Are You A Closet Control Freak?

Being in control is good. But at what cost?

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The clinical control freak is someone who is abusive and will alter your life patterns at extreme costs. They will play with your mind, schedule and goals and do whatever it takes to fool themselves into the reality that they can keep everything under their control in order to manage their personal anxiety and other personality disorders.

But what if you are just a bit controlling? Just a closet control freak?

Oh I get it. The world is a dangerous place, right? There is danger and failures around every corner. The closet control freak can reason that they are just protecting their friends and loved ones from hurt and danger. But is it YOUR job to step up and protect everyone from life? Do they WANT your advice or your help? Do you think that is YOUR duty or is it just a mechanism to prop up your self-worth?

The control freak is like a repellant. Lets face it- nobody likes to deal with someone who has the need to control things around them. Even if they are right. We all have the desire to find out for ourselves.

This is not about judging whether they are right or wrong. The control freak would argue that they are just trying to protect others with their behavior. Trying to guide things so the outcome is good. Sounds good but not always truly sincere.

The root of the closet control freak is to avoid personal worry, anxiety and keep up their self image. See, the problem is insecurity or a lack of self-esteem. And the antidote is power.

By controlling things you can blank out the insecurity with power. You are in control. You are calling the shots.

What are some signs of the closet control freak? Here are a few:

Advice: You must give advice- cause you are the expert on everything! Giving advice seems like a good thing right? Unless its not wanted. Look back at repellant. Keep your trap shut. Unless there is imminent danger or something criminal.

Stall tactics: When something comes up that you don’t want to do -you stall. Wait it out until the other person see your “better idea”. Or just hope things change to your viewpoint. Stall anyways. Just in case, Forever. Super frustrating!

Better options: You feel like you need to give other options that suit you better. And you wait. Until. They. Choose something. That you. Like. Childish.

Dismiss: You can justify dismissing things that are not important to you, yet, may be important to others. You truly believe that you have the ultimate objective view. If you don’t value it, then its not valuable? Really?

Mechanical Control: You don’t like others to drive, fly, or steer anything. You have serious bouts of fear. You are not in control. You have trouble relaxing when someone else is at the wheel. Are we all bad drivers except for you? Is this really our problem?

Reject- Not Compromise: You will feel that you cannot sacrifice what you know must happen. Save everyone from disaster. Anything less leads to worry, anxiety or fear. Winner take all. Seriously?

Perfectionism: Things must be perfect. If someone see something that is bad or out of place- then it is a personal failure. I can’t have a dirty house or a bad golf game. Really? Nothing is perfect under the sun. This is textbook insecurity. Right?

I get the control thing. We can get accustomed to being in control. And we don’t want bad thing to happen. But what do we sacrifice? Is it worth it? Remember the repellant. Can you keep your mouth shut? Can you stop the manipulative behavior? Can you let others figure it out without your “help”? Can you just relax and let it happen?

Reality check. The world will keep spinning without you! Find your value somewhere else and realize that you matter without the efforts to control. Your hard work to change or manipulate people or the outcomes will rarely have any influence on them or the outcomes. So why do you do it? Why do you think that you have to control anything? Realize that its your “go to” response. You have likely been doing it for so long that it has become second nature. But you need to fix it because nobody else can. It’s your anchor. Face the issue and the world will change around you. Really! I promise.

So what do you think?  Do you agree with my comments or am I out of bounds on this?  Click “Like” if you agree or click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

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Six Ways The Church is Missing the Boat

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I hate when I miss an opportunity to do something great. Something that will result in real change. Many times these opportunities will just present themselves and then be gone in an instant. I feel like the Christian church is at a time when She can be a real force for good. The Church has a huge amount of resources and some of the greatest people that the world has ever known. Yet the impact is watered down. I think we are missing the boat. There are many reasons but here are a few:

Division Between Denominations: The continued lack of a cohesive force between all denominations has neutered the impact of the Church worldwide. Do you really think that when you reach heaven that the Father will tell you “well done faithful servant” because your theology/doctrine/way of doing church was correct? We spend way too much time and effort trying to be “right” and miss the boat on what the focus should be. Serving others. Feeding the poor. Helping others. Sharing your faith. Mentoring the next generation. Being a united force for good. Right? Do churches cross over? Rarely. It’s like the Tower of Babel. Churches want to talk- but have a very difficult time listening.

