Day 1,451 – Thankful for Time In Thought, Reminders of the Power of Calm, Pausing for the National Anthem, and Frozen Pizza

Hmm… I kind of feel obligated to start with the most unlikely of the gratitudes this evening, but I think I’ll save that one for the end.

Most of today was spent with a couple of my business partners. We used the time to hit the pause button on the normal busy-ness of the day and take a step back. While there wasn’t a formal agenda it was the source of some interesting insights. Looking forward to the next year or several there are some opportunities that I hadn’t quite seen. There were some old solutions ready to be rolled out again in new ways. Long story short, I am grateful for the reminder to take time in thought. Had I not paused I would have continued to stay focused on only the present and very near future. By taking time to think and see how everything fits I am able to spend time setting us up for future successes bigger than those we’re currently having.

Throughout the day I was reminded of the power of staying calm. The Daily Stoic email this morning talked of remembering to stay calm. During our training time today I shared a story in which a mentor exhibited extreme calm in the face of a storm; so much so that I still remember it clearly over 20 years later. Calm, the practice of settling the limbic brain down, taking a deep breath, and focusing on logic. If I can remain calm I can survive any situation. So easy to do in a vacuum and so difficult to practice in reality. Each of those reminders have reinforced my focus on continuing to practice calm.

While typing the last paragraph there was an inspiring incident that caught my attention and belongs in my blog tonight. I’m sitting in the car typing on my iPad Mini using a mini keyboard as I wait for Gavin’s soccer practice to wrap up. I pause for a second and see the boys running. There’s a brief note of music and instantaneously all the boys and their coach stop, stand up straight, face Southeast, and put their right hands over their heart. The high school soccer game was about to start and they were playing the National Anthem a few fields away.

To be clear, I don’t mind if anyone is standing or kneeling, everyone has their own thoughts on that. What I found awesome was that in that instant everyone paused, focused their attention on the flag, and were Americans together. No issues with politics, no disagreements about anything, or anything else along those lines. They were all Americans together as one. How perfect is that? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like this is what our nation could use right now more than ever. I’m thankful for being there to see it, it helped to rekindle my hope.

Last, but certainly not least, I’m grateful for frozen pizza. How this stayed off my blog for this long I really have no idea! Okay, so it’s not as deep and serious as the last parts of my blog, but c’mon… it’s frozen pizza! Any entire delicious meal in one easy to cook package. If there was only one food I could eat for the rest of my life and it had to be something with less than 15 minutes of prep time this would be it.


Day 1,450 – Thankful for Getting to Be a Big Kid at Work – Touring Businesses

One of my favorite parts of my career path is the opportunity to tour many local manufacturers. In order to help place people in the right career opportunities we tour the facility to see exactly what and how the candidates will do their job. This gives us a chance to make sure everything is safe and also to be able to better describe it to a job seeker.

While it is intended to serve a business purpose it also scratches my curiosity itch. Seeing how things are manufactured blows my mind. Sure, there are TV shows like How It’s Made, but to actually see it in person is awesome!

Over the past couple of decades I’ve seen things from gummy bears to baseball bats to canoes to military surveillance devices to hard drives to train axle lubricators to the orange flexible posts that hold up highway signs to music books to violin bows to air tight cello cases. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I’d bet I’ve toured over 200 different manufacturers in my career with Express and each has produced something very different.

Today I had to opportunity to tour two different manufacturers with some of our teammates and I was smiling from ear to ear. In some cases I have try to tone down the excitement a little as I’m so amped up! Crazy right?

From one of our tours today – my apologies, but I had to keep the picture pretty basic 😉

Each time I tour a business my inner child gets crazy giddy at the prospect of seeing how something new is made. What processes are used? What materials are used? Why this instead of that? How do you manage supply line and forecast upcoming demand? Why is the operation laid out like it is? So many questions I want to ask to learn more about how they produce their products.

Thank you to all of the businesses who’ve blessed me with the opportunity to satisfy my child like senses of curiosity and wonder – I appreciate those moments greatly!


