Archive for the ‘life’ Category

What Better Time Than Now?

March 21, 2020

It’s an interesting time for many.
It is also a good time to disconnect from the things that can wait and reconnect with the things that have been waiting for you.

If you’re a news junkie who would consume a 24 hour news cycle if you were able to stay up 24 hours at a time, might I suggest you start tackling some of those projects in your home you have left on the back burner because of a lack of time. I also suggest you give a little less to the news feeds all together. Right now the barrage of news is like a flood of biblical proportions, coming in heavy from everywhere. But if you’re watching the news looking for a change in the tide, you’ll have to placate yourself by knowing that news will come as well, just a little more slowly.

So, those projects that have been waiting for you? What better time than now? And, if you happen to be in a household with extra hands, what better way to create family bonding time while having the benefit of extra hands? I get it that you may be ready to pull out what little hair you have, because now you are having to be  parent, teacher, and everything in between.  It’s a great time to reflect on exactly what it means to be a teacher. If you have been pressed into service as one and it is not your ordinary vocation, it provides perspective on what your teachers are doing for your children.

Remember, you are not alone. There are many communities popping up on social media providing a wide range of experiences and services. They range from dance classes to yoga and meditation, to Renaissance Festival vendors and merchants. Even the Kennedy space Center is in on the game, providing plenty of online tools to excite learning. Everyone of these share the same objectives, which is to help everyone else while helping themselves. Make use of these resources. If you have something yourself to offer, what better time than now? We are now at a place where, despite things such as social distancing and social isolation, we have the opportunity to become even closer. Social media platforms have the opportunity to be transformed into the front porch, a place where we gather to share stories and information. But all of that happens only if we will it into existence.

Speaking of the front porch, now is a great time to check in on people. Check in on your neighbors, both digitally and literally. Check on your employees and your peers. Let people know you are there. Continue to exhibit common sense. Continue every day to be the best version of yourself around those that love you and those you care for. And let that love and care spread beyond you. Let’s experience and learn and care for each other together.

Life, Leadership & Disney

March 10, 2020

Thoughts and discoveries on being a servant leader. The less than fluffy stuff first.

Learn to gather all information before conducting an investigation, rendering a decision, delivering on a project, or cascading information. Focus on solving for yes, as I did, among both Cast Members (employees) and Guests (the customer).

Learn to be patient.

As much as Rome wasn’t built in a day, at least it was built. Sometimes you’ll discover in large organizations that, due to silos, pods, or interdepartmental communication, the decision making process can go up, down, latterly, sideways, and into time space dimensional portals you never imagined, before finally being cemented. Sometimes it can seem as painfully slow as steering a cruise ship around a channel marker. Even then, changes will take place. Be flexible. Be ready. It will happen in some iteration…whether you want it to or not.

Be willing to ask the difficult questions.

That can involve how talking points are being delivered, how to unravel a challenge, or conflict management. Be willing to ask the smart questions. Cover all bases. Have clear, demarcated timelines. That way you have your goal always in front of you, and everybody else on your team knows what the end objective is, and what time it is at any given moment than the project.
Use smart objectives, with the flexibility to know that even though it may be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, that you may have to stretch that last point.
Be willing to recognize people with the same immediacy you hold them accountable and deliver disciplinary measures.
Be fair to everybody. Be willing to do for that employee who barely meets the metric of satisfactory performance the same as you would for your favorite employee who is constantly in the top 10% of the 10-80-10 performance snapshot.
Conversely, be ready to deliver discipline to your favorite or top performer, with the same directness as you would 2 a bottom 10% employee.

Keep It Fun and Inspiring.

When I was a counselor at a summer camp, one of our stops during a week-long excursion away from the camp was at a national park. My co-counselor and I were responsible for the 11 year olds. We had 13 of them. If you are 11, know an eleven-year-old, or have or have had 11 year olds, I don’t have to say another word. In the middle of them tearing around burning enormous amounts of energy, we came up with the idea to build a shelter. Suddenly, 13 sets of small hands all jumped in with great fervor. They gathered branches and vine. We built a lean-to shelter so large that it was able to house all of us beneath it comfortably. It turns out the shelter was so durable, that two years later My co-counselor reached out to me to share a story and a photo. That shelter was still standing. We inspired them to do it, and they had fun doing it. We had a blast. We worked together to create this thing no single one of us had ever made before. This is a text book flow chart of project management from inception to completion.

