The Muddy Road – Parable

There is a parable I read online called “The Muddy Road” that goes like this:

Two monks, Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.
Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself.
“We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”
“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

Sometimes, one of the hardest things for us to do is to let go.  Tanzan was had a stronger desire to help someone in need.  Ekido, on the other hand, felt it was best to adhere to the rules the monks lived by.  Both are right in choosing their actions, of course, as it would be an individual’s decision.  However, Tanzan’s point was very interesting as it showed that Ekido was still fighting internally with Tanzan’s decision long after the decision was made.  During this time of internal conflict, how much had Ekido missed of the world around him?  Additionally, was Ekido facing his own muddy road inside his mind?

I, like all of you, have found myself as both Tanzan and Ekido.  We have all dealt with situations that we struggle to move on from, and others that are just a minor blip on the radar.  In any given day, I will experience issues of both kinds, but I am working on handling it better.  I currently have an Ekido situation that has been going on for some time.  With the help of my friends, I’m improving.  As with everything, improvement takes time and repetition.

I believe that it is very important to have a partner that you can bounce ideas or concerns off of.  Mentors, teachers, pastors, coaches; these are all the usual titles that come to mind when we need guidance.  However, it can be anyone that you respect, authority figure or not.  I have a friend that is like a brother to me, and I know that I can go to him with anything for an open-minded discussion.  For that reason, I count him as a member of my team.  If you have not sat down to think about your team, I strongly encourage you to do so.  Like a list of references for a job search, this group needs to be a living, breathing entity.  Modifications will need to be done, new people added, some people removed, but it will require some attention.

You will find yourself much more comfortable with decisions, and it may even help if you are prone to bouts of anxiety.  I recommend taking a few minutes to identify people in your life that you can count on to further your success.

Post-Christmas After Action Review – Growth

Christmas was a whirlwind.  There is nothing else that describes it quite as well.  Owing to the fact that I have a day job and two businesses, as well as a family, I am no stranger to how fast the weekends fly by.  Holidays make it that much faster when factoring in travel and parties.  This year presented new opportunities and new reflections.  Christmas Eve was spent with family, but Christmas Day we spent at home.  This proved to be quite fortunate as both my wife and son were quite sick.  I did what I could to help out and ultimately ended up fighting the sickness myself the following day.  I would love to tell you I was the image of stability, but in reality the perfect storm was raging inside my body.  However, despite this horrendous detail I was still provided with opportunities for growth.

Though this holiday is typically associated with fun family get-togethers, it also led to some obstacles and minor disappointments in my life.  First, I finished my workout program last week and Monday was to be the start of something new.  Let me tell you about the workout I had on Monday.  Get out of bed, stumble to couch, fall asleep on couch.  I practiced breathing exercises and mastered multiple variations of corpse pose in Yoga.  I was bummed, and disgusted because I like to think I can force myself to push through it.  However, when your energy stores are just hanging out at zero, you need to rest and replenish.  After all, it isn’t worth getting sicker, or getting those around you sick.

Second, my diet took a hit.  I have been following Keto for a few months now, and I have been quite happy with the results.  However, I have been doing sloppy Keto in the sense that I could be doing cleaner eating.  I have been making liberal usage of bacon and its grease.  Yesterday, I even ate some crackers to help settle my stomach.  THE CARBS!  Admittedly, it did seem to help.  I don’t know if I knocked myself out of ketosis, but even if I did, it isn’t the end of the world.  I’ll get through this and I will be much better off because of it.

Some days our goals may be delayed.  Putting them on hold is okay.  Sometimes this provides an opportunity to re-evaluate to see if you are still aligned with them.  Growth comes from change.  Be honest with yourself, maybe you don’t care as much about getting your Master’s degree by age 33 anymore.  There isn’t any shame in removing goals that no longer apply to you.