Day 1,449 – Thankful for Turning Gap Time Into Bonus Time

It seems like there always several pockets of gap time in each week. You know, those moments in the day when you’re going from one thing to the next and things don’t quite line up resulting in an extra gap of time. For me it’s often that time in-between dropping off Gavin at soccer and picking him up. By the time we drop him off it’s kind of on the fence whether or not it’s productive to head home. That’s the gap time I’m talking about.

I’ve tried a few handfuls of ways to plug the gap, and some have been more successful than others.

Unfortunately my default, even with training myself on it, has been to go to my phone. It’s right there, always ready, and always seems to find a way to grab my attention for more time than I would like it to. When I just react to the gap and am not prepared for it my phone is still the default script I’m working on re-coding.

One that has worked very well situationally is bringing book everywhere with me. Finding the right types of books to quickly open up and take in small doses is key… as is finding one with a small profile. Hauling a novel around is difficult, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius or The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday are about as big as I want. Spending time lost in a book and then letting the ideas and thoughts sink in is about perfect. Thank you Mr. Stephen King for helping me with that one.

If the location is right I’m easily lost in chilling and enjoying the view. This works so well when I’m sitting by a lake or river or forest or anything peaceful like that. Taking that gap time to remember why I so love living in this area is another great use of those bonus minutes.

Dominic and I have found it to be just enough time to sneak in a workout which has been pretty awesome. Not only does it provide extra exercise time, it is an opportunity for the two of just to bond and reconnect during the day.

Becky had a great idea for the gap time tonight. Instead of chilling we went for an awesome walk near the soccer fields while Gavin practiced. Spending time with just the two of us while being active and taking in the crazy copper colored sun was so relaxing and rewarding all at the same time.

I’m so thankful for finding ways to turn gap time into bonus time. Either way I look at it the time is going to be spent, I may as well look at it as a bonus and be thankful for it. This moments are often when some of my best thinking happens. In some ways I almost need to find more ways to cause a little gap time to happen on purpose to give myself a little more space… hmm…


Day 1,448 – Thankful for Remembering Past Adventures, Planning the Next One, and Focusing On NOW Instead of “New Normal”

Dominic and I had a good chunk of time with just the two of us tonight. I’m so grateful for the times when he’s in a talkative mood like he was tonight, I’ll soak those moments up as much as possible.

During our conversation tonight we covered a ton of topics, some weighty but most fun. One of the parts I enjoyed the most was listening to Dominic think out loud about the places in the world he’d most like to go back to visit and why. He even mentioned possible interest in living in some of them. The reason I’m grateful for that part of the conversation specifically is threefold.

First off, I’m glad we’ve traveled with the boys to help them see how big the world is and how much there is to explore. Hearing him share the differences between stargazing in Hawaii and Utah (which he hasn’t been to yet) and comparing parts of Australia, New Zealand, and Alaska. Hearing him use his experience to see the grandeur of the planet makes me smile from ear to ear.

Second, when he speaks of it he expresses his heartfelt gratitude for the opportunities and blessings he’s had to have had these experiences. Dominic understands that these are possible of hard work, sacrifice, luck, and, most importantly, from dreaming big. Hearing him speak in almost reverent tones about those experiences makes him sound wise beyond his years.

Last, I’m so glad that he sees life as a gift to be enjoyed and appreciated and the entire world as limitless opportunities. When Dominic is thinking about living out his life he’s not confining himself to one city, state, country or even continent. He’s seeing that where he lives is his choice to make as opposed to a predestined location. I remember dreaming of moving out west and living in the mountains. While I didn’t (at least not yet) there was a magic in knowing that I was choosing where to live that helps to change my perspective to one of positivity. Knowing that he’s already on that train of thought is awesome. His life is his choice, not his obligation.

All of that talk with him coupled with our recent Scouting canoe trip got me more excited for the next mini-adventure. In the not too distant future I’m heading out on a kayak / camping trip for a couple of days. With the wind in my sails I spent more time than I expected tonight going over plans and packing. My goal is to go as minimal as possible (though not as minimal as the Dollar Store Challenge earlier this year). That said, I’m grateful for melding a handful of ideas and experiences together into a experience that is socially distant and yet fun.

