Friday, July 29, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Me and My Intuition.

I love this Trust 30 prompt from Susan Piver. The challenge is to describe my intuition as we share a meal. What would my intuition say?

Me: "Thanks for joining me."
        MI (My intuition): "Hey, if you're buying I'm there. How did you know this was my favorite place?"
Me: "I had a premonition. Any thoughts on beer, wine or an appetizer?"
        MI: "I'll have a Sam with dinner. No thanks on the appetizers. I'm trying to make better choices."
Me: "It must be working, you look great. You look like a younger, thinner me with a full head of hair. There's something about your eyes. Your eyes are a combination of a bright eyed youth and a wise old owl. What am I to make of that?"
        MI: "Make of it as you wish, after all I'm your intuition.What do you think?"
Me: "Well, I feel good about the future. I've got some irons in the fire. I wish I could progress faster but I do feel like I'm moving ahead each week. I can almost feel success knocking on the door."
        MI: "Don't worry about success. Success can be fickle and has so many definitions. Concentrate on consistency and effort.  You control consistency and effort and boring as the both may be, effort and consistency are the advance team for success."
Me: "So, I'm on the right path?"
        MI: "Are you?"
Me: "Knock it off, you're not my shrink."
        MI: "You're right, I'm not your shrink but I'm not a clairvoyant, either. I'm how you view the future."
Me: "Thanks. I had a feeling you would say that."
         MI: "So maybe you're a clairvoyant?"
Me: "Well played. Can you answer this question? When we got together before you rarely looked this good. At times you looked frail, brittle and old. Occasionally, you sat in front and cowered. I couldn't even get you to a table."
         MI: "When I looked like crap or couldn't even walk in, how were you doing then?"
Me: "For me it was tough accomplishing much. Meeting new people was uncomfortable. I had a lot of headaches, too."
         MI: "No wonder I didn't look good. There wasn't much that looked good to you."
Me: "I get it. You're just a reflection of me."
               Waiter: "May, I take your order?"
         MI: "Give us a few minutes. He didn't expect you yet."
Me: "I don't want to overload dinner with shop talk. Any advice before we order?"
         MI: "Sure. At times, I may be right on and other times I may be very wrong. Either way, you're stuck with me. You have to trust me. I am uniquely you and there isn't much else you have that's only you. Oh and have the chef's special. I'm sure you'll love it."


Thursday, July 28, 2011

ROL: You Can and Should Take It With You.

ROL is an abbreviation for Return on Life. Return on Life is all about making small incremental changes that yield large returns on life enjoyment. This week's ROL is about planning for the expected.

Have you ever been to the DMV and waited 45 minutes while 3 clerks came back from break, 4 clerks went on break and no one appeared to know how to load paper in the one special printer that is assigned to print the document you need to get on about your day? Have you ever waited over an hour for your doctor, dentist, optometrist? Seems Doc is running just a bit late and the magazines seem to be stuck in the 80's. You never know when these situations will occur, you only know that these situations are bound to happen.  Boredom fuels frustration which in turn fuels stress, even though you know this waiting game is going to happen from time to time. How do you beat it? Simple. Take something with you. Load an app to your smartphone that can keep you engaged for an hour. Better yet, go old school. Bring along a book or puzzle book and a pencil. I bring my Sudoku book more places than I take my family. Remember, you can't control how others run their schedule but you can manage your reaction.

What about you? Do you have any ready plan for occupying time while you wait (and wait and wait) for an appointment?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fab Four Networking.

This post comes from a presentation I gave to the Non-Working Networkers Group at
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rockford, IL in January, 2011. This post also serves as both a love note and a thank you note to the aforementioned Non-Working Networkers and the church Deacons. The multi-tiered support they provide to those of all (or no) faiths is truly God's work.

Why post this today? Margie Clayman wrote a great guest post Monday on Danny Brown's blog. In the comments, Margie threw down on me. It was a kind, respectful throwdown, but a throwdown none the less. Back at ya, Margie.

Wow, a preamble and an introduction. I'm awfully self-important today. Without further adieu, Ladies and Gentleman, networking by

What is the song about?
Listen to the words. It's two (unemployed) people networking.

