Hold the Salt

Business lore cannot decide who it wants to attribute the “salt test” to. Some say Thomas Edison, others Henry Ford, not to mention household names like General MacArthur and a host of others.

What is the “salt test” anyway? Essentially, the salt test was a simple method devised to examine the character and personality of a potential employee.

It looks like this… Henry Ford takes you out to dinner, a small price to pay since you’ve applied for a key position in the company. Ol’ Henry keeps an eagle eye on you as the server delivers your requested meal. Your mouth waters as you reach for the salt. (NO! DON’T DO IT!) You proceed to smother your food in that all white ionic compound otherwise known as common table salt. You take a taste. Mr. Ford asks how your food is. You smile and provide enthusiastic feedback, “Delicious!”

You continue your attempt to dazzle. But, it’s too late. You’ve forfeited the job.

Henry Ford knows that premature salt application would indicate a person’s narrow thinking and inability to analyze fresh data. The action might also show a lack of appreciation for the host or a shortage of trust in the cook’s ability.

THE CHALLENGE: Leave the salt alone! Examine your self-talk. Do you season your language with negativity?

“I can’t”

“I’m too”

“Why bother?”

“I’ll never”

How much of this negative dialogue acts as premature seasoning?

When you meet people do you really listen? Do you learn their name? Do you care about what they are saying? Or, are you projecting your own judgements upon them?

As you go throughout the day, pay attention to how often a limited view is imposed on yourself or others. You may be surprised at the frequency at which we season our situations prematurely.

Shoot Blanks

What do most (if not all) books have in common?  A blank page defiled by the words “this page intentionally left blank.”

As if failure to declare this intention would result in a lawsuit.  But who really cares in the first place?

I’ve bookmarked, color coded, tabbed, and dog eared countless pages. But that blank page always goes without attention.  Maybe there is more to

be told on that singular page than any paragragraph in any book.  At least

one beckoning message is for us to “leave room.”

Our lives are filled with obligations and we saturate every crevice of every hour with trivial distractions! I bet one thing they are not filled with is bordom. Think about it, when was the last time you were genuinely bored? I’m not suggesting our time should be idled away. But it is worth asking, have we left any blank space – with intent?

“Boredom is good when in a creative rut, often you will find gift wrapped answers.” -Stephen King

THE CHALLENGE:  How many minutes of your day are intentionally left blank? No seriously, count them up.  Do you leave any room to just sit and think? Do you leave enough white space to find those gift wrapped answers? I dare you to stop reading this, unplug, and go experience boredom for a few minutes. String together some blank pages and note the tremendous influence it yields on the remainder of your “book.”

Digging for Cables

In most situations, I’m a quiet guy. Somehow my dad nicknamed me “chatterbox” as child. The safety of my own home is probably the only time I lived up to such a name.

To this day I still hear people around me say, “watch out for the quiet ones, once they snap they’ll kill you.” Can’t say I’ve ever lived up to that.

In part however, I think there is some truth to the idea that the quiet folks tend to have a little more “clack” to their thunder, a little more “cold calculation” as words erupt like lava from a once stagnant volcano.

But it’s not just the quiet ones we need to be wary of. I think we ALL have an underground cable that if split will electrocute whomever dared to grasp the shovel.

I’m saddened with how quickly people go digging for cables. They long for contention and discord as if severed relationships were the rule and not the exception. They speak truth with no restrain, intent to hurt, intent to cause damage.

THE CHALLENGE: Brutal honesty (even if a skewed opinion) is often the shovel that will get you zapped. Brutal honesty has merit, but lacks sustainability. In dealing with those around you, look for the signs posted “warning, underground cable.” Stay away, dig somewhere else. Every personality has some territory that can be explored freely. Use tact. Use love.

As for your own cables, keep your signs posted. Avoid rust and decay. Sometimes we victimize ourselves when boundaries aren’t declared early and firmly.

Photo by: Ira

Survive the Ground

Week 15 of the 2017 NFL season contained a solid lesson.  Steelers hosted the Patriots and it came down to the wire.  Great games are always decided by a key play or two and this one was no different.  With less than a minute remaining in regulation, the Steelers’ tight end (Jesse James) caught what appeared to be a touchdown to secure the win.  Instead…they lost.

The NFL rulebook states that if a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass he “must maintain control of the ball until afterhis initial contact with the ground.”  During the lengthy official review, it was deemed evident that James did not “survive the ground” and the touchdown was overturned.  Game over.