Thinking of that specifically, my post from yesterday inspired me to keep looking for more pockets of normal and then I realized I may have been looking at this a little incorrectly. I should really be looking for pockets of awesome in the present, regardless of how it is shaped. In every moment of life there are limiting factors. Some are real, others are largely imagined. If I stay focused on my purpose and my dreams I can find a way to make magic in almost any moment, it is up to me to find it, make the most of the moment and to appreciate it. My big takeaway is that I need to stop comparing now to then as then has past and now is all that exists (though not at the expense of screwing up the potential future). Hmm… That hit home more than I thought. How much time have I wasted comparing now to a time that no longer exists? This will definitely stay top of mind for a while…


Day 1,447 – Thankful for This View, Finding Pockets of Normalcy, & Taking Dad’s Advice

Ahh… not gonna lie, this view is amazing in so many ways.

Sitting on a lawn chair, outside in perfect weather, and watching Gavin do something he loves. Sure, I could focus instead on the chairs being 8-12’ away from the nearest parent and having to lower my mask and then putting it back on to take drinks of coffee, but what would that accomplish? I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to spend time enjoying both the day and Gavin enjoying life. What a beautiful slice of heaven!

What’s funny is that there are these little pockets of normalcy to be found all around in life. They may take a little more work to find as my eyes aren’t necessarily trained to see them yet, but they are all around nonetheless. I find it easy to slide into a fixed mindset and see only obstacles, but if I pause for a second to look at the world through a growth mindset there are opportunities everywhere. Be it Zoom calls with friends, outdoor sports, spending time outside with family, and so on, there are pockets of normalcy all around, I just need to remember to actively seek them out.

Yesterday was the five year anniversary of the weekend we built the treehouse for the boys with Dad. This morning I had to run to Menards to pick up a saw blade for my table saw. The first option I had in hand was the all purpose inexpensive one. In an instant I remembered advice from Dad from back in the day. He’d told me to replace my saw blade more often than I thought I should, buy the right blade for the right job, and never buy the cheapest one (& almost never buy the most expensive either). I put the saw blade down and ended up buying three different ones for all the projects I have and invested in the high quality blades instead. While I didn’t want to spend that much I know my projects will be better and my stress level will be lower thanks to his advice.


Day 1,446 – Thankful for a Morning Run, Canoeing, and a Court of Honor

What a day it’s been! The morning started off with a run, moved into canoeing, and ended with a Court of Honor. No wonder I’m exhausted right now!

I’m thankful for the run Becky and I got in this morning for a few reasons. First off, the weather wasn’t supposed to cooperate per the forecasts we’d seen last night so we thought there’d be no chance. As luck would have it the rain ended a little before our run and all we got was a light misting. Second, I really wanted to just go back to bed this morning. Days like this when I get my but in gear even when I don’t want to are the ones that feel incredibly rewarding (thanks Becky!). Last, nothing like a good dose of exercise to kick off the day!

The Scouts continue to impress me with finding ways to keep the kids safe and socially distant. Today’s endeavor included a canoeing / kayaking trip. We paddled along with them down the Black River and had a ton of fun for the entire 13+ mile ride. It’s been a while since I’ve been canoeing, I forgot the differences between paddling in a kayak versus a canoe and this was a welcome change of pace. Being in a canoe always brings back wonderful memories of trapping with Dad as we’d paddle from set to set. Being able to do this and see how much fun my boys were having with it was awesome. Even though I’ve lived here for a couple of decades I continue to find reasons why I’m so in love with this area. Paddling today was a great reminder of that.

After the canoeing and kayaking adventure was complete we wrapped up our evening with the Scouts at their Court of Honor. Throughout the pandemic they’ve held off on doing them as they’re best done in person. Tonight it was held outside at the fire bowl and everyone sat around with well over 6 feet from the next nearest person. As the Scouts would get called down to receive their awards their masks were on. Handshakes were replaced with elbow bumps. Outside of that everything else was normal… kind of.

