Sunday, June 30, 2013

How Important Is Planning ? Part 1

In an exempt (or salaried) role, you are not expected to perform your daily tasks on an hourly basis.  Instead, you are allowed the freedom and flexibility to work on whatever you choose ... as long as all the work gets done within the timeframe allowed.  Even though we would all like to believe that we would thrive in this kind of open environment, the harsh reality is that some people just do not have the skills to self-manage and ensure the work gets done.

I have recently begun to realize that effective planning is the key to success in an exempt role.  At my work we refer to this step as "Planning For Possible Outcomes" but ultimately it boils down to one thing: a sense of urgency.  Learning to create my own sense of urgency has enabled me to get things done on a regular basis and avoid the I'm so behind, I'll never catch up, there's too much to do feeling that many leaders often experience.  For those who would say "But Josh, you always say 'there's so much to do.'  Doesn;t that make you a liar or a hypocrite?"  My response is NO.  Because I am not behind on another person's timeline ... I am only behind on my timeline.

This may seem silly to you, but consider your own school experience.  When did you work hardest on a paper that you had two weeks to write?  Did you portion the work out a little each day?  Or did you cram it all in the last few days before it came due?  My guess is the latter describes most of us.  All I am doing is setting a deadline or goal to complete tasks earlier than the actual deadline.  And then I break the big items or projects into smaller portions, and set deadlines for myself on those as well.  Sure it takes time, but in the end I get a LOT of things done and maintain a healthy level of stress.

Song Of The Day:
A friend of mine first introduced me to The Smiths "How Soon Is Now?" in the late 80's, which is interesting to note because most folks only know the song because of the TV series Charmed.  I like this choice of song for today's post because now is however soon you make it (in the sense of planning ahead that is).  It's okay if that doesn't make sense to you.  It does to me.  Enjoy the song.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Do You Think We Can't Read ?

In a recent meeting I was attending, the facilitator demonstrated a severe lack of understanding about presentation etiquette.  Not only did she read ALL the words and information on a slide we were looking at ... but she went on to explain what it all meant.  This may not seem like a major faux pas but it was actually a basic bar graph that any 2nd grader could have understood.

I was taught, long ago, that your powerpoint presentation should provide slides and information that your audience can look at while you're speaking.  The material should support your narration, but the worst things you can do are to put too many words on the slide ... or ... actually read the information on the slide to your audience.  This is Presentation Basics 101.

My real question is ... how did this person get to their senior level position without this basic skill?  Although not always the case, it stands to reason that the higher up the ladder you go, the more likely that you will be doing presentations to large groups.  So in addition to your technical or project knowledge and experience, you would need (at some point presumably) to become better versed in disseminating information to peers or direct reports through presentations.  This might not be a deal breaker in hiring interview, but it seems like it would be a high priority on the "learn how to do this" lists.

So please, if you can, avoid reading or explaining basic details on slides in your presentations.  May I suggest an alternative?  Post the slide.  Be silent for about 30 seconds.  Then ask if anyone has any questions about the material contained therein.  If no one does, just move on.  And consider the lack of questions a testament to your amazing slide creation skills, for you have just conveyed information without even having to talk!

Song Of The Day:
A brilliant lyricist, Jason Mraz came to mind while I sat bored out of my mind during this portion of the meeting.  His song "Did You Get My Message?" was running through my head.  Listen to the words and you can see why I was envisioning the facilitator asking herself this unnecessary question.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Did We Leave The Windows Open?

Summer thunderstorms used to be a common occurence in Colorado Springs.  I remember looking forward to the 30-45 minute long torrential downpour that would happen almost every afternoon.  The rain would cool the temperature down, while watering everything nicely.  Then the sun would be back out in full power, drying most things off in a short period of time.

The last several years have been much, much drier.
Rains have come very infrequently, and when they do come, they often don't drop much moisture.  This is an issue for many reasons, the least important of which is my topic for today's post.

When rain is highly probable over several days, you just get in a natural tendency to close all the windows to your home if you're going to be away for a few hours.  BUT ... when the chances of rain seem very unlikely, especially over several dry weeks, it can be easy to forget to close those same windows.

While at some friends' house to play some games and hang out, a storm came blowing in very quickly.  After the winds picked up and the kids came inside, the rain began to fall.  It was a good 20 minutes before my wife turned to me in a panic and asked "Did we leave the windows open?!"  Long story short, we could not confirm that we had closed the windows so I made a frantic drive back to our house (5 minutes away) and ran through the house closing windows and using towels to mop up LOTS of water that had soaked the floor and walls.

Sigh.  Good times.

Song Of The Day:
Inspired by the group named Wet Wet Wet (get it?!  because of the rain?!  Ha!), here is their biggest hit "Love Is All Around" to keep with some recent old school songs of the day.  Good tune!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Opening Night Or Pre-Screening ?

I have attended many movie premieres in my life so far.  Often I go to midnight showings, usually with my buddy Greg from work, but on some occasions I have been priviledged to go to earlier showings of certain movies.  Almost all of these have turned out to be disappointments (Indiana Jones 4, Charlie's Angels 2, etc.), which is only offset by the fact that the movie wasn't ended at 2:30am.

Front and Back of the special advance screening of Despicable Me 2
and the window decal featuring Flo, Gru, and two adorable Minions
Tonight, my wife and I attended a pre-screening of the new Despicable Me 2 movie.  My employer, Progressive, had signed a partnership with the movie studio to jointly promote the movie and Progressive, matching the popular characters Flo and the Minions.

The movie did more than just not disappoint ... it was simply excellent!  So much so, in fact, that I cannot wait for the movie to actually open nationwide so I can take my kids to see it (a rarity for our family since there are 7 kiddos!)  The storyline was a great build from the end of the last movie and only moderately predictable.  The characters were similar to themselves in the first movie, but they have also been allowed to expand and grow into new experiences.  And unexpectedly, for me anyway, we actual got to see the movie in 3D, which was also not a disappointment (most of my 3D experiences thus far have been mediocre at best).

