Relax into Success

Relax into Success

Have you ever had a looming deadline that was approaching fast? One you’ve had plenty of time to address but for some reason you just couldn’t get focused to make the progress you desired?  It’s a common situation – work, home or school – they all place expectations on us to deliver, typically by a specific date and time.

I’m not a procrastinator! In school I was the one that started on the project when it was assigned and while working at Procter & Gamble I met new challenges head on. I found myself in a rare situation last week while on vacation with Anita in Pagosa Springs, Colorado – I had entered the Toastmasters International Speech competition and did not have a speech written NOR rehearsed 3 days before the competition.

Anita and I spent 5 days in beautiful Pagosa Springs, situated at an altitude of about 8600 ft in the San Juan Mountains. Pagosa is the home to the largest natural hot springs in the country. After dinner we watched movies and headed to the springs right before they close in the evenings to relax in the pools of warm water (we like the ones that are between 102 – 107F) while enjoying the beautiful winter evenings together.

On our last evening we watched the movie Air Force One before heading to the springs. The final scene in which Harrison Ford is pulled aboard the rescue plane has always been one of my favorites. While relaxing in the Tranquility pool while waiting for Anita I reflected on the message and the speech I’d yet to write. I had a potential title for my speech and wondered if I could fit the learning from the movie into a speech topic.

Anita arrived and my focus changed to enjoying our time together. It had been unseasonably warm during our stay but a big storm was predicted for the following morning – exactly as we’re scheduled to be driving over Wolf Creek pass at 10,876 ft! On our way back to the condo, Anita suggested that we shower and pack the car to get a jump on the drive. We were both anxious to return home so that sounded like a great idea. We left Pagosa at 1:15 AM with the intention of stopping in Alamosa 2 hours away. After reaching Alamosa I was fully awake and proposed that we make a run for Colorado Springs about 3 hours away. Anita agreed and off we drove.

The next section of the drive is flat, with very few cars so the driving was very easy. We were listening to Classic Vinyl on XM radio and my mind returned to Air Force One and my speech. Suddenly the speech became clearer in my head and I started rehearsing it to myself in the car. I went through it once, provided myself some constructive feedback and went through it again. Sure I stored it a few times to chat with Anita or sing a great song, but the combination of a relaxing soak in the hot springs, the relief of getting over the pass before the storm, listening to music I enjoy and pleasant conversations with Anita allowed me to relax myself into a great speech.

I delivered the speech I created in the car at my TV Toastmasters meeting 2 days later and won the competition! I’ll be trying this technique again, relieving my mind of the stress to deliver and relaxing into success. Do you think it’ll work for you as well?

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The Path to Greatness

The Path to Greatness

I’ve been working on the web site for the Society of Home Business Owners for months in preparation for a January 1st launch date. The web site integrates a number of different applications together under a single domain name, making integration of the pieces quite complex.  To add to the complexity, the source code for the main application is encrypted so that it cannot be viewed or modified.

I knew a paid web site requiring members to login multiple times was unworkable and was able to convince the company that owns the source code for the main application to release the source code I needed to integrate it with the other tools. I’m not a web programmer, but do have experience with programming and took the challenge. It didn’t take me long to determine this task was WAY over my head so I contracted a programmer to provide a solution for me. He “played” with it for almost 6 weeks before finally throwing up his keyboard and telling me he could not complete the project (I’m seeing this a lot).

He provided me with his work in process to pass to another programmer. I took a look and thought “This can’t be too tough, why not give this another go?” That was in SEPTEMBER and this “challenge” has been kicking my you know what ever since. I’ve literally invested 100’s of hours (we’ll discuss how wise this was later) in trying to make it work. Every week I’d get a little closer, providing me hope that completion was just around the corner.

Today the integration is complete and working successfully! There were plenty of low point in the process (yesterday for example) where I was ready to give up and at one point I even got a quote from the vendor that provided me the source code to complete the project – $850 to enhance a solution I only paid $97 to use!

Looking back I’m the first to agree that this was a poor use of my time. My partner and I are in the process of writing not one but two books about working from home, while building a business advisory board to support the members of the Society of Home Business Owners as well as create content for the web site and a monthly newsletter. For those of you that thought “retirement” involved lounging on the beach some place sipping a cool drink – think again!

