Creative Time

I was listening to a podcast talking about where people find their creative time.  For some it’s the shower, cooking, running, driving, etc.  I was talking with Eric and Sara about this on the trail the other day. Eric noted that when life gets hectic, it could be anywhere as long as you find a place that gives your mind the ability to wander and explore topics.
For me it’s mowing the lawn while riding on the tractor. Not a push mower.  I’ve done both and the push mower just doesn’t cut it (nyuck nyuck). As we talked some on the trail, I started to narrow in on what I think might be the reason and a strategy.

I started cutting lawns when I was 10. The first riding mower was this late 70s Ariens riding mower (10hp, 32″) with no back support and a weird ‘bar’ for steering. We picked it up at a yard sale and nursed it for a while. But I didn’t start seriously cutting lawns until we picked up a 1985 Wheel Horse (pre-Toro) 417-8.  This was a negotiation as I wanted to upgrade my lawn cutting capacity and dad wanted a legit garden tractor. We agreed on a ‘business loan’ over several years. I loved that machine.

At my peak I was cutting 24 lawns a week. It paid for college and I racked up over 4K hours on that machine before it finally got to be more work repairing it than it was worth.  I sold it around 2006. When you cut that many lawns, the act of mowing becomes brainless, I don’t even think of the most efficient patterns anymore. I can completely zone out for 2 hours.

And here is where I think we found the key insight. Finding something that occupies my body but at the same time does not occupy my brain, is where I find my ‘thinking’ time.   I wonder if that is the universal consistency for everyone looking to find their most creative space.

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Fatherhood 6) Release

There just doesn’t seem to be a clever way to talk about setting your kids free and releasing them to the world.  I am not there yet, but I am starting to catch glimpses of this eventuality.  I have to admit, while I am excited to see them mature, it is a little scary.

We spend so long preparing for this event that you become numb to the fact that preparing, teaching and protecting is all you do as a parent.  I have been in protector mode for the past 17+ years.  Switching to a mode of pushing her out of the nest and trusting all my efforts that she has learned to fly, is a little nerve-wracking.  I am definitely not doing this well.  Sara has pushed me pretty hard to let Taylor prove herself, but I am still slow to adapt.  To her credit, Taylor has stepped up over the past 6-9 months and I am generally feeling more comfortable with her abilities.  Don’t tell Sara, but she was right.

Two events over the past month really let me see that the end is coming and there is nothing I can do to slow it down.

The first was Taylor going to prom with her boyfreind Keith, Sorry, but that all around just weirds me out.  I mean, I remember prom.  And while I was proud that they were responsible and didn’t drink that night, it’s still pretty surreal.  I definitely don’t remember any prom dresses in 1990 that looked like this.

The second event is much easier for a father to handle.  In fact, this one gave me the chills.  A few weeks ago, Taylor was appointed as Commander of her JROTC unit in high school.  It is a real honor and one that makes me happy to see happen for her.  When she first told me and that she needed to write a speech, my mind ran wild with all sorts of ideas.  One night she dropped a piece of paper on our kitchen island with the text of her speech and said, “OK go ahead and rip this apart.”  It took me a day or two to get into it, but honestly it was better than anything I was thinking.  And I loved the sentiment in what she wanted to impart on the cadets.  I made only modest suggestions of word choice and grammar (although I did just notice that we missed an error).

Seeing her on the stage, deliver her speech, and pinning her new rank insignia on her lapel was one of the proudest moments I have had to date.  I am starting to realize that she is completely capable of being on her own, and it is startling.  But when the moment comes, I will probably tear up a bit, wish her the best, kiss her on the forehead and then push her out of the nest for the last time.

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Resource Design

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If you are part of a large organization that is concerned about automation and AI, clearly you are not alone.  The world is at a tipping point and we need to prepare ourselves for imminent change.   Even I am not immune to these forces and at the age of 44, have started taking programming classes, the latest of which is Python.  Everyone needs to evolve.  I am responsible for my own well being, earning a living and adapting to the environmental changes taking place around me.

