Man-to-man… what our female colleagues need from us!

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I have debated with myself many times over the last few months about whether to even broach this subject, but here we go anyway. Ladies, please feel free to read this, but I am writing primarily to the men today.  (I owe a huge thank you to four of my trusted female coworkers for helping to keep me on track for this piece.)

Guys, I am concerned that our female colleagues have a substantially more difficult time navigating the trials and challenges of corporate life than we do. For example, we never have to worry about what we wear.  I choose what pants I wear each day by which ones already have a belt.  Grab a shirt and off I go.  On the other hand, our female colleagues have many more decisions regarding what it means to dress for success.  They have to be concerned more with the overall message they want to portray, what others will think, and what exactly “business casual” really even means.

Our female colleagues also must be much more careful about what they say and how they say it. By not speaking up, she may be viewed as timid.  If she does speak up, she might be called bossy or worse.  Finding that perfect balance is challenging and, frankly, something we probably think little about.

Let me give a few other examples of what our female colleagues must deal with that we simply do not or rarely do:

  • It is often assumed that men are more competent and capable than women
  • Women must prove that they are capable, competent, and skilled
  • Many men are resistant to follow a woman leader or see women lead successfully
  • Women have a tighter “specification” for what is acceptable, whereas, men are usually given the benefit of the doubt
  • Women often wonder if they could have done more or better – they frequently wonder if their efforts were good enough 
  • Women must often cut corners at home to overcome the “need to do more” belief
  • Asking for help or leeway is often viewed as a sign of weakness for women, but is seen as “being collaborative or inclusive” for men
  • Women are often underestimated, especially if they are younger or seen as less experienced
  • Women must act more cautiously and take fewer risks because they are typically given less runway than men
  • Even in this day and age, our women colleagues still have to deal with sexual harassment or subtle inferences that make them uncomfortable

Over the course of my forty years in business and industry, I would include many women colleagues on my own “top ten most competent ever” list. Women have the ability to achieve anything we can achieve and, sometimes, better.  They are just as capable as men when given the same opportunities.  So, I thought it would be good to discuss exactly what we can do to help make corporate life better for these colleagues.  What can we – their male colleagues, bosses, counterparts, and teammates – do to level the playing field for them?

Please also keep in mind that the competent women I have worked with do NOT want any unreasonable accommodations or advantages in the workplace. They resent efforts to “give them an edge.”  Most women in my life simply want their abilities and accomplishments to speak for themselves.  So, with that in mind, these are the things I believe we can do to help:

  1. Our female colleagues do not need rescued, they need our support – I think there is a natural tendency to try to “fix things” for our colleagues. We want to be helpful and often try to overcompensate for issues they face. I have heard my male colleagues say, “I want to treat female colleagues just like I would treat my wife or daughter.” Nice sentiment, but that is not helping our colleagues. They do not need us to rescue them from challenges they face. However, we must be supportive. Listening more than talking is important. Offering our thoughts and opinions WHEN ASKED is supportive. In short, we should support our female colleagues in the same way we would support their male counterparts – no more, no less. What can we specifically do? Let’s look at a few examples:
    • Advocate for talented female colleagues openly in meetings and presentations.
    • Offer our specific assistance when we see colleagues juggling too much.
    • Though serving as a mentor is nice, our female colleagues need sponsors – individuals willing to take a potential career risk to advance the career of a capable female colleague
  2. We must stop being condescending; just be fair and give them an honest chance to excel When we understand and recognize that our female counterparts are strong, competent, and capable, we will, perhaps, begin actively seeking their input, following their lead, allowing them flexibility, and recognizing their “right” to take risks. The thought that we need to help them avoid tough decisions or avoid the potential for making a mistake, is simply not what they need from us. We must free them to be successful in the same ways that are available to us. We must expand the “acceptable specifications” for our female counterparts to the same level we frequently experience and allow for other men.
  3. We must be respectful of our women colleagues in what we say and do – Our female counterparts deserve to be treated with respect in all matters. They should not have to deal with unwanted touching, looks, or comments. Let’s give them a break and simply treat them as the trusted, competent coworkers that they are. With all the challenges they already face, we must not put them into the uncomfortable position of needing to deal with that! There is still a significant problem with male leaders attempting to take advantage of younger female coworkers. This must stop! We need to “cut out the boys club crap,” as I heard a colleague once say.
  4. We must realize that most of our women colleagues are heroes and men would be challenged to balance everything they do in their lives – Women must deal with issues outside work that few of us have. For example, though many women have spouses that share home duties, the burden falls on many of them to coordinate transportation for kids, dealing with all home scheduling, meals, etc.  Let’s realize that we need to allow some flexibility and understanding as we work to help them achieve proper balance. After all, when they feel comfortable that things at home are OK, they can focus better on achieving success at work. Let’s give them a hand!
  5. When we fail to properly consider a woman for a typical “male” position, we not only harm them, but we possibly fail to hire the best possible candidate – Why are women often excluded from typical “male” positions, such as in manufacturing management, engineering, maintenance, etc.? Don’t tell me that they are under-represented in these areas because there are not enough qualified candidates! By excluding women in these roles, we fail to hire the best candidates, in many cases. Women bring much to the table in highly complex and technical roles. We must ensure that any hiring decisions at least ensure that we make an intentional effort to have a broad pool of qualified candidates that includes women.
  6. We must not let our male colleagues overtly or covertly disrespect our female colleagues Not only must we treat our female counterparts with respect, but we must ensure that our male colleagues do so. (Note: Many authors have highlighted the fact that women often disrespect other women. We must also do our part to prevent this and take action to stop it when it occurs.) We have the power to stop much of the covert disrespect that occurs toward women. By allowing it or not stopping it, we are, in effect, endorsing it. Let’s be more active and put an end to it!
  7. Our female colleagues must be free to have a voice, an opinion, and a place – We can play a significant role in ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to speak, the ability to have input, and a place of respect and dignity in the workplace. By taking an active role of advocating for our female colleagues, we enhance fairness.