Song Of The Day:
I was excited to be a part of the pre-screening but now "I Can't Wait" to see the movie again.  Classic tune from Nu Shooz, but only because I don't want to give away one of the best parts of the movie with a different song presented in hilarious fashion by a group of 4 well-dressed minions at the tail end of the picture.  So, so funny!


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How Do You Make These ?

Yesterday at work I participated in a Lunch and Learn meeting where I was expected to be one of the panel members doing the teaching.  The subject matter was such that I actually felt adequate to be a part of the panel and hopefully the participants got the learning they were hoping for from our discussion.

But I learned something new that wasn't even supposed to be a part of the experience at all (at least I don't think it was on the agenda).  I learned how to properly build / make and then eat a gyro.

I had peppers instead of tomato
and we added some seasoned
rice to the mix for fun.

Thirty-something years into my life and I had yet to experience the tastiness of gyros.  There are always reasons why you've never tried a certain food, but having to learn on the fly in a business meeting setting is not my preferred venue for a new food experience.  Yet this has happened quite often in my life as I reflect back on it.  My first real salad was not eaten until I was on a business trip (of sorts) in high school.  I had never had certain kinds of seafood (lobster, scallops, mahi-mahi) until a dinner event in Cleveland.  There are other examples, but thinking about them is just making my hungry so I digress ... time for the ...

Song Of The Day:
Since this is a food related post, and in honor of my mom, who has made so many tasty dishes for me over the years, today's song is "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro.  The song is of course not actually about the food "honey," but is a tragic love song, which my mother has loved for many years.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Technical Difficulties ?

Today at work, a conference call / webinar I was attending got started about 5 minutes late.  BOTH our in-office liaison and the leader of the meeting, dialed in from Ohio, felt the need to verbally blame "technical difficulties" for the delay of the start of our meeting.  That got me thinking ...
are we confusing "technical difficulties" with "technical ignorance" ?

I hear this phrase more and more often, and not just at work.  I hear it on phone calls, at fast food or other restaurants, and even at church meetings where computers or tv/video equipment is being used.

To me, technical difficulties suggests that there is something not performing correctly with whatever technological device the person is using.  This is NOT the same thing as technical ignorance, which suggests the thing not performing correctly is the USER, not the device.

I guess it just sounds better to blame an inanimate object, but if we're honest with ourselves we're not being fair to our technology with this kind of phrase.  We should just own up to our own ignorance and apologize for not having learned how to use whatever technology we're using before this moment in time.

Song Of The Day:
Of course a country song is the best to sum up my thoughts on this subject.  Trace Adkins' song "Don't Lie" is about a broken relationship, but he could just as easily be pleading for people to not be false about "technical difficulties."


Monday, June 24, 2013

What Does That Word Mean ?

I consider my vocabulary to be adequate, bordering on solid, but definitely not above average in many circles.  My knowledge of words and their meanings has increased over the years through a variety of means including television (Frasier used a LOT of big words), scripture or other reading materials, and general conversation with people who sound a lot smarter than me.  But just because I learn a word, doesn't mean that I'll ever really use it again.

Lately, I feel like I have been back in grade school, when I used to have to look up many different words in the dictionary because they were new to me and I did not understand their meaning.  Below is a sampling of words I collected over the past two weeks, which I looked up to ensure I knew their proper use and message the user was intended to convey with them.

Irrevocably                Annealing                    Amalgam

Calvinism                  Eponymous                  Altruistic

Draconian                    Busking                 Preternatural

I will freely admit when I do not know the meaning of a word.  Why would I try to hide it?  I'm better off finding out what it means and then adding it to my vocabulary if I like it enough.  That's why I never play "devil's advocate" any more.  Instead I play the part of contrarian to more fully understand situations that have two or more sides.

Song Of The Day:
I heard the song "The Great Debate" by a group named Down The Line while listening to Spotify as I worked outside in my front yard today.  The best debaters in history certainly had a way with words and I would surmise that they also possessed vocabularies that would easily be above average when compared to their peers.  Hence my selection of this tune as the song of the day.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Can I Get A Little Breathing Room Please ?

In this big ol' world, there are definitely some cultural differences that create amusing or uncomfortable situations when people from different cultures interact.  The customs around how much personal space is appropriate have been on my mind a lot lately, if only to provide some context where I can try to be a little more accomodating of certain people I work with.

I have one co-worker, whose earlier life experience included many years in Europe, where the personal space is generally much closer.  She is a nice enough person, but often times I find myself pulling away or stepping back from her as we chat about various things.  You see, I prefer my 3-4 feet of personal space.  This is very American of me, but unless I am out of the country, I feel it is appropriate to expect this space to be respected.

So who should have to adjust?

Is it fair to base it on the popular "when in Rome, do as the Romans" adage?  If so, how do you communicate this to unintentionally offending parties without turning it into an international incident?  Should I just get over it and chalk it up to new experiences?  Or am I turning a blind eye when I could be helping this associate correct something that may be bothering others as well?

Song Of The Day:
"Don't Stand So Close To Me" by the Police is a perfect song for this post, but not because of the lyrics ... just the title of the song.  The flip side is that in other cultures where personal space should be closer and more intimate, we as Americans should acquiesce to their customs and lean in more when speaking.  I believe it is only fair to ask others to change if we are willing to change ourselves.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

I Love The "Flour" Girl ?

Parenting offers moments of frustration and moments of fun.  Occasionally, these two opposite experiences come together in one glorious teaching moment.  Today included one of those moments for my wife Karen.

A little background to provide some context ...
My oldest daughter Brooklyn (9, at the time of this post) is a great kid.  She is often helpful for no reason and for the past year plus she has taken on the responsibility of showering herself and her three younger sisters at least twice a week.  This has been a learning experience for everyone involved, mostly centered around the proper way to minimize the length of time and hot water being used for these shower times.  This lesson has not been learned very well, despite countless approaches including ringing alarms, timers, parental reminders from outside the shower, and even more hands on support from my wife.

Now I bring you to this afternoon, when Karen doused Brooklyn with flour (while she was showering for too long) to teach her a lesson about being quicker.