Asked a girl what she wanted to be.
It's not hard to start. Introduce yourself and ask someone a question.

She said "Listen baby, can't you see? I'm gonna be famous, a star of the screen, but you can do something in between."
Early in the exchange offer help to the other if possible. Successful networking is based on what you give to the system, not on what you plan to get out of the system. The more value you can offer (the sooner the better) the more likely you are to receive value in return.

Baby you can drive my car. Yes, I'm gonna be a star. Baby you can drive my car, and maybe I love you.
When talking about what you do or what you're looking to do, specifics are vital. None of the nebulous "I want to put my people skills to use, I'm a great organizer, blah, blah, blah." People can't help when you want to do anything under the sun. The girl knows exactly what she wants. It's also obvious the girl knows how to network. She offers a very specific suggestion for her counterpart.

I told a girl that my prospects were good.
Obviously the speaker of the first part is a moron. A contact offers help on the 1st meeting and gets turned down out of hand.

She said "Listen baby it's understood. Workin' for peanuts is all very fine but I can show you a better time."
The girl asks the idiot, "Are you really going to turn down my offer, to my face, without at least taking some time to think it over? " Then, instead of turning negative with the moron meme, she remains positive. "Trust me, whatever you think you may have in front of you, I'm making a concrete offer."

I told that girl I could start right away.
The light goes on. Offer accepted.

She said "Listen baby I got something to say. I got no car and it's breaking my heart, but I found a driver and that's a start."
Opportunity rarely presents itself when we are looking for an opportunity. Opportunity arrives when least expected. Usually we are unprepared for opportunity. Unfortunately opportunity doesn't hang around until everything is in line to take advantage of the opportunity. The would be starlet required a driver. Her counterpart needed a position. A deal was struck, even lacking the requisite car.

"I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition".

Aside from telling you what you already know about networking, what is the takeaway from today's post?
  • The takeaway isn't about my smartest kid in class breakdown of "Drive My Car", even though I had a great time with the presentation.
  • The takeaway isn't about the wonders of social media, even though I met Margie Clayman yesterday via a blogpost and here I am today posting in response to her.
  • The takeaway isn't about the great work being done by Westminster Presbyterian Church, because that is for another day.
As adults, we should have identified our strengths and weaknesses by now. We know things we do well and areas where we perpetually under achieve. There are no new messages left to hear, it's merely the manner in which the messages we already know are presented to us. The takeaway is there are new presentations of known messages all around us. Inspirational speakers aren't if they say the same thing the same way every time, yet the message at the end doesn't vary. By finding known messages repackaged, we recommit to the path of success with new energy. Hopefully, next time "Drive My Car" comes on the radio, you'll remember my thoughts on networking rules of engagement.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my premise? Do you have an instance of finding an old message in a new place?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Time to Connect.

This Trust 30 prompt is from David Spinks. Simple and straight forward the challenge is to reach out and connect with someone. But not connect with just anyone. Connect with someone I've wanted to connect with but lacked the courage to do so. Not just set the meeting but to reflect on why I want to meet and then set up the meeting.  Maybe the prompt isn't so simple after all.

A challenge for me in this prompt is to think about someone I really want to connect with. I'm comfortable with my circle and rarely feel a burning desire to push beyond these boundaries.  Perhaps that's why my circle is so small. Maybe my small circle is the best reason to pursue this prompt with gusto.

I thought for a bit and realized there was an old friend I should reconnect with.  I have known Racer X (not his real name) for well over 20 years. We've done youth work together and even sat on a charitable board together. He's always been amenable and approachable. The last time I saw X was almost 10 years ago. He had left a downtown law firm to set up a sports related law practice in the suburbs. From everything I can see, X and his practice have been successful.

About a month ago I had a thought about a promotion at a generally ignored annual sporting event in town. In line with my desire to build a service creating and officiating at secular lifecycle celebrations, the promotion is a group wedding for 10 couples. I would solicit local businesses to donate wedding themed prizes, with each couple winning something. One lucky couple would win a full wedding package (hall, food, music, photo, video, portrait, honeymoon). Couples could enter through lottery or contest via local radio station. The promotion has the potential to breathe life into a poorly covered event and create buzz about me.

