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40 in 40: Lesson #26


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40 in 40: #26

Some weeks I work really long hours.

In fact the next 6 months are likely to take quite a few hours per week to accomplish what I want to. I won’t be working 80 hours every week but it’s going to be a lot.

I rarely let my inbox get above 30 email messages. Which means I manage email from bed, the bathroom, in front of the TV, and other places outside of work.

I wake up early to get to work. And I often stay late.

I try to exercise every day.

I’m trying to be a part of a small group at our church every other week.

I serve on a few non-profit boards and volunteer organizations.

Lesson #26

Work-life balance is a myth. I can no sooner keep it balanced than I can hold the tide back. My life is an integrated whole: family, work, spiritual life, exercise, reading, recreation, etc. are all part of one life. That life shares time, energy, talent and treasure.

There’s another part of this story:

  • I take 4-6 weeks of vacation a year (two weeks uninterrupted in the summer, a week at Christmas, 1/2 weeks at Thanksgiving and Easter).
  • I try to have dinner alone with Elise at least once a week.
  • I take Riley to breakfast every Friday.
  • I don’t miss many sporting events for the kids.
  • I try to be creative about how to spend the time with my family

David Greusel of Convergence Design speaks to this very clearly:

“I have also come to believe that the idea of achieving work-life balance, as it is referred to in the Human Resources departments of large companies, is a myth. I don’t cease to be an architect when I go home at night any more than I cease to be a husband and a father when I leave home for work. I have been trying very hard to de-compartmentalize my life the past few years. I want to be a whole person who is husband and father and architect and citizen twenty-four hours a day, attempting to order my various responsibilities so that I can discharge them well. But I think the notion that what results is a balance between work and family and community commitments is absurd.

“It is more like a well-rigged sailing ship, where keeping the lines in proper tension results in moving briskly across the ocean to your intended destination. My life is at least as complex as a three-masted schooner, and that requires making constant adjustments to keep the lines in the proper tension, neither too taut nor too slack”

And as I’ve said before…this is not about doing more or being busy.

Different people like different paces of life. I happen to enjoy when things are moving along at a clip. And occasionally I crash, or get sick (like today), or unplug on vacation.

That’s not a standard for anyone else and plenty of people think it’s too much. Part of the struggle for each of us is figuring out what YOUR rhythm is.

How are you keeping the lines on your ship in the right tension?

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #25

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40 in 40: #25

By the time I was 20 I thought I had life all figured out.

By the time I was 30 I thought I had “arrived”.

Now that I’m turning 40 I realize how much I have to learn about everything.

That doesn’t diminish what I know. I know quite a bit about a number of things. There are even things you could even say I’ve mastered.

But for every topic that I have mastered there are 5 areas that need serious work. I need to fill some of those gaps with knowledge.

And even more importantly I have to practice. The only way to master anything is to practice.

This is true professionally, personally, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Almost any able body can run a marathon if they train for it. But very, very, very few people show up at the starting line and finish a marathon without training.

Lesson #25

Mastery is not an accident. It is the result of sustained practice at learning particular skills.

One of my favorite quotes is from Willie Nelson when he was asked about being an overnight success:

“Overnight success feels great after playing 10 years in honky-tonks behind chicken wire.”

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #24

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40 in 40: #24

I spent my 20’s thinking about things.

I liked things. Wanted more things. It wasn’t all I thought about but it took up more mental real estate than I wished.

I would spend a lot of time organizing and reorganizing my things. It’s how I exercised control over my life (which often felt out of control).

I had friends that would borrow my things and if they weren’t returned the way I lent them I would get angry. You messed with my things.

About 10 years ago I read the 5 vows of spiritual power from A.W. Tozer. All of the vows are very helpful but for me this one was a personal watershed:

Lesson #24

Never own anything.

Things and the striving that go with them can derail me very quickly in my life. The freedom from that is terrific. I am a steward of things.

But they aren’t mine.

They can be gained, lost, lent, damaged, and destroyed. In the end they are just things.

I still often want things. To be honest I don’t think what I want is the problem.

It’s not our desires that are the problem.

It’s the ordering of our desires that creates the problems.

How are you ordering your desires? What’s taking too much room? What desire needs to be given more room to grow?

