Business Relationships, Change, Decisions

Smoking Don Draper’s Pipe

Four plus years ago I woke up in a hotel in San Francisco. I had just had a nightmare that I had quit my stable job and took a job with a small company that was making its way down a risk filled and very niche market. Really. I thought it was a nightmare. When I realized that it was real I felt even worse and, as cliche as it sounds, the thought crossed my mind to pinch myself to see if I was really awake or sleeping.

Those moments resurfaced in my mind today. I was watching Mad Men on Netflix and trying to wrap myself around the reckless life of Don Draper. He seems to lead with past, addiction, and desire. Yet, he is confident in his behavior despite consequence. What has two thumbs and can’t smoke that psychedelic pipe? This guy. I’m nothing like him. I don’t despise his character. In fact, in many ways I sympathize with his inability to shake his past, but there seems to be moments before and shortly after I make a decision where I freeze and think, is this really happening? Did I just say that or am I really going to start all over again?

Truth be told, I woke up this time from my Mad Men TV trance with those same questions. Did I make the right choice? It’s undoubtedly bipolar decision making, but what I am realizing is that when I wake from my sleep, day dream, trance, or a rare and surreal experience and I’m freaked out, I am no longer dreaming and I’ve made a dream (good or bad) a stark reality. Dreams, those far fetched notions or desires sitting at the tip of reality, are just moments or a solid decisions away from existence. Dreams are safe because they reside in our minds. Dreams set to the march of a goal or serious change are serious and have eventually stepped from night to day and are transfigured into life altering dimensions. That’s powerful. That’s change.


Poem for the Day

I sat and weary wondered in this day of passing thoughts
Where have the moments faltered that I should forget this magic box
Not closed; open; like a tool chest and words a smith could place
Where have those passions gone that I would leave this chase

Full! Full is my schedule and well-crafted is my time
Pay the man, feed his children, is the thought that comes to mind
And when all is lost it’s likely that I’ll remember a simple face
Of a better time when I used to rhyme when simple came with grace

Change, Forgiveness, Kids, Love, Parenting, Relationships, Speak Life, The Future

Do I have what it takes?

A few years ago I read a book by John Eldredge entitled “Wild at Heart“. It deeply moved me in a way that I still can’t completely relay today. In fact, it was very instrumental in my life as a source of healing that has perpetuated into how I view parenting on a daily basis. Most of the book posits the question that men face most in their life: Do I have what it takes?

This deep-seeded question, in it’s initial interposition of self-reflection, takes me back to my childhood and some really painful experiences. Many of those experiences were interactions with my parents and turned out to be pivotal memories that I had played and replayed whenever I would make a decision. The truth was that I hadn’t dealt with the wounds of my past. It wasn’t always what my father or mother said or did, but it was how I interpreted them. My perception of those memories was just as important as the reality of them.

Knowing this and having my own children, I now reposition myself in my father’s place. I swore I would never make the same mistakes my parents did. It’s something that I have heard countless people say. Executing that mantra is more difficult because I share their DNA. Jumping into the scientific at this point isn’t useful, but I can say this: Unless I make a conscious and purposeful effort to change I cannot. Unless I realize the impact of my words and actions on my children each day I cannot loose myself from the wounds of past or the curse to repeat them.

I’m not going to be a perfect parent. God was the perfect parent that gave a perfect world and yet Adam and Eve strayed from innocence. So I try not to be too hard on myself. However, the burden of parenting demands a best effort. I’ve decided I have what it takes. I’ve dealt with the wounds of my past and I’ve forgiven myself and family for the intentional or unintentional hurt caused.

One last piece of advice for parents is to ask your children at pivotal times or after stressful moments in your relationship if you have wounded them. It’s really tough to ask and, if you dig deep and look full in the moment, you would find it is monumentally more difficult to listen and hear what they have to say. It can really hurt, but if it’s left unchecked they can take it with them wherever they go and whatever they do. Ask the question and take the answer to heart. Let them know they have what it takes to ride the waves of life and speak life in their sponge-like souls when it’s most difficult.

. . . Speak Life

Business Relationships, Change, Consulting, Information Technology, Leaving My Job

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In my technology career I’ve had the opportunity to work for and with lots of companies. Part of that comes from my full time work, consulting done while going to school, and work on the side. When I’m starting out working with a company I do a lot of listening and ask a lot of questions. After all, isn’t that what a good consultant or analyst does; ask questions?

Inevitably, a listener gains a certain amount of trust. I’m not sure if this is because being mostly quiet allows them to speak with certainty when certain or if this is because, in general, people like to be listened to. It’s probably both. That being said, what follows this earned trust is the burden of being the sounding board. Every company I’ve worked for has included an elite group of unhappy and restless individuals whose productivity is lacking due to feeling unappreciated. Inherently, like any good listener, I end up listening to them and nodding in agreement. The story they tell me usually resembles one of these short vignettes:

1) My boss won’t listen to my advice. I leave each conversation feeling confident he will execute; knowing full well that what he promised isn’t going to happen.

