Everyday Thoughts

It may sound odd, but I write in my journal everyday. In fact, I have kept two separate journals since roughly the spring of 1995. Over the years it has became a strong habit that I am wary of breaking. Each day, prior to going to bed, I sit down for a few minutes and write my actions, thoughts and the events of the day. I do this regardless of how mundane or boring the day was. At certain points in my life the days and weeks seem to be the same, for how much does each day differ for most people in school or at work. Reoccurring events are what make up life, even if they make it mold together at the same time. But the history I am recording in my journals is priceless. Once in a while I like to pick up an old journal, from say, 2002, and take a trip back into my previous life as I flip through the pages. What I have written down brings back memories of people, places and events that I did not write down but were a part of my life at that time. As I do so, I recall the highs and lows of life and am able to see how much I’ve learned, grown and progressed in life.

The second journal I keep I write in much less frequently. I only get to it a few times a month, but it is where I am able to be much more elaborate with my thoughts and feelings. My second journal is much more personal to me and the several volumes I have contain hundreds of pages of my thoughts going back at least ten years. By keeping a journal I realize that I have the power to alter history and to possibly shape how my descendants will remember me. I am honest in my writings, but I am aware of the saying that one should never write down what he does not want discovered. As much as I enjoy writing, there are some things that I wish to keep truly to myself.

Baby Steps

Last week our daughter turned ten-months old. Last night, she took her first steps by herself. She has wanted to walk for the past many months now and has gotten to the point where she could walk well by holding on to only one on our hands. But yesterday, she was able to take steps by herself several times before she lost balance and fell. This means that in the next few weeks she will quickly develop balance and confidence and will soon be all over the place by the time she is eleven-months old. I knew that this day was coming, I just didn’t realize it would be here so soon. It’s incredible to see how much our daughter has learned and grown in the past ten months. Hanna seems to have a bright personality and will grow into an intellectually curious young woman. It has been fun to watch her grow; I hardly remember life before her.

One Shining Moment

March Madness is upon us again. I believe that this is the best tournament in all of sports. Your guess as to who will win the championship in a few weeks is as good as mine. And that’s why it’s so great. My first memories of watching this tournament go back to sixth grade and I have been following it each year since. The championship game is always played the Monday night after the Final Four weekend and is often one of the best sports spectacles of the entire year. Yet, one of my favorite parts of the whole tournament is after the Monday night championship game. Once a champion has been crowned and the nets have been cut down and the credits run, CBS plays One Shining Moment, a song written for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. During the inspirational song, CBS shows the highs and the lows of the entire tournament, starting with the games played during the first round of the tournament and ending with the championship game that just finished that night. Watching it each year almost brings a tear to my eye. If you haven’t seen it, stay up for it this year. It starts about thirty minutes after the ending of the final game, but it’s worth waiting for. Watch the 2007 One Shining Moment here.

The Tone at the Top

In life, sometimes little things can go a long way. This is especially true for communication in the workplace. Recently I was in a situation where everyone could sense something was afoot, but the few people in the know said nothing. Such an environment led to confusion, speculation and even bitterness. Such feelings could have been easily avoided with some communication. Personally, I believe that the leader of the group should have taken two minutes to speak with each other person one-on-one and explain the situation in a positive way and reassure them that they are doing good work and have nothing to fear. Regardless of whether those were the feelings, the failure to take a minute and reassure people resulted in unnecessary anxiety and resentment. The clichés are true that the tone is set at the top and attitude does reflect leadership. A sloppy and indifferent environment leads to sloppy and indifferent employees and team members. It’s too bad it’s come to this, but sometimes I really wonder if certain people are asleep at the wheel.

Using Soccer to Get The Point Across

I recently read of an interesting survey of 23,000 employees across various industries regarding employee engagement and understanding of their business’s direction. Some of the results were as follows:

  1. Only 37 percent said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why.
  2. Only 20 percent were enthusiastic about their team’s and their organization’s goals; said they have a clear link between their tasks and their team’s organizational goals; and, fully trusted the organization they worked for.
  3. Only 15 percent felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals.

If I was a part of that survey, I would have likely contributed to the low rates of employee engagement and understanding of my employer’s big-picture goals. But as telling as the above results are, they are too abstract to have a lasting impact on the project manager, managing director or managing partner, let alone on the everyday reader. That is until you read an analogy that puts the above statistics in perspective. Drawing on the notion that almost everyone generally understands the game of soccer, the author continues, “If a soccer team had these same scores, only 4 of the 11 players on the field would know which goal is theirs. Only 2 of the 11 would care. Only 2 of the 11 would know what position they play and know exactly what they are supposed to do. And all but 2 players would, in some way, be competing against their own team members rather than the opponent.” Viewed from this perspective, one begins to understand how dismal most offices and work environments are. But they don’t have to be like that. I look forward to the day when I can work with my colleagues in setting and achieving clear and realistic goals and feel that the work I do is meaningful. This is not just wishful thinking. This can be done. It’s too bad that it’s not found in most workplaces.

Click here to see which book the statistics and the soccer analogy come from.

Don’t Call it Hiking

It has often been said that I do not enjoy hiking. The idea of driving somewhere to get out of the car and hike uphill in the woods, hang out and then turn around and come back to the car is not the most exciting day to me. So yes, it is correct to say that I do not enjoy hiking, in the traditional sense, that is. But please do not say that I do not enjoy walking, especially when such walking occurs in a densely urban area. I have gotten by through much of my adult life without a car and prefer to walk and take public transportation when I can. There are times when a car is convenient, to be sure, but if I have the time I prefer to walk. In a book I read recently I came across a reference to a local group that has been walking around the island of Manhattan for several years. The first Saturday of May each year a group called Shorewalkers sets out from the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan and walks around the entire island – all 32 miles. This year, on May 3rd, I intend to join them. I have walked much of Manhattan, but I have not attempted to walk as close to the shore as possible for the entire length of the island, especially not in the northern areas of Manhattan. For the most part, I, like most people, forget that Manhattan is even an island. But I look forward to the journey and for seeing areas I have yet to explore. If you’re interested in joining me and many others on the walk, visit the website here.

Dicky Fox

I have always liked the movie Jerry Maguire, the story of a sports agent who one night writes a memo on how the industry should function, gets fired from his job and convinces only one client to stick with him, a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. While there are several memorable characters in the film, one of my favorite characters is Jerry’s mentor, Dicky Fox. Although Dicky is on screen for a total of less than one minute for the entire film, he left a lasting impression on me. When things don’t go as planned, Dicky is shown as a flashback in Jerry’s mind to “Roll with the punches. Tomorrow is another day.” and that “The key to this business is personal relationships.” When we dread facing our everyday struggles, Dicky reminds us of the power of a positive attitude. He says, “I love getting up in the morning. I clap my hands and say, ‘This is gonna be a great day.'” On success, Dicky leaves us with his secret, “In life, to be honest, I failed as much as I have succeeded. But I love my wife. I love my life. And I wish you my kind of success.” If only we could all strive to be and think more like Dicky when times get tough. Click here for a clip of Dicky.