Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Day 117: Introduction to the Guy Who's Got it Right

Today I've been so focused on marketing and content and all this goodness that my head is spinning!

I like producing content. I do it strictly in writing these days, but I tried my hand a some videos back in the day as well. Yeah, go ahead and search YouTube for "Andrew Lisi" and you'll find some really weird stuff.

Admittedly, in both writing and video, execution is lacking. There are still two very large gaps: Planning, execution, and consistency (I know that's three, but I ignore planning in pretty much everything or, better explained, planning is involved in both good execution and consistency).

Yet, in both writing and video, I have been inspired by someone, someone I want to introduce you to. He's influenced the way I view social media, the way I view marketing, sales, delivery, support - it all. I've leaned on his thinking both in my current work and also in my work in the church. I've loved his content because it doesn't involve any B.S. What he communicates and articulates isn't magic; in fact, I think it's all stuff many of us see, but can't quite put our finger on it, which I guess is a mark of a true "visionary." The best part is that his philosophy is a proven one in business across many verticals seeing as how it all began with a wine business he took over from his father and has now morphed into a popular, growing media agency.

If you're interested in increasing your brand awareness and influence, understanding the power of social media, getting insights on what makes people tick, this is your guy. Even if it isn't business-related to you at all, even if you just want to increase readers on your personal blog or followers on your Instagram, this guy will help.

Who is this?

This guy is Gary Vaynerchuk or better known as @garyvee in the social media world.

Here's just a sample of the goodness:

"How to Get Your Wine Palate Trained:" https://youtu.be/2qxDuPbFnoM?t=2m35s (this is my favorite. He eats a ton of foods, from cereal, to jelly, to dirt, to help you get your palate trained. The end is the best and launched him into fame.)

"Stop Storytelling Like It's 2007:" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OnXijAxiy8g (adult language in this bad boy)

The Thank You Economy: http://www.amazon.com/Thank-You-Economy-Gary-Vaynerchuk/dp/0061914185/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

That last one is a great book. The big premise is that many businesses (and this can pertain to any organization, really) tend to focus too much on saying "thank you" to the customer as a way of providing service. The Thank You Economy flips it and argues that your business or organization should be so good, so savvy, so caring that it's your customers who are saying thank you.

I guess that's what this is. Gary Vee continues to influence me today and his economy works. This is my thank you to him. Check him out!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Day 116: If Money Wasn't an Issue...

This is a simple question: If you didn't have to work for your money, what work would you be doing?

What do I mean? Let's say that you have enough money to live off of the rest of your life, but you still have to work. What would you do? It doesn't have to be a job in corporate America. You could do anything that is considered work.

So if you didn't have to work for your money, but still had to work, what would you do? Would you keep doing what you're doing or would you pursue something else?

Hit me up in the comments or shoot me an e-mail at andrewlisi at gmail dot com.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Day 115: How Eating Out Keeps You From Getting Rich

I received $100 recently for some side work that I did last month. That sounds a bit cryptic; I officiated a wedding. It's not something I do regularly anymore, but I enjoyed the opportunity to marry some friends.

As most of us do with money we receive outside of our paychecks, I spent some time thinking about what I should spend it on. Many things came to mind, but the one purchase I've been wanting to make as of late is for a set of Bose speakers for our house with bluetooth and all that good stuff.

I lived in that world of wondering how the sound would be in our home for a bit when I got curious about another way to use the money. What if, instead of spending it, I invested it? What would happen to $100 if I just threw it in an index fund (a fund basically mirrors one of the many indices out there, like the S&P 500) and didn't touch it until retirement, say 30 years from now?

For the sake of simplicity, let's say that the index fund I invest that money grows at around 8% annually for 30 years. Using this simple calculator I learn that if all I did was put this money in a fund for 30 years it would grow to $1,006.27. I know, it doesn't seem like much, especially taking into account inflation and, well, 30 years of it just sitting there.

Let's use a different example. Let's say you spend around $300 a month eating out. That's a fairly reasonable amount for many of you, especially the single folk who don't be cookin'. Let's say you are looking to start budgeting and getting right with your dough. You're actually blown away when you realize you spend that much on eating out, going to bars, etc. and reduce it to $100 a month, which is where we are at currently as a family of 3. What if you saved the $200 you're not spending and put it in the bank for a year. You have $2,400! Now, what if you took that as a starting balance for an index fund and put an additional $2,400 every year in that fund for the next 30 years?

Using the same numbers as above, guess how much money you'll have. You honestly have no idea and you're gonna freak out when you see the number.


Do you believe it?

This is an introduction to compound interest, a revolutionary concept that Einstein famously quipped is the "eighth wonder of the world" and Warren Buffet has said is one of the three main factors for his success (the other two being that he's lived a long time and that he's American).

Compound interest means that interest is being applied not only to the principle amount, but also to the interest that has accrued on top of that amount. For example, if I have a principle amount $1000 and it gets 10% interest compounded annually, at the end of year one I have $1100. But in year two the 10% isn't being applied only to the principle of $1000, but also to the $100 of interest already gained. That means at the end of year two I have $1,210. This kind of action happening over a long period of time has a massive impact on our funds.

The majority of us in American just don't get this. We haven't been taught the cost-benefit analysis through the lens of compound interest. Often it's the different between spending money here or there. Instead, we need to learn that spending money somewhere means we are losing the chance to save it elsewhere. We learn a lot about working for our money, but not enough about making our money work for us.

So the next time you are thinking about going out to eat or having a night out with friends, consider what that $50, $75, or $100 could really mean to you in 10, 20, or 30 years. Small choices like that can add up to making you hundreds of thousands of dollars or even a millionaire.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Day 114: Be Patient

Be patient. Just be patient.

That''s a third principle that needs to be applied in this 34th year of my life along with being present and being grateful.

The fun part about that is it can't be a principle that is just for this next year, right? Ugh, developing patience requires patience...

But it's important because being patient will allow me to think of the future with a reasonable, long-term perspective. And in doing so, I am able to enter into the present, focusing on each day as important in itself.

Reading that stuff I just wrote seems all types of new agey and mystic, but I have no better way of explaining it right now. I guess ultimately patience is rooted in the trust that my God and Father is working all things out according to His good will and pleasure, which includes my joy. I don't know how it plays out. I don't know if I will have a successful career. I don't know if we will be a big, happy family. I don't know if we will be comfortable financially. I don't know what hardships that will come.

I have an idea of what I'd like our life to be like. I know, for the most part, the reality of what our life is like now. Patience is understanding that we may get there or we may not. Because it's not about us achieving that idea. It's about trusting that whatever does come is a gift from God. Today is good. Tomorrow has enough worries of it's own. Be thankful for that, for what is, and what is true. To truly grasp that requires more patience than I know I have in my own power.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 113: Thoughts of 33

I turned 33 yesterday.

Birthdays are a great time of celebration. First, we celebrated the fact that The Boy slept until 8:00. That's not a typo. We didn't know what to do with ourselves in the morning; we may have hovered around his door for 30 minutes just wondering when he'd get up. I might have also banged a few pots and shouted, just to make sure he would wake up. Alas, he did and thus we celebrated. Then The Wifey, The Boy and I went out to breakfast at one of our favorite spots in the hood, Baker Miller. Whether you live her or plan on visiting, this is a spot you have to check out.

Then we rocked some church, which was so necessary for me. The services was centered on the amazing love of God and the powerful work of Christ on the Cross. For me, it was a reminder of what's truly important. So much in my daily life competes to rob me of that truth; I often just give in to it. But worshiping God with His people on Sunday pulls me back in. What a great gift that is every week, especially yesterday for my birthday.

We had planned an outing to the Botanic Garden, but The Boy remained a sleeping machine, napping for 2 1/2 hours until 4:00. Stace gave me the last of my gifts yesterday (the first two were bacon jam for the burgers I make and a book), which was a basketball! I decided to head out to the courts and actually dominated some kids 15-20 years younger than me. Well, not dominated. And not sure if it's real talent if I'm beating kids in middle school and high school, but they were taller than me so you be the judge.

We rounded out the evening with some Friends and some thai food.

As much as it is celebration, it's also reflection for me. That's what I do.

33 is a year of continual character development. I don't know if it's so much of "what do I want to accomplish?" as "who do I want to grow to be?" The Wifey and I talked through this and the two major themes I want to focus on are being present  and being grateful. They go hand-in-hand.

I tend to live in the clouds, focusing more on ideas than concrete reality. This means I look more to the future and what could be, what should be, or what ought to be, than what is. Much of this may be a result of not being grateful for what's right in front of me. My hope and prayer is that for 33 I practice the art of gratitude, particularly to God, for all the good gifts he has provided and continues to provide, allowing me also to be present with each day he gives.

What about you? What do you usually do for your birthday? What are you focusing on this year?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 112: "You Have to Learn to Love the Bomb."

If you haven't had a chance to read the cover story in GQ with Stephen Colbert, I'm glad you're reading this blog.

It came out early last week and I just got around to reading it. The entire story may be a glimpse of the person we will see hosting The Late Show next month, following in the footsteps of the great David Letterman. If it hasn't been clear up to this point, the Stephen Colbert hosting The Late Show will not be the same man who hosted The Colbert Report, the character he somehow pulled off for nine years.

