More Lessons Learned 2019

Part II of II

Looking back on the final year of the decade, here are five more Lessons Learned during 2019:

Small Step – One of the best books I read in 2019 is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Using the analogy of breaking down everything to its smallest part, when it comes to improving yourself, it’s important to not make each step along the way too big of a leap. Thus, if you want to run a marathon, the first thing you do is walk to the end of your block, not try to run five miles. If you want to lose weight, don’t diet, just use a smaller plate and avoid seconds. If you want to memorize a poem, focus today on the first stanza. Seems like an excellent approach… and fitting during this 50th anniversary of the Moon Shot and Neil Armstrong’s famous words.

Quickly Forgotten – A lot of my travel is to work with leaders to create a culture of safety within their high-risk facilities. Thus, I try to live what I teach. Of course, we’re most likely to forget about working safely when under a time crunch or when our thoughts are elsewhere. On Sunday, as our oldest helped me wrap Christmas lights around two pine trees, I set the staple gun on the top step of a ladder before climbing down. Then I said, “Let’s move the ladder over here.” When I picked it up, the staple gun fell five feet… hitting me in the clavicle. A couple of inches to the right and I might have had a head injury.

Getting Faster – Next week marks 21 years in our home, so it was built before technology became a major focus. We’ve upgraded here and there; however, our WiFi speed always seemed slow. So when AT&T offered an upgrade to more bandwith at about the same monthly cost, we jumped. When the installer finished, he asked why we did it. I told him to make things faster, and he said, “I don’t think this is going to solve that.” Wait, what? “You need a WiFi net to increase speed.” One month, lots of research, and $200 later, I installed an Orbi Tri-band system in about 30 minutes… and our speeds doubled.

Solution Rediscovered – The best quote I saw for the first time this year is attributed to the 17th century French mathematician and scientist Blaise Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Seems especially relevant in today’s continually connected, always engaged, checking email, texts and Twitter society.

Gift Giving – If you’re looking for an end-of-year goodwill gesture, please consider contributing to an organization based in the Dominican Republic, where 20 percent live in extreme poverty. Puente – “bridge” in Spanish – utilizes mobile data technology to survey locals and pinpoint where needs exist, then identifies solutions and finds partners to deliver them. For example, Puente distributes water filters, constructs bathrooms and floors, and organizes short-term medical brigades. The son of our lifelong friends left his career 18 months ago to move there and co-found Puente, which has helped more than 180 families during the past six months.

I’ll conclude with this quote from an unknown source: “May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve.”

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Seasons Greetings. May 2020 bring clear vision for you… and continued success in all things.


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


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.


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.