It is another Monday and once again we are back in the dark. Thank you Daylight Savings Time. The time change begs for an answer to the question “Does anybody really know what time it is”? My weekend was full. In the early morning hours of Saturday, while it was still dark, my granddaughter was dropped off at my home by her Dad on his way to work. Usually she wakes me up and wants me to immediately get out of bed and go downstairs. This Saturday was different. After saying good morning she jumped in my bed and was quickly asleep. Someone apparently stayed up too late the night before. Eventually my wife and I got up and went downstairs where I began making breakfast. Bacon is mandatory when Chloe visits. Usually the aroma awakens her and she makes her way down the stairs into the kitchen. I cooked all the bacon and still no Chloe. I finally had to go upstairs and wake her. Later on Saturday afternoon we went to the movies and saw “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” in 3D. Every year when I watch the Oscars the only category where I have seen all the movies is the animated children’s films. Yes, I have seen “Frozen” and "The Lego Movie. I love being a grandparent. Whenever Chloe is around I remember my own childhood and the times I spent the night at my Grandmother’s house. Whatever kind of person she really was, I thought she was awesome. Staying at her house was always an adventure. Since I was part of a large family, it was the only time I got all the attention. Someday Chloe will think back to all the visits she’s made to my house and she’ll say, “Whenever I went to Meemo and Paw Paw’s house it always smelled like bacon”.
Friday, March 07, 2014
All Things Must Pass.
-A song and album by George Harrison
Back in 1970, George Harrison, one of the Beatles, released a major album called “All Things Must Pass” after years of being overshadowed by his Beatle band mates, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It is a very spiritual album influenced by Hinduism, George’s religion of choice. The most famous song on the album was “My Sweet Lord”. It has been my experience in life that all things truly do pass. In the time I have been on this planet many people, places, and things have passed through and from my life. The idea that all things pass is bittersweet. Although many bad things pass, good things are also transitory. Life is always in flux even though it’s movement is not always discernible in the moments of our lives. We often feel like nothing ever changes and then we wake up and ten years has passed. It is a comfort to know that the storms of our lives won’t last forever but the impermanence of life should also remind us to enjoy life when it is sweet. Life is like the weather. Some days are stormy and overcast. Other days are sunny with blue skies and cool breezes. Sometimes the weather slows us down and other days it energizes us. We must also remember that we, too, will pass. As we go through our lives we need to ask ourselves what impact are we having on the world around us. Are we doing good and positive things with our lives that makes us a sunny day for others or are we a storm that others hope will quickly pass?
Thursday, March 06, 2014
If you’re the smartest person in your group, your group is too small. Find people who will challenge you to stretch to the next level and become everything you can be.
In my working career I have attended many meetings. Sometimes in these meetings I thought I was either the smartest person in the room or the dumbest. There have been other groups and situations that I was involved in where I eventually felt the need to leave. In some cases I felt like I no longer fit in or the group no longer met my needs. There have also been situations where I just felt that I had no more to give. Most of us like our comfort zones and to be honest I hate when people tell me I need to get out of my comfort zone. Yeah, I know that if you are not being challenged you are probably not growing but I prefer to live and grow on my own schedule and not based on other people’s expectations, desires, and timetables. Life is always pushing you into new territory whether you like it or not. There is a saying that goes “when the fruit is ripe it will fall to the ground”. Another saying that I like is “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I think I am self-aware enough to know when the fruit of my own life is ripe or when I am ready for a new teacher. One must always look for signs…and warnings…that it is time to move on. Good self- awareness also alerts us to our own stagnations and this also prompts us to move on. Life tends to unfold at its own pace and in ways that are appropriate for us as individuals. I see my whole life as a journey. There have been milestones and accomplishments and times where I just stayed put for a while. Marriage and family life have given me an outer stability in my life but internally I have always been on the move and in search of my ultimate destiny. I believe my greatest successes are still in front of me.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Some of my friends and co-workers are dealing with difficult situations in their lives. I recently shared with someone that I see leadership as ministry. I joke that the people who report to me are my flock and I am their pastor. I listen to their problems and I help them when I can. If they make a mistake I forgive them. When necessary I strive to point them in a more positive direction. Perhaps most importantly, I truly care about each of them. Some people are more work than others but I try to give each person what they need. I have never seen leadership as me being a policeman or a prison guard. However, this reflection is not really about leadership. It is about looking around at your co-workers and realizing that every single one of them is dealing with something in their lives. Empathy happens to be my number one strength. I generally understand how most people feel and I care about their feelings. I am glad that I am empathetic person although it is sometimes exhausting. Whether you are an empathetic person or not, I encourage you to be tolerant, patient, kind, and compassionate to those around you. You see that guy that is always joking around? His laughter may be hiding a great deal of sadness. That girl that seems unfriendly may have some physical pain that she is masking. The person who doesn’t join in team lunches may simply not have the money. That moody person in the next aisle may have recently had their heart broken. We all have something in our lives that causes us pain. We all have a part of ourselves that we try to hide from others because we don’t want to show our fears, weaknesses, or insecurities. No one has a perfect life. Think about these things the next time you feel judgmental towards others. For many people today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It is a time of prayer, reflection, and penance. Regardless of your personal religious beliefs, let today be the day you renew your caring and compassion for your fellow men and women. It would be better to do this than to give up Diet Coke or chocolate for the next 40 days. I have never regretted being kind or compassionate and I don’t think you will either. Try it because sooner or later you will need to be on the receiving end of someone else’s caring and compassion.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