Companies need to embrace change too.  Automation is an evolution that will happen regardless of your best intentions.  Each of us needs to look at our own role in the larger corporate context and understand the potential that we could be replaced.  We need to be honest with ourselves.  From there we can evaluate the best course of action, and our career strategy.

Organizations are not addressing automation in the context of being creative in their approach to using technology to revolutionize their business model.  They are contemplating automation as an initiative and not as a culture.  It could ebable them to leverage existing respources as a competitive advantage.  I have written a whitepaper presenting a 3 step plan to creating a foundation for companies to embrace automation as a feature inherent to the decision making process.  You may find the thought process exciting.  Workers would be wise to focus on how to be part of this revolution.

As I note in the paper, companies do not have the skillset to fully leverage the opportunity.  Over the coming weeks I will be recording a video series as a training program for viewers to learn the skills necessary to embrace and evangelize Resource Design as a core component in your company.  The whitepaper is free to download HERE.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list and get further access to content, please enter your email address below.  You can also indicate interest in the video training series to get early access to the program.  Lastly, I will be starting an “Insiders” group to gather and share insight to evolve the knowledge base for Resource Designers.  I will be limiting this group to the first 50 people that indicate interest on their submission below.  I look forward to partnering with you!!

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Fatherhood 5) Cultivating

Haley horse coaching pic

This is where I am right now.  I’d guess that about age 12, middle school, is when things really start to change.  Puberty is kicking in.  Emotions and hormones are running crazy.  Kids start to realize that they know stuff.  We are leaving them home alone.  We give them autonomy and trust.

Along with that comes the attitude of “I dont’ really need you.”  It totally sucks.  Your baby no longer really sees you as a necessity in their lives.  You struggle to remain ‘cool’.  You search for relevance.  If you ask, “How was school today?” there should be no surprise at the inevitable one word response.  My new favorite expression?  “It’s fine dad.”

I’m certainly no expert here and I fumble through each day trying to make myself useful, just like every other parent.  But what I have learned is that you can find a way to be part of their lives by cultivating the thing they love.  In some cases you do that in exchange for the things you love yourself.  After years of giving, this is just one more example of how we happily keep giving to our kids.

I have talked about this in other posts.  You can try to find a way to be a coach.  Since we most likely do not know as much about their passion as they do, you have to leverage what you know and meld it into something they are doing.  Use what you know about something else, to help make them better at their thing.  Examples…

  • For Taylor, my interest in exercise and healthy living has translated nicely to her desire to be a great soccer player.  Coming back from her LCL tear, we did a lot of work on strength, speed and stamina.  It’s great for me whe she talks of hitting goals, how she feels stronger or when she can do more push-ups than kids on her team.  Last night she was the only cadet to win the silver level award for presidential fitness in her JROTC unit.  That means she is top 85 percentile in the country.
  • Recently Haley has gotten excited about strengthening her core and legs specifically to give her more strength for riding. It’s awesome how she has taken to this herself.  She is now doing situps, pushups, squats and supermans daily (actually more than I can do… sshhhhh).  She and I have also talked a lot about breath control and visualization skills.  We have practiced when she is in the saddle before her riding classes.  I believe it has helped to get her mind in the right place.

Another manifestation of this thinking is to co-opt a life experience by doing something that they love as part of things you would do anyway.  Taking vacations is a great example.  Most likely you wanted to take a vacation anyway.  But you can theme the trip around something they are passionate about.  I’ll elaborate on the point with a few recent examples of things that we did that went over well.

  • Two years ago as our ‘summer vacation,’ Taylor and I went to Canada to see the women’s World Cup. It was a weekend full of soccer. I was able to put a little spin on it, by purchasing tickets to the Jazz festival in Ottawa. Overall the focus was soccer, though I think even Taylor would admit that we saw some good shows.
  • Last year Haley and I took a vacation and went to the Rolex Kentucky 3 day event. I even got tickets to the Hunter Hayes show (I am not much for country music). But as with Taylor, I was able to put a little spin on the trip as we drove around the University of Kentucky campus. Haley felt excitement for college in what I felt was palpable for the first time. Of course we stopped to pet every dog on the show-grounds. (side note- The weekend turned into a nightmare for travel reasons, but we were having a great time up until then.)
  • This summer Tay, Sara and I are turning a trip into a joint vacation, college visit & soccer camp to the Air Force academy (we did last year too).
  • Sara and I are also looking for horse shows near a lake or beach to try to take a few days that we could all enjoy.

