It’s as easy as…

It’s been 15 months as the president of Clinical Magnet and I’ve learned so much about business, about healthcare in the U.S. and about what it takes to put on 50 pounds in 18 months (yes-not an exaggeration- FIVE ZERO). I’ve learned how to be a better leader of people and I’ve learned how fragile balance can be. And, ironically, how easy it can be to achieve.

I recently mentioned the ease in which one can choose balance, so I’d like to argue with myself and counter with the question, “Why do so many of us choose the opposite of balance”? Please start a list comprised of the people you know (include yourself, if applicable) who struggle with getting everything done, showing up on time, appreciating the life around them and attempting to look totally calm (while they are a train wreck on the inside).  The numbers will blow you away. That list is HUGE, isn’t it? So here we are. A group of people, living beautiful lives with miserable feelings and all the while, I sit here and tell you that balance is a pretty simple choice?!?

My personal story isn’t widely different than others; I worked too much, I didn’t hang with my family, I ate too much, I gained weight, I lost weight, repeat. Some of you have read my story in previous posts, so as a quick refresher…I’ve enjoyed being a seeker of balance and I hid that passion (for years) while pretending to be someone and something I’m not (the “for years part” equates to the bulk of my college years, 20’s and 30’s and I appeared more comfortable tipping the scales toward “unbalanced” and then blamed work or other aspects of life, so as a mechanism of defense, I became really good at numbing my personal and professional challenges with food and booze and then empowered those decisions to wreak havoc on my overall health. I’m not going to be a victim and blame my travel or my industry or my job or my kids or my family. That wouldn’t be fair and it makes more sense, to me, to get introspective and embrace that my own insecurities, my own self-doubt and the space between my ears led to the discomfort that starts the vicious cycle of eating or drinking away the frustration.

So here we are…12 months after my last post and I’ve rebuilt my blog (the story behind the change is on my “why I blog” section) and my interests and passions are around spreading the story of how I chose balance during a year that clearly called for buckets of scotch, chicken wings and food induced naps. The results from this year away from writing…I have achieved peace and balance. I have never been more peaceful or balanced with my marriage, my children, my career, my health, my friendships, my golf game, my bank account and that list can go on as long as it would like. It’s time to share stories, time to reflect on the collection of amazing experiences and time to help others who may struggle with the same story and who may have an interest in breaking the cycle and making the simple and powerful decision to be free and balanced.

I leave you with a bit of my very own poetry…

“They filled over time- these buckets of burden. Always with me and still…I refuse to give in! Will he? Won’t he? Onward we march, keep moving! What’s that in the distance? It feels peaceful- how do I get there? My friend…set down those buckets and peace will be yours.”

CEO of Mom & Dad’s Basement

In the summer of 2008 I was introduced to a woman who has helped support dramatic change with my thinking and behavior.  At the time of our introduction, I was the Managing Director for a Detroit based Talent Acquisition Company (fancy way of saying a recruiting company) and I was invited to take part in a session for our company’s future leaders. As we gathered for the meeting, I noticed a kind souled and eccentric person walking into our conference room. She appeared way too calm, peaceful is a better way to describe her demeanor, and she had a soft spoken tone, which forced each of us (about 20 employees) to sit forward in our chairs and really focus in on what she was discussing.

This woman talked to our group for the best part of two hours and we talked, heavily, about moving our thoughts from “Fear” to “Freedom”. She talked about the power of the ego, she talked about the lack of truth, transparency, trust and honest dialogue within Corporate America and although I was a bit skeptical at first, I was enthralled by the way she engaged our group. At the end of her session, my teammates looked at each other differently. We soon learned that 6 of us were selected to take part in 1:1 coaching with this woman and that’s where this story begins.

The woman I refer to is Kimberly Knapp. She’ll laugh and tell you to call her Kim, but I think Kimberly makes her sound way more distinguished. Kim has become a friend, she is a mentor and she has been my coach for 7 years. Kim has helped me shed my looming self-doubt, she has helped me embrace a deeper and more spiritual way of thinking through my life experiences and she has supported me on one of the most intense journeys I’ve ever taken.