Survive the Ground

The sequence of these events reminded me of our goals and resolutions.  I started 2017 with some clear goals that would demand a lot of attention.  While some goals were achieved, others were virtually stillborn.

The first obstacle struck early in the year and I dropped the ball.  I didn’t anticipate variables like the Grim Reaper, traveling, moving, or new goals to surface along the way.  Of course, these are all excuses.  Excuses make the ball pop out.

“Good resolutions are a pleasant crop to sow. The seed springs up so readily, and the blossoms open so soon with such a brave show, especially at first. But when the time of flowers has passed, what as to the fruit?”

THE CHALLENGE:  A new year is upon us.  What do you intend to achieve?  Be a season ticket holder to the game of life.  This game is measured in years with no offseason and the stakes are much higher than a measly sporting event.  Remember, opposition will be knocking at your door.  Like it or not, you will make contact with the turf.  It is not enough to simply dream a goal, hope a goal, or even write down a goal.  You must internalize it.  It must excite you, you must dream about it, you must long for it… that is of course if you want to survive the ground.


Illustration by Ashley Goodall


Three Lessons From Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong earned the distinction of being the first man to walk on the moon. What can we learn from him?  Here are my three takeaways.

Armstrong joined the U.S. Navy in 1949 as an aviator and flew combat missions up until 1952. In the last two years of that service, he flew 78 combat missions over Korea. He transitioned to the U.S. Naval Reserve and remained there for eight years until resigning from his commission in 1960. During his time in the Navy, Armstrong logged a total of 2,600 hours in flight, including 1,100 in jet aircraft. He later became an astronaut and the rest is history.

(1)  Find passion in what you do. Would Neil Armstrong have landed on the moon if he did not find a passion for being airborne? Would he have had the confidence to go into unknown territory if he had not risked his life in 78 combat missions? He not only went into outer space but did so with the intent of walking on the moon. I wonder if the thought of “moon walking” ever occurred to him during his first combat flight over Korea. Try not to think about just “getting through the day” but how everything we do can lead to something much bigger than initially supposed.

(2) Contemplate boundaries. Armstrong’s accomplishments reveal so much about boundaries, both literal and perceived. The early colonists in 1775 (at the time of the Navy’s birth) were virtually landlocked.  To the west, they were smothered by thriving forests. To the east, they had the ocean (a mighty long swim before finding a substantial land mass). They may have viewed either direction as their “outer space”, an unknown distance of unexplored territory on one hand and uncharted fathoms of a deadly ocean on the other, not to mention any number of unsympathetic enemies found in both human and animal form. We ought to take inventory of our boundaries, again both literal and perceived. Strive to gain and maintain a firm grasp on the territory in which you may legally operate while keeping in the back of your mind the possibility of breaking out and doing the impossible. America’s early settlers weren’t thinking about exploring the far side of the moon any more than Niel Armstrong was thinking about the world wide web. What possibilities do we presently overlook?

(3) Take a trip for yourself. I personally will never travel to the moon, at least not in a physical sense.  That does not mean I can’t let my mind wander (preferably not at a red light).  For me, it is important to take creative mental expeditions. Refuse to let your mind grow stale. Feed your brain with daily “combat missions.”  Don’t just “veg out” in front of the TV and let others do the thinking for you, don’t be a couch potato.  Find ways to do some mental moonwalking such as book exploration, blogging, journaling, meditation, yoga or some type of art or music. Do whatever it is that sets your mind free and allow yourself time to think outside the box.  Yes, there are infinite prospects to your left and right – just be sure to “look up” from time to time in order to find those overlooked possibilities.

 

Photo by possan

Jolt Revolt

I wasn’t much of a handyman in my first house. Some things I had to learn the hard way, barely evading death or serious injury.  One such experience came when I decided to remove a patch of drywall in the bathroom.  I jammed a 6″ saw tooth blade into the wall and before I could even start hacking away, I found the precise spot where electrical wires were fitted to the stud.  A powerful jolt of electricity hollered at me as if to say, “YOU IDIOT!” Visible sparks flickered about in an odorous puff of smoke just inches from my face.  The circuit breaker tripped.  The room was left dark.  I was shaking like a leaf! “WOW, that was stupid!” I said to myself.

Many years have passed since that first terrible encounter with electrical current.  I now approach the subject with great reverence.  In fact, I’m a little too cautious and quickly hire an electrician regardless of expense (in my mind, that’s a small price to pay).

I’ve never seen anyone bypass the playground to take their kids to an electrical plant. Sure, we may ignore the speed limit, but never a high voltage sign.  Ironically, the high voltage isn’t the killer in our lives, it’s low voltage!  In other words…

“we dig our graves with our teeth.”

