The Hero and the Villain

A good action movie or a novel generally has these roles.  The villian is the dark and scheming character who is struggling to get what he wants in an unscrupulous way.  The hero is the character who is on the right side of things. The hero struggles with the villain and his schemes and works hard to make things right.

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A wise woman once described a relationship issue I was experiencing in the metaphors of the hero and the villain.  But this description is much different than what you would see in the movies.

The hero in this situation convinces themselves that the other person- the villain, is broken, weird, evil, twisted, crazy, or just wrong.  This gives the hero the license to do whatever they want.  The hero feeds off of competition, power and control.  The hero is always right.  They have to be at the front.  They have convinced themselves that the villain is so messed up they can treat them in a way that can be cruel, unfair, and disrespectful.  Or they see the villain as competition. The hero can distort the facts so they feel like they have to take care of things.  The hero has convinced themselves that the villain is so messed up that all regular conventions do no apply.  They have free rein to do whatever they want.  And its their job as the hero to jump in and make it right.

Meanwhile, the villain is just doing what they always do.  They may be way different from the hero- but their heart is right.  The villain may be unattractive or introverted or eccentric or have problems that the hero can’t understand.   Things that really grind the hero.  But generally, they are just different from the hero.  The villain can’t understand why they are treated so harshly by the hero.  They see the hero as someone they respect.  They can’t understand why the hero wants to continually put them down.  And the actions of the hero can be so subtle that the hero doesn’t even know what they are doing.  But I can assure you- the villain can see it.

I’ve been the villain.  More times than I can count.  I am different.  I am introverted.  I am not competitive.  I am an easy target.

Have you been any of these characters?  Let me give you some dialogue/thoughts you may be able to relate to:

  • All my son wants to do is play video games.  I can’t get him outside and he hates fishing.  I don’t know what’s wrong with him.  I’m going to take away those stupid games.
  • I’m just going to go talk to the client.  John is just not good at this.  I can’t trust him to take care of it.  He’s not like me.  I will close the deal.
  • I have to take control of things.  My husband is so passive.  Yes, I can be a little bossy- but I have to.  Somebody has to do it.
  • Why do I have to do everything around here.  When I give you a task to do you always take too long and make mistakes.  Good thing I am here to clean up your mess.
  • There is no way I could promote her.  She barely talks to anyone.  How can she be a manager?  I’ll continue to take care of it myself.
  • He is so weird.  I am afraid to take him to any meetings because he will make us look bad.  He just sits there and when he talks he makes weird comments.  I am so glad I am good at covering up his comments.
  • I don’t get her.  She hates shopping.  What woman hates shopping?  I am surprised she has any friends.  All my friends love to shop.

And so it goes.  The discouraging thing is that once the roles are set the hero rarely changes.  They continue to see the world as though they are the only person who is equipped to handle things properly.  This sounds as though they are well equipped, right?  No.  The truth is the hero is actually very insecure.  They see the world as a stage and they need to have everything looking good.  Any opportunity that could make them look bad is intolerable.  The hero must continue to be the hero and will fight for it at all costs.

So where are you on this?  Have you seen the villain or the hero?  Maybe a hard look at your relationships is in order.

Remember that different is good!  And just because someone is different than you does not give you a blank check.  If you are inherently competitive or have an issue with control you may need to do some self-examination of your real motives.  The villain is not broken.  They are just different than you.  And you need to give them some space!

So what do you think?  Have you seen these roles played out in your life?  Do you have a story about one of these roles?  Click on “Leave a Comment” if you want to join in or click “Like” if you agree with me!   

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The Real Reason We Haven’t Cured Cancer

I am sure that you have been touched by the tragic effects of cancer.  My mother passed away at the age of 49 from lung cancer.  This was certainly one of the low times of my life.  I couldn’t understand how it could happen.  She wasn’t able to see her grandchildren grow up or be part of their lives.  Her life was cut off early.  I miss her every single day.

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I have a theory on why we haven’t cured cancer and other similarly tragic diseases.  And this is not your typical theory- healthy, scientific, you need to eat more of this or that, exercise more, take the right vitamins, etc.  This goes to the heart of the problem.  The real reason we haven’t been able to attack this disease properly.  So what’s the reason-

We are too cheap.

We expect someone else to handle the money that it takes to find a cure.  We want the government, rich people, philanthropists, charitable organizations, pharmaceutical companies, etc. to pay for finding a cure.