I think that the notion of being a coach in the Cultivating phase is the most important one.  Part of being a coach is seeing the bigger picture of what possibilities can come from the thing they love so much.  Despite all the challenges, moodiness and emotional rollercoaster, I admit that this is my favorite time in their lives.  Being a parent is much more rewarding when you share your life experience with your kids and get to see tangible results.  Parenting is hard, but it starts to be more rewarding when you see that you can affect real change.

Tay Running Text

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Top Fives

Theater

I love the over-riding theme in the movie High Fidelity where they keep naming the top 5 songs for some given circumstance.  I listen to a lot of music, but I just couldn’t come up with music lists that easily.  Besides, I don’t really remember lyrics.  I focus more on genre and the artist, being critical at random times.  You’ve seen the 4-Song Set rules, I can be pretty critical

But I do know movies.  And so I thought I would list off my top 5 favorite movies of all time.

  1. Grosse Point Blank – I am a big Cusack fan, and this dark comedy is nothing short of brilliant.  The movie has action, comedy and romance.  What more can you ask?  Not to mention, this is my dream life 🙂  A hit-man goes home for his 10 year high school reunion while one of his ‘competitors’ is trying to unionize the assassin industry.  I can watch it over and over
  2. The Matrix Trilogy – Movies that make you think are awesome.  And I am a sucker for SciFi.  If you ask me, the Wachowski’s redefined everything with this one, and not just because of bullet -time.  (side note- props to them for coming out)  The subtleties, the twists, an amazing soundtrack, the way this movie, the MMORPG game and the back story videos all come together, is the future of entertainment.
  3. Indiana Jones – When a movie combines the real world, history, archaeology, religion, mystery, science, math and obstacle course-like adventure…I’m sold.
  4. Forbidden Planet – Of course you haven’t seen it.  My dad might be the only one I know who has.  I use the reference “monsters of the ID” all the time, but no one gets it.  Leslie Nielsen in a straight role?  Awesome.
  5. The Family Man – In all seriousness, this is closer to my dream life.  I love this story, and Don Cheadle kills.  But yes, Tea Leoni is what does it for me.  I’m a big fan.

I know the girls will ask why I don’t include Holy Grail, Red, Top Gun and Mr Right (their favorites).  Holy Grail, Top Gun and Point Break (the original one) were on the list at some time or another.  But have since dropped off.  I watch a lot of movies and I think the movie is an enduring form of entertainment that will continue to stand the test of time.  You can learn a lot about people by the kinds of movies they like.  While I want to revolutionize the experience, the core of telling a great story and visualizing the experience, makes it something that I will always love doing with friends and family…and Sara’s precious popcorn 🙂

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Fatherhood 4) Connecting

bumper sticker

I would guess that at about age 11, kids start to figure out what they really love.  They’ve done the sampling thing and you start to see something rise to the top.  They also think they know everything, which means that you are no longer going to directly teach them squat.  You become a facilitator of their lives.  You chaperone to events and practices and you answer homework questions when they pop up.  Sometimes you are lucky enough to help them understand a challenging concept, but all in all, they don’t want you for much.

Hormones start kicking in during these years too, and so good luck finding any way of guiding them through life.  They are on their own path, they know people smarter than you, so stay out of the way.  “You’re not funny, dad”.  This is a time that really tests your sociological skills in parenting.  I call it “Connecting” because you are just looking for ways to build a bridge to the things in their life that get them excited.

For Haley, this meant I had to learn about horses.  Now I don’t know much, but I know some.  What I can do is listen to her talk and generally ask an intelligent question here or there.  For me, horse shows are great because everyone has dogs, and I can talk bassett-speak to them.  And the bigger shows have tractors.  Tractors are cool.  I try to understand as much as I can and by embracing the community, they take pity on me and give me lessons.  Finding parallels to the horse world, let me enjoy the experience at the same time that Haley did: It didn’t matter that it was for a different reason.  Special hat tip to Lucy, Miranda and especially Julie for helping me understand leads and diagonals (which I learned are not wire cutters) and ABC.

