Thankful for Clearing the Vacation Photo Cache, the Aurora Borealis, & a Joyful Hug from Gavin

Thankful for Clearing the Vacation Photo Cache, the Aurora Borealis, & a Joyful Hug from Gavin

Day 2,251

Growth:

I’m a slow but sure learner sometimes. Over the past handful of vacations I always plan on organizing my photos and videos but it often doesn’t happen. This means that while there’s a pile of memory starters there is also a big pile of near duplicate photos to be deleted.

On our flight back today I focused on cleaning up my photos. They’re all sorted by day, in chronological order, and with the near duplicates and photo fails deleted. Took some songs today but will save a ton of time in the future.

Appreciation:

One of the biggest reasons for heading to Iceland was to see the Northern Lights. The odds of doing so are spotty at best, even in the best of conditions. The clouds fought us the majority of the nights and when it was clear the Aurora Borealis was too shy and stayed away.

Last night while sitting in the hot tub I pulled up the forecast as we looked up at the stars. According to the Aurora app we had an exactly 1% chance of seeing them. Steve laughed and quoted the line from Dumb & Dumber, “so you’re saying there’s a chance!”

After some games we all started to close out our nights. On a whim I decided to walk outside and check one more time. As I turned to the north I was rewarded with a ribbon of light rippling across the sky. I ran inside, grabbed Gavin & Steve, and headed out to enjoy the show.

The really big lights didn’t last very long and some clouds moved in, but we’d accomplished our goal and beaten the 1 in 100 odds.

My dreams were very intense afterwards. Much of it was a reminder to me of the dangers of taking on too much. It reminded me of the importance of saying no more often, of slowing down, and remembering to stay focused on what’s really important to me. It was so intense I woke up in a sweat at 4:41 am.

When I got up I looked out my window and was so shocked at what I saw I didn’t trust myself to wake everyone right away. I quietly snuck out of the house and saw tendrils of light stretching through the night!

I woke everyone up and we spent well over an hour in astonishment and joy watching the lights. We took photos, we just looked up in awe, and enjoyed every single minute until it started to dwindle. I’m still awestruck at what we witnessed.

I am so grateful for our luck and our timing.

Presence:

Last night and again early this morning as we watched the Northern Lights there was a very specific moment I’ll remember forever. Amongst the spectacular light show Gavin put an arm around me and pulled me in close. “We did it! Thanks for bringing me to Iceland!” You betcha buddy, happy to have created these memories with you.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Clarity on Clarity, Deeper Learning from Leaders, & the Presence of Speaking

Day 2,229

Growth:

In one of our learning sessions today the speaker shared this thought provoking insight, “Clarity is controllable.”

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a leader is providing the necessary clarity of goals for my team. This comment reminded me that of all that I do as a leader providing clarity is amongst the most important, if not the most important. What a perfect reminder for me to be intentional about being completely clear in our vision and goals!

Appreciation:

One of my favorite The Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson is one which the line is, “Mr. Osborne, may I be excused? My brain is full.” That is exactly how I am feeling after 24 hours of our Express Leadership Academy Alumni Retreat. So many ideas are already stuffed into my brain bucket, I’m afraid if I add any more some will slosh out when I walk!

What I’m most appreciative for is the opportunity to learn from other leaders. Yes, the strategy and tactics are fantastic, but I’m talking about the deeper learning that is there is I remember to watch for it below the surface. How does the leader show their values in the way they communicate? If I listen to a deeper frequency there are more profound and impactful lessons to learn. There were two specifically today which moved me deeply.

One leader who is amongst the most successful in our 800+ offices showed such a deep level of humility. She’s done a superb job of quieting ego while continuing to lead the way to success. Her integrity shown through so clearly as well, everything she does is with excellence. She’s focused on the most important and gets at it. As I re-read Meditations I can’t help but see how she embodies so many of the Stoic principles.