Again, I am not advocating special advantages, quotas, inequalities, or anything else that would advance an unqualified individual over a qualified one, regardless of sex, race, or anything else. However, men, we do have an important role to play in eliminating the ongoing disrespect and unfairness that often creates barriers for our female counterparts.  And, we need to step outside our comfort zone and take a chance on a talented female coworker.  Why not make an intentional effort to personally advocate and sponsor a talented female colleague in the New Year?  The rewards to her and the company will be significant!  And, it is rewarding to any leader to see someone you sponsor excel and contribute.  Give it a try!

In short, we must simply be fair and treat our women colleagues with the same respect we desire; allow them full opportunities to contribute; and publicly support them and their contributions. This is really true for everyone.  However, it is especially true for our female colleagues.  Guys, let’s do what we can to level the ENTIRE playing field for our female colleagues in 2017!  One last thought:

“An honorable man will deliberately work to ensure the respect, dignity, and opportunities for our women colleagues.  It is what you do, not what you say, that reveals your heart.”

 

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At just the right time

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Have you ever considered how “the right timing” has influenced or affected your life?  I recall early in my career a time that my entire division at work was eliminated.  I was married with a son, a daughter on the way, had a mortgage, and suddenly was without a job.  It took several months to get a new job, but my wife and I marvel how that job came at “exactly the right time.”  In fact, just when we thought things were getting desperate, we had two job offers on the same day within an hour of each other.  Timing….

Our family has relocated several times during my career.  Unless you’ve done that, it is hard to explain all the complexities of selling a house, buying a new one, moving your household goods, new schools, new neighborhoods, utility hook-ups, etc.  During these moves, it always amazed us how we always seemed to hit the housing market when houses were selling slowly and prices were low.  It seemed our timing was always bad when these events occurred.  Timing….

I recall all the times when a new friend came along at “just the right time.”  Or, when a new job opportunity occurred because “I was at the right place at the right time.”  Or, I think of the impact timing had when I met my bride back in high school, or when I played sports, or when I began writing journal articles, or when we implemented a new system at work.  Timing plays a significant part of every one of our lives… sometimes the timing is in our favor and at other times it is not.

But, how much of these events of our lives were really impacted by timing, or by the preparation we had made in our lives.  Yes, losing a job is never good, but what I considered “bad timing” at the time, turned out perfectly in the end.  Losing that job early in my career launched my career in the pharmaceutical industry.  Had I remained in that job, I might have taken a completely different life path.