Since X has connections in sports, I thought X would be the perfect source for help. I'm asking X for ideas on contacts and pitch. Most importantly, X can advise as to whether or not I should even pursue the plan. Why my reluctance to reach out to X? I haven't been in touch while he was building his practice, so now I'm calling because I need something? This isn't about X and the way X treats people. This is all in my head. In my head I see the opening of "The Godfather": "You come to me on the day of my daughter's wedding, but you've never come to me in friendship..."

I contacted X via LinkedIn and we've agreed to meet by phone this afternoon. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 25, 2011

If You Only Remember One Thing...

Life has a funny way of putting a crossroads in an unexpected place. When this critical decision surfaces it's often impossible to seek counsel or refer to a cache of life experiences. The mind starts to race and can barely focus on teachings beyond the size of a bumper sticker. When faced with a turning point, what sage advice can be easily recalled and always correct?
"This above all: to thine ownself be true, and it must follow, 
as night the day, Thou canst be false to any man."
Polonius to his son, Laertes
Hamlet, Act I, Scene III
Polonius offers a treasure trove of life advice to his son in this exchange. Immediately preceding "to thine ownself be true" Polonius warns "neither a borrower or a lender be". (For more on Shakespeare's Hamlet see SparkNotes or your favorite high school English teacher.) Using my bumper sticker metric, "to thine ownself be true" is the clear choice for easy recall and never wrong advice.

Think about it. You're given an either/or decision of importance. It's hard to concentrate and the wrong choice will create havoc. Whatcha gonna do? Simple: To thine ownself be true. Do what serves you best. 

Self-truth doesn't mean choosing for you, all else be damned. Unless you're an island your choice effects others. You must take your responsibilities seriously. Sometimes (often?) choosing in a manner true to you actually benefits someone more than yourself. That's not self-untrue, that's adulthood, communal living or simply non-narcissim. There is nothing untrue about recognizing that others rely on you. What if your choice is true to yourself and fails miserably?

Whenever you make a choice, there is always a possibility that you chose incorrectly. So what? You made the best decision you could and you will figure things out. Consider the reverse. You made a choice that wasn't the true you and the decision blew up. Not only did you make the wrong decision, you did it as an idiot. Wrong and foolish. Wouldn't merely wrong be so much better?

Life is complicated. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's the myriad decisions and the ripple effect on the people you love that makes life confounding...and worth living.  I love ice cream, both chocolate and vanilla, but there's a reason it isn't Baskin-Robbins 2 Flavors.  When faced with a perplexing decision, "To thine ownself be true" and you'll always make the right choice.

How about you? If you have one lesson you can teach and it needs to fit a bumper sticker, what would that lesson be? Feel free to go up to two bumper sticker lengths, if it will help.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: I'm So Excited.

This Trust 30 prompt is from Mars Dorian. The challenge is about enthusiasm. When doing something exciting, the enthusiasm generated touches everything and everyone involved, creating unstoppable positive energy. All good, right? So how do I crank up that enthusiasm and bring that enthusiasm into everything I do? Engaging every activity with enthusiasm will make me unstoppable and lift up everyone in my circle.

A number of years ago I had committed an error of omission in the course of my day to day duties. I told my employer I would do a make good with the family I served on "my time" to avoid any further cost to the company. My employer became enraged with my offer. "We are a high profile public business and you are indelibly tied to my business. Anything you do in a public venue is MY time." Yes, I should have immediately run from this megalomaniac. I eventually did. Still, my employer's control issues should not cloud the lesson and how that lesson responds to the Mars prompt.

Everything I do is part of a larger whole. Taking my family to the movies, dragging my garbage cans to the curb, parking my car in the mall parking lot. Mundane as these task may be,  these tasks are part of me. If I do not attack each and every task with energy and zeal, I could potentially address all my responsibilities at less than my best. Enthusiasm is not governed by a spigot. Less than my best becomes pervasive. And, there's more.

