Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Dysfunctional Selves

I have always loved the study of psychology and personality types.  In my early 30’s I took my first Myers-Briggs test and I learned about the Enneagram in my 40’s.  A few years ago I took the Strength Finders test.  In addition to the tests I have read many books on all the various personality types.  As a result of all of this I know myself very well.  These tests did a very good job of revealing to me who I am, what I am, how I think, and how I act.  One of the biggest benefits of such self-knowledge is the ability to recognize my own dysfunctional behavior.  More often than not I act in a mature way, appropriate for my age and temperament.  Occasionally, however, I can see my dysfunctional self looming on the horizon.  Knowing myself very well, I can usually head myself off at the pass and prevent or minimize my dysfunctional self from making an appearance.  All personality types have a healthy side to them as well as an unhealthy side.  All behavior is a manifestation of who a person is.  When a person is at their best, they are a manifestation of their redeemed or healthy self.  When a person is at their worst and their behavior is bad or foolish, it is almost always an indicator of deeper issues.  Our general behavior and how we deal with the demands of life is an strong indicator of one’s psychological health.  We are who we are and many forces and influences have shaped us into the people we are.  Most people learn from their experiences, grow from them, and over time develop into mature people and the best version of who they are.  Some people, however, never move forward.  They become trapped in their own dysfunctional behavior.  They may not even realize what they act the way they do.  Such people need to take a closer look at their behavior.  Some people need outside help to get a more objective view of themselves.  All of us have to take responsibility for our own emotional intelligence and behavior.  Occasionally that means facing a part of ourselves that we may not like.    

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Some Thoughts On Acedia

I don’t have a new daily thought today so I am sharing one I wrote exactly one year ago today.
As I pulled into my parking garage this morning the song “I Just Want To Celebrate Another Day Of Living” was blasting on my radio.  As soon as I got out of my car my mindfulness bell on my telephone went off reminding me to be in the moment.  Within a minute I had two reminders to get out of my current funk.  Yesterday one of my former teachers wrote me an email saying, “What’s this obsession with aging?  I’m older than you are and I feel young”.  All of this reminded me of something called “Acedia”.  Acedia is a monastic term that describes a kind of boredom with one’s routines.  It is an easy rut for monks and everyone else to fall into.  My life is very routine.  I wake up at the same time every morning.  I leave home at the same time every day and I arrive at work at the same time every day.  While at work I do the same things every day and more often than not I do them in the same order.  I take my breaks and go on my walks at the same time most days.  When I leave work I have the same routines for going home and for things I do at home.  Most days I am on auto-pilot and I don’t even realize it.  One can quickly and regularly become bored with such regularity and not even realize it until it manifests itself as a funk.  Now I am not expecting any significant changes in my life anytime soon.  Most of my routines revolve around my responsibilities so I can’t discard most of them even though I can be on the lookout for signs of obsessive-compulsiveness.  If I can’t change most of my routines, perhaps I can strive to change my ways of things so that I am in a better mindset to “celebrate another day of living”.  Who wants to be in the moment if you’re bored with the moment?  I will look for ways big and small to celebrate living.  I encourage you to do the same.    

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One Chord Can Be Enough

“One chord is fine.  Two chords are pushing it.  Three chords and you’re into jazz”
-Lou Reed
The author of the above quote died this past weekend.  He was a rock and roll legend most famous for founding a group called the Velvet Underground.  In the peace and love, flower power days of the late sixties the Velvet Underground were an anomaly.  They were the opposite of the prevailing hippie vibe.  Instead of tie dye, they were more likely to wear black and their songs were often about the seedier side of life on the streets.  I love the above quote, not because of its musical references, but because of what it says about simplicity and over complication.  I  dislike anything that is complicated, especially when it doesn’t need to be.  Although I have often been accused of living in my own little private world, I am not out of touch with reality.  I know life and the world can sometimes be complicated.  I have noticed, however, that many people are suspect of anything that is simple and there is often a belief that only the complicated has value.  Perhaps some people equate simple with easy and easy is never appropriate in their minds.  I’ve actually heard people say, “Nothing is that simple”.  Albert Einstein, who many people believe to be one of the smartest human beings that ever lived, once said that if the answers to the mysteries of the universe are not simple, they are probably the wrong answers.  Simple is not always easy.  It is often just more direct.  Complicated can have you going in circles.  Jazz, with its three or more chords, is much more complicated than most rock and roll but I’ve seen rock and roll guitar players whip a crowd into a frenzy with only one or two chords.  Don’t be afraid of the simple.    

