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”.

Work “hard” and smile often…

I just left a meeting with my coach, Kim Knapp, and had another really insightful discussion, which caused me to think about something I say (often) and now I’m considering reworking it a bit. To share context, I’ve just gone through a 363 process and received the results today. For those who aren’t aware, the 360 degree feedback program is widely used in corporate America to help leaders assess where gaps might occur in their personal & leadership styles. The definition, 360, is tied to the “full circle” feedback you receive from a variety of inputs; your responses to the survey, your peer’s responses, your direct reports’ responses and a hand selected group of “other” participants.

All in, I had 9 people fill out a survey covering 8 leadership disciplines and I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I was quite nervous about the whole thing. After all, I’m prone to over thinking and I also carry a heaping helping of “wanting approval” in my life, so getting vulnerable enough to ask peers, employees and other members of the leadership team I sit on, to weigh into my world and offer their perspectives was freaking scary.

The results came back and although I have a number of “development” areas, it appears that the picture I hold of my self is pretty consistent with the picture my team holds of me. Overall, the development areas are very realistic and most important to me, my self rating, in most cases, was lower (on a scale) than those of my peers, employees and leadership counterparts, so I felt good about the process. My coach, the DISC-363 interpreter and I reviewed line by line and began to make a “plan” on how to continue focusing on the requests I received from the feedback. This was a very interesting exercise and one I’m working to implement with my current team because this version of the 360 (why it’s called 363) is tied to the extra 3 degrees. Psychologists, who statistically validated this tool, work with subject matter experts on 3 “development areas” attributed to all of your feedback, so in theory, it gives you a road map on the behaviors one might adjust to continue developing into a strong leader of people, process and general business.

My coach shared her excitement about the “coaching plan” and asked me what I thought. My response to her was; “I have to keep working hard and smiling, right?” Those two things have served me well over the last 17 years of my career, but when I said it, she got that “coachy” look on her face and asked why I felt like I had to work “hard”? I tried to justify the remarks and she went on to share her opinions about work. Shouldn’t it be effortless? Shouldn’t work and our personal lives be more effortless? After all, so many of us claim to want peace, serenity and calming energy in our lives, but yet, we tend to claim the need for hard work too. I, for one, want all that peace stuff, but I also claim that “working hard and keeping a good attitude” are the key drivers of success (bit of a contradiction).

We spoke for a few more moments and I fully understood her point. The idea of “working hard” needs to adjust. I won’t insinuate that productivity, family involvement, development of children, business results, business profits and the like aren’t still a focus in the world, but I am going to begin “allowing” things to happen in the world and to focus on working with “purpose”, not having to work “hard”. As she was walking me through the concept of “effortless”, I instantly thought of golf. How many times do we get on the tee, swing as hard as humanly possible and watch, with horror, as our golf ball travels 50 yards down the fairway and then hangs a hard right (uncontrollably) and lands in the woods. When we tee up, again, breathe a bit, slow things down; allow our swing to happen and become what some may define as “effortless”, that ball rips through the middle of the fairway…some 250 yards ahead of our woods bound first shot.

To my kids, my wife and my friends and work colleagues, please be patient with my attempts at being a “Zen Master” with work and home. I know it can be tough living and working with a Dalai Llama in training, but I’m going to focus on coaching you (and those around me) that my idea of “working hard” and “always smiling” needs to adjust a bit.

Let’s work with purpose, live with purpose, smile as often as we can and become a bit more “effortless”. I think it will bode well in all aspects of world.