What Your Dad Never Told You

I was recently talking to a new Dad, and he asked me what was my perspective on being a Dad.

“It’s like removing yourself from the center of your universe and replacing it with someone else,” I said to him.

No one really prepares you for this re-framing, and you could speculate that some Dads don’t ever quite “get there”, but for the ones that do, it’s something that our children likely don’t understand until much later when they find themselves as parents.

We love you unconditionally.  That means we love you no matter what you do, or how you act, or what you say, or what you don’t say.  We love you this way because we are your Dad, and you are the center of our universe.

There are times that it isn’t easy being a Dad.  We worry about protecting you.    If you ever feel like we’re in the way, it’s because we’re trying to shield you from something that you don’t know or understand—yet.

We struggle when to let go and when to hold on.  Our instinct is to hold on, always hold on.  But there comes a point where we rationalize that our grip, on you, must loosen, as you experiment down your own path.  We do this because we believe in you.  We pray that somehow, somewhere, our guidance and support of you has been engrained into your DNA so that you can have a happy and successful life.

You give us so many moments that make us proud, too.  They remain in our minds, forever, painted like the pictures we took of each moment, of each achievement, of each milestone.  You gave us those moments, at those times, but also you gave them to us forever.  As you grow up, the puzzle pieces of your life will start to fit together, but we’re always there as the border pieces, surrounding you with who you are at your core and the lessons we taught you along the way.

We’ll always have each other.  No matter what the circumstances are, no one will ever take that away from us.  Even when we’re gone, we’re not gone.  You will take little pieces of who we were and weave them into your life because those pieces are the pieces that you’ll never ever forget about your Dad, because you were the center of your Dad’s universe.

Happy Father’s Day 2018 to Dads that are with us, and those that have left us.

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Utah! Utah! Utah!

It was near the end of World War Two and my father’s cousin, Ed Pugsley, and his squadron  were being briefed about their next bombing mission in their B-29.  The co-pilot and his crew were part of a mission to bomb an oil refinery north of Osaka, a mere 8.5 hours and 1,500 miles away in what was their 16th bombing mission.

But if the surrender came while the crew was in-flight, they would receive the special radio code “Utah! Utah! Utah!” and they were to turn around and come home after dumping their bombs at sea.

“You never saw so many guys pressing their ears against their head sets,” Ed told his son.

Staying focused to the mission, the crew found their target and headed home, perhaps disappointed that the call didn’t come.  But about one hour into the return flight, the call came into the headsets–“Utah, Utah, Utah”.

I can imagine the relief that the war was finally over, but this battle wasn’t over for the crew.  As Ed later explained, the most notable accomplishment was that in terms of time and distance, this was the longest propeller driven combat strike in the history of the world.  “We were in the air 17 hours and 15 minutes.  Traveled close to three thousand miles.  When we got back to base we landed on fumes,” Ed explained.

This was officially the last mission of World War Two.

Ed was 19 at the time.

Ed died earlier this year, and his story was captured by his son Don at his eulogy.  Like so many in this “Greatest Generation“, Ed was strong and brave, but to me he was an incredible leader.

This Memorial Day, I thought about Ed and his team–what it was like, how they felt, what scared them, how they worked together, and what they talked about.  I can’t even imagine being in their shoes, at their age, and doing the things they were doing for our country.

All I can say is thank you for your service.

We’re In The Same Boat Now

Crickets–Why Acknowledgement is a Contribution

I took on my own stretch assignment at work, offering to lead two Working Out Loud Circles.  In these circles, the participants are learning about making contributions.

In my own words, contributions, in this context, are things you can do that just plain make you a better person to work with, and be around.  I found it extremely helpful to see ten contributions summarized in Week 8 of the program.

As I thought about my own practice of the ten contributions, there was one that was similar called “offer attention” but I coach others more overtly to contribute in a way just as important as the others—Acknowledgement.

So what do I mean?

How many times have you called someone, or sent an email, or a text message—or all 3—and never heard anything in return?  The kids call this getting ghosted when a friend does it to you.

Casper.  At work.  Who would’ve known?

How many times have you contemplated, seemingly for hours, about how to send the right message, with the right words, to someone else, like a boss?  Then, when you finally muster the courage to hit the “send” button, you wait with nervousness, wondering what he/she will think, or say, in return.

And you wait.  And wait.  And wait.

Nothing.

And then the doubts start to enter your mind.  Did I piss him/her off?  Did I over extend my boundaries?  Did I make a fool out of myself?

You check your email box, hitting “send/receive all messages”.  It’s like you’re now borderline crazy.

And still nothing.

If you’ve been there, you’re not alone.  But the remedy is very easy.  It’s called acknowledgement.

Just acknowledge that you got the message.  You don’t even have to craft a lengthy response.  How about this:

“Thanks for the note, I’ll take a look.”

Or

“I appreciate that you reached out.  I can’t commit to anything at this time, but will consider your ideas.”

Just…say…something.

From my experience, people that practice this simple contribution are more engaged, more inspiring, and establish authentic connections more often than people that just ignore the message.  Do you want people to play the sound of crickets to their friends after sending you a message as a mockery to your impending blow off, or do you want to practice making a small contribution to another person just by telling them you acknowledge that they reached out to you?