This did not come without multiple warnings over the last month.  It should not have been as unexpected as it was to my oldest daughter.  It probably should not have elicited quite as much joy for my wife.  But ... all in all, the message has been received and I expect the showers to be much, much more time-appropriate going forward.

When I got home from work today, I sang the chorus of the Song Of The Day to my daughter because I Love The Flower Girl.  The name of this tune is actually "The Rain, The Park and Other Things" and was originally recorded by The Cowsills and I enjoyed hearing it again recently when I watched Dumb and Dumber with my older boys.  Needless to say, Brooklyn was NOT a fan today when I serenaded her with this tune.  But I know it made my wife smile.


Friday, June 21, 2013

What Is The Purpose Of Eyebrows ?

Do you ever find yourself sitting somewhere and all of a sudden just start wondering about something completely random?

No?!  So it's just me then?  Oh well ...

Today, during a meeting that was not really capturing my attention very well, I was looking around the room and noticed that everyone has different kinds of eyebrows.  This is not a big shocker, but at the moment it got my mind wandering about eyebrows ... for a long time!

Why do we have them?
What purpose do they serve?
Why do some people's eyebrows match their hair color and others' do not (even if they haven't dyed their hair)?
How much do eyebrows affect how you look?  I noticed some of the women in the room have clearly waxed or plucked their eyebrows, while others evidently are unaware that is an option.  Those that appear to have done nothing with them seem to look more mannish.  No judgement being passed here, just an observation.
Why do some people have a unibrow and others have very thin and clearly separated eyebrowS?

I doubt I'll ever care enough to find answers to any of these questions, but for a good 5 minutes I spent some quality time wondering these things.

Song Of The Day:
The song "Oh" by Eric Hutchinson sums up my immediate reaction as the thought of eyebrows first crossed my mind.  There is also a line where he sings about how things "get lost in the back of our minds" and I think eyebrows are one of those things.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Where's The Ownership ?

In any form of communication, there are responsibilities for both the sender of the message and the receiver of the message.  Breakdowns can occur on either end of that relationship, but most often, it seems that it is the receiver who is not fulfilling their part of the obligation.

If you as a receiver of a message, misunderstand something, why is it someone else's fault?  When you are confused by a message from someone, why don't you just ask more questions to clarify, instead of just waiting for there to be trouble later?

This is especially frustrating when someone becomes an adult and still exhibits these tendencies.  They point the finger of blame at other people when it is actually their own inability to take responsibility for their poor listening skills or lack of focus during important conversations.

I worry that many in the coming generation(s) will learn from the example of poor parents and leaders, who support this kind of blaming others whenever possible approach.  There is real peace and humility in being able to admit your own opportunities.  It is cleansing to own your mistakes or inabilities and makes the world a better place when you are willing to ask for help from others in order to improve.

There does not need to be so much fear around admitting that we were wrong.  In most cases, the error is something trivial that will quickly be forgotten.  But the lessons learned from it will last a lifetime or more.  The only real issue is when you keep making the same mistake with no improvement.  I have found that most people are quick to forgive and eager to help me improve when I admit my mistakes and sincerely ask for them to help me.

Song Of The Day:
Today's tune is presented with intent to sound sarcastic, because it should matter to everyone involved when there is miscommunication or a lack of ownership.  But "It Don't Matter" by Donovan Frankenreiter is a relaxing tune about letting things go if they aren't important.  Just make sure not to avoid the hard truths when one error turns into a pattern of poor behavior.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Remember Kick The Can ?

I don't know about you, but I spent many an hour as a youth involved in a variety of outdoor games.  Red Rover, Capture The Flag, King Of The Hill, Tag and Freeze Tag, Sardines; the list goes on and on.  Some of them are not as appropriately named, like "Smear the Queer", but there are probably a dozen or more I can't even remember now.

Kick The Can was always one of my favorites.

The basic premise (the way I learned and played it anyway) is this: one person is it and they "guard" the can.  The other players are trying to get close enough to kick the can without being seen by the person who is it.  Once seen, the person who is it must call out the name of that player and jump over the can before it is kicked.  If any person can kick the can before being jumped out then they get to be it.  Otherwise, the game continues until everyone is out and the original guardian of the can retains their right to keep that role.

Tonight, we played this with our scouts ... and it was a huge success!  The version some of them had learned was not nearly as fun (isn't that always the case?!), so we played my version.

My favorite memory from this evening was when I "hid" on the ground directly behind the person who was it.  Immediately after he finished counting and said "ready or not here I come" ... I kicked the can.  :)   Yes, I am that much of a jerk.  Don't fret.  I let him be "it" again, but everyone learned a valuable lesson about looking around as soon as you finish counting!

Song Of The Day:
I meant to use the song "Almost Home" by Mariah Carey on the blog post about our evacuation from scout camp, but it applies here just as well.  The area where the can resides is "home" and everyone who is not it often get almost home before they get jumped out.  Those races to the can are some of the most fun memories.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Do You Shop At Goodwill ?

Let me first be clear, I will NOT be using the recently popular thrift shop song as our song today.  So if that is your fear, rest assured you can read on in safety.

I am a frequent flyer at places like Goodwill, Salvation Army, ARC thrift stores, etc.  The gently used clothes (most of the time anyway) and other items are a fraction of the cost and often just as good of quality as brand new items.  One example: I have gone through several pairs of dress shoes that were less than $5 a pair and they have lasted me at least 1-2 years each.  The "expensive" pair I bought at a major retail shoe store, for $40, lasted me about twice that long.  It's hard to argue with that kind of math.

I know many people who only use thrift stores to find costumes they plan to only wear once, like for Halloween parties.  Still others frown on ever even setting foot in one of these places, preferring instead to buy all their clothes (and other items) brand new.  I'm certainly in no place to judge these folks whose tastes are a little more refined than mine.  That said, for any who have wondered how my family can afford to go on cruises or vacations or buy a big 12-passenger van just for travelling in, may I simply point you to this blog post as one of many secrets to success.

