Luck is the By-Product of Busting Your Fanny

Our Sunday meal this past weekend at the local Chinese food restaurant ended with the kid’s favorite pastime…the opening of fortune cookies.  We each take turns ripping open the plastic wrapper, breaking the sugar-laden treat, and giggling about the words inside.

What is your fortune?

This week, the small fortune in my cookie represented a long-held principle of mine for finding a successful work-life balance:

Luck is the by-product of busting your fanny.

When it comes to family, I cannot tell you how many times that some one meets our children and the words blurt out: “Wow! Your children are so well-behaved.  You are so lucky!

I don’t want to be a downer, but I totally disagree with those words.  First, our children are the same as yours.  They scream. They cry. They whine. They hit. They poop, pee and puke…anytime…anywhere! Did I say they scream?  Not a day goes by without my wife or me saying, “UGGGGHHHH!”

Second, it’s not luck.  We work very hard to be purposeful in our parenting.  We want to instill character and integrity in them.  We teach them virtues like patience, including workable definitions for even the young ones to understand.  We practice “sit time” in the home so they know how to sit still in real life situations.  If they say something wrong, we make them say the correct words…over and over again…until they say it correctly.  (Translation: “Yes ma’am.”)  Even when a child decides to throw trash in the middle of the living room, it is guaranteed that we will make them pick it and throw back down ten times just to teach them a hard lesson.

The same goes for your work life.  Most successful businessmen and businesswomen that I know are “bust your fanny” hard workers.  Sure, there are a few exceptions who were born with the silver spoon in their mouth, but most entrepreneurs have a strong work ethic. They are willing to go into work early.  They are willing to stay late in the evening.  They are willing to teach others how to do it right, even when it is sometimes easier to do it themselves.  They are willing to walk in a room full of strangers and get over their fears by extending a hand with a warm smile.  All of these take hard work.

Now, if you want to have a healthy family life and maintain a successful career, it is going to take a lot more than luck. Even though it will be difficult, when you reach balance, you will find comfort. In what Seth Godin calls the hard parts, “it’s the difficult work that’s worth doing. It’s worth doing because difficult work allows you to stand out, create value and become the one worth choosing.”

Questions: Do you think people are just lucky in success?  Other than “hard work” what else contributes to success?  Please leave a comment here.

Image: Tom Giebel

Five Tips to Plug Back Into Work After a Vacation

Last month, we drove 20 hours to Santa Fe, New Mexico as part of our family vacation.  On the way home, my wife snapped this picture of the beautiful New Mexico sunrise.  It was a peaceful moment amid the soft little snores of children in the back of the van.

2013-06-22 05.49.30

And while most people would enjoy that scenery, my mind raced with questions resulting from being away from the office for so long (… a whole week…).  What about all the missed phone calls?  What about the documents that needed reviewing?  What about the articles that needed to be written?  What about the . . . ?

Plug Back In.

If you are one of those people who can easily turn on and off their working mind, then you probably need to read no further.  But if you need some help plugging back into work after a vacation, here are a few ideas:

  1. Plan a “transition” day before your “work” day.  If you have to be back to work on Monday, then do whatever is possible to schedule a day between your end of travel and your return to work.  This will allow you to unpack and unwind.  This will allow you some downtime as you “recover” from your vacation before you start back at the office.
  2. Map out your “work” day during your “transition” day.  After you had time to recover from your travel demands, find a quiet corner in the house and plan what you are going to do when you return to the office.  Pick a time when you will go into the office, pick out your clothes, and pack your beans and rice if you are on the Dave Ramsey lunch protocol.  Don’t waste time on your first day back at work getting “ready” when you can do so on your “transition” day.
  3. Start your “return to work” earlier than usual.  Set you alarm a couple hours earlier on the first day back.  Beat your co-workers into the office, which will allow you to acclimate to the work environment.  Don’t jump into the piles of work just yet, but plan how your day is going to transpire.
  4. Meet the team with smiles.  Whether your team consists of just you and one assistant or a larger group of people, set aside water cooler time or chat time.  Use one window of time to talk about your vacation.  And then return to your office and shut the door.
  5. Mark you exit time.  Can that be right on your first day back?  Yes.  Unless absolutely necessary due to a deadline, you don’t need to work until midnight on your first day back.  If you set a deadline for leaving the office, it will give something to look forward to during the day.

