Direction


“The problem is not that there are problems.  The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem.”

I wish I could take credit for that, but it actually comes from a behavioral psychologist named Theodore Rubin.  It’s a quote that I have been citing frequently at work lately.  I’ve been assigned the task of rolling out an operations strategy to about 70 different facilities in our company.  This operations strategy is based on the premise of creating a work environment where problems are easily identified, having a mechanism by which those problems can be communicated, and teaching associates who routinely engage in the process how to solve those problems at their root cause.

That sounds simple enough, but it is actually quite challenging.  For one thing, it requires that we change the way we see problems.  As indicated in the quote, we often think that having a problem is a problem… but in reality, it’s not.  In fact, it’s normal.  As long as we walk this earth, we will always have problems.  The typical response to a problem is to brush it under a rug if it’s small enough or seek out someone or something to affix the blame if the size of the problem warrants.

Our strategy is quite different.  Not only do we want to address the problems that are currently evident, but we want to make more problems evident by creating a work environment that makes them more visible.  The idea is that by making more problems evident, we can deal with them sooner and address them before they manifest into greater problems.

This is a work philosophy I’ve had for a while, but I started to wonder what would happen if I incorporated it into my personal life.  What would this look like?

First of all, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t practice what I preach here in regard to seeking medical treatment.  I have family members all over the medical field, but when it comes to actually making an appointment and seeing the doctor, I’m a big time procrastinator.  How do we cover up physical issues?  We ignore them (as much as we can), we avoid the activities that make them evident, or (like me) we stubbornly endure them think they’ll eventually go away.  That last strategy served me well for a while, but I’m finding it less effective as the years go by. 

What would this look like from a social standpoint?  Maybe we need someone who can level with us and tell us when they think we have a problem rather than politely looking over it while we ignore the fact that it exists.

The bottom line is that we all have problems.  If we think we don’t, then we’ve got even more problems.  It’s better to acknowledge them and deal with them than to pretend that don’t exist… it’ also quite a relief.

class%20of%2093

I am going back to my hometown this weekend for my 20-year high school reunion.  It’s hard to believe that two decades have passed since I walked up on the stage to accept my diploma.  Here’s what I’ve learned over that time:

  • Your education never stops – I’m currently working on my second master’s degree and am enrolled in college… again, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  The informal education of life is just beginning when you’re eighteen years-old and I would imagine it doesn’t stop until you do.  While there may not be grades, the stakes are high and failure to learn can result in much worse things than a bad GPA.
  • It’s not all about making as much money as you can.  Sure it’s nice to be financially secure, but it’s not worth it do something you despise to make more cash.  Find work that you enjoy!
  • It’s not all about your career.  Yes, your career is important, but some of the greatest things you will do are completely unrelated to it.
  • Kids make everything more difficult… but once you have them, you cannot bear the thought of life without them.
  • Invest now and don’t stop… retirement savings, health & fitness, education… anything that requires a small sacrifice now for greater delayed gratification is worth it.
  • Gas will approach $4 per gallon, but people will complain about that and actually pay in excess of a dollar for a 16-ounce bottle of water at the same store.  That’s over $8 for a gallon for water… wish I knew that twenty years ago!
  • Time will go by remarkably fast and it will never come back.  Don’t waste it.
  • Most of what you worry about in high school will not matter a few years down the road… the same probably applies to what I’m worrying about now.
  • Doing the right thing can be hard.  Regretting a poor decision is harder.
  • Reflecting back on the past 20 years reveals how little I knew then.  I’m now old enough to realize how little I know now relative to where I will be 20 years from now.
  • Don’t worry.  Music will get much better than it was in 1993… and Marky Mark is actually a pretty decent actor.
  • And the Number 1 thing I’ve learned… 38 years-old is still young!  At least that’s what you’ll tell yourself in 20 years.

Hammer

I’m a firm believer that someone should make Garanimals for adults.  That way I would know not to mix the giraffe with the lion and avoid the “are you really going to wear that” looks from my wife.  Of course, matching clothes is just part of the challenge… you also have know what is in style.  That’s why I have a fashion consultant who buys all my clothes and advises me on my selections – my wife.

After getting dressed for work a few weeks ago, I ran some shoes by my fashion consultant because I had not worn them in some time and thought they were a little questionable.  I walked out of the closet and asked, “Are these shoes ok?”

She had a contemplative look as she stared at the shoes for several seconds.  “Hmmmm….”

This confused me because usually if something is questionable enough for me to ask what she thinks, it immediately goes to Goodwill.  This time; however, I seemed to stump her.

“Well, they’re not great but don’t get rid of them.  I think those are coming back in style,” she said nonchalantly.

Those words were like a dagger.  So I’ve kept a pair of shoes for so long they’ve gone out of style and come back in???  I did the math.  She bought me those shoes when we moved to New York, which was 2002.  It is now 2013.  The shoes were eleven years old… if they were a kid, they’d be going into the 6th grade and they’re not even close to the oldest clothes I still own.

Then the practicality side of me kicked in.  Here’s a pair of shoes that are in good shape and, according to my wife, may be coming back in style.  Had I gotten rid of them when they were unfashionable, I’d have one less pair of shoes in my rotation.  How many other things have I gotten rid of that could now be of use?

That’s the problem with fashion – it’s too fashionable… and it’s not just clothes.  Home decorations, diets, political beliefs, exercise programs, and even life purposes are prone to falling in and out of fashion. 

That’s why I take the same approach with all of these – don’t go for fashion, go for quality.  It doesn’t matter if it is a pair of shoes, a piece of furniture, or a life principle; here are three questions I ask when choosing:

  • What’s it made of?  Look for good raw materials.
  • How’s it put together?  Get the best quality you can afford.
  • Will this still have a place in my wardrobe/home/life ten years from now?