While completing the web site integration may not have been a smart business choice, it has provided me with even more confidence that I’m able to accomplish EVERYTHING I set my mind to; that I’m only limited by what I ask of myself and visualize in my mind.

It’s freeing to know I can face tough challenges and overcome them with vision, discipline and perseverance. What obstacles have you allowed to block your path to greatness?

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Willingness To…

Willingness To…

As we wrap up Thanksgiving (are all the leftovers gone?), head for the holidays and the start of 2011 it’s a good time to take stock of what I’m grateful for in my life. Certainly I’m grateful for my health, the love of my wife Anita, work that excites and challenges me to be more, a loving family, great friendships, food on the table, a roof over my head, a fabulous country in which to live and so much more.

It’s easy to rattle off a list of stuff for which I’m grateful. I have been blessed with so very much, but after getting past the list, I feel there’s something deeper. Something that has molded me and made we who and what I am today – willingness.

  • Willingness to do what’s right.
  • Willingness to not say what’s on my mind.
  • Willingness to love and to be loved by others.
  • Willingness to nurture a relationship with a God of my understanding.
  • Willingness to give back what has been so graciously given to me.
  • Willingness to get out of myself and to serve others.
  • Willingness to open my mind to new possibilities.
  • Willingness to listen.
  • Willingness to serve.
  • Willingness to do what at first seems difficult then becomes comfortable and eventually feels effortless.
  • Willingness to ask for help.
  • Willingness dream, to imagine what can and will be.
  • Willingness to expose myself to you for it’s through sharing who I truly am that I see it reflected back to me.

The things, the people and circumstances can all change (in many cases I pray they do). I used to believe I wanted consistency in my life, to get into a groove and to stay there. Now I realize that the groove is a form of a mini grave. One that buries me from all that life has to offer.  For I know that with a willingness to serve, to grow and to care for others I’ll have more blessing than I could ever count.

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Don’t Sell Out!

Don’t Sell Out!

Today was my final day working for Procter & Gamble – 24 years!  I took a separation package and qualify for “special” retirement; meaning I’m entitled to pay for P&G retiree health care vs. having to fund it myself – a real bonus!! 

I’m 47 and in no position financially to “retire” with the lifestyle that I deserve (I deserve the very best – how about you?)!  At my retirement party yesterday everyone asked – “What’s next Rick?”  Here’s what I can recall from the story I related during my retirement speech.

“During the winter of 1983/84 I was desperately seeking employment at an hourly rate greater than the $2.65 / hr I was earning as a lifeguard.  I sent over 200 resumes’ to company’s all over America looking for summer work, but nothing!  VERY late in the school year I received a telephone call from a gentleman at Allen-Bradley in Milwaukee.  He was interested in hiring me to write programs in a language I didn’t know but was certain I could master it quickly because I knew Pascal.  At $10.50 / hr my reply was direct and concise – “I’ll see you Monday!” 

When looking for employment for the following summer (I was on the 4.5 year plan), my experience stated that I was a programmer and that’s exactly what I did – wrote programs for a defense contractor while living at home.  When it came time to find a permanent position – guess what I was qualified to do?  No surprise, write programs and that’s exactly what P&G hired me to do.  

I turned a desperate need for summer income into a 24 year career!!  No plan, no strategy, no secret decoder ring, just a college student’s need to fund his education.

On February 18, 1986 I started with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, OH at one of their technical centers.  On my way to work the first day the pin holding the clutch pedal together in my new car sheared off, making it impossible to shift gears.  I coasted to a gas station at the bottom of the hill and in my panic locked my keys in my car!!  Here I was in a new city, with no friends, no phone numbers and no jacket in the middle of winter.  I didn’t even really know how to get to the office, I thought I’d recognize the turns when I saw them.  1986 was back in the day when new employees were celebrated with a coffee cart.  Someone from the cafeteria would bring a cart with coffee and pastries and at a pre-determined time everyone would gather to welcome the new employee – unfortunately I did not make it!

I walked a mile to a bus stop on the first major road of my journey and took it to the top of the hill.  Recognizing the turn I pulled the cord and asked the driver when the next bus was scheduled down North Bend Avenue.  He said one should be along any minute.  In between cursing my luck and the weather while walking down North Bend Avenue I thought about the heights to which I would ascend on the corporate ladder, my accomplishments along the way and the places I would see and experience.  