Super Christians: Every church has them. The super spiritual. The ones that have memorized the Bible or can sling the bible darts on command. They do two hours of quiet time each day. Searching out the next great awakening or the latest prophet. This dedication sounds good, but the result is that these distinctions lead to cliques and division in the local church. Are they really better?  The rest of the congregation just doesn’t “get it”. They are lesser Christians. They are just not dedicated enough. They can’t be a leader or have real influence. They are not as close to the Father as the rest of the extra spiritual group. Doesn’t this sound like a Pharisee? Does to me.

Inwardly Focused Churches: Many churches are great at the Sunday morning experience. They have great worship teams, children’s ministry, coffee bar, etc. I get it. The Sunday morning thing takes a lot of resources and the average Christian family expects a pretty high level of service. But aren’t we called to reach others? Aren’t we called to get out of the church? Why do we spend so much of our resources on the Sunday morning experience? We are missing a great opportunity for good instead we are spending huge resources on facilities, staff, utilities, etc. just to do Sunday morning.

Inwardly Focused Christians: Many Christians are very dedicated to intimacy with the Father but they do not get out and serve. If Jesus on earth is the perfect model, Jesus did spend time in prayer and time with the Father, but he spent much more time ministering to the poor and needy. Experiencing God is part of the journey, but the highs can be like a drug. You want more and more and this want is completely focussed on yourself and not on others. We are called to disciple and serve others. You are here, not heaven. You need to get out and serve!

Fractured Community: The most powerful force in joining people together is serving together. When you minister together to help others, you form a strong and powerful bond. The act of serving provides a great opportunity to share your experiences, gifts and passions. This is a very natural way of sharing your story with others. Serving as a church can bring bonding across age groups, genders, cultures and economic differences. Without a way of providing a cohesive bond that crosses these barriers, the church will look like a bunch of distinct groups. New folks will struggle meeting others. The young will not learn from the old. Discipleship will not occur. A sick church.

The 80/20 Rule: Last but not least, the Church is not mobilizing the congregation. The old adage says 20% of the people do 80% of the work in the church. Can you imagine the power of 100% participation? It’s time to mobilize everyone is the church. This means finding the passions and gifts of every member and getting them marching forward in the work of the Kingdom. Everyone is equipped for a special purpose to advance the Kingdom. This might not be your vision.  We need to encourage others to walk into that purpose. Instead we are trying to coax them into whatever the vision is of the church as outlined by the leadership. What about their special calling? Aren’t they uniquely designed for a special purpose from the Father? If you don’t recognize this then where are they? Following your vision????

We have a long way to go. We have been entrusted with the most powerful force on the planet. When will we step into the role we were made for? When can we stop the power games? If we truly believe that He will take care of us, then the rest is our pride our insecurity? Right?  Can we own up to that? What will you do? You tell me! Please! Please!  Please! I want to know what you think!

Trust is the Glue

The power base of any cohesive and unified team is trust.  If you believe in your people and you have confidence in their abilities and decision making, it has a way of multiplying the impact of the team.  You are, in effect, advancing your leadership to all of your team members.

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Leaders often have a tough time passing this responsibility on to others.  They are often used to making the decisions and developing the strategy for the group.  Leaders have confidence in their abilities to provide direction with effectiveness- that is how they became a leader.  The problem is that one person cannot think for the entire organization.

Once you let go of the reins and allow others to think and make decisions, you are tapping into more brain power.  Much more brain power.  The front line team members often know the situation better than the leaders.  They are involved in the struggle every day.  They see things first hand.  They know the intricate details that are involved in the process.

Most employees have no problem following direction.  They will proceed as directed.  If the plan is flawed from the start, they will generally avoid blame for the outcome.  The tension develops when you allow your team to think for themselves.  When they are allowed to put together their own plan and strategy, they are now open for scrutiny.  They feel vulnerable to judgement.

How do you remove this apprehension to leading?  Trust is the key.

