As we were riding along in my truck on our way to go hiking, my oldest daughter proclaimed that she felt like she was going to throw up… within 20 seconds, she threw up. Fortunately there was a towel in the back seat where my dog was riding earlier and she had the wherewithal to direct the contents of her stomach in that direction. I pulled over at the next stop (which happened to be a Burger King) and she gagged on the grass while patrons enjoyed their breakfast.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in the mountains and I had a picnic and hike planned for the family. Reluctant to throw in the towel (figuratively… I actually threw away the towel), I went inside to get her a drink… and one for her little sister who, in her words, was feeling “a little left out”. We loaded back up into the truck and proceeded toward our trail (with an empty Burger King bag… just in case).

We were heading to an area we had never been to before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. It was amazing. We drove deep into some very dense woods on a gravel/dirt road that followed a beautiful mountain stream for miles. We discovered dozens of incredible campsites and found a great spot for our picnic. My sick little trooper still wasn’t feeling great, but she was willing to give the hike a shot.

The trail was outstanding – one of the best I’ve ever been on east of the Rockies. It was actually a portion of the Appalachian Trail – a 2,100 mile trial that extends from North Georgia to Maine. After walking the famed trail for a while, I turned perpendicular to it and walked across. Now I can say that I have hiked the entire width of the Appalachian Trail.

My youngest was fully in hiking mode… actually running much of the trail (mental note, stop and get sugary drinks before our next hike). Olivia, while plainly not back to herself, seemed to be doing a little better. At the end of the trail were a beautiful waterfall and some huge boulders that we all climbed on.

The girls had a blast. By this time, Olivia was smiling, running, and chasing butterflies. This ended up being one of if not the best hike we have taken as an entire family and we would have missed the experience if we had given up when Olivia got sick earlier. Now I know… sometimes the right thing to do is turn the car around and try again later, but sometimes we miss out on life’s greatest joys because we give up too soon.

There will be no posting next week because the girls will be trying out their legs on the mountains of Colorado. I think we’ll need a lot of soft drinks.


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.

I’m back from vacation rested and refreshed.  We had a great trip and I’m still catching up, so this will be a brief post today.  While we were in Napa, we stayed at the Milliken Creek Inn.  Whenever I shop for vacations, I look for bargains – not necessarily the cheapest but the best deal.  For example, I got a great deal on a convertible for our stay in California. 

Also, when I pay for something, I intend to get the maximum use out of it.  Therefore, when we took a drive along the scenic 17-Mile Drive in Carmel and Monterey, I had the top down the whole time even though it was about 50 degrees and overcast.

Anyway, I’m the bargain hunter when it comes to vacations and Sara is most decisively not.  For our accommodations in Napa; however, she hit a home run.  Upon check in we were told that we had been upgraded to a luxury suite… the best one on the property.  It was set apart from the rest of the inn and they used it as their honeymoon suite.  It was unbelievable!  I cannot imagine anything they could have done to make that place any nicer without being over the top.

When we returned, I went on their website to see what the rate was on the room.  It was about twice what we paid for the room we originally reserved.  This is actually pretty smart on their behalf.  Not only did they fill up their occupancy rates while we were there, but they thoroughly impressed us.  Now we’re telling everyone how nice their inn is… including all the doctors with whom Sara works.

Sure their profit margin was reduced on our stay, but by providing us with more than we expected, they gained two advocates for their business.  Now apply this mentality to the work you do every day.  Whether it is in your business, at home, or volunteer work, you never know who you may be serving.  Common knowledge tells us that any job worth doing is worth doing right.  Matthew 25:40 says, “And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

Like I said, you never know who you are serving, so serve well.