When life gives you a gift, take it. Yesterday my alarm clock went off at 6:00 AM as it does every workday. Knowing there was a winter storm warning that covered the overnight hours I immediately went downstairs to check my telephone for messages and texts. My employer had a three hour weather delay so I didn’t need to be at work until 11:00 AM. I danced up the stairs and jumped back in bed. My wife and I went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 9:00 AM. Being able to go back to bed, while it is still dark, on a day you don’t expect it, is one of life’s small gifts. Yes, I would have been even happier if work had been called off entirely, or I could have called in and taken a vacation day, but you don’t quibble too much when any type of unexpected gift comes your way. I am way past the age when I learned that it’s the small things in life that give me the most happiness. In our culture extra sleep is worth its weight in gold. Life often gives us gifts but we don’t always notice them. In my life I have learned to appreciate any good thing that comes my way. It could be extra sleep or a green light when I am in a hurry or running late. If you want to be happier in your life, learn to be grateful. There are certainly enough daily trials that test most of us. On a recent episode of “Downton Abbey” Lady Grantham, also known as Granny, said “Life is little more than a series of problems to be solved”. Yes, that is a little pessimistic but not totally untrue. Life is challenging so when it gives you a gift, receive it with gratitude and go back to bed.
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Your strengths are your weaknesses.
-From a teaching on the Enneagram (https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/)
We have all taken tests that show our personalities, our preferences, our comfort zones, our strengths, and our weaknesses. It would seem logical that we would exploit our strengths and the best parts of who we are. In general this is true. However, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I am a nice person but sometimes I am too nice. There are times when I need to be less accommodating and to assert my own will by not always giving in to what other people want. I am an analytical person but sometimes I over analyze things. I am a perfectionist but sometimes this is taken to extreme and is little more than anal retention. I am usually calm, laid back, and centered but sometimes I need to be more assertive and pro-active with a greater sense of urgency. We need to look at our strengths to see how we may overuse them. One thing that helps me is a daily thought I receive for my particular personality. Some days this thought tells me I need to remember my strengths and to use them. Other days the daily thought warns me about some of my dysfunctional tendencies and encourages me to do the opposite of what I usually do. I believe all of us need to be more self-aware and to understand our behavior. I know myself well enough to usually see when I am at my best, when I am at my worst, and when I am feeling stressed. We all have patterns of behavior for better or worse that are closely tied to our personalities. Most people believe their personalities are who they are. This is not true. Your personality is actually a defense mechanism that you created early in your life as a way to protect yourself from the world around you and to help you get what you thought you needed in life which is primarily love. I am nice, accommodating, and calm most of the time because sometime in my childhood I received the message that I needed to be this way in order to be loved. Each of you received your own message and much of who you are today and how you act is the result of those messages.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
The beatings will continue until morale improves.
-from my employers social media site
When I first read this quote it made me chuckle to myself. Then I realized that some people believe or have experienced this as an actual approach to bad morale. What is bad morale? Many times over the years I have had people come to me and say “Morale is really down”. I tend to take such statements with a grain of salt. Morale is in the eye of the beholder. In every department that I have ever been in there have been people who think everything is wonderful and others who think everything is terrible. Usually this is the result of different expectations that people have of the workplace. In general, I have come to the conclusion that many people expect way too much from the workplace. If work was always fun, it would be called play. Good or bad morale boils down to attitude, cooperation, how well people work together, and how they are treated. I strive to start off every day with a positive attitude. Admittedly there are days where my positive attitude takes quite a beating. Assuming I can maintain a positive attitude most of the time I strive to be cooperative with my leaders, my peers, and my team. I don’t always agree with them, I compromise when necessary, and I try not to have unrealistic expectations of them. We are all people trying to do the best we can and some days are better than other days. How well we work together has a lot to do with how much we respect one another. It’s a balancing act. Leaders must have integrity and respect for those who follow them. Those who follow should strive to trust their leaders and cooperate with their direction. Whether one is a leader or a follower, there must be trust, openness, and transparency. When these things exist, morale is good. When attitudes on both sides are negative, when cooperation is replaced by competition or resistance, when leaders don’t lead and followers don’t follow, morale is bad. As cliqued as it sounds, we are all in this together. It is only by working together in positive and life giving ways that we can accomplish our goals, be reasonably happy, and go home at the end of the day with a sense of pride for a job well done and no sense of dread about returning the next day.