Direct for Why.

This is sometimes easy, and other times more challenging. Reminding people of why they’re there, and why others are there, and ultimately what their objective is, doesn’t have to be challenging. Your stakeholders are every single individual who contributes to or stands to benefit from whatever it is you are doing, in the moment and for the future. The element you are making, producing, designing, cooking, sewing, or otherwise providing has an end-user with their own quality filter. The nice thing about optics is that they can be adjusted. Once you help others adjust their optics for perspective and vision, they understand, deliver on the message, and will also help you carry the water and deliver the message to others.

Lean Forward.

As a leader everyone is studying you, judging you, expecting you to perform, believing you are something of a mind-reader, and looking to you for guidance. For me, leaning forward meant letting anyone who I was responsible for (or to) know that I was there to support them and cover their back. I was able to unflinchingly ask my Cast Members to do anything, and knew in almost every case they would, simply because they knew they could count on me to manage and lead with integrity and compassion. Know your people, know what drives them, and know what their needs are. Meet their needs (think here a compassionate version of Maslow’s hierarchy) and it becomes infinitely easier for them to then meet your needs and expectations.
Servant leadership and authenticity cannot be faked.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work.

That story about the lean-to? Not allegory. We built that thing. And it was a great example of how things are accomplished when everyone comes together. Walt Disney would have been the first to tell you that every single thing he accomplished was done so because of the people who worked around him and with him. He never did anything by himself. He would tell you your greatest strength is the people in your organization. Let them know that, and leverage their strengths, and your results will always exceed expectations.

Remember why you are there, and help others remember too. This is a simple piece. Some people apply for a job because they simply need the money. For others, there’s something about the product, or the brand. Maybe it’s the culture. Perhaps there are a series of compensation offerings that provide tremendous incentive. Whatever it is, recognize that everybody is there for a different reason, and learn to speak the common language that appeals to each and every one.

Remember you will not be all things to all people, you will not be able to please all people, you will have to follow decisions and deliver marching orders you may not agree with, and there will be times you will stumble. But as long as you learn and grow, your peers, reports and those in your intimate circle will recognize and appreciate your growth and your humanity.

At the end of the day whether you work for yourself, a local concern, or a global, multinational organization, remember all the reasons why you’re there. Solve for yes, starting with your smile and follow with your leadership. Lead by leaning forward. You’ll get there, because your team believed in the vision you presented and made it happen.

Self-Awareness and Customer Service

January 9, 2020

I’ve heard it said you can tell a great deal about a person you’re dating based on how they talk about their exe’s. Applying the same principle, you can learn much about an organization’s operation based on how their front desk staff treat the customers and each other. There are plenty of places that are great venues for people watching, but I challenge you to find one compressed with more energy and diversions than a front desk or greeter location.

For most guests, it’s an inconvenient segue to their event, whether it is an overnight stay for business, a land-based vacation, a cruise or staycation. For the person behind the counter, it’s an opportunity each and every time to represent the brand and confirm they’re on the right track with service-oriented Focus. It’s unfortunate, the growing frequency these days customer service misses the mark as people are constantly pressed to get places quicker, and people behind the counter are pressed to do more with less. They have to contend with things like guest carry targets and average handle times. And customers are increasingly becoming more savvy, better educated, and unfortunately, sometimes more rude. But that does not for a moment mean we should not remain elevated in our commitment to providing the very best we can. Above and beyond should be our normal benchmark, regardless the standards of the industry. A standard is a waterline. I don’t want to be standard, do you? Do you remember those people who did what they were supposed to, vs. those who constantly sought to rise above and beyond in ways that were an embarrassment of service riches?