The first day back after a vacation is often the hardest. If you are like me, these are all great “ideas” for returning to work. But if we want to find that proper work-life balance, then we should try them out.

What do you do to plug back into work after a vacation?

Work-Life Balance Takes More Than Good Intentions and a Plan

It was past 7:00 pm last Friday and the office was empty.  I had already been at work for 12 hours and I was utterly discouraged by the large stack of papers on my desk, as well as the ever-increasing list of things that still needed to be complete. My wife called and gave me a “free pass” to stay at work as late as I needed to get things done. But in the end, I knew I needed to get home to spend some time with my family.  You see, all this talk about work-life balance means nothing if I am filled only with good intentions and a plan.

Action

I had to act, and I had to act quickly.

I packed up my bag and shuffled out the door.   As I was driving home, I thought about the things that need to occur for me to successfully juggle a career and a healthy family lifestyle. While these may be true for every venture (whether business or personal), there are three simple steps:

  • Desire. Unless you married a pterodactyl (…yes, that is the correct spelling…), or unless your child’s nickname is “Denis the Menace”, most workaholics have the desire to change.  We have all heard about the guy on his death bed who never said, “I really wished I had spent more time at work.”  The reason why that analogy resonates with each of us is because we don’t take the time to slow down and think about our desires.  We are too concentrated on the goal of the day, the challenge at work, the next big business deal. But if you slow down and get to the heart of the matter, most will say they wish they had more balance in their life.
  • Plan. Many people fail at this juncture because they do not know what a plan entails.  It is this simple…Pen, Paper, Write: “Once a week for the next four weeks, I will be home by 5:30 to eat dinner with my wife and kids.  After dinner, we will go on a walk (or read a book) (or jump on the trampoline) (or…anything other than watch TV or a movie).”  A plan is nothing more than directing where your time will be spent.
  • Action.  You cannot stop with good intentions and a plan…you must act.  That is why planning is so important because if you set your plan at a level you cannot reach, then the choice of non-action becomes easier than action.  So long as you press forward with your plan, no matter how small a step of action it is, you will be one step closer to finding work-life balance.

My suspicion is that we all get stuck at one of these steps.  A plan with action and no desire soon fizzles out.  A heart-filled passion without a plan often hits it the target of no where because no planning was done.  And as a juggling spouse, all of your desires and plans to spend more time with the family do not mean a thing if you never get through the exit door at work.

Question: Desire, Plan, or Action…Where’s your downfall?

All Hell Breaks Loose at Home and You’re Busy At Work: What Next?

All hell breaks loose…can he say that in a blog post?  Yep, and I am not talking about the Eminem song featuring Dr. Dre.  I am talking about the phone call you receive from your spouse in the middle of the day and you just hear in their voice that something is wrong.  You want to help out, but frankly you are in the middle of putting out fires at work.  What can (or should) you do?

phone

Air expectations.

This means you and your spouse should openly talk about “bothering” each other.  In my marriage, my wife has often said that she does not call me because she is afraid of “bothering” me at work.  Whereas, I have a different expectation: I won’t let you bother me.  Sounds harsh, but let me explain that a little better.  I often have told my wife: “Call me any time. If  I am busy or not there, I won’t answer the phone. If I can talk, I will answer the phone.  If it is an emergency, text me and left me know it is an emergency.”  Over the years, by airing our expectations, we have gotten better in communicating about emergencies.

Answer if possible.