Once the employee knows that his manager and the company are squarely behind them, they will feel the freedom to step into a leadership role and make decisions.  Without trust, there is a breakdown in authority.  And trust must go in both directions to bind the team together.

Trust is the glue that holds together a successful organization.

Mistakes will be made.  There is no way to completely avoid them.  You must always be ready to help clean up a mess resulting from a poor decision made by someone other than yourself.  This is natural- but not fun.  You can’t avoid it.  This is part of the learning process.

To unleash the power of your entire team- you must trust them and they must trust you.

There is no other way.

So what do you think?  Have you experienced a lack of trust that kept you from acting?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

Twenty Questions

One of the most common management practices is to enter the office of your report and after a few little icebreakers, begin to fire off the questions:

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Is the project on schedule?

Have you handled the budget overrun?

Were you able to engage a vendor yet?

Did you fix the issue with the client?

And on and on it goes….

After the twenty questions and reassuring answers from your report you leave the office feeling good about the project as well as your special abilities as a great manager. You can now check the “I managed” box. I took care of my management duties!

But did your really manage here? Did your twenty questions change anything? Have you really made an impact?

Maybe or maybe not!

The fact is that the answers to your twenty questions are probably half truth. Most employees that know the twenty questions management style will tell you what you want to hear. They may not be actually lying to you, but they may spin the facts or tell you only part of the story. You may be only making yourself feel good regardless of your ability to craft great questions. So what can you do other than twenty questions? Do you need to be an interrogator or have the skills of prosecuting attorney in order to manage a person or a process? Here are a few ideas beyond the questioning:

Look at the numbers: The truth will likely be in the numbers. Always. Develop systems to track things statistically. It’s tough to spin facts and figures. Find ways to track performance with numbers.

Look downstream: Instead of quizzing your report, ask others downstream, your clients or other stakeholders for feedback. This will be results driven feedback- not a measure of action or effort by the report.

Be observant: Most problems will leave clues long before they blow up into a full fledged forest fire. Watch for hints that things are not progressing properly. Build some early warning systems to head off problems. Don’t simply rely on talk.

Build trust: The best way to manage is to have the report come to you for help or to get advice on a situation. If they don’t feel that your office is a safe place, they will never walk through the doorway. It is far better to learn about a situation or problem in this manner than trying to pry it out of them.

Face the music: Most of us tend to be inherently optimistic and believe that things will work out in the end. If things are going poorly, they are likely to continue going poorly and changing things from bad to good can be very difficult. Face your problems head on. Don’t fool yourself that things are going to get better because you received answers to your questions that make you feel good.

Twenty questions can be a dangerous way to manage people. Asking good questions is valuable in management, but you can’t rely solely on the answers that you get. Don’t be fooled. Put systems in place to measure progress. Keep your eyes open to what is really going on and make yourself open to be a resource instead of an adversary. If you really enjoy the questioning- then go ahead and change careers and go to law school!

Reaching Down

My grandfather was an avid golfer.  He simply loved the game.  I remember thinking when I was a young kid just how great it would be if my grandpa invited me to play golf with him.  I actually visualized it often, but I knew that it would be a pain for him.  I would be sending the ball all over the place and it would be frustrating for him to watch and try to teach me the game.  My grandpa would visit with us often and we would watch golf together on television.  I waited for the day that he would invite me to play golf with him.

But the invitation never happened.

My grandfather passed away when I was twenty something.  I wonder now what our relationship could have been if we would have played golf together.  See, golf was his game.  I saw how he came alive watching golf on TV.  I wish I would have had the opportunity to watch him play the game that he really loved and enjoy spending time together on the golf course.

I thought about asking him to take me golfing.  But I didn’t want to be a bother to him.  I knew that he would rather golf with someone who knew what they were doing.  The problem was, I was not in the right position to initiate the golf game.  My grandpa was.  Even though his position was above me he could easily reach down and pull me up to a golf game with him.

I believe that this condition relates to many relationships.  I believe that the person in the power position has the more natural path to initiate the connection.

To bring others along and walk with them.

To spend time together.

To share problems and struggles.

To teach and mentor.

To share wisdom and experiences.