This article goes into that, his tragic family history, and his deep sense of gratitude for life. Yet one piece of the interview stood out most. It was in the context of his early career in improv. He mentions that while he was at Second City he was told by the director, "You have to learn to love the bomb." Colbert explains:
“It took me a long time to really understand what that meant,” Colbert said. “It wasn't ‘Don't worry, you'll get it next time.’ It wasn't ‘Laugh it off.’ No, it means what it says. You gotta learn to love when you're failing.… The embracing of that, the discomfort of failing in front of an audience, leads you to penetrate through the fear that blinds you. Fear is the mind killer.”
That is absolutely profound, isn't it? "You have to learn to love the bomb." And I really appreciate how Colbert expounds on it in a meaningful way. It's not that you brush failure off or that you cheapen it with platitudes. It's not a "pick yourself up by the bootstraps" approach. It's an actual love of the process of failing. It's being right in the thick of failing, watching the faces of people who are looking back in horror or disappointment or anger, and embracing it. And it's the love of that experience in those moments that actually conquers the fear that comes so much more naturally to us.

At another point in the article Colbert says, "The process of process is process." His point is that there is intentionality behind everything done. I also take it to mean learning and movement are just as much the goal as creating a good show. That's helpful to me because it's hard to grasp how I'll be able to understand – not in an intellectual way, but in a deep, applicable way – how to love the bomb. The process is "a long time." And perhaps, for you and me, it just means putting ourselves constantly in situations where failure is the most likely option.

It's scary even typing that. But I guess that may just be one step closer to loving the bomb.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Day 111: Pursue Patience, My Friend

"It's a jump to conclusions game!" Oh Office Space. This was one of my top quote 90s movies. Knowing that movie is like wearing a badge of honor, or I guess 127 pieces of flair.

The line came to mind as I'm reflecting on another aspect of my life, and perhaps yours, that directly clashes with the ability to stay curious.

It's impatience.

I was talking with a fellow Highlander today (if you're not sure what that is, it's someone who works at my company, Highland Solutions) who has decades on me in experience both in sales and general business and plays a key leadership role. First, and without any prompting on my part, he affirmed how curiosity has been a trait that stands out clear and is one that has benefited me at Highland. However, I quickly moved to my self-confessed impatience. See what I did there?

Anyway, he made a key observation about what my impatience does to my curiosity. He said that impatience will get in the way of my desire to learn, to ask questions, to get deep enough to satisfy the curiosity. I will want to arrive at the answer too quickly, to move on to something else, too feel like I've figured it out. In other words, I jump to conclusions.

While we were talking about me, I think this applies to anyone, especially people who are driven by learning and the pursuit of understanding. In a world that wants to "figure it out" and "do things as fast as possible," impatience can be held up as a virtue and thrown in the mix of other traits like hustle and grit. But what usually gets left behind are key questions that need to be asked, follow-up that needs to occur, and a willingness not to force the issue or grip too tightly to control – all key components to patience, wisdom, and of course curiosity.

I guess what I'm saying is that impatience and curiosity never mix well together, like hot dogs and ketchup (sadly there are too many of you out there that still don't get this). What I also learned today and implying by this are that curiosity and patience are actually like two pedals on a bicycle; they have to work in tandem to be most effective.

If you find yourself at a point in life where you "want to know more" or "want to understand" an instrument, a person, a business, a point in history, a financial system – whatever – pursue that interest. That's your curiosity. But also be aware that to achieve a real understanding, the pursuit of patience will be just as key.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 110: Stay Curious, My Friend

When I was a kid I used to tinker a lot more than I do now. I remember that I would take apart our old phones and try to learn how they worked – just so I could, of course, figure out how it could be turned into a keypad for a bomb (a pretend bomb for the government peeps monitoring every one of our words). I remember another time trying to learn how staplers worked and I ended up putting one right through my pointer finger.

I received a message on LinkedIn the other day from someone I know. He was someone that I worked with and he shared some really kind words about the work I'm doing at Highland and it reminded me of those childhood days. He wrote,
...You have a bright future ahead of you. You have a natural ability to lead clients that many do not possess. You have a high sense of curiosity too which ultimately makes you great. Stay curious my friend. 
"Stay curious." If I had a mantra as a child or really cared to have one today, that would be it. I appreciate the comment not because it may or may not be true, but because it's a wake-up call for this soon-to-be 33-year old man to be that boy, that curious boy who was willing to turn phones into bombs and staple his finger just to learn.

Curiosity is learning without pretentiousness.

Curiosity is chasing down knowledge not to be a know-it-all but to truly understand.

Curiosity is asking all the questions, the obvious ones where you may be perceived as stupid by the listener and the hidden ones where you're perceived as a genius (and seem only to come after asking the obvious ones).

Did curiosity kill the cat? Maybe. But what I do know is that curiosity took man to the moon.

Stay curious, my friend.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Day 109: An Observation of the Last Few Weeks

Some of you reading this aren't aware of the experiment I started with back in April. Was it really April?

In an attempt to write more, to write consistently, and to build an audience, I sought out to write everyday for, at most, 30 minutes. Thus the title for this blog, Thirty Minute Thoughts.

I've definitely been consistent in the time spent with each post. I don't spend over 30 minutes writing, though I'll use a little bit of time editing.

I've been consistent in writing more. I've blogged more this year than any other year since I started back in 2003. I posted for something like 75 days straight.

Building an audience has been so so. I haven't been consistent in seeking subscribers, reaching out to people individually, or using other methods to get more readership.

And I haven't been consistent in writing everyday. While that part has changed, I'm okay with it.

I've noticed something as of late. Since I've stopped writing everyday and have only posted when I've truly had time, which is now down to 2-3 times a week, readership has actually gone up. It's quite odd, especially since I feel like I'm not "promoting" each post as much as I was early on.

My interpretation is self-serving. Perhaps the content is a little better? Perhaps I'm sharing at the right time? In the right spaces? I honestly don't know, but it's been good to see that even without the largest platform I have out there, Facebook, things can still grow. Hear that folk, you can do things without Facebook in your life!

Anyway, the experiment continues. I'm still pleased with how this has gone as I'm about 1/3 of the way through it. And if you are new to the blog, welcome. Feel free to check out past posts and, if there's one you really like, share the love with the peeps you know. That would be swell.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 108: Keep Walking

Today I walked. I took just over 8,000 steps. It was a confluence of factors.

First, yeah, I'm tracking my steps. I'm one of those people in a sense. I don't have a FitBit or Apple Watch, so I have to make sure my phone is on my person at nearly all times. Not ideal. I'm also doing it because I'm trying to lose a few, eh, dozen, lbs as I've grown a bit rotund the last couple of months. There's a whole blog post on how pant sizes and belts serve as a good dashboard for certain lifestyle choices. Anyway, I love how the Health app and the MyFitnessPal apps integrate, so that the steps I take are counted and then converted to calories burned in MyFitnessPal. If you aren't rocking that, you should def check it out. So I'm tracking my steps because it easily converts to calories, which really just translates into me figuring out how much ice cream I can eat that night. Perfect logic.

The other factor today was that I had to drop off the car to get some work done. The day was gorgeous so I got to work on some walking.

The dealership is on a busy main road near us, so I decided to veer in a couple of blocks and walk through the neighborhood. I had to be in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in all of Chicago. I saw a Muslim family walking around. I saw restaurants representing the Middle East, India. I saw a neighborhood synagogue that was converted to an evangelical Ethiopian church. I saw Asian women sitting out in front of their houses talking. And I saw houses of all types, drawing my attention as we're still searching for our first place to buy.

If I didn't walk today, I would have missed all of that.

In a world that cries for speed and efficiency out of us, walking slows life down.

In a world that tunnels your eyes to tiny screens to stimulate you non-stop, walking gives you time to take in your surroundings and actually reflect.

In a world of ever-expanding waistlines, walking provides a simple way to fight that.

With all of the advances of transportation that get us where we want to go faster and advances in technology that get us the the things we need faster, walking can feel like a burden, a waste of time.

But I say your feet and legs are a beautiful gift of old-fashioned creation. When you have the chance to walk somewhere, don't wait until the last minute and then hop in the car. As Gloria Estefan would say, "Get on your feet!"

Take advantage of the gift you've been given. Keep walking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Day 107: Keep Talking

I loved and still love a ton of different kinds of music. Back in the day, when I was a teenager, I was a big fan of Pink Floyd. There's a song I would listen to over and over again on their album The Division Bell. It was called "Keep Talking." The song opens with a voice that's electronic, simulated, like one you would hear through a computer. The voice says,
For millions of years mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened that unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk.
Later on after the first verse of the song the voice returns as an intro to the awesome, trippy, musical interludes that Pink Floyd is known for, this time saying
It doesn't have to be like this. All we need to do is keep talking.
I've only known these words from this song and it's always been one of the most memorable tracks on that album for me. The song is a back-and-forth between David Gilmour and a chorus of women and it feels like a couple that can't seem to connect because the woman feels like the man isn't talking and the man feels like he's can't talk. That's a pretty familiar experience, right?