Before I jump too far into our story, let me share a bit of my background.  I’m a 42 year-old father (of 3), husband (of 1- any more than 1 would thoroughly piss off my wife), son (of two very special parents), brother, brother-in-law, employee and the list goes on. Each of us has a number of roles we play in life and as life’s journey moves forward, the roles we play have a different level of intensity, don’t they?  When we are in our “youth”, we rely on the role our parents play in our journey. As we move on past high school, it’s the role of friend that seems to take the front seat. At some point, God willing, we find another to love and the role of husband or wife takes the “first chair” in our worlds and then it happens…we become parents.

It’s this role (parenting) that sparked my interest in writing this article. I’ve lived in metro Detroit for the bulk of my life and as my wife and I began parenting we changed. We found ourselves, as some parents do, totally consumed in the byproduct of our relationship (our kids). We made these little buggers with the love and passion we held for each other and once they joined the world, we shifted our attention from each other, directly to them (sometimes this has been a challenge, but I’ll get to that later). As so many parents do, we worked to ensure our three children experienced love and that they knew we were also going to be life educators on their journey. As my parenting responsibilities increased, as did my career.

Kim and I started our coaching relationship from a “career” perspective, but she quickly helped me see that the coaching I was receiving was applicable to all aspects of life and, in fact, it was the philosophy that was so applicable and as I was starting to embrace it (Freedom Based thought vs. Fear Based thought), I was able to cross coach my kids, with lessons learned for the board room.

Flash forward to 2015 and I am the Vice President of the Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) division of a $220m recruiting firm and I intend to be the division’s President by 2016. My career has become rooted in adding value to people’s lives (my employees, my clients, my family, etc.) and having fun while doing it. In our industry, we create corporate recruiting teams for our clients, so needless to say, my teams and I have been part of client organizations for the last 20 years who have helped put more than 200,000 people to work. I’ve interviewed, screened, strategized, hired, fired, promoted, coached and developed thousands of people, so when I told Kim that I was getting concerned about a trend I’m seeing in our country, she looked at me with a concern that I’ve never seen on her face before.

That concern is tied to an apathy I’ve detected from young professionals (ages 18-22). I’m seeing less power in the handshake, fewer and fewer thank you notes and the ones we receive are generally loaded with “text type”. I’m watching a level of entitlement relative to the compensation tied to “entry level” employment and have been recently told, by two young professionals, that they’d rather NOT work than have to start at the bottom of the ladder. As I articulate these concerns to Kim, she shared that she, too, is watching something similar.

Kim’s traditionally peaceful demeanor became very stoic and she asked me a set of questions that I won’t forget. “Would you be able to hire your kids, in 10 years’ time, Trav?” “My kids? I pushed back abruptly, “This isn’t about my kids, Kim, this is about the kids I’m seeing enter the workforce”. “Well”, she said, “They’ll be in this workforce soon enough and what are you doing to ensure that they will add the value that you constantly tout as one of your success factors?”

These questions have been bothering me for a few months and it was the question Kim asked that sparked me to transition my thoughts and actions to my own behaviors and to the support of my children’s behaviors.  I’d like to challenge each of you to reflect on those questions, too. Will your kids be employable? Are you focused on raising children who can shake hands (with confidence), who can write a letter or email with clarity, precision and intelligence? Are you raising your children to experience life and to take risks? Are you raising innovators? Are you raising problem solvers?

I ask you these questions because these are the questions that I’ll ask your children when they try to enter the workforce. I’ll ask them how they solve problems, I’ll expect a solid email thank you (with proper grammar and not those god damn emoticons and text type) and I’ll expect them to have answered my questions about the power of innovation, how they innovate, how they solve problems in a group setting and most importantly, they need to answer these questions to my face and not through a text message.

I ask you these questions because it seems, to me, that we are going to have a collision with the magnitude of two trains, loaded with steel, flying toward each other at 120 MPH and the end result isn’t going to be good. I have been guilty of raising my kids to be polite (which is important) and to be well behaved (another positive attribute), but I’ve also realized that I condoned too much technology, too little discussion at the dinner table (if at all, because of all the damn practices we run to) and you’ll get my point, I’m not focusing on the very things that can aid to a person’s success in the workplace. At what point do we shift our parenting to also include the celebration of mistakes (and embrace them as learnings), to play at the park on their own (so they learn to self-govern) and what was I doing to help them learn the power of succinct communication (person to person, not via text or email). Honestly, I don’t feel like I am doing enough.