If you can answer the phone, then answer the phone.  There have been times (… I hope she is not reading this…) that her number came up on Caller-ID and I did not want to answer the phone.  I may not have been working on something at that particular moment, but I was sure that I did not want to talk to anyone.  You’ve been there…I know.  Anyway, it just takes a minute to answer the phone and ask them if you can call them back.  If you are kind with your words, then they will certainly understand.  If it is something important, then you will be glad you answered the phone.

Avoid the minimizing.

Sometimes all hell breaks loose at home and, since you are not there, you don’t fully appreciate and understand the stress on the other end of the line.  In fact, this happened today.  I heard kids screaming in the background, but there was a chilling monotone in my wife’s voice, as she said:

“Can you talk?”  Of course.

“I need help.”  This sounded really serious.

“Your son bit himself and blamed his brother.  That’s devious of him and I am so distraught.”  I laughed.

That was the wrong response.  I actually said the words, “Whew, I thought it was something serious.”  In the end, my wife just wanted some encouragement and I (wrongfully) minimized her problem.  I should have saved my humorous words for tonight’s pillow talk.  But, I messed up.  Don’t minimize your spouse’s feelings.

Attend emergencies.

So what happens if the call is truly a family emergency?  You need to do whatever is necessary to attend to the emergency.  If you are in a staff meeting, they will excuse you.  If you are on a client conference call, it can be rescheduled.  Even if you are in a court hearing or in the middle of a momentous marketing pitch, they will (or should) understand.  If they do not, then you may have to make a choice between family and work.  And I suspect depending on the emergency, you will make the right choice.

Question: What do you do when all hell breaks loose?

Image: Victor1558

What Does Patience Mean to You? Here’s A Good Definition.

We teach our kids about patience almost everyday.  Go ahead, ask them.  And if you do, you will hear them recite our family definition of patience: “Waiting for something you want without crying, complaining or getting angry.” From our oldest to the young toddler, they all know the definition.

 Patience

But what happens when mom or dad are not patient?

What happens when we cry, complain or get angry while we are waiting on something? We need to learn a lesson in patience.  As some of you recall, we had some major complications with our latest pregnancy.

Why am I saying we?  I mean, she.  If I could take away the pain from her, I would do it immediately.

But there she was, sitting up all night, wincing with each movement, mumbling and praying for an answer.  If I was awake and I actually heard her, I would roll over and place my hand on her shoulder.   I whispered, “What can I do?”

The silence told me nothing.

Exhaustion turned to frustration, which turned to anger.  I was whining, complaining and getting angry on the inside.  Every now and then it creeps out of my lips.  And I am reminded of my kids’ lesson on patience.

That sounds like good advice for a child wanting to tell you about their day the second you arrive home from work.  It can buy you a few more minutes until (or even postpone) the evening story because you are simply too tired.   Have you been there?  What can you do to find your own patience?

  1. Time out. Not in the “punishment” manner, but in the “set yourself aside” and take a break from your circumstances.  Perhaps you need the “time out” as you pull your car into the driveway after a long day of work.  Perhaps you need the “time out” as the kids are whining about how hungry they are just before the meal is placed on the table.  No matter the circumstances, take a “time out” from the circumstance.
  2. Meditate or pray. In his pain, King David was crying to the Lord with his voice?, and He answered from His holy mountain. Do you know what happened next?  David said, “I laid down and slept. I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.”  (Ps 3:4-5)  David could have had sleepless nights, but in his rebellion he slept peacefully because he prayed to the Lord, and those prayers were answered.
  3. Substitute your wait. Accept the fact that patience requires a time of waiting.  If you expect, plan and prepare for that time of waiting, you can begin to avoid the onset of complaints or anger.  For my wife during the evening, it means offering the children an alternative to whining as they wait for dinner, such as: “Sweetie, I want you think of the story you are going to share with the family during dinner time.  That will give Mommy time to finish preparing the food.”  The same goes for us.

Question: When are you most impatient? What do you do to find comfort?

