Blog Post # 172 – Turn This Thing Around

Sometimes things don’t go our way.

Our car gets stuck in traffic.

Our kid leaves his homework at the house.

Our picnic gets rained out.

We can throw a fit.

Let it ruin our next 24 hours.

Bitch and moan, bitch and moan.

Or, instead, we can choose to reset.

To take 5 deep breaths.

In. Out. In. Out.

Flush the negativity away.

Be gone, bad luck.

There are certainly some troubles that cannot be overcome by sheer force of will.

But Honest Abe was right when he said, “most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

For today, let’s focus on moving forward.

To get out of the muck of our current circumstances.

And turn this thing around.

Blog Post # 171 – Our Rights

We clamor for our rights, but we don’t want the responsibility that goes along with them.

The colonists had to revolt in order to obtain more rights.

African Americans and women had to fight in order to receive the right to vote.

So much hard work, struggle and violence had to occur to birth this nation into freedom.

Too often, we forget these struggles.

We take voting and participation in the democratic process for granted.

The vast majority of us do not vote.

We don’t get involved in politics because it is such a sleazy system.

This is understandable.

But our rights are only as powerful as our assertion of those rights.

The struggle for freedom continues to this very day.

We must stand for something. We must.

If we do not, the twin evils of complacency and maintenance of the status quo continue.

We must exercise our rights.

We must fulfill our responsibility.

We owe it to ourselves and to our fellow human beings to be extraordinary.

To stand for what we believe in.

To share our truth with the world.

To realize that until all of our brothers and sisters are fully and completely integrated and accepted into this society, that none of us are free.

That our rights mean little if only some of have the ability to exercise those rights.

This is true today and true for our future.

Blog Post # 170 – Faded Memories

Faded memories.

When I was little, I loved to look at photographs.

I would ask my mother about the people in the pictures.

Legendary Aunt Midge.

My mother’s father.

My dad’s sister Mary Lou who had passed away when I was very young.

We had photo albums filled with pictures from the past.

Looking at the photos was like a time machine.

There was my dad before he enlisted in the Marines.

On the next page, my parents’ wedding and all of the relatives who attended.

Sometimes, I took the photos out of the album. I held them reverently, like a talisman.

I can remember the feel of the photos.

I know we had significantly fewer photos of days gone by back then.

Today, we have unlimited storage and the ability to photograph whatever we want as many times as we want.

We can use family photos as screen savers, desktop backgrounds, phone icons, etc.

Our computer can page through the photos for us on a screen.

Call me nostalgic, but digital photos do not hold the same lure of mystery as the photos from my youth.

Perhaps I revere the old, faded photographs more because they came from a magical, impressionable time in my life.

Or maybe they were just better.

A concrete, physical reminder of days gone by, people no longer with us.

I suppose our children will page through our digital photographs one day and feel the same way.

Blog Post # 169 – Time to Ship

The time for talking’s over now….

This is the time for action.

When we stake our claim.

Set forth to the hinterlands.

Do the work that matters.

Implement. Implement. Implement.

Good ideas are great.

Discussing, collaborating, tweaking and considering our ideas are all important.

But we want do-ers.

Those who take action.

As Uncle Seth would say, it is time to ship.

Get it out the door.

Produce the widget.

Sculpt the marble.

Deliver the world-class service.

When the idea stays in your head, only you see its brilliance.

But when you are forced to share your idea with the world in actual form, that is the true test.

Working to ship requires focus, dedication and hard work.

Do the work today.

Prepare to ship today.

Show the world what you can do. Today.

Less learning, less thinking, less analysis.

More building, more constructing, more doing.

What are you going to ship today?

Blog Post # 167 – Field Reports

Those who know through experience versus those who know through reading.

When I was young, my mother was on the board of our local library.

We read tons and tons of books and my mother instilled a love of reading in my sisters and me at a very young age.

Books offer us the opportunity to enter another’s experience and see the world through their eyes.

We can learn a lot by reading.

But when it comes to teaching others, there is a huge difference between those who teach what they have read and those who teach based on their experiences and their knowledge based on years of solving a particular kind of problem.

I was reminded of this yesterday when my wife and I attended a conference on immigration waivers in Chicago. Waivers are the way that people who may be inadmissible to the U.S. can get that inadmissibility “waived” by the government.

The first panel featured three speakers who obviously live in the immigration trenches and fight the good fight every day. They relayed stories of their experiences and provided plenty of real world applications of the complex immigration rules that we all need to know.

A few speakers on the other panels, however, simply read out the rules and discussed a few reported cases.

I felt like I learned significantly less in these sessions.

My friend Dean talks about these two approaches to teaching as the difference between field reports and book reports.

Field reports are from those people out in the field, doing the actual work that is being discussed.

Book reports can be read by anyone who reads up on the topic and then spreads that knowledge to others at a speaking event.

