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Makin’ stuff…

We live in an age of wonderment and among awesome people, true?  I mean just look at the inventions; the technology; the science; the creativity; the Shark Tank presentations.

Though not everyone reaches fortune and fame from awesome, we can still lead average, ordinary, common – fulfilling – lives.  I especially enjoy people that find fulfillment makin’ stuff.  Nice stuff; pretty stuff; practical stuff; if not some break-through-leading-to-fortune-and-fame stuff.  Stuff not presented on Shark Tank.

If awesome is reserved for the few; average; ordinary; common; are the adjectives applied to the many.  We benefit from the work of the awesome, to be sure.  But most of us lead a very average, ordinary, common, life.  Which is better?

It’s OK to day dream of fortune and fame.  We might day dream of riches associated with winning the lottery; picking the trifecta; making the big discovery; creating the next great invention; getting a “Shark” to invest.  But let’s not quit our day job in anticipation.

In fact, in their book Startup Opportunities Know When to Quit Your Day Job © the authors, Sean Wise and Brad Feld offer this opening chapter guidance:

Trust me; your idea is worthless.

They go on to articulate why mere ideas are worthless.  As successful venture fund founders, they don’t invest in ideas.  What attracts their money (and the money on Shark Tank) is people who can execute on ideas; people who are makin’ stuff.

We participated in the 2017 Tulsa Oklahoma State Fair – “11 days of awesomeness!”  as it was promoted.  And it was awesome!  Not just the midway; the events; the entertainment; and the critters.  It was the people – average, ordinary, common people – that made an awesome impression.

Some of these awesome people were vendors vending at the fair.  There was one vendor in particular that stood out above all others.  We passed them every morning on our way in at 9:00 am and they were working; makin’ stuff.  We passed them every evening on our way out at 10:00 pm and they were still working; makin’ stuff.  Two chainsaw carvers from Missouri turning logs into art and furniture.  Awesome!

I stopped by the morning of the last day to compliment them on being the hardest working artisans I have ever seen.  (We made a modest purchase too.)  The response from these average, ordinary, common men?   Just a shrug of modesty and the prideful perspective that often goes with makin’ stuff:

I can’t sell it if I didn’t saw it.

Chris Gagnon

My wife’s company takes equal pride in makin’ stuff; in her case, designer pet-wear for dogs, cats, and horses.  She even mixes in embroidered people-wear on occasion.  She too takes great pride in her work.  She too feels great fulfillment in makin’ stuff.

Beyond the financial remuneration, the worth from her business comes from interacting with all of the people that bring pictures and stories of their pets – more than simply pets – they’re their furry family members offering loving companionship.  And the joy her clients get buying that little special something for their critter matches the joy my wife gets in listening to the love of their pets they relate to her with each purchase.  Awesome!

I receive great fulfillment being around her, her clients, and their pets.  Reminders for we average, ordinary, common types:

Lord, help me be the man my dog thinks I am. 

Unknown Sage

Makin’ stuff – I don’t; and we won’t appear on Shark Tank.  But fulfillment surrounds those that do.  Awesome!

GAP

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Mediocre…

My colleague and I were arguing recently.  I thought a training class we delivered was mediocre.     He thought we did a great job.  Further he offered anything that was sub-par was not actually our fault because we were just delivering materials created by others.

Besides, our class attendees were multi-tasking on their phones and PC’s and out of the room to the point that they weren’t really “present” anyway.

The best that could be said about the event was, “No one quit; no one got hurt.”  That’s a low bar to set; I agree.  But did meaningful knowledge transfer take place?  Not a chance.

In summary; he felt our efforts in spite of others’ shortcomings made the class excellent.  We tried our best.  I felt we are responsible for the class.  Mediocrity is mediocrity – regardless of effort.  So here we were, expending more energy arguing about a class neither of us was proud of to begin with.

Perhaps such energy would have paid more dividends were it invested in improving the class – it would likely have been the same amount of effort:

Why should I try to build a great company?  I believe that it is no harder to build something great than to build something good.  It might be statistically more rare to reach greatness, but it does not require more suffering than perpetuating mediocrity. 

Jim Collins

I understand.  Not everything can be done with excellence.  Sometimes; somedays; we have all had one of “those” days.  Things simply don’t go right. And it’s bothersome for us all to suffer through perpetual mediocrity; many of us take it personally; take pride in our work.

We have been struggling to get this class perfected for several months now with only mediocre results to show for it – so far.  But mediocre is not what we stand for; we will get it right.

Only the mediocre are always at their best. 

Jean Girandoux

True; my colleague and I are mere mortals.  We make mistakes.  It’s hard to excel – that’s why they call it “excel”.  And I’m not so fanatical that I try to spoil everyone’s day (although sometimes I worry that I come close):

Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing. 