I’ve asked these questions to provoke thought and challenge and I’ll be focused on these topics for the ensuing weeks, so we can have open dialogue and discussion, and so each of us can prevent raising the future CEO of Mom & Dad’s Basement.

Is perfection real?

Have you ever used or heard someone use a phrase similar to… “I’ve gotta keep working on this, I guess I’m a perfectionist!”?

I’ve witnessed perfectionists at work, I’ve lived with perfectionists and I’ve even claimed to be one (at one time in my life). As my life journey continues to advance, though, I’ve recognized an inherent danger with being a “perfection” chaser, so I steer away from using the word at all cost.

Chasing perfection, to me, is a dangerous path, because it sets an expectation that isn’t achievable. What have I seen the chase for perfection lead to:

1. Delays- the perfectionist will work, rework and rework some more (all in the spirit of having the perfect product or project, but 9 out of 10 times, the “work” never gets completed).

2. Risk Aversion- I’ve witnessed “perfectionists” miss out on job opportunities because while they were writing the perfect resume, someone stepped passed them in line, applied, was willing to make a mistake or two and EARNED the job.

3. Missed experiences (business or otherwise) – I’ve watched businesses use the excuse of perfectionism, all the while they seem to be hiding from a fear of the unknown and their businesses stagnate for fear that their new expansion, product or service might not be “perfect”.

Be willing to be “un-perfect”, in every aspect of life. Be willing to take a risk, say “I don’t know” and keep moving forward on life’s path. In the long run, you’ll end up more productive, gather more experiences and I feel that you’ll be more innovative. Don’t wait for perfection. In my opinion, it isn’t worth the wait!

Here we go, again…

Here we go,again…
My son was sitting across from me at dinner the other night and I was fresh off watching one of my latest Netflix shows, Everest, which is a reality TV show about the wide and varying skills of the crews and people who risk their lives to achieve the summit of the world’s tallest peak (some 27,000+ feet above sea level).
As I started to talk about Everest, at dinner, my 10-year old says, “here we go again”, with a Cheshire cat grin on his face and the whole table erupted. Two immediate observations from his comment; 1) I tell great stories at dinner & 2) My dreams are not always simple; they are riddled with challenge, test and stretch, so it’s not uncommon for me to think up crazy and whacky things to dream about, but when it comes to seeing all of them through…I lack follow through, fair point. As I mentioned, my son’s comment broke the entire table into laughter, and because we were surrounded by my family at the dinner table, all of whom know me well, our laughter was even deeper (hell- they’ve all heard my ideas; food trucks, living off the grid, mountain climbing, writing, CEO roles, etc.). I dream, incessantly. If I see a cowboy movie- I’m movin’ out west, watch the Godfather- I’m starting my own organized crime family, you get the point.
Here we go, again…
Why do I dream? Part of the reason is that I believe I’m going to live a shorter life than most people. Not sure why, but I’ve always believed this to be the case and candidly, regardless of another 5 years, 20 years or 50 years on this planet, I’d like to experience more. Our time, regardless of how long, is all relatively short (when you use eternity as the benchmark), so I don’t let my time on this earth concern me, but that finite about of time does inspire and motivate me to sample life. As I reflect back on my dinner conversation with my family and I ponder my ratio of dreaming to doing, another observation cascades through my mind; DO THINGS & EXPERIENCE THINGS, end of story.
From the mouths of our children come the most pure and truthful observations and my children have observed an enormous amount of dreaming from their father, but have they lived the bulk of their lives with a man who has become a bit routine? It happens to most of us at some point, right? What we used to do on the weekends, simply become great camp fire stories about “back in the day”, so as you move through life, don’t forget to keep that ratio of “dreaming to doing” in a fair balance.
Here we go, again…
It is very easy to be consumed by the daily routine of living, working, parenting and the list goes on…but I’m thankful that my son, inadvertently, challenged my ratio of dreaming to doing. New jobs, new restaurants, new involvement in the community, a hike through the neighborhood, a holiday overseas, a new book a month, a new dinner routine… so many things we can all do that might vary us from that daily routine. What I’ve learned, as of late, is that we aren’t all going to climb Mt. Everest, but we sure as hell better keep talking about it and pushing ourselves, because we have so many opportunities to explore life, this planet and everything that surrounds us… so my cry- please don’t get trapped in the routine. Keep experiencing and I challenge you to explore something new, this week.
Yes, my son, “here we go, again” – after all, we’ve got some mountain climbing to do, don’t we?