Retiring as a Band II means I missed 4 of those rungs on the Corporate Ladder but we were able to accomplish a lot.  I traveled to four continents on a P&G expense account and had the opportunity to see and do things that most people only dream.  I’ve worked side-by-side with many of you and on one start-up in Manchester, England logged 205 hours in 2 weeks.  I know because I had to sign the timesheet for the person who accompanied me.  Every single meal on that trip came from the mini bar in the hotel, the vending machine at the plant or a convenience store on the way back to our room.  

Many of you know that I’ve actively worked a home business for the past 16 years in an effort to work myself out of my “day” job at P&G.  My career with Procter & Gamble gave me the opportunity to try, learn, fail and try again; never giving up on those dreams I had on that cold winter day walking down North Bend Avenue (I walked the entire way, about 6 miles arriving a few hours late for work.  Frozen and without my coffee cart).  Those skills have perfectly positioned me to assist others achieve their dreams through promoting the Body by Vi Challenge.

Each of us is here for a specific purpose.  When God made you he broke the mold.  There will never be another person with your skills and talents.  What’s your dream?  Don’t give up on them, hold them close and use your imagination to keep them alive in your mind.  Don’t give up and settle but continue to strive for what you want.”

Or something like that.  I almost broke down crying by the time it was over and I saw a few people feeling the emotions as well.  Maybe they’ve sacrificed their dreams for convenience, selling them to the highest bidder.  Don’t sell out; keep your dreams clear and fresh in your mind.  Step out and make your mark for if you don’t YOUR mark will never be made!!

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So Blessed

So Blessed

I celebrated a birthday last week – 47 years old for those of you that lost track (That list includes my parents, by vocalizing my age I think it reminds them of their age).

I schedule a physical with my lab coat doctor (my “primary care” physician who only sees me once a year for my annual physical) in the month of May as my “celebration” of health to get some lab tests and have my prostate examined (half of all cancer in men is 1 finger deep).  He gave me a clean bill of health, but failed to note that my LDL cholesterol is high!  This past year I got my total cholesterol below 200 and lost 6 pounds (I fit comfortably in size 34 pants, my ultimate test for my weight)! 

I do “feel my age” more than I used to.  Recall from a previous post that Anita and I are tending to the lawn care responsibilities again.  I especially feel it after kneeling, stooping, reaching and doing all kinds of other tasks that I used to do with ease.  My back tends to ache a bit more (I guess I should have paid more attention to good posture as a teen) but I do some exercises for my lower back that I discovered on the internet which help tremendously. 

Exercising irregularly as I do tends to produce more aches and pains than sculpted body parts.  Anita and I are making a point to walk more.  I enjoy the time together, no TV, no computer, just the two of us talking (that’s a novel concept) and walking for health.  We get a bit carried away at times and boy are my tendons and calves tight the next day.  I’ve discovered another exercise to stretch them out (I realize stretching before and after walking would be a better idea).

I have a BIG list of things I intend to accomplish in life, places I’ll visit, experiences I’ll share and people I’ll meet but I have so many things for which I’m truly grateful the other pales in comparison.  In our instant gratification society, where blame is placed elsewhere until proven in a court of law, where stories of doom and gloom top the headlines and people look to others to provide their basic necessities for life it’s hard to stay focused on the things we enjoy every day, the blessings that are shared with us so abundantly.

What are you grateful for today?  Start a list, write it down; tell someone you value them.

Here’s today’s top 10 for which I’m so truly grateful:

  1. A relationship with God.
  2. My health.
  3. The opportunity to share my life with someone I love dearly, my wife Anita (sorry honey today you’re #3).
  4. The love of so many family and friends.
  5. Living in the best country in the world with freedoms and opportunities many only dream of having.
  6. The willingness to try new things.
  7. A willingness to say I’m sorry (when the new things don’t go as planned).
  8. A kind heart to reach out to others to let them know they matter.
  9. Confidence in myself with a feeling of unrealized expectation (I’m retiring from my career at Procter & Gamble the end of the month).
  10. File drawers with empty space (I spent Saturday doing some spring cleaning).  Maybe this is better phrased “A willingness to release things that no longer add value to my life”.

Who can you call today to tell them they’ve made a difference?  

All the things that really matter in life are FREE – our mind, our health, our family, our relationships, our goals and dreams, our lives!