Like it or not, time is finite. All tasks need to be done. It's best to approach the scut work as though it were a live redo of the 10 Commandments (the actual Commandments with Moses, not the movie with Charlatan Heston). Accomplishing the menial with high energy gets me to the prime function quicker and reduces the possibility of being forced to revisit the dull assignment.

Finally, most great accomplishments are built on a basis of dull repetition. Listen to Elton John, especially his early work. Sir Elton plays a mean piano in many different genre. But even his early rock and roll showcases his classical training. The killer piano you hear today (OK, 30 years ago) was made possible by hours and hours of boring drill on scales. I can't imagine a young Elton John enjoyed playing the same stuff over and over. Until he mastered the basic he couldn't completely create new melodies. The more energy and attention spent mastering the basic, the sooner he could get to the fun. The same goes for me. Back to Mars and the crazy employer.

My employer considered any of my time all of his time. He did not differentiate. Although this is a terrible way to run a business it does contain a great lesson. Just as my employer thought all time was the same (his), all tasks are indeed the same: IMPORTANT. There are no such things as unimportant responsibilities. If something must be done, the fact that the project must be done makes it important. The boring job is either a building block or a gateway to that which is exciting. Either way, the banal requires effervescent execution. The energy spent on the boring also serves as a launching ramp to the excitement necessary to execute that which engages.  Keeping this in mind is a way to bring enthusiasm to everything I do, creating an ever growing cache of positive energy for me and those around me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Everyone is an Expert at Something.

This Trust30 prompt is from Jen Louden. This prompt is an understated warning to beware the expert. The internet provides unlimited access to unlimited information but search engines neither vet the purveyor of said information nor guarantee results should you follow the advice you find.

When looking for help on the internet, it's challenging differentiating good information from invented information. The wiki is now perverted by contributors adding "information" to enhance a specific POV. Google is helping with +1 as is Bing with it's collaboration with Facebook. As for me, I have some additional advice.

Since jumping on Twitter I have gained an even greater disdain for self anointed gurus, ninjas, sherpas, experts, secret agents and freemasons (OK, I made the last one up). For years I have steadfastly avoided eateries that felt a need to place the words "Good Food" on the sign. I'm paying someone else to cook and they need to tell me in advance it's good? Are they afraid I'll have a different opinion? It's the same with self anointed experts: For goodness sake, let me decide on the level of your expertise!

Everyone is a expert at something. In that light, I put up a sight designed to pay homage to the expert in everyone. "Crowdsourcing A Good Life" is a forum to share information on life's burning questions and collectively quench that fire.  Please stop by and add your $2 (indexed for inflation) worth.

How about you? How do you guard yourself from experts that may not be such experts?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

ROL: Don't Drown, Drink It Up.

ROL (Return on Life) is a qualitative counterpart of the quantitative marketing analytic, ROI. ROI greatly increases when a little input generates a significantly greater output. Likewise, ROL increases when small life changes produce a greater quality of life. This week's ROL is...well, read on.

I can't believe it's already Thursday afternoon and I'm not set to go with an ROL topic. I have two posts nearly done but can't get what I need in time to make my self-imposed Thursday deadline. I've posted just once since last Thursday. What's going on?

As a starter, the Trust30 prompt for Tuesday was a great idea to help promote my website, "Crowdsourcing A Good Life". Unfortunately, I've been blocked and hadn't posted a new question to the site in over a month. Luckily, Gini Dietrich posted about Spotify. Gini's post planted the seed that lifted the block. The site was updated along with the corresponding Facebook page. A large portion of my social media time allotment was tied up with the site and FB updates but there was more going on, as well.

This past Sunday, my wife rejoined the workforce after a 12 year absence.  Given current conditions and a gigantic hole in my wife's resume (Hole? Spending 12 years concentrating on a household. Birthing and raising two kids, 1 of which is special needs lite and the other which is special needs lighter. This is a hole?), we're thrilled she landed as a 2nd shift CSR at a call center. My wife's new schedule required me to become a primary with the kids. I'm responsible for lunch and dinner and clean up and putting leftovers in a container for wifey's next day dinner. A large portion of computer allocation disappeared with the 1st week of the new schedule. I expect to reclaim this time, but change is turbulent.

