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40 in 40: Lesson #7

Route 40

40 in 40: #7

I’ve been eating breakfast at the Towson Diner on Friday mornings since September 3, 2004.

That was the first week of middle school for Caleb. Since then I’ve had one child in middle school and we have breakfast together Friday mornings. Caleb has done it. Josh has done it and now Riley is doing it.

In about 1,100 days Seth will be doing it.

It’s not an elaborate event. We get there around 7:15 and are gone by 8:00 and I’m in the office by 8:10 (yes I have a terribly easy commute). While we are there we read together and we talk.

That’s it.

When I was a younger parent I spent a lot of time creating “strategic plans” for my family (Seriously…I’m exciting like that. Gotta love a spreadsheet!). Most of these were well intentioned but doomed. Too formulaic, structured and ambitious. They usually consisted of some kind of checklist about our mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health and the “activities” that were going to keep things in top shape.

I wasn’t easy to live with back then. If you have something like that for your family and it works that’s awesome.

For me about 10 years ago I realized that heroic effort on my part was not going to achieve the results I was looking for.

Lesson #7

Long endurance in the same direction creates good results.

At the end of the day what I really want is to have a great relationship with my kids. And one way I can do that is by spending time with each of them during a critical period in their lives. It doesn’t take heroic effort on my part to take a kid to a diner once a week and spend time with them.

What it does take is making a simple commitment and habituating it. We do that in 100’s of other ways in our lives (you did brush your teeth today right?).

There is no magic formula for parenting. I tell people that you will probably know the quality of Elise and my parenting in about 40 years. Only time will tell.

I do know that time together to talk creates space for good things to happen. That I can make happen.

What things are you putting in your life consistently that over time will produce the results you are looking for?

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #6

Route 40

40 in 40: #6

I had breakfast with an old friend that I’ve known for 20 years just to catch up.

I spent the day working through relational issues with a client, some of our staff, and my business partner.

I had lunch with a client to debrief a recent project and identify areas for Blue Ocean Ideas to improve.

I spent the evening at back to school night with Elise meeting teachers, seeing friends and acquaintances.

I just got off the phone with a friend who is struggling with one of those life defining problems that will change his trajectory forever.

We are surrounded by people 80% of our waking time.

Lesson #6

Who we love and who loves us will define our lives.

Relationships are the fabric of life. How we deal with them will define us and our lasting impact in this world.

Who do you love? Who loves you?

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #5

Route 40

40 in 40: #5

Joshua Slocum was a born adventurer.

In 1892, a friend gave Slocum an oyster sloop named Spray as a gift. Spray was in ill repair and Slocum spent 13 months rebuilding the Spray to make it seaworthy.

This was no easy feat.

In 1895, Slocum got on the Spray and sailed around the world solo. Slocum rigged a method for sailing the ship while he slept down below. In fact, at one point he crossed 2,000 miles of the Pacific without being at the helm of the Spray.

Upon return to the United States,  Slocum wrote a classic sailing book Sailing Alone Around The World published in 1900. The book became a classic sailing text.

All of this is notable in and of itself.

More notable to me:

Slocum was 51 when he left to sail around the world on a ship that he rebuilt by hand.

Lesson #5

It’s never too late to start your next big life project.

At 51, Joshua Slocum had put in his time as a sailor. No one would have blamed him for taking it easy. In fact, around the turn of the twentieth century early 50’s was the average life expectancy.

In other words Joshua Slocum set out to sail around the world as a then senior citizen.

And he did it.

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #4

Route 40

40 in 40: #4

Most people who know me know that I am an independent person.

I was going to add a modifier to that phrase like “fairly” or “somewhat” or “sort of” but that would make that phrase a damn lie.

I am VERY independent.

Last weekend my parents were telling my kids that when I was 3 I took a bike from our garage and decided I was going to learn to ride a bike. Then I got on that bike and rode down a big hill we had in our yard. No dad running along side and encouraging, no easing into it, no training wheels. Just get on and ride.