So familiar, I think, that's its application is universal.

I was thinking about this song tonight as I was sweeping the floor after dinner. I, alone in the kitchen, as The Wifey was giving The Boy a bath. I thought about the conversation she and I had earlier tonight on the way home from a family walk. We had a bit of a disagreement on a major issue: potty training. I won't get into the details because, well, you know, but what's important is that we kept talking. We talked the whole thing out to a reasonable conclusion. I then thought about other times in my life with her, with friends, with work relationships, with strangers (a 20-month old provides a lot to sweep) where I didn't talk. While not talking has sometimes been the wisest course of action, most of the time not talking has only created problems for me in my relationships.

That's when this song came to my head. As I looked up the song, I learned that these weren't the words of Pink Floyd, but Stephen Hawking. I had no idea! While I don't agree with the overall premise, I have always loved the line "we learned to talk." And then as I listened to it tonight the other line, "all we need to do is keep talking," jumped out at me. I think it's safe to say that we are actually "learning to talk" our entire lives.

Humans are so unique in this way. We talk. We write. We have words. Our words unleash "the power of our imagination." When we talk, we can be life-giving or deadly. We can build others up or tear them down just by talking for a little bit. We can create great things or destroy. Talking can be bad, but as I shared above, I think we hurt ourselves more when we don't talk. I believe this is the case because more often than not we don't refrain from talking because it's wise.

We don't talk because we're afraid.

We're afraid of speaking up because we don't want to have conflict. We're afraid of sharing an idea because we don't want to be rejected. We're afraid of asking questions because we don't want to sound stupid.

I was reminded tonight that talking isn't merely some evolutionary experience that's separated us from the animals. Talking is a gift. Don't let fear choke that gift.

Keep talking.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Day 106: Thoughts from the El

More games are played here than anywhere else. I've watched more folk play Candy Crush than I want to believe actually happens.

It's cavernous. I'm to blame. I'm on my computer, listening to music from my phone. I'm inaccessible to anyone and everyone. That's how we all are. We suck.

Electronic readers and activity outweigh paper. Two people are reading paper books or the newspapers. The rest of us are on our phones, iPads, Kindles, computers, or a combination of all of them.

It's beautiful here. We get such a view of the city and the different facets of it. We get an idea of the "types" of people depending on where they live. Such is the nature of the Brown Line.

Most people don't stop work on the El. They leave the office, but work still gets done. There's a quote that says "back in the day the work was done when the day was done. Nowadays the day is done when the work is done – and the work is never done." Nevermore has that been appropriate than our lives today and the El is evidence.

Candy Crush vs. the next e-mail to a client. On the El some escape and some dive deeper.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Day 105: Do Fathers Matter?

I am keeping with this theme from the last post.

I was listening to a podcast today from Art of Manliness, a website dedicated to reviving the art of being a man. If you don't know about it, the title may sound a bit chauvinistic; but the "art" suggests a nuance that's very welcoming. I think they pull it off really well and provide a wide range of topics for both men and women to enjoy.

The podcast I listened to was Why Fathers Matter. The interview was with a science author who wrote a book on this topic, titled Do Fathers Matter? where he gathers and expounds on scientific data on the importance of fathers in the family.  There were a ton of fascinating things discussed. For example, this entire idea is a topic that really hasn't been publicized much. There have been some studies, but more research and publicity has been given toward mom's role.

The most fascinating part discussed was the fact that while humans have a lot in common with other mammals, one area that we differ in majorly is how involved the father is in the lives of children. 95% of mammals never even see their children and, apart from a few obscure observations, humans spend more time parenting their children than any other animal. Fathers play an enormous role in this and I suggest you listen to the podcast.

I was blown away by the observation. To me, it says more than this notion that we have just evolved from apes and are "more intelligent apes." There's something supremely unique about the family structure of humans that's inherent to the way we not only survive, but thrive. And when fathers aren't living into that important role in their children's lives, their children suffer, the family suffers, and I believe society suffers. The role of being a parent, a father, is unique in all creation. It's a privilege and an honor. It matters!

I listened to the podcast while running this morning pushing my son in the stroller. It was the perfect setting for me to be reminded of the great, daunting, awesome task given to me by God to love, care for, protect, teach, train, and enjoy my son each day I have him. And I can't wait for our family to grow and spread it all the more!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 104: Another Boy

Throughout the past several weeks an organization by the name of The Center for Medical Progress has been releasing expose videos of Planned Parenthood. This is a little bit out of my normal writing, but I have to share this. This is the fourth video released, and the most indicting up to this point. It shows clearly there is some kind of profiteering going on with fetal tissue. The video, which is very disturbing, even shows aborted children. In the last line of the video, the doctor exclaims with some kind of sick joy that the 12 week aborted baby was "another boy!"

(If you're reading this in your e-mail, you can watch the video here)

I know this is a major issue and it has a long history in this country. I am not using this space to speak as a prophet, talking about "God's judgment on this nation" for such atrocities. There are many who do this. I am not writing here to call on politicians for Planned Parenthood to be defunded. There are many who do this too.

I'm writing as a father. I'm writing as a papa who, five minutes after watching that video, got to greet my 20 month-old son at my door. He was full of smiles, his blue eyes as bright as ever.

I thought about the eyes on that video.

My boy was only in his diaper and I held him for a sec before he wanted to walk up the stairs himself, his chunky legs moving one by one up the steps slow.

I thought of those legs on the video.

I saw my 20 month-old boy, growing so quickly – walking, running, talking, laughing, climbing, grabbing, screaming, joking, rebelling, cuddling – and knew at one point he was just "another boy," 12 weeks in the womb and that boy could have been doing the same thing just a few years from now just as my boy is doing today.

I was heartbroken thinking about "another boy" in that video, more personalized than usual in those types of settings as a "boy" rather than a "fetus," but also less personalized, made less human, because he was just "another boy," another dead baby, broken up in parts to be sold for profit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Day 103: A Challenge in Account Management

Account management is a tricky role. On the one hand you are the client's advocate. You are in the position of establishing and building a relationship of trust with the client and often it has to do with helping them get what they need or want within your business. Sometimes you can deal with it yourself, but more times than not it requires pulling different folk together.

On the other hand, you have to lead the client in a way that sometimes puts your business in front of their wants or needs. This means putting at bay demands or requests that put your team or company at a greater risk .

This means that in this role you are pulled at both ends and sadly none of us are Gumby.

At this point I don't have any real answers, just challenges. I'm dodging and weaving my way through this, gaining experience and regular feedback to develop this role.

But I do know the role requires trust on both sides. The company trusts me to represent it well to the client and the client trusts me to help them get good work at a good rate. I guess it seems like an easy answer and there are a ton of ways for trust to be established or broken. But it's the most important aspect of account management I see at this point. It's the key to keeping all in this role from being Gumbied (trademark pending).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Day 102: I Ain't That Practical

I love the world of ideas. Chicago would take backseat to Idea City if one existed.

I love the theoretical and pontificating about hypothetical scenarios based on esoteric philosophies I don't really know much about. Concepts – yes!

I love it all perhaps because I'm contrarian or argumentative. I think I wrote somewhere here that back in the day, when I was like 7, I wanted to be a lawyer. I watched L.A. Law as a kid and envied Harry Hamlin and Corbin Bernsen in their power suits playing out courtroom drama, thus I was also a big fan of HH's role in Mad Men. I loved the fight and I loved the flash. I think it's still there and is about as practical as LA Law was.

And that's just it. I ain't that practical. I am comfortable in the world of ideas, even if all mine aren't well thought out, articulate, or informed. I struggle to get into the world of "how does this affect me today" type talk. If you asked me to teach you how to tie your shoe, I'm sure I'd rather talk about how shoelaces are an example of a way we like to control our lives.

I fee like Frank Lebasky from You've Got Mail who, if he wrote a book, would "write about something relevant for today, like the Luddite movement in 19th century England."

Though my life is filled with a ton of practical decisions each day, I don't know how to draw the connection in my communication with others. It shows pretty clearly in my writing and teaching. I know it because I'll feel like I come up with something really good to communicate and it comes time to provide an actual, real life example, and I'm stuck. Dead stuck. This makes preaching tough. I'm writing a wedding sermon right now and all of it is just straight up ideas floating at 30,000 feet. Thankfully no couple in the history of weddings has ever remembered what the preacher said.

Also, I ain't a steps person. I can't give you "3 ways to a better you." I can give you 3 ways I want to vomit all over that because I don't think it works. And maybe that's it. I just don't like practical advice because, to me, it has no foundation. I don't know the "what" or the "why." That bothers the crap out of me. Yet at the same time I am hard pressed on how to get from the "what" or the "why" to the "how." And we all know the people that do that dominate life. Those peeps who are principled yet practical – JAM.

The only area of life where it is a bit clear to me, where I see the practical, is financially. That budget ish is real practical rooted in solid principles. Boom.

You're asking, "don't you want to know how to be practical so you can relate better to people?" Maybe you're not asking that, but I am. And yes. I want to be the principled, practical person. Those cats that are able to live in the "why, what, how" world are cats I look up to. They are few.