No matter what it is that we are doing in life, there will always be obstacles.  After all, we yearn for smooth sailing the most during the most chaotic of times.  Without the bad we would never appreciate the good.  I prefer to think of them as “growth opportunities” since we would not need to change course without them.  Though some may seem insurmountable at times, we can get through whatever comes our way.  If you need help, reach out to anyone you trust.  Reach out to me, I’m always available.

Christmas is coming! Are you ready?

So I don’t know if any of you knew this, but Christmas is TOMORROW! That’s right, a good number of you may be doing your shopping today.  I used to be one of those as well…ok I still am.  I don’t actually finish my Christmas shopping until the very last minute, but I am getting better.  Christmas is always a bittersweet time of year for me.  On the one hand, it is great to spend more time with family, and who doesn’t like all of the food and presents.  Less food because keto.  However, with it comes the frustrations of trying to find the perfect gifts.  It oftentimes leads me to thinking that I don’t really know people as well as I should.  That was the old me.

The new me likes to think that I do know more about people than I gave myself credit for.  There are a lot of times where we think of gifts in terms of material things, and that isn’t what the holiday is about.  I forget that I can always give my friends and family more of my time, more fun conversation, more of me.  Maybe it is because I just convince myself that it isn’t the kind of gift people are looking for.  Don’t get me wrong, I still purchased nice little items for loved ones.  However, I am accepting that year round I should be providing more of me.

There is 8,766 hours in a year, now remove 2080 hours for the expected 40-hour workweek.  Now remove 2924 hours because we all get 8 hours of sleep each night.  You are left with 3762 hours to do whatever you wish.  Averaged across every day of the year, that leaves 14.18 hours per day.

Granted this is a massive over-simplified calculation, and none of us are average, that is a good chunk of time.  Want to start a business?  Do it.  Want to maintain a garden? Go ahead!  Want to teach your kids the power of donating your time to others?  Get started.

Christmas is a fun time for me and many others.  It is time for me to start allowing a little more time for that.  After all, no one knows how many Christmases we have.  Nor do we know how many days are left for us, in general.  So starting right this moment, I am vowing to say “No,” more.  I need my “No’s” to get back some of the time available to me.  I want to spend that resource better, and on better investments.

Please do not misunderstand me, this year is going to be record-breaking for both of my businesses.  I also plan to continue coaching others, so if you need assistance do not hesitate to reach out.  However, everything will be scheduled when it is convenient for both of us.  After all, this year has felt like a candle lit from both sides.  While the candle burns twice as bright, it burns twice as fast.

Set the pace on your journey.  No one else is on it, but you!

Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

Hold on with me here.  Kenny Rogers has a song called “The Gambler” that talks about a conversation between two men down on their luck.  Meeting on a train, the gambler says to the other man that he has some advice for him.  The key parts, in my opinion are the following few lines:

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run…”

Due to the fact that I seem to always have new projects going on, this part always struck me as funny.  I am honest enough with myself to be able to say that I have no idea when to walk away from something.  Oftentimes, I will hang on trying to fix things long after I should’ve turned it over to someone better equipped to handle the project.  Shutting it down is also another possible outcome in some cases.  I’ve always feared failure, but I convinced myself I could not fail if I didn’t give up.  I have learned, though, that sometimes a project is just not going to work out.

I was discussing one of my projects recently with my mentor, and I was looking for some guidance.  The project was not hitting the goals that I had set.  I kept telling myself to hold on for a period of time that felt appropriate, and I was struggling.  I could not tell if it was time to throw in the towel or to just continue on.

My mentor asked me what I stood to gain from terminating the project.  Additionally, what did I stand to lose if I keep it going?  These simple questions framed the entire problem quite nicely.  I concluded that the low momentum was what frustrated me most.  If I terminated the project, I really would not gain much at all.  The project is fairly well automated and requires limited input.  If I keep the project going, it costs a minimal amount of resources.  So I decided to keep it up.  Every now and then I would be surprised at a sudden and unexpected growth point.  Currently, that is enough to motivate me to continue on.

