Why They Don’t Have Books at the Getty

I tried to like the Getty. I really did.

Getty-Museum

The Getty Museum is a world-famous art museum perched high above the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles. It contains priceless paintings and sculptures, and people come from all over the world to visit.

You can’t live in Los Angeles very long before someone says, “Have you been to the Getty?”

I have good friends who can’t get enough of that type of art. Debra is a major patron of the art community in Phoenix.  Jenni tells of using high-quality photo books of those masterpieces with her kids, then sharing their excitement when they visit a museum to see them in person.  Another friend (unnamed) sneaks away from work just to visit art museums.

“You just have to see it,” people would say.

It’s not that I don’t like art museums. I just don’t have an emotional response to what I see. I’ve even stood in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  I saw people in tears because they were so moved.

I was impressed at being there, but I wasn’t moved.

And I felt guilty because of it.

I’ve always wanted to appreciate fine art. But I’ve never felt the emotion that so many people describe.

So when my sister and her husband were visiting, they wanted to visit the Getty. I had heard that the building cost a billion dollars to build, so I wanted to see what made it so valuable.

We drove up there on a Saturday. Once inside, she led the charge.  We followed her from gallery to gallery, trying to keep up and listening to her commentary on everything she saw.  The further we went, the more excited she became.

Bless her heart – it was so much fun to watch her excitement.

But I didn’t share it.

We had a great day being together, and I learned a ton from her. But I still felt guilty because I seemed to be missing the “masterpiece” gene.  I resigned myself to living a life devoid of culture.

———————

A few weeks later, a large box was delivered to my door. I was expecting it, because it comes every year.

Inside were a couple dozen new books.

For the past 25 years or so, I’ve been one of the judges for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Christian Book Awards. It’s the most prestigious award given to the top books in that category, and I’ve been privileged to participate.  Every year they send me a shipment, and I have the chance to vote on the best of the best.

So I lined them up on a shelf. Each morning, I’d settle in as the sun was rising with a cup of coffee – and read a couple of chapters.

What a great way to start the day!

Book - FoundOn my first day of reading, I picked up a book called Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer
from an author I didn’t recognize named Micha Boyett.  I turned to the back cover for context:

“. . . she’s passionate about monasticism and ancient Christian spiritual practices and how they inform the contemporary life of faith . . .”

I wasn’t hopeful, and it sounded stuffy. I took another sip of coffee and started reading.

That’s when it happened: her writing caught my heart.

Just reading her first few paragraphs sucked me into her world. Somehow, I wasn’t reading any more.  I was there.

I know that different people are impacted by different books at different times. Maybe that was my time.  But I felt the sheer joy of reading words that had been so well-crafted.

Was it the best book ever written? Of course not.  But on that day (and the days that followed), Micha took my on a journey of her life as a wife and mom in San Francisco. She made me feel the fog and taste the bagels and hear the swings creaking on the public playground.  She just put the words together in a way that captured my emotions throughout the book.

From my perspective, I was reading . . . a masterpiece.

I was having the emotional experience that eluded me at the Getty. It came as ink on paper rather than oil on canvas, but it was still the expression of an artist.

Great painters and great writers both use their tools of expression, and they both touch the heart.

They both create masterpieces.

Here’s what I discovered: Books are my Getty.

I have art-loving friends who can’t get excited about books. I have author friends who can’t get excited about paintings.

It’s OK.

We’re both impacted by a masterpiece.

I can’t wait to take my sister to a bookstore for the day . . .

 

What’s your Getty?  Share in the comments (below) . . .

Off the Road Again

I miss writing.

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There was a time when I used to say, “I don’t like writing – I just like having written.” The process was tedious, but I enjoyed seeing my words in print.

That’s changed. It’s probably because I’ve taken a break, and I miss moving words around to express something.  I’ve missed writing these posts, and especially the interaction with you – my readers.  It’s like not seeing good friends for a while.

The break wasn’t by design. It started with a wake-up call last September that involved an ambulance ride while on a business trip.  I didn’t see the effect that years of travel was having on my body.

But it was there, and it was real.

So the past nine months have been a “do-over” (as Jon Acuff would say). I’ve taught people for years how to live a balanced life, but realized that I needed to pay attention to my own precarious position on the high-wire as well.

That meant looking at everything I was doing – my job, my schedule, my exercise, my choices – everything. It meant starting from scratch and rebuilding.

Finally, I’m starting to practice what I teach. It’s certainly not perfect, but I’ve made some major changes.  I’m eating differently.  I’m exercising consistently.  I’m sleeping more.  I’m keeping the little stuff little, and focusing on the few things that matter most.

And I’m coming off the road.

After 28 years of travel and 3000+ days standing in front of corporate audiences, I’ve changed jobs. I’m working from a home office, coaching those people who are still training within their companies.  I’m taking my years of experience and helping them make an impact within their organizations.

My travel each day is about 50 feet.

Which means I have quiet early mornings to watch the sun rise while I sip java in a ceramic mug – instead of chugging out of a paper cup on an LA freeway. And evenings to read and talk and relax instead of mapping out logistics for the next day’s commute.

And it means I’ll have time to write.

That’s become one of my favorite early morning activities – crafting words while the world around me is still in their jammies.

This new job itself is more intense than anything I’ve done – but it has a beginning and an end each day. I have to fight to keep to keep that balance.  But setting boundaries is becoming a small price to pay for quality of life.

largeWhat will that writing look like? I’m not sure.  But it does mean I’m going to start connecting with you again.

I’ll probably do some magazine articles, and I’ll start thinking about another book. (My newest will be in bookstores on August 6.  I finished that one shortly before my ambulance ride.)  I’ll also be building more of an online platform, since I’m not standing in front of live audiences as much.

If you’d like to come along for the ride, I’d love to have you on the journey.

So, get your coffee. I’ll get mine.

Let’s slow down and just talk.

It might just save you an ambulance ride.

 

 

What We See in the Darkest Night

It’s easy to take earthquakes for granted when you live in California.

Galaxy

If I’m sitting quietly in my home office, I’ll feel a little jolt once or twice a week. It catches my attention, but I go right back to what I was doing.  Sometimes it’s big enough to rattle the windows, and I’m more engaged.

But when a big one hits, it changes everything.

Most people were asleep at 4:31 AM on January 17, 1994. That’s when the “big one” hit in Northridge, California.  It lasted 20 seconds, and nobody slept through it.

I know I didn’t.

Freeways collapsed. Buildings crumbled. Almost 60 people died.  Hundreds were injured. Adrenaline flowed like a river.

And then the lights went out.

Massive power outages took place throughout Los Angeles. In the predawn hours, major sections of the city were powerless. People scrambled in the confusion and rubble, trying to find flashlights and candles.

Outside, there were no streetlights, no signals, no neon signs.

It was just . . . dark.

