Day 388 – Thankful for Memento Mori

Day 388 – Thankful for Memento Mori

Over the past couple of weeks it’s been go, go, go for our family and at work.  Almost all of it has been good things, positive things, things that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and learned from.  The issue is that I’ve gotten tired and feel a little run ragged.  Times like this is when I’m more likely to get frustrated, be less upbeat, and not the positive and optimistic me that I enjoy being most.

In the past few days there’s been a phrase that’s been hanging around in the back of my brain…  Memento mori…  It just stays behind a couple of more active thoughts and then quietly whispers in my ear when I start to forget that I heard it the last time…  Memento mori…  As I’m enjoying a moment with family or at work it slips back into my head…  Memento mori

Finally, it clicked.  I happened across an old quote from Teddy Roosevelt that helped me lock on to this thought and figure out why it’s been haunting me for the past few days.  “We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.”  

In a snap, I had the spark of inspiration I needed.  I left the office to go on lunch, hopped in my car, and headed out to a place I’d never gone in my almost two decades of working in Winona…  Woodlawn Cemetery.


I drove in a little ways, parked my car, and just walked.  It just felt right so I threw in my headphones and listened to The Strumbellas (one of the lyrics included “We walked in the night past the pines, the graveyard told stories of everyone’s lives” – fitting, huh?).  Wandering with no specific destination in mind I just walked…  and was present in the moment…  taking in the smells of autumn…  feeling the cool breeze blow across my face…


At one point the wind blew life into the trees and I was instantly awash in a storm of yellow leaves.  It was awes inspiring, feeling like I was in the middle of a giant flock of butterflies.


I walked past the stone markers that showed where a person who was once alive now was laid as they were absorbed back by the earth.  In passing them I quickly read their names, the dates of birth and death, symbols of their faith, and their titles… Mother, Father, Child, Baby…  That was the only story told by their gravestones now.  The dash, the most important part of their life, left a mystery to those who past.


In life they were vibrant, human, and full of emotion.  They probably had many accomplishments, failures, memories, and friends.  Maybe they had money, maybe they had none.  In this place now they are all the same, all equals, all of the earth.  To a person I would imagine they all wished they could’ve had one more day, that they would’ve done something extra, had tried something new, had told someone that they loved them one more time…  But that chance was gone, they ran out of time.


Life is the race that we’re all destined to lose at one point, we need to remember to enjoy the journey, to pull every last drop of life we can from it.  To burn bright, enjoy life, be happy, and work hard.  We’re meant to give all that we can.  In the end, there aren’t any more moments to try harder, to finish what was left undone, to try what we were afraid to do, to accomplish what we were too tired to do.


Walking through the graves reminded me of those thoughts, helped me see the world through their eyes, to see what would they have done differently if they could have a second chance.


Memento mori…  Latin for “Remember you will die.”


On the surface it seems so cold, so harsh, so final, but in actuality it is a beautiful gift.  Remembering that we will one day die is one of the greatest gifts we have.  We know that our time is limited, we just need to keep that in mind and remember to live with that thought in mind.


Memento mori

Yes, I could slow down.  Yes, I could take a breather.  Yes, I could pause…  But I don’t want to!  “My choice it to wear out.”  Feeling tired is proof of the success of this endeavor.  Memento mori



Day 387 – Thankful for Katie Rurup

Today we say good bye to an incredible teammate, Katie.  While I wish her all the best in her next career I can’t help but miss her already.  As she continues to move forward to reaching her dreams I am reminded of all of the reasons I am thankful for the time that I’ve had with Katie.


Over the past two and a half years Katie has had a tremendous impact on both my teams and me personally.  Her work ethic has been incredible, she’s always taking on additional responsibility.  Katie never backs down from a challenge and will always do whatever it takes to take care of her clients and associates.  As others have sen her do this they can’t help but be inspired by her.

Not one to do something just for the sake of doing it, Katie would often hit me with some very tough and direct questions.  I appreciated those questions greatly, I always knew exactly where I stood with her and her thoughts on that specific situation.  I’m not sure if she knows this or not, but when she would ask me those difficult questions she helped me grow as a leader.  Her questions helped me pause and re-assess my strategy.  Her insights often helped to guide us down the right path.