2) My manager disagrees with me on this fundamental issue. I’ve spoken to several people that agree that she isn’t running this department correctly. This seems like a very reasonable request, but I got the feeling she won’t ever change her mind.

3) I’m bored and I don’t feel like they challenge me enough. I’ve volunteered my time, insight, and spent hours and sometimes even days researching solutions that could turn this company around, but nothing ever comes of it. I’m really having a hard time staying motivated.

Of course I’m generalizing here, but you get the gist. After talking, everyone wants a response from the listener. Who wouldn’t? My answer is always the same to all of these situations and it goes something like this:

The truth is your situation may never change because the company you work for may not value what you have to offer or maybe it’s just that you don’t fit. If you’ve been trying all this time to make change from the bottom and pushing up, it’s probably not going to happen. You have two choices:

1) buck up, quit complaining, keep your head down, work hard, and hope that change is ahead or that you are given the opportunity to be that change


2) leave. Chances are that the behavior is coming from the top down, so the issue is fundamental. If you can’t be on the bus, then you should get off and get on another one.

For the talker, I really believe the “leave” option is the best because I’ve had to do it several times. When the operations of business feel more like a cult rather than a business trying to run efficiently, and you can’t drink the magic Kool-Aid, then it’s time to leave the cult. It’s that simple. At this point in the advice cycle, it’s either a point of offense or realization that begins to internalize and then take on wings.

Don’t get me wrong (and some will), the problem may not be the manager or the leadership, it could just as likely be the complainer. Either way, if they leave they’ve done themselves and their firm a favor. There’s nothing as contagious as a bad attitude or disdain for someone who just doesn’t belong. From there on out, it’s up to them. They already know my opinion.

Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox in a scene from Back to the Future (Universal Studios).
Change, Economics, Parenting, Philosophy, Relationships, The Future

The Hand At The End of Change

As I listen to the fun-loving and free sounds of Louis Prima I can’t help but want to be in the room where he is entertaining. It makes me smile every time and it just seems like he is having fun. Truthfully, I’m jealous and it makes me wonder if I had lived in a different place and time if I would choose to live my life differently. That’s a tall order for any existentialist, but it gives me pause. I’ve tried to displace this thought with the familiar grass is greener on the other side counterargument, but logic tells me that the future would allow for a change that past cannot. Dale Carnegie said that:

“You and I are standing this very second at the meeting place of two eternities: the vast past that has endured forever, and the future that is plunging on to the last syllable of recorded time. We can’t possibly live in either of those eternities – no, not even for a split second. But, by trying to do so, we can wreck both our bodies and our minds. So let’s be content to live the only time we can possible live: from now until bedtime.”

So the immediate future is up for grabs as far as we can control it. Barring any outside force (an economist would propose holding all other variables constant), how do I change? In the movie Frozen, one of the supposed female trolls sings a line “Cuz’ people don’t really change”. Is that true as well? Is that why I find it so difficult to course correct; because it’s our actions that change and not who we are? I don’t think so. I’ve heard the question asked, are people inherently good or bad? I think they are two distinct individuals separated by the beholder. In short, they are the person they perceive and they are the person others perceive them to be. The person they perceive is based on their judgments; how they were raised, outside influence, and the choices made by or for them. Those outside have only their perceptions of the words and actions they witness themselves or through their circle of influence. Based on this, each different outsider has the opportunity to view them in hundreds of different ways. However, it comes back to the inside and outside beholder. If we get any more complicated, this will die the death of a thousand qualifications.

Although I’ve read no poll on this, my gut tells me that most of us would like to change something very hardwired in us. In truth, I feel 99% of us may want to do this, but only 10% of us might actually try and 5% of us might succeed. Again, it’s not scientific, but experience, history, the very past we fight tells us that we repeat. There’s a cost to everything. My cost may be taking a less lucrative job or losing sleep to spend more time with my wife and children. It might be dropping this blog so I can lose 25 pounds exercising in the time it takes me to write my posts.

Whatever it is, if I’m to be in the 5%, I have to live each day with a goal and purpose in mind. I would challenge anyone reading this to look and imagine the end of their life. What would you want said of you in both your accomplishments and character? Begin the day, the planning, the purposeful living with that end in mind and your decisions just might become clearer and by extending one purposeful hand to change you may be able to reach the end with the other.

Forgiveness, Love, Parenting, Relationships

Can I Love a Woman and Pizza?