Sadly, the "how do I get there?" thought feels very practical to me...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Day 101: Dad Life Observed

This morning I got to sleep in until about 7:45. Sleeping in for this dad means getting up between 7:00 & 8:00. This is Dad Life.

The Wifey had been up with The Boy since around 6:00, which, by the utter grace of God is actually early for him these days. By the time I got up, The Wifey probably had at least one cup of coffee. She also made homemade waffles and they had already eaten First Breakfast. They had already had First Breakfast. They may have also read about 10 books and played for nearly an hour. 

I came out to the living room and shortly after The Wifey was falling asleep on the couch. I told her to go back to bed and I'll take care of the boy. She said she wouldn't be able to fall asleep even though as she was saying it she was falling asleep. The bedroom door closed and it was just my energetic Boy and me. What does a dad do now? 

I grabbed my mug of coffee and decided to walk to the "Choo Choo Park" with The Boy, which is a park near our place where he can watch the El trains go by. He even knows the directions; if I don't make a right turn at the intersection that leads us there he starts crying. So when I did today he exclaimed "CHOO CHOO PARK!!!" 

As we walked up around 8:30 I saw two other dads, each with their sons. And their coffee. This is the Dad Life. The boys were playing in the sand pit area and I tried to steer The Boy in that direction, though he has quite an independent streak. I wanted him to play with the other boys, of course, but I also selfishly wanted to interact with the dads. Such is the Dad Life. 

Eventually The Boy made it over that way, so he got to play with their boys and I got to talk with their dads. I saw more and more dads trickle in to the park over the next 15 minutes or so. This was the most fascinating part to me. 

Dad Life, at least where I live, is a universal experience. Saturday mornings are sacred times. They're sacred to moms because they know this will be the time dads take the kiddos out and they can get some extra sleep or sanity, probably a bit of both. They're sacred to dads because this is the best time they get with their kids, rather than the late-evening-after-work-meltdown time that's often the case. This is the time of cartoons and parks and cereal and pools. 

Talking with these dads shows that my life, while different compared to single and early married life, is not so different from other gents in my same position. We talked about swim lessons and the TV shows we like to watch. It was great to know that other parents choose to just watch TV after kids are asleep, even city parents, where I take on the added guilt that I think I should be productive and winning at night like I think they all are. And when The Boy decided to break off from the group, I heard them talk about sleep habits if their boys. There we were, dads with their kids at a park, meeting each other for the first time yet sharing life's moments as if we've been boys for years.

This is Dad Life. And it's pretty swell.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Day 100: The One Where I Talk About TV

Perhaps it's fitting that my 100th post in this experiment comes the morning after The Wifey and I just watched the 100th episode of Friends. Do any of you know which one it is? I've seen many die hard Friends fans in my life and I'm sure one of you knows which episode I'm referring to and is laughing to yourself because of some scenes you remember. Don't hide. Just admit it and share in the comments below.

Because of the 100th Friends episode, I supposed it's a good time to share a thought I've had for a while about TV shows. I want to share one observation about TV shows and a possible application for our lives.

TV, great TV, is excellent entertainment and an escape from reality. We are taken to another world – whether it be six good looking friends who live across the hall from each other (except for Ross & Phoebe who should have saved some dough and lived in the same building, right?), or a bunch of people who get stranded on a mysterious island after their plane crashes, or a future world with spacecrafts and robots. We get to be observers, but all the good shows make us wonder what our lives would be like if we were there. We long for it. But what is it?

It's the community.

We are drawn to the community, whether it's light and hilarious or dark and difficult, we're drawn to humans engaging with other humans in an unfiltered way. To be sure, TV magic cuts out or shortens in dramatic fashion the boring or dull moments of life – the waking up process, going to the bathroom, the morning commute to work – unless, of course, they move the plot along.

But I think TV magic also gives us a glimpse of moments in life that could have some comedic or dramatic flair that we have otherwise dulled down ourselves. There's a scene in Friday Night Lights where Coach Taylor goes over to one of his players' houses to let him know that he'll be playing in a game that Friday. The conversation lasted about two minutes in TV time. And for us as watchers of the show, that's the only way the conversation could have happened. How different would it have been if the player got a text from his coach? Or an e-mail? Or even a phone call? It wouldn't have been good TV. If that's the case, I guess the question I want to ask is, "is it good reality?"

Texts, e-mails, phone calls – all of them aren't bad and are useful in everyday life. In keeping with the parallel, TV shows use all of those communication tools as well. My only question is, do we rely on these tools too much in life and miss out on the opportunities to experience on a greater level the communities we are so drawn to on TV?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Day 99: Gaining More Clarity

This blog, the attempt to write everyday (though I'm slowing down) has always been an experiment. Sure, I ran the successful blogger's narrative in the back of my head somewhere: "I just wrote for a long time and then one post ended up going viral and now everything I write is treated like gold." But for the most part this has been a process of finding my voice, slowly growing some semblance of an audience, and finding what I like to write about.

There have been some small successes in terms of entries that have caught on. I've learned some simple ways to market. And I think I've gained a better perspective both on what I like to write about and what people like to read about.

I'm not there yet. I still haven't sat down to do any sort of real planning for this blog. I haven't dedicated myself to a set of clear topics that I can continue to go deeper into. This blog lacks focus and real direction.

But I am getting clarity. I am still enjoying writing, even though I committed to everyday for a year and yet there are now days when I don't blog.

I guess I write this as a motivator to myself and to you, should you read this. There can be so many things that hold you back from attempting to follow through on that idea you have in your head. How many times have you told yourself "I should try to ________" or told a friend "It would be fun to ________"? What is holding you back from taking that very first step? The reasons, I'm sure can be countless.

"I don't know how to start a blog."
"I don't know what I'd write about."
"I don't have enough money for that business."
"I don't think I'll be any good."
"What if it sucks?"
"What if I fail?"

I'm sure there are more. However, none of these are first step issues. Let me clear: Having the end in mind is a good thing. Picturing a thriving blog or business or whatever is important, but only if it allows you to reverse engineer back to step one. If, for any reason, you start with that end-view, but then only think of all the doubts, questions, concerns, and made-up scenarios, then scrap the end and just start with the first step.

You're allowed to make mistakes. You're allowed to struggle through figuring it out. You are even allowed to fail. They are all opportunities to learn. Those who don't learn are the ones who should worry.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Day 98: When You Get to See Old Friends

We just got home from spending the whole day with old friends of mine. It was the first time we've seen them in just about two years and that was for just a couple of hours at a Ruby Tuesday on our way down to Florida.

In two years we've moved three times, including the big move from Seattle to Chicago. I've made a major shift in career from pastoral ministry to software sales. And of course The Boy was born and we await the arrival of The Girl. Meanwhile, my friends are established in Atlanta. My buddy is finishing going into his final year of medical residency and they just had their first kid 10 weeks ago. This was the first time we got to meet him and it's the first time they got to meet The Boy.

So. Much. Has. Changed.

And yet nothing has. If anything, there's a greater sweetness, a deeper friendship because there's more life and experience that we bring when we come together.

This is just one proof to my economic theory of friendship.

Consider those friends who you've made a lot of deposits with in the past. Have there been any recently? Perhaps today's the day to write a note, make a call, or visit to be reminded just how rich it is.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Day 97: Core Commitments in Work Part 3

Another night of blogging was taken off last night as I had an unexpected visitor join us to crash at our place. A good friend from work actually. He lives in the suburbs, his wife and kids were out of town, and he's the kind of guy who needs to be around people, otherwise he goes to super dark places, like binge watching Call the Midwife. So I decided to invite him over to stay with us.

After he'd already decided to crash with us, I got a call from our realtor telling me that a house we were looking at was available for a tour after work. So, being the solid friend he is, he actually watched The Boy while The Wifey and I went to check out the place. It was literally two blocks from where we currently live and had potential. Unfortunately everyone else saw the potential and it's already under contract as of today. Oh well. On to the next!

So that's why I didn't write last night. And by the way, someone called me out on Core Commitment blog #2. She said it looked like I fell asleep mid blogging.

Yup. I did. That's actually what I was going for and I'm glad that my writing could convey exactly what was going onnnnnnnnnnnnnnn......

So this is the final installment of my short Commitments in Work series. In this last one I want to share about how I'm committed to what my work serves.

3. Committed to what my work serves.
This might seem strange. What does work actually serve or, better yet, how does work serve anything else? The point is this. Too many people in life let their work become the be-all-end-all. This may be truer in major cities like New York or Chicago, where young professionals run themselves ragged for their employer and continue to do it for 40 years. This is different than hustle. It's worship. By worship I mean devotion not only to work, but to what it claims to promise: power, money, prestige – an identity. In other words, people live to serve their work instead of letting their work serve others. The difference between the two is seen in what is sacrificed. I know that if I'm living for my work, then what I share below is being sacrificed. On the other hand, if my work is serving others, then it gets sacrificed for aspects of life that are more important. What are those? It boils down to two for me.