While projects are started for the best reasons and with the best intentions, not all will be completed.  Think about this in another way, and it is like relationships.  We have all had people come and go from our lives, sometimes without warning, and sometimes without cause.  However, you are not necessarily a failure for it.

So, at times, it pays to evaluate where we expend our valuable resources.  Whether it is time, money or energy, we should always be aware of where it goes.  With everything being so finite, can you afford to spend everything needlessly?

Like a Shock to the System – A Cold One!

No matter how good we are, we can always do better.  That is the mantra that I find myself running through every day.  It is truly remarkable how our lives can adjust to accommodate for nearly any stressor, or influence, given enough exposure to it.  However, once something becomes routine, we experience growth to a diminishing degree.  Because of this, it is oftentimes necessary to find something to introduce some pain into your otherwise comfortable process.  You need to shock your system.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this is an idea I got from a blog that I follow.  At ImpossibleHQ, there was a post written about starting your day with an ice cold shower.  Joel Runyon identifies many health benefits associated with this approach, and I recommend that everyone should read through it.  The first time I tried it was an interesting story, and I do not recommend my approach to anyone.

I had been working out at a local gym, and it had become my daily routine to workout at 5am until 6am.  Then I would shower there, dress, then head off to work.  This particular morning they had a water heater break down.  I had been meaning to try Joel’s ice-cold-shower therapy, so I strode proudly past the other guys in the locker room.  There was no way I was letting this ruin my morning.  I am pretty sure that when I walked past, someone even said “I wish I could be like him.”  Admittedly, the heat was on full blast over there so the fans were loud.

I whipped open the curtain to the shower and turned on the water.  Habit, and a newfound hesitation, had me standing there waiting to see if maybe I could squeeze out just a little extra degree of warmth from that water.  It dawned on me, at this point, that this really was not the best idea I had come up with.  However, I was not walking back through the locker room dry.  I had a reputation to think about and a shock to experience.  With that, I hung my towel with my dopp kit, and walked right in.  The water hit my shoulders and went down my side and gave this deceiving notion that it really was tolerable.

I did not truly appreciate the gravity of my situation until I turned to face the water.  Once it hit my chest, the chilled sensation seized my lungs forcing an uncontrollable gasp that was met with laughter from the locker area.  I’m still not ready to give up, though, so I quickly think to myself to just turn around to have the water hit my back.  After all, the shock won’t repeat itself, right?  This proved to elicit the same reaction when I sent chills to the back of my lungs.

Some notes that I wanted to share, from this experience:

  • Shampoo does not lather well in cold water.  This also applies to soap.
  • Working water heaters mean that you can control how cold you want your cold water therapy to be.
  • People with a heart problem should talk to their doctor before attempting this.
  • Do this in the privacy of your own home until you know how much you’ll embarrass yourself doing it in public.

I strongly recommend this to anyone that feels every day is starting the same.  This will absolutely add some variety, and maybe some expletives, to your morning.

The power of our words is greater than we think!

In August 2015, Mohammed Qahtani won the Toastmasters International title of World Champions of Public Speaking.  He competed against 33,000 competitors from around the world for this honor.  His speech was entitled “The Power of Words” and it is truly worth the viewing.  One of the pieces I really liked was his mention that “a simple choice of word can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.”

As an example, let us think about the following statements:

  • The first car smashed into the other car.
  • The first car bumped into the other car.

Reading the first statement carries with it implications of intention, speed, and violence.  What comes to mind is injury, and costly repairs.  The second statement sounds like it was accidental, low-speed, low-impact and no injuries.  Both statements could be heard in the same courtroom during a dispute over a car accident.  It is fairly easy to determine which statement belongs to the lawyer of each driver.

Just as the words can be used to sway a jury’s decision, they can also make or break your relationships with others.  This often pops into my mind because I have been guilty for some time of using the word “should” when it is better to use “could”.  The word “should” in most contexts implies that I am giving a veiled directive, or telling the individual that I know better than they do.  On the other hand, using “could” implies a collaborative approach.