Later that day when the sun rose and the power gradually returned, the Griffith Park Observatory began receiving dozens of calls from people who had seen a huge, silver cloud floating over the city. Some feared it was related to aliens, while most simply wondered if the earthquake had somehow impacted the atmosphere.  As the sun rose, the cloud dissipated.

After hearing similar descriptions from callers, the observatory staff finally realized what the cloud was – what the people had actually seen.

It was the Milky Way.

GalaxyPeople who had lived in the distraction of city lights for decades saw stars and constellations they had never seen before. Those stars had always been there, but the lights overpowered their view of the galaxies.

The darker the night, the easier it is to see the stars.

As a child, our family used to drive across the Arizona desert in the middle of night to escape the heat. I would lay in the back of our station wagon and look at the stars out the back window.  I remember wondering why there were so many more stars in the desert than in the city.

The stars are always there. But when the lights are bright, we can live under them for years and never notice them.  It takes our world being shaken and the lights going out for us to really see.

For me, it’s a reminder that we’re surrounded by wonder. But our lives are so filled with trivia and schedules and shiny objects that we forget that it exists.

Nobody likes dark times in life. But if you’re in one, look up.

Some things can only be seen in the darkest of nights.

That’s where we see the wonder.

Take a break.

Take a breath.

Get perspective. Listen to someone deeply.  Remember the things that matter most.  Tell someone you care.

Look for the silver cloud.

Don’t Miss the “Real Thing”

Hbowl

I must have been distracted.

So were 2500 other people.

The guest speaker was great, and the sermon was stimulating. People were engaged, taking notes and listening carefully.

But as I glanced around the room, I noticed that nobody was looking at the speaker. They were looking above his head – at the high-definition images of him speaking on the screens hung from ceiling.

They’re big screens – really big. The idea is that people in the back can’t really see the facial expressions of the speaker, so putting him on the screen makes it easier for them to see.

I think that’s a valuable addition. It makes you feel closer to the action.

But as I looked around the room, I realized how strange it was. Here was a well-known speaker that people couldn’t wait to hear.  But when he was on the platform, nobody was watching him.  We were watching the screen.

We were right in the room with him, and choosing the video version while the “real thing” was right in front of us.

HbowlIt happens at concerts, too. We’ve gone to outdoor concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, where we saw some really famous artists perform. We fought traffic and parking and crowds to be there, and paid a lot of money to sit on uncomfortable benches – just to catch a tiny glimpse of the artist.  Then we spent the whole evening watching them on the big screen.

I remember thinking, “I could watch this at home on TV.”

I could. And I’d have a much better view than I would in an arena.

But there’s something about being there, knowing we’re breathing the same air as someone we admire. That’s why we go.  We want to be there with them.

We went to a musical in Hollywood years ago (“Beauty and the Beast”) with our good friend, Sheri. We got dressed up, went out to dinner first, and then looked for our seats in the theater.

They were in the back row. Literally.  If we put our heads back, they would hit the back wall.

That wasn’t unusual, because we’ve often bought the “cheap seats” in order to be able to afford the concert. But it was before the days of massive screens, so we enjoyed it from a distance.

Afterwards, we were talking with Sheri about it. “Sorry the seats were so far back,” we said.  “We didn’t realize how far back they were.”

“That’s OK,” she said. “We still had a great time.”

I said, “Where do you usually get seats when you go to concerts?”

“The front row,” she said. “I don’t go that often.  But when I do, I save up and get seats right up front.  I want to experience the artist up close and personal.”

We’ve never been in the front row at a concert. But it made sense.  If you want to see an artist live, you lose something if you’re just watching on a screen.

So I’ve decided that I have two viable options for live events:

  1. I can watch the high-definition images on the screen, but make sure I’m intentional about focusing part of my time on the live person on the stage.
  2. I can get there early and sit in the front row. That way, I won’t need the screens.

It’s probably not realistic to do the second option all the time. But I need to make it happen occasionally.

In the meantime, I don’t want the virtual to crowd out the visual. I want to be fully present.

I have enough screens in my life . . . so when I have an option, I want the real instead of the reflection.

So, I’m going to sit in the front row in church sometime. Not all the time, but occasionally.  It’s not a natural place for an introvert, but it’s an experience worth stretching for.

And I want to pick a concert that we really want to attend, and plan and save far enough ahead so we can be up front.

If we’re close enough to the front that we can see facial expressions, we won’t be interested in watching the screens.

Maybe it’s time to move up front.

 

When you’re a live event, do you find yourself watching the artist or the screen? Comment below . . .

“And the Winner is . . . “

Wow.

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I didn’t expect that many people to respond.

But I discovered that a lot of people are passionate about the books they read, and they want to share that passion with others.

Three weeks ago, I asked for your help. I read a ton of nonfiction books each year, but realized that I wasn’t applying a lot of it.  They were interesting, but it wasn’t changing my life.  So I decided to pick one book and read it twelve times – and I asked for your suggestions.

I got a few comments on the blog itself, a few through Twitter or Facebook, but most came through email or personal conversations. That tells me that I have a lot of introverts in my tribe who have great ideas, but prefer not to put them out there for the whole world to see.  That’s OK – I’m one of those.  I rarely leave comments, preferring to have a direct conversation.

I observed something interesting during this process:

I have two groups of readers: those who are more “”business-oriented, and those who are more “faith-oriented.” I started the blog originally as a way of staying in touch with people who have attended my seminars (which are usually in business settings) or read my books.  That’s the majority.  So we’re mostly talking about living an intentional life, no matter what the setting.

There are others who know me personally, and understand that my faith is my worldview that forms the foundation of my life. They can read between the lines and see the spiritual overtones.

Because of my primary audience, my purpose is to converse – not to convert. A blog is an opportunity to have real conversations with real people.

I believe that truth is truth, no matter where it comes from. That’s why I read widely, including both faith-based books and others on a variety of topics.

I suggest you do the same. Rich dialogue only comes when we converse with people who have different perspectives.  We don’t have to agree with everyone.  But as one person said, “If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.”

So, I received a ton of recommendations from both perspectives. I wish I had room to list them all, but here are a few that stood out (I’ve added Amazon links if you want to see the descriptions):

The Bible was the most suggested book. I read through that one last year.  Great choice.  I know the author.  Highly recommended.

The Compound Effect (Darren Hardy) was also mentioned often. I had already been considering that one, because I’ve read it in the past and was impacted by its message – the choices we make have a compounding effect over time, and direct the entire course of our life.  A very practical choice from Hardy, the former publisher of Success Magazine.

Rising Strong was mentioned several times. Brene Brown wrote the bestselling Daring Greatly, and her TED talk is in the top 10 based on millions of views.  Watch her talk to see if it might be a fit.

I found it interesting that most of the secular books recommended had more to do with character than performance – an inside-out approach to living. Those included Credibility by Kouzes, Mindset by Carol Dweck, and The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey.