Being prepared to take advantage of the “timing events” of our lives is perhaps all we can personally control.  Preparing our career in a way that provides flexibility and mobility is solid preparation.  Planning for emergencies and contingencies at home is smart.  Making the best of unexpected events can turn bad timing into a significant turning point if we approach these events with an optimistic and persevering attitude.  Knowing that timing is not always on our side can help us mentally prepare for alternative approaches, alternative plans, and alternative ideas.

So, the bottom line is this….  Don’t view the negative events of your life as “bad timing.”  View them as opportunities to go in a new direction.  See them as events happening “at just the right time” to try something new or shift outside your comfort zone.  Many of my life’s greatest adventures have occurred as a result of things that might have been considered bad timing at the moment.

So, after all, today might be happening “at just the right time.”  Enjoy it!

Final thoughts on the holidays

tree

Just a few final thoughts to share today on the holidays and the New Year ahead:

  1. Reunions – I was at the St. Louis airport before Christmas to pick up my daughter and her family from Utah.  This airport is a rather large hub for soldiers traveling home for the holidays.  So, there are plenty of opportunities to see heart-warming reunions.  I saw one family awaiting the arrival of their son.  You could see the anxiousness as they waited.  Then, the utter joy they experienced when their son arrived just melted my heart.  I am a sucker for these reunions anyway.  But, it just makes you appreciate more having family together when you think that many families of our service men and women were not able to experience that same joy.  Thanks to you that serve now, or in the past, or have loved ones away protecting the freedoms we enjoy!
  2. Passing it on – We had a houseful of guests during must of the holiday season.  And, as is often the case, we had some sickness passed around.  This was the stomach bug that is even more feared.  It made me wonder if it is possible to fumigate a home after such a sickness to completely eradicate any left behind viruses.
  3. A bad mix – Plastic baseball bats, glass Christmas tree ornaments, and 3-years olds are a bad combination.  Just saying….
  4. Vintage – Earlier in December, my siblings and I were reminiscing about Christmas when we were kids.  One of the remembrances was the aluminum Christmas tree our mother had.  It stood about 4 feet high and used a rotating light to give it color.  My sister then found and gave to me as a gift a miniature version.  It has to be over 60 years old and stands about 2 feet high.  It has a skirt and vintage ornaments.  A photo is attached today.  What a wonderful gift from a wonderful sister!
  5. Looking ahead to 2017 – We often feel the need to look ahead to what we’ll do differently, what challenges we face, or what new experiences we’ll have as the New Year approaches.  It is also a good time to look back.  We often fail to see the progress we are making because we fail to take that backward look.  Think for a minute about your experiences of 2016.  Think about the progress you made in your career or at work.  Would you want to go back and do 2016 all over again?  Think about the friends you made or friendships you nurtured.  Think about projects you completed, skills you learned, and fun times you experienced.  Those memories are precious and experiences you’ll never have again.  But, the new year will bring similar memories and new experiences.  A year from now, we’ll be amazed at how our lives are different, hopefully better, as a result of 2017.  Take time today to cherish the year we are just completing, but let’s look ahead with excitement and anticipation as we prepare to turn the page of another calendar year.

Thanks to each of you that I call a friend, a colleague, a neighbor, a family member, or even just a connection.  The wonderful people of my life make each new day a new adventure for me.  I look forward to what we will experience together in 2017!

How to tell your boss, “You’re wrong!”

boss

One of the most significant challenges any of us ever face in the workplace to telling our boss that he/she is wrong. How do you walk that fine line between potentially angering the person that controls your career food, air, and water versus sanding up for what you believe is right.  Because this tightrope is so difficult to navigate, most individuals choose the least risky choice of simply nodding and saying nothing.

Any boss that is satisfied with his/her teammates being “bobbleheads” and never voicing a dissenting opinion is one with either a very low self-esteem or an extreme love of power or both. However, these bosses frequently get less than acceptable results because of group-think or that feeling of “go along to get along” perpetuated by that boss.

I do believe, and witnessed it in my own career, that we gain courage as our career advances. The “filter” that might have pushed us into bobblehead-mode early in our career seems to dissipate as we gain confidence and career success.  However, there are times throughout our career that we need or must generate the courage to simply communicate to our boss, “You are wrong.”  How do we do that without completely ruining our relationship with our boss?  How can we do it without embarrassing our boss?  How can we do it most positively and productively?