My work serves my family. I talked with someone yesterday who told me about two very successful financial advisors who have taken different paths. The first, he said, is the top producer in their market, taking home over a million dollars a year. He's well into his career, but continues to grow his business. Yet his family life is in shambles. The second, he said, is a high producer in their market, still taking home a comfortable six-figure salary, about a third of the first guy. This guy, though, had decided that his work was going to serve his family. While he still makes great money and works hard, he has chosen to put his business in maintenance mode so he can be home in time, go to all the practices, games, recitals. That's what I want. I'm committed to not letting my work get in the way of my family; rather, I want my work to serve my family. For me right now this means getting home at a decent hour, keeping the phone and computer off until well after dinner, The Boy is down, and some connection with The Wifey. It also means considering how my work serves goals for the family and thinking through ways I can be more available 3, 5, 10 years from now. That I think goes back to Commitment #1. I do not want to work so hard and earn so much that I end up losing all of which truly matters to me. It's sad to me to see men and women fight for acceptance and approval in the workplace – which is often what all that toil ends up being – when it's already right at home with the family.

My work serves my God. More important, even than family, is how my work serves my God. I believe Christianity is unique in it's perspective of work. It grates against a culture that "Ugh, why do I have to work?" or "I just want to win the lottery and never work again" or "I'm working so I can retire early." All of these represent the brokenness of work. Christianity acknowledges that. It's what I shared before. It's called toil. However, in Christianity, work is a gift from God and originates with God himself in creation. Work is first a good thing and we are called to work as if our company was owned by God Himself. It's still tough for me to grasp and understand all of the practical implications of it, but at the end of the day I am committed to doing my work as if it is for Him. I am reminded daily just how far short I fall of this commitment, but I am grateful for His kindness and patience.

I'm sure these will be fleshed out more over the years, but the foundation is there. Have you thought about this at all? What have you come up with? What would you add or change or take out?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Day 96: Core Commitments in Work Part 2

Yesterday I began sharing about core commitments in work.

If I can be honest work right now is difficult. I don't mean that the actual tasks themselves are difficult, as if I'm doing complicated math or formulas. By difficult I mean that it's one of those seasons where it's harder than it should be. Much of what we do, if done right, can be fairly predictable. But for a number of reasons it has become almost unpredictable. It's nothing alarming or anything that keeps me up awake at night, but it is difficult. You can relate right?

So the timing of what I'm working through right now is perfect and, perhaps, if you find yourself in the same season as me, this is a good time for you to reflect on your core commitments in work.

So yesterday was about how I am committed to pursuing excellence in my work. Today I want to share about how I'm committed to generously giving out of what my work produces.

2. Give generously out of what my work produces:

Give out of my paycheck. Bottom line is work gets me greenbacks, dollar bills, benjis, the goods. Whatever. My work produces a paycheck and that money can be used for whatever I want. Part of that is wanting to make it a family thing, so my paycheck is our money. So this is not me getting paid and being utterly irresponsible, hitting up casinos, buying lottery tickets, or even something smaller like hoarding more of it for myself, only leaving my family with a little. The paycheck I receive working outside the home is only possible through the work the Wifey does inside the home. We make financial decisions together and the primary place of generous giving is our family. In addition, we seek to give generously to our church and other organizations through financial gifts, to others by way of gift giving, whether for a special occasion or just because, and to those in need for some hospitality and care, like bringing meals to new parents. Work provides the financial means to give generously.

Produces relationships. I love these. I love the fact that work produces new relationships on an almost daily basis. The work environment has provided me the opportunity to meet dozens of amazing, talented folk.

Produces experience. I'm learning so much right now...

My time is up; I'm falling asleep. I'm out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Day 95: My Core Commitments in Work

Tonight, as I was running...wait, as a full confession I was really walking, hurting from the 20 minutes of pain I inflicted on myself prior to that.

Anyway, as I "ran," I was listening to the Bigger Pockets podcast. If you've never heard of Bigger Pockets, check out this post. This podcast was a special one, episode 100. It featured the founder of Bigger Pockets, Josh Dorkin. I've always loved origins stories, and this one was all about how Josh got into real estate, how he started Bigger Pockets (which includes how he chose such a weird name), and what he plans for the future. It really was an insightful podcast and reiterated the fact that this isn't a gimmicky website. If you've ever considered real estate at any level – buying a home, buying a rental property, flipping, commercial, etc. – I strongly recommend checking out Bigger Pockets and all the free resources.

Near the end of every podcast they always ask four questions: 1) what's your favorite real estate book, 2) what's your favorite business book, 3) what are your hobbies, 4) how can people reach you. I Josh's answer to number 3 stood out to me. He said that he doesn't really have any because he has three daughters and they are really his hobby at this point in life. He said that if you really knew him, his family came first, in front of all of his work, even though he works hard.

I really loved what he had to say here and I recommend checking out the podcast. It got me thinking about my commitments a bit more. I started thinking about my work and what my commitments are. Can I say the same thing as Josh in terms of my family's importance and work? How does work relate to my family? How does it relate to my friends, community, etc.? Is it just a job?

Given as how my walk ended up being just about as long as my run, three commitments popped into my head. I think they are core to how I live and pursuits of the man I want to become more and more. They are the foundation and the walls and the roof.

Over the next couple of days I want to share them with you with the two-fold purpose of clarifying them for myself and hopefully encourage you to ask the same questions with the intention of developing your own commitments.

1. Committed to doing my work with excellence.
This seems like the best starting point. It has three main points that flesh it out more: I was made to work. I was made to work hard. I was made to work well.

I was made to work. As much as I prefer the idea of enjoying early retirement or vegging out on the beach, or having a perpetual Disney vacation, I was made to work. Humans are fascinating. Our minds have dreamed up the pyramids, penicillin, and personal computers. Our hands have painted the Sistine Chapel, built the Eiffel Tower, and written Harry Potter. We make. We create. We work! And while I will most likely never be remembered for the work I do, and while it can often feel burdened and empty – toil! – I can't avoid the fact that I was made to work.

I was made to work hard. When the work doesn't have much passion behind it, it's easy to resort to coasting, just getting by, just getting the paycheck. I have been tempted by this with every job I've ever held. But against this is the proverb, "whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might." There's no mention of passion here; it's literally "whatever." Working hard doesn't require passion; it requires character. It requires gratitude for whatever work I get to do, whether that was selling candles when I was 17 or software now at 33. It means integrity with co-workers and clients, doing what I say I'm going to do. It means honesty, even if the conversation is hard and disappointing. And yeah, sometimes it means weird, longer hours because the job just has to get done. This is character. Passion is a bonus.

I was made to work well. There's the notion of just doing the work. Then there's the added component of doing the work as hard as you can, hustling and grinding it out. All of that can seem directionless and dirty. They are necessary, but without doing my work well, I can never be excellent. To me this involves straight up experience, getting reps in and working muscles that both need to get strong or are getting worked for the first time. I don't think there's a better way to become excellent than just doing it a lot, but along with this comes the vital necessity to learn from mistakes, get feedback from mentors and peers, make the necessary adjustments, and keep going.

Tomorrow I will share how I'm committed to giving generously out of what my work produces.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Day 94: When What You Hate Hates Back

I hate errands with a passion. Pretty much all of them. Grocery shopping, dropping off dry cleaning, and especially going to the post office. That's the death nell.

A little over two months ago I wrote about how we got a new car. New cars are great, but there are all the little payments that need to be made afterward. These payments aren't the car payment for us; these are all the wonderful taxes we have to pay. I think there's a state tax, but for sure a county tax and, because we live in Chicago, a city tax. Do you know what this tax is? It's called the Wheel Tax and apparently it's used to pay for the maintenance and repair of all of those sparkly, smooth roads you drive on in Chicago. And get this – the Wheel Tax has been in existence since 1908. I guess they had to slap city parking stickers on horse and buggy carriages.

Anyway, I neglected to buy this sticker. We didn't have it on our car before this one and I didn't have it for this one. I always thought the process was too much work. Again, I hate errands like these. Well, fast forward to yesterday and I come to find that we got a ticket on our car for $200 for not having this super tiny sticker! Unlike parking tickets, this one isn't really disputable. I just owe it to my hatred of running errands.

So I bought the sticker today. Tacked on that was an additional $60 late fee for not buying it within 30 days of when I bought the car. All in all, not getting the original sticker at about $85 is now costing me close to $350!

I think a lot of folk our age, especially people without kids, hate cooking. There's just something about the thought of combining all of these horrific activities into one – figuring out what you want to cook, making a grocery list, going to the grocery store, unloading the groceries, unpacking the groceries, following a recipe and cooking the food. For what? So that one, maaaayyybe two people can eat what is most likely a mediocre representation of the actual recipe.

No. It ain't gonna happen.

So either your rock out on the cheap, like representing ramen or cereal for every meal, getting fancy every now and then with a sandwich or pasta. Or you go out. You hit up Mickey D's or Jimmy Johns sometimes, but more often it's going out with the collective group of friends who are avoiding making a meal just like you. Why not throw in a few drinks too as you talk about how busy life is and there's no time to do anything for yourself, like cooking a meal? Before you know it, you're dropping $10, $20, $40 bones a couple nights a week. Then, because of age and me, you start budgeting only to realize that your hatred of cooking costs you $400-$800 a month.