We want someone else to solve the problem.

We want to keep ALL of our money.

The real tragedy is that we have forgotten how to give.

You can always find an excuse why someone else, other than yourself, needs to provide the money.  I need to save for retirement.  I need to fund my kid’s college.  I need a new car.  I have credit card bills.  All of these are great reasons, but we cannot solve the world’s BIG problems without BIG numbers.  And it takes all of us to make it happen.

Kathy and I have been involved in many fundraisers through the years.  Kathy also leads a non-profit ministry (www.here2there.org ) that travels on mission trips to minister to others in need all over the world.  I am always amazed at how folks can get agitated when you simply ask them to give.  So they are agitated at us for trying the raise money to help out someone in need or a special cause?  That just doesn’t make any sense- right?  I am past it.  I will continue to ask and let it be their struggle- not mine.  The statistics we experience for giving are generally pretty low.  I bet less than one out of fifty give on the average.

There are plenty of ways you can rationalize not giving.  You heard the execs at the organization make big money.  You heard that the percentages that goes to research is lower than average.  You heard that someone was caught taking money at the organization.  On and on it goes…

The fact is- you can’t control those things.  And for the most part, these organizations do a pretty good job with the donations.  There is only one thing you can control- and that is to give.  If we all decided to cure cancer once and for all- we could do it.  If everyone who has a story like mine gave $1,000, we would amass such a huge amount of research money that a cure would be inevitable.  The problem is we are too cheap.  Most folks generally ignore requests to give.  They give a big fat zero!  They will leave it up to everyone else to do the giving.  And the giving is just not happening the way it should.

One way that I learned how to give was through tithing at church.  When you actually write a large check each week and find out that you will still make it financially, you are truly exercising your giving muscle.  The Lord tells us to test Him on this.  I have done it and He has always provided!

Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, a day that is targeted for giving to non-profits and organizations that are trying to make a difference in the world.  Instead of buying a gift for someone who doesn’t really need anything, how about giving to an organization that really needs your money?  Yes- it may go towards someone’s salary and feeding their family but that’s not all bad- right?  If you are stuck on the efficiency of the organization, there are watchdog websites out there like www.charitynavigator.org  that provide ratings for non-profits that can assist you in making a giving decision.  It’s a good idea to do your homework, but don’t get too hung up on the percentages or ratings.

Give to a charity where your heart is or an organization where you have a personal connection.  Give to someone you know.  Give to an area where you want to make a difference.  Give until it hurts!  We will not solve the problems in the world until we realize that we are all individually responsible.  It’s not someone else’s responsibility- it’s yours too!  Start exercising your giving muscle.  You will find out that you can do it.  And you, yes you, will actually help to make the world a better place.

So what do you think?  Have we become too cheap to give?  Do we look to others to take care of the problems or needs?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Are Your Best Employees About To Leave?

I don’t typically post articles but here is a great article from Inc. Magazine.  I could relate to most of these at one time or another in my career.  This may be a great time for you to examine the conditions in your company and reflect on the value of your key employees!  Most companies have a few key persons who carry a big load.  If they get frustrated and leave- you got BIG problems!  The market is strong in many industries so making a move is a REAL option.  Protect your HR assets!  Enjoy! 

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Your business wouldn’t exist without your best employees. Unfortunately, many employers feel blindsided when they get a two-week notice from a top employee. They shouldn’t. There are plenty of red flags, and nurturing employee loyalty is something that takes constant effort.

There are countless reasons why employees quit, and not all of them can be addressed. However, the five major reasons employees quit can be wholly preventable if the employer takes notice–and action.

Click HERE to read the rest of the article!

Power Shortage

“Nobody will ever love you quite the way you want them to.  You just have to let them do their best.”

 

I saw this quote on Reddit the other day and it really hit me hard.  We really are selfish in everything- even in the way we are loved by others!

Why would I expect someone to love me just the way I want to be loved?

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Let’s face it- we are not mind readers and we are all wildly different.  And this does not even address the gender and role differences!  Yet through all of this, I can get to a place of feeling completely misunderstood.  I can sink into this feeling that folks just don’t really care about my desires, my feelings, my happiness.  I’m sure that I’m not alone.

Yet- How could they know?