Harriet Beryl Braikes

So, after longer than a sprint but shorter than a marathon, I abandoned the argument.   My friendship and our working relationship are more valuable to me than trying to convince him.  But he knew I would not capitulate – that class was neither acceptable nor close to our team’s standard of excellence.

Maybe it is best simply to accept the fact that excellence upsets some people.  It always has and always will.  Live with it. 

Larry Bossidy

Where do we go from here?  I mean it’s the classic tree falling in the woods matter:  If we delivered a mediocre class; attended by people with a mediocre desire to learn; absent any quality check from our company’s executives  – indicating a mediocre level of interest in the class to begin with; does anybody hear it?

Perhaps after the class we should have enjoyed a nice dinner; imbibed in adult beverages; and invoked one of the blessings of my wife’s forefathers:

Irish Blessing:  May you never forget what is worth remembering, or remember what is worth forgetting. 

Unknown Sage

If I am right and our last class was mediocre; it isn’t worth debating and certainly isn’t worth remembering.

The next class?  We will get it right; or “die” arguing about it I suppose.

GAP

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Reasons…

I’m sorry for any typos in today’s post; my spell-checker wasn’t working.  And the post was late this morning because the power company had a blackout causing my alarm clock to malfunction.

When I (finally) arrived at the office I had to explain to my boss why my project really isn’t behind schedule.  No; the reason we’re waiting is I sent an email to the marketing department and they haven’t responded yet.  Oh, and now the Channel Manager is calling.  I bet she’s wondering why I haven’t responded to her emails yet.  Doesn’t she understand the reason is I’ve been so busy?  Today is already stacking up to be one of “those days”!

I can’t wait for lunch hour.  My wife packed me a healthy lunch of fruits and vegetables.  She just doesn’t appreciate the reason why I’m overweight is all of the pressure I’m under.  Besides, according to medical research, chocolate has a mood-soothing effect.

Now I have to jump on a conference call with the training team.  I can’t wait to hear their reasons for the bugs in the company’s machine learning initiative.  When we tried to log in and take our Level 1 course, the whole system crashed.  They said the reason was IT didn’t apply a software patch.

A friend of mine in IT said the reason why they didn’t apply that patch was they were told to wait until the training team updated materials in the course.  When the “fit hit the shan” our Business Unit President blasted the IT Manager!  He said our continued IT fowl-ups were the reason our stock price has been flat.

Come to think of it, now I will have to work a few more years than I wanted to before retiring.  My 401k account isn’t growing fast enough and the reason is obviously a combination of our flat stock price coupled with the national political mess.  Everyone knows the reason for our national crisis is those people supporting that other party.

And I know my wife is going to be mad because I want to watch the NFL game this weekend even though it’s her Aunt Ester’s wedding anniversary.  The reason why I don’t want to go to the anniversary party is the last time we played cards I think Aunt Ester purposely sabotaged our game so we would lose and leave so she could go to bed.

First Law of Bridge

It’s always the partner’s fault.

I understand – life can be a b%#*! sometimes.  But when we make a mistake, we don’t always have to have a reason why it wasn’t our fault.  We’re all in this together; we’re all impacted by Gerrold:

Gerrold’s Laws of Infernal Dynamics

An object in motion will always be headed in the wrong direction.

An object at rest will always be in the wrong place.

The energy required to change either one of the states will always be more than you wish to expend, but never so much as to make the task totally impossible.

And we all know about Murphy…

The New Math Version of Murphy’s Law

If there is a 50/50 chance of something going wrong, nine times out of ten it will.

Too many times, in too many instances – although I am wrong – I create some far-fetched reason why I am actually right.  Someone else or something else is convenient to blame.

Today, a little personal accountability might go a long way to getting me back on the right track.

Bridge anyone?

GAP

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The trial and error train…

My wife was updating me recently on the remaining 2017 schedule of events her company will be participating in.  Coordinating business schedules is a common routine among married couples these days, true?

She is pursuing new business development strategies this year – including a handful of new trade shows.  We discussed the commitment; the time; the money; the risk.  We speculated on the trial and error probabilities reflecting on 2016; trying to learn from past mistakes; trying to leverage past successes.

Every time any of us tries something “new”, it’s natural to speculate whether or not such newness will be successful.  And as we all know, almost every new thing (aka trial) involves the risk of failure (aka error).  But to succeed, we must be willing to press on – move forward in the face of possible failure.

Virtually any endeavor involves such risk – a job change; marriage; having children; launching a new product line; investing in new trade shows – almost every endeavor requires a willingness to accept the principles of trial and error.  There are occasional exceptions:

Von Helsing’s Theorem 

If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

But those are exceptions (and we’re not all sky divers).  For our more usual, daily adventures we press on; we overcome adversity; we risk failure in the pursuit of success – financial success to be sure; but family success; relationship success; fulfillment of life success.