For me and my house, we'd rather go to Disneyland in used cut-off jean shorts, than wear the latest fashions.  I'm happy my kids are learning the value of that trade-off.

Song Of The Day:
Time for some Jack Johnson again, because his tune "Gone" includes some strongly worded lyrics about the value we place on certain objects.  "Look at all these fancy clothes.  But these could keep us warm just like those."  Everyone has a right to their preference of where they spend their money, but I am extremely grateful for the value I can get from used items that respect my budget.


Monday, June 17, 2013

How Weird Is That ?

Humans are funny sometimes.

Have you ever thought about the food we eat and how that all started?  Think about some of the things we take into our bodies and consider how that came about for a minute and you'll likely find some things very odd.

Who first decided that anything that comes out of a cow (or the cow itself) was a good thing to drink or eat?  Milk, cheese, cream, anything "beef" related.

Are we kidding ourselves when we eat an egg?  That's rooster semen mixed with undeveloped "egg" of a chicken!

And when did we learn to peel certain fruit (bananas, kiwi, oranges) but just eat the whole thing for other types (apples, pears, peaches)?

The weirdest for me though, is our tendency to put the same kinds of food on top of themselves to enhance the eating experience.
We put meat on our meat (bacon on hamburgers), dairy on dairy (parmesan cheese on cheese - on pizza), and vegetable products on vegetables (ketchup on french fries).

Song Of the Day:
Because this is a post about food-related stuff, and it made me a little hungry for something sweet, today's song is "Sweet Disposition" by the Temper Trap.  Here is a LINK to another version (a capella of course) by the James Madison University's Low Key singers.
I figured I'd double up since we do that with our food.  :)


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Who's Your Daddy ?

My father, Gerald H Case (Jerry to anyone who knows him personally), is an amazing man.  He is not perfect, which he readily admits, but he's very, very good at certain things and is willing to share that knowledge with anyone willing to listen to him.

I've decided that for Father's Day today, instead of listing off tons of different things my father is good at, I wanted to share two examples of things he has taught me.

First, the concept of Let It Go or L.I.G. for short.  Growing up, I often got upset over many things.  My dad has his own temper to account for and I think he wisely recognized that I could be better at controlling my emotions if I started earlier.  He (and my mom) often asked me "will this matter in 10 years?"  If the answer was "No" then I was told to L.I.G.  Little did my father know that those simple words have literally changed my whole outlook on life.  I am NOT burdened by trivial things, which allows me to smile a lot more and enjoy life more fully.  I only hope my children can learn the lesson as well as my dad taught it to me.

Second, you can always teach others, even if it is years later before they truly learn what you've been trying to teach them.  Every single one of my seven children has spent serious quality time in a cradle that I handmade with my father.  I say "with" in a very loose sense, because he did 99% of the truly difficult work.  But he taught me as we went and gave me assignments that were within my ability to complete.  We spent countless hours on the project, over several months.  At the time, I had little appreciation for his sacrifice of time.  But with every child that has been placed in that extremely well-made cradle, I have reflected back on that experience together.  We used wood we had available, but we took steps to ensure it would last for several lifetimes.  And it has.  It is a cherished keepsake, and I have very few of these in my life, which I plan to pass on to one of my children.

L-R: Jerry, Josh Jr, Jordan, Ben (behind the flag), and Me
Another thing my dad taught me was a love of sports!  :)

Thanks so much dad for these and many other lessons you've patiently (for the most part) taught me over the years.  I hope I've lived up to your hopes of me.

Song Of The Day:
I remember my dad telling me about a song he heard that he loved, as though I had never heard of it before.  He often mentions things he thinks will be new to me, but I've known about them for a while.  I almost always just humor him.  Today's song "As Good As I Once Was" by Tobey Keith, quickly became my dad's mantra for many things in life.  Now that I am getting a little older myself, I appreciate the message behind that song on a different level.  Just like I appreciate wisdom from my father in a better way now than I did when I was younger and knew everything.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Have I Been Blacklisted ?

I've blogged many times before about winning on the radio.  I love it.  My favorite has been to beat a deejay named Woody at his morning pop culture trivia game "Are You Smarter Than A Woody?"  I have enjoyed so many different concerts, food, and other prizes by winning that daily contest at least a dozen times in the past two years.

But in the last six months something has definitely changed.

Typically, the deejays (Goose and Woody himself) announce a certain caller they will accept for the chance to beat Woody.  My wife, and sometimes my son, will dial their phones while I dial mine (3 times the chances to be the right caller).  It is a frantic few minutes and Goose usually answers the phone with "caller number 4 try again" or a short message along those lines.

But when you're the "right" caller you get a different response: "Hi, who's this?" or "Hi, what's your name?"  That is usually the cue that you're about to be on the radio and have a chance to win some great prizes.  And this is also why I feel like I've been blacklisted.

TWICE in the past month, I have received the "Hi, who's this?" greeting ... only to be told that I am caller number whatever-is-the-number-right-before-the-one-they-need.  This information is never shared until after I announce my name, which generates an "Oh no" response from Woody or Goose.  The first time I just chalked it up to bad luck, but the second time in less than a month makes me question the validity of being turned down from playing.  This is compounded by the fact that only one time EVER has that happened before and they played that person's comments on the radio right after telling them they were the wrong caller.  Neither of my interactions received any airplay.

To be fair, I would totally understand if the deejays didn't want me to play and possibly win again ... but don't lie to me!  Just straight up tell me that you don't want me to play or win again.  I'm a big boy.  I won't complain or say you're being unfair.  I've won literally thousands of dollars worth of prizes from you.  We're cool.  But be honest with me!

I plan to test this theory in the near future by announcing my name as "JC" instead, in the hopes that they won't automatically decline my chance to play.  Then if I win I'll bust out my full name and let them figure out how to handle that!  I'll only make a big scene if they try to deny me without telling me why.

Song Of The Day:
I never really liked the Jackson 5 version of this song but Colbie Caillat's rendition of "I Want You Back" is appropriate for this post.  I want my chance back.  I want to have a fair shot to win some prizes again.  It's been too long.  I miss my free stuff.  :)


Friday, June 14, 2013

Can Work Be An Escape ?

