Day 173: Grand Opening

Today marks the end of a culmination of events.  We open my wife’s studio/workshop tonight in a Grand Opening.  Much of the last 6 weeks has been taken up with the hard work that has gone into it, particularly the last week.

I’ve actually missed two days of working out this week, making them the first time all year that I have failed in getting in at least some pushups/pullups/etc…  😦  I’m not real happy about that, but given the late nights and complete exhaustion I’ve had upon coming home, I have to accept it.

Today is the end of all of that.  I’ve already told her that I am “so ready for this to be over with”.  However, her hard work will pay off for her, and she has done a fantastic job.  I’ll post pictures tomorrow of the gala tonight.

In the meantime, in honor of her meticulous attention to detail, here are a few quick thoughts from Steve Jobs.

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”


“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”


“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Day 117: Traveling Again

I’ve been traveling the last few days for a work conference. Made it to San Antonio in time for the weather to turn cold and rainy. However, I was able to get some good runs and workouts in, and the trip was fantastic for work.

In lieu of failing or post the last few days, allow me to post my five favorite travel quotes of all time, in nor particular order.

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
– Mark Twain

“Not all those who wander are lost.”
– J. R. R. Tolkien

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
– Bill Bryson

Okay, so oneis in order. I have saved the best for last.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

Day 77: The Man Who Taught Me the Double Windsor [52PWM]

This is a continuation of my 52 People Who Matter to Me series.  The first few were family and were in somewhat of an order; from here on out there is no order because they are all important to me in different ways, and I can not begin to quantify one over another.  I will only use first names when discussing these folks because I know that privacy is important to some.  In some cases I may only use an initial, and in a select few, I might not even use that.


The Man Who Taught Me the Double Windsor

I first met Tom while working at a movie theater in high school.  I was a recent promotee to assistant manager, and Tom was one of the other three assistant managers.  Of all the employees, Tom was the one who seemingly didn’t fit in.  Most of us were high school or college students, with a few young “adults”.  Tom was in his mid 40’s.  We lived in town, Tom commuted from 45+ miles away.  We were single kids with thoughts preoccupied by the opposite sex.  Tom was happily married with two kids.  We worked part time to earn money.  I don’t think Tom needed the job.  I never really knew the particulars, but I knew Tom was friends with the owners of the theater, and I believe they brought him in to teach us how to really do our jobs.  He was good at that, because he did the job well.

This man could be a bit of a hard ass when it came to some of the employees.  At first, I thought he just didn’t like to have fun.  He was always making sure we completed our tasks before goofing off.  He didn’t let us slouch around or take frequent breaks.  When he was on duty, it was all about the job.  Of course, looking back, I realize why.  We were in a service industry, and what I failed to realize at the time was that I wasn’t just doing a job, I was giving people an experience.

Tom understood this.  He understood that our laziness could ruin a night.

Imagine saving your cash from a few paychecks  and looking forward to taking your sweetheart to the newest blockbuster movie.  We all know that a trip to the theater is not cheap, and I lived in rural farm country Iowa, where money didn’t exactly flow freely.  Now imagine that the kid taking your order is not paying attention to you, but instead is laughing it up with his buddies while he half-asses your popcorn and candy.  He doesn’t treat you with a smile as he gives you your change.  Next, the usher taking your tickets doesn’t look you in the eye nor direct you to which screen your movie is playing on.  And finally, imagine arriving at your seat only to find the floor littered with empty candy boxes, spilled soda and popcorn.

Not your idea of a great time at the movies, is it?

Unfortunately, I would have to raise my hand if asked if I ever could have let that happen.

I was hesitant about working with Tom at first.  I was 17, knew it all, and I’d have sworn there was no way some 45 year old farmer knew more about working in a theater than I did.  After hearing about his first few shifts from some of the other employees, I expected him to be yelling and screaming half of the time, a veritable Nurse Ratched in slacks.

