Impulse decisions…gone wild!

Try to find balance in this story.  We had dinner last night with some friends at a sushi joint near our house.  It was a casual dinner with good food and some good discussion.  I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to drink when we first arrived, so I sipped some ice water and tried to determine if I wanted to fight a hang over on Sunday morning or would I prefer something to “sip” through the evening that would prevent my attendance at 2 soccer games and a hockey game on Sunday from being accompanied by that semi dizzy, pounding headache that generally follows my inability to embrace the concept of moderation.

Now, if we back up a bit, our Saturday started kind off on a positive note.  Deena, my wife, had plans to go on a “home tour” with her mom, so I took our three kids to our oldest son’s soccer game and then I did what any brave father would do- I took the kids out to lunch, followed by a run to the grocery store and then we returned home, so the kids could attack the neighborhood on their bikes and I could spend some time cleaning up the lawn (it was the first time in 7 or 8 days that Michigan had been exposed to the sunshine, so I was taking advantage of it).

Alright, back to my drink order at dinner.  I decided to go with a glass of scotch (on the rocks, of course) and asked our waitress if they carried a certain brand that I like to drink- Oban.  The waitress confirmed they had my bottle behind the bar and my first glass went down a little easier than it probably should have, so in true form, I had to have another (if you haven’t seen the movie Anchorman- starring Will Ferrell- this is where we would insert a voice overlay of Ron Burgundy singing- scotchy, scotch, scotch…I love scotch!)  Glass number 2 was iced and ready for consumption.

I digress again.  As I finished our yard work earlier in the day I thought I would take my daughter to the park to play and as I watched my kids run around like maniacs I played around on my phone and decided to post on Facebook that we were going out on Saturday night to which I received a response from our friends that they were looking forward to dinner and what a great night it would be for a bonfire.  I agreed, but I don’t own a fire pit, so another sweet impulse hit me…I had to go buy one!  My wife, who isn’t a big fan of impulse decisions, made it home from her home tour and was greeted with; “Hi honey, welcome home, I’m off to buy a fire pit”, which sent her into a bit of a tail spin.  Per usual, we argued about the level of impulsivity, but we agreed it would be nice to have, so off I went (at5pm-dinner reservations at 630pm- to buy this thing).  I made it home with “the pit” just before6pm, got showered and was off to dinner.

Okay, back to glass of scotch number two.  I finished my second glass and the bill comes to the table as we were ready to head back to our house, take part in the minor assembly required of my new pit and enjoy a beer or two on the deck, but remember…we are in Michigan, so of course, it started to rain (now my impulse purchase will remain in my trunk, which really made my wife happy).  As I look at our bill, to pile on the irritation, I have to laugh that I kind of, sort of, forgot to ask the waitress what year of my brand of scotch they carried (oh yeah, it was clearly a couple years “older” than the bottle I would typically drink), so thankfully I only had 2- $20.00 glasses of scotch, which added some sweet fuel to the fire and made my wife want to throw me into a head lock and choke me.

In conclusion…my wife is a saint and although we ended up laughing about the evening as we typically do, PLEASE don’t ask Deena about how much we should tip a waitress (after a groupon, dividing a bill into two parts and ensuring that a fair percentage is applied to the bill).  Note to self…don’t attempt to calculate this complicated dinner arrangement while under the influence of over priced scotch.  Thanks for catching my scotch based math error- teacher friends!

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Out of balance…

You can balance a lot of things in life.  You can balance your time, you can balance your partying, you can balance your work life and you can balance your emotions, but one thing I don’t think you should balance is the amount of time you put into relationships with the people around you.

The people around you deserve more than “balance”.  The people around you deserve the most beautiful imbalance imaginable; they deserve so much of your attention that it is obnoxiously out of whack.  It should be lop sided, the amount of support, coaching, caring, loving, learning and listening that we offer to these people who help round out our lives.

In today’s world of balancing work and home (and everything in between) life begins to meld together, doesn’t it?  We have mobile devices that keep us in regular touch with most of the people close to us (work and home), we drive past thousands of people daily and we work with hundreds, if not thousands, of people, which gives us ample opportunity to offer the support I mentioned above, but I know that I haven’t always taken advantage of those opportunities.  I know there are people who I have come in contact with and I wasn’t my best self, which is part of being human I guess, but when I heard from a friend today, it quickly reminded me how easy it can be to forget about taking care of the people around us.

