlier entry) was about how shocking the reentry will be when I return home. I have been thinking a lot about this as well. As I write this right now it's almost impossible to envision myself back at one job 60-70 hours a week. But, that will change, right? Everyone says you get bored and want to go back. But, I am far from bored. I find that I am very busy and haven't been able to read all the books I wanted, listen to all the CDs, write everything that is in my head, start the projects that I want to complete, or spend all the time with friends and family that needs to be spent. There's just not been enough time yet. I am rambling I know, but it's part of the process for sure to ramble through the thoughts in my head and try and sort out what is what and which way to go next. It's a jumbled up thing. But as I write right now, I get better and better each day with only holding this one-way ticket that I have now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 77 - 30 Days Away

Today we makred 30 days here on the east coast. Suffice to say that time flies. It has not been all fun times in the first 30 days with Louie in and out of the hospital (the outcome still not resolved...we are to see a specialist on Monday) but all in all, 30 days at the beach with the ocean outside of your window marking the time hour after hour with the waves continously crashing to shore, having friends and family visit and be here, exercising when and where I want, reading, writing,and spending time with Patti, is all pretty good. There is something different about an extended time away from home that is kind of like a foreign language. You can learn certain words and have a feel for the language but until you can think it and be fluent, you miss most of the meaning. The same can be said for an experience like being away from home for 30 days plus. It's more than a vacation or a "get-away". You actually get into a different flow and feel. You find a new groove and it starts to become a part of who you are. And if it is good, then that groove just builds on itself and you fall right into it. I always wanted to just spend 30 days away and even though it was not the total seclusion that I used to say I wanted, it has been pretty awesome so far and another 45 to go.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 76 - Rainy Day Books

The rains finally came today. It has been nearly a month without rain and finally today the clouds burst open with buckets of torrential rain. You could almost hear the ground and the plants sucking in and celebrating its arrival. For us, it was a forced inside, break the routine kind of day. No beach for sure and the storms were bad enough that it didn't seem prudent to venture out too far from the house. So we confined ourselves and looked for other ways to occupy our time. I caught up on some very tardy response emails and phone calls and as chance would have it, I was finishing up one book (which had been laborious) and was beginning another hard read and it was just the day for it. The only thing disturbance was the clinking and kerplunking of the rain drops on the window sills. I don't know how long I got, but it was over a couple of hours of just sitting and uninterrupted reading. As I reflected on this, I realized that it has been a long time since I have had one of these days. When you live in Northern California the rainy days only come November - April and if you work then you have to look for one of these days to come on a weekend and of course the weekends are too busy so you never take the time to just sit and read a book. But, today, here on the east coast where it can rain in the summer, I did and it was great. Someone said (and I am butchering even the paraphrase) "that no boat takes you as far off shore and into the sea as a good book". It is so true. There are times that my mind gets more clearing and I am able to shove more mind "stuff" to the back, because I am engrossed in a great read. A typical year for me of reading (I catalog every book I read each year) is somewhere around 20 books. This year will be higher and even better because the "density" of the reading is much greater. Reading as we all know is great for the mind, the vocabulary and the thought process. But, it's also a gift to be not forgotten and a perfect way to just wile away a rainy day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 75 - The Bell Lap