The top suggestions for faith-based books included Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibiganza (based on the Rwandan Holocaust), The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (I love C.S. Lewis) and the biblical book of Proverbs (a great choice, because it has 31 chapters – one for each day of the month).

An interesting crossover choice was Chris Lowney’s Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year Old Company that Changed the World (business principles learned from the Jesuits).

So, which one did I pick?

I mentioned my friend Craig in the earlier blog, and how he reads about 60 books a year. I asked him if he could share his top recommendations.

His response gave me a new perspective on recommending books. He said that when someone recommends a book, it’s because the book spoke to them in their current situation so strongly that it had an emotional impact on them.  It touched them, and they want other people to have that same experience.

But everyone is at a different place. A book that impacts me deeply might be great, but it won’t have the same effect on you if you’re at a different place.  Maybe in six months, it will apply.  But we’re all looking for help with our current situation.

The book recommendations of others narrows the field for us. Then we need to pick what’s appropriate from there.

So I’ve actually made a list of all of your recommendations, and will probably be reading through all of them over time. I’m grateful to have your input, and that you took the time to make those suggestions.  That’ll be the basis for my reading list.

51i0QG0W8KL__SX323_BO1,204,203,200_The one book I’ve landed on for myself for this year, based on where I am in my life, is Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success by the late Stephen R. Covey.

Here’s why I picked it:

Dr. Covey wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which is one of the courses I teach in various organizations). After his death, his family and colleagues found some of his original writings and notes that he used in preparation for writing the 7 Habits back in the mid-80’s, but they were never published.  So they collected his thoughts and put them together in this book.

Dr. Covey believed that there were only two ways to live: a life of primary greatness or a life of secondary greatness. The rewards of primary greatness – integrity, responsibility and meaningful contribution – far outweigh the superficial rewards of secondary greatness – money, popularity, and the self-absorbed, pleasure-ridden life that some people consider “success.”

Seems like that would be some interesting food for thought – and discussion. It’s that “inside-out” approach to living a life of integrity.

I’ll spend time on it this year, and write occasionally about what I’m learning. Will it be an awesome read? I don’t know, but I’m going to give it a shot.  You can join me if you’d like – or just stay tuned for insights over the rest of the year.  (I picked up the hardback edition so I could focus differently than other books.)

So, thanks for your help. If you pick a book to focus on this year, I’d love to know what it is – and what you learn during the process.  I so appreciate the conversations we’re able to have, and what I learn from you.

Let’s get started!

Do you have a book you’re going to focus on this year?  Share your choice in the comments below . . .


Does “New Years” Always Have to be “Happy?”

silhouettes and clouds

Today, four people said “Happy New Year” to me.

It’s mostly a casual greeting, like saying, “How are you?” Nobody expects a serious answer, but it’s a way of opening a conversation.  It’s friendly, and it’s nice.

But why “Happy?” Is that the ultimate goal for this year . . . that it’s a chance to be happy and feel good?  Does it imply that last year was unhappy, and this is my opportunity for a do-over?

silhouettes and cloudsI don’t think it’s that deep. But I’ve wondered if there’s a better word – something that really expresses what I’d like the year to be like.

I’ve heard people say “I wish you a prosperous New Year.” Hmmm . . . that might be nice.

What about a “Peaceful New Year?”

Maybe an “Adventurous New Year?”

I kind of like “Interesting” myself.

Bottom line: When we wish someone a Happy New Year, we’re really saying, “No matter what last year was like for you, I hope this new one gives you what you need to handle what the year brings you.”

It’s not really “happy.” It goes beyond that.

What about Grace-filled?

I looked up “grace” in the dictionary. One definition said, “Mercy; reprieve; favor shown in granting a delay or immunity.”

I have friends with cancer. I wish them a year of grace . . . reprieve . . . immunity.

I know people whose relationships are dissolving. I wish them a year of mercy.

Others are in financial struggle and can’t see a way out. Others struggle with depression or addiction.  Others are gripped with fear when they simply watch the news.

I want the best for them. I want them to have a year of support and reprieve and mercy and love and miracles and breathing room and refreshment.

I want them to have hope. And grace.

I think it’s OK to say “Happy New Year.” But I hope we’re a little more intentional about the meaning.  It means we care about someone, and want the best for them.

It means we’re wishing them a year of grace.

What word would you pick instead of “Happy?”

Help Me Read Less This Year

Book pile

I wish I could get paid to read.

That would be like getting paid to eat ice cream.

I heard recently that the average person reads less than two books a year. I have trouble wrapping my head around that statistic, because I love to read so much.  Two-book-per-year people make New Year’s resolutions like, “I need to read more this year.”  And that’s a wonderful resolution.

I’m not one of those people. Neither is Craig.

Craig shares my love of books. In the next few days, I’ll be receiving an email spreadsheet from him with his annual reading list summary for last year.  It will be broken down by:

  • Monthly pages read
  • Annual total pages read
  • Titles
  • Personal rankings
  • Total number of books read
  • Fiction vs. nonfiction
  • DNF (Did not finish)
  • Top 10 books of the year

. . . and about ten other categories. Last year he read around 60 books.  I read about 40. (If you’re a two-book-per-year reader, you probably have a therapist in mind for us.)

I can’t wait to see his results. I always look forward to his list, and his top picks from last year often end up on my shelf for this year.  His list inspires me to read more.

Book pileThis year, I want to read less.

And I need your help.

Here’s the thing. I read mostly nonfiction, and love the insights I get.  But I find myself reading a lot, but not applying much.  I stuff my mind with all these great ideas that I want to try, and then feel guilty because I’m not doing all these great things I need to do.

This year, I’ll still read quite a few books – both fiction and nonfiction. I enjoy the process, and don’t want to give that up.

But I want to decide on one significant book to focus on.

Just one.

And read it 12 times. Once per month.

So I need your suggestions.

If you were to suggest one book that would be worth spending an entire year on, what would it be?

I’m open to any kind of topic. It could be about productivity, relationships, faith, communication, business – it’s up to you.  I want to keep it in the nonfiction category for the purpose of the experiment.  I’ll track the insights, and implement the things I’m learning.

That’s my experiment for this year. I want to immerse myself in one book until it sticks.

I’ll collect your ideas for the next couple of weeks. Then, I’ll make the final decision.  I’ll let you know what it is, in case you’d like to join me.  I’ll write about what I’m learning occasionally, and we can chat together about it.

Kind of a mini-book club without the croissants or chairs in a circle.

You might not choose the same book to focus on that I do. That’s OK, because we’re all at different places in our lives.  We each need to choose the book that’s most relevant at the moment.  It will be interesting to see what others suggest.

You can share your ideas in the comments section – or by email – or text or skywriting or personal conversation or Facebook or Twitter (and I’m just getting on Instagram in the next few days). Whatever channel we usually use to connect.  (Craig – we need to do this over breakfast.)

