October 2011

After a long night of trick-or-treating, I didn’t have time to write a post.  Here’s some Halloween pictures instead..



























Olivia created a couple of friends with Play Doh this weekend.  I have to say that this is probably the best sculpture she has created thus far.  Not bad for a six year-old, huh?  One of the great things about having kids is seeing their creativity flourish.  When she draws, paints, or sculpts, she doesn’t just create a thing, she creates a story.  These little Gumby-looking figures are Olivia and Johnson (one of Olivia’s best friends is named Olivia Johnson).  When she showed these to me, she didn’t just describe their appearance, she told about what games they had been playing together, where they were going that evening, and what other friends they would be visiting.

When did we decide that creativity had to go away as we age?  As we progress through the concrete world of adulthood, complete with mortgages, jobs, relationships, and responsibilities, it seems that creativity is one of the first things to fly out the window.  That’s a shame because a little creativity may be exactly what you need to help solve that problem you’re dealing with. 

I encourage you to flex your creative muscles and do something on a regular basis that provides an outlet for creativity.  Write short stories, take up sketching, learn a musical instrument – whatever it is, do something that takes you to that special place where the world seems to stop and time disappears.  If you have ever really gotten into the flow of creating something, you know what I’m talking about.

Don’t say you’re too busy and don’t have time, you have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else in the world – twenty-four hours a day.  Make the most of that time by intentionally doing things that are important.  While doing something creative may not seem important, the benefits are substantial.  Who knows, with a little creativity, you may find that you have more time than you originally thought.

No, this is not a picture of me getting a book signed by some homeless guy.  I was fortunate enough to meet Blake Mycoskie at a conference a couple of weeks ago (neither of us was particularly photogenic at the time).  For those of you who don’t know, Blake is the founder of TOMs shoes.  His company is the second fastest growing shoe company in the world.  He pioneered the “sell a pair/give a pair” concept.  For every pair of shoes his company sells, they give a pair to a child in need.

The retail industry is incredibly competitive – especially when it comes to fashion and clothing.  How did his company develop such a loyal set of followers in a relatively short amount of time? According to his book, Start Something that Matters, he did it not by gaining customers, but by gaining supporters

Think about your professional relationships.  How many supporters do you have?  I would venture to say not too many.  That’s why clients jump on board with competitors the instant they offer a price break, free shipping, or a round of golf.  Supporters don’t jump ship on a whim.  They are dedicated and committed to helping you succeed.

So how do you get supporters?  You don’t get them by having the best prices, best delivery, best quality, or even the best service.  You gain supporters by having a story that resonates with people.  For TOMs, that story is the sell one/give one concept.  Customers get to participate in offering relief to children in need by buying shoes and supporting the company.  People don’t get excited about being a customer.  They do get excited about being a supporter.

Now take this principle and extend it to your personal life.  Maybe the reason you don’t have many supporters personally is because you haven’t refined your story – if you even have one.  “My name is Jason and I’m an engineer” is not a story.  It is a statement.  I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what you want your story to be.  People don’t know how to support you if you can’t narrate your own story.

Sara started a yoga class after work on Monday nights, so I picked up the girls and cooked up a daddy dinner – corn dogs AND fish sticks, yum!  Everything was going well – I got their hands washed, managed to keep them occupied while “cooking”, and remembered to put their nuclear corndogs on their plates early so that they weren’t five thousand degrees when the girls bit into them.

Then I made my mistake.  I had one of those instances where I asked a question and realized while I was asking it that it was a big mistake, but for some reason could not seem to stop.  I asked the seemingly benevolent question, “What do you want to drink?”  The problem with that question is about halfway through it I realized that the only thing we had in the fridge was milk. 

In the quiet seconds before they answered, I kept hoping, “Say milk, say milk, say milk.”

Amelia was the first to answer.  “Lemolade.”  This, of course, is three year-old for lemonade.

“I’m sorry, Amelia, we don’t have lemonade.  We only have milk.”


“We don’t have juice.”


“We don’t have juice.”


“How about some milk?”

More crying.

What’s interesting about this is there never would have been a problem if I had just put milk on the table.  My mistake was to offer a choice when no choice was necessary.  What was I thinking?  She’s just three.  She doesn’t need to have input on every decision.  That’s too much authority for such a young child and I believe it’s unhealthy.

If you don’t believe me, just spend some time at a Wal-Mart or Target.  It won’t take long before you see a kid in the middle of an all out tantrum because they wanted the SpongeBob toothpaste, not the Dora toothpaste.

Why do we offer so many choices?  I think it’s because we have so many choices.  We think we owe it to our families, our coworkers, and ourselves to offer up a plethora of options on everything from PCs to a cup of coffee (I still have no idea how to order coffee at Starbucks). 

I’m going to try an experiment.  I’m going to stop offering so many choices and just give my kids what I think they should have (isn’t that a parental responsibility anyway?).  I know this will lead to a lot of whining initially, but I have a feeling that limited choices today may lead to fewer tantrums in the future.  I’m not going to prevent them from making any decisions.  I’m just going to put some limitations on them.

By the way, this might not be a bad idea for self-management either.  It seems to me that most of the things we make decisions about aren’t the things we need anyway.

We traded out one of the car seats in my wife’s car a couple of weeks ago for a booster seat.  I took the old car seat upstairs next to the attic entrance but didn’t put it in the attic that day because it had not yet cooled off and my attic was about the same temperature as the sun’s core. 

Usually Amelia is an early riser (very early riser) and gets up well before the crack of dawn.  Who needs an alarm clock when you have a three year-old?  The next day, however, she did not greet us at our bed in the darkness of night demanding a Pop Tart.  As I got ready for work, I noticed she still hadn’t come downstairs.

I went up to look for her, starting in the most naively logical place – her bed.  She wasn’t there.  Next I checked in Olivia’s room.  No luck.  Then I checked her bathroom.  She was nowhere to be found.  I decided to go back downstairs and check to make sure I didn’t miss her in the living room when something in the corner of my eye caught my attention.  At the end of the hallway sat Olivia’s old car seat with Amelia quietly strapped inside.

I walked over to the car seat.  “Whatcha doin’ Amelia?” I asked.

“I can’t get out, daddy,” she softly responded.

Apparently, she ventured out at some point in the night, found the car seat, strapped herself in, and couldn’t escape.  She never cried or called for us.  I think that was because she knew she was responsible for her circumstance and didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that she put herself in a situation from which she could not escape.

Her mistake was simply childish curiosity.  What’s your excuse?  Many of you are strapped into situations that make your life almost intolerable, but you stay there because you clicked the buckle and you don’t know how to get out.

It may be a job you can’t stand, an unhealthy relationship, a house that’s too expensive, or an addiction you can’t kick.  Sometimes the only way to get out of something is to stop being so self reliant.  Sometimes a meek little “I can’t get out, daddy” is the first step toward freedom.