I believe you can and should know how someone wants to be loved.  The problem is that we tend to default to loving others the way we want to be loved.  If you like words of affirmation, then you assume that everyone else values this action in the same way you do.  If its gifts or money, you are convinced that all you need to do is buy something for them.

 I believe this is also true for managing people.  You can’t expect that a “one size fits all” view of wants and needs is realistic.  I struggle with managers who are one dimensional in their approach to managing and motivating others.  So what do you do as leaders to love better?  How can you make your team feel truly loved and appreciated?  Here are a few hints!

Go Deeper:  If you are seeking to build strength in your team you must work to build a stronger relationship.  This takes risk.  You have to be willing to get past the surface and go deeper.  Lower your guard.  Find out what they are struggling with.  Find out what brings them joy.  By building your relationship, you will strengthen trust and understanding.  You will be able to tap into what truly motivates them.

Be a Noticer:  Watch for hints and feedback that give you a window into the person’s values and priorities.  I am always amazed how some folks can spend a large portion of their lives with someone and still not really understand them.  Be observant and get your mind off of yourself, the money, the day to day junk, the crisis of the day…and truly look at others on your team.  Simply watching and listening can provide you with a huge amount of information about others and allow you to connect with the things that are important to them.  The things that give them self worth and value.

Ask Questions:  Instead of barking out the orders and moving on, ask questions.  Engage your team members in meaningful dialogue.  Ask them for their opinion.  Make them part of the bigger story that you are trying to tell your customers and clients.  When you get your team involved, you are placing value on their opinions and their worth to you and the company.  You are acknowledging their expertise.  Ask them what they want, what they desire, where they see their role.

Gosh- such simple stuff but really powerful!  If you treat your team as if you don’t really care for them- how do you expect them to care for you and your companies goals?  Should you love your employees?   Yes- absolutely.  Should you try to give them what they want?  Yes- absolutely.  Should you make them feel part of the bigger picture?  Yes- absolutely.

If you give marginally to your team you will get marginal results back.  Is that what you want?  Not me.  Life is too short for a mere passing grade.  Get to really know your people and give them what they need.  Need a new jolt of power in your business?  The power is in loving well!

 

Smile Power

My daughter was born with a smile on her face.  She was, and still is, always smiling.  When she was a baby we would get comments about what a happy little girl she was.  Her smile was contagious and helped her make friends quickly.  When our kids were young we would frequently go camping and, before I could get the camper set up, she would be asking me to unload her bike as she already had found a friend.  In like five minutes.  Her smile continues to be big part of who she is.

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I tend to go in the other direction.  My natural look is to sport a serious face.  This may sound weird to some, but I actually have to remind myself to smile, especially when I meet new people.  My wife has had to field comments like “Is he angry.”  And, “I don’t think he likes me very much.”  Comments that are not at all flattering.

I used to think that it was OK.  I am who I am, right?  I’m just focused.  They just need to get over it.  But I have come to realize that it’s not right.  I shouldn’t make people feel uncomfortable when all I need to do is smile more and be a bit more engaging.  Smile.  Seems simple right?

I have come to realize that there is real power in a smile.  Last week I was at the airport toting my bag and backpack and surveying the perfect spacing of seating in the boarding area.  As I walked down an aisle, a woman looked up from her phone and eyes meeting gave me a big smile.  A simple, friendly, warm smile.  The airport is not always a very “smiley” place so it really caught me off guard a bit.  I smiled back and continued my search for a seat.  Her smile was a little “pick me up” and a moment to refocus.  Or maybe even unfocus?

Smiling has power.  Scientists have concluded that smiling people actually live longer, have better marriages, are more successful in business, win elections, and have greater influence than the general population.

Smiling works.  It has a way of disengaging tense circumstances.  It is a powerful, yet silent, introduction.  It builds trust.  It communicates peace and contentment.  Are you using your smile?  Unlike other leadership tools, it’s always ready and available.

My father always had a smile on his face.  I don’t know anyone that didn’t like my Dad.  He was always lighthearted and positive.  How do you want to be remembered?  Serious and focused?  Or smiling?  I know which one I would choose!

So what do you think?  Click “Like” if you agree!  Do you have a “smiler” in your life?  Click “Leave A Comment” and let us hear your story! 

 

Brown Shoes- Black Pants

Ok fashion police!  Lock me up!

While packing for a trip to a wedding, I made a decision that I would wear brown shoes with black dress slacks so I would not have to pack and carry black shoes for only one event.  I can tell you that it certainly will not match and it will likely clash and I may even catch a glance or two.