One of the things that I’ve appreciated the most about working with her was her willingness to say “no.”  I know, it sounds a little crazy, but when something didn’t quite seem right she spoke up and did what she felt was the right thing to do.  When she would say no it was always in a very professional way.  In most cases it is very uncomfortable to say no to a leader, but as a leader we need people around us who are willing to speak up and say it.  Katie was always excellent voice of reason in that way.

The majority of our current team members had Katie as a trainer when they started, she did a great job of helping to grow our team’s talent base.  Between those trainings and the training she did for about one hundred other Express people in Dallas Katie made quite the impact on many of us within Express.

As I look back over our time working together it’s amazing to see the impact she had on our team, its success, and on me.  Man, I wish she was still here on our team, but she’s leaving our team in better shape than it’s ever been.

Katie, thank you so much for sharing your time, energy, work ethic, and awesomeness with us for the past two and a half years!  It’s been an awesome journey, thank you for helping us be a more successful team in so many ways.  Kick some butt and take some names in your next adventure, we’ll always be here to cheer you on and help out in any way that you would ever need.  Thank you!!!


Day 386 – Thankful for Three Days with a Thought Leader

Day 386 – Thankful for Three Days with a Thought Leader

The past three days have been an absolute blur of non-stop activity.  Our offices made an investment in signing a contract with an wonderful author and thought leader to bring her to our area to help our clients become even better.  Marlene Chism is the expert in stopping workplace drama and helps businesses in many ways ranging from executive coaching to supervisory training and consulting.  Her two books are great reads for anyone in the business or supervisory world – Stop Workplace Drama and No Drama Leadership.


While the above maybe sounds a little too business-ish, here’s the scoop…  Marlene is an incredible thought leader who has, more than a few times, led me to new insights that I’d missed – both about myself and leadership in general.  She and I immediately built a strong rapport, and in her I had found a kindred spirit who quickly understood me and was able to relate her similar past experiences to me.  As we’ve built our business relationship we’ve also developed a strong personal friendship.  She’s quickly become a coach, a mentor, and a friend, and prior to this week we’d only met once in person.

Over the past three days we’ve had three client forums to help both supervisors and executive leaders look at ways to stop workplace drama and be better leaders.  I’ve had the pleasure of driving and attending each of these events with Marlene and her assistant Heather.

In that time together I’ve been able to see so many sides of Marlene and pick her brain on many ideas I have and challenges I’m facing.  I’ve been able to have that “Wizard of Oz – look behind the curtain” type of tour with her, seeing how she reacts in speaking situations and hearing the origins and bigger picture of her concepts.  It’s been helpful to hear the message, hear the story and thought behind it, hear it again, and then have her right there to answer questions for me.  It’s kind of like listening to a book on and then immediately speed dialing the author to pick their brain!


I can’t even begin to express just how much I’ve learned from her over the past three days.  While it’s led to having to put in extra hours to stay caught up with other work responsibilities, it has definitely been well worth the time.

Marlene, I can’t begin to express just how grateful I am for the experience of working with you over the past three days.  Our time together will lead to lasting positive impacts on me, my teams, and my clients.  Thank you so much for the time and knowledge!


Day 385 – Thankful for the Elephant and the Rider

The elephant is a massive and incredibly strong beast. It grows to over ten feet tall, weighs over six tons, and can carry almost one ton on their backs.  Talk about your immovable object and irresistible force all rolled into one!  That said, the elephant likes routine and consistency, it does not like change.

On top of the elephant is the rider.  The rider knows where he wants to go, where the elephant should go, and should be in charge.  However, at 225 pounds and 6’2″ the rider really has little control over the elephant.  All the rider can do is try to show the elephant the path to follow and coax it to go that way.

The elephant has the muscle and the force to make things happen, and the rider knows what the best thing to do is.  If working in tandem they are unstoppable, but out of sync it’s a disaster.

Several years ago I first learned that analogy of the elephant and the rider from the wonderful Dan & Chip Heath book Switch.  If you’d love an interesting read discussing how to change habits, be sure to check it out.