They boys have been crazy productive on their merit badges since COVID started. Seeing as there hadn’t been a court of honor since before then they’ve gotten a stockpile of earned merit badges saved up. Tonight they each got 10+ merit badges – that’s crazy! Seeing them receive a huge stack of reward for their hard work made me so proud. I’m so thankful for how much they’ve worked on the merit badges throughout the past handful of months.

Now it’s time for this dude to crash. A morning run, a canoe trip, and a court of honor… I’m grateful for those three big things that highlighted by day and also for all the moments in between that rounded out the day.


Day 1,445 – Thankful for Crystal Clear Memories of 9/11

First off, what a day we lived through 19 years ago. My heart goes out to everyone who was impacted by the horrific events of violence almost two decades ago. Quite honestly, that’s pretty much all of us, isn’t it? The impact to some was unimaginable, yet all of us who remember that day have been impacted in many other ways. One of the things I’m grateful for today are the crystal clear memories I still have from that day.

I was in the La Crosse Express office when the first jet hit. I still remember the conversation we had in those first few moments of not knowing what was going on. The topic of business we’d meant to discuss disappeared completely into the ether as the world paused. We asked how this could have happened, how did the pilot make an error like that, and what a tremendous loss of life in an accident. Quite honestly, the true loss of life hadn’t even begun to register in my brain.

While we tried to figure out what was happening the second jet hit. At that point we quickly started to see that something was going horribly awry. After some brief discussion I headed from the La Crosse office to the Winona office.

I’ll never forget the drive to Winona as it was possibly the most surreal of my life. At the time I was a huge fan of ESPN Radio and was listening to Tony Kornheiser. All idea of sports was gone, the only focus on what was happening all around us. The third jet had hit the Pentagon and Tony was broadcasting from Washington DC. He shared what he was hearing and seeing in a combination of first, second, and third hand accounts. At one point he was interrupted, was silent, and then apologized for going off the air as he’d been told to evacuate.

As soon as I got to Winona I remember frantically trying to open and refresh the home page to get updates on what was happening. While this was going on I was also taking phone calls from our employees who weren’t sure if they were supposed to go into work that night. There’s one call in particular I’ll never forget as I did my best to calm him down from his panic and nervousness.

I don’t know that I watched as much news in my life as I did that day. Trying to keep up with what was actually happening felt impossible. Each story told brought up more and more emotion as the death tolls increased and the personal stories of victims were shared. As the stories of heroes from that day started to appear the emotions hit even harder.

That night Becky and I headed to the UW La Crosse campus and met with hundreds of others for a candlelight vigil and prayer service. On the way home we saw lines longer than any I’ve seen to this day for gas as none of us were quite sure what to expect next.

So why am I thankful for the crystal clear memories of that day filled with tragedy? In that day and next few afterwards the spirit of our country showed and we all healed as one, albeit for a brief moment. For one day it didn’t feel like there were differences in race, religion, economic class, or nationality. For a brief moment our society was full of love for each other, caring for each other, and comforting each other. We set down all of our petty arguments and worked together to heal. We were one country, founded on love for each other.

With all we have going on in the world today I can’t help but look to the way we all melded together as a nation 19 years ago and dream a beautiful possible future. 19 years ago we proved we could be one nation, all together, loving and respecting each other, the nation our founding fathers dreamt it would be. If we were that once before, we can be that again. As much as the memories of 9/11 still hurt they bring hope for a better tomorrow for our country. We’ve loved each other in the past, we can do it again.


Day 1,444 – Thankful for Thursday Learning Sessions

Each Thursday at 11am my teams and shut everything down for 30-45 minutes. In that brief period of time the whirlwind of our jobs disappears and we’re 100% focused on growth and development focused specifically on one of our core values.

For the values of Grit and Growth Mindset we read the books Grit and Mindset. Each week we’d read a chapter and someone would lead the conversation.

My teams had a great idea on how to tackle the value Do Right. Each week one person sends out an article, a video, or some other type of learning opportunity to the team. On Thursday that teammate leads the discussion on that topic.