I’ve always appreciated the conversation we’ve been able to have. So in advance, thanks. Can’t wait to hear your suggestions!

What one book would you recommend to spend an entire year focusing on? Add your comments below . . .

The World’s Quietest Book Launch

Today, I’m breaking all the rules.

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I’m launching my new book without fanfare. No parades, no book tours, no carefully-orchestrated campaigns.

I’m ignoring the many promotions I receive about how to make your book a New York Times bestseller by following someone’s program.

It’s a quiet launch, not a noisy one.

And I’m doing it on purpose.

Writers are often introverts, but they’re told they need to become extroverts to get the message out. If you don’t have a big launch, nobody will notice.

There are a ton of books being released each day that are clamoring for attention in the marketplace, and they’re all shouting, “Hey! Buy me! Buy me!” Success comes to the one who yells the loudest, who makes their voice heard above the others.

It’s true. I’m taking a risk.

But this time, I’m choosing to announce this quietly. I’m letting you know in a casual conversation at Starbucks, not in a stadium with a Jumbotron screen.

That’s the relationship we have. It’s a real one, connecting quietly through words.

I want to respect that.

There’s a reason for this quiet launch – the title of the book.

bookToday, my newest book is available in bookstores and online retailers like Amazon. It’s called You Can’t Text a Tough Conversation: #RealCommunicationNeeded. It grew out of seeing people talking less and texting more, and seeing what the shift to electronic communication has done to our relationships.

I love technology. I’m not villainizing it. But technology is a tool. A tool is something we use to do a job better than we can do it without the tool.

Real relationships need real communication. Technology is a great tool when it enhances our communication, but dangerous when it replaces it.

This book is written to get our relationships back, and protect them in the future.

It’s about restoring human moments – face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball, voice-to-voice. It’s about talking first instead of texting.

It’s about how to control our technology instead of being controlled by it.

So . . . it makes sense to launch a book like that through real conversation rather than a commercial campaign.

Let’s do this. Ready?

The Official Book Launch

  1. My new book comes out today. I think you’ll find it helpful.
  2. Please buy a copy and decide for yourself. You can click the following link to find it on Amazon: You Can’t Text a Tough Conversation: #RealCommunicationNeeded (it’s also commonly found in grocery stores, airport bookstores, etc.)
  3. Read it.
  4. If you like it, take someone to Starbucks and tell them about it. Or buy them a copy. If you don’t like it, let me know – I’ll refund your money. Seriously.
  5. Share this launch on Facebook or other places where you hang out with friends – so others can experience a quiet launch. Maybe they’ll find it refreshing.
  6. Review the book on your personal blog or Amazon. Be honest about it – people need to know what they’re getting.

That’s it.

I might not sell as many books this way, but that’s OK for this one. I’d rather have the word spread through conversations than coercion.

I might do a traditional launch in the future. My next book comes out next summer on August 1, and I might have trumpets and prizes and airplanes carrying banners (the topic lends itself to that).

But for now, enjoy your day. Get some coffee and curl up with a good book for a while.

Enjoy the quiet.

———————————————————————————

“What a fantastic book!  Mike Bechtle is not only entertaining and compelling, his advice is rock-solid and practical.  Anyone who is serious about having healthy relationships – at work or on the home-front – will love this book. Don’t miss out on Mike’s message.”
 
Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott
Authors of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts

 

Why Nobody Steals Hotel Artwork

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Lancaster, California. It’s a simple room with the basics: a bed, a desk, a TV, and a microwave.

Hotel art

And there’s a painting on the wall. It’s pretty big, and has an even bigger gold frame. I’m sure it’s just a print, and there’s a piece of glass covering it.

Now, I’m not an expert on art. But I think good art is supposed to capture your emotions. It catches your eye when you see it, and you interact with the painting in an emotional way.

In other words, it moves you.

I’m not being moved.

Hotel artIt’s colorful, but I’m not sure what it represents. I’m not driven to pull it off the wall and sneak it into my car.

That got me thinking. I don’t know how many nights I’ve spent in hotel rooms in my life, but I’m guessing it’s over 1000. Fancy hotels, cheap hotels, and a bunch in-between. In all those nights, I can’t think of a time when I’ve noticed a painting.

I’m sure there was a painting in almost every room. But I didn’t notice. They didn’t grab me.

But they didn’t irritate me, either.

I wonder if the hotels buy those paintings in bulk, and use them to decorate their rooms to set the tone and make them feel “homey.” By hanging nondescript art, nobody is offended – and they don’t have to worry about people stealing it.

I wonder if the original artist feels bad knowing that his/her artwork is so bland that nobody would notice it or steal it. (But then again, if the artist gets a little commission for every print that’s purchased, having it in thousands of hotels might ease the pain a bit.)

If I compare hotel art to a masterpiece in an art museum, it will always look cheap. But if the purpose is to set a tone for the room, it does its job well.

It makes the room feel comfortable. If that’s the purpose, it’s the perfect painting for the wall.

It’s a “masterpiece” in fulfilling its purpose.

Can you feel the life lesson coming? Here it is:

You’re unique.

There’s nobody else like you.

There’s a purpose for your life that nobody else can fulfill.

If you fulfill that purpose, your life is a masterpiece.

If you compare your life with somebody else’s masterpiece, you’re trying to fulfill their purpose, not yours. When that happens, you’ll probably feel like cheap hotel art.

Don’t be somebody else. It robs the world of your uniqueness.

Be yourself. Make your own unique contribution. Quit comparing yourself to others.

Be the best “you” you can be, and the world will see a work of art.

Be a masterpiece today.

 

Virtual Coffee

friends

Writing can be a lonely task. You do it by yourself, because you have to think.

Speaking is anything but lonely. But it’s short-lived. You stand in front of a group and interact with them for 8 hours, but they leave at the end and you’re alone again.

I make my living doing both.

It’s not a bad gig for an introvert.

friendsI love the speaking days – especially the chance to connect with people one-on-one during breaks. But constant interaction can be draining, and I’m usually pretty drained by the end of the day. I recharge on my drive home – alone.

On writing days, I love the chance to think and process ideas. I often don’t know what I think about something until I write about it. My ideas take shape during the writing process. (That’s happening as I write this; I don’t know how it’s going to end yet. I almost always get a surprise ending!)

But I’ve also learned that I need human interaction on writing days. If I don’t have it, I can get stuck in my own thoughts or get too introspective.

Going out for coffee with a friend is probably my favorite thing to do.

And maybe the most important.

When I have coffee with a friend, it’s a chance to get outside my head. I get to explore their life and their thoughts and their passion and their ideas. I always learn things I didn’t know before, and get to feel like we’re sharing life together.

When I come home and start writing again, all my thoughts are different. Interacting with a friend hits a “reset” button in my brain, even though we weren’t talking about the subject I’m writing about.