What do you hate like this? What do you hate doing, avoid at all costs, only to end up having it kill your finances later?

Here's what I've learned that I want to pass on. There are necessary evils in this world that all of us hate. What do you do with them? Too often I straight up avoid them and they always end up costing me so much more time and money in the end. I've learned before and hope to have learned for the last that these always need to be tackled first.

Don't avoid them. Finish them first so that you can do what you really want to do.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Day 93: Prioritizing the Wifey's Birthday

I am foregoing a post tonight in favor of finishing up my wifey's 30th birthday present.

That's right – our anniversary is on the 7th and her birthday is on the 11th. This morning I determined that in the future I will just block out the first half of July to focus on these days and not attempt to accomplish anything more. It's just silly of me to think I could do anything else!

I'm pretty pumped about her birthday and her present in case you were wondering. She knows some things and will be surprised by others. That's always a good mix.

At any rate, I know she won't read this for at least a few days after her birthday. I guess that's another lesson I've learned in our three years of marriage. So I guess this post is a surprise of sorts! If you know my wife, please take some time to leave a comment below wishing her a happy birthday (if you read this via an email subscription, consider coming over to the blog and commenting). Even if you don't know her, I'd love for you to wish her a happy birthday as well. This is a big one – 30??? JAM.

Now back to work...

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Day 92: Three Years of Marriage Have Taught Me This One Lesson

The Wifey and I celebrated three years of marriage yesterday. If there's one key lesson learned in that time, it's this: You never marry the right person. You marry a stranger.

You never marry the right person. That kind of thinking causes marriages to fail for two reasons: One, we believe the person is the "right" person, the perfect person, so when he or she lets us down, our whole world shatters. Or, we believe we can make the person the "right" person (for me) and when we see that he or she isn't becoming that anger and bitterness form, creating a hard heart that eventually leads to a broken marriage.

If you're dating someone and you just want to make sure that they're the "right" person, stop now. Not because they aren't the right person, but because you're not. You're not ready for the joyful work of marriage.

And that's what it is. The Wifey and I have learned, are continually learning, and will learn that we aren't the right people for each other and that we can't make one another the right people. Each day is a practice for us to remember that we are uniquely gifted and flawed, bringing to the marriage great strengths and weaknesses that can build up or tear down. More importantly, each day is a practice of of remembering that we are in some sense strangers to one another, leaning on the the only One who knows us for who we truly are, warts and all. Jesus is the one who we have to look to in order for us to become the people we are truly meant to be and for us to have the marriage we have committed to.

So, whoever you think you know on your wedding day, that is not the same person you're married to one year, three years, or 50 years later. They're a stranger.

You do life together. Real stuff happens. Extreme pet peeves that never could be explained in conversations or seen in dating start to poke out – or even get developed – years into marriage. Babies are born earlier or later than you planned – or never. Jobs are gained and lost. Boxes are packed, unpacked, packed, and unpacked again. Fights that you could never have conjured up in your head take place. Adventures you couldn't dream possible occur.

All of this reveals parts of you that you never knew existed, let alone your spouse. Meanwhile, you're also growing new traits and aspects that were never possible apart from the path that you're on.

Learning this lesson early on in marriage – thanks in large part to couples who mentored us and long lasting marriages we've witnessed, as well as a couple reads, like this here – have given us perspective not only on these three years, but hopefully the decades that come. Nothing is guaranteed; we can't assume that because things are great now that they will continue to be at 25 years "just because." Why? Because we're strangers and not the right people for each other. For some reading this, that may freak you out, but accepting this beautiful truth is one of the most freeing realities you'll ever know.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Day 91: Enjoy the Silence

What do you do when you have a tough conversation?

This could be a personal conversation where you have to apologize for something, or confess something that you might have been hiding. It can be a business conversation where you have to talk about a tough budget matter or a mistake you've made in communication. Or it could be a job prospect where you are in the position of negotiating your salary.

All of these are tough conversations. What do you typically do?

Some of you might be like, "I don't have those. I avoid them." This post isn't for you. I don't think there's a blog post for that. It's just called "have them" or "don't be a wuss" or something like that.

Okay, so for those of us who have a modicum of courage or just know that our jobs rely on having those conversations, most people I know tend to ramble and overtalk because they feel uncomfortable. Is that what you do?

Today I learned an important less: enjoy the silence.

In a sound-drenched world, where we are constantly hearing voices or music, silence might as well be another planet. Being comfortable with it is extremely tough. Additionally, we tend to ramble in tough conversations because we want to find whatever words it will take to get the person or persons to be on our side again. The problem with that is we tend to talk ourselves into a corner, confuse everyone, and we just end up creating more problems than we started with.

So go and enjoy the silence. By this I mean be comfortable with the fact that it is a tough conversation by empathizing with the other person, focus on sharing what you do know with confidence, and know that you might not have all the answers. Then just be silent.

I think this is super tough, but the benefits of this approach seem clear:

  • You show that you understand the seriousness and care about the situation and the other side.
  • You keep your words clear and succinct, sharing the right information at the right time.
  • You don't confuse the other person or create more questions that just prolong the conversation.
  • You give the other person time to think and formulate their thoughts.
  • You let the silence close the conversation if need be. By this I mean that instead of talking a ton more, you may be able to simply say, "Alright, let's move on." 
I'm aware this is overly simplistic and may be tougher in personal conversations, but I think we would all do ourselves a favor if we chose against filling all space with our rambling locutions and sought to enjoy the silence (cue Depeche Mode).

Monday, July 06, 2015

Day 90: Transparency & Vulnerability

Back after my brief hiatus. It was the right move, a chance to reflect on this blogging venture that started 90 days ago (well, technically 93). Our time on the farm with family was fun.

Now, there is one small reflection I are to share.

Transparency is a buzzword I hear quite a bit. I heard it a lot in my non-profit days and I definitely hear it quite a bit now in the business world. When I was serving in the church, people wanted their pastors, deacons, staff, and leaders to be transparent. In business, people want CEOs, boards, directors, managers, and staff to be transparent.

Transparent about what?

In business, it has to do with financials or pay for C-level peeps. Take, for example, Buffer, who seems to be leading the charge to be as open as possible with their payscale. It also has to do with business process. Most people these days want salespeople who are honest and up front with them as buyers are becoming more savvy each day and can smell BS a mile away, thanks to the massive fan blade known as the Internet. Companies that seem like they have something to hide or aren't so quick to share information when asked can be labeled secretive, not transparent. As a result, they may be considered less trustworthy.

In the church, transparent was also the buzzword, but it meant something different. Sure, there are still issues around pay and finances. It should go without saying, especially in the non-profit space, that transparency with money is top priority. When churches or non-profits who freely receive gifts from others do not readily inform those donors of the finances, that is a red flag you should stop donating (same goes with being a stockholder for a company, so says Benjamin Graham).

But it went beyond this. People in the church were looking for all leaders to show a level of openness about their personal lives, not just their professional leadership. The imagery of a shepherd is powerful in the bible and is applied to church leaders. The key to note, though, is that the bible states there is one Chief Shepherd who leads us all, including the shepherds of churches. So, in a very real sense, pastors are sheep just like everyone in their congregation. The standard to which they call others to from the pulpit needs to be modeled, which means their failures ought to be on display as much as anyone else because that is how they can lead people to understand the grace of God.

Here's the point: This goes beyond the word transparency. A 12-inch thick piece of glass separates a bank teller from customers, keeping them protected, yet allowing them to conduct business. That's transparency. Let the business world keep that word. It's good there.

For those of you in the church, call your leaders beyond transparency to vulnerability. Trust me, the majority of your pastors much prefer transparency; they are happy to preach from behind a plate of glass where they can't be hurt by anyone, especially you. Remind them that as much as they are your leader, when in front of Jesus, our Chief Shepherd, we are all sheep who need his love, care, comfort, and leading. Too many pastors are afraid of this simple, powerful truth.

Don't let them hide in the open behind transparency. That means their just doing business as usual, using church in a transactional way. Fight, fight fight for your leaders to get out in front of the glass and walk with you.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Day 89: Let Yourself Off the Hook

I just woke up from a 45 minute night nap. It's just now hitting 10:00 pm.

The Wifey is out to the movies with her siblings, a rare time when all four of them get together due to one living in Indiana for college and the other down in Houston with her husband and daughter. I was asleep on a chair before they left and could barely wake up as her mom told me I should go to bed. The teenage Andrew lives strong inside of me as I'm sure I said in a whiny voice, "No. I'm good. I still have to blog." I'm surprised she didn't tell me to make sure I also put on my zit cream too.

It's been one of those weeks.

Thankfully, we'll all be together with her family for a few more days as we all head down to southern Indiana together to stay at her aunt and uncle's hobby farm. We were down there in October last year and had a great time; on the way back I even got The Boy to walk a longer distance than he ever had before.

This means Internet access for us is going to be choppy at best. I've thought about it quite a bit and have decided to let myself off the hook for the next couple of days and not publish a blog. I will most likely write and publish them all when I return, but with tonight and the days that follow, a few days away from publishing will be good.