These people in our lives might be co-workers, your immediate family, your neighbors or the stranger on the street, so imagine how crazy it would be if we took this article so literally that we pushed ourselves to care about everyone we came into contact with throughout out lives.  Let’s take work as an example.  All of us have tough decisions to make with respect to work, don’t we?  In today’s world, work requires a lot of interaction with people and some of us even get paid to coach, lead and manage other people, so we probably have double the exposure.  Work is requiring more hours than we might want, it has more stress than we might have signed up for and from time to time, work is plain irritating.  That said, imagine if our “work place” was filled with people whose sole purpose was to treat you with respect, dignity, compassion and humility.  What if when you weren’t performing well, they had the common courtesy of telling you that you weren’t performing and suggesting some ways for you to begin performing to the standards they may have set because they care too much to let you suffer or to let you put the others around you in harm’s way?

Interesting concept, huh?  Remember, all of us are going to die some day and from what I’ve been told by those who are much older than I am, you should be enjoying things in life that help to create a legacy.  Laughing, coaching, loving, guiding, volunteering, and aiding are all verbs that describe something a person would do for another person and it’s my belief that those are the actions that create a legacy.

I learned a valuable lesson today through a friend’s challenge.  You never know when that “thing” called a job might come to a close or those people who you interact with on a daily basis might forget about taking care of people first.  I am going to try and be more thankful for the people around me and even if the people around us aren’t behaving the way we might have hoped for, please continue to treat them with the dignity, respect, compassion and humility that I mentioned earlier in this article.  If someone needs help, offer it to them.  If someone needs to move on, coach them to do so.  If someone needs to vent, listen to them.  Overall, work to be a servant to the people around you.  It will make you a better family person, better employer, better employee and in general, a happier human being.

Where did the random acts of kindness go?

I had my family over last night to celebrate Mother’s Day and my Father’s 64th birthday (yes, Dad, I’m outing your “maturity”).  We had a great night, Seth (my youngest brother), his wife and their two daughters came by, so the kids were able to destroy the basement, run outside (thank God for spring like weather) and the adults had the interesting experience of sitting still and conversing without having to chase, yell, scream or herd our children, so overall it was a good night.

As the discussions progressed my brother asked me whatever happened to the “foundation” I was planning to start a few years ago.  At one point in 2009 I started to make a push for other people to generate one random act of kindness daily and my exercise led me to a number of groups/websites where acts of kindness was the focal point, so I backed off a bit and slowly let the daily efforts of doing random, kind things slip.  The concept of being kind isn’t a new one, but seeing that I have been consistently able to witness reactions on the faces of homeless people who I might hand a $10 dollar bill to or the look on the face of the cashier at a Dairy Queen when I ask him or her what the cost of the order is for the family behind us in the drive through (because I’m going to pay for their ice cream) or the smile when you hold a door for someone, those are priceless looks.

My idea to create a foundation spun from a year of doing daily acts of kindness and I considered starting a non-profit group that would travel to schools (with a large board game I was planning to build) and show K-5th graders the effects of kind behavior.  The board was going to be a 10’x10’ roll up mat that had a maze printed on it (similar to the game, Life) and the pieces of the board would be the children in the class.  As two students played the game, their class mates would gather around the board (in two teams; each supporting a member on the board) and the surrounding team members would take turns rolling an oversized fuzzy die, so the kid standing on the board would know how many spots to progress through the maze.  Each spot they landed on would have a “social situation” that forced the discussion around how to be kind.  As an example, one spot might read; “Sally just moved into your school and isn’t sitting next to anyone at lunch”, what could you do that would be considered kind?  My team would help facilitate (with the teacher) some solutions that would foster kindness and then we would talk through how this makes everyone feel and the positive ripple effect that could be created with their new student.