So why am I thankful for the elephant and the rider today?  Knowing the schedule I had there was only one way to get my run in before work…  Wake up at about 4:30am.  When the alarm went off and Becky shot up out of bed as normal, I just laid there for a moment.  The rider stood up, and then the elephant laid back down.  The rider stood back up, took a couple of steps, and then the elephant crashed back into the bed.  The rider then got up and told Becky that he was going to run, but then the elephant quickly staggered around, came up with excuses, and laid back down – taking LuLu back to bed to snuggle and keep it warm and help it go back to sleep.

In desperation the rider threw a Hail Mary and said, “if LuLu goes for a run, I’m going for a run.”  The elephant grunted and knew that LuLu would stay in bed.  Lo and behold, LuLu jumped out of bed like a flash.  The elephant wanted to stick with its herd so it arose as well.  The rider smiled knowing that it had just helped the elephant see the right path.

This obviously Dominic, not the elephant or the rider, running in this picture 🙂

Becky, Skywalker, LuLu, and the elephant/rider went for their morning run and it felt WONDERFUL!!!

We all have the elephant AND the rider in us all the time.  Sometimes we want to change the path, change the habit, and go the new direction the rider can see, but then elephant stays on the path that it knows, keeps its normal pace, and does its best to ignore the riders voice.  While the elephant is powerful, the rider is smarter and can make incredible things happen if given the tools to beat the elephant.  When I make changes I often think of this analogy and watch for all the ways the elephant is trying to go back to its old ways.  Sometimes the rider wins, sometimes the elephant wins.

Today I’m thankful that the rider won.


Day 384 – Thankful for Being a Tour Guide, an Awesome Team Performance, Going With the Flow, and My Boys Enjoying Each Others Company

Day 384 – Thankful for Being a Tour Guide, an Awesome Team Performance, Going With the Flow, and My Boys Enjoying Each Others Company

LOL – I should’ve known that yesterday’s blog might have put a little jinx on today! As Becky and I were both in a hurry to get our work days started she found an unwelcome surprise in the garage… a car with a dead battery. I jumped in the seat to see if there was any other possibility, but it was dead. Sitting in thought and running through every possible scenario in my head, Becky stopped me and already had a plan to get us both where we needed to be and on time. We rolled with it, never looked back, and stayed upbeat. I’m so happy with how we can help each other go with the flow like that.

IMG_0971.jpg22449751_1847148815300652_6626800885292826976_n.jpgThis morning’s work started with picking up Marlene and Heather to head up for our Supervisory Forum this morning.  The views on the ride up were spectacular!  Between the leaves and the perfectly timed sunrise over the bluffs as we drove up the Mississippi River the Big Guy Upstairs couldn’t have made it any better!  After our event I had the opportunity to play tour guide in Winona for them.  I am so thankful to play the role of tour guide, it helps me remember to pause and enjoy all of the things we have in Winona.  Throw in being able to see their joy at seeing beautiful views and buildings and it was pretty awesome.

22490068_1846887721993428_6744556391918260623_n.jpgMy Winona team did an incredible job of setting up the event.  Not only did they have the logistics and details just dialed, but they had done a wonderful job in getting supervisors from many Winona area businesses to participate.  Thanks to their hard work the event went off seamlessly and I was super proud of them!


As we wrapped things up for the night I was thankful to see our boys having a great time helping each other out as they sorted out their beloved Pokemon cards.  There they were, chilling in Dominic’s room sorting the cardboard gold out and putting them into binders.  They giggled and smiled, and actually enjoyed the time with each other.  They usually get along pretty well, but in these moments I’m just so thankful that they get along as well as they do.

Another busy day is wrapping up, but as per usual there’s a lot to be thankful for.  Thank you again to Becky for rolling with it, to Marlene and Heather for allowing me to be a tour guide, to my Winona team for an awesome performance, and to my boys for enjoying their time together.


Day 383 – Thankful for a Day When Every Just Clicks

There are some days in which I sit down to blog and it takes a while to figure it out.  Over the course of the day there are so many things to be thankful for that being thankful for just one doesn’t quite seem right.  After a day like that I try to find the theme, the link from one to another, the common ground that most of them are founded on.  Sometimes there is a theme tying it all together, and sometimes there’s not.  Today is one of those days when it all fit…

Everything just clicked today.  From the moment I woke up until now as I blog, everything has fallen into place and gone pretty smooth.  It’s amazing to me that it’s gone as well as it has.  There’s been so much packed into this one day, and it all either went just as planned or at least really close.