If this was 8/08/08 and the Olympics were in full swing then "the bell lap" would be more top of mind. But, since we are close, I will jump ahead and use the metaphor. This is day 75 of my 100 Business Days Out. If I was running the mile (or 1500 meters) I would be hearing the bell ring as I completed the third of four laps. That is the bell lap. So, here I am heading into the final 25 days business days out and how do I feel? As succinctly as I can put it would be: fear and anxiety have been replaced with contentment and rest. I can honestly say that I have moved from the stage of worry about what is next into now being at peace with not knowing. Of course that could be that I am relishing the schedule of the retiree. I know that is so because I feel infringed upon when something invades the schedule. I also know that I feel much better about the divorce of self worth and work. That is not all gone yet, but nearly. And, what a struggle that has been for me. For anyone who I ever counseled and told them that they could not let the two of these become interwoven, I was right, but I was not coming from a place of where I was practicing what I preached. Now, I can authentically say that I know the struggle that this causes. I have a friend who years ago went through a tough loss of his very senior position in a very big and high profile corporation. Since then he has bounced from one start up to another and tried his hand at his own thing a few times. Along the way he has had some real personal and family struggles. After all of this, I wish I had been there for him to help him see, what may have been the underlying issue that his self-worth and the big company title (and the trappings that came with it) was not who he was and that he was okay to be who he was without the rest of the stuff. I now go into my bell lap not afraid of what might or more likely will not be there for me on the other side. As you know, I am a runner and one of the things I learned a long time ago is that in the bell lap, you give it your all and you don't leave anything on the track. You have to cross the finish line with all you have. For me that means hunkering down even more to spend this precious time I have to learn as much as I can about myself, find the peace and rest I so desired, rekindle and brighten flickering relationships and keep my self-worth as far away from work as I can. May I continually hear the bell loud and clear on this last lap.

Monday, July 21, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 74 - Empty House

After the Murabitos left this morning we had the house to just the three of us (Patti, Louie and me) for the first time in a couple of weeks. How quiet and lonely it quickly felt. We have come here for some rest and quiet and found that we have been setting up the house or entertaining non-stop. And then when it comes to a halt it is a mini look at the bigger picture of my 100 Business Days Out. What I am learning about myself (among many other things) is that I am just wired for activity. It's in my DNA to be setting up the next thing and then getting it going and then experiencing it and then on to the next thing. And so while I am not doing it in the same way as the bigger working model, I am going about the summer in similar fashion and getting the same lost feeling in the slow and downtimes. That is the challenge to overcome I believe. How is it that I (and maybe all the work-aholics) can find it okay within ourselves when the music stops? We really don't have to go scramble for a chair. It's okay to be still and silent until the music starts back up again. And even better in those times that we find the needed rest and recharging. But, who I am to call the kettle black? If one can't get used to the stillness of an empty house, then how can I truly accept the peace that comes with it? It's just hard to let go. Really hard.

Friday, July 18, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 73 - Neither Time Nor Distance...

It's a great quote from the movie The Big Chill about friendships. As they parted from the unfortunate reunion they staked their friendships as ones that could not be marred by "neither time nor distance". The sad fact is that none of us have enough friends that we can say that about. Time takes its toll as we go through the years and go through our separate lives. Distance is a killer as the complexities of our lives don't allow for us to hop on planes or take road trips for the weekends like we used to. So time and distance dilute and destroy the friendships that we once thought were so strong. Today (and yesterday) and on through the weekend we are pushing back. John and Tammy Murabito have driven up from Philadelphia with their daughter Florence to stay with us through Sunday. I have seen John a couple of times over the last few years but Patti hasn't seen either of them since the Millennium when we spent New Years with them and the Newtons in a rented cabin in Gatlinburg, TN. (we wanted to be in the woods in case the world ended...or something like that). That was over eight years ago. And before that we spent a lot of time together visiting back and forth when we didn't live in the same town. But let me tell you here and is true, neither time nor distance can get in the was of the best of friends. Since they arrived it has been like no time nor distance ever passed. Of course we have spent time "catching up". How could you not when eight years have passed but the true test of friendship is how fast that time gets covered and you are back into the present and the future. For us, it was one night and now it is like we never missed a beat. We have all had this happen to us. Guys especially I notice feel this way. We can get together with our college buddies after years and years and pick right back up the conversation. It's not always much more than superficial conversations but it does continue where it left off. What this says to me is that it is the way we are wired to be able to do this. And while not with everyone, the best of friends can do it and do it easily. However, there is a bad side to this as well. Because we know we can do it, we take it for granted and we abuse the fact that there will be another tomorrow. That's where we need to challenge ourselves and a challenge I have given myself today. While neither time nor distance may get in the way of the best of friends, time is not a constant. We are living on borrowed time and we may not have that many more chances to be in the here and now with those we care about and love. Look around and think about the number of people you know who are sick, have cancer, or are not able to do what they once did. It's more and more every year that we's just part of aging. And while aging is a great alternative to the other choice, we need to seize the opportunities we have to share our time with the closest friends we have so that we can say that we just didn't let time nor distance get in the way. Maybe if not for this time I have, I might have not internalized this life lesson.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 72 - Nap Time