94.7

Each day, week and month, I look for something new to experience. I’ve explored careers, friends, sports, travel, waist sizes, fashion, foods and friends. I’ve also read, followed and studied a number of philosophers over the last 5 years and I’m always intrigued by their ability to contemplate life and all of its components (work, friends, family, strangers, stress, joy, peace, etc.).

Rand, Coehlo, Tolle, Socrates, Parthasarathy and Einstein are examples of people who I’ve read or studied who have used thought and change as a “freeing” principle in their lives. Of those listed, Socrates has become someone I pay close attention to and although he didn’t write often (most of his work has been “handed down”), everything you read about him points in the same direction. His quotes and belief systems have been interpreted to focus on the repeated act of inspiring people to “think” independently, which is why I continue to quote him on my posts.

I came across another quote of his, which connects me to my next life experience. “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Have you ever focused all of your energy on something? I, for one, have not. The concept seems a bit challenging, but I love the power of the idea. I wonder how many of us have sat around a camp fire, sat on a deck, sat on a boat or maybe while on a walk and thought about making a “change” in some aspect of our lives. It could be as simple as… it’s time to rearrange furniture in the living room or it could be as scary and complex as…it’s time to stop drinking, either way- change is something that sparks thought, so I love it.

Most of us have experienced that desire for change, but why does change become a challenge to bring to life? I know lots of people, myself included, who have let those little bits of fear linger in their heads and when time for change is contemplated, they just trudge on and continue doing the same old things and the opportunity to change passes by. Amazingly powerful, isn’t it? Just a wee bit of fear can make that change feel too dramatic to conquer, but yet we seek change all the time, don’t we? Speaking of change…I’ve had an interesting 5 years. I love the people I work with, I’m spending time with my family, I have everything I need and more and I feel more at peace with almost every aspect of my life, which is fantastic. Please note the key word in that last sentence… “almost”, as it is time for me to change one more thing in life.

For the last two months I’ve been focused on another set of changes, and over the weeks and months that follow I’ll be testing that theory of fear and its ability to derail change. Maybe you’ll notice it, maybe you won’t, but I can promise you that it will be another experience that I hope will arm me with great stories that can be shared with my kids and family (and for that matter, anyone else who has an interest in listening).

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new” – Socrates

You should wash your…

I just washed my 2003 Ford Focus, which has affectionately been named “meep meep” in our family, due to the powerfully majestic, trumpet-like sound the horn makes when honked. I couldn’t help but smile after washing the car because it is so damn satisfying to have a clean vehicle.

I’m a car wash junkie. End of story. Not the run of the mill, little self serve shit washes, I’m talking about the overpriced, eleven different waxes, and a crew of 20 that make you feel like you’ve just entered the pit at Talladega car washes. This afternoon, a team of 9 worked on my car and after this team of automotive cleansing technicians finished up on my “ride”, I began to think about how truly wonderful it is to not have to worry about snow, slush or ice for the next 8 months (now that I’ve typed this, it will probably snow 1 more time in Detroit), but you get the drift.

There is something therapeutic about taking a dirty car and getting her cleaned, dirty laundry and getting it washed, folded and replaced from where the clothes came or to take that dirty pile of dry cleaning into the cleaners, knowing full well that they will be returned to you in a matter of days, hanging in the crisp and clean fashion I have grown to love.

You see- I love the energy that little accomplishments generate. Ever so small and subtle, they motivate me. Chaos to order, dirty to clean, wrinkled to crease…all of these examples work back to the power of accomplishment. Too often, I find myself looking so far down life’s path; I tend to forget about the power of the little action, which leads to the little accomplishment. String enough of those little accomplishments together and you have most likely completed a solid project (and then the energy and mojo really pick up steam). Once you pull a couple of projects to completion, you’ve begun the process of epic change…and that’s powerful.