The same story would be true in other areas of my life:

  • Learning how to ski (I lasted about an hour in ski school before my dad pulled me out because I was losing my mind).
  • Leaving home (I left before I finished high school and had my own apartment).
  • Going to college (I worked full time while going to school and starting a family).
  • Starting my own businesses (I worked for Erickson Retirement Communities for 4 years at the beginning of my career and have owned my own companies since then).

My independence is an asset. As a consultant and brand strategist you need to be able to think independently. It’s crucial.

But there’s a price.

Lesson #4

Ask for help when you need it.

This probably seems obvious to most of you. Somewhere in your brain there’s an “I need help” button that you push and then you look for who can help you with what you need.

My brain didn’t come with that button.

The button in my brain says, “You have to do it all by yourself.”

The problem with not asking for help is that you can’t navigate life alone. The richness in life comes from relationships where we are helping each other. For many years I deprived myself of that richness because I couldn’t ask for help.

For the last few years I’ve been able to ask for help and see the results.

  • In friendships this has meant new depth.
  • In business it has meant I’m able to have a partner to rely on.
  • In my marriage it has meant new intimacy with Elise that wouldn’t have happened without asking for help.

Are you able to ask for help when you need it?

Keep moving forward,


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40 in 40: Lesson #3

Route 4040 in 40: #3

I know a few people that are living life exactly how they thought they would.

One of our clients set goals about family, career, social life, etc. in his early 20’s and has executed on those goals. His life looks pretty close to what he was looking for.

But the vast majority of people I know are not living the life they thought they would when they were younger.

Dreams didn’t come true, relationships were broken, spouses and children faced physical challenges, and more.

There are positive stories as well: pregnancies after doctors said that wouldn’t happen, unexpected windfalls in a business, children facing challenges that surpassed expectations and brought joy and delight, rocky marriages that became filled with intimacy, careers that took off after long periods of struggle.

It seems that our level of predictability in life is very low.

I was sitting next to a family member last night that was lamenting the state of our society and some of the bad things that are happening. There was certainly truth in what they were saying. But a lot of the sentiments sounded like unwillingness to be flexible in the face of situations that require change.

Lesson #3

  • Change is inevitable.
  • Embracing change brings ability to influence.
  • Resisting change encourages irrelevance.
  • Living life more flexibly enables growth.

In my own life the last 5 years have been an exercise in learning this lesson.

I have:

  • Closed a business that I owned and provided income for our family.
  • Started a new business and all the challenges that go with getting that off the ground.
  • Seen my oldest son off to college.
  • Watched Elise’s journey from stay at home mom to therapist.
  • Seen friends deal with cancer, divorce, and infertility.
  • Seen others deal with great success, have relationships flourish and more.
  • Allowed some friendships to “dry up” that no longer had roots.
  • Grown in new friendships that I wouldn’t have seen coming.
  • Worked hard at growing my own capacity to live life well.

That’s a lot of change. Most people see similar changes in their lives over time. I may be on the “higher change” side of the spectrum the last 5 years but almost everyone has to deal with these kinds of changes over their lifetimes.

Ability to see changes that are needed and be flexible in the face of those changes is the LCGF (lowest common growth factor).

As I look at who I follow one of the traits that I value the most is the ability to see challenges, make changes, and grow throughout the process.

That’s the kind of person I want to be.

In what ways have your expectations been met, fallen short, or changed in your life over the last 5 years? Are you changing and maintaining flexibility in the face of the challenges your are facing?

Keep moving forward,


p.s. The client I mentioned above has spent the last 5 years struggling through how to change for the second half of his life. He achieved what he wanted and beyond. His challenge question is “now what?”.

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40 in 40: Lesson #2

Route 4040 in 40: #2

I spent much of my life wishing I was in different life circumstances than I was at the moment.

  • When I was in high school I wanted to be in college.
  • When I was in college I wanted to be working in my career.
  • When I was with a large corporation I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
  • When I was an entrepreneur I missed the ego boost I felt from working in a larger organization.
  • When I was with my family I was thinking about work.
  • When I was at work I was wondering why I hadn’t succeeded more yet.
  • When I went to one church I wished I was at a church more like xyz church.

And on and on and on.

Eventually I realized there was only one place to live: the present.