The first nap I remember taking was in in kindergarten. I think I remember it most not because it was a nap but because I wanted to be sure my blanket was next to Joy Kraft's. The next time I remember napping regularly was in college. Those were some glorious naps. The next napping I can remember were the few times I went to Spain and we broke meetings in the middle of the day and we all went back to our hotels and napped. Other than that, napping (other than the occasional weekend after a long run nap) has not been a part of what I do. However...I have been napping on and off over the last month while here in Rhode Island. We have a pretty set routine and part of it is to be on the beach from noon-ish to 4pm. Well, somewhere in that first hour on the beach (Patti says it is within the first 15 minutes) I put my book down, tilt the Rio Beach chair all the way to the furthest notch and I go horizontally into a deep sleep...a beach nap. And, is it ever wonderful! I usually wake up from someone yelling something and it is a startled wake, but man am I refreshed when I wake up. And for the rest of the day, I feel like I have lots of energy. And best of all, I am not feeling like I must go to bed at 9pm because I can't keep my eyes open. Thus, this leads me to the next question, if I feel so good with a little short nap every day, then why don't we build this into what what we do everyday? Yes, I know, it's not practical...but why not? I think I know why, it comes down to pride. If I wanted to take a nap everyday when I was working, I could have. All I had to do was make it a priority and swallow my pride and then do it. It's kind of like exercise isn't it? We make that a priority and we block off parts of our days and let others know that we are going to the gym or for a run don't we? It's the other side of pride on that one. We are proud to go do that for ourselves and it shows a sign of strength, but, a nap would be a sign of weakness and we just can't have that even though the nap may well be more restorative and better for our productivity than our rigourous time at the gym. I'm on the campaign for the restoration of the kindergarten nap time as a part of the new workplace! (I would suggest though better blankets than I had in Kindergarten and we might want to separate the boys from the girls. :)) In the meantime, I'm going to keep practicing what I preach for the rest of the summer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 71 - Like Riding A Bicycle

This morning I got up early, did my usual routine of my daily Bible Study, my Devotional and Prayer time and then I got on my new Lemond Bike and went for a 20 mile ride. And how great that was! It has been a long, long time since I went for a 20 mile ride (like back in grad school and the summer of 1985 when John Wagner and I biked through Europe). But, I can't even explain how exhilirating it was to be out on the open road and moving under my own power at 15-20 miles per hour through the backroads of Rhode Island. It was just fantastic. And, what was the real bummer of it all was that I had forgotten for too long how much I enjoyed riding and had ignored it for some reason. But out there today, it was like 20 plus years had come back like it never passed. I could see and smell what it was like to be traveling through Europe from camp to camp. It was like I was almost there. And how great the rest of the day was after that ride. What was also great was that even though the technology has improved so much, the old adage is right, it's just like riding a comes right back to you. I was mentioning this to a friend on the phone, and he said, "just like when you come back to work". Hmmm...I wonder if that will be true. But, you know what? I have the feeling that it won't be as exhilerating as the bike ride this morning. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 70 - Jerry Levin Second Life

I'm getting my mail and magazines forwarded to me once a week here on Mondays. Today I was going through the July 14 & 21 Business Week and read with great interest Maria Bartiromo's Facetime interview with Jerry Levin. I was always a Jerry Levin fan. And I was a Time Warner shareholder before (and long after) the tie-up with AOL. And no, that didn't go well, but I still think that the vision that Jerry and Steve Case (and Bob Pittman) had was the right one but like many mergers they just don't go that well...and as we know this one didn't. But that's not why I am writing about Jerry. I am writing about him because his interview answers were right in line with that I have been writing about for the last 69 days and he summarized so many of the feelings and emotions that I have had down into some very insightful thoughts. You can read the entire article here:

What I took away from this interview is that Jerry is a real learner and that he has learned the lessons that only come from the hardest situations that we can face in life and that he is now applying those lessons into what he does now to help others who are looking to grow and change. My Southern Baptist pastor when I was growing up used to say, "we change either through invitation or situation...and most of us wait until situation". How true and how sad. We find ourselves either in desperation, forced out of our comfort zone (or off of our security blankets) before we make changes in ourselves. I am trying to do the opposite. I am trying to take this time of invited change and put to work the life lessons for the next chapter. After reading Jerry's interview through a second time, I sure wish he was heading back to run a public company because it would be one that I would invest. You can only imagine the Jerry Levin who grew Time Warner to what it was with the new found learning and skills running another company. Maybe there is a third life for Jerry as well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 69 - Quality Time

Why is it so hard to find quality time with others? What do I mean by quality time? I define it as the time when we can share below the surface and talk at a level that is personal and life-meaning. We just had a weekend of that with Patti's family. Her two brothers and their families were here and they just left this afternoon. I find it interesting that in the lives that we live that we have to create "events" or "situations" (I mean this positively) to have an environment conducive to real talk and real communication. In this case, it was a weekend of fun and relaxing (although we are learning that there is no relaxing when it comes to being good hosts) and as the days wore on we found those moments of talking below for the surface and getting the quality time that we wanted. But, why do we have to work this hard to find that "moment"? In the work world , we do the same thing don't we? We feel we can't think strategically unless we "get offsite". Or we reserve real or hard conversations for over dinner. How different our lives would be if we could get to the heart of a real conversation faster and much more fluidly. A few years ago I spoke at the InnoTown Innovation Conference in Norway (a must attend if you want to free your mind and be in a location/setting to think differently) and one evening in a bar, within 15 minutes, I was having an in depth conversation with a second generation local taxi driver about the challenges of relationships with fathers. I didn't know the guy from Adam but within 15 minutes we were talking as if we had known each other our entire lives. I later mentioned this to one of the conference coordinators and the response I got was, "yes, that is us in Norway. We talk at a very real level. When it is dark half the year you tend to talk more with each other and you open up faster with others". And here, back home, we have to create our weekends or special occasions to sneak a few minutes here and there to get to the level that the taxi driver was willing to get to in 15 minutes. All this said, it is good to have the time and venue to have the quality time that we are looking for this summer. Without the time away I know for sure that there wouldn't be as much quality time as what we are getting right now. And for this, I remain thankful.

Friday, July 11, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 68 - Peace Offerings

I had to use all of my detente and peacekeeping skills today for the finishing of this house project. As I mentioned yesterday we have been trying to bring it all together and get it done without causing any neighborly issues with the noise ordinance, etc. Well, today the top blew off the steam kettle. I had trucks and backhoes and and pavers, etc. here all at one time it looked and sounded like a full on construction zone. And lo and behold at about 11AM, a renter across the street came over and got in my face and basically accused me of ignoring the noise ordinances and ruining his vacation. He caught me right in the middle of me trying to get the paving guy to hurry up and stop using his equipment and move towards doing things by hand, trying to find my mason to get back here and finish his part of the job and my general contractor was frustrated with me trying to play by the rules, so I did my best to try and explain the circumstances to this neighbor but after he continued to get in my face, I just told him, "it is what it is and he was going to have to live with it". That was obviously not the best neighborly love response I could have given him. You know those conversations that you have at the office that don't end well and there is enough tension in the air that you could cut it with a knife and you avoid the person at all costs for the next day or so? Well, that's what this felt like. I went about my business for the next couple of hours but that feeling of not having peace was hanging over me like a cloud. So, I just bit the bullet, went inside and grabbed a good bottle of wine and walked across the street and apologized for how I reacted. There was a reason the Indians brought a peace offering, because whatever tension was in the air dissipated the moment the bottle of wine left my hand and entered his. We should do this more at work. We should have peace offerings that can be used to fix a problem between people and teams. And, we all know that at all times there is someone that could use a peace offering to make their day go better. Life and work is hard enough without the tension and stress that we add on to it with our reactions and responses. So, a little more offering of peace would go a long way for all of us.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 67 - Taking Over

