What are you living for?

Kathy was browsing in a gift shop near our home last week and struck up a conversation with the lady clerk. This is not an uncommon thing for Kathy. She has a gift of being able to connect quickly with people. This lady was originally from Columbia (South America not South Carolina) and she has been in the United States long enough to really “get” our culture.

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We are so arrogant here. We are convinced that this is where everyone in the world wants to live. We have such great opportunities to make money and it is a safe place to raise a family. These things are important and special, but they are not everything. I believe we have sacrificed some really critical things along the way. We have made choices that have warped our culture. Unconsciously, in our pursuit to be the best, we have changed the way we live, our goals, and our priorities. And I am also guilty.

The lady began to share about her family and her life back in Columbia. She aligned with Kathy’s experiences from Costa Rica. Emphasis on family, friends, relaxation, community.

She shared, “In the U.S., you live to work and back home we work to live.”

Whether intentional or not, we have placed WAY too much emphasis on work and making money. Our lives are wrapped around our work and our careers. Not the other way around. This may not be your choice. You may feel like you want to work less and live more, but can you really do it?  Can you really shift your focus away from making money?

Will you be able to pay your current bills?
Buy the things you want?
Can you really live with less?
Can you really do it?

Our culture has raised the bar on expectations so high that we run crazy hard just to try to keep up. Building bigger barns. In the meantime we have lost community. Lost our connection. Our ability to really LIVE together and enjoy life. We’ve lost our focus on taking care of each other.

Where are you?
Are you living to work or working to live?
Can we go back?  Do you know how we can get back to where we came from?
What needs to change?  What is messing us up?

Click on “Leave a Comment” and lets share ideas!

Five Tips For Parents (Without Time Machines)

Gosh- if only we had a time machine.

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A place where you could go back in time and fix things that went wrong. I love some of the movies that do this. Back to the Future. Hot Tub Time Machine. Somewhere in Time. The Terminator. Go back and fix the wrong and change history.

But for now with raising kids you get one chance. ONE CHANCE. So don’t screw it up!

I certainly could have done better. More books- less sports. More one on one. Put more emphasis on the “soft side” of life. Better faith leader. More time less work.  I had MANY unflattering moments where I lost my cool, lacked self-control or did something incredibly stupid that I wish I could have taken back.

The problem is that you can’t start over. They can’t unforget things.  We can’t change time like the time travelers.

But we did do some things right. And these things had an impact on our kids lives. They really made a difference.  And it helped form the way that my children see the world. We were not perfect, but have some things that went well.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Hard Work: The only place a child will learn (at least in the U.S.) to work hard is at home. My father taught me that lesson and we did our best to teach it to our children. You need to work to get what you want. Nothing will be handed to you. You have to work for it. This requires sweat and effort. Get your kids off the couch and make them work. If they understand what hard work looks like, they will be a contributor. They will be a good citizen.  They will be able to make a difference in the world. It’s your responsibility- not theirs.

Value of Money: The best thing we did for our kids is to have little money.  This was really a circumstance- but it had great power.  They did not get everything they wanted. They understood that wants are not needs. We raised them in a very modest lifestyle that allowed them to see that money is earned and not picked off a tree in the backyard. Kathy would gather the pennies and roll them and take them to the bank. They knew about the value of money. They learned how to save.  I don’t know how you can raise children in an affluent houshold and get this message across.

Good Grades: We instilled a culture of excellence in school work. I did not give my kids the choice to go to college. Why in the world would you do that? Ask a child if he wants to continue the seeming misery of school work? Seems like most would take the easy route. That’s not parenting. We had our own grading system and we rewarded good grades and good reports from school. Just like the workplace- right? Why would you NOT do this for your kids?

Tradition: We always worked to create things that were uniquely ours. Family traditions. We created traditions that were only ours. Don’t overlook the power here. Children love this. They crave structure and predictability. They thrive in it. Create a rhythm to their lives. Give them something that is uniquely for your family. Even silly stuff. They will remember even the smallest details. Make it your family’s own. Big power here.

Competition: We encouraged our children to compete in sports, arts, activities and other areas. The world will make them compete. By sheltering them or ignoring this fact you may be setting them up for failure. Competition can be ugly and daunting for a parent. But YOU need to get them ready. This is your job.  No one else will do this.

There are more to this list but this is a few majors. The point is- you have to be an active parent. It’s not an easy job. But you can’t jump in the time machine. You can’t change it once it’s done. Don’t have regrets. Do the very best you can. Push your children. They are not your buddies. They want instruction. They want structure. Give them what they need to thrive. You can’t go back. No “do over” here!

So what do your think?  I know many would love the time machine but we can’t go back. One time.  One chance.  Do you agree?  Click on “Leave a Message” and tell me what you think!

Cleaning the Toilets

There are always the unpleasant jobs. The jobs that don’t bring you any accolades. The ones that are not seen. The unpleasant jobs that have no reward. Who does those jobs?

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Few will do those jobs. I have been doing the tough jobs since my father taught me what work is really all about. The hard and hot and nasty jobs. I learned that hard work will not kill you. I often do the jobs that nobody even notices. Why do I do it?

