Remaining Lessons Learned

These are the rest of the 10 things I learned during 2020…

Breaking Fad – After talking about it for several year, we finally ‘cut the cord’ this summer and entered the streaming era. Of course, we then needed to increase Internet speed by adding fiber optics… and since our TV’s are older, we had to purchase a Roku. Then it turned out one TV isn’t compatible, so we ordered an over-the-air HD indoor antenna for local channels. After testing a free week of Hulu, we settled on YouTubeTV for the major networks. Everything works great; however, when you add in Disney+, Peacock, Prime and Netflix, the cost trends right back toward the amount we were paying for cable. We’ll be dropping a few in the New Year.

Century Mark – He broke into the Majors in 1942. Then he enlisted in the military and served three years during World War II. He made it back to the Bigs in ‘47, playing 11 more seasons and for seven of the eight American League teams. Ted Williams said he “was the most underrated and clutch hitter I ever played against.” After retiring he became a baseball executive and was president/GM of the Texas Rangers for a time, which allowed me to start a lifelong friendship with his son Paul. On December 15, Eddie Robinson – the Oldest Living Former Major League Baseball Player – turned 100. He started a podcast a few months ago, which proves you’re never too old to try something new.

Lasting Legacy – One hundred years from now historians will still be writing about the 2020 Global Pandemic, just as they continue to chronicle World War I, the War of 1812, the South Sea Bubble and the Mayflower. There will be books about how governments handled their responses, how so many suffered, how elected officials and citizens took sides. All that is for others to reflect on down the road. This year taught me that what we think we know changes quickly. There is another ‘something big’ down the road that will impact our grandchildren. My hope is that when that time arrives, they learned some things from us, and they, too, will have faith, discipline and patience, to see the challenge through to the other side.

Gift Giving – Covid greatly increased the numbers of those in need; right now, one in five people in Southeast Texas don’t have enough to eat. In lieu of client gifts, once again this year, we contributed to a nonprofit that is doing wonderful things in our local community. The Houston Food Bank distributes fresh produce, meat and nonperishable items, and prepares nutritious hot meals for kids. Each dollar donated provides three meals and they are currently serving more than 90,000 households each week in 18 area counties.

I’ll conclude with a quote about the most wonderful time of the year. This one courtesy of Agnes M. Pahro: “What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.”

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Seasons Greetings. Here’s hoping the world gets well in 2021… and continued success in all things.

More Lessons Learned

Part II of III

Here are more things that struck me as meaningful this year…

Funny Pages – I enjoy reading the Comics – and this year I committed to doing it daily in order to bring some light-hearted humor into the monotony of WFH and same-old, same-old routine. My favorites? BC, Blondie, Family Circus, Funky Winkerbean, Crankshaft, Baby Blues, Red & Rover, Pearls Before Swine and, of course, Dilbert. (As I said, I enjoy reading the Comics!) Since our newspaper is in electronic format, I take screen shots and forward the ‘best of’ to family and friends. Hopefully, it adds a few smiles to their days.

Print This – As part of my Journalism major, I took 15 hours of English in college. One of my TA’s was working on a Ph.D. and had written a novel. I remember her telling me, “There’s a book inside everyone. Someday you’ll publish yours.” Well, 40 years later, I did. Words Flow Through Me is a compilation of my favorite newsletters, blogs and magazine articles written the past 15+ years – and even includes the best thing I wrote in college: the final essay for her class. You don’t have to be John Grisham or David McCullough to publish. You just need to organize your thoughts and enter them in a document… even if for your eyes only.

Best Book – Robert Iger is the executive chairman of the Walt Disney Company. His recent memoir – The Ride of a Lifetime – is a wonderful trip through his career at ABC and Disney, including reflections on acquiring Pixar and Lucasfilm Ltd, and the opening of Shanghai Disneyland Park. While many of these type books are ‘Look at all the great things I did,’ Iger’s is more ‘Here are the things I should have done better.’ He’s also candid in sharing thoughts about many people you’ve heard of, including Roone Arledge, Michael Eisner and Roy E. Disney.

Lessons Learned

Part I of III

Each December since 2007, I share my biggest lessons from the previous 12 months. Given the challenges of 2020, this list could be really long. That said, here are my favorite lessons during this ‘year of all years’:

Home Life – Imagine if one year ago I had written: “You’ll spend nine months working from home while participating in video sessions using an app named Zoom.” (If I had, you could have bought the stock and made nearly 500%!) Yet here we are… and it looks like we’ll be this way a while longer. There are many videos of epic mishaps during online meetings: kids in the background, cats walking across keyboards, people forgetting they’re on camera. Still, think of how far we’ve come with our comfort level. What once seemed strange is now natural. What once was perceived as ineffective is now productive. What once was a non-starter is now accepted. Evolution takes centuries. Most of the time. Occasionally it happens fast.