Here are a few suggestions on how you can approach your boss when he/she might be wrong. Some of these are most appropriate when you need to speak up in a public setting, while some might be more effective in a private, one-on-one meeting.  In any event, these approaches may help you cross the line without ruining the relationship:

  1. Have you ruled out any other possibilities? – This is a low risk question to simply encourage a dialogue on other alternatives. If your boss does agree to articulate other possibilities considered, it might allow you the opportunity to inject your thoughts on why his/her approach may not be the proper choice.
  2. Would it be OK if we discussed some of the risks of this approach along with ways to mitigate them? – Most leaders welcome an opportunity to discuss risks and their mitigation. Thus, when you ask your question in terms of risk, you open the door to a discussion on why other alternatives might pose fewer risks.
  3. Could you talk about some of the factors you considered and how you came to this decision? – This approach solicits the wisdom of the leader that gets him/her talking about the factors considered and the rationale behind the decision. In the ensuing discussion, you might be able to discuss the risks posed by this approach.
  4. There are some factors that you might not be aware of. Can we talk about those and how they might affect where we are headed? – This approach seeks to provide new or additional information for the boss to consider. This “new” information might give the leader a way to reconsider without appearing to vacillate on the decision.
  5. Would it be OK to discuss a similar situation we had (or that I experienced) in the past and what we learned from that? – This approach seeks to provide a new perspective from someone that has experienced a similar situation – again, new information that might give an opportunity for reconsideration.
  6. Could we tabulate the pros and cons of this approach, so we could better visualize how to communicate this to others? – This approach does two things: it creates a very visual way to better assess the decision and it facilitates a discussion on communication that can lead to a “what if” or “why” dialogue.
  7. Would you be open to a discussion on why another approach might be better? – This is the direct approach that seeks to elicit an open discussion. This direction is preferred when the boss is confident and has demonstrated trust in your opinion in the past.

 

To achieve success, we cannot afford group-think that takes us down the wrong road. We need to have the courage to speak up when a decision or direction is not right or when it could be improved.  Think about how the approaches outlined above might be helpful in these situations and during critical conversations.

Have a terrific and successful day!

 

The Five Superheroes of Christmas

Superheroes

Merry Christmas!

The world is inundated these days with superheroes. We see movies about Superman, Spiderman, Star Wars, and others. Our children wear clothing with the superstars of cartoons. Even the youngest of children can sing the songs of Disney heroes. Adults even adore the heroes of books, the theater, TV, and music. But, what about Christmas? What about the Superheroes of Christ’s birth?

Certainly, the Bible is full of heroes and superheroes. The Christmas story includes: Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Wise Men, the Inn Keeper, and others. We cherish this story of centuries ago as both the birth of our Savior and the birth of Christmas. However, who are the superheroes in Christmas today?

Well, I contend that there are at least five Superheroes that we need to celebrate this and every Christmas season. Let’s take a look at each and the superpowers that result from each:

  1. Faith – First, is the Superhero I call Faith. The book of Hebrews in the Bible calls Faith “the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”  Faith is that confidence that what we hope for and believe is true and will happen. Faith is that confidence that our chair will hold us up when we sit in it. It is that trust that what God says is true. Faith sustains us when life becomes difficult and motivates us to go another step or another day. Without Faith, we can’t really celebrate Christmas and its true meaning at all. Faith in the Christmas Child is the only thing that can bridge that gap between us and God. Without Faith, there is no Hope.
  2. Hope – How can we go through life without our next Superhero Hope? Hope is that Superhero that connects our life today with God’s promise of everlasting life. Hope keeps us focused. Hope saves the day when we think things can get no worse. Hope walks with us when our loved one has died, when we have lost our job, or when our child has gone astray. Hope is powerful! Hope does what no earthy, normal hero can do. Hope is that Superhero that introduces us to Peace.
  3. Peace – Peace is that Superhero that everyone on earth seeks. Peace can be elusive or mysterious. However, Peace is one of the three Superheroes that only appear after we have experienced Faith and Hope. Peace is that hero that goes deep within us to combat those villains of anxiety, despair, fear, and misery. Peace rocks those guys! Peace is that feeling we get when we experience the Faith that gives us Hope. It is a trust that cannot be fully explained, but is that hero that can immediately change our day or our lives. Without Peace, it is nearly impossible to experience the Joy of which we sing at Christmas time.
  4. Joy – Joy is that Superhero that will never leave us, once we have experienced it. Joy is that base-level part of our being that is present regardless of our circumstances. To me, the Superhero of Joy can be described like this,  “Happiness depends to a large degree on our circumstances, but the joy of God is ever-present and ever-working to impact our lives and the lives of those around us.”  Joy finds us when our friends desert us. Joy is not afraid of the dark, our enemies, our thoughts, or our problems. Joy will stick to us when we have nothing else. Joy doesn’t have to have a GPS to find us because she is with us wherever we go. And, Joy is the one that produces Love in our lives.
  5. Love – Love is that Superhero in our lives that others can see and that impacts, not only our own lives, but the lives of others, as well. Love is that Superhero that can change the world around us. Love is all-powerful and is that Superhero invented by God and that comes to us straight from Him. The Bible (in 1 Corinthians 13) says this about the Superhero Love:  “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. …. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the greatest and most powerful of the Christmas Superheroes.

