Snake Guts

Snakes. Who doesn't love 'em?

My wife.

And the problem was planting the new flowers in the snake infested garden along the driveway. So, "Who you gonna call?"  SnakeBusters, or Madi and Seneca.   Madi is our 23 year old daughter who not only is not afraid of snakes, bugs, spiders, etc., she loves them and catches them anytime she has a chance.  Good to have her with you, if you're Amy, and entering enemy territory.  Then there's Seneca - our 7 year old Yellow Lab. She loves snakes, too. A little jumpy around them, but that adds to the fun. At least for her.

I received a call the other day from Amy about a snake encounter that eclipsed all our previous ones. She had Madi with her as they entered the danger zone. And yes, there were snakes. The big, slithery, flesh eating, venomous Garter snakes. Well, slithery.  In comes Seneca - fired up, barking, charging, jumping. And that's usually where it stops. Then things turned bad - for the snake. Seneca caught it in her mouth, probably unexpectedly, and by pure reflex, she shook.  Violently. Guts. Everywhere. Even some showered on Madi. Exciting times.

I really don't think Seneca had any intention of killing the snake. That's just not her nature, but maybe when she got it in her mouth, writhing, striking, she just, well, freaked out.  Dead snake. Kind of - they're pretty hearty. So I had to finish what Seneca unknowingly started when I got home.

So Seneca didn't mean it to kill it. But she did. Result:  dead snake.

This little episode really made me think about intentions and outcomes. Intentions matter, but outcomes do too, whether it was part of our intention or not.

And so it is with us. How often do we unintentionally offend, hurt, disrespect or even bully someone we care about? Yet the result is the same whether we intended it or not.  We must own it either way. "I didn't mean it" or "It wasn't my fault" doesn't cut it, unless we're a very young, immature kid or perhaps a Yellow Lab.  Neither knows any better. We should.

Selling Meat

Once upon a time, I sold meat off the back of a small pick-up truck. Yep. Not a whole lot of people know this, until now.

It was an attempt to change up my career back in the early days. I had been working as a waste hauling sales rep and, though the work was okay, I had little respect, if any, for my manager. And the work was not overly fulfilling as a result. Not a good fit.  So I struck out into the word of meat peddling. High-end stuff! 

The original idea looked good as I rode with a “seasoned’ rep who ran his route, delivering frozen filets and assorted meats to enthusiastic and expectant customers.  It looked like a good gig:  you’re your own boss, you go home when you’re done, you earn commissions on results, you ride around and meet lots of different people, and you get to wear jeans and a t-shirt – no more suit and tie! 

I even hit pay-dirt in Carlisle a week or so in, having hit upon an Eloctrolux dealer/owner who offered to buy out all the meat on my truck if I would deliver it to her mom in Perry County.  Uhhh…Yes! Setting records my first week! Nice start.

Yet, I didn’t feel right about my pitch and process – hitting up unknowing retailers to try to offload the “extra” supplies I had.

It happened a few days later. I walked into a jewelry store in Lemoyne. The owner went ballistic on me once I started my pitch. And I went ballistic right back at him, defending my role and approach. He was wrong in the way he treated me and backed down a bit. I left.

Yet a day or two later, while pitching retailers in downtown Middletown, I hit the low point, coming to grips with the reality of my altercation with the jewelry store owner. He might have been wrong in his attitude toward me, but I felt deep-down that he was right as well. I was interrupting his business (though I’d always wait to be sure customers were taken care of) but I was there, in his business, with no intention of buying and every intention of selling. Once I fully grasped what I already felt, I stopped at a payphone – yes this was a few years ago – and called my wife and said, “I cannot do this anymore; I’m coming home.” She knew. 

If you sell or sold meat off the back of a truck at one point, you may have made it work in a good way, much like my “seasoned” trainer did. It just wasn’t for me. Didn’t feel right and certainly didn’t leave me fulfilled.

It’s important to have some passion for your role and to feel good about what you do and why you do it. It matters that you leverage your strengths in the process as you’ll find it easier and certainly more enjoyable and fulfilling. 

A few weeks later I found my next career and stayed 15 years in the printing industry with a great team, excellent owner support, and an opportunity to truly serve clients.  It was a great ride that offered me the experiences, relationships, and opportunities that led me to coaching and training – the best, most fulfilling and energizing role I’ve had to date.

And yet…I sure learned a lot by selling meat off the back of a pick-up truck.

Triggers

I have a chair in my office that has one overriding use. Reading.

This chair is one we bought for our daughter a few years ago. She knew I always loved it, and when she no longer needed it I got it! And it’s for reading only. 

When I get up in the morning, my first action is to get the coffee. Critical. My second action is to sit in my reading chair in my office. And I read something to help me improve – my business, my marriage, my faith, my disciplines. Growth-focused reading.

The chair is my trigger. Strange as it may seem, my mind knows that when I’m in this chair, I’m programmed to read. I’m not forced, not limited, not stressed. It’s just a trigger since I don’t do anything else there. At least not significant – I might check some email on my cell, or some mornings I’ll finish reading and meditate/rest for few minutes, but those all happen after reading. That’s the chair’s purpose – provide a place for reading.  And the reading is not leisure. I have multiple leisure reading spots – the couch, the deck swing, the porch chairs, the kitchen table, but not my “reading” chair – that’s for growth only!