Although I scheduled all week to be off from work (to attend scout camp), I had always intended to go in for at least a full day on Saturday.  This would allow me to "catch up" on emails and anything else needing my urgent attention BEFORE having it all clutter my first Tuesday back.

Our office has been closed the past 1 1/2 days due to the Black Forest fire, but I found out shortly after 10:00am today that we would be opening at 11am.  There was no requirement for me to come into work today ... but circumstances on the home front led me to choose to head to the office, if only to escape from a loud environment for a period of time.

I love my family.  My wife and kids are great.  They brighten my life in a variety of ways.  But ... they also have the ability to make my head feel like it is going to explode.  There is a near constant barrage of questions, needs, wants, and concerns.  As a problem-solver, I usually relish that opportunity to do what I do well.
But not this morning.

After the evacuation on Wednesday and the personal belongings rescue mission yesterday, I felt the need to just "sit" and not have as much physical exertion expected of me today.  It became evident very early on that I would not get that opportunity at home today, so I escaped to the relative quiet of my desk at work.  I don't think this is a problem, so long as it is only a rare "escape" from the stress of things at home.  It becomes a problem or concern if this were to happen more regularly.  With that in mind, I used the need of a friend (to help moving some of his mom's furniture to her new place) to "escape" from the office, so it all comes back around.  :)

Song Of The Day:
I am not sure who sang the tune originally, and there are certainly several different versions, but I really like "The Great Escape" as sung by Exit 245 (an a capella group from James Madison University).  In fact, I listened to it a few times at work today while escaping to some peace and quiet.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Do You Heed The Promptings ?

Many people claim that miracles don't happen any more.  Some claim that they not only do happen but that they happen much more often than we realize.  I am in the latter category.  I am convinced that our loving Heavenly Father provides us with promptings through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost and these can bring about miracles if we just listen to them and act upon them.

Two examples from just this morning:
 - Thinking about getting all of our scouts' equipment was a big stress on my mind and a topic of conversation much of last evening.  My wife felt impressed to make some phone calls early this morning to see if I could go back to the camp to collect belongings.  Within an hour I was on the road with my son, having gotten permission to go to the camp and gather our belongings.  When we arrived at the camp, we found out that we had literally a one hour window during which we could pack up camp.  Had my wife waited to call we would NOT have been able to get everything for ourselves and the rest of our camp.
 - Just before our mad rush to get to the camp, the thought crossed my mind "take that extra seat out of the back of the big van before you go."  There was no reason to do so as our camp's equipment would have already fit in the rest of the van (2 rows of seats were already removed) ... but I listened to the prompting.  We took 3 minutes to pull out the seat and were on our way.  AFTER packing up our campsite, one of the camp directors asked if we had any "extra room" to collect items from another campsite.  Because the seat had been removed, we did have room, so we proceeded to assist with the loaded of half of another campsite's personal items.

I am sure if you think about it for a few minutes, you'll quickly become aware of a recent time when you felt impressed or prompted to say or do something that may have seemed out of the ordinary at that moment.  If you listened in that time, then you probably also have a memory of a positive outcome to that story.  Kudos to you for listening to the spirit.  You've just allowed God to work a miracle (however small it may have been) through you.

Song Of The Day:
I am using "The Quickest Road" by The Duke's Men Of Yale as the song from this post.  How does this relate?  The quickest road to a miracle is a straight line between you and the spirit.  Also, the drive to (and home from) Camp Dobbins was much better today because we didn't have to go out to I-25.
And for me, that was another nice little miracle!  :)


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Have You Ever Been Evacuated ?

The smoke cloud first came into view yesterday afternoon.  The scouts at the stables working on the Horsemanship merit badge, were busy cleaning saddles and completing other requirements.  One of the camp staff attempted to discreetly pull aside one of the MB instructors, but he made a big scene of it and suddenly everyone saw the growing plume of smoke in the near distance.

Camp Cris Dobbins is located on the Peaceful Valley Ranch just off Elbert Road in eastern Colorado.  The Black Forest fire began just about 6 miles west of this location, so there was certainly cause for concern.  With that in mind, the remainder of last night went as scheduled, and there never seemed to be much concern about the fire.  In fact, it wasn't until about 10:30am today that we even smelled smoke or saw small pieces of ash in the camp.

That is a sign I should have paid attention to because less than an hour later the sirens were sounding and we would be spending over 4 hours standing in the sun waiting to be evacuated and checked in to the shelter.  I've had late lunches before but this was almost an early dinner.

We left the camp in a slow, mostly organized fashion and drove to the Elbert County Fairgrounds.  While waiting to check in there, my son and I were interviewed by a reporter for the Denver Post.  I'll have to check later to see if we're actually quoted in the article at all.

I thought the worst part of the experience would be the burning sun and long wait for some mediocre lunch food ... but the drive home made everything else seem like a day in the park.  We were not allowed to drive south on Elbert road, which would have allowed us to catch US-24 to Falcon and then take Woodmen road straight home.  Instead, we had to drive north all the way up to Castle Rock, just to catch I-25 south back to Colorado Springs.  Without heavy traffic, that would still have taken an hour or more to complete.  Because of evacuees and regular rush hour traffic, the drive took well over 2 1/2 hours.  The length of that trip led to car sickness for two of the boys and a horrific bloody nose for my son.  Be grateful there are no pictures of that.

All in all, I am pleased at how well the senior camp staff and Red Cross volunteers (as well as police officers, etc.) did to ensure safety of over 1200 scouts, leaders, and camp staff.  Things were no picnic, but they could have been considerably worse and so I am grateful.  I just hope we can get our stuff soon (literally everything was left at camp).

Song Of The Day:
Getting out safely but with lots of stress is a bittersweet feeling, so "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve is my song for this post.  Grateful for the shower and comfortable bed, but now my thoughts are turned toward those people whose homes are being destroyed who are not as fortunate.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Who Said You're Uninvited?