AS you have read, Patti and I are here in Rhode Island and are in our new house for the summer. Patti has done an outstanding job of coordinating and managing the building of the house from 3000 miles away. She made the team of the architects and the general contractor a great one and the results are evident and recognizable in the house. Since we have been on the ground here for a couple of weeks she has turned over the last details of the punch list and the landscaping to me and I have been all over them to complete the job ASAP so we can comply with the noise ordinances of the community. It's a silly, unenforceable ordinance about not making construction noise in the summer (July 1 - Labor Day) but nonetheless, we want to comply. God is in the details and I want the details to finish strong on this job but it's been very hard to bring the last details over the finish line. Our landscaper is great but he's too busy. Our stone mason is an awesome artisan but doesn't finish particulary strong and will say he will be here on one day and then not show. And our driveway/paving got got hit by a drunk driver and was laid up in the hospital for three weeks. And all I want is to finish my landscaping on time. Not to be. So, it's taken all of my influence, leadership and sometimes coercion skills to bring it together. Today we spent time trying to get them all coordinated and hoping that it will all come together tomorrow before the weekend. It's hot and muggy here and it's time for this job to be done. And, here I am, the boss, the one paying the bills with no leverage or any true influence to get it done. And when you run out of tools in the toolbox, it can be frustrating to say the least. So, while I used to never let the guys on my team use the word, "hope" (After I read the book, Hope is Not a Method I stopped using the word hope as a way of thinking things would get done), all I can do here right now is "hope". Whew, good thing I don't have to answer to a Board for this one. Then again, I am sure Patti going to ask sometime soon, "Tell me again why I let you take over this project?" :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 66 - Back Home?

It's only fitting that on day 66 of my 100 Business Days out that I would be thinking of the routes back home. This being the second Wednesday of the month, it was usually a demarcation day for me with a monthly Board of Directors meeting, a monthly meeting of church stuff (Sunday school teachers, etc.) and the monthly Wednesday that marked the week before other Board meetings that would occur in the following week. But today came and went without any of that but what was interesting to me was that without thinking what day it was, I kind of instinctively knew what day and what week of the month it was. And for the first time, I got a little homesick. Well, not homesick maybe as much as a little, "worksick". I know, you are saying, "what the heck is he talking about, that's the last thing I would be, and who gets worksick? That's crazy." Okay, call me crazy but that's me. I guess it takes a lot longer to get it out of your blood than you think. I had a few minutes with one of our neighbors here in Quonnie today. He is in late 70's or early 80's I guess. He asked me how it was "not working" and I talked to him for a bit and he very astutely said, "don't worry about it, I still miss it too sometimes". So, I guess we all have a route back that we long for, like the Route 66 song. Sometimes it is a place, sometimes it is memory, sometimes it is person, and I guess sometimes it could be all of that together and have a little work in it too.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 65 - Idleness

We made the decision late last night with the doctor that surgery was the only way to go with Louie. He had lost nearly three pounds (he only started with 20 pounds) and the doctor said, he was "losing ground as a good candidate for surgery". As an aside, is it a ever a good thing to be a "good candidate for surgery"? Seems like a very bad description doesn't it? That said, we didn't sleep much last night and when we did it was fitful. And today, was about waiting for calls from the surgeon to determine what they would do, a call to tell us when they were doing it, a call to tell us how the surgery went, a call to tell us what they found, and a call to tell us how he was doing. What does one do between those kinds of calls? It was very interesting in how the brain takes over. Without saying anything to each other, Patti and I went after our own set of tasks that were of the filling the idle mind with mindless things. It was impossible to think of anything else or concentrate on something like a book to read. Rather, it was a great time to rearrange, clean, knock off things on the to do list, etc. The mind has a way of taking over and surrounding and squeezing to the back the big issue of stress so you can function. As I reflect on this, that happens at work as well but that can be a dangerous thing. I think back on the times when there was a big task in front of me like getting together a presentation or having to respond to a complicated email or question and instead of plowing right in, I would deflect and fill time with a bunch of little things that were easily moved out of the inbox and created a sense of accomplishment and momentum going into the big task. Sometimes that was helpful but more often than not it was a more sophisticated form of procrastination. Lots of books and classes have been created on this challenge. What seems most viable is to have a little of both. It's not bad to know that you are putting something off if you have a reason and a vector to get back to it in a way that was better than facing it front on first. If a time managment guru is reading this, I am sure I will hear that this is just not right, but I might respond to that challenge with it may not be right, but it is practical. Today, was different in that there was nothing we could do but sit and wait as the situation was out of our control and in those situations it is definately better to let the mind take care of itself and if yu get a 10 things knocked off the to do list all the better. It's definately better than letting the mind take over and give you the worst of thoughts. As a postscript, Louie came through surgery like a champ. There was nothing conclusive that they found but they will see what is going on at the cellular level from the biopsies they took and we will know something in a couple of days. In the meantime, as we wait until he can come home, we are busy bees going after the next 10 items on the to do list.