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Your probably thinking- well your a guy and you can pull it off.  You don’t hang with the chatty girls who would love to make some comments about a real fashion error.  That’s is true- I admit.  So if you would struggle here read on!

I know that the look is not optimal, but I made a decision based on what I wanted, based on the costs and benefits, not on what others want or think.  I weighed out the choices and decided I would ignore the noise around me and focus on what makes sense for this situation.  What’s the message here?  Well it’s not about shoes.

It’s about the ability to tune out the voices around you.  The voices that tell you that you are obligated to do something.  You must follow the protocol.

It’s about resisting to jump every time the voices around you tell you to do something when you know it’s really not that important.

It’s about making your own decisions and judgements and swimming upstream when you know that you should.

It’s about being freed from the approval beast that will consume you and run your life.

Servant leaders often get bogged down by simply reacting to others instead of being proactive and getting in front of the voices.  The ability to be objective, concentrate on the big picture, and have the guts to say no is extremely difficult for someone with a servant’s heart.

Is this your struggle?  Do you want to blend in?  Do you have an insatiable hunger for the pat on the back?  Can you break away?

I say, take control of your life!  Live your life your way.  Make it your own.  Paint the picture of your life vibrant and colorful.  Tune out the voices that are
holding you back or taking up all of your time.

Go ahead- do black with brown. You won’t explode!  I promise!

Do you struggle with feelings of obligation and following the norm?  Click on like if you can relate or click on comments if you have a story to share.  Don’t be a stealth reader!  Let me know what YOU think!     

Living the Adventure

Last Sunday night, my wife and I went to a party at a friends house.  It was a cool night, at least by North Florida standards.  The house had a great outdoor patio with brick walls and garden areas.  In one corner of the patio was a firepit that turned out to be a very popular spot.  I settled into a comfortable couch next to the fire- I knew I wasn’t moving.  The only distraction was that the fire was a bit smoky.  I knew my jacket would need a wash when I got home.  I was comfortable and drifted away in conversations about books, travel and the restaurant business.

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After about an hour, my friend Ron joined us.  Ron was just beaming.  Ron is generally a positive and upbeat guy but today he was particularly aglow. 

“Ron you look great”, I commented.  He proceeded to update me on what he was up to.  He told me that he was painting (artist) again and that he was really enjoying it.  Ron told me that he has been waking up each morning and having coffee with Jesus before he starts his day.  He also told me that he was feeling good physically.  Ron and I often trade bad back stories as we both suffer from back pain from time to time.  Normal type chit-chat until he made this statement: 

“Joe, everyday I wake up and I look for an adventure each day.” 

He proceeded to tell me about a clerk that he friended who has children and is struggling to make ends meet and how he has been helping her and encouraging her.  He shared stories of how he has been buying the book “Love Does” by Bob Goff and giving away copies to friends and folks that he meets along the way during his adventures.  All along, I couldn’t help but see the delight in his face. 

Ron could easily stay secluded in his world.  Ron is semi-retired and lives by himself.  He could be lonely and bored.  But Ron chooses the adventure.  Ron knows that the world is built on relationships and service.  Ron is not afraid to make the introductions- he has seen how it works!  Ron is not satisfied to stay inside of himself.  He seeks the adventure.  And it has made all the difference.

So how can you live the adventure life?  Here are a few ideas:

Dump the Routine:  Look at ways that you can do things differently.  We are such creatures of habit and efficiency.  Yet, do you want to live an efficient life or a life of fullness and adventure?  Mess with your schedule a bit.  Leave early for work and relax a bit when you get there.  Try new restaurants, new music, new places.  Get out of the rut!  When you change things up you will see opportunities for new relationships, skills and service.

Slow Down:  When you are always in a hurry the world is travelling at the same speed.  Slow down and give yourself time to really see what is going on around you.  I guarantee you will be surprised.  I am often the worst offender of this.  I am so tuned in to speed and efficiency that it really hurts to slow down sometimes.  Yet, I know I have to.  When I am operating at warp speed, I am missing- not gaining.  Tunnel vision will not allow you to see the opportunities to enjoy life and serve others that are all around you.