So, there you have it… the five Superheroes of Christmas! Have you ever experienced these guys? Do you have them in your life guarding you, protecting you, changing you, and, as a result, changing others around you? Without these Superheroes, Christmas is empty and, in truth, without meaning. It all starts with Faith. The Bible says (in John 3:16), “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you believe this is true, you can have the Superhero of Faith. Just trust God, ask Him to forgive you, and promise you’ll do your best to live for Him the rest of your life. By placing your faith (little “F”) in Him, God will give you Faith (big “F”). When you have the Superhero of Faith, all the rest of the Superheroes of Christmas will follow in your life.

If you would like to know more about these Superheroes or how you can find that Superhero of Faith, feel free to send me a note and I will help. God loves you and wants everyone to experience Christmas in all its wonder and excitement… the way He intended… with the five Superheroes of Christmas!

I hope this is your best Christmas yet!

The gift worthy of the King

drummer-boy

One of my favorite Christmas songs is The Little Drummer Boy. I realize that there is no reference in the Bible of a drummer boy and his encounter with the baby Christ, but the words of this song are so poignant that you can imagine it really happened.

To sum it up, the song talks of a little poor drummer boy that has no gift to bring to the baby King. So, he brings the only thing he has… himself. He plays a song on his drum for Mary and the baby and says, “I played my best for Him.” You can see a very nice version of this song at the link below.

In many ways, this song sums up the true meaning of Christmas:

  1. Christ is the King and deserves our honor – Jesus fulfilled centuries of prophesy that God would send a Savior, His Son to redeem the world. The baby Christ is God in the flesh given to us as the most intimate and ultimate gift of all-time. He deserves our honor, our worship, and our obedience.
  2. There is no earthly gift we could bring that is worthy – Though God’s Word says that earthly kings came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, there is truly nothing we could bring that is adequate to express our thanks for what God has done through Him. After all, He is the Creator of the earth, so we really have nothing we can offer that isn’t already His.
  3. There is nothing else we can do that is worthy – Though the little drummer boy did the best and only thing he could do for the newborn King, it was truly inadequate. The same is true for us… there is nothing we could do in our entire lifetime that would earn God’s redemption. Though many try to “earn” God’s blessings and His promise of eternal life, there is nothing we could do ourselves to bridge the separation we have from a perfect and holy God.
  4. Christ alone is worthy – This baby King, Jesus, ultimately did for us everything needed to restore us to a right relationship with God. He died on the cross and was miraculously resurrected to fulfill prophesy and pay our debt for our own sin. There is nothing we can do on our own behalf because Jesus alone is worthy. When we accept Him and His sacrifice to pay for our sins, we are restored to God and can look forward to an eternal home in heaven.

Christmas is not what we can do for God. It is not what we do for others, though we have a duty and honor to serve and meet the needs of others. Christmas is about what God did for us through that baby Christ born in the most humble way possible over two thousand years ago.

So, what is the only gift worthy of the King? That gift is our faith in Him and our acceptance of His sacrifice for our sins. That is really all we can offer that matters. I hope your Christmas is meaningful this year… full of hope, full of joy, and full of love for our King.