My point? I consider building my brand and sharpening my skills in the e-community as part of my day to day responsibilities. When cooking for my kids took my time and energy I could have become angry; the new schedule was stealing my time. A wave of frustration and self pity could have washed over me and gotten the rest of my household wet, too. Instead I relished in literally feeding my family. I chose to enjoy the after dinner time alone with the kids (very challenging during the kids non-medicated hours). Sure, I'm not pleased to have blown a week without promoting me, but frankly that was "money in the pot" anyway. I didn't lose a week of family time along with the unwritten blog posts.

No matter how much we resist, change happens all the time without permission. Those changes will take that which we all hold dear. If we persist in ongoing anger about those already happened changes we lose the joy that new circumstance can bring. Occasionally, changes can be life altering and not in a good way. Too often, meaningless crap consumes us and robs us of the ability to adapt and turn those challenges positive.  
It's a waste to get lost in what has slipped away. 
Find all the good that awaits the next day.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Speak Less (or at least softer).

This trust 30 prompt from Laura Kimball is about speaking less in order to do more. The Emerson text she utilizes is about trusting an inner voice no matter what the rest of the world says or thinks. As support, Ms. Kimball uses a cookie fortune "Speak less of your plans, you'll get more done". Emerson and Cookie go well together. Thanks, Laura.

This two pronged idea for producing results is expressed over and over.

  • A picture is worth a thousand words. 
  • Put up or shut up. 
  • Don't tell me, show me. 
  • More eloquently stated by Theodore Roosevelt, "Speak softly and carry a big stick".
  • Most eloquently written by Master Emerson, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds".
Simply put, follow your own voice. Screw common wisdom. Ignore the whispers and forge ahead. If you spend your life doing as others suggest, you'll be living someone else's life. I realize this is easier said than done, but there is one sure fire way to set a successful course for your internal compass.

Don't talk about what you are going to do. DO what you are going to do. As Cookie said so very nicely, "you'll get more done". Doing instead of talking doesn't provide fodder for Master Emerson's little minds. Even if those little minds want to give you a piece of their mind (not like they have mind to spare) you'll be too busy doing to engage in conversation. Yes, Virginia, doing instead of talking is the ultimate flip-off.

Needless to say, the prompt reflects back at me. Family and friends consider my dabbling in blogging and other such social media falderal inconsequential. Plus, I talk about needing to spend more time trolling for readers for this blog. So less talking, more marketing and shove the results in the face of naysayers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

ROL, Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Systematically Facing Fear.

ROL (Return on Life) is a weekly post. ROL is the life style enhancing metric similar to the business measurement ROI (Return on Investment). Just as ROI increases with incremental additional investment generating large gains, ROL is about small life change strategies that can provide significant increases in quality of life. Today's ROL is inspired by a Trust 30 prompt.

This Trust 30 prompt is from Dan Andrews.  I love this prompt because it addresses the need of creatives to eschew logic and create. The prompt then provides a systematic approach for addressing any fear based on not following conventional and systematic thought.  This prompt synergizes left and right brain function using logic to defeat the enemy of the creative. What is the enemy of the creative? Logic.

Other prompt generated posts have pointed out that rational thinking is the enemy of creative energy. Considering the cost of failure obscures the benefits of success. Since the proper sequence remains ready,aim, fire, it's understandable that many great ideas don't get started because of the fear of failure. Luckily, not everyone is bound by this thinking. Richard Nixon's political career was thought to be dead when he lost the California governor's race in 1962, yet a mere 6 years later he became president. Okay, maybe that's a bad example but you get the point. There is tremendous value in forgoing conventional wisdom and achieving something no one thought possible.

