Lessons Learned 2019

Part I of II

Continuing the tradition I started more than a decade ago while reflecting on the year, here are some of the biggest lessons I learned during the past 12 months:

Gen Why – ‘OK, Boomer’ became a thing this year… and I have to admit – much like mansplaining – it’s real. So often those of us of a certain age think we have all the answers…and are quick to share them with those who haven’t lived as long. While I doubt this is any different than how past generations passed along wisdom, we should realize ‘kids’ today are smart whippersnappers and don’t need our constant input. (Note: I would have used ‘meme’ instead of ‘thing’ in the first sentence except many born between 1946 and 1964 wouldn’t know what it means.)

Travelin’ Man – During my sports television days, I spent a lot of weekends on the road: more than 30 the last year I worked in that industry. Then as the kids entered ‘busy’ years, I changed careers twice and stayed home most of the time to help out with sports and other activities. That held true my first decade as a coach; however, recently I’ve been away a lot more. This year, the number of nights not spent in my own bed was 90. When I told Kathy how much I appreciate her understanding my time away, she said: “Now that the kids are grown, I’m fine with it.”

Big Apple – In my twenties, I twice turned down opportunities to relocate to further my television career. I couldn’t pull the trigger on moving away from my Texas family and friends. Meanwhile… our youngest, a senior in college, just finished a semester with an internship and taking classes in New York City. A decade ago, our oldest spent a summer studying in France. Our son is 25 and lives in Nashville. While it may not hold true for every family, in our house, the next generation is more mobile, flexible and confident than I was at that age.

Bowled Over – On New Year’s night, my beloved Texas Longhorns upset Georgia in the Sugar Bowl – and in the postgame celebration, quarterback Sam Ellinger said, ‘We’re baaack,’ as an exclamation point that nine years of mediocrity was over. Well… Texas went 7-5 this season and it seems the only thing ‘baaack’ is continuing underachievement for the nation’s wealthiest collegiate athletic department. Be careful what you say, and remember success is fleeting, so don’t ever consider things settled.

Free Stylin’ – A few years ago I made a commitment to post to this blog three times each month – and I try hard to honor it. Recently, one of my clients asked what book I’m going to write at age 70… which arrives in 2030. I don’t have the answer; however, I keep sitting down at the keyboard and working on improving my skills. Jerry Seinfeld is credited with the ‘Don’t Break the Chain’ theory about his dedication to writing comedy every single day. That’s a good philosophy to adopt around focusing on all your personal and business goals.

Tomorrow: Atomic Habits


Future Lock

As year-end approaches and with it the end of the second decade of the 21st century, think back to what you were doing 20 years ago. I’m guessing somewhere on the list of items you recall is preparing for a worst-case scenario due to Y2K.

Of course, planes continued to fly, your computer kept working, and the world lifted a glass at midnight to welcome the new millennial. (Semantics that the actual millennial was still a year away were lost amidst marketing and hype with little regard for calendar accuracy.)

It’s amazing how many things now in our daily lives didn’t exist when we watched Dick Clark in Times Square count down the crystal ball drop on December 31, 1999:

GPS, Texting, Wikipedia, Skype

You Tube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Xbox, Kindle, iPhone, Apple Watch

The Cloud, Bluetooth, AI, VR

Imagine what will come to the masses during the next 10 years:

Electric flying cars, personalized robots, plant-based food, customized medicine, cryptocurrency, nanofibers, Graphene, Mars, biofuels, new wave nuclear power

What an exciting time to be alive.

Now… if they complete that proposed high-speed rail from Houston to Dallas-Fort Worth it will really be a great decade.


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.