Success should always be weighed by the simple measurement of how the encounter was perceived from the customer’s perspective. It should not be a metric of how much of the farm is given away compared to how happy the customer is with the outcome. Why? Glad you asked. The first thing you should do is listen. Using the LAST (listen – apologize – solve – thank) model at the start of every challenging guest encounter allows for the solving for yes through SMART applications. In business, we give things away for two reasons: number 1, because we simply want you to go away, and are willing, within reason, to placate you if it means you’ll not take to social media. the 2nd reason is far more simple, and less sinister: you are in some way compensated to make you whole. Something happened that goes against what the company guarantees by its brand, and the only way to fix it, on the outside, is to ensure you walk away knowing the company takes the issue seriously enough to properly address. This is how you take care of a business, including all of its stakeholders.

So what does this mean for you? Thank you for asking. Think in terms of the number 2 squared. The first element is the customer. Where are they coming from and where are they going? Once you know that answer you can always solve for yes. If you’re the customer, it’s okay to apply that same metric to the person behind the counter, or at the podium, on the telephone, or behind the window. the second ‘2’ comes from motivation. As an employee, or team member, or cast member, or whatever nomenclature your company employs, you’re doing what you’re doing because of internal and external factors. In a best world scenario, you came to the company you are at because you wanted to be a part of the magic they were creating. That magic is both internal and external.

The latter part, the external aspect, is crucial both in day-to-day operations and for the grooming of future leadership. The wholly external influence is how your leaders take care of you. As the customer, you are beholden to recognize such service immediately. As a customer, you may not think this, but if you are willing to bring issues and complaints to someone’s attention, you must be willing to act as quickly in the arena of positive recognition. In our personal lives as in the workplace, we are quick to council and criticize, and slow to offer accolades. This is how you build on desired behavior. Not because these people need to know they’re doing the right thing, but simply because an atta-boy goes an awful long way.

As a leader, I want you to do well. As my guest or customer, I want you to have an experience that leaves you speechless. I will engage you in both cases, but in the former, I will also make sure you are constantly sharpening the tools you have and need to be the best version of yourself.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: whether you’re in front of the counter or behind the counter, it’s important you think about what you can do to make a difference. Your entrance and your exit remain long after you have gone. Take the time, when next you are on holiday, to hang out in a lobby, and watch the encounters, observing how the positive ones linger. In your own actions, you can make that lingering effect count.

A Public PSA About a Very Private Part

December 12, 2019

I had this conversation with my doctor about 5 years ago. He said, “Ron, it’s time to start thinking about this procedure.” And over the following 5 years I had his voice in the back of my head. It didn’t feel urgent or necessary.

But I finally decided it was time. I walked into my doctor’s office and told him and he made the referral.

After doing some research on my own I decided this doctor he’d recommended was the one that should probe around the inside of my bottom. We met and talked and he commented that my physical condition suggested I wasn’t the normal patient they saw since I’m in pretty decent shape for somebody my age. I explained why I was there and we talk about the process. Fast forward 2-and-a-half-months later and I start hearing about how the process and procedure itself is not as bad as the prep. And the gallon of this terrible horrible stuff you have to drink. So I go and pick up the stuff and I mix and refrigerate it the night before so it can be super cold. I added the lemon flavoring, thinking if everything I’ve heard is true it’s not going to make a difference.

Turns out the stuff doesn’t taste nearly as bad as people say. Doesn’t taste delicious either. Now pounding a gallon of this stuff down over 5 hours might be a challenge but if they say you have to do it you have to do it.

Actually, the container that the powder comes in is mostly empty and big, with powder that you mix with water and a lemon flavored packet, to make a super delicious and nutritious gallon of what can only be described as Ambrosia of the Gods, said no one ever. This part of the Colonoscopy prep was tough. The lemon flavor does nothing to mask the density of this liquid that even well chilled, tastes like a combination of a salt lick and Fuller’s earth.

Of course the other thing you need to do is make sure you’re very very close to a bathroom. Doing research beforehand, I found some recommendations. Have juice but it has to be a light-colored juice like apple juice, and vegetable broth. You can’t eat anything the day before and you can’t have anything at all the day of. Many sources also recommend having baby wipes on hand.