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm Moving A Little Slow Today

The comedienne George Carlin once said, “I’m not really sick, I just don’t feel good”.  This kind of describes me this morning.  Since it is Monday I woke up with my usual sense of dread for the coming week and I also felt a little stressed for no particular reason.  As far as I know I have nothing to dread or be stressed about.  Admittedly the work week engine can be a little difficult to start on a Monday morning.  However, once it does start it usually runs pretty well the whole week.  All of this reminds me of how much our feelings can affect our moods.  Although some of our feelings are deep and real, many of them are like the weather.  They change frequently and without notice.  Some days are hot and other days are cold.  Once in a while you have a perfect day.  I try to ignore most of my moods and feelings because our perceptions are not always a true mirror of reality.  Many days that started with a sense of dread have turned out to be very pleasant days.  On a rare occasion there have also been days that I expected to be good but then I got blindsided by something.  I guess one should always expect the unexpected although most days are routine and uneventful.  If you are feeling like me this morning, hang in there.  Go drink a cup of coffee or a Diet Coke.  If we can make it through the next few hours, we’ll be fine.  Before we know it the work day will once again be over and we can return to the comfort of our homes.  However, don’t get too comfortable.  We have to do this again tomorrow.     

Friday, October 25, 2013

Home Is Where I Want To Be

When got to the office this morning one of the first things I heard was a young person making plans for the weekend.  Most young people want to be “out there”.  They like to run with the herd.  I understand this because I did the same thing when I was young.  I now realize that being out there and running with the herd is against my nature.  I am a more solitary person and I have no desire to run with any herd.  As the Talking Heads sing in one of my favorite songs, “Home is where I want to be”.  This morning is the first hard freeze of the season.  It is cold outside.  I am eager to get through my workday so I can return to the warmth and solitude of my home.  I will sit in my chair, listen to some music, sip a cappuccino, and bask in the glow of my fake wood burning stove.  There is a Native American saying that goes “In old age nothing is better than a warm fire”.  I know I am not elderly yet but I am not a thirty year old either.  I understand the attraction of a warm fire.  One of the things I enjoy about getting older is the calm that comes into your life.  I didn’t like the rat race when I was young and I like it even less now that I am older.  A quiet, calm, peaceful life is what I desire.  Young people may think such a life is boring.  Someday they will understand and desire it for themselves.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Joy Of Not Thinking

Some people like that I am an introspective and contemplative person because many of my thoughts turn into something I share in my writing.  People have told me, and I now accept, that I have a gift for self-expression.  I have been told I do a great job of articulating the feelings and experiences that many of us share in life.  I am happy to have such a gift but gifts can also be a burden.  Being a thinking type person is occasionally overrated.  The constant flow of thoughts and ideas in my brain is sometimes exhausting.  It can be a wonderful experience to not think.  Being able to turn off the white water rapids of constant thought and achieve the peaceful serenity of a calm lake or pond is very desirable to me.  Years of meditation, as well as all I have learned from study and reflection, has taught me that we cannot really control our thoughts.  What we can do is learn to let them go and not obsess over them.  Some of my thoughts are worthy of extended reflection and development.  Other thoughts I try to let go and I hope they float away.  Thinking is a form of doing and not thinking is a form of being.  You cannot live a life of non-stop doing nor can most people live a life of non-stop being.  One must achieve a balance of thinking and not thinking.  This balance may not be 50/50 but when you achieve it you will know it.  In a song by the Beatles written by John Lennon, we are urged to “Turn off our minds, relax, and float downstream”.  I don’t actually recommend that you do this on the river because you may get hit by a barge.  However, I do encourage you to find some time in your day when you can turn off your mind, not think, and simply be in the moment.   