Be Observant:  By learning to be observant, you will also begin to see opportunities for fun and learning.  You must learn to really look deeper.  Additionally, there are often clues that identify the need for service to others.  It could be a simple frown or some tattered clothing that gives you a glimpse of the trouble that exists.  These clues can be subtle and the ability to see within someone often takes some practice.  You will not always get it right and you may be rejected.  As you hone your skills, you will get better and you will begin to see the impact of careful observation on your life.

Take a Risk:  Adventure and risk go hand in hand, right?  We understand risk in terms of jumping out of a plane, yet we generally don’t get the connection between adventure, risk and relationships.  In order to be allowed into a persons life, someone has take the first step which involves risk.  Simple small talk will provide only the superficial- to get deeper you need to be prepared to ask the risky questions.  Yes, you may get rejected.  However, when the time is right, they will let you in.  And when they do it is beautiful– even if the story is messy.  Now you can serve.  Now you can make a difference.  Now your day has adventure!

Are you tired and bored?  You don’t need an expensive vacation to add adventure in your life.  The world is happening all around you.  Are you going to slow down, change things up, and look for opportunities to make a difference?  Living the adventure.  It’s waiting for you!  

What are some ways that you have found that have added excitement into your life?  Are you ready for some new excitement?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!

Men: 10 Shopping Tips for Christmas!

Ah, the Christmas season has begun!  A time for family, great food and gift giving!  One problem:  The thought of Christmas shopping makes most men cringe.  I would guess that most men would do diaper duty instead of hitting the mall!  Yet, we know we have to do it AND it’s coming up pretty quickly here.  When you think of shopping for your wife or special loved one, you can’t help but think of the scars from past failures.  The dress that was three sizes too big (How big do you think I am?).  The new vacuum cleaner (Oh, I guess the place is a mess, huh?).  The earrings that exactly match the set she already has (You idiot, don’t you notice anything?).   You try every year- yet it always ends in failure.  You want to give up- just go all gift certificates.  You know that this isn’t personal.  Doesn’t show you really care.  No, won’t work.  What can you do? Christmas in the post-War United StatesI am writing this based on wisdom gained from pure failure.  I have made just about every stupid mistake possible.  Yet, I am getting better.  Last year, I probably did about 80% not returned.  Not saying that this year will be as good, but I am gaining confidence.  I know I will get a couple gifts right.  And this is the way it should be.  Because it’s important to her.  You want to see genuine joy on her face on Christmas.  Not- “Oh, thanks Honey…” and then it gets returned.  You want it to be really special for her.

OK- so what do we do?  Here is a list of hints that have been helpful for me through the years.  Understand ALL women are different, so I may not have this exactly right for your loved one so adjust as you see fit.