So I already had a box of vegetable broth, and half a gallon of both water and of apple juice. And the hour has arrived in which I must now begin drinking this stuff. I’m not going to lie to you, I was really psyching myself out watching the time as I got to the point where I was supposed to start drinking this stuff and I finally decided, I’m going to start a few minutes early.

Among the many things that are recommended: don’t sip this stuff. It is not Brandy. Drink it as quickly and in as few swallows as possible.

And 20 minutes later, the magic starts to happen. It works faster on your body than a Taco Bell Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito.


After prep, Tony the anesthesiologist wheeled me into the room. I asked if they used Versad and he told me they use Propofol. Same impact without the after-effects of a hangover.

He prepped his part of the procedure as the doctor came in and said hi.  When Tony started to administer the sedative, I looked at the other three.

“You’re waiting for me to go to sleep right?” I could feel the stuff slowly covering my brain…


“Ok. Let me settle down on this pillow and…”

Viviana woke me up with a jostle to the shoulder. The doctor stopped by a few minutes later and said, “easiest colonoscopy all day” (not sure I believe him but I’ll take it). He told me everything looks great and he’d see me in a few weeks.


The most important thing to remember is that mammals produce gas, which is why we, er uh, burp and pass gas. The evening post-procedure, do not trust that you have to pass gas, or else you will be changing your shorts all night. Wear a diaper or cotton undergarment if you’d like.

As a note, one of my peers in the stunt industry who has a history of cancer in his family went for an exam at 38. The doctor found a pre-cancerous growth and was able to address it without any other challenges. If he had waited until the recommended age, he wouldn’t be around.

So, if your doctor is having this conversation with you, please seriously consider it. You’re not just doing this for you, you doing it for every single individual who loves you and values your presence.
Consider this: it’s great pipe maintenance and you even get a guaranteed nap.


Why Being on Time Matters

September 20, 2019
I once lost a job I never had by being late to an audition. It was for a national touring musical production and I was more angry than anything else. I was so pissed off it affected my day. I was angry at the producer and director, but I was also angry with myself. I was young, and not keenly aware of how important timelines were. It became a profound learning piece I often reflected on as I built my acting and stunt career.
A few years later, after I’d been spending some time in the film and TV industry as an extra and a stand-in, I once heard someone in the crew say “early is on time, and on time is late.” he made the comment since those of us cast as Stand-ins were expected to be on set when crew was, even if the Director, Producers, and Actors were still in their beds, or waiting for transpo (on most Film and TV productions, when actors are flown in, and for those principals in production, they have a shuttle, or limo pick them up and take them to and from set. Every day) the crew, and my fellow Stand-ins and I would all drive to Base camp, get shuttled in to set, have breakfast, and wait (because hurry up and wait is another thing I learned on a movie set, but more about that another time).
Early is on Time; On Time is Late. simple, beautiful, and to the point.
I’ve heard that expression many times since, and even used it myself. Remarkably, I have heard it in places other than the film and TV industry. And you know what? It makes sense.
Maybe the exception can be made for a party.
But for everything else, punctuality is still valued even if improper punctuation use is not. If you book an appointment with a client and you are running late, you notify that client as soon as possible and offer them the option of rescheduling if it works for them. Usually they will say ‘no’ and appreciate the fact you called. If you are running late and you say you are 10 minutes away and it actually takes you 45 minutes? Color Me impressed if you even still have a client waiting for you.
If you think I’m being too hard-lined about this, consider the following example.
You go to a restaurant and get sat at your table, and you place your order.
You’re told the order is going to be out shortly. And then 10 minutes becomes 15 minutes and 15 minutes becomes 20 minutes and by the time you get your order you have moved beyond hungry because you’re frustrated and irritated. The delay of: a doctor’s appointment; a meeting with a client; a contractor’s scheduled work time; a flight departure; a train; buying a car; a hotel check in…
They all have a profound impact on our day, to say the least.
I find myself somewhere beyond disappointed in such cases, because the sanctity of the contract was broken. Because the level of disrespect is palpable. It transcends inconvenience. It becomes something more. It creates a domino effect. What you have set in motion by being late typically has to run its course, and you are helpless to stop it. Exceptions are made, and should be, but as a rule, this standard is inviolable.
Being early shows that you respect and value other people’s time. Whether that is you getting ready to go out on a date night with your partner, or take your kids to the playground, or the water park, or whether it’s putting a presentation in front of a board of directors, or a vacation tour, do it for everybody else, and in doing so, you do it for yourself. Be early. Even if it is a few minutes. Because that minute is more appreciated and less noticed than if you are five minutes late.
Being early is subtly nuanced, and that nuance carries long after the clock stops ticking.