We were made to do life with other people.

We communicate through email, social media and even phone calls, and it can be a great way to connect. But something different happens when we’re face-to-face, relaxing over a cup or a meal: We have what Dr. Edward Hallowell calls a “human moment.”

Human moments refresh us. They restore us. They remind us that we’re . . . well, human.

If you’re one of the people I have coffee or a meal with, you need to know how much it means to me. Doing life with you gives me the ability to write and speak. It keeps me from being alone and introspective.

It also gives me a different perspective on blogging.

Most of the blogs I’ve read are people sharing their ideas with other people. That’s not a bad thing, but it can feel one-sided. The blogs that seem to have the biggest impact are the ones that feel like you’re having coffee with them – virtually.

Those blogs don’t seem to be about teaching; they’re about connecting. It’s about the writer laying a few thoughts on the table, and readers responding with their thoughts. It’s a true conversation, not a monologue. It’s real, and it’s vulnerable.

It’s about mutual curiosity.

It has the scent of a human moment.

Connecting through a blog doesn’t replace human moments. It’s a way for thousands of people to feel like they’re actually having an intimate conversation at Starbucks.

That’s what “comments” are for. It’s not something to stroke a writer’s ego because they get lots of comments. It’s a chance to do what we would do across from each other at a table: notice each other, hear each other, respond to each other.

It reminds us that we’re not alone. There are other people working their way through life, and we get to encourage each other on the journey.

I can’t have coffee with all of my readers. But I’m grateful we have a chance to connect in this way.

Thanks.

Go find a real person to have coffee with today.

They need a human moment – and so do you.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and so would your fellow readers . . . comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Haven’t Liked You

I thought you should know the truth:

imagesU7WQSCJK

I haven’t liked you for a while.

You may already know that.  In the past, you’ve posted things on Facebook about your life, your travel and your thoughts.  When I saw things I connected with, I would hit the “like” button so you would know.

I haven’t done that for a while.  I haven’t been spending much time on Facebook.

So when I haven’t responded to your posts, it’s nothing personal.  In most cases, I didn’t see it.

I still like you.  I just haven’t “liked” you.

Like

I haven’t spent as much time as usual on email, either.  Or LinkedIn or Twitter.  Or social media in general.

There’s a reason.  It’s the same reason you haven’t seen a blog post from me for a few months.

It’s called bandwidth.

Bandwidth means you can only do so many things effectively at one time.  The more you try to do, the more diluted everything gets.  You end up really busy, but never accomplish anything.

We all have 24 hours in a day, but about 100 hours worth of opportunities.  There are so many things we want to do, and they’re good things.  It’s tempting to try to cram as many things as possible into those 24 hours.

But we can’t.  At least not while keeping our sanity.

I read a book earlier this year called “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller.  A friend recommended it.  It’s exactly what I teach every day in different corporations, so I identified easily with it.  But seeing it through someone else’s eyes gave me a fresh look.

The author says that the less we do, the more effective we’ll become. He suggests that we should pick the one, single thing that is the most important to do over the next six months to a year – something that would have huge payoff if we accomplished it.  Then focus our energy entirely on that one thing.

Just one.

The biggest takeaway for me was thisOnce you decide what that one thing is, everything else is a distraction.

Distractions are “shiny objects.”  They come unexpectedly from every angle, and they look a lot more interesting than the important thing we’re working on.

But if we go after them, it takes us away from the one thing.

So here’s what it means for me:

What has my one thing been for the past six months?

A new book that I’m writing that’s due at the publisher in three weeks.

What are my shiniest distractions?

Facebook, email, social media, other articles I want to write, blog posts, cleaning my office, maintaining my yard . . .

They’re all good distractions – things that fit into the category of “really important.”  But they keep me from writing.

Good writing takes time.  Great writing takes undistracted time.

I want to do great writing.

So, my apologies for not “liking” you.  Or emailing you.  Or blogging, or having coffee with you or responding to your calls.  It’s not malicious, but it’s intentional.

I’ll tell you more about the book another time.  But I’m in the home stretch – enough that I feel OK letting you know through this post.

As I put a ribbon around the manuscript, I’ll start ramping up again on blogging regularly.  I’m exploring what that should look like, and might change the focus in the future (depending on what you value the most).  It’s a gift to me that you let me into your mind and your inbox occasionally, especially when it’s a 2-way conversation.

I don’t take that for granted.

In the meantime, thanks for your patience.

Having been mostly away from Facebook for a while, I’m wondering how much I want to go back.  Something to ponder.   But whether I push the “like” button or not, rest assured:

I really do like you. 

 

Driving From the Rear-View Mirror

I had a conversation with an Uber driver the other day who was taking me back to the airport in Newark, New Jersey.  He also worked as a limo driver, and was working on his radiology degree.  We talked about his journey from his native country of Italy, his marriage to his bride from El Salvador, and his fluency in four languages.  He shared some fascinating details about his life.

mirror2

“So, you’ve had a lot of life experiences so far,” I said.  “Where do you see yourself going with all this background?”

With all that he had accomplished, I was expecting to hear some carefully-crafted goals or a clear strategy for the future.  But his simply responded quietly with one word:

“Forward.”

I asked him to explain.

“I’ve never focused a lot on long-term goals.  But every day, my goal is to move forward, not backward.  I figure that if I move forward a little every day, I’ll end up in some pretty amazing places.”

I help people set and reach goals for a living.  So his response caught me off guard – especially since it seemed so simple, and had the scent of power in it.  I explored more.

“Too many people focus on not repeating mistakes from the past,” he said.  “But to me, focusing on the past keeps me from focusing on the future.”

He pointed to the rear-view mirror.

“It would be hard to drive this car if I spent all my time looking in this mirror at what’s behind me.  And I think there’s a reason why the windshield is so much bigger than the rear-view mirror.”

mirror2How awesome is that?

Move forward.  Not backward.

What would happen if we did that?

Sure, we need to learn from the past.  But it’s easy to get stuck there.  If we focus on the past, we might tend to repeat it.

What if we looked through the windshield more than the rear-view mirror?

What could we do if we focused on “forward” instead of “backward?”

I’ve been pondering that all week.

Thoughts?

Imperfect Gratefulness

When I arrive at a hotel in the morning, the meeting room is usually set up and ready to go.  Tables are in place and covered, audio-visual is set, chairs are arranged and coffee is brewing in the corner.  A crew has come early in the morning to make it all happen.

Flip chart

Then they disappear.

Those people are trained to be invisible – to work in the background.

That’s unfortunate, because they can make or break an event.  The amazing work they do means I don’t have to worry about that stuff.  If my seminar goes well, their fingerprints are all over it.

Once in a while I run into one of them, and make it a point to express my gratefulness.  We often speak different languages, but that’s OK.  We just make a human connection, and they know they’re appreciated.