Instead, I met a soft-spoken, hard-working, diligent, gray haired gentleman who simply insisted we do our jobs when it was time.  Between shows, the bathrooms were to be checked and candy was to be stocked while the floor was swept and vacuumed.  Popcorn was to be made and soda nozzles cleaned before we served our first patron.  When all of this was done, we were free to do whatever we wanted, provided it was out of sight.  (Most of the employees were students, so homework was frequently done whenever the lobby was empty, especially on school nights).  Tom didn’t yell or scream.  He just walked over and reminded us that the cups weren’t stacked, the trash wasn’t emptied, or the printer wasn’t restocked.  Frequently, it was while he was carrying an armful of candy or sweeping the floor: he preferred to lead by example.

“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.”
-Kevin Stirtz

Within a few months, I noticed two things.  One, there was a turnover of employees from the “old guard”.  I guess some folks didn’t like having to actually work while they were working.  Two, we became more efficient, and there was more free time throughout the shift.  When you focused and worked, the work took care of itself quickly.

I didn’t work by myself all that often with Tom.  We were both duty managers and, as such, had different shifts.  But during the winter, when business was slow, people took whatever shifts they could, and I was no exception.  We did work several nights together, just the two of us.  And it was on those nights that I came to respect Tom immensely.  Tom was extremely intelligent, a very loving family man and devoted father, and the man didn’t know how to slow down or quit (much like my father).  Tom also laughed easily when the work was done, and wasn’t afraid to talk about hard work and loyalty.

Tom also taught me how to tie a double windsor knot on a necktie.  We were discussing job interviews and suits one day when he whipped out a tie and asked me how I tied mine.  My father had taught me a single windsor, and being a young man, I’d never asked for any other instruction.  But Tom insisted that the double windsor looked more professional.  Over the ensuing hour, I practiced the knot he showed me until I felt I had it down.  The next day, I tied it in the mirror a dozen times.  Within a week, it was my go-to knot.  To this day, I use it almost exclusively.


I’m remiss to say that I’m not sure where Tom is now.  After heading off for my final year of college, we kept in touch a few times.  I invited Tom to my first wedding.  I don’t know when the last time was that I spoke to him.  I hope that his kids are excelling in school now and the family is getting on well.   Wherever he is, I have no doubt he is working hard.  It might behoove his coworkers to learn a thing or two from him. I know that my work ethic today was certainly defined by what I learned from my father, but Tom is among the next few who have also had significant influence on me.

So Tom, wherever you are today, I want to let you know that I still know how to tie my tie “properly”.  And when it’s time to work, I work.


Day 37, Babe’s and Quick Shots

Today would be Babe Ruth’s 118th birthday.  In honor of the birth of one of the greatest ballplayers to ever live here are a few words to live by, from George Herman Ruth, Jr himself.

“Don’t let the fear of striking out get in your way.”




Quick Shots: As I mentioned before, I finished Captivating a week or so ago and have moved on to How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.  I’ve also picked up Beautiful Outlaw, by John Eldredge.  I read this month’s Imprimis essay last night.  I’ve selected the French Silk Pie recipe I will be making this weekend (finally), and the desk is coming along wonderfully.  I hope to post the full write-up on the woodwork tomorrow night since I want to get the finish work done on the desk.

I’ve still been able to get in a workout every day so far this year.  We identified another new species of bird the other day – the American Goldfinch.  And I’ve been pouring a lot of energy into work so far this year.   So I’d say I’m still on track.

Finally, one last quote to chew on, from another great man who shares today’s birthdate.



As always: This is simply my journal, nothing more, as I try to better myself.  I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself somehow.  Make 2013 YOUR year.
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Day 36, Prospecting with Me 3.0

BoJacksonSo the Gray Ghost clocked her 100,000th mile today.  In this age of throw-away devices and product turnover, that’s not bad for a car.  Mind you, she’s barely two year old.  She’s still just a kitten.  My previous three cars totaled almost 850,000 miles upon the end of their times with me, so she and I have a lot more windshield time together.