Keep moving forward,


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Weekly Update 9-26-11

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Highlights From The Last 7 Days

The scoop:

  • Team Blue Ocean Ideas has started a number of new projects in the last week: one working on a real estate photo sharing site, one for the 3rd largest association in Baltimore where we are helping to lead and shape their marketing efforts, and one is for a motion graphic project. In addition we have a boat load of projects in the hopper. Looks like it’s going to be a busy fall.
  • My gorgeous wife turned 4x (you’ll have to ask her what x=). You can follow her on Twitter for updates on how 4x is going.
  • Facebook is close to releasing Timeline for the general public. It’s very slick and probably another game changer in terms of how powerful Facebook is.
  • If you want to try the new Facebook Timeline here’s a link that tells you how to install it.
  • I was VERY excited about Google plus but I’m pretty sure the recent changes to Facebook including lists will probably kill it and show once again that Google doesn’t do social. I still like the IDEA of circles but the bottom line is if they can’t get masses to move their it won’t be successful.
  • Timeline will make Facebook more attractive again to those who have found it has gotten stale.
  • I ran my final marathon training run on Saturday morning at 7am with my cousin, John. John’s been VERY gracious to run 3 out of the last 4 training runs with me even though he could and probably should be moving faster than I am. I love being able to spend time together. 3 hours of running goes a lot faster with a partner.
  • Josh’s broken leg seems to be healing nicely. After a part time start to last week he was back in school full days Thursday and Friday. The broken leg has only helped his comedic skills.

What I’ve been reading:

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40 in 40: Lesson #22

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40 in 40: #22

Some posts are easy to write.

Today is Elise’s 44th Birthday. I’ve known her for 22 of the 44 years. Been married for 20.

When we were married I knew she was a terrific women.

What has floored me since then was the depth at which we have been knit together. Marriage is a gift far beyond what I could have ever imagined. I’m thankful every day.

Lesson #22

Eilse is the perfect fit for me. Finding a great spouse is on the VERY top of the bucket list.

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #19

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40 in 40: #19

I’m a little behind on my 40 in 40.

I’ve spend the last 10 days tending to a kid with a broken leg, starting fall sports, marathon training, and taking on some significant new Blue Ocean Ideas projects. It’s been hectic to say the least.

For one of our engagements, the client has engaged us to get their marketing and communications department in better shape. And quickly. They’ve been lacking leadership and the results are showing it.

I love these kinds of tasks. I get to do everything that I am good at and avoid all the things that I’m not so good at. Doesn’t get much better than that.

As I’ve poked around all week meeting with departments heads, marketing staff, and executives I have been reminded of this lesson:

Lesson #19

The system produces the results that it is designed to produce.

The first thing people want to do when they see poor results is blame the people. It’s the easiest thing to do:

  • If only so and so was good at __________.
  • __________ works too slow.
  • I wish that __________ would stop being so lazy.
  • __________ and __________ cannot get along.
  • __________ is incompetent.

You could fill in the blanks couldn’t you? We’ve all heard this kind of talk in every job we’ve ever had.

In reality, 95% of the problems we face are a result of systemic problems that we don’t take the time to discover and fix. If we look at the systems that are in place and begin to understand why things happen we will begin to see that blaming the people is a waste of time.

Of course there are times someone is a bad fit, has bad intentions, or is not qualified. And you have to deal with that. But before that happens take a long, hard look at the systems and see what results they are designed to produce.

You’ll be surprised how rarely it’s the people.

What result are you currently blaming on people that is really a system issue?

Keep moving forward,


p.s. This is true in your personal life as it is in work. A friend of mine was telling me this week about a system that she changed that helped her lose 25lbs. She looks fabulous!

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40 in 40: Lesson #16

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40 in 40: #16

My weekend was awesome:

  • Finished a client meeting Friday at 5:30pm
  • Dinner with Elise Friday night
  • Tutti Frutti after dinner with Seth
  • Early Saturday morning reading and praying
  • Ran 18 miles with my cousin John Saturday morning (he’s a stud: ran 21)
  • Football with my friends on the Pain Relievers (SOBO sports league)
  • Went swimming with Jack Smith, Riley & Seth
  • Grocery shopping with Riley
  • Watched some TV with Josh and Elise
  • Early Sunday morning reading and writing
  • Small Group
  • Church
  • Watched a little football
  • Ran & Swam to loosen up from yesterdays long run
  • Watched Seth play flag football
  • Now I’m settling in to make queso and watch the Eagles game (don’t ask me why but Josh and Seth love the Eagles)

Lesson #16

This is your one and only life. Don’t waste it. Spend your time doing the things you love to do with the people you love.

Time is really short. Yesterday it was January 1, 2011 and I blinked and now it’s September 18, 2011.

This is not about doing everything. None of us can do everything. That’s what makes the things we do with our time so important. They are the expression of what we love and care about.