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Don't Be Afraid Of Failure

Everyone wants to be successful in life however that success is defined on an individual level.  No one wants to fail.  Failure, however, is also part of life.  Failure, and how we deal with it, forms us as much as our successes.  Our failures may be the jobs we didn’t get, the relationships that didn’t work out, the love that was unrequited, or a myriad of other goals and dreams that were not achieved.  Some failures will seem as nothing more than bumps in the road when we look back with the advantage of age and wisdom.  Other failures may leave a bruise that never heals.  As you look at those around you remember this and keep in mind that we are all wounded in one way or another.  Some more than others.  Life isn’t for sissies.  I would list all my failures and unrealized dreams to make my point but such a list would make this thought too long.  Do not let your failures discourage you.  Today’s failure may be tomorrow’s dream realized.  Never stop dreaming or living with the belief that anything is possible.  I know it is a clique to say this but life is a journey.  Our hopes, dreams, and goals drive us to move forward.  Our failures sometimes knock us off track but they can also lead us down a path we were always meant to walk but may never have found without the failure.  As we used to say back in the sixties “Keep On Truckin”.  Whatever happens to you on your personal journey, follow your bliss and keep moving forward.  Let nothing discourage you.  Somehow in the great mystery of life we all eventually up where we are meant to be.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Being An Aging Rock And Roller

Why am I here?  No, I am not having my weekly episode of existential angst.  I am wondering why I am in the office since I went to a concert last night.  Usually when I go to a concert on a school night I take the next day off, not because I need to, but because I can.  This time I decided to tough it out and come to work.  The good news is that my concert was in the city and state where I live.  In my younger days, as a forty something in a mid-life crisis, I sometimes went to concerts in other cities and states and still came to work the next day.  As a sixty something rock and roller, I would now need to get a hotel room, spend the night, and drive home the next morning.  Last night’s concert was the third show I’ve seen in recent months.  I've seen Yes and the Moody Blues.  The person I saw last night was Steve Winwood.  He is probably unknown to some of you but he is huge in the history of the rock and roll music I love.  I saw him for the first time in 2006 with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and again in 2010 with Eric Clapton.  Steve Winwood is most famous for the band known as “Traffic”.  If you ever listen to classic rock radio you have probably heard Steve Winwood’s music.  He first came to public recognition as the teenaged lead singer of the Spencer Davis Group.  It will probably feel like a long work day so I can only hope it will at least be a quiet one.  I am already planning the nap I will take when I get home at the end of the day.  I am praying that my wife won’t drag me to the grocery store after work.   

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Autumn Of My Life

Over the weekend I enjoyed waking up in the chill of the early morning and enjoying my coffee while sitting in my warm house.  This is my favorite time of the natural year.  Just as each year has its seasons, at least in my corner of the world, so do our lives.  I know I am in the autumn of my life.  I have already lived through spring and summer and I know winter is ahead of me.  However, the cold wind and snows of winter have not yet arrived so I live in the beauty of the autumn of my life.  I have seen young people around me on the verge of depression because they have turned thirty years old.  They act as though their life is over.  Metaphorically speaking they are only in the early summer of their life.  I am twice thirty plus some and I love it.  There is no doubt I am moving slower, I have a few aches and pains, and I am in a stage where I am starting to let go of things that are no longer important or meaningful to me.  The autumn of life is the time to start shedding your leaves.  This letting go is very freeing and it gives one a sense of independence that was impossible during the gathering and building phase of life.  On a physical level I will continue to enjoy the kaleidoscope of colors that autumn brings.  I will drink pumpkin spice latte’s and smell the smoke of wood fires that escape from the chimneys of my neighbors.  I will dig my sweaters out of my closet and enjoy naps on my couch with cool breezes blowing in my window.  Soon I will hand out candy to the children who show up at my door on Halloween.  Before long the aromas of Thanksgiving dinner will waft in the air.  Yes, I will live and enjoy every moment of the autumn of life because winter is not yet here.         