Do you feel frustrated when people tell you that you “should” do something?  Personally, I prefer suggestions over directives.  Through personal experience, it seems most people would rather be part of a team than to be bossed around.  Being part of a team means that everyone has an opportunity to know why.  “Could” statements foster this kind of environment, while “should” statements can weaken it.

Whether dealing with employees, volunteers, or family, significant thought should be put into the words that we use.  They have the power to help just as much as hurt, and it is up to us to consider others.  Another piece of this, though, is the permanence of the words.  With the popularity of social networking, we live in a time where our words posted online become permanent records.  So consider that when posting a comment about that video on youtube.

When composing an email, or a message to be delivered to others, you must consider the implications of the words you choose.  Consider how the message makes you feel, or ask someone to listen and critique.  The more important the message, the greater attention and care you should dedicate to its delivery.

On the idea of never eating alone. Let’s team up!

I have a friend who also happens to be my mentor.  Dennis is always willing to give his time, insight, and experience.  One of the things that I enjoy when I meet up with him is his energy.  He always has ideas, and I wish that I had the same mind.  One of the things that helps him to operate this way is Dennis reads books…A LOT.  When he reads, he thinks of ways to apply what he has read to his own life as well as others.  He introduced me to the idea that people should never eat alone.  Every meal could be an opportunity for us to learn, to grow, to build.  This idea comes from the book, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.  This is not a review of his book, rather I would like to share the general idea.

Everyone knows that networking is key, and has been for years.  However, with the proliferation of networking events, our inboxes are flooded with invitations.  Such messages as network after work, or stop by for drinks.  These events do certainly serve a purpose and many groups have become quite polished.  However, I cannot be the only one tired of being around the “network jerk”.  These are the people that are just there to blanket the event with their business cards simply hoping to gain something.  Whether needing a new job, new clients, or anything else, this person is at every event.  Don’t be that guy!

Keith Ferrazzi’s book talks about a different approach in that it suggests informal networking events where you leverage your network to invite people you may not know to come with people you do know, for dinner or some meal.  His idea of never eating alone is wonderful to me.  It resonates so well because I am missing opportunities to talk to others when I consider how often I eat lunch, alone, at my desk.

Whether at home, a restaurant, or a cabin in the woods, it provides a more familial atmosphere that promotes better energy and conversation.  I think this is a really good idea, and one of the things I hope to incorporate into my life in the coming new year.  Though my business-mind calls it “expanding my network”, to be honest I want to expand my team.  I want to bring more positive people into my life, more adventurous people, and I want to do it in a comfortable way.

What would this look like?  I envision something happening every two weeks where we all get together for dinner and we all are allowed to bring someone else if we would like.  Anyone is welcome, and it can be hosted at home or at a restaurant.  Depending on how well this works, we may be forced to use a restaurant.  Either way, the goal is to provide an event for sharing of stories, successes, obstacles and anything else.  We can be our own brain trust, and it could be something wonderful.

You don’t need business cards, and don’t bring a resume.  This is not a place for you to find a job.  The rules are simple: bring a story, a friend, good conversation, or any combination of the three.  If you want to be a part of this, send me a message or comment on this post.  We all have so much going on in our lives, let’s take an hour or two for ourselves.

Update on the tank! Maybe it isn’t as bad as it felt?

So an update to my last post, we were able to get the tank replaced which is cool, but I no longer have faith in the manufacturer.  This leads me to constantly check on the tank in the basement.  The manufacturer claims that they have worked out the issue.  However, based on recent reviews online, nothing has changed.  This leads me to believe that I will experience another tank failure.  I learned since my last article that an indirect fired water heater should last longer than your typical water heater which added further fuel to the fire.

One positive that came from this was the fact that I was finally “motivated” to clean out the basement.  Water damage on your stuff is a fairly good motivator.  Thankfully, we did not lose anything important, and I was able to reorganize the gym area.  I also found that I had a whole bunch of tools that I was not using.  This allowed me some time to reorganize my tools and to even find some things to sell online.  I also had some time to add some more lights in the basement.  So now I have a ultra-convenient light over the breaker panel.  Also, there is a nice one over the media closet down there too.