 

The Little Drummer Boy (lyrics alone)

Come they told me

A new born King to see

Our finest gifts we bring

To lay before the King

So to honor Him

When we come

Little baby I am a poor boy too

I have no gift to bring

That’s fit to give our King

Shall I play for you

On my drum

Mary nodded

The ox and lamb kept time

I played my drum for Him

I played my best for Him

Then He smiled at me

Me and my drum

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_MGWio-vc

 

 

My last workday!

last-day

This is the communication I sent today to my work colleagues.  Today is my last day of work before retirement.  I hope you find reading it is easier than it was for me to write it:

 

Well, today is my last day working… day number 10,000 in my work career. In some ways, I never thought this day would ever come. In other ways, it came just too darn fast! Either way, it is bitter sweet. As the retiree in the TV commercial says, “I’m leaving the best job I ever had to do the only job I ever wanted.” The commercial shows him going fishing and playing with his grandchildren and holding the hand of his wife as they walk down a country lane.   I hate leaving and love it at the same time.

When I look back over these 40 years in the workplace – and, especially the best 10 years of it… my time with you at Mallinckrodt – I just hope I did enough. I hope I made a difference for many of you. I hope I didn’t let you or the company down. But, all-in-all, I did my best and walk away with few regrets. Yes, there are some things I would change, but you can’t linger on the past. We just have to keep moving forward.

I need to tell you as individuals and as a group what you mean to me. My heart is full today. It has taken me several times trying to write this because I get emotional thinking of you and how you have touched my life. No man has ever been blessed more by work colleagues than me. You make it really hard for me to leave. Thank you for your kindnesses, your support, your friendship, and your love. We have had a great chapter together. Probably over half of you have worked directly with me or for me… some 3 or more times. So, those of you that know me best… that know my heart… have a sense of what I am experiencing today. As Winnie-the-Pooh said, “Some people care too much; I think it’s called love.”

I also want to say that if I have ever offended or hurt any of you, I apologize. I would do anything to help you and would never intentionally harm any of you. And, if there has been anything positive from my life, it is not me, but Jesus Christ in me. I have lived in a way that I try to reflect Him and His love for me. Jesus has made all the difference in my life and I am capable of nothing good except through Him. If you want to know more about this, you can read this link from The Porch (https://eldonhenson.com/2016/06/16/what-is-your-hope/).

So, as this chapter closes, I want to say it just one more time, “Today could be our best day yet.” Yes, I know that this seems impossible, but there will likely be a time in the future – maybe next week, maybe 10 years from now – when we look back and say that that day back in December 2016 was, possibly, our best day yet. We might say it because there were a few days that month that we were all here together, working to improve the lives of our patients, and doing our best to make a good company, great. We might say it because we all still had each other. We might say it because we knew that we could just walk down the hall to say hello. Or, we might say it just because it was true. Please don’t miss the good that life can offer. Please don’t ever miss a chance to tell someone – yes, even a coworker – what they mean to you… possibly that you even have grown to love them. We are promised only today, so let’s not miss it.

I do hope and look forward to staying in touch with you. And, I hope to see many of you with some regularity. I will drive back into town for food, you know. But, I know how this works… despite our best efforts to stay in touch, time is not on that side of the equation. So, let’s just keep those positive memories of those “good old days” back at Mallinckrodt. My life is better and more complete because of you. Thanks for making it so.

So… “Today could be our best day yet! There is still that chance.” Please, never forget it.

Writing your own next chapter

IMG_1115

As you probably know, tomorrow is my last full day in the office. I am retiring after nearly four decades in the workplace. Many have asked if I am ready, or am I excited, or what I plan, or how do I feel. To be truthful, I’m not totally sure. Yes, I am excited. I am ready financially, but who knows about everything else. I don’t have specific plans. And, I feel like we did as kids on the last day of school before summer recess… looking forward to the next chapter, one without structure, time limits, or specific expectations. In a way, I am ready for the bell to ring on that last day of school when you’ve done your best, the work is done, and all you have in front of you is time.

In essence, I am ready to write the next chapter of my life. As with any good book, every new chapter holds its own sense of excitement. You know it continues the story, but you don’t know what twists and turns the story might take. I plan to enjoy time with my bride and family, enjoy the hobbies time has limited, and look forward to whatever might be next. And, I hope to stay in contact with my many friends and colleagues from work.