It's great being a blind optimist, so long as you don't mind being blind. It's better to grant those fears reality and address those fears one by one.
  1. What are the costs of inaction? Consider this: Starting a sentence "If I had only ..."is so sad. "I did this but it didn't work out as I had hoped" trumps "If I had only..." every single time.
  2. What kind of person do I want to be? Look to your personal heroes. They are your heroes for a reason. I'll bet they're not your heroes for their ability to sit idly by and watch the world happen.
  3. In the event of failure, could I generate an alternative positive outcome? As long as failure doesn't kill you, there should always be an alternative positive outcome. At the very least you learn what seemed like a great idea, lacked. Use knowledge gained in failure to succeed next time. Today's success's are often built on the foundation of yesterday's failures. On the other hand, if there is a high (or even slim chance) that the activity could kill you, perhaps additional consideration about charging ahead is warranted.
Ignoring fear isn't always the answer. Facing fear and defeating fear point by point allows you to properly separate the factual from the irrational. So go ahead, embrace fear. Break it down, then break it in half. Then go out and show the world what you can do.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: These Dreams.

    This prompt from Michael Rad is about dreams. Specifically, to identify my top 3 dreams, write down my top 3 dreams and then write down the things that are holding me back from accomplishing these dreams. This is a companion to yesterday's post, Invent The Future.

    I am not a big dreamer. If my 3 top dreams were a movie, the movie would go straight to the Netflix "Instant" directory. My dreams are about my family; Spending time (arguing) with my wife and (yelling at) my kids. I also want to give as much support to my kids as I can to ease their transition into adulthood. Implicit in these dreams are a level of income and an amount of recreational time. The level of income and time are heretofore unquantified. I'll know when I have enough of both.

    I have no dreams of travel. If the Rockford Clocktower is the last world landmark I ever see, that's fine. I have no dreams of publishing, speaking or being adored by multitudes. I'm not against writing, presenting or adoration but these are only means to an end; time with my wife and kids and being an asset to my kids. Therefore, everything I stated yesterday belongs here also. So what's stopping me from accelerating my future success?

    Only one thing is stopping me from reaching my goals: Me. That's it, I'm the problem. I have to build my network and present my brand. If I'm not networking face to face or on the net, I'm doing nothing. I have to press the flesh and press the send key as often as possible and then, more than as often as possible. A caveat is that my brand must choose quality over carp and content over quantity.  In the end, I may not be the only encumbrance to reaching my dreams. Until I jump the hurdle of me, nothing else is in the way.

    What about you? What's stopping you from achieving your dreams? Oh and by the way, if you don't write it down, it doesn't exist. Take some time and share your thoughts.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Invent the Future.

    This prompt from Cindy Gallop is about setting long term goals.  Rather than a "to do list", the challenge is to paint the picture of my future. Once I see the future, I can go about the mundane task of filling in the details.

    In the future, I see myself in a nice house with a white picket fence in the suburbs. I will have three nearly perfect children, Amanda, Xavier and Fred.  Wait, that's someone else's future. I gotta get a new crystal ball.

    My future includes serving as a creator/facilitator of life cycle celebrations for the secular community.  I plan on speaking to secular humanist and atheist gatherings about the importance of ceremonial celebrations and explain the dynamics of creating life cycle events based on music, literature, science and history. My business will have been built via face to face networking and social media. I also will offer consulting to small businesses on building a business via social  media.  If I have time available, I have a very specific website in mind that I would love to develop.

    That is a very aggressive future. It's time to start writing down the mundane details.

    What about you? How do you see your future? Without a vision for your future you will merely travel life's path as a bystander and wind up living someone else's future. How can you start living your future today?

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust Challenge: One Moment in Time.

    This Trust 30 prompt is from Bridget Pilloud. I am to recall (or imagine and describe) a point when I knew that I wasn't following anyone but creating my own path. A time when I felt wholly strange, new and most alive.

    As my anniversary week nears conclusion, this prompt recalls my wedding day. I began the path described above as I walked to the chupah to wait for my bride.

    If you were among the 100+ guests at my wedding, you would have noticed my mother's absence. My Dad died when I was 7, so from that point until I met my wife it was Mom and me. Whether she didn't approve of my wife or just couldn't let go, my mother didn't attend my wedding.

    The decision to walk the aisle alone was my decision. I didn't have a surrogate parent and to just have someone fill a space... I was no less on my own.

    My in-laws preceded me in the procession to the chupah, stopping halfway down the aisle, turning 90 degrees   and facing each other as though guarding that point in the aisle. As I walked through my in-laws, my nearly mother-in-law took my hand in support.  My in-laws weren't guards. At that my moment my in-laws were serving as greeters, welcoming into their family. I continued my path to the chupah.  My in-laws waited for my bride, to accompany her on the last steps to becoming my wife.