Even when failing, we must follow White’s views along with those of White’s followers:

White’s Statement  Don’t lose heart… 

Owen’s Comment on White’s Statement  …they might want to cut it out… 

Byrd’s Addition to Owen’s Comment on White’s Statement … and they want to avoid a lengthy search.

So we jump on the trial and error train.  When we ride that train; when we persevere; many times great things are achieved.  Greatness as defined by financial success to be sure; but greatness has many dimensions – great families; great relationships; great levels of life’s fulfillment.

The tracks of the trial and error train lead to many destinations, some of which include expertise:

An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field. 

Niels Bohn

Is it worth it?  Do we like the destination that train is leading us to?  Some have lost hope certainly; not every station is called success.  It’s sad to see friends or family members fail; heck, it’s sad to see strangers fail.  Failure by accident; self-inflicted failure; failure from natural causes; even failure arising from acts of God as it’s labeled in the insurance field – all are sad.

Feeling sad or emphasizing or helping those that experience errors is one thing.  Pursuit of our success is something else.  We can and should do all, yes?

Fall down seven times.  Stand up eight. 

Japanese Proverb

It’s more than having a positive attitude and maintaining that “I can do it” outlook.  Trial and error is the train we take to success.  It may not be the only train; some are blessed with life’s fortunes almost without effort.  But that outcome is rare and that train is elusive.

So yes, we can rise today and hope buying the winning lottery ticket will result in fame, fortune and happiness.  Or, we can rise today; face the risks of trial and error; accept that these are the tracks toward success – financial success to be sure; but relationship success; family success; fulfillment of life success.

Life – all aboard!

GAP

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Memorable…

Today of course, is Memorial Day; begging the question, what makes it memorable for you?

When we google the origin of Memorial Day:

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

2017 finds some wishing to eradicate the memory of those men and women who died on the confederate side of the Civil War.  Is that the best way to honor what was at stake; what was gained; and what was lost 150 years ago?

2017 finds us all “drafted” into a twisted type of military service.  Our foes don’t pitch their armies against ours anymore.  Now it’s fanatics terrorizing innocent civilians.  Is this worth memorializing?

2017 finds a special election in Montana in the headlines as the statesmanship (or lack thereof) of a United States Representative is called into question as he chose violence over tolerance in a stressful moment.  Is that the government, “of the people; by the people; and for the people” our Founding Fathers had in mind?

2017 finds our extensive and seemingly ever expanding media continuously pounding “we the people” with everything that’s wrong with our way of life, true?  Violence; dishonesty; greed; disgraces of every kind – even involving celebrity media members themselves – nothing seems off limits to the shock value needed to compete for citizenship followership.  Memorable?

As we celebrate Memorial Day I am torn between what is worth remembering and what I’d sooner forget.  In 2017 one has to “effort” to stay focused on the positive things in our world in the face of unending bombardment of negativity, don’t you agree?

A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness. 

Elbert Hubbard

2017 finds us at this crossroads of what to remember and what to forget.  I mean, there will always be evil; wrong-doers; and negativity surrounding us.  In the history of humankind, there always has been.  2017 is no different.

So, in 2017 the real challenge becomes what do we do about it?  I came across this Monday Motivation that stimulated me to reflect on meeting the challenge; thanking those that positively influence my life – thought I would pass it along in case you didn’t see it:

https://twitter.com/MotivatorMonday/status/866536815913820160

2017 and Memorial Day reminds me to reflect on those who died in the cause of defending our way of life, to be sure.  I’m adding to my Memorial Day time to reflect on those who live and make my daily challenges easier to overcome.  Those are memorable and worthy of thanking, too.  And yes, you are on my list of those to thank – well at least most of you:

People who read me seem to be divided into four groups; Twenty-five percent like me for the right reasons; 25 percent like me for the wrong reasons; 25 percent hate me for the right reasons.  It’s the last 25 percent that worries me. 

Robert Frost

2017 and Memorial Day is our opportunity to stay positive; hopeful; grateful; civil; in the face of it all.  And our favorite, Unknown Sage reminds us of what “all” likely is:

Law of Probable Dispersal:

Whatever hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.

Distribution aside; in 2017 we have a choice over what is memorable; positive or negative.  What do you choose?

GAP

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To Dad…

Happy Father’s Day this coming Sunday!  Aren’t fathers and grandfathers great?  The memory of my father still brings a proud smile to my face (and my heart!).  If you’re lucky enough to have living fathers and grandfathers, give them a hug Sunday, OK?