Because it needs to be done. Because nobody else will. And if I don’t do them, then it will only get worse. The dirt, repair, stain, pile, problem…will only get bigger. And when I finish- nobody will notice much. They won’t know how hard you worked to get it done. They won’t know what it took to complete the task. But I will notice. And I know that I have headed off a major project by noticing the need and taking care of it. Yet…

I will not get any response.

No atta boys.

I will not get an ego boost from others.

Nobody will tell me that I am sweet, caring, or thoughtful.

Nobody will even notice that the work has been done- except me.

We just don’t have many folks that will clean the toilets anymore. Everything has to have a reward. Everything has to result in the your world telling you that you are amazing. A hero. That your incredible. That you have a big heart. That your just so special.

What will we do when the toilet cleaners are gone? I can tell you. Things will get dirty. And things will not get done. And the others will wonder what happened. They will talk about the problem. They will complain about the situation. They will tell their friends. They will try to talk it to death.

But it won’t get done without a toilet cleaner. I hope that there will be some around. The folks that “do” instead of “talk”. The folks that aren’t afraid to do a task without an ego lifting pat on the back. The unnoticed. The toilet cleaners.

Have you really examined your motivations? Are you really only feeding your ego in your work, service and actions? Do you complete work simply because it needs to be done? Or is everything motivated by getting something back? Let me know if you “get this” by clicking on “Like”.  Or click “Leave a Comment”and tell me what you think!

6 Ways to Build a Culture of Hard Work

I was picking up mulch that was on sale at Home Depot last weekend and a gray haired man approached my truck for my order.  I told him forty bags and I asked him, “So where are the youngsters?”  He was obviously older and generally they have a cadre of young men who load mulch during these sale events.  He responded, “They don’t know how to work.  They are around here somewhere.  You get me instead.”  I got out of my truck and helped him load my truck.

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As I considered his comments, I thought about our current societal view of work.  Unfortunately, I truly believe we no longer honor hard work.

We celebrate the folks who game the system.

We most admire those who work less and get paid more.

We look at those who work hard as weak or stupid.

My work experience started on the construction site.  It was hard work- hot, dirty, and physically demanding.  I worked around other guys that were much older than me and had been in the trades for many years.  There were always personalities and characters on the crews.  Lots of laughter, stories and practical jokes.  These guys knew how to do a tough job and still have fun.  And the fun made the time go quickly.  They also cared about me.  They took me under their wing and taught me how to do the work with quality and efficiency.

As years went by I began to supervise the new generation of workers.  Much of the laughter went away.  They questioned everything.  They did not want to learn or share their experience.  They saw the work as temporary.  They were on their way to something more important, this was just for now.  Clock watchers were everywhere, counting down the time to go home.  Work was not really fun working with these guys.

So how do we bring the fun back?  How can we bring honor back for hard work?  Here are some ideas:

Teach your kids how to work!  The worst thing you can do for your kids is to do everything for them.  Teach them to work.  My father taught me about work at a very young age.  I am so grateful for this lesson.  I learned how to push my body and how to accomplish something that looks impossible.  The worst thing you can do for your kids is to put them on a pedestal.  Make them work.  Give them responsibilities.  Hold them accountable.  If you model laziness for them, whining, and complaining, well, you know what you will get!

Recognize hard work!  When you see someone who is working exceptionally hard and doing a great job, make sure that you thank them for their efforts.  Nothing is more deflating then to bust your butt and not feel appreciated.  Take the time to thank or recognition someone for doing a quality job. Send them note of appreciation.  Comment about their hard work in front of their friends, family or coworkers.

Reward the extra effort!  Give the person who works hard an extra reward.  This is crucial in creating an environment that promotes hard work.  Give them a bonus, special privileges, award, or extra status.  Unfortunately, we often fail to provide incentives, which, has the effect of lowering output to the minimum requirement.  What you are doing is racing downward to the lowest common denominator.  Don’t be afraid to single someone out as a superior worker.  We have become a society that is obsessed with fairness.  I welcome the opportunity to tell anyone why I singled out a particularly great worker.  Don’t fear the conflict.  Celebrate the extra effort!

Compensate based on production!  Base pay on output whenever it is possible.  Any time you can get away from basing payment on time you will benefit.  Clearly making time the measure for compensation, automatically, creates a clock watcher.  Add incentives for production.  Let top producers leave early or have added flexibility so they rewarded for extra effort.

Dump the dead wood!  If you have workers who are skating along, have a bad attitude and putting forth a poor effort, send them home.  They are a cancer to a hard working crew.  They will pull everyone down.  You may be fooling yourself thinking that they will get better.  You cannot risk damaging your entire group due to one person’s lack of work ethic.

Have fun!  Work does not have to be a bad thing.  Seek out creative ways to have fun at work or ways to bind your team closer together.  Small things can have a big impact.  I get reminded of fun, team building  things that we have done at work years later that I have long since forgotten.  Foster an environment of fun at work.  We get too serious sometimes.  Break up the monotony with fun activities.

We need to honor hard work and model it for those around us.  Hard work is what  built this country and will continue to elevate our standard of living.  Celebrate the hard workers and the craftsmen that make things made in this country the best in the world.

Coming home dirty and tired is not being stupid.  You are honoring your work.  You are a producer and contributor.  You are my hero!

So what do you think?  Are you fostering an environment of hard work or just struggling with minimum standards.  Are you honoring hard work?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!