It’s not the first cigarette that kills you nor is it the last argument which causes divorce.  It’s the “pack a day” for 30 years or the premarital baggage and built up resentment over time that prevents the “happily ever afters.”  The kids who avoid the first cigarette as if it had a “high voltage” sign are the winners.  The same goes for the diet of cheesecake, Twinkies, Devil Dogs and Fudge Rounds; or the marriage based on deceit or wandering eyes (including other body parts).  Staying FAR away from the small discrepancies ensures peace and safety.

THE CHALLENGE:  I recommend using this idea in conjunction with “goal punching?” (You can read about it here.)

When you are faced with a small discrepancy, treat it like a massive one.  Take immediate mental action by putting a “high voltage” sign on it.  Stop telling yourself a little bit won’t hurt. Just because you don’t see visible sparks doesn’t mean you aren’t getting zapped.  A little bit does hurt.  Small leaks are capable of sinking big ships.

Photo by Ian Bailey-Mortimer

Knee Jerk Reactions

It was a good day for the bees. After covering the hive with three buckets of beach sand, and with our training evolution complete, the time arrived for me to undo the damage and remove the barricade. Accompanied by a trusted friend (or partially insane, depending on how you view this scenario), we slowly removed the sand. I used a small shovel to explore the contents of the sand mound.

I expected to see signs of life.  Just yesterday we checked back to see how the sand was functioning and the bees managed to dig their way out! I marveled at their strength and ingenuity. I grossly underestimated mother nature.

Today was quite the opposite, at first. One dead bee, then another, then another. No sign of life. I was disappointed. Finally, we removed the traffic cone and I heard a buzz of fury. They were alive no doubt, hundreds of them! Without hesitation, my feet made a hasty “about face” and we ran away without looking back for a significant distance (thus proving our remaining sanity).  Not to mention, I may or may not have let out a high pitched shriek.

Have you ever zoned out at a traffic light? What happens? The car behind you lays on their horn and you snap back to reality. Maybe you feel angry at the driver(s) behind you. Perhaps you feel guilty for making them wait, or disappointed in yourself for not paying attention. Emotion inevitably fuels your reaction which makes your foot respond as if it were 10 pounds too heavy. You slam on the gas to compensate for lost time. Of course, nobody else follows suit, but in your mind, it feels right.

In life, because we are flawed human beings, we experience knee jerk reactions. We are very much like “stop-and-go” traffic. Our knee jerk reactions only occur when we fail to move with the flow of transit. This might be moving too fast, such as the case with the bees, or too slow, like taking a mental vacation to Jupiter at a red light.

THE CHALLENGE: Try to go with the flow. Stay in the mainstream. If you ever find yourself easily offended, check your pace. During rush hour traffic it doesn’t matter how fast your engine can “technically” run.  Your horsepower is limited to the cars around you (perhaps a Volkswagen to your left, and a Uhaul to your right).

In life, it often pays to lay off the gas and ease into traffic, instead of becoming a slingshot of emotion. Travel at a safe distance and watch out for speed traps. Stay steady, stay cool…it’s a long drive!

Photo by Anant Nath Sharma

Beating a dead horse, or mule, or whatever…

Mom…dad…aunt…dead, all this year.

What was it like on their deathbed? They all knew it was their time to go. Were they thinking about selfies? TV? How to discipline others? A mediocre lesson? Enemies? The business card they meant to give away?

ANSWER: Nope

They were thinking about the sum total of their lives. They were thinking about bricks! They were thinking about their pain (and thirst). Something happens on our death bed. We let go of all the stuff we thought was important.

A good friend once told me, “You only have to make it until you die.” This helps me stay cool, calm and collected. I try not to carry the “stuff” with me along the way. I can only control what I can control and eventually the clock hit’s zero.

“After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box.”
Proverb

Knowing what I will eventually become makes it easy to keep yellow flags in my pocket. It is also worth questioning if my perspective is even correct. I love children’s art! There is something so pure and authentic in EVERY single doodle they create. Often I would ask my young children, “What is that?” after they come running up to me to show me a masterpiece.

In the child’s mind, the picture doesn’t need any explanation. “It’s right there dad, duh…can’t you see it?” But sometimes I can only see what looks like scribbles. The child is not concerned with line, form, shape, value, color, and texture. They can only limit themselves to the expression of their idea, their way.