  1. Planning:  Start thinking about gift giving NOW.  Very often she will give you hints about what she wants.  Some will be subtle and others are not.  Be careful with the non-subtle hints.  This is when she is all but TELLING YOU what she wants.  Write it down!  You will forget- trust me.  Make a list of these hints and ideas.  Start now!
  2. Do the Recon:  Before you hit the mall, a reconnaissance mission is required.  When she is out of the house, go through her closet and dresser and write down the sizes for her clothes.  Be careful here.  Her closet can be full of traps.  There are often things in there that she wishes would fit.  Find the clothes that she always wears.  Look at the tags for the brands.  You may be able to get hints on the stores where she shops.  Write down the sizes and the brands.
  3. Right Style:  Really LOOK at what she wears.  You do not want to be a pioneer here.  Even if you don’t really care for the style she likes, buy what she wears.  She’ll tell you that she loves what you bought her- yet she will never wear it.  My daughter tells my wife that she dresses like a hippy while my daughter dresses conservatively.  Don’t generalize.  Buy what she will wear!
  4. Get the List:  Ask her for a list.  Don’t think that you are so good that you don’t need a list.  Get a few slam dunks in along with some more risky items.  Nothing worse than seeing it all go on the return pile.  Quiz her on her list.  She will likely give you more ideas as she describes what she wants.  Get all of the details- stores, sizes, colors, everything.  These are givens- so go get em!
  5. Shop with Her:  Go Christmas shopping with her.  While she is shopping for others she will spot clothes or items that she wants.  She may tell you to get something specifically or she may just be drawn to something.  Typically she will see something that she wants but thinks it’s too expensive.  Jackpot.  This is good target.  Snap your mental picture and return later and make the buy.  Shopping with her is gold.  You will get great hints here.  So do it!
  6. Danger Zone:  There are certain gifts that are very risky.  Stay away from risk- this isn’t Vegas!  Here are a few:
    1. Practical Gifts:  Household items, TV, blender, toaster, washer, new roof.  May be really needed, but not at Christmas.  Unless it’s a list item- stay away!  This is REAL quick sand here.  Stay with personal gifts.  Practical some other time- not Christmas!
    2. Fitness:  Exercise equipment, gym membership, workout clothes, yoga classes, etc.  Risky, very risky.  Realize the message that you are giving.
    3. Cooking  Items:  Careful here.  Unless she is an avid cook, you may be delivering that same bad message.
    4. Victoria Secret:  Stay away- this is also a trap!  The sizes are about impossible to get right.  There is a fine line to trashy.  And, what is the message- not sexy enough?  Too sexy?  Don’t do it!
    5. Jewelry:  This is a typical “go to” for many guys.  Spend a bunch of money in one spot- and be done.  Easy choice.  However- if she is not a jewelry girl- she’ll take it back.  Trust me on this one.  And then because you chose the “nuclear option”- she’ll have no other gifts that were good.  Now you really stepped in it!  Be careful here.
  7. Go it Alone:  Don’t bring your buddy or your daughter with you.  If you bring your buddy you know where you will end up- Ruby Tuesday’s with a cold beer.  Don’t do it!  You will just have to go out again.  If you bring your daughter and you mess up she will be collateral damage.  Ask her what she thinks, but don’t bring her.  Keep her out of it.  Come on…she’s family!
  8. Use the Mannequins:  The mannequins can be your friend!  See how it looks on them.  They generally put some of the best selling styles on the mannequins.  Look at colors and styles.  Stripes, black, paisley, whatever.  You will know what’s in by looking at the mannequins.  You can also see what it looks like on.  Things look way different on a person than on the clothes rack.
  9. Ask for Help:  Ask the sale people for help.  They will help you find sizes and match things up.  I am not suggesting that you take ALL of their advice.  This is also a trap.  I have wrapped suggested outfits that were a total bomb.  Stay with the look that you are sure she will like.  Don’t experiment with someone else’s taste.
  10. Start Early:  Don’t wait for the last minute.  Start now!  Get a few things bought and stored away.  I will admit that I like getting some last minute items.  Getting out a couple days before Christmas with all the other guys is kind of a tradition.  I do love the last minute excitement- but if you wait too long you will be stuck with what’s left.  All of the common sizes to the cool clothes will be gone.  Many of the good gift ideas will be sold out.  There are great last minute sales but try to be nearly wrapped up.  The internet is a great starting point.  Get a few internet purchases done early and start to look for ideas.  Do your research on-line so your time can be concentrated on hunter/gathering (pick-up and pay!).

These are a few tips that I have learned through the years that I think are most valuable.  Most men would say it’s only Christmas and what does this have to do with leadership?  I can assure you that Christmas gifts are very likely much more important to her, than they are to you!  I also know that being a bonehead and doing a crummy job sends a really poor message to your kids and others about how much you care about her and the importance of completing a task with excellence.  So suck it up and get it done!  It’s not that difficult and when you get it right- it is truly magic!

Merry Christmas!

Can you share some stories of mistakes or victories in Christmas gift selection?

Ladies:  Any ideas to share with the guys?

 Click on comments and tell us your story!     

Andy’s Sailboat: A Love Story

Sometimes it’s about finishing that really counts…

I grew up on a lake in Michigan.  Two doors down was a boyhood friend named Andy.  Andy and I were good friends growing up.  Andy and I were way different in many ways.  Andy was a tinkerer.  He always had a project that was in progress.  Maybe rebuilding a bike, a lawnmower or repairing the family camper.  Andy always had a project or two that was in progress.  His father was an engineer, and Andy had a mechanical mind that I am convinced was at least partially genetic.  His father also encouraged him to figure out how things really worked.  I remember visiting his house and helping him repair the oil burning furnace in his basement.  Now this is a 13 year old kid- yes with direction from Dad- repairing an oil furnace!  I admit, there was generally an excitement with doing these projects.  My dad would never give me the latitude to tackle a project like this but Andy was encouraged by his father to do crazy and challenging projects.