I have three children, so I understand that most kids are honest and inherently kind and if they are not, I believe they can be shown, supported and taught how much more powerful it is to be kind.  In reality, it’s the “growing up” piece and social pressures that they’ll face in the years to come that will turn them inward, drive them to want to “fit in” and pull them away from their true self.  So, if we make it “cool” to talk about these behaviors then as they get older, they’ll have the memory of these games and continue to think about ways to be kind as they grow and mature.  It’s a stretch, but what the hell, right?

Back to the question my brother asked me.  What ever happened to that idea?  The answer; nothing!  Life tends to get in the way, doesn’t it?  My game was going to be a way to introduce kindness to the youngest demographic I could think would comprehend it and then I would work to build an exercise to work with high schools in a different, more “motivational speaking” way and then my final phase of this non-profit would be the book that shows adults the damage that can occur when your relationships, financial health, spiritual health, and professional life are fueled by the inauthentic behaviors of being rude, greedy, selfish, scared, etc.

What would give me the credibility to do that, well, I’ve lived it.  I was pulled away from gentle compassion in order to “fit in” to “not rock the boat” to “spend” so people think your successful and I’m almost out of that insanity and I would like to prevent young people from going that route and those a bit older to learn that there are ways to break the cycles that might be hurting them.  Once I have finalized the last of my commitments to getting more balanced, maybe it will be time to invest some money in a concept that I let fall to the side.

As cheesy as it might sound; how much easier would this world be to navigate through if we focused efforts on educating a generation of people who believed it was OK to be kind, not weak to be kind and we taught them how to treat others the same way?  We could teach them to cherish learning and teach them to create, innovate and think in ways that might not get used today.  Wouldn’t these efforts help us to become a more innovative society, a more collaborative one and wouldn’t the impact touch the people who are slated to run this country in 20 or 30 years, making them do so in a way that fosters a very positive energy, in personal and business life? 

Seth- thanks for your question.  Nothing much has happened with that foundation, but you have sparked some thought around why it hasn’t and I can tell you that I’ll be back to doing my 1 random act of kindness per day (starting today) and looking for ways to make an impact, when I can.

I’m being selfish, I get it!

I met with my coach today and we had a discussion about the search for life balance and how the various aspects of life all play into the balancing act.  As we started our session I refreshed her on the balance I am starting to feel with my work life and how I have found a professional venue to practically apply the behaviors that lead toward a more balanced approach to life.  My new behaviors (honesty, direct communication, humility, etc.) applied at my new place of work have me enjoying professional life and in turn, has me more engaged at home.  I have more time to spend with the kids, time to be the one to drop them off at practices and I’m not letting my new role demand that I have my phone buried against the side of my head while I pretended to be the involved parent.

All of this sounds great, right?  Here is my problem.  Now that I have this new found work balance, can someone please explain why the hell I feel so uncomfortable?  I’ve been freaking out for the last couple of weeks because I have talked, written, questioned and angled to get this work balance and I’m still edgy.  I posed this issue to my coach and then shared a bigger concern; my introspective guess as to why I feel edgy.  My newly found work balance has enabled me to spend more time at home, yes, but that time is with 3 “active” children who aren’t all that peaceful to be around and I don’t love the noise, shouting, running, driving, yelling, cleaning, jumping and the laundry list of other kid-like behaviors that my new found work balance has offered me a ring side seat for.  In short, it is much easier to work 12 hour days and come home to a quiet house and that realization is making me feel pretty freaking selfish.  My coach shared that this is all normal; a decompression of sorts and she continues to reinforce the need for honesty and open communication during this time because it will allow me work on balancing my home life, as I have begun to balance work.

I know it’s cliché to say that life is multi-dimensional and that I’m trying to find myself within those dimensions, but it seems to be true.  I’m more work balanced, agreed, but now I feel more chaotic at home, so my “life balance” quest is going to focus on a more holistic approach.  I’ve noticed that I have been attempting to balance 1 element of my life at a time (work or home or personal) and the other areas get neglected, which makes my entire life feel just as chaotic as it did prior to my regular search for balance.  I am going to begin applying the behaviors I mentioned earlier in this article to each of the areas of my life and we’ll see if that helps. 

As I work to strike balance as an employee, a father, a husband and become a more authentic person, I’ll keep you posted on my progress and if I can find the magic solution to juggling all life throws at us, I will make sure to pass it along.