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reconnecting With My Past

Despite the rain and generally gloomy weather today I had a very enjoyable trip to the monastery.  I went there to visit with an old friend from my days with the Franciscans.  Several months ago he informed he would be on retreat this week so we decided meet and spend a day reconnecting and catching up.  I arrived there about 8:30 AM with a photograph album of pictures from the time we first met at Duns Scotus College outside of Detroit, Michigan way back in 1970.  I walked into the retreat house and there was my friend, Brother Brian, wearing his Franciscan habit and patiently waiting for me.  We gave one another a big hug because it has been many years since we have seen one another.  Our conversation soon turned to our mutual friend, Father Dennis, who we had both known for many years.  Brian asked me to show him where Dennis was buried so we walked outside in the drizzle to the small cemetery near the entrance of the monastery.  Much to my surprise and great relief there was a very nice monument over his grave.  I don't think Dennis really wanted a marker but one was purchased by another priest friend who is also the executor of Dennis's estate.  I found all of this out today quite by accident when I saw this priest in the monastery parking lot while Brother Brian and I were talking at the grave site.  He was there to meet a monk from Nigeria who was visiting the monastery.  The purpose of the meeting was to give this monk many of Dennis's priestly vestments and other religious items for use in his Nigerian monastery.  It is a monastery like Gethsemani but located in Africa.  I think Dennis would be pleased to know his things would continue to be used for the purposes for which they were made.

The morning went quickly and shortly after visiting Dennis's grave it was time for lunch.  Brian and I got our food and went to a small dining room where talking is allowed.  The people on retreat and the monks eat their meals in silence.  After lunch we met with another Franciscan who had come to Gethsemani with Brian and who I also knew.  We talked for an hour or so and shared many stories and much laughter.  Compared to the austerity that many people associate with Trappist monks, Franciscans have a reputation of being more joyful.  There is some truth to these perceptions.  Since my early formation was with the Franciscans I think when I was in the monastery I was sometimes perceived as being a little boisterous.

I could have stayed much longer because I was having a very pleasant visit.  However, the rain was picking up and I needed to get on the road to avoid the worst of the evening rush hour traffic.  It was great to see my old friends, to reconnect and update one another with our current lives, and to realize that through the ups and downs of the lives, we are all still "stumbling along the spiritual path".     

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Old Friends

Way back in the late summer of 1970 I bought a $5.00 ticket for a Greyhound bus and I headed to Detroit, Michigan.  My destination was a Franciscan college called Duns Scotus.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into that day.  The whole summer of 1970 I was living the hippie life while having a sense that God was chasing after me.  I was somewhat relieved when I arrived at the seminary and discovered there were other students with long hair and even some of the priests and brothers were hippies.  While I was there I became good friends with one of the brothers who was only a few years older than me.  We have been friends ever since although we have lost one another at times.  The recent death of my friend, Father Dennis, re-connected me with some of my friends from those days.  The young brother who befriended me in 1970 is at the monastery this week on a retreat.  Tomorrow I am driving there to spend a day with him.  Although we have corresponded over the years I think it’s been 25-30 years since we have actually seen one another.  1970 was 43 years ago so we are no longer young men at the beginning of our lives and spiritual journeys.  This friendship is one of many I have where years can go by, little communication can take place, and when you are once again reunited it is as though no time has passed at all.  When I arrive at the monastery tomorrow and we see one another, the years that have passed will seem as no more than a few days or weeks.  We have so much to talk about with one another.  I am sure it will be a day that we will both enjoy and remember for many years to come.  Old friendships should be treasured.  It is a comfort to have people in your life who have known you for a very long time and who accept you as your are.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

Children And Grandchildren

Children and grandchildren are more than our replacements to keep human life going on this planet.  They are here to receive our love and, hopefully, to love us in return.  I think children are also part of God’s plan to make us think of something beyond ourselves.  Most of us are obsessed with ourselves, especially when we are young.  Nothing will change this obsession for most people quicker than a newborn.  I once made a foolish statement as a young man when I told someone that my newborn son would not change my life much.  I assumed he would adjust to my lifestyle.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to eat those words.  Having children radically changed my life.  Not only was I no longer number one in my life, I’m not sure I was number anything after my children were born.  In ways good and bad they became the total focus of my life.  You cannot be a good parent without giving up a large portion of your own life.  Grandchildren are not as demanding as children unless of course you have responsibility for their daily care.  My experience with my granddaughter is that being her Paw Paw is pure joy.  I’ve always thought grandchildren are the reward for being a parent.  I spent the entire weekend with my granddaughter and being a grandfather is totally different experience from being a parent.  Our children and grandchildren should be our number one priority in life.  When we bring them into this world we should consider it our greatest mission to form them into the best human beings that we can.  They are our replacements and our future and we should work to prepare them to do a better job of running the world than most of us who are currently adults have done.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Weekend