Do we seize this opportunity or do we let it go by?  If you are in the upper position it’s as easy as reaching out your hand.  If you are in the lower position it is much more difficult as you have to get past “the ask”.

I can tell you, in relationships of growth, even the smallest of things can have a significant impact.  I am reminded of this every time someone repeats some rather obscure instruction, story or lesson that I gave years ago that I have long since forgotten.  I promise you- they are listening and watching.  You have a greater impact than you believe.  If you want to experience more- reach down.  Pull them up with you.  They are waiting.

So what do you think?  Do you have a story to share where you pulled someone up?  Did this get you thinking about your position in relationships?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think! 

5 Keys to Crisis Management- Send In The Wolf!

When people ask me what I actually do for a living, I sometimes ask them if they remember “The Cleaner” from the movie Pulp Fiction.  In the movie, there is a bloody murder that occurs in a car and they call a guy called “The Wolf” (Harvey Keitel) who shows up in a tuxedo and his specialty is to make the crime scene disappear.  When I say “The Cleaner” most folks immediately remember him and chuckle a bit about the comparison, however, it’s really not that far off in many ways.

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My job invariably includes problem solving and crisis management.  In most cases, the damage (the murder) has already occurred.  I can’t stop it from happening.  My job is to figure a way out that will result in the least amount of collateral damage.  In the construction business bad things can happen even to the most organized and professional companies.  Subcontractors will walk away from their obligations.  Owners will ignore contract responsibilities.  Misappropriation of payments.   We have theft, damage, lying, cheating, injuries, and corruption.  I have seen some truly amazing things happen.  Instances  where you say to yourself- “there is no way that they would do that!”   And then it happens!  Desperate people will do very foolish things.  And the legal system is largely useless.  We protect ourselves as best as we can with solid processes and early warning systems but they are not flawless.  We have chinks in our armor.  So bad things will happen.  It’s inevitable.

What do you do when you encounter a crisis situation?  We can get a few clues from the Wolf:

Stay Calm:  The Wolf shows up in tuxedo and calmly reviews the situation and then asks Jimmy for a cup of coffee.  He doesn’t get rattled.  He is calm and confident.  Remember that your disposition will rub off on others.  If you get angry or start throwing around blame the folks you need most to help you will likely check out.  You need to keep them engaged to find your way out.  You need them to have a cool head and to be able to think clearly.  Stay calm and confident.

Call an Expert:  When the Wolf comes to the door he says, “I solve problems”.  They called the Wolf because he is the best.  He’s been in the situation before.  He’s experienced.  The Wolf accesses the situation and immediately starts to give instructions on how to clean up the mess.  There is no hesitancy or reluctance to act.  He doesn’t need to think.  He’s been there before.  This is the kind of direction that you need when you are in a tough situation.

Get the Facts:  When the Wolf arrives he immediately begins to get the facts.  He asks a series of questions.  With the responses, he puts together a timeline on when things needs to happen.  He views the conditions and formulates a plan to clean and dispose of the car using what he has available.

Be Specific: When the Wolf gives direction he is specific.  He tells Jules (Samuel Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) exactly what to do.  He tells them what areas to concentrate on and what is wasted time.  Once he has given the instructions, there is no need for questions- just action.  They have their marching orders.  They know what to do.

Time is Critical:  The Wolf keeps things moving quickly and efficiently.  He knows that time is not on your side.  The quicker you start fixing the problem, the better.  Don’t put your head in the sand.  It will not go away all by itself.

Crisis management is part of leading any team.  Bad things are going to happen.  You must control your emotions, keep a clear head, assess the situation, get help, and move immediately to fix the conditions.  Your team is looking for your help, not your criticism.  There will be plenty of time for that later.  For now, move quickly and efficiently and get the situation under control.  A crisis is like a forest fire.  If you don’t get it under control quickly and completely it will spiral out of control.  Be like the Wolf.  Be a problem solver!

So what do you think?  Are there some other keys to crisis management that I have missed?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Your Fooling Yourself!

 

I am a noticer.  I notice the little things as I do life.  Small things of beauty as I walk.  Reactions from social interactions.  Ugly things that appear out of nowhere.  Attitudes and enthusiasm.