one step at a time

September 12, 2019

Being positive. It’s an enlightened process to be certain. I think living itself is a source of positive energy because of the effort at a molecular level to make things happen. That includes the simple act of opening one’s eyes, or placing one foot in front of the other. Think about that. Walking is a constant state of being out of balance, of falling. We are in a state of constant falling when we walk, but we course-correct with microseconds to spare.

But life is also consumptive and it’s our job to make sure we know how to sidestep the quicksand and swim with the rip current because at various times in our lives we are going to get caught by both. Think in terms of the Chinese finger puzzle. Struggle and you’ll be trapped; loosen and relax your energy, and extraction happens without effort.

I’ve always believed that people who are not ready for the worst can’t be prepared for the best. But I’ve also discovered there are limits. Still, being privy to the concept and activation of patience allows for positivity. That applies to people, goals, and situations.
One step at a time. That’s how my mountains are summited. That’s how things are accomplished. That is how you can accomplish whatever it is you set you sights on. Whether ordinary or mythic, it can be yours. Just take it one step at a time.

One step at a time.


May 1, 2019

An interesting series of things happened the other morning that cause me to elevate the mental acuity of my youngest yet again.
Already slightly exasperated because she forgot her book bag, I’m listening to her from the back seat engage in this long ball of yarn treatise on things that disappoint her, things that ran the gamut from shoes to the colors I liked and  how they were different from the colors she liked. Then, out of nowhere, she looks over and sees a dog in the back seat of the vehicle besides us. The first thing she says is, “Oh look, it’s a cute little puppy.”

It really wasn’t a puppy, but it’s a thing that we do and she has picked it up. Doesn’t matter how big or small or old the animal is, they’re still a puppy. Anyway, she looked at him and made that comment And then without missing a beat she said, “well, I hope he’s wearing a seatbelt.”  At the intersection I pull up just so she could see the puppy and we both look over at the same time and before I could say a word, Addison Rose at the top of her lungs yells, “oh my gosh! Hey! Put down your damn phone”  because the driver of the vehicle was on his phone.

First of all, full marks to the kid for being so safety-conscious. Second of all, full marks for using all of her words in that sentence correctly and in context. Now I could tell looking at the dings and bumps on this guy’s Cadillac that he probably wasn’t the best driver, and according to one nice big white scrape on his wheel well he probably tried to hug a wall or a parking pole too close for comfort and the wall was having none of it.

But her sheer Brilliance and understanding of what the guy was doing and recognizing that he wasn’t being safe was a thing to behold.
Luckily for the operator of the Cadillac, Addison’s voice carries. So he heard her and rolled down the window all the way. “Excuse me?” He asked the question more perturbed than indignantly. Before I could say a word Addison Rose said, “put down your phone!” And he looked at me and shook his head as he said, “your kid should mind her own business.”

I couldn’t help myself or stop the words that came out of my mouth as I said, “Maybe that’s why you have a dog instead of a kid, but it’s pretty bad when a five-year-old has more common sense than you. Maybe you should take the bus.” To which Addison said “yeah!”

