In a Word, Respect

Every year my family and I head down to the 9/11 Memorial to listen to the list of names of those that lost their lives on that day in 2001. Only family members of lost ones are allowed to attend in person. My kids are 8 and 5 now, so questions about the events of that day start to come up and sometimes I have trouble answering them.

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Everyone’s different, and everyone’s the same.

As we approached the Memorial, we walked past the mural in the photograph above, and the words on the mural explain it all very well. “Everyone’s different, and everyone’s the same”. In other words, we might not agree on everything, but we should respect each other’s opinions and differences.

Honestly, sometimes that’s really hard to do. Right outside the Memorial were people holding up signs and telling others that what happened on 9/11 was fake, that it was all a government conspiracy. I wanted to punch those guys in the mouth. But freedom of speech is one of the reasons why this country is great. They’re allowed to have and voice their opinions. I might disagree with them, but I’ll respect their rights.

Respect isn’t just limited to big issues, respect is something that should be on your mind with everything. Respect others at all times, and that doesn’t just mean their opinions and/or stances on specific topics but respect their time as well. Respect the effort people put into their jobs and respect them when they say “no” to something.

We may agree to disagree on many things, but we should all agree to respect each other.

Does Who You Surround Yourself with Matter?

The short answer to this is yes, it matters. It’s why this Jim Rohn quote, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” is so popular and recognized. Put it this way, we should be very intentional about who we choose to spend our time with.

Maarten van Doorn writes:

“The people you spend the most time with shape who you are. They determine what conversations dominate your attention. They affect to which attitudes and behaviors you are regularly exposed. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave.”

The Game of Life

My family tries to have game night every day. We think it’s just a great way to step back from life and connect each day as a family. Recently we’ve been playing “The Game of Life – Twists and Turns”. It’s a fun game and a spin-off of the classic game that you might have been used to playing as a kid. In this version of the game, all of the money, property, and vehicles are controlled by a computer, which is also how you spin the wheel to move. The game loosely introduces the concept of credit cards, and that is how each players stats and data is accessed.

The way the game plays is pretty much similar to the classic game, but the winner is who ends up with the most “life points”, and that is a combination of the amount of money you have plus the experiences that you’ve had throughout the game. So, it’s really not just about the money anymore. I won’t go into any more details about the game, this blog post really wasn’t meant to be a game review, but I highly recommend the game if you get the chance to try it. My wife and I have played with just the two of us without the kids and it’s still a lot of fun.

My older son is what you’d expect from a first-born child. He’s reliable, structured, cautious, and really wants to please his parents. He’s also very competitive and wants to win at everything. My second child (we only have two) is also a boy, and he’s quite the opposite of my older one. The second one is a risk taker, definitely more self-centered but also much looser and more rambunctious. Our first-time playing Life together definitely brought out their personality traits.

My older guy is completely averse to having debt. Real or fake, he doesn’t like the idea of owing anyone money. So, he played the game conservatively, not going into debt to buy things and just doing things as he would in normal life. My younger guy was completely opposite, he bought all the expensive stuff because it looked like it would be more fun. And understanding that it was just a game, my wife and I did the same thing.

One thing to note about my older son, if he does not want to do something, he won’t do it. He really holds on strong to his opinion and feelings about what he likes and doesn’t like. But peer pressure can be really tough. After playing the first game doing things as he would normally do in real life, he played the second game completely different. He saw how the rest of us were playing the game and he felt the need to change how he played. In the second game, he bought anything he wanted regardless of price and had a negative money balance for almost the entire game. As I watched my older son make decisions that I didn’t think he’d make, I knew I was seeing Jim Rohn’s quote in action.

Figure Out What is Important to You

It’s relatively easy to influence kids, and in the game that my family played, the powers of influence for my older son were just too much to resist. As the first born, he sees what his parents’ habits are and he models after them. As adults, I think we are just as easily influenced, but the signs might be a bit subtler.

If you are around negative people, you’re going to be negative. If you’re around people that complain a lot, you’re going to complain a lot too. If you spend a lot of time around people that always see the good in things, you’ll start seeing the same as well.

As I get older, I find that I value my free time a lot more. I also find that I would rather have a small number of quality friendships over having just a lot of friends. Recently what I started to do without really knowing it was I started to spend more time around people who had the same life goals as I do. And what I also noticed was that I didn’t enjoy spending a lot of time around people who had a negative impact on those goals.

To put it on a personal level, I think about finances a lot. I believe I share the same dream as anyone else in that we all want to be debt free. When I think about making sure we have a roof over our heads, putting food on the table, clothes on our backs, college tuition down the road and hoping to retire without financial worry, it’s daunting. So, I’ve found a small circle of friends who are focused on the same thing. Our spending habits are pretty much the same and we keep each other from falling into the temptation of spending money just to keep up with the Joneses. No, we don’t have group meetings or anything like that, we just have similar lifestyles. I know that if I were to spend a lot of time around people that spent a lot of money all the time, I’d probably do the same.

