The month of July is typically hot and humid in Houston. Did I mention humid? Not so much this summer of 2012. From June 26 to July 17, the rain gauge at our house collected water on 17 different days including a 72-hour period when more than 15 inches fell. That particular deluge led to severe flooding within a couple miles.
Whether the cause is climate change, global warming or simply one of those years when the clouds randomly decided to take dead aim on our community, one thing is certain: this was unlike any of the other 14 summers we’ve spent in southeast Texas. Instead of loading up with mosquito spray and mowing our yard late in the evening to avoid the dangerous heat, we watched the grass grow higher and higher… waiting for the lawn to dry out long enough to cut.
Sometimes change is dramatic, as when the skies pour down water. Sometimes it’s subtle, as when you look in the mirror and think, ‘I haven’t seen those gray hairs before.’ When there’s a tax increase – or tax cut – you tend to see the difference immediately in your take-home pay. When your mobile phone – or satellite/cable – bill creeps up a few pennies here and there, you might not even notice the difference for months.
One of my clients heard Tom Brokaw speak last month. “You know the news right away,” he quoted the former NBC News anchor as saying. “That’s no longer our job. We’re here now to help you interpret what the news means to you.” That’s a big shift from when I started working in a TV newsroom 31 summers ago, and viewers tuned in at 5, 6 and 10 to discover what had happened while they were at work. CNN started the monumental shift with 24/7 information access. The Internet gave you control at the click of a mouse. Twitter transmits instantaneous headlines in 140 characters or less.
Who knows what will happen next. Perhaps Google Maps, which currently utilizes static pictures, will have live cameras… that you control from your fold-up tablet. The important thing, of course, is to be open to ‘new’ and adapt your personal approach and business systems to whatever next appears on the horizon. Otherwise, you risk getting swept away by the fast-moving current of progress.
Kathy and I had dinner two weeks ago at the home of a couple we’ve grown close to the past few years. At the end of a wonderful evening together that included intriguing conversation and a meal featuring delicious pork, our hostess asked if we would like to see her latest paintings. Chris is an excellent artist and illustrator – with several published books – and she wanted to share her recent foray into impressionism.
As she shuffled through various outdoor, still-life and portrait works, I was amazed at her ability to vividly capture subjects on canvas. Being a neophyte to the art world, I asked about one nighttime scene of a bridge with water flowing rapidly beneath it, “How long did it take you to do that?”
“An entire lifetime,” she quickly responded. “It’s my art degree, the decades I’ve spent learning colors and technique, the ability to transfer what I see with my eye to my hand and onto the canvas, and the 10,000 hours I’ve stood in front of an easel. That’s how long it took me to paint that bridge.”
Malcolm Gladwell highlighted the 10,000 hours phenomenon in Outliers, using Bill Gates and the Beatles as prime examples. It’s become the accepted standard for the amount of time someone must put in to become an expert at his/her craft. Gladwell got it right… and our friend Chris is living proof. So, keep practicing.
[Note: Kathy and I commented that night how much we liked the pork entrée. Chris said it was her mother’s dish. A few days later, a note arrived in the mail. Enclosed was the recipe for “Mom’s Tender Lemon Pork Chops.” Those artists… they don’t miss a thing.]
A couple of Sundays ago we scheduled an ‘electronics free day’ at our house – which our kids met with a resounding “What! You’re kidding?” From the time we awakened until we went to bed, there was no television or radio… no e-mail or Twitter …no cell phones or iPods…no Xbox or Nintendo DS.
Instead, my wife, kids (ages 19, 15 and 11) and I did things like…oh…have focused conversations, read books and play board games. We also cleaned our house from top to bottom, discovering three overflowing bags of clothes and toys to donate to charity. From my viewpoint, it seemed all of us were more relaxed, smiled a lot and went to bed exhausted. The next morning, the kids even said, “You know, that wasn’t so bad.”
Obviously, it’s hard these days to disconnect for an extended period of time – and there were a couple of moments I admit to fighting the urge to peak at the Internet to see what was happening in the world. The bottom line is we enjoyed each others’ presence a lot, and the day turned out better than any of us expected. Then there’s the thought we used less energy, which is good for several reasons. It’s our intention to do this throwback day again in December when our daughter returns from college…and I, for one, can’t wait.