A few weeks ago, it went the other way.  I got a message from the invisible.

When I arrived at the casino hotel where I was training their staff in Tucson, the room was set up perfectly.  But someone had written a message on a flip chart at the front of the room.  It simply said:

Well Come Guess

Flip chart

At first, I thought someone had forgotten to tear off that sheet from a previous session.  But after a few minutes, I realized that it was a message to me from one of those invisible workers.  He/she wanted to express their appreciation for my using their meeting room, and felt the need to simply say “Hi.”

It was a Native American casino, and provided some of the best customer service I’ve ever encountered.  This worker didn’t care that their message might not be in the best English.  They just felt the need to express their gratefulness and leave a greeting anyway.

I finally realized what the message was intended to say:

Welcome, Guest!

When I pointed it out to the manager of that team, she smiled and nodded.   “That’s typical,” she said.  “They’re so excited to serve people that sometimes, they just can’t help themselves.  They’re grateful you’ve given them the chance to serve, and it just leaks out.”

What a great reminder.  My tendency is to make sure that I do things perfectly, and express myself to someone with exactly the right words.  If I can’t do that, I just skip it. I figure it’s a little thing, and it really doesn’t matter that much.

It does.  To them.

But if I keep gratefulness inside, it never helps anybody.  I need to learn to put spoken gratefulness over perfection.

The most imperfect connection is better than the unspoken one every time.

Who can you express gratitude to today?

14 Top Tips for Your Best Year of Marriage Ever

One year from today, your marriage could be better than it is now.

Couple2

It’s not a matter of willpower, trying to “be a better spouse.”  It’s not avoiding tough conversations or trying to ignore the things that bug you.

It happens when you’re intentional about your relationship.

It’s kind of like investing. 

Some people buy stock that looks promising, but only check them once a year to see if they’ve made money.  Other people study the market consistently, analyze their investments, and make corrections to maximize their return.

Your marriage is the greatest investment you’ll ever make.  It’s not “day trading.”  It’s “buy and hold.”  The more you pay attention, the greater will be the return.

Awesome marriages happen by design, not by default.

So, what can you do in the next 365 days to get the greatest possible return?

1. Attend a marriage conference together. People pay for classes to improve their fitness, correct their golf swing or learn a hobby or skill. Why not invest in a solid seminar or coaching to learn how to improve your relationship or communication? My wife’s parents went to a marriage seminar at their church when they were in their 70’s. I love that.

2. Pause before responding. We’ve all said something hurtful during conflict that we regretted. Develop the habit of pausing during tough conversation and choosing your words carefully. Always ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say really the response I should give?”

3. When things get tough, don’t quit. A good friend told me, “When you’re in the middle of a pile of manure, you feel like giving up and going back. But it’s the same distance to get out if you move forward.”

4. Give your spouse more attention this year. Count up (seriously) how many hours you spend watching TV or working on your hobbies, and how much time you spend eyeball-to-eyeball with your spouse. Do a little bit less of the first ones, and a little bit more of the last one.

5. Treat your spouse better than anyone else in your life. “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It’s a cliché, but tends to be true. It’s easy to take each other for granted over time. Keep pursuing your spouse the way you did when you were first dating, and never lose the sense of wonder.

6. Don’t compare your spouse with others. Your neighbor’s grass always looks greener when you’re viewing it from your own yard, because you only see the green tips of the blades. All you see looking down on your own lawn are the bare spots and the weeds. There are a lot of nice lawns out there, but there’s only one that belongs to you. Take care of it, and it will flourish.

7. Don’t insist on being right. There are a lot of battles that aren’t worth fighting, because they take energy away from the ones that need our attention. Learn to disagree without disrespect.

8. Give each other a 15-second kiss daily. I read about this a few months ago, and found it valuable. You can’t rush through it, and it reminds you to slow down and reconnect.

9. Set financial goals together. Money is often the biggest source of conflict between couples. When emotions rise because of money issues, use them as a trigger to get help. Determine to face finances as a team, rather than letting it divide you. Go through a good book or course together, with the goal of unity.

10. Pay attention to their day. Develop the habit of curiosity, wondering what their day was like. Don’t just say, “How was your day?” Take the time to explore the journey they’ve been on while you’ve been apart.

11. Surprise them occasionally. Do something unexpected for no reason or holiday. Drive out before they’re awake and bring home their favorite mocha so they have a treat when they wake up – or wash their car when they’re not looking.

12. Don’t complain to friends about your spouse. That’s sacred territory, and needs to be kept between the two of you. Talk with your spouse, not about your spouse (except when it’s positive).

13. Hang out with people you admire – together and separately. It’s true that we become like the people we spend the most time with. Find a couple that you want your marriage to be like, and simply do life with them occasionally. Do the same with your individual friends.

14. Value the differences. That’s what attracted you in the first place, and what brings the richness into your relationship. If you both felt exactly the same way about everything, one of you would be unnecessary.

Having the best year of marriage ever won’t happen by accident.

It happens by intention.

Whether your marriage is solid or shaky, make the investment.  You can’t always guarantee what the return on that investment will be.  But there’s one thing you can be sure of:

If you don’t invest, there will be no return.

Start investing intentionally.

Start today.

It’s your best chance for the best year of marriage ever!

A Better Approach to Relationship “Issues”

Dog & Cat

My wife and I had a disagreement last week.

It was about money. (It usually is, right?)

It started a week earlier, and we shared our feelings about the issue.  But we couldn’t find a resolution, so we put it on the back burner for a while.  Then we got busy and didn’t talk about it, even though it was smoldering in the background for both of us.

Until Sunday, when it resurfaced.

People don’t usually argue about things they have in abundance.  Diane and I have never had strong emotions about air.  There seems to be enough to go around, so we’ve never argued about it.

But when something we need becomes scarce, it gets our attention – and our emotion.  If we were trapped underwater, air would be the only thing we would think about.

We need money.  Not tons, but enough to do what needs to be done.  When it’s limited, it gets our attention.

When those strong emotions come up in any relationship, it’s easy to let it become a wedge between two people.  The issue comes between us and pushes us apart.  People begin fighting about it, trying to determine who’s right and who’s wrong.

The issue divides us.

But there’s a better way:

We need to put the issue on the outside, so it pushes us together – not between us, where it pushes us apart.

The issue always shows up between people – right smack in the middle.  When that happens, the other person becomes the enemy – the problem to be solved.  So two people that care about each other start fighting each other instead of fighting the issue.

We need to fight the issue.

Issues come up in every relationship, so we can’t wish them away.  So what should we do when they show up?

  1. Remind each other that the relationship is important.
  2. Point out that the issue is the problem, and that we need to attack it together.
  3. Express emotions genuinely, without attacking the other person. Stick with “I’m feeling this” instead of “You did that.”
  4. Realize that the issue might not be resolved quickly. But commit to working on it together.