Every so often I have days like today.  Nothing on the schedule that requires urgent attention.  Sometimes, especially in the summer, I will use the day to play with my kids or take the family somewhere fun and exciting.  Heck, in year’s past, I might have done the same even on a winter day like today.  But this is the year of the new me, and one of my goals is to be a better coworker.  So it was time to brush off the ol’ list of contacts and start doing some prospecting.

“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”
– Bob Burg

I selected three accounts that I hadn’t visited in a long time and circled the names of 5 people I wanted to get back in front of.  The account that was farthest away is about an hour and half from me, in good weather, and the other two I would circle back to on my way back home.  A short 10 minutes into my drive, it was apparent that I wouldn’t make it out in the aforementioned 90 minutes.  I was driving into near whiteout conditions, with blowing snow and slippery roads slowing us down to around 40mph on the Interstate.

Twice, the little voice of doubt crept into my mind, encouraging me to turn around and just call it a day.  “The weather will be better tomorrow,” it said.  “You can come back then.”  In another time, I might have done exactly that.  I might have found something easier to do, somewhere closer or more friendly to be, someone I have a better relationship with to see.  I would have procrastinated for a tomorrow that would never come.

That was Me 2.0.  Me 3.0 isn’t going to give in.

“The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.”
– Henry Golden

Lately, we’ve had some difficulty with some of our products.  Recalls, backorders, product holds…it was a very tough 2012, and the currents were strong, especially when driven by the headwinds of a slowed economy.  I’ve also had some bad luck with some of the products I chose to push in the past.  I’ve always been keen to sell new technology, and got burned pretty badly after converting some big accounts several years ago, only to have those products recalled and never released again.  It didn’t exactly hurt my reputation with the customers, but they’ve been very reticent to jump on board new products since then.

Because of those bad experiences, I focused on existing business and old technology the last few years.  Yes, I hit numbers, but I didn’t drive new business.  I was coasting.  We have a fantastic new platform that was released last year, and it is as close to revolutionizing a segment of the marketplace as one can be without transforming it completely.  Really exciting stuff!  But again, I haven’t been pushing it hard and it has been falling on deaf ears (mostly because I didn’t fully embrace it).  New products are the lifeblood of my business growth, and our ability to embrace, believe in, and sell them are what drive new opportunities for me and my peers.  I had willingly let that slip from my business last year.  I hadn’t done much new product pushing, nor had I truly prospected in quite some time.

“If you work just for money, you’ll never make it. But if you love what you are doing, and always put the customer first, success will be yours.”
-Ray Kroc

The thing about prospecting is this:  it’s scary when you think about it as trying to sell something to someone, but it’s exciting when you think of it as spreading good news.  I’ve come to realize that I have some good news to share.

Furthermore, I’ve decided that this will be my year in so many other aspects, why would I let this area remain behind?

  • If I can climb a mountain, run another Mudder, complete a triathalon, why the hell would I let a few extra office calls at the end of the day stop me?
  • If I can learn 12 new skills that apply to my life, I can certainly learn several that apply to my business.
  • If I can tough it out through the running and the workouts on a daily basis, I can definitely take the extra time to drive up through the snow and call on some valued customers.

So, yeah, today was a long day of driving, and some of it was white-knuckle.  But it was a good day, filled with some good leads and promising results.  And how do I know I did the right thing?  Not 15 minutes after leaving one office, where I left a note for a customer, I received a phone call from a peer who had just seen that customer halfway across the state at another office and he mentioned that the customer would like to meet up with me.  He had no way of knowing I had just stopped by his office to see him, but that’s how things work.

Put yourself out there, pound the pavement, fight the good fight, and things will come your way.  You just have to be willing to work hard and put yourself in a position to jump at those opportunities.

“If you share a good idea long enough, it will eventually fall on good people.”
– Jim Rohn


As always: This is simply my journal, nothing more, as I try to better myself.  I hope it inspires you to focus on yourself somehow.  Make 2013 YOUR year.
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