Parent Leader: Somewhere Between Dictator and Welcome Mat

We just survived my birthday weekend.  I say “weekend” because I like to stretch out the festivities as much as possible…Dad’s Birthday Breakfast, Dad’s Birthday Lunch, Dad’s Birthday Afternoon Snack, Dad’s Birthday Dinner, Dad’s Birthday cake (…and cupcakes…), and even this morning, Dad’s Birthday Sleep-in-and-go-to-work-late.  My birthday was last week, though.

Mia Helping Daddy Make Cake

That joy this weekend was also littered with the regular challenges of parenthood. Bills stacked up on the counter, light bulbs out in 10 sockets, children fighting over how much of Dad’s cake they got, and my lovely wife just wanting a few moments of silent. These are the circumstances when the Daddy … a real man … has to step up to fulfill his role as Parent Leader. And that place is somewhere between dictator and welcome mat. Here is what I mean:

  • A parent leader is not a dictator. Too often, I confuse Christianity as a “well behaved” person and I think my job is to raise little “well behaved” persons. My job is to teach them to love the Lord with all their heart, mind and strength. My wife often reminds me that a good leader leads … not dictates. Understanding this concept, childhood discipline from the parent is more like a boundary that keeps the child on the right track, rather than a bouncer who strongholds the kid back into place.
  • A parent leader is not a welcome mat. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a number of parents in today’s society who simply want to “friend” their children in the FaceBook game of life. Love and devotion to your children should not be mistaken as a license to have a chummy, “BF” or pal relationship with them. You cannot let your children (or their friends) walk all over you like a welcome mat. Practically, this means: you are the parent, they are the child. Don’t blur the distinction.
  • A parent leader is somewhere in the middle. I can’t tell you exactly where that middle spot is located because we are trying to find that right balance. In our family … each family is different … I tend to be the dictator and my wife tends to be the welcome mat. Here’s the thing, we realize that we need to run to the middle. My wife prays for strength to be more rigid in what she will allow the kids to say and do during the day. I pray for strength not to crush the kids’ spirits after I walk into the house following a long, hard day.

Are you a parent leader? As you look at the sincerity of your heart, ask yourself whether you are “provoking your children to anger” or are you “bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:7)

A Faith Lesson From Three (Not Two) Cinnamon Rolls

For many years now, I have met with a group of other men on an early morning weekday to bond, and to talk, and to vent, and to simply lean on each other. One time, as I was packing up the last three cinnamon rolls from breakfast, I half-heartedly joked, “These three will go to the homeless.”  I say half-heartedly because I don’t know that I had any real intention of finding someone who would want the leftovers.

Gotta love the bacon in this tasty treat.

After a morning workout at the downtown gym, I began walking to my office.  I then immediately saw that God had plans for the cinnamon rolls that sat in my car—two homeless guys.  And the excuses began flowing through my mind, “I don’t have time to walk a block to my car, get the rolls, and walk a block back.” and “There are only two people, and I have three rolls. I don’t want to start a homeless brawl.” I decided to keep walking towards my office.

As I passed those empty and lonely eyes, I was immediately convicted…but not enough to turn around. Instead, I put out a challenge to God (which, by the way, I do not suggest that you attempt this yourself). “God, if you really want these TLM’s (tasty little morsels) to feed the hungry, then put three homeless dudes closer to my car.” After all, I had three (not two) cinnamon rolls.

I walked down the alley and slowly turned the corner. I was like an excited child on Christmas morning coming down the stairwell. I looked up and saw God’s response sitting at back entrance to my garage. There were three (not two) homeless dudes. Thanks, God. I spent the next few moments talking with the three (not two) lost wanderers, who were, by the way, very thankful for a cinnamon roll.

John 14:9 says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” You see, there’s an interesting relationship between God and man. The link between the two is Jesus—fully God and fully man. In other words, Jesus can teach you a lot about God, as he is every bit God himself. And yet Jesus can completely relate to you, because he is every bit a man. That morning, I was challenged once again to look for God and serve God in the everyday moments. And so should you.