Well, the fella told me I was number one but he used his middle finger to do so as he rolled up his window. He continued playing with his phone, probably updating his social media status, likely not to reflect that he had just been schooled by a 5 year old. Addison turned her attention to the dog in the back seat and just kept talking to him even though the window was up, just cooing over and over again about the cute  puppy.
So, that’s what life with Addison Rose looks like.  Don’t even get her started on not using your turn signal indicator.
On a more serious note, more serious than all of this, think about your actions and the examples they set as well as how much common sense is going into your decision making process. this isn’t just about driving, it’s about life in general.
Don’t be afraid to exercise common sense And make the right choices.  There’s nothing wrong with being a good example, just like there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
If a five-year-old can figure that out some of the time, then we’re simply making the  process too difficult for ourselves.

The Kindness of Strangers

March 7, 2019
Very early in my film and television career I was told by a friend with far more experience than I had to “be nice to everyone on the way up because you’ll see them again on the way down.”
It is always far easier to judge than to take a moment and arrive at a conclusion. By judging, we quickly assess and ascertain, we file and categorize, and then we move on. By doing so we miss out.
I’m reminded of a trip I made to Key West with an old friend. Towards the end of the day we wound up at Mallory Square, where we met a fellow who went by the simple moniker Pirate Tom. He was a guy with an old dog, a beat-up guitar, and not much else. But man could that fella tell a story. He was genuinely happy or at least took great pains to make us believe so. We spent several hours with him, hanging out and talking to him. Wound up getting him a couple of beers, and considering the experience, I think we got away cheaply.
I’m currently on the road. Will be for the next month and a half or so. Part of the new promotional team introducing a brand new automobile to Market. It’s been a lot of fun, being able to utilize my facilitation and content delivery skills in such a varied and often challenging environment to a range of individuals who run the gamut from enaged and caring to completely disconnected, disrespectful, and diseased.
Think about it. We show up to a dealership and ask for these people to give us several hours of their time so we can review content with them and help them understand the vehicle better so that they can then approach customers and clientele appropriately. The response we got really did span the Spectrum from gratitude and warmth to disrespectful crabbiness and colorful commentary. We got all sorts of questions from those who have a genuine interest in learning to those who simply asked when they could get some damn cars to sell.
We show up as strangers and leave sometimes optimistic that we’ve set a group of people up for success, and other times less than hopeful.
Today was one of those days right down the middle. At the end of the day I headed down the road to my next destination and checked in to my next hotel. I’ve become quite The Connoisseur of what should and should not be in a hotel room.
Crossing the threshold into the elevator with my carry-on behind me I turned to hit the button to go to my floor and the key fob from the vehicle I’m driving slips out of my hand, bounces on the floor before taking a well-aimed dive into that space between the elevator itself and the elevator threshold. I watched it disappear and could only imagine what kind of trouble it was going to be to bring out a certified elevator technician to come out, lock down the elevator, raise it and climb down into the pit to retrieve the stupid key fob for the hapless and clumsy human. Thankfully one of the hotel staff saw me looking stupidly at the elevator floor. Once I told her what happened, she tracked down the hotel’s maintenance individual. A few minutes later Miguel showed up, grabbed a flashlight, and shined it down into the dark abyss. Eight or so feet down was the key fob boldly taunting and staring back up at us. He told me he could get it and disappeared before I could react. I quickly followed behind him as he went to a large space that had become a sort of catch-all closet for everyone support-staff related. There he grabbed a very large piece of metal trim, and a magnet.  He went back to try his magic, and it worked up until it got to the bottom of the elevator where the fob forced the magnet to release its steely grip and freefell back to the floor.
Miguel disappeared again, this time returning with a coffee hook affixed to the end of the flat length of metal. In his first attempt he hooked the key ring and very slowly started to pull it up. Before you knew it he handed me the key fob and suggested I keep it in my pocket.
I know too many people who would have turned the other way. I’ve seen too many instances where individuals have all but said ‘it sucks to be you’. I found out from the front desk manager that this is simply the kind of person Miguel is. He doesn’t know what the word no means. Reminds me a lot of Leon, a gentle soul very much like a brother to me.
I asked for Miguel to be called to the front desk. And there I gave him a tip. At first he would not take it, and then I insisted if he wouldn’t use it for him maybe he could buy someone dinner or get something for a grandkid. After much protest, he accepted the money. I think even my abundance of gratitude may have been too much for him because he disappeared before I could thank him again.
What’s the moral of the story? Forgo fumbling with a fob? Take the stairs?
Be grateful for the kindness of strangers. They may happen to be your salvation and your sanity when you least expect it.