Another leader is exceptionally courageous while also leading with dynamic clarity. She is willing to try new things, to see where the world is going and get there before anyone else does. She reminds me of the Wayne Gretzky quote, “Most people skate to the puck, I skate to where the pick will be.” That takes courage and old fashioned guts. New ideas are never easy and are often criticized… until everyone realizes just how brilliant the idea really is.  Her courage to do what’s right is truly uplifting.

There is no question I can draw inspiration from both of these leaders at a level deeper than their tactics and strategies. From them I can learn to be a better me. I am so thankful today for the opportunity to learn from them.

Presence:

Speaking in front of a group is one of my favorite ways to be 100% focused in the present moment. There is no room to day dream, to drift off, or to consider all the things going on in life. 

There is only the audience to focus on, watching their nonverbals and responding accordingly. What’s hitting home, what’s not. Who had a deeply emotional connection to the specific line. Which phrases or points packed the most punch. The speaking itself is muscle memory, the true presence in in the micro adaptions to the audience to provide them the best possible experience.

Having an opportunity to speak to an audience is a practice in forced presence and focus, I am so appreciative for that opportunity!

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Taking a Breath, a Life Changing Moment, and Listening with Presence

Day 2,198

Growth:

What a ride home it was today! While waiting at a red light I was rear ended. I pulled to the side of the road, saw there was damage, and then got back in to pull over in a safer place. While I did that the driver of the other car hit the gas and drove away.

Rather than getting angry I took a deep breath – heeding my advice from yesterday’s blog. I calmly called the police and they were able to get everything rolling. While I sat in the car and awaited further instruction I took another deep breath and started typing this blog.

I would normally have gotten very upset in a situation like this. Having just written about this very topic only yesterday helped me remember that what was done was done, there was no point in wasting emotional energy over it. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks! 😉

Appreciation:

Way back in the day a friend really caught my attention by asking a very simple question.

“Are you okay? You don’t seem yourself.”

For ways I’ll keep to myself that question literally altered the direction of my life for the better. I can honestly say the likelihood of my life being the same is almost zero thanks to her moment of focus, concern, and caring. I learned so many valuable lessons in that moment – about myself, life, and others. It was transformative.

The question was simple, the intent heartfelt, the impact profound. I appreciate that question, that moment, and that friend tremendously.

Presence:

Sometimes we must listen with more than our ears. I know, technically you can only “hear” with your ears, but I swear there are other ways to “listen” to other people. Today I’m thankful I paused to really listen and take the appropriate action. I’m also thankful for the moment I described above as that helped me see the right action to take to help.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Pausing, Reflecting, and a Single Maple Tree

Day 2,197

Growth:

The growth moment for today is one which has presented itself in a handful of ways over the past week or two. The lesson has shown up as a very clearly and directly as well as undervocer as a metaphor and as a lived example of why it is important. All around me are these clues and gestures which point to a better way of being.

The lesson? There’ve been a handful of subtle variations but at its core is this…

Count to three, take a deep breath, and then respond. Don’t react immediately, take a moment to pause and think, and then take action.

So wonderfully simple and easy, yet wildly difficult. So much more work to put into my practice of doing this correctly.

Appreciation:

My gratitude today comes as a result of a few different articles in APNews.com recently. I am so blessed, fortunate, and grateful for my life in this country. While I drive with my family to go for a leisurely hike in the bluffs there are so many people living through unspeakable challenges throughout the world. The situation I live in each day is very fortunate and I’m thankful for the life I’m able to live. My heart aches for those in difficult situations, I know I must do better to help others who need it.

Presence:

Hiking in the bluffs always brings about such calm. The smell of the woods mixed with the spectacular vistas could help me lose myself in the beauty of the present in an instant.

What really jumped out to me today was something truly exquisite. While atop the ridge of a bluff we looked over the expanse of the Mississippi River Valley. So many trees, plants, rock formations, backwaters, and so on along the river, beauty ot be found everywhere. Where I lost myself in the present during that time was when my eyes chanced upon a single maple in blazing red standing all alone amongst a sea of green leaves. It was simply stunning.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Being Humbled By and Learning From Loss

Day 2,128

Our LuLu is definitely showing her age more and more quickly each day. She’s got some serious elbow issues that are causing a great deal of pain. The vet has her on a few doses of pain pills to help until we figure out if there’s any viable way to help her get healthy-ish.