It is hard to bring big change to fruition, so my advice on this fine afternoon…start with little accomplishments (at work or in your personal life) and before you know it, your world will change in the way you may have intended.

Could you do it?

I went for my morning run (well, actually, I bitched and moaned about getting into and out of a cold car while traveling to my health club, so I could spend 45 minutes with my favorite treadmill), but you get it…I ran.

I got home about an hour later; I cleaned up, grabbed my 9 year old and we “hit the town”. A bit dramatic for a Sunday morning, but I’d promised him some Dad time, so we grabbed an early lunch and then went to watch Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

We got to the theatre a bit early, as I incorrectly read my Fandango app, so with about an hour to kill before the show, I did what any father would do when he isn’t in the presence of his better half…I promised to go BUY stuff for my son (and for me). We talked about a couple of ideas (most of which revolved around pet stores), but we finally landed on a place that suited both of us; the book store. I read pretty regularly and my kids do too, so both of us smiled on the agreed upon location and we made a quick stop to buy some solid reading material. After a couple philosophy books, a sticker book for my little girl, the divergent trilogy and some book about dragons, swords and fantasy world domination (my sons are obsessed with medieval times), my American Express had enough and we bounced back to the movies.

A good flick and a few hours later, I’m pondering my intense joy from acquiring things. Buying shit makes me feel good, end of story. It’s kind of funny, but yes, I like to buy (not shop, shopping is the worthless exercise of pondering over items), I’m talking about walk in, staying focused and grabbing things to be purchased. I like buying. Technology, pictures, books, phones, lap tops, puzzles, clothes (running, work, casual, bar, etc), televisions, golf clubs, bocce sets (who doesn’t want to play bocce), lawn jarts (don’t pretend you don’t like playing lawn games), bikes, skateboards…the list goes on and on.

From my intense interest in material acquisition, you’d think my family might be on the next episode of “hoarders”, but I promise you, it’s not that bad. We have a clean house, a garage that holds two cars and an attic that still has plenty of room to walk around. I just enjoy spending what I have. At a certain point, one begins to question how much is enough. If you are beginning to wonder how the hell I transitioned this article from a pleasant day at the movies to a quest for understanding the power of materialism, please hold on, I’m getting to the point.

Last night my family went to mass, followed by a religious education session for my kids. We watched a re-enactment of the “Beatitudes”, which was a historic speech delivered by Jesus Christ, where he educates the masses on his secret of life and the happiness and joy this secret would create. Some of you may recognize the core messages…blessed are the meek, blessed are the peace keepers, blessed are the humble, etc.

In short, my religion and my God work to keep me pointed in a direction of humility and living for love and life, not the “need” for stuff (so I’ve been contemplating a shift in my “buy stuff” mentality) and I wanted to run the idea by you.

Layer over yesterday’s mass, a great morning with my son and then a movie about a time traveling dog (the characters visit cool places in history and see times where “stuff” did not rule the world…see, I can even philosophize about cartoon movies) and a few hours of wonder later…BAM, you have the makings of an article.

My son, Brecken, made a comment on the way home from our morning together, “Dad, what a great day”. He followed with, “I love just being around”, don’t you?

These were wise words from an over scheduled 9-year old boy. For the first time in 30 weeks, we haven’t had anywhere to go (we had no practices, no games and no school events), so the places we chose this morning didn’t require our phones, or the most luxurious wardrobe or the most up to date technology. Simply stated, we had time with each other. All of this made me think about “my stuff”. I guess I’m wondering what it would be like if I pared down, if society pared down and what impact it would have on our lives? Could we live without all of those “things” that help create the illusion of security or that feel good sensation? If we did pare down from the stuff and shifted our attention to each other, would we be able to reconnect at a deeper level? Would we become more focused friends, employees, parents, loved ones? We probably would.

I’m not sure how this will all impact me in the weeks or months that follow, but I’m comfortable with exploring, so here’s the challenge. After I post this, I’m going to work with my wife and children to begin reducing. Get ready Goodwill…it’s game time! We are going to pare down a bit, I’ll refrain from some of those impulse purchases and we’ll get to see what we can do with each other, instead of with our things. Yes, Brecken, I guess it does feel pretty good to just “be around”.