    I walked the aisle alone to the beginning of a new life. I was married and my priorities and responsibilities reordered with the marriage. As I walked to the chupah my emotions were 95% unrestrained joy and 5% "Where's the safety net?". The life altering decision to marry rearranged my family dynamics. This path was mine. The future was up to me.

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge: Ambition is Good, Blind Ambition isn't Good.

    This Trust 30 prompt is from Jonathan Fields. This prompt is about the hidden trap of realized goals. No one is clairvoyant. A goal reached can be significantly different than the goal imagined.To avoid this trap, one must always be open to alternative opportunities presented on the path to reaching the goal. Sometimes the outcome desired will be reached via an altered set of goals. It's impossible to find this altered goals with blind dedication to a primary plan. So...

    This is one area in which my eyes are wide open. My path to lifecycle ceremony creator and facilitator for the secular actually begin as the goal of directing funerals for underserved communities in my city. Providing lifecycle ceremonies for an underserved community is a wider and more creative variation of the funeral director plan.

    • I have already identified ancillary opportunities of the ceremony creator. One is to simply offer marriage ceremonies on a short time frame.  Are you moved to get married right now? In Illinois there is a mandatory 24 hour wait from permit to ceremony. Why go to city hall 2 days in a row. Get the permit and call me. We can meet at your residence, gym, office, favorite restaurant at a selected time. The couple has a more meaningful wedding. I get the opportunity to market myself and get paid.
    • Another variation of ceremony creator is to team with local hotels and prepare memorial service (no casket) options. The hotel knows it's convention schedule 2-3 weeks in advance.  If the hotel is at less than capacity the opportunity to provide catering, rooms and services for a memorial service helps the hotel add revenue. For the family, the hotel has some of the items families may not have at home: projectors, sound system, large capacity, support staff, ample parking, etc. The opportunity to have the meal and service at the same location is a win-win for the family and hotel.
    I am sure other opportunities will occur as I start and build my service business. I am also confident I will be open to evaluating those ideas and pursuing those ideas when the match is good. Thanks, Jonathan.

    ROL: It's Great to Have Excellent Relatives but Worthless to Have Relative Excellence.

    ROL (Return On Life) is a soft measurement for lifestyle comparable to the hard marketing measurement, ROI (Return on Investment). ROL addresses small or simple life changes that can have greatly improve quality of life, in my opinion. Since it's my blog, my opinion matters a great deal.

    "So, how did you do today?" "Relatively well."  
    I give this answer way too often.  Relatively well means I didn't do well, but I'm not going to bore you with excuses. Genesis 6:9 states that Noah (boatbuilder, 1st mobile zookeeper) was righteous for his generations. In relative terms, Noah was a white collar crook during a time rampant with violence. Noah wasn't righteous; merely not as bad as everyone else. Consider these examples. When someone asks the obstetrician about the delivery, is "relatively well" a good answer? Did the doctor deliver 80% of the baby? What about the bombardier? "I did relatively well". Was the perimeter of the munitions dump destroyed with only half the neighboring population murdered? Relatively well is objectively poor.

    It's time to come up with a different answer. "I did my best" is much better than doing "relatively well". "I gave my best effort" is not as good as "I did my best" but still so much better than "relatively well". How do these alternate responses differ from "relatively well"?

    The results are in fact the same. The frame of reference is the polar opposite. "Relatively well" is I sucked less than others. "I did my best/gave my best effort" is I did the best I could. Perhaps the results are insufficient, but I will do better tomorrow.  "Relatively well" accepts and perhaps extols mediocrity.  "Best/best effort" indicates the pursuit of excellence.

    When it's time for your review does your supervisor say "He's better than an empty chair" or "She never quits"? At contract time does your client say "I don't have the time or energy to find another company" or "They keep going until I get exactly what I need"? For your eulogy do your kids say "I was better off than an orphan" or "Mom and Dad always found a way to make time for me"?