I wonder how often we view the world equivalent to a child’s artwork. How often do we impose our will upon others when trying to lead “the right way.” We might be making a ruckus in an attempt to lead others “our way” when in reality what we are waving around is childlike “artwork.” We might be saying, “Duh…it’s right there, can’t you see it?” But, did we present our vision with enough artistic elements? Did we use complimentary colors, formal balance, and proportion?

THE CHALLENGE: As a leader, know the rules. Know what is stated in black and white. This will give you the power to direct. It will provide a common framework for all to understand. Avoid being abstract when assigning tasks or giving orders. Be direct, be clear, be firm. The more you do this, the better you lead. The better you lead, the more bricks you make. The more bricks you make, the more satisfied you will feel when it’s your time to pass.

Photo by Kerry

A Stitch in Time, Saves Nine

One of the pivotal books I read this year was “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” This book gave me new eyes to see the value of preservation and upkeep. This is a principle taught in the military, but I failed to meditate upon the idea and it slipped through my fingers. I treated it like tinsel on a Christmas tree, especially with my own belongings. In far too many instances, maintenance is an afterthought rather than the main priority. For me, this is primarily due to my lack of affinity to material possessions.

Still, I consistently hand wash my car, change my own oil and replace brake or headlights. (My problem is the check engine light that goes unheeded…but we won’t dwell on that.) I mentioned oil, so let’s explore, shall we?

I draw a line in the sand when my car is hemorrhaging fluids. I have been astonished at the number of guests that have come to our house over the last four years and left a puddle of oil as a parting gift. I fail to comprehend how people can let that happen, especially after reading the aforementioned book!

I recently noticed a phenomenon at work. I’m often among the last to leave when the parking lot is all but cleared out. The lot is freshly paved and is therefore easy to distinguish fresh oil spots. Care to guess where they are located?

Closest to the door, but away from all the early arrivers. Essentially, the spots that are last to fill up and have the most turnover.

This is not science, but in my estimation, it looks like this. The early birds have a battle rhythm. They beat rush hour traffic, get the spot of their choice, pack their own lunch and rarely have to move their car. The late arrivers procrastinated preparation, hit the snooze button too many times, didn’t pack food and have to leave to get breakfast and again for lunch. In general, those parking spots are married to the most oil. CoincidenceI think not.

THE CHALLENGE: Read or listen to “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” The gems contained therein are well worth the effort.

Take inventory of your car (and all you possess for that matter). What is being neglected? Check engine light perhaps? Do some maintenance. It is worth the effort. Remember, “A stitch in time, saves nine!”

Your nine to five performance is a direct reflection of you five to nine performance. Prepare for tomorrow! It is worth the effort.

Photo by Jenny Downing 

Stay Humble

“Hey mom, we’re going for a walk?” I said. “Sure,” came the reply. We weren’t thinking about safety. After all, I had a friend with me, so why should anyone consider the fact that the lifeguards would be off duty in just 20 minutes? Or that we would step into the ocean right when high tide was in full fury?

Playing Russian roulette with mother nature nearly cost my life. The fierce undertow gripped my ankles like a creature under the bed. I didn’t stand a chance! After a prolonged struggle, I was desperate! I was 10 seconds from giving up when out of nowhere a monster wave turned me into a living surfboard. It was a thrilling ride, one of desperation. I knew it was my only hope. I let gravity pull me down hoping my toes could now get a taste of sand. I was in luck. The skirmish to get back to land was real. I had to fight for every inch. My body dropped to the beach as if it were a lifeless whale. I failed to look both ways. That was 23 years ago.

Today, I took my kids swimming in the ocean. They had fun jumping waves, that is, so long as they were less than waist deep. They were timid. I tried to coax them into deeper water. No such luck. But I’m convinced my aforementioned brush with death influenced how I raise them and contributed to their immense respect for nature’s power. Patience pays off and I know that in due time they will be ducking and dodging white crested ocean swells.

THE APPLICATION: We enter life naked and helpless. The ocean is a long time coming. We must learn how to crawl, then walk and maybe endure a little pain such as hot sand, cold water, rocks, and an occasional jelly fish sting. We need strength, energy, and endurance. Eventually, we may graduate to a boogie board, surfboard or wakeboard. From there it might be a jet ski, speed boat or cruise liner. But the one thing we never graduate to is trading limbs and lungs for fins and gills. Try as we may, fish we are not.

THE CHALLENGE: Stay humble. Born broke, die rich? Fine. You may own some boats, but the ocean will always own you! True riches are found in listening to nature’s sermons.

Photo by Dave