Both can serve a purpose.

But there is simply no substitute from hearing field reports on a topic that the speaker has mastered through experience.

Well, I guess there is one substitute – conducting field reports of our own. Experience is the greatest teacher of all.

Blog Post # 166 – Properly

The difference between doing something and doing something properly is vast.

In most cases, there are right ways and wrong ways to do a particular task.

Doing the task properly makes a big difference.

This comes up a lot in the context of being an immigration attorney.

People think they just need to fill out some forms and send them off.

But the difference between just sending off forms and preparing those forms properly is big.

Properly is the key word.

I learned this listening to Joe Polish, who used to clean carpets.

He prepared a consumer’s guide to cleaning and maintaining carpets properly.

If we strive to do a job properly each and every time, it will prevent errors and help us do a better job.

Understanding and implementing each of the steps necessary to properly complete the task is essential.

For today, let us strive to complete the tasks in front of us properly.

Don’t Just Do It. Just Do It Properly.

Blog Post # 165 – Time in the Darkness

Spending time in the darkness.

The places we don’t like to let our minds travel.

Where the fear lies.

The places where the things that we don’t like about ourselves reside.

Too often, we view the choices that we have made or the things that have happened to us in a binary way.

That was a good thing that happened to me.

That was a bad decision that I made.

Good or bad.

A binary analysis. This leaves little room for gray.

Such a black-and-white view of the world prevents us from learning from our past.

What do those dark spots have to teach us?

Looking back there is not always comfortable and is certainly not easy.

But what if we just poke around without any preconceived notions of what might happen?

What if we let go of the result and spend time refamiliarizing ourselves with who we were and what we did?

What is the worst that could happen? It may bring up some pain, but it might also significantly help us as we deal with our present reality.

For today, let us not be fearful of critically analyzing our past in a non-binary, good versus bad, way.

Let’s do this important work today and save the judging for later.

Blog Post # 165 – Lead with Vulnerability

Lead with vulnerability.

Hard-edged coaches like Bobby Knight would never lead with vulnerability.

They would never admit any weakness when addressing their team.

But admitting fear or concern to the people that we work with can go a long way towards motivating the team towards a common goal.

This is true for several reasons.

First, if we are honest about the team’s present reality and we discuss that reality in a frank and open way, there can be no doubt in the team member’s head about where things stand.

Honesty begets honesty.

Second, people on our team need to feel free to express their own concerns. The things that they worry about when it comes to the group’s efforts.

Also, being honest about the things that concern us helps rally the team to work on those concerns.

We held our quarterly firm retreat yesterday.

I shared, in a constructive way, some concerns and trepidation that I have been feeling as the firm prepares for several months as we work without our world-class paralegal while she goes out on maternity leave.

We have good people at our firm and the team rallied.

They instantly understood what I was saying.

We spent the day putting in systems to adjust to our new, upcoming reality.

I suppose that I could have simply dictated what needed to be done.

But the team became much more invested when I lead with vulnerability. When I was true and open about my feelings.

When I was real.

Blog Post # 164 – Think First

Too often, we jump right in and get started.

It may be better to spend some time thinking about a problem.

Exploring the various angles, options and pitfalls.

If you have ever seen a Rubik’s Cube master, they usually spend a ton of time examining the mixed up Cube and then move quickly to twist the Cube until all 6 sides match.

Think first, think longer.

When I attended Saint Louis University, I drove a big blue bus known as the Billiken Bus Line.

After my freshman year, we got a new boss – Steve Serrot.

Steve had many other job duties, but one was making sure that the buses ran on time.

Instead of diving into the situation and making lots of changes, Steve took a week or two learning every aspect of the little bus operation that we had.

He rode the buses, he examined the books, he interviewed all of the drivers, he calculated and re-calculated the routes.

It was truly impressive.

Steve spent much more time thinking about how to improve the Billiken Bus Line than he did actually directing change.

This was a powerful insight. One that has stayed with me for twenty-five years.

Undoubtedly, we can spend too much time thinking about things.

Waiting to act.

But here’s to those who spend the proper amount of time thinking about their problems and taking the time to develop a good idea before acting.

Blog Post # 163 – Be Gone Fear!

The fear can cripple you.

The fear can keep you from even attempting something different.

Do not listen to the fear.

Shut it up, lock it up and ignore it.

Some fear is rational.

That is not the fear that we are talking about.

This fear is the fear that prevents you from achieving.

From taking risk.

From being you.

Do not listen to the fear.

You have amazing abilities. You have a special purpose in this world.

No one can do what you do. No one can be you.

We are begging you to disregard the irrational fear.

Do not succumb.

Smell the fear, taste the fear and breathe it in.

But then breathe it back out.

It does you no good.

Be gone – fear!

Don’t come around here no more.

Today is the day that we set aside our fear and take a step towards our redemption.

To our best selves.

To us.