I also finished building walls for the landing and doorway going into the basement.  I’m pretty happy with how it all came out, and luckily so does the wife.  A point that just happens to be a larger factor.

Though I still don’t like Triangle Tube, nor am I happy with their products, nothing is worth hanging onto for too long.  There is silver lining in everything bad that we experience.  Sometimes it is harder to see than others, but it is up to each of us to take the time to see it.

While I didn’t enjoy cleaning up the basement or the garage afterwards, it had to be done.  What better time than now, right?  Now it is just a matter of finding a place for the remaining items.  I am also hoping to find all of my missing screwdrivers, since I have the worst luck with keeping my in-house tools organized.  My garage tools stay just fine, though.  I do need to finish a couple of other items before the snow becomes a regular thing, though.  I need to hang the firring strips for what will soon be a ceiling in the garage.  Apparently it isn’t code to have an exposed ceiling in a garage that is below living space, or something.

Sometimes bad things happen.  However, don’t get dragged down by it.  Find a way to look past it and recognize that things do get better.  But above all else do not blame the world for the misfortunes you are experiencing.  To do that releases any power you have over your life.  Take charge and find something good.  Look past the bad and move on.  You’ll be better for it.

J.A.R.V.I.S. snag, and why is there water on my floor!

So JARVIS was not there for me this week.  Or rather, I wasn’t there for it.  On Monday, my water heater let go, and started leaking.  While I certainly did not enjoy this, it gets even better.  I called up the plumber that installed my boiler and water heater only to find out that he is on vacation.  Perfect, he left an emergency contact.  I went right to voicemail.  Anger is building at this point because I know how much we paid for everything, and I expected a different level of service.  Now at this point, I did have to recognize that I got lucky because I was downstairs when the leak really hit its stride.  However, JARVIS needs his leak detector sensors because he should have been able to let me know.  This is my fault, as I delayed ordering them.

So the next day I did hear from the plumber and he came right out that morning to look at the tank which was excellent.  However, after being there for about 15 minutes he established that the tank did need to be replaced.  Ok, that is why we bought a tank with a lifetime warranty, right?  Then the bomb was dropped; they were having trouble getting the manufacturer, Triangle Tube, to honor the warranty.

There are a couple of issues here, first being that the tank lasted almost 5 years exactly.  Now, this is an problem because a typical water heater can be expected to last 7-10 years.  There are even some longer-term anomalies for those of you that conduct annual maintenance on them.  The next issue is the fact that Triangle Tube was supposedly a reputable and reliable company.  If that is true, then why is Triangle Tube fighting “LIFETIME WARRANTIES”.  I don’t care what the cause is, if someone has a problem on a lifetime warranty, just replace it.  You are going to be replacing it at some point anyway.

Building off of all of this we hit another snag, There is a chance that the manufacturer is not going to warranty the tank at which point I have to purchase and install a new tank at my expense.  After reading through reviews online, however, I am not so sure that I want the replacement tank from them.  It isn’t like I will get a warranty on the new tank anyway.  Also, it seems to be a fairly common problem to have these Smart 40 tanks die in some cases as early as 2 years after they are installed.

So for those of you keeping score, I may go through two tanks in the span of an average water heater life-cycle.  On top of that it will be as if I never bought a warranty to begin with.  Some of you will say but you did get a free tank out of the warranty anyway so it served its purpose.  To this I say, you are incorrect.  When we bought the tank, the expectation was that in a worst-case scenario we would get 14 years out of the deal.  This is assuming we only got 7 years on each tank, of course.  So to get 2 tanks in a potential 7 year period, I would tell you that I significantly overpaid.

The moral of the story, don’t screw over your customers.  Also, get JARVIS his water sensors.  Oh, and home ownership is the best thing ever.

Triangle Tube Smart 40 Indirect Fired Water Heater=FAIL

Triangle Tube as a company=FAIL