I’m glad it’s Friday.  Mikey is moving a little slow today.  This afternoon I went to my family doctor for a checkup and blood work.  I am expecting my numbers to look good because I have really been trying to live a healthier life.  In fact, yesterday I discovered that I have earned some points in my employers Vitality program.  This is a program that encourages and rewards healthy living.  As soon as I discovered this I taught myself how to spend the points.  I was very happy to learn that I could use them for iTunes gift cards.  I used up as many points as I could and made quite a haul.  When I got home last night I was like an unsupervised child in a candy store.  I almost blew up my computer.  I may be living healthier but my music addiction is as strong as ever.  Today I will be rocking and rolling.  That should help lower my blood sugar.
Tomorrow my wife and I will be taking our granddaughter to Huber’s Orchard for our annual frolic through the pumpkin fields.  It will be a little warmer than I like for this time of year but it is expected to be a beautiful day.  It is very enjoyable, especially with Chloe, to walk in a field that has thousands of pumpkins lying around it.  I also enjoy the bumpy ride on the farm wagon out to the fields.  This is my favorite time of the year. 
For now I will sit here in my solitude while listening to the Jerry Garcia Band and drinking a Mocha Latte.  The windows are open and it is a beautiful day.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

People Skills

I have a lot of conversations with co-workers and others about leadership and people skills.  Recently I  read an article that said the most successful people are those with the best people skills.  The article said that people skills ultimately trump every other skill in the long run.  Certainly other skills are needed to be successful but I agree with this article.  I have survived in my work environment for nearly 28 years because of my people skills.  People skills are difficult to develop if you don’t naturally have them.  I have always been a people person despite the fact that people tend to wear me out.  I am an “NF” temperament on the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator.  In the world of work and people “NF” types are described as the oil that keeps all the machinery running smoothly.  I like that analogy.  While having good people skills I also realize that my introverted nature is why I also find people so exhausting.  Sometimes there is irony in our individual personality traits.  Beyond the psychological aspects, what are people skills and what does it mean to be a people person?  I think the foundation of people skills is caring about people.  I’m no Mother Teresa but I do care about people.  I also have certain values in my life, regardless of where I am, that I try to practice.  My values are love, kindness, compassion, tolerance, patience, fairness, and acceptance.  I strive to apply these to every human being that I encounter in my life.  It may be a tired waitress in a restaurant, an overwhelmed clerk at the grocery store, a stranger on the street, or a co-worker in my office.  I like to believe that the person I am at work is the person I am everywhere else in my life.  It’s important that the values I listed above be authentic.  You can’t fake caring or people skills.     

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A Comfortable Life

My wife and I still have the loaner car from yesterday.  After getting into the car this morning my wife said, “Darn, this car doesn’t have heated seats”!  My first thought was “We are so spoiled”!  I thought about this all the way to work.  Am I spoiled because I have a good life?  Should I feel guilty that I have a good life?  My wife and I have been married almost 40 years and during that time we have consistently worked and had good jobs.  We have successfully raised two boys into good men.  We struggled in our younger days and made a lot of mistakes.  Fortunately we learned from our mistakes and kept trying.  We are now both in our sixties and life is not as much of a struggle as it used to be, at least on a financial and material level.  Now we struggle more on a physical level.  Some days it is tough to get out of bed and walk down the stairs.  Occasionally we don’t remember what we did, what we were supposed to do, where we are, or why we walked into another room..  There are many things in life that we are totally over.  Any of you who are older know what I am talking about.  Are we spoiled?  Yes, to some degree we are spoiled.  However, I don’t apologize because we have earned our comfort by getting out of bed five days a week, going to work, and doing it for many, many years.  We live within our means and no longer make really stupid decisions.  We both get everything we want within reason.  This is made easier because neither of us wants much more than we already have.  I’m basically a simple man.  Give me music, books, and good coffee and I am happy.  My wife is a little more complex.  However, more closet space usually meets her needs.  The moral of this story is that if you want to be spoiled in your old age and live a good life, get up and go to work every day.  I say this with all due respect to the unemployed and those whose struggles are not of their own making.  In all fairness, sometimes it is not enough just to work hard.  My wife and I have also been very lucky and blessed with abundance.    

