Self Centered

We were at our favorite Mexican restaurant recently and I got up to go to the complimentary queso bar. After filling my basket and bowl, I heard, “Hi, Mr. Handler.” Turning around I saw a man – in his mid-twenties – who looked familiar. After my, ‘Hey, great to see you,’ he asked how our son is doing.

Ah, so this is Kyle’s friend, I realized, thus eliminating any connection to our other two children. Still, I had no idea who was standing in front of me… which immediately sent me into a long story about Kyle’s work and his girlfriend and UT football games and the weather.

After several minutes, he said, ‘It was great seeing you,’ and I echoed the same. When I returned to our table, I told Kathy, ‘You have to go into the other room and find out who that is, because it will drive me crazy all night.’ Of course, before doing that, she said, ‘What did you find out that will help?’

And that’s when it hit me. All of my coaching skills that utilize curiosity disintegrated in the immediate moment when I was stumped. I failed to ask him a single question, so I had nary a clue to offer. (My Journalism professors, television bosses, and the organization where I received coaching certification would be so disappointed.)

Unfortunately, Kathy didn’t recognize him either, so we left with me fully perplexed. Then we called Kyle… and I told him this same story. The first thing he said was: “You sure it isn’t someone who wasn’t in my class?” And that’s when it hit me that I had been talking to one of his basketball teammates who was a year ahead – and, by the way, might have grown up right around the corner from our house.

Good thing Kyle had the presence of mind to ask me a question.

Streak Over

Today is my brother Phil’s birthday… and it’s a nice round one: 70. He works out every morning, plays 80 rounds of golf each year, and has the physical fitness of someone 20 years younger.

Phil didn’t want to make a big deal out of this momentous occasion despite my urging him to let us throw a party. At first, I thought maybe he just didn’t want to be the center of attention… although that’s out of character for someone who played lead guitar and sang in a rock and roll band during high school.

Of course, it could be I may have put too much pressure on him. You see, today is a really big occasion for our family. Phil is the first male on either side since 1946 to celebrate the big 7-0. The last was my mother’s grandfather, who lived to 86.

Our father’s dad passed away at 48. Our mother’s father died at 57. Our dad came up four months short, succumbing to a heart attack at 69. Our oldest brother, Ric, died of cancer at 54. During the past decade I might have mentioned to Phil – oh, about 50 times – that he needed to break the curse.

Congratulations, my brother who’s always been there for me. My money is on you soaring past 80 and seeing 90 before heading to the big bandstand in the sky. No pressure intended.

Clear Direction

Interestingly, both routes from our house to Austin don’t include a non-stop highway. Yes, in 2019, there is no freeway route from Houston to the state capital. So, you have to slow down to avoid several well-known speed traps. (Note: be extra careful in Paige, a few miles west of Giddings on 290… local law enforcement always has someone pulled over in that one-stoplight town.)

Kathy and I made the journey to Austin this weekend and it occurred to me we’ve driven it so many times over the past 12 years with three kids in school there that I can pretty much say, ‘In three miles there’s Mike’s Taxidermy… Around this bend is Cotton Bowl Speedway… It’s eight miles from here to the entrance of Sherwood Forest.’

There are probably days you drive to work and think, ‘Wow… how did I get here? I don’t remember the last 10 minutes.’ That’s called being unconsciously competent. You know the route so well you’re on autopilot. It can be a good trait until you drive two exits past and wonder what the heck you were thinking.

In order to get out of the rut of the same ol’ same ol’, it’s important to look at things differently. Disrupting your normal pattern can lead to better insights and creativity. So next time you drive to work, try taking a new route.

We did that returning from the Kansas State-UT game… heading 15 miles out of our way yesterday to visit Lavender Farm outside Brenham. The smell in the gift shop was relaxing and the unfamiliar route filled with rolling hills and new views to experience.

Naive Realism

Debating the ‘Mount Rushmore of’ a talented field is a great form of entertainment when hanging out with others. Of course, that #4 position is usually a tough call:

MR of Muppets? Kermit, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and _____

MR of exercise? Running, Swimming, Biking and _____

MR of quarterbacks? Brady, Montana, Unitas and _____

MR of 60’s cars? Corvette, Mustang, GTO and _____

MR of laptops? Apple, Dell, Surface and _____

MR of rock bands? Beatles, Stones, U2 and _____

MR of colleges? Harvard, Yale, Stanford and _____

MR of romantic cities? Venice, Paris, Rome and _____

MR of desserts? Bread Pudding, Pecan Pie, Ice Cream and _____

MR of board games? Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk and _____

While you likely disagree with many of my Top 3 above, chances are you’re not going to get upset with my opinion. Instead, you’ll counter with a few different thoughts, we’ll politely discuss the ‘why’ and conclude by acknowledging there is more than one way to view things.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could approach politics, religion and social issues that currently divide our world in a similar manner? You’re entitled to your opinion. I’m entitled to mine. We both seek a clearer understanding of our different viewpoints to learn from each other.

Seems that would be a much better approach than one where people are set staunchly in their beliefs and – whether from fear, firmness or frustration – aren’t open to anything that differs from their own.

Here’s a suggestion for a starting point toward change:

MR of manners? Show Respect, Listen, No Judging and _____

Next Stage

While my goal is to work until June 9, 2031, much plays into that happening, including good health and skills that are still in demand. Yet, at my age – with 60 fast approaching – I’m listening to a lot of clients and friends talk about their impending retirements.

While these folks aren’t worrying about running out of money before they run out of time, they are concerned about running out of things to do. That seems to be the biggest fear among those who have acquired enough wealth to not depend on Social Security to make ends meet.

I’ve spoken to people who grew bored after a few months and went back to work. I even have one friend who retired on January 1 this year after 34 years at his company and started working at a new organization the following Monday.

Perhaps the greatest challenge of stepping away from the workforce is to find something that engages the mind, spirit and body. The key is to have a new calling that provides a challenge and, in my opinion, helps others.

Following his last game and having announced retirement, a reporter asked Bear Bryant what he was going to do going forward. The legendary Alabama football coach replied: “Probably croak in a week.” He died 31 days later.

Which is why when I step away from work on the 50th anniversary of my first day at my first professional job, I’ll have a plan – and it won’t be just playing golf.