In reality, many of you are also on the verge of a new chapter of your life. Some are or will soon be in new positions at work. Others are looking at changes at home. Others are beginning changes in health, geography, or responsibilities. So, how should we approach these changes in our lives? How do we proceed to write our own “next chapter?” Let me just share how I plan to write my next chapter. I am approaching my next chapter with:

  1. Thankfulness – I have been extremely blessed! I think everyone hopes that someday they can get to the point when they can retire on their own terms when they are still young enough and healthy enough to enjoy the time. However, all of us have something to be thankful for. So, as you approach your next chapter, pause to consider all the good in your life… the people, the opportunities, your health… and the hopes you have for the future. Being thankful is a terrific first step for the next chapter for each of us.
  2. An open mind – I am approaching those days in January when there is no alarm set, no calendar of meetings, no due dates, and freedom to set my own agenda (of course, with my wife’s permission, that is). However, I do not plan to be idle in my next chapter. I know there are plans for my life that I may not even yet be aware. I am approaching this with an open mind and plenty of flexibility. I will not automatically dismiss new possibilities. Each of us should approach what’s next with that same open mind. Don’t be constrained by your paradigms or preconceived expectations. Consider all possibilities and think outside-the-box.
  3. A sense of adventure – I am excited about what’s next for me! Part of that is because I don’t know what it is. I expect to be doing things I have never done before. I expect to go places I’ve never been before. And, I expect to learn new things, meet new people, and experience new adventures. Why don’t we all feel that way all the time? Have you lost your sense of adventure? Why not look ahead to your next chapter with this same sense of adventure and expectation?
  4. A view to others – I truly believe that a primary purpose for my life right now is to serve others. I will be seeking new ways to do this. I believe that each of us should be looking for ways to make a difference for someone else. Having a view to impact others – in other words, giving back – is important for fulfillment in the life of anyone. Consider how you might include a “serve” element in your next chapter.

So, as we approach a new year – one that surely represents change and opportunities for all of us – let’s begin now considering what we’ll write in that next chapter. Will it be one filled with excitement, joy, and fun or will it be another walk through the rut of life? Will it be one where you impact others positively or one in which your focus is on your own challenges? By thinking about it now, we have a chance to write it ourselves rather than merely let it happen to us.

Again, thank you for your kind words and encouragement during my transition to my own next chapter. You are one of the highlights of my life! Have a “top ten” day!

 

 

My personal balance beam

beam

I think my views of life balance have evolved over my years. In the beginning of my career, there might have been only a couple keys focus areas in my life, so keeping them in proper balance might have been easier. But, as life progresses, things change. I do admit there have been times when my balance was askew, but at least I realized it at the time and could make needed changes. So, what are those key areas that must be kept in balance? For me, I have narrowed those down to seven key areas… my seven “F’s”. These are the areas that matter to me:

 

  1. Faith – My faith and beliefs are very important to me. They form the basis of who I am and who I represent. I am not the same person without these beliefs. Thus, this part of my life must be a part of any discussion of balance. I realize that not everyone has this same basis, but, if you do, you need to ensure that you carve out time, energy, and effort to nurture and support it. I would also include in this category service to others. Finding a venue to help others by meeting their needs is a key part of keeping a proper life perspective.
  2. Family – My family is essential to me. As you probably know, I married my high school sweetheart. We have been married for 41 years. She is an integral part of me. And, she has supported me faithfully all these years… moving to support MY career, adjusting her schedule to meet MINE, and willingly taking care of OUR family. She deserved my full devotion and love. Thus, when life gets out of balance toward any other area, she suffers. Our three children and seven grandchildren also deserve my full attention. So, I would encourage everyone to ensure that this critical part of your life be kept in balance.
  3. Friends – Many would disagree with me, but I think too many ambition individuals forego friendships for the sake of career. By leaving no time for friendships, you deprive your life of others that can help carry your burdens and that can share your own accomplishments and disappointments. We need them in our lives. Please do not neglect this essential part of your balanced life.
  4. Pharma (or Firm, if you insist on a legitimate “F”) – Certainly, all of us spend a significant portion of our time and energy dedicated to our job/career. In fact, it is quite easy to let work dominate each other area of our lives. You cannot let that happen. Work is important, for sure, but it is not worth losing time with your family or friends or the other key areas of our life. Do your job and do it excellently… but, don’t give it more than it deserves as you balance other key areas.
  5. Fun – Everyone needs an escape from the stresses of life. Fun can disarm tension, can nurture relationships, and can make a dreary existence exciting. Taking time for hobbies, activities, or other things you enjoy is essential to maintain a healthy, balanced life.
  6. Physical (or Health) – An area that many neglect is their health or their physical being. Allowing imbalance that keeps us from exercise, healthy eating, regular physical exams, etc. is cheating yourself. And, when health issues arise due to neglect, recuperation can dominate every other area of your life. Don’t neglect your health.
  7. Function (or Mind) – Finally, we all need intellectual stimulation. We all need to be lifelong learners. By continually adding new skills, learning through reading, educational coursework, or other venues, we help maintain a sharp and focused mind that remains productive and refreshed.

