Moving at the Speed of Life

Don’t be late. Life won’t wait for you to show up.

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With the Tampa move coming, I feel Time accelerating. There are so many little things I have to wrap up. I have learned from moving so many times, there are some things you just do not want to forget, such as getting your dental records, looking far out into your calendar to cancel any appointments, and trying to think of the myriad places that need to update your address (such as blog-hosting service!).

Of course, there are friends and family who hope to say good-bye and they can fill a schedule quickly if you are not careful about coordinating with other events. If you are driving, of course, you want to change the car’s oil and have it checked out. Pricing and scheduling moving and storage can be a chore by itself. The little things add up quickly and suddenly 3 weeks to prepare feels like 3 days.

So many things to do, so little time. That is when life is most challenging and most enjoyable. Trying to do many things in a frighteningly short amount of time is at the heart of an adventure.

 

Today’s Lesson: You know this one. It is, of course, a long way of saying, “Time flies when you are having fun!”

 

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Movin’ Out (Michael’s Song)

Look out, Tampa!

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I can finally share the news that Nicole and I are moving to Tampa, Florida! We are super excited for the adventures ahead and although I love Michigan, I must admit… if I never see snow again, that would be just fine by me.

Picking where we wanted to live was a journey by itself.

I have heard throughout my adult life about the freedom and flexibility of being single. “If we didn’t have kids,” so many conversations started, “We would just pack up and go wherever we wanted!”

It turns out that is a lot harder than it sounds, even for single people.

We started with a big list of potential places and whittled it down one name at a time, looking at all the information we could find. Was it vegan-friendly? Is it close to the water? What is the average temperature year round? How bad is the crime? What about cost-of-living compared to Grand Rapids and our current lifestyle? Taxes? …And a few other factors as well.

Eventually, we narrowed it down to 3: Tampa, Austin, San Diego. Tampa quickly became the favorite. It is not the most vegan-friendly city (tough to beat Austin there). Tampa has beautiful beaches but San Diego takes the cake on scenery. When you factor those in with cost-of-living, crime, and everything else, though, Tampa appears to offer the best of everything (for us, anyway). Tony Robbins called Tampa “the best kept secret in the United States” and I have only visited there but I might have to agree. Beautiful city walkways, beaches, amazing creatures coming from the ocean or sky permeate the city, vibrant nightlife, and of course, the best winters in America bar none.

Once we made our choice, we planned incessantly. For months, Tampa dominated our conversations at home. We knew right away it was not going to be easy, and it was going to be expensive. We actually had 4 plans in place to ensure success. We are on plan 3! We needed a back-up plan for our back-up plan, and we have a back-up plan for this one (but luckily, we won’t need to go to that plan).

I will share more about how we did it in the future, for those of you interested in making a big move  (to Tampa or elsewhere–it takes a lot of work to uproot your life and set yourself up for success in your new surroundings). For now, I’ll just say what you already know: success often looks like inspired spontaneous combustion but is usually proceeded by a lot of unseen planning and a slow burn.

 

Today’s lesson: Nothing worthwhile comes too easily. If it did, then it probably was not worthwhile.

A Diary of Broken Records

What is a diary, really?

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I found a couple of my old journals and started paging through them. It was interesting. I barely recognized the person writing or the events described as belonging to me (some were as recent as 2010–the last time I attempted a journal).

It is surprising how much an important event (important to me) can consume my life and transform my thinking, and it is surprising how a small event I might barely remember can have a big impact years later.

It turns out most of my journal entries, though, are a catalog of complaints or reasons to pity myself and I am glad now I gave up the practice.

In fact, the most surprising thing I found in reminiscing was not even in any of the entries themselves. It was how different a person I was then from who I am today. I have a completely different internal dialog.

So I tossed out my old journals.

Rather than cataloging my complaints and mistakes, I find it is more fulfilling to reflect on one lesson I learn each day. Pulling one lesson from every day is far more powerful than pushing a bunch of complaints to paper.

Today’s Lesson: A diary is something we rarely look at and, really, is mostly a record of our complaints. Maybe a better way to reflect on life is to look at all the good things we do each day… and just repeat them.

Are You Too Nice?

As a leader, is “tough but fair” better than “nice and inspirational”?

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If there has been one consistent criticism from my bosses and peers throughout my career, it is probably that I am too nice of a leader. I have been accused of being too nurturing or going too easy on people. Admittedly, my team is not always quickest to recover from losses or shoot straight to the top when challenged, but over the long run my team is always one of the most consistent top performing teams you will find. We tend to take the long view, plan well ahead and anticipate complications (which inevitably happen and I think one of my team’s strengths is that when things do become complicated they are usually prepared and rise against adversity).

Some leaders, however, believe a sterner approach produces better results. “No pressure, no diamonds” is a phrase I have heard and even used myself lately. The problem is, I think, when leaders do not know the difference between “pressure” and “puncture”. A balloon expands and holds its shape under gentle pressure but put too much pressure in one place (or every place) for too long and you have a puncture, causing the balloon to rapidly collapse. Worse, it usually will not inflate again.

Sure, “no pressure, no diamonds”. Guess what, though? Too much pressure, no diamonds as well, and once you have obliterated the coal no chance at making diamonds again.

 

Today’s Lesson: If, as a leader, the worst thing critics have to say about me is “He was too nice and gave people too many chances…” you know, I think I am okay living with that.

 

Skills Versus Passion: One Makes Winners

I would take someone who is passionate about what they do over someone who is good at what they do any day.

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I run several professional sales teams. I would take any one of my teams and pit their knowledge and skills against any other team in our company with no fear they would fare quite well. They are very good at what they do.

 

Until they aren’t.

I saw the most remarkable and, at first, confounding, thing today. After endless preparation, practice, and set-up for a huge sale, I watched my team pretty much fall on our face. We came in last against amateur teams that have barely had time to develop. In fact, we actually taught the other teams how to create a successful sale. They followed our every move as instructed. So, what happened?

How does a seasoned, professional team (sales or otherwise) fall to underdog up-starts? The answer is clear to me. Passion. The amateurs brought passion to the table today. They were hungry. They had something to prove and they set on a mission to win, not because they wanted big numbers or were being pressured by their superiors but because they wanted to win. 

Sadly, I must admit I did not see that same gleam of ignited focus or desire in my team’s eyes today. I saw professionals who looked and operated professionally, but with tired gazes, maybe worn-out from all the pressure to succeed, and the work and energy put into preparing. Maybe they put so much of themselves into it that they forgot to leave a little energy left to devote to the most important part of success: understanding why you want it.

This is where a leader’s work starts, though. Now it is my turn to find that spark and nurse it back to a flame. If teams always had that drive, that passion to win, then they would never need leaders (and many managers would be out of a job).

 

Today’s Lesson:  You can do everything right and still fail. Skills, therefore, are important but not crucial. With or without them, if you have passion, you can win. The catch is, passion is not something learned from the employee manual. You can teach skills. You must ignite passion.