Life With Epiphanies

July 14, 2018

While the title suggest time spent with a Greek philosopher, it truly is about that elusive boon: the Epiphany. Epiphanies are an interesting thing. For most of us they typically show up after the event or cycle of action, causing us somehow to adjust our perspective, if we’re paying attention.

Lost a night of sleep this week standing Sentinel over my youngest daughter’s 102.6 fever. Lost another night of sleep when I had to bury our dog at 3:30 in the morning, digging a hole to lay to rest the body of a creature we loved unconditionally. His passing has cast a dark Pall over the household, and a grieving aching sadness I couldn’t have possibly imagined. If those two things in a seven day period are not enough, my full-time employment came to an end.

That is a busy f****** week I don’t wish on my enemies.

I’ve learned a lot and had several epiphanies during my full-time gig.

I learned if you are not creating happiness at home and with those you love, it means little that you’re creating happiness anywhere else.

I learned I am not good at hiding my frustration. I learned I am pretty good at stepping on toes, sometimes upsetting people and bruising egos.

I learned I’m a failure when it comes to putting up with BS.

I learned it is not only important, it is necessary to have people in your corner.

I also learned I am still as passionate an advocate as I have ever been for the operation, the right people, and the right reasons. While I still believe more than ever that one should bloom where planted, do everything in your power to make sure the soil is firm and nutrient-rich, and you are surrounded by others that will help you shine and grow, and not be buried in the weeds.

I learned I loved that dog more than I could possibly have imagined. I discovered how much I missed the click click click of his toenails across the wooden floor. All the things I found annoying, like him jumping up on the couch and trying to nest through the leather, are things I would happily sacrifice just about anything to hear that sound and see the event one more time. He was the most food motivated creature I have ever known in my life, and that’s even considering me, who likes a good Buffet. Whenever anything dropped on the floor, which was a regular occurrence, all someone would have to say was “Uh oh Bucks,” and wherever he was even if he was in a deep REM-induced sleep, you would hear that tap tap tap of paws and claws as he would come to the kitchen. He often made it unnecessary to keep a broom and dustpan nearby.

Huckleberry didn’t have issues, he had subscriptions. To my account, he bit me four times. There is a permanent laminated sign with each of the dogs in the household. Next to his picture it says, “I look as sweet as an angel but I will bite. No matter what I do, whether I jump on you or wag my tail, don’t fall for it.” He couldn’t help it. Every time you did me, he would cry the most mournful cry, the saddest thing you ever heard come from a dog. It was as if he was being remorseful. He had been severely abused. That’s another conversation all together, but suffice it to say, Dante carved out of special ring for anyone who sees fit to abuse an animal. That is not your place or purpose in the world.

I was irritated and frustrated by all the puddles I had to clean up. I was certain it was my Orange Grove dog, who I’d literally found dying in an Orange Grove. With Huckleberry gone, so to have disappeared the never-ending scattering of those pools of various sizes. Was it possible I had been blaming the wrong dog? Yes it was. As a friend once remarked, “Huckleberry was the sweetest dog I never did pet.” If you did find yourself fortunate to hold and cuddle him, which happened every time there was a harmonic convergence of the planets, you would discover his fur smelled like hay, a pleasant smell indeed.

The vacuum is vast for space that had once been filled by 14 lbs of lovable sausage with legs. To quote Gibran, “Love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

I learned a lot in a week. Above All Else, I reaffirmed my priorities.

I learned there’s no time like the present to show those you love whether they have two legs or four legs how much their presence in your life means to you. I learned that the same mindset holds true when you run a multi-tiered operation. I learned that no matter where you are and what you are doing, partnership makes the difference.

Most importantly, I’m reminded of something my neighbor once said. I once shared with him the crazy hours of my schedule and the fact that sometimes a day or two would go by and I’d only get a glimpse of my family.