This will be a cryptically short post, because I am at great risk of offending someone I love with my comments.  That said, anyone can choose to be offended or not and that is actually the topic for this post.

Truth is, we've all been wronged at some point in our life.  Someone has taken advantage of each one of us in some way.  Whether it be as simple as a 'little white lie' or something grandiose like stealing money or criminal deception, everyone gets treated unfairly at some point.

But NO ONE can decide for you how YOU react to the situation.  YOU choose for yourself how you approach future situations as a result of this lost trust ... and YOU are the one who must accept whatever consequences come from those decisions.

I do not mean for this to sound harsh, but sometimes the truth is hard to hear (or read) and accept.  No one has to take away your free agency, but free agency doesn't mean you get to choose your decision AND the outcomes that follow.

Ultimately, if your choices separate you from other people, YOU have to be willing to accept that, or forgive.  You cannot choose to hold a grudge and expect others to just accept that.  It is wrong to judge someone for their decision to forgive another person.  It is even more wrong to suggest that that person is the cause of your separation from other people ... especially if they personally invited you to join them somewhere.  It is fine to decline that invitation, but you DO NOT get to play the martyr.  Remember, YOU decided not to join.  No one else forced that upon you.

Song Of The Day:
A few weeks ago I heard an a capella version of Alanis Morrisette's song "Uninvited" which was performed on the 2012 BOCA CD (best of college a capella) by the Rutgers University Shockwave women's choir.  This youtube version from the fall of 2011 isn't quite as good as the CD version, but it still fits perfectly with this post.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Why Do We Need To Be Rich ?

Today's post is based off some of the lyrics from the Song Of The Day which is "You And I" by Ingrid Michaelson.

In the song, there is a repeated refrain of "let's get rich and ..." followed by a variety of statements of things the singers would plan to do once they 'get rich.'  Their motivations do not seem to be all that selfish ... buy our parents' homes, give everyone nice sweaters, teach people how to dance ... but I wonder ...
why do we need to be 'rich' to do great things for other people?

Sure, you can make the argument that having plenty of money puts a person in a position to do lots of nice things for lots of people.  But often, kindness that makes a difference in this big world comes down to small acts that often don't cost anything but time.

A smile as you pass someone in the hallway at work.

Helping a friend with their 'To Do' list.

Letting someone cut in front of you in heavy traffic.

Sharing food with your kids or friends
(except McDonald's french fries ... let's not get out of control here).


Sunday, June 9, 2013

How Do You Know If You're Addicted To Something ?

In church today, the lesson in Gospel Doctrine (the main adult Sunday School class) was on the Word Of Wisdom as outlined to Joseph Smith in the 1800's.  Much of the discussion in class was centered around the "Do's" and "Don'ts" of that inspired revelation.

As usual, I only got to hear a portion of the lesson (I'm often called out of class to help with one of my kids, or arrive late to class because I was helping one of my kids).  Also as usual, my mind took the lesson material and began applying it to my own life in a more personalized way.

I found myself pondering addictions.

My own personal belief is that the Word Of Wisdom is actually counseling us to avoid anything addictive, and not just the substances outlined in the scriptures.  This is my own belief so don't anyone get any ideas that this is doctrine for anyone else to follow.  That said, here are a few questions that might better illustrate what I was thinking about during the lesson.

Do you have to drink a soda with your meal, or have at least one can each day?
Do you have to check your personal email or Facebook page every day?
Are you feeling withdrawals during a sports season if you haven't seen the most recent game scores?
Can you just decide to go a week without eating chocolate or candy?
Is your day incomplete until you have watched some TV? 
Do you feel out of sorts if you haven't played an online game or video game in the last day or two?

I believe that once you cannot choose NOT to do something, you are then most likely addicted to that thing (food, activity, or otherwise).  I'm not talking about breathing or drinking water.  I mean that any activity (including eating a certain something) that your body or mind eventually forces you to do is probably an addiction on some level.  Once that happens, you have lost your freedom of choice and that is one of God's greatest gifts to us, his children.

Not all addictions are bad (I think brushing your teeth or telling your family you love them are great addictions!), but if the activity doesn't directly benefit you or someone else, then it may be time to reconsider it.

Song Of The Day:
Today's song is "Choose" by Color Me Badd.  This was not their most popular hit, but I'm sure you remember the group's name.  I like this song because your ability to truly control your own choices is the safest way to avoid addictions before they become so overwhelming you need help to get that control back.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Is That The Only Time ?

Today I helped my brother-in-law with some yardwork.  I've got my own yard projects to take care of, but he specifically wanted my help with rolling sod, since I have LOTS of experience in that area.

Why is he replacing his sod and rocks and such?  Because they are trying to sell their house of course.  Isn't that just about the ONLY TIME people work extra hard to have a nice-looking yard?!

Obviously my own landscaping projects are not related to the sale of our home (I'm NOT moving again!  Ask my wife!), but I believe I am in the very small minority in this way.  My projects are for my own satisfaction and enjoyment, rather than being intended to encourage a potential homeowner to offer to buy my house.

So, why do we wait?

I know it's a lot of work and most of us don't like hard work.  But it seems silly to me that the only time yards look especially nice is when you're selling or just bought the home.

Song Of The Day:
Today's song came across my radar while listening to Pandora radio on my iPad.  "The Little Things" by Carlos Bertonatti is a catchy little tune and I think it fits well with this post.  We skip over almost all the 'little things' until we're trying to sell our homes, and then they are finally 'big' enough to justify our spending time on them.  We should treat ourselves better than this, because don't we deserve nice-looking yards and homes?!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Why Do You Wait To Improve ?

In my current role, one of my least favorite things that has to be done is a thing called Performance Management, or PM for short.  I am sure almost every company has this kind of process that their managers or supervisors have to do.  Results are tracked and reviewed over a specified period of time and if improvements are not made (presuming goals are already not being met) then the supervisor has to manage that performance (see: discuss with and/or write-up or even fire the employee).