LuLu has quickly brought the specter of loss into my life again. In many ways I know Death awaits us all, but when it gets close enough to sense it feels like a whole different level of awareness.

This evening I couldn’t help but chuckle at a somber realization that here I am, my book about grief just about to be published, and I’m humbled the impending sense of loss. We haven’t even gotten the worst of news, yet the feeling of loss is already catching like wildfire… and it feels wildly humbling. There is zero control I have in this part of the future, I have a similar feeling to being in Iceland alongside the mountains – I am so powerless and insignificant compared to the power of death and of nature.

While this feels (& sounds) very dark in many levels, there’s also an appreciation for the sensation buried down deep past the emotions. If I allow myself to look into the abyss of loss and don’t struggle in futility to gain control the sense of being completely humbled can feel oddly comforting and centering. I can only control how I respond, how i react, and how I process the moment. Truly letting go and accepting the lack of control, the tremendous powerlessness allows me to more clearly focus on choosing my response, how I frame the loss, and how I find purpose in the loss. It still hurts like hell, but there is a faint glimmer to be found when I look deeply enough for it.

We feel the fullest loss for those who we’ve loved most. The more the hurt, the more the love there’s been. As someone put it when Dad was dying, “don’t be sad for what you’ve lost, rejoice and be grateful for what you’ve had.”

As I laid next to LuLu on the deck, snuggled with her, and rubbed her belly I was on used on all we’ve been blessed to enjoy together. She’s brought me so many smiles, so much joy, and more love than I’d dreamt possible from a furry companion. LuLu has created so many awesome memories I will cherish forever and continue to talk with family about for as long as I’m blessed to walk the earth. I’m so fortunate for all the love she’s given in our years and years together.

I’m thinking back to what I learned from losing Dad I’m also reminded to more deeply appreciate each moment I get with her. She’s not gone yet, and who knows, she could still be with us for a very long time. One of the beauties of loss (& yes, I just said that) is the reminder it provides us to appreciate each moment we have. The specter of loss may be looming, but it doesn’t have to create shade.

As the old saying goes, “the nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.

Tonight I’m choosing to embrace the specter of loss. I will use it to create flowers in the garden of now until my tears water the flowers of tomorrow.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Glimpses of the Power of Purpose

Day 2,054

As I prep for bed and conduct my daily ritual of blogging my mind is going in a couple of different directions for my blog. There are a few distinct appreciations which all seem to flow into a common theme. Just a heads up, this is all going to sound familiar as the path is one I’ve traveled recently.

Starting my morning yesterday with an early morning hike with Becky was outstanding. To share time in the woods with her while we both take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors is something I enjoy immensely. Amongst all I do in life this type of activity hovers continually near the top. Not only does it provide moments of awe and wonder leading to extreme presence, but I get to share it with my best friend and soulmate. Doing what we love while sharing in that love together is something I do not take for granted. We are so fortunate to have the common love and appreciation of nature. Those times together hiking the trails, whether exploring a new to us National Park or wandering the same old trail for the ten thousandth time, are one of the ways I re-charge, refresh, and refill my reservoir of energy. By taking that time to the two of us I have the strength and energy to live into my sense of purpose and am much more likely to live more closely into the person I am called to be – it helps me work on the gap. All the while my heart is filled with tremendous joy.

This morning I spent a lot of time with a teammate I haven’t had a ton of one on one time with. The entire experience was incredibly enlightening as well as a ton of fun. I was able to learn so much about her, hear about her motivations, her dreams, and her story. Throughout I kept thinking about how this was exactly where I was supposed to be at that time. Hearing her share her experiences helped me see how we’ve made progress towards living into our purpose while simultaneously providing an opportunity to dream a bigger and better vision of what living that purpose could look like. It was a conversation which will leave lasting fingerprints on our future.