This week was a prime example of why I am so grateful for this growth focused time on Thursdays. Grant picked out this video: that shares the story of how one business has gone to extraordinary steps to make an incredible impact in the lives of people in their community. Not gonna lie, there was a case of the feels going on when I watched it.

While we talked about it as a team it was clear to see that many of us were starting to see bigger dreams of how we could make a bigger impact on those in our community. Sure, the ideas were a little different than the video, but it got the conversation going. As we talked it was clear to see that we all were envisioning a future greater than the one we’d seen before watching this video and having this conversation.

It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of daily activity. In the blink of an eye we can lose sight of the bigger picture and focus on what is directly in front of us. When we get too busy we don’t take the time to dream a new future. By taking time to pause, focus, and dream we are able to create a better future than we’d imagined. How awesome is that?

Thursday Learning Sessions help remind us to pause and dream bigger. They remind us to pause and think. They remind us to focus on growth and learning. It’s not always easy and there are always trade offs made to be focused and present on Thursday, but I’ll gladly make those trade offs any time.


Day 1,443 – Thankful for Widening My Perspective, Hanging Out IRL as Often as We Did, and After Dinner Walks

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve mentioned reading the book Waking Up White by Debby Irving. That book led me to some incredible revelations that I’d never noticed before. The power of the author’s story helped me widen my perspective significantly. Over the past week or so I’ve been put some of the ideas to work and have been happy with the results. For clarity, the widening of my perspective led to different actions than I would have taken before reading the book.

On my drive home from Eau Claire today I had a choice to make. I could listen to a wonderful fiction or I could continue to widen my perspective. It took a moment, but I made the right choice and started White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. In a short period of time I started to see how this would help in similar and yet different ways from Waking Up White and I was immediately glad I started listening to it.

At the time when certain others I may have blogged about recently start taking action to block certain types of diversity training it is more important than ever for all of us to learn what blind spots we may have in our perspective. If anyone has interest in discussing these books and some of the ideas they’ve learned from them please let me know, I’d love to have that conversation! If there are other books you’d recommend to help continue to widen my perspective please let me know, I’d love to queue them up!

My Facebook memories from today left me smiling from ear to ear. Two years ago my buddies and I had one of our more epic weekends together up in Minneapolis. The entire weekend was full of hanging out, chilling, joking, gaming, and just existing with each other. It was awesome!!!

Seeing this picture reminded me of how grateful I am for all of the times we’ve gotten together to hang out in real life (IRL) as we have. COVID and social distancing has prevented us from getting together IRL, but it can’t take away all of the great memories we’ve already created together.

After dinner tonight we went for a walk as a family. It was cold, dreary, rainy, and was getting dark earlier than normal, but I could’ve cared less. This tradition we’ve started through COVID is something I look forward to doing many nights each week. For a brief pause there is no news, there are no phones, there is no COVID, and there is no stress. There is only 100% focused family time while doing physical activity. How awesome is that?


Day 1,442 – Thankful for a Bonus Night Off a Long Weekend

Three day weekends might be about one of my favorite things in the world. Having a bonus day at home is kind of like taking just over a week for a vacation. It usually takes a day or two to relax and settle in on vacation and then sometimes my brain starts looking ahead a couple of days before the vacation is over. By going just over a week my brain has almost a full week to totally chill. A three day weekend is very similar, the one bonus day just brings a deeper state of chill.

Imagine my surprise when I found out we had an extension to the long weekend, well kind of. Gavin’s soccer practice was cancelled due to weather. Due to Dominic’s bike injury he took the night off from workmen out to rest up and heal. This meant we had zero agenda for the night. Coming hot off a long weekend it felt like I’d gotten a bonus night off!

In that bonus time I spent time talking on the phone with family. Becky and I went for a walk in the very light rain. We busted out a family game of the card game Golf. Now we’re all chilling by either reading or writing to wrap up the night before bed. Heck, I’ll be in bed before 8:30!

A long weekend is great, but a bonus night is pretty amazing too! I’m so grateful for pauses from real life like this that seem to pop up out of the blue.