Progressive has a very accomodating PM process, wherein people are given multiple opportunites to improve, and are provided with coaching on how to make these improvements.  There are technically 5 steps of PM, but even the first step doesn't occur until a pattern of poor performance is indicated in the reviewed results.  A completely fictitious example will illustrate what I mean.  Feel free to skip this next paragraph if you already get it.

Employee X has an objective that requires them to produce 10 widgets per month.  In month One, they produce only 4 widgets.  In month Two, they also only produce 4 widgets.  At this point, a "Discussion" is held between the Manager and X, wherein X is advised their performance is not up to standard.  In month Three, X produces 5 widgets, an improvement but nowhere near the expectation.  Now the Manager provides X with a "Documented Warning" reminding them that immediate and substantial improvement is needed.  In month Four, X produces 6 widgets, still an improvement but still well short of the goal.  The Manager now provides X with a "Written Warning" with the same coaching and serious tone, but now this document becomes part of X's permanent file.  In month Five, X produces 4 widgets, still not at the goal and not even improved any longer.  The Manager provides a "Final Written Warning" which basically reminds X that failure to improve again will likely lead to the final step, "Termination" of employment.

Here's my beef about why I dislike this so very, very much.
There are two reasons ...
First, the paperwork involved to move Employee X to each next step is so time consuming.  It is boring.  It is arguably a waste of time (shouldn't the manager be coaching and leading instead of filling out paperwork?)  And if the employee just made improvement after the first "Discussion" it would be unnecessary.
Second, Employee X will often wait until the Written Warning stage before making sincere efforts to improve.  Worse yet, after the improvements are finally made, Employee X will often complain "why did you have to make such a big deal out of this?!  why couldn't you just tell me it was important earlier on?!  why am I getting written up for this without having any time to improve?!"


If you listened to me when I first advised you of the issue or concern, then we would never have to have more serious discussions.  But your choice to wait to improve kept us on this path longer than either of us wanted to be here.  Stop waiting.  Just make improvements after the first chat.  Please.

Song Of The Day:
Jack Johnson's music always mellows me out, especially when I'm in one of those frustrated-at-other-people moods.  His song "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" reminds me of these employees who choose to sit (instead of make changes), wait for next steps, and wish (after the conversation) that they didn't happen.  Many of the words from the song are applicable to this post as well ... "must I always be playin' ... playin' the fool?"


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tucked Or Untucked ?

There are clearly more than just two kinds of people in the world, but I think most folks fall into primarily one of these two categories:
 - people who tuck their shirts IN
 - people who prefer to leave their shirts UNtucked

I tend to be a shirt-tucked-in kind of guy.  I'm not sure why, but there is something comfortable about having your shirt not flapping around all over.  I think it looks nicer and more presentable in most circumstances too.  That said, there are some obvious exceptions ... while playing sports, while working in the yard, and in general, anytime I'm wearing t-shirts just around the house.

My buddy Kevin is definitely a untucked-shirt kind of guy.  But he is in the military and 99% of the time has to be in very proper dress code attire, so I respect his stance on the issue.

Song Of The Day:
The instrumental song "Ain't Misbehavin' " by Harry James works well for today's post.  It's not misbehavior to wear your shirt untucked, but it does seem to show respect for people around you when you choose to tuck it in.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Who Got MY Food ?

This isn't a picture of MY food
but it sure was tasty!  :)
Today I bought a cheap lunch at Carl's Jr.: Two .99 cent spicy chicken sandwiches.  I paid the drive-thru lady and then took my bag of food.

It wasn't until I was back at work that I opened the bag and realized ... this is NOT what I ordered, nor is it what I paid for.

The very silver lining here is that it was a Big Carl burger and a large order of fries.  Now I have been on the receiving end of getting the wrong food before, but it is usually NOT in my benefit.

Many thoughts hit me at once ... I should drive back and return this food (but then, they'll just have to throw it away at this point AND make me two new chicken sandwiches) ... I am sure the other person checked their bag and got their Big Carl burger and fries exchanged for the cheap chicken ... am I being a jerk if I just eat this meal? ... what would Jesus do? ... surely they would just throw away this food so I'm actually saving them money and trouble by just eating what they gave me right?! ... I mean it's not my fault the drive-thru lady didn't check the bag before handing it to me ... I wonder if she did it on purpose ... maybe she knew I was hungrier than those little chicken snacks and just 'hooked me up' ... maybe the guy who ordered them was kind of a jerk ... how do I know it was a guy?! ... I don't have time to drive back and return this food ... man those fries smell good ...

And so ... at length ... I enjoyed my 'bonus lunch' which was very filling and much better than what I ordered.  Thanks KARMA for taking care of me today!  :)

Song Of The Day:
One of Culture Club's biggest hits was "Karma Chameleon" which is about neither karma nor chameleons.  But it's a catchy tune and the line "I'm a man without conviction" certainly applies here today.  :)


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When Is It Time To Step Away ?

I have spent roughly the past three years as part of a committee at work.  I originally joined this group, when it was first formed, because I was passionate about the agenda we were going to focus on.  I wanted to help establish a group of people that could promote education around this initiative.  I wanted to ensure that the right messages were meeting the right people.  I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself but be able to make an individual contribution.

Over time, the group expanded to include new members, with some people stepping away for a variety of reasons.  I took on a bigger role in organizing the efforts of this group and was happy to do so.  We planned and facilitated an obscene amount of things: training courses for employees, discussion forums, open meet and greet events.  We partnered with groups outside of our work area.  We won some awards and recognition for our efforts, which allowed us to influence more people in a positive manner.  It was nothing short of everything I had hoped it could become.

But ... over the past year, I have found myself struggling to put forth the time and effort that this project is deserving of.  My passion was waning.

After much thought, I decided to step away from the group for at least a little while.  This came as a huge shock to many of my peers in the group, several of whom had begun to rely on my leadership and 'expertise' in this endeavor.  I could sense disappointment from many people, but I also felt supported in my decision, which meant the world to me.  In fact, that support convinced me to bring about one more change in the group, which will allow me to stay connected with much less time commitment.