When I get caught up in the doom and gloom of it all, when I’ve got a big challenge that’s been placed directly in front of me, when I allow things outside my control to affect my attitude reflecting on the things for which I’m grateful puts everything back in perspective.  Refocuses and reenergizes me on what’s right in my life, takes me to a place of peace and serenity that was so easy to lose.

Give it a try, what’s the worst thing that can happen?  The pain, fear, anger or other destructive emotion will be there waiting for you.  Open your eyes to the abundance you have in your life and be grateful for it!

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Right or Happy?

Right or Happy?

Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?

I’ve discovered the answer to this question depends on the situation.

I recall an event years ago when my granddaughter Mia was 2 years old.  She was visiting me at my townhouse during a garage sale.  Many of the products were in the driveway to provide visibility to drivers as they passed.  I lived on a small bend in the road which limited visibility to vehicles coming from one direction.

Mia was in the mood to play and wanted me to chase her as we waited for customers in the blistering summer heat.  As she headed for the road I shouted – “Mia STOP!”  She did not…Fortunately there were no cars passing at the time.  As I tried to catch her to make my point, she continued to run through and across the road. 

After finally catching her I sat her down and explained that it was very important that she do as I requested; that as her care giver (for the afternoon) that I had responsibility for her well-being and that I was aware of dangers that she had yet to experience.  Her rebuttal was that single word that forces parents and grandparents to thoughtfully think through their requests – “Why?”  She responded to every new comment or request with the same response – “Why Pop?” I could have let it go, but figured this was an opportunity for a teaching moment, one that she may remember.  So I persisted in my quest to be right.

Roll forward almost 12 years to Easter weekend 2010.

Anita and I made a choice this year to drop our lawn service and to care for the grass ourselves.  It used to be something we often did together and we decided we’d like the opportunity to work on a projects that we can both contribute, and so the lawn service was fired and we accepted the challenge.

It was a beautiful weekend in Cincinnati and as we ate brunch outside I asked what her plans were for the day and when we could start the grass.  We had plans to grill chicken for dinner and wanted to do so before it got dark.  We also wanted a chance to clean-up before dinner and calculated that we should begin the lawn no later than 3:00 PM. 

If my 4 years at a manufacturing facility taught me anything, it taught me that darn near anything can happen.  So I wear steel toe shoes, safety glasses, leather gloves and hearing protection (as required) when working in the yard.  Anita has no steel toe shoes and doesn’t like to wear safety glasses.  She also doesn’t like to mow around obstacles and requested that I “outline” the yard for her so she can do the “straight” parts.

At 3:20 PM I changed clothes and headed outside.  I ran the weedwacker – no Anita.  I “outlined” the yard with the mower – no Anita.  By now I has been outside for well over a hour and I was certain that she could tell time.  As my frustration level rose I found myself having difficulty keeping my mind off the fact that she was late and hadn’t come out to help.

What the heck, I’ll keep going with the mower.  It’s a beautiful day, a good excuse to stay outside.  The spring grass was tall and required me to empty the mower bag frequently.  As I started the mower for the final section, I look up to see Anita ready to help – no gloves, no safety glasses, in sneakers to mow the most difficult portion (the hill in the front).  I literally needed 3 additional minutes to complete the yard and waved her off – she stormed away mad.

After emptying the grass clipping I yelled into the house for her to come to the garage door and asked her if she would refill my water.  When she came into the garage we had an exchange of words that left me feeling like an alien had replaced her since our brunch conversation about a 3:00 PM start time.

She stayed to help put away the equipment and trim some plants while I cleaned up a few areas outside.  When I met her back inside the house, she claimed that she never committed to a 3:00 PM start time and was upset that I did not come get her when it was time to start.  Having spent time in Japan I should have realized that agreement does not always mean consent (but I wasn’t aware that she had visited Japan).  Our house isn’t that big and with the windows open it should have been VERY obvious that I had started the lawn, but…She had a different perspective and was adamant that she had never agreed to begin at 3:00. 

So…We agreed on a new strategy – communication!

I spent most of the time mowing the grass going over and over in my mind how I was right and exactly what I was going to say to prove it!  I did spend some time trying to come up with a way to phrase it in the most caring, loving way, but guess what?  My speech went straight out the window when the time of confrontation was upon me.

I spent the afternoon outside on a beautiful spring day, no one was injured while working in the yard, we had a nice grilled chicken dinner AND in the end it wasn’t about being right, it was about being happy.

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