Simple Stroll – The arrival of Covid meant the end of my weekday lap swimming exercise at Life Time Fitness. So I started walking every morning at the crack of dawn. For 34 weeks, I kept the streak alive: 170 straight weekdays. In the beginning, I could do about 45 minutes – roughly 2.5 miles. Within a few months, my time on the trails behind our neighborhood averaged more than five miles… with a few two-hour seven milers mixed in for fun. Alas, the streak ended on Tuesday, November 10, and it’s been hit or miss since. The lesson here is, at least for me, it’s much easier to keep doing something than to take a break and start anew.

New Hobby – I hadn’t put together a 1,000-piece puzzle during the past 45 years. Then came the Spring Shutdown. Our daughter Kelsey and I sat down at a table to work on one… and a couple months later we’d completed seven. There are four waiting in the wings – and I’m guessing the holidays just might include more peaceful and relaxing jigsaw journeys.

Thanks Giving

In September, Kathy attended the annual Texas Association of School Boards (virtual) convention. The opening presenter was Shawn Achor, whose TEDTalk on happiness and success has more than 13 million views. Afterward, she shared the keynote with our daughter and me.

The former Harvard researcher spoke about how showing gratitude for the things in our lives is linked to happiness. He suggested five daily habits – all easy to do – that can elevate your happiness meter:

> Exercise at least 15 minutes
> Journal for two minutes
> Meditate for two minutes
> Send one positive email of three sentences to someone
> Express out loud three things you are grateful for that happened in the past day

While I’m not much on journaling (although these blogs might be a form of that), I do exercise and try to focus on silence for a few minutes each day. Since seeing his presentation, I am trying to send a daily positive email – or at least several texts.

The big change for the three adults living in our house occurs during our main meal. We committed to sharing three things we’re thankful for… and it’s made a difference in how I feel about the challenges of doing business by distance… and also taken our conversations to a much deeper level.

In this time of Thanksgiving, think about how you can start giving thanks more often.

Full Disclosure

During the 14 years I wrote a monthly newsletter and writing this blog since 2009, I have always tried to be open and honest, never holding back a thought, if it would benefit readers. Yet, today – as I type these words – I am hesitant.

There is so much divisiveness in our country. People are hunkering down on the side that best represents their belief system. The past three weeks have added additional fuel to the fire. So, today – as I type these words – I am hesitant.

I know that withholding my opinion doesn’t help anyone… and I have an earned trust with readers to share my perspective. Yet, I know that what I’m about to say will upset half my audience. So, today – as I type these words – I am hesitant.

Nonetheless… I’m going to do what I always do: write what I feel.

So here goes.

I absolutely love watching Hallmark Christmas movies.

It’s a holiday tradition Kathy and I started a few years ago, and we renewed it a few days after the first feature – Jingle Bell Bride – aired on October 24.

OK, I get it. Every single Hallmark movie is the same…

Open with snowy aerial shot of big city or small town

Introduce main characters living in separate worlds – typically longtime single or recently widowed/divorced; work in ad agency or run store inherited from deceased parent

Paths cross fortuitously. Instant connection. Work together on last-minute project like annual Christmas Eve pageant or gathering donations for overseas military

Underlying conflict around having to return to big city unexpectedly because boss requires starting new position the day after Christmas or just not ready to start relationship. Usually a misunderstanding because someone eaves-dropped on conversation

Mother gives ‘do what your heart tells you’ advice. Couple finally embraces under mistletoe/stars/during formal Christmas Eve dance where woman arrived in stunning dress and man nattily attired

Kiss. Wide Shot. Tilt up. Roll credits

(Of course, there are also scenes with: cookie baking, ice skating, snowball fights, hot cocoa, former relationships, Santa in disguise, wreath making, tree decorating, sleigh rides, opening gifts, visits to faraway places like Rome and Vienna…. and – in 5-4-3-2-1 – lighting of the giant Christmas tree on the town square.)

I realize this thing we refer to as ‘schlocky Hallmark Christmas movies’ isn’t for everyone. For us, though, it’s a welcomed disconnect from everything going on in the world – and what’s the alternative: watching a midweek college football game or a show like “I See Your Voice”? We’ll stick with ‘stars’ like Lacey Chaubert, Luke Mcfarlane, Candace Cameron Bure, Brennan Elliott, Danica McKellar and Andrew Walker.

Note: We cut the cable this summer and didn’t’ think we’d be able to tune in this year. However, we discovered a little know streaming service – frndly TV – that has all 3 Hallmark channels and 12 other networks. It’s eight bucks a month for HD, unlimited cloud recordings and you can cancel anytime. There are a dozen Christmas movies still to air, so why wait?