Dominic had a couple of games to referee this morning so I woke up early (as Becky did the day before), let the dogs out, fed them, got some work done on my laptop, and got Dominic off to the soccer fields.  Once I got home I grabbed my computer and banged out the rest of what I needed to get done for work this weekend.  Gavin got up and read on the couch as I typed up emails, he kept good and quiet so Becky could sleep yet.  While he was quiet, it was also comforting to have him in the room with me, it just felt right.

After a while he headed out to the garage with me and helped me clean the car.  It was in desperate need of a deep clean and he did a great job of helping with whatever tasks I asked him to do (the deal was that he got to keep all the change that he found).  We had a goal, we got it done, and we had fun working together.

Dominic’s games were done early so Gavin rode with me to pick him up.  Once we got home there was a little more cleaning followed by an awesome lunch of chili that Becky made us – the perfect food for a cold dreary day like this.  Lunch as a family was peaceful and just seemed right.

Then we went back outside and Dominic cleaned the Pilot while I worked on my workshop.  Becky and I also wanted to sneak in a longer run today so I knew that I was a little under the gun to get done what I wanted to accomplish.  As I worked on that and Dominic cleaned we both listened to the Packer game (that was the only part of the day that didn’t really work out!).  Sometimes the carpentry gods look down and smile, other days they like to laugh…  Today they smiled and everything went great!  I got done exactly what I’d hoped to get done, and with about 10 minutes to spare before the time we wanted to head out for our run.


The half marathon last Sunday felt great, but I was nervous about what typically happens when I go back to not having something that I’m training for…  I slow down or stop running longer distances.  To fight that I talked with Becky about doing an 8 miler today.  The first couple of miles were rough!!!  As soon as we passed that two mile mark everything loosened back up and it started to feel great.  We took the dogs with on the first 6 miles and then traded them straight up for a Gavin on a bike and got the last couple of miles in.  It was awesome!

Once back home the time was just about perfect to shower up and get ready for dinner with a couple of friends who were in town to do some training for about 50 of our clients in Winona tomorrow.  We headed downtown, had a great meal, and even better conversation.  Being able to catch up over a meal was pretty sweet, a cool way to start to close up the night.

We left the restaurant, headed out to Kwik Trip for a treat for the boys, headed home and all snuggled on the couch to watch a pretty fantastic SNL short (Kellywise).  It was a great way to wrap up a wonderful family weekend.

Now the boys are downstairs trading Pokemon cards (no school tomorrow), Becky’s in bed, and I’m blogging on the couch.  Once I’m done I’ll work on my book for a little bit, put the boys to bed, and then off to bed for this guy.

As I look back at it, everything just clicked today.  It didn’t necessarily follow the script er se, but everything fell into place pretty well.  Adversity will come as it always does, but for now, I’m thankful for everything working out so awesome today!


Day 382 – Thankful for the Glow In the Deke 5k

The weather may have been a little cold, wet, and dreary, but we still had fun as a family tonight as we ran (Dominic) / walked (Becky, Gavin, & I) the Glow In the Deke.

The event is held as a fund raiser and is one that we look forward to every year.  In some years we run as a family, other years we walk, and sometimes a combination of both.  Many people cover themselves in glow sticks for the race and others (specifically Gavin) spend most of the 3.1 miles picking them all up.  After starting at UWL we run through the marsh where the entire trail is lit up with over 200 tiki torches.  It is pretty spectacular!


While this year’s Glow In the Deke may have been a little more wet than normal, it was a great excuse to help out a good cause, enjoy some physical activity outside, and, best of all, spend some time with my family.


Day 381 – Thankful for a Non-Stop, Productive, and Rewarding Day

Today has been pretty much non-stop from its start until now as I sit on the couch and blog while watching a movie with Dominic & Becky.

After our morning run I got ready and kept thinking through the game plan for my day at work.  Going into it I knew I was in for a while ride, I was going to need to stay focused.

The day started off with an 8am client call focused on large growth next year.  Shortly afterwards my teammate and I were able to spend a few minutes discussing possible solutions and then I was off to back to back phone interviews at 9:00 and 10:00.