 

Quality and longevity trump fashion any day.

It was a very breezy weekend in Atlanta.  The Easter Bunny brought kites for the girls a couple of weeks ago, so they got to try them out.  It was windy enough that it didn’t take much to fly them, but I guess standing there holding a string just isn’t as much fun as running around, so they were running all over the back yard with their kits sailing in the air. 

Amelia was particularly amazed by her kite.  She was running at full speed while making a turn.  Of course she wasn’t looking where she was going… she had her attention completely focused on the princess kite that seemed to defy gravity.  You know where this is going – it was like it was happening in slow motion.  As she ran at full speed with her little head turned back watching her kite, Sara and I yelled at her to watch where she was going.  Paying no attention to us, she ran squarely into the side of the house. 

She wasn’t hurt physically, but she was pretty embarrassed.  She started crying and blaming Sara and I because nothing is ever her fault (wonder where she got that? – must be Sara).

Once again, I learned a lesson from a three year-old.  One step away from the house she was perfectly content as she focused on her beautiful kite sailing through the air, but it all came crashing down on the next step because she was focusing on the wrong thing. 

What kite are you giving all of your attention?  Is it a promotion, retirement, money, or material items?  Whatever it is, it’s alright to take a glimpse at it occasionally, but if you don’t pay attention to the path you are taking to keep it aloft, you may find yourself flat on your back and looking for someone else to blame. 

For Amelia, it was the side of the house that refocused her attention.  For you it could be an anemic family life, a wayward child, failing health, or the draining realization that your life has been completely insignificant because you focused on the wrong thing.  Too many people do things they hate so they can afford to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.  That kind of sounds like a waste, doesn’t it?

So go have some fun and fly your kite, but make sure you know where you’re heading.  It can all come to screeching halt on your very next step.

Judging by the quarter inch of pollen on my truck, I’d say spring is here.  Motivated by the fact that I can actually see clouds of pollen floating around, I decided to check Atlanta’s pollen count:  8,164!  No, that’s not a typo.  Atlanta historically has some of the highest pollen levels in the country and this reading beat the old record of 6,013 by 36%.  Just stepping outside is like getting shot in the face with a can of mace – my eyes are watering… my nose is watering… pretty soon my ears will be watering.  Sorry for that visual.

It seems like pollen keeps getting worse.  I just don’t remember seeing everything covered with a yellowish green powder during the springs of my childhood.  Maybe that’s because I didn’t have a black truck back then.  By the way – why doesn’t someone make a pollen-colored car?

Despite the messiness created by all of this pollen, it is a necessity.  Without pollen, plants couldn’t reproduce and I think we can all agree that plants are a pretty good thing to have around.  They give us nice things like shade, oxygen, and Hershey bars.  So yes, pollen is messy, but without it, we wouldn’t have life as we know it.

So here is today’s lesson.  Life is messy.  If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be a whole lot for of us to do.  It’s the same way at work.  I’m a manager.  I get frustrated by all of the problems that I have to deal with.  But if there weren’t any problems, I wouldn’t be needed.  Same goes for home.  I’m a parent. Do I get frustrated when Amelia wets her bed or Olivia decides that sleeping is not part of her agenda for a particular night? Absolutely!  But I also realize that there will come a day when my kids won’t need me nearly as much as they do now.  As frustrating as these problems seem now, I will one day miss them. 

Whatever messiness you’re dealing with, know that it will pass as long as you meet it head on and refuse to give to up.  It may not be over as fast as you want to be and it may not turn out exactly like you want it to, but I believe there is a plan outside of our timing and our desires that ends up working for our good.  Even if we can’t see what that good is right now.

I was going to write about Amelia’s trial karate class, but it ended up being uneventful.  She just kept her head down with both of her index fingers in her mouth and declared, “I want to do something pwetty… I want to be a pwincess.” 

Turns out I’m the only person she enjoys beating the snot out of… daily.  I don’t get it.  She literally took me down in an arm bar the other night.  I had such high expectations… little boys would one day try to flirt with her… then she would pull a few moves that would make Chuck Norris proud.

But it wasn’t to be.  I wouldn’t get to see Chuck Norris nodding his approval after her perfectly executed roundhouse kick, just more dressing up and being “pwetty”.  I guess that’s alright since I’ve got two of the pwettiest girls in the world.  Besides, she already holds her own when we play fight.  If she actually got some formal training, she might be able to get the better of me.

So where does that leave me?  I’m the testosterone laden dad in a house with three girls and a female dog.  I’m outnumbered by estrogen four to one, but I’m fine with that.  One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that being in house full of women doesn’t take away from my masculinity any more than being in a dark room takes away the light of candle.  In fact, it gives it a chance to shine.  If you don’t believe me, just ask one of my girls to pull your finger.

So whenever you feel out of place be thankful that you’re not just blending in with your surroundings.  Make the most of your opportunity to shine.  Likewise, if you find that you never stand out, you may be trying too hard to blend in.

I am your constant companion,

I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.

I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.

I am at your command.

Half of the tasks that you do you might just as well

turn over to me and I will do them quickly and correctly.

 

I am easily managed,

you must merely be firm with me.

Show me exactly how you want something done;

after a few lessons I will do it automatically.

I am the servant of all great people and

alas of all failures as well.

Those who are great I have made great,

those who are failures I have made failures.

 

I am not a machine, but I work with all the precision

of a machine, plus the intelligence of a person.

Now you may run me for a profit or

you may run me for ruin.

It makes no difference to me.

Take me, train me, be firm with me,

and I will lay the world at your feet.

Be easy with me and I will destroy you.

 

Who am I?  I am called Habit.

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