During the day there was a moment in which I took a couple of actions which I would have most likely skipped in the past. Before I could help myself I was leaping into action and unaware of moving myself outside of my comfort zone. The action itself was taken because it was necessary based on purpose, on our why. So many times in the past I’ve taken action more for ego’s sake, if I’m completely honest with myself. This time was 100% for the cause, to protect the purpose. I was reminded afterwards of a comment from Tribal Leadership: the right purpose, the right reason, they work through us. This was a moment in which the purpose warranted action and action was taken immediately. Afterwards a passing conversation in an elevator showed me the importance of the action. Purpose caused necessary action which wouldn’t have otherwise happened.

Purpose, such a powerful thing. It is truly humbling, each time I feel like I’m understanding the power of purpose more I quickly realize how little about the power of purpose I truly know. Each time I start to get a glimpse I quickly see there is so much more than what I am getting a glimpse of. What a beautiful journey this has been and will continue to be!

Thanks!!!

Thankful for the Experiences of Starting the Day in the Woods

Day 2,047

Instead of our normal run I opted for waking up a little earlier than usual and went for a hike. The woods were dark when I entered but quickly started to lighten up. The weather was just about perfect and there was no one else on the trail when I started.

Just a little ways into the hike I encountered something I have never experienced. An owl started hooting loudly and almost immediately there was a response from another owl. The hooting then got more intense, more rapid, and higher pitched. There was just enough light that I could make out the shape of one owl flying towards another on a branch. Both owls spread their wings to increase the size and they were so close together I could not make out where one stopped and the other started. Within a second the one on the branch took off like a shot and the other took its place. The one that had flown was easily trackable against the dark blue pre-dawn sky and I watched as it settled into a new location. It was awesome!!! I could not believe the luck I had to see such an event.

I then walked up and down the valleys while listening to both the bird songs and their echoes. The sound bounced and resonated through the coulees and added a little extra beauty to the music. I was surprised to hear the changes in the types of birds as the minutes ticked by, it was almost like each species had their own alarms set.

Along the path I scared up a deer. He was well off the trail by the time I saw him. I slowed my pace and was rewarded with an encounter with two more deer, neither or which were startled. It seems as if they know there was no threat to them from me and we spent a few seconds just enjoying the sight of each other before I got back to my trail and they slowly walked and ate.

The woodpeckers all kicked in at about 5:35 and were going hardcore for a good 10-15 minutes. There were at least three different types based on what I saw and observed with their pecking patterns and sounds. A few times I just paused and watched them go to town on top of a dead tree, so entranced by watching them do what woodpeckers were made to do. I was lost in a state of awe watching their heads pile drive into the tree over and over again in rapid succession while also remembering that their tongues wrap around their brains to provide extra cushion. That’s legit, look it up 🙂

By the time I’d reached the top of the bluff and started heading down the sun was up and the woods were as light as ever. Thinking I had enjoyed pretty much all I would see I was left in quite the state of shock when I came across three different deer. They were also not at all spooked by me and took their time crossing the trail. We slowly watched each other as we went our separate ways, me descending, they heading up the bluff. In many ways it felt like going to church, seeing and acknowledging the people you know by sight and haven’t had a conversation with, but you’ve always both smiled at each other. We shared what seemed to be an acknowledgement of each others company, four beings enjoying the wonder of the woods.

My morning was so enriched by the time in the woods. The sights, the sounds, the smells, all of my senses except taste enjoyed the journey. Throughout the day there was a different level of calm I carried with me, a peace which can only be found by spending time in the woods.

I was so struck by it that I used my lunch time as an opportunity to hike a very short distance into the bluffs near my office, put up my hammock, relax and eat lunch, enjoy more of the woods, and then head back to the office in almost exactly 60 minutes. That extra dose of the outdoors time only enhanced my day further.

Late in the morning some friends were texting about current affairs and all I could do was laugh. I responded with a text sharing that I feel like I’m living in a different world and shared all I had seen in my morning hike. I can only imagine so many of the ills of our world would be slowly solved over generations if we all paused to get outside and experience a sense of awe in the outdoors. I know, I’m totally biased on this one, but there are so many wonderful benefits to being outside more often. This was proven to me multiple times today.