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Unexpected

One thing you can always expect in life is the unexpected.  Yesterday I was driving home, happy the work day was over, when my engine light came on.  This is disturbing enough but my car also has warning bells which simulate the experience of a fire alarm going off in your car.  The warning light showed a car battery with a flashing lightning bolt on it.  I made it home but I admit these types of things stress me out.  I don’t want to be the guy who is stalled on the road making 50,000 other people mad because I am blocking their lane.  God is good so the car started this morning and I made it to the dealership before the warning light came on again.  I am fortunate because my oldest son works for the dealership and he always takes care of Mom and Dad.  I have two sons.  One is a priest and can he bless the car.  The other son can get the car fixed for the cheapest possible price.  He even gave me a loaner car so I didn’t have to wait on the repair.  Although the loaner car is very nice it stresses me out when I have to drive a strange car.  I don’t know how to adjust anything.  For example, I couldn’t figure out how to adjust the seat so I drove to work with my chin resting on my knee caps.  Meanwhile my wife, who is the Chief Financial Officer of the Brown Corporation, will be stressed all day worrying about how much it is going to cost to fix the car.  My biggest concern was remembering what the loaner car looked like so I could find it in the parking garage this afternoon.    

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Work Place

An increased sense of personal well-being at work, in real and practical ways, contributes to a positive and enjoyable work environment.  A pleasant environment filled with happy associates, coupled with feelings of team accomplishment and personal fulfillment, can contribute as much as anything to increased productivity, greater efficiency, and decreased absenteeism.  All of these things working together will affect the bottom line by contributing in positive ways to overall cost savings.  It is not enough to only look at process improvements and best practices.  The impact of environment cannot be underestimated.  I believe creating such an environment begins with the leaders.  How do you do it?  It begins with honesty, truth, caring, and transparency.  This is stuff you can’t fake.  If you try to do so your associates will see right through it.  We’ve got to do it and be real about it.  In order to be real we must be authentic.  Lance Secretan in his book One…The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership actually suggests that leaders should love their people.  It probably would be helpful if they also loved one another.  In addition, it’s not enough for the leaders to care about their people.  The “people” need to care about their leaders.  We can’t treat one another like we are enemies.  The people who do the work and the people who manage the work are in a partnership.  It should not be an adversarial relationship.  This is where I would add trust to the mix.  I know that some of you probably think any talk about love and feelings is inappropriate in the workplace.  Some think we are here to get a job done, not love one another.  I’m not suggesting a phony and shallow pretending to care about one another.  I am suggesting the real deal.  Work is part of life and the caring that many people show for family, friends, and causes dear to their hearts should be expanded to include the work place.  What would the workplace be like if most people actually liked, or even loved, coming to work?  What would the workplace look like if we tried to outdo one another in kindness?  What would the workplace look like if there was more cooperation and less competition?  What would the workplace look like if there was less finger pointing or looking for someone to blame for mistakes?  What would it be like to ride the elevators and hear more laughter and less complaining?  What I am suggesting, and what Lance Secretan writes about, is a oneness and unity that will heal the separateness that too often exists. 
“You may say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”.
-John Lennon in the song Imagine.   

Friday, October 04, 2013

A Sense Of Urgency

Someone once said to me, “Michael, I don’t think you have a sense of urgency about anything”.  I was a little offended when this was said to me but I responded in a calm manner.  I replied that I did have a sense of urgency for situations that required it.  Many people equate a sense of urgency with the image of a person running around like their hair is on fire.  I am generally a calm person and I usually respond to life in a calm manner.  What some people consider a sense of urgency is often a knee jerk reaction.  When something happens that needs my attention I try to respond rather than react.  Since I am a flawed human being I have freaked out on a rare occasion.  When I do this it is almost never the appropriate way to respond.  Overreacting is rarely appropriate.  If I am guilty of anything it is probably underreacting.  In my mind responding rather than reacting is a more thoughtful and considered approach.  Of course, this only applies to the kind of daily, routine challenges we all face.  If the building is on fire, there’s an accident, or someone is having a medical emergency, our instincts tend to kick in and we respond in a more immediate way often without consciously thinking about our actions.  I guess the challenge is to separate life’s true emergencies from situations that are merely inconveniences.  What is a real emergency and what is a perceived emergency is a perception in the eye of the beholder. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