Lesson #2

Where you are right now is where you need to be

It’s taking me a long time to learn this one. I’m not always a good student. I still want things to be different in many ways and am impatient for results. But I have come to grips with this:

The launching point for my next place of growth in life is exactly where I am.

What would change if you were able to really accept where you are now?

Keep moving forward,


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I Have a ZERO Birthday Coming Up

Route 40Turning 40: Just another day

On the other hand you only have 8 of them in your typical life.

So to mark 40 I’m writing 40 in 40.

40 lessons I’ve learned in 40 years.

All the great lessons in life have been handed down from someone else. And for that I’m thankful. There is wisdom in lessons that stand the test of time. These are a few of mine.

Lesson #1

A lesson I teach my kids when they start middle school and we begin meeting together weekly for breakfast:

You become who you follow

This is one of the fundamental truths in life. For better or worse, come hell, or high water who I follow will shape me.

Talk to anyone for an hour about real things in life and you will hear who they are following. Watch teenage kids and how they dress and what they are listening to and you will get a glimpse into who they follow. Look into any culture anywhere and you will see who people are following.

We talk a lot about leaders and I believe leaders are incredibly important.

But in my own life who I follow is THE decision.

Notice I didn’t say who you read or watch or listen to (although these are all good things). I said follow. Following is another ballgame altogether.

Who are you following?

Keep moving forward,


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I imagined this day coming

I threw away my last, blue, glass gem this weekend.

You might remember this post from a few years ago:

My day to day time with Caleb living under our roof is over for now.

I imagined this day coming and it was a lot like I imagined it.

It was emotional for each of the Rittler’s. Elise lead the way in tears but all of us were feeling deep emotions.

For Josh he shared how he felt like Caleb had been a good leader and example for him. He was so thankful that his older brother had been a senior as he entered Towson High School. Caleb and Josh have a special bond that I admire as brothers.

Josh and Caleb have shared a room since they were little boys and for the first Josh will now be the big brother in the house.

Riley is naturally both dramatic and very sensitive to what others are feeling. She shared how grateful she was that Caleb was kind and cared about her as the only sister. She was sad when we left and was very empathetic toward everyone else and Elise in particular.

Seth is our most verbal processor in some ways (like his oldest brother). He talked through some of what it would be like not having Caleb around and his excitement for moving up in the world to share a room with his big brother (Josh) now.

For Elise there seemed like a mix of emotions: obviously sadness, excitement, a flood of memories came back (“I can still see him in his careseat”), and more. Elise is the glue in our family and the emotional leader. It was great to be with her as she let go of her firstborn.

For me I made light of a lot of it. I spent a fair amount of time playfully teasing Elise for her tears (although I’m secretly jealous of her ability to feel her deep emotions so consciously and process them with such awareness). I made a lot of jokes about feeling like we were forgetting something. And I watched how everyone else was processing the event.

Deep down inside it felt like a win.

I’ve had two goals for my time at home with my children:

  • I wanted to enjoy being with them and hopefully have them enjoy being with me.
  • I wanted to see them able to handle life maturely when they left home.

As we drove away from Caleb’s dorm I watched him in the rear view mirror walking towards the dorm I felt a deep sense of peace that by God’s grace I’d been given the gift of meeting those goals.

I couldn’t have achieved the goals without imagining them first.

Now I’m off to spend more time with the remaining three. Time is short this side of eternity.

Keep moving forward,


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Greg’s Special Pasta Sauce

Greg’s Bolognese Sauce

I love to cook. More now than ever. One of my favorite things is almost anything Italian.

And with most Italian food the secret is in the sauce. Here’s my staple Bolognese sauce. I make a double or triple batch and then use it in a variety of dishes or just over my favorite al dente pasta. It also freezes very well.


  • 2 lbs Italian sausage remove from casing
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 3 (14.5 oz) cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz) cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 (12 oz) can of tomato paste
  • 10 cloves of garlic diced
  • 2 tbs italian seasoning
  • 1 tbs dried basil
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • optional: red peper flakes to taste


Brown sausage in olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for an hour



p.s. I’d love to hear your suggestions for recipes. If you have any feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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