From there I had a short break in the action and was then off to lunch with a good friend I hadn’t talked with in a while.  It felt awesome to re-connect and spend some time catching back up.  I’m thinking I need to do this more often!

After lunch I was able to prep for my afternoon meetings and then it was time for another phone meeting.  This one was pretty awesome – it was a coaching / mentoring call to discuss next steps from a recent leadership survey of my teammates.  At times it was rough, having to face my faults that my teammates see that I don’t always see.  That said, it was great to have someone helping to coach me through creating a plan to improve.  It was intense, but very productive.

From there it was off to another coaching and planning meeting, followed by a call with my teammate to wrap up our thoughts on our client call that started out the morning.  It was a cool way to bring the work day full circle.

After getting home we headed out for sushi, grabbed some movies, and now are chilling on the couch.

Today was non-stop.  It was incredibly productive.  There were many rewarding moments.  All in all, it was crazy busy, but well worth it.  I’m thankful for every moment of it!





Day 380 – Thankful for a Cup of Coffee, Leaves Changing Color, and a Reminder of Hawaii

On a gray day like this it’s nice to find things to warm a person up.  Today there were a few things that did just that.

On my drive to Rice Lake today I was welcomed to the Northwoods by a stunning display of fall leaves.  The colors were all shades of red, yellow, and orange, all looking more vibrant when contrasted with the steel gray sky.  Cresting the hills and looking into the valleys provided some spectacular landscapes.  I had to remind myself to keep looking at the road once in a while, my eyes continued to drift to autumnal awesomeness.

Once I got to the Rice Lake office I was pleasantly surprised to find a cup of coffee waiting for me on the desk I was going to use.  Huge thank you to Nicole for both the caffeination and a wonderful cup of white coffee!

As I drove home and enjoyed the leaves I was amazed by the way the vibrance of the leaves dropped with each mile I drove.  It was like I was driving back in time, a day or two every ten miles or so.  While this almost pushed me towards a gloomy landscape a different thought popped into my head and warmed me right up…

Hawaii!  The wonderful, amazing, perfect Big Island, the warm sun and cool breeze, the sound and smell of the ocean, the total feel of relaxation…  ahh…


Whew!!!  Where was I???  Oh, that’s right, I started thinking back to Hawaii.  A friend of mine is going on vacation there in the not too distant future and I’ve been trying to help her out with hiking and travel ideas while she’s there.  As I help her out I’m quickly reminded of all of the awesomeness of Hawaii and it warms me right up.

Today may have been cloudy, dreary and a little cool, but I was warm the whole day thanks to friends, memories, and Mother Nature.


Day 379 – Thankful for the Story of the Star Thrower

While talking with a friend in the investment world I’d asked him how things were going.  His response struck me as odd and it took a little while to register…  “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean, one at a time.”  In his voice I could hear his smile and his passion for helping people very clearly.  As our conversation when on it finally donned on me where that phrase was from, a story I’d heard once or twice a long time ago.


Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. 

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted by Peter Straube from The Star Throwerby Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

(You can also check out a video version of this story by clicking on this text)

How awesome is that story?  There are couple of ways that this stories hits me hard, right between the eyes.

So many times in life I find myself coming up with crazy huge ideas that I want to be totally ginormous in scope, as grand as possible.  When that happens I usually end up putting a lot of thought into it, but not a lot actually happens.  Had I spent more time taking the small initial actions there would have been progress, maybe the results wouldn’t have been as grand, but there would have been results.

When presenting I sometimes get disappointed when I can’t seem to get someone in the room engaged.  Try as I might to get them involved I just can’t quite seem to bring them along and into the conversation.  When this happens I mentally get frustrated and try to think of ways to involve them, while I’m presenting.  As I think while presenting the quality of my presentation goes down.  In those moments I need to remember to focus on the ones that I can make an impact on.

Both ways hit me hard today and I chuckled to myself as I saw them happen.  What a beautifully simple story to help keep me on track and pointed in the right direction.

As I talked with Steve he shared that he kept a starfish at his desk to remind him of this story on a daily basis.  Don’t be too surprised if you see something similar on my desk in the not too distant future.