July 2012


To say the least, it was an eventful weekend.  While mowing on Saturday, I noticed a low spot in my yard was really wet.  I checked the water meter (an eighth of mile up our steep driveway) and sure enough it was turning.  I had a leak somewhere.  The only water lines in that area are from my irrigation system, so I shut the valve off that fed it.  Then I ran up the driveway to check the water meter.  Still turning.

I then realized that water was coming from the evacuation drain for my foundation.  Uh oh.  I made another trip back up the driveway to shut the water off.  After digging around, I found that my main water line went into my house about 2 feet below grade and underneath my front porch.  This left me lying on my stomach underneath a porch trying to dig. 

I finally gave up and called in a plumber on Saturday afternoon.  He started digging some more.  We knew there was a T-connection to the irrigation system somewhere in that area and that was the likely source of the leak, but we could not get to it since we are on a hill and our water line plunges straight down into the ground. 

After digging around for a while, he finally said this was the second worse situation he had ever seen.  I was glad I made the list, but a little jealous that I wasn’t number one.  He had to call in an excavator to come in on Sunday (Cha-ching!) to dig out around the house just to be able to follow the water line. 

We finally found it.  Some genius put a threaded plastic T-connection underneath one of the footers for the porch.  In case you don’t know anything about construction, that is approximately the structural equivalent of putting Richard Simmons on the offensive line of an NFL team – it will fail and it will do so annoyingly.

When it was all said and done, we spent $1,000 for the privilege of not having running water for the weekend.  Then came the cherry on top – when I went to check on the girls that night, it was over 80 degrees upstairs.  My upstairs A/C went out.  Fortunately, I got that running last night.

While recalling this story and feeling sorry for myself I actually came to appreciate how fortunate we are.  I was upset that went without water and one of three A/C units for one night.  In a couple of weeks, I’m going back to Nicaragua.  Many people there walk over a mile every day to get water that makes them sick and have no idea what air conditioning is.  It’s only been about six months since my last trip and I’ve already lost perspective. 

Advertisements

Sorry – the week got away from me. We are without kids this week as they are at Sara’s parents and my normal routine is off. I have been a slacker in terms of writing, so there is no post this week. Use the 2 minutes you would have spent reading my post doing something constructive.

Excellence – It’s such an uncommon thing these days that when we encounter it, we are awestruck.  Think about it.  When was the last time you came across a truly excellent work?  In fact, if you recently encountered a truly excellent work, there’s a pretty good chance that it was actually performed a very long time ago.  Literature, art, movies, music, philosophy… most of the stuff we encounter today is just a mediocre replication of the classics.

This creates a dilemma for us.  If there are so few who do their jobs with excellence and the expectations of society as a whole have deteriorated, where is our motivation to perform with excellence? 

I’m not suggesting that you need to go out do something better than Da Vinci, Beethoven, Newton, or even George Lucas.  I am suggesting that you go out and do something better than you usually do.  But I’m not an artist/musician/philosopher/writer/scientist you say.  It doesn’t matter.

Booker T. Washington said that excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon way.  I think doing the regular, everyday things with excellence takes even more motivation and can have just as profound an impact on those who witness it. 

My wife and I were in Napa Valley a month ago.  We had dinner one night at Don Giovanni’s.  Our server there was one of, if not the best I’ve ever had.  It wasn’t that he was particularly fast or the most attentive, but his presence actually enhanced our meal.  He was very engaging, had a wonderful personality, and gave us the impression that he really cared about us and our dining experience.

Here was a guy truly doing a common thing in an uncommon way.  I watched him as he worked the room – how he had various ongoing conversations with other tables and how he interacted with the hostess, the kitchen, and the manager.  No matter who he was with, you could visually witness them cheer up and become happier as a result of their interaction with him.

Needless to say, he got a great tip.  Maybe it was just part of his show to get tips, but I don’t think so.  He seemed authentic in his desire to make people happier through his service.  He performed his job with excellence.

So whether you’re an executive, a server in a restaurant, a stay-at-home parent, a volunteer, or a student – seek to do the common things in an uncommon way.  You’ll amaze people when you do.