There are many Father’s Day traditions – what’s yours?  The Westernaires’ White Olympics performance in Golden, Colorado is one (see www.westernaires.org ).  Ten year old kids performing western-style, precision drills to a small audience of families.  If you’re free on Father’s Day check out their performance – it’s free.

The fearlessness and composure of ten year olds amazes me!  When they’re in the saddle, they’re in charge, just like their Dads (sometimes).   Although these kids will be terrific riders within the next five years or so, those performing Sunday will only be capable of bringing a proud smile to their Dads’ faces (and hearts!).

From this man’s perspective, men certainly have an entertaining view of the world, don’t we?  Take Mike Jaeger’s point:

Tell a man there are 300 billion stars in the universe and he’ll believe you.  Tell him the plate you’re handing him is very hot and he’ll have to touch it to believe it.

And because my sons have children in their lives, I get to be the grandfather now!   Being the grandfather has responsibilities:

Sometimes the only difference we can make is passing our wisdom on to someone else who will make the bigger difference. 

Linda B. Gray

The older I get the more appreciative I am of the love and devotion I received from my father.   He wanted his sons to make a difference.  He wanted us to be patient with some of his quirkiness too.  I remember after my Mom died, my Dad ate his dinners at the hospital cafeteria two blocks from his house.  It might have been for the convenience; maybe for the memory of the last place he saw his wife alive.

He ate dinner there every evening for over twenty years.  So long, that the employees all thought Al Pokorn actually worked there.  One summer, he was even invited to their company picnic!  I didn’t mind this quirky charade.  But when he won the TV in the employee raffle, I told him he had to give it back!

We are all a little quirky I suppose.  Today when my children use one of my little sayings, or demonstrate a family value or tradition that has been passed down from father to son, it brings a proud smile to my face (and my heart)!

Hopefully, our children and their children will carry on the values and traditions we learned from our fathers and our fathers’ fathers.    For us Dads, this is one of life’s most satisfying accomplishments.

Who was, it Mickey Mantle?  I think he said:

If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself.

Of course, someday our little angels may turn on us; they’ll want to take away our car keys before sending “Gramps” to a nursing home.  And when that day comes we’ll think of our forefathers again:

When I die, I want to die like my Grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep.  Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.

Unknown Sage

Brings a smile to my face (and my heart!).

So here’s to my Dad; and your Dad; and everyone’s Dad across the world.  They have helped us all make a difference – a tradition to be passed down.

GAP

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Our Loans to Repay…

Happy Memorial Day in advance everyone!

Next Monday is an occasion to celebrate America – our America – our nation of great opportunity and great diversity, yes?  Even though our country and our cultures are addressing many difficulties, Monday is a day to celebrate our blessings and our future possibilities.

On any other day, it’s easy to get mired in everything that seems to be wrong with America.  What concerns you the most? Politics?  The economy?  Health care?  World peace?   Airport security lines?  Lots of opportunities for worry, fear, frustration, and anger, I suppose.

Conservation of our Earth for future generations is another difficulty – and periodic hotbed of debate.  Nothing new about this however; it is a topic dating back to our country’s original landlords:

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children. 

Native American proverb

Do you believe we’re experiencing (and contributing to) global warming?  If we are, what can each of us individually do about it?  Will our children feel the same way about lending us their Earth as we do about inheriting our Social Security trust fund?  (Not much “trust” in the use of that trust fund is there?)

But Monday is a holiday and a time for celebration not worries; for national pride not fear; for appreciation not anger.  Monday, we Americans can celebrate the interesting, diverse, and humorous lifestyle others have enriched us with as noted by our favorite, Unknown Sage:

Only in America…

can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

Only in America…

are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink.

Only in America…

do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front.

Only in America…

do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke.

Only in America…

do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to  the counters.

Only in America…

do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.                

Only in America…

do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.

Only in America…

do we use the word “politics” to describe the process so well: “Poli” in Latin meaning “many” and “tics” meaning  “bloodsucking creatures.”

Only in America…

do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.

Yes, only in America.  And in America, Memorial Day is a day to celebrate our country and the men and women of our armed forces who have preserved a country where cultures of diversity come together unlike any other place on Earth.  It’s a time to salute our service men and women; present and past; who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our optimism and way of life.

A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities;

an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties. 

Reginald B. Mansell

We all benefit today from those who overcame difficulties before us.  But what are we making of our opportunities?  And what opportunities (and difficulties) will we leave for our future generations?

Monday, let’s be optimistic and enjoy the holiday.  Then we’ll go back to work Tuesday – working to overcome our difficulties; working to leverage our opportunities; working to preserve our way of life for future generations; working to pay back the loan on our planet Earth to our children.

GAP

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