With Taylor, soccer was a little easier to understand…there is a lot more commentary and content out there.  Talking about a game, positioning and what the coach was asking her on the sidelines, was a lot easier.  We were always driving all over creation for a practice or a game.  I took particular pride in embarrassing Tay from the sideline when I would try to get in a workout.  Hell yes I brought my sprinting parachute!  I even threw a boulder around once.  Her team got a kick out of that.  Exercising at the same time that they did, let me razz them on their lack of intensity for working out and warming up.  And they felt comfortable giving it back to me.  It broke the tension.  I was able to build a bridge based on the simplicity of athletics.

Building a bridge is not easy.  I would guess that the most successful and empathetic politicians are ones who are close with their kids at this age.  You have to find common ground with someone whose interests are completely different than yours.  You might even disagree with the very notion of what they love (why can’t you use your hands to touch the ball, and isn’t that mean to sit on the back of an animal?)  Regardless of your opinions, you find a way to break through the wall they create – because clearly you don’t know anything – and find a connection to their heart.  In my case, you might even come to love something new too.  Kids are great, they help you see the world in a whole new way, sometimes they even change what you believe.

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Do the Right Thing

There is a great scene near the end of the movie The Family Man when Nick Cage engages Don Cheadle.  Cheadle plays an angel of sorts and takes the form of a convenience store clerk.  He intentionally gives an extra $5 to a woman as change for her purchase and you see her waffle over the decision to return the excess.  She does not, and later he says something like, “For 5 bucks, really?”  It’s a great scene to illuminate the choices we make in life and when to do right.  In that case, someone really was watching.

This past Saturday morning I was heading to Taylor’s JROTC drill team meet at Pinkerton.  Looking for a spot in the lot, all of a sudden a green and silver Subaru backs out of a spot on my right and hits me broad side.  I’m already running a few minutes late, so I’m kind of pissed. We get out of the cars and I see a very young girl, probably Taylor’s age.  She walks over and apologizes 20 times, “I was just following someone and I didn’t look!”

In the past, my first inclination would have been to be mad and make a big deal.  But given her age and sincerity, I felt guilty instantly freaking out and I stayed calm.  We walked over to the right side of my car and by some miracle, there was absolutely no body damage.  It was a soft bump and so she must have just hit the tire with her bumper.  What a stroke of luck.  No harm no foul.  We shake hands and go our ways.  There is a nagging voice in my head and so I write down her license plate number, just in case.  I head into the meet.

As I drive away from Pinkerton, I instantly notice that my steering wheel is set up crooked: The car is out of alignment.  Great.  Later in the day, I am driving on rt 28 and am startled when the ABS system is randomly kicking on and pulsing the brakes at 50 mph.  Nice, the accident must have messed up a sensor.  Checking the tire, I notice a new scratch on the rim.

On Sunday, I go to the Derry police station.  I have little faith that anything can be done, but I have to try.  The officer explains that since they weren’t there, he can’t investigate anything.  It’s her word vs mine.  “Can you send her my information and see if she contacts me?”  Nope.  No accident report, means I can’t file a claim with insurance.

On Monday I called Pinkerton campus security.  They don’t give out student information.  Yeah I know that, I would expect no less.  But I was hoping the school could reach out to the student and her parents’ good nature (assuming she goes there and they have her plate on record for the parking permit).  Because as pathetic as this is and goes against everything I believe about self-reliance, the lesson I learned is to always call the cops.  That is no fun and a waste of time and resources.  I am hoping that maybe I can reach out to Pinkerton’s PTA and appeal to their sense of what is right.  Because it is not ‘right’ for what will certainly be me eating an approximate $200 + repair for a student’s carelessness, and my civil naivety.

So I will send this post, and a nice note to Pinkerton, in the hopes that someone will at least make a good faith effort to, even anonymously, do the right thing on their own.

tire1p-lot

(Picture of the rim and scratch that I didn’t notice because my phone screen is messed up, and the site of the collision.  Taken just after she drove off)

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