So many incredible experiences seemingly in my own backyard on an early morning hike. What a perfect way to start the day!

Thanks!!!

Thankful for an Interesting Realization – the Negativity of the Word “Should”

Day 2,030

In a conversation earlier today a teammate reminded me of a story we’d both recently heard from a cohort. The cohort had shared how the use of the word “should” was a personal battle cry for them, hearing it made them immediately stand up AGAINST whatever action the other person said “should” be done. My teammate and I both bristled thinking about both the times when we’ve heard that used on us as well as the times when we’ve used it when talking with others. It felt really uncomfortable, but we both kind of laughed it off and then moved on with our day.

In a different conversation with another person the word came up again. This time the other person immediately shared that “should” is a judgement word and has some very negative connotations. When we dove back into the use of the word my brain really had to pause and digest. What was being said was 100% spot on and truly enlightening on so many levels.

Quite often, when I use the word should it really does the exact opposite of what I’d like while also showing judgement on the person and/or their action. What even got me more was the realization that there are so many better ways to help each other than using “should.” Specifically, starting with the age old “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Rather than immediately passing judgement and sharing my supposed “right” way, what if I paused to ask more questions to understand the “why” of the situation? How much more enlightening would the conversations be to listen, learn, and grow rather than immediately move into “fixing” mode?

As we dug in the person also shared how they have heard of using an actual clicker to track all the times they say judgement words like “should” throughout the day. Without having one in hand my mind was already pretty rocked by catching MANY times those six letters came out of my mouth through the remainder of the day.

Wowza… The gap between who I am and who I’m called to be spread a little wider today, didn’t it? Hmm… that’s not quite right. Maybe a better analogy would be – the fog lifted to help me more clearly see how much of the gap I didn’t know existed? Yup, I’m leaving this whole long thought process in here, this blogging thing really helps me work things out and it feels right to leave it as a clue for my future self to go back to one day.

Sometimes all you can do is smile as you realize just how big the gap is, and realize that it just means there’s more opportunity to grow into who we are called to be. 🙂

If you want more info all you have to do is Google “should judgement word” and your mind will be blown as mine was.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for a Beautiful Winter Run in the Spring and Making Maple Syrup

Day 2,028

This morning Becky and I went for our long training run for the week. When Becky picked our half marathon it was in the hopes of being able to get some nice trail runs in with some nice Spring weather. As we all know now, that hasn’t really been the case. Due to Mother Nature’s insistence on extending Winter we’ve had neither trail runs (too wet & muddy) nor nice weather (unless you really enjoy 20+ mph winds and temperatures below 20).

The run this morning started off ridiculously frigid as we ran directly into the stiff wind as the snow pelted us in the face. I, as the big dumb animal I sometimes am known to be, opted for shorts in this 20 degree weather which felt like 9 including wind chill. Not my brightest move. The first couple of miles were pretty rough.

Becky had the idea to take a gravel side road through the woods to cut down on the wind. We were immediately significantly warmer due to the woods breaking up the gusts of wind. The road we were on went alongside the Jump River intermittently and gave us some spectacular scenery. There were several turkeys, ducks, pheasants, and a pair of turkey vultures joining us occasionally. At one point Becky and I had a couple of horses in a field joining us from their side of the fence. Everything was so peaceful and chill, it was exactly why I enjoy getting into the woods. I was realizing how the “marathon monks” are really onto the right idea with the running meditations. My favorite part of the scenery was a specific bend in the Jump River. The woods opened up and the river was on full display with a high embankment on the other side making it feel a lot like being up in the UP of Michigan (which we’re really not that far from). It was awesome!

Yes, the weather and conditions were less than ideal. That said, as is the case with anything in life, it is up to each of us to choose where we put our focus and the lens through which we view the world around us. I chose to focus on the beauty of the outdoors, the time in the woods, and the appreciation of doing something out in the wild with Becky. Totally one of my favorite activities in the world.