Diane and I sat in the car and talked through our emotions and how we perceived the issue.  But we reaffirmed our care for each other and our relationship.  We realized it wasn’t a matter of who was right or wrong; it was a matter of staying connected so we could attack the issue together.

We still haven’t resolved it.  But we still like each other.  We’re in this together.

Issues are sneaky and deceptive.  They always try to convince us that they’re not the problem.

They’re lying.

Always make the issue the problem, not the person.

Relationships are a team sport.

Move the issue where it belongs, and you can work as a team.

It’s the healthy way to deal with issues.

Dog & Cat

Reviewing Your Family on Yelp

1“I’ve been a regular for a number of years with John. In those early years, he met all my expectations of a husband.  But my recent experiences have caused me to lower my ratings, because his customer service seems to have disappeared.  I married him because he was the strong, silent type; now, he never talks to me.  I admired his strong convictions about the things that bugged him in society; now he just complains about the things that bug him about me.  Unfortunately, I can no longer recommend him as a husband.”

2“You would think that after 3 years, a person would learn from their mistakes and correct them. But Tommy still seems more committed to his own interests than the happiness of others.  His performance as a toddler is consistently declining, his social skills have become self-centered, and he has little commitment to our family structure.  It’s sad to watch 5-star potential disintegrate to a 2-star review.  We’ll keep him for now, but we’re disappointed.”

3“Uncle Joe? He’s crazy. But we made it through the last holiday without him causing a scene.  That’s a miracle – and it might have been a fluke – but it’s enough to add a couple of stars to his rating.”

People go to Yelp to see what other people think about restaurants and services. If the reviews are good, they might consider using that service.  If the reviews are bad, they avoid it.

We all have our “default” restaurant – the one we keep going to when we can’t decide where else to go. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, and it’s safe.  Maybe it’s not the greatest food in the world, but it’s pretty consistent.

Some days the food might be a little off or the service a little shaky. But we know the place well enough to realize that it’s just a bad day for them, and it’ll be better next time.

But if someone makes a first-time visit on that bad day, they’re incensed. They demand free food, won’t pay the bill and write a scathing review on Yelp as soon as they get to their car.  They want to punish the restaurant and protect others from the same fate.

Yelp familyWhat if there was a “people” category on Yelp, where we could critique our family and friends?

What would we write?

Would it reflect the realities of long-term commitment?

Or would it be an impulsive reaction to a frustrating conversation?

When we talk to others about our spouse, kids or relatives, it’s like a Yelp review. What we say shapes their opinion of that person.

It’s easy to share our family frustrations with others, hoping they’ll reinforce our position. But it’s not fair to the family member, because it only gives our perspective.

I’m wondering if there’s a guiding principle that applies here, whether it’s a restaurant or a relative:

  • If our review is positive, we should tell the person (so they get the encouragement) – and also tell others.
  • If our review is negative, we should talk to the person about it – and nobody else.

Thoughts?

 

 

Why We Need to Clarify Expectations

Years ago (back in the 70’s ), I picked up four boxes of old magazines that someone was getting rid of. By “old,” I mean from the ‘60’s.  There were travel magazines, food magazines, business journals and a few random topics thrown in.

pool soap

I was just starting to write professionally, and thought it might be a good source of ideas. I figured that I could just look at the table of contents to see what had been written, and get ideas that might be interesting to pursue.  I wasn’t going to copy anything – in fact, I wasn’t even going to read the articles.  I just thought I’d use the article titles for inspiration.

There were probably 100 magazines in each box, so I had about 400 total.

Those boxes sat in my garage for years.

I had great intentions, but never opened the boxes.

My wife said, “Why don’t you throw those away? They’re just taking up space.”

“No,” I said. “I’m going to get to them someday. I just haven’t had time.”

A couple of years later, we moved to Arizona. The magazines moved with us.

Eleven years later, we moved back to California. The magazines moved with us.

Ten years after that, we had a yard sale. Diane said, “Why don’t you sell your magazines?”  I started the same excuse I had given for over 20 years.

But she continued: “Put a price on them that you’d be comfortable with. If they sell, you have the money.  If they don’t, you still have the magazines.”

It made sense, though it was hard to part with them. I felt like there might be buried treasure in those magazines, and I hadn’t captured it yet.  But I agreed to the plan.

I took the four boxes out to the driveway, opened them and marked “25 cents” on the box. I figured that if I sold 400 magazines for 25 cents each, I’d make $100.

I went in the house for about 20 minutes. When I returned, Diane said, “I sold your magazines.”

“All of them?”

“All of them,” she said. “Somebody bought all four boxes.”

“How much did you get?” I asked

She handed me a dollar bill.

I had written “25 cents” on each box, meaning that it was the price of each magazine. She thought it was the price of each box.

So I was a dollar richer, and had space in my garage. She had done exactly what I asked her to do when I put that price on the box.  But I assumed she understood what I meant.

pool soapWhen anyone tells us something, it’s easy to take their words at face value. But that can lead to misunderstanding and disappointment later.  I’ve learned that it’s always healthy to ask for clarification instead of assuming I understand.

Here’s a simple approach:

  • Someone tells us what they want.
  • We respond like this:
    • “OK – when you say __________ , what do you mean?”
    • “Can you tell me more about that?”
    • “What, exactly, are you thinking?”
  • We summarize back what we heard: “So let me make sure I have this right. What you’re really asking is _______________; is that correct?”

That gives them a chance to clarify to make sure you’re on the same page. It also shows them that you were listening.

Try it with someone at dinner tonight. See how it goes (and let us know).

If I had done that a few years ago, I might be $99 richer.

 

 

Getting Unstuck (How to Make the Right Decision)

Screen-Shot-2013-07-23-at-10_45_06-PM

Several years ago, my son and I had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in San Diego. It’s a great restaurant, but it takes me forever to decide on a meal because it has a 20-page menu – and everything is good.

This particular night, Tim picked up the menu, glanced at the first page for about ten seconds, and put it back on the table.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing. I’ve already decided what I want.”

“But you’ve only looked at one page,” I countered.

“Right. I’ve learned to just read through the menu from the beginning until I find something that looks good, and that’s what I get. The next time we come here, I’ll start from that place in the menu and move forward and do it again.”

I think that’s a healthy way to live.

Have you ever been “stuck” in a tough decision, and you couldn’t figure out what to do? It could be anything from selecting a project team, to considering a new job, to buying a new car to moving to a new house.

Or it could be as simple as deciding what to order for dinner.

  • There’s more than one option, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each one.
  • You’re afraid that if you make the wrong choice, you’ll regret it later.
  • You’ve asked others for advice, and everyone tells you something different.
  • You’re worried what others will think if you make either choice.

Somebody called it “paralysis by analysis.” It’s when you don’t want to make a mistake, so you don’t make a decision.