I shared this at a business conference recently and another guy at our table quickly said that he has a nap blanket trigger. Might sound silly, but this guy has a specific blanket he whips out only for power naps. These are 10-20 minute naps that allow for excellent relaxation, refreshment and revitalization, without the sleepiness that follows longer, deeper naps. The blanket is only for that purpose, and he drifts off immediately when he uses it. A trigger. 

Another woman at the table shared that she can never nap, tried it but never got into it. Slept too long or didn’t at all – as her brain wouldn’t turn off.  Maybe she needs a trigger like he has. I think she missed that point entirely and will likely continue to struggle with this discipline until she finds the right trigger.

If you’re struggling with some discipline, perhaps you need a trigger. Something to set the stage for the action you want, something that is not confused with anything else.  Maybe a blanket for that power nap, or a reading chair, or a specific location or place where you meditate, reflect or strategize.  Power napping, reading, meditating and strategic thinking, we’d all likely agree, are excellent uses of time, but so inconsistently acted upon, if ever.

If you haven’t tried a trigger, maybe it’s time to create one.

Anchor Points

One of the very best lessons I learned on personal development was shared with me over 25 years ago. It’s clearly been one of the most influential habits for positive change in all kinds of important areas of my life – areas including my faith, my marriage, parenting, sales, and leadership.

Here’s the advice:  Read 15 minutes a day for 30 days out of a book that stretches my thinking in one of those key areas. Then, repeat.

Well, I’ve been in and out of this habit many times over the last 25 years, but mostly I’ve kept up with reading.  Yet, as recently as last year I doubled back on this daily habit of reading. I amended the advice to coincide with my workdays, so now it’s really about a 5 day a week habit.

And it’s made a massive difference. Why?

Beyond the obvious – knowledge…it helps by gaining a sense of daily victory, gaining self-confidence through self-discipline; it sets an excellent example; it’s congruent with the advice I give and hope to live. And so much more. But the daily impact is the real difference. Daily book learning raises my immediate awareness around the topic I’m attempting to learn. Easier that way. Plus it provides teaching opportunities – daily – and nothing reinforces learning as much as teaching.

Now to the problem.  Execution.

Reading is likely to be one of the more difficult habits you’ll ever develop because it’s so simple and easy NOT to do. You’ll plan it, intend it, but not do it, at least not consistently. Trust me. I’ve encouraged so many people over the years to build this life-changing habit and few have actually done it.

So let me suggest some of the best advice for execution of this habit, or any new habit, I’ve ever known.

Find “anchors” and fix that habit firmly to that anchor.

That’s why my reading commitment is only 5 days – workdays are anchors - because they’re relatively predictable. From there, I find the daily anchor that works best for me and fix reading to it. My best daily anchor is pretty simple and very predictable – waking up. If I ever miss that anchor, reading won’t really matter. So I wake up, get my coffee, go to my office, sit in my “reading” chair and read.  I have not checked email or any other social media at this point because that would separate reading from my anchor.  Not doing it.

Anchors are just one strategy for making habits stick. You’ve also got to believe in it, want it and have some self-discipline along the way. But the anchors help tremendously.  It’s so much nicer going through my day without carrying the weight of wondering when I’m going to do what I said I’d do – read.

Somebody once said, “We don’t determine our future, we determine our habits which determine our future”. So choose your habit. What one new habit would have the greatest positive impact in the next few months? Pick it – I might suggest reading! – and then find the anchor and hitch it up!

My challenge to you? – Read 15 minutes, 5 days a week, for 30 days, from a positive book. Up for it?

Not a 50/50 Marriage

My wife and I are coming up on our 27thwedding anniversary – as of this Friday, the 26thof May! Hard to believe it’s been 27 years!

I’m thankful that they’ve been excellent years, and hopefully, we’ll have endless more to go.  Reflecting on our marriage, I’m reminded of some great advice our friend and mentor offered us nearly 27 years ago…

Marriage is not 50/50; it’s 100/100. 

Simple as that sounds, it speaks to several things that I believe have contributed to what Amy and I both feel continues to be a wonderful marriage:

  1. Don’t keep score. If we’re focused on 100% giving, keeping score is unnecessary.
  2. Love is unconditional.  We each give 100% regardless of what the other is willing to give - it's not about looking for balance, just being willing to always give our best.  Kind of goes back to the scoring thing.
  3. We minimize or eliminate the danger of comparison.  While there are some things I do better, and definitely many things Amy does better to make our marriage thrive, we always strive to give all of us to it – 100%. No comparison – my contribution is not “more” or “less” than Amy’s. It’s 100%. Period.
  4. We’re both ALL IN. As opposed to HALF IN. All is better.

We have our issues and challenges, just like everyone else. But, this 100/100 mindset has proved to be a very healthy way to drive our relationship. 

In fact, it might just apply to other relationships as well. Imagine 100/100 in our sibling relationships, customer/client relationships or workplace contribution – the teamwork, synergy, and engagement would be remarkable!
Whatever the relationship, be all in, 100%. It’s just better.