English: Sail Boat Fairhaven Lake

One of Andy’s projects was rebuilding an old wooden sailboat.  This boat was not pretty or remarkable.  It was a common sailboat, probably about 16 feet long.  Most everyone thought the boat was simply junk and was a lost cause.  The boat was made entirely of wood with many parts broken, missing or in need of stripping and refinishing.  Andy kept the boat on the side of his family’s house under a tarp.  Andy completely dismantled the boat, and over time, began to rebuild it.  This process went on for several years.  I remember going to his house to see what he was doing and getting a lesson on how the keel worked or what repair was necessary for the rigging.  The boat contained many typical marine materials, weathered teak, marine plywood, brass screws, stainless steel cables, etc.  I learned a great deal from Andy about boat construction and marine components.

Boats are a hole in the water that you throw money into…

Andy had a paper route that financed his boat rebuilding efforts.  I was often his back-up or companion while he delivered the Detroit News.  He had a relatively small route and I knew first hand that the money that he made was hard earned.  For several years, Andy poured much of his earnings into that sailboat.  Marine parts and supplies are very expensive.  My father was convinced that the label “marine” just was a way to double to price!  I remember Andy telling me about his latest purchase- marine varnish, brass fittings or mahogany and knew immediately that I would never spend that much money on that boat.  Yet, slowly over time he was making progress.

One year as the summer was waning, Andy and I talked and agreed that we would- somehow- sail the boat before the lake iced up for the winter.  The idea was to just put the boat together so we can sail it.  We were missing parts and some stuff needed some pretty intensive work so we would overlook those items and just make it sailable.  Let just sail the boat.  So, over a period of several weeks, we worked after school and into the night under lights reassembling the boat and working to put the boat in service.  Andy was especially committed.  I did my best to sneak off from my parents to give him a hand, but it was really Andy that was determined to sail the boat that year.  See, Andy bought the boat in disrepair, so he had never experienced the boat under sail.

Where is the rudder…

We worked tirelessly putting the boat back together.  Many of the parts had been refinished, yet many were missing, so we found ways to fabricate temporary parts.  We were especially concerned about the keel area.  Andy patched and sealed the keel and was still unable to get the area completely sealed.  It still leaked.  We would make sure that we included a suitable bucket for bailing if the keel was still leaking.

The weather was getting increasingly colder.  Most of the docks on the lake were out in anticipation for the winter ice up.  Andy put the finishing touches on the boat and we targeted the next day for the sail.  We were under the gun.  This was early November.  So after school, we fitted the boat for the first sail.  We were bundled up and there was a steady wind.  The weather was cloudy and it looked like rain.  I was a bit nervous.  The boat had never sailed.  Many bad things could happen- we could have a giant leak, broken mast, the keel leak, rudder problems, etc.  There were no boats on the lake to help us out.  The water was real cold.  We knew we were on our own.  Yet we pushed the boat out  into the lake and prepared to raise the sails.

Do we have life jackets…

The first minute was a bit chaotic.  We were not a very experienced crew and we were really tripping over each other.  Yet, after a few minutes, the boat began to lean over under the weight of the sail and we were picking up speed.  The boat was actually sailing.  I wish all of the naysayers could have been sitting in the boat with us!  The “POS” boat that was nothing but junk to most was actually sailing!  I felt a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.  Yet, this was really underscored by the delight that I saw in Andy.  He was glowing.  My involvement in his project was limited- yet he was involved in every screw, every component and every piece of rigging.  His joy was amazing.  I will never forget it.  We let out a few hollers of joy across the cold water and laughed in victory as we made our way across the lake.

We took a quick look at the boat.  The keel was still leaking.  We had some issues with the rigging.  We talked about the future repairs and improvements that we would make.  Yet, for the most part the boat performed pretty well.  After sailing for about an hour it stated to rain.  Not hard, just enough to make it ridiculously cold.  We looked at each other and decided to head in.  We planned another sail the next day when it wasn’t raining.  We pulled the boat up on shore and pulled over the cover.  What an amazing day!  We actually sailed Andy’s boat!

Well, the next day came and went.  And the next and the next.  We didn’t get to sail the boat again that fall.  In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the boat was never sailed again.  The boat sat covered on its trailer for another year or two until Andy eventually sold the boat.  I don’t know if the act of sailing the boat was enough victory that Andy lost interest in the project or if he just couldn’t get the time to properly complete the process.  It really didn’t matter.  In my eyes, Andy did it.  He took a project that was viewed as impossible and he pulled it off.  I learned a great deal from this project.  Some of it was practical marine stuff, but the more valuable lessons were about  love and not giving up.  You see, Andy loved that boat and he wouldn’t give up on it.  He put his heart and all of his money into the boat.  I think he would say that it was worth it.  Even after all of his time and money.  Even just for a single solitary sail on a cold November evening!