    Life is not graded on a curve. Stop comparing your results and efforts to the world of the mediocre.  Do your best, no excuses.

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust Challenge: Surprise Yourself.

    This straightforward prompt from the Trust 30 challenge is by Ashley Ambridge. I am charged to recall a time when I did something I didn't believe I was capable of doing but surprised myself. That was then.  What about this week?

    Since this is Wedding Anniversary week at home, I recall courting my wife for our first date. This was in ancient times when folks still had voicemail on their pagers. (Pager? What's a pager? There's voicemail on those big coaster size things at the restaurant?) We had just set our first date. I composed a poem and read the poem into her voicemail. As a single person lacking 2nd dates, reading a poem into voicemail prior to a 1st date was out of character for me. Further, those ancient pager-voicemail thingees had a time limit on messages. I got timed out as I started the final stanza and had to call back to complete my poetry slam offering. Obviously, everything worked out well as evidenced by my introductory sentence including "Wedding Anniversary week".

    How can I use this to surprise myself this week? Well, if it's planned, it's not really a surprise. But, if it's not planned how can it be executed? So it's now a challenge. I will challenge myself to find 3 new venues to troll for blog traffic, using my personality (my poetry is reserved for my wife) to announce I'm a player.

    How will you use past self-surprises to challenge yourself to push your limits?

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Ralph Waldo Emerson Trust 30 Challenge Prompt 12: Fear, What Does It Matter?

    This prompt by Lachlan Cotter is about recognizing fear, confronting fear and then kicking fear squarely and confidently in the stones.

    Even when gainfully employed (prior to 9/08) I was unsettled.  I was making good coin working in a niche industry that despite all predictions was contracting instead of expanding. I needed a (better?) long term plan but with a stay at home wife and two kids, I would not consider anything. At least I could afford the antacid to treat the feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    In September, 2008 my employers suggested I do something else for anyone else. I was confronted by the fact that their was nothing (including what I had heretofore done) that I was passionate about doing. My enforced sabbatical led me to social media to test a hypothesis about using Twitter to drive B2C demand during off peak hours. I found my hypothesis faulty, but learned that I liked social media, a lot.

    I continued to expand my network and I am now privileged to be connected with a large number of entrepreneurs using social media to drive their business ventures. These people are examples of where I want to be within my own niche. The cost of failure is far less than the cost of sitting on the sideline by whatever currency counted.

    In case I am making a mistake by venturing forward,  I say to the future:
    It is impossible for the the blunder to be of significance in 10 minutes, 10 days or 10 weeks.  That is too short a time to measure the success(es) or failure(s) of any venture. As for 10 years from now, if I have erred in this venture, the strength and knowledge I gained from the attempt laid the groundwork for future success in new areas.

    Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Fourth of July.

    In Congress, July 4, 1776. "The unanimous declaration of the 13 united States of America..." and so began momentous events that changed the trajectory of history.

    In a tux, July 4, more than 200 years later. "Be though consecrated unto me..." and so began momentous events that have changed the trajectory of my personal history. Technically, those events began exactly 2 years earlier when I asked the lovely woman that would choose to marry me, "Do you want a hot dog or hamburger?" Such are the advantages of working the grill at a singles picnic.

    I can't imagine the feeling of the patriots: some combination of fear, exhilaration, doubt and pride. They had just dismissed the divinity of the crown. Right or wrong, there was no going back. Their world was never going to be the same.

    Standing with my almost wife I too had a full range of emotions. There was more joy and excitement than anything else. For me as for the founding fathers, there was no going back. My world was never going to be the same.

    As it turns out, the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were right. They chose to challenge the World Order and created the democracy all other countries covet. The path has had more than a few "construction delays" but 235 years later still the USA is still the greatest country in the world. The Declaration of Independence has made the world a better place.

    Even though I've been married less than 235 years, my July 4th declaration has also stood up over time. Just like the US, my family has grown over time and my family has also had our share of setbacks. In spite of all the challenges, we celebrate another year of being together. Jefferson & Co. weren't trying to change the course of history, they were trying to improve their little corner of the world. The same goes for me: I was just trying to improve my life. I too, have been successful. Who know's what the next 235 years will bring?