 

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This is really a blessing and a curse.  I often think that it would be better to approach life like a child where everything is fresh and taken completely at face value.  But you can’t go back.  You can’t brush over what you see.

Through interacting with others, I can interpret what is really important to them.  I don’t need to ask them.  They will tell me through their actions.

There is a saying that says “talk is cheap.”  I have come to understand this saying.  I hear things and they don’t always align with the actions that I see.

 

I really care for my employees!  Then you see petty rules and reactions.

I love to spend time with my kids!  Then you see golf is really more important each Saturday.

I love my wife!  Then you see that the TV is more important when you come home from work.

I love my husband!  Then you see that the kids or time with the girlfriends is the focus.

 

We just plain fool ourselves!  We say that some things are important but what we DO is actually the key to your heart.  And when you really LOOK at what you are DOING you could be quite surprised.

 

Ok- the excuses.

I need to work to support my family…

I need some time away for rest and relaxation…

I need some time with my girlfriends…

I need to help them with their problems…

I need to have rules so we can have order…

I need, I need, I need….

 

You see the issue here.  It’s really what YOU want.  You may tell yourself that you are a great friend, mother, husband, manager, brother, sister… But talk is just talk.  You may be building an illusion in your mind.  Just telling someone how much you love your “fill in the blank” doesn’t mean anything.  In fact it is just building up your own ego.  The reality is that sometimes we are telling ourselves something so we can just check the box and feel secure.  We naturally gravitate to the areas in life that make us feel better about ourselves- where we get the most approval, comfort, power, accolades…

See- it’s just talk.  If you REALLY believe in it, you will do it!

Take an inventory of what you did last week.  Did you spend quality time with your kids?  Did you help your wife with housework or running the kids?  Did you take time to interact with your employees? If you think your sliding by and getting away with it you are most likely fooling yourself.  There are other noticers out there!  They are seeing what you are doing.  A picture of where your heart really is.  Maybe it’s time to make some changes?  Maybe it’s time for some heart surgery?

 So what do you think?  Do you see a difference in words and actions in the folks you interact with?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

Wounded Warriors

Life is full of pain.  As leaders, wherever we are, we must learn to help those that are hurting.  A lost loved one, a break-up, financial loss, tough diagnosis.  We will all face some really bad news and we will also be in a position to help someone who is suffering.  So what do you do when you are hit with helping someone who is hurting?  I think you can look at it a bit like triage for a battlefield wound.

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

Assess the wound:  The depth of the situation and the condition of the person that is suffering needs to be considered carefully.  Is this something that I can help with?  Sometimes the best way to help is to simply listen.  Fight the urge to have all the answers or give advice until you are sure they are ready and you really know the facts.  Job’s friends sat with him for seven days and seven nights before saying even  one word to him.  Merely being present and providing comfort is often all you need to do.

Stop the bleeding:  If you have the ability to intercede in a practical way in the situation, then block off the thing that is causing the immediate pain.  This may be offering help to get out of the situation that they are in.  This might be a medical reference, financial help, a friend who has walked the same path before.  Sometimes the wound will not be immediately repairable and it will continue to bleed.  Be encouraged that just being there provides wound dressing and provides your friend with strength to continue.

Move them:  Getting a new perspective or location can help in getting away from a bad situation.  Think of ways you can improve their perspective.  Get them involved in new activities.  Help them change their daily rituals and habits.  Find something new that will open their eyes to other things so they will stop focusing on the past and the pain.

Operating Room:  If the situation is truly serious, get them to the experts.  Don’t attempt to fix deeply rooted or potentially dangerous problems on your own.   Realize and admit that you are over your head.  Giving bad advice can actually be more damaging than the original wound.  Hand it off to an expert.

Most importantly pray!  Pray that the Lord would bring healing and restoration.  Pray with them.  Regardless of their level of faith, the vast majority of people will accept prayer and the act of prayer will help to build their faith in times when things seem to be falling apart.  The reassurance that the Lord is always there and loves them completely is an amazing comfort in a tough situation.