16 And What?

This one is for Dads…

This is a guest post from a friend of mine- David Dusek.  David leads a ministry called Rough Cut Men (www.roughcutmen.org) that focuses on getting men to begin engaging with one another in an authentic and transparent way.  Using major motion picture clips, men come away realizing that they are not the only ones going through lifes challenges. David using the illustrations to equip men to deal with these challenges and encourage them to “walk through life” with other men.  A native of Florida, David resides in Sarasota with his wife and their five children.  You can contact David through the link to his website above. 

Being the father of about 412 teenagers (okay, only 5, but it sometimes seems like 412), I occasionally get blindsided by stuff, often after-the-fact.  You dads know what I’m talking about:   “I can’t go check the mail, Dad.  I forgot to tell you that I backed over the mailbox this morning”, or “I spent the entire day with [insert the name of the person you can barely stand here] watching [insert the title of your choice of inappropriate movies here]. 

Princess

You would think that, after enough years and enough kids, I would have heard it all.  But today just really set me off.  As a disclaimer, I wasn’t upset at one of the kids.  I was inflamed by the entire circumstance and I guess you get to read my tirade.  And if you aren’t just as twisted over this as I am after you read it, then you may want to read it again!

Apparently it was a wedding day, and a friend-of-a-friend of one of our girls was taking her vows.  It did strike me as a little odd that the wedding was at 5 PM on a Wednesday, but maybe it was the only time that the church was free?  Our daughter got dressed up and headed out the door, not in what I would classify as typical wedding attire.  But times have changed, right?

I guess I had no idea how much times have changed until I found out more details about the wedding, after the fact.  First, the girl is pregnant, as in “shotgun wedding”.  And she is sixteen.  As in, “I can officially get my license now” sixteen.  Or even  “Four years ago, I was twelve” sixteen.

For a while now, I have been slowing coming to a rolling boil over the garbage that has become popular television for the aforementioned age demographic.  Shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Liars Club” program our youth to think that it’s okay to lie.  Period. There’s no overarching theme other than “Speaking mistruth is okay”.   My parents wouldn’t let me watch the “Brady Bunch” if Bobby stole a cookie from Jan, for crying out loud!

The shows that really illustrate how failed we are as a society are “Sixteen and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom”.  These shows glamorize being pregnant, or being a mother, while in high school, and they are just the worst kind of crap.  Both pregnancy and motherhood are reserved for women at least five or ten years older, and only as an integrated part of marriage to a husband.  The shows depict young ladies, living at home, gleefully preparing baby bedrooms under the roof of their respective parents.  And it’s just wrong!

You know what else is missing, in large part, from the expecting teenagers homes?  One word:  DAD.

Here’s the deal, men.  We are morally, financially, spiritually and legally responsible for our girls.  When they turn 18, the government says that they can vote, die for our country and even pay their own consequences for bad decisions as an adult.  But guess what? Even when they turn 18, we are STILL morally, spiritually and usually financially responsible for them. 

I don’t know about you, but I am all for averting disaster.  We must do our job as dad to ensure the greatest odds of success for our girls.  By “do our job”, I am not talking about providing for them.  That’s just part of the deal when you have a kid.  Providing would be the ‘minimum acceptable standard’ of being their father.

Here are a few guidelines to follow if you are bringing up girls (and yeah, it’s a lot different from raising boys):

  1. Tell her how beautiful she is.  There is a strong probability that she feels ugly today…just sayin’
  2. Tell her that you love her.  A lot!
  3. Hug her.  A lot!
  4. Take her out on a date every few weeks, or every week if you can.  Show her what a “normal” evening should look like.
  5. Model love, respect and service towards your wife.  Remember, more is caught than taught.  She is going to look for someone just like you, like it or not.

Here’s a thought to remember, guys.  If we aren’t loving on our daughters, somebody else will be.  Some guys prey on girls, and EVERY girl needs to feel loved, appreciated and beautiful. That’s YOUR job!

Guard your princess!

Do you have some other good guidelines to share for raising daughters?  Click on comment below and share your ideas!