You can apply this same sort of thinking to any goal. Are you focused on climbing the corporate ladder? If so, do you surround yourself with people who are just as hungry about that as you are?

What this means is that friendships probably will change, and that’s ok because that’s life. I’m not saying that I’ve cut off friends that I’ve made earlier in life, I still talk to plenty of people. But the people that I will spend the majority of my time with are those that are going to have a positive effect on the goals that I’ve set for myself.

I also love this article by David Burkus. And he writes that it’s not just the 5 closest people that have an impact on you, it’s actually those 5 plus whoever is influencing them that has an impact on you. And then it’s their friends and their friends and so on and so on.

Who you choose to surround yourself with matters. It matters a lot. It can be the difference between accomplishing the goals you’ve set for yourself and your life, or looking back when it’s all said and done and wondering “what if”.

Are Breaks and Vacations Really Worth It?

I love going to the beach. On a nice sunny day, I could sit on the beach for hours and just watch the ocean. I enjoy listening to the waves crashing on the shore and hearing the birds as they fly by. If I start to feel hot, I love standing in the water and letting the waves hit my body to cool off. Then I can go back to sitting and relaxing in the sun. It’s a simple rinse and repeat formula. And during all the time spent at the beach, life is great. That is, until I check my email.

I could sit at the beach all day.

Once I start scrolling through my email I can feel the stress weighing on my shoulders. It’s like being woken in the middle of the night by having a cold bucket of water thrown in your face. There’s a sense of panic and worry as I think about all of the things I need to do when I get back to work. The task list starts to pile up almost as high as the list of emails and messages that I have to read and respond to. Then I inevitably ask myself, was even worth it to be away in the first place?

If I didn’t go away or didn’t take a break, I wouldn’t have to deal with being behind or playing catch up. In fact, I wouldn’t have to make the mad scramble to finish things before I went on vacation just so I could go on vacation. I mean that all seems logical right?

Well it appears that Arianna Huffington might have a different point of view, as she expressed in her open letter to Elon Musk. What Arianna pointed out made a lot of sense. People aren’t machines, sleep is a necessity to function at a high capacity. We can’t be plugged into an outlet and take a power feed all day (regardless of how much coffee we drink).

True to form though, Elon did reply back via Twitter (at 2:32 am) stating that taking time off wasn’t an option, pointing out that “Ford and Tesla are the only two American car companies to avoid bankruptcy”.

And so here we are at the crossroads, who is right? Is it the one that is advocating for a better work/life balance, or is it the one that is working hard to ensure a business has a future? I don’t know if there’s a right or a wrong answer.

My family also enjoys the beach, and I enjoy spending time with them.

But here’s what I do know. In life there aren’t many guarantees. I’ve been at a company that was on top of the world, only to have it come crashing down and eventually becoming a shell of what it once was. I have seen friends give everything they have to companies only to be rewarded with their walking papers when push came to shove. I have seen people dedicate their lives to a business only to have it fail due to things beyond their control.

What we can control is how we choose to spend our time, and what we make priorities in our lives. I have a family, and “families that play together are happier”. But in order to play together, I have to make the time. So in the end, for me, breaks and vacations are totally worth it. What about you?

Making the Case for Well-roundedness and Experience

Have you ever passed off an ask or a task to someone else because you didn’t know how to do it or just simply because it wasn’t your job? While I’m sure we all want to manage our workload so that we are not overwhelmed, the lack of diversity in skillset or the unwillingness to learn new skills just might come back to haunt you.

Basketball is a favorite sport of mine, and over the last couple of years there has been a change in the way teams have built their rosters. There’s a high value in players that can play multiple positions and do different things, and the “specialist” players are now finding it hard to get any time on the floor. Players that can play multiple positions and do different things provide teams flexibility and the ability to adapt to other teams. Offensively and defensively there are less weaknesses.

This sort of thing has been playing itself out in the corporate world for a while now, or at least that’s what I believe. As budgets continue to shrink, people are being asked to do more with less. If you’re able to bring multiple skills to a job or an organization, the higher in value you will be. Be wary if you find yourself in a position where your skillset only allows for you to do one thing. And be realistic about that, as much as I’d love to say that I have the skills to be a sports agent, if I don’t have the experience it won’t really matter.

And speaking of experience, it’s sad to hear about companies that seemingly look to force older workers out the door simply due to age. Being a well-rounded employee with multiple skills doesn’t happen overnight, skills are something that you acquire through learning and experience. If you’re looking for a digital marketer that can write, create and edit digital content, and lead strategy, you’re going to look for someone that has actually done something in those areas. Not just someone who says they have or says they’re knowledgeable simply because they took a course.

Taking courses to learn a new skill is great, I highly encourage it, but then those skills need to be applied somewhere so you can build experience. You can achieve this through a number of ways. Maybe the company that you work for will allow you to take a stretch assignment with another team. If you know friends that have small businesses, maybe there is something that you can help out with. Or if you’re like me and you need to brush up on your writing skills, start a blog and write.