Pain will always be a part of life.  We must be ready to serve those who are hurting.  You don’t always need the answers.  Realize that being in a painful situation is often a very lonely place.  People will naturally avoid getting involved in painful situations, sometimes out of fear.  Just providing an ear to listen and companionship is often enough.  Comfort them.  Let them know that they are not alone.  Reach out- they need you!

Why is it so lonely when you are hurting?  Have you had circumstances where you wish you would have become involved?  Click on Comments and tell me your story!

Eyes Wide Open

I took this picture Saturday morning: 

Azaleas

 

Yes, it is remarkable that an azalea is blooming this early- easily a month early.  But this is not the thing that makes this picture special. 

Yes, this particular azalea is brilliant in color and a beautiful flower.  But this is also not the reason I am sharing this picture.

This is the where the picture took place:

White House

The picture of the flower was taken in the front yard of a run down house in a really rough neighborhood.  The second picture is not nearly as special as the first, is it? 

Here is the message that I took from the experience:  There is beauty all around us.  Sometimes we just need to stop and look!  Amidst the chaos, despair, and decay that we encounter every day, there is still beauty.  We just need to open our eyes to see it!

It may be as simple as a smile.

It may be a mother with her child.

It may be the birds singing.

It may be the laughter of the children.

Take the time to stop and really look around you.  I bet you will be surprised.  We are bathed in beauty every day.  Don’t miss it!

Have you had these moments before- where you are confronted with beauty in unlikely places?  Please click on comments and share your story!

4 Tips To Avoid A Freeze-Up

It’s funny how you can look back at decisions and be amazed at your choices.  When you look back it always seems crystal clear.  You think to yourself- “How could I have made such a bad decision?”  It can be downright frightening.  You realize that at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.  You had reasonably good information.  You are not really much smarter now, than when you made the decision.   You think- “How could my judgment be so clouded?”      

 

English: Silver snowflake

 Bad decisions generally require added work and risk.  If you make a bad decision you are often thrust into the clean-up mode.  You must straighten it out and make it right.  This is usually painful- at least on some level. I’ve made some bad decisions and paid the consequences and picked up the mess.   It’s not fun and it can shake your confidence.  You have a difficult time finalizing a decision and you freeze-up!  You just can’t decide.  Here are some tips to avoid the freeze-up in decision making:

  1. Learn from your mistakes!  Have you ever watched a dog with one of those invisible fences in the yard?  They first will get a shock when they reach the barrier and generally that is enough.  They will learn the exact location of the fence and stop abruptly before hitting the mark.  Sometimes we just think it will be different this time and we charge straight for the fence!  Why do we do it?  Even a dog is smart enough to learn.  Somehow we think it will be difference this time.  Don’t kid yourself.  Learn and avoid the pain!
  2. Do your homework!  You must be ready when you are confronted with a similar decision.  If you take the time to really think through the dynamics and results you will likely make a quality decision next time.  Often in the heat of the battle you will not have time to think objectively.  Your vision gets clouded.  Analyze what went wrong and what you could have done differently.  Next time you will be prepared and ready!
  3. Get advice!  I have shared some of my failures with friends and have received amazing advice.  We are all prone to a particular viewpoint and this perspective is not easy to change.  When you share your story you are also inviting someone in to help you unload your burden and help you heal from the damage of a bad decision.  Find a trusted friend and talk it out.  Don’t argue with them even if you do not fully agree.  Take some time and ponder the advice.  It may not be exactly on target, but I can guarantee that there will be nuggets of truth that will lead to reconciliation and healing.
  4. Jump!  Eventually you will confronted with a similar situation and you must be ready to risk again.  Regardless of how much preparation and learning that has occurred, there will still be an element of risk in moving forward.  However, you must move forward.  Avoiding, postponing or failing to act will only hurt you.  Risk is part of life.  You must be ready. 

We all freeze-up sometimes.  It’s a built in defense system to keep us safe.  The key is to recognize the freeze-up and to deal with it.  If you find yourself hesitating, you are likely to be confronting something that you have not completely dealt with.  Being cautious is good- but getting stuck is no good.  You must move forward and get back in the game.  You are needed.  There are folks that are counting on you!   

Do you have any hints to help in decision making?  Click on comment and tell us your story!