I think it's important to do this as well because I'm the type of person who imposes a ton of guilt on myself if I don't do exactly what I say I'm going to do. I said at the beginning of all this that I would write have something on this blog every day for the next year and so far I have stuck to that. It hasn't always been pretty, relevant, and none of my posts have gone viral like so many famous bloggers talk about having happened to them. But I've done it, some of the time driven by the guilt. Sidenote: Whenever I start thinking about guilt, I think about the episode in 30 Rock when Tracy Jordan, the black star comedian of the show TGS, wants to take on a new religion and decides to become Irish Catholic, until Jack Donaghy, the classic white executive and one of the best characters ever in all of comedy, explains to him the guilt, the "crushing guilt" of being Irish Catholic. Hilarious.

Anyway, guilt is a horrible motivator and I don't want it hindering this weekend. So, if you're like me and find that at times guilt motivates your commitments, can I encourage you to join me this weekend and let yourself off the hook? It's a place where guilt begins to taste grace.

Enjoy the long weekend. I'll see you soon.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Day 88: A Recommended Site When You're Looking to Buy a Home

The Wifey and I have begun – in a very preliminary way – the search to buy our first home.

We learned pretty quickly that wanting to remain in the city limits the options out there for those of us with modest incomes. It is even more challenging when there is only one of us bringing home a paycheck regularly (The Wifey did make a little money rocking Mary Kay a few years back. Perhaps she will guest blog again some time to tell that story. Let's just say we still have some inventory...).

Knowing that our options are limited, we were forced to get a bit creative and start asking questions that normally don't get asked living elsewhere, say in a rural or suburban area. The primary question we kept coming back to out of all of them was, "What if we bought a multi-family building to cover most or all of our mortgage with renters and just lived in one of the units?"

Financially, this is a no-brainer. From other perspectives, such as family, community, living space, etc. it's not as cut and dry. Lots of conversations need to take place and we've had to make sure that we're on the same page. Thankfully, The Wifey is very much on the same team as me. We live within our means, we give, and we save. We want to stay with our community. We are growing to love the city more and more together, which is a huge shift from when we first moved in. And, we've never lived in anything other than multi-family properties. We've never had more than three bedrooms (which may change) or one bathroom (which may never change). We don't need our dream home now.

I could go on and on, but if you're considering buying a home, might I suggest you think about all your options other than a single family or a condo or any place where you're carrying all the mortgage?

So in making this consideration, I began doing research. I researched not only the process of buying a home, but what it might look like to get into actual real estate investing. When I did that, I stumbled upon this amazing, content rich website called Bigger Pockets.

Full confession, I wish the website had a different name because it's super misleading and sounds really gimmicky at first. I actually found it through an article I referenced from Entrepreneur magazine a few blog posts back. The author works for Bigger Pockets and is a real estate investor. The advice he gave in his article was sound and the website is full of very expert, practical, and insightful tips for people all across the spectrum of real estate experience. The forums, blogs, podcasts and ebooks that are provided all for free are perfect for anyone interested in learning more.

Now you might be wondering why I'm recommending a real estate investment site if you're just looking to buy a home for yourself or your family somewhere down the road. Well, I see it like this. For most of us, the home we buy ends up being are biggest asset, meaning it may end up being the most important investment you will ever make. If that's the case, why not approach buying your home from an investor's perspective?

I've only been around the site for about three weeks and I've learned a ton about my mortgage options, how to talk to lenders, what to look for when you buy, what expenses to consider when you buy, where to buy, etc.

So if buying a home is in your future at any point, whether it be your first home or your future home, I strongly recommend checking out Bigger Pockets, diving into the forums, and learning what you can so you can be a knowledgeable buyer, making the most out of the thousands you put in.

If you do join, look me up!

Day 87: It Takes More Than Talent to Build Something Great

I remember watching a documentary on a basketball player. The opening scene was a post-game interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, arguably one of the top 5 basketball players of all-time. Given his status as one of the elite NBA players, he was asked the question – "Who do you think the greatest player of all-time is?"

"The Goat," he answered.

Even if you follow basketball closely, "The Goat" is most likely a name that you don't recognize. Most of us know Abdul-Jabbar, Magic, LeBron, Kobe, Shaq, and of course His Airness, Michael Jordan. But very few of us know "The Goat," which was the nickname given to playground basketball legend Earl Manigault. He dominated basketball at a young age, even growing legendary because he could jump like nobody had ever seen; in fact, he could touch the top of the backboard (in the biopic of The Goat, there's a scene where he jumps and "makes change" off the top of the backboard, grabbing a bill that had been placed there and exchanging it for a quarter. The top is 13 feet high).

But we've never heard of him, even though throughout an illustrious NBA career, Abdul-Jabbar would still go on to make the bold claim that the greatest player he'd ever seen never played a game of NBA basketball (and very few college games for that matter).

The Goat never made it far because of a number of factors, including getting mixed up with the wrong crowd and becoming a drug-addict. Although he rebounded in life and has done great work for the community, in terms of his own ability, The Goat was "the greatest that never was." And while the factors I listed above played a role, The Goat was also unwilling to go beyond his natural, raw talent, listen to coaches, put in the work, and cultivate greatness.

I reflect on his life because of that very idea of being "the greatest that never was." Earl Manigault is a metaphor for so many of us in life who rest on our laurels, carving out a place that's just good enough for the talent that we bring to the table. For some, perhaps for many, they get convinced that because of the talent they bring, greatness will come to them.

Talent, natural ability, a knack, an instinct – none of these on their own can lead to building something great. Greatness comes through trials, through fire. Too many people rest only on their talents and take the easy road, coasting through life in Never Was Land. We are unable to realize that talent is meant to just get you to the fire faster than everyone else.

If you know what you're good at, that stuff that just comes naturally to you, ask if you're just coasting on the easy road or if you're trying to find the fire as quickly as possible. That's when you know you're on your way to building something great.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Day 86: Stop Giving Your Emotions to What Isn't Real

Certain times in life, whether a season or a moment, can be overwhelming.

These are present seasons, present moments. They can be a first date, marriage, childbirth, purchasing a home, a new job. They can be times of great joy, like proposing to your longtime girlfriend or they can be times of difficult, like the loss of a job. And what can happen when we are overwhelmed is that we give our emotions to a world that isn't true. Isn't real.

Stop giving your emotions to what isn't real. Too many people lose their mind over what might be and in doing so become emotionally invested in what will never be.

I do not mean you should stop finding joy in dreaming. Nor do I mean that you should never prepare for the sadness in future hardships. What I mean is that if you lose your mind to your emotions and find that you are paralyzed to pursue that dream or deal with that hardship in a reasonable way, you have given too much of your emotion to what isn't real and it is the time to stop.

I believe our emotions are given to us to match the intensity of the moment. Most of us don't get this right, either downplaying our emotions, drowned in a sea of monotony, or depending too much on them, floating in clouds of irrationality.

Stop giving your emotions to what isn't real. When you're cast at sea or find yourself floating, seek solid ground, where your mind and feelings meet truth.

Day 85: Romancing My Babe

These opportunities are fewer these days, but so fun. We're currently sitting at Ravinia Festival as Rachel Yamagata plays the piano and sings. This is the first of her 30th birthday presents and we came because it's not only a great venue, but we get to also hear the sweet soulful voice of Amos Lee and the unique, spellbinding sounds of David Gray. 

If you haven't done anything in a while, gents, go out and plan a date. In marriage, the romance is definitely there. We just have to fight for it a little more. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Day 84: What His Laughter Teaches Me About Fatherhood

I love making my son laugh.

I remember the first time I got him to really laugh, like from the depths of your bowels, a hearty Ghost of Christmas Present from A Muppet Christmas Carol type laugh. He was close to three months old and we were playing on the floor. We had to play on the floor because he didn't really do much moving other than that. Work with what you got, you know?

He was on his back looking up at me as I was in front of him at his feet on my knees staring down at him. In typical Lisi fashion I decided to start dancing, doing a little shimmy with my shoulders. He laughed a little. Getting a child who's just learning to laugh to laugh just a little – it's a drug. It's addicting and just like a drug, you want it more frequently with greater intensity. You will do anything to make them laugh more and I wish there was some way to capture it forever. Perhaps heaven is like a child's laughter. I can imagine.

I decided to try something that just instinctually comes to many parents, and honestly most adults, who try to get this drug of laughter.

As I shimmied, I then dropped my face really quickly toward his, stopping hard just before I touched his nose with mine. My hands hit the floor hard at each side of him, my eyes just a few inches away. It happens in a matter of milliseconds. For some reason we all think that this swift, fast motion will make kids laugh.

And it did! He started laughing so hard. Success!

I did it over and over and over again until, as we all know, he got bored and then annoyed.

But it was the start of making him laugh and I love doing it to this day in the same way. Now he knows the game, running away and hiding as I look for him. I move slowly, pretending not to know where he is. Then, as I find him, I stop, look at him for a brief second, and then attack like a lion seeking laughter as his prey. He loves it. The Wifey says that I'm able to get him to laugh in a way that is so distinct to our relationship.

I've thought a lot about this ever since that day I first got him to laugh. Even though he's big for his age, he is still so small compared to me. He's a handful of pounds and inches and I'm a grown, hairy man.

