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.

Share

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.

Share

Daily Views

This month I started doing something at the end of each day that seems to be having a nice impact on my personal development. In a brief reflection – usually just minutes before I share it with my ‘accountabilibuddy’ – I identify one thing I did really well.

These ‘that was a good moment’ recognitions might come from a coaching session (“I met the client right where they are”) or how I responded to a customer service rep (“I was polite and patient”) or that I focused for a longer than usual amount of time without getting distracted (“I didn’t go down any bunny trails”).

These first few weeks I’ve found I don’t have to go searching. The ‘one thing’ readily bubbles up for me. If I remember to do this 200 days a year, that will be a big leap in getting better… one small step at a time.

I think today’s ‘I did really well’ will be writing this blog and sharing my new approach with you.

Share

Too Much

What films can I watch over and over? “Casablanca,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Back to the Future.”

My favorite movie lines?

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” (“Gone With The Wind”)

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore,” (“Network”)

“There’s no crying in baseball.” (“A League of Their Own”)

And, of course, “Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?”

My least favorite film? Even though it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, I did not enjoy “American Beauty”… although it made a great point I’ve never forgotten.

When the ‘actor who shall not be named because he is accused of doing really bad things’ is talking to Annette Bening and says: “This isn’t life, it’s just stuff. And it’s become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that’s just nuts.”

That’s something I continually remind myself as I look around the house we’ve lived in since the year that film came out . Downsizing coming soon to a theater near you.

Share

Listen Hear

Think about the last conversation you had with – oh, I don’t know – your significant other, your child, a friend on the phone, your employee. On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how would you score your attentiveness?

I’m giving me a 2.

Just last night, our oldest daughter was talking with me… and I made a comment. She looked at me and replied, “Dad, I literally just said that two sentences ago.” I smiled and said, “I knew I heard it somewhere.” It was a weak attempt to cover my lack of listening.

There are many reasons why this happens (too often for me).

I have other things on my mind. I’m having a strong reaction and trying to manage my response. I’m racing ahead to what I want to say. I’m processing the last few sentences and miss the next ones. Sports is on the television. I’m looking at my phone. I checked out of the conversation. I’m focused on myself and not the other person.

Humans have an inherent ability to listen. Words flow in and out of our ears all day long. Hearing the other person – focusing intently on what they’re saying – is a different skill that takes discipline and practice.

I’m beginning a new habit: put down my phone the next time my daughter wants to talk, clear my head and do my best to be fully present for her.

Share