If you have been following along the past few months, you know we have been winding down operations at the office suite we’ve occupied for the past year. In a few days, our business operations will be run from our dual home office. Janet’s recording studio is upstairs. My coaching (and writing) office is downstairs.
To say it has been a “learning experience” kind of doesn’t even get close to it. “Failure” does. (more…)
Ten years ago, this week, an opportunity came that we could not ignore. As a result, our family began an adventure of epic scale. At least, it felt like it. A job promotion took us away from our family, friends of many years in a community that we really liked, and moved us to another state. Of course, this isn’t much of a unique story. Lots of people take this adventurous road. Some make it a habit. (more…)
“We’re all terminal, man!” When I was a 25-year old graduate student and had just told a classmate, Dave, that my father was dying from terminal brain cancer, this was his response. Having delivered the message he felt important to share, he turned and walked away. We never spoke again. Apparently my unpleasant news and accompanying vulnerability was unwelcome. Unsettling, even. A day ruiner. He was not happy about dealing with difficult things.
To this day, what is most striking to me about his response is not its abject callousness. Not its utter dearth of compassion. Not even its basic rudeness, as if we had just disagreed about the intrinsic value of a lecture we’d just listened to instead of the imminent demise of my dad. (more…)
Recently, I spoke to more than a hundred business people about my inspirational book, Watson’s Way. At first glance, it isn’t self-evident how a story written primarily for middle and high school kids is actually a business book, in disguise.
The Frozen Ridge
It’s not just business people who recall, without any fondness, the 4th quarter of 2008 and the 1st quarter of 2009. That’s when everyone learned about big banks and insurers that had made idiotic investment gambles resulting in a new government phrase, “too big to fail.” The markets weren’t too big to fail, however, and subsequently tanked over those 6 months. My work life really felt like the picture above: frozen, hostile, inconceivably challenging. I was the Managing Principal for much of the state, with a national investment company, responsible for sales management, recruiting, training and compliance for more than 40 professionals, as well as nearly $500M. Most other firms utilized four field leaders to cover the four roles I held. Several of those under my watch went rogue, I suppose, partly from the pressure they felt. One even engaged in a well-hidden and devastating betrayal. Our family also went through two enormous personal crises during this period. Physically, I carried around a huge bloodclot in my leg. In a word, that time was awful.
Redemption on 4 Legs
Throughout this time and the years that followed, we were the “persons” to Watson, our shelter dog. When he passed suddenly in the summer of 2011 and I began the process of writing what ended up becoming this book, nearly all of the life lessons that came from Watson had an application within the business world. Even though the lessons were simple, it didn’t mean they were simplistic:
Live with intention
How to be patient when all you want to do is bark
Stand up for what you believe in, even when it costs you
Find reasons to laugh, especially when there isn’t much to laugh about
Try new things, even when it makes you uncomfortable
Give…and forgive, even when it hurts
Ageless Life Lessons
Certainly, publishing Watson’s Way represents a labor of love by those in our house, who were blessed to have been his persons. But that was never the intent, to just create a love legacy. The lessons nestled within this book have relevance to parents, as well as their children. And…these inspirational tales (tails) speak truth, warmth and perspective to those in business, just as much. We all need to hear stories of beauty, resilience, humor and humility. Our humanness is enhanced and centered, by simple lessons from a dog.
What was your experience during the “Crash of ’08-’09”? How were you impacted? Does that time impact you still? If so, in what ways?
Those of us that have the privilege of being born in the western hemisphere, especially into a family living in the First World, generally live in such amazing comfort that even kings of old would have a hard time competing with it.
Comparatively speaking, we’ve got it made. In a word, we’ve grown comfortable.
Curiously, we’ve also just grown. According to many studies, more than 2/3rds of North Americans are obese. There are many forces at work in this unhappy cultural phenomenon, and I’m no expert on the topic. But it stands to reason that it’s quite possible that this epidemic comes from too much comfort. In which case, this comfort is extremely expensive.
A person in extreme cold is most at risk when they begin to feel…warm. Without immediate intervention, they’ll calmly drift off to sleep, content in their comfort, and freeze to death.
Growing up, I was shy. Painfully so. And one of the shortest kids in my class until my sophomore year in high school. As you might guess, I got picked on, teased and bullied. A lot. Both brothers (older) didn’t help much. Before graduating, I determined to try new things. Things that others tended to recoil at. My intention was to push myself until I got comfortable with being uncomfortable, or I completely freaked out and crawled into myself.
So, I did. First, it was hunting (deer, elk and bear). Then scuba diving (lakes, Puget Sound, English Bay, night diving). Then rock climbing (that’s me, in Smith Rock), all over the western states. I’ve completed the STP (Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic) several times, and rafted Class 4 rivers. Swinging 50′ above ground on a ropes course always gets my attention (Waterhouse Center is my favorite).
All these experiences served me well for, perhaps, the most daunting of all my discomforts: going into business. It is way more comfortable to just “go to work” and do your job, because when your shift is over you can go back home. Maybe the pay stinks, but you’re not likely to spend much time thinking about work after you’ve gone home. But when it is your business…it’syour business. While there can be tremendous satisfaction in owning your business, it requires guts, perseverance and a comfortable embrace with discomfort.
Besides tomorrow, please continue to support your local small businesses throughout the year. Bringing them your business will also bring them a little more comfort in their daring adventure of running a small business.