Monday, July 7, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 64 - Spirit, Part II

On Thursday the 3rd of July (the last Business Day before the Holiday) I wrote of the spirit of competition and what was upcoming on the Fourth of July here in Quonnie. To give a quick recap on that, I finished 17th of 151 people in the annual four mile road race. I also was fourth in my age group, which since I am in the back half of the 40-49 year old age bracket, I didn't feel too bad about that. As far as the Fourth of July Parade contest for best float themed "Olympics 2008", our entry: "Gold,Silver, Bronze...Quonnie Style" didn't take home any medals. We were in the "unrelated category" (meaning two or more unrelated families together) and we were beat out by a bunch of kids who wore white t-shirts written on with magic marker as the Miracle Hockey Team. I didn't have it in me to remind the judges that hockey is a winter Olympic sport. But, it was fun to compete and fun to create and execute on an idea. We remarked more than once as we were cutting, gluing, painting, etc. that there is a set of skills that get you from idea to execution.

Switching directions now. Today was marred by the fact that at 10AM our puppy Louie had to be taken to the hospital for excessive vomiting (he hadn't be able to keep food down since Thursday and we were in and out of the hospital all weekend). We thought we had it licked come Saturday night after he had spent Friday and Saturday at the hospital undergoing tests and trying to determine what was wrong but on Monday AM he left a day and a half of food in his crate and we were off to East Greenwich (about 40 minutes away) for the second time in three days. It was a tough day of emotions and agonizing over the right course of treatment (surgery is the next step). What I learned about myself today is that the training we get in the workplace to manage crisis and the unexpected is invaluable in these types of situations. At one point in the day, it was like mind muscle memory took over and it wasn't about Louie or any particular situation, it was about how to look at a problem, figure out the numerous courses of action and then decide and act. We followed that process a few times today and with that (and lots of prayer) we were able to calm ourselves enough to make it through the day and make the decisions that needed to be made. I also think that that spirit of competition that I wrote about on Thursday is also relevant here. When dealt a hand of adversity you have a it to win...or fold. If that spirit to win and overcome is inside of you, you play to win each and every time and sometimes it is that spirit that allows you to make the next move. Even in those life and death times when you must play to win. I was so thankful today for the mind muscle memory of the years of crisis management and the instilled spirit of competition. Because, when we needed it, it was there. So, today, whatever you are up to, know that even though it might be hard and challenging and you might wonder why am I doing this, you are being prepared for a time when you will need to exercise those muscles and spirit. Work is good for that!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 63 - Spirit of Competition!