A Few Thoughts On Love

Once I told my granddaughter that I loved her.  She looked at me and said, "I know, Paw Paw, you say that all the time"!  Love is a little more complicated thing when you are an adult.  While many people show unconditional love on a daily basis, especially if they are parents, others struggle with how to show love and how to make those they love feel loved.  Many of us receive more love than we realize while often feeling unloved.  In a book I once read called The Noticer, the author stated that many people feel unloved, not because they are, but because they are not receiving the love they need.  For example, some men show love for their wives by fixing things or making improvements to their home.  However, if what the wife really needs is more time and conversation with her husband in order to feel loved all the home improvements in the world may not make her happy.  Many men need more attention than they are willing to admit and often want more emotional closeness than most women would believe.  People show love in different ways and people need love in different ways.  You may think you are the most loving person in the world but if the way you show love does not meet the needs of the ones you love, then someone is probably not very happy.  Too  often the way we show love and the way love is needed are not on the same page and people can be frustrated and unhappy.  There is no one way to love that works for everyone and it cannot be assumed that the one you love feels loved.  Some people love easily and for others it is a struggle.  If you grew up feeling unloved it may be difficult for you to love others.  If you grew up in an unemotional family that rarely showed affection, you probably struggle to express your own emotions or to show affection for others.  If you grew up in a family that always expressed love and affection, you probably do the same with your created family and others in your life.  Let’s be honest.  We all want and need to be loved.  More importantly, we want to feel loved.  I am confident most people also want to love and they have a desire for the important people in their lives to feel loved.  I guess we all need to sometimes ask ourselves, “Do the people I love feel loved”?  I’m sure we’ve all heard the old saying “I’m just not feeling it”.  If you love someone make sure they are feeling it.     

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Remembering My Friend

This past Monday I realized that my dear friend, Father Dennis, has already been gone for three months.  I think about him every day and I miss him terribly.  If I think about him too much, or sometimes when I speak of him, I still get emotional.  I always valued our friendship and the loss of it adds even more value to it.  His death reminds me that much of life is about loss and letting go.  Life is always changing.  It is never static.  As we get older we are sometimes forced to accept loss and we sooner or later must learn to let go and move on.  Over the years I have lost friends and family.  My wife and I have buried three parents.  In a sense I have lost my children too because they have grown up into adults and now have their own lives.  My granddaughter is growing up faster than I like.  My working life is closer to the end than to the beginning.  I, too, am closer to my end than to my beginning.  This is a sobering thought.  I’ve had to let go of my youth and I sometimes mourn the loss of my youthful energy and enthusiasm.  When a favorite musician of mine was told he had terminal cancer someone asked him what he was going to do.  He replied, “Enjoy every sandwich”.  Even with the challenging realities of life there is still room for joy.  I do enjoy every sandwich and, to paraphrase the words of Dr. Seuss, “I don't cry because something is over, I smile because it happened”.  I am still sad over the loss of my friend Dennis but my memories of him and our friendship still make me smile.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Engaged From The Heart

Here’s a thought I recently saw on Twitter.
People are sick and tired of managers and business analysts taking about efficiency, waste, and compliance.  They want to be engaged from the heart.
-Jeremy Scrivens
It is virtually impossible to work for a large corporation and not hear about efficiency, waste, and compliance.  Inefficiency, waste, and being out of compliance can translate into millions of dollars of lost profit.  This is not pocket change.  How can we care about these necessities of modern business and still be “engaged from the heart”.  Many people, especially in the workplace, are driven by their intellect.  Others, less conspicuous, are driven by their hearts.  Generally the intellect driven people are focused on the bottom line, profits, compliance, technology, and staying competitive.  The heart driven people are usually more concerned about the needs of the customers and employees.  How can we balance these two needs?  A company that doesn’t care will eventually go out of business.  A company that cares too much, to the point of being impudent about basic business decisions, will also go out of business.  We need a balance of the intellect and the heart.  There is no doubt in my mind that my company has some of the smartest people in the world.  We also have some of the most caring people in the world.  Having said this, I think we place too much emphasis on numbers based performance over caring which is more challenging to measure.  Somehow we need to gauge how much our associates, and especially our leaders, are “engaged from the heart”.  We need to take care of business or we will have no business.  However, we also need to develop some authentic practices that promote the engagement of the heart within our business practices.  We need to place as much value on caring as we do on productivity.  Everyone has been evaluated at one time or another over numbers.  Have any of us ever been evaluated on how much we care and how much we are engaged from the heart?