Song Of The Day:
The first line from Foreigner's big hit "I Wanna Know What Love Is" is the reason it is featured with this post.  "I've got to take a little time, a little time to think things over."  We often rush through life so quickly that we just do things instead of reflecting on whether or not we want or need to do them.  When we take a little time to think things over we allow ourselves to make good decisions and feel good about them.


Monday, June 3, 2013

What Is Your Blog About ?

A friend of mine from work, recently began blogging.  He told me that he has enjoyed reading my posts over the years and decided that he should write one himself.  I complimented him on his decision to do so and then asked him the title of this blog post.

You see, Mark (that's my friend's name) had asked me for help on his blog.  He felt that it looked plain and wanted to know how to do different things on it, visually and functionally.  And my answer was to start with the most important question:

What are you going to be blogging about?

Why is that the most important question?  Because what your blog is about and who your audience is, determines the majority of how you set up your blog.  You will want to match your background images, sidebars, font, color, links, etc. to whatever theme you want to convey.

My blog theme is questions and that is what I am passionate about writing about.  So ...
 - I selected an open road as my background picture, because it begs the question 'where does that road lead?'
 - I phrased all of my sidebars in the form of questions.

I use certain fonts and different colors and include links and/or pictures that catch the attention of the reader because my blog is not just for me.  I try to make my posts enjoyable or interesting for almost anyone to read.  I do share personal stories and these will be a nice journal to reflect back on years down the road, but that is not my primary intent of blogging.  It is a creative outlet that I hope spurs creativity in anyone who reads it.

I am anything but an expert at this.  I know less than almost any other blogger probably does, but I am happy to share what I know.  And making sure your blog is what you want it to be is the most important thing if you want to keep at it.

Song Of The Day:
I love a good singer/songwriter and Norah Jones certainly has accomplished plenty in this category.  The title of her popular song "Don't Know Why" can certainly apply to this post.  If you don't know why you are writing your blog, then you will likely not continue doing it.  If you don't know who your audience is, then it is almost impossible to tweak it in a way you will be most proud of it.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

What Is "Fat Pockets" ?

Some people will read that blog post title and automatically try to correct my grammar ... "Josh, it should be what are fat pockets."

No, no it shouldn't.  It is written correctly.

Fat Pockets is the name of the restaurant Karen and I want to open up eventually.  Josh Jr (our oldest son) wants to be a chef, so it will give him that opportunity.  Don't be quick to judge the name choice as bad for business.  Allow me to explain the thought process here and then you be the judge.

First, a few things you need to know conceptually about Fat Pockets:
 - It will be based in a college town, preferably within walking distance from campus housing.
 - It will only be open from 8:00pm until 4:00am.
            (Yes, you read the am and pm right there).
 - It will serve terribly unhealthy, but decidedly delicious snacky foods.  In fact there will be virtually nothing 'good for you' on the menu.
 - Our slogan / advertising will be based on the phrase
"I can get as fat as I want"

Now ... think about the college experience.  Think about the late night studying or paper-writing that goes on, virtually every day.  Think about the food cravings that you have at that time of the evening.  Now, ask yourself, where do you go to fill those cravings?  The 24-hour convenience store?  Wal-Mart?  Try to beat the clock at a fast-food restaurant?

But how convenient would it be to know that you don't have to rush somewhere for that late night snack?  How nice would it be to just have a plate of cheese and crackers and pepperoni?  Or deep-fried whatever-you-can-think-of?

So what would you like to see on the menu?  Because the dish will likely be named after you (or, if you prefer, after someone that you can't stand) if you are the first to suggest it being on our menu.  Comment below or on the Facebook post of this blog and you can stake your claim to naming rights!

Song Of The Day:
This post has been in draft mode for a long time, just waiting for the right time.  Our good friends, the Amsdens (Kevin and Amy), are the inspiration for this restaurant idea.  Amy always joked about food that we eat too late at night going straight to our 'fat pockets.'  Then, on our Spring Break vacation with their family, their middle son, Derek, told me at one point "I can get as fat as I want."  Since that moment I have been thinking about this post.  Recently, Amy messaged me on Facebook with the song "I'll Be There" by the Escape Club.
What a perfect tie in for this post!  Not only will the Amsden family have to be there when Fat Pockets opens up, but college kids will be saying that to each other when planning to meet at our restaurant for a very late night snack!


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Am I Giving People Too Much Credit ?

When working with a new Manager, there is always a point in time when you just get a sense of what kind of relationship you're going to have with them.  It might be a good one or a bad one or a laugh-a-minute one or a serious one or any number of other possible kinds of interpersonal connections.  Regardless, it is always nice when you find out it's going to be a very helpful and good relationship.

Several months ago, while chatting with my current Manager we came to a mutual awareness that we assume a certain level of intellect in others based on their age/experience or position/title.  As the chat continued, we further realized that this perception is often not accurate and can actually lead to a strained relationship.  Some people are most likely just not going to learn or get smarter or better.  They either are incapable of higher thoughts or are just not interested in making improvements.  They likely 'peaked' at some point in the past and decided that they 'made it.'  But this doesn't keep them from getting older and/or even advancing their title or position at work.  The truly wise person can recognize the wisdom, or lack thereof, around themselves and work with it or around it.

It was in that relatively brief conversation that I realized I was going to have a great relationship with my current Manager.  I have no idea if she views me as one who has any wisdom, but I know that I can learn from hers.  I also know that she can be honest with me, without being rude or mean.  It would surprise most people to realize that I have low self-esteem when it comes to my leadership abilities.  This Manager has already begun to improve my confidence in myself, simply by helping me realize what I do well and helping me clearly define what I need to work on.

One example ... stop assuming people have a certain level of intellect or that they can or even want to improve.  Confirm their knowledge.  Test their ability to learn and grow.  Then spend time with those who can or really want to improve and limit your 'wasted' time with those who don't.

Song Of The Day:
In the line of thinking of age and wisdom, "As Time Goes By" sung by the great Jimmy Durante, is the pick for today.  Although the song is mainly about love, there are some phrases that can easily apply to other things, most notably ... "The fundamental things apply, as time goes by"