The point is, go out and produce. People want to see results, and the more experience and skills that you have at your disposal the more likely you’ll be able to produce more, with better results.

So perhaps being a “jack of all trades” isn’t a bad thing after all.

Lessons in Parenthood: The Martial Arts Experiment

When I was around junior high school age, my parents decided to enroll me in Judo because they thought it would be a good idea for my sister and I to learn how to defend ourselves. They chose Judo because it primarily focuses on throwing people, and less striking. The thought behind the idea of learning Judo was sound. Learn a martial art that will allow you to defend yourself if you have to, and not use the training to be the aggressor. The part that didn’t work was the timing of when to begin the journey.

The journey didn’t last long, maybe a few months to half a year. There were multiple reasons why it didn’t continue, starting with not knowing anyone else in class, none of my friends were into martial arts, and I played sports on multiple teams. But I would say that however short the experience was, it was beneficial.

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The journey starts with white.

Fast forward a few decades and martial arts is once again a subject for my family. But in this case it’s a decision that my wife and I have made for our two boys. We’ve decided to start them relatively young, and for the same reasons why my parents decided to start me years ago. We wanted the boys to know how to defend themselves if necessary, but also build some self-confidence. Having been at it for a good number of months now, we’ve also seen some other benefits.

The drills that the boys do have helped with their coordination, and due to the physical nature of the sport, it has helped them become more comfortable should people invade “their space”. I benefitted in a similar way after going through my short stint in Judo. I’ve seen this help them in other sports as well. They don’t necessarily look for contact, but instead more comfortable with it now.

Discipline and self-control should be preached and taught at all martial arts academies and dojo’s, and 5150 Martial Arts, the dojo my kids attend, it’s no different. They learn that fighting is the last resort.

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We study a mix of Karate, Muay Thai Kickboxing, and Arnis.

Another valuable lesson they learn there is that they need to be ok with working or practicing with anyone. While there is a rank order, respect must be given to all regardless of belt color. They are taught that the students all learn and grow together as a team. It’s forced the boys to meet new people and make new friends.

All of these things are great, and I’m happy the kids are enjoying the martial arts experience. But I will say that one thing that has contributed to the continued interest is the involvement that my wife and I have. She and I also train at the same dojo, but started after our kids did. So yes, they outrank us.

I believe that it is the complete family involvement that will keep the interest in martial arts going for a long time. We talk about it, practice and train together, and encourage each other to climb the ranks. The lesson here is one that all parents know, but at times are tempted to brush aside. There’s nothing more valuable than time spent doing something as a family.

Quick Thoughts: True Friends Tell You What You Need To Hear

If I were to ask you to think about who your friends are, there’s a good chance you’d think about who you love hanging out with on weekends and having fun. You’d think about who you get along with the most, who you’re happy to be around.

But maybe you should also think about those people that brave the potentially uncomfortable and awkward situations to tell you what you need to hear, regardless of whether you want to hear it or not. Now granted, you have to trust that those people have your best interests at heart. But in the end, it’s the friends that are willing to give you the needed reality check that are the best.

Lessons in Parenting: Stop Overcoaching

The word “overcoach” is pretty self-explanatory. But Merriam-Webster defines it as “to coach someone to an excessive degree.” Basically it’s to give so much direction, that it doesn’t allow for any freedom of choice and learning. In some ways, it also takes all the fun out of things too, especially sports.

I am not a parent that yells at his kid from this sidelines during games. I’m also not a parent that yells at coaches during games either, or referees. As someone that has coached basketball at a competitive (but amateur level) I know what it’s like to be on the wrong side of an angry entitled parent. Good or bad, I believe parents should let coaches and referees do their job without interruption.

Instead, I am a parent that chooses to give my kids feedback after the games are done, or during halftime and breaks if they come over to see us. I do not yell or speak loudly for all to hear. The feedback I give my kids is spoken quietly, only for them to hear. It is never my intention to make a public example out of my children for all to see. But what I find myself doing though, is overloading my kids with excess feedback. Quietly, I’m overcoaching.

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As a parent, can you step away enough to let kids find love for the game themselves?

There is a fine line between overcoaching and not coaching enough, and for each kid that line is different. Kids shouldn’t be made to figure out how to play certain sports on their own, but they should be allowed to figure out if they enjoy playing it on their own.

It’s very easy to get competitive when your kids play sports. As parents, we should all admit that some part of us selfishly wants our kids to do well so that we look good. And for some, it’s a way to live vicariously through them if we weren’t good enough to play sports competitively.

At the end of the day, I can’t do anything about that volunteer dad coach that seems to think that recreational league, second grade basketball is the NBA finals. I really can’t complain since he’s the one helping out and I’m not. But what I can do better is keep the sport fun for my kids outside of the team, remove my excess expectations for them, and let them experience the game for themselves and learn to love it as I do.

And in the meantime, I’ll look for a different league with real coaches.