After we got back and showered up I had an opportunity to help my in laws make maple syrup. They were kind enough to save about 50 gallons of sap to boil down specifically with us. The timing hasn’t worked out in the past for us to help and participate in this activity in the past, I was so pumped to help out this time around!

The entire process was incredible to experience. The time and energy it took to boil out all the water out of the sap to go from 50 gallons of sap to just over a gallon of syrup was wild! Throughout we took out samples, tested the sugar content, and kept the sap boiling. In addition to the fun of observing the process I got a ton of bonus time with my father in law, always something I appreciate. Having the opportunity to shoot the bull with him was awesome, he had me smiling and laughing the entire time. I can’t begin to put into words how much I appreciate my father in law, he’s amazing in so many ways!

Being able to say I helped to make syrup still has me smiling. Each time I gobble up some maple syrup I’ll be sure to remember all the work that goes into making it and will be even more grateful for everyone who made it for us.

Thanks!!!

Thankful for Remembering Lightbulb Moments Aren’t Created In an Instant or Alone

Day 2,025

Been an excellent day for a wide variety of reasons stretching from getting to know teammates better, learning new tricks, seeing the boys excel in school, having unexpected downtime, making progress in the areas that matter most, seeing incredible potential, and a profound sense of calm. As per the norm, throw in a handful of moments which remind me of the value of purpose. Wild. Even as I type all this my brain can’t quite realize this was all in only one day. Wowza!

Earlier in the day we had our monthly Think Day in Winona – that time when we pause reality for four hours to focus on working “on” the business rather than merely “in” it. Many insights, new ideas, and potential solutions throughout that thinking time together.

At one point I had one of those “Eureka” moments and had an excellent idea. For the briefest of seconds there was a tremendous sense of pride as my ego gave itself a quick pat on the back for the genius is so obviously thought it was in that moment… and then reality kicked in. This wasn’t a struck by insight moments in which I caught lightning in a bottle, nothing could be further from the truth.

This stroke of insight and genius was the result of MANY hours of life lessons, training, learning, thinking, and the like. When I really dissect the genesis of the idea I could see the different influences of books and articles I’ve read as recently as earlier in the day and as far back as a couple of decades. Conversations with clients, teammates, mentors, friends, family, and strangers all planted the seeds of the idea. Stories shared by others each left their own individual impacts. The focus on our values, the intensity of my preoccupation with purpose, and even some huge takeaways from a training in London, Ontario about 20 years ago all played into this idea. This wasn’t a spur of the moment, flip the switch, A-Ha moment… it was the culmination of a tremendously large number of hours spent honing a craft and knowledge.

As I was then complimenting my work ethic, drive, and wisdom, I realized something. This wasn’t even my idea! Honestly, it was an idea from a teammate which was generated by another teammate which was the result of a different idea from a conversation about an entirely different topic. This wasn’t “Mike’s Incredible Genius,” rather, this was the work of so many teammates, mentors, coaches, associates, clients, and the like. This was their idea, their genius all put together and on display.

By the time I’d realized this I was chuckling to myself, I swear I could even hear Dad loving call me one of my favorite nicknames in moments like this… “dumbass,” a la Red Foreman from That 70’s Show. 100% in a loving way, and 100% well deserved.

A stroke of genius which seems so obvious the moment it is uttered that we kind of stop and wonder how we all missed it. Not a lightning strike of insight – rather, the result of many, many, many hours of hard work, learning, and sharing of ideas between an incredibly large network of wonderful people, without any single one of which the idea may have never came to fruition. I just happened to have the opportunity to help connect the dots, I was the one who found the last puzzle piece laying on the floor after all but that piece was put together.

Those magical “Lightbulb Moments” are usually the result of so many hours of learning by so many people. I am thankful for that reminder today.

Not gonna lie, it felt good to put the last piece of the puzzle in place, but it feels even better to stand back and look at what we all created together. That’s success.

Thanks!!!