As I mentioned the other day, here in Central Beach on the Fourth of July there are two annual events that bring out the neighborhood. Both also bring out the best competitive spirit in all of us. The first is the 4 mile road race. It's the 32nd year of the annual race. The other is the community parade. This is where a theme is given out at the beginning of the year (this year it is "The Olympics") and the community builds floats with costumes, etc. and then we parade for about a mile from the beach to the ballpark. On the ballfield, while the judges make their determinations, we all sing patriotic songs together after we pledge allegiance to the flag, etc. It's very Americana and it is just a great, wholesome, family-oriented way to celebrate the holiday. And comes with the spirit of competition. And, if there is one thing I know about myself is that I have that spirit within me. I have been training for the road race. I do so every year and although I believe it impossible for me to win my age group (40-49) this year (I won it when I was 41), I still go out there and give it my all to see what I can do. Also this year we will be entered into the parade competition. The FREPPS (that stands for Fig, Rusty, Emma, Phoebe, Patti and Sue) will be competing with our own marching theme. I spent most of today building the props, paiting, and lettering. Tonight, Fig and I finished off the last complicated part and tomorrow we will do some last minute painting and be ready for marching at 5:00pm. Will we win? I doubt it, but it's a lot of fun to compete. You wonder what it is sometimes that drives that spirit of competition in us to be better than others and better ourselves? That spirit is many times what makes a team or a business better than others and without that spirit there is no reason to push ourselves a little harder. As I watched us work together today as a team getting our float ready, I reflected on the times in business where there was single purpose, aligned and shared work, and the unity of spirit to "win". Those were the best of times. And, at the heart of it all was the unified and agreed upon spirit to compete...together. That's a good spirit to have here on the Beach or back at the office.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 62- What Price Independence?

As we approach the Fourth of July I am reminded of the price people have paid throughout history for their independence. I am talking now of independence with a capital "I". You know, the independence of freedom to worship, freedom to speak, freedom from slavery, freedom from tyranny, independence of thought and grouping of people. Many have paid high prices, including their lives for this level of independence and we all stand on the shoulders of those in front of us as we reap the fruit of their labor, courage and convictions. And then there is independence with a little "i" that pales in comparison really, but we seek it out nearly as fervently as those who were seeking after the capital "I". This independence is the freedom we feel financially and professionally to be able to retire, call our own shots, be our own boss, or own our own business. Today, I got some time on the beach here in RI and as I sat with my James Fenimore Cooper book "Pioneers", without my cell phone/PDA (why do I need to take it to the beach...Patti is here with me, so who else will call and need me urgently?), I listened as cell phones rang throughout the afternoon and blackberrys/PDAs were being used to conduct business/emails while on the beach. Juxtaposed with this were two conversations I had this morning with two different friends. One on his way to leaving his job and going to work for a startup because it is time to for him to have a financial breakthrough that could lead to his financial freedom and independence. The other friend wanting to leave his job and start his own thing for a few years before he retires just so he can get out from under having to work for others and become his own boss...loking for freedom and independence. Both seeking the little "i" independence. As I sat on the beach watching people cut into their vacation and family time to keep up with work, I counted myself blessed to be able to leave the phone at the house this year. You pay a price for independence and it comes with lots of the emotions and "stuff" that keeps me writing this 100 Business Days Out series, but at the end of the day, the price of independence should be whatever price you think is worth it, because it is worth it. As for me, I am looking forward to my first, capital "I" Independence Day celebration, with my little "i" independence secure.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

100 Business Days Out: Day 61 - What are Friends For?

Last night I got an email and call from a friend who needed my help and he kind of needed it "now". He was in a bind and needed me to help him on putting together a presentation on stuff I knew a lot about. It was not that he couldn't do it himself but he knew that I could whip it together in a way that would be just what the doctor ordered. But, here I am trying to get away from it all...trying to go into downtime mode...but it's for a friend who is in need. So, what did I do? I did what friends are supposed to do. I balanced it all out. After dinner and all the socializing was done, I snuck away, put on my thinking cap, fired up the laptop and viola, by 1AM I had it done and shot off to him over email. This morning at 6:30AM we reviewed it online and over the phone and as my buddy said, "you nailed it". After I got off the phone, I smiled a tired smile to myself because what we do for friends is that we make ourselves available to utilize our talents and strengths when they need them from us. And in return, they should make themselves available back. And if that all works out the way it is supposed to work out, the world goes around correctly. And yes, we might lose a few hours sleep here and there and we get taken away from our agenda and plans, but at the end of the day, that is what friends are for...aren't they?