When I’m excited about something, I’m all in. When sitting, my feet and toes develop a bouncing pattern that sends my knees oscillating into a fury of calorie burning, micro-leg expressions (not sure that’s a real thing) or you could just say they move up and down. When not sitting, I weave a consummate pattern of pacing that usually resembles a miniature Nascar racetrack. All of this motion, of course, is to warm a subconscious state of focus so unhindered that nothing short of a hard kick to the groin or shouting the word “money” could snap me out of it. I’ve heard others boast of their affluent child’s ability to tug on their pants incessantly for hours and beg for different sugared cereal, which should drain anyone of their will to live, but they are wrong. I have several children who irritate easily at certain pieces of cereal and a wife who will snore on command and they have, if anything, built up my tolerance to this often used home remedy for distraction.

At some point though, that excitement, that bouncing, the unwavering, only-distract-me-by-kicking-my-groin-or-shouting-money fixation and any other high dies down to the routine or we quit altogether. The honeymoon is over. Love it or leave it. In recent months I began to mull over the definition of love. Yes, you can love a woman and you can love a pizza. In fact, I think that it’s a killer combo and one of the least advertised paradoxes of life. However, I would be remiss not to say that my wife kisses better.

Millions of movies and books claiming to hold the long sought after secrets of love and the ever illusive “true love” would probably never agree with my definition. And my definition may not agree with anyone else. The fact is the word love is extremely confusing in America. I can’t speak for other countries, because I don’t share their cultures or norms.

Out of frustration I decided to up my prowess and find a way to describe love as it should be. Not understand how it’s used now, because frankly, I don’t think anyone has a clue. I wanted to find a new or old way to delineate pizza, woman, sex, and plutonic forms of love. So I did what any logical, degree holding intellectual would do and I did a search on wikipedia.

What I found was very interesting. The Greeks had at least four different words for what most American’s call love. You might think that this is even more confusing, but after some thought, I would argue that it brings more clarity.

First up is philia. Philia is “brotherly” in it’s application. The prefix of the word Philadelphia gives it the original city of brotherly love. It’s plutonic and refers to the friendship between friends, sisters, and brothers.

Second is eros and it’s that sexual and passionate look at relationships. The word erotic is closely tied to eros and can simply be related our physical attraction to someone.

Next up is storge. Storge is what I would have towards my children. I feel affectionate and protective over them. There have been various offshoots of it’s defintion, but it’s original intent was the love shown towards families or familial love.

Last and most unpopular today is agape love. Agape love is something fantasized about on TV, but seldom lived out. It’s truly unconditional. That means that nothing come between the relationships that hold it sacred. It carries a sense of duty and commitment that doesn’t waver on feeling, sexuality, family breakups or unsteady friendships. It’s not emotional. I would have to say in my own definition of love that I have fallen in and exited out of love with my wife several times. However, it was this agape love that held us together. We went through some tough stuff, but our sense of duty and commitment didn’t change. It’s truly special.

So where’s my pizza? It turns out that loving pizza doesn’t fit the four love types described here. I guess I don’t love pizza. I really like pizza and I’m excited about it. That’s it. Whatever your definition for the word love, you might just take a lesson from the Greeks and check your love against the four.

News, World History

What We Can Learn From History and Ukraine

When I was a boy my grandmother told me that learning history was useless. She inferred through a night of educational television that it was merely a cycle of human error; the greatest of which was going to college to teach history. After all, those senseless people just teach history too and repeat that useless cycle. Divining at this point in her life included a solid inhale and exhale of oxygen from her tank and an immediate puff on the cigarette. History might have taught her something about oxygen and lighters.

On the way home from work today I was listening to NPR news and was able to catch the aftermath of the recent Russian invasion into Ukraine. This, and the scores of other war rumors chanting around the globe, has had a profound effect on my view of history. It seems trite to say that history repeats itself, but it’s just that simple. My grandmother, incendiary extraordinaire, didn’t see the future as I do today. Frankly, it’s alarming when you view this crisis through eyes of those who lived in Ukraine during the Stalin induced genocidal famine of 1932-1933. I warn you that researching this little recognized but profound atrocity is not for the faint of heart or children and viewing images can be sickening.

It’s estimated that during that 2 year period an average of 25,000 people died per day in Ukraine. In the end, an estimated 8 to 10 million died. Videos I’ve watched of survivors giving their heart-felt and tear-ridden account of those days weakened and humbled me greatly. The entire country was drained of any food and starved to death. People desperate for a single grain of wheat would go and carry bodies out on carts to be buried. When no dead bodies were found, those close to death were grabbed and carted away. One women I listened to said that large sections of the burial grounds were moving with those still alive and buried. Cannibalism also ensued.

If I were Ukraine I too would be very weary of a Russian occupation. Edmund Burke said that “[a]ll that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. I tend to agree with him in most cases; especially today.

If my grandmother were still alive I would tell her that a healthy dose of history can save us from repeating our mistakes, and in this case, it could save an entire nation. Also, knowing what I know now about oxygen and fire, I would stand further away while she divining.