 

When any of these areas is neglected, we, or others in our life, suffer. Long-term neglect can change us or leave us less than our potential would predict. And, it is never too late to re-balance. Looking objectively at our lives and how much of our time is spent in each of these areas can help us identify improvement opportunities for the new year ahead.

So, how is your life balance?  Is your life too focused in one or two areas? What will you do differently, starting today? Thanks for all you do and have a fabulous day!

 

Why today should be your “Best Day Yet”

chocolate-milk

You’ve heard it here before… “Today is the only day we are promised.” To me, that is why we need to approach each day – each today – as our “best day yet.” We often carry so many burdens from our yesterdays and worry so much about our tomorrows that we fail to grasp the beauty and promise of each new day we’re given. Sanhita Baruah, author/blogger, wrote the following about today:

 

Nostalgia (by Sanhita Baruah)

How often we use this word reminiscing about the past – our childhood, school days, college days. We feel nostalgic, we dwell in the memories of the past, we talk about how great those days were and how we would do anything to just go back in time and live those days again…

Perhaps we fail to realize the fact that tomorrow we will say the same things about today, about the days we are living in now, about the emotions we are feeling now, about the time we are spending now…

I love this day. I love this weird feeling I feel today. I belong here.

 

I often close these missives with something like, “Remember, today could be your very best day yet… watch for it!” When I say this, I really do mean it. When I look back on my life, I recall many special days. But, I also recall some of my “best days” being just ordinary days… days that started just like any other day. Something happened that day that made it special… a “best day.” It wasn’t something planned. I didn’t have a note on my calendar that said, “December 16 – Have the best day yet!” But, it happened despite my lack of planning or preparation.

The things I do today are so important, that I am giving up a day of my life to do them. So, in exchange for this day of my life, I want to make a difference to someone else… I want my efforts today to be my best work… I want to be a giver, not a take… I want to fulfill my purpose for today. Here are some of my favorite quotes on “today”:

  • “When was the last time you woke up and realized that today could be the best day of your life?” – Steve Marabili
  • “Success is to wake up each morning and consciously decide that today will be the best day of your life.” – Ken Poirot
  • “’What day is it?’ asked Pooh. ‘It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. ‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh.” – A. A. Milne
  • “Make today a gift to your future self.” – Anonymous
  • “Believe in the promise of today, and have hope in the possibilities of tomorrow.” – Chris Burkmenn
  • “Live today facing forward – with your back on yesterday, your eyes on tomorrow, and your head and heart in the moment.” – Richelle E. Goodrich
  • “One good thing about five-year olds is they are always just a Krazy Straw and some chocolate milk away from the best day ever.” – Simon Holland (Thanks, Jan Shalit for sharing this.)
  • “Don’t live in the past – you’ve already been there. And don’t live in the future, either. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. Live in this moment now – it is sacred and unrepeatable. This moment alone holds valuable gifts that should not be missed.” – Steve Goodier

 

So, think about how you can shift your attitude to treasure today more. Think about how you can make each new “today” something special and unique. Consider that you only have one chance at today — there is no rewind or re-do — so, put aside any feeling that doesn’t consider this a great new opportunity. Even without a Krazy Straw and chocolate milk, let’s make this day one of our very best.

Thanks for all you do. You are the source of many “best days” for me, so, for that, I am forever indebted. Now, go do it!