Take 60 seconds and acknowledge the other person—you’ll never regret it.

Have You Lost Your Curiosity at Work?

I get energy from curious people at work.  It seems that from my experience, curious people can typically help you get things done in a better way.  Curious people ask the question “why?” multiple times until they understand the root cause of something.  Curious people respond when you ask them for feedback on what could get better.

But what happens when your workforce seemingly has lost its ability to be curious?

Curious people ignite the flame of critical thinking and problem solving; not-so-curious people can extinguish that flame.

For me, lack of curiosity typically relates to general apathy.  In the workplace, that could mean not raising your hand, or letting someone else raise their hand, or just going through the motions.  Your calendar may be full from 8-5, but logging into that conference call to have your name show up in the panel that you were there—even though you didn’t contribute anything to the meeting—makes you feel busy.

It can also point to another sign—that you are too comfortable.  This happens after years of steady employment where you’ve been allowed to just go through the motions, show up when you needed to show up, but nothing externally or internally is creating a sense of urgency to do anything different.  Perhaps you tried at one point but became de-motivated when things didn’t work out the way you envisioned them to.

One flaw in all of that is that it assumes that motivation can only come externally—from someone or something other than yourself.  The boss passed you over for a promotion.  The Department reorganized you into a new area.  The company decided to continue to invest in the legacy technology that you’ve worked on for decades, so you should be set.

I think there is too much risk to behave this way in the workplace.  Leaders are searching for curious people as it demonstrates a different level of engagement.  Leaders what to know how to make things better, and curious people are motivated to contribute to that outcome.  And finally, leaders need curious people.  Without them, something externally will disrupt the situation, without a doubt.

Curiosity equates to motivation.  Motivation equates to making things happen on your own terms—not the boss, the department, or the company.

I’ve learned this perspective over time and through experience.  I observe people across the entire spectrum of curiosity and motivation.  Re-framing to putting things on your own terms, and taking control of your own motivation and curiosity can not only lead to a happier work life, but one that has a higher potential of success and satisfaction.

Over My Stretched Out Body!

savingseats

I was excited to get a new hire and find a location for him to sit.  Right outside of my office was this beautiful empty cubicle—his new home, I thought.  The cube had been empty for months, it was a perfect spot.  My excitement was building, until I saw the black and white sign, mocking me in 72 point Calibri:

Reserved!

Right in front of my own eyes, the office equivalent of stretching across 5 folding chairs.

After searching around, I discovered that someone had placed this sign and reserved this spot for an open and not yet filled position months ago.

When you come from a big family, the concept of reserving or saving things is foreign.  Take food, for example.  If dinner is on the table, and you’re late, then you just don’t get the good stuff.

“Show up on time,” my mother used to say when I showed up late and the only dinner portions left was a copious portion of red beets.

This theme is all around us.  You ever been to a parade and see those empty chairs you’d take to a kid’s soccer game just lined up in the front row?  They put them there days in advance.  Deep inside the recesses of my mind I wish someone would steal them.

How about at a school play?  It’s like someone raided the lost and found table hanging a bunch of tattered coats, hats and scarves across a bunch of folding chairs.  At least have the dignity to just make your kid lie down across the chairs…

I wonder what this says about our culture.  Do we respect showing up on time?  Are we trying to protect those in our clan that are just a little slower than the rest of us?

Sometimes, we all just need to experience eating the beets, teaching us to show up next time just a little earlier.

What’s your favorite “saver” story?

The Next Chapter

nextchapter

Taking my oldest son to college for the first time was harder than I thought.  My wife and I left with him Wednesday night and moved him in on Thursday.  Then, we left.

All the clichés are true; it happens more quickly than you think.  I can attest to that.  One day you’re putting him on the school bus for the first time, and then almost without blinking you’re hugging him in the dorm parking lot saying good bye.  You feel this extreme loss of his presence, knowing that it will never be the same.

But then my 88 year-old father, who did this 7 times, said it’s like he’s starting his next chapter.  For some reason that made me feel better, that somehow, for him, he’s getting to start something he’s been waiting a long time to start.  I then remember how happy I was for my next chapter after my parents dropped me off at college.  These additional perspectives helped me balance my own feelings of loss and fear I felt by dropping him off.

Maybe it should be about him, and not me?

I talk a lot about the “change cycle.”  This is a model that tells you no matter how big or small the change is that you are experiencing, science tells us that we always go through the same sequential 6 stages—Loss, Doubt, Discomfort, Discovery, Understanding, Integration.  The pace in which one goes through the cycle is dependent on several factors.  One thing I like about the model is that just knowing you go through all 6 stages—and you will eventually get to Integration—in of itself is comforting.  By using this model, I can self-identify that I am in the Loss and Doubt stages, and that is OK.

This one will take me a while.  The text messages and once a week phone calls help too.  After we got home, his younger brothers launched a multi-phased project where everyone was switching rooms.

“We keep no shrines,” my mother used to say when the exact same thing happened 45 years ago with my 6 sisters.

Peyton moved into Will’s now empty room.  Henry moved into Peyton’s room and Eddie stayed in the room he previously shared with Henry.  We moved clothes, dressers, beds–the works.  Now the remaining boys all have their own room.

Feels like they moved through the change cycle pretty quickly.  Have to love your siblings.