He said, “Nobody ever gets to the end of their life and says, ‘I wish I would have worked more’.” That’s a wise man indeed.

I haven’t yet found anything I can’t do, but I’ve discovered a few things I won’t do. Sacrificing time with the people who matter most is one of them.

If you are not taking advantage of the time you have with your friends and family, whether they have two legs or four, you might consider adjusting your priorities.

Remember the parable about the two wolves? This Epiphany is all about feeding the right one, while taking care of both of them.

No matter what you do with it, ultimately your time is your own.

My daughter is better, my dog has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and now it’s more important than ever to look forward.


Death of a Popular Poet

November 15, 2017

Working as an MBA candidate comes with a remarkable series of challenges and responsibilities. Most recently, one of my professors, who clearly was passionate about motivating his students, shared some deep and meaningful insights. He sent me an email in reply to mine in which he shared with me that the pessimist states death and taxes are the only two immovable objects that are a guaranteed certainty.
He then went on to share with me an optimist looks at change and time as certainties. I think he wanted to make certain that I understood the depth and value of both, and that how we launch our perception impacts the way we look at the world.

Yet my perception of the world has recently become a little hazy. Recently I have been forced to reckon with the mortal enemy that is death. In the past two weeks I have had to say goodbye to two people. The first one had given up a long time ago and tip what some might say was a brave choice and taking his own life. But the other, well he was a fighter. But even his optimism was not enough to Conquer Cancer.
Let me tell you a little bit about AJ.
I first met AJ years ago when I showed up for an interview on a radio show that he was one part of a partnership. He and Ernie, a mutual friend, invited me to come talk about a book that had just been released titled Confessions of a Transylvanian. This book, written by an old and dear friend and myself, detailed the experience of being part of a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast.
The very first thing I noticed about AJ was his energy. He possessed this smile and a genuine eagerness to laugh and share.
We laughed a lot during that interview and at the end of that hour I knew I had made another friend.
But it wasn’t until I started working at Epcot with the entertainment team that he and I really started to connect. Everywhere I would have to track him down he was always on the go, eager to chat.

It was during one of these conversations that we both discovered one of our most favorite mutually appreciated holidays, Halloween, offered us no shortage of creative Outlets. I shared with him some of the things I had done when I designed haunted houses, many decidedly low, low Tech, and he shared with me Cutting Edge high-tech things that were either of his creation or off the shelf.
We talked repeatedly about combining forces to create a haunted experience like no other on a ranch for another mutual friend, Dave.

And when, in the process of producing a fairly sizable event, it came time for a DJ, I asked him for recommendations. Instead of a recommendation he suggested he do it.
I learned about AJ that almost like a good book, every few pages there was some new and incredible facet or skill he possessed. I was always learning something new with him.
At the event venue, we took the elevator. He gestured to the walls and said “velvet. ”
He sounded like an old crotchety guy, commenting on the quality of an inferior product. And the two times we were there, for the tech scout and the event, every damn time we rode the elevator, we’d both say, “velvet.” After a while we’d just randomly say “it’s velvet,” and it carried to EPCOT where it stood proxy for a normal greeting.
But that made sense. AJ was not normal. He transcended it.
He was a class all his own, always a pleasure to be around.

I used to bleed alone, keeping my grief and pain to myself. That ended the day I lost my brother, five years ago, and was clear and present when I lost my dad a year ago.
With AJ I have no regrets. I had the good fortune of seeing him damn near every day that I was at work, if you could call what we did work. And he always had time for me and I always made time for him and I am glad for that. Because I have regrets when it comes to my brother and I have regrets when it comes to my dad.
Maybe that’s the thing to take stock of now. If there someone in your life you’ve been meaning to reach out to, don’t wait. Regret is a deceptively heavy burden to shoulder.

I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to catch my breath.
It is a callous thing to say, but I can think of a few people who are probably past their expiration date on planet Earth.
AJ was not one of them. He was one heck of an individual with a lot of light, love, and life still to give.
The world is little quieter today.