It’s also not a post about being busy and packing your schedule with a million activities. I happen to like busy weekends. You may love days to unplug and slow down.

Tomorrow I head in to work for what looks like a VERY busy week. I’m going to enjoy that as well and spend time with the people I love there too.

How are you spending your time? Are you doing the things you want to do with the people you love?

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #15

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40 in 40: #15

I ask a lot of questions.

Not nearly as many questions as my business partner, Brody Bond, but I still ask my fair share and then some.

  • In 1996 I asked a question of the CFO that landed me a new job at Erickson Retirement Communities.
  • In 2006 I asked a question of a competitor in my business that changed the face of my construction company.
  • In 2007 I asked a question of a mentor that changed my spiritual journey.
  • Of course in 1990 I asked Elise a question that she said yes to and changed my life forever.

In the last month I’ve been asking a lot of questions that will continue to change life’s trajectory.

At some point I realized that those who ask good questions often get answers that others want but don’t get.

Lesson #15

Ask questions other people don’t ask and you will get information and opportunities that other people don’t get.

There is a simpler, classical way to say this: fortune favors the bold.

What questions are you asking yourself now? What questions should you be asking? Who should be on your “need to ask you questions” shortlist?

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #13

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40 in 40: #13

I am not a very good bold faced liar. I get a squeamish look on my face when I try and anyone with any intuition whatsoever can tell that I am lying.

So if it is a question like “Is it black or white?” the answer comes out truthfully, naturally, and easily.

But I did learn at an early age that a white lie or a “little bit” of confusion around an issue could be helpful. I also learned that withholding information was often a good thing in my mind.

I remember early in marriage thinking:

“If I tell Elise __________ then she will __________.”

I didn’t directly lie but I didn’t divulge the whole truth about everything. I was trying to manage the flow of information to get a certain result.

And it had nothing to do with Elise. Elise is the least nagging, most accepting, easiest to be honest with person I know.

One of my heroes tells a story about a little girl in Sunday School that is asked “What is a lie?”. Her response is priceless:

“A lie is an abomination to God and an ever present help in times of trouble.”

Lesson #13

The truth is your friend.

No one wakes up thinking: I can’t wait to be dishonest today. Everyone wants to be honest. And most think they are.

But very few people are willing to open up to a level of honesty that is truly freeing and helpful. Far fewer people are willing to live transparently.

For me it took a difficult financial time in the early 2000’s to help learn this lesson. Back then I had a real fear that Elise would find out just how bad things were and how much we needed things to turn around.

The real fears were deep insecurities as a husband, dad, and providor. The hidden, deeply rooted fears like “maybe your just not good enough.”

But somehow in the midst of the fears I took tiny steps towards a more transparent life. And I’m so glad I did. There is freedom in transparency. There is freedom in honesty.

I’m not 100% transparent yet. But I’ve come a long way.

What fears or insecurities cause you to struggle with the truth? Are you moving toward or away from transparency?

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #12

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40 in 40: #12

I was getting ready to walk out the door Sunday at 3pm to head out for what I hoped to be a great workout and competitive game of Ultimate in Hamden.

I was having a terrific weekend: finally got my home office cleaned out, had a 16 mile long run Saturday morning, went swimming with kids, church, football, etc. A great pre-fall weekend.

I was also looking forward to this week. We have a number of new projects kicking off; I love working on new client projects. I had a few other personal goals this week to accomplish also.

Then the phone rang.

“Dad I broke me leg.”

That changed everything and fast. My week has been in flux ever since.

Here are the highlights of the last 72 hours:

  • In and out of the ER three times over the first 24 hours.
  • Ortho consulation about 24 hours later.
  • Surgery 24 hours after that.
  • 24 hours later we are hoping the excruciating pain from the injury and surgery will subside enough to go home.

It hasn’t been much fun.

I went from my normal “go get ’em, I create a plan and go execute on it” week to completely out of control and dependent on other people instantaneously.

Lesson #12

Create the best plan that you can then prepare to be fluid.

I love planning and trying to execute. I could get a lot better at it but I enjoy it. But in reality all I can control are a few variables. Then I have to be flexible and move with where life goes.

The lesson doesn’t mean you give up the plan or live a plan free life. It’s that you plan the best you can and then adapt as you go. This creates freedom and ability to improve the plan along the way. There will be tension. But you can handle the tension.

When was the last time your week was entirely thrown out of whack by events that you couldn’t control? How do you modify your plan to achieve the results you were looking for?

Keep moving forward,


p.s. Here’s the result of the surgery (got some nifty hardware):

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