And yet his first response with me when I move quickly and suddenly toward him has been laughter. From three months to 19 months and I trust the rest of his life, this will be his response.

To me this is an example of awe and wonder, that he laughs. And why? One could easily assume that his response would, not one of laughter, but one of tears out of being scared. So why laughter? Because he feels safe with me. He trusts me. He knows that my physical presence and my sudden movement is intended to bring out joy in him, not fear. What a gift this is, that our children default to trust, safety, and security with their parents!

I've thought about this a lot. How many children, when their fathers make the same physical motions, suddenly moving toward them, are frightened because they know it's not laughter their father's want, but pain? How many of children have lost the instinctual joy in being drawn to their fathers, only to have it replaced by a fear that keeps them from wanting to even be in the same room with him?

Fathers/Dads/Papas – have you ever thought about this? Do you ever consider the privilege you have in getting the opportunity to make your children laugh, to keep them in a place of feeling safe and secure with you?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Day 83: What's Your Favorite Food?

It's late.

The Wifey is sleeping on the couch and I just finished an invigorating budgeting session for July. Is there really anything better for a Friday night than crunching numbers, reviewing where you overspent the month prior, and trying to figure out how to correct it the next month? Yeah, I didn't think you could come up with anything better to do.

So what's your favorite food? Now follow me on how I got to that question. I spent a good bit of time looking at the numbers as I said. Then I decided to take a look around the vast 400 square foot arena that is our combo living and dining room, checking out The Wifey tossing and turning on the sectional couch donated to us. I took it all in grateful for the life we have. I shifted my eyes to the sweet dark wood table from World Market, the first ever brand new piece of furniture we've ever bought. On it is a smattering of items, including several glasses, and a small chalkboard with "__ weeks" written on it to indicate how many weeks The Wifey's pregnancy is. Then, right next to me, is a salad plate with 1/8 of a pistachio donut left from none other than Doughnut Vault, the most legit donuts in Chicago (if you have any other recs for best donuts I'm all ears).

Donuts are great; The Wifey loves those and all things sweet. But it got me wondering about my favorite food and then your favorite food and all the delicious food in the world!

So what is your favorite food? I know this question can be answered a ton of different ways, but I'll just stick with two: Nationality and dish

In terms of type, hands down it's Italian. It's one of the most popular in the world, is revered for both utter flavorful goodness and simplicity, and is perhaps best caricatured with the nonna in the kitchen with her secret sauce and pasta. This is how it was for me growing up when my mom and I were living in NJ with my grandma, great aunt, and her daughter (first cousin twice removed? 10th cousin blue removed? I don't know). In that house it was my great aunt who dominated the kitchen, making homemade pasta and sauce every Thursday. It was the place to gather and in classic fashion, we rocked the nuts and fruit after meals, sitting in the basement kitchen for hours talking. Well, I was running around an didn't care about the grown ups seeing as how I was three or four.

This stuck with me, the longing for this environment, but knowing that it's the food that brings us together. Let's face it, Italians love each other probably just as much for the food as the fact that we have to as family. So Italian food is it for me. Nothing matches it as my favorite.

Now for a dish. As I grew older, my palate got more refined. I enjoy penne bolognese, lasagna, bread, oil, all of it. But the dish that puts it over the top for me time and time again, one that is probably more American than Italian, is shrimp parmigiana. Think chick parmesan, or as Tom Haverford would say, "chickie chickie parm parm," but with shrimp. The best is when you get it all prepped – juicy jumbo shrimp, breaded, then all layered with sauce, cheese, shrimp, sauce, cheese, shrimp, shrimp, shrimp, cheese, cheese, cheese, sauce...oh man! – and let it sit overnight in the fridge, soaking up all that goodness, becoming more and more Italian by the minute, converting from good to BOOM!

Bake that bad boy just before you get ready to serve it and you may have people worshipping you by the end of the night. I don't advise you let them worship you, but you can't help what happens.

So what's your favorite food?

That was fun to write.

Now the donut is gone too.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Day 82: What to Do with Your Emotions

We all have emotions. That's what makes us human.

What else makes us human is our ability to identify our emotions. As children we don't really have this capability; we merely express them as we feel them. Loud crying usually indicates sadness or utter disappointment; stomping on or dropping to the ground acting like an turned-over cockroach usually indicates anger. And the most beautiful sound in the world, the laugh of a child, marks joy and happiness.

It's not identified though. There isn't a sense of self-awareness developed in a child that markedly identifies the emotion. You typically, don't hear a child say, "I'm feeling angry right now." If you do hear a child say that, you're impressed and say, "wow, you're very mature." The reason being that when someone is able to identify the emotion, he or she usually also knows what do with it. Stating the emotion tends to downplay the direct expression of it. It doesn't mean it goes away; it just means the emotion is controlled by the mind.

The mature person not only identifies emotion, but expresses it rightly.

Fact of the matter is some children can do this and many adults can not.

While we have the mental ability to move toward identifying our emotions and expressing them rightly, too many people still live rooted out of their emotion. Instead of controlling our emotions, we let them control us.

One key to getting to a place of emotional maturity is by looking for patterns. I should say that I am mostly writing from a place of identifying the more challenging emotions like anger, fear, resentment, bitterness, etc. I think it applies to the positive emotions as well, but I don't think we're looking to dial down the happiness or joy meters anytime soon and dialing them up tends to occur when you deal with the flip side of those emotions, which isn't really sadness, but discontentment and lack of gratitude.

Back to it. I've noticed that in my life, when I can identify patterns of emotional reactions across multiple situations that have spanned multiple years, I'm able to admit that it wasn't the situation that caused my anger, fear, bitterness or whatever, but something residing in me.

When we can get to a place of admitting that our emotional responses to life aren't due to situations, but to how we react in those situations, that is the most important first step toward maturity.

In identifying the patterns and then admitting that it is within us, we are on our way to being able to control our emotional responses in future situations. It's simple, really, at least on paper. The patterns of the past combined with understanding of who you are allows you the ability to recognize a similar situation as it arises and begin to control your emotion before it controls you.

I wish I could say that this is "adult" behavior, but we all know that isn't necessarily true. This is "mature" behavior and the two don't always go hand in hand.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day 81: Know Your Own Business

Today is my one year anniversary at Highland.

I have learned many, many things in this role. One is what we try to accomplish as a company with our clients. At the core is the desire to be a trusted partner. We believe we achieve trust in three ways: We get to know you, the individual. We get to know your business. And we save you from yourself.

This is something I strive for with my clients, but in that process I've had a startling realization:

Most companies do not know their own business.

Before starting at Highland, I spent 10 years in the non-profit world. In that world, we took time every six months or a year to take a step back and ask fundamental questions about our existence.

  • Why are we here?
  • Who do we focus on?
  • What has been effective?
  • What hasn't been effective?
  • What do we need to focus on in the next six months?
Questions like these and others were asked consistently. Not only that, but we usually walked away with a plan as paid leadership to communicate down the line volunteer leadership and eventually to general participants.

Looking back, this was necessary because most of the non-profits I worked with had a very lean staff, but had a direct audience ranging anywhere from 500 to 15,000 people. The best way to keep volunteer organizations running well and growing is to continually cast a clear and compelling vision with a strong call to action. Without this, the non-profit doesn't gain momentum, doesn't grow, and could easily die. What this translated to was an organization, top-down, that knew its identity and what needed to be done to move forward.

While I've heard the statistic that 9 out of 10 startups fail and the one that survives only has a 10% chance of surviving beyond 5 years, there are still countless ways to make money and many companies do make it. We work with companies that are beyond the startup phase. They regularly generate revenue, have decent size staff teams, and don't have to really worry about survival. Added to this is the sad reality that many people are not working in environments that draw out their passion, their motivation may be as big as their paycheck, which is a far cry from what I've experienced.

The result is people at all levels of the company go through the daily motions and do not know their business. At the business level, much like the persona level, when the money is good, we stop asking some of the most fundamental, but necessary questions.

How do I know this? Because we ask. When we start a project with a new client, our first engagement is a consulting and planning engagement. We ask basic, yet profound questions. And when we ask, the answers aren't clear. When we probe deeper, we begin to hear "it's complicated" (how great would this field be in LinkedIn - "Business Model: It's Complicated"). The further we get into planning, it becomes clearer that most people don't really know their business.

I'm learning that those companies that are "the most admired" -- those like Apple, Salesforce, Zappos, Amazon, etc. – are those that communicate vision and direct action. They are bullish about who they are and who they are not and employees at all levels can explain this and wear it like a badge of honor.

But your business doesn't have to be enormous to do what they do. I actually believe that it may be good to do something different and check out a non-profit or some other type of organization that has a horde of volunteers to find out what they do to motivate, inspire, and lead them. I believe CEOs all the way down to the summer intern could learn a ton about what it means to know their business.

In turn, this means you can build systems, processes, training, job descriptions, teams – the whole gamut – with clarity and drive. And the litmus test is to ask the lowest person in the organization why the company exists, what it does, and how they contribute. If that person can confidently answer, I can pretty much guarantee that the company is not only going to be strong, but I bet the revenues will grow.