About 12 years ago, I bought a television.  This was back before the days of high definition 1080p flat screen 3D LED television.  This TV was a 32 inch Sony Trinitron – today’s electronic equivalent to a Cadillac Eldorado circa 1985.  I’m sure you remember those – if you’re like me, you may even have a couple lying around the house (the TVs, not the Cadillac).  Let me refresh your memory in case you forgot.  The old Trinitrons were overweight, consumed too much energy, and took up way too much space – I guess they were kind of like the typical American.

Over the years, we have replaced all of our televisions with much lighter, slimmer, and energy conscious (not to mention better performing) flat screens.  This creates a dilemma – what to do with the old televisions?  If you haven’t moved an old tube television in while, I would encourage you to consult your physician before attempting to do so.  I don’t know what “Trinitron” means, but I think it has something to do with using the core of the sun as an internal component because those TVs weigh more than a rhinoceros with a thyroid condition.

I took the old television out of our bedroom and made it all the way to the back porch.  There it has been for the past six weeks taunting me.  “You replaced me – now what are you going to do?  I’m just going to sit here and plague your conscious until you figure out your next step.”

I briefly thought about trying to sell it, but quickly realized that was probably unreasonable.  That thought was confirmed when I tried to give it away.  I asked several people if they wanted it and there were no takers.  Then I thought I would just throw it away. 

Turns out I can’t “just throw it away.”  The television contains hazardous materials (maybe I was right about the core of the sun thing) and must be taken to a dump where I have to pay for it to be properly disposed.  I don’t want to lift that thing up and drive out of my way to pay money just to get rid of it, so it remains on my back porch… smirking.

I don’t recall what I paid for that television 12 years ago, but I do remember that when I first got it, I thought it was great.  Here we are 12 years later and it is a piece of junk.  Actually, it’s less than a piece of junk – if it were a piece of junk, at least I could throw it away.  Now I have nice, new televisions and I think they’re great.  In 12 years, those too may be worthless.

Here’s the lesson learned here.  I like my new TVs.  I liked my old one when I got it.  They were things that I desired… things I worked to earn money to buy… things that I thought would somehow enhance my life.  All it takes is a few years and those things we desire turn into trash. 

Jim Elliot once said, “He is not a fool who gives that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  What are the things that you desire?  If you desire the things that you cannot keep, you will only continue to desire.  If you desire the things that you cannot lose, you will eventually find fulfillment.

Image

If you have been reading for a while, you know that my wife and I have taken a few trips to Nicaragua to provide medical aid, clean water, and in my case – to move rocks.  We have been doing this through a group called Highlands Mission Cooperative (www.highlandsmission.com).  What you may not know is prior to accepting my position with the company for which I work; I was seriously considering doing some sort of medium to long term work in Nicaragua.  I was planning keeping my residence here in the States, but spending a fair amount of time in Nicaragua.

Here’s where it got tricky… I really felt led to work in Nicaragua, but I also felt led to accept the position at my company here in Georgia.  I wasn’t sure exactly how that would work out because I thought those two things were mutually exclusive, but I took a leap of faith by accepting the position here while looking for opportunities in Nicaragua. 

In my initial week with my new company, I was asked to be the chairperson of our Charitable Foundation.  It wasn’t Nicaragua, but I did have the opportunity to become involved with several nonprofit organizations and encourage associates to give their time, treasure, and talent to charitable causes.

While doing this, I still had the opportunity to go to Nicaragua outside of work and participate in the growing relief efforts there.  Things were starting to make sense.  I had a job where I could network with nonprofits, encourage charitable work, and make some money so I could be self-funded on my international trips.

A few weeks ago, it really started to make sense.  Our national foundation announced its Global Giving campaign.  A small group of associates from all over the country could apply for an international trip where they will assemble and distribute wheelchairs, work with World Vision on humanitarian efforts, and participate in a construction project.  Guess where this team is going… Nicaragua!  I applied for one of the slots and was selected.

I will be going to Nicaragua in August and our Foundation is paying my way.  In addition, I am expected to “share the story” when I return.  I will be asked to write blogs, do some YouTube videos, and speak to associates about our experience – which is precisely what I do with my other trips to Nicaragua.  I now see that there was plan all along, and I almost got in the way because I was tempted to place more weigh on my judgment than what I felt led to do.

I guess that’s the lesson learned here.  Sometimes the right thing doesn’t make the most sense logically.  I am very logical person and that’s hard for me to say, but my experience teaches me that it is true.  Rewards come to those who step out on faith.  It doesn’t take much faith to be logical.