The fear of regret keeps you from moving forward, so you get stuck in neutral.

If one choice has an outcome that’s obviously better than the other, it’s a no-brainer. But what should you do when both options would be OK?

  • You study both sides.
  • You consider what you’ll gain from making either choice.
  • You consider what you’ll lose from making either choice.
  • You take a walk to clear your head.
  • If the options are still about equal, you follow a simple principle:

Don’t worry about making the right decision.

Make a decision, then make it right.

Once you make the choice, don’t look back.

Sure, you’ll miss the benefits of the other choice. But once the decision is final, it frees you to put 100% of your energy into making that decision the best choice.

It’s time to put down the menu and enjoy the meal.

The Marriage Investment

Wedding silhouette

I sat in the front row last Saturday at my son’s wedding.  Tim and Lucy stood before us, promising to love each other no matter what.

Lucy’s parents sat across from us on the other side.  I wondered what was going through their minds as they gave their daughter to this young man.  I couldn’t ask because of the language barrier.

But I could see in their eyes the trust they had built in Tim during a six-year, long-distance courtship.

He had flown to Guadalajara to ask for their permission to marry her.  It’s not common for a 33-year old man to do that, but he wanted to do it right.  He respected them enough to ask.

As I looked across the courtyard at her dad, I’m pretty sure I knew what he was feeling.

It was the same feeling I had years ago when Brian asked me if he could marry my daughter.

Wedding silhouetteWhen Brian took me out for coffee, I knew it was coming.  We sat outdoors on metal chairs next to the noisy parking lot, and he talked more than usual.  He played with his coffee cup, but didn’t drink anything – so I knew he was nervous.  It was a warm evening, but I sensed that he was sweating more than I was.

I loved that boy.  Still do.  And I’ll have to admit, it was fun watching him squirm a bit.

Finally he asked.

I don’t remember exactly how he asked, but I remember how I responded.

“Brian,” I said, “I just want you to know what you’re asking for.”

He got really quiet.

“Let’s say I started investing my money.  I studied how it worked, and learned about the market.  I invested a little bit every day, and was always careful to make the wisest investments possible.  I kept track of my portfolio, and kept adding to it for the next 20 years or so.  I wanted to get the greatest possible return on my investment, so I followed it carefully.  The economy would go up and down, and I never knew what would happen – but I made adjustments during those times to make sure it would pay off.”

I continued: “And let’s say it worked.  After all that time, my portfolio had grown to be worth a fortune.  The value to me was great, because I had put so much energy into it.  I had become wealthy.”

Brian kept listening, and wasn’t playing with his cup anymore.

“Now, you come along and say, “Hey!  I really like what you’ve done with your money.  Can I have it?  I’ll take good care of it!”

I asked, “What do you think I’d be feeling?”

He knew where this was going.  He said, “You’d have to really trust me enough to handle it, and care about me enough to give it away.”

“Exactly,” I responded.

“I don’t have that kind of financial portfolio.  I’m not wealthy.  But I’m rich, because I’ve invested in my daughter for two decades.  The payoff has been huge.  She’s my portfolio, and she’s worth more to me than you can imagine.”

“That’s what you’re asking for.  You’re not just marrying my daughter because you love her.  You’re asking me to trust you with my investment and hand it over to you.”

We talked for a while longer.

I said “yes.”  Brian started breathing again.

Almost fourteen years later, I’ve seen that it was my best investment move ever.

That’s what I saw in the eyes of Lucy’s dad last weekend.  He’s poured his life into his daughter, and he’s rich because of it.  Now, he’s trusting my son to manage his portfolio.

It won’t be perfect.  It won’t be easy.  But my son is a good manager of emotional investments.  This is the first time he’s had a chance to use those investing skills in a marriage relationship.  He and Lucy will work on that portfolio together.

He’s keenly aware of the value he’s been trusted with.  And he’s shown himself to be trustworthy.

It’s a reminder to me of the portfolio I was given 37 years ago by my father-in-law.  He trusted me, and I’ve worked hard on his investment.

When the payoff comes, everyone wins.

I love this type of investing.

How’s your portfolio?

Writing in Circles

I’ve been getting emails from a number of you saying, “Hey!  Did you quit blogging?”

Stressed writer

That’s nice.  Ask most bloggers how many readers they have, and they can’t tell you.  You might have hundreds or even thousands of subscribers, but that doesn’t mean those people actually read what you’ve written.

I’ve heard that for a typical blog, you’ll get about one comment or email for every 130 people who actually read it.  I don’t know how accurate that is, but it’s interesting.

I get a lot more emails than comments.  I can understand that, because a lot of people want to connect without having the whole world know about it.  That’s usually what I do.  Maybe it’s an introvert thing.

Either way, it’s nice when somebody connects because they miss reading your stuff.

I guess it’s like having somebody who shows up at your house a couple of times a week, and all of a sudden they’re not there for a while.  If it’s somebody you like, you miss seeing them.

So, you deserve a response.  And my apologies for not letting you know sooner.

I haven’t quit. But have pulled to the side of the road to finish up a book I’ve been working on.  I have a September 1 deadline with my publisher, and I don’t miss deadlines.  So I’ve had to put my writing energy there.

Stressed writerI miss writing this blog, though.  I’ve discovered that I often don’t know what I think about something until I write about it.  You’ve been gracious to ride along and chat with me.

My personal deadline for finishing the book was July 31, which would give me a month to tweak and polish.  I finished with a couple of days to spare.

As I finish polishing each chapter, I let my wife read each one.  Diane is great at seeing what works and what doesn’t, and she’s honest enough to let me know.

I gave her the first three chapters after they were ready.  Last night I asked her at dinner what she thought.  I assumed she would make a comment like, “Where are we going to put your ‘Book of the Year’ award?”

She didn’t say that.  She was hesitant, and gracious.

She said, “You know how, when you’re speaking in front of a group, and you don’t really know what you’re talking about, how you start talking in circles?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, you’re writing in circles,” she said.  “I can’t tell where you’re going.”

(Not exactly what you want to hear when you’re three weeks from your deadline.)

I asked, “So, how far into it did you get lost?” (hoping it would be at least in Chapter 3.)

She pointed to the middle of the first page.

(I know my editor reads this blog.  She probably just passed out . . . or went for a 200-mile bike ride to recover . . . )

The good news?  That’s exactly what I needed to hear.  Diane gave me some great input, and it made sense.  I rewrote the entire first chapter this morning, and she said it worked.

The bad news?   Well, I really don’t think there is any.  Without input, I’m writing in a vacuum.  With input, I know which way to go.

So, it’s back to work.  Three weeks left, and I need to stay focused (especially since I’m still traveling and leading seminars, and my son is getting married in Guadalajara two days before my deadline).

Thanks for riding along, and for the encouragement along